A Personal Devotional Journal

I invite you to journey with me. Sometimes we will look at short passages of Scripture and I will give my first thoughts and impressions. Other times, I will just share my thinking about spiritual issues. Always, you are welcome to comment and add your thoughts. Together, we could learn something.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Matthew 9:12 "Jesus Is For Losers"

Matthew 9:12   "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick."

          I was raised in a wonderful Christian home –but I didn’t truly allow God into my life until I was 16.  That was during the summer between my junior and senior year of high school.  During my senior year of high school, I became quite bold in sharing my faith.  One of my classes was being taught by a student teacher from Michigan State University, doing his internship.  This guy had enough of me one day, and called me out into the hall and began yelling at me.  After several minutes of blaspheming Jesus and cursing me, he ended up giving me the lame old excuse of the intellectually challenged, “religion is just a crutch for weak people.”  I guess he thought that was an insult –but you know what?  I simply admitted that he was right.  Because he was right.  It’s true Jesus is for weak people.  Jesus is for losers.  Jesus is for sinners.  Jesus is for people who have all kinds of issues that we can’t resolve on our own.  Jesus is for people who are separated from God.  Jesus is for people like us.  The point is that we are all weak people –we all need God.  If trusting Jesus is a crutch, it’s a crutch we need in order to walk.  The alternative is to remain crawling in our own dirt.  Don’t be too proud to let Jesus in.

         So, if you have never actually asked Jesus to forgive your sins and begin the life changing process, I want to ask you again today to do it.  In fact, let’s pause right here and go through the simple process.  First, we simply have to admit our guilt and our need for God.  I have thought and said and done wrong things –and the choice to do those things has caused a barrier between me and God –a separation –a separation so complete that I often wonder if there even is a God.   

          Any problem so far?  Can we admit that we have done wrong and our wrong has had spiritual consequences in our lives?  Good.  Now, we must acknowledge that Jesus is God’s provision for sin, for those choices that have separated us from God. We simply agree with God that Jesus’ birth and life and death and resurrection are God’s reality and provision for us.   

          And then, we acknowledge that because Jesus already paid the penalty for our sin, we are forgiven.  If you have never done this, I’m going to do something I rarely do; I’m going to lead you in a prayer.  If you want to be forgiven and made right with God, I invite you to pray this prayer with me –the words I’m writing mean nothing by themselves, but if this is what down in your heart you truly want, these words are powerful and life-changing.  If possible, please read this prayer out loud:

God, I know that I have sinned and that my sin has been a barrier between us –I know that my sin has separated me from You.  I want to be forgiven.  I am placing my trust in Jesus, and in His death on a cross and in His resurrection from the dead as Your provision for my sin.   Please forgive me and restore me to a right relationship with You.  Please allow me to be a part of your family –through Jesus.  Amen.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Luke 2:8-20 "Why Shepherds?"

--> -->Luke 2:8-20
“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to 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 a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."
Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."
When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, "Let's go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about."
So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

          I think that’s a great story –but it’s greatness doesn’t lie only in the unfolding of the miraculous events –I think it’s greatness lies in the simple fact that God chose to reveal the birth of His Son to shepherds.

              One would think that an event like this would be announced to the important people of society.  This is an event that changes everything.  This is the birth of the Savior of the world.  Doesn’t it seem like this should have been announced to the religious leaders and the political leaders?  I mean if I were God –and it’s a good thing for all of us that I’m not –but I probably would have had angels appear to Caesar himself and put on a display that couldn’t be ignored.  I would have had angels appear to every ruler and authority on earth and announce, “This is the Son of the Most High God –bow and worship.” 
            But that’s not the way God did it.  Not only did God announce the birth of His Son to shepherds, but they are the only ones to whom this was announced.  Isn’t that a little puzzling?  Why?  Why was this incredible news announced only to a rag-tag band of social outcasts in the middle of nowhere?  What does that mean?
            Well, if you’ve ever felt like you were on the outside looking in, I think it means you should be encouraged.  If you’ve ever watched other people laughing and smiling and talking happily and wished it could be you, I think this means you should be encouraged.  If you’ve never actually been one of “beautiful people” that everybody crowds around and wants to be friends with, I think this means you should be encouraged.  If you have never seen your name in the paper for some great accomplishment, this means you should be encouraged.  If your life isn’t what you’d hoped and dreamed when you were younger, this means you should be encouraged.  If you are not among those who have this intimate relationship with God all figured out, you should be encouraged. 
            You should be encouraged because whatever else the announcement to the shepherds meant, it definitely meant that Jesus was not and is not just a Savior for the important people, and wealthy people, and the popular people and the religious elite.  Jesus was not and is not just a Savior for kings and governors or priests and rabbis.  Jesus was not and is not just a Savior for military leaders and heads of state and well to do merchants and people of distinction.  None of these people received the invitation to Christ’s birth.
            I think that by announcing Christ’s birth to shepherds, God was making a statement.  Jesus is the Savior for everyone.  He doesn’t discriminate based on social status or education or wealth or intelligence or political power or social standing –or any of the things that we tend to judge people by.   He gives His love generously to all who will accept it.
          There is a line from the carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem that I think answers the question of why shepherds?  It says, “Where meek souls will receive Him still, the dear Christ enters in.”  That’s it.  God reveals Himself to those who are humble enough to receive Him.  God shows Himself to those who aren’t too proud to notice Him.
          There is no longer any reason to go through life with a truck load of guilt and shame.  There is no need to live with fear and lonliness.  There is no need to live with the emptiness and anxiety that comes from being separated from God.  If you have been living like that, I want to tell you the simple truth.  Jesus came so that you can be freed from that.  And it’s not a complicated thing.  You simply open your heart and let Jesus in.