Happy Easter

But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared.

And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.

While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel.

And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest.

Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.

But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.

Luke 24:1-12 (ESV)

Happy Easter to each and every one of you.

Merry Christmas

There is so much we do not know about the angels’ sound and song. But we know they celebrated and it was cause for joy and peace. We know they appeared first to shepherds, a class of people so low that their testimony was not even allowed in courts. We know those shepherds were told the joy was for all the people. We know too what they found — a baby in a manger wrapped in cloths. This was the king of kings, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father on whose shoulders the government would rest.

“And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’” Luke 2:13-14 (ESV)

Have you ever wondered what that angel song sounded like? Were the angels singing the sound of Beethoven’s Ninth with booming drums and crescendo surrounded by deep bass voices elevated by sopranos and altos? Or was it a concerto styled like Mozart or a lullaby from Brahms? Was it other worldly? Did it lift the souls or send chills down the spines of the shepherds who had to be told, “Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.”

Was the heavenly host composed of a choir? Was there a solo, were there instruments, did it sound like something we would know or appreciate? Maybe it was otherworldly. Perhaps it was relatable to the music of the day and would be something else entirely were it to happen today. Created in the image of God, mankind has a sense of aesthetic. We can tell when something is good or bad. I do not mean like a dog who likes the beef and carrot food, but not the chicken and rice food. I mean we know intrinsically that something, though it may not be to our personal taste, is beautiful and glorious. Music is one of those things.

The Heavenly Host sang. They related great joy and a miracle through a song in the heavens appreciable to the ears of mankind. We do not know the rhythm and meter. We do not know if there were soloists or instruments. We do not know how long it lasted. But we know the angels sang with great joy over the restoration of Immanuel. We had walked in the garden with the king then, after exile, could do it no more till then. God had come back and it was time to sing songs of joy across the heavens.

There is so much we do not know about the angels’ sound and song. But we know they celebrated and it was cause for joy and peace. We know they appeared first to shepherds, a class of people so low that their testimony was not even allowed in courts. We know those shepherds were told the joy was for all the people. We know too what they found — a baby in a manger wrapped in cloths. This was the king of kings, the Prince of Peace, the Everlasting Father on whose shoulders the government would rest.

Christmas can be a time of darkness for many. People get overwhelmed with burdens and worries and fears. They worry about the right gift or if they can give gifts at all. They worry about making ends meet, the tax bill due, the health of loved ones, and so many other worries that like the angels’ song we may not know all the details, but we know enough to know those burdens exist.

Commercialism and secularism make this a time of year of purchase and lights and elves on shelves when what it really is about is a baby who came to give great joy for all the people. We do not know how the angels sounded except we know they sounded filled with joy. So should we all be this Christmas season. For unto us a child is born who can take up your burdens and fill you with peace. Merry Christmas.


The Gospel of John 1:1-18

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

The Gospel of Luke 2:1-20

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

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.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 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. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

The Gospel of Matthew 1:18 – 2:12

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel

(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Immanuel Restored

Before the fall in the garden, God walked with man. All of history has been about restoring that walk — about restoring God with us. The Immanuel principle fell apart as Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden. But Christ Jesus restores the Immanuel principle. He walks with us. He is a part of us. Those who accept Christ are in union with him. He redeems us and restores us before the throne of God.

And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Matthew 1:19-23

Before the fall in the garden, God walked with man. All of history has been about restoring that walk — about restoring God with us. The Immanuel principle fell apart as Adam and Eve were exiled from the garden. But Christ Jesus restores the Immanuel principle. He walks with us. He is a part of us. Those who accept Christ are in union with him. He redeems us and restores us before the throne of God.

Christmas is not about the presents and trees and elves on shelves. It is about a baby born to die and conquer death. It is about Christ Jesus who is very God of very God, begotten, not made, who walks with us. He is willing to walk with you. All you must do is be willing in return.

The Marvelous Melancholy

His crown was a crown of thorns that tore into his head pouring out blood. His throne was a cross and the iron were not fists, but nails into his skin. He was lifted up above us to behold as he died. It was not what we were expecting. It was certainly not what we deserved because that death brought conquest of death. Christ’s resurrection restored our place before the throne of God. Christ’s righteousness was bestowed on us and our sin bestowed on him.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.

Isaiah 9:6-7

We were expecting a crown of gold and an iron fist. We expected a warrior king who would take up the throne and punish the bad guys. Instead, we got a baby born in a manger. The first witnesses to his birth were shepherds of such low standing in society their testimony was not even allowed in courts. Surrounding his birth was overwhelming bloodshed with boys under the age of two slaughtered as Jesus and his family fled to Egypt.

His crown was a crown of thorns that tore into his head pouring out blood. His throne was a cross and the iron were not fists, but nails into his skin. He was lifted up above us to behold as he died. It was not what we were expecting. It was certainly not what we deserved because that death brought conquest of death. Christ’s resurrection restored our place before the throne of God. Christ’s righteousness was bestowed on us and our sin bestowed on him.

It was marvelous and melancholy and awesome and overwhelming.

At Christmas so many of us have such great burdens, but there in a manger is a baby who will take up your burdens and lead you on paths of righteousness. All you have to do is ask him.

Unexpected Places

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days. Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel. And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the Lord, in the majesty of the name of the Lord his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. And he shall be their peace.

Micah 5:2-5

By the closing of the Old Testament, we have a full picture of what the Messiah would look like. He would be born of a Virgin from the House of David. He would be born in Bethlehem. He would bring peace and serve as a prophet. He would conquer death and be without sin.

Jesus did not conveniently line up with these prophesies. The prophesies were about Him. He has existed eternally. The prophets knew From God what Jesus would be because Jesus himself was the Word of God. As we head to the close of Advent and the start of Christmas, think about the extent of this. In eternity, God chose to save his people. Over thousands of years, he painted a picture of what that salvation would look like — a suffering servant born in Bethlehem, but also a prophet, a priest, and a king who would be a substitute for the people and born to die.

And on that day two thousand years ago when Jesus was born, hardly anyone noticed. Here was the King of Kings made low, born in a manger surrounded not by wise men and kings, but by shepherds and farm animals. God blessed us all, but he surprised us too. Even in our lives now, God shows up in unexpected places.

A New Day Is Coming

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah. In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In those days Judah will be saved, and Jerusalem will dwell securely. And this is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’

(Jeremiah 33:14-16)

A few decades after Isaiah declares a virgin will give birth, through Jeremiah the Lord declares again he is going to fulfill his promise to raise up a Messiah from the House of David who will execute justice and righteousness in the land.

God is not sending a redeemer to sort through our own self-righteousness, but to be righteousness itself. Jeremiah also declared that we would all know the law for it would be written on our hearts. At Jeremiah 31:33, God again declares the Immanuel principle, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”

This coming Messiah would be God among us, personal to us, and righteousness for us. A new day is coming where we need not and cannot rely on ourselves, but will rely on God himself as provider of our blessings.

He is calling to us. He is coming soon.

Your Faith, Not Me, Compels You To Believe This

Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.

(Isaiah 7:10-15)

There has been much revision of this passage in the 19th and 20th centuries and on. Now people claim that Isaiah did not really mean a virgin, but a young lady. That is not the understanding of Luke. That is not the understanding of Paul who referred to Luke’s letter as scripture (See 1 Timothy 5:18 citing Luke 10:7). The understanding of the church fathers and nearly two thousand years of church history is that Mary was a virgin when the Christ was born.

It is the conclusion of the prophesy of Isaiah. It is the beginning of the restoration of Eden, where God walked with us in the garden, now he comes again to walk with us — Immanuel, God with us. He comes via a miraculous sign — a virgin giving birth.

Christianity is a religion of miracles. It is a religion of parted seas, fire from the sky, blood in rivers, the blind seeing, the lame walking, the deaf hearing, and the dead rising again. If you cannot believe the virgin birth, how then can you believe the resurrection? And if you cannot believe in the resurrection, you cannot believe in the real Jesus.

Not I nor any preacher on the planet tells you that you must believe the virgin birth. Your faith tells you. Your faith compels you. Without the virgin birth, the Christ you claim to know is not the Christ who was, is, and always will be. He is something else entirely.

Your faith compels you to believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in His son, Jesus Christ, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.

Faith compels our beliefs and if we have not the faith to believe those things, how then can we have any faith in the redemptive power of our Lord?