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Here at the home for needy children in Oaxaca, Mexico, we take turns giving the devotional every morning. Our Pastor passes out a calendar at the beginning of every month with everyone’s name on it, the day they are to share and what passage of the Bible they are to talk about. This month, naturally, all the passages were connected with the birth of Jesus. The passage I ended up with was Luke 2:13,14, where the great company of the heavenly host appeared and proclaimed to the shepherds, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

As I pondered this marvelous event, it struck me that a grand gathering of angels glorifying God on earth had never occurred before nor since. And what a sight it must have been to behold for those shepherds keeping watch over their flocks at night. As I looked at these verses in their context of Luke two, I began to realize that it was incredibly significant on many levels. And this is what I decided to share with the staff and children here at the home.

In verse 9, one angel appears to the shepherds and announces the birth of a Savior, the Messiah and the Lord. Wow! If anything deserves an angelic choir filling the night sky with glorious song, that does! Not just one divine gift to humanity, but three!

Think about it. First a Savior is born. I imagine the shepherds knew a little bit about the necessity of a Savior. They, like David, probably saved their sheep on more than one occasion from predators seeking a tasty meal. They had also been under the thumb of Roman Emperors for lo these many years. Emperors who imposed their taxes and their will on the Jewish people. They longed for a Savior to set them free from the foreigners oppressive grip as a sheep longs to be saved from the jaws of a wolf.

Second, the Messiah was born! The Messiah that God had promised Israel through the prophets in ages past. The Messiah that would lead his people to freedom, power and glory. A leader in the mold of King David and King Solomon, conquering neighboring enemy nations and bringing renown to Israel once again. It had been over 400 years since the last prophet spoke of the promised Messiah and many of the Jews had given up hope, but here he was at last, the Christ child, the Messiah, had been born in Bethlehem.

It would have been enough to just have a Savior. It was splendid that not only a Savior was born, but also the Messiah had come. And it was incredible, that not only was this newborn baby Savior and Messiah, but also the Lord as well.

When the shepherds heard the word Lord, they undoubtedly thought of God in all his dignity, glory and majesty as described by their holy scriptures. Perhaps they thought that the Lord of glory had forgotten about his people since it seemed such a long time ago that he had shown his glory and power to his chosen ones. And now, with the sky teeming with angelic hosts, the keepers of the sheep were assured that not only had God not forgotten about his people, but had come to live as one of them.

It was an amazing night for the shepherds, and for all the people of Israel, who desperately needed a Savior, Messiah and Lord.

We are a lot like those shepherds. We too, desperately need a Savior, Messiah and Lord.

We need to be saved from our sins. The angel Gabriel told Joseph to name the baby boy Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Mt. 1:21) All the pain and problems, shame and suffering, trials and tribulations that we encounter in this world come because of sin. Sometimes we suffer because of other peoples sin; most often because of our own sin. But we rejoice in Jesus the Savior who knew no sin, yet became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Cor. 5:21).

We also need a Messiah, a leader, someone we can trust and follow. Someone who always tells the truth. Someone who cares about us and will take away our burdens, give us rest and lead us in the kingdom of God. Jesus is that leader, and all he asks of us is to give up everything and follow him. (Luke 14:33)

And finally, we really, really need God in our lives. A personal God who knows our struggles and dreams, our pain and our desires. Again, we find this God in Jesus, the babe in the manger. John writes in chapter one that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. .. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…(vs 1,14) The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is God (chapter 1) and that he is able to empathize with our weaknesses and has been tempted in every way that we are tempted, but did not sin.” (4:15) He identifies with us, leads us and empowers us to overcome sin, and forgives us when we fail.

I concluded my devotional by inviting everyone this Christmas, to remember the angel’s message to the shepherds, and not focus so much on Jesus, the baby in the stable, but on Jesus the Savior, Messiah and Lord. Only by looking to him and living for him can we enjoy the peace and joy that the angels promised (Luke 2:10,14) and that God freely gives to all who trust him.

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Or, Be Happy and Flourish!

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The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar in Lebanon;

planted in the house of the LORD, they will flourish in the courts of our God.

Psalm 92:12

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May the LORD cause you to flourish, both you and your children. 

May you be blessed by the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psalm 115: 14,15

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I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God;

I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever.

Psalm 52:8

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We all have times in our lives when we are really looking forward to some special event.  Maybe a wedding, the birth of a child, a graduation, promotion, or a vacation.  My youngest daughter, Kelly, will be three in June.  She is really looking forward to her birthday!  Her sister had a birthday in March, complete with cupcakes and pizza and a trip to Boing-Boing, a children’s play land in Oaxaca city, here in Mexico.  Her sister Sally received many gifts and Kelly cried because she received none.  We consoled her by telling her that her birthday was coming up, and then she would be the one receiving the gifts.  Since then, a few of her little friends have had birthdays, complete with all the trimmings and gifts, and Kelly knew that she just had to wait for her special day to arrive.  She is really looking forward to that day.  On any given day she can be heard singing “happy birthday” and eating pretend birthday cake and swinging a stick at imaginary pinatas.
How about you and me?  Is there anything that we are looking forward to that much?  According to St. Peter, there is a day coming that should excite us more than all the birthdays, holidays and vacations combined.  It’s called the “Day of the Lord”.

Peter writes about this Day in the last chapter of his second book.  This “Day of the Lord” is characterized by two things: one, the destruction of the heavens and the earth, and two, a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.  I think this is what Peter was really looking forward to.  In chapter two Peter describes some nasty stuff in this present world to indicate that this place is definitely not the home of righteousness.  He writes about false prophets, false teachers, destructive heresies, denying the Lord, depraved conduct, greed, exploitation, lawlessness, unrighteousness, corrupt desires of the flesh, arrogance, blasphemy, doing harm, carousing, adulterers, seducers, sinners, lovers of the wages of wickedness, lustful desires of the flesh, slaves of depravity, and people who turn their backs on God.  What a wretched stew pot this world is.  No wonder Peter says three times that he is looking forward to the destruction of this world, and the creation of a new world which will be the home of righteousness.

Me too!  I not only long to be free of the wickedness of this world, but the wickedness in me.  I know that if I look closely at my life, I can see elements in me, in my soul, of every thing Peter mentions, in my very being, and I hate it; I hate the struggle I face everyday against the world, my flesh, and the devil.  I hate it when I see on the news, or read in the paper’s of people being murdered, children being abused, the poor being taken advantage of.  I hate it when I see children with birth defects, when I hear of people dying of cancer, when I learn of loved ones suffering.

So what is God waiting for?  The world  of Noah was wicked, and God destroyed it by water.  Sodom and Gomorrah were wicked cities and God destroyed them by fire and brimstone.   The first century world and our world are full of evil, why doesn’t God go ahead and do it in?  Get it over with?

Peter answers that question in chapter three.  He tells his  readers that “the Lord is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness.  He is patient, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”  This verse, and the idea behind it, remind me of Paul and the  Corinthians.  Acts 18 tells us the story.  Paul went to Corinth and was preaching and teaching his heart out, giving his all to the people in the city, and what happens?  Verse six says that some Jews opposed Paul and became abusive.  I can just hear Paul screaming out in frustration, “That’s the thanks I get?!  I’m outta here!”    That night God speaks to him in a vision.  The Lord said, “Keep on speaking, do not be silent.  I  am with you and I have many people in this city.”  God is telling Paul to be patient, continue on with his good work, because God had “many people” that He had chosen  for  salvation in the city of Corinth.  Most of them had not heard the Good News of salvation, of God’s love and mercy.  They didn’t know that  God loved them and wanted them to be happy.

God says the same thing to His followers in this wicked world.  This is  not your home, you are just a passin’ thru.  You are strangers and aliens in a foreign land.  I know you long to go home and be with me forever in the perfect land of righteousness, but just wait a bit.  There are a lot of people that  I have chosen (Peter’s first letter is  addressed to the elect, who have been chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father; 1:1,2), that are the elect, that have not yet heard the message that the  Kingdom of God is near; that it is accessible to them, and that they have received a royal invitation from the King of Kings to be a part of  it.  It is your job to get the  message out, give the invitations, spread joy and grace and compassion to all around.  And then one day, the  work will be complete, and all my followers will come home.  What a day of rejoicing that will be!

One day this world as we know it will be utterly destroyed by fire, according to Peter.  A new world, the home of God and righteousness and all that is good and lovely, whole and just, peaceful and complete, will replace this bad old place, and I am really looking forward to going home.  How about you?

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Our present purpose is inseparable from God’s stated eternal purpose for us to rule the  earth forever as his children and heirs.  That is at the core of  the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s defining statement:”Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.”  We will glorify God and  find joy in him as we do what he has made us to do,” serve him as resurrected beings and carry out his plan for developing a Christ centered, resurrected culture in a resurrected universe.”       Randy Alcorn in his book Heaven

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Next blog – The Ruler and the Shepherd

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