Costly News

Have you ever received news — good or bad — that was going to cost you something? The news of Mary’s pregnancy was costly news for Joseph. He was either going to lose the girl he loved (Mary) or he was going to lose his reputation.

Read Matthew 1:18-19. This passage in Matthew reveals something to us about Joseph. “Joseph…was faithful to the law”.  Which means that he lived in accordance with God’s compelling standards as outlined in the Mosaic law.

Because we live on the other side of Christmas, we want to rush to the end of the story where everything turns out okay. But if you do that, you miss the whole point of what Joseph is learning. You miss out on how God is already beginning to redefine what it means to be righteous.

The Torah has some clear instructions about what to do to somebody in Mary’s condition (Deuteronomy 22:21, 23-24). Joseph’s reputation was on the line. His fellow law abiding associates would have told him this sin must be publicly exposed and punished. But Joseph couldn’t bring himself to do this. So he decides to divorce her quietly. That way he could minimize her suffering but maintain his status as a righteous man.

Read Matthew 1:20-23. Why did God make Joseph wait till after he had to think and struggle with all this stuff? Is it possible that anxiety removal is not God’s number one goal for Joseph — or maybe for you and me? If you’re confused or uncertain about something, maybe it’s not because you’ve done something wrong. Maybe you’re about to grow. Maybe what you need to do is wait on God and trust God’s going to do something in your life you don’t even know about yet!

When we consider our circumstances only at face value, we risk “considering” God right out of our circumstance.

 

But an angel had spoken. Could it have been the same angel that gave God’s law to Moses (Galatians 3:19)?. Could this angel be revealing a new way truly living a righteous life?

Read Matthew 1:24–25. Embracing what God was doing through Mary and her expected child was going to be very costly for Joseph. It was a cost he would pay for the rest of his life.

Years later, when Jesus was an adult and his public ministry had began, he was teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth, his hometown — Joseph’s too. See Mark 6:1-3. This passage may reflect that decades late Joseph’s reputation still has not recovered from his marriage.

Since that time, millions of people have made sacrifices for the sake of this one called Jesus.

Many have given up status, possessions, convenience, freedoms, even their lives.

When Joseph looked into people’s eyes after he obeyed God, things were never the same. They never looked at him with the same respect and adoration. But when he looked into the eyes of that child, Jesus, he knew he had done the right thing.

I think of how Jesus, as he was growing up, must have admired his dad’s example of courage, sacrifice and true righteousness.

God still calls people to be willing to die to reputation, status and comfort for the sake of godly love.

 

When Joseph made the decision to wed Mary, he thought it was the end of his being known as a righteous man. He did not know fully that the child he would adopt would bring to the human race a new kind of righteousness.  A righteousness not based on the law, but on love for God and your neighbor. A righteousness our world desperately needs.

What has the Christ-initiated righteousness cost you?


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Good News

 
Read: Luke 2:1–7; Micah 5:2.

The overwhelming message of this passage is the humble circumstances into which Jesus was born. It just seems so un-extraordinary. The simplicity of the Savior’s birth reminds us of the simplicity of our salvation.
 

The birth of the Savior in your life requires humility.

 
Read: Luke 2:8–12.
 
Why did the announcement go to shepherds? The shepherds represented the types of people overlooked by religion. Due to their employment as shepherds, they would not be able to participate in religious worship. They represent those pushed to the side by religion.
 
Of all the times that I have read this passage, a phrase jumped right off the pages to me this time as I considered the shepherds. The phrase is “the glory of the Lord shone around them.” The prophet Isaiah foretells of the demonstration of God’s glory (Isaiah 60:1-2).
 
Christ’s birth was the light that had come. These shepherds were the first to experience the glory of the Lord returning in a whole new way. The Holy presence of the Lord shone around ritually unclean shepherds in the fields outside Bethlehem. The glory didn’t appear in the Temple in Jerusalem. It appeared to the most unlikely characters in a most unlikely place.
 
When the Shepherds saw and angel the the Glory of the Lord all around them they were indeed terrified. Terrified because they may have heard stories of the power and the purity of God’s glory. They probably thought judgement and death would follow. But it didn’t. Instead, the Angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” After calming the shepherds’ fears, the angel declares what God is doing. Humanity has nothing to fear when God moves in grace.
 
His glory and presence was coming in a whole new way. This was the Good News. God Himself was going to dwell with man. See John 1:14.
 
This is the ultimate expression of God’s grace. Our Lord, our Savior, is approachable, he is near, he welcomes those who are not perfect. A Savior has been offered to you. But as with all gifts offered, it needs to be personally received.
 

While the Savior’s offer is universal, it requires a personal response.

 
Read: Luke 2:13–20.

The Shepherds weren’t satisfied with just hearing about the Good News. They had to go and see, to experience, to receive this Good News bundled up in the swaddling clothes and lying in a manger — within reach of all who would come with humble hearts.
 
After the encounter with their newborn Savior, the Shepherds spread the word.
 

Those who experience the Good News share the Good News.

 
Remember, the angels announced that it was good news for all people. What are you doing to place the Good News within reach of those around you?
 
Don’t complicate Christmas. God made this as down to earth, simple, approachable, and interactive as He possibly could. Don’t complicate it. Don’t take away from the simplicity of it. Approach it again with simple faith. The Good News is within your reach. God’s favor rests on you during this season of grace. Don’t miss it.
 

TODAY…a Savior has been born to you.

 
Will you respond to him today?
 

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Life-Changing News

The Incarnation is the supreme miracle of the Christian faith. It’s the cornerstone of Christianity. If you cannot accept the miracle of the virgin-birth everything else in Christ’s life is pointless and meaningless. In fact, the power of the resurrection hinges on His incarnation. If Jesus is who the angel said he is, then you have to center your whole life on him. It should bring about absolute life change for those who believe. See Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38.

If you want Jesus in your life, it’s going be inconvenient. The birth of Christ changed everything for Mary and Joseph. His life coming into their lives was completely life-changing. When Jesus enters your life it will not only be completely life-changing, it will also mess up your life of convenience.
 

We, like Mary and Joseph, need to be willing to submit to the inconvenience of the incarnation. Courage is required to move from convenience to obedience.

Courage to give up your right to live for yourself.

Convenience is living with only you in mind. Obedience is living with God in mind.
 
God’s will and plan would not simply fit into a neat little compartment in Mary and Joseph’s lives. God’s plan required that they accommodate their life around his plan. Too often, we try to accommodate God’s plan around our lives. See 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; Colossians 3:3.
 

Christian faith is not a negotiation but a surrender. It means taking your hands off your life and wrapping them around Jesus’ life. But here is the hope of living this way: if we commit to Christ in that way, we can trust that he is even more committed to us.

Courage to take the world’s contempt.

Convenience is maintaining the culture status quo. Obedience is going against the cultural norm in pursuit of God.
In many cases your reputation will suffer as you hold on by faith to the truth of Christ and his teaching in Scripture. See John 15:18-19.
 
As Christians, we will be socially persecuted. We will be slandered for our belief in Christ and counter-cultural way of living. This persecution will separate those who are only following Christian principles from those who are authentically following Christ.

Courage to live with tensions and unresolved questions.

Convenience is taking action only when all our tensions are resolved and questions are answered. Obedience being willing to act even in the midst of tension and unresolved questions.
 

We believe that we want to know all the facts before we act. That’s convenience, not obedience. As I look throughout Scripture, I see people willingly obey God before the tensions are resolved and the questions are answered. If you are waiting for all the tensions to be resolved and the questions to be answered before you obey God, you miss most of the critical faith growing moments that occur in those difficult moments.

Courage to admit you are a sinner.

Convenience excuses away your behavior. Obedience admits your true spiritual need.
 

What was Jesus’ entire mission? “He will save his people from their sins.” See 1 Timothy 1:15; Romans 5:6,8. This isn’t about a courage to try harder, to behave better in hopes that you can earn God’s favor or forgiveness. We are powerless to change without Christ. You are either saved or a sinner. There is no other option. See 1 John 1:8-10. Is your faith born of convenience or conviction? Don’t compromise your conviction for your convenience. What has it cost you to follow Christ? In what ways has your Christian life inconvenienced you? Have you unintentionally settled for convenient Christianity?

Living for Christ is not about convenience; it’s about obedience.
 

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Unexpected News

 

Read: Luke 1:5–7. Right after we are introduced to Zechariah and Elizabeth, we are confronted with the problem and the pain that has plagued their lives for years – infertility. It was often considered a result of personal sin or judgement from God. Because of this, it brought an incredible amount of disgrace upon the women suffering from it. The fact they were blameless and infertile doesn’t seem to go together. This is a great example of bad things happening to good people for no apparent reason. My experience has proven that God is at work for my good (and others) even in the midst of unfair events.

The first bit of unexpected news: Your limitation does not limit the effectiveness of God’s plan. God regularly worked great things through those who felt limited. We need to learn to view our limit as God’s conduit through which He works out His plan.

 
Your limitation does not limit the effectiveness of God’s plan.

 

Read: Luke 1:8–13. Why did God wait to make this announcement and answer their prayers at this appointed time? Why not years earlier when they undoubtedly prayed earnestly for a child? God’s plan had multiple layers, multiple players. Next dose of unexpected news is: God’s plan for you isn’t just about you. God sent Jesus, his Son, at the appointed time. Zechariah and Elizabeth didn’t know what God was up to and were unaware of His timeline. They were a parallel story that was about to merge with the great story of God’s plan. Their hopes and dreams were bound up in God’s ultimate plan — which wasn’t just a child for them BUT a Savior for the whole world — whom their child, John, would prepare the way for.

God’s plan for you isn’t just about you.

 
They were to be a part of the plan God was preparing to unfold — and this plan wasn’t just about them or John. It was about Jesus! Could it be that your current unanswered prayer is on hold because God is working out a plan greater than you could ever imagine.

Read: Luke 1:14-17. The name “John” means Gift of God. He was certainly a gift of God to his parents. But this gift of God wasn’t meant to be kept to themselves. As this passage illustrates, John was to be used of God to make way for the Son of God.

The birth of John was placed in the Christmas story to remind us that God still wants us to introduce people to Jesus. The unexpected news of Christmas is that You are the gift of God used by God to introduce someone to Jesus this Christmas.
 
Christmas is one time of the year that people are surrounded by the message of Christ. How might God use you to prepare the way for someone to discover Christ as Savior this Christmas.
 
You are the gift of God used by God to introduce someone to Jesus this Christmas.

 

Read: Luke 1:18–25. In its most basic form, disgrace means a reversal or removal of grace; to fall out of favor. Elizabeth experienced disgrace personally and publicly because of her infertility. However, God extended grace to Elizabeth and that expression of God’s favor removed her disgrace. The final piece of unexpected news we can glean from this story of Christmas Greetings is that God’s favor in your life removes disgrace from your life. God’s favor is expressed through His gift of undeserved grace.

There was nothing that Zechariah or Elizabeth could do to bring this about. It was all God. God gave her grace in place of her disgrace. In what ways do you struggle with disgrace? This Christmas Greeting is a reminder that you don’t have to live in that disgrace any longer. In fact, disgrace cannot survive under the power of God’s amazing grace.
 
God’s favor in your life removes disgrace from your life.

 

Perhaps you feel as though you have fallen from God’s grace and are left wallowing in disgrace. Please listen to me: God’s grace is still available to you. God still favors you.

Which unexpected news did you most need to hear today? What do you need to do to respond to this news today?
 
 

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