Sunday, December 24, 2017

Jesus Was Adopted

Jesus Was Adopted
December 25, 2017
Matthew 1:21 "She will give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus . . ."

When the virgin Mary was found to be with child, Joseph decided he would respectfully and quietly divorce her. He had the option of publicly divorcing her, but that would have subjected Mary to a potential stoning, especially if the court of public opinion thought she had committed adultery on Joseph's testimony. But an angel of the Lord told him to reconsider, to take Mary as his wife because the child was born of the Holy Spirit, the Heavenly Father's child.  The angel gave Joseph a further instruction, Joseph was to name the child. Names were extremely important back then, and while the focus of the angel's message was the meaning of the name Jesus, there was something else the angel was telling Joseph. The angel was telling Joseph, himself, to name the child.

Naming a child was a father's right, and when he did, it was an informal method of declaring the child as his appointed earthly heir. They did not fully use last names back then, so Joseph named  him Jesus son of Joseph. The angel told Joseph the child wasn't his but instructed him to name the child anyway, to claim him as his own on the earth. The angle never told Joseph it was his son, but that he was to take the child and name him after himself, adopting him as his son.  Evidence of this is found later in Scripture when non-believers referred to Jesus as the son of Joseph the carpenter. Joseph did what the angel instructed, giving the "first born" child of his household his name and the rights to the family's namesake and any and all wealth that might transfer with it should Joseph die. The angel instructed Joseph to adopt Jesus as his son even though he wasn't the father. Jesus was adopted, adopted into Joseph's family, with all the rights therein. The angel declared that the child was the Lord's, it was in Mary as a result of non-human blood. When you look at the genealogical records, however, Jesus is listed as Joseph's son. Jesus had no actual blood line from Joseph, or the tribe of Judah, but was listed in records with the full rights of blood.

The importance is not relevant to the story of salvation so much as it pertains to getting into Heaven, but Jesus' adoption in Joseph's family was and is significant to our lives while on earth. Joseph, adopted a son, a child, and became a father. It was and is the first representation we have of the Heavenly Father adopting us as His children, with all the rights therein as a full heir. It demonstrates to us how a true father can be, despite the earthly example you have today. I challenge you to look through Scripture and find another example of someone adopting a son. It happened back then but rare; it was not a story line the Lord wished to bring about until the perfect adoption of Jesus. It was foreshadowed and illustrated through the prophets Isaiah and Hosea, but not concrete until Jesus. Moses was adopted but was never listed as being in Pharaoh's household.

As you celebrate Christmas this year, celebrate the miracle of our Savior's birth, but also celebrate the miracle of adoption. If Jesus had not been adopted by Joseph, you and I would not be able to be adopted by the Heavenly Father. Merry Christmas and merry adoption story. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Hosea 1-2, Matthew 1, Romans 8:15 & 23, Romans 9:24 

Monday, December 18, 2017

More Cattle

More Cattle
December 18, 2017
Psalm 50:10 ". . .for every animal in the forest is mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills."

It is said that the Lord owns the cattle on a thousand hills. That statement, though figurative, was meant to be a depiction of the Lord's wealth. And those words were right out of the mouth of the Lord. He used the analogy, in speaking to mankind, regarding the fact that He does not need our help or generosity, perspective that He is greater than any man, with more authority and power and wealth and ability than any other. But what did the Lord mean when He said He owned the cattle on a thousand hills?

Hills and valleys and waterways were natural borders for people's property. Cattle, naturally herd together, being safer in numbers. They will normally stay and graze as a group and then move on to the next green pasture together.  Why did He emphasize cattle on a hill? Why not just cattle?  If a land was hilly, the cattle would stay together nearly on a single hill, with other hills peppered in between. Cattle did not graze on each and every hill, then there would be devastation to the greenery, too many cattle and not enough grassland. No, when the Lord said He owned the cattle on a thousand hills He was also explaining how much land was His as well. To accomplish cattle on a thousand hills, you would have to own tens of thousands of hills as well. Cattle do not graze on a hill in the winter time; the wind would make it too cold. Cattle graze on hill tops mainly in the spring, when the grass is green and tastiest, when they have calved over the winter and were nursing their young, having expanded as a herd. Cattle went up to the hills to avoid the mud of the valleys, where they would get stuck in the mud, as well as face predators. It was a treasured place to be on a hill, soaking up the sunshine. The imagery of cattle up on a hill was not imagery of wealth, but extreme wealth that is always growing and expanding, as the protected cattle reproduce.

The point of having the cattle on a thousand hills is for intended use, exchange for whatever and whenever He pleases. But the funny thing about it, though, is He does not need any medium of exchange. He does not eat and He has no need for money; that was really the point that He explained further in the passage. The Lord was not bragging; He was stating that any human gift to Him, no matter how extravagant or costly, was of no use to Him. He already has everything. In pointing out the size of our gift to Him, any amount of sacrifice, it would be like tossing a cup of water into the ocean. When we quote that the Lord has the cattle on a thousand hills, it is usually in a selfish reference to having a wealthy father. The argument the Lord was making was not that you should come to Him and ask Him to sell one of His cows to fund your expenses, but that if you were to give Him a gift, make sure it is actually something of value.

People, out of guilt for sin, would offer an animal up to the Lord, to gain favor from Him. This is no different than today, people giving money to cover up the feelings left over after their behavior. The Lord has no desire for this. He does not want guilt offerings, He wants you to give out of thankfulness. He wants do you do good, for others, and on behalf of Him. He wants you to keep yourself from sin and live upright. He never promised to sell His cattle to fund your expenses, but He did say if you lived a clean and honest life, then you can call on Him in your time of distress and need, promising to rescue you. Being rescued by the Lord in times of trouble is far more valuable than more cattle. It ends up being a relationship with the Father, of more worth than livestock.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Psalm 24:1, Psalm 50, 1 Cor 10:26

Monday, December 11, 2017

Jesus Baptized

Jesus Baptized
December 11, 2017
Mark 1:4 "And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins."

John the Baptist was the cousin of Jesus, just a few months older than the Savior. They grew up knowing each other, knowing about each other, possibly spending plenty of time together, at least during reunions and major celebrations over thirty years of their lives. Both were brought up with a Godly heritage, where each was able to develop a deep relationship with the Heavenly Father. John started in ministry before Jesus, however. John had disciples well before Jesus turned the water into wine. What was so special about a man who baptized Jesus and how was John's baptism so superior that he was able to baptize the Savior?

John was an oddity in his time. He developed a ministry that was on the fringe of society. Instead of preaching in the synagogue, John preached out in the desert or wilderness, the outskirts of town. He developed a ministry of preaching repentance and baptizing people. Jews did not participate in baptism, they were born into their religion. Scholars believe John's ministry was for those converting religions and coming to a faith in the Lord, into Judaism. Everything that was considered unclean had to be kept on the outskirts, far away from the synagogue or temple. John developed a following of disciples who were intent on focusing and learning the Scriptures, diving deep into a relationship with the Lord. The baptism in water was their symbolism of being made clean and dedicating themselves to the Lord. Baptism was not required back then, it was not even a part of the Jew's practice. John started a radical ministry, considered as odd as he was, even slightly crazy. It wasn't crazy, however, it was real. It was so real that even the Jewish leaders came out to him to see what it was all about, to see these dedicated men whose lives were being transformed by a deep wave of faith. Jesus, too, came out and spent time with John and his disciples.

Jesus decided He would be baptized by John. Jesus didn't need baptized though, He had never sinned. Baptism was a symbol of being washed clean of sin with the intent of living a life dedicated to the Lord. Jesus didn't need that, either; He was already dedicated. So why was Jesus baptized; He didn't need to convert to Judaism. Jesus asked John to perform the Baptism and John refused initially, suggesting it wasn't needed. Jesus insisted. John consented. Jesus said it was necessary to complete and fulfill righteousness.  His righteousness did not need completed, though. Jesus did it to show others, to demonstrate what we should do with our own lives. It wasn't for show, it was to lead by example, similar to God resting on the seventh day then ordering us to do likewise. It was the demonstration of a practice we are to emulate. But Jesus wasn't just emulating being dipped in water, Jesus was emulating the dedication to what John's ministry was all about, to a full dedication and living intently for the Lord. Jesus' baptism was real, the start of something radical and John helped set it in motion.

You and I understand baptism as an outward statement of following Jesus. But it is so much more than that, it is a radical statement of wanting to go deeper, wanting to be a true disciple, wanting to live with a passion. Jesus was baptized to demonstrate what a passionate person does who is intent on serving the Lord. 

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Matthew 3, Mark 1

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Azor Matters

Azor Matters
December 4, 2017
Matthew 1:14 "Azor the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, Akim the father of Elihud. . ."

There is a man in the Bible who is extremely significant yet seldom gets discussed from the pulpit or in small group. His name is Azor and his life was significant. Not much is known about Azor, as His name only appears twice in Scripture. His name is mentioned twice because it was used to describe his father and his son. Here is all we know about Azor: his father's name was Eliakim and his son's name was Zadok. We don't know if Azor had other sons, we don't know if Azor was a devout follower of the Lord, and we don't know if Azor did anything spectacular with his life to write about. Despite being written about in Scripture, by simply being mentioned, the events and accomplishments of Azor are only known by God. But we do know one more thing about Azor. He was in the lineage of Jesus. He was an ancestor to Jesus.

You might suggest that Azor did not do anything worth while because he did not even get a full mention in the Bible, just that he existed. But I would submit to you Azor's life matter. He mattered enough to be born, He mattered enough to be included in the lineage of Jesus, and he mattered to God. If Azor did not exist, if he never grew up and had a son, whom he protected enough to become a man himself, then you and I would not have the same Salvation story; the Bible would be different. Azor's life affected eternity the way you and I understand it today. He simply existed and played a role in the Lord's plan. He played the exact role in the Lord's plan that the Lord had appointed for him. For all we know he was a leader among leaders, a worshiper of worshipers, and a prayer warrior who defeated the  enemy. Just because Azor's life was written about to great lengths does not mean his life was any more or less important than Noah's or the apostle Paul's. It is too easy to assume his life was insignificant just because angels have not sung about his life to you.

Sometimes we feel our lives do not matter, like we are so insignificant that we aren't even worth a mention that we existed. We assume because we have not accomplished something worthy of the angels singing about that we should be disposable, that it would not affect anything if we were not here. This could not be further from the truth. Your life matters to the Lord and you play an intricate role in His plan for the world. Your life has so many ripple effects that have altered the course of so many people's lives that it all cannot be counted. It is hard for us to believe sometimes, because all we focus on is the negative or we never see the moments of impact. Despite your point of view regarding your life, despite Azor's point of view regarding his life, it all matters to the Lord. It matters to the Kingdom.

This understanding is important, not to make you feel good about your life to date, or give you a big head that you are a superstar, but to give you perspective on moving forward appropriately. If your life matters, and it will always matter, then you have the opportunity to make every minute count. It does not matter what you did in the past it only matters what you do going forward. Good or bad, the past is in the past. You only have the future ahead of you and more opportunities than you realize to affect the Kingdom. Are you going to life every moment like it matters or are you going to serve yourself and risk your legacy. Your legacy may not get written about even to the simple degree of Azor, however the Lord knows your legacy and will reward you appropriately. You may never get a head nod in Scripture, but your life still matters to the Lord.

Don't take my word for it; look it up:  Josh 24:14-15, Psalms 139:13, Jer 1:5, Roman 2:6