31 Days of the Christmas Story from Genesis to John: Day 8 – Coming as a Servant

jesus-resting

The prophet Isaiah gives a vivid description of the coming Messiah as a servant – one with a gentle manner, who brings comfort and encouragement to the oppressed, and is a light to all. In our world today, this is exactly what we need, and it is exactly how Jesus lived. This beautiful Hebrew prose from the prophecy of Isaiah, woven in with the teachings of Jesus, says it well.

Isaiah 42:1-4
“This is My Servant; I strengthen Him,
this is My Chosen One; I delight in Him.
I have put My Spirit on Him;
He will bring justice to the nations.
He will not cry out or shout
or make His voice heard in the streets.
He will not break a bruised reed,
and He will not put out a smoldering wick;
He will faithfully bring justice.
He will not grow weak or be discouraged
until He has established justice on earth.
The islands will wait for His instruction.”

Matthew 11:28-30
“Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

Isaiah 42:5-7
This is what God, Yahweh, says—
who created the heavens and stretched them out,
who spread out the earth and what comes from it,
who gives breath to the people on it
and life to those who walk on it—
“I, Yahweh, have called You
for a righteous purpose,
and I will hold You by Your hand.
I will keep You and appoint You
to be a covenant for the people
and a light to the nations,
in order to open blind eyes,
to bring out prisoners from the dungeon,
and those sitting in darkness from the prison house.”

Matthew 4:13-16
Jesus left Nazareth behind and went to live in Capernaum by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali.  This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,

along the sea road, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the Gentiles!
The people who live in darkness
have seen a great light,
and for those living in the shadowland of death,
light has dawned.

Gentle. Comfort. Encouragement. Light. This is Jesus.
For all who are weary and burdened, may you seek Jesus where you will find the gentle rest that only He can give.
It is His promise to you – “My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

 * Merry Christmas *

In Jesus’ Words: Why are you not fasting? (Mark 2:18-22)

In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees required fasting twice a week for orthodox Judaism, even though the Old Testament law prescribed only one fast on the Day of Atonement. But Jesus was not doing this and some people questioned why not. Jesus went about teaching and healing and dining with people. Jesus brought life and joy with Him, not mourning.

Even today, our faith in Jesus should bring us joy, comfort us, give us hope. There may be times for fasting, but I believe they are rare. Unless it is done for all the right reasons and in private, then one is just merely going through the motions of a good diet or cleansing. Jesus came to replace the old, external traditions of rituals and self-righteousness, to give us new, internal traditions of repentance and grace! It is freeing, and it is joy! Don’t pour the new wine into old wineskins!

~ Jesus Questioned About Fasting ~
Mark 2:18-22

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”

Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast. No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment. Otherwise, the new piece will pull away from the old, making the tear worse. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.”

In Jesus’ Words: Follow Me (Mark 2:13-17)

Do you remember that feeling when you got picked for the team in school? It probably made you feel happy or relieved. Or maybe you remember not getting picked, and it seemed to make your whole day feel even worse.  Everyone wants to belong somewhere, to know they have worth. We want to feel, that even though we might not be very good or have made some stupid mistakes, someone believes in us anyway, and likes the potential they see in us. Well, that’s exactly what Jesus did, and how he made people feel.

Jesus was known for dining with sinners and tax collectors. Tax collectors were in a category all by themselves and considered the biggest sinners of all. It would have been scandalous in those days to be seen with them, much less dine at their house. Now, Jesus was not hanging out with them to call out their sins or to prove his point, which he certainly had the authority to do. He was there for one thing: Follow Me! Jesus saw their potential over the bad. He was giving them a chance. They had been picked for the team!

~ The Call of Matthew, Dining with Sinners ~
Mark 2:13-17

Then Jesus went out again beside the sea. The whole crowd was coming to Him, and He taught them. Then, moving on, He saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and He said to him, “Follow Me!” So he got up and followed Him.

While He was reclining at the table in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also guests with Jesus and His disciples, because there were many who were following Him. When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that He was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they asked His disciples, “Why does He eat with tax collectors and sinners?” When Jesus heard this, He told them, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew went on to follow Jesus the rest of his life, giving up his rich lifestyle. He wrote a book about Jesus’s life which became one of the four gospels. He went on to minister to Persia, Macedonia, Syria and Ethiopia to bring the good news to kings and sinners, and he never regretted that day he was picked or his decision to follow.

There is true help for anyone.

Three classmates by the age of 22.  Almost one per year since my son graduated high school.  That’s how many of my son’s school friends have committed suicide or fatally overdosed since high school.  The count is four if I also include my cousin’s son in those numbers.  These were all good kids from good families with promising futures.  I’ll never forget the look on my son’s face the day he came home from that first funeral.  He was 18 and just starting college, not too long after having listened to a hope-inspired send-off from his high school graduation ceremony, and now he was suddenly thrust into the real world with real-world consequences.  These classmates of his earlier school years had all eventually gone to different schools, but there is something agonizing about looking back on your youth, remembering those cub scout days together and playing Star Wars, and wondering how did it get to this?  Suicide has become an epidemic, especially among young men age 18-25.  In each case, there was something troubling each of them deep within, something no one could reach or know what to do with.  I don’t understand it because I have never been there, but for those family and friends left behind to deal with it, they know that suicide is not the answer.

There is something attacking our society, attacking us, our families and our friends.  It should not be so casually blamed on things (fill in the blank).  It’s more than that.  It’s evil that is invading our society.  Period.  Jesus warns us in John 10:10 that “the thief comes to steal, kill and destroy”, and by any means possible.  The closer it gets to Jesus’ return to earth, the more evil activity Satan tries to stir up in a last-attempt effort to destroy mankind.  And while I don’t pretend to know what someone may be personally going through, I do know there is only one answer that will truly work.  Jesus mentions it in the second part of John 10:10 when He says, “but I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  Jesus promises you life, and peace and rest, no matter who you are or what you’ve done.  Jesus doesn’t look at your past.  He is only interested in your future.  No one else on this earth offers the love, grace, forgiveness, help, and wisdom that Jesus does, and no one else promises victory over evil.  Why wouldn’t you want to follow His promises?  I cannot think of any better option on this earth, so I hope you’ll give Jesus a try.  You just might be surprised at what He can do if you let Him.

I hope you will join me as I continue in my study series, In Jesus’ Words, where I look specifically at the recorded words of Jesus, by going directly to the source and blocking out all the other noise out there.  For if Jesus is who he says he is, then His words matter, a lot.  They are the most important thing we have.

1-800-273-talk(8255)
suicidepreventionlifeline.org
Find a counselor to talk with. Most health insurances and churches can recommend someone.
Sometimes it may take a few tries to find the right one, just like with anything else, but keep trying. 

Pray for Our World: Jamaica

Jamaica is a large mountainous island in the Caribbean.  Jamaica has a wonderful Christian heritage, and one of the highest number of churches per square mile with several Bible schools and seminaries.  However, gangs and drug cartels have also brought high crime, violence and drugs to the country.

The Rastafarians is a common religion in Jamaica, characterized by the colors green, gold, red and black that you see in Jamaican hats, symbols and clothing.  It is a mix of Christian beliefs, black consciousness ideas, and social movement.  Dreadlocks, reggae music (popularized by Bob Marley), the use of marijuana, and their peace and love philosophy are all part of Rasta.  Though it all may sound good, they do not follow the Christian God.  Bob Marley sang a song called The Redemption Song, which hints of a spiritual longing and searching.  It is said that Bob Marley wanted to convert to Christianity but the people around him convinced him otherwise, as it would not be good for his popularity or their wallet. The story goes that Bob Marley later converted to Christianity and was baptized before he died.  I hope he is singing that true Redemption song in heaven today.  Our earthly rewards will be quickly gone and forgotten, but our eternal decisions will live on forever.

Pray that the Jamaicans will be able to reclaim their country from the crime and violence and drugs that is taking away our youth and true freedoms.