The Christmas Story

The Christmas Story

The story of the birth of Jesus as told in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month.  For no word from God will ever fail.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:26-38

This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Matthew 1:18-25

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

Luke 2:1-21

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him.”

After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 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, frankincense and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

Matthew 2:1-12

Into the Unknown

Into the Unknown

Yeah, to every parent out there, you are welcome for that ear worm. If you don’t know what I am talking about…be grateful. It has been an interesting couple of weeks. My family and I just returned from a month in Virginia. It was the first time I had been back on my native soil in over fifteen years and while everything looked familiar, everything and everyone had definitely changed. For the months that proceeded our trip east I had struggled with whether or not to even go but every time I would say no, I felt God saying yes. Driving our rig through the West Virginia mountains and crossing the state line into the state that had been my home for most of my childhood felt like coming home even though I also felt that I no longer belonged there.

Over the next month I visited people and places that were close to my heart and at every step I heard God’s voice saying “Remember who you are.” Okay, okay I know someone out there is saying, “isn’t that what Mufasa said to Simba” and yes it is. About halfway through the month I looked up those words and that’s when I saw the scene from Lion King. Now that I am back home and sitting here typing those words I am hearing James Earl Jones voice in my memory. However, hand on the Bible, that is what I kept hearing. My wife and I sat at the table over a cup of coffee every night talking about what God was doing. Think of spending a month just having your past stirred up and God standing there continually telling you to look at it. The good, the bad, the painful and the joyful all mixed together giving you a view of who you were and who you have become. That was my month back home.

I think even my wife learned things about me because over those evening coffees I would tell her about the places that I had pointed out that day. Places where my life, to that point, was destroyed, moments where the trajectory of my life suddenly and sometimes painfully changed. But every place, every moment, every action and every decision led me to the life that I am living now. One of those places was a driveway in front of a home that my family lived in. As I looked at the house, that held a new family now, I could see myself standing in the middle of that old gravel driveway holding a rejection letter in one hand, wiping away tears with the other and believing my future was gone. The driveway that painfully closed the door on a future that I had prepared for my entire childhood opened the door to the life I now lead, the wife that I fall deeper in love with everyday, the children that are the lights of my life and the eyes that show me a world that I have forgotten, and the mentors that have taught me more than I could ever have imagined.

Another day I sat in my grandparents’ home that had been the only place that never changed. As my parents moved more than I ever did in the military, my grandparents’ home was a haven, a place that never changed and always felt like a second home. Even though the walls were now a different color and the furniture had changed it was still the same house, it was still the same home, the memories were there. As I sat in the den, I saw myself growing up and changing as my world changed around me. All of those years, all of those memories held in this one place and I heard every one of them telling me the same thing. Remember who you are.

So I did and I started by remembering a scripture that God had given me at a very young age. Over the years, I have called it my life scripture and it and has been on my heart every day since it was given to me.

“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as an [inspired man] to the nations.”

Jeremiah 1:5

If you do not know already, the Holy Bible has been translated from primarily from Hebrew (Old Testament) and Greek (New Testament) and one of the chief problems with translating is the language that is being translated into, in this case English, does not have enough words to properly convey what is being said. I bracketed “inspired man” in the scripture above because the word prophet is used there but it does not convey the proper sentiment in this scripture. In the original Hebrew there are three words generally used for the word prophet: Nabi, Roeh and Hozeh. As I understand it, the prophets that have the ability to see or perceive things that are to come are the Roeh and the Hozeh. The Hebrew word used for prophet in Jeremiah 1:5 is Nabi. Nabi quite literally translates “to bubble up” and one that the Spirit of God stirs up. A Nabi is an announcer and revealer of God that cannot help declaring the truth of the Lord.

As anyone who knows me can attest, when I get to talking about the Lord I get more and more excited and I begin to just speak the truth of the word. It gets me excited and I love finding and telling new truths found in the Word of God. When we were back home I would start speaking about God’s truth and I noticed that I would begin teaching and preaching. It was not intentional but it was that spirit that God put within me and calling that God put on my life all of those years ago. Even now I can feel my spirit bubbling up and my typing keeps speeding up as I get excited about what God has instore for the future.

One thing was very apparent as I took a journey through my past, we cannot see where God is taking us until we get there. Going home forced me to spend some time looking at where I came from, who I was, who I am and where God is taking me next. I started this by telling you that I didn’t want to go back home but now that I am home in Missouri I am so glad that I did. Virginia is where God first called me, it is where I took my first steps both physically and spiritually. This trip was a time to remember who God called me to be and to remember where I have been but now it is time to take those first few steps into the unknown. Wanna join me?

I thank anyone reading these words and I apologize for spending so much time away. I have spent the last year resting both my mind and my spirit. In this I spoke about how I went home and remembered who God made me to be and part of that was feeling the urging to get out there and start speaking the truth both through this media as well as to begin recording videos, podcasts, etc. talking about God’s truth and discipleship. As I have been alluding to over the past year I have been working on taking the Biblical Basics curriculum that I used in my Sunday School at South Fairbanks Assembly of God and translating it into a video series and podcast to go out and help others to learn the basic fundamental truths of Christianity. Thank you for your continued support and all blessings to you and yours.

The Truth is the Truth

The Truth is the Truth

Earlier this week I was driving home struggling with the latest news that was coming across the radio. As many of you can identify with this year, I have been surrounded by the news of everything with little to no reprieve. Politics of the day are no longer relegated to the old men sitting on the porch. It is on the tv, in movies, in music, in sports, essentially around every corner and on every newsfeed. The biggest problem with all of this is that we are overloaded with so much information that it is hard, near impossible, to filter it all and sort fact from fiction. Personally, I have always prided myself on being able to do my own research and try to get to the bottom of every story. This requires me to read the perspectives of both sides of an issue/situation and then research all of the points of contention to find where I fall on the issue or what the probable truth of the situation is. The problem of late is that there are so many situations and issues being discussed in the public sphere, not to mention, blatant lies and misrepresentations of facts that it is often times difficult to find the ever shifting bottom. So in this world of ever shifting narratives how does a follower of Christ find there way.

The short answer, Jesus.

“Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”

Matthew 14:27

In Matthew 14:22-33, the story starts with the disciples getting in a boat to cross a lake but finding rough waters and winds so strong that these men, fishermen, meaning most of them had grown up on the water, they were all on edge to the point that they were all terrified when they first saw Jesus thinking that he was a ghost. Mind you this was after Jesus had calmed the storm when he was on the boat, Matthew 8:23-27. So here are these men, scared out of their minds and Jesus says “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid”(v. 27). Peter then asks if it truly Jesus then tell me to come out to you. We all know the story that Jesus tells him to come, Peter starts to walk out to Jesus but sees the situation that now surrounds him, takes his eyes off of Jesus, becomes afraid and then begins to sink. Peter cries out “Lord, save me!”(v. 30) and the scriptures say IMMEDIATELY Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. Jesus then looked at Peter and asked “why did you doubt?”(v. 31). The two then walked back to the boat and climbed in.

“Why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:31

“Why did you doubt?” Those words rang like a church bell in my head. Currently we are walking through a time in history where the winds a constantly changing and blowing stronger every day. The ground beneath us might seem like the waves that Peter was walking across. We are looking around and crying to the Lord, SAVE US! Now, don’t get me wrong, Jesus will always reach out to catch us and pull us back up if we ask him but those words, “why did you doubt?” are just cutting me to the core. We do not have to be afraid of the changing winds because God is ultimately in control of history and is in the middle of it with us saying “Come” (v. 29).

I titled this post, “The Truth is the Truth” because of the easiest way to cast out all doubt, the truth. When Jesus asked why did you doubt he was asking why Peter doubted the truth. Not a truth, not Peter’s truth but the truth of who Jesus is. If Jesus is God in flesh as John describes him in John chapter 1 then why would you doubt the truth of God protecting you if Jesus told you to come to him. Let that breath a little and let’s digress for a moment. As every Christian should know, Jesus has and is calling us to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). I think we would all agree that most Church’s know and teach the first part of the Great Commission. We pour countless dollars into missions and have evangelists all over the nation bringing souls into the kingdom everyday, which don’t in any way get me wrong is great. 2 Peter 3:9 states that God “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” so I am fully on board with everything that the Church is currently doing but I think we, myself included, sometimes overlook the second part of the Great Commission.

“Teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you”

Matthew 28:30

“Teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you” (v. 30). This is discipleship. In John 8:31-32, Jesus says “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” Jesus knows that if we learn his teachings and ground ourselves in the truth then no matter what is around us we are able to walk through it. A couple chapters later in John 14:6, Jesus explains what the truth is by saying “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” This is easy to understand if you look back at the first chapter of John and read that Jesus is the Word, or logos in the Greek, of God. If we learn the truth and know the truth that is Christ Jesus then we are free from the fear and uncertainty of this world. We do not have to doubt that Jesus is leading us through the waves and winds of this life and we will never have to sink into the darkness of this world. But, if you do, just remember all you have to do is cry out, as Peter did, “Lord, save me!” (v. 30) and IMMEDIATELY Jesus will reach out and catch you.

Right now, I am working on a Discipleship series that will teach the Basics of Christianity starting with “The Importance of the Bible”. Each lesson will have a video presentation and notes to help you understand the basic truth and be able to teach others. Special note: every one of these lessons will be completely free and will be available to everyone. If, and only if, you feel led to support myself and Vectored Media in the creation and distribution of these materials then there will be a place to partner with us on the Vectored Media website. Thank you for all of the support that has been sent my way and I look forward to what God has for all of us as we continue to follow His calling.

Fearless in a Fearful World

Fearless in a Fearful World

Look to your left…look to your right…there seems to be danger everywhere. Whether it is a world wide pandemic, riots that are burning cities to the ground or human trafficking at the highest levels of our society it seems to have no end this year. The year 2020 has become a meme in that you are forbidden from saying that it “can’t get any worse” for fear that the year will prove you wrong. Then I saw a light, I saw Christians standing and speaking the truth of “Fear Not”. “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

I saw God moving, I saw people becoming strengthened but then something happened that I did not expect. Governors of states in a country that was founded on the principle of religious liberty banned church gatherings using the covering of a pandemic. Now let me say, in the beginning of this pandemic I believed that it was a good practice for pastors to do as much as possible to protect their congregations. If they had the ability to move services online or have parking lot services then I thought that was a good thing. However, that is a pastor’s and congregation’s decision not a government official’s.

Then I saw a group…Now let me define what I mean by a group. I call them just a group because I believe that they are made up of many groups that all have the same agenda of “submit or else” or in other words “bend the knee to us”. That being said, I saw a group come on the scene and begin to attack everything that did not conform to their worldview and idea of utopia. Churches across the United States have been vandalized and burned. Recently, the Bible has become the target of their ire and scenes of Bibles being burned are seen on social media and news stations.

So what do we do now. Honestly, it is time for some peaceful protesting like Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. But be ready for the consequences that go with that. The story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is told in Daniel 3 and I encourage you to go and read the account even if you remember the story. It is one of those “Wow Stories” of the Bible. In short, three men of God refuse to bow to political pressure and are thrown into the fire, literally, only to walk out of the fire untouched because of the protection of God around them.

A few days ago, I saw a video of a person running up to people and yelling at them to apologize and bow to their ideology. I saw people at a church yelling at the congregation and cursing the God we serve. I see politicians closing churches and synagogues in different cities across the nation. I could go on but I think you can get the point that the choice is once again being given to the people of God to bow to the pressure of this world or stand for God. In Ephesians 6:13, the Scriptures tell us that “after you have done everything, to stand.”

In the story that has become known as “Daniel and the Lions’ Den” that is in Daniel 6. Daniel is confronted by a law that says that if he prays to anything other than the King Darius then he will be thrown in a den of lions. Unlike before this is a law that other politicians have drafted up with a punishment attached. Undeterred Daniel continues to pray to God and God alone three times a day. When Daniel is reported on the king is left no choice but to follow through and follow the punishment prescribed by law. Again, like in Daniel 3 with Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, God’s protection is at work and Daniel is kept safe even in an extremely dangerous place and situation.

I do not expect things to get better. As I said in the beginning, 2020 is a meme of how bad things can get but God is more powerful. God’s protection has been surrounding His people since the very beginning. Empires have risen and fallen and political views shift but God and His truth remain steadfast. ““In the time of those kings, the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be destroyed, nor will it be left to another people. It will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end, but it will itself endure forever” (Daniel 2:44).

“You are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light” (1 Peter 2:9). Remember who you are. Remember that God goes with you, that His truth lights your way. In these times of darkness we are to declare His truth and proclaim the Gospel. When they command us to stop praying, we pray more fervently. When they command us to stop singing and praising Him we worship that much louder. When they tell us to bow to them, we stand for God and proclaim God’s love through the sacrifice of His son Jesus.

P.S. One of my favorite scriptures is 2 Peter 3:9 and I always try to remember it. Every time hate or unforgiveness try to rise up within me I quote this scripture, over and over, and remember that God does not anyone, not one, not a single one person, ever, to perish but He wants everyone to come to repentance. “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

100 Percent Failure

100 Percent Failure

When I went to Florida recently my wife and I listened to Mike Rowe’s new book “The Way I Heard It“. Apart from it being a great book in the style of Paul Harvey’s “Rest of the Story…” I walked away from the book with a concept rattling around in my head that I can’t shake…You fail at 100% of the things that you never try. It’s a simple concept that I have heard all my life and I am sure you have heard it too. How many times have we been told that you miss 100% of the pitches that you never swing at? Growing up I had a pastor that would preach about needing to get into the batter’s box instead of sitting on the sidelines.

One of my favorite encounters in the Bible is between Moses and God at the burning bush found in Exodus chapter 3&4. Many of us like to think of Moses as the hero of the story that just went to Egypt stood before Pharaoh and exclaimed “Let my people go.” That did happen eventually but the encounter at the burning bush shows a man that did not want to do what God wanted him to. Moses kept coming up with excuse after excuse why he was the wrong choice trying to convince God, you know the creator all knowing God, that he knew better. Moses starts with asking who he was to do this great task to which God tells him that He will be with him, essentially telling Moses, “Trust me, I know what I am doing.” Moses then goes through a list of what ifs and hypotheticals that God patiently answers by giving Moses both answers and showing him signs and wonders that God will use to convince the people and Pharaoh. Finally Moses points out his flaws in an attempt to get out of his calling. Once again God answers Moses’ concerns.

I know I have looked at this encounter and chuckled a few times both because it hits close to home. For the past two years I have been asking many of the same questions and I know that God has been patiently answering every concern. Like Moses I am quick to point out all of my flaws to try and get God to move to the next person down the line. I will admit that I am afraid of failure but I just as afraid of success. Like Moses, if I succeed I know that many people will begin to look to me for guidance and think that I have everything together. I can assure you that I am not a perfect man and I will never be one. I am merely a man that is trying to point everyone to God and His son, Jesus.

Yesterday, I was dealing with a massive migraine. For those that have never experienced a migraine the easiest way I can describe them is that the world hurts. Light hurts, sound hurts, movement hurts, everything hurts. As I tried to sleep tonight the pain woke me up and I was lying awake in bed feeling the pain that seems to have no end and in my head I cried out, how can I do this? How can I teach a generation, how can I lead, how can I do any of what you are asking me to do? Look at me God, I can’t even sleep. That’s when I heard the words that I started this post with. You fail at 100% of the things you never try. So I got out of bed, stumbled down to the living room, sat down, grabbed my laptop and started typing. I remembered the book that I recently listened to which led me to one of my favorite passages in the Bible about a man that also struggled with believing he could do the thing that God had called him to do, that God had created him for, that God had prepared him for.

I hope some of this makes sense. If you are reading these words and saying, that this doesn’t apply to me, I can’t do that thing that I have been thinking, nay obsessing, about. Give it a try. Normally I would follow up that with, “what have you got to lose” but that is cliche. There is definitely a chance we will both fail, and in all honesty I am sure I will fail a few times along the way and I am sure you will too but I think at this point we both know we will fail 100 percent of the things we never try. May God bless and keep you as you move forward because I trust He will do the same for me.

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