Posts Tagged With: Christmas

Mary, Did You Know…?

May I ask you a personal question?

As you will hear in this PODCAST, the exact same question that I asked of a couple of hundred of the best high school students you’d ever want to meet. Here’s my question:

Do you want to live your life in the midst of God’s blessing?

If your answer to that question is “Yes,” THIS is what God’s blessing means; THIS is what a God-blessed life looks like.

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“And THIS Shall be a Sign Unto You…”

It has become THE iconic image of Christmas: a Manger scene.

  • So readily recognizable that its image graces the fronts of so many of our Christmas cards.
  • So singularly significant that churches throughout country often display what they call a Living Nativity.
  • So emotionally effusive that the mere suggestion of placing a Manger Scene on the steps of a City Hall can stir up a cauldron of contention.
  • So famously familiar that many-a-home have a Manger Scene proudly/prominently displayed on a table or mantle.

And as you will hear in this PODCAST, so iconic that hand-carved Manger Scenes are far-and-away the #1 hot seller when I take people to my favorite olive wood shop in Bethlehem.

A Manger Scene.

Even though everything about it is absolutely wrong.

No knock on the artisans who hand-craft these treasured keepsakes. But you see, it’s all about a picture. An iconic picture.

Manger Scenes paint pictures in wood.

Luke painted a picture in words. And Luke’s picture, when properly understood, is SO MUCH MORE POWERFUL than any hand-crafted manger scene could ever hope to be.

It is simply an undeniable fact, an inconvenient truth, that from Luke’s quill and parchment to our wooden manger scenes today, so much has been lost!

And we are the poorer for it.

But not anymore. Not after hearing this podcast.

Merry Christmas, from my heart to yours.

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks by Night…”

The Christmas story is without a doubt #QuiteAStory.

A familiar story. A profound story. An oft-repeated story.

So familiar is this story that I really do not need to comment on it.

Or do I?

As you will hear in this PODCAST, the principal parts of the story are well-known. The principal players in this biblical drama are names everyone has heard — Mary, Joseph, Jesus.

Yet, with all of that familiarity, there is one little tidbit of information — one word, really — that absolutely jumps off the page at me.

  • One word that puts the entire Christmas story into its proper perspective.
  • One word that goes straight to the heart of who Jesus was, who God is, what the Gospel is all about.
  • One word that goes straight to the heart of who we are.

One word…

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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!!!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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!

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blog at WordPress.com.