Leave a comment

Shepherds

Where are we going? Come and see.

Didn’t you see the sky light up just to the south? Just a two leagues down the road toward Tekoa.

I tend my sheep with a band of shepherds. We migrate from hillside to valley all around Jerusalem. My home is further north near Bethel, but we move our flocks often, always looking for the best pastures.

Our flock numbers about six hundred this time of year. In a few short months we will be selling off the best of them to the temple merchants for Passover. Meanwhile we have to keep them out of trouble. If they’re injured, or marred in any way, the temple merchants won’t buy them. We get a much better price for the lambs used for sacrifice than we would from those who want their wool, and even less from the butchers.

Some despise shepherds, or simply mock us. Some consider us lower than slaves. Often I receive less honor than the sheep I tend. But not tonight! I am still working through it in my mind.

Have you ever stepped out of total darkness, a cave or windowless stable, into the full light of day? That’s what it was like tonight as we set our nightly watch.

Of course it’s rarely completely dark on the Judean hillside. The Almighty One set such an array of lights in the sky. Sometime I think He did it just for us shepherds. As I look into the stars, I remember God’s promise to Father Abraham. God told him to count the stars. I’ve tried that. The longer I look, the more seem to appear.

Even though the night was clear, moon shining and stars in their full glory, the brightness that lit the hillside washed it all away. It was brighter than the full sun of noonday. You can image the terror I felt. I was fully awake, part of me ready to fight and part of me ready to run.

A man stood in the midst of the field and called to us.

“Don’t be afraid.”

That’s easy for Him to say, but I began moving closer.

“I’m here to announce a great and joyful event that is meant for everybody, worldwide:”

With every step toward this being, I sensed peace. This is not danger. I don’t know what it is, but it’s not danger.

“A Savior has just been born in David’s town, a Savior who is Messiah and Master. This is what you’re to look for: a baby wrapped in a blanket and lying in a manger.”

David’s town? He must be talking about Bethlehem, where King David was born, that shepherd turned King of Israel.

At that, the brightness that surrounded us started to materialize into an army of angels, thousands on every side. No – not an army – a choir. The hillside rang out with the all the voices of heaven singing,

“Glory to God in the heavenly heights,

Peace to all men and women on earth who please him.”

And then it was dark, all but one light to the north.

Now I know the stars, and this was new. It looked as though the heavenly host that surrounded us minutes before had moved up to Bethlehem.

That’s where we’re now. Won’t you come and see this Messiah, this Savior with us?

If you missed the other Friday Fiction Christmas posts check them out here:

Introduction

Simeon

Anna

Zachariah

Leave a comment

GF Handel’s Messiah – Lyrics

Originally posted on Another Red Letter Day:

Messiah Score

This work of music and scripture moves me every time I listen to it. The words come directly from the scriptures and tell the wonderful story of the incarnation of the Word of God, and walk through His death and resurrection.

I hope over these next few days you will take a bit of time and look over these words and let them minster to your spirit. I am considering interspersing them with the opening of presents tomorrow as we celebrate with our family.

May God bless each of you as you turn your heart toward Him.

Ben NelsonMerry Christmas

Ben

=============================

Messiah (HWV 56)[1] is an English-language oratorio composed in 1741 by George Frideric Handel, with a scriptural text compiled by Charles Jennensfrom the King James Bible, and from the Psalms included with the Book of Common Prayer (which are worded slightly differently from…

View original 2,207 more words

5 Comments

Six Myths about the Wisemen

It’s almost Christmas and I am prepping to preach on the 28th about the wise men. It’s probably the most miss-told part of the Christmas story. Sometimes I wonder if folks take the time to read the Bible account at all, by the way we tell this story. But I’m not here to rant today. I simply going to align a few facts to the only gospel account we have of these folks.

Spoiler Alert – The following may make you want to go out and get new Christmas cards.

So here are 6 myths about the wise men that we should re-think.

Myth 1: The wise men worshiped at the manger. In fact the wise men showed up after the birth of Christ, and met Him “in the house” (Matthew 2:11)

Myth 2: The wise men worshipped baby Jesus. In fact they showed up as much as two years after the birth of Christ. Herod asks very pointedly when the star appeared, and then later kills all the children in Bethlehem under the age of two. In the account in Matthew 2:8 Jesus is referred to as a child, not an infant, or baby, as He is in Luke 2:12.

Myth 3 & 4: They were kings from the orient. They were probably not from what we would now call Asia and were not kings. The famous Christmas carol calls them Kings of Orient, but this word ‘magi’ refers to they kind of folks Daniel and his friends met in Babylon. In fact the word is not a Greek word, but more likely Babylonian in origin, and points back to a word used by Jeremiah to describe Nebuchadnezzar’s chief councilors. The only other time the word shows up in the New Testament is in Acts 13 where Barnabas and Saul (Paul) meet Elymas the magician.

My guess (yes – guess) is that they were students or scholars of astronomy or perhaps students of religions from Babylon who would have studied the history of Israel from documents that nation stole when they raided the temple, and from wisdom gleaned when Daniel was put in charge of the lot of them during his captivity.

Myth 5: There were likely more than three in the party that traveled to Israel. We get three because there are three gifts enumerated, but we really don’t get a number. Even if they came in on camels dressed like we dress our kids in Christmas pageants, they probably would not have stirred the whole city up. If however a caravan of dozens or even hundreds descended on Jerusalem, it may have put the city in a bit of an uproar.

Myth 6: If they came from the east (vs 1) and they saw the star in the east (vs 2) they didn’t follow the star to Jerusalem. My guess (yep – there I go again) is that they discerned from their learning that this star was the star had something to do with Israel, so they went to Jerusalem. There they learned they needed to go to Bethlehem and in Bethlehem the star did guide them.

Hey – I could be wrong about all of this, but I encourage you to read the account found in the pages of your Bible (or at BlueLetterBible.com) and check it out for yourself. I don’t begrudge anyone a Christmas pageant, but the true story has plenty of drama and mystery without making stuff up.

Here’s the story from Matthew 2 in the NASB – enjoy – if you still can.

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2 “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:

6 ‘AND YOU, BETHLEHEM, LAND OF JUDAH,
ARE BY NO MEANS LEAST AMONG THE LEADERS OF JUDAH;
FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME FORTH A RULER
WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’”

7 Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” 9 After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way.

Hope I didn’t break Christmas for you.

BenHave a great holiday!

Walk in the light.

Ben

5 Comments

From Maiden to Mother ~ SoS Saturday

Many Waters - SoS headerFrom Maiden to Mother ~ SoS Saturday

Here we stand with the onlookers gazing at Christ’s beautiful bride.

How beautiful are your feet in sandals,
O prince’s daughter!
The curves of your hips are like jewels,
The work of the hands of an artist.
Your navel is like a round goblet
Which never lacks mixed wine;
Your belly is like a heap of wheat
Fenced about with lilies.
Your two breasts are like two fawns,
Twins of a gazelle.

Song of Songs 7:1-3 NASB

What we observe in this mature Bride – Christ’s dearest companion – is first and foremost her ability to bring forth life and nurture it.

When Christ looks on His bride, He sees her from the heart – a heavenly view of her devotion to Him. [Song of Songs 4:1-3] When others look on her beauty, they see her activities first and are drawn in to her character as they gaze more deeply.

We looked at the place of her beautiful, sandaled feet and their role in seeking and saving the lost. But her ability to bring life does not stop with her sharing of the good news.

In today’s fashion scene we’ve been trained to despise hips. When my parents were in their prime, the shape of a woman’s body would often be compared to an hourglass – today the image makers want us shooting for test tubes. All curves are unsightly in this century.

And perhaps I’m connecting dots where they don’t really connect, but with the advent of ‘hip-less’ woman there is an overwhelming increase in C-section babies. It seems to me that a woman with no hips is one who may struggle with Child birth.

[Please hear me, I am not saying there is anything wrong with C-section child birth when needed and appropriate – it’s a miracle of modern medicine – but as with much of modern medicine, I feel it’s over used.]

OK – so it doesn’t say she had huge hips – but her hips were in fact a feature of her beauty, not a disgrace passed on to her by bad genes.

And in the Song’s imagery, the beauty of the bride’s hips hint at her ability to bear children.

Much of today’s evangelism ends up in the womb of the church, but never sees the light of day. As Jesus taught in the parable of the soils, if we see evangelism as the scattering of seed, we know that some seed never bears fruit.

What we read in the Song today is the description of a woman who is well suited to bring forth a child and nurture it.

With her feet she carries this good news.

Her hips give he the ability to bear this child to full term. She does not scatter seed and abandon it on the path.

The word rendered belly is just as often interpreted as womb. Once this bride has conceived, she is a safe place for life to grow.

Breasts in the Song speak of beauty and nurture. Again, this child will come to full term, and she if prepared to nurture those she brings forth with the milk of the word.

In short – the beauty described here is in her ability to make disciples.

The founder of the Navigators, Dawson Trotman wrote a pamphlet that has been used by that organization for decades. It’s entitled “Born to Reproduce.” It is tagged with this quote:

A passionate call to maturity, spiritual reproduction and spiritual parenting to help fulfill the Great Commission.

Here’s a link to a PDF copy. It’s a call, not just to evangelism but to spiritual parenting. It’s only 16 pages and I encourage you to give it a read through.

One of the first things God told Adam and Eve was

Be fruitful and multiply … – Genesis 1:22 NASB

Jesus’ first call to the disciples was:

Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men. – Matthew 4:19 NASB

And His last call was like it:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age. – Matthew 28:19-20 NASB

Today, my observation of this bride leads me to this call – ready yourself to bear and raise spiritual children.

This Song is about, at it’s core, spiritual intimacy with the Lord Jesus. By the wonderful and loving design of our Creator – intimacy leads to reproduction. [tweet this]

Lord, help me walk in this revelation. Help me open my heart to those who so desperately need to know you. Help me be a safe place for them to incubate. Help me be a nurturer to those who need milk. Help me be a godly, spiritual parent making disciples who will make disciples.

Ben NelsonI sense the conviction of the Holy Spirit resting on this today. I know I am convicted.

Are you?

Ben

4 Comments

Joseph

Have you ever been so angry you could not think about anything else? Every time you try to do your work, you find your mind going back to your anger like your tongue looks for a chipped tooth.

That’s where it all started for me.

That first afternoon, after Mary came to my shop and told me she was pregnant, I ruined two chairs and had to start over on an order that was already late.

At first I could only feel pain – hurt – cut to the core, then betrayed, but in short order it all turned to anger.

I thought about the law. I wouldn’t be the first good Jew to accuse his betrothed and turn her over to the council for punishment. But the law was so harsh, public stoning. I didn’t have it in me to do that to Mary. My mind painted a picture of the two of us standing alone in the market square, me with stone in hand, and her on her knees, praying for mercy. Then I was weeping. I was fond of her. Had you asked me that morning, I would have said I loved her, but with this – this – betrayal – I didn’t know what to think.

My trade is carpentry, and I take pride in my workmanship. When I commit to having a table and chairs ready for the Sabbath, I have it ready.

The afternoon she came to me and told me that – well – unbelievable story about an angel and a visitation by the Holy One Himself – I couldn’t keep my mind on my work. The anger rose and I smashed my thumb, and then smashed the chair leg I was turning.

It took me all night to finish that last chair for the set. It was already the fifth day and Ari Bentamas would be here to pick up his order at the third hour.

I finally got it right just before dawn. I always test each chair by sitting in them. I feel for places where the chair presses or pokes uncomfortably, check to see if it wobbles. When I landed in the fourth chair, my fatigue won me over, and I fell into a dream.

In the dream, I was back in the square, again with a stone the size of a man’s fist in my grip. This time there was a mob watching me on both sides, as though I was the only one with a stone. They called out to me.

“Kill her.”

“Kill the harlot.”

“She deserves to die.”

“She betrayed you.”

“She betrayed the Almighty One.”

The were spitting vile names at her too.

“Whore”

“Filth”

“Jezebel”

Then, in the dream, someone walked up from behind me and stood at my side. He put his hand on the stone in my hand, and that was when I turned and looked at him. He was radiant. He began to speak, saying,

“Joseph, son of David, don’t hesitate to get married. Mary’s pregnancy is Spirit-conceived. God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant. She will bring a son to birth, and when she does, you, Joseph, will name him Jesus—‘God saves’—because he will save his people from their sins.”

I awoke to a banging on my shop door. The sun was up and Ari had arrived to pick up his table and chairs. As I helped him load them into his cart, I thought about my dream.  This was no fleeting dream that vanished like a vapor as I awoke. I could still hear his voice – the voice of that angel – ‘God’s Holy Spirit has made her pregnant.’

As soon as I got Ari loaded, I closed up shop and headed to see the Rabi.

Seeing me at his door at that hour startled him, but when he saw my excitement he invited me in.

“What can I do for you my son?” he asked.

I decided to get right to it.

“Isn’t there something in the Prophets about a virgin being with child?” I asked.

He pondered this a bit, and then went over to his scrolls.

“It seems to me there is something near the beginning of Isaiah’s prophesies that mentions such a thing. Let me see. It was after Isaiah found himself in the throne room of the Lord Almighty.

Ah here it is. It’s just a brief mention. I never really thought about it, but it says,

‘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.'”

I said, “Thank you teacher,” and hugged the startled elder. Then I ran out of his house.

I ran straight to Mary’s home and banged on the door. It took everything in me just to stand still while a waited for it to open. The Lord God was using Mary and me to bring His own Messiah to His people.

When she came to the door I picked her up and spun her around on the steps.

“He came and told me too! It’s all true. I’m sorry I doubted you. The Lord is so wonderful.”

She began to cry. I began to cry. We were laughing and crying and dancing.

God has taken the worst thing that could imagine, and brought me my greatest joy. That hurt that I thought would kill me has turned to life and hope.

What a day. What a wonderful day.

If you missed the other Friday Fiction Christmas posts check them out here:

Introduction

Simeon

Anna

Zachariah

5 Comments

Remembering Forgetfulness

The world does not consider that God remembers.

And they do not consider in their hearts
That I remember all their wickedness.
Now their deeds are all around them;
They are before My face.

Hosea 7:2 NASB

Sadly those who don’t know our wonderful Lord go day unto day outside the wide open doors of His grace. God is not willing that any should die without the restoration He offers, His wonderful Christmas gift – Jesus.

Will you lay down the weapons of your warfare against the One who loved you from the day He formed you?

The Church does not consider that God forgets.

He will again have compassion on us;
He will tread our iniquities under foot.
Yes, You will cast all their sins
Into the depths of the sea

Micah 7:19 NASB

Sadly many inside those doors hold on to their guilt and shame. They still approach their Father as if they have offended Him and He holds His anger toward them.

Will you allow the One who bore your sin and carried your sorrows to walk with you today. He so wants you to remember that He forgets – and does not hold your sin against you. He wants to be close to you today. He took the sin out of the way, and you keep sticking it right back between you. Let Him get close. Let His forgetfulness close the gap.

BenWalk with Jesus today.

Blessings,

Ben

7 Comments

What they didn’t know…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It’s getting close to Christmas, and so like a good Christian I am mucking around in the Christmas story a bit. Don’t get me wrong. I love these passages. The incarnation is a huge deal!

Anyway, I’ve come across this reference and thought I’d dig around this a bit.

“OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.” – Matthew 2:15

I wanted to go back to the original prophecy. Now we know that God called His son Israel out of Egypt, and this idea is floated a few times in the scripture. But this quotes actually comes from  to Hosea, and this passage moved me.

When Israel was a youth I loved him,
And out of Egypt I called My son.
The more they called them,
The more they went from them;
They kept sacrificing to the Baals
And burning incense to idols.
Yet it is I who taught Ephraim to walk,
I took them in My arms;
But they did not know that I healed them.
I led them with cords of a man, with bonds of love,
And I became to them as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws;
And I bent down and fed them.

Hosea 11:1-4

Isn’t this beautiful?

Here’s the part that has pushing it’s way into my heart all day:

But they did not know that I healed them.

Psalm 107:20 says “I sent My Word and healed them.”

How sad.

Is true in the World today?

It’s been two thousand years since His stripes have healed all who would come. I don’t care if you take this healing as physical, spiritual, emotional, or how you see it. It is finished! And yet…

Men and women are living lives captive to sin.

Men and women are living lives with broken hearts.

Men and women are still dying without any hope.

Billions live as if the year were 2000 BC

Is true in the Church today?

But the really sad thing is how we Christians live as if we have not been healed.

As if we are still under the curse of sin.

As if we don’t have any hope of living the life He’s called us to.

As if we could not obey Him if we tried.

As if He is angry with us everyday.

As if we were still under the curse.

…they didn’t know I healed them.

If you are in Christ today – you are a new creation – saved, deliver, healed and free to worship, love and  serve the One who says of you… [please add your name and read this aloud – really it will help]

When ________ was a youth I loved him/her,
And out of Egypt [the world] I called My son/daughter.

Yet it is I who taught _________ to walk,
I took _________ in My arms;
But he/she did not know that I healed him/her.
I led _________ with cords of a man, with bonds of love,
And I became to __________ as one who lifts the yoke from their jaws;
And I bent down and fed _________.

I feel better now – how about you?

nora and papa at the table, benThanks for stopping by.

Have a blessed holiday.

Ben

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 8,759 other followers

%d bloggers like this: