Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Mystery of the Manger

Christmas is over and preparations for the New Year have begun. I determined this year to enjoy Christmas, so I have been a bit more contemplative regarding Christmas, regardless of my desire to move into the New Year. I would be remiss to ignore the significance of not only enjoying Christmas, but in keeping Christmas all year. One iconic symbol of Christmas has resonated with me this year—the manger.  There is more to this feeding trough than a makeshift cradle. What is the significance of the manger? Why a manger? 

It was a cold, dark night in Bethlehem. Four-hundred years of brass heavens created a desperation for a Word from God…just one Word. The silence from God’s Throne was deafening. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son {Gal. 4:4-7}, and gave not only a word, but The Word the world so desperately needed.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men {Luke 2: 10-14 KJV}.

Easton Bible Dictionary defines Manger (Luke 2:7, 12, 16): “The name (Gr. phatne, rendered “stall” in Luke 13:15) given to the place where the infant Redeemer was laid. It seems to have been a stall or crib for feeding cattle. Stables and mangers in our modern sense were in ancient times unknown in the East. The word here properly denotes “the ledge or projection in the end of the room used as a stall on which the hay or other food of the animals of travelers was placed.”

The Lord included the manger as a sign so the shepherds would know when they arrived, that they found the child of which God spoke. This intrigues me. Why did God give the manger as a sign concerning the holy Child?  Why did the Lord include the manger in this narrative? 

He was laid in a manger to show that he was available to all; born in a palace only a few could access Him. He came for all mankind. He had to come as a man to redeem man.

“He was laid in a manger to mark His identification with human suffering and wretchedness. The One born was “The Son of Man.” He had left the heights of Heaven’s glory and had descended to our level, and here we behold Him entering the human condition at its lowest point. Thus did the Man of Sorrows identify Himself with human suffering.” (A.W. Pink, Why Four Gospels?)

I love the book of Isaiah; it is full of prophetic passages concerning the Messiah. Jesus is the Man of Sorrows in chapter 53; God’s Suffering Servant.
Servanthood is what resonates with me when I contemplate the manger.  Jesus came to serve mankind. Imagine, the Creator of the Universe left the glory of heaven, and came to earth to serve His creation; His ungrateful, fallen, sinful, rebellious creation. We have lost all rights to be anything other than humble.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many {Mark 10:45 NASB}.

The church needs to return to serving. Not just serving inside the four walls of the church, but serving mankind. Serving for us self-centered creatures does not always come easily. We are pulled in many directions by people who need us. We are needed by our spouses, our children, and friends. The thought of serving and giving more of ourselves is daunting—whom else do I need to give myself to? We become drained and weary of always helping others. It is easy to tire of helping everyone else, having little time for ourselves; righteous indignation is tempting. Serving is not only helping our own and others, but that we keep the right attitude and do all things to the glory of God. Serving becomes wearisome when our attitudes have turned sour; serving becomes a burden. When this happens we need a paradigm shift. We need our hearts to be renewed by Him, and to hold His posture for serving. He came to serve mankind, and we thanked Him by scourging, beating, and nailing Him to tree, yet it did not sway Him from His purpose. Make it a priority to pray every day and ask whom He needs you to serve, and like Christ take on the nature of a servant; a humble servant. 

Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.  For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name {Philippians 2:5-9 NASB}.

Christ came to serve mankind and to be all that we need. He is all we need. His humble arrival in a stable made Him accessible to all man-kind; to serve the broken, the discouraged, the discontented:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised {Luke 4:18 KJV}.

I love this prose of who Christ is to man-kind. He is the Great I AM; all we need He already is…

To the artist he is the One altogether lovely (Song of Sol. 5:16); To the architect he is the chief Cornerstone (1 Pet. 2:6); To the astronomer he is the Sun of righteousness (Mal. 4:2); To the baker he is the Bread of life (Jn. 6:35); To the banker he is the hidden treasure (Mt. 13:44); To the builder he is the sure foundation (Isa. 28:16); To the carpenter he is the door (Jn. 10:7); To the doctor he is the great Physician (Jer. 8:22); To the educator he is the new and living way (Heb. 10:20); To the farmer he is the sower and the Lord of harvest (Lk. 10:2). (Wilmington’s Guide to the Bible).

Let’s purpose to remember the manger all year, not just at Christmas. The mystery of the manger—that Christ came as a humble servant, and would suffer to reconcile humanity to the Father. We do not have the sins of the world on our shoulder as Christ did, but we need to take on the attitude of Christ and pray for a servant’s heart. The hurting, and broken, and lost are waiting for us. Many are looking to us for help, and we need to answer their cries.

For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God {Rom. 8:19

Remember, Jesus came as a humble servant and will return soon as the King of Kings; His reward is with Him. Let Him find us faithful.

My Scribbling....

Monday, December 21, 2015

Sabbath Sanctuary: Rest in the Greatest Gift

The first Sunday of Advent we prepared our hearts for the coming of Christ, and our hearts were filled with the hope of the promise of His coming to this lost and fallen world. The second Sunday we were challenged to spread the love of Christ in this season; He is the reason for the season. When we share His love, we are His light to lead the world to Him. The third Sunday of Advent we breathed in one of the greatest promises in the Word—joy—His Joy. The arrival of the incarnate Lord was a joyful event—the angels could not suppress their joy at His arrival, how much more should we rejoice? In this last Sunday in Advent, as we are preparing to give and to receive gifts, we remember the ultimate gift ever given; all gifts this season pale in comparison.

God, who first ordered light to shine in darkness, has flooded our hearts with his light. We now can enlighten men only because we can give them knowledge of the glory of God, as we see it in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:6 J.B. Phillips).

The glory of God in the face of Christ; this is the greatest gift. When I remember how broken and lost I was; how deep in bondage I was to sin, it amazes me that the Father sent His only Son to set me free. He came to redeem us and to reconcile us to the Father. He came to dwell with us. He has given us many wonderful gifts and many precious promises (see 2 Pet. 1:4), but of all His gifts, none is greater than the gift of His Son Jesus. In giving us His Son He gave us himself.

I traveled to Israel many years ago, and I walked through the shepherd’s fields in Bethlehem. I tried to imagine the holy stable, and where it may have stood. I thought of Joseph and Mary, and the baby Jesus. How he slipped into the world quietly in the night. Stable animals were his company. Humble shepherds came and worshiped. A sense of wonder came over me as I imagined the angels appearing and announcing the greatest gift that changed the world forever, and then celebrating His arrival.

Rest in the greatest gift this world has ever been given, Jesus Christ, the reason for this season. There is not a gift that you or I can give this Christmas season, as great as giving the gift of Jesus Christ. Give Him to everyone you know, by sharing the Message that will change their world.

Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we’re proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, ‘Light up the darkness!’ and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful” {2 Cor. 4: 5-6 Message}.

My Scribbling..

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Sabbath Sanctuary: Rest in His Joy

But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem for rejoicing and her people for gladness (Is. 65:18).

Joy. Christmas is a time where joy is abundant. But not everyone can find it. But when we reject joy, we reject one of the greatest promises ever breathed from God. The joy promise is woven throughout the Holy Writ. The parched will be quenched, the barren will blossom. The lame will walk, the blind will see:

The wilderness and the desert will be glad, And the Arabah will rejoice and blossom; Like the crocus it will blossom profusely And rejoice with rejoicing and shout of joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They will see the glory of the Lord, The majesty of our God.  Encourage the exhausted, and strengthen the  feeble.  Say to those with anxious heart, “Take courage, fear not. Behold, your God will come with vengeance; The recompense of God will come, But He will save you.”  Then the eyes of the blind will be opened And the ears of the deaf will be unstopped.  Then the lame will leap like a deer, And the tongue of the mute will shout for joy. For waters will break forth in the wilderness And streams in the Arabah.  The scorched land will become a pool And the thirsty ground springs of water; In the haunt of jackals, its resting place, Grass becomes reeds and rushes.  A highway will be there, a roadway, And it will be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean will not travel on it, But it will be for him who walks that way, And fools will not wander on it.  No lion will be there, Nor will any vicious beast go up on it; These will not be found there. But the redeemed will walk there, And the ransomed of the Lord will return And come with joyful shouting to Zion, With everlasting joy upon their heads. They will find gladness and joy, And sorrow and sighing will flee away (Is.35.1-10).
Joy is available to us as we prepare and hope in Him:

In that very day his thoughts perish. How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God, Who made heaven and earth, The sea and all that is in them; Who keeps faith forever; Who executes justice for the oppressed; Who gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free. The Lord opens the eyes of the blind; The Lord raises up those who are bowed down; The Lord loves the righteous; The Lord protects the strangers; He supports the fatherless and the widow, But He thwarts the way of the wicked. The Lord will reign forever, Your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the Lord! (Ps. 146.4-10).

The arrival of the incarnate Lord was a joyful happening—the angels could not suppress their joy at His arrival:


The humble shepherds the first recipients of the Message:

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (Lk. 2:10-11).

If the angels, who did not understand sweet redemption, but longed to comprehend it, (see 1 Pet. 1:12) could not contain their celebration, how much more should we, the redeemed, be full of joy at the advent of our Lord?

May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! Show a gentle attitude toward everyone. The Lord is coming soon. Don’t worry about anything, but in all your prayers ask God for what you need, always asking him with a thankful heart. And God’s peace, which is far beyond human understanding, will keep your hearts and minds safe in union with Christ Jesus (Phil. 4:4–7 TEV).

This Advent season choose joy. This Sabbath rest in His joy. He came so that our joy will  be full. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full (Jn. 15:11). He desires for you to be full of joy.

In this Advent season, prepare and have hopeshed the love of Christ in the earth, and be filled with His joy. Let’s pray each day that the joy we know, the joy that is in our hearts, will be shinning from our countenance as we hope, love, rejoice. Happy are the people whose God is the Lord! (Ps.144:15).

For you will go out with joy, and be led forth with peace (Isaiah 55:12, NASB).

My Scribbling....

Monday, December 7, 2015

Hanukkah: The Light of the World and Re-dedication Of The Temple

Hanukkah or the Feast of Dedication is a celebration not included in the Feasts of Jehovah, this celebration finds its origin during the intertestamental period—the time between the Old and New Testaments. It is an epic story of the deliverance of God’s people from yet another attempt by Satan, through his puppet Epiphanes, to annihilate the Jewish people.
Tonight is the first night of this special celebration and its symbolization is remarkable. Jesus celebrated the Festival of Lights, and the importance of this festival is significant. First, I do not celebrate this holiday as the Jewish people do, but I do recognize its importance and significance. I love studying and meditating on these precious Holy Days, because of the Christology contained therein and how all of these feasts speak to the person, life, and ministry of Christ. 

Hanukkah commemorates the re-dedication of the Temple in Jerusalem by Judah Maccabee in 165 BC after a standoff with Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who nearly succeeded in wiping out the Jews. The Maccabees won the standoff. {My own little note: it is no accident that the heroic leader of the Maccabees is named Judah—the line of the Messiah}.

When the Maccabees took back the Temple from Epiphanes, it had been completely desecrated—so the Jews went to work to clean and rededicate the temple. They cleaned out the liter left by Epiphanes and tore down the altar built to Zeus. The Jews offered incense on the golden altar and placed the shewbread on the table. The lampstand in the Tabernacle and the Temple was required by God to be lit every day. The high priest tended the lamps day and night by trimming the wicks and filling the cups with oil. However, only one jar of oil was found, and that would last only one day. But out of faith in God, and a desire to rededicate the Lord’s house, they miraculously lit the lamp from that one jar of oil for eight days.

Not only was this a miracle at God’s hands to rededicate His temple, but it was also a miracle that the Jews defeated Epiphanes. Satan purposed to wipe out the Jews in hopes of extinguishing any hope for the Messiah to come. Satan though is no match for the plans and purposes of God or the power of the Almighty.

John 10:22-23 tells us that Jesus celebrated the festival:

At that time the Feast of the Dedication took place at Jerusalem; it was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple in the portico of Solomon {NASB}.

What does this festival mean for us? It certainly does not mean you need to light a menorah each night, though sometimes I do. I celebrate that the plot to wipe out the Jews failed and it reminds me that I need to keep my temple clean. It also is a reminder of what a wonderful, miracle-working God we serve. The hope in the Advent of the Messiah was renewed with the victory over Epiphanes.

 The miracle of the oil was preceded by a desire to renew—rededicate the Temple. Let us during this time of Hanukkah, in this Advent Season, clean out the liter (the Braze Laver), renew our study and love for the Word (Table of Shewbread), allow the Holy Spirit to guide us again (The Lampstand), and reignite our prayer life (the altar of incense). Let’s rededicate our temple to the Lord, and renew the hope in the advent of Christ.   Jesus is the Light of the world; let’s shine His light in this season of Hanukkah and Advent.

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own?” (1 Cor. 6:19 NASB)

To read all the posts on the Lord's feasts click here!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Sabbath Sanctuary: Rest in His Love

                       God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. Jn. 3:16

Today is the second Sunday in Advent. Traditionally, the theme is love; I hold to that tradition.

By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 1 Jn. 4:9-10

Our fallen human nature cannot love God; our carnal nature is at war with God (see Rom. 8:7). He loved us regardless. Love is in high demand, with the hate and evil of the past couple weeks; terrorism and evil seem to be overtaking the world, but Love overcame, and has victory over death, hell, and the grave—yesterday, today, and forever.  

But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Rom. 5:8

God loves us. In the midst of a fallen, sinful, broken world, the love of God is displayed toward us. In Exodus, God called Moses to the top of the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments, and to receive the pattern for the Tabernacle, a pattern that designated Aaron to be the high priest. At the moment that Aaron led the Israelites into idolatry with a golden calf, God was preparing the propitiation that would redeem Aaron and the people. He did that for us as well. He loves us so much that He provided a way to redeem us—fallen, sinful, and broken people we are. He loves us that much. He redeemed us and called us His own.

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 1 Jn. 3:1

It all began in a garden, this Redemption story. In Genesis 3:15 is the protoevangelium—the first promise of the Savior that would come to redeem His fallen children. The story is recorded in the Holy Writ; beginning in Genesis and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

And I will put enmity Between you and the woman, And between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, And you shall bruise him on the heel. Gen. 3:15

He loved the world so much that He sent His beloved Son, to redeem you and me. When the Father could have turned away, He instead sent His Son, to dwell with us and be our God, He came and Tabernacled with us. He ordained it from the foundation of the world.

Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. Jn. 17:24

Jesus, in His moving prayer in John’s gospel reveals the heart of God toward a fallen, broken world, and fallen, broken humanity.

Love is the reason for the first Advent. Love is the reason for the second. He will dwell with us forever.

Rest this Sabbath in the Love of God. Let your love shine in this advent season, so that we can spread His love throughout the earth. This is the reason for the season.