“The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”
“This is how the birth of Jesus came about…” These are the first words we read this week, and my heart is pounding. I feel like a child again about to hear my own story, like my dad is telling his daughter the best bedtime story of a King who saved his people from complete destruction and despair. And yet it isn’t that neat and pretty, so I’ll cherish the first few chapters of our Immanuel “God with us” and his humble beginnings. Lord, give us new eyes to hear the story like it’s the first time. . .because it’s not just how the birth of Jesus came about. It’s about our own birth in Him. This story is so personal it feels like too much to give words, too much a private moment between my Savior and me. I feel somehow like Mary as “she treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” I could either stop at every verse or I could give up and say “it’s simply too big for my own words.” This Book is my lifeline, my love story, my purest hope. And my heart is overcome.
Matthew 3:8 – “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” Let my repentant heart bear the fruit of authentic change, Lord. I seem to confess the same sins over and over and know that true repentance bears the fruit of changed attitude, a new heart of obedience and reconciliation unto You.
John 1:1-4 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.” Jesus is The Word, with God and fully God, present as God put a bookmark into eternity and called it “the beginning.” Christ is life itself, and light itself. In the fullness of time (John 1:14) “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” And made his dwelling among us – Immanuel, the “with us” God of our hearts, of our circumstances, of our being. From a wooden manger to a wooden cross, our Immanuel, full of grace and truth came to save pitiful man from his evil self.
Luke 3:21-22 “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” – In front of the entire crowd gathered to witness the Son of God be baptized, they saw the Holy Spirit fall on him and heard God Himself encourage His obedient Son: “And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Many interpret this passage in several ways, but my teacher once described a beautiful picture of this event to me. People had been repenting and washed clean of their sins all day long in the Jordan River. That river was full of every sin as they asked for forgiveness and desired a return to obedience. As Christ Jesus walked into that water, He took on the sins of the world as He would soon on a cross. In a very real way, He, the sinless Lamb, obediently walked into death, that we might have life. And God was very pleased. “. . .Whom I love!” The pain God must have felt as He knew the work that lay ahead, the awful separation that He would feel as every sin was laid on that Body. His Son was carrying out the plan that, from the beginning of time, they had created to redeem the children who betrayed Him.
Luke 5:8-10 – “When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, “Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!”. . . Then Jesus said to Simon, “Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.” Seeing God as God forces us to see man as man. In our sinful, prideful, fallen state, when we see miracles of Jesus, we cannot help but see our own unworthiness to receive Him. And yet, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid. I have work for you to do.”
John 3:16-18 – “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” What kind of love could surrender their son for the sake of another? What wondrous love the Father has for us. By the way, I got a quarter for memorizing that verse, my first memory verse, only in KJV. Within this verse is the fullness of the Gospel message. He loves us so!
John 4:9, 28-29, 39, 42 – “You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman.”. . .”Then, leaving her water jar, the woman went back to the town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did. Could this be the Christ?”. . . “Many of the Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony”… “They said to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world.” Jesus was the first to bring the Good News to a Gentile woman. As a Gentile, I am so thankful to be grafted into the Body of Christ. So like God, as we have seen so many times: to privilege a fallen woman in despair to carry the Good News not only to Jews but to Gentiles because it is His desire that no one perish. (2 Peter 3:9 – “But He bears patiently with you, His desire being that no one should perish but that all should come to repentance.”
Mark 1:49 – “Jesus could no longer enter a town openly but stayed outside in lonely places.” Because of the miracles He was known for, He became famous. He lost his freedom to go about freely but stayed outside in lonely places. I have a friend who is in ministry and has become very popular. Her life is no longer her own. She no longer can go about freely to places, and never has a meal out that doesn’t disrupt her family, her privacy. She has happily surrendered to her calling on her life, but it is very costly to serve Him and loneliness is part of that cost. There is a line in the song that sums up this thought, “Alabaster Box” by CeCe Winans “And you don’t know the cost of the oil. Oh, you don’t know the cost of my praise. You don’t know the cost of the oil in my Alabaster Box.” Can we imagine the cost Jesus bore, knowing from the start of time, what He would have to do, what He would lose, the full costliness of the precious Plan?
Mark 2:5 – The healing of the paralytic. “When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” This is probably one of the top three verses for why I believe in faith-filled prayer. As I pray for others, when I know they are struggling to pray for themselves, or when I confess I am having trouble praying, and someone else stands in the gap for me, our faith is what Jesus is looking for. Jesus saw the friends’ faith and healed the paralytic. It is such a beautiful concept of how we can participate in miracles through prayer, and at the same time, such a comfort to know that even when we don’t have the words to pray, our merciful Lord provides an ear to our needs through others.
Matthew 2:17 “Jesus said to them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” Certainly, it is for freedom that Christ came, not to affirm those already free. Then, I ask, who, without Christ, can be free? We are all sick sinners in need of the Great Physician.
The Beatitudes. Jesus was looking at the heart with each of these-“Blessed (happy) is the man who…” Jesus’ message was one of inner transformation, heart conditions, brotherly love. Kingdom values look little like our values today. Kingdom values bring true inner joy or blessedness.
Matthew 5:27 “Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” No excuses are necessary. Keeping it simple and dependable is important. We are not to make promises that we cannot keep.
There is so much more and yet I am already at 1,595 words. Good grief. God is so rich and bigger than words can convey. Blessed are you for enduring to the end. May your week be filled with Him as you walk in His way. Join Bev and the gang for more Cover to Cover at the new blog here.
Until next week,