Extreme Shepherding

It is Christmas-time.  The shepherds were a highly significant part of the account.  Jesus is the “Good Shepherd” (John 10).  This video is fun.  Enjoy!

I don’t think the shepherds of Bethlehem were quite that innovative.  Probably didn’t have the technology either. LOL!

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The Shepherds were First

If the Wise Men who came from the east and brought the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were “seekers“, than the shepherds who saw Jesus the same day that he was born were “tellers.”

Something awesome happened to these guys (and like with the wise men, we have no idea how many there were) and it wasn’t the appearance of the angels, as awesome as that was.  The angel and the choir were just a fancy GPS system sent by God.  They were news reporters and direction sensors.  They announced that the Messiah had been born that day and gave them directions on how to get there and find him, and the angel choir provided an mp3 of music running through their head as they headed off to find him.

Imagine if you will a Chevy Impala (these are God’s people with entry-level salaries so they’ll drive low-cost GM cars) and the soft, voice of the GPS saying, “Go straight on the south road, 2/3rds of a mile, turn right on Main street, watch for a stable with a baby wrapped in a snuggie.”

A little ridiculous, of course.  I hope it makes us aware of the significance of the announcement.  These shepherds represent the whole nation of Israel, from the time that Israel became a nation.  For centuries, they were looking for the fulfillment of the promise made by God to their ancestor, Abraham.  Hundreds of years, hanging on God’s promise, never giving up hope that God would fulfill the promise that the Messiah would come.  And now . . . “Da, da, daaaaaa!”  He has.  And these guys, out in the fields with smelly sheep, in the dark, wanting to fall asleep see this incredible scene and are given this incredible announcement, “The Christ that you’re looking for, well, he’s here. He’s in Bethlehem and you’ll find him in a feeding trough wrapped up in soft cloths.”

You can read about it in Luke’s Gospel, Luke 2:1-20.  Pretty awesome stuff; http://www.youversion.com/bible/asv/luke/2/1-10

But . . . the exciting thing that happened was that they found the baby.  They found the Messiah.  You know, a lot of people are bothered by the fact that Jesus was human too.  The Jewish shepherds don’t seem to be bothered a bit by it.

Verse 16 – They hurried off to Bethlehem and found the baby just like the angel told them.

Verse 17 & 18 – They left and told everyone they could and everyone was amazed.

Verse 20 – They returned to the sheep and were glorifying and praising God.

In an earlier post dated November 22, 2009 ( https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/11/22/531/ ) we noted the link between passion for Christ and effective evangelism.  They didn’t run out and have t-shirts and ball caps made to announce the fact, they were so excited that as they returned to their job, they told people the Good News.  We often say Peter preached the first Gospel sermon (Acts 2).  Maybe.  It depends on how you look at it.  I am contending, right now, that the shepherds were the first Gospel preachers.  It was to a Jewish audience, and it was more likely, one on one, not a crowd setting.  “Get an auditorium, set up the PA system, let’s preach this thing.”  No, the first sermon was that the Messiah, the promised Savior had arrived.  It was more like evangelism than pulpit preaching, but that’s what preaching is, telling other people about Jesus.

The Wise Men were seekers.  The shepherds had been seeking a long time, but now they were tellers, “evangelists.”  They were the ones that with excitement and passion began spreading the Good News, “Jesus the Christ has been born.”

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Why Did They Show Up?

The 3 Wise Men came for a single reason.  It was a personal journey.  It wasn’t official.  They didn’t come to gawk at a side-show or at some celebrity.  They came for one reason and one reason only.  They came to worship.

Listen to the message, Jesus, the Wise Men and You at the following link.

http://www.newtestamentchristianonline.com/Sermons.dsp

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Agents of Hope

We don’t know these wise men very well.  We know they were from the east, wherever that is.  Traditionally, and much of that tradition comes from Marco Polo, it is believed they came from Persia, modern-day Iran.  Tradition says that there were either 4, 2, 12, or 3 actual wise men.  Depends on your source.  What a wise man was, is debated (a common claim is that they were priests who worshiped Zoroaster).  What the symbolism of their gifts meant, varies.  And don’t get started on their names.  I prefer to call them Larry, Moe, and Curly.

There is more we do not know about Larry, Moe, Curly than we do.  What do we know?

  • They came from the east
  • They saw a star appear in the sky and followed it
  • They knew a king had been born
  • They searched for this king in the capital city of Israel where the star led them
  • They found the child with the directions that Herod gave them
  • They offered gifts, “expensive gifts” to Jesus
  • They worshiped the baby Jesus
  • They were warned in a dream to go back home another way

We can deduce a couple of other things about them, but we really don’t know any more.  The wise men are an enigma to us.  There are two things that stick out to me at this moment.

  1. They worshiped Jesus. “On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.  Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, and of incense and myrrh” Matthew 2:11, New International Version.  This was their whole intent; to worship Christ.  What they knew, what they understood, how that affected them otherwise, we do not know.  We can understand that they came fully intending to pay honor and homage to a baby king.  And they brought “treasures.”  I think Curly brought the gold.
  2. They were Gentiles.  This is obvious.  Whether Jesus was 13 days old or 13 months olds, or toddling around, these men from a far-off country, another nation, a different nationality, came to worship him.

They represent you and I.  I mean, I think, the reason God did not tell us who they were (their country, their names, or anything else) other than that they came from the east, was so we could identify with them.  We are not Israel.  Even now, if you are Jewish by lineage, these travelers from the east represent you too.  Simply because we are 2000 years removed from that moment in history.

The wise men represent our search for God.  Searching for who God is and what he does and that search leads to and through Jesus.  If we find God, we will have found Christ first.

And . . . the wise men are agents of hope.  Not agents in the sense of they “bring” it, but in the sense that they looked for it.  God always intended to save all people, not just the Israelites.  He would one day offer that hope to the whole world.  The promise of Abraham is for all the world, not a single family or nation.   God made us aware that he wants to save the Gentile too when he sent Peter to preach to and baptize Cornelius in Acts 10, and when he sent Paul as the Apostle to the Gentiles.

There is hope for everyone.  Not just Abraham’s family.  Not just David’s family line.  Not just those with Jewish blood.  Anyone who lives and breathes is eligible to receive hope and salvation in Jesus Christ.  They must worship Him as Savior and trust Him as Lord and obey Him as King.

[Hear the first message in the Christmas series; Jesus and You called, “Jesus, the Wise Men and You” on the sermon page of http://www.newtestamentchristianonline.com/ , Monday, December 21, 2009]

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PS: As I wrote this, I had this sense of deja’ vu.  Like I dreamt this or something.

Chasing Sound

Les Paul (1915-2009) Chasing Sound

The illustrious Les Paul died recently.  He is highly responsible for the advancement of the solid-body electric guitar (especially the one that bears his name) and for the most significant advancements in electronics and recording.  It has been said that he was “chasing sound.

As a musician, performer, recording engineer and technician he was always chasing sound..

God is chasing a particular sound, the sound of confession from the mouths of believers.

In previous posts, Nov. 28, 2009, “Nothing to Say,” https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/11/28/nothin-to-say/ , and Dec. 2, 2009, “Something to Say,” https://blogthechurch.wordpress.com/2009/12/02/something-to-say/, we discussed confession as the third element in salvation.

Remember these scriptures?

Matthew 10.32-33, Whoever acknowledges me before men, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. But  whoever disowns me before men, I will disown him before my Father in heaven.

• Romans 10.9-10, If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.

• 1 Timothy 6.12, Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

• 1 John 4.14-15, And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world. If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God.

• Philippians 2.9-11, Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

• Hebrews 4.14 & 10.22-23, Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.  Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washedwith pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we professLet us hold unswervingly to the hope we confess…

Confessing is the open expression of acknowledgement of belief.  There are no secret Christians.  If you believe in Jesus, the natural thing to do is to tell people, and not just so you can be baptized.  After Paul was baptized, he went out and preached, confessed Jesus.  When I was baptized, the next day, I went to school and told Kim and the two boys at my table about Jesus and my baptism.  It is natural.

If we won’t confess Jesus, well, he won’t confess our faith to the Father.  Probably because if we won’t confess Jesus to people, either to be saved or to express our faith in witnessing and hope, we don’t really have faith.  In fact, Revelation 21:8 states that “the cowardly” will not enter heaven.  The cowardly are those Christians who will not confess and witness about Jesus.  They keep it to themselves for whatever reason.

God is chasing that sound, I am chasing that sound, the sound of people confessing that they believe in Jesus and that they want to receive God’s salvation for them in Jesus Christ.

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PS: Here is a YouTube presentation of Les Paul called “Chasing Sound.