[Mia, Daddy & Friends] “The Birth”

Luke 2 NLT

The Birth of Jesus

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

[Mia, Daddy & Friends] “A Birth”

When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. 

When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. 

Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way. 

Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy: “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has visited and redeemed his people. He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago. Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us. He has been merciful to our ancestors by remembering his sacred covenant— the covenant he swore with an oath to our ancestor Abraham. We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins. Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.” 

John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel. – Luke 1:57‭-‬80 NLT

[Mia, Daddy & Friends] “Mary’s Song”

A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored, that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Mary responded, “Oh, how my soul praises the Lord. How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior! For he took notice of his lowly servant girl, and from now on all generations will call me blessed. For the Mighty One is holy, and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things! He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant Israel and remembered to be merciful. For he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever.” Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own home.

Luke 1:39‭-‬56 NLT

Puke and Rally!

This morning, on my morning run with a friend who is faster than me, I was doing fine until I tried to clear some congestion from my throat. Instead, I gagged myself and ended up puking and dry heaving for several minutes,  as He slipped completely out of site ahead of me. 
I thought to myself,  “well that ends my run” — even though I was only halfway into a 1.8 mile run and was at the absolute furthest point possible from getting back home. As I continued wrenching for about 4 minutes, I wondered how long it would take me to get home in this condition,  and realized there was no easy way to just call someone to come get me.
Then I remembered a rally cry from Billy Bob on the movie Varsity Blues who cried out, “Puke and rally!” 
Now that might seem like an interesting rally cry reference for a Christian message,  because for Billy Bob that was a cry for him as he ran back into the party for more alcohol abuse. But I remembered it because in my younger days, puking was more often the result of alcohol abuse and partying than it was from sickness or pushing myself near the limits of exercise, etc.
In this case,  I just wanted to make it home,  so I started talking steps, then before I knee it,  I was back to a fast walking pace,  and when I got to that first downhill, I was running again. You see, I didn’t give up. I couldn’t give up. What was my option? To lay down and die in the mix of mud and my own puke? No!
I say this to encourage you today. No matter where you are. No matter what you have gotten yourself into. No matter how far away from home you feel you’ve gone. No matter how far away you feel like you are from God and how hard you think it might be to get back. Puke up that mess that is in your life that isn’t glorifying God. Give it up, it is killing you. Turn back to God. Stay walking home. Just take that first step of submitting yourself to Him. Accept Him not just as a promised Savior, but as a living Lord of your life, and He will come and strengthen you like a good friend and will bring you home.

“If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them gets lost, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others in the wilderness and go to search for the one that is lost until he finds it?  And when he has found it, he will joyfully carry it home on his shoulders.  When he arrives, he will call together his friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’  In the same way, there is more joy in heaven over one lost sinner who repents and returns to God than over ninety-nine others who are righteous and haven’t strayed away!

“Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Won’t she light a lamp and sweep the entire house and search carefully until she finds it?  And when she finds it, she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost coin.’  In the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels when even one sinner repents.”

To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.  The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.  About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.  He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.  The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything. “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!  I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you,  and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’

“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.  His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. ’

“But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.  And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast,  for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So the party began.

“Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house,  and he asked one of the servants what was going on.  ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’ “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him,  but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.  Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’

“His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.  We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” – Luke 15:4‭-‬32

All that is taught

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets. – Matthew 7:12 NLT
“Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.” – Matthew 22:36‭-‬40 NLT
So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses. When you follow the desires of your sinful nature, the results are very clear: sexual immorality, impurity, lustful pleasures, idolatry, sorcery, hostility, quarreling, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambition, dissension, division, envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and other sins like these. Let me tell you again, as I have before, that anyone living that sort of life will not inherit the Kingdom of God. But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. – Galatians 5:16‭-‬26 NLT

Pray like this: Our Father in heaven, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. May your will be done on earth, as it is in heaven. and forgive us our sins, as we have forgiven those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. “If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you.  But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins. – Matthew 6:9‭-‬10‭, ‬12‭-‬15 NLT
Give, and you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full—pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, running over, and poured into your lap. The amount you give will determine the amount you get back. ” – Luke 6:38 NLT

Don’t Withhold

​When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “It may be that Joseph will hate us and pay us back for all the evil that we did to him.” So they sent a message to Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this command before he died: ‘Say to Joseph, “Please forgive the transgression of your brothers and their sin, because they did evil to you.”’ And now, please forgive the transgression of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. His brothers also came and fell down before him and said, “Behold, we are your servants.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he comforted them and spoke kindly to them. – Genesis 50:15‭-‬21 ESV
Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.”  And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” – Luke 7:44‭-‬48 ESV
Pray then like this:  “Our Father in heaven,  hallowed be  your name.    Your kingdom come,  your will be done,   on earth as it is in heaven.   Give us  this day our daily bread,    and forgive us our debts,  as we also have forgiven our debtors.   And  lead us not into temptation,  but  deliver us from  evil.    For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you,  but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. – Matthew 6:9‭-‬15 ESV

Luke Jumbo Jet

​Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” – Luke 7:47 ESV

I love this passage from Luke 7:36-50 which was a shock to the religious people of that day. I imagine this reaction was very similar to how many “religious people” today react to a message like the one shared recently by Andrew Green, pastor of Highways and Hedges Ministries in Cookeville, Tennessee entitled:


REF: https://www.facebook.com/evangelistandrewgreen/

You see, this is where I see the active, alive, abiding, serving church — taking the Good News to the poor, the needy,  the afflicted and helping them — not just telling “others” that they had better “measure up” to the standards of the “good Christians” in order to be able to join in Sunday services. And don’t get me wrong,  I’m not advocating a life of sin at all, but I’m wondering how many polished and disciplined facades are just precariously built walls barely holding back the religious stench of death where there is no real love for God or for brother or neighbor? Only vanity uncovered yet again in some sparkly new, unfamiliar packaging.

When I see God moving in undeniable ways,  it isn’t in the “strong,  wise,  proud, and religious” — it’s in the weak,  the broken, the humble, and the needy. It’s in those who know that they need Him, that they can’t make it without Him, that they are utterly destitute and without any chance of hope if it doesn’t flow down from Him. 

If you don’t think that you have sin,  then what in the world do you have to be thankful for this Christmas season? Instead of a Savior,  do you see a tour guide whom you feel you can best with your own attempts to earn your way? 

Or don’t we all have those deep, dark actions,  or words,  or even thoughts that we would be ashamed if the wold around us really knew the depths of our darkness? Or maybe that’s just me? Maybe you all have not denied God so many times in your life to chase after the world’s relations? Maybe you all have been obedient to God and to parents and have not lied, or stolen, or lusted, or hated, or judged, or gossiped, or cursed,  or doubted? I think not. 

So I’m glad that this message came in from Luke on a Jumbo Jet. Yes, that’s what they called the popular Boeing 747, a “Jumbo Jet”, because it was big, and it transported large numbers of people to their destination. And this is true of Luke 7:47 if you understand how to get onboard the only path that leads to a destination you actually want. If you’re practicing religion, trying to be good enough out of some obligation to satisfy God’s wrath, you may have missed the whole point of Christ. In fact,  yours might be even more shocking a demonstration of His wrath than that in store for the carnal and lawless reprobate.

It concerns me how many will realize too late their own fate, the futile nature of loveless religious traditions and sacrifices,  but I know that God knows best. 

“For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.  But like Adam they transgressed the covenant; there they dealt faithlessly with me.” – Hosea 6:6‭-‬7 ESV

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy and not sacrifice.’ For I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.” – Matthew 9:13 NKJV

Good News, Zion!

​How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, “Your God reigns!” – Isaiah 52:7 NKJV

Good News, sons of Abraham, faithful servants, body of Christ, those who have ears to hear,  “Your God reigns!” And this is not news that anything has changed, for God has reigned since the beginning, even before He created the heavens and the earth. Even before He revealed Himself to the world as God come in the flesh, Immanuel “God with us”, He is, and was and evermore shall be.  

He bring us tidings of joy, peace in the storm, blessings and favor, and salvation to those who believe and abide in Him and He in them. He bring rain upon the just and the unjust and offers this example so that we might share His love and His light to a world lost in darkness and hopelessness, and sin and death. Rise up,  Zion, hear His call, lie dead and dormant no more, for He breathes life and salvation into those He calls. 

Have you received life? Have you confessed Jesus is Lord, and do you believe God raised Him from the dead? If so, the Word of God says, “You are saved! Go and sin no more.” (Romans 10:9,John 8:11) And Romans 10:11 and Psalm 25:3 tell us that anyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame. 
So we have much to celebrate this Christmas season, not the presents, or time off of work, or time with family – which are all wonderful blessings- but we celebrate the one from whom those blessings flow –

And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will  be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” – Luke 2:9‭-‬14 NKJV

Forgiven little? Or much?

I now realize that it upsets some people that we get excited and are filled with joy and raise our hands and sing out from our hearts with everything when we get to praise our Lord and Savior together.

I now realize that it upsets some people when others in the pews want to actively participate in praise and worship and not just watch a performance by those on the stage and behind the podium.

I now realize that some will snarl with judgemental,  religious faces when the name of Jesus is sang about from a place of joy and love and worship or when He is preached, practiced, and lived out in the places outside the church and the days other than Sunday.

I’m not making a judgement about the hearts of those who are quiet and reverent about Christ in their lives and in their weekly church services.  I realize that the Holy Spirit in them might be on fire and active and moving in amazing ways underneath the surface as they worship in truth and spirit. However, I used to be quiet,  and it was because there was no fire burning in my bones,  there was no active grattitude in my moment to moment life for what Christ has done for me, and it showed because there was no joy feeding me. I was just going through the motions of empty, dead, religion.

I don’t mock and judge and scoff at those who aren’t excited about the opportunity to actively praise and worship the Lord of Lords, King of Kings. I hope that they are genuinely in love with him and are getting to enjoy the opportunity of praising Him and worshiping Him. I hope that it goes deeper in their heart than what the eye can see. I hope they are being fed and nourished by the Lord the same as we are and that they truly just praise Him “in a different way”.

I just hope that they can understand my excitement, my grattitude, my love for the Lord that cannot be held back because it is like a flood of living waters flowing out of my chest. It is like a fire shut up in my bones that has to come out. It is like I have the very spirit and nature of God in me that wants to be seen and heard by a world in need of Him.

Yes, they will call me crazy. And they are right, because I’m crazy in love with Jesus.

Yes, they will call me irreverent. And they are right,  because His light in me breaks through the darkness and crafts a disturbance in this world and the traditions of men.

Yes, they will call me peculiar. And they are right, because He has set me apart for His Holy use, as a vessel for His Holy Spirit to dwell, for His Kingdom come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.

I am not pretending like I’m grateful in order to convince you of my love for Jesus. Who would waste their time with such foolish things if they didn’t truly believe – especially when it is clear that living openly and vocally excited about this Good News brings more persecution and objection from both the religious and the worldly than just holding your tongue. 

No, I’m thankful,  and I aim to please God, and to follow Christ, and to share truth so that someone else might know this joy add well when He calls them into this crazy,  irreverent, peculiar life of being a follower of Christ,  not just a Church goer,  and not just a child of the world.

As I seek to make sense of the difference without judging – I wonder if it is simply my realizing how much He has truly forgiven me. Maybe He didn’t have to forgive them very much at all. Maybe their lives were never turned away from Him in sin like mine was. Maybe they are great in the kingdom because of their lives of dedicated obedience with only little stumbles since birth, living all their days in the house with our father,  and I made it only after returning as the prodigal son.

Therefore I say to you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loves little.”
Luke 7:47 NKJV

He chose YOU to come OUT. No excuses.

If the world hates you, remember that it hated me first.  The world would love you as one of its own if you belonged to it, but you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you.  Do you remember what I told you? ‘A slave is not greater than the master.’ Since they persecuted me, naturally they will persecute you. And if they had listened to me, they would listen to you.  They will do all this to you because of me, for they have rejected the one who sent me.  They would not be guilty if I had not come and spoken to them. But now they have no excuse for their sin.  Anyone who hates me also hates my Father.
John 15:18‭-‬23 NLT

“you are no longer part of the world. I chose you to come out of the world, so it hates you”
Almost daily, I see a backlash from “carnal Christians” (who know the name of the Savior but who have only themselves as Lord of their lives) towards those who would share truth and warn others about the dangers of sin. I hear things like “you’re being judgemental” when someone speaks about sin, repentance, discipleship or sanctification from the, same people that sing proudly of grace as if it is a license to sin.

Wake up and hear the truth. If you are a slave to sin, see what the Word of God says:

Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins is a slave of sin.  A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son is part of the family forever.  So if the Son sets you free, you are truly free.
John 8:34‭-‬36 NLT

If we are currently a slave to sin, but we know that we are called to be a child of God, the solution is simple – repent (turn away from your sin), believe in your heart,  confess with your mouth, and He will send the Holy Spirit to convict you against sin, to teach you, to guide you, so that you will walk in the Spirit of Christ, following His example and demonstrating Him to the world.

So we are either a slave to sin, or we are a new creation in Christ – and the two types of desires are so different from one another that the two are at war with each other. One desires sin and the things of this world as treasure and reward and the will of man,  while the other desires only Christ and the will of God.

“now they have no excuse for their sin”
Yes, many hate to hear the whole message of Jesus Christ – that He calls us to no longer be a part of the world,  to no longer live like the world. Many are satisfied with the idea that their sins might be forgiven,  but they have no real interest in giving up their sin. And when He says that we are free indeed,  and that He has given us the power to see evil flee from us – it really bothers those who no longer have any excuse for remaining in their sin.

It bothers those who are either:

A) deceived and confused because they can’t reconcile their own opinions about God with what the Word of God actually says

B) aware that their claims about being a Christian are nothing but outward lies

The Good News is that salvation is just a turn away. But it does take deciding to love Christ more than our sin.

And for many, the broad path seems so attractive when we can’t see and touch what is behind that narrow gate. The broad path seems so much easier when we can only see the struggle and strife and trial of those poor,  sacrificing Christian missionaries who are willing to give it all up to serve the Lord. The broad path seems so much more friendly and crowded when we can only see those “judgemental Christians” who are isolating themselves by standing firm upon the truth of the Word of God.

The broad path of finding a compromising “church” that will speak what I want to hear and won’t expect me to change or grow as long as I show up,  volunteer,  and tithe seems so much easier than actually picking up my cross and following Jesus,  making disciples, baptizing them,  and walking like Christ. People will say,  “Isn’t there someone else who will go? Isn’t there someone else who is better qualified? Can’t I just give my money to them and maybe God will leave me alone?”

Do you love your life,  or do you love Christ?

If you cling to your life, you will lose it, and if you let your life go, you will save it.
Luke 17:33 NLT

Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last— salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth— the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die. Therefore, rejoice, O heavens! And you who live in the heavens, rejoice! But terror will come on the earth and the sea, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.”
Revelation 12:10‭-‬12 NLT