Hope in God…Psalm 42 – 43

These last two years and now the early days of 2022 have been ones of great stress not only for those of the way but all the people of the world. Here in the USA we have seen over the previous years a decline in church membership coupled with disdain for our faith and a lack of respect for our beliefs which have gone as far as physical violence against persons of the faith and destruction of places of worship. The church used to, so to speak, have a place at the table of social, cultural, and accepted behaviors, even going as far as to model some of them after biblical teachings. These two psalms are closely linked in vocabulary, themes and refrains. They both speak to in general terms of dangers, threats, anxiety, trust, and hope. These are common of all people all over the world for all time. Yes, these are quite common adjectives of things that occupy our minds but in today’s world I believe they have become an overwhelming state of mind for some of us. To use a phrase common these days…the new norm. People are losing hope and just the simple tasks of the day can suddenly become fraught with dangers, threats and anxiety and we have forgotten where our hope lies. 

We as a church, nation and its’ people have forgotten our God’s love and concern for his people. Look at our nation today… The church, and the people who profess faith in God, find themselves in a hostile environment that does not support the faith or affirm that our lives derive from or depend upon God. The church and its people have become resident aliens in our own country. Given the way we are now days, this self-grounded and self-directed the you can do it mind set, it’s up to you, is not enough. This cultural mantra in its cultural context ignores the Christian view that the most important thing we can do is hope in God and claim God as our help. Even Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane who was fully embodied in dependence on God, could not at that moment fully avoid a state of uneasiness or anxiety and neither shall we. The good news is that neither shall we be able to escape his steadfast love and faithfulness. Rejoice amid the uncertainty knowing that God loves you…Leave your anxiety and fears at the foot of the cross. I have posted here Psalm 42 and 43 for easy reference, Please take time to read from God’s word. Our Hope Is With God.

Life is Good

jk

Psalm 42

Longing for God and His Help in Distress

 

As a deer longs for flowing streams,
so my soul longs for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and behold
the face of God?

My tears have been my food
day and night,
while people say to me continually,
“Where is your God?”

These things I remember,
as I pour out my soul:
how I went with the throng,[
a]
and led them in procession to the house of God,
with glad shouts and songs of thanksgiving,
a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help 
and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.

Deep calls to deep
at the thunder of your cataracts;
all your waves and your billows
have gone over me.

By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because the enemy oppresses me?”

10 

As with a deadly wound in my body,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me continually,
“Where is your God?”

11 

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

Psalm 43

Prayer to God in Time of Trouble

Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause
against an ungodly people;
from those who are deceitful and unjust
deliver me!

For you are the God in whom I take refuge;
why have you cast me off?
Why must I walk about mournfully
because of the oppression of the enemy?

O send out your light and your truth;
let them lead me;
let them bring me to your holy hill
and to your dwelling.

Then I will go to the altar of God,
to God my exceeding joy;
and I will praise you with the harp,
O God, my God.

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you disquieted within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my help and my God.

 

Psalm 36… A Spiritual Contrast…The Wickedness of Man…The Love and Kindness of God

Last week we took a look at Salvation and it occurred to me what follows validates the saving grace of God through his Son Jesus Christ. Because of the kindness of God given freely we can receive the gift of eternal life…but as I wrote then, there must be repentance…that you might say is the rest of the story. Today we look at an interesting contrast between the wickedness of man and the goodness of God.  Psalm 36 is our subject this week, all 12 verses of it. This psalm is considered by many to be the best of the collection. The period in which it was written…

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Babylonian captivity or Babylonian exile is the period in Jewish history during which a large number of Judeans from the ancient Kingdom of Judah were captives in Babylon, the capital city of the Neo-Babylonian Empire, following their defeat in the Jewish–Babylonian War and the destruction of Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem. The event is described in the Hebrew Bible, and its historicity is supported by archaeological and non-biblical evidence.

We will break it down for a closer look. In verses 1-4 this psalm notes the miserable state of the wicked and verses 5-9 speaks to the excellence of God’s mercy in itself, and to his followers. In verse 10 we encounter prayers for the upright; moving to verse 11 a prayer for himself that he may be saved from pride and violence. The last verse, 12, shows the end of the workers of iniquity. 

Transgressions reside in our hearts and speak to us, encouraging us to continue in our wicked ways. It is accepted that in many ways that what lies in a persons heart so goes their mind. The spirit of transgression lives and reigns and grows in the heart of those who have no knowledge of God. Because there is no knowledge of God, nothing hinders this natural inclination to live out the ways of wickedness and because we do not know God, we have no fear of God. The Babylonians were idolaters of the grossest kind living a life filled with sin and greed, history confirms this. When we allow sin to come into our hearts and the love of God does not dwell in the heart and mind this fosters an attitude of no fear as our mind tells us to go and do and we embrace the evil that beckons us. We can lose direction in our life, actually flattering ourselves by pleasuring ourselves and are blind to our sins and believe others are also. If we could see ourselves as we really are, we would then see how truly detestable we really are. The very words from our mouths are those of deceit and calculated to pervert others, and lead them astray. The often heard words of ‘he plots while we sleep’ is true of an evil mind that is busy in the darkness plotting  next steps and doing so with no sense of God, kindness or remorse. Such is the character of sin and evil.

All of us over time have looked at someone who in our mind, through their actions, are living a deceitful and wrong life. We may even ask ourselves why God lets them, so to speak…get away with it. You might find the answer to that question a bit confusing. The answer my friends lies there in verse 5…Psalm 36- Your love, Lord, reaches to the heavens your faithfulness to the skies. God’s faithfulness binds him to fulfill the covenants and the promises made by his mercy.

Consider the mountains of God, made by his own hands, the tops of which are unreachable by mortals and from these he rains down on us his  mercy, truth, righteousness, and judgments. There is no limit on the intensity and good in the nature of God and that it is his delight to make all his creatures happy. He preserves the man, and he preserves the beast even when their natural nature might compel them to actions that would do them harm. Within the shadow of God his kindness is indescribably excellent, abundant, and freely given. It should come as no surprise that the children of Adam put their trust under the shadow of God’s wings, looking to His providence for the supply of their bodies; they trust in His mercy for the salvation of their souls. In verse 8 the psalmist refers to the joyous expectation they had of being restored to their own land, and to the ordinances of the temple. Verse 9 reminds us that no man can be a light unto his own self, all light, knowledge and understanding comes from God. In this verse we are brought to the understanding that God is light, it was God that said, “Let there be Light”…by that light the eye of man was enabled to behold the various works of God, and the beauties of creation. By this same light He can see our sins, frailties and even into our very souls. God’s words of salvation can illuminate those very things in our heart and soul that thrive in the darkness of sin. Through this, the light of God and his son Christ we might reconcile ourselves to our God and savior Jesus Christ. “In God’s light, we shall see the light” 

In the next verse it is plain that the psalmist makes known the continued need for God’s loving kindness. The need for the grace which justifies the ungodly, and sanctifies the unholy removes the cover of darkness and frees us to be reconciled to God. This is true of every genuine penitent, and of every true believer. Moving to verse 11 the prayer of the psalmist is that the treatment from the Babylonians over the last seventy years may come to an end. Lord, Restore us to our land…and let not the foot of the proud and violent remove us from it again. Verse 12 speaks to the fate of those whose pride has gone before them. Clarke’s Commentary ends it best with these words.

“The object of this Psalm is to implore God, out of his goodness, that he would deliver the upright from the pride and malice of the wicked.”

Life is Good

jk 

Salvation….. Has a Caveat

The Bible tells that salvation, also referred to as deliverance or redemption is the act of saving people from sin and its consequences. It has been written that there are seven deadly sins…listed as follows, lust, gluttony, greed, laziness, wrath, envy, and pride. There are many more as counted in just the Old Testament alone… Consider that the entire books of Leviticus and Deuteronomy are devoted to revealing to the Israelites God’s laws. Jewish rabbis say that there are 613 laws in the Torah (Books of Moses). Of those, 365 are in the “thou shalt not…” category. It is not my intention to do a numerical count of sins but when considering salvation delivers us from it, it would be most helpful to recognize it for what it is. I have been reading both secular and religious writings about sin and I thought there might be a simple way to put it. I have shared with you in the past that I am a simple layman, there are no letters of distinction that follow my name…here I am just a few words into this blog and I find myself buried under an avalanche of words within the written and digital world, both secular and theological. The Pew has for years had a tagline …  “A Layman’s Look At The Gospel”. So here is my view. 

It is my belief that anything that separates us from God is a sin. That covers a lot of ground. Sin is due to personal behavior and sometimes can be the result of attitudes that foster defiance and it hurts to write but also are the result of one who has a hatred of God. Yes, there are those in this world that hate God. We as Christians accept the Judaic concept of sin but look to the New Testament thought that the sinful nature of humanity is a condition that Jesus came into the world to heal. There is no way that any rational person could ever deny that sin is not destructive to those who do so and to those around them. Where there are the attributes of sin the Holy Spirit cannot abide.

Why is salvation important?

Salvation means being saved from sin, living a life here on earth that allows for a strong relationship with God, which in turn allows our relationship with Jesus Christ to strengthen our resolve and to live a good Christian life. How do we receive Salvation? Many writers and many ways have attempted to give us the answer for this question. … one source says salvation can be achieved in the following manner: “Live a holy and righteous life dedicated to Yahweh, the God of Creation. Fast, worship, and celebrate during the appropriate holidays.”  Simple OT reasoning and then there is the Theological term “atonement”. It centers on cleansing of impurity from the Temple, mind and bodies. Then there is the  New Testament notions  “Christ died for our sins” 1 Corinthians 15:3  “we were reconciled to God through his sacrifice. 

1 Corinthians 15:3

For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,

My one thought here is to keep this simple. Salvation is freely given to those who seek it…but… there is that caveat. The gift is free but requires a true repentance and the spiritual maintenance of mind, body and soul, that we might be acceptable in His sight. I thought that in keeping it simple Wikipedia did it best……

Repentance is reviewing one’s actions and feeling contrition or regret for past wrongs, which is accompanied by commitment to and actual actions that show and prove a change for the better.”

Now sins are divided by some to be judged by their severity, and state of intent. There are those of an intentional nature, knowingly done and those of omission and lack of vigilance. Love is the balm of Christian thought and action. How do we live to serve God and Christ?

1 Corinthians 13: 4-8, 13

Love is patient; love is kind; love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends….   13 And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.

Fill life with Love.

Life is Good

jk

An Old Man’s Lament…

 

 

For a large number of Christians, Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Christ, God’s gift of salvation and the path to the restoration of his relationship with his people. The story is remarkable, a virgin gives birth to a boy in a stable who is in reality the Son of the Living God. A star marks the manger where he lay, Angles sing of his birth, shepherds follow the star to see this Child. It is not long thereafter that wise men seek him also, bringing gifts. This child will bring about the wholesale murder of all boys born that day and he will become the subject of a massive manhunt…he has yet to utter a word. We know little of his early life and in later years he appears before a rather strange man in animal skins who lives on bugs, nuts and berries and is at home in the desert wearing animal skins, pleading for people to renounce their sins because the Messiah is soon to come. A remarkable story whose reality is even more remarkable. From these humble beginnings the Greatest Story Ever Told is born. Consider this…there were from the beginning doubters and history has put forth many arguments and theories about this man who presented himself as the Messiah. There is the fact that the Jewish people had always expected a savior, the one who would restore Israel to her rightful place as the chosen people of God. 

From the early prophets to that very day of his baptism by John in the wilderness, the Jews had lived with this in-destructible faith and the raw belief that it would be so. The beginning of the ministry occurred with his baptism in the countryside of Roman Judea and Transjordan, near the River Jordan by John the Baptist. New Testament writings give as the principal locations for the ministry of Jesus as Galilee and Judea, with activities also taking place in surrounding areas such as Perea and Samaria. 

Now I need to be careful here but the enormity of the scope of his ministry is pivotal to the story. Three years a total estimated distance of 3,125 miles, Jesus WALKED during his ministry. Add to that his disciples, the 12 of his picking, walked with him…most likely the majority of those miles. Now there are records of large crowds following him through certain areas and there were others we find in the gospel writings that were with him at various times… I think of it sometimes as being a traveling caravan of Salvation…with the Cross going on before. I believe Jesus saw that Cross on the horizon when he took his very first step on those roads. He would sit among the mighty and the fallen, kneel in the dust of a town to speak to the stoning of a woman, speak to a Samaritan woman at a well, heal the blind and sick on the Sabbath…all these acts adding to his notoriety and adding fuel to those enemies that would have him put aside. His ministry would come to an end on the ragged outcrop of a hill…There he would be taunted, mocked and nailed to a wooden cross, his side pierced just as the heavens open up in fury and the cloth rent…. The world would never be the same. 

 I have thought of many ways to bring this blog to a close. I then realized the story is not finished yet, the end is yet to come. The brightness of the lights, the joy of the tree and the unexpected love we feel for people in general makes me wish everyday could be Christmas. God has blessed the world with the greatest gift ever given to man. It is argued every year to keep Christ in Christmas. I encourage you to not pack him away till next year….Keep him in your heart, mind and very being…. The story is not completed yet. 

Come Lord Jesus

Life is Good

jk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Drop The Blanket

This is a repost from a few years ago…It has become a tradition to post it each year at at Christmas. May you and yours have a Merry Christmas…Praise God for his son Jesus Christ!

I am constantly searching the internet for little gems of knowledge and wisdom that will enrich and encourage us ordinary folks whose frantic pace in this life causes us to rush by without even taking the time to “smell the coffee” so to speak. Well over fifty years ago we were introduced to the world of Charlie Brown. Charles Schultz created a community of loveable misfits each with their own recognizable frailties’ of mind, body and spirit, in which many of us saw a part of ourselves in the characters and took this lovable bunch into our hearts. Unlike some of the modern animated cartoons of this day the brilliance of Charles Shultz shows us our faults in a gentle and endearing way. Charlie Brown also helps us see the real value of community, the need we have for others and the power of a simple love that transcends the norms of this day. Having said all this let me introduce you to a brilliant post of December 14, 2014, by Jason Soroski. I have edited his original post for space requirements and encourage you to go to the posted url to read it as posted. (jasonsoroski.wordpress.com)

Here are some excerpts from that post.

I was in the first grade back when they still performed Christmas pageants in schools (less than 50 years, but still a very long time ago), and our class performed a version of the Charlie Brown Christmas. Since I was kind of a bookworm and already had a blue blanket, I was chosen to play the part of Linus. As Linus, I memorized Luke 2:8-14, and that Scripture has been hidden in my heart ever since. But while working so diligently to learn those lines, there is one important thing I didn’t notice then, and didn’t notice until now. Right in the middle of speaking, Linus drops the blanket.

Throughout the story of Peanuts, Lucy, Snoopy, Sally and others all work to no avail to separate Linus from his blanket. And even though his security blanket remains a major source of ridicule for the otherwise mature and thoughtful Linus, he simply refuses to give it up. Until this moment. When he simply drops it. In that climactic scene when Linus shares “what Christmas is all about,” he drops his security blanket, and I am now convinced that this is intentional. Most telling is the specific moment he drops it: when he utters the words, “fear not”

 Looking at it now, it is pretty clear what Charles Schultz was saying, and it’s so simple it’s brilliant.

The birth of Jesus separates us from our fears.

The birth of Jesus frees us from the habits we are unable (or unwilling) to break ourselves.

The birth of Jesus allows us to simply drop the false security we have been grasping so tightly, and learn to trust and cling to Him instead.

I hope you have enjoyed this post and take Jason Soroski’s advice and “drop the blanket” in the coming new year. Again I encourage you to go to the url posted above and read some more of this gentlemen’s writings and activities.

Life is Good

jk

 

 

Back In The Day…The World Into Which He Came

This time of the year is always busy and is a time of celebration as we prepare for the birth of the Christ child. It is also a time in which the secular world is full of frustration, uncertainty and in need of divine intervention.   Thousands of years ago a divine intervention came about…God sent his Son…Jesus Christ as an instrument of salvation and restoration, an instrument of reconciliation between God and his people. What kind of world was he born into?

 When Jesus was born all of Jewish Palestine and some of the neighboring Gentile areas were ruled by Rome’s friend an ally Herod the Great. He was appointed By Rome to be the King of Judea. He built many fortresses, aqueducts, theaters, and other public buildings. He was known for having raised the prosperity of his land. In New Testament writings he is portrayed as a tyrant, into whose kingdom Jesus of Nazareth was born. Palestine lay between Syria and Egypt which were two of Romes most valuable possessions. Herod was allowed to remain King as long as he maintained the requirements of stability and loyalty demanded by Rome and granted him pretty much a free hand in his governing his kingdom. Herod died shortly after Jesus was born. The kingdom was divided into five parts. The Gentile areas were separated from the Jewish areas, which were spilt between two of Herod’s sons.  There is much more information concerning the politics of the day but we will simply focus on just those in the area of Jesus’ birth that affected his  future ministry. Over time and in the time of Christ’s ministry Augustus disposed of Archelaus and transformed Judaea, Idumaea, and Samaria from a client kingdom into an “imperial province.” A minor Roman aristocrat later referred to as a procurator was sent to govern and protect Rome’s interest. During Jesus’ public career, the Roman Prefect was Pontius Pilate (ruled 26–36 CE).

Now normally the area of Judaea, Samaria and Idumaea, was govern directly by the Prefect, but in this instance the Perfect relied on local leaders. He was supported by a small Roman army numbering about 3,000 men and they came from the mostly Gentile cities of Caesarea and Sebaste. Most of the officers for this force came from Italy and if needed in Jerusalem this force could be there in two days. I am going to passover a large part of the organization of the government and go straight to the way it was in the Lord’s Day.

At the time of Jesus’ public career, Galilee was governed by the tetrarch Antipas, Judaea (including Jerusalem) was nominally governed by Pilate, but the actual daily rule of Jerusalem was in the hands of Caiaphas and his council. 

( Caiaphas served as the Jewish high priest in the Jerusalem temple and president of the Sanhedrin at the time of Jesus Christ’s death. Caiaphas accused Jesus of blasphemy, which led to his death sentence by crucifixion.)

It was a strange partnership the truth being that the Romans wanted to protect their investment and the Jews wished to protect the Temple and rule over their people. Just as the Romans would not tolerate disorder and non-compliance with Roman law, the Sanhedrin, the highest Jewish court of justice and the supreme council in ancient Jerusalem were protective of their power and the beliefs of the faith. The Jews had been waiting for the coming of their Messiah…he who would free them now from the harsh rule of the Romans. As the folks used to say “there ain’t no sense plowing old ground.” The world into which he came was a cruel and harsh one. There were those who had much and those who had little or nothing. There was no in-between. That’s about as simple as I can tell it.

It has been interesting taking time to consider some of the back stories of those bible stories that we read every year at this time. Two weeks ago as I wrote….

That Star has lost some of its glow. The scripture in   2nd chapter of Luke is one we have read every year and behind those words lie the rest of the story. 

 Behind those words that came from a couple of weeks ago comes the realization that we are still struggling with greed, anger and hate for other people. But consider this…That Star is still there and so is our Lord and Savior.We must put aside those things that separate us from our God and let the STAR glow bright in our world today. Next week will be our annual Christmas post…Charlie Brown will be back.

Life is Good… May you find abundance, kindness and love…That Star is still with us and our Savior Christ is among us this very day.

jk

His Name Is John…Luke 1:57-66

In the previous verses we read of Mary going out into the hill country to a city of Judah, where she went into the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth who was aware that Mary was with child. In these next verses we meet Elizabeth’s child John, soon to be born and will become  known as John the Baptizer, this child was to do great things, a special child, already posing the question among all the neighbors …’What will this child turn out to be, for the hand of the Lord is with him?’ Here Jewish tradition and law enter the story…

In Palestine the birth of a boy was an occasion of great joy. Add to this the fact that Elizabeth, already considered to be past the age of conceiving has been delivered of a boy child, the musicians and all those gathered there broke into song, congratulations and rejoicing. Elizabeth now had the child she and Zacharias had prayed so long for…a boy, it was truly a double blessing and double joy. Jewish law required that a male child be circumcised on the eighth day and be given a name. In Palestine names were descriptive. Elizabeth surprised her neighbors and friends by insisting that her son must be called John, to which Zacharias  also agreed. This was the name God instructed be given the child, as it means Yahweh’s gift or God is gracious. It pointed to the parents gratitude and unexpected joy. For all those who had heard the amazing story of how God had blessed the parents and honored their prayers, there was the inevitable question…‘What will this child turn out to be?’ 

Zacharias had high hopes for his son. He envisioned him to be a prophet and the forerunner who would prepare the way of the Lord. The Messiah, God’s anointed king, a day and time every Jew hoped and longed for would come soon. Zacharias considered his son to be the one who would prepare the way for the coming of God’s king. He would the one who would baptize the people, preparing them for the coming of the Son of God, the Messiah.

Zacharias, speaking of his son gives us a picture of what this preparation will consist of.

 Luke 1:75-77

75 in holiness and righteousness

    before him all our days.

76 

And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;

    for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,

77 

to give knowledge of salvation to his people

    by the forgiveness of their sins.

-We should live our lives in preparation for the Lord’s coming.

-There will be a knowledge of what God is really like when the Messiah comes.

-There will be forgiveness and the restoration of our relationship with God.

-With Christ we are enabled to walk in the ways that lead to everything that means life, and no longer to all that means death. 

We often pass by John the gift that is hid behind the greatest gift, the coming of God’s son and the mending of the relationship between God and his people. The Greatest Story Ever Told…ushered in by angels on high and a strange man in animal skins… 

John The Baptist.

Life is Good

jk

1000 Words…Tis’ The Season…..

 

 “From The Pew” 2018.  This Blog was posted three years ago…


 

 The painting to the left is a work by the artist Sigismund Christian Hubert Goetze. It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words but if you look closely you will  realize the impossibility of giving even a faint idea of its power and awful significance with words from a people who refuse  to recognize their Savior. 

This is traditionally a time that we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ. It is the time of the Angels singing on high and joy and goodwill to all mankind. Trees are going up and strings of colored lights decorate our homes and even our cities! Children’s faces are aglow with anticipation of Santa, gifts under the tree  and there seems so little time to get everything done. The shopping malls will soon be full of shoppers, pushing, rushing from one store to another and if you look carefully there are few smiles of joy. For many the pressures of the season overwhelm them. In the city where I live there are a number of homeless encampments within hearing distance of the canned Christmas music that is being played everywhere. There will be the usual laments about Christ being taken out of Christmas even though the facts are plain, Christmas is a Christian thing celebrating the birth of Christ. That being said it is worth noting  “Many popular customs associated with Christmas developed independently of the commemoration of Jesus’ birth, with certain elements having origins in pre-Christian festivals that were celebrated around the winter solstice by pagan populations who were later converted to Christianity.”  As we make our way back to the painting I must share with you this scripture from   Isaiah 53: 3-5….

 

He was despised and rejected by others;

    a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;

and as one from whom others hide their faces

    he was despised, and we held him of no account

This chapter foretells the sufferings of the Messiah, the reason he did so and for which he died. The Jews were not impressed by this poorly dressed man and his humble appearance and manners. He would suffer for sins not his own, giving to us the gift of salvation. When you can, please read Isaiah 53: 1-11.    

According to an article on the painting in The Literary Digest, “‘At the exhibition of the Royal Academy in London, the great canvas by Sigismund Goetze … has created an artistic sensation.’ It is declared to be a ‘powerful and terribly realistic presentment of Christ’ in a modern setting.”

Overwhelmed by the season we are unable to see the real gift, the good news if you will, hidden amongst bright-colored ribbons and Christmas wrappings of red and green, mankind’s  only hope for redemption and salvation. The painting of course goes past that to the end result. Why in this time of celebration and great joy would I take us there? Simply put, we have the book, the word and yet we are the mirror image of the people in that painting. Going about our business, caught up in our importance, so rushed with life we can only spare a couple of hours out of this season to note the gift of our salvation coming among us. There among a heedless crowd, bound by ropes upon a pedestal stands the Christ. Do our actions say “it is nothing to me”?

To Christians Christmas is not a season, it is the presentation of the gift of the Father to his children in the person of the Christ child, a promise of hope, life and goodwill to all men.

Life is Good

jk

 

 

Luke 2…and Thanksgiving

Luke was what we would call a people person and a gatherer of information and was one of Paul’s companions. Luke was always a writer of fact, meticulous in detail and accurate to a fault. For this reason These verses we look closely at today are special.

Luke 2:25-35

The Jews had always regarded themselves as the chosen people and nation of God, so destined to attain greatness in this world but to their credit they knew this destiny could never be by human means. There were other means that would bring this about and there was one among the many who quietly waited with prayers patiently waiting with humble expectations, they waited for the day God would confront his people.

There was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon, who all knew to be a good and pious man. Generations of God’s people had waited for the Messiah, the Savior to bring consolation or comfort to the nation of Israel. The people had faith he would come and deliver them once again just as he had done in the past…Out of Egypt and slavery. Simeon too knew he would come because he had received the promise from the Holy Spirit and on that day he was led to the Temple. One of the things that I have learned from studying over the years is that Jewish tradition will prevail in most all situations and at this point of the story it does not disappoint. Joseph and Mary, in faithfulness to the Law, traveled to Jerusalem while Jesus was still an infant to present Him to God in the temple and at this time the promise to Simeon was granted. Simeon knew the baby Jesus instantly and as he picked him up in his arms…these words rushed from his mouth… 

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

you may now dismiss your servant in peace.

For my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:

a light for revelation to the Gentiles,

and the glory of your people Israel” (Luke 2:29–32).

 

Luke 2:49-52

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”[f] 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. NRSV

In these verses we see how Jewish Tradition once again becomes a determining factor in our story. Tradition required that every adult male Jew within fifteen miles of Jerusalem must attend the Passover. It was in fact a goal of every Jew in the world to attend the Passover at least once in their lifetime. There was the Tradition also that every male Jew when they became twelve years of age become a son of the law and take obligations of the law upon themselves. This trip, the holy city and the Temple and the sacred ritual had a huge impact on Jesus. At the close of the festival as people set out for home Jesus stayed behind, his parents were not aware of this, not to be attributed to carelessness on their part. It was the customs of those traveling to do so in groups as a protection against the hazards of the road both natural and otherwise. The women would always leave a bit earlier than the men because they traveled at a slower pace. The men traveling at a faster pace would catch up with the women and children about the time the evening encampment was reached. Jesus was now 12 years old and by Jewish tradition a man. In this time of excitement both Mary and Joseph believed he was with the other group. They missed him soon after the groups came together that evening. When they were sure he was not with either group, they then set out for Jerusalem to find him. At Passover it was the custom of the Sanhedrin to come to the middle court of the Temple and publicly in the presence of all who would listen, discuss religious and theological questions. This is where they found him listening and asking questions as was the Jewish way of learning from your elders. This was an important time in the life of Jesus, this was the day when he discovered who he was. Jesus left then to go back home with Mary and Joseph and he was obedient to them.

In this chapter we read of the Angels giving thanks, the Shepherds going to see this child and giving thanks. Elisabeth welcoming Mary and both praising and giving thanks for the goodness of God. Simeon, to whom the Spirit had made a promise that he would not die until he had seen the Christ… giving thanks. I hope that you have given Thanks…this holiday and continue to do so. Our God is a great God.

Life is Good

jk

Luke… Shepherds, Angels and Joseph

There are a few unique things in this book which has as it main idea that all humans are sinners and in need of salvation. Throughout his gospel as you read you see what God can do in human life, this having made a deep impression on Luke. We also note that among the four synoptic Gospels it is the only one to give an account of the Ascension and add to that it is here, only here, among the notable parables you will find The Prodigal Son and the Good Samaritan. Very little is known of Jesus’ childhood but in Luke chapter 2: 41-51 we find a short entry that occurred when he was about 12 years of age. In Luke chapter 2: 8-20 there are a few things, speculation if you wish but very much reasonable as we go beyond the word. “Do not be afraid…” to the shepherds gathered in this field that was a hard thing not to do. Angels in the sky and a heavenly host, praising God and announcing the birth of one referred to as the Savior; a Savior to all! William Barclay wrote a beautiful observation to this event… “IT is a wonderful thing that the story should tell us, that the first announcement of God came to some shepherds.” 

 These shepherds had to travel 90 miles to the city of Joseph’s ancestors: south along the flatlands of the Jordan River, then west over the hills surrounding Jerusalem, and on into Bethlehem. It would be a grueling journey. It is worth a second look at these shepherds and adding a little more information about them. Going beyond the words we find that shepherds of that day were despised by many of the orthodox people of the day. Because of the nature of their job they were unable to keep the details of the ceremonial law; they could not observe all the meticulous hand washings and rules and regulations. It was to these simple men, on that cold dark field that God’s message came to first but if we go a little further there is something else to consider. In most likelihood these were special shepherds, tending a special flock. Every morning and evening an unblemished lamb was offered as a sacrifice to God. The Temple authorities had their own supply chain, simple but effective…they had their own private flocks; and we know they were pastured near Bethlehem. What these shepherds found was not a place one would have thought to find a king. Over the years the place of the birth has been described in many ways. The most common would be a barn which provided shelter and was divided into stalls and contained a manger which was no more than a container for food being fed to the animals. In reality it was very crude and simple, a trough if you will. Here they placed the child wrapped in various cloths…again from DBS…

It is a lovely thought that the shepherds who looked after the Temple lambs were the first to see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.”

We are all familiar with the Nativity of Jesus scene which usually includes the Holy Family, the angels, the Magi, the ox and the donkey, and an assortment of shepherds, villagers, servants and others.

In chapter 2:41-52 there is an interesting story Which in a way is an early revelation and if we read the words carefully, we could say It is an early revelation of the divinity of Jesus. Mary and Joseph had gone to the Festival of The Passover as was their habit every year. When the festival was over and they started home they were unaware that the Jesus had remained there in Jerusalem. They believed that he was in the group of travelers and after a day’s travel they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. Not finding him there they returned to Jerusalem and after three days they found him in the Temple among the teachers and asking questions. Mary, unhappy with what he had done and the anxiety it had caused for her and Joseph questioned his actions.

Then in his reply is an astonishing revelation. From Luke 2:49-51

49 He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”[m] 50 But they did not understand what he said to them. 51 Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart…NRNRSV

Next week we will return to these verses and continue our journey behind the words written there. We remain in chapter 2 of Luke looking closer at verses 25-35 and verses 49-51.

Life is Good

jk