Scripture reading Matthew 2:1-12
Text: But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel. Matthew 2:6 (NKJV emphasis mine).
We are told King Herod was deeply agitated and troubled by the birth of Jesus. Why, what is going on here? Why is this king who was so feared, shaking with his own fear and rage as the scribes read about the coming of a new kind of ruler? Well, He is a “Shepherd.” A what? A Shepherd? Really? Is this a joke? No, not at all, and Herod seemed to be grasping the danger of a ruler who would “shepherd.” Can you imagine the impact of being cared for, protected and loved by your Ruler? Greater still, what if this love would spill over and capture the hearts of people? They might be willing to surrender their personal kingdoms and lay down their lives for a kingdom larger than “Self?” How dangerous that would be to the “Self-Ruler.” What a concept of a “Ruler,” what a Jesus…what a God!
The “self-ruler” survives purely through repression and fear while the Shepherd-Ruler reigns through relationship and faith. Relationship is powerful. It replaces fear with faith, obligation with dedication, and force with freedom. Perhaps it is because relationship changes the heart while repression can at most control the head. There is a big difference between heart cleansing and brain washing. Changed hearts can really mess up “self kingdom” agendas. Perhaps that is why there is so much effort to eliminate Jesus from government affairs…and individual affairs as well.
Might I share one more observation? Could it be that earthly kingdoms are simply the reflection of individual kingdoms? What if your self-rule were given over the to The Shepherd’s rule? After the Wise Men knelt before Jesus, they were told to not go back to the Herod they had left…and they listened. Wise men and women will do well kneeling before the “Ruler who will shepherd.” I have to tell you though, you may be captured…by His love; and perfect love casts out fear. You likely won’t be going back to the old.
from "Your father's heart"
(Background Scripture Reading - Matthew 2:1-4)
A world shaking and life changing event was unfolding. A King from heaven itself had arrived, a leader on whose shoulders government could actually rest. This leader could bring peace beyond what the world claimed to give, which was external and temporary. His peace would be of the heart and mind, which is internal and eternal. He could do this because He was not only the King, but called the “Prince of Peace,”…what a description! Who in their right mind would not joyfully welcome this leader? What an easy decision it was to support this Man...or was it?
“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.” (Matthew 2:3).
It is apparently not so easy after all is it? The Kingdom of Heaven, and specifically Jesus and His platform, (the Scriptures), is almost always a trouble and threat to the “herods” and the “jerusalems” they trouble or entice into their agenda. Do not be surprised then that Evangelical Christianity, more than any other lifestyle, is seen as politically and socially incorrect. Do not be surprised that if you truly live this lifestyle you will most often be on the wrong side of the kingdoms of this world. This was true in New Testament times, as both the blood of the martyrs down through the ages testify to, and the ridicule if not removal of the things of Jesus today confirm. Governmental “herods” are still seeking to kill Jesus, and they do not care one bit the cost of doing so to society, for these “herods” may bring attempts at control, but only Jesus can bring real change. Yet there is another kind of “herod” to address which is larger than anything mentioned yet.
This larger obstacle to real change is the “herod” of the human heart. Jesus as “King” will likely pose a threat to my own personal kingdom and the “jerusalems” around me. There are only two responses available to me. One, allow the “herod” in me to seek out and eliminate any other “king” but self, and the other, allow the “wise man” in me to seek out the King of Kings and bow down and worship Him. Real change requires an admission that He is Lord, a submission to His love, and a surrender of my life…to fulfill His highest purpose. Now that is change to believe in. What is your response?
Your Father’s Heart with love
They would call Him Immanuel…God with us. This was much more than an appearance, this was an arrival! This was not an appearance in a burning bush. This was not an appearance of a “pillar of fire” in the night sky, nor a cloud by day. He was arriving to live at our location, on our terrain, and in our flesh; the heart of God with skin on. How amazing is that? God was not watching “from a distance,” and contrary to what some thought, He was not beyond or removed from their existence. In fact, He was coming into the middle of their lives…right with them.
This Jesus would walk in regular sandals on dusty roads. He would sit filled with fatigue and thirst at a well, and still refresh a broken, defeated woman with “living” water. No chariots or majestic carriages would hoist and carry Him from place to place. In fact, at His highest earthly moment, he would ride in on a young donkey, not even an adorned majestic horse…not yet, not here, for He was with us. He had come to a much lower level to lift us to a much higher level.
All other world religions have focused on our getting to God. There seems to be no end to the foolish schemes, human philosophies, and spiritual fads that make great claims but produce no change. Immanuel changed millions forever and even the world calendar became centered on His coming.
Christianity was never and must never be only another religion. Christianity is the demonstration of relationship so desired that heaven would come to earth so that we might “know” Him and His Son. He would be emptied so we could be filled. He would be humbled so we could be lifted. He would bleed in order to stop our bleeding; He would die so we could live; and He would be raised so we could be….like Him. Do you have that? Do you “know” Him?
“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23 (NKJV)
Your father's heart
And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:9-11 (NASB)
I cannot imagine how spectacular the scene was that dark night long ago. There is something about being in a field on a clear night that makes every star shine brighter. Even the glimmer of a light far away can be seen. Darkness always makes light appear brighter. Noticeable too is the contrast between standing in the middle of the neon lights of a busy city looking at the sky, and that same sky from the stillness of the country. Visualize if you will the spectacular and even frightful event of an angel suddenly breaking through the night, and then a whole host of angels before your very eyes…why, one could talk about that kind of experience forever. Yet, there is something far, far greater in the narrative in Luke 2 above. It is themessage itself.
How easy it is to be caught up in the spectacular surroundings apart from the message. The person of the “messenger,” the style of the message, the surroundings or atmosphere of the message, and even my own experience can all too often override the message itself. There are four (4) words in Luke 2:11 that are the heart, the excitement, and the content of the message that night when angel and shepherds came face to face. Those words “unto you,” and “a Savior” make the message life changing for those who hear and respond. Many teachers, philosophers, religious experts, and prophets had come and gone. Our need was greater. What I needed….what you needed was a Savior (deliverer). I got one that night…so did you. He was our Savior and He was born unto us and for us so that He could be born in us. That is a priceless Christmas present.
1. What activities surround me in these times that seem to distract me from the real message?
2. What activities Jesus might you desire that will keep me from distractions?
Dear Lord, would you keep me focused not only on the marvel of your speaking, but on the content of your message to me? In your precious Name, amen. From your father's heart
We continue our study on the Blessed Life from the Beatitudes in Matthew 5. We have briefly touched on the “Desire,” the “Definition,” and now Part III, “The Demonstration” of the Blessed Life.
The Demonstration of Blessed: “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” (Mt. 5:3 MKJV). The person moved from spiritual darkness, or from going through the motions of purely religious activity, to a deeper experience in the person of Christ, at first has an unclouded sense of what being blessed is about. They do not quibble about being “poor in spirit” for they now know exactly what Christ was saying. They are tired of the show and sham that comes from being their own God, and welcome the freedom from the worship of self. They find rest in allowing Jesus to be not only their Savior but the Lord in their activity. They experience a rather startling awareness of “whereas I was blind, now I see.” Eventually spiritual cataracts can fog over the initial “wow” of this illumination by the Spirit. In the beginning they know they are “blessed” not for outward and passing success, but rather by an unusual and inward shift of their passions and desires.
Jesus does not present a “how to” program or prescription for achieving happiness, but rather a description of what is birthed and can increasingly grow in the one who has responded in the face to face meeting with the Kingdom of Heaven. This is that meeting which fuses together the relationship with, and the reign of Jesus. You will know when this happens to you. You will be moved from selfishness to selflessness. The road to this description is a narrow one and few will find it according to Jesus. The reason is rather simple; in order to be living in the “Kingdom of Heaven” there must be a relinquishing of competing kingdoms, and a continuing life of response to the One who opened your eyes.
The kingdoms at odds here are strikingly different. One kingdom is based on producing and preserving “wins” for myown life’s trophy room, and that other is based on the production of Him in my life for the pouring out of “wins” onto the world around me. Preservation or pouring is a rather accurate indicator of which kingdom I am living in. Oh yes, there is good news; Jesus did not preach to us that which He did not live out. Jesus has already performed this, so He can live it out in us. Do we have that?
2 Cor. 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, for your sakes He became poor, in order that you might be made rich through His poverty. (MKJV)
From your father's heart (DWJ)
Earlier we wrote on the “Desire For Being Blessed.” Language is powerful and being blessed means different things to different people. What did it mean to Jesus? His words are the most reliable source for that; so we continue on.
Our context for this writing is from Matthew 5:3-12
The Defining of Blessed (focus vs. 3) I cannot tell you how often I hear “I just want to be happy.” Or, “all I care about is that you are happy.” To our world, and all too many professing Christians, happiness is the result of having all “my” emotional, physical, and even spiritual needs met by living in and enjoying all the best external circumstances. Happiness is all too often defined by freedom from any form of trouble or even discomfort. Can you imagine the absolute shock when Jesus opens this great teaching on the hillside with nine, count them, nine points in a row of what being happy really is? What immediately follows the word happy (blessed-GK makarios), seems to be anything but typical happiness. Jesus thrusts the word “happy” into a whole new realm of thought, meaning and ultimately living. The path to being Happy now becomes poor in spirit (surrender of spiritual ego and selfishness), mourning (the damage of all sin on self and others), meekness (His strength in His humility), spiritual hunger and thirst, mercy towards others, purity of heart motives, peacemaking, and receiving persecution and false accusations.
This re-defining of “happy” presents a threatening picture indeed to the person who thrives on the “I or Me” in life. It is in fact a challenge to the professing believer who does not grasp the immense difference between pursuing particularly comfortable circumstances as “blessing,” versus the desire to have His character produced in us in all circumstances. The former is rather common Christianity; the latter is “Kingdom of Heaven” Christianity. There is in Jesus always a “for,” a “so that,” or a “because” that can revolutionize our thinking, and ultimately our living, from that which appalls us to that which amazes us. “Happy (blessed) are the poor in spirit FOR theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 3:5 emphasis/parentheses mine). Unfortunately, many who hear this message quickly become repulsed by the discomfort of it all, and walk away sorrowfully, never knowing and experiencing the other side of the “for.” There are really only two roads; one for those who walk away declaring it is too difficult (John 6:66), and one for those who know there really is no other lasting life, save Him (John 6:68).
From your father's heart with love (DWJ)
(Our background scripture for this writing is Matthew 5:3-11)
The Desire For Being Blessed (an overview): Being blessed seems of great importance to humanity today. It was of paramount importance to Jesus also as “blessed” is the beginning word in the first nine truths He shared from the hills that day that we call the “Sermon on the Mount.” “Blessed are…Blessed are…Blessed are…;” and on He goes. Jesus put forth an entire list for “blessed” which had little or nothing to do with possessions or one’s own external circumstances. It was an amazing and seemingly impossible message. The religious system of the day was being turned upside down. The content and character of life becomes far superior to having circumstances that were trouble free.
Today there continues to be much discussion, teaching and preaching, most of which seems very “me” oriented with regard to being blessed. While it is true that in the Old Testament (and to many now) the primary manifestation of being blessed or happy was the amount of goods you had, your health, the number of descendents, and your rank or position in society, to many, if not most the listeners that day the results of righteousness and obeying God had been measured primarily in visible “prosperity.” Prosperity and popularity was the primary evidence of a spiritually superior person. Jesus presented a dramatic shift that day. Jesus has a way of overturning tables you know.
Jesus took the common thinking and Greek word of His culture for “happy” and elevated it to a far more superior meaning than had ever been attached to it, either in Scripture or in the culture of His day. Jesus has a way of doing that; taking the common and elevating it to an uncommon level. Do not be overly concerned about being simple or common, or even the common around you. It is the creative stuff out of which Jesus can revolutionize your world, and perhaps most importantly, the world around you. St. Francis of Assisi said it something like this; “It is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
From your father's heart with love (DWJ)
Matthew 5:3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (NKJ Thomas-Nelson)
To grasp how contradictory the two halves of this sentence seem is impossible to the fleshly mind. The Greek word for “poor” (ptochos), is the word for beggarly. It is a desperate state of having no resources to operate out of or means of attaining them on our own. There is another state of “almost” poor (penes-Gk) or having little left. The person in that state can have just enough pride and religion left to never find the prize of poverty. They may be in very bad shape, but not bad enough to be thrust into the kingdom of heaven. They are not the people of this passage. Jesus is talking about a total lack of strategies or explanations or resources. Jesus is talking to those who would be bankrupt of all hope in their ability to fix their lives or their circumstances and hunger for change whatever the cost. Now, this is not the kingdom of the average person’s dreams, and certainly not what one thinks of with regard to heavenly living. Yet, Jesus makes them mathematical equals; total poverty of spirit equals (is) the kingdom of heaven.
Recently, though in times past also, I have witnessed people who were devastated by matters, I have been there. I have seen broken, weeping, anxious, depressed and hopeless people who could not contemplate going another day in their desperate condition. BUT…then something (really Someone) happened! Jesus became the only thirst, the only desire and the only goal. Life began to be lived beyond circumstance and in Christ alone. It is not explainable in a “how to” sense when you suddenly are possessed by something, really “Someone,” much larger, much greater than any mere circumstance or your own self. It is a miracle when poverty of self turns into the prize of the high calling of Christ in our lives and all things are summed up in Jesus. Is that not really the kingdom of heaven? And by the way, a kingdom is defined by the King and therefore it is not nearly so much a place as it is a Presence and a Person. This prize of poverty is available only to those who are willing to lose their lives, and be crucified with Him. He must be your only hope for resurrection.
There is one caution, one catch if you will. It is possible to walk away from and thereby lose the state of poverty and thus the kingdom of heaven by being rich in self sufficiency; and what is probably more concerning is that beingalmost poor may be a worse deception than being rich in spirit. It is often the “almost poor” that present themselves as the religious representatives of Jesus and thereby confuse a lost world. Those rich in themselves may be far from His Kingdom but few are confused by them. Arrogance is clear and cold. Lip service religion is foggy and lukewarm. It invites but repels at the same time. Is it possible that this is the reason for a “church” that is sometimes quite ineffective no matter how vocal?
Rev. 3:15 “I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot.
From your father's heart with love (DWJ)
“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.” I Thessalonians 5:24
It is a marvelous thing to be called by Christ into a transformed life. We rejoice, many who observe us rejoice, and heaven rejoices. Jesus will at times give us a glimpse of what we will be when His life dwells in us. This is evident in Jesus’ statement, but I have chosen you and ordained you that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain; John 15:16. It is when we become invested in establishing procedures for living this revelation out, instead of being enthralled with the Person who chose us, that our rejoicing can diminish quickly.
In the ten (10) verses preceding our text, Paul the Apostle has set forth at least a dozen spiritual characteristics or attitudes that are a picture of the life of the believer. Just three of them seem nearly impossible to me. “Rejoice Always….Pray without ceasing…In everything give thanks?” Does Jesus not know my circumstances today? Does He have any idea of the endless necessary tasks? Does He not understand that I am at times weakened and an earthen vessel? BUT, I conclude this is what He expects of me as a called out one and I must prove to Him that I am dependable. Come hell or high water I am going to look like this. I am going to do my best to climb into this photograph. After all, the world is watching and is this not what I am supposed to be doing?
The religious structure at times tends to reinforce this performance mentality by convincing me that one more night of attendance in some program, or one more committee appointment is probably needed; and if I will work harder at this I will achieve more success. Somehow, the beauty of the call of Christ has been replaced by the boredom of the carrying the call out. Who will rescue me?
“Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.”
In our passage is the simple and seemingly insignificant word “do” (Gk-poieo), which was indeed significant in the Greek culture. This word, poieo, has a different flavor than our English word “do,” which often may imply going through the motions of a tedious task of obligation. Rather, “poieo” often has the flavor of an internal and creative passion and drive that is at the heart of what results outwardly. This word was used of Greek artists when describing what was underneath their artistry. In the context of our passage the emphasis is much more than what drives my activity. We find both the doing and the “Who” of this doing disclosed. “Who also will do it” powerfully declares that God (through Christ) becomes both the source and the substance of my doing. The outward activity can now become a display of Christ in me to the watching world instead of me trying to produce a reasonable facsimile of Christ. It is God’s approval at work in and through me instead of my endless search for activities that God will approve. This difference may appear subtle but it is critical! This may end up being the difference between His faithfulness and our fading. The Apostle Paul is so aware of the necessity of this way of operating that his preceding statement declares that only the “God of peace Himself” can bring this about in my life. (I Thessalonians 5:23)
I remember a few years ago my wife, Joy, and I purchased a barbecue grill. We brought it home in the box and set about assembling our exciting new purchase. I always have Joy with me on these ventures as I tend to take a quick look at the instructions, look at the finished product on the box, and then tear into the final accomplishment of the great picture. Frequently, and especially true in this endeavor, my excitement was replaced by frustration. When done it had the appearance of a barbecue grill, but we had to redo a number of things that were done out of order (my fault not Joy’s), and somehow we had seemingly important parts left over. With something less than rejoicing I finally looked at Joy and said “That’s good enough,” (as well as a few other grumblings). She quietly pointed to big letters on the box that said “FREE ASSEMBLY, JUST ASK!”
There are times that I may be able to “do” something that resembles His doing, and it may even function. BUT, it doesn’t come forth with rejoicing, giving thanks and always praying. I believe this passage, “Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it,” implies a “free assembly, just ask…”
your father's heart, with love
ohn 17:1 Jesus spoke these things and lifted up His eyes to Heaven, and said, Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son may also glorify You, 2 as You gave to Him authority over all flesh, so that to all which You gave to Him, He may give to them everlasting life. (Literal Translation Version, underlining mine)
Often deep truth is contained in the most common or seemingly insignificant words, and thereby most important matters are overlooked. In Jesus request in 17:1, and His statement in 17:2 above there is a that or so that which follows. “That” is a demonstrative word connecting what has been said to a reason, result, or purpose to follow. The proper and then naturally highest “so that” is the heart’s safeguard against operating out of self centered motives, and will keep us from false pride and arrogance.
The person who does not have a higher “so that” than their own gain, has or soon will, become a stagnant pond filled with self rather than a stream of life flowing to others. The proper “so that” in one’s life should move them from replacing God to revealing God. One thing is certain; you will always have a “god” to which you are bringing glory. The question is only whether that “god” is self or the One True God; the One who loves hearing the word “Father” from the person who has become, or truly desires to be His child.
1). When I am seeking something in my life, what is the “so that” which follows my request?
2.) How often does the “so that” following my request or desire have as its’ end an eternal rather than temporary purpose?
Father, may all of my “so thats” be a demonstration of love, even as Jesus’ were. Keep me from being stagnant in self and keep creating in me a stream flowing to the lives of others. Amen.
From your Father's heart, Dances with Jesus,
I have a desire to be the physical demonstration of the person of Jesus through all the ordinary activity of my life, and on this site through my "devotionals." My deep desire is to have intimacy with Jesus and the heart of my heavenly Father beating in my heart and impacting my wife and family, and then whoever and wherever God places me.
1 Thessalonians 2:7-8