I grew up in a religiously conservative home, so I am gifted at spotting sin. We avoided illicit sex, drugs, and violence, and weren’t allowed to watch MTV or the Simpsons. Continue reading “Two Brothers”
Follow Me and you’ll be trouble free. Continue reading “Things Jesus Never Said”
There was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7
It’s notable that the events that change the course of history, that capture our attention and emotion gradually fade away, almost forgotten. The anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor rivaled only in our time by the attacks of September 11th 2001 came and went this past week with little notice.
But the story of Jesus over 2000 years later remains to the critic the most controversial, but to the believer the most important event in history. It is the event that transcends time. However you may feel about the celebration of Christmas it serves the purpose of keeping the story alive. But the important question to consider whatever you may believe about Jesus is will you let Him in?
Three central events in the story of His birth ask this question. In our reading of scripture we see God ask this question to three different groups of people.
The Innkeeper- Imagine for a moment that you own a hotel in the city where the Olympics or the Super Bowl or some other national or international event is to be held. Rooms are booked months if not years ahead of time. History does not provide us with a record of the number of people who traveled to Bethlehem but the census ordered by Caesar Augustus would almost certainly overloaded this small village with people. Scripture reads in those days a census was demanded of the entire Roman world which at that time included Israel. Late in the day two weary travelers one heavy with child shows up at at the innkeeper’s front desk asking, “Do you have a room?” Possibly there was simply no room available. Maybe in the Jewish world of that time heavy with class distinction the couple was recognized as, “not from around here.” Whatever the reason the answer was no.
The Shepherds- Being a shepherd was no easy job. It required long hours away from home, sleepless nights guarding the flock from predators. Shepherds were also on the lower end of the pecking order in society that valued status. But this night as they watched over their flocks something completely unexpected was about to happen. The birth of the baby king who would change the world was not announced to Herod in his palace or to the religious order in their temple. The announcement was made to those who probably would have been considered the most unworthy. The quiet night was interrupted by an angel telling them “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. This will be assigned to you you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
The Magi- These men had traveled a great distance to find a king. Not a full-grown King but a baby king. This would have been very unusual in that time as most kings would be a prince before their promotion to king. Nevertheless the Magi had studied the patterns of the stars that predicted the birth of this king, looking for the time this event would be fulfilled. In their journey they encountered a want to be king who was really no King at all. Who tried to convince them to come back and tell him after they found the baby king that he might worship to. They found the baby and were overjoyed. Scripture tells us after worshipping Him they presented him with gifts. And then after being warned in a dream to not return to Herod they returned to their country by a different way.
If we look close enough we can see ourselves in these three stories. We know the story. We know about Jesus. Even those who deny the gift He came to bring know.
Sometimes we’re going about life’s business. Sometimes we’re just living day to day. But one day hidden in the busyness, in the events of day to day life there appears a divine appointment.
The innkeeper turned Him away.
The Magi keep searching until they found Him.
The shepherds went, observed and believed.
In our world we still see all of these. But however He may come to you it is still the most important question you will ever answer. Will you let Him in?
Why did Jesus come?
Jesus sets the man free, the demons destroy the pigs.
The locals make it clear they would rather have the pigs than Jesus.
Like many who will not embrace Jesus today because of the disturbance He will inevitably bring–when He takes control of their lives.
Even though He brings the answer to their impossible problems.
How important is one person to Jesus? This account of a demon possessed man (men) leaves no doubt of the importance God places on each of us. Many of the accounts of the healings, casting out of evil spirits, and miracles recorded in Scripture, are about those who came to Jesus, who called out to Him as He passed by.
Not this one. It is clear this trip to the “other side” of the lake (Mark 4:35) is intentional on Jesus part, initiating an encounter with someone in desperate need. When He arrives, the man spotting Jesus from a distance runs to Jesus not away from Him.
It is clear that the man even in his terrible state recognizes Jesus and His authority. Having been subjected to torture for many years by the demonic host dwelling in him, he asks Jesus, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? Swear to God that you won’t torture me.” The demons also recognize His authority to do with them as He desires. They express a desire to not be driven from the area (although not the man) , and to be allowed to dwell in a large herd of pigs nearby. Jesus gives permission to do so and quickly their new home is destroyed as the pigs rush into the water and drown.
There is a story behind the story that I believe is most important. It is not so much about the demons and pigs, but more about the man possessed by demons, and the people of his town.
I believe on that day Jesus came to visit both. And He received very different reactions from them. The man free from torment he likely was subjected to for many years is now dressed, and in his right mind. He begs to go with Jesus. The townspeople on the other hand are frightened by what has occurred and in no small way upset by the destruction of their livelihood and “plead with Jesus to leave their region”.
Imagine what your reaction might be if you had just provided the answer and solution to your neighborhoods “neighbor from hell”. Instead of a thank you and an invite as a guest of honor to the next neighborhood party, you are asked to please pack up and move away. After receiving His invitation to vacate the area, Jesus reaction is quite different than ours might be. Before getting in the boat to leave Jesus tells the man, “You can’t go with me but, go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.”
There are several things we can take away from this story that help us to have the right perspective concerning how our Lord works in us and through us. All of us who follow Christ, and acknowledge Him as Lord and Savior, experienced that day when He went out of His way to visit us. All of our stories though maybe not as extreme as this man tormented by demons, are the same. We were in desperate need of help, a Savior.
The inclination after our encounter as it was with this man, is to get in the boat and sail away with Him. But Jesus would have us go and tell those who do not want the disturbance what asking Him to stay will bring, that He is the answer to their impossible problems.
This is so important in our day of mega-churchs, isolation, and diminished community outreach our neighbors around us. We can be so busy with church we can forget those who are next door.
Is one important? Absolutely and the impact of one changed life is critical in reaching a world in need. We have to be that one who will stay and tellbthemtell them
The Lord says that ‘they are worthy’.
Continue reading “Sunday Thoughts”
I never thought I would be this way” he said tears in his eyes watching his little boy walk down the hall alone at preschool.