Dec 23, 2011
Gospel of Christmas
Dec 23, 2011
Gospel of Christmas
In a vision, he has seen a man named Ananias come and place his hands on him to restore his sight. Acts 9:12
It was an early Saturday morning in my sophomore year of high school, and I was eager to get to my job at the local bowling lanes. The evening before, I had stayed late to mop the muddy tile floors because the janitor called in sick. I hadn’t bothered to tell the boss about the janitor so I could surprise him. After all, What could go wrong? I thought.
Plenty, as it turns out.
Stepping in the door, I saw inches of standing water, with bowling pins, rolls of toilet paper, and boxes of paper scoresheets bobbing on top. Then I realized what I had done: While doing the floors, I had left a large faucet running overnight! Incredibly, my boss greeted me with a huge hug and a big smile—“for trying,” he said.
Saul was actively punishing and harassing Christians (Acts 9:1–2) when he came face to face with Jesus on the road to Damascus (vv. 3–4). Jesus confronted the soon-to-be-called apostle Paul with his sinful actions. Blinded by the experience, Saul/Paul would need a Christian—Ananias—to restore his sight to him in an act of courage and grace (v. 17).
Both Saul and I received unexpected grace.
Most people know they’re messed up. Instead of lectures, they need a hope for redemption. Stern faces or sharp words can block their view of that hope. Like Ananias, or even my boss, followers of Jesus must become the face of grace in these life-changing encounters with others.
A Christian’s grace-filled actions can smooth someone’s path to the Savior’s presence.
Israel can be a dusty place, and sandaled feet get filthy walking to and fro. In ancient times, a person entering a home removed his sandals and cleaned his feet. Or if the homeowners were wealthy, servants would do the washing. This distasteful but necessary task fell to the worker of lowest position in the household. Imagine the disciples’ surprise when the Son of God put Himself in the role of a lowly servant and knelt to wash their feet. The need for such a service was great, but not one of them offered to do it. Jesus was the last person they expected to take on such a demeaning task.
Jesus did more than fill a need—He offered an object lesson. As He explained, “I have given you an example to follow. Do as I have done to you” (John 13:15 NLT). Some churches have incorrectly interpreted this as a command to make foot washing an ordinance. But it’s possible to clean someone else’s skin without contemplating the significance of Christ’s actions.
In fact, the act itself is not the main point; attitude is what counts. Jesus desires that we be willing to humble ourselves to serve others. He is looking for men and women who will ignore pride, position, and power in order to do whatever must be done, wherever it needs doing, and for whoever requires assistance.
Jesus performed His greatest and most humble acts of service within 24 hours of each other. He washed dirty feet, using two hands that would be pierced by nails the following day. The message here is that every task God gives us is important to His kingdom.
“And the ark rested in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, upon the mountains of Ararat.” (Genesis 8:4)
The story of Noah’s preservation through the awful Flood has been recognized by all Bible students as a beautiful picture of the resurrection. It is, of course, a true story that actually happened the way the Bible describes, but it is also a beautiful analogy.
The Flood was sent as a judgment upon the sinful world of Noah’s day (Genesis 6:5-7, 11-13, 17). The “wages of sin” (Romans 6:23) has always been death. But God provided a way of salvation (i.e., the Ark that Noah built) to those eight souls who believed, Noah and his family (Genesis 6:8-9, 14-16, 18-22).
Although the analogy is not perfect, it does beautifully illustrate the fact that the punishment for sin is still death and that God has provided a perfect way of salvation to those who believe in His Son Jesus Christ and in His death on the cross.
In that light, it is interesting to note the date in today’s verse, which has great significance. The calendar was changed by God at the time of the Passover, another beautiful prefigure of Christ’s work. The seventh month became the first month (Exodus 12:2), and the Passover was to be observed on the fourteenth day of that month (v. 6) each year following. “Christ our passover” (1 Corinthians 5:7) was sacrificed for us on that day (John 19:14) and rose again the third day, the seventeenth day of the first (formerly the seventh) month.
This was the anniversary of the landing of Noah’s Ark on the mountains of Ararat, providing its inhabitants new life following judgment of the world and its destruction because of sin. What a blessed picture of our new resurrection life based on Christ’s death for our sins. JDM
Having seen the end of the house of Ahab, we will now glance at the kingdom of Judah, where we shall find evil kings upon the throne, the sad result of good Jehoshaphat’s too friendly alliance with the idolatrous monarchs of Israel.
2 Chronicles 21:1
He followed the cruel policy of many oriental despots who are afraid of rivals, and therefore put to death all who are either by rank or influence, likely to obtain power. Jehoram’s brothers were better than he; and this perhaps made him the more inveterate against them.
2 Chronicles 21:6
How much depends upon a mans marriage; for good or for evil it will influence his entire life. Jehoram acted wickedly, for he had the daughter of Ahab to wife. May all the marriages of our family be “in the Lord.”
On account of Jehoram’s sin his country was plundered, his palace sacked, and his wives and children carried into captivity, yet he repented not.
2 Chronicles 21:20
Nobody valued him in life, or mourned him in death.
2 Chronicles 21:20
Counting him unworthy to sleep with godly princes. They that despise God shall be lightly esteemed.
2 Chronicles 22:1-3
She who had ruined her husband had also perverted her son. Mothers have much in their power: they are the queens of the household, and shape the future of their children.
2 Chronicles 22:4
Counsellors to wickedness are counsellors to destruction.
2 Chronicles 22:9
He had been like the house of Ahab in sin, and he was therefore overthrown in their destruction. His mother and his wife were both of the evil race of Ahab, and being thus doubly allied to it, he must fall with it. We should never form unions on earth with those from whom we should wish to be separated at the day of judgment:
2 Chronicles 22:9
They buried him out of respect for his pious grandsire, or else his body would have been left to the dogs: the memory of the just is blessed, but the name of the wicked shall rot.
Have you ever experienced something that thrilled you so deeply, you felt as if you’d explode if you couldn’t express your joy about it? If you were alone when this happened, did it sadden you that you had no one to rejoice with you? Did it throw cold water on what you were feeling?
What should you do if you ever come to one of those moments when you’re all alone, but you feel so elated that you just need to shout, dance, or sing to express yourself? I encourage you to go ahead and do it! The Lord is right there with you, and He’ll be happy to share that moment of bliss with you. So don’t waste time feeling sorry for yourself—just open your heart to the Lord and let out that shout! If you feel like screaming with joy, then scream! If you’re so excited that you can’t stand still, then throw off your shoes and start dancing! It’s right for you to rejoice when something wonderful has happened in your life. That is precisely what James means when he says, “… Is any merry? let him sing psalms.”
The word “merry” in this verse is the Greek word euthumeo, which is a compound of the Greek words eu and thumos. The word eu describes a good feeling, and it is where we get the word euphoric. It pictures a person who is absolutely elated, thrilled, or ecstatic about something. The word thumos is the idea of swelling emotions or a strong and growing passion about something. When these two are joined together to form the word euthumeo, the new word expresses the idea of a person who is just about to explode with joy! This person is so excited and overjoyed that he can hardly contain himself. He is so tickled about something that he can no longer restrain the happiness he feels!
James says that when you are filled with this kind of overflowing joy, you should express your exultation. Go ahead and let your heart sing! That is why he wrote, “… Is any merry? let him sing psalms.” The words “sing psalms” comes from the single Greek word psallo, which first meant to pluck, as to pluck the strings of a harp or bow. Then later it meant to play, as a musician would play a stringed instrument. But by the time of the New Testament, it pictured a person who sings a hymn or some other special heartfelt expression of music. It is as if the strings of a person’s heart are being plucked and played so he can fully express his heartfelt gratitude, praise, and worship to God.
In light of this, James 5:13 could be interpreted as follows:
“… Is there anyone among you who is so excited that he can hardly contain it and who feels as if he is about to burst with joy? If that person is so overjoyed and tickled that he can no longer restrain the happiness he feels, let him sing the song he feels in his heart.”
Oh, how wonderful those moments are when your spirit is so filled with God’s Presence that you feel a song arising from your heart! Why restrict the flow of life that is trying to emerge and refresh you at that moment? Remember, God gave your emotions to you. So when you’re overflowing with joy because of something God has done for you or because of some wonderful event that has just transpired, don’t hold back. It’s healthy and good for you to let your joy out!
Also, don’t let your rejoicing depend on whether or not people are present to do it with you. Have you forgotten that the Lord is always there with you? He will be happy to be a part of your celebration! In fact, it might even help you to express your joy if no one is there with you. If it’s just you and the Lord, there is nothing to stop you from laying aside all your inhibitions so you can really throw your entire being into rejoicing!
Lord, I needed this encouragement today, and I thank You for speaking to me through this Sparkling Gem. I do have something to shout about, so I make the decision today to go ahead and let out the joy that is in my heart! I thank You for being a part of my rejoicing and for the great and awesome things You are doing in my life!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
I confess that I don’t need other people with me in order to truly rejoice in the Lord. When I feel the strings of my heart being plucked with joy, I am going to open my mouth and sing it out. When I feel so full of joy that I can’t sit still, I am going to throw off my shoes and start dancing before the Lord. When I think I’m going to explode if I can’t scream and yell with joy, I’m going to go somewhere where I can yell my head off without worrying about people who might be listening. God gave me emotions so I could rejoice—so I intend to rejoice with all my being whenever I am overflowing with the joy of the Lord!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Joe is a 68 year old former Marine with a peg leg, who shows up each morning at the local swimming pool to work out. Years ago, during training maneuvers, the wind blew his parachute into high tension wires. As thousands of volts coursed through his body, his leg was burned off and a significant portion of his flesh sustained severe burns. Clinically, Joe died, but the crash to the ground revived his heart and somehow he survived!
From all appearances, Joe has made peace with his peg leg, as he hobbles from place to place, swims, and generally gets on with his life.
Perhaps Joe’s experience illustrates the paradox of the Christian’s earthly pilgrimage: We live with pain and imperfection. Yet we learn to get on with our lives.
The Psalmist wrestled with life’s “peg leg” – our pain and imperfections, when he cried out: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and every day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” (Psalm 13:1, 2)
Yet amidst his anguish, he tasted faith and joy: “I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, for he has been good to me.” (Psalm 13:5, 6)
The reality is that even with Christ, we will live life with a peg leg, so to speak, in our:
Struggle to gain victory over sin: “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do… For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out… What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God—through, Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:15, 18b, 24, 25a)
Striving for triumph, surrounded as we are by crushing pressure: “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” (2 Corinthians 4:8, 9)
Could it be that our biggest problem with discontentment or disillusionment is that we want – even demand Utopia with Christ while on this earth? And could it be that God allows imperfection, pain, and struggles into our lives – a peg leg if you please – to teach us the uncommon traits of patience and contentment?
It is comforting to know that Christ assures us of His conquering power and inner peace amidst life’s afflictions:
“In Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33b)
QUESTION: With His help, are you “Marine” enough to choose to live graciously with your “peg leg”?