The Redeemed Life

a Christian blog cultivating spiritual growth

Archive for January, 2013

31 January
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Reclaiming His Creation – Luke 4:31-41

Luke 4:31-41  – Listen

31 And he went down to Capernaum, a city of Galilee. And he was teaching them on the Sabbath,32 and they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority. 33 And in the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, 34 “Ha! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 35 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent and come out of him!” And when the demon had thrown him down in their midst, he came out of him, having done him no harm. 36 And they were all amazed and said to one another, “What is this word? For with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits, and they come out!” 37 And reports about him went out into every place in the surrounding region.

38 And he arose and left the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was ill with a high fever, and they appealed to him on her behalf. 39 And he stood over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her, and immediately she rose and began to serve them.

40 Now when the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to him, and he laid his hands on every one of them and healed them. 41 And demons also came out of many, crying, “You are the Son of God!” But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This marks the beginning of Jesus’ healing ministry.  In this particular passage, we see Jesus taking on the forces of evil in our world.  His first confrontation is with a demon possessed man, and then He goes on to cure people of various diseases and illnesses.  This all points to a fulfillment of His mission statement from Isaiah – He is setting the captives (of sin and death) free and is setting in motion the beginning of His Kingdom of earth.  A world in darkness is now getting its first glimpses of light, and a people who have only known death are now given a taste of life.

But as we already saw in the previous post, Jesus is faced with hostility.  This time, it not from the “religious” people of the day, its from demons and unclean spirits.  And to be completely honest, yes I do believe demons are real, and no, I don’t believe they are the cause of every illness or sickness in our world.  The Gospels present a clear and balanced picture of Jesus’ battle against not only demons, but the effects of sin in general (age, decay, sickness, etc).

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

When Jesus came into our world, He was very clear about what He was meant to do:  He came to rescue us from sin and death.  As Christians, we believe this in a futuristic sense, but we are also called to embrace that truth in our daily lives.  If you are part of God’s family, the healing process of being free from sin is something that we can experience and enjoy this side of heaven.  While we live in this world, we will have to deal with growing older, and eventually physical death, but if we have placed our faith in Jesus, if we have hidden our identity in Him, then we have nothing to fear in this world.  As Jesus says in the Gospel of John, we are able to live out our eternal life right now!  We have a God who was willing to step out of eternal comfort and peace to enter our battered world so that He could make amends and find a way to restore us .  We worship a God who was willing to step down into our darkness so that we could live in His light.  Let’s not forget how much our Savior loved/loves us.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Every time I read about demons interacting with Jesus, I am reminded of a simple truth.  Although these demons know the identity of Jesus Christ as the Son of God, their knowledge of Him does not in any way mean that they are going to experience salvation and the bliss of heaven.  These demons posses knowledge about Jesus, but they are entities that are not in relationship with Him.  I know so many people that are just like the demons in these stories.  They know all about Jesus, yet they really don’t know Him in any substantial way that matters.  Knowing about Jesus is absolutely nothing compared to knowing Jesus in relationship.

In light of that, ask yourself, do you know about Jesus or do you know Jesus?  That is the biggest question you will ever face, and it has eternal implications for your soul.  I pray that if you only know about Jesus, that you would be moved to enjoy the sweetness of knowing Him on a personal level.  And if you do know Jesus in relationship, I pray you enjoy that experience and security even more today.

30 January
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The Man with a Mission – Luke 4:20-30

Luke 4:20-30  – Listen

20 And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23 And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” 24 And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.30 But passing through their midst, he went away.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This passage paints a picture of Jesus that is sometimes hard to accept.  After quoting from Isaiah, the people seem ready to follow Him anywhere He goes and believe whatever He says.  Yet Jesus seems to do the least logical thing possible: He insults their faith.  He states that they will not receive Him no matter what He does.  He quotes Old Testament figures (Elijah and Elisha) who, after being rejected by the nation of Israel, is sent to preach about God to non-Jews (or Gentiles).  This word from Jesus, not surprisingly infuriates the crowd listening to Him and they seek to kill Jesus then and there.  But somehow, in the midst of a crowd ready to murder Him, Jesus simply “passes through their midst” and goes on His way.  There is no other way to explain this except divine intervention.  It wasn’t time for Jesus to die, and He lives on to continue His ministry of preaching to both Jews and Gentiles.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Growing us as a Christian, I remember cute memories of seeing pictures of Jesus, dressed in white, playing with lambs and children.  He was always smiling and always seemed approachable.  As I have moved deeper in my faith, I have seen other sides of Jesus that are in many ways less palatable.  I see in the Gospels that He combats the forces of evil all around Him.  Other places, He sternly warns and rebukes people.  And here in particular, He speaks the truth, even if it means He loses favor in people’s eyes.

In my faith, I have come to better appreciate Jesus’ ability to be honest with people, even if it comes at a cost to Him.  He speaks the truth and allows people to make their decisions from there.  While Jesus lived and walked among us, He cared more about doing the will of His Father rather than gaining the approval of other people.  Jesus is secure in His identity as the Beloved Son of God and is secure in His mission to save us from sin and death.  In that truth, He lives and moves.  That is the only truth that matters to Him and it propels Him to action.  Take some time to adore Him for living a bold life for our sake.  He chose the hard road because He cared about us.  He chose to face adversity and pain because He knew that was necessary for us to be free from being a servant to sin, guilt and shame.  Jesus chose the hard things in life so that we could live as free, forgiven children of His Father.

What was Jesus thinking went He endured hardship, oppression, and ultimately death?  He was thinking of you.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

The title of Christian means “little Christ.”  It is a title that identified followers of Jesus to the One who they follow.  In your own life, how do you measure up as a “little Christ?”  When people see you, do they see the boldness of our Savior?  Do they experience grace and forgiveness like Jesus expressed to others?  Do they see a person who is secure in their identity as a son or daughter of the King of Heaven?

If you have placed your faith in Jesus, stand firm in your position before God.  Access His throne of grace as children of the King.  Be bold in the way you interact with people, knowing that what matters most to you is what God thinks of you, not what other people assume of you.  And what does God feel when He thinks of you?  He feels joy because He delights in you and loves you very much.

 

29 January
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Jesus’ Mission Statement – Luke 4:14-19

Luke 4:14-19  – Listen

14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all.  16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17 And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written,

18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives
    and recovering of sight to the blind,
    to set at liberty those who are oppressed,
19 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

After successfully facing off against Satan in the wilderness, Jesus begins his public ministry.  And according to His custom, He would teach the Jews in the synagogue on Sabbath worship times.  Out of everything He could have quoted from the entire Book of Isaiah, He chose Isaiah 61:1-2a.  During Jesus’ time, this passage was clearly linked to the long awaited “Messiah” from heaven who would lead God’s people into a time of peace and prosperity.  Jesus clearly identifies Himself as the anointed Redeemer from Heaven whom God has sent on a rescue mission to save those who have been tormented by sin and death in this world.  In a very real sense, Jesus identifies this passage as His mission statement.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

When I look back at the reference that Jesus reads from, I’s surprised to see just how selective He was in reading the passage.  According to the translations I have, Jesus stops reading in the middle of a sentence (verse 2).  And I think He does that for a reason.  Sometimes we get upset with God because we know that He loves us and is in control of our lives, yet we go through seasons where it doesn’t feel like God loves or cares about us, and many times we feel like life is so chaotic its outside of His control.  Yet I think Jesus speaks to this dilemma.

The rest of the Isaiah passage reads, “…and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.

Jesus fully understood His mission to be the beginning of His work – to take back His creation from the “prince of this world.”  And some glorious day when we see Jesus’ Second Advent to our world, I imagine He will once again read to us from the Book of Isaiah.  When He returns to wipe away ever tear, end our suffering and pain, and bring justice to the nations, then He will read to us the the next phrases of this ancient prophecy.  But until that beautiful day, we must wait in hope knowing that our suffering and pain in this chaotic world is only temporary.  One day Jesus Himself will be our Comforter, Shepherd, and King.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

As Christians in our world today, we have been given the honor of carrying on Jesus’ ministry to the world around us.  As you read the Isaiah passage again, do you see those who are “blind,” “oppressed” and “captive” all around you?  The people Jesus came to set free were those who have been burdened by the world and blinded from seeing the freedom that Jesus offers.  As a Christian, you are not able to sit on the sidelines watching God work around you.  He has chosen you to be a messenger of His Good News to those who so desperately need Jesus in their lives.

Take some time today and pray that God opens your eyes to see the people He has placed in your life.  Perhaps its a co-worker who has been through a rough relationship.  Perhaps its a friend who doesn’t see the mess they’ve made of their own lives because they are seeking happiness in all the wrong places.  Perhaps its a family member who is enslaved to the false belief that success and fame will bring them a sense of purpose and happiness.  Whoever God has entrusted to you, be bold and pray for them.  Follow what God prompts you to do, whether that’s just being with them, acknowledging their pain, or speaking to them about God.  God is ready to use you just like He used Jesus.  Are you ready to follow Him?

28 January
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The Battle for Our Souls Part 3 – Luke 4:9-13

Luke 4:9-13 – Listen

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written,

“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
    to guard you,’

11 and

“‘On their hands they will bear you up,
    lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

12 And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” 13 And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This is the third and final temptation Jesus faces.  This temptation occurs on the highest point of the Temple mount in Jerusalem overlooking the Kidron Valley.  The height is equivalent to standing on the roof of a 30 story building today.  Unlike the previous temptations, Satan takes a strange approach an quotes a passage out of the Book of Psalms.  Again, Jesus rightly sees the deception behind this temptation and quotes again from the Book of Deuteronomy: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”

But what exactly is the temptation here?  Looking at the context, it seems that Satan was tempting Jesus to prove His miraculous powers in a way that would bring glory and honor to Himself without having to take the long painful road to the cross.  If the people below could see an amazing miracle like Jesus being saved by angels, they would most certainly follow Him.  And if angels didn’t come, Jesus’s earthly life would be over and Satan would have won anyway.  Its a lose lose situation.

Jesus rightly resists this temptation and the text tells us that Satan leaves “until an opportune time.”  Like the beginning of the temptations, we hear again that Satan seeks to find another time when Jesus will be physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted before he strikes again.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

In stark contrast to the temptation of Eve in the garden of Eden, Jesus fought and prevailed against every single one of Satan’s temptations.  While the snake was able to deceive Eve with one simple challenge, he was not able to derail Jesus from His mission to save us from our sins.  In Genesis chapter 3, God told Eve that she would have a child who would one day fight again with the serpent.  In that battle, the serpent would crush His heel, but the Child would crush the serpent’s head.  This battle in the desert was a confrontation that ultimately ends with Jesus on the cross, the exact place His Father wanted Him to be.  There, on the cross, Satan “crushed” Jesus, but that flesh wound was absolutely nothing compared to the victory Jesus gained as He destroyed Satan’s control as “ruler of this world.”  On the cross, Satan did indeed crush His heel, but Jesus also crushed the serpent’s head.

Jesus’ victory over Satan in the wilderness set Him on a trajectory for victory.  And even though dying on a cross doesn’t seem very victorious, Jesus taught that in dying we are born to eternal life and proved that as a fact 3 days later.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Jesus was able to resist temptation in this world because He was certain about His identity.  During Jesus’ baptism, the Father and Holy Spirit empowered Him and confirmed Him saying “this is by Beloved Son.”  And in that truth, Jesus faced the temptations before Him.  Satan tempted Jesus each time with “if you are the Son of God…”  seeking to challenge His identity.  In each temptation, Jesus refused the easy answer, to defend and prove Himself, and instead stood firm in God’s promises to Him.  Jesus kept His eyes fixed on His Father and that led Him through his trial in the desert.

When I read this passage, I wonder how I would fare if I were in Jesus’ shoes.  In many situations in my life, I don’t need to be tempted to “prove myself” and show how great/smart/holy I am.  Sadly, I tend to do that naturally without being provoked.  The temptation really seems to be rooted in identity.  Jesus was able to resist this temptation because His identity was firmly and deeply rooted in His relationship with His Father.  Jesus did not feel any need to “prove Himself” to Satan or anyone else.  Their opinion didn’t matter to Jesus.  What mattered most was loving His Father through obedience to Him.

Are you able to face temptations being rooted in your identity in Christ?  If you don’t find your strength in your identity in Him, you won’t be able to resist the torrent of temptations that rush upon us every single day.  Let me say this if you have forgotten:  You are loved by God and He takes delight in you.  Go forward in the security that God has you safely in His hands and He won’t allow you to be tempted beyond your ability to resist.  He believes in you enough to let you go through trials and temptations.  Do you have faith that He will help you through it?

26 January
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Enjoy your weekend!

Happy Saturday!

Here is one of my favorite quotes from St. Augustine:

You have created us for Yourself, oh Lord,

And our hearts are restless

Until they find their rest in You.

Be blessed this weekend and I will see you on Monday!

25 January
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The Battle for Our Souls Part 2 – Luke 4:5-8

Luke 4:5-8 – Listen

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” And Jesus answered him,“It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

Here we read about the second temptation that is laid out before Jesus.  In the previous temptation, Satan tried to play off of Jesus’ physical hunger.  Now he is attempted to hit another weak spot – exhaustion.  At this point, Jesus had already survived 40 days of temptation and fasting in a desert wilderness.  He is most certainly physically, mentally, and emotionally weak.  The temptation that Satan brings is again a subtle temptation: “just worship me for a little bit… and I will give you everything in this world.”

The shocking thing about this temptation is that Satan is completely serious.  Jesus later refers to him as the “prince of this world” (John 14:30) and as such Satan would have the authority to give Jesus power over this world.  This temptation is so dangerous because it stands in sharp contrast from what the Father has called Jesus to do: take the hard road that leads to Calvary so that He can be King and Firstborn of all the redeemed.  Satan is offering Jesus a tempting offer: take the easy road… bow down to me for just a second and I will give you the right to be king over all the world.

Again our Savior takes His stand in God’s Word and cites from Deuteronomy.  Jesus is able to deflect this temptation knowing that any worship directed away from the true God would disqualify Him from being the legitimate Savior and spotless Lamb.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

What was Jesus thinking as He went through those challenges from Satan?  He was thinking of you.  We worship a Savior who took on immense suffering and temptation so that we could be saved.  He knew that it was necessary for Him to be the pioneer in resisting temptation so that we could one day walk in His footsteps and follow the same path that He took.  He was self controlled so that you can be self controlled today.  He was strong so that you too could follow His example.  He was successful is resisting Satan so that He could empower us and give us hope that we can be righteous and holy just like Him.  Alone, we would not be able to resist the powers of darkness.  But because Jesus blazed a trail of obedience and righteousness  we have a path that we can follow.  It does not mean that life will be easy, but it does mean that we have a Savior who has felt what we feel, struggled like we struggle, and was victorious so that we too could find victory over sin in our life.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

At the heart of this temptation is compromise.  Jesus was tempted to get the same results (be King of this world) but take the easy road (worship Satan rather than die as the Lamb of God).  In your own lives, Satan may not be outright tempting you with lies and outlandish sins, but He may be seeking to derail you in your faith by tempting you to compromise.  Perhaps its coming in the form of lack of accountability (“No one will know if I steal this or not…”) or only focusing on the ends rather than the means (“I’ll do whatever it takes to get this promotion, no matter how it affects other people…”).  But be aware that Satan will always seek to strike where you are most vulnerable.  Follow Jesus’ example and remember that everything we do, whether in front of other people on only in front of God, is an opportunity to worship our God.  Every choice we have, every opportunity to obey, is a chance that God gives us to prove our love and devotion to Him.

Worship doesn’t just happen on a Sunday… it happens in every act of obedience we practice throughout our day.  Live in worship today and remember God is with you in your trials.

No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it. (1Cor 10:13 NIV)

24 January
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The Battle for Our Souls Part 1 – Luke 4:1-4

Luke 4:1-4 – Listen

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

Chapter 4 describes the preparation that Jesus goes through before He enters into ministry.  Immediately after Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan river, Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the desert where He undergoes one of the most grueling tests He will ever face: one-on-one combat against Satan.  The devil is not ignorant of God’s plan to rescue the world through Jesus Christ, so Satan makes a personal appearance to take on the Price of Heaven.  He knows Jesus came to be the sinless Lamb of God, so Satan’s goal is to make Jesus slip up… even just once, whereby He would be disqualified to be the Perfect and Spotless Lamb.

While fasting and praying for forty days, the text speaks about the constant temptations brought before Jesus.  And after the forty days of fasting are over, Satan pulls out all the stops and attempts to derails Jesus from His mission.  Quite logically, Satan’s first temptation hits Jesus where He is hurting most: His empty stomach.  Satan’s first temptation takes on the form of subtly recommending Jesus turn stones to bread.  Seems innocent enough, but Jesus understood the implications behind this temptation: He was being tempted to take matters into His own hands rather than submit to the plan His Father laid before Him.  In a sense, its a temptation to take the easy road (cheating by using miraculous power) rather than living a perfect human life in every way.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

In the story of the temptations in the wilderness, there is much more at stake than we may realize.  All beings in both heaven and hell are watching these interactions with bated breath, knowing that the wrong move would have eternal consequences for everyone and everything.  The stakes are high.  Failure would mean humanity would forever belong to Satan as “prince of this world.”  Victory means being the legitimate King of our souls.  I imagine that was the same type of setting when Satan tempted our first parents, Adam and Eve.  All it took back then was for Satan to twist God’s words and tell a lie.  And he got what he wanted: humanity fell into sin which has ever since corrupted life as we know it.

And here again, we see a similar battle.  That ancient serpent now attempts to take on the New Man Jesus Christ.  And much like he tried to tempt Eve with food, again we see him using our hunger as a way to derail us from obedience in God.  Yet unlike Eve, Jesus Christ not only resists Satan’s temptation, He grounds it in the authority of God’s Word: “man shall not live by bread alone.”  This battle against Satan is not with swords and shields, but its a battle of willpower, obedience and faith.  If Jesus can successfully make it through this ordeal, He will not only have bested Satan in one-on-one combat, but He will set forth a way for us to find victory in our own temptations.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Heb 4:15)

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Satan will always attempt to “hit us where it hurts.”  He always plays dirty because he is an opportunist.  He will rarely seek to tempt you when you are surrounded by saints and in good standing with God.  Instead, his specialty is to wait until you are isolated, weak, tired, angry, hungry, etc.  In preparation for times of temptation, we can follow the example Jesus set for us: He filled Himself with God’s Words.  When temptation came, He was able to recall what God wanted Him to know rather than the lies that Satan tells.

Do you have God’s Words in you today?  When temptation comes knocking on your door, would you be able to stay grounded in God’s will like Jesus did?  We all face temptation every day.  It may come from our own sinful desires, the world, or from Satan, but the remedy is the same in all circumstances.  God has given us His divine ability to resist Satan and live as obedience children through abiding in His Word to us.  If anything defines a mature Christian, it is a person who is familiar with trials, but also consistent in their victory over temptation and sin.

Let us remember that being tempted to sin is not sin.  It is what we do with that temptation that defines who we are.  Will you follow the way of the old man, Adam, and walk the path of death?  Or will you abide in the New Man, Jesus Christ, and follow his path to victory to joy and abundant life?  The choice is real and its yours to make every single day.  I pray you choose well.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. (1 John 2:1)

23 January
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The Bible is a “Him” Book – Luke 3:23-38

Luke 3:23-38  – Listen

23 Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph, the son of Heli, 24 the son of Matthat, the son of Levi, the son of Melchi, the son of Jannai, the son of Joseph, 25 the son of Mattathias, the son of Amos, the son of Nahum, the son of Esli, the son of Naggai, 26 the son of Maath, the son of Mattathias, the son of Semein, the son of Josech, the son of Joda, 27 the son of Joanan, the son of Rhesa, the son of Zerubbabel, the son of Shealtiel, the son of Neri, 28 the son of Melchi, the son of Addi, the son of Cosam, the son of Elmadam, the son of Er, 29 the son of Joshua, the son of Eliezer, the son of Jorim, the son of Matthat, the son of Levi,30 the son of Simeon, the son of Judah, the son of Joseph, the son of Jonam, the son of Eliakim,31 the son of Melea, the son of Menna, the son of Mattatha, the son of Nathan, the son of David,32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Sala, the son of Nahshon, 33 the son of Amminadab, the son of Admin, the son of Arni, the son of Hezron, the son of Perez, the son of Judah, 34 the son of Jacob, the son of Isaac, the son of Abraham, the son of Terah, the son of Nahor,35 the son of Serug, the son of Reu, the son of Peleg, the son of Eber, the son of Shelah, 36 the son of Cainan, the son of Arphaxad, the son of Shem, the son of Noah, the son of Lamech, 37 the son of Methuselah, the son of Enoch, the son of Jared, the son of Mahalaleel, the son of Cainan, 38 the son of Enos, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

For many Christians, we set out to read our Bibles from cover to cover multiple times throughout our lives.  For one reason or another, the success rate for actually reading from Genesis to Revelation is somewhere below 10%.  In that journey through the Bible, many readers meet their end in the long lists of archaic rules.  Others fall away when they read the long (long, long) lists of genealogies scattered throughout the Old Testament.  Here again we find a genealogy in the Gospel of Luke and we ask ourselves, “why the heck does this matter?”  Well, actually, it matters a lot!  Otherwise Luke wouldn’t have spent so much time researching and writing out this genealogy of Jesus!

As we read through this list of names (which most people can’t even pronounce), we are actually getting a glimpse into the long history of God interacting with His people.  We hear familiar names like Noah, Abraham, and David.  But its important to note where Luke traces the source of Jesus’ family tree.  He sees Jesus as the Son of Adam, who was the son of God.  Luke is making a connection between the Old and New Testaments.  Every story in the Old Testament, every promise by God to visit His people, and every character that is described in the Bible, was simply a precursor to the most important story in all history: the story of Jesus Christ in the Gospel.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

One thing I learn from passages like this is the fact that God is faithful.  Why? Because He keeps His promises.  When humanity sinned and death entered our world, God set in motion a rescue plan to save us.  Starting with Adam and Eve all the way to the last prophet Malachi, God made promises that He would make things right and come to rescue us.  Those who held on to God’s promises of redemption eagerly awaited the heavenly harbinger who would make things right between God and men.  Yet I doubt anyone would have expected the Rescuer and Redeemer to be God Himself.  Jesus is the absolute center of the entire Biblical meta-narrative.  Jesus, the God-man, came to restore a broken world to their God.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Its hard to read through the Bible.  Its hard taking the time and effort to get through every part of the massive book.  Yet it is a discipline that is absolutely essential to spiritual growth.  You cannot and will not be able to appreciate the story of Jesus if you do not understand the long road that led to His coming.  Its like reading the end of a novel without reading the long drama that explains why it ends the way it does.  You may get some ideas from reading the last chapters, but you certainly won’t understand the story the way the author intended you to understand it.

If you only reading the New Testament, you miss out on the amazing and fantastic stories of God interacting with His people all throughout human history.  You miss out on promises that impact you today.  You miss out on seeing and worshiping God for His faithfulness to His people, even when they turn their back on Him.  Only reading the New Testament, you won’t appreciate the names mentioned in this genealogy and you won’t fully understand God’s redemption story the way He intends you to understand it.  Don’t short change yourself!  Take the time and energy to know God from the entire Bible!  I promise you it will not have been a waste of your time and it will completely enhance the way you see and worship our sweet Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

22 January
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What Does God Feel When He Thinks of You? – Luke 3:15-22

Luke 3:15-22  – Listen

15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John,whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people. 19 But Herod the tetrarch, who had been reproved by him for Herodias, his brother’s wife, and for all the evil things that Herod had done, 20 added this to them all, that he locked up John in prison.

21 Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying,the heavens were opened, 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form, like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

In these verses, we learn more about the ministry of John the Baptist.  Along with preaching the good news, he also followed the Jewish practice of being cleansed with water as a symbol of purity and forgiveness of sins.  As he speaks of Jesus the Messiah, he makes a comparison between his baptism with that of Jesus – his baptism is with water, but Jesus will baptize people with the Holy Spirit and fire.    But why does he mention fire?  Well, there are two different ways people will experience this fire.  The positive spin on this coming baptism would come to fruition in Pentecost when the Holy Spirit comes and is seen as “tongues of fire” (see Acts 2).  The negative side speaks of the fire of judgment (v.17).

This passage also speaks of the transition between the ministry of John the Baptist and the ministry of Jesus Christ.  John prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah from heaven and as he ended his time of public ministry, we hear that he is imprisoned by Herod the tetrarch.  Also in this transition, we see one of the most important events of Jesus’ life and ministry – His baptism and the appearance of the Triune God.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

When Jesus is baptized we have an amazing scene that marks the beginning of His public ministry.  The heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus.  Then we hear the voice from heaven (God the Father) proclaiming: “You are my beloved Son.  With you I am well pleased.”  God the Father pronounces that he delights in God the Son.  It’s important to note that this is before Jesus does any public ministry and before He dies as a sacrifice.  God the Father is pleased with Jesus His Son, simply because they are in relationship.  Nothing more.

This is an eternal aspect of God that characterizes how God relates to us.  He cares more about who we are than what we do.  And in this scene, he delights in Jesus Christ because He is His beloved Son.  God’s delight is not sourced in the work or deeds, but rather on identity.  God simply delights in Jesus because they exist in a Father/Son relationship.  And today, God delights in you because you are His child, not because of anything you do.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

In our world, its easy to get our identities connected to our work.  If someone asks you: “who are you?” do you reply with the work you do (I’m a mechanic, teacher, secretary, etc)?  As an American, I see many of us finding our identity in our work rather than on our relationships.  And we make a mistake when we try and apply that to our relationship with God.  God cares much more about who you are rather than what you do.  When God looks at you, He sees your identity in terms of relationship:  You are His child.

If by faith, you find your identity in Jesus Christ, then God looks at you today and makes that same proclamation that He made to Jesus so many years ago: “You are my beloved child and I delight in you.”  No amount of sin, past, present, or future, will ever alter your identity before God as long as you are in Jesus Christ.  You can stop striving to gain His approval.  You can give up fighting for His love.  If you have placed your faith in Jesus, you are part of God’s family.  Today, remind yourself of that truth and rest in your relationship with the Lord.  You are His child and when He thinks of you, He feels delight.

Any striving we do as Christians must be understood in light of our identity as children of the King.  We strive to obey Him because He first loved us.  Not the other way around.

21 January
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Celebrating Faith in Action – Martin Luther King Jr.

Happy Martin Luther King Jr. Day!  To celebrate this day, we will simply reflect on the life and work of MLK Jr as he sought to bring freedom and equality to our nation.  As an American, I get the privilege of standing on the shoulders of spiritual giants who have shaped the American landscape.  And its even more special to know that Dr. King’s desire to change the world around him stemmed from a deep abiding faith in Jesus Christ and His message for all people.  Dr. King allowed his faith to propel him into action.

In his famous I Have a Dream speech, he ties in various Biblical principles and quotes Scriptural texts.  In particular, he quotes Micah 6:8 which speaks of “justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”  Below is a short excerpt from his speech.  At the end of this post is the recording of that speech on YouTube.

Enjoy your day off (if you get the day off work/school)!

 

…No, no we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by storms of persecutions and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive.

Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our modern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair. I say to you today, my friends, that in spite of the difficulties and frustrations of the moment, I still have a dream.

It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day out on the red hills of Georgia the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a desert state sweltering with the heat and injustice of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day the state of Alabama, whose governor’s lips are presently dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, will be transformed into a situation where little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls and walk together as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plains and the crooked places will be made straight and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith with which I return to the South. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope.

With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood.

With this faith we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

This will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning “My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing. Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride, from every mountainside, let freedom ring!”

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous peaks of California.

But not only that, let freedom, ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi. From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last. Thank God Almighty, we are free at last.”

19 January
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I love C.S. Lewis, Saturdays, and 3 day weekends!

Hey everyone!  Thanks for stopping by!  I hope you have a good weekend!  Here is one of my favorite quotes from C.S. Lewis in his book The Weight of Glory:

“I believe in Christianity
as I believe that the sun has risen,
not only because I see it,
but because by it I see everything else.”

See you on Monday!

18 January
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Apathetic Hearts and an Awesome God – Luke 3:7-14

Luke 3:7-14  – Listen

He said therefore to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”

10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them,“Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

Here we read about the message that John the Baptist preaches concerning the coming Kingdom of God.  The message is simple and clear: “Repent for the Kingdom is near.”  Yet as you read this passage, you may get the sense that John isn’t exactly concerned about gathering a large following.  He is honest and assertive with his audience.  What he’s doing here is calling out religious hypocrisy.  Many Jews of during this time thought that they were in good standing with God simply because they were of Jewish descent.  But John corrects them in saying that God cares very little about heritage and bloodlines, and cares more about their heart and obedience.

Notice also that when addressing the crowds, John gives them clear ways to prepare for the Kingdom of God.  These directions do not speak of leaving your occupation or drastically changing your way of life.  John gives them practical things that they can live out within the context of their current life situation.  For people with excess: share.  For people who have authority over others: don’t abuse your position.  For soldiers, he doesn’t say to become pacifists, but instead exhorts them to be fair and just in their dealings with other people, to not abuse their power or authority to get rich or bully others.  John was harsh to the proud and arrogant.  But to those who were impacted by his message, he shepherded them and sought to guide them in preparation for the coming King and Kingdom.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

Sometimes when I read passages like this, I tend to think, “wow, those guys are so dumb.  How could you think that you are good with God without it actually impacting your life?  They must be lazy or stupid, so they totally deserve being yelled at by John.”  But then, when I reflect more on my own life, I find at times that I identify more with those “hypocrites” instead of the prophet.  I sometimes get relaxed in my faith thinking its all worked out and I don’t have to put the effort into it.  I sometimes go into auto-pilot for days or even weeks at a time until something shakes me out of my sleepwalk.

When reading God’s Word as a guide for our own lives, let’s never think that we have it all figured out.  While I may be living like John today, tomorrow I may run the risk of becoming complacent in my faith and thinking “I’m good with God” without actually letting that affect my real life.  While I may not find my complacency in being of Jewish decent, I do find myself getting too comfortable with God.  Sometimes I let myself think that God nothing more than that gentle, grandfatherly figure in the clouds who wants me to be happy and comfortable.  In reality, and especially when I am confronted with passages like this, I must remember the truth.

CS Lewis chose to describe God as a lion named Aslan in his book series The Chronicles of Narnia.  In one of his books, a frightened child looks at Aslan and asks, “Is He safe?”  The reply to that question is true on so many levels:  “He is not safe, but He is good.”

Let’s remember today that our God is great and awesome, yet He loves and desires us.  He is truly powerful and infinitely good.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

Have you become too comfortable with our God?  Have you forgotten the simple truth that He is the Almighty Creator and Sustainer of everything in our world?  Sometimes I think that we get bored with God because we don’t think He has anything to offer us.  We have a dull idea of God which leads to a dull Christian life.  Friends, let’s wake up from our spiritual sleep and remember once again that our God is an amazing God!  Let us not fall into the mental trap of thinking of Him as an old man in the clouds who cares very little about our real lives.  He is just as alive and active as He was when He created our world.  And even now, He seeks your love and obedience.  Will you listen to Him?

17 January
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The King of Our Hearts – Luke 3:1-6

Luke 3:1-6  – Listen

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. And he went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord,
    make his paths straight.
Every valley shall be filled,
    and every mountain and hill shall be made low,
and the crooked shall become straight,
    and the rough places shall become level ways,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’”

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

If you’re at all familiar with the Old Testament, you will hear a familiar ring to the way Luke writes here – it is the formula used of all the prophets of God.  “During the reign of so-and-so, while so-and-so was high priest, the word of the Lord came to…”  Luke takes great pains to present the most accurate information that he has gathered about the events surrounding Jesus’ life and ministry.  Here in chapter 3, we see the detail and precision concerning the ministry of John the Baptist.  John’s coming was foretold by another Jewish prophet named Isaiah, who spoke of John as being the final herald before the world witnesses the “salvation of God.”

During Biblical times, whenever a King would come and visit a town or city, royal representatives would prepare a straight and level pathway for the king to enter the city.  That meant filling in valleys and ravines and also leveling out hills and mountains that stood between the city and the arriving king.  Looking at this prophecy, we see that John’s mission is similar to those royal representatives: he was preparing the people for the arrival of their King, Jesus Christ.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

In the Christian life, its sometimes hard to remember the simple fact that we have been redeemed by our faith in Jesus Christ.  That is the foundation and bedrock of everything we do as redeemed saints.  Unlike most other world religions which say that salvation is the final door in the long process of the spiritual journey, the good news of Christianity is that salvation is the first door that we enter, and from there we journey together with Jesus’ help down the path of growing in Christlikeness.  My friends, let’s not get confused about our work growing in our faith.  We strive to mature not so that we will be saved or so that God will like us more.  We strive to grow in our faith because God has first reached out to us and we respond in obedience and thankfulness.  He made our hearts alive and responsive to Him.  He took the initiative to send His Son to die for us.  And He has given us eyes of faith to see His Salvation.  We were broken before He came to us and redeemed us.  And now that we are safely in His care, we can freely pursue Him with our lives.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

When you reflect on your relationship with the Lord, what “hills or valleys” make it hard for you to receive Jesus on a daily basis?  Is there an a secret that you have been withholding from family or friends?  Do you find yourself being drawn to other things or people as a source of comfort and hope?  Or perhaps you have simply let the busyness of your day get in the way of you finding joy in abiding in God.  Whatever it is in your heart that hinders you from receiving the Lord today, make an intentional effort to level those hills or fill in those valleys.  Like the great prophets of old, prepare yourself to receive the King of your heart.

16 January
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The Boy Jesus – Luke 2:41-52

Luke 2:41-52  – Listen

41 Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42 And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43 And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44 but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45 and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.”49 And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” 50 And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51 And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart.

52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

This is the last story we hear about the boy Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.  After celebrating the Feast of Passover in Jerusalem, Mary and Joseph return home to Nazareth.  Typically, Jews from the same area would travel in caravans usually including family and close friends.  One the journey home Mary and Joseph assume that Jesus is with someone in the caravan, and it takes them a full day’s journey (about 20 miles) to figure out that he wasn’t with their group.  So they turn around and go back to Jerusalem to find Jesus sitting among the masters and teachers of Judaism.  And even though he is only a boy of twelve, Jesus is able to not only keep up with these leaders of the faith, but he is astonishing them with his answers!

When rebuked by his mother, we get the first words from Jesus in the entire Gospel: “Don’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?”  This may not seem strange to us today since we are comfortable calling God our Father, but in Jesus’ day, it was practically blasphemy to consider oneself as part of God’s family, much less consider one’s self as the son and heir of God almighty.  It appears that even at the age of 12, Jesus has become fully aware of His unique identity – He is the Son of God.

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

As we hear this story today, we get a clear albeit quick glimpse, into the life of Jesus before He began His public ministry.  And in this story, I think its important to realize that Jesus did in fact have a childhood, just like each one of us.  And along the way, he laid down His divine rights and privileges, limiting himself to a human existence.  And as a human, he engaged in the process of growth, in wisdom and stature.  He chose to take the long road so that we could fully relate to Him in the struggles and challenges we go through as we grow in our own wisdom and stature.  Stories like this remind us of the amazing reality that God came down to be with us, as one of us, in the person of Jesus Christ.  He did this not to satisfy His own curiosity or for His amusement, but out of love and mercy for His ailing creatures.  He chose to be one of us so that we could fully know Him in relationship.  The invisible and transcendent became tangible and immanent.  The unlimited became confined in humanity.  And the all-knowing became teachable.  He did all of this with you in mind, so that you could more fully relate to Him in your own life and experience.  How awesome is it that we worship a God who reaches out to us and cares about our ability to be in relationship with Him!  Far from an impersonal cosmic force, and far from being a robotic law of karma, our God revealed His true and complete Personhood when He lived and walked among us as Jesus Christ (cf. Col. 2:9).

The Redeemed Life – Grow

While the boy Jesus had the awareness that He was indeed the Son of God, he also chose to be limited by the circumstances in His life.  In this story, we see a tension in Jesus as he speaks to His mother, Mary.    The tension we see is that He is compelled to follow God’s will for His life (teaching, engaging the religious leaders) but He was also called to live as a son to Mary and Joseph.  While Jesus remained faithful to His calling to bring Good News to the people of Israel, He did not neglect to be an obedient and submissive son to His earthly parents.  Grounded in His identity as the Son of God, He did not have to prove Himself by outsmarting His parents or making them feel inferior.  Instead, He chose the right path and gently followed their guidance and leadership over Him as His parents.  Jesus practiced something that we as Americans are very uncomfortable with today: submission.

When you hear the word “submission,” how does that make you feel?  What does that make you think of?  As Americans, our culture and society tells us that submission is a bad thing.  If you submit to anyone in any way, it means you’re weak, inferior, and unimportant.  But how different is that from what we see in God’s Word!  Jesus, our model and guide for moral perfection, actually embraces submission to His parents and ultimately, submits to the calling His Father placed on His life.  The Kingdom that Jesus introduces us to seems upside down from what our world teaches us.  In God’s Kingdom, to submit is to be strong, superior and of great importance.  To submit to one another means being the bigger person.  And submitting to God is the only way we will have any real influence in this world.  Friends, a hallmark of maturity in the Christian faith means you not only understand submission, but that you embrace it in your lives.

*For further readings on the spiritual discipline of submission, I recommend Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline.

15 January
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Learning From Our Elders – Luke 2:22-40

Luke 2:22-39  – Listen

22 And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,

29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31     that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37 and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

The Redeemed Mind – Learn

As Christians today, when we think about Jesus we sometimes tend to forget that He was Jewish.  His parents were Jewish, his friends and relatives were Jewish.  He celebrated Jewish festivals and holidays and even did a perfect job of following the entire Jewish Law.  Here in this passage, we see that on a grander, redemptive scale, the prophecies about His coming into the world were spoken to, and through, the Jewish people.

In this passage, we see his parents faithfully observing the Jewish law by taking Jesus to be dedicated in the Temple in Jerusalem.  This law stemmed from God commandment that every firstborn male, either human or animal, belonged to Him.  But instead of sacrificing the first born male children, God allowed an animal substitutionary sacrifice.  For families with some wealth, they could offer an unblemished lamb in the stead of the first born.  Poorer families, like Jesus’, could offer a sacrifice of 2 turtledoves or 2 young pigeons (see Lev. 12:6-8).

The Redeemed Heart – Worship

In this scene, we are introduced to 2 different people who are around when Jesus is presented in the Temple.  The first is an old man named Simeon.  He’s described as being righteous and devout,” being promised the honor and privileged of seeing the Redeemer of Israel.  The second is an elderly woman named Anna.  She has worshipped, prayed, and fasted in the Temple for the vast majority of her life eagerly awaiting the Redemption of Israel.  Both these characters have significant reactions to Jesus’ presentation in the Temple.  First, Simeon prophesies over the baby Jesus saying that one day Jesus would a “light to the Gentiles and glory for the people of Israel.”  Anna also senses something about Jesus and also begins to speak to those in the Temple about God’s promises to restore the nation.

Both these characters were intimately familiar with God’s promises to the people of Israel, and they eagerly awaited the Messiah from heaven who would set in motion God’s plan to redeem their people.  Both Simeon and Anna had waited the months, years and even decades to see how God would fulfill His promise to redeem and restore their nation.  Yet unlike many others of their day who were expecting a military or political leader, they were open to God’s surprising and seemingly unorthodox method of bringing redemption and salvation into the world.  The text seems to describe an almost immediate intuition or knowledge that this baby was indeed the harbinger of peace from heaven.

The Redeemed Life – Grow

I’ve met a lot of older Christian men and women who really inspire me.  These men and women have gone through the spiritual valleys and mountain peaks.  They have weathered unimaginable storms, grieved through losses, and experienced more than my mind can even fathom.  For these mature men and women, they have persevered in their faith to the point that they have an air about them that is hard to describe… It’s a type of solidarity… A rooted-ness in God that is hard to find among believers today.  I imagine Simeon and Anna were like this.

One day, I too hope to reach this type of maturity.  I want to be able to say I know God and am fully know by Him.  I want to be so close to Him that I can sense His movements in my life, just as Simeon and Anna sensed God’s plan for the baby Jesus.  I want to be persistent in my prayers, fervent in my worship, and eager in my hope for God’s promises and Second Coming.  But I know that every day I face adversity.  Yet these struggles also present opportunities and chances to define who I will be in the future and its amazing to think that my character in the future is directly connected to my choices and actions today.

If you are reading this and identify with this desire to grow and mature, then I encourage you to take time now to think and dream about the person you desire to become…  And when you clearly see that goal, ask yourself:  Am I doing things here and now to contribute to that end goal?  Am I taking tangible steps to grow in my faith and trust in God?  Am I OK with feeling discomfort and even pain to achieve that end?  Am I willing to trust God to lead me on this path?

Friends, my prayer is that when we reach the end of our lives, we can look back and see growth and maturation.  And when we look back on our lives from the other side of eternity, I pray we can be proud of the men and women we have become.  Men and women who are intimately familiar with our beloved God.  Men and women prepared for eternity with Him.