For Unto Us a Child is Born!

It is Christmas! As a Christian this is a special holiday for me and my family as we celebrate the moment when God stepped into humanity.  Today is a special day to remember the message of the gospels… God is not far off and He can be known. Jesus stepped out of Heaven and into humanity to reveal God, remove our sin, reconcile us to our Creator, and ultimately prepare an eternal home where we will abide with God forever (never to be separated again). Below is a picture of a painting by Botticelli and 3 of the Gospel accounts that talk about the history and meaning of the birth of Christ. Merry Christmas!

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 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!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them (Luke 2:1-20, ESV).

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. Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.” Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.” But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel (Matthew 2:1-21, ESV).

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 enlightens 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.'”) And 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 (John 1:1-18).

There are several more passages throughout the scripture that talk about the theological aspects of God becoming a man, but these are the ones traditionally read and remembered at Christmas time. I am open about my faith and willing to carry on a friendly dialogue with friends and honest skeptics.  What are your thoughts on Christmas?

You See My Update, but God Sees My Heart: Twittering Our Righteous and Unrighteous Deeds

Matthew 6:1  “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

I’m guessing that if Twitter were around back in the first century that the Pharisees would have been all set.  I mean who needs a trumpet to announce your giving when you can just update your twitter feed with a picture of you giving to the poor.  Twitter would have been the ultimate tool to shape public perception.  No good deed would go unnoticed.

And maybe that is what bothers me so much when I reach in my pocket to pull out my phone and I begin to type in my latest update.  More often than not I end up putting my phone back because I realize my desire to tweet isn’t always born out of a pure motive.  I want you to see all the good things I have done.  I want you to know that I disciple my kids, that I have gospel conversations with people in the community, that I exercise, that I’m losing weight, that I pray for our missionaries. Perhaps sometimes my motives aren’t bad, I truly have a passion to see people grow in Christ and part of that comes by seeing an example.  But to be honest, more often than not I just want your affirmation. 

Then there are times that I’m not searching for affirmation.  I just had a conversation with someone about something and we left a bit of a disagreement.  So I reach in my pocket and pull out my phone with thumbs ready to type in a quote, re-tweet an authority on the subject, or even lay out a blanket statement that 99% of the twitter world won’t recognize as a backhanded jab at the person with whom I had a disagreement.  Then I pat myself on the back for not blatantly telling someone off directly like a more immature person would do… No I’m sophisticated.  I publish my jabs covertly into the stream of public consciousness (I hope you noted the sarcasm there).

Then there are the times that I don’t use my twitter status in a passive-aggressive way.  I settle instead for plain old aggressive.  When I pull out my phone and with great passion start to type my angst.  Usually this comes out against a company or unnamed person (such as the driver who cut me off in traffic or passed by on the median during a traffic jam).  In a sense I feel like I’m justified in sharing this information with the world since I was the victim of a great injustice (sarcasm there as well).

Thankfully I stop before too much really gets out.  I have never been able to publish so much unfiltered content before and it has taken me a while to realize that not everything is worth publishing.  Here lately thought, I’ve been thinking about forming guidelines on how I use twitter, facebook, my blog etc.

So I came up with 3 basic guidelines for how I want to use the social media publishing platforms at my disposal. I drew them from 1 Timothy 1:5 where Paul charges Timothy to correct those who are in error.

1Timothy 1:5  The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

  1. A Pure Heart – Do I have an ulterior motive? Am I publishing this to get affirmation or to jab someone?
  2. A Clear Conscience – Am I about to call someone out on the very things I’m guilty of myself?
  3. A Sincere Faith – Am I trusting Christ in this moment?

I have a long way to go.  Hopefully when I publish content it will be to build you up in Christ, not to boast in myself or tear down others.  To be sure there is still room in there to weigh in on a debate or share an opinion, but hopefully it will be evident that my thoughts are tempered by love.

Psalm 19:14  Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

7 Benefits to Blogging

I started blogging a little over a year ago.  At first my attempt was just to develop a habit of keeping people informed.  God’s done some really cool things in my life and I thought that blogging would be a great way to share.  Since then I have discovered many other benefits to blogging.  Below is my list.

1. To share about what God has done and is doing in my life

2. To provide a place to share resources I have found along the way

3. To record my thoughts on a particular topic (like forgiveness)

4. To become better at reading and writing

5. To get free books and share my thoughts (like books from publishing companies)

6. To give away free books (because they were free for me)

7. To share my response to Movies and Cultural Events

That is me.  What about you?  If you have a blog, what benefits do you get (or hope to get) from blogging?  I would love to know.  Weigh in.  Leave a comment.