Saturday, December 24, 2011

Shepherd Sighting

I was meditating on the manger scene the other day and had a wonderful insight. When you look at that scene, on what are your eyes focused? If you're like me, many of us grew up with the focal point of the manager scene as Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus. However, many people pay little attention to anything else represented in that scene. The other characters and the animal guests are more or less "window dressing" to point our attention to the three main characters. But it occurred to me how awesome it was to have shepherds at the manger. Only God could take a group of people who were considered at the bottom of society's popularity list and give them a significant place in the Christmas story! Shepherds were typically an ignored population of people but what is even greater, "God chose the foolish things of this world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of this world to shame the strong. He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things--and the things that are not---to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before Him." (1 Corinthians 1:27-29) In fact from Genesis to Revelation God speaks about shepherds and their important place in God's plan.  God did not send the angels in Luke chapter 2 to the palaces or the temple to announce to the kings and religious leaders that Christ had been born. He sent the angels to the shepherds in the fields. The shepherds who were doing exactly what God desires of his leaders, to keep watch over the flocks. Jesus even takes on this despised image and calls Himself the "Good Shepherd" who lays down His life for His sheep. (John 10:11) Peter tells leaders to be "shepherds of God's flock....and when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away." (1 Peter 5:2,4)  And in the book of Revelation we read, For the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd; He will lead them to springs of living water. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes." (Revelation 7:17) italics mine. How ironic that the King of kings and Lord of lords tends to His people more like a shepherd! The next time you see or think about the manger scene, remember that little baby identified with the least popular folks in His time. He lifted them up and showed the world God's tender heart for His people.
Merry Christmas to you all!
Pastor Sheree

Thursday, December 8, 2011

No Other King

I was recently listening to a teaching in which the speaker drew the listener's attention to the last verse in the book of Judges. "In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit." (Judges 21:25) This same verse is repeated in Judges 17:6, 18:1, and 19:1. Whenever the Scriptures repeat something, it is a signal to pay attention. The words "everyone did as he saw fit" suggests that Israel had departed from the covenant standards of conduct found in the law. And later in the book of 1 Samuel chapter 8 Israel asks for a king like the other nations that surrounded them. It was not good enough that God Himself was their King. As a result of having their request granted, Israel then plunges into a succession of various kings. Some of these kings led the people into evil practices and others followed the Lord. In either case, Israel did not fair too well apart from their true King. How similar are the circumstances we find taking place in the world today. Many people don't want a king and have chosen to depart from any absolute standard. They don't want any "so-called God" telling them what to do. Everyone does as they see fit. And the expectation is that every one is supposed to follow the same game plan. Those who want to be faithful to Christ and follow His ways are often scorned, mocked, and labeled intolerant. As a result, the slow elimination of anything pertaining to God and His standards is causing a similar chaos like Israel experienced. At Christmas time we remember that God sent us a King in the form of a baby. This baby ultimately grew up to become our Savior. He did not grow up in a palace enjoying all the benefits expected of royalty. But He laid aside His rightful place as King and became human, humbly walking among us showing us the heart of the Father and dying for our sakes to reconnect us to God. And when Jesus was born, Herod sought to destroy Him because He felt threatened. (Matthew 2) A similar tone is being experienced today. A recent news segment showed people protesting because the governor of Rhode Island wanted to rename the traditional Christmas tree to a "holiday tree." Furthermore there is a push to acquaint Christmas as a time of "great bargains" as there is a mad rush to purchase gifts on "Black Friday" which in some cases was pushed back even further to "Black Thursday" or Thanksgiving Day. And with the ever increasing electronics age, there was "Cyber Monday." It seems that when some feel threatened by the presence of God, like Herod they seek to destroy any remnant of Him. But try as they will, Christmas is still Christmas and the King has come. Moreover He will be coming again not in humility but with the authority and power as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Hallelujah! "Joy to the world the Lord is come, let earth receive her King!" Let us bow down and worship our King for He alone is worthy!
Peace at Christmas!
Pastor Sheree