REBORN

1 Peter 1:23 – since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God;

It’s easy to get off the rails when you start trying to compare yourself to Jesus. There could never be another like Him. He is different from us in every way. Sure, He was born to a human mother in that stable in Bethlehem. In that sense He is like us. On the other hand, Christ has been emanating from the Father from eternity. Just because He had a somewhat normal birth doesn’t change the fact that He has been shining from the Father from before time. Jesus is the only begotten Son. He has been the only begotten Son before He entered Mary’s womb. He never was created, He has been eternally streaming out from the Father as part of the eternal three in one. Christmas is just the celebration of when He became a member of the human species. He has been with the Father from the days of eternity. He never had a need for regeneration. He has been God’s holy generation all along. Because He became one of us now we can experience regeneration, the powerful second birth. Here is how Augustine describes this.

“If He hadn’t undergone human generation, would we have arrived at divine regeneration? In other words, He was born in order that we might be reborn.

A thought.

Christ was born, we know that now, so why do we dillydally when it’s our turn to be reborn? He was born. He didn’t need to be reborn. But don’t we have a desperate need to be reborn? For whom was this regeneration necessary if it wasn’t the person whose generation suffered the torments of the damned?

What’s the conclusion?

We should let mercy enter our hearts.

A mother carried Him in her womb—may we carry Him in our hearts.

The Virgin was made heavy with the Incarnation—may our breasts grow heavy with the faith of Christ.

The Virgin gave birth to the Savior—may our soul bring forth salvation, may it produce praise.

May our bodies not be sterile—may our souls be fertile with God.”

By faith we begin to carry Christ inside of our hearts. Mary believed the word of the angel and she began to carry Christ in her womb. We believe the word of the gospel and we begin to carry Christ in our hearts. The word became flesh and we know Him as Jesus. That same word enters our lives and we become sons of God.

JINGLE BELLS, CHESTNUTS, AND OTHER SONGS

Is.9:6 – For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Are you singing this Christmas? If we are not careful, all of our troubles can steal the song from our heart. Are you stuck on roasting chestnuts and jingle bells or have you shifted over to What Child is This? One look, one real gaze at this infant King will awaken His song in your heart. This is the song that angels can’t sing because they will never know the joy of redemption. Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her King. Take a look again at the ancient prophecies. Ponder the One Who is called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace. Join the quest for the Desire of all Nations and the Seed of the woman. Go to Bethlehem longing for the One whose goings forth are from the days of eternity. You may find yourself on your face before Immanuel, God with us.

While everyone else seems to be caught up in the holiday excitement maybe you feel like you need a sign to push back the smothering cloud of disappointments and troubles. “All I want is a break in the action, a silver lining in the cloud – LORD, SHOW ME A SIGN”-Then it dawns on you – That’s exactly what Christmas is; the most beautiful sign of all. The child in the manger is a sign that Breakthrough is here now for all of us. As we stop for a moment and come again to Bethlehem- we too can find ourselves transported to a place beyond space and time. A place where our troubles get swallowed up by promises – our sicknesses are erased by scars – and our insecurities and shortcomings are washed away by the waves of love that encompass us.

All this talk of Christmas and where has it brought me? Am I still stuck on sleigh rides and candy canes or have I been captured by the eternal? If you have paused at he manger you have surely found yourself transported to another realm. In this realm our sorrows and worries disappear; as a matter of fact the person we were before disappears. We have found ourselves surprised by conception like Mary. Mary’s conception was Christ in her womb. Ours is Christ in our hearts. His presence in us guarantees that we can never be the same again. We have begun our transformation into the very image of Christ Himself.

THE WONDERFUL ONE

Isa.9:6 – A child has been born for us;a son has been given to us. The responsibility of complete dominion will rest on his shoulders, and his name will be: The Wonderful One! The Extraordinary Strategist! The Mighty God! The Father of Eternity! The Prince of Peace!

I love the Old Testament prophecies about the coming of Christ. I remember being mesmerized by these prophecies that were on many Christmas cards on that first Christmas in 1973 after I was born again. In those days, everyone sent Christmas cards. That was one of the great joys of Christmas, collecting and displaying the cards from family and friends. AsI pondered those prophetic verses that first Christmas the message of Christmas struck me profoundly for the first time. God Himself had come near. He had become one of us. He had actually taken on the body of a human, a human infant and had come to live among us. The ramifications of that revelation were deeply effecting in my life. I can’t remember any of my Christmas presents from that year but I remember this, the Son of God had come into our world. The Creator of all things somehow entered His own creation. The world could never be the same and I could certainly never be the same. The implications of the incarnation are too profound to understand. Here are some comments from one of Augustine’s Christmas sermons.

“The Creator of Mary is also the Son of Mary.

The Son of David and the Lord of David.

The seed of Abraham before there was an Abraham.

Maker of the earth and made on earth.

Creator of the heavens and created under the sky.

He’s “the day the Lord has made” (Psalm 118:24).

“He’s the light of my heart” (Song of Solomon, 3:11).

Let’s stroll in the light of His aura!

Let’s rejoice in His presence!

Let’s be truly glad He’s here with us today, of all days!”

That first Christmas for Parris and I was unforgettable. We were living in a 10 by 17 foot travel trailer and we had a “Charlie Brown” type Christmas tree. The trailer was decorated with those Christmas cards but best of all our hearts were burning with the fire of Immanuel, God with us. Christ was with us and nothing else really mattered. Maybe this Christmas you can rediscover the miracle of the birth of Christ. If that happens, everything else on the holiday schedule will not even matter.

PORTAL TO HEAVEN

Jn.1:14 – 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.

Jn.1:51 – And He said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”

The glory of Christmas, God taking on a human body, is impossible to fathom. We catch glimpses of it that take our breath away but far too often we are yawning at glory as the Christmas madness continues. Thinking about His birth can tie our brain in knots. Thinking about things like Mary giving birth to a fragile, vulnerable infant yet at the same time He is orchestrating all the events of Mary’s life. Or maybe sharing the feeding trough of an animal while He still fed all of the animals of the world. Then there is Jesus being nourished by the bosom of His mother knowing He formed His mother’s bosom in her mother’s womb. Take a moment and let Augustine take you on a journey gazing at the eternal invading His own creation.

“The Lord has made all things, and yet He takes His stand among the very things He’s made.

He’s the Revealer of His Father, and at the same time He’s the Creator of His mother.

He’s the Son of God born of the Father without a mother; and He’s the son of man born of a mother without a father….

He made the sun with His own hands, and yet He Himself was made under the light and heat of the sun.

He regulates human history from the bosom of His Father; and yet He consecrates this one particular day from the womb of His mother.

He remains with His Father, and yet He goes forth from His mother.

He’s the Creator of the heavens and the earth; and yet He takes His own rise under the heavens, that’s to say from the earth.

As God He has more Wisdom than He can mouth, and yet as a babe He hasn’t enough mouth to utter the Wisdom He knows….

He sets the stars in motion, and yet he sucks His mother’s breasts.

He’s so great as a God, yet so small as a slave….

He didn’t abandon His divine agenda when He picked up His carpenter’s tools.”

So Christmas is the bridge between eternity and this world encompassed by time and space. Living in this created world it is impossible to grasp eternal things. The humanity of Christ is our only portal into that beautiful world. Hope to see you there.

MIRACLE SIGN – LAMB IN A MANGER

Lk.2:11,12 – For today in Bethlehem a rescuer was born for you. He is the Lord Yahweh, the Messiah. You will recognize him by this miracle sign: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough!

I love this verse in the Passion Translation, “You will recognize him by this miracle sign: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough!”. The birth of Christ in an animal’s feeding trough is called a miracle sign. When you think of miracle signs you think of things like raising someone from the dead, or calming a storm, or maybe walking on water. Those are obviously major miracle signs but this infant birth in a manger has to be the biggest sign of all. The Creator of planets and solar systems, galaxies and black holes, and gazelles and amoebas took on the body of a baby human and was born in a feeding trough for farm animals. Absolutely mind boggling!!! Here are some comments on this verse from the Passion Notes.

“He entered the world as a lowly baby, and though he is the mighty God, he lived his life on earth in gentleness before all. The shepherds that night were possibly near Bethlehem at Migdal Eder, “the [watch] tower of the flock.” This would fulfill both the prophecies of Mic. 5:2 and Mic. 4:8, which say, “to you it [he] will come, your dominion [kingdom] from old will arrive.” It was at the lower floor of the watchtower (Migdal Eder) that the birthing of the Passover lambs would take place…. After the birth of the lambs, the priestly shepherds would wrap the lambs in cloth and lay them in a manger lined with soft hay to prevent them from hurting themselves…. The miracle sign for these priestly shepherds would be a baby boy lying where the Passover lamb should be—in a manger, wrapped in strips of cloth. It was at the cradle of Jesus Christ that the kingdom from ancient times arrived on earth.”

So He came to this earth and was born among temple sheep. These sheep’s very existence, as sacrificial lambs, had been calling for Him for hundreds of years. He is the lamb of God. His miracle birth in a manger was prophetic, speaking of His sacrificial death.

OPENED THEIR THEIR HEARTS

Matt.2:10- 11 – When they came into the house and saw the young child with Mary, his mother, they were overcome. Falling to the ground at his feet they worshiped him. Then they opened their treasure boxes full of gifts and presented him with gold, frank-incense, and myrrh.

This was the rewarding finish of months, possibly of up to two years, of searching for the Desire of all Nations. It had started with the appearance of the sign in the heavens, the star of Bethlehem. These “wise men” couldn’t rest until they had found the true treasure. They had organized their caravan possibly consisting of several hundred men and had traveled for many miles following the promise that the Messiah would finally be born. How did these men know of this coming One? Probably descendants of those taught by Daniel hundreds of years before they were in search of the promise they had held all of their lives. When they arrived they hadn’t come empty handed. They had come with treasures, very expensive treasures, for the infant King. What else could they do? This was the culmination of their lifelong quest to find the Promised One. Here are some interesting comments from the Passion Notes.

“These “wise men” were extremely wealthy. They presented gifts that totaled a great sum of money—not tiny presents wrapped with bows, but treasure chests full of financial wealth. Although we are not given the monetary value of each type of gift, we know that frankincense and myrrh were extremely costly. These gifts would have financed Joseph and Mary and Jesus’ exodus to Egypt and supplied their living expenses for a number of years, even after returning to Israel.”

This caravan was a very costly endeavor. Why would they spend their time and their talent and then top it off with an offering of this magnitude? The answer is obvious to those who have joined the wise men on their journey. Those of us who have recognized the emptiness of all that this world alone offers us have joined the search for the One promised by the prophets long ago. Inevitably this journey ends at the manger in Bethlehem where light that eclipses the light of the star radiates from the face of the Son of God. Basking in His light, you realize what truly matters in life. We too open our hearts and our treasures to this infant King. After all, the wise men weren’t really providing for the babe, like always, He had provided all things for them.

ADVENT! WHEN CHRIST FOLDED HIMSELF

MERRY MONDAY BY PARRIS

“Then he took the two groups that had been opposed to each other and made them parts of himself; thus he fused us together to become one new person, and at last there was peace.”Eph. 2:15

Brian Simmons in the Passion Bible comments that there could have been over a hundred men with the Magi that came into Bethlehem to seek this child. No wonder Herod and all the city with him were terrified. Why this extravagant devotion you might ask? Augustine believes that the Magi were the first fruits of the age of Gentiles. For ever-since that time we who have been “folded in” have been pouring our gifts out to him, who is worthy of it all! Augustine quotes the Apostle Paul in this way, “He came to tell the good news about peace to those who were far away and those who were nearby. Yes, He’s our peace. He brought the near and the far together and made them one. He folded the two in upon Himself to form one new man whose mission would be peace. He took the two and changed them into one godly body.” Wow! That is a mouthful! When he folded himself and made them parts of himself! What a mystery! What a gospel! Eph. 2:15 We can forever live in peace! My friend, we will spend the rest of our lives starstruck, fastened upon this scene in the simple stable!

For Christ lived in a broken down stable lying in a manger unable to utter words yet put the star on its trajectory course through the heavens. Augustine comments; “yet an infant, and yet so potent, and yet so latent, a Babe who had to flee to Egypt in His parents’ arms because of the decidedly hostile acts of Herod. He was casual about it, modeling it for us, and in it He’d die for us when the right time came.”

Augustine speaks to us again to “trumpet Him on this earth, in this region of our flesh. Let’s not return to where we came from. Let’s not repeat every shred, every inkling, of our prior conversations. There’s no point in looking back. The Magi didn’t return to the Orient by the same route in which they came. Learn from the past. If you want to change your life, then change your way.”

You are living in the time when visitations happen. Learn to look for them, embrace them, and listen for them all around us, Advent is coming, forever coming, surrounding us in our Christmas songs, our Christmas joy, our Christmas hope. May you catch the wonder.

WHEN SIMEON SAW HIS FACE

(Luke 2:28–31 THE MESSAGE) – Simeon took him into his arms and blessed God: God, you can now release your servant; release me in peace as you promised. With my own eyes I’ve seen your salvation; it’s now out in the open for everyone to see:

And who could forget old Simeon who had been waiting for this day for years. How did he know who this little baby was? Was it something in his face that grabbed his attention? This was Simeon’s defining moment. This was the messiah, a supernatural birth, a sign to be spoken against. Now he could go home in peace.

When you see Him for yourself it changes the way you see everything else. Like David said, “in Your light we see light”. Simeon’s world was literally flooded with light the day he saw Jesus in the temple. He had been waiting for a long time, probably for years, to see that wonderful face. It is believed that Simeon had been a powerful leader in Israel and lost his position because of what he believed about the coming Messiah. All of that waiting and ridicule was done, He had now seen the One he had been waiting for. This was the sign spoken against that would flood the whole world with light. This light was shining on Simeon as he prophesied of things to come. Here is how Matthew Henry describes this a passage.

“Lord, now let thou thy servant depart, for mine eyes have seen the salvation I was promised a sight of before I died.”… He blessed God that he saw that salvation in his arms which many prophets and kings desired to see, and might not…..And, while it has been thus long in the coming, it hath still been in the preparing. It is a farewell to this world: “Now let thy servant depart; now mine eyes have been blessed with this sight, let them be closed, and see no more in this world.” The eye is not satisfied with seeing, till it hath seen Christ, and then it is. What a poor thing doth this world look to one that hath Christ in his arms and salvation in his eye! Now adieu to all my friends and relations, all my enjoyments and employments here, even the temple itself.”

I love what Henry said, “the eye is not satisfied with seeing until it sees Christ, and then it is”. Have you seen Him for yourself? How will you know ? When you can say goodbye to everything else like Simeon because you have seen the treasure Who is Christ for yourself. Simeon was willing to walk away from friends, relations, and the temple itself. What was his reward? He saw the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

FIRST TIME I SAW YOUR FACE

Ps.24:6 – Such is the generation of those who seek him, who seek the face of the God of Jacob.

I wonder what Mary thought the first time she saw the face of her son Jesus? How much did she comprehend? Did she know He was her Creator? Did she know He was her Savior? How did she sort out the emotions of mother and worshiper?

And what about Joseph? Did He know he was being protected by the One he was protecting? Did Joseph realize that his son was providing for him, or did he have it backwards?

Then there was the shocked faces of the shepherds peering into the stable crib. Did they know that this was the King of kings in such a humble abode? Did they recognize deity cloaked in the body of infancy?

And who could forget old Simeon who had been waiting for this day for years. How did he know who this little baby was? Was it something in his face that grabbed his attention? This was Simeon’s defining moment. This was the messiah, a supernatural birth, a sign to be spoken against. Now he could go home in peace.

So on and on it went. Peter saw Him differently that first day, smiling at the boat sinking load of fish. The leper saw His face through a stream of tears of joy. The paralytic saw His face and found strength to pick up his pallet and walk. Mary Magdalene saw His face and found courage and grace to walk out of her world of darkness. The Gadarene madman saw His face and felt peace for the first time in his life. The little boy who gave up his lunch saw His face and began to shout and laugh for joy. Bartimaeus saw His face, it was the first time he had seen anyone’s face. The Centurion at the cross saw His face and knew this was the Son of God. Have you ever seen His face? That’s what Christmas is all about. God became a man so that we could see the face of God. One glimpse of His radiance and you will be forever changed. Here is a poem I recently wrote about the first time I saw His face.

THE FIRST TIME I SAW YOUR FACE

THE FACE OF A BABY

IN DIM STABLE NIGHT

THE FACE OF AN ANGEL

IN TRANSFIGURED LIGHT

THE FACE OF REDEMPTION

IN THE LIGHT OF THE SON

THE DAWN OF NEW HOPE

MY DARKNESS NOW DONE

THE FACE OF RESURRECTION

MAKES DEAD THINGS LIVE AGAIN

THE FACE PIERCED MY DARKNESS

MY NEW LIFE DID BEGIN

WAS IT THE FACE OF A BABY

IN THE MANGER THAT NIGHT

OR THE FACE OF CREATOR

THE GIVER OF SIGHT

IT WAS THE FACE OF THE SAVIOR

THE ETERNAL SON OF MAN

CLOAKED IN AN INFANT

GOD’S SHOCKING GOSPEL PLAN

BREAKER BREAKS US INTO THE PRESENCE

Micah 2:13 – The breaker goes up before them;

They break out, pass through the gate and go out by it.

So their king goes on before them,

And the LORD at their head.

What exactly is eating at all of us? No matter how successful we become, or how much stuff we accumulate, or even how much fame someone acquires; it never brings the peace or ultimate contentment we long for. The solution to this mystery lies beyond the veil of this dimension that we live in and is the ultimate reason God sent His only Son to become one of us. He became a man, took our curse on the cross, defeated death for us when He roe from the dead, and entered into heaven on our behalf opening up a whole new way of life that is now available to us. Jesus is the Breaker and He has broken us into the very presence of God. Here is how Maclaren describes this.

“And still further, in a yet higher fashion, that Saviour is the Path-breaker to the Divine Presence, in that He not only makes God known to us, and not only makes Him so known to us as to draw us to Him, but in that likewise He, by the fact of His Cross and passion, has borne and borne away the impediments of our own sin and transgression which rise for ever between us and Him, unless He shall sweep them out of the way…..Narrow understandings may know, and selfish hearts may love, and low-pitched confessions may reach the ear of the God who comes near to us in Christ, that we in Christ may come near to Him. The Breaker is gone up before us; ‘having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest of all . . . by a new and living way, which He hath consecrated for us . . . let us draw near with true hearts.”

We can not only draw near to the presence now, we can enter in to live in a new awareness of the glory of the Lord. This is the life we were meant to live. We were never supposed to look for satisfaction in jobs, houses, accomplishments, or possessions. We were made for much more than that. We have always been created to be satisfied by God alone. He is the greatest treasure and enjoyment that we can ever know. The Breaker has come to break the glom off of us that was blocking our way from the joy of His presence.