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Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’

 

 Now there was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” ~John 3:1-2

We.  Nicodemus speaks in plural.  This religious leader is not just speaking for himself.  He says, “…we know…”  It is very likely he is speaking on behalf of himself and several, if not many, religious leaders of his day.  The Pharisees.  They knew.  They knew, at the very least, that Jesus was from God – yet – they still hated him.  They still sought ways to discredit and undermine him.  They still publicly challenged and slandered him.

This is amazing!  Jealousy makes power-hungry religious men do terrible things even though they know better.

Jesus takes Nicodemus immediately to the reason and the solution for why he doesn’t know him for who he actually is.  Jesus is not just from God – he is God.  The reason Nicodemus doesn’t know that is because he has not been regenerated by the power of God.  He is a just another guy who is interested in religion.  He lacks spiritual insight and wisdom precisely because he has not come to know Christ truly yet.  He knows all about religion.  He fails to know God.  This is tragic.

What does Jesus do?

He wastes no time explaining who he is or setting Nicodemus straight about his identity.  Jesus gives him the solution.  “You must be born again.”  He proceeds to preach the gospel to Nicodemus adding that it is quite peculiar that he is in a position and in fact is a teacher of God’s people and yet has no understanding of the things of God. (verse 10)

Nicodemus is bewildered.  He is confused.  He is astonished at what Jesus tells him saying, “How can these things be?” (verse 9)

After Jesus makes the point that a teacher of God’s people ought to know these things, he reveals the real issue in Nicodemus’s life.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”~ John 3:11-12

You don’t believe me, Nicodemus.  I have repeatedly told you and showed you the truth in simple, lisping lessons but you simply do not believe it.  If you don’t believe me about things on earth – things you can see – how will you believe about things in heaven – things you have not seen?!  He gives Nicodemus the gospel as well as the reason men just like Nicodemus do not believe it.

We tend to forget that this whole John 3:16 business is in the context of Jesus talking to one of the most religious men of his day.  Think about that.  Consider the implications of that truth.

So what does Jesus say to this very religious teacher guy?  Grace is here – but, as Jesus has already told this man, it is for those who believe.  You do not believe.  Light is here.  The problem is not that you do not have enough light.  You love darkness.  That is the problem.  And why do you love darkness?  Because you’re hiding.  You are afraid that your wrong deeds will be exposed.  You care more about how you look on the outside than you do about whether you are in God’s favor.  You would rather hide behind religion than come into the light and be made clean.

The main idea here is that Jesus is not the one hiding.  God is waiting and willing no matter how or when we come to inquire of him.  We are always the ones who hide from God.  Nicodemus comes at night because he is hiding.  Likely he fears his religious friends seeing him talk to Jesus – because God forbid one of them get to know Jesus rightly and for who he truly is.  They were much more content to make him who they needed him to be in order to keep their sin hidden and their people – their followers – deceived about who they really were.

Jesus is not the one hiding.  The religious men are hiding.  When asked indirectly who he really is, Jesus pulls no punches.  He tells the inquirer the solution and the problem for why he does not know the answer to his own question.  Jesus does not have to say, “I am God” because it is extremely clear that Nicodemus has already repeatedly refused to believe the truths that would lead to that conclusion.  Instead, Jesus mercifully gives him the solution.

Here’s your problem, Nicodemus.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, Nicodemus.  There’s grace, Nicodemus.  Believe and be saved, Nicodemus.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, Nicodemus.

Have you ever had someone try to be your friend secretly?  Or treat you differently when others were around vs. when they were not around?  Religious people are infamous for this kind of behavior because they not only fail to recognize and believe who God is, they fail to know who they themselves are.  Therefore, they are not genuine in their dealings.  Jesus shows us how to deal with this kind of pretense.  Say this:

Here’s your problem, religious man.  Here’s what needs to happen in your own life, religious man.  There’s grace, religious man.  Believe and be saved, religious man.  If you do not believe, you are already condemned despite all your religious work and knowledge, religious man.

Jesus deals with pretense, fear, a religious spirit, and sin all in one blow.  He tells this spiritually impoverished soul the truth of the gospel and the solution to his sin problem.  He makes sure that guy knows exactly what is required of him and shows him that he has not yet been willing to do it.

God’s grace is waiting.  He wants people to come to the light.  We must believe, confess our sin in the light, and repent of our hiding it in the darkness.  God is faithful to meet us there and do a great work in our lives.  He will change us from religious pretenders – people who have (as the Bible says) a form of godliness but deny its power – and false friends to real sons and daughters; brothers and sisters of his very own.

Come to Jesus.  Confess your sin to him.  Ask forgiveness.  Allow his Holy Spirit to do his work in you and you will be a new creation.  You will be born again.  Amen.

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adultery

The seventh commandment that God gives to Moses on Mt. Sinai concerns purity and chastity within marriage.

Adultery is generally defined as a married man or woman being sexually unfaithful to their spouse.  So, infidelity.  Jesus, however, defines adultery with more detail.  He says that unfaithfulness is found even in adulterous thoughts and gazes.

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. ~Matthew 5:27-30

Jesus knows our hearts.  He knows what is in a man (and a woman).  He knows how easily we are enticed and entangled in sin.  Jesus knows that thoughts often lead to actions and small errors often lead to big problems.  Jesus cares enough about us and our purity to tell us the truth.

Flirting with adulterous thoughts, flirting with anyone other than our spouses, and flirting with temptation on any level in word, thought, or deed is more than enough reason to be alarmed, take heed, and repent.  These seemingly “smaller” offenses are – according to Jesus – not small.

To look is to commit adultery.  To lust is to commit adultery.

If we consider the other offenses that we commit in this kind of sin, it is not hard to see why the seeds of adultery are so important to both understand and avoid at all costs.  Jesus’ advice is to pluck out our eye or cut of our hand!  It is that dangerous.  It is that important to avoid.

When we cheat on our spouse, we steal.  We lie.  We covet.  We worship another in place of God – ourselves and our forbidden partner.  We dishonor our parents.  We break almost every commandment God set before us when we sin in this way.  Men and women in the Old Testament were stoned to death for this.

“If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death. ~ Leviticus 20:10

Death!  The penalty was death for both the man and the woman.  Now, the Pharisees tried to make it as though only the woman should be stoned but Jesus – what did he do?

but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. Early in the morning he came again to the temple. All the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them. The scribes and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in the midst they said to him, “Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery. Now in the Law, Moses commanded us to stone such women. So what do you say?” This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him. Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground. And as they continued to ask him, he stood up and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.” And once more he bent down and wrote on the ground.But when they heard it, they went away one by one, beginning with the older ones, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him. 10 Jesus stood up and said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” 11 She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more.” ~John 8:1-11

We also have his example of the Samaritan woman, also known as the woman at the well, who had five husbands in John 4.  How did Jesus treat these women?  Or should I say, these kind of women?

In the first case he stood up to the bullies who hated her by stooping down in a public proclamation of his alliance with the sinner. In the second case he went the way everyone else always avoided and talked with a woman – a loose woman to boot – when it was taboo in order to teach her the truth and – get this – use her to save a whole town by her testimony!  Amazing!

Why?

Jesus knows that we are guilty of breaking this command.  The level of severity is the only difference between men.  Therefore, he does what God always does.  He gives grace to the humble and opposes the proud.  That’s why we see him siding with the adulterous women and making a point to go to the people and places others intentionally and painstakingly avoided out of superiority, pride, and religious condescension.

Yesterday my husband and I were talking about temptation.  We have both done our share of failing in this area.  Temptation is never going to go away until we die.  We talked about the verse in 1 Corinthians 10 about being careful when things seem calm and when we feel less tempted.  That’s when the enemy strikes.  But today the verse of the day on my Bible app was the following verse so I’ll just read them both.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. ~1 Corinthians 10:12-13

You know what this means?  It means God is faithful.  You can trust him!  Even though we will be tempted to look, to lust, to think impure thoughts, to flirt, to act scandalously – we will also be given a way out.  Every.  Single.  Time.  The way will not be some religious pretense that shuns and avoids “sinners” in order to look pious and holy on the outside and impress our religious friends.  The way will be grace for us and for the other sinners he allows in close proximity to us.

We need to get that.  We need to get it deep down in our hearts.  Jesus does not shun and avoid sinners out of pride, pretense, preference, superiority, or self-preservation EVER.  Jesus goes to them purposefully and offers grace to the humble.  It is those who think themselves too high and holy to even be in the same town with “sinners” that he deals harshly with.

So, don’t commit adultery in thought, word, or deed.  Use the escape routes God is faithful to provide when tempted.  But don’t put on a religious show just to make others think you’re not guilty of this sin.  Confess it.  Don’t hide and pretend.  We are all guilty.  There is grace for the repentant and humble in heart.

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hate

 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. ~Matthew 10:1

Jesus is still calling disciples.  He is still giving his disciples authority over evil spirits, disease, and every kind of affliction.  What are his instructions for his disciples?  What are Jesus’s instructions for those whom he calls?

In Matthew 10:5-15, we find that Jesus sends his disciples first to the Jews.  They were the religious people of his day.  Interestingly, he calls them “lost sheep.”  These were the descendants of Abraham.  They were “God’s people.”  That’s where he sends his guys.  Go preach to them he says.  Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.  In other words, all the things they have been seeing Jesus do, he tells them to go and do as well.  He then tells them to give the gospel freely and to take nothing extra with them when they do.  Essentially, give and trust me for your return and your provision.

And whatever town or village you enter, find out who is worthy in it and stay there until you depart. 12 As you enter the house, greet it. 13 And if the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it, but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you. 14 And if anyone will not receive you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet when you leave that house or town. 15 Truly, I say to you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah than for that town. ~Matthew 10:11-15

Jesus’s disciples were instructed by Jesus to be discerning of how they were received.  When they are not welcomed, Jesus tells them to leave and he assures them that severe judgment – judgment worse than that that will be poured out on Sodom and Gomorrah! – will come to those who do not accept them.

The next thing Jesus does is warn his disciples.  He does not pull any punches.  Jesus is not a used car salesman.  Jesus never baits and switches.  He tells his guys right up front what they will face and it is not their best life now.

He tells them to be wise and innocent.  In verses 17-18 he tells them this:

Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles.

Hey guys, you’re gonna go to court – kangaroo court, that is, just like he did.  The court proceedings will be a mockery with no valid charges and no justice.  Still, you will be charged.  Disciples, don’t be surprised when you are dragged into court as guilty men.

Nextly, you are going to be flogged in their synagogues.  You will be abused, beaten, and injured, where?!  In the synagogues.  In the very place they call my house.  Disciples, don’t be surprised when you are mercilessly abused by men who profess religion most loudly at a place they claim is God’s house.

You will be dragged before governors and kings for my name’s sake and to bear witness to them and the godless.  Disciples, don’t be surprised when your legal authorities question you.  This is for God’s glory and a witness of the gospel to them.

Do not worry, disciples.  The Holy Spirit will give you words to say.

 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. ~Matthew 10:21-22

Disciples, don’t be surprised when even your own family members want to kill you.  Do not be surprised when everyone hates you simply because you love me.  Everyone will hate you.  Everyone will turn their backs.  All men.  Don’t be surprised.

Think about that.  I don’t think we think about the magnitude of this until it actually happens to us, and when it does, we are surprised.  Jesus told his disciples that this was what they should expect.  This is what we sign up for when we follow Jesus wholeheartedly.  So what is Jesus’s advice for his disciples after he tells them the hardship and rejection they will face?

Persevere.  Persevere, disciples, persevere.  Keep moving on to another place and another place and another place when you are cast out and abused for telling my truth.  Do not give up.  You are my mouthpieces; my witnesses, my sufferers here on earth.  Do not worry.

He reminds them that he did not come to bring peace, but a sword.  It is the false prophets that thrive on false peace saying, “Peace, peace.  Comfort, comfort.  Prosperity, prosperity.  All is well, all is well” when all is not well and there is no peace.  He says instead, I have come with a sword.  That sword is the Word of God and it divides.  The truth hurts and it divides the true followers from the false followers, the light from the darkness, the real converts from the false professors of religion.  He adds that if we love anyone or anything more than he, we cannot follow him.  How’s that for an altar call?  This is Jesus’ call.

Finally, in verses 40-42, converse to the severe punishment and judgment he has spoken over those who would reject his disciples, here he promises reward and blessing for those who would receive and welcome them.

Matthew Henry says this: “Persecutors are, in this respect, worse than beasts, that they prey upon those of their own kind…It is very grievous to have men rise up against us, from whom we might expect protection, from professing men, men that have a form of godliness, and make a show of religion.  They will scourge you in their synagogues, their places of meeting for the worship of God, and for the exercise of their church discipline: so that they looked upon the scourging of Christ’s ministers to be a branch of their religion.  Paul was five times scourged in the synagogues.”

They will falsely charge you and malign you severely, disciples.  They did it to me.  They will do it to you.

If Jesus calls you, you will face much trouble in this life – with neighbors, with friends, with the state, with the country, with the law, with the church, with family, with everyone.  Jesus promises that.  If they called Christ “Satan” how much more will they malign those of his house.  The scripture asks that rhetorical question.  Jesus asks it of his disciples to expose the truth.  The answer is much, much, much more!  We will be maligned and hated because of our love and allegiance to Christ and his Word.

Blessed are we when this happens said Jesus!  Great is our reward!  Be encouraged, faithful disciples!  Do not lose heart!  Persevere.  Amen!

 

 

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murdre

You shall not murder. ~Exodus 20:13

Most of us think we’ve got this command covered because we haven’t murdered anyone.  Unfortunately, Jesus’ clarification in Matthew 5:21-26 deems us all guilty.

“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause[b] shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. 23 Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. 26 Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny. ~Matthew 5:21-26

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives us a clear picture of what it looks like to murder someone without causing physical death.  To hate someone in your heart, to be angry with someone unreasonably, or to curse them carelessly.

Jesus does not add anything new, he simply explains what the command really means for people who truly belong to him.  Interestingly, he speaks to those who already know well the law – who have these commands read and taught to them every week in the synagogue.  That’s why he begins, “You’ve heard it said…”

In other words, you know this stuff.  You constantly hear and teach it and have from your youth.  This is not new to you.  This has always been true and yet you repeatedly, continuously ignore the deeper truth that you should be teaching to others!

The Jews had a judgement for murder – even for accidental killing had a severe punishment!  So even if I didn’t mean to do it, I still had to pay a huge personal price because my brother’s life is extremely important and I am to treat it as such.  How careful we must be to avoid injuring him!

So even accidents had severe consequences, yet they failed to consider the underlying principles and foundation that this command was laid upon.  The outward emphasis that these religious men had placed upon this (and other) commandments was merely a gloss of piety meant to cover over their inward filth and pet sins against their brothers and sisters.  They therefore prohibited only the sinful act, not the sinful thought process that led up to it.  Jesus sets them straight.

When Jesus speaks of anger being sinful, he defines it as being, “without cause.” In other words, there are some real good reasons – right reasons to be angry.  Remember, this is a man who threw tables in the synagogue.  There is no doubt good reason to exhibit anger against willful rebellion and injurious, exclusive attitudes – especially if they are  continuously occurring within God’s house.

So then, anger is sinful if and when it is not valid.  Matthew Henry says it best:

“Anger is a natural passion; there are cases in which it is lawful and laudable; but it is then sinful, when we are angry without cause.  When is without any just provocation given; either for no cause, or no good cause, or not great and proportional cause; when we are angry upon groundless surmises, or for trivial affronts not worth speaking of; whereas if we are at any time angry, it should be to awaken the offender to repentance, and prevent his doing so again; to clear ourselves and to give warning to others.” 

Furthermore, when we are yelling at our brother calling him a fool as opposed to merely making him aware that he is indeed being foolish in order to convince him of his folly, that is wrong – the latter is right!  It is for his good!  Think of James, Paul, Christ – who speak to their hearers as, “O, vain man,” “You fools,” “O fools, slow of heart…”

Jesus goes on to teach a lesson in urgency.  In utter haste, we ought to be reconciled if another comes to us with a grievance for which we are responsible.  So important is this reconciliation with the one we’ve offended that Jesus forbids offering anything at all to Him until it is done.  We are utterly unfit to come to his altar in worship or sacrifice if we be not willing to reconcile with our brother or sister first.

“From all this it is here inferred, that we ought carefully to preserve Christian love and peace with all our brethren, and that if at any time a breach happens, we should labor for a reconciliation, by confessing our fault, humbling ourselves to our brother, begging his pardon, and making restitution, or offering satisfaction for wrong done in word or deed, according as the nature of the thing is; and that we should do this quickly for two reasons: 1. Because, till this be done, we are utterly unfit for communion with God in holy ordinances and 2. Because, till this be done, we lie exposed to much danger.  It is at our peril if we do not labor after an agreement, and that quickly…” Matthew Henry

Therefore, we see that, according to Our Lord, we are responsible not only to avoid causing physical injury and death to others, but emotional, spiritual, and all personal injury as well.

There is a time for everything – including anger, yet in it, we must not sin.

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quote

The three “R’s” used to be readin’, ‘wrightin, and ‘rithmetic, right?  In home school, at least at my house, we have a different set of “R’s.” They are respect, reasoning, righteousness, and responsibility.  If I succeed at teaching them those things, I have zero doubt that my kids will succeed in whatever it is they choose to do in life.  Even if their paths and choices lead to failure, they will succeed in character, integrity, and wisdom if just these four things are instilled in them.

“Then Jesus said to him, ‘Be gone, Satan!’ For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.'” ~Matthew 4:10

“What?!  Why would he say that?!” exclaims my indignant nine year-old.

“What?”

“Why would Jesus tell the devil to worship God?!  He will never do it!!”

“Just because we know someone is not going to listen does not mean God does not want us to tell them the truth.  Truth has two purposes.  One is grace for those who will listen and change by it.  The other is condemnation for those who will refuse it.

In other words, Jesus’ faithfulness in telling the truth of the scriptures to those who do not listen is actually what he will point to when he judges them.  It is not just sin that will condemn people, it will be also the saving grace God gave that was refused.

 The only sin listed in the Bible as unforgivable is the blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  What that means is that when God shows up to teach us and offers His truth to us by grace and we disbelieve, dismiss, and ignore it, we cannot be forgiven because we have pulled the rug out from under the means by which he saves.  If we refuse the Spirit of God when it speaks plain truth to us, we stiff arm God’s grace and we remain in stubborn, willful darkness.

We must learn to love the truth, girls.  No matter how uncomfortable, difficult, or painful it may be for us to accept, we must always embrace truth.  Never refuse or put off the truth of God when you learn it.  The Bible says, “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain.  For he says, ‘In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.  Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now its the day of salvation.” ~2 Corinthians 6:1-2

There is a particular urgency to the truth.  Today is the day.  Don’t put it off.  Don’t wait one more second.  Take the truth to heart, now!  Today!  Do what is right, right away!  That is how we are to react when met with the truth.  Jesus is the Truth and he is the Way.  If we are following him, we must obey the truth, and obey it quickly.

The next day Bible class resumes.  We read Revelation chapter 16.

“Then I heard the angel of the waters say to God: ‘Holy One, you are the One who is and who was.  You are right to decide to punish these evil people.  They have spilled the blood of your holy people and your prophets.  Now you have given them blood to drink as they deserve.’  And I heard the altar say: ‘Yes, Lord God All-Powerful, the way you punish evil people is right and fair.'” ~Revelation 16:5-7

This time my seven year-old protests.

“Doesn’t God say ‘Don’t do bad things back to people when they do bad to you?!’ Why is he doing bad to the bad people?  He is disobeying himself!!!”

“God tells us not to take revenge.  The reason we are not allowed to take revenge is because he is going to.  He tells us not to repay evil with evil because if we do, we will be judged, too.  God has to punish evil and he will punish evil because he is just and fair.  He punished Jesus for our sins but those who do not love and obey Jesus will get their own punishment.”

“Education was, in fact, so important to the Puritans that it was required.  By 1642, parents were required to teach their young children to read so they could know the Scriptures…The purpose of teaching was to learn the Word of God and defeat Satan, who was the deluder.  So the law to teach was called the ‘Old Deluder Satan Act.'” ~Linda Lacour Hobar, Mystery of History, Vol. III

My lessons for the week are very clear.

1. Tell the truth even when your hearers refuse to listen.

2.Trust God to judge evil.

3.Remember that it is parents who are responsible for their children’s education.

4. The ultimate goal of educating children is knowing and understanding the Scriptures.

AMEN.

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christmas

“I don’t know how I’m going to do it this year.  Christmas is just so expensive.  I don’t want the kids to be disappointed.”

My oldest practices her lines for the Christmas play.  I think of them as I wake and read John 12:3.  “Mary therefore took a pound of expensive ointment made from pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.”

Christmas was expensive.  We can blame materialism for a lot but the truth is that Jesus led the way regarding the giving of lavish gifts.  He left the comfort of his eternal home to come to us on Christmas.  He gave up perfect peace, power, and personal priority  – all of which he possessed eternally.  He gave up those things in order to give the gift of himself to this world.  It was not a trifle or a trinket – this God-man gave what men needed most.  Jesus gave us his love, his truthful teaching, and his forgiveness.  He did this by giving primarily one thing – his time.  Not only that, but he did it in ways that meant extreme personal sacrifice and pain.  Knowing he would be (and was) despised and rejected, he showed up.  He kept showing up, in fact, showing himself true and sharing himself fully only to be accused and attacked by jealous men.

Time.  Teaching.  Transparency.  These are the ways in which Our Savior truly gave.  These are the ways in which he expects us to give.  They often must be given at extreme personal expense.

Consider the woman with the costly perfume.  What she gave was outrageously expensive.  Still, how she gave it was even more costly.  With the most religious and powerful men in her sphere looking down their noses at her, she honors Jesus with all that she has with great humility and without concern over their slander and disapproval. (See Luke 7:36-40.)

The act of giving as a Christian is not merely what we give, it is how we give it that counts even more.  Real love, honest communication, true friendship, openness and transparency within community are some of the things Jesus gave in coming to earth and sharing his time with men.  To say these things are quite expensive is a desperately understated truth.  Still, Jesus gave them knowing that they would create conflict in his life and the lives of those he loved most.  He gave them knowing that he would be despised and rejected unjustly by the very people whom he loved and who should have loved him.

He gave them not out of pride or position.  Jesus gave the most personally painful and self-sacrificing gifts to people on earth because he knew what it was going to take to save them.  He knew that no toy or trinket would do.  No false frivolity – no matter how costly – could compete or compare with the true gifts of his precious time, his truthful teaching, and his willing transparency.

Not everyone wanted Jesus to give these gifts, either.  People were mad.  With the fury of Michal when David danced, people were angry.  Irate, even.  People literally hated Jesus for what he gave.  Why?

Because they themselves were not willing to give those kinds of gifts.  It was a matter of Cain killing Able.  He was showing them up.  They were ridiculously jealous.  They were intensely afraid of him.  Well, not of him, really, just of losing their power, position, and pride because of him.  They had no time, no truth, no transparency in their hearts for Jesus.  They were not the least bit interested in loving enemies, friending inferiors, honestly confessing, or living in a community of accountability.  Just as the innkeepers had no room for his parents upon his arrival, Jesus’ entire life was replete with men and women who simply had no room in their hearts or their real lives for him. After 2000 years, an incidental in Jesus’ being welcome anywhere is still the severe intimidation of the religious folk. 

Jesus is the reason Christmas is so expensive.  Not because we have to purchase outrageously expensive materialistic gifts, but because we are called to give outrageously expensive sacrificial gifts.  We are called to give to one another the very same gifts that our Savior gives to us.

When I woke this morning to pray, the Lord began to teach me these things in His Word and I quickly realized that I simply do not have the resources to continually give these kinds of gifts.  My heart fails me as I consider the single mother my daughter portrays in the play.

 “I don’t know how I’m going to do it this year.  Christmas is just so expensive.  I don’t want the kids to be disappointed.”  

I consider the sacrifices Jesus wants me to make, the extravagant gifts he wants me to give, and the implausible ways he wants me to give them and I repeat her line.  How, Lord?  I don’t know how.  This is expensive.  I don’t want to disappoint you, or them, or anyone.  How can I do what you want me to?

But then I remember my middle daughter’s lines and I am humbled.  I am relieved.  She is Mary.

“God, you have told me that I will carry your child.  I don’t understand this, but I am willing to do your will.  But God, I don’t know what to do.  Joseph is going to be so upset.” 

Lord, I don’t understand this, but I am willing to do your will – even if the people I love most get upset.

Yes, Lord.  Let that be my line, always and ever when you call upon me.  Mary wasn’t asking to be pregnant.  Mary was not expecting to be the mommy of the Savior of the entire world.  Mary was simply living in obedience to God when God chose to give her an extraordinary job.  At the very front of her calling, she knew people would not understand. She didn’t even understand!  She knew people would be upset with her.  But even in all of that, she submitted.  She willingly gave the world exactly what God called her to give and it was unbelievably expensive for her personally.  But consider what Mary’s gift and calling meant for the rest of us.

Jesus is the reason Christmas is so expensive.  Not because we have to purchase outrageously expensive materialistic gifts, but because we are called to give outrageously expensive sacrificial gifts.  We are called to give to one another the very same gifts that our Savior gives to us.

My third daughter will not participate in the play.  She generally does not like to participate in life, period.  She is watching, though.  She will be watching as all the other children perform.  Hopefully, she learns by watching them that participation is necessary if one is going to give the way God calls us to give.  And giving, as a child of God, is not a choice.  It is a requirement.  It is not just what, it is how we give that matters.

So here’s to the kids who taught me my lessons today.  Keep giving, no matter how costly your call to serve Christ may seem to be.  Jesus is the reason Christmas is so expensive.

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manger

This is my body, given for you.  Do this in remembrance of me. 

Mary lived it before Jesus said it.  Both every true martyr and every good mother who have ever lived have embraced it.  It is the purpose of the church and, in this particular kind of giving, the glory of God is displayed to the whole world.

I am not talking about taking communion, although the same things could be said of it.  I am talking about the physical realities of Christ’s Passover statement and command to follow.

Christmas is physical.  Whether it is bags and boxes or babies and choir blouses, everything we do around Christmas requires, at very least, an acknowledgement of the physical.  Many would remind us that if we allow the physical things of Christmas to overshadow the spiritual, we miss it altogether.  While that may be true enough, as the blessed mother of a brand new baby this Christmas season, I believe that it can go both ways.  That is to say so, too, if we miss the physical realities of Christmas and discount their importance, we may just miss the spiritual truths behind them as well.

Let me explain.

What I mean to say is that, with a newborn, I understand in vivid detail this Christmas season some of the same physical realities Mary was feeling when Jesus was born.  From the discomfort long before and the pain days after, I am called to give as she gave.  I am reminded in living color, day and night, of the frustration of a newborn nursing child and the overwhelming demands determined by her needs.  Mary lived out a very physical picture of what it means, not only to receive, but to give a gift like no other.  In agreeing with God about his plan for her and obeying, Mary gave life to the Son of God through the giving of her own body.  Albeit unwillingly in many cases, every mother since Eve has done as much.

When Jesus spoke of giving his body, he was referring to his death on the cross.  That’s Easter,  I know.  How does Christmas fit?  Well.  Thirty-three years before he gave his body in death, Jesus gave his body in life.  Coming down from heaven, his very presentation is the gift we celebrate every Christmas.  This, the gift of all gifts.

While I cannot imagine how difficult it would be to die for Christ, or, for others as he did, I do know something of what it means to live for him.  It, too, is a giving of our bodies.  Whether we are called to martyrdom or motherhood; ministry or mechanics; Macy’s or the city mission, our call is the same.  It is the giving of our bodies for the glory of God.

…and giving our bodies to glorify God in life may just prove more difficult and demanding than to give them in death.

Christ’s body lives on here on earth today.  The church is his physical presence – his body – on earth until he returns.  So, next time you go to take communion and you hear Jesus whisper, “This is my body, given for you,” remember him.  Remember his death, but do also remember his life.  Remember how he came.  Remember Mary.  Remember your mother.  Remember your mission.  Remember that you are his body and your purpose is to be altogether spent giving yourself away for the good of others – just as he was.  In these living sacrifices, we honor and remember him.

How ironic.  Turns out Christmas really is about spending after all. Spend yourself on others like Jesus; like Mary; like martyrs; like mamas.  When you sing your spiritual songs and light your spiritual candles, don’t miss the physical.  Your presence in the practical, the painful, the presents, the parties, and even the picture perfect provisions all have their place if they are done purposefully.  Do all of this in remembrance of Him.

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