You Won’t Believe This!

20170101-star-1hbs

When they had seen Jesus, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.
(Luke 2.17-18)

You are not going to believe what I just saw!

Have you ever heard this phrase before? And if so, what had that person seen that made him or her so intent on sharing this news with others? What news is such good news that we cannot help be share it with anyone and everyone we meet?

Too often the news we most want to share with others isn’t good news at all.

Our world is discovering the impact of “fake news.” Our most recent presidential election has been tainted by scores of web sites containing information that is not factual, intended to sway the emotions of people and influence their actions. While we may never know the full extent in which people’s voting patterns were influenced, there is no doubt people’s emotions and perceptions were affected. There is no need to present the facts when playing on people’s fears and emotions will work just as well.

In many respects, this makes the good news the shepherds shared with everyone they saw (at least this would appear to be the case in Luke 2) even that much more important. This was not made up events attempting to persuade people one way or the other. This was the news of the coming king, the One God exalted to the highest place. This is the One whose name is majestic above all the earth. This really is good news that would change the world.

Good news, really good news that changes the world, stands on its own. It does not need a gimmick or have to play on people’s perceptions to “sell” itself. No, good news creates an atmosphere that leaves people yearning for more, longing to know the power contained within that news. Good news is simple—a baby is born—and yet profoundly powerful—this baby will redeem the world.

Glorify and praise God today for the things you have seen and heard from him!

Questions:

•When you think of the Lord’s name being majestic throughout all the earth, what sort of things do you attribute to him? How does his majesty affect the way you follow Jesus?

•God is described in Exodus as being “compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in love and faithfulness.” Describe a time when you have experienced these attributes of God in your own life. What other attributes would you use to describe him?

•In what ways have you found God’s good purpose working in your life?

•Why do you think people were so amazed to hear the message given by the shepherds in Luke 2? How do you think you would have responded to their story? How do you think their story would have changed you, even without seeing Jesus? How can you share a similar story to others today?

•In what ways do you live your life in full understanding of the majesty of God? In what ways do you often try to place other things before God? How can you change this during this upcoming week?

Publish This

20161225-letters-1hbsPublish his glorious deeds among the nations.
Tell everyone about the amazing things he does.
(Psalm 96.3, NLT)

If there was a fantastic event happening in your city this weekend, how would you know where and when the event was being held? Let’s say the circus was coming to town. You and your family love the circus and would love to attend, but how would you get the information you needed to do so?

Easy, you say. What with newspaper, radio, television, the Internet and social media, it might be hard NOT to be aware of the upcoming circus.

And while this has not always been the case, you would be right. The movable type printing press has been around since the mid-1400s, but recent technologies have created ways to more easily share a wealth of information:

  • The first radio news broadcast was aired in 1920.
  • The regularly scheduled news you watch nightly has only been around since 1950.
  • The first publicly available use of the Word Wide Web happened August of 1991.
  • Facebook, perhaps the most common way of receiving information today, first went online in 2004. (Twitter followed in 2006, Pinterest and Instagram in 2010, and the latest rage, Snapchat, has been around since 2011. By the time this is published, something else will probably be the “in” thing.)

It is no wonder people talk about information overload. Dissemination of information used to be in the hands of only a few, but now it can be accomplished by anyone. Today there will be over 3 million blog posts published from around 175 million blogs. If you checked Facebook today, you did so along with 1.6 billion other individuals. During the 10 seconds it takes you to read this sentence, over 60,000 tweets will have been published, which equates to roughly 500 million tweets per day.

The issue, therefore, is not finding something to talk about. It is talking about those things that really are important. It is about finding the good stuff in the midst of all of the other noise.

That’s why the psalmist’s words in Psalm 96 are so significant. Publish THIS news: God’s glorious deeds and his presence are among us. “Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!” (96.4)

When you think about the weight of these words on this day, Christmas Day, their significance becomes even more important. Away in a manger, as we sing, a small child was born who to anyone passing by might have seemed just another child or incredibly insignificant in a world full of newborns. Stop the presses, however. This child is important. He is the light that shines into the world (Isaiah 9.2) and the hope that brings salvation to all humankind (Titus 2.11). In a time when (too) many things are said, creating a distracted environment of indistinguishable noise, the birth of child needs to be the center of our conversation.

Indeed, he has done amazing things. Publish them to the entire world … and to the person sitting next to you. Praise his name.

Questions:

•How has the movement from expecting the light to come to the birth of Jesus to the salvation he offers impacted how you live your life today? How can you share this story of faith with others?

•Share with one another the ways you have seen God’s marvelous deeds in your life. How can you share these deeds with someone else today?

•Think of all of the names you can think of that are used to describe Jesus. Which one means the most to you and why?

•Share with one another your salvation has allowed you to say “No” to ungodliness. Why does the appearance of Jesus Christ give you hope?

•What is the most unexpected thing about Luke’s story of the birth of Jesus?

Vacation – June 13

Text: Luke 1.67-80 (Read it here.)20160613

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them.

(Luke 1.68, NIV)

Pictures of the Family
Author: Rob Anderson

People are proud of their children. Don’t believe me, just go to Facebook. Scroll through the feeds of people who are your friends and my guess is that it will not be long before you find pictures posted of their children or grandchildren. This is especially true during this season of graduations.

This is not a trend Facebook started. While it may not be the case as much as it used to be, wallets came with plastic sleeves to hold pictures. Out on the town and run into a friend you have not seen for a while? Whip out the wallet and show the latest snapshot of your spouse, children, or grandchildren.

In Luke 1, Zechariah has an opportunity to show the world a “picture” of his child, his first-born. Yet, when you read carefully his song, what you discover is his praises are directed toward the cousin of his child, Jesus.

How many of us, when given the chance, would pass on telling others about our own flesh and blood? Not many, I would suspect.

It’s not that Zechariah does not mention his son, John (the one we know as John the Baptist). But even when he gets to the praises his own son, his focus is how John will serve as the prophet to announce the coming of the Lord.

Perhaps this can be a lesson for us. While we are certainly proud of the accomplishments of our children—even if they are not the top graduates of their class—we can take even greater joy in the ways they show the world the Messiah who has come to offer salvation.

Questions:

Zechariah says that God has come to redeem his people. What does redemption mean? As you think about redemption, how does your definition of it apply to how you live your life or how you recognize the sovereignty of God?

In what ways has the redemption of God through Jesus provided you “salvation from your enemies?” Has this been a one time thing, or does redemption continue to occur as new enemies appear?

Are you ever afraid to serve God? If so, why is this the case? How does his salvation—or how should his salvation—enable you to overcome that fear?