Originally posted on Vine of Life News by Lyn Leahz
©By Lyn Leahz | 7-20-2013
When Noah was building the ark, no one had ever seen or heard of rain. The earth was watered from a mist that came up from the ground. So you can imagine that while Noah built the ark, people, probably even his own family, thought he had lost his mind. Yet, Noah obeyed God and worked diligently for many, many years (that’s a long time) building the ark.
You would think after a few weeks, a few months, a year even, he would have grown weary. Would you spend years of your life working hard for something if you did not know positively what would happen? I mean, Noah could have had thoughts, “What if this is in my head? What if I build this thing and nothing happens? What will my family say?” Still, Noah obeyed. Scholars agree that it would have taken Noah approximately 55-75 years to build the ark. Would you work that hard, for that many years, without any evidence that there was a purpose to your labor?
Noah and his sons had to chop down trees, cut and manipulate the wood to various sizes, lengths, shapes, etc. They had to haul wood to the building site, and much more. I can imagine they, at times, questioned their father and complained. It’s even possible that near the end, they doubted Noah and became angry with him.
And, let’s not forget Jericho. Oh, but wait! Many of you probably don’t know the archaeological history of it, do you?
When God told Joshua to tell thousands of men to march around the walls of Jericho for seven days, and for the thousands of men to shout, blow the trumpet and stomp their feet all at the same time, I can imagine it sounded pretty silly. They had no clue why they had to do it. Little did they know, they were marching, stomping and shouting right on top of a fault line. By doing this, exactly the way God instructed (because He’s God, and He knows just what to do), they caused the plates beneath the ground to shift, thus causing an earthquake, which knocked down the wall. According to archaeologists, the wall fell down around the same time Bible history claims, by way of an earthquake. So God took the natural and used it in a supernatural way.
Imagine if your pastor came to you and told you to march around your neighborhood for seven days, and on the seventh day to give a shout, blow a trumpet and stomp your feet…and, if you did this exactly as he instructed, the strip club being built up the street from you would crumble into fine powder dust, along with every abortion clinic in the USA (of course, with no people inside when it happened). Would you believe him? And, would you do it?
What would have happened had Noah and Joshua not obeyed God? It’s hard to imagine.
Is God telling you to do anything, and you’re not doing it because it just seems too hard and impossible? Or maybe you just don’t know how to do it. If so, take a step of faith and start to do whatever it is while you’re praying for more direction. If a tornado was coming down the street, and you didn’t know where to go in your house that would be safe, would just sit there perfectly still and watch it coming your way? Or would you get up and frantically scurry around your house seeking out the best place, while praying, “Father, show me the best place to take myself and my family”?
Are you a Noah or a Jonah? Will you stand up today, trust God, and do what God has called you to do, even though it’s a lot of work and makes no sense? Or, will you continue trying to run from God? Because you can run, but you can’t hide.
The storm is coming. There isn’t much time. How many souls will be lost to hell for eternity because you are not doing your part for the Kingdom of God? You will be mocked, you might be ridiculed and laughed at. However, by the end of it all, the people pounding on the door of Noah’s ark were no longer making fun of him! They were begging for him to let them in, probably frantically apologizing, and admitting he was right!
When you first plant a seed, it takes time for it to grow. Some seeds sprout quicker than others, true…but it still doesn’t happen instantly. When you witness, for example, you may get turned down and rejected, but it’s okay. How do you know that a few months down the road, or even a year or two later, something in that person’s life you witnessed to will not happen? And, when it does, how do you know they aren’t going to be reminded of what you shared with them previously? That seed is going to sprout, take root, and grow up into a big, beautiful, healthy plant!
There could be a number of things God is telling you to do. Maybe it’s quitting smoking, getting out of an unhealthy relationship with someone, or reducing your pride and apologizing for something… only you know what it is God is speaking to your heart. I hope you’ll make the right decision, obey His voice, and do it today! You are not alone. If He wants you to do something, He will lead you and guide you every single step of the way.
2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”
Phil Driscoll-Amazing Grace
During this summer, I have spent some time clearing out a worship spot at my house in the back of our woods. I must say, I really enjoyed doing it. I wanted a spot that I could go and spend time with God in solitude. I gathered old down trees to use for seating, found various pieces of old furniture to place back there, and Tiki Torches to help keep away bugs. In the middle I built a good-sized fire pit for bonfires. The other evening I went out to that spot to spend some time with God. My brother was with me and we were trying to light the fire. The pit had quite a bit of wood in it so if we ever got it lit, it would be a very big and nice fire. The problem was we couldn’t get the fire lit. Granted the top pieces were a little wet, but the rest of the pile was dry, so we didn’t think it would be much of a problem. We had pieces of cardboard to help start the fire, but it didn’t work. We lit some of the dry leaves in the midst of the sticks, but it didn’t work either. We even found some straw to light to help with the process, but all it did was burn. It didn’t stay lit and the fire died quickly. So finally after much frustration, we got the gasoline. Now, I realize this is not the smartest choice nor safest, but I wanted a fire! Luckily nothing bad happened! So we light a few more pieces of cardboard and paper just enough to keep it a flame for a few minutes. Then we doused the places we didn’t have lit with some gasoline so with the fire caught it, it would light up. The finally we applied the gasoline on the flames that were going and instantly, the fire went ablaze. We experienced the thrill of getting our fire lit and the fire was glorious…for about ten minutes. But soon, that gasoline had burnt away, the wood had never really caught a flame, and the fire died out again quickly. Now I realize that there are better ways to light a fire, and if I did some other things I could have probably got that fire going. However, I’m glad I tried to light the fire the way I did because God used it to teach me something.
When the fire began to die out again, I was getting kind of irritated. Then I felt God speak to my heart saying, “I need people who will tend and stir the fire, not just light it.” I immediately knew what God was saying to me. In order to keep a fire going, you have to constantly add fire to the pile, you have to stir the fire to keep the fire going, and you have to watch it. Gasoline is a nice help, but it is only a temporary fix. It only lasts for a moment. It looks glorious and the flames are huge, but they don’t have much life. God doesn’t need followers who will be like the gasoline. Who will become very passionate and devoted to God one day, and have a devotion to Him that dies at the end of the week. He wants followers who will fan the flames. Who will keep the fire going, even if that means taking longer steps in doing so. Followers who will spend the extra time in prayer, reading of His Word, and living out the life He calls His people to.
I think you would be very hard pressed to find a church, if you asked them, would not want to see people come to know Christ. I mean, that’s just a ludicrous thought. The Church may have many different denomination and beliefs of theology, but I don’t really think there are many people in the Church who do not want to see souls saved. In fact if there are any, I really think those people need to evaluate their life and see if the are in step with the Spirit. But all too often the Church tries to witness to the world with gasoline. With big and glorious displays of various ministries, emotional appeals, etc. Those of you who serve the Lord know exactly what I’m talking about. But those things don’t last. People who come to the Lord on those terms won’t last unless that fire is cultivated. Unless their flames are stirred and wood is added to the fire. If the Church and Christians want to set this world on fire, we first have to cultivate the fire in our own hearts, then also be willing to take the time to minister properly and effectively to help keep the fire lit the hearts of others as well. Jesus told His followers that they will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and they will be His witnesses. The Holy Spirit gives Christians the power to witness to others about Jesus powerfully. God is the source of that fire. I pray that believers everywhere will submit to the Holy Spirit and allow God move in their hearts. I also pray that Christians all over the world will fan into flame the gifts of God and take the steps necessary to keep that flame going. When the fire rises true and proud, the world around us will catch fire too. Don’t use the gasoline. Cultivate that fire.
“Therefore, I remind you to keep ablaze the gift of God that is in you through the laying on of my hands.” ~2 Timothy 1:6
“Fire must be kept burning on the altar continually; it must not go out.” ~Leviticus 6:13
May God be with you.
“What happens when people open their hearts?”…
“They get better.”
― Haruki Murakami, Norwegian Woo
We are always being told the importance of becoming better listeners. Listening is of course a valuable skill that should be promoted, especially when sometimes it appears that members of our society increasingly focus on talking about themselves.
However, I recently wondered if the opposite is an issue. Is learning how to speak openly (with one specific person or several) more of a battle for some then we assume? And quite frankly, is it possible to listen TOO much?
I often have this problem. It doesn’t matter what the subject is or whom I’m talking to. Something holds me back. After some research I realized that evidently, I’m not the only one. Like me, there are many others out there searching for assistance on how to talk more freely about themselves. This not only includes sharing our innermost secrets, but even just sharing our every day happenings.
Why do we do this?
- Fearing vulnerability?
- Lacking trust?
- Falling into the role of a therapist?
- Being “too busy?”
- Fearing no one is truly interested?
- Fearing judgment?
- Preferring to not be the center of attention?
- Perhaps admitting our thoughts out loud will force a mirror in our direction?
It is true that wisdom can spring from listening. However, is it possible that being the avid “listener” can also be a crutch? I know it is for me. Don’t get me wrong, listening to others’ stories and struggles can provide perspective and distraction from our own troubles, in addition to providing the opportunity to help the ones we love. But at some point, sharing our own lives becomes just as important. It’s not selfish (I struggle with this one often). It’s not attention-seeking. It’s loving another enough to let them in.
Look at it from the other person’s perspective:
- Who wants a one-sided conversation?
- Who wants to feel like they are the only one being vulnerable?
- Who wants to feel like they don’t “know” their own friend or family member, simply because we continually hold back?
People want to know you.
Moreover, we aren’t being fair to ourselves. There is a plethora of knowledge, experience, and wisdom waiting to be shared by those who care about us. By those who want to help us. By those that know the way.
“Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.”
Proverbs 11:14 (ESV)
Let God in.
If you fall into the habit of holding back from your friends and/or loved ones, there is a good chance you may fall into this habit with God as well. However, with Him it’s different. He truly sees us, no matter how high we’ve built our walls. He knows what we’re feeling but not saying. He knows our secrets, even if we tossed the key to our lock box. The amazing thing is, even though he already knows everything, he still wants us to talk to Him. This is because once again, that’s where the intimacy lies–in sharing.
For example, I needed to know what was in my big sister’s diary when I was little. That book was so intriguing; I swear it called my name in the middle of the night. After all, she was so cool; her stories had to be fascinating! If I would have read that diary, I just know I would have been enthralled with her daily adventures. However, this information wouldn’t have created a bond between us (just the opposite, actually). Instead, having a conversation with my sister about anything–that’s when a bond would potentially develop.
God may know the facts of our stories, but he wants the bond. And whether we realize it or not, that bond is indispensable and irreplaceable. All it takes is a balance of speaking and listening, giving and accepting.
Suggestion: Take a step in the “sharing” direction. Then take another. It will get easier and easier, and in turn, more and more fulfilling. And when it comes down to it, doesn’t it feel great to know that others want to know you more? Give the people what they want. ;)
We all have motives!
Some good – some bad – What is your motive for following Jesus?
I would like to think that my motive was all about love, obedience and gratefulness!
We were reading in Phillipians yesterday about how Paul was concerned that some of the “followers” motives were all about self – they wanted what Paul had – and even though they were preaching and talking about Christ in the correct and right way – their motives were wrong!
It certainly made me think! – Motives can make us do some strange things – sometimes to the betterment of others sometimes not.
God knows our motives – He understands why we do the things we do – He also knows the very depths of our hearts and the place that He holds there!
God has said through His Word that He wants, actually demands, to be No 1 in our lives and if He is not then we had better re-think where we stand with Him.
Our motives can dictate to us how we react, what we say and where we go.
In Matthew 5:20 Jesus says that we must have “righteousness” exceeding that of the scribes and Pharisees and if we don’t we will in no way enter heaven. WOOO pretty strong words there but Jesus was not one to mince words – He never did pussyfoot around with what He said.
Jesus was saying quite plainly that if we are going to be His disciples we must be ‘spot-on’ with not only our actions but also our motives which drive those actions!
Our very motives must be so pure that when under the microscope of the eternal light of God He will find nothing about which to rebuke us.
Now, I hear you say, “Who can stand having the eternal light of God shining on them and finding all their motives, actions and thoughts pure”?
No-one, only the very Son of God – Jesus Christ.
Jesus’ amazing claims that because of His beautiful/terrible sacrifice on Calvary He and He alone can place inside of us His very own nature.
The very “purity” which God demands would be impossible without accepting what Jesus did for us on that day – Only by accepting His perfect gift can we be ‘re-made’ as it were so that when God looks at us in our sinful state – He actually sees Jesus!
That way even though our humanity per se does not change – He changes our heritage – our parentage – and our very nature and in so doing changes our motives as well.
How are your motives? – Good deeds/actions are not enough on their own.
Wonderful things good deeds! – without them this sad old world would be in an even worse state than it is now – And good deeds are a product of a changed life in Christ and indeed marks that person as being one with Him.
That is of course if that person’s motives are right and pure – that their hearts have actually been changed and their lives controlled by the Holy Spirit.
One question we should ask ourselves in all of this:- Will what I am about to do or where I am about to go, glorify God and bless others?
If the Holy Spirit is guiding you then you will know straight away what you should do.
If not, then the answer must be unfortunately that what you are doing is only self-satisfying and will not bring lasting happiness to you or glory to God.
Think about our motives in everything we do this week – where we go – what we watch – who we spend time with and our conversations.
A Spirit filled life is a fulfilled life – a self-satisfying life is temporary happiness at best.
Hmm falling away – can we fall away from God?
This has been the probably one of the most debated questions of all time and one which I guess each of us has our own definition.
From what I have read and gleaned out of Gods Word there are two main thoughts on this subject (probably there are heaps more when you think about it).
It is certainly not my intention to try to convince anyone either one way or the other – rather just to give a few thoughts about both ways of thinking.
I will say though that if you are thinking you have ‘gone beyond’ what God is willing to forgive and that you have committed sins so grievous there is absolutely no hope for you – then that is a pretty good pointer that the Holy Spirit isn’t finished working in your life yet.
The Holy Spirit is so long suffering, He will not give up easily. So if you are so concerned about your sins and feel you are falling away yet you still have that desire to repent and live all out for Jesus then I implore you to come back without delay. For no one can can draw us to Jesus except the Holy Spirit.
Is falling away from our faith a danger to Christians?
Hebrews 6: 4-6 says “It is impossible for those who have once been enlightened who have tasted the heavenly gift, who have shared in the Holy Spirit who have tasted of the goodness of the Word of God and the powers of the coming age, if they fall away to be brought back to repentance, because to their loss they are crucifying the Son of God all over again and subject Him to public disgrace.”
Throughout the entire book of Hebrews we are warned that falling away from or abandoning our faith in a dangerous possibility.
So, can people drop out of their faith where there is no possibility of returning?
Some believe that you can very much lose your faith and turn your back on Jesus. They support their view by observing that these people had indeed a relationship with Christ – they had escaped sin’s consequences and the desolation of a life without Him.
Then, they have returned to a life of total sin entanglement and end up worse than they were before being converted in the 1st place.
In Matthew 7: 22-23 Jesus spoke and said “On the Judgement Day many will say to me ‘Lord Lord! In your name we spoke God’s message by Your name we drove out demons and performed many miracles.’ Then I will say to them “Depart from me I never knew you – get away from me you wicked people”.
They believe that these people are those who genuinely joined themselves with Jesus for the benefits of salvation and purely out of a motive of personal gain.
They also point out that God in His holy just way is the only one who knows when enough is enough and that their total disobedience will come to the point where there is no hope for their salvation.
On the other hand other Christians point out that when you come to Christ – you are eternally secure and cannot fall away from God’s awesome grace and all of the above are aimed fairly and squarely at those who have merely dabbled in the Word and have never taken it seriously enough to commit to it full time.
They see salvation as an irrevocable gift and can’t be taken away – they believe that these people who “fall away” just appear to be saved – they know ‘about’ Jesus and their lifestyles change but such changes are only cosmetic and superficial.
God’s Promises and assurances such as Hebrews 13:5 where the writer states “I will never leave you or forsake you” and again John 10: 29 “My father, who has given them to me, is greater than all: no one can snatch then out of my Father’s hand.”
God’s promises and assurances are there – Contradictory? certainly not – these are given to us to warn us about falling away.
Whichever way you wish to interpret, those of us who do ‘fall away’ are not those who stumble. We all have times of weakness and lapses in faith and doubt the very saving grace of Christ.
But then it is that very same grace that brings us back time and time again and each time we can get closer and closer to God our Heavenly Father.
Those who do ‘fall away’ and if I can put here “permanently’ are those who remain unrepentant and persist in open rebellion against God – knowing they are deliberately sinning and yet have no desire or intention of coming back to God.
They are likened to the very ones who crucified our Lord and are indeed crucifying Him again and again.
So Did you come to Christ because of your love for Him or because of personal gain?
Are you living contrary to what pleases God, overlooking it, justifying it and just getting on with life.
Are you using the name of Jesus but not really having any other association with Him?
If we really love God we promptly obey Him – Give Him everything, show Him absolute reverence and show humble gratefulness for his myriad blessings.
Also loving Jesus would mean that you would lay your life down for Him no longer living for yourself but living only for Him.
WOOHOO – what did we do without all of our modern gadgets – How did we manage??
Its so hard to imagine our world fitting into the world of the late 18th and early 19th centuries – without all of our communication aids – How did those people manage? – it must have been an extraordinary world, no mobile phones, iPods, iPhones,and computers – not even a Fax machine – amazing.
Our incredible God speaks to us so directly – and He has been doing that since creation – no need for any sort of technology – His voice can be strong, caring, sensitive, disciplinary or even a gentle whisper – all we have to do is to listen.
It is so interesting and as pointed out by the none other than Charles Spurgeon himself that in Matthew 11:25 the verse starts by saying “And Jesus answered” BUT it doesn’t say who He was answering??
Jesus had such a close Communion with His Father God that he answered Him – and what did He answer “I thank you O Father” .
No one else heard anything – suddenly Jesus says “I thank you O Father” which just goes to show that He had constant and close fellowship and Communion with God His heavenly Father.
Jesus was born as a helpless baby – human – just like us – bone and flesh and blood – and yet here He is being so close to God that He answers Him as if He were having a face-to-face D&M.
So this simple statement in Matthew can teach us something – what?
We can have the same close relationship with our heavenly Father as we can have with other people.
Sometimes when God speaks it will be to convict us of something not right in our lives – we may need to confess whatever it is that God’s Holy Spirit have convicted us of and in so doing to re-open the communication pathway.
God is so willing to speak to us – and we need to be willing to speak to Him.
Once we have accepted Jesus as Lord – confessed our past to Him and asked Him to rule our lives then by prayer we have an instant communication line to the Father – it is truly amazing!
Romans 8: 26-27 says “That in our weakness, the Spirit of God helps us because we don’t know how to pray as we ought, and so the Spirit intercedes for us with wordless groanings.”
The passage goes on “God the father – the one who searched our hearts – knows the mind of the Spirit because the Spirit prays for us according to God’s will.”
That’s a pretty amazing verse – God, through the Holy Spirit knows what we need before we ask – and even when we don’t know how or what to pray for – The Holy Spirit knows our hearts and motives and intercedes for us to God.
So in times when we are in stress – life seems to be getting the better of us – our little boat is swamped with mountainous waves and we are all bailing for our lives – God through His Holy Spirit can interpret even our groans and is there for us.
Sometimes we can’t put words to how we are feeling – that’s happened heaps of times in my life!! – yet God in His mercy and grace can interpret our minds, thoughts, motives and heart aches.
Although, before we can have any communication with our Creator God we must put things right with Him and with anyone else that we have hurt or we feel have hurt us.
Unforgiveness and taking and giving offence will alienate us from Him – and there will be no communication at all, zilch, zero, none!
We need to put things right – ask forgiveness and then keep those lines open to the only one that has the answer to everything.
It just makes me amazed that our Heavenly Father – the great God of Creation, Jesus the son and God the Holy Spirit loves me so much that He is yearning to hear my prayers.
Each time my heart aches, He knows – When I grieve, He knows – and more than that He cares. He cares for me and He cares for you – He hears our groans and moans – our praises and our laughter.
He knows our hearts desires and our motives and our secret sins.
He knows that there are going to be many bad things that happen to us in life. There is going to be much suffering. There are going to be hard times but through it all He hears our “Groanings.”
He knows and understands and because of that I personally have a deeper understanding of what prayer is all about.
Prayer is more than a shopping list of wishes!!
Prayer is the open communication between a puny little guy and the King of the Universe – extraordinary!
So when we are deep in the ‘puzzle’ of life – the ups and downs – the despair – the worry – the deep concern – the joy – the happiness – Be assured that our God does care and does listen to prayers even if we no idea what we are praying for.
I started reading a book by Watchman Nee called Normal Christian Life. So far I have only read the first chapter, but within that first chapter something really stuck out to me. He said “a clear conscience is never based upon our attainment; it can only be based on the work of the Lord Jesus in the shedding of His Blood”. The entire first chapter is about the Blood of Jesus Christ and how it applies to the life of a Christian. I thought that the chapter laid out beautifully what the Blood of Christ truly means to us as followers of Christ.
The chapter starts first by pointing out that the Blood of Jesus really isn’t so much for us, as it is for God. Now at first reading you may say, “Hold on a minute, the Blood of Christ is what saves me!” Yes that is very true and Nee is not dismissing that very important truth. What he means is that the only way God pardons our sin is if He sees the Blood of Jesus paying for the debt of our sin. Think about the Israelites when God commanded them to eat the Passover lamb inside the house, but spread the blood of the lamb on the doorposts. Then, when God passed over Egypt on the Passover night, God would see the blood and pardon the household. This is the same with us and the Blood of Christ. When God sees the Blood of Christ applied to our hearts, He can forgive and pardon our sin because of the great sacrifice of Jesus. So consequently, the amount we value Christ’s Blood is directly linked to the value that God values the Blood.
After realizing the value of the Blood, it is crucial that we base our life around that. Without the Blood of Christ, we can not go into the Presence of God without fear and shame. On the Day of Atonement in the Old Testament, the high priest alone was to go into the Most Holy Place to offer the sin offering to God. As it is with Christ. He is our High Priest who applies His blood to our sin to make retribution before God. When we allow this to become true in our everyday life, then it shapes our entire relationship with God. Some days I can feel really connected with God. I read my Bible and get a lot out of my reading. I feel like really connect with God in prayer and hear from Him. I am able to reflect the love of Christ well. I feel like I’m serving God well. Other days, it can be just the opposite. I don’t feel the same connection during my Bible reading or prayer time. I don’t reflect Christ’s love well. I may be mean or nasty. But listen to this: our standing before God is not based on our works, our merits, how we feel, or anything we can furnish. It is by the Blood of Jesus that we are able to be seen as forgiven by God!Do not allow the way you feel ditate how you think your relationship with God is based. It is only by the Blood of Jesus that we have relationship with God!
It is very easy as Christians to allow ourselves to get beat up when we fall short of the glory of God. We believe the lie that we have to earn our way into God’s love or we have to preform for God to be accepted. But praise be to God that it’s not about what I can do, it’s about what I can’t do. Only Jesus can bring me back into restored relationship with Jesus. When we try to base our status with God on anything other than the sacrificial Blood of Jesus, we play right into Satan’s schemes. The Bible calls Satan the Accuser. His tricks aren’t new. He has used the same tricks all through history; lying and accusing. He will try to accuse us of our sin before God and lie to us saying that we are failures and can’t be forgiven. By ourselves, we are failures and we can’t be forgiven. We can’t save ourselves. But by the Blood of Jesus I am redeemed and by His grace I can be pardoned of all my sin!
I pray that as you read this blog, you will ponder in your own heart whether or not you are applying the Blood of Jesus to your life. Does it really impact your everyday life, or is it more than a passing thought. I encourage as the Lord to reveal more of Himself to you, and share His value of His Son’s Blood with you. As always, I pray this blog encourages you or helps you! Blessings!
Most people have probably heard the story about Jesus’ birth. Here’s Luke’s account:
In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to his own town to register.
4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
The Shepherds and the Angels
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 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. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”
15 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.”
16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
There’s something about the birth of Messiah that’s somewhat controversial, even among some Christians. It shouldn’t be, but it is. Many ask, “Was Mary actually a virgin? Was the birth of Jesus truly a virgin birth?” Well let me take you back a few hundred years before Jesus Christ was born.
Isaiah 7:14: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.”
Isaiah clearly prophesies a virgin birth here. The original Hebrew word that was used for “virgin” here is “almah.” This Hebrew word means a “young, unmarried woman who has had no sexual relations.”
The angel, Gabriel, appears to Mary in the book of Luke. Luke 1:26-38 says:
In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”
29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her.
My point is this: The Messiah MUST be born of a virgin. It was prophesied by Isaiah hundreds of years before Jesus was born. Hundreds of years before the book of Luke was written. It was something that had to be fulfilled. Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. If Mary had not been a virgin, Jesus would not have been Messiah. Without the virgin birth, there is no Yeshua HaMashiach (Jesus the Messiah), no Savior, and we are completely lost. But Jesus fulfilled ALL of the prophesied requirements for the Messiah. Jesus born of a virgin. That fact is essential to the Christian faith.
For may people, Christmas means a lot of things. For some, it means lots of shopping, traveling, and scrambling all over town to get those special gifts for special people. For others, it may mean getting together with family that they are unable to see throughout the year. These are great things. There is nothing wrong with wanting to get special people gifts. It is greatly important as well to spend time with family. However, Christmas marks a day much more important than gifts or family. It celebrates the day that God sent Hope back into the world.
Picture this. From the time the prophet Malachi, which is the last recorded Old Testament book, to the time of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) there was 400 years of silence. God’s chose Israel as His chosen people. Starting with Abraham, God promised a linage that would never perish and would bless all people. Abraham descendants were enslaved by Egypt for over 400 years, when God sent a leader, Moses, to bring them out of Egypt. After leaving the bondage of Egypt, Israel remained faithful to God for a time. Unfortunately, the longer Israel lived around the pagan nations, the more they grew into to practices of those nations. They eventually started worshipping and serving dead idols rather than the one, true living God. God began sending prophets to various parts of Israel. Those prophets began speaking the words of God and pleading for people to turn back to the Lord. Eventually Israel, was broke into two nations (Israel and Judah). Israel was wiped out by the Assyrians and Judah was taken into captivity by Babylon for 70 years. The prophets began giving snapshots of a Messiah that was to come and lead God’s people and save them. After the people of Judah were liberated from Babylon, the people turned back to God. But their worship to God became nothing more than dead religion. So with the last of the prophets, Malachi, God did not speak to Israel for almost 400 years.
The people of Israel, however, still held on to the hope of the coming Messiah. Although the Pharisees of that time taught hypocrisy, there were still those in Israel who were looking forward to the coming Messiah. Then one day, prophecy started being fulfilled. The forerunner of Messiah spoken about in Isaiah, “A voice is calling, ‘Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God” (Isaiah 40:3), John the Baptist, was born. Not too much later, Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit, was born in Bethlehem by the virgin Mary, in a manager because there was no place in the town inn. This fulfilled the Scripture that said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,and the government will be on his shoulders.And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,Mighty God,Everlasting Father,Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Hope came back into the world when Jesus was born. Jesus came and ministered to all of Israel, died on the cross for our sins, and rose again three days later from the grave, overcoming death. He not only paid the ransom for Israel, but opened up the door of salvation to all who believe in His name an turn from their sin. He now seated at the right hand of God and He will return for His Church.
Jesus came in the most humble of ways. He came as a baby. He didn’t come in with an army. He didn’t come in as a conquering king. He came as a baby, in human form, to relate to us and give us hope that once seemed lost. So this Christmas season, really reflect on the fact that Jesus chose to step out of divinity, and live as a human only to be hung on a cross for the sin of the world. I encourage you to read the Birth of Christ in the book of Matthew and Luke. When you are unwrapping your gifts, spending time with family, and eating hearty meals, remember Jesus this year. Jesus is the reason for the season. Truly.