The trip for Mary and Joseph from Nazareth to Bethlehem was about 70-90 miles through mountainous terrain on foot. It would have taken them about 8-10 days to complete, while carrying all of their food, water, blankets and supplies. They were poor and had no place to stay once they were there. I’m sure they were wondering would happen once they got there. But were they also thinking of the earlier prophecies from Micah 5:2 that said a Savior would be born in Bethlehem, or from Isaiah 7:14 that said he would be born of a virgin?
As we wait for the birth of Jesus in the coming days, here are a few of the names and attributes that will be given to Jesus later in his ministry.
Good Shepherd– John 10:11 Light that shines in the darkness– John 1:5 Immanuel, God is with us– Matthew 1:23 Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world– John 1:29 The Word– John 1:1 Prince of Peace– John 14:27
May you experience the Peace, Light, and Good Shepherd of the One who can take away all your sin and give you a new life in Christ.
He healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted the oppressed, a friend to sinners, the light of the world, conquered death and was resurrected, he was loved, he was hated, he is the image of the invisible God.
“A father to the fatherless, a defender of the widows – this is God, whose dwelling is holy. He sets the prisoners free and gives them joy.” Psalm 68:5-6
Baby Jesus grew up. But his story does not end after the Christmas season is over. It is only beginning, and his Kingdom has no end.
The Gospel of John was written by John, a fisherman and personal friend and disciple of Jesus. John was part of Jesus’ inner circle of Peter, James and John. He witnessed the Transfiguration of Christ, was there during the Crucifixion, and Jesus asked him to take care of his mother Mary when Jesus was being crucified. John was the first disciple to recognize Jesus after His Resurrection, and he went on to live a zealous life and death for the sake of Christ. He was put into boiling oil and tortured, but when that couldn’t kill him, he was exiled to the Greek island of Pathmos. John had a deep personal knowledge of Jesus Christ and it shows in his writings:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were created through Him, and apart from Him not one thing was created that has been created. Life was in Him, and that life was the light of men. That light shines in the darkness, yet the darkness did not overcome it. – John 1:1-5
The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ – John 1:14, 17
“Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me.In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you.If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also.” – Jesus, John 14:1-4
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” – Jesus, John 14:6
“I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” – Jesus, John 10:10
From Genesis 3:15 when God first promised us a Savior, to the most famous verse of the Bible found in John 3:16, God has been telling us about the promised Savior!
For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life. – John 3:16
A New Year – a New Hope. It is easy sometimes to dwell on our past and look back on our mistakes, but when we accept Jesus Christ as our Savior, God immediately wipes away our past and welcomes us with the righteousness of His Son Jesus. God hates the evil that tries to destroy this world and keep us away from Him, but God loves us even more and is willing to forgive us for any wrongdoing if only we ask and turn our heart towards him. Jesus’ life on earth shows us that His grace is not determined by how good or knowledgeable we are, who we are or where we happened to be born, but it is all because of the sacrifice Jesus made for us. Through our faith, we can have assurance that we will someday be in heaven with Jesus and His kingdom that has no end.
May you have a blessed new year getting to know Jesus as your Savior and personal friend. God’s mercies are new every morning! (Lamentations 3:23)
Jesus only mentions one sin that will not be forgiven – blasphemy against the Spirit.
Jesus warns, “He who is not with Me is against Me. Any sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” Matthew 12:30-31
This is a very specific statement from Jesus, so it is important, even life-critical, that we understand exactly what this blasphemy is and what it is not. In this story about Jesus, the Jewish leaders or Pharisees are accusing him of being an evil spirit or the devil himself. This is one of the biggest insults a person could say to Jesus, but insults alone are not blasphemy. Insults or curses that are said in ignorance or unbelief against Jesus or the Spirit are not blasphemy.
Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is a deliberate rejection from those who know Jesus’ claims are true, yet reject Him anyway.
These Pharisees could not deny Jesus’ claims and miracles to be true so they said He was from an evil spirit instead. Their hearts were hardened, and they rejected Jesus even when they had the fullest possible revelation of who he was. The Holy Spirit testifies of Christ and makes His truth known to us. These Pharisees had that ultimate truth but rejected it, and that is why it was blasphemy against the Holy Spirit (truth).
Rejection in ignorance or unbelief that later gives way to repentance is not blasphemy.
Saul of Tarsus’ conversion is a good example of this. He was a murderer of Christians, and a hater of Jesus. His sins could not get much worse than that. But when the Holy Spirit (Jesus in Spirit) was revealed to him on the road to Damascus, he did not deny or reject it. He embraced the truth, even when he knew what that meant in facing his past sins, and what it would cost him in changing his ways. Paul was forgiven.
Blasphemy of the Spirit is a rejection of God and His truth, when you know exactly who God is.
It is the ultimate and final rejection of God.
~ Jesus mentions one unforgivable sin ~
The scribes who had come down from Jerusalem said, “He has Beelzebul in Him!” and, “He drives out demons by the ruler of the demons!”
So Jesus summoned them and spoke to them in parables:“How can Satan drive out Satan?If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.And if Satan rebels against himself and is divided, he cannot stand but is finished!
“On the other hand, no one can enter a strong man’s house and rob his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man. Then he will rob his house.I assure you: People will be forgiven for all sins and whatever blasphemies they may blaspheme.But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— because they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Which is easier – to forgive someone’s sins, or to heal their physical body? We have medical doctors, medicine and hospitals that can do great things today to heal the body, but we still only have one person who has ever claimed to be able to forgive your sins for eternity, and that is Jesus. No other person, no matter what religion or belief, has ever even attempted to make that claim. And that one single claim is the difference, and it’s a big difference. It’s worth checking out the person who made this claim.
Jesus had no agenda of his own, and did not seek fame on his own. Everything he did pointed to God, whom He called His Father. The crowds that followed Him said it all – “We have never seen anything like this!”
I have to insert a little humor here as you read this story. Imagine Jesus speaking to the crowds, people hanging on his every word, some serious perhaps, and all of a sudden these four guys start cutting into the roof and lowering this guy down into the room. People gasp! But Jesus stays calm, and maybe he even smiles and laughs a little to himself as he sees what lengths these guys have gone. Jesus was not put off. I like to think that Jesus, who was also fully human, takes delight in our persistence and creativity of our faith to see Him. He enjoyed people.
The Son of Man Forgives and Heals Mark 2: 1-12
When Jesus entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that He was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and He was speaking the message to them. Then they came to Him bringing a paralytic, carried by four men. Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above where He was. And when they had broken through, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying.
Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”
But some of the scribes were sitting there, thinking to themselves: “Why does He speak like this? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Right away Jesus understood in His spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them,“Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, pick up your mat, and walk’?But so you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,”He told the paralytic, “I tell you: get up, pick up your mat, and go home.”
Immediately he got up, picked up the mat, and went out in front of everyone. As a result, they were all astounded and gave glory to God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”
Would you climb through the roof of a crowded room if you knew Jesus could heal you?
Prayer is often misunderstood. It is not simply a wish list, or to be used casually in conversation. It is also not for spreading gossip in the form of a prayer. When it’s sincere, I do believe God hears those gut-wrenching prayers we call out to him in our time of desperation. God is always ready to extend grace to those who reach out to Him. But many times it feels like we don’t see prayers being answered. It is not from lack of faith. God does not requires us to earn anything first. But it does require an understanding of who God is and His plan for our world. Throughout the story of the Bible, God relentlessly pursues a relationship with us, to bring us back to Him, and is constantly fighting for us against the evil. He promises us hope and a Savior. Many times God has reassured me of things but He has never told me the future. God always meets us where we are today, not in the future. Every day is precious in itself.
As I journey into praying for our world this year, it is good to see what prayer has done for our world in just the last few decades. We often hear of the bad news, but if we step back a little, we can see the overall good and God’s plan for our world.
There is an unprecedented number of new believers across Africa, Asia and Latin America – those who have not had as much opportunity as before.
Christianity is now a global religion – there are Christians in every country on earth.
Renewal movements are also growing at an unforeseen rate, especially after the 1950’s (around the time Israel became a nation again).
Prayer movements and networks have multiplied and grown, including Global Day of Prayer, Days of Prayer for the nations, and grass-root networks.
Charity aid has escalated across the globe since the 1980’s and 1990’s. There is a more holistic understanding of missions – care for orphans and widows, uplift the poor, liberty to the oppressed and set the captives free. All those things Jesus taught us to do.
Many places previously closed are now open to aid workers and educators.
There are many new methods to reaching and helping people than ever before.
We must also be aware of the global hotspots in our world, where there is likely to be more turmoil and conflict in the coming years. We should especially be praying for these areas:
Future of Jerusalem and the ongoing conflict.
The Korean Peninsula shared between a ruthless dictator and a thriving but nervous democracy.
Somalia – war-torn and aggressive groups.
Central Africa – lawless militias.
Afghanistan and Pakistan – unstable and dangerous due to religious extremism and terrorism.
China’s growth and assertiveness.
All – human trafficking. It has now replaced drugs as the main trafficking area. 30 million people live in this type of slavery. It happens in our towns and cities, and is an attack on our youth. We should all be outraged!
Praying for others is a way we can recognize other people’s value, and a start to a more caring world. It gives us a sense of higher calling, something more than just ourselves, and a likeness to Christ.