Eternal Salvation

HOPE. ASSURANCE. ETERNAL SALVATION.

There was much debate regarding whether or not Christians could sin to the extent of losing their salvation. To those new to their faith, it became quite discouraging to think that now they’d tasted the love and mercy of their Savior, Jesus Christ, they could be in peril of slipping away into the abyss of hell or at least, lose some jewels in their eternal crown.

Finally, one of the elders said, “Before we come to blows on this important issue, let’s look at God’s Word and see what we can determine as the ultimate truth. After all, I think I can safely say not one person here wants to lose their salvation. So let’s see what the Bible says about our eternal destination.”

John 11:25-26  Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 10:10-11 “I came that [you] may have life, and have it abundantly. 11″I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep.”

1 Peter 1:3-5  “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.”

“Do you see any hint of losing your precious salvation in these verses? 1 Peter says “it is by His great mercy that we’ve been born again,” not our works or behavior.”

John 10:27-30  “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, 29 for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. 30 The Father and I are one.”

John 6:35, 39-40  Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty. . . 39 And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those he has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. 40 For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

Do these verses seem doubtful or uncertain to you? No! Jesus is the Bread of Life and those who come to Him will never be hungry again; will never be thirsty again. Never! To put an exclamation point on it, Jesus says it is the will of God that He should not lose even one of those who believe (who the Father has given Him). God created us and knows our weaknesses. Our eternal destination is established by God, not our fragile will power.

Romans 8:38  “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”

Matthew 11:28-30  “Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.”

The Struggle

The Struggle 

July 24, 2021

“I decide one way, but then I act another” Romans 7:15 

The clever college professor got the attention of his class when he declared, “Whatever you do, do not think of a pink elephant”, knowing that it was now the one image dancing around in their minds. Our thoughts are powerful and sometimes controlling. Jesus addressed our thought life when he said, “everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Thoughts are the stimulus of the pornography industry. Our fantasy lives are much stronger than our actual lives. 

The daily struggle we have as followers of Jesus is with our thoughts, as Paul explains in the Book of Romans: “I decide one way but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.” (Romans 7:15-16) 

Even though a law or command may seem to work on the outside, it’s the inner battle of our mind that acts as a rudder, controlling thoughts and, if not stopped, actions. Thus our constant struggle. Who will rescue us from this dilemma? Jesus is our rescuer and the blood of Jesus has taken every sin, every evil and despicable thought and washed them with His blood. We are forgiven and cleansed daily. Each day is a new day, a day of forgiveness and hope. God has provided the answer. 

Romans 7:17-25  “I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. 

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.  24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?  25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”

How often do we describe our struggles with terms such as, “I can’t seem to quit”–”I’ve tried to stop”–”I just don’t have the strength”–”That’s what I have a problem believing!” Of course we cannot change ourselves. God, through Jesus, has forgiven our sins forever and then, because He knows we will always need reassurance, implanted His Holy Spirit deep within us. We are never alone and never expected to change ourselves. If we could make ourselves better then Jesus’ death would be a sham. 

Romans 8:1-2  “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

  The rugged father took his young son out on their weekly camping trip but this trip would be different. This would be the time for his son to show what he had learned over the past few years. After hiking several miles into the forest, they set up camp, ate and climbed into sleeping bags to fall asleep under the stars. 

In the morning the son awoke alone. Beside him, leaning against his backpack was a note. It read, “Son. I’ve taught you everything you should need to know about hiking, camping and finding your way home. I’ve gone on ahead and will see you there later. I know you can make it. At least I hope you can. After all, you are nine years old! Love, Dad.” 

Far-fetched story isn’t it? A loving father would never leave his young child completely alone to face all the uncertainties of the forest. In a similar way, our Heavenly Father would never leave us alone to face a sin-riddled world. 

John 14:16-18  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 

On my own, many things are impossible. With God nothing is impossible. 

Life After Death!

Life After Death

July 10, 2021

“Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die” ~Jesus

Two men were discussing what happens after death.  One of them said that since they were both Christians, it was certain that they would not really die but pass from this life into the next, living forever with God. The second man, however expressed doubts about that, saying he sure hoped it was true. He had been a Christian for over 40 years!

Are you a Christian? Have you expressed faith in Jesus Christ? If so your sins are forgiven and the Bible promises that you will spend eternity with God. The following are Bible verses that give all Christians assurance of eternal life with God.

John 11:25-26 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

John 3:36 “Anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life.”

1 Peter 1:3-5 “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.”

John 10:27-30 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one can snatch them away from me, for my Father has given them to me, and he is more powerful than anyone else. No one can snatch them from the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.”

John 6:35-40 Jesus replied, “. . .This is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given me, but that I should raise them up at the last day. For it is my Father’s will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life. I will raise them up at the last day.”

John 6:47, 51 “I assure you, anyone who believes in Me already has eternal life. Yes, I am the bread of life. . .I am that Living Bread that came down out of heaven.”

Romans 8:38 “And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.”

John 3:16 “ God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die.”

It is by faith that we are saved and our sins forgiven. It is by that same faith that we believe in eternal life with our Heavenly Father…without exception.

Who Do You Want To Please?

Who Do You Want To Please? 

June 30, 2021 

“We speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel.” 1 Thessalonians 2:4 

Most of us are brought up learning how to please certain people in our lives. First are usually our parents. We learn what it takes to make them happy if we want our lives to go smoothly. The behaviors that need refining are pointed out to us quickly by some sort of punishment. 

Then we learn to apply that method of getting along to our teachers, friends, relatives, bosses, pastors, policemen, spouse, team mates, and others with whom we interact in life. As life progresses, most people become fairly adept in getting along and pleasing others, trying not to offend. We look for that middle place that allows us to forge our way through life, getting along without ruffling too many feathers. We are considered successful if people think of us as nice, as pleasing. 

But what about God? Are we trying to please God? Does he even make the list of those we wish to please every day? If a survey was taken that asked the question: “Who is the most important person in your life?” how many of us would immediately say, Jesus or God? The Lord is our Savior and has a special place in our lives, we say. But really…is He our primary focus each day? Are we trying to please God? 

 Romans 14:17-18

“For the Kingdom of God is not a matter of what we eat or drink, but of living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. If you serve Christ with this attitude, you will please God, and others will approve of you, too. So then, let us aim for harmony in the church and try to build each other up.” 

Philippians 2:12-13 

“Dear friends, you always followed my instructions when I was with you. And now that I am away, it is even more important. Work hard to show the results of your salvation, obeying God with deep reverence and fear. For God is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases him.” 

Colossians 1:9-10 

“So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better.”

Hebrews 11:6 

“And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.” 

1 Peter 2:19, 21

“For God is pleased with you when you do what you know is right and patiently endure unfair treatment. For God called you to do good, even if it means suffering, just as Christ suffered for you. He is your example, and you must follow in his steps.” 

Pleasing God opens the door for pleasing anyone else. It is the foundation upon which all worthwhile relationships are built. On our own, we often view relationships through the filter of self-gain and convenience. And yet, in our hearts, we desire to express the love of Christ to everyone, to see each other through the filter of God’s love, His selfless, servant-like love. Because of the Holy Spirit, that desire is made possible. Dear God, thank You for guiding our lives according to Your Holy Will.

Global Warming

Image by Parabol Studio via Shutterstock.com, with elements furnished by NASA

Global Warming: The Real Thing!

The Second Letter of Peter; Chapter 3

In 2006 Al Gore was the narrator and brain child of the movie, An Inconvenient Truth, whose focus was the impending destruction brought about by global warming. Apparently Mr. Gore did not realize just how accurate his prognosis was, according to this chapter in 2 Peter.

1-2 This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. 2 I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.

3-4 Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. 4They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”

5-7 They deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. 6Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. 7And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

Present heavens and earth stored up for fire

8-10 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 10But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

Never lose sight of the eternal world

11-13 Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, 12 looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

14-16 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. 15 And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— 16 speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.

17-18 You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. 18Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.

Yes, it is true, the current heavens and earth will pass away in a violent ball of flame. But then, God will speak into existence new heavens and earth for us to dwell in forever. Until that day, verse 14 explains our orders, “And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make very effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in His sight.”

Why would God do this? Read verse 7, above. By His Word God made the heavens and earth. And by His Word, He will enact a day of judgment when ungodly people will be destroyed.

What Is God’s Will?

 “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” ~Mark 3:35 

Many Christians spend countless hours on their knees, begging God for an idea as to His will for their lives. Thousands of sermons have been preached, books written and website columns produced, advising believers of the 10 best steps to finding His will (often there is a fee for the book or website subscription).  

Considering the extreme measure God has taken for our forgiveness and eternal salvation (death, burial and resurrection of Jesus), is it reasonable to think He would hide His will for our lives? Would God take a perverse pleasure in watching us grovel around begging Him to reveal His purpose and direction instead of joyfully directing our lives to follow a path He alone has created just for us? No secret password needed fellow Christians, God reveals aspects of His will sprinkled throughout the Bible—His love letter to us.  

Just as a building needs a foundation for support, God has provided the necessary spiritual support to guide us into the understanding of His will. He gave us the Holy Spirit.  

John 14:16-17, 26  ~And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.  

John 14:26  ~But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. 

1 John 2:27  ~You have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ. 

Romans 12:1-2  ~And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  ~Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 

Colossians 1:9-10  ~So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. 

So you see, God has provided everything we need to hear His voice, and live according to His will. Romans establishes steps that open the door for the realization of His will in our lives: 

1. Give our bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice which is true worship. 

2. Don’t copy the world (be separate). 

3. Let God transform our thoughts which gives birth to the understanding of His good and pleasing and perfect will for our lives. 

I call out to God, “Oh God, show me your perfect will for my life.” 

God replies, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances!” 

2020 Recap!

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

I’m not one for writing an Annual Letter. So this is not one. Rather it is an end of year journal entry of sorts. As Leann works diligently in the kitchen, preparing her special magic cookie bars (she does not like the descriptive name, magic) for friends and neighbors, I am sitting at one of our portable tables in the living room, listening to Ottmar Liebert’s, Poets and Angels © 1990 album. Ottmar plays the acoustic guitar.

He is playing O Holy Night now: “Oh, night divine, Oh, night when Christ Was born. Christ is the Lord! Oh, praise His name forever; His power and glory evermore proclaim!”

According to the seemingly endless stream of news and information available, we’ve had a challenging, life-altering 2020 replete with natural and viral disasters. We are running out of money, hope, reason and solutions. Life seems to suck at this point since the formidable Pandemic has quarantined us with masks and social distancing.

“Masks don’t work. All we are doing is breathing the same air in and out. We are suffocating ourselves,” some say.

“Masks are essential to preventing the spread of this virus. Anyone caught without a mask will be punished for not caring about their fellow man (or woman),” say others.

In addition to Covid, our summer brought raging wildfires across much of the West. And wild those flames became, consuming homes in record fashion, deterred by nothing designed to help. Caravans of families climbed into  cars and trucks filled with special memories and headed for safe havens as the flames intensified. and overpowering clouds of smoke filled the air, attacking our respiratory systems. Oh God, help us. We cannot last in this calamity. Is this the end times God? Are these our final days?

As it turned out, these were not the Biblical final days for all mankind. Perhaps a foretaste. Certainly worse than many of us anticipated. As the warnings grew more urgent and threat levels reached evacuation stages, we found ourselves overcoming our fear and grabbing a few worldly possessions and jamming them into the car after we called a friend who had space for us outside the danger area. 

Driving away from our home brought temporary relief and hope. Silent prayers were constant in my mind. And then I had a strange thought. What if God is not sending a rescue ship to whisk us away to a better place where the sun is shining, the air is pure and flowers abound. What if this becomes a more serious trial and greater tribulation which brings us to the brink of death? Will I praise God for this? Will I proclaim how wonderful my Savior is in the midst of total destruction? After five days, the calamity lessened, so I am not sure what I would have done. As the days passed, I prayed for strength to undergo whatever trial He set before me. I really meant it.

Time passed. Life slowly resumed as before the fires. With one major exception: Coronavirus! Otherwise known as COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease of 2019.

Raging fires. Worldwide pandemic. Financial ruin. Businesses forcefully closed. Schools are closed. Wearing masks mandatory and an increase in thoughts of suicide. The government has newfound powers to control life.

“Since the coronavirus arrived, depression and anxiety in America have become rampant. Federal surveys show that 40 percent of Americans are now grappling with at least one mental health or drug-related problem. But young adults have been hit harder than any other age group, with 75 percent struggling.” (The Washington Post).

Is there any hope at all? The answer seems to be a resounding, NO! Not really. But that is not true. Hope is as close as your heart calling out to God: “Lord please save my soul. I am lost, confused, frightened and full of fear.” What does the Bible have to say about our hope?

Romans 8:31-39  “If God is for us, who can be against us? Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In case we’ve allowed fear of fire, financial ruin, and covid to send us into a downward spiral of depression, remember these verses, these promises of God that He will always be with us and absolutely nothing can separate us from Him.

Isaiah 41:10  Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

Weakness!

“I am glad to boast about my weaknesses!” Apostle Paul

Apostle Paul: “Three times I begged the Lord to take (his thorn in the flesh) away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT 

Rediscovering this section of scripture this morning pierced my heart! Re-reading these words of Paul also reminds me of the incredible patience and mercy of the Lord. He knows how much patience and mercy are necessary in my life daily. Thank you, Lord.

How can I show strength in weakness, Lord? I ask. A man needs to be strong to face the world and its hardships and obstacles. Men have to show strength as an example to those they lead; their families and children. Men stand with shoulders squared, heads up and eyes fixed on the prize, the future, their success. It seems to me that weakness has no place in a man’s life.  

Then slowly, as a distant light becomes evident after a long, dark tunnel, I  realized that God’s weakness is not the same as man’s; that His weakness is stronger than man’s strength. And, finally—God’s weakness, the weakness described and displayed by the Apostle Paul, is far removed from the image we conjure up. 

2 Corinthians 13:4  “Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power.”

2 Corinthians 6:4. “In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.”

Philippians 4:11-13 “ I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

The Apostle Paul learned an important secret; and that is trusting that God will provide as He sees fit. Paul learned how to be content with any circumstance. As we read Paul’s description of depending on God for everything, we may bristle a little at the idea of not taking care of everything ourselves. But how can we demonstrate our faith in the Lord, appearing weak to onlookers, without trusting in Christ? 

“The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” ~George Muller

Covid Christmas

Luke 2:9-12 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the  glory of the Lord shone around them; and they… | A christmas story, Lds  art, Bible pictures

“She wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough” Luke 2:7

This will be the world’s first Covid Christmas. Instead of families driving and flying across the land to spend a precious weekend or week together, sharing those special moments around the table that is laden with bowls and platters of all our favorite foods, we shall be limited to another couple or, depending on your state, a maximum of seven people.

It’s not fair, we think, after all, it’s our own family and we wear masks and keep social distances. The fear of spreading this virus has ruined the most special time of the year. 

But has it? Has it really? Or are we like a child, pouting because we can’t get our way?

Although not every family celebrates the birth of Christ as the central focus of Christmas, any family considers this a special, loving, hopeful time of year. An opportunity to come together with friends and family. For some, a time to take food to others less fortunate, sharing delicious plates and bowls of nourishment in the name of love; the name of Christ.

The actual birth of Christ seems to have been less than festive with less than perfect circumstances. God decided His Son, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, should be born in a stable, in a feeding trough, in anonymity. And, in keeping with God’s often mysterious ways, He sent an angel to announce Christ’s birth to a few shepherds out in a field. 

Imagine, if you will, a few isolated men, watching over their flocks, accustomed to a solitary existence, perhaps sitting around a fire cooking dinner when this happened, “Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified!”

Scared out of their wits, they hear the angel say, “Don’t be afraid, for I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a Savior who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

As the shepherds are processing what the angel said, God dazzles them further, “Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!

These men had never seen such a magnificent display of God’s power and yet, judging by their response, it seems they had processed this astonishing event well.

“When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.

“They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby lying in the manger. After seeing him the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” ~Luke, Chapter 2

Today, more than 2,000 years after Christ’s birth, God is still speaking to His followers and giving us encouragement, even if it is anonymously out in a field somewhere. Covid has changed most of the world but cannot alter our faith in Christ the Savior. Let us celebrate His birth this Christmas.

A Child Is Born

“A child is born to us, a son is given to us”  Isaiah 9:6 

Amidst the various Christmas decorations we see popping up each year stand a variety of what we call Nativity or Manger scenes representing the birth of Christ. These range in size from tabletop to life size. Some even have what are called, Living Nativity scenes with people dressed in costume representing that singular moment in history. 

And what is the impact of seeing these scenes year after year after year? Perhaps we have come to see these reminders as ordinary, routine, a bit of tradition. There is an old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt!” Contempt may be too strong a word for our feelings but routine would surely fit. As we dust off our manger figurines and place them carefully on the table or shelf, are we stirred by the Spirit of God? Are we moved to worship Christ the Lord?  

When Jesus was born, it was a time of Kings and mighty rulers wielding their power for good or evil. Surely God would bring the Messiah from the loins of one such mighty man. He would be born to Royalty; a prince, a handsome, strong child, bred in the manner and customs of the Jewish people. 

In keeping with His own creative ideas, Almighty God selected a virgin to bear His Son; an unthinkable idea, beyond human understanding. And so it was…beginning with Mary’s impregnation, every step of the way for Jesus, our Lord, was unique. Born in a manger instead of a magnificent palatial bedroom on silken sheets surrounded by servants. An ordinary baby born to ordinary parents, or so it seemed. 

No palace with pomp and circumstance for Jesus, verifying his standing as Messiah. God instead chose humble circumstances to represent His love for all of us, dramatically pronouncing the Savior’s birth to innocuous shepherds away from all notice. These men had ringside seats to a spectacular, glorious, radiant angelic announcement of The Savior’s birth which included the armies of heaven praising God. Out in the fields, away from notice, God demonstrates His awesome power, proclaiming the most important birth in the history of our world to a few solitary shepherds.  

Isaiah 7:14  “The virgin  will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” 

Isaiah 9:6-7 “For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. The government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called: Wonderful Counselor,  Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His government and its peace will never end. 
“He will rule with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David  for all eternity. The passionate commitment of the  Lord  of Heaven’s Armies will make this happen!” 

About 800 years after Isaiah’s prophecy, Jesus was born to Mary and Joseph in a manner not at all in keeping with how we think the Savior of all mankind should be born.

Matthew 1:18-25  “This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit.  Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement  quietly. 

As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.  And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus*,  for he will save his people from their sins.” *[The Lord Saves]

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet*: 

“Look! The virgin will conceive a child. She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’” *Isaiah 7:14

When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife.  But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.” 

Luke 2:1-20  “At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire.  (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, his fiancée, who was now obviously pregnant. 

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her first child, a son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them. 

That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, but the angel reassured them. 

“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people.  The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David!  And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.” 

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” 

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 

They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger.  After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child.  All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,  but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” 

This year, as we read and remember what God has set in place through the extraordinary yet humble birth of His only Son, Jesus Christ, let’s take time to imagine how we might have reacted to this astonishing event and then thank our Heavenly Father for paving the way to unmerited forgiveness of sins and eternal life for all who believe.