Tag Archives: Christmas

When Angels Speak We Need to Listen

Do you know how many people were at the birth of Jesus? Two. It’s really shocking if you think about it.  In Luke’s account of the birth, the only one present at the birth of Jesus, besides Mary, was her husband, Joseph (see Luke 2:6,7).

Angels Heard On High

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Angels Call the Shepherds

I think that’s why the very next thing Luke mentions is that a “host” of angels appeared to a group of shepherds.  A “host” equals a thousand. It was like, HEY, Somebody!  Anybody!  You’ve gotta see this!  This is truly EPIC. It can’t go unnoticed.

The heavenly host must have been in shock that the Savior could enter the world and no one paid attention.

Maybe God is trying to show us something in this. What it tells me is that we don’t always understand what God is doing. We easily get led astray by the smaller things in life and lose sight of God.

What Angels Know That We Don’t

The contrast between humans and angels is interesting.  People were absent at Jesus’ birth but angels were everywhere throughout the Christmas story.  Clearly, they knew something that the population at large didn’t know. The heavens were alive with excitement.  In fact, there is more angelic activity surrounding the birth of Jesus than any other event in the Bible.

Read the story and you’ll find angels tell much of the story.  There are four appearances of angels who come to tell people what God is about to do. It’s like God pulls back the curtain of heaven for just a few moments and we get special insight into what only God and the angels know. They are thrilled, but something got lost in translation because earth doesn’t do a great job of receiving their king. Maybe no one could fully believe what the angel’s story.

Is It Worth Missing an Encounter With God?

I wonder what people were doing that night; watching the new movies that just got released. Attending the office party. Maybe they were doing some last-minute Christmas shopping or drowning their sorrows in a bar. I don’t know.  Whatever they were doing…if they had it to do over again…I bet they’d want to be with Mary and Joseph and Jesus.

The Christmas story is a great reminder of how easy it is to miss out on what God is doing. It’s so easy to get preoccupied with the drama of life and forget about God. We need an angel or a friend or a pastor to remind us of what’s important.

I like what Luke says about the impact that seeing Jesus had on the shepherds.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told. Luke 2:16-20

That one encounter with Jesus made their day and may have changed their lives. And that’s my prayer for you: that this reminder will cause you to turn to Jesus and that encounter might change your life.

 

Merry Christmas.

 

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The Weakness of God and Newtown, Connecticut

In the wake of the Newtown, CT massacre, people are asking an obvious question: Where was God? Christians talk about an all loving, all-powerful God. So where was he?  Doesn’t something like this undermine the Christian message? How can you believe in God when he doesn’t show up? This continues my meditation on the weakness of God.weakness of god

People have asked these questions for centuries. They’re fair questions.  If God exists and God is all-powerful, then logic tells us that bad things shouldn’t happen, right?

The weakness of God

When God doesn’t show up in the way we want him to, that’s what I call the weakness of God. Is God weak? No. But if we are honest, that’s how we feel.

This is what we need to know: God often comes in what seems like weakness. But he never ends in weakness. He comes in humility, but ends in greatness.

The value of weakness

The apostle Paul makes a radical statement in the Bible: “…power is perfected in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9

Power is somehow brought to its full expression in weakness. This seems contradictory. It doesn’t make sense. What does power have to do with weakness? But Paul came to appreciate weakness. He wasn’t ashamed of it. It didn’t embarrass him.  In fact he said…

Most gladly… I will …boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.  2 Corinthians 12:9,10

Paul had his share of trouble: persecution, shipwrecks, prison, left for dead. But he didn’t accuse God of abandoning him or of being weak. He came to appreciate that weakness provided an opportunity for God to show up in his life in unique ways. Maybe not the ways he always wanted, but present nonetheless.

Disillusioned with God

Many people turn to God because they are promised that God will solve all their problems.  These people tend to be the ones that are offended when God doesn’t “show up.”  No one ever told them that God allows suffering so they feel like the victim of “bait and switch”…they came to God thinking that God was a problem solver and now they are disillusioned. That is also why – when they read about 27 people being shot – they don’t have a theology that allows for that.

God with us

But the Bible doesn’t promise that God will only come in strength. Think about the first Christmas. It’s not a pretty story. There is oppression, poverty, and the slaughter of innocent children. When Jesus showed up, he didn’t solve any of that. He came in weakness: just a child.  The Christmas story doesn’t tell us that God rescues us from problems. It tells us that God is with us in our problems.

Overcoming evil

Last Friday, evil shocked us. But let’s not run from it or accuse God of being weak. Let’s look to God to reveal himself in our suffering. God is a master at making good out of evil. The resurrection is the obvious example.  Some people probably accused God of abandoning them the day after Jesus was crucified. But their doubt and questions were answered on Sunday.

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The weakness of god and women

I’m continuing my meditations on the weakness of God. Today I’m looking at the the weakness of god“weakness” of women.

Matthew introduces Jesus to his readers by doing a very Jewish thing, he recounts Jesus’ genealogy.

A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, Judah the father of Perez and Zerah… Matthew 1:1-3

The Dark Side of Jesus’ Family Tree

Most people skip over this section. It’s like, blah, blah, blah, yada yada yada. Who cares? But if you look at the full list you’ll find some interesting names. First, there are some evil people in Jesus’ family tree: Ahaz and Manasseh. They were the most ungodly, ruthless, evil kings ever.

Where Did These Women Come From?

But there are four other names that are stand-outs, if you keep reading through the list. This genealogy lists the men in Jesus’ family tree on his father’s side.  But surprisingly, Matthew mentions the name of four women: Tamar, Ruth, Rahab and, “Uriah’s wife” which is Bathsheba.

Why would Matthew mention these women in a list of men? The reason I ask is because women in ancient times were seen as weak. In some cases it was worse than that. Women were seen as worthless. I think Matthew mentions these women because he spent three years following Jesus, watching Jesus interact with women, valuing women by listening to them, and including them.

Women in the Ministry of Jesus

Jesus turned common knowledge upside down and valued the weakest people in that culture. In fact, if you keep reading in Matthew or Luke, it’s women who dominate the Christmas story. The birth of Jesus focuses on Mary and Elizabeth and even a prophetess by the name of Anna.

Keep reading about the ministry of Jesus, and again he’s surrounded by women. At his death it’s women who are there with him. And when he is resurrected it is women who are entrusted with telling the good news to others.  Throughout history, women have filled churches more often than men. Why? Because, while the world often treats women as weak or worthless, Jesus treated women with dignity and full equality to men. He wasn’t afraid to associate with the “weakness” of women.

The Scandal of Associating with Weakness

The four women in Jesus’ genealogy all had a fairly scandalous story:

  • Tamar: She tricked her father-in-law into having sex with him so she could have a child.
  • Ruth: was from Moab, a nation that came from Moab who was the product of incest.
  • Rahab: was a Canaanite prostitute.
  • Bathsheba: committed adultery with King David.

You thought your family was messy. You’ve got nothing on Jesus. But this is how Jesus and we are different. Jesus wasn’t afraid to claim the dark side of his family tree.  He wears these weaknesses like a badge of honor…not because of the sin involved in each story but because of what God did through these women in spite of their sin.

Is it Weakness or An Opportunity for God?

Jesus looks at you the same way. There’s nothing you’ve done that will make Jesus turn his back on you. What you call weakness, Jesus calls opportunity.

Jesus redefines weakness.  In Christ there is no weakness. That’s a social construct that we’ve created. That’s a term, or a concept, that we’ve coined based on comparing ourselves to others. For God… weakness is a stage for him to reveal his greatness. It’s a launching pad for God to do something special.

Redefining the Weakness of God

The weakness of God doesn’t mean that God is inept: unable to accomplish something. The weakness of God means that God comes in unexpected ways…in ways that humans often call weak. That’s why we have to be so careful to see what God is doing and not discount the weak thing.

the weakness of god

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Question: How does it feel to know that Jesus claims you in spite of your weakness? 

My new book, STUCK…how to mend and move on from broken relationships, is now available on Amazon.com. Look for a special offer rolling out tomorrow on Facebook, or Tuesday morning in this blog.

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The weakness of god Moves You to Help the Weak

I’m taking this Advent season to reflect on the weakness of God. By the weakness of God I mean the less than powerful ways God often chooses to reveal himself: a baby in a manger or dying on a cross.weakness of god

The weakness of God moves us to help the weak.

In previous posts I’ve mentioned that meditating on the weakness of God first produces an offense. We don’t like the idea of God being weak. We spend our lives running away from weakness. It’s embarrassing. What we like about God is that he’s strong.

But if we can push past that offense we find ourselves hearing God’s voice in new ways, which in turn produces a new sense of humility. We are not so ashamed to admit our own weaknesses when we realize that God often chooses to make himself present in the midst of our weaknesses.

Mediating on the weakness of God moves you to hear the weak.

This leads me to my next thought: when you meditate on the weakness of God you begin to hear the voice of the weak. Most of us are trained to just hear the voice of the powerful, the successful, or the beautiful. But when you are no longer offended by weakness and able to walk in humility, you start to hear the voice of the weak, the dismissed, the poor, the forgotten, and the marginalized. Humility trains your ears to hear new voices.

Hearing these voices is a defining moment. Some people stop their ears. They don’t want to hear these voices. It’s too painful to know that there are so many hurting people. But many people are moved to do more than hear the weak.

Meditating on the weakness of God moves you to help the weak.

Once you start to hear the voice of the weak it won’t be long before you want to help the weak. You don’t have to join a cause or save the world. Maybe you just send a card to the person divorced last summer when you realize that this is their first Christmas alone. It can be that easy.

I hope that happens for you this Christmas season. Might Christmas be a time of hearing and helping the weak and not merely adding pounds to your waistline and presents to your closet.

Question: I’m curious what voices you have come to hear over the past few years that you never heard before. Has it moved you to help them? Please leave a comment below. Thanks.

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The Weakness of God: An Advent Meditation

I’m currently studying and reflecting on the weakness of God to prep for a new series I’ll be teaching this month.

The weakness of God. I love the phrase. It’s so counter intuitive.

We typically think in terms of the power of God: the strength of God. That’s what we like to hear about. God’s strength gives us hope.

weakness of god

The Weakness of God

We Like Strength

We like strength in general.  I read recently about a study involving male teens that are turning to steroids to buff up their appearance. And then there’s the other end of the spectrum where older men are taking testosterone to prolong their strength into their later years.

Strength is comforting. That’s why the Bible often portrays God as a warrior, or a rock, a tower, all pictures of strength.

The Weakness of God

Yet God also portrays himself in images of weakness. When God revealed himself to the prophet Elijah it says:

The LORD said, “Go out and stand on the mountain in the presence of the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Then a great and powerful wind tore the mountains apart and shattered the rocks before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind. After the wind there was an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake. After the earthquake came a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper. 1 Kings 19:11,12

Most of us would expect to hear God in the storm. Isn’t that when Lt. Dan encountered God in Forrest Gump? But not Elijah. God was in a gentle whisper.

Of course the best picture of the weakness of God was expressed when he appeared in the person of Jesus as a baby.  I know it’s a quaint little Bible story that we celebrate at Christmas but we’ve lost the power of what God was saying. It’s almost laughable to think that God would even consider entering history in that medium. Who in their right mind would have ever guessed it? 

The gods were Zeus or Thor or Hercules. They were gods of power and status. For the Jewish god to enter the world as a baby in a manger…what is that..some kind of joke?

If not a joke, then what? What was God telling us? He was trying to show us a side to his being that few want to see. But if we are willing to look, we will learn something about God that might encourage us even more than his strength.

The weakness of God is what tells us that we are not freaks. Weakness is not something that has to be covered up or pumped up or drugged up. Weakness is a part of our humanity and God isn’t ashamed of it. He came to us in a way that shows us he understands our weakness by sharing in it.

I hope this Advent season you’ll see a new side to God in his weakness.

Question: Is the weakness of God an encouraging thought? Why or why not? Leave your comment below.

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