Posts Tagged With: Christmas

A Very Merry Christmas (and So Much More!)

hanukkah-christmasIt’s Christmas Day!

And to our many precious Jewish friends, tonight, the night of December 25 marks the beginning of Hanukkah, 2016.

With that in mind, I thought it appropriate to take a little trip, to another time and place — specifically, to Jesus’ final Hanukkah mere months before His crucifixion.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, what is most remarkable to me is that Jesus went “up to Jerusalem” to celebrate this Hanukkah at great risk to His life. Why?

As John observed in John 10, it was winter, and Jesus was in Jerusalem for what John calls the Feast of Dedication.

As we break seal on this story, we are now a mere four months from the crucifixion.

When we last left Jesus, He had just healed a man born blind following the Feast of Tabernacles in October. This led to a rather heated confrontation with the religious leaders who kicked the now-healed blind man out of synagogue and denied that this man was ever blind. When that didn’t work, because everyone in Jerusalem knew this formerly blind-beggar, they accused Jesus of healing Him in the power of Satan. The confusion caused by these Pharisees left the crowd reeling. Thus we read, “Many of them said (of Jesus), ‘He has a demon and is mad. Why do you listen to Him?’ Others said, ‘These are not the words of one who has a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?’”

That’s vs 21. And that happened in October. Next we read in verse 22, “Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.”

A full two months transpired between John 10:21 & 22. Indeed, after that heated and life-threatening exchange with the Jewish leaders, Jesus and His men got out of Dodge. Jesus needed to, since once again Pharisees wanted to kill Him.

So here’s my question: Why in the world, then, did Jesus risk returning to Jerusalem here in the Winter? Why did Jesus literally put His life at risk to be there?

The answer is profound.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to begin to play.

God bless you richly as you listen.

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The First Noel

12390995_10153185910760841_423099692962636577_nIt is without a doubt one of the most beautiful and meaningful of our Christmas carols.

As you will hear in this PODCAST, its seven stanzas tell the complete story of Christmas, brilliantly combining both Matthew’s and Luke’s Nativity narratives.

The carol to which I refer? The First Noel.

The First Noel, the angel did say, was to certain poor shepherds in fields as they lay. In fields as they lay, keeping their sheep, on a cold winter’s night that was so deep.

Chorus: Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel.

They looked up and saw a star shining in the east beyond them far. And to the earth it gave great light, and so it continued both day and night.

And by the light of that same star three wise men came from country afar. To seek for a king was their intent, and to follow the star wherever it went.

This star drew nigh to the northwest, o’er Bethlehem it took it rest. And there it did both stop and stay right over the place where Jesus lay.

Then did they know assuredly within that house the King did lay. They entered in then for to see, and found the Babe in poverty.

Then entered in those wise men three, fell reverently upon their knee, and offered there in His presence their gold, and myrrh, and frankincense.

Then let us all with one accord sing praises to our heavenly Lord, that hath made heaven and earth of naught, and with his blood mankind hath bought.

Chorus: Noel, Noel, Noel, Noel, Born is the King of Israel.

Let’s talk about those Wise Men, mysterious Magi.

And the star, what it was and why they followed it.

And their gifts, and their amazing significance.

From all of us at the Safe Haven, to all of you, A Very Merry Christmas!ThreeWiseMenblueskyandstars

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A Sparkling New Message from a Frail Old Man

Simeon-Christ-ChildHe is truly an unsung hero of the Christmas Story.

Ironically enough, as you will learn in this Christmas-themed PODCAST, his name means “one who listens.”

Are you ready to listen?

Having read the biblical accounts of the birth of Jesus, I have no doubt that you have heard of him. But I would be very much surprised if you knew much about him.

THAT is about to change.

Ready to view the coming of Christ through a slightly different lens? My Yuletide gift to you, in a little more than 30 minutes.

Please remember that depending upon your web browser and connection speed, it may take up to 60 seconds for the podcast to begin to play.

If it is a blessing to you, PLEASE share a link to this podcast with your family and friends.

God bless you as you listen. And have a VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS.

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Does Hell Really Exist? What Would Jesus Say?

time-cover-bell1101110425_400It has become THE doctrinal debate of our time — Is there really a Hell? Needlessly so. Unnecessarily so. With absolutely no reason for this to be a debate. 

Jesus’ own words ended this debate, 2000 years ago, courtesy of the Parable of the Dragnet. As you will hear clearly and unambiguously in this PODCAST.

Turns out that the Bible is amazingly straightforward about whether or not there is a Hell; if so, what it is truly like, who will be going there, and why they will be going there.

As I often say, It’s amazing what we learn when we read the Bible. Well, get ready to be amazed.

Please remember that depending upon your connection speed and web browser, it may take up to 60 seconds for this podcast to being to play.

God bless you as you listen.

And PLEASE share a link to this podcast with your friends.

Happy listening.

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O Little Town of Bethlehem

bethlehem

Bethlehem. 

Why in the world did God choose to have His Son born in Bethlehem?

He could have chosen Jerusalem. The Holy City was then home to the Temple, and the epicenter of all things religious. For that matter, He could have chosen Rome, Athens, Corinth, Alexandria, or any number of major metropolitan centers of ancient world influence.

Why in the world did God choose Bethlehem?

Well, for the answer to that singularly significant question, we have to go all the way back to the beginnings of the Bible. There you will read this in Genesis 14:18, about Abraham and his first meeting with the mysterious Melchizedek, the king of Salem, Shalom, Peace. Arguably the first reference in the Bible to what would later become the City of Peace, Jeru-salem

Then Melchizedek king of Salem brought out bread and wine; he was the priest of God Most High.

Hmmm. What were they doing, Abraham and Melchizedek? Certainly not celebrating Communion with that bread and wine. And more to the point, What does this baffling bit of trivia have to do with Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem?

On the surface, nothing. Dig a little deeper, it means everything.

The backstory of their tête-à-tête is straightforward and rather simple: Returning from a period of conflict over the capture of his nephew Lot, Abraham now craved a much-needed period of peace. So did Melchizedek. In order to establish an unbreakable bond of peace, in order to confirm an indestructible contract of commitment to one another, in order to seal a deal of an abiding agreement of love and loyalty to one another, Abraham and Melchizedek broke bread together.

The breaking of bread was in biblical times, and is even today in the Middle East, the culturally-binding symbol of a relationship of love, loyalty, and commitment between two parties.

Breaking bread. The sharing of the very sustenance of life with one another, the symbolism of which binds the two lives together in a mutual pledge of life, love, loyalty, and peace.

It is no wonder that bread is specifically mentioned in the Bible 448 times. 

It is no wonder that in the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus taught us specifically to pray for our daily bread, a regular reminder of the unbreakable relationship of life, loveloyalty, and peace that we now share with God Himself.

It is no wonder that when Jesus fed the five thousand, He broke bread with them.

It is no wonder that Jesus referred to Himself as “the bread of life,” adding in John 8, 

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will live forever. 

“Forever.” An unbreakable bond indeed!

It is no wonder that on the night before the crucifixion, as Jesus shared one last supper with His disciples, He broke bread with them.

It is no wonder that after Jesus was nailed to the cross, as the body of the one who called Himself “the bread of life” was beaten and broken for us, that it can now be said of us who love Him, 

We have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us (Romans 5:1).

It is no wonder that the first committed Christ-followers (according to Acts 2) broke bread from house to house. 

Bread: the God-given, Bible-driven symbol of two persons who desperately long to establish between them an unbreakable bond of life, love, loyalty, and peace.

So it is no wonder that God chose “His only begotten Son” to be born not in Jerusalem, not in Rome or Athens, not in Corinth or Alexandria, nor in any major metropolitan city of great influence. No.

When God sent His Son, He chose to have Him be born in the humble hamlet of Bethlehem. Or as it is called in Hebrew, Beit Lehem, which in English reads, “the house of (Care to make a guess?) bread.”

———————-

This is just one of the five Scriptural snapshots of Christmas that we shared with our beloved Safe Haven family last Saturday night. You can hear all five in this podcast by clicking HERE.

From my heart to yours, a very MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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Mary, Did You Know???

mangerMary’s was NOT an easy life. 

Consequently, she is a woman whom I greatly admire. As should we all.

Just imagine what it must have been like to walk in her sandals, or to ride on her donkey.

At the time of the angelic visitation announcing her miraculous pregnancy, Mary was assured that her baby was the vital part of God’s plan of salvation. Not only for her, but for the whole world.

Yet we know that very late in her pregnancy, Joseph and Mary were forced to make the arduous journey from Nazareth-Bethlehem,60 miles as the crow flies. A harrowing 3 to 5 day journey under the best of conditions into what was for all intents and purposes a different country far removed from Nazareth geographically, culturally, and demographically. More like 5 to 7 days considering Mary’s condition, walking or on camelback, through treacherous terrain, exposed to the elements and the ever-present threat of bandits, all to register for yet another Roman tax.

This poor couple living, as we learn a little later in the Gospel accounts, barely above the poverty line, having even what little they had plundered by their corrupted government officials.

Mothers, think back to what it was like when you gave birth to your firstborn child – the fears, the insecurities, the feelings of inadequacy. Now imagine that when you did give birth, it was not in the clinical cleanliness of a hospital room or birthing center. Imagine you were in a cave, dark and alone, unsanitary to the extreme, no nurse, doctor, or midwife to help you, and you are all of 13 or 15 years old, in what was essentially a foreign country, away from your family, with only your fiancé to help you.

Add to all of that the political climate of the world Mary was living in – a world of crushing oppression and a brutal and barbaric military occupation. One that would soon force the holy family to flee to Egypt in the wake of Herod’s maniacal and murderous attempt to kill the baby Jesus in His crib.

Mary was completely obedient to and submissive to the will of God for her life, whatever that might be. She stepped out in obedience to God, and yet everything that could go wrong did go wrong.

Which begs this question:

Why do we expect that if we are indeed obedient to the will of God, everything should go right for us, go good for us? That our obedience buys us a trouble-free existence?

Mary would beg to differ. So would Abraham.

As the OT begins, Abraham obediently followed God’s call to leave his country, his extended family, his friends, and his home, everything to travel to a Promised Land that he had never even seen before.

While en route, his beloved dad died. No sooner had he settled in that land, a severe famine hit the land and down to Egypt he was forced to go. Welcome to the Holy Land, Abraham.

Abraham did everything right, and everything that could go wrong did go wrong. It happened to Abraham.

And as the NT begins, the exact same thing happened to Mary. 

Maybe, just maybe, it has happened to us. Or will happen to us. Unexpected, uninvited, and unwanted trials and tribulations may well be proof-positive that you and I are right smack dab in the middle of God’s will. Unexpected, uninvited, and unwanted trials and tribulations may well be the precursors to God’s richest blessings.

So don’t despair, no matter how rough your road. God never abandoned Abraham; He surely never abandoned Mary, Joseph, and Jesus. And we can be sure that He will never abandon us.

The pathway to God’s blessing is often strewn with boulders. Speed-bumps abound. But as we learn from this Christmas story, with Mother Mary showing us the way, God’s blessings always win out in the end.

Just one of the snapshots of Christmas from last Saturday night’s Safe Haven Christmas celebration. The podcast of the full five of these snapshots can be heard by clicking HERE.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

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Eleven Words That Forever Changed the World

mangerIt’s only eleven words in the Complete Jewish Bible.

Eleven words that trumpet THE event after which the world would never be the same again. 

Eleven words that appear to come careening out of nowhere, enigmatically exploding on the page in Matthew 1:18:

Here is how the birth of Yeshua the Messiah took place.

Think of it. When a lofty band of angels announced to a lowly brood of shepherds that Jesus was born, the impossible, the unimaginable happened.

Perhaps the clearest explanation of exactly what happened and why it happened was summarized by the Apostle Paul in the lovely little letter he wrote to his beloved congregation of committed Christ-followers in Philippi.

It’s such a marvelous and magnificent passage. So frequently read, yet so often misunderstood because of its rather unfamiliar phraseology. So I humbly offer to you my expanded paraphrase of Philippians 2:5-11, sort of as The New Testament in High Definition:

Jesus was God.

Yet, He chose to relinquish all of the privileges that were His as God.

If you can imagine it, Jesus voluntarily gave up everything when He became one of us – born as a baby, just as human as you and me. He did this so that He could humbly serve us by meeting our deepest needs – the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation of our souls.

In obedience to God the Father, Jesus even humbled Himself to the lowest point possible: He actually allowed Himself to be executed as if He was a common criminal. See Him there – Almighty God in an all-human body, bloodied and beaten – Jesus hanging from that rugged Roman cross, with the crowds sneering and spitting and laughing at Him.

Ah, but He didn’t stay on that cross, did He?

God the Father reached all the way down to Earth and lifted His Son all the way up to Heaven. He picked Jesus up from the lowest place and raised Him to the highest place, the place of supreme honor.

He gave Jesus a name that is so powerful, so preeminent that at the mere mention of His name – say it with me, “Jesus” – every person, and even every angel, will bow his or her knees before Him and offer to Him the worship that He alone deserves. This includes each of the holy angels in Heaven, every depraved demon in Hell, and each and every precious person who has ever walked this planet.

To the glorious honor of God the Father, everyone will loudly and clearly proclaim this one undeniable and unchangeable fact: Jesus Christ IS the Master of the Universe AND the Lord of our lives.

Such is the “reason for this season.”

From my heart to yours, Merry Christmas! And in the immortal words of A Christmas Carol’s Tiny Tim,

God bless us, every one!

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A Marvelous Way to Live!

Unhappy ChristmasFor many of us, this enigmatic passage, that we explain in this PODCAST, is coming at Just.The.Right.Time, given that Christmas is right around the corner.

I have talked to too many people already this month who have admitted to me that in one way or the other, despite what the carol says, Christmas is not “the most wonderful time of the year.” 

This because, among other things, they are dreading having to get together with certain family members or “friends” who are, to put this as delicately as possible, difficult to deal with. Difficult to be with. Difficult to spend time with. 

EGR-types of people. EGR? Ever hear of those?

Extra-Grace-Required-types of people.

Do you know anyone like that?

So this passage is indeed coming at just the right time.

At the same time, ironically, it’s an impossible passage. Impossible in that no one, NO ONE, can possibly take the words of this passage, as they appear here at face value, and apply them to our lives.

No one can. Because if we did, then it would mean that… say, for example… if someone likes your car better than theirs, according to this passage they only need to ask you for your car, and you would have to toss them the keys.

Or if they like your house better than their house or apartment, and ask you for your house, you would have to hand over the deed to them.

Or if someone jumps you in a parking lot and starts to pummel you, according to this passage you could not defend yourself. You just have to lay there and let them beat you to a bloody pulp.

Is that really what Jesus meant to suggest here in Matthew 5:38-42?

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also.  And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away.

OK, let me be honest with you. Taken at face value, there are some serious issues with this passage. A problematic passage to say the least.

First, because if we truly live this out…

Don’t resist an evil person… Give to him who asks you…

…If we (as the clichés go) turn the other cheek, go the extra mile…

If we do indeed let people knock us around, or give anyone anything of ours that they want, even more than they want, anytime they want it, then what we’re saying is that we are biblically obligated to passively submit to anyone’s abuses, everyone’s abuses, any where, at any time.

Can you even begin to imagine what the implications of that would be? Just try to imagine what would happen if word got out about those Christians over there, that you can take from them anything you want, anytime you want it. Money. Possessions. Property. It’s yours for the asking.

Is that really what Jesus was preaching here in Matthew 5:38-42?

Second, if that was indeed what Jesus was preaching here.. 

But I tell you not to resist an evil person. 

…Then we have a clearcut contradiction of Scripture. Because James (Jesus’ brother) just as clearly wrote, 

Resist the devil and he will flee from you (James 4:7).

And Peter added his voice to James when he wrote…

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him (1 Peter 5:8-9).

And finally, just to add one more tantalizing layer of complication to this already complicated passage, not only is there an apparent contradiction between what Jesus preached and what James and Peter wrote, but we also have an apparent contradiction between Jesus’ own words and Jesus’ own actions

Let me phrase this as a question: Did Jesus practice what He preached…

But I tell you not to resist an evil person.

…when Jesus did this to some evil people?

Jesus took some rope and made a whip. Then he chased everyone out of the temple, together with their sheep and cattle. He turned over the tables of the moneychangers and scattered their coins. Jesus said to the people who had been selling doves, “Get those doves out of here! Don’t make my Father’s house a marketplace” (John 2:15-16).

Hmmm. Sounds a little like resistance to me…

OK, so what’s going on here?

One are just one CLICK away from finding out. Just in time for Christmas!

A truly marvelous way to live.

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HAPPY LISTENING, from my heart to yours.

And if it is indeed a blessing, PLEASE “Like” this blog, and PLEASE “Share” the link to this podcast with your family and friends.

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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