Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Delight in the Lord

Luke 18:31-34
“Jesus took the twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.” The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.”
Jerusalem was where Jesus reached the climax of His Father’s will.
“I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent me.” (John 5:30)

Doing the will of the Father was the one dominating interest all through our Lord’s life, and the things He met along the way—joy or sorrow, success or failure—never deterred Him from His purpose. He steadfastly set his face towards Jerusalem (Luke 9:51).

We go to Jerusalem to fulfill God’s purpose, not ours. We of course will have ambitions along the way, but we have no concept of what God is aiming at. We may have our own ideas of what God is calling us to, but since we don’t know God’s whole plan, it may end up looking differently to us. Sometimes God’s aim looks like missing the mark because we are too short sighted to see what He is aiming at.

Psalm 37:3-4
“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pastures. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

A lot of people hear this verse and get confused when they don’t get the desires of their heart. But I think we are confusing the meaning of what it’s actually saying.

To delight in someone means to experience great pleasure and joy in his or her presence. This happens only when we know that person well. Thus, to delight in the Lord, we must know him better. Knowledge of God’s great love for us will indeed give us delight. As we get to know Him better, we start to desire the very delight that just his presence brings.

The passage continues after that…

Psalm 37:5-9
“Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun. Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For those who are evil will be destroyed, but those who hope in the Lord will inherit the land.”

To commit ourselves to the Lord means entrusting everything—our lives, families, jobs, possessions, dreams—to his control and guidance. To commit ourselves to the Lord means to trust in him (37:5), believing that he can care for us better than we can ourselves. We should be willing to wait patiently (37:7) for him to work out what is best for us.
Anger and worry (fretting) are two very destructive emotions. They reveal a lack of faith that God loves us and is in control. We should not worry; instead, we should trust in God, giving ourselves to him for his use and safekeeping. When you dwell on your problems, you will become anxious and angry. But if you concentrate on God and his goodness, you will find peace.

So more and more we see that what this verse is actually saying is not that if you don’t get what you want, it’s because God didn’t actually put that desire in your heart. It’s that our true desire should be to be with God.

When we delight in God the true desire of our heart will turn from things of this world, to being in his presence. Our ambitions are good, but they are only the scaffolding around the plan that God actually has for you. We can’t know that plan fully, but we can stay in his presence and delight in that. We have not yet understood all there is to know of the compelling purpose of God.

Isaiah 58:13-14
“If you keep your feet from breaking the Sabbath and from doing as you please on my holy day, if you call the Sabbath a delight and the Lord’s holy day honorable, and if you honor it by not going your own way and not doing as you please of speaking idle words, then you will find your joy in the Lord, and I will cause you to ride in triumph on the heights of the land and to feast on the inheritance of your father Jacob.”

If we desire anything in this world more than we desire God, we will be disappointed. Always. But when our hope is in what is unseen and our joy comes from the One who provides and overflowing fountain of it, we will never be empty or defeated.

John 7:37-38
“If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.”

Friday, October 2, 2015


My soul is thirsty. And isn’t it true for so many things in life that it’s when you’re hungry and thirsty you start making compromises. That’s when you become weak and the temptations around you start looking like a more decent option than they would if you had fed yourself earlier. Temptations are always around, but now they feel like fortified walls of must do’s instead of a mist you can easily walk through. The fear of missing out starts kicking in, and logical thoughts start taking on a new form. The world is sneaking in, but the world isn’t there for you, it doesn’t have your back. It’s false promises and empty claims latch on and suckle the life out of you. Entertaining you for a moment just long enough to forget what you forewent to get that fleeting pleasure. Using truth laced lies to get from you what it will never replenish. Like an abortionist sucking a fetus from the mother’s womb, promising you a more comfortable, convenient life. But instead you’re consumed by guilt, shame, and regret leaving you not comfort or convenience in the least. You are full of the world but it doesn’t make you full. It’s a leach feeding off of you, a parasite using you.

You aren’t just hungry and thirsty. You are starving.

All that’s left of who you were is a skeleton; sunken and desperate to remember what it was like to be fleshy and vibrant. To remember walking in the freedom set before you, without chains entangling your feet. To remember being radiant with joy as you’d close your eyes and breathe in the rich love of a creator who cherished you. To remember the warm feeling of a father’s protective love.

Tired and weak, you curse the world for robbing you of anything tranquil; for draining your joy and peace, leaving you bankrupt. You tip your head back looking up toward the heavens and curse the god who let you get to this point. How could he just sit there and watch you waste away in misery? You squeeze your eyes shut and tense your whole body, allowing yourself to feel the rage that is coming from somewhere deeper than you’ve ever known. Tears start streaming down your face. You crumple to the floor, and the sobs take over. Struggling for a deep breath, you give into the dark sadness you feel lost within. You feel swallowed in depression. You pound the floor and scream! No one is around to hear you, but you scream anyways. Your frail body is so weary and fatigued you have no energy left to even hold yourself up. You lay on the ground, catching your breath. Thoughts of completely giving up flood your mind, what you wouldn’t give for a little bit of peace. Leaving this gloomy, selfish world seems like your only option. You shudder as the darkness around you seemingly reassures death as your only way out of this unbearable pain.

You close your eyes and slowly exhale.

You’re nervous and uncomfortable, but willing to go to the most extreme lengths to escape this unbearable agony. You stretch out on the cold tile floor in a symbol of surrender. If there were a god out there, now would be the time for him to say something. You lay in the silence, listening, only hearing the sound of your shallow breaths. You don’t hear anything. No soft voice, no comforting breeze. But you keep lying there. You lay there so long you give into your exhaustion and drift off to sleep.
            Even in your dreams you cannot seem to escape the darkness. You’re running and running but the darkness never stops.
            And then, in your dream, you hear something faint. You sop running and look around, trying to quiet your breath so you can hear better. There’s a long pause, and just as you’re about to start running again the voice comes for a second time.

            I love you.

            It’s so delicate you somewhat believe you are making voices up, even in your own dream. Besides, look at you. Who would love this shadow of who you once were; this decrepit, pathetic version of you? You have nothing. You are nothing. Who could love that?
            Then, interrupting your thoughts, you hear it again.

            I love you. I want to be with you. Come to me!
            No. You don’t know what I’ve done. You don’t know how I’ve hurt people. You don’t know how I’ve hurt myself. I knew the things I was doing were wrong and I did them anyways. You don’t want to be with me.

            I knit you together in your mother’s womb. I was with you in the darkness. I know you. I know all of you. And I love you. Come to me!

            I’ve gone too far. I’m too weak. I’ve done too much. You can’t love me.

            Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

            In your dream you look up and see a hand stretching out towards you. You try to step towards it, but you feel chafing around your ankles. Chains. You are still shackled to the weight of shame and guilt. You stare down at them, any hope you had dashed again. Then the voice comes back.

            So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. Give me your hand. I love you. Come to me.

            You’re sure the hand is out of reach, but desperate for love you stretch out your own  anyways. Miraculously, you feel the touch of the hand as it takes yours. Big and strong, it closes around your hand and all of a sudden there is a bright light all around you. You feel warmth coursing throughout your body. Parts of your soul you thought were long decayed spring to life! Chains are broken and you feel the weight of them slipping off. Weightless and hopeful, you laugh for the first time in what seems like forever! The soft voice is now a booming one, loud and powerful and full of authority.
           Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.

            This time you don’t just hear the words, you embody them. They hold such truth in the love that you feel you can’t help but respond with rejoicing!
I am yours and you are mine, God! You have searched me, Lord, and you know me. You are familiar with all my ways. Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I make my bed in the depths, you are there. Even the darkness will not be dark to you; the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made!

At that moment you awaken from your dream. What you just experienced was indeed a dream—in your mind. But you know with a deep conviction the truth that it held in reality. You stand up. You still have remnants of physical weakness, but there is something drastically different.


If there is hope, expectant hope, there is also joy. You feel so full of joy it’s impossible to contain! It feels as though it is bubbling up within you, overflowing because you know the Good News! Your hope is based on eternity. It is based on what the Lord has already done for you and the love He has shown. You close your eyes and feel His presence! One day you will see him face to face and what else can you do but praise Him and thank Him and sing His praise! What, then, should you say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us?

You start walking forward. Each step, a step in freedom.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Moment with an Inchworm.

I had a moment with an inchworm the other day.
Call me crazy, but it was a real, honest to God moment with this inchworm.

Okay, so the moment lasted about a second, as I nearly killed him with my bike.
But for some reason I really felt for the little guy.

I identified with the exposure he was in from putting himself out there. He had mustered up the guts to inch his way across the paved bike path; subject to sun, birds, runners and bikers.
He was exposed to the world, yet he was still just inching along.

The truth is that we are all like these little, vulnerable inch worms, inching our way through life.
Learning the necessity of putting ourselves in exposed positions in life in order to grow, even if it is scary.

As I've grown older, now at the ripe old age of 24, I think I am gaining a more well rounded understanding for some of the negativity I've seen adults walking around with.
With a jaded, bitter, chip on their shoulder.
I've always wondered why that bitterness existed. It seemed to be everywhere.
But the more I get burned for doing the right thing, for letting people in, or for putting myself out there, the more I understand the callousness. Why would I ever want to do that again if that is how I get treated?

Enter: a jaded, bitter, chip on my shoulder.

Unless I made the choice to not let the bitterness enter.
Unless I decide to keep my attitude like a child-wanderer.
Like a an inchworm bravely inching into the danger and excitement of the exposed world.

So I made the very conscious decision to see the world in a glass-half-full kind of way.
The real struggle for me actually came after the initial decision to refuse bitterness. 
I have been ridiculed by other adults for my optimistic attitude. Calling me naive, uneducated and only wanting to see the best in people, therefore blinding myself to the truth.

I have been tempted to become more negative in order to seem more grown up.
To "mellow" down, and not get so excited about things because it makes me out to be childish.
To keep things to myself in fear of being judged by it.

My little inchworm would be so disappointed!

I don't want to live a life of fear.
Fear will betray me.
I don't want to live a life of apathy.
It does not define me.

I want to choose to keep inching.
Expecting Jesus Christ every at every turn, giving my life the attitude of child-wonder, which He wants me to have.
Against what the world may say, I want to continue to have a optimistic perspective. Knowing that I may not automatically think all good thoughts or have a pure or positive attitude about everything.
But if I keep listening to God, I will be changing all the time into the person HE wants me to be.

I am choosing to muster up the guts to inch my way into an exposed life. Subject to the world, but with my strength and hope in Christ Jesus.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

One Thing Remains.

 A little while ago I had a friend who was going through a hard time. Some of the things he described going on in his life hit a cord; sympathy welled up in me knowing that I had been in that same place before. Sometimes we experience dark times in our lives, and in the midst of being in this darkness, it is essential that we remember the true source of Light. However, sometimes the memory of Light seems to fade, and even though we know the truth of the source in our head, our hearts can't seem to remember the warm feeling of the Light. In those times, we need to be reminded of the Light--to be turned around and pointed in the direction we forgot we were going. We need to be reminded of the truth. There is a lot that we can get distracted by. Life is full of changes in plans, reasons to celebrate, reasons to cry, people who love us and people who persecute us. In all these situations, only one thing remains: the Way, the Truth, and the Life...that is, God himself. 

I wanted to share some truths I was able to share with my friend. A few things to hang onto in the times of distraction and darkness.


My heart has been so heavy for you after you told me some of the things that you've been going through and feeling lately. Not in a way that overwhelms me or is too burdensome, but probably more because my heart has known some of the same struggles you mentioned, and has known them deeply. But I wanted to offer you some encouragement, and do that by pointing out some of the things that I have seen to be true.

Feeling lonely is one of the worst feelings....I truly believe that the lie of us being alone is one of the number one tools that Satan uses. He wants us to feel alone, that way we become more susceptible for even more lies he has ready to launch at us when we are at our weakest. This time of year that lie is especially being thrown in your face, even without other factors to add into it. But this is what I do know to be are far from alone.
You. Are. Not. Alone.
There are people at work who you are around everyday, who appreciate you so much, but just don't always remember to tell you. There are other YL leaders who have become like a family, and may seem busy, but would be there for you at the drop of a hat if you let them know. There are high school students whose lives have been changed simply because you invited them into yours. You allowed them to be a part of who you are, and have covered them in love through all the efforts you put into that ministry every single day.

And of course, there's the cliche, but all too true matter of fact that you're not alone because you know Jesus Christ. Who you can't hide from no matter what you do.

Psalms 139:7-10
Where shall I go from your spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven you are there! If I make my bed in the depths, you are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there your had will guide me, your right had will hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me and the light become night around me," even the darkness will not be dark to you;the night will shine like the day, for darkness is as light to you.

I know that you feel tired--warn down, exhausted, and over-worked. But here is what I do know to be true. There is no better time for God's strength to be witnessed than the time when we feel completely run down. Take hope in knowing that when you find yourself in the midst of an impossible task, it may actually be right where God wants you. Because you were made to be in a desperately dependent place for Christ.

2 Cor. 12:9-11
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


I want you to feel encouraged, and I do feel like there is truth to those words. I know this about my own life, and where the journey has taken me in the past...when I would be over-worked, and tired, I would then get overwhelmed, which turned into anxiety, which eventually lead to a depression that was pretty hard to get out of. And when I was first experiencing this, I thought it just was something that just WAS. It was there and it sucked the life out of me, but there was a reason it was there and so it was just something I had to live with. What I have realized, however, is that there is something that can be done. I can fight to captivate my thoughts, and to identify lies and put them back in their place, and to remain in what I know to be true. I can choose to see what I should praise, and what I can be thankful for. And these things really, really helped me.


I am praying for you. For your heavy heart, and the darkness that is weighing it town. Praying that you could see the truth more clearly--even through the heaviness. Praying for peace, and for the loneliness to fade away.

You have something that I have seen other people strive for and desire, but haven't quite experienced yet--and it's a true, authentic, conviction and relationship with Jesus. It is more obvious, and inspiring than I think you even know and I am thankful that I have been able to see bits of this!


Life is full of changes in plans, reasons to celebrate, reasons to cry, people who love us and people who persecute us. 
In all these situations, only one thing remains
the Way, the Truth, and the Life...that is, God himself. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Joy to the World!

A few years back, I had an assignment to write an exegetical paper from a passage in Luke. Seeing as it is appropriate for this time of year, the time when we remember and celebrate Jesus coming to earth, being born as a child, I thought I would share it. I will admit, it is a bit dry, but hopefully there is something that you can learn from it.

Luke 2:8-12
8 That night , there were some shepherds staying  in the field nearby, watching  over their flocks 9 when unexpectedly, an angel of the Lord  stood among them. The radiant  glory of God beamed all around them and they were filled with fear . 10 But the angel comforted  them saying “Don’t be afraid. I am here to deliver  a message full of good news and great joy to all people, everywhere !  11 On this very day, in the city of David, a Savior has been born; a Savior who is the Messiah, Christ the Lord . 12 When you look for him , look for a baby wrapped in cloth and resting  in a manger.”

Exegetical Issues
    This passage is a periscope from within a larger context of the birth story of Jesus. We pick up in the story after already knowing that Jesus is born, but now getting a glimpse into how the rest of the world discovers the birth of the Savior. The news is first brought to the shepherds staying in a nearby field. This is consistent with the theme in Luke of bringing up the lowly and focusing on poverty. I focused on the initial interaction between the angel of the Lord and the shepherds in the field.
    There are several manuscripts which say “behold” before the angel of the Lord, however most important manuscripts omit this . Either way, it doesn’t change much other than emphasizing more excitement within this verse. The only other text critical issue could be seen in verse 11, saying “Christ the Lord” instead of “Lord Christ,” though this is also not seen as anything significant. There is also no significant text variance in this passage.

Verse-By-Verse Interpretation
    “8 That night, there were some shepherds staying in the field nearby, watching over their flocks”

    Pointing out that the shepherds were near or in the same region as where Jesus was born points out a circumstantial link between the shepherds and the birth scene . There are several connections to David through this location and profession, (which I will get to later in this section). Living in the field, or “out of doors” was frequently linked to the life of a shepherd; they were known to spend their life in the open air . Watching was kept by turns, so that only one shepherd needed to be awake at a time. The night setting prepares the scene for the spectacular illumination, one of the many juxtapositions displayed in this passage. It also affirms both the unexpected event and the dark predicament of the people of Israel . This watching at night was a natural nightly activity of the shepherds.
    Israel understood themselves as a nation of shepherds compared to their neighbors who are either settled farmers or city dweller . Because of this, the image they used for their God and their king or Messiah was the image of a shepherd. The shepherding occupation held a low place in society. They were classified as thieves and were outcasts, not allowed into the city for they were not trusted by the general public . Shepherds were seen as shiftless, dishonest people who let their flocks graze on others lands . It is important to note that the Angel of the Lord is announcing the birth to the shepherds, rather than to the parents; this gives a double meaning to the shepherds being “outsiders.” They are not only low in regard to society, but they are also outside the circle of Jesus’ family of origin, “This portends the considerable ramifications of this birth, which cannot be conceived as a family affair, and may also anticipate the redefinition of “family” in Jesus’ ministry .”
    There is significant context that we can draw from knowing a little about the shepherds. “The implication of Luke’s story is that Jesus was born at a time when sheep could still be kept in the field—sometime between April and November .” It is interesting that we celebrate the birth of Jesus on December 25th, but it didn’t actually start that way. In the third century A.D. some parts of the church celebrated January 6 as the birthday of Jesus. It wasn’t until the fourth century that the date was displaced by December 25 (it was the date of the winter solstice according to the Julian calendar).
It is fascinating how the reference to shepherds sparks a positive, pastoral image in modern time after hearing how negative their occupation was.  This could be because of the association with the line of David, in the first century.
    Before David became King, he was a shepherd, keeping his sheep, “Samuel said to Jesse, ‘Are all your sons here?’ And he said, ‘There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.’” (1 Samuel 16:11). David’s origins remained in Bethlehem, “but David went back and forth from Saul to feed his father’s sheep at Bethlehem.” (1 Samuel 17:15). The very pastures that the angels visited were the same ones that David spent his youth and fought the lion and the bear . God called him away from an occupation of shepherding sheep to become a “shepherd” over the nation of Israel, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel” (2 Samuel 7:8). There is often a symbolization used with shepherds to show all who care for God’s people .
    During the time of David’s rule, there was a great longing of Israel for the restoration of the glory. The people hoped for a king who once more should set Israel free. David did much more than just rule the people; he represented the immortal grandeur of the heart of humanity seeking after God . The birth of Jesus represents a new richness of significance as we link it with the long, long needs and yearnings of the centuries that have gone.
    In just one verse, Luke is able to pack in context; developing further Jesus’ connection with David and Bethlehem, and, second, graphically picturing Jesus as one sent to the lowly and outcast.

“9 when unexpectedly, an angel of the Lord stood among them. The radiant glory of God beamed all around them and they were filled with fear.”

    The word used to say “to come up and stand by” seems to by a favorite Lukan word, used of the arrival of supernatural persons . Due to the fact that the angel who came to visit is referred to as “an Angel of the Lord,” probably indicates that he be equated with Gabriel. Gabriel also appeared to Zechariah  and again to Mary . They were both greeted in the same way . Accompanied with the appearance of the Angel, there is a dazzling display of the glory of the Lord which illuminates the entire area around the shepherds. The word that is used here literally means “to shine around.”   This specific word is only used one other time in the NT at Acts 26:13, “At midday, O king, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, that shone around me and those who journeyed with me.” The illumination and bright lights are a sign of being in the presence of heavenly beings. It is here that we find a beautiful juxtaposition of night and light.
    The definition of glory is “the splendor associated with God’s perceptible presence , or a luminous quality, frequently a divine attribute”  or “the majesty and splendor accompanying God’s presence .” There are examples of this all over the OT, but some references include Exodus 16:7, 10; 24:17; 40:34; Ps 63:3; Isa 60:1; etc.
It is interesting to point out that the glory of God is seen not around the manger, but around the angels. What does this mean? It is not history, but the Word of God that has splendor. As Bovon said, “Only the Word of the Lord, which cannot be taken captive, can shine forth as theologia gloriae.” From the moment Jesus is born, we are directed towards the story of the cross. The crescendo of the “glory of the Lord” plays up the eschatological relevance of the present happening.
The fear of God in the presence of all his glory can only be great, but Luke leaves no room to doubt that the shepherds were completely filled with it. Fear is a standard reaction to having a divine encounter. There are many people in the Bible who were confronted by God through his angels and their responses all consistently included fear. We find stories of these encounters with Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Jeremiah, Daniel, Zechariah, Mary, Shepherds, Peter, Paul and John.
There are also plenty of times throughout the ministry of Jesus that he has to reassure the person he is with to not be afraid. Even his disciples had this kind of fear and needed Jesus’ assurance; for instance, they were all terrified at the transfiguration of Jesus , as well as when they were at sea and saw Jesus walking towards them .
The definition of the kind of fear used in this passage (phobeo, phobos) is “to tremble or to quake. ” In the OT, fear was often also referred to as a reverence, or to hold in respect.

“10 But the angel comforted them saying “Don’t be afraid. I am here to deliver a message full of good news and great joy to all people, everywhere!”

The response to an interaction with an angel is consistently fear, but the response of God is also consistent: do not be afraid. As soon as they sense God’s desire to communicate with them, the fear subsides. The angelic messenger deals with the fear by assuring the shepherds that God’s intentions are gracious. He also validates the encouragement of telling the shepherds not to be afraid by the content of the message that he brings; they went from being filled with fear, to being filled with joy. This is yet another beautiful juxtaposition held within this passage, “The darkness is showered with brilliance as the people who wait in darkness see a great light (Isa. 9:2). The contrast between the humble setting of the birth and the glory of the angelic announcement could hardly be more dramatic. ”
The joy that is enclosed in this message is so extensive that it banishes all fear. The “great joy” is in order because of the “good news.” Of course, as Bovon states, “’joy’ should be understood metonymically. The good news for all the people is the birth of the son, not the shepherd’s joy.” The verb that is used to “announce good news” is the same verb used for the proclamation of the gospel, and the effects of this good news will be joy for all people. Luke uses this verb for describing the gospel message throughout the book of Acts . Joy and celebration were a sure reaction for the news comprised of everything which the Jews had been hoping and waiting for—a Savior! Soon the good news would bring great joy to people across the entire globe.    
At first, “all people” was meant just for the people of Israel (the word here, laos, referred to Israelites, not to people in general ). It is quite possible that Luke’s desire when describing the angel’s announcement was to emphasize the universalism of the gospel.

“11 On this very day, in the city of David, a Savior has been born; a Savior who is the Messiah, Christ the Lord.”

    Luke uses the verb for “on this very day,” or “today,” several times throughout the book , often using it to mean the beginning of the time of messianic salvation. It is both a fulfillment of the prophecy and its present relevance, meaning that if we know God in our lives today, we should hear his voice; salvation is in our sight. 
    It is here that for the first and only time in Luke, the word “savior” is used of Jesus . Jesus is referred to as Savior one other time in the Gospels, by the Samaritan who came to believe in Jesus . The combination of the title “Messiah, Lord” is nowhere else in the NT, and the precise meaning is unknown . The name “savior” was often use for the Greeks and Romans to refer to their gods as well as to great military or political leaders. For example, Julius Caesar was called “savior.” Now, the role of Savior as Lord, one who helps or delivers his people, has been transferred to Jesus .
    The title “Christ the Lord” is not found anywhere else in the NT . In Greek, The word for Christ means “Anointed One.” To be anointed meant to be set apart for some special purpose, for example, Moses anointed Aaron and his sons as the first priests of Israel . Lord could also be used of the Roman emperor (and was used of Augustus), but in this case refers to deity; proclaiming that this child was “Lord” meant that God had arrived in human form, he was the one for whom all Israel was waiting.

“12 When you look for him, look for a baby wrapped in cloth and resting in a manger.”

    We see in this verse once again Luke focusing on the theme of poverty. We see the Savior, Messiah, Christ the Lord who is the source and meaning of all life reveal himself in the form of a little child, coming unnoticed into an unknown town. Not even the shepherds had heard of the place where Jesus was born, but they were to go looking for him. The sign given to them by the Angel would not only lead them to find the Child, but it would also attest to the truth of the Angel’s words to the very last detail. It was in simplicity and lowliness that Jesus’ life began, and it was through the simple and low people and places that most of his work would be done.

Significance for Theology and Preaching
There are no similar passages in any of the synoptic Gospels. One interesting thing I did find, however, was that the phrase used to describe the fear the shepherds felt when the Angel of the Lord appeared is the same exact phrase used in Mark 4:41 when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water (they feared a mega fear). While none of the other Gospels contained this story, it remains through the entirety of Luke of the first shall be last and bringing up the lowly. This passage is a beautiful representation of how the Lord of all set the example with His life, starting his mission from the moment He was born.
This passage is the start of Jesus’ incarnational life. From the very beginning, He came to and for those who are considered lowly in this life. This was showed in a couple of different ways throughout the passage, including being born and placed in a manger, and having shepherds be the first to know of his birth (besides Mary and Joseph). Jesus was not born unto Herod, in his palace at Jerusalem, or to Augustus Caesar, on his throne in mighty Rome, and certainly not to chief priests and scribes. No, Jesus was born unto the humble, the lowly, to the expectant hearts; this is the redeeming message. Jesus reveals through his birth, and through the rest of his life that the message is not only that there is a God, but that God comes very near; “To believe that God is a strength sufficient for us is another and still more inspiring confidence. But to believe that God is not only almighty, that he is not only all-sufficient, but that he is God with us, God near, the understanding and the intimate—that is best of all. ”   

Works Cited
"Phobeo, Phobos" TDNT Vol. IX Pg 189; 198-204; 208-211; 212-217.
1, Luke. Luke 1. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2002.
Barton, Bruce B., Dave Veerman, and Linda K. Taylor. Life Application Bible Commentary. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, 1997.
Bock, Darrell L. The NIV Application Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996.
Bovon, Francois. Luke 1. Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 2002.
Bowie, Walter Russell, Paul Scherer, John Knox, and Samuel Terrien. The Interpreter's Bible. New York & Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1952.
Evans, Craig A. New International Biblical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 1990.
Green, Joel B. The New International Commentary. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.
Keck, Leander E. The New Interpreter's Bible. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1995.
Neale, David A. Luke 1-9. Kansas City: Beacon Hill Press, 2011.
Nolland, John. Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word Books, 1993.
Plummer, Alfred. The International Critical Commentary. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1914.
Smith, Jonathan Z., and William Scott Green. The HarperCollins Dictionary of Religion. San Francisco: HarperCollins, 1995.
Washington, Harold C. "Fear" ABD. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 2007.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Post Camp Reflection

For me, camp is a magical place. It’s a place where expectations are left at home, walls come down, you let loose and you become more yourself than you’ve ever felt. People always describe a camp high feeling that you get after leaving camp, this feeling that is you to the absolute maximum capacity. I am convinced that this feeling is fulfilled by an encounter of us coming to terms with exactly who God created us to be—fully alive. Think about every activity you engage in at camp. In most cases, you are completely present; the biggest distraction may be a curiosity about what’s on the lunch menu or if the boy from the Broken Arrow cabin did a double take in your direction. But even then, these are slight in comparison to the distractions we face on a daily basis in the “real world.” Camp provides you with the opportunity to take a break from whatever you may have come from back home, and just be focused on one thing, and one thing only, and that is being fully alive. Granted, there is no way for us to be fully alive if it were not for the presence of the Lord, giver of life itself. But that’s exactly where the magic of camp happens, what a beautiful thing!

This past week has provided for me once again to be a part of that magic. Being behind the scenes and on the Young Life team in the Czech Republic gets me all jazzed on life and camp and youth ministries all over again! I may sound like a broken record, but I just feel so blessed to have been able to have the opportunity to come and be a part of what the Lord is doing over here. I cannot tell you how much hope I am filled with when even though I am in one of the most self-proclaimed atheist counties in the world, the kids that come to camp being no exception, by the end of the week hearing story after story from leaders of how hearts are being opened, and how kids felt something that they simply couldn’t describe. Our God is bigger than following rules of 20 minutes of silence, and he is bigger than the title of an atheist. In fact, he is WAY bigger.

At the end of the week, after the gospel message was presented, and after 20 minutes of silence, summer staff and work crew gathered on stage to sing and welcome kids back into the club room. As all of us sat on stage singing worship songs for the camp of 109 students, I have never felt the Holy Spirit more present. Kids who tried to deny all week, were finally breaking down to a point of finally allowing themselves to feel. 
As these Czech kids trickled into the room, singing and filling the room with words of praise there was such a feeling of hope inside of me I couldn’t help but smile as I kept singing and looking at all the faces around the room. It was an honest and beautiful holy moment that I will never forget.

I don’t think there is any way for my experience in Prague to have been any better. God has been opening my eyes and my heart to new places and new people. We left Prague on a train today, and as sappy and cheesy as this sounds, as I looked out over the beautiful scenery, I honestly felt my heart growing more and more attached to this country. It’s too early to tell when exactly now, but I do know that I will be back. That’s for sure. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

More Than A Feel Good God.

All around me I am seeing Christianity being advertised as something that will make you feel better. God has become someone that exists to take away our problems and turn our lives into a fairy tale with a happy ending. Christianity is being taught as a social lubricant--it is a nice thing, and people feel good when they do nice things. But with this, we find that yeah sure, not a lot of people are opposed to Christianity, but at the same time there are not many people who are strongly devoted either. In order to make it more appealing, the church is offering a Christianity that is watered down, and it is turning into nothing more than Moralistic Therapeutic Deism.

Now, as I keep reflecting on the past few years, I see that there have been quite a few struggles that I have encountered. I got to thinking that if I believed in a God that existed to make my life better and easier, then after going through the things I have recently, I should have no faith left. A feel good God hasn’t been doing a very good job at making my life feel super good all the time.

Thank GOD, that is not the God that is omnipotent. While it may seem backwards, the God I worship actually calls me into suffering. There are things in this world that are not good, but He has already suffered them, and still remained good. And through my trials, I am confident that He is good no matter which way my life turns.

Last week I got to witness a miracle. My friend, and teammate noticed that she her lymph nodes were swollen. She had me feel them while we were warming up for our 4x1 relay. We thought it was weird that they were so big, and yet she didn’t feel sick at all. We laughed at the possibility of her slowly turning into a dinosaur, and then dismissed it as we prepared for our race. A couple of days later, she ended up going to the hospital due to the nodes increasing in size. She was quickly emitted and referred to an oncologist to biopsy the growths. They put her under as they removed the node completely to send it to the labs, however, the oncologist, seeing similar cases every day, gave her the odds. There was a 92% chance that it was cancer. He was so sure it was some form of lymphoma, he started to discuss with her and her family about how she would need to start chemo treatment as soon as possible. Additionally, because chemo was so aggressive, it would in turn make her sterile, so she needed to start thinking about if she wanted to harvest her eggs in the hopes of having a child of her own one day. As you can imagine, this was a lot to take in. It seemed as though her whole life as she knew it was going to change.

The next day, the oncologist came running to her room. The results were in, and to the shock of everyone, they did not include cancer! Instead, she had a rare disease that is usually only found in young Asian women called Kikuchi-Fujimoto (…she is far from Asian, making it even more rare). Not only was it great news that she didn’t have cancer, but Kikuchi-Fujimoto is a disease that doesn’t even need treatment, her body would naturally take care of it and the swollen nodes would simply dissipate in time. Praise Jesus for His healing and for His mercy! This was a time to celebrate!
A couple of days later we had a track meet out in San Marcos. As I was in the midst of my normal warm-up routine, I noticed one of the girls on my team just kinda zoning out. I went up to her and asked how she was doing. Immediately her eyes started to well up, “track wise, or life wise?” she asked. “Both.” “Well. I’m not feelin so good about this race. And well, this week has been rough.” Her eyes started to water even more. Just a few months prior, her mother passed away after a long battle against MS. “I mean, of course I’m thrilled that Jenn is healed. And I hate that I feel this way, but I can’t help but feel some jealousy. It’s great that Jenn doesn’t have cancer, but why did she get healed and my mom didn’t? For all the people praying for my mom, and the people depending on her, and for what a beautiful, wonderful heart she had for the Lord, why did she have to die? Why? What makes the situations different? I don’t get why she couldn’t get healed.”

At this point I found myself wiping my eyes as well. I had no words to give her, so we just stood there and cried for a little while. It was a beautiful moment of simply being present. And while I think that these moments are very needed, it still bothered me that even after I couldn’t come up with a solid answer to that very loaded “why” question. So I started doing some searching.

The Word is the place where the Lord reveals himself, so I started there.

We find honesty in scripture. In Acts, James dies, but Peter is released from prison. Why? Sometimes healing comes now, and sometimes healing comes at the resurrection.

John the Baptist sends to ask if Jesus is the one that is to come, or if they should be waiting for someone else. Being in jail, what John wants to hear is that the captives are set free, yet that is not the message he hears in return. Instead, he hears “blessed is anyone who does not stumble on account of me.” (Luke 7:23) In other words, blessed are those that don’t stumble just because they do not understand what Jesus is doing. But trust enough to not try and take things into their own hands. John wants to hear that the captives are set free, but what he needs to hear is that the dead are raised!

What it comes down to isn’t an answer that we ever really like to hear. There is no one way of addressing the why of things we don’t understand happening.

Except to trust.

Trust that the God we believe in is a good God, even when our circumstances are anything BUT good. Trust that while we may be broken now, we will be healed and will get to experience the resurrection. Our hope and our trust is not in what is seen, but in what is unseen.