Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Night Like No Other

When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. - Luke 2:17-18

I try to imagine what it must have been like for those unsuspecting shepherds that night. It began as just another evening in the hill country near Bethlehem as they tended their flocks. The same stars under the same sky. The same smelly sheep they guarded day after day, night after night. The same wolves they had to chase away. The same diseases they cared for among their flock. The same grazing for food and water. The same searching for that lost sheep who was so prone to wander. Another routine night. Weren’t they all?

But not this night. Something was happening that day that would change their world. Something was happening that day that would change the course of history. Something greater than life itself, something supernatural, was happening in that little village of Bethlehem. And the shepherds would never be the same again.

For as they watched their flocks that night, they were suddenly jolted from their dark monotony of the shepherdhood and surrounded by the glory of the Lord in a brilliant display of brightness. In an instant they were terrified – an instinctive response for those who catch a vision of God’s glory. For who among sinful men is worthy to stand in the presence of His majesty?

But just as quickly their fears were relieved as the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid” (Luke 2:10). I did not come here tonight to bring the wrath of God’s judgment upon you, his words implied. I did not come to pronounce a message of doom and destruction, they soon understood. Then perhaps with the most joyous voice of pure delight and utter exhilaration ever heard by human ears, the angel declared: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

Surely in that moment the shepherds knelt there speechless. Astonished. Dazed. As in a dream from which they would surely awaken and resume their same ole watch. But before they could even begin to process this message, “Suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:13-14).

No, this was no ordinary night in Bethlehem. The sheep would be entrusted to God’s care tonight. “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds just stared at one another for a moment and said, ‘Dude, what are we waiting for? Let’s go!’” (Luke 2:15, author’s translation).

I doubt they wasted much time in making tracks to find the baby in that manger. No stops at the drive-through for a sandwich and soda tonight. The message was clear. The invitation was theirs: Behold, your Savior! Bethlehem! Tonight!

And when they arrived and found Mary and Joseph and the baby wrapped in cloths and lying in the manger, just as the angel had said, what a wondrous, heart-pounding, thrilling moment that must have been for these lowly shepherds. Never before had they been summoned to the royal court. Never before had they been delivered an invitation to the ball. But this was a night like no other. There in the manger was the King, the Messiah, the Savior, the Lord – and they were the first to come and worship.

Unable to contain their joy, the shepherds raced through town blaring the news of the awe-inspiring events, giving praise and glory to God for it all. There would be nothing the same about these shepherds any more.

I pray that the wonder of Christ’s coming and the salvation He came to bring will change your life as you believe in Him, and that your heart will be filled with joy, praise and adoration for Christ Jesus this Christmas and always.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Better than Angels

Angels are cool. The Bible records some pretty incredible assignments given by God to angels.

I love the account where Daniel is thrown mercilessly into the den of hungry and ferocious lions, only to be saved unscathed. The king rushed to the den after an anguished, sleepless night calling out, “Daniel, was your God able to deliver you?” And Daniel said, “My God sent His angel and shut the lion’s mouths, so that they have not hurt me.” That would have been a pretty cool assignment.

What about the angel Gabriel, who was called upon to let young Mary in on a special little secret? “Mary, uh, you’re not going to believe this, but I’ve got some news for you that will change the world!” I imagine Gabe could hardly contain his excitement.

Think about the angel who was chosen to appear before the shepherds near Bethlehem, framed in the glory of the Lord as the news of the Savior’s birth was joyously proclaimed. Then suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God as they sang of His glory and peace to men. Talk about a cool assignment!

Angels are cool. They’re popular. They’re safe to talk about. Have you watched “It’s a Wonderful Life” lately? I mean, who’s going to tremble in fear at the sight of the angel Joseph? Have you sent out Christmas cards with pictures of pretty little angels? Decorated your home with angel figurines? They’re non-threatening. Non-offensive. They’re cute. Probably cuddly, too. Ever heard of Angel Soft toilet paper?

Angels are cool, all right, even if you don’t have a biblical clue as to who or what they are or what they do. But we have to be certain that we don’t elevate the status of angels above or on par with that of the One who created them. As mighty and holy and glorious and helpful and cool as angels are, they absolutely pale in comparison to the power and glory and blessing and honor and splendor and majesty of Christ Jesus!

The centerpiece throughout the Bible and the centerpiece throughout creation and history and eternity is, and always has been, and always will be Christ Jesus – God, who became flesh and dwelt among us! Angels are just the messengers; Jesus is the Message! Let us not get caught up in or distracted by angelic warm fuzzy feelings, or by anything else that would divert our eyes and hearts and minds and souls and wills from the One who is to be forever praised!

No angel is ever given the title of “Son.” But Jesus is He who was “promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures…born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:2-4).

No angel is worthy of your worship. But Jesus is He before whom the angels bow as God declares, “Let all the angels of God worship Him” (Heb. 1:6).

No angel will reign for ever and ever on the throne of his own kingdom. But Jesus is He whom the prophet Isaiah foretold: “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever” (Isa. 9:7).

No angel has ever set a single star in the sky or set the ocean’s boundaries. But Jesus is He of whom the Scripture says, “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or power. All things were created through Him and for Him” (Col. 1:16).

No angel will ever sit at the place of the Most High in eternal glory. But Jesus is He “who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him” (1 Pet. 3:22).

And no angel can possibly save you from your sins and bring you to God. But Jesus is He “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness – by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:24).

Angels are cool, but Jesus is far superior. Come and worship, come and worship, worship Christ the newborn King!

Monday, December 15, 2008


I cannot tell you who wrote this poem or where to find it. A dear man whose funeral we held today gave a copy of this to me about four years ago. I'll reprint it here in his memory.

Spring will change to summer
The summer into fall
Fall will bring the winter
Yes, time will change them all

Truly the love of Jesus
Will live forevermore
Throughout the endless ages
His promises are sure!

He never changes
Oh! He’s just the same
Now and forever
He will remain

Oh! Heaven and earth will pass away
But one thing is sure
God is eternal
In Him I’m secure!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

That's My King

Here's a link to a video presentation on featuring an inspiring message from S.M. Lockridge. I think you'll enjoy this passionate attempt to describe the indescribable, and be drawn to the worship of Christ Jesus the King.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Memorizing God's Word

If I asked you to recite the Pledge of Allegiance you’d zip through it with ease. If I asked you for the words of your favorite Christmas carol you’d rattle them off in no time. If I asked you for your phone number, your mailing address, your Social Security number or your birth date you’d be able to give them off the top of your head.

But if I asked you to quote a couple of verses in the Bible, could you do it? Word-for-word?

My desire for you is that you would want to know God’s Word so well that you take the steps and make the effort to memorize it. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can’t. You have already memorized slogans from advertisements, lines from your favorite movie and the phone number for pizza delivery. You can memorize God’s Word.

What’s the value of memorizing Scripture? It helps you to know God more as He reveals His truth to you. I have experienced this personally as I’ve memorized His Word. It is amazing how the Holy Spirit reveals understanding and depth of knowledge about the Lord and His ways through committing portions of the Bible to memory.

It helps you to provide a timely word for witnessing or in counseling someone. How often God has used a verse I’ve learned from His Word to give me just the right truth to say at the opportune time! You can be prepared for the many unexpected spiritual encounters and conversations you’ll have by keeping Bible verses in your arsenal.

It helps strengthen your faith. Dr. Don Whitney, a professor I had in seminary wrote this in a wonderful book called Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life: “Memorizing Scripture strengthens your faith because it repeatedly reinforces the truth, often just when you need to hear it.” That’s why I would also add that you should memorize verses word for word, so that you’ll have greater confidence in using God’s Word knowing that it’s His message and not just your vague paraphrase of it.

It helps you to fight against temptations and traps the enemy sets for you. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God, with which you can battle against the forces of darkness and evil. When Jesus faced the devil in the wilderness, He overcame powerfully by quoting and correctly applying God’s Word in the face of temptation.

It helps guide you in choosing the path you ought to take. At the right time the Holy Spirit will bring to your mind a verse or passage you’ve memorized to help you make the right decision.

The goal of memorizing Scripture is not to take pride in how many verses we can memorize. It’s not an end in and of itself, but it’s to let the word of Christ dwell ever so much more richly within us that the Spirit uses His Word to transform our hearts and minds and lives toward Godliness, that we might become vessels of honor, set apart and ready to do the work God has prepared for us.

Why not start by memorizing Luke 2:8-14 this week? It’s the familiar story of the angels announcing the birth of Christ to the shepherds – you probably already know it pretty well. Learn it word for word.

There are seven verses in that passage, so if you’d like just take one verse per day and in a week you’ll have it memorized. Personally, what I like to do is to read the entire passage out loud over and over again. Read it several times a day if possible. Read it for several days, or several weeks – every day. Before long you’ll be able to recall much of it before you even start working to intentionally memorize it.

If it helps, write it down. Writing out the verse or passage engages additional senses that will help you. Or, draw pictures that help you remember the words. Record yourself speaking it onto a CD or other device that you can take with you and listen to in the car, as you take a walk or do your housework. Whatever works best for you, get the Word of God into you and let the Spirit apply it.

So start working on Luke 2:8-14 [printed below]. You can memorize this passage! And see if that doesn’t bring out a greater joy and adoration in your heart for the Savior this Christmas.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."

[Luke 2:8-14, NIV]

Feel free to use the Bible translation of your choice!