Thursday, December 26, 2013

Looks Who's Here!

In the first chapter of his Gospel, Matthew lays out the genealogy of Jesus. He does so in a manner that  is a bit different than the usual genealogies that are common for kings and other important people. Rather than focusing on just the strong kings of the past and leaving out any folks who might cause others to look unapprovingly at the king's background, Matthew includes some who didn't quite fit the picture of a perfect ancestor.

The first unusual thing is the inclusion of women in the genealogy. In our culture, that would not be notable but in the culture of that day, women didn't count. Women were seen as property, and any mention of a woman in a document would more than likely be an afterthought. Royal women were more likely to be mentioned in a ruler's history, but not someone who was a commoner, especially if that commoner was a foreigner. Matthew includes five women, each one coming with baggage.

First, we see Tamar. She's the one who was left without a husband or a child. Her father-in-law Judah, tried unsuccessfully to hook her up with his other sons and in the end fathered her two sons went she posed as a prostitute in order to seduce him and trick him into sleeping with her. The second woman in the list is Rahab, the prostitute from Jericho who married a good Jewish boy named Salmon. By the way, Rahab was not Jewish, although she seems to have converted. Salmon's son Boaz didn't fall far from the tree, as he also married a Gentile. If you remember the story, Boaz married Ruth, who was from Moab. So far, this genealogy is not looking quite kosher.

The fourth woman mentioned by Matthew is Bathsheba. You remember her. She's the one who was out taking a bath one day, not realizing that King David was lustfully watching. After committing adultery and murder, David brought her into his house as one of his wives. She gave birth to Solomon, through whom the line of the Messiah continued. Fast forward a few generations, and we come to the fifth woman, Mary. Mary was Jewish, so that was good. She was also a descendant of David, so she came from good stock. However, there was a pretty big issue.

Mary and Joseph, while betrothed, we're not yet married when Mary told Joseph that she was pregnant. Joseph, being the kind man that he was, planned on quietly divorcing Mary. After the angel revealed that this child was from the Holy Spirit, Joseph took her in to be his wife. There was still talk though, and the opinion of some seemed to be that Jesus was an illegitimate child. So, in the line of Jesus we have Gentile women, adultery, and seeming illegitimacy.

Looking at this list of the ancestors of the Messiah encourages me. First, I am encouraged to see that this King came as the King of all people, Jew and Gentile. This genealogy also tells me that God can use anyone to accomplish his purposes, even those who don't fit the mold, those who don't belong. In fact, it seems that God works more through those who are not the ones everyone expects. Those of us who don't seem to fit in wonderfully (let's face it, that's most of us), are the very ones that Jesus came to rescue and bring into God's family. Rejoice at the works of our loving Father!

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Weekend Wanderings: Condensed Version

Since I haven't posted a weekend post in a couple of weeks, I thought I'd take a few minutes and share a few of the good things I've read lately. This doesn't begin to scratch the surface of all the good stuff out there, but since this is another one of those crazy busy weekends, I'll do what I can.

Here they are:

The most loving thing?
Bethlehem space.
Impractical Jesus.
Keep Christ in Christmas?
The women of Advent.

Michael Spencer may have been right after all.
Why Christians need Flannery O'Connor.
Heretics.
Tacky Christmas tree.
Free.

Enjoy your reading. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas as you celebrate the birth of the One who came to set us free.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Lord's Prayer: Lead Us Not Into Temptation...

The final petition in the Lord's Prayer is the request that our Father not lead us into temptation but deliver us from evil. As we have prayed for our Father's name to be glorified, for God's kingdom to come to earth and be lived out in his provision for us and in our forgiving and being forgiven, we then pray to be kept from temptation and evil.

Another way to translate this could be, "Don't let us give in to temptation." We are told elsewhere in Scripture that God does not tempt any of us to sin, although he does bring things into our lives to try, or prove our faith. This is the idea of the refiner's fire that burns out impurities, thus proving the metal. God does try, or test us in order to refine us and develop the character of Christ in us. There is a danger that we will be tempted during the trial, tempted to trust our self instead of the Father. We are drawn into temptation by our own desires, and those desires can easily lead us to sin by not letting God work in us through the trial.

We pray for the strength to resist temptation and for the Spirit to help us avoid areas in which we would be tempted. We also pray for Christ to fill us so that our sinful desires are pushed out. As we become more like Jesus, and as he lives in us more and more, we find that our desires start to line up with the desires of our Father. More and more, we are able to say with Jesus, "I do what I see my Father doing." As that happens, we are better able resist temptation when it's comes, and we are even tempted less and less in many areas. Until we see Jesus face to face, our prayer will continue to be that we are delivered from temptation and the evil one who tempts us.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

On December 5, Nelson Mandela passed away. Here, World Vision pays tribute to Mandela and his work.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Blast From the Past: God's Response to the "War on Christmas"

This was first posted on November 22, 2010.

James Stillwell posted this a few years ago. It's titled, "God's Response to the 'War on Christmas'". This is worth a read.

Dear Children,

It has come to my attention that many of you are upset that folks are taking My name out of the season. I don't care what you call the day. If you want to celebrate My birth, just get along and love one another. Now, having said, that let Me go on.

If it bothers you that the town in which you live doesn't allow a scene depicting My birth, then just get rid of a couple of Santas and snowmen and put in a small Nativity scene on your own front lawn. If all My followers did that there wouldn't be any need for such a scene on the town square because there would be many of them all around town.

Stop worrying about the fact that people are calling the tree a holiday tree, instead of a Christmas tree. It was I who made all trees. You can and may remember Me anytime you see any tree.

If you want to give Me a present in remembrance of My birth here is my wish list :

1. Instead of writing protest letters objecting to the way My birthday is being celebrated, write letters of love and hope to soldiers away from home. They are terribly afraid and lonely this time of year. I know, they tell Me all the time.

2. Visit someone in a nursing home. You don't have to know them personally. They just need to know that someone cares about them.

3. Instead of giving your children a lot of gifts you can't afford and they don't need, spend time with them. Tell them the story of My birth and why I came to live with you down here. Hold them in your arms and remind them that I love them.

4. Pick someone that has hurt you in the past and forgive him or her.

5. Did you know that someone in your town will attempt to take their own life this season because they feel so alone and hopeless? Since you don't know who that person is, try giving everyone you meet a warm smile it could make the difference. Also, you might consider supporting the local Hot-Line: they talk with people like that every day.

6. Instead of nit picking about what the retailer in your town calls the holiday, be patient with the people who work there. Give them a warm smile and a kind word. Even if they aren't allowed to wish you a "Merry Christmas" that doesn't keep you from wishing them one. Then stop shopping there on Sunday. If the store didn't make so much money on that day, they'd close and let their employees spend the day at home with their families.

7. If you really want to make a difference, support a missionary, especially one who takes My love and Good News to those who have never heard My name. You may already know someone like that.

8. Here's a good one. There are individuals and whole families in your town who not only will have no "Christmas" tree, but neither will they have any presents to give or receive. If you don't know them, buy some food and a few gifts and give them to some charity that believes in Me and they will make the delivery for you.

9. Finally if you want to make a statement about your belief in and loyalty to Me, then behave like a Christian. Don't do things in secret that you wouldn't do in My presence. Let people know by your actions that you are one of mine.

Sincerely,

-God

P.S. Don't forget, I am God and can take care of Myself. Just love Me and do what I have told you to do. I'll take care of all the rest. Check out the list above and get to work, time is short. I'll help you, but the ball is now in your court. And do have a most blessed Christmas with all those you love and, remember, I love you.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

World Vision Wednesday

If you are having a hard time finding that gift for the person who has everything, or if you are looking for something different or special, check out these ideas.

Third Week of Advent: Anticipation

This was first published on December 12, 2012. Jesus, as Israel waited in anticipation for you to come, so we wait. We anticipate your ret...