To What Degree?

degree

There is an unresolvable mystery surrounding the Christmas story.  It has to do with the illogical proposition that Jesus was fully human, and yet also fully God.  It has to do with the fulfillment of prophecy spoken by the Prophet Isaiah, “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” (7:14) Matthew’s Gospel tells “Immanuel” means “God with us.” (1:23)

For me there are many mysteries about the virgin birth, the signs of God, the shepherds, the angels, the wise men, the star, Herod’s role, and the trip to Egypt then back to Nazareth.  All of this as a part of God’s plan of salvation, just takes my breath away.  But when I consider the duality of the life of the Man/God Jesus Christ, I’m almost speechless.  Notice I said, “almost.”  I am, after all, a pastor/teacher/writer, and you can ask anyone… I am seldom caught speechless.

The question I ponder all year long, but most intensely at Christmas is, “To what degree was Jesus a man? To what degree was Jesus divine?”  It’s easy to take a Sunday School approach, like a child just learning “facts” by repetition, and answer, “Jesus was 100% human, 100% divine.”  These are indeed the facts as presented in Scripture.  Therein lies the mystery.

At age 12 Jesus has traveled with His parents to Jerusalem for Passover, but on the way back home they discover He is not in the caravan.  Going back to the Temple, they find Him sitting with the teachers (Sanhedrin), “both listening and asking them questions.”  When questioned by His parents “why have You treated us this way?”, Jesus responds, “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?”  So, even at this young age, Jesus was self-aware of at least some of His own nature of Sovereignty.

From what point during His childhood, did Jesus start becoming self-aware of the duality of His nature?  Scripture teaches that He was “tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin,” and this temptation was directed at the MAN – Jesus.  At the same time, the Bible says that Jesus claimed, “I and the Father are one.” so the MAN-Jesus claims to be God-Jesus.  Anyone who spends much time considering the implications of these two phrases, will find themselves in a mystery so rich and deep it cannot be fathomed.

A few years ago, I was introduced to a Christmas song, that has become my absolute favorite.  I listen to it often every year around this time.  It speaks to me.

To what degree was Jesus a Man?  100%

To what degree is Jesus God? 100%

It is a…

Mystery

The child was born on Christmas day
Born to save the world
But long before the world began
He knew His Death was sure
The pain and strife secured

Mystery… how He came to be a Man
But greater still…How His Death was in His Plan
God predestined that His Son would die
And He still created man
Oh what Love is this
That His Death was in His Hands

The Christmas trees they glow so bright
With presents all round
But Christmas brought a tree of life
With Blood that sacrificed
The greatest gift in life

I am just a man
And can’t begin to comprehend
When You look into this traitor’s eyes
What do You see that justifies the Lamb

God predestined that His Son would die
And He still created man
Oh what Love is this
That His Death was in His Plan

Mystery…

Mystery…

 

click on the Title – “Mystery” above, then watch and listen on YouTube.

 

Degree

Gorge: The Deep Divide

gorge-1

The two images, set side by side above, were taken within moments of one another.  While taking the Royal Gorge Route Railway Tour a few years ago, I was struck by the deep gash into solid rock, punctuated by a river at the bottom of the gorge.  As we stood on the flatbed railcar to take photos of our trip, I was able to gain some perspective of the moment, and of my life. And while looking up at the people standing on the bridge high above us, some spiritual clarity descended into my mind.

Here’s a great description from the website for this tour:

West of Canon City the Arkansas River cuts through a high plateau of igneous rocks forming a spectacular steep-walled gorge over a thousand feet deep. At its narrowest point shear walls on both sides plunge into the river creating an impassible barrier.”

It is those two words “impassible barrier” that grab my heart.

Every day during this wonderful month of December, right up to the day we designate to celebrate the birth of Jesus, I’m reminded of why He came.  My SIN once separated me from God, like the bare 1,000 foot sheer rock divide of this gorge.  I had no way of crossing over to God, nothing I could do or say would change my condition or position.  But God.  Don’t you love those words?  Romans 5:8  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

The impassible barrier between God and me was overcome by Jesus coming to earth as a human baby, wrapped in cloths, and laid in an animal feeding trough.  I looked up and out of this gorge into the blue sky, and saw the bridge.  In my mind I saw the cross where Jesus died for me, spanning the great divide my sin had caused.

The birth of Jesus in inextricably connected to the cross of Jesus.  We can’t have one without the other.  For in this wonderful image we are saved by the Grace of God.

The gorge no longer has any power to hold me separate from God.  It has been conquered by the only One who could.

His name is Jesus, and He came to save us.

Hallelujah!

 

Gorge

 

Relocate: Nazareth to Bethlehem

relocationYes, there are many reasons people relocate their residences.  They move to be closer to their families.  They move to take on a new employment opportunity.  They move for a change of scenery.  People move.  People change.  In the case of Joseph and Mary, they really had no choice.  Based on an edict from the reigning Caesar (Augustus), Joseph and Mary walked the 70 miles or so from Nazareth to Bethlehem to be counted, and pay the census tax.

We’ve dreamed up a pretty good story, that makes for a great children’s tale, but perhaps a look at the facts will help us some here.  The story of Jesus’ birth is told in Matthew’s and Luke’s gospel records.  Neither of them mention where Jesus was born, just that it wasn’t in the Inn, because the owner didn’t have any more room.  He wasn’t evil, he wasn’t being rude, he didn’t have a hidden agenda… there just wasn’t any more room.

Manger is the Greek word phatné (fat’-nay… φάτνη) and it translates into English, “feeding trough.”  The fact is that these troughs are found anywhere animals are sheltered or kept.  It could have been a stable, a lean-to, or a cave.  The bible doesn’t say where Mary gave birth, only that she wrapped the baby Jesus up, and laid him to rest in a feed trough.

We like the image of the crèche we’ve grown comfortable with, including the different figurines in the story.  However, the moment of Jesus birth is held as a very private matter and closely guarded secret.  The Bible doesn’t describe hovering angels, stinky shepherds, or wise men in attendance.  All those elements came afterward.  The Bible doesn’t describe God’s voice from heaven.  The Bible implies that it was Joseph, Mary, and the smelly, noisy animals holed up for the night, and a feed trough.  In my mind, representing the most primitive conditions on earth for a young girl to give birth to the Savior of the world.

By the decree of the Emperor, Joseph and Mary left the comfort of their home in Nazareth, traveled 70 hard miles relocating in Bethlehem just in time to deliver the child.  In Luke 9:58 it says, “The Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head...” This was never more true than at the moment of His birth, when Mary laid his head (body) in the smelly trough the animals ate out of.

Why?

Because… “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”  Philippians 2:6-7

Jesus relocated from Heaven to Earth, by way of Nazareth to Bethlehem, to accomplish a single task.

“By bearing our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.” 1 Peter 2:24

We, through His great love and life, relocate from darkness to light, from death to life.

This is the Relocation story of Christmas.

Relocate

 

Sparkle: Don’t Blink

Woods returns 11-30-17

For those with even the slightest amount of moral balance, it’s easy to look at Tiger Wood’s fall in the world of professional golf, and judge the man harshly.  Tiger has struggled over the last few years on and off the golf course, and many, including Golf Channel host Frank Nobilo, didn’t want Tiger to come back to the PGA competitively.  And we all know that one round of golf doesn’t make a season or a career, yet, Tiger played yesterday at Albany like the Tiger of old.

At times his game sparkled like the sun beating off the clouds in this image.  Like the #2 iron he striped from 269 yards to within 25 feet of the hole.  Other times, chipping for instance, well let’s just say there’s still some work to do, huh?

Love him or hate him, we can all learn some things from the very public roller coaster ride we’ve been on watching Tiger Wood’s life.  I mean, we often learn through our on mistakes or successes, but all too often miss the lessons from someone else’s mistakes and successes.  And with Tiger, there’s lots to learn.

Here’s one thing, accepting that Tiger isn’t perfect isn’t very hard for any of us.  But, accepting that Jesus Christ died for Tiger’s SIN, just like he died for yours and mine, is just so hard for some folks to choke down.  Take a moment and let that sink in, because it has implications you might not have considered.

Since Jesus died for all Sin, for all humanity, did that not include Tiger Woods?

Spending some time in chapter 5 of Paul’s letter to the church in Rome will help you understand this better, but for now just consider the concept of reconciliation, in Colossians chapter 1:20…through Him to reconcile all things to Himself, having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him, I say, whether things on earth or things in heaven.

What Jesus did on the cross for me, he did for Tiger Woods.  If I was reconciled to God at the moment of Jesus’ death on the cross, so was Tiger Woods.  If through this act I can move from death to life in Jesus Christ, so can Tiger Woods.

When you look at the man, Tiger Woods, do you see a low-life womanizer, drug user, foul-mouthed professional athlete who is beyond redemption?  Take another look in the mirror, we’re the same in God’s eyes.  Yet, because of the great love of God, Jesus reconciled us all to Himself, and to God.

Is Tiger Woods saved?  Not that I can see.  There is no evidence that he has received or accepted this great gift of reconciliation, or sees any need to do so.

So, here is the final thing to learn.  And we really need to get this.  It is not Tiger’s foul-mouth, past marital sins, or drug and alcohol abuse that will cause him to suffer at the wrath of God.  The one thing, the only thing, that will condemn any man, including Tiger, is to refuse to accept God’s free offer of grace, found only in Jesus Christ.

We are all reconciled through Jesus.  We are not all saved, until we individually choose (on God’s terms) to receive his gift of life.

Tiger’s back.  Good for him.  I love to watch his ball-striking brilliance.

One day, Jesus will be back.  Tiger better figure it out before He comes, because by then, it will be too late.

In the sparkling twinkle of an eye, Jesus will return.

Be ready.

Sparkle