He Came… to Give

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many. -Mark 10:45

When Jesus took the time to explain his reason for coming among us, he was simple and direct: to serve and to give. Not to be served. Not to grab the spotlight in the center ring. Not to make a name or attract attention or become successful or famous or powerful or idolized. 

Charles Swindoll, Improving Your Serve

Crashing through Barriers

Why do you think did Matthew started his Gospel with a boring list of so-and-so begat so-and-so? Consider just the women mentioned in this genealogy. There are four of them before you get to Mary. Matthew introduces their glorious Messiah.. as descending from two harlots, one born out of incest and an adulterous. And they are the only four ladies mentioned in the genealogy other than Mary.  

He came crashing through the barriers that said “You have to be born spiritual out of the ‘right kind’ of people.” 

And today, he comes crashing through barriers you’ve erected too. The barriers that place God in a nice comfortable corner where you can keep and eye on him. He breaks down those excuses that say “God, you can’t use me. You can’t love me. I’m a sinner.”

God built a monument to grace on that genealogy. That’s why you shouldn’t shy away from admitting your past for what it was. It can be a monument to God’s grace in our lives. That’s when God can use us the most- when we realize who we are were we come from and how much are lives are dependent on God grace. On receiving it and giving it to others. 

Don’t hide from the past and pretend it didn’t happen. By admitting who we are, acknowledging how God completely changes us, he is able to bring us further than he could otherwise and use us more.. just like those people in the genealogy.  

You stack up a row of harlots and liars and murderers and cheaters and what do you have?  You have Jesus. That’s the way God works.  

Stephen Goforth 

She Wrapped Him in Swaddling Clothes

And she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them (Luke 2:7 NIV)

“She wrapped him in cloths.” Literally, he was wrapped in strips of cloth to kept him warm. The old King James translation uses the memorable phrase “swaddling clothes.” It’s still practiced in some countries today.

Did he cry? Do you think he cried? When you think of the manger and the child, do you imagine him crying?  

Mary put diapers on God.

The mention of a manger is where we get the idea he was born in a stable. Often, stables were caves, with feeding troughs for animals.. mangers. It was probably dark and dirty. This is not the way the messiah was expected to appear. How often our expectations and God’s reality are not in sync. How often he appears in unexpected places.

Stephen Goforth

Jesus Chose the Gritty

The Scriptures are filled with the ruggedness and struggles of actual life. But in our teaching of the gospel we have sweetened or repressed the universal human qualities of our Lord’s stories almost beyond recognition. Jesus evidently talked about the things like people’s sexual escapades and crooked business deals to illustrate his message about the reign of God. And he furnished additional wine for at least one celebration. Read the parables. With the whole of human behavior from which to select, Jesus chose the gritty, earthy areas of life to illustrate the way God loves people. He was real! He expressed his own uncertainly and doubt in the midst of his faith. And he got very angry. Jesus talked about the same deep separation, dishonest and inner restlessness we experience in modern life. I had always heard the church saying the God prefers the poor, the despised, and the weak… Religious people have difficulty admitting that (Jesus) prefers sinners to the righteous. Those who call themselves righteous are not free from it but have repressed it. Those called sinners are aware of their guilt and are, for that reason, ready to receive pardon and grace.

Keith Miller, The Becomers

reasonable evil

A couple of old-time Baptist deacons approached me after they saw an Easter drama I had written about Judas Iscariot. I expected a complaint because the focus was what might have caused the disciple to turn against Jesus.

One of them said, "What Judas did really made sense. It was the reasonable thing to do."

The bad guy didn’t wear a black hat or yell at old ladies or steal treats from little children. It’s possible Judas did what to him seemed like a reasonable idea at the time. Perhaps he thought giving Jesus a little shove would force the reluctant king to take his rightful place. It could have seemed like the right thing to do - but the move was completely wrong.

Evil doesn’t always show up in outrageous clothing. Direct temptation is not nearly as difficult to handle as evil that approaches as reasonable and thoughtful.

Stephen Goforth