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January 2022

Sorry. You Are Not Mad Enough!

The whole world

You clearly missed my point.

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

What happens when everyone speaks well of your presentation and you realize that this is a sign that they missed your point?

You clarify.

They get mad enough to stone you.

You walk away satisfied.

A day in the life of Jesus.

Sermon from January 30, 2022 at The Fellowship of Joy



The Word of God

The spirit upon me

Sunday's Message

The Anointed One

“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,   To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.” - Luke 4:18-19

“…God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: …” Acts 10:38

 To be anointed is to be a messiah. To be a messiah means to be anointed. Kings were anointed in Old Testament times. Saul was anointed as was David. The prophets told of an anointed one who would be the ultimate Messiah of Israel.

Jesus came as King, but, in Him, Messiah meant much more. Kings can be benevolent or malevolent. They can carry a concern for the larger family of humanity or be entirely parochial in their concern. They can lean toward violence or toward peace.

Jesus would first be a servant and a savior. His anointing was as redeemer, liberator, healer, and announcer of good news. His message would be, first, to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but that was merely to set the stage for something larger and more universal.  

The Spirit of God upon the one who had emptied himself, was the source of his power. He is the King who humbles himself in obedience.

He is the Master who serves.

He is the Lord who liberates.

He is the Anointed One of God.

 Jesus is Messiah, to the Christian, God’s anointed. The word “Christ” in “Christian” means Messiah in Greek.  

The name speaks of his character, his calling, and his mission and has implications for who we become as we align with Him.

In Nazareth, his hometown, Jesus takes up the mantle of a revolutionary liberator but refuses to use violence or coercion to accomplish his righteous ends. He wears the garb of a radical populist but refuses to be swayed by the fickle politics of His times.

He is, from beginning to end, God’s Anointed on God’s mission using God’s means and bringing God’s message.

And the truth is that God cares about the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind, the bruised, and those so heavily in debt to life and sin that only a Year of Jubilee (the acceptable year of the Lord) will free them.

We must take these words somewhat literally and apply them at a higher level. When he speaks in the synagogue, he is talking about those who are oppressed in this world, but he elevates the meaning to include all of us who are bound by sin and absorbed by the constrictive cares of this dark world.

He includes the people who were excluded from the family of ancient Judaism and holds them up as examples of faith.

For that, people who were cheering him on, suddenly want to stone him for his offense.

They had begun to define themselves by comparing themselves to a common enemy. Jesus was ripping that from them. Anger burns when our sense of supremacy or normalcy is threatened.

One of the implications of the larger context of this story is that we must deal with Jesus. We cannot consign Him to a benign manger and silent angelic scenery. He is the backdrop to no landscape. He is the ONE anointed by God as the agent of reconciliation and redemption. Avoid Him and avoid life.

Jesus, Messiah, I need Your liberating power in my life today.


Implosion and Explosion of Power


The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegel the Elder (1563)

It is an ancient story with contemporary parallels.

In fact, the parallels show themselves in almost every century of human history in some form or place.

The more ambitious for power we get, the more confused we become.

Thank God for that. The consequences of that not being so are disastrous.

Whether it is Babel, Babylon, Rome, or some modern equivalent,  human empires come and go.

Genesis 11:1-9 (NRSV)

Now the whole earth had one language and the same words. And as they migrated from the east, they came upon a plain in the land of Shinar and settled there. And they said to one another, "Come, let us make bricks, and burn them thoroughly."

And they had brick for stone, and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth."

The Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which mortals had built.

And the Lord said, "Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. Come, let us go down, and confuse their language there, so that they will not understand one another's speech."

So the Lord scattered them abroad from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city. Therefore it was called Babel, because there the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of all the earth.

They were trying to consolidate a power base and make a name for themselves.

They were engaging in group-think, nationalistic narcissism, and ideological superiority.

The only threat to their ascent, in their view, was that they might be disbursed.

So, they engaged in a building and climbing campaign. Their goal was the heavens where they could take their seats of superiority and rule the world with their own sense of dominance and from the vantage point of their lofty position.

What psychosocial and spiritual vices propelled them? The list is long and tedious. Their was nothing in their motives that spoke to the wellbeing of larger humanity, the health of the earth, or the glory of God.

They sought to be god-men.

Their tower was no tower of love or reverence. Theirs was a tower of pride, greed, and lust.

"We are one people, one language, one culture, one race, one system of concentrated power and authority. Let us make ourselves great! Let us make Shinar great! Let us build our tower!"

This, they must have chanted as they laid brick upon brick, stone upon stone.

"Hooray for us!"

Yet, they were building a tower of confusion. What they sought to avoid was what they were creating - confusion and dispersion, and, on the upside, diversity because God's judgments always lay the foundation for redemption.

The judgment upon Babel creates a longing for the Day of Pentecost, but that comes later in the thinking.

The seeds for judgment were already well established in their spiritual and social DNA. As much as they were willing to come together for the cause, they had roots of self-serving motives in their souls. It was easy for God to confuse and disperse them with a word.

As God saw it, it was necessary.

Imagine, if you must, or simply read history to see what evil unchecked power can bring to the earth. Great suffering and overwhelming sacrilege emerge in an atmosphere of collective supremacy.

It was only the judgment of God that prevented such a disaster in those days.

It took centuries, but even Rome imploded.  All human power systems do.

The bottom line is that only God is God and only God ever shall be.


Jeffrey Kranz explains more about Babel.



What About My Neighbor?


Who Is My Neighbor?


Photo by Daniel Lloyd Blunk-Fernández on Unsplash

 And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?" - Martin Luther King Jr.

Who should I love as myself?

Who is my neighbor?

Who can I ignore?

Who needs me?

Who do I need?

These are huge questions and they are built into Jesus' opportune answer to the  legal question that was once posed to him. Who told a story as he often did to give the listeners an opportunity to think.

Martin Luther King preached about the best sermon on this parable that has ever been preached and you can hear an excerpt at the end of this blog update.

In the meantime, refamiliarize yourself with the story, consider my reflection on it and ask yourself the big questions,

Do Likewise

Luke 10:36-37 – Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise.


 We all know the story. It was prompted by a question and occasioned by a teaching in response to a greater question. What we have here is the application: Go and do likewise. One question led to another, then to a story, and then to the lesson Jesus desired to imprint upon every heart: that everyone is our neighbor and that loving our neighbor is about making a practical and active decision to do so and following through regardless of our feelings.

A legal expert who sought to trap Jesus in His own words asked Him what was necessary to inherit eternal life. He turned the question back to him and to his knowledge and interpretation of the law.

“Love God and love your neighbor” was both the answer he gave and the one that Jesus Himself gave on another occasion when asked what the greatest commandment was. Jesus commended him and told him to go and do likewise.

That wasn’t enough for the lawyer. He needed an escape clause, something that limited his liability and reduced his responsibility.

“Define neighbor,” was his retort. So, Jesus told him the story of the Good Samaritan and put him in a real bind. He made the hero of the story an outcast from the social and religious life of the Jews. He told the story in such a way as to make the answer to the question obvious.

“Who was the neighbor? Was he one of those who left the poor man stranded by the road or the Samaritan who gave of himself and his means to help him?”

The lawyer answered generically, and Jesus responded specifically, “Go and do likewise.”

Go; live like an outcast among outcasts if you must, but practice love as you go. Love is not revealed in the words we speak or the sentiments we feel, but in the actions, we take in being neighbors to our neighbors.

Go forth and live it.


Excerpts from Dr. King's "I've Been to the Mountaintop" speech
delivered April 3, 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters) Memphis, Tennessee.
Dr. King's cites Jesus's "Parable of the Good Samaritan"

Let us develop a kind of dangerous unselfishness. One day a man came to Jesus, and he wanted to raise some questions about some vital matters of life. At points he wanted to trick Jesus, and show him that he knew a little more than Jesus knew and throw him off base....

Now that question could have easily ended up in a philosophical and theological debate. But Jesus immediately pulled that question from mid-air, and placed it on a dangerous curve between Jerusalem and Jericho. And he talked about a certain man, who fell among thieves. You remember that a Levite and a priest passed by on the other side. They didn't stop to help him. And finally a man of another race came by. He got down from his beast, decided not to be compassionate by proxy. But he got down with him, administered first aid, and helped the man in need. Jesus ended up saying, this was the good man, this was the great man, because he had the capacity to project the "I" into the "thou," and to be concerned about his brother.

Now you know, we use our imagination a great deal to try to determine why the priest and the Levite didn't stop. At times we say they were busy going to a church meeting, an ecclesiastical gathering, and they had to get on down to Jerusalem so they wouldn't be late for their meeting. At other times we would speculate that there was a religious law that "One who was engaged in religious ceremonials was not to touch a human body twenty-four hours before the ceremony." And every now and then we begin to wonder whether maybe they were not going down to Jerusalem -- or down to Jericho, rather to organize a "Jericho Road Improvement Association." That's a possibility. Maybe they felt that it was better to deal with the problem from the causal root, rather than to get bogged down with an individual effect.

But I'm going to tell you what my imagination tells me. It's possible that those men were afraid. You see, the Jericho road is a dangerous road. I remember when Mrs. King and I were first in Jerusalem. We rented a car and drove from Jerusalem down to Jericho. And as soon as we got on that road, I said to my wife, "I can see why Jesus used this as the setting for his parable." It's a winding, meandering road. It's really conducive for ambushing. You start out in Jerusalem, which is about 1200 miles -- or rather 1200 feet above sea level. And by the time you get down to Jericho, fifteen or twenty minutes later, you're about 2200 feet below sea level. That's a dangerous road. In the days of Jesus it came to be known as the "Bloody Pass." And you know, it's possible that the priest and the Levite looked over that man on the ground and wondered if the robbers were still around. Or it's possible that they felt that the man on the ground was merely faking. And he was acting like he had been robbed and hurt, in order to seize them over there, lure them there for quick and easy seizure. And so the first question that the priest asked -- the first question that the Levite asked was, "If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?" But then the Good Samaritan came by. And he reversed the question: "If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?"

That's the question before you tonight. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to my job. Not, "If I stop to help the sanitation workers what will happen to all of the hours that I usually spend in my office every day and every week as a pastor?" The question is not, "If I stop to help this man in need, what will happen to me?" The question is, "If I do not stop to help the sanitation workers, what will happen to them?" That's the question. Let us rise up tonight with a greater readiness. Let us stand with a greater determination. And let us move on in these powerful days, these days of challenge to make America what it ought to be. We have an opportunity to make America a better nation. And I want to thank God, once more, for allowing me to be here with you.



Lessons from a Feast


Come invite

Jesus did this, the first of his signs, in Cana of Galilee, and revealed his glory; and his disciples believed in him. – John 2:11


1.What? – Revelation

2.Where?- Location

3.When? - Celebration

4.How? – Invitation

5.Why? - Multiplication



For This Cause


Art Source: Petr Ovralov

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh. – Genesis 2:24


Everyone needs a cause – especially men it would seem.

There are adventures to face and battles to fight if we will embrace them and we need them to reach our fullest manhood under God. But the first cause is the one we find all the way back in Genesis. It is the cause that is romantic and dangerous, and is the drama that fills the pages of great novels. It is the cause to leave home and be joined to a wife, to fashion out of two, one flesh and to build a home, a family, and a life together.

This is no a defense of complementarianism, whatever that is. Nor is it an argument for specific gender roles, differentiations, or hierarchy in marriage. I leave that for others to debate - at least today.

God has called us to two altars in this life.

First is  the altar of total commitment of our hearts and lives to Jesus Christ.

The second is the call to live as one with another human whose life we can compliment as they compliment ours. We me and my wife, it is to honor her all the days of that God gives on this earth. It is the call to fidelity and responsibility. It is the cause for which God created man as male and female.

He has made us to be counterparts to one another. We are different enough physically that we can appreciate the differences we have in every other dimension of life. As we study and understand more about the human brain, we see more clearly how we are hard-wired differently. We think and perceive differently. We are fearfully and wonderfully and uniquely made and we are made that way for each other.

Not just in marriage, but in all of humanity, we need these essential differences to propagate, procreate, and aggregate.

I write these words as to men because I am a man.

To some extent, women already understand them better than we do.

They apply to women as well.

Change some pronouns and examples and read them that way or any way you like. No two people on earth are wired exactly the same way.

I have to apply this to my life. As a man, my concern is that men, like me be the men we were made ton be – the way God made us to be, the kind who leave the safety of our fathers’ houses and venture into the unknown as the leaders in our own homes, with love, compassion, joy, and integrity.

For this cause, we have been made.

The Baptism of Jesus

Curiosity crisis confirmation


This Morning's Scriptures: Download PDF

Audio: Download Baptism of Jesus 1-9-22


Scriptures: NRSV
Isaiah 43:1-7
43:1 But now thus says the LORD, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.
43:2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.
43:3 For I am the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior. I give Egypt as your ransom, Ethiopia and Seba in exchange for you.
43:4 Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you, I give people in return for you, nations in exchange for your life.
43:5 Do not fear, for I am with you; I will bring your offspring from the east, and from the west I will gather you;
43:6 I will say to the north, "Give them up," and to the south, "Do not withhold; bring my sons from far away and my daughters from the end of the earth--
43:7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made."
Psalm 29
29:1 Ascribe to the LORD, O heavenly beings, ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.
29:2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory of his name; worship the LORD in holy splendor.
29:3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters; the God of glory thunders, the LORD, over mighty waters.
29:4 The voice of the LORD is powerful; the voice of the LORD is full of majesty.
29:5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars; the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
29:6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf, and Sirion like a young wild ox.
29:7 The voice of the LORD flashes forth flames of fire.
29:8 The voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness; the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
29:9 The voice of the LORD causes the oaks to whirl, and strips the forest bare; and in his temple all say, "Glory!"
29:10 The LORD sits enthroned over the flood; the LORD sits enthroned as king forever.
29:11 May the LORD give strength to his people! May the LORD bless his people with peace!
Acts 8:14-17
8:14 Now when the apostles at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had accepted the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them.
8:15 The two went down and prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit
8:16 (for as yet the Spirit had not come upon any of them; they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus).
8:17 Then Peter and John laid their hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
3:15 As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah,
3:16 John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
3:17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."
3:21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heaven was opened,
3:22 and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)

New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.




Worth the lamb sommers


“… Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” – John 1:29

It is not enough to have a theoretical understanding of God’s redemption through Jesus and how He came to fulfill the Old Testament system of sacrifices as the Paschal Lamb – as important as that information may be.

No, it is of greatest importance that we behold Him.

Some translate the word, “Look,” but the meaning is the same. We must linger over the vision of Jesus and stare into His eyes.

We must be captivated by His presence so that to even blink we would disrupt the flow of His radiance into our souls.

We must drink deeply of His beauty that transcends human comeliness. We must experience Him in all His glory and behold Him.

In Jesus Christ, the Living Word, we have beheld the glory of the Only Begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. God has allowed us to glimpse Himself and touch His own incarnate flesh.

Why wouldn’t we stop everything else we might be doing and bathe in the wonder of a moment of Lamb of God?

Oh, Lamb of God
Upon whose sinless shoulders
All sin has pressed down its awful weight,
We pause amidst the frivolous trivialities of our lives
To behold You
In a manger, on the cross, ascending to Your throne
Coming once again in glory


Happy New Life!

“And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. …  And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God …  And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! “  John 1:32, 34, 36

Against the backdrop of the Christmas story, we meditate upon John’s testimony to the significance of the Incarnate Word of God. The Spirit descends, the record is borne, and the Lamb of God is revealed.

It is a transitional moment of transformational power. The formative years of Jesus’ life are complete and the babe we left in the manger is now a man who knows who He is and what his mission is on earth is to be. It is the conclusion of the Christmas story and the beginning of a ministry that will culminate in His passion.

Jesus comes to John to be baptized and His baptism is a celebration of new life and new possibilities.

He stands with sinners though He has never sinned. He enters into the symbol of repentance for the sins that we have committed. He identifies intimately with humanity and in that act of identification, God sends forth His own Spirit to visibly and dramatically identify with Him.

It is a new day. In much the same way that we mark a new year with noise and celebration, God marks the ministry of Christ with John’s declaration, “This is the Son of God,” followed by “Look everyone! This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the World!”

The old is passing away. The new has come. From now on baptism will mean something entirely different and no one will need to be imprisoned in their despair of sin. New years had come and gone for centuries with their twin commemoration of the Day of Atonement. This was no mere new year. This announcement was of new life!

Happy New Life!


Ray Summers' Book Link

Best Commentary on Revelation

Also on SCRIBD


Excerpt  from Summers:

Neglected, misunderstood, and grossly perverted, the book of Revelation stands quite alone in the New Testament. Most readers have been content to pass it by with the attitude, No one understands it anyway. For many others it has had a peculiar fascination. For some the fascination has been from a religious motive; for others the fascination has been from the viewpoint of curiosity. There has been such a profusion of conflicting opinions about the meaning of the book that many have despaired of ever securing a comprehensive interpretation. It has been used extensively by individuals and groups who have found that they could prove almost anything by manipulation of the symbols contained in it. For this reason their attention has been centered upon Revelation as the basis for strange systems of interpretation. This policy follows an error related to one of the basic principles of interpretation: The obscure passage should be interpreted in the light of the clear passage. To take the opposite method is to tie one's hands from effective work in interpretation.

One has only to examine the multitudinous books written on Revelation to find the book pitifully mistreated at the hands of those who have not informed themselves on the possible meaning of the book for those to whom the Lord first gave it. Even among those who have made such effort to inform themselves there rages such controversy that many thoughtful men have abandoned the search for the truth of the book.

Facing this condition, two paramount questions confront us. Shall we abandon one of the books of our New Testament canon? There are many of us who believe that the Holy Spirit not only inspired the writing of the books of the Bible but that he also preserved them for the use of men. Believing this, we cannot consider the abandonment of the book the proper attitude for sincere Christians to take. We cannot agree with Martin Luther, who at one time refused to have the book in his canon because, in his opinion, it was impossible to understand it. Since the Holy Spirit inspired its writing and through his own processes preserved it for us, it must have some meaning for men of all ages–those who first received it and those who read it in every generation. Surely we are not to abandon it.

The second question has to do with our study of the book. If we do not see fit to abandon it, is it not our duty before God and a confused world to seek earnestly to find the true meaning of the book? To most Christians Revelation is a closed book. Some help they find in the messages to the seven churches in the opening chapters. In time of sorrow they find comfort in the beautiful language of chapters 21–22. But the section from chapter 4 through chapter 20 leaves them wandering in a hopeless maze. Some others have gone to the opposite extreme. They have sought to interpret all the details of the perplexing visions in such way as to unfold all the pages of the future. Time after time they have worked out a chronology which has included the date for the end of the present age. Each time their date has come and gone and left their prophecies unfulfilled. Surely their errors serve as a warning against such purpose and procedure. Such a system only leaves the average reader mystified.

The purpose of this work is to present a method of approach by which the reader may come a little closer to the problem of the exegesis of Revelation. It is our purpose to determine the fundamental truths underlying this strange book. We are to determine the meaning of the book for those who first received it, the suffering Christians of Asia Minor, and the consequent meaning by application to conditions of our own day.

In the discussion which follows we will consider the nature of apocalyptic literature. Since Revelation falls within this distinctive body or type of literature, we cannot ignore the general nature of such works. The conditions out of which such works grow will be studied along with the characteristics of all apocalyptic literature.

The next step will be a survey of the methods of interpreting the book of Revelation. These fall into four general classes, with the method suggested in this work as a possible fifth method. This fifth method is the one presented as the one closest to the truth, but an apropos warning is suggested by Wishart,¹ who feels that every presentation of Revelation should be prefaced by some such warning as, Let him who is without his favorite speculation cast the first stone!

Proceeding from this point, the historical background will be treated in intense fashion. This will include a discussion of all matters relative to authorship, date, recipients, and occasion as they touch the interpretation of the book. The book reflects an attitude of faith in God and his purpose which is unsurpassed in the New Testament. This reflection can best be understood when we know the condition of the original readers of the book. The aim of this work, then, is to present a consistent interpretation of the book as a whole, keeping in mind that the chief aim is to bring out the spirit of confidence in the living, victorious, redeeming Lamb who moves with majestic step through this climactic revelation from God. This Lamb-Christ who was victorious over the chaotic world conditions of the first century will be victorious over similar conditions in every other century until the kingdom of the world is become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ: and he shall reign for ever and ever.

The River

image from

"Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water."

These words of Jesus pierced the hard rock of my desert soul decades ago as I wandered in a wilderness of doubt and disbelief. I was crying with the Israelites, "Is God with us or not?"

Did the experience precede the Word or did the Word produce the experience?

Or, was it simultaneous?

I cannot say, but both were interwoven into the moment of realization.

The river was, in that moment, very real to me.

It was a time of reconversion and revival in my heart that has sustained me through many deserts and many years.

Had I not already internalized the scriptures, I may have not had a name for the the experience of grace.

John 7:37-52

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, "Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, 'Out of the believer's heart shall flow rivers of living water.'"

Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.

When they heard these words, some in the crowd said, "This is really the prophet."

Others said, "This is the Messiah."

But some asked, "Surely the Messiah does not come from Galilee, does he? Has not the scripture said that the Messiah is descended from David and comes from Bethlehem, the village where David lived?"

So there was a division in the crowd because of him. Some of them wanted to arrest him, but no one laid hands on him. Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, "Why did you not arrest him?"

The police answered, "Never has anyone spoken like this!"

Then the Pharisees replied, "Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? But this crowd, which does not know the law-- they are accursed."

Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus before, and who was one of them, asked, "Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?"

They replied, "Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee."




There Was a Time

Michal-matlon-4ApmfdVo32Q-unsplash (1)

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash


There was a time that I believed that no rebuke, criticism, nor counter-attack was necessary for people who made irrational, idiotic, hateful, or illogical statements including those relying upon fiction because they would expose their irrationality to rational minds who would see through their statements.

I still practice a strategy based upon that belief to some extent.

But something has changed.

There has been a mass abandonment of logic, rationality, discernment, fact-checking, and truth-seeking. People are, more and more, believing whatever fits their paradigm. There are folks who simply refuse to accept facts and will not be dissuaded from arguments that have no basis in reality.

If an argument is discredited, the repair work takes less than 24 hours.

If a spokesperson for that argument is discredited, it simply does not matter to many.

Things that once discredited us no longer do so:

  • Vulgarity
  • Hatefulness
  • Vindictiveness
  • Playing fast and loose with truth
  • Conflicts of interest

These are all subject to spin and interpretation. What matters is supporting our own narrative and ideology.

So, do I change my approach?

I did not today. To an outlandish accusation that three prominent American women were possessed by Satan, I thought, "This poster is so transparent, she is discrediting herself," so I responded with something like, "How interesting."

The truth just that what the truth is would not have mattered to her anyway.

On the other hand, perhaps it is time more of us went on the record stating the obvious that we used to assume was obvious to anyone with good sense.

Redemption Road - Persia, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth


Art Attribution


A New Day

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. - Matthew 2:1-2

When Jesus was born …

How common the words, how incidental they sound. Yet, they introduce an event of such significance that all of time is measured as before and after the coming of this one child into the world and the drama of His life, death, and resurrection.

When Jesus comes, it is a new day. Governments are in place imagining themselves all powerful and enduring and suddenly they sense that they are temporal and vulnerable. The truly wise recognize the waves of change in the cosmos and once again become seekers moving in the direction of the source of that change. They that move with the currents of change come to worship. New days and new years are best observed by recognizing God and worshiping Him.

We measure small blocks of time in seconds and move up the continuum, pausing to recognize the passing of years. In a year we circle the sun and pass through all of the seasons. We count them off and, as they pass, we find ourselves counting faster and faster.

We mark off the old and look with anticipation upon the new.

And while all of that is going on, something is being born, a new life, a novel opportunity, a fresh idea, a renewed hope, and occasionally, a burst of light. We follow that light and it leads us to a manger where, in unassuming splendor and simple elegance, we encounter the Son of God.

There we worship.

Because of that ever present possibility of meeting God in the passages of time, we peek around the corner of every new day and every new year with anticipatory wonder.

We know, as did the wise men, why we have come to this time. We have come to worship Him.

The Threat

When Herod heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with Him. - Matthew 2:3

Herod was troubled. We might say he was scared to death. You know that sinking feeling when the free ride is about to come to a screeching halt, when your charade is about to be revealed, and your scam is about to be uncovered.

Herod was a pretender. He knew he was a pretender. The notion that the authentic king might have been born was more of a threat than he could bear.

We are most threatened when we are least honest with God, with ourselves, and with others. We are terrified when we try to maintain our deception against all odds. We flail about, plot, and scheme when our straw houses begin to crumble around us – and we trouble all of those around us who have bought into our lies.

Are you like Herod, thoroughly invested in a false sense of who you are without which you would not know your own identity? Are you like those in Jerusalem who rode his coattails, riding the wave of someone else’s “power grab”? Or are you like the Magi, with no vested interest in protecting their positions or status, merely eager to embrace the reality of God’s presence in the world, anxious to find the King that they might worship Him?

Jesus invades our spheres of influence and our little kingdoms to establish His own rightful rule. There is no need to be troubled. The greatest honor and freedom in life is found when we step down from our thrones and let Him take His place of Lordship.

We are threatened when we compulsively protect what is not really ours. We are troubled when we see Him coming and convince ourselves that He is coming to rob us of our lives. We are terrified at the prospect of having to forge a new identity from the self we have deluded ourselves into believing was real.

In fact, He comes to reclaim what is His – the throne, our lives, and even our identities. We have been living in a delusion and only realizing the tiniest fraction of our potential. It is only through surrender that we gain victory. It is only by relinquishing the throne do we become truly great. It is only in denying ourselves do we find our true selves and begin to live.

What Herod rejected out of fear, we must embrace by faith.

Why Religious Knowledge Is Not Enough

And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. - Matthew 2:4

You can’t accuse Herod of not being religiously curious and hungry for religious knowledge. He was desperate for information, but he had no intention of using that information for good. He had every intention of misappropriating it for his own evil ends.

Some of us, at times in our lives, are curious for information about God – for no particular reason other than to satisfy our curiosity. Such knowledge is benign. It does us no harm. It does us no good. You can go to Sunday School all of your life and come out no better or worse for it if what you learn never goes from your head to your heart.

Herod may not have attended Synagogue, but he was surrounded by scholars who did. When he needed factual knowledge, he drew upon their education, but Herod was not seeking out the scholars in a game of religious trivial pursuit. He had a sinister purpose for what he wanted to know.

Some of us, at least at points in our lives, gather religious information for malicious ends. We have no intention of being transformed by that knowledge. In fact, we collect it to use as a weapon against other people – friends, enemies, spouses, children, parents, and entire groups of people with whom we disagree and with whom we spar for power.

We want to learn enough to give us an edge. We are filling our arsenals with biblical darts so that we might pierce the armored resistance of our opponents. There is no holiness in such pursuits. There is no honor. There is no edification.

God provides us with truth that it might change us from within. He is fashioning us according to His image and forming us for time and for eternity. Don’t be like Herod in your pursuit of spiritual truth. Come to the Word of God prayerfully and openly.

Lord, speak to me and transform me as I receive what You wish to say to me. Amen.

Not the Least

And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. - Matthew 2:5-6

Like young David, tending the fields of his father, Jesse, the City of David was often thought of as the least among the princes of Judah.

Greatness often takes us by surprise.

It took David by surprise. It certainly so took Jesse and his brothers.

Who me? We surmise by our surprise that our eyes have been playing games with our minds and our ears have distorted the garbled sound of, “Yes, you.”

It took a miracle of the manipulation of history for a Nazarene couple to fulfill prophecy and experience the birth of this son in Bethlehem. It took the hand of God guiding events that would seem much larger and more significant than this to bring it all to pass.

The Son of David would be born in David’s city. The unlikely King would provide a line of succession for an unlikely Savior born in an unlikely place.

Never underestimate the greatness of God’s plan for your life, your place, and your time. He is still guiding the course of events to His own ends.

Bethlehem, the House of Bread, figured into the redemption story in a way that might have seen disproportionate to its civic significance. God, on the other hand, measures importance by what He brings forth from our lives, places, times, and events.

Who me? Yes, you.

The Launch and the Landing

Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh. - Matthew 2:7-11

Isn’t it wonderful that the Magi observed Herod’s words and not his intentions?

Once launched in the direction of Bethlehem by the deceptive words and commands of an evil king, they were again at the mercy and beckon call of the King of Kings. They followed His star to the destination where they would meet Him. When they found Him, they worshipped.

In the middle of their diligent search for truth, they were sidetracked by a liar, but not for long. God will not allow those whose hearts are intent upon finding Him to be lost in the search without hope. He will again intervene and guide them to Himself.

“Seek and ye shall find,” the Master promised.

From Jerusalem, there was a false launch, but God intervened and provided a sure landing in Bethlehem.

There will be circumstances in your life that are not of God. There will be people of malicious intend who will try and launch you in directions that approximate truth, but miss the mark entirely. Be cautious, but not fearful. God is greater than our circumstances and the schemes of evil entities. His light is more powerful than darkness. Follow the star and bring what is in your hands to Jesus, worshipping Him with all of your heart and soul.

You may have any number of dubious launches in this life, but if you seek Him with all your heart, you will always land surely.

After Christmas Special

“And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11

The Magi seem to have come much later to Bethlehem, but they came joyfully and prepared to worship the Lord. The afterglow of Christmas had not worn off for them because they were seeing Jesus for the very first time. Every time we see Jesus is like the first time, so sweet is His countenance, so enveloping His presence.

As we prepare to put away the decorations and presents, finish off the leftovers, and throw out the tree, many of us experience a letdown. The celebration of the New Year seems anti-climactic. Friends we have not acknowledged during the preceding year will recede into the background of our lives for yet another year. There is no one to wish merry Christmas and no one to wish us happy holidays. The greenery and colors are gone and we recess into the bleak midwinter of January.

It was not so for the Magi. Their joy was not with a season or a holiday. No such attachments and traditions existed for them. Theirs was the joy of the discovery of a Savior-King. Take a page from their notebooks. Our joy is in Jesus! He is our cause for celebration every day. He is our hope for every New Year and every new day. He is reason for singing and our cause for living. For Him we would traverse the farthest desert or face the most difficult circumstances.

Post-Christmas blahs are a normal emotion phenomenon, but Christmas joy is for every day of the year. After Christmas can be as special as Christmas itself!

Good Christian men, rejoice
With heart and soul and voice.
Now ye hear of endless bliss:
Jesus Christ was born for this.
He hath opened heaven’s door,
And man is blest forevermore.
Christ was born for this, Christ was born for this.
(Medieval Latin Carol, Translated by John Mason Neale, 1853)

Course Corrections

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. - Matthew 2:12

If you have lived long enough and well enough, you’ve had some course corrections along the way. That is normal and good. It demonstrates an ability to be decisive in taking action while remaining sensitive to the still small voice of God.

The Magi had a set of directions in place that they meant to follow. As they laid their heads on their pillows that night, they fully believed that their course was set and that they would be heading back to Jerusalem to report their findings to Herod.

They just “knew” he would be as excited about the new King as they were. Not so.

If one man has a dream, he might discount it as indigestion or uncertainty. If several have the same dream, as implied here it is impossible to deny the confirmation. The next morning they all awoke and compared notes. It was time for a course correction.

Being willing and able to hear voice of God in the midst of our determined movement is a necessary component of a God-directed life. The humility to admit that we have been misinformed, misdirected, or mistaken is a strength that can only be birthed by weakness. It is that same weakness through which God’s strength is made manifest as we learn to trust and obey.

Sometimes we just need to go home a different way than the one we planned. When that time comes, may we not be found stubborn and prideful, but steadfast yet pliable. We may have to eat our words and swallow some tears, but we will avoid some major pitfalls.

Let us be ready for the course corrections of life.

God’s Postal System

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. - Matthew 2:13-15

God’s Valentine has come to us through a circuitous route. It typically does. Such a route Joseph would take to protect his family. Such a journey would bring Jesus into Egypt along the paths of His ancestors. Such a path would bring Him out of the land of captivity into the land of the promise. Such would be the highway of love whereby God would deliver His greatest love letter to us, written upon the life of His Son, proclaimed by His death, and sounded forth with fury by the power of His resurrection.

God’s love letter, entrusted to the familial affection of a surrogate father’s devotion to his family traveled around the world to come home to those to whom it was addressed.

How far has His Valentine to you traveled to arrive at your doorstep?

What was the chain of custody that the Word of God traversed before it came to rest upon your heart. Who told whom and who did they tell and on and on before you heard the Word and responded to the compelling love of Jesus?

God’s postal system never fails. Whatever route His message of love must take, it will arrive at its destination. So often, the first word of His love comes to us in the context of family. Sometimes it is a sure and certain word of clarity. Sometimes it is only a hint and foreshadowing of the message to come.

When our Jesus card first came to humanity, it was through a family comprised of two people who loved each other, one a mother, the other a stand-in dad. Before it could arrive, it would travel far out of its way, but it came to us in time. When we opened the card it said, “I love you” and it was signed, “Your Father.”

The Limits of Evil

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men. Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. - Matthew 2:16-18

How far will evil go to carry out its evil ends?

Moved by humiliation and anger, Herod’s insult was matched only by his wicked lust for power. Lashing out against the threat to his illegitimate monarchy, he flung his nation into a time of evil that was inconceivable in its sheer horror. Sanity questioned lunacy with the haunting cry, “Is there no limit to such evil?”

There is none.

Evil will not stop itself. It perpetuates its terrors. It knows no boundaries. It will progress and regress beyond any hint of decency as it grows immune to conscience and compassion.

That is the bad news. The good news is that there is, in fact a limit, but it is not pretty. Not until the death of Herod did the madness cease.

The good news is, furthermore, that God’s good is greater than man’s evil. He is monitoring the progress of wickedness and restraining its instinctive intrusion into the affairs of human history. A loving God allows us free will and its consequences because He does indeed love us, but He will only allow it to go on for so long. The length of its duration is a mystery to us. He will allow suffering to accomplish His purposes and, when they are complete, He will stop it.

When evil, which is not of God, ceases to work toward God’s redemptive purposes, it reaches its limit. We don’t understand it, nor can we predict its course, but we can trust in a God who is working all things out for our good and His glory.

When evil prevails, God weeps along with Rachel, but in the end, righteousness prevails and God says, “Enough!” Evil will not stop on its own. It is always brought to a stop by the intervention of God in history in one way or another.

That is the only limit that evil knows.

Either Way

But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life. And he arose, and took the young child and his mother, and came into the land of Israel. - Matthew 2: 19-21

Herod did not understand this principle at all: Don’t entertain evil for a minute. It doesn’t want to visit. It wants to move in and take over.

So, the only cure for the evil in Herod’s life was the death of Herod. No one was safe until Herod was dead. It is a sad commentary, but true. As long as Herod lived and carried out his rain of pain and reign of terror, the true King of Israel remained in Egypt. Good news was stifled by sound of hoof beats as soldiers scoured the land to snuff out the life of any baby that just might be the Messiah.

Something had to give; something had to die. Only when Herod was dead was it safe for Joseph to bring his family out of Egypt and into the land of Israel.

It was not time for Jesus to die. He still had to grow up and live a redemptive life before He died a redemptive death It was time for evil to die and Herod had so immersed himself in evil that he had begun to personify it within himself.

Yet, there remained a window of opportunity for Herod as there remains such an opportunity for each of us. We also must die. Evil knows no limits. It will not restrain itself. Therefore we must die to evil thoughts, evil deeds, and evil intentions. Furthermore, we must deem every action that restricts the reign of Jesus, every thought that keeps Him in Egypt, and every intention that wars against Him as evil that must die inside of us.

Because of the cross, we can choose to die that we might live. We can reckon ourselves dead to sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ. We will die to sin or we will die in sin. Either way, The Son of God will not remain in Egypt. He shall reign.

A Nazarene

“And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. “ - Matthew 2:23

Some would be happier with a Jesus with no context, culture, or humanity. But that would not be the true Jesus. Incarnation means that He came at a specific time, place, and crossroads of historical events. He lived as a man and faced the time-space limitations of any person on this earth. He had gender, nationality, a native language, talents, physical strengths and weaknesses, most likely sickness, certainly the capacity to grow weary, and a family.

He was the descendant of David with all the nobility that was due to such a line, but He was fully identified culturally with the least noble region for any Jew in the minds of other Jews. Born in Bethlehem, He was raised in Nazareth. Jews spoke of Nazarenes with a sneer in their voices. And He was one of them and never wore the label with shame.

He identifies with us as well, whatever our histories, cultures, or backgrounds. He refuses to acknowledge the shame that the world associates with people based upon human prejudices, but elevates people of every race and nationality to a place of dignity. As a Nazarene, raised near a great road traveled by numerous peoples, He must have encountered great cultural diversity.

Out of that context, God gave us His Son to create a new race of mankind.



Wrong Door - Wrong Store


Domenico Fetti Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection (accession number 1991.153)

I had a pretty good lesson in humility and pride . It was a moment of internal embarrassment and readjustment in my thinking.

It was one of those outdoor shopping centers with a Best Buy and an Office Depot spaced with several other stores in between. I was comparing prices on laptops and calculating insurance reimbursements in light of a recent burglary. It is the upside of getting ripped off.

But that is not the story.

I had taken note of the order of the stores from the parking lot and calculated that I could get a nice walk in just by moving between them and within them.  I left Best Buys and began to walk toward Office Depot when a man crossed my path looking a bit dazed and confused and heading toward the Target Store.

When he was unable to open the door because he was attempting to enter through the exit, I mentally prepared to point at the entrance to help him out. I may or may not have actually pointed. I am a little fuzzy on this point because the real work was going on inside me. There was a flash of smugness and superiority.

"I can read signs."

That was short lived.

At the next shop, I entered through the correct door - without a hitch. How proud of myself, I was.

"I can read signs."

I looked around and, in a moment of bewilderment, observed racks of clothes.

"Why are they selling clothes at Office Depot?"

They were not. They were selling clothes at T.J. Maxx.

Tom Sims, the great sign reader-adherer, had entered the wrong store while basking in the glory of in his ability to use the right door.

 "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." - I Corinthians 10:12 

So, which was worse, the wrong store or the wrong door?

Somehow, as I chuckled inside at my own fallibility and silly pride, I knew I would have to confess this in my blog and hang it out like dirty laundry for all the world to see.

There was also some mention of a speck in your brother's eye and a plank in ones own as I recall.

Wrong Door - Wrong Store


Domenico Fetti Metropolitan Museum of Art, online collection (accession number 1991.153)

I had a pretty good lesson in humility and pride . It was a moment of internal embarrassment and readjustment in my thinking.

It was one of those outdoor shopping centers with a Best Buy and an Office Depot spaced with several other stores in between. I was comparing prices on laptops and calculating insurance reimbursements in light of a recent burglary. It is the upside of getting ripped off.

But that is not the story.

I had taken note of the order of the stores from the parking lot and calculated that I could get a nice walk in just by moving between them and within them.  I left Best Buys and began to walk toward Office Depot when a man crossed my path looking a bit dazed and confused and heading toward the Target Store.

When he was unable to open the door because he was attempting to enter through the exit, I mentally prepared to point at the entrance to help him out. I may or may not have actually pointed. I am a little fuzzy on this point because the real work was going on inside me. There was a flash of smugness and superiority.

"I can read signs."

That was short lived.

At the next shop, I entered through the correct door - without a hitch. How proud of myself, I was.

"I can read signs."

I looked around and, in a moment of bewilderment, observed racks of clothes.

"Why are they selling clothes at Office Depot?"

They were not. They were selling clothes at T.J. Maxx.

Tom Sims, the great sign reader-adherer, had entered the wrong store while basking in the glory of in his ability to use the right door.

 "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall." - I Corinthians 10:12 

So, which was worse, the wrong store or the wrong door?

Somehow, as I chuckled inside at my own fallibility and silly pride, I knew I would have to confess this in my blog and hang it out like dirty laundry for all the world to see.

There was also some mention of a speck in your brother's eye and a plank in ones own as I recall.

Joseph’s Side of the Story


Joseph's DreamRembrandt, c. 1645


Just and Compassionate

 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost. Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not willing to make her a public example, was minded to put her away privily. - Matthew 1:18 -19

If you were about to send your only son to faraway place and could choose a family for him, you would be very careful. God was no less deliberate about His choice for who would raise His Son.

We celebrate Mary who conceived Him by the Holy Spirit and nurtured Him in her womb before giving birth. In Mary were the finest maternal qualities.

But Jesus needed a man to protect Him and guide Him as well and God chose Joseph. First, He arranged the betrothal of Mry and Joseph through Divine providence. Then He kept them apart until He could work a miracle.

Joseph did not live in an age of miracles. The truth is, there has seldom been such a time. Miracles always take people by surprise and require a mind/faith stretch to be embraced. What Joseph did possess was a wonderful combination of integrity and compassion.

He was a just man. It would be no small thing for him to believe that his betrothed wife had been unfaithful to him. He would have been devastated and offended. As a man of honor, he would know that he could not simply overlook such an offense.

But he was also a man of compassion and, while it might have soothed his bruised ego to do so, he was not willing to make a public example of her. By public example, Matthew might have meant anything from humiliation and banishment to death. No more could Joseph turn off his love and compassion than his sense of right and wrong.

Such a man was chosen by God the Father to be a father-figure in the life of His Son. Such a man would model the Law of God and the love of God for the Son of God. Such a man would figure prominently in God’s plan to fill the life and heart of the Holy One who emptied Himself by taking the form of a Servant. Such a man was Joseph.

Born of the Spirit

“But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.“ – Matthew 1:20

It was the kind of conception that was hard to conceive of. Joseph is silent during this transaction with the angel. No words are recorded. If he spoke, he must have deemed anything he had to say unimportant, because he reported only God’s words through the angel.

For some reason, miracles often evoke fear, perhaps because God voice speaks so powerfully through them and we are overwhelmed by His glory. This was a miracle of reduction. All of God’s glory would be compressed into one tiny little baby and His developing body would be planted into the womb of Mary.

Joseph was asked to come along as a willing and faithful participant in this process, to take Mary as his wife, to exercise restraint and patience, to accept any shame, humiliation, and ridicule that might come his way, and to rejoice with her in what God was doing. He was asked to take a giant step of faith.

People raise their eyebrows at the notion of the Incarnation, but they also turn a skeptical eye toward testimonies of new birth. The church boldly declares that men and women can be born of the Spirit from above and that God can transform the life of the most miserable sinner into the most useful saint. The world scoffs, but the true believer keeps testifying to the power of the miracle.  That is because we know it is true. We have experienced it. Like Joseph, we are dumbfounded and receive the gift with joy.

Joy to the world! The Lord has come!

Let every heart prepare Him room.


Of the Holy Ghost

But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. – Matthew 1:20

Sometimes it takes a messenger from God, human or angelic to interrupt our thinking and redirect our beliefs so that we can see that the seemiongly negative events in our lives are nothing less than something conceived by the Holy Spirit.

Joseph was thinking as a natural man with the information he had and the beliefs that focused his thinking. He was filtering reality through a mindset that had not even considered the possibilities that were about to be revealed to him. As a result, he had come to certain conclusions, made certain decisions, and experienced a range of emotions including fear.

The angel’s message suggests that he might have toyed with the idea of marrying Mary in spite of everything, but fear prevented him. He needed a word from God to give him courage and assurance.

Joseph was thinking. Perhaps he was brooding. He may have been playing various scenarios in his mind, rehearsing his speech, considering and reconsidering his options. He must have been on an emotional roller coaster and had drifted into the oblivion of racing thoughts when waking or sleeping, he saw what he had never seen before – an angel.

Thoug startled at first, imagine how Joseph must have welcomed the message he received. He could never have hought of it himself. It was like a breath of fresh air, a reprieve from the nightmare of recent days. It was a word of hope. The angel gave him permission to love the girl of his dreams and take her as his wife because the one impossible scenario was actually the truth: God had done this thing. . It was all His doing and it was good.

Is that not what we need to hear in the midst of our despairing conundrums? We need to know that however convoluted the circumstances and what we believe about them, that the Spirit of the Living God is at work and is working out His eternal purposes. Embracing that word, we are set free from fear.

Call Him Jesus

 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins. - Matthew 1:21

Call his name, “Jesus.”

It was the core of the angelic message that was delivered to Joseph. Mary would have a son. There were no ultrasound tests in those days that could have predicted gender. Only God could know.

Only God could know the meaning of that life. God knew and shared that knowledge with Joseph through His angel. You will call Him Jesus – not because it was a common name among the sons of Israel; such a designation was not unheard of, but neither was it common. Call Him Jesus – not because it was a family name or because it had a ring to it.

Call Him Jesus, because that name, like His life, like this great event of miraculous conception means something.  Of all those who have ever borne the name, He would most embody it and fulfill its promise.

Call Him Jesus because it means that God is Savior and God saves. Call Him Jesus because it for the purpose of saving His people from their sins that He came. Call Him Jesus and never forget that you are part of something greater than your own self interests.

There is no evidence that the angel shouted these words or sang them, but never has there been a more dramatic proclamation in the annals or oratory or a grander crescendo in the history choral repertoire. Thus, whenever we recall them theatrically, homiletically, or musically, it is almost impossible to restrain the enthusiasm.

What God spoke to the disoriented and discouraged Joseph in the dark quiet of that moment has resounded through the ages as great exclamation mark in salvation history.

He shall save His people from their sins!

The experience of Joseph has become our experience and the culmination of its advent, we have come to call, “Christmas.” Our sins, so profound and so hideous with their dire consequences in our lives have met their match in the One we call Jesus.


“And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” – Matthew 1:21

The name, Jesus means Yahweh Saves. In a wonderful application of that meaning, the angel informs Joseph of the role of this boy who Mary carried in her womb. His life would be the very saving presence of God among His people.

Let us meditate upon the significance of this coming. The Son of Mary, who is the Son of God, would bear a name that others had borne before. But He would bear it with authority and purpose. Others wore that name as a prophetic reminder, He would be the authentic fulfillment of the promise incarnate.

This salvation that He brings is not from the destructive power of armies or the oppressive arm of dictators. It is from ourselves, our sins, our choices. It is the offering that He brings with His life, death, and resurrection.

Jesus comes to save His people. Joseph, no doubt, heard this as the household of Israel, but God sent His Son to save the whole world. His saving arms are long enough to embrace all people and gather them to Himself. And so, His arms are open to you this day to rescue you from whatever wars against you and to deliver you from your sins.

God Is with Us

Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying,  Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us. – Matthew 1:22-23

How lonely Joseph must have felt, not to mention Mary’s loneliness. God chose two lonely young people to use as a vehicle for the end of loneliness.

To be a virgin and conceive is an unparalleled experience. Conception always involves ensemble and grows out of a deep partnership. Mary’s only partnership in this conception was with the invisible God and it led to more isolation from humanity – even her betrothed.

Joseph was also isolated by this event.  Intimate trust had, in his mind, been betrayed. He could not receive counsel because there were none who could understand his mixed emotions.

Out of this loneliness would come a new partnership between God and this young couple and out of His work and their commitment would come a new reality – the persistent and consistent presence of God among people: Emmanuel.

Then Joseph being raised from sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife. – Matthew 1:24 

At some point, prior to or during this encounter, Joseph has fallen asleep. God often speaks to us in the loneliness of slumber, but it is when we are awakened that we reveal the power of the encounter. Joseph believed and received the word and his solitude ended. He obeyed God. 

And knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS. – Matthew 1:25

Fulfillment involved restraint and rejection of superficial intimacy. The depths of what God was doing would require patient expectation. The honeymoon would wait because God had something marvelous in store for humanity through His Divine intervention in history and the commitment of two solitary youths, brought together by grace and empowered by the promise of the presence of God.

Are we as willing, as they were, to offer our lives to the purpose of Christmas, that the God of the Universe might be revealed to a lonely world? Are we willing to leave some of the gifts under the tree for a while that the Giver of all gifts might bestow the gift of His eternal presence in the temporal realm?

God is with us!