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Thursday
Feb162012

Baby Jesus Grows Up, Let's Follow Suit!

*Baby Jesus Grows Up, Let's Follow Suit! * Kerry S. Doyal

Are you still growing? Growing old is not the same as growing up. Few things are more tragic than immature Senior Citizens, petty people who added only years to their dossier and derriere. (That there is French for resume and rump: neither is to be padded.)

Advanced age is no excuse for childishness, it is instead an argument against it. As long as we are able, we are to keep maturing in all the ways we can. Twice, Dr. Luke in his gospel of Jesus tells us about Jesus growing up. After His birth, circumcision and presentation at the temple (Luke 2), the good Doctor tells us:

"When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon him" (Luke 2:39, 40 - NIV).

After Jesus' parents got lost and left Him in the Temple when He was twelve, we read: "Then He went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But His mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men" (Luke 2:51& 52).

Matthew tells us His toddler years included a trip to Africa - fleeing madman Herod's sword (Matthew 2:13-23). When Jesus' family repatriated to Roman-occupied Israel, they lived in Nazareth.

As much as we would like to speculate about Jesus as a boy, all we are left to mull over is that he was obedient to his parents and that He grew up. Mind you, these are no small matters. Even in childhood, Jesus is THE example for us.

"He grew" we read. This is an umbrella description that seems bland unless you consider its opposite. New parents watch to make sure their child is growing. If they stop progressing in any realm, they head to the Doctor.

Our Heavenly Father is monitoring our growth as well. In fact, the letters to the churches in the New Testament are properly obsessed with matters of maturity (see 2 Peter 1:5-11; 3:18; 1 Peter 2:1-3; Jude 20-25; Hebrews 2-4). Are you growing up? Have you changed much in the past years - for the good?

Getting more specific, we read that Jesus "became strong... grew in stature." Our love for God is to include our heart soul, mind and strength. Learning carpentry - which included woodwork and masonry - Jesus was a man's man. Forget those pictures of a pasty pansy in your old children's Bible.

Our bodies are even called - dramatic pause - His temple (1 Corinthians 6:12-20; 9:27)! We are to glorify God with our body. Is His temple in disrepair? How do you treat your body: getting enough sleep, eating too much?

Jesus grew, as we also must, in wisdom. He was not just a divine data depository, smart. He was "filled with wisdom." We see this when He stayed at the Temple at age 12, a pivotal year when Jewish boys transition into manhood.

He sat listening to the teachers, asking them questions - ones that astonished all who heard Him. His questions revealed such insight that they were motivated to ask His take on Scripture. Are you learning the Bible, moving past VBS-level insights? Does any one look to you for godly insight?

The mental sloppiness of God's people is criminal! What passes for teaching on much of Christian radio and TV [and pulpits] is amazing. Where is the discernment, some sane, Biblical discretion?

Spiritual counterfeits will continue to freely fleece the flock with their folly as long as believers stay ignorant and immature. Are you growing in true wisdom (see Colossians 1:15-29). A thought: read a chapter of Proverbs every day.

"God's grace was upon Him," we learn next from Luke. He grew "in favor with God." Jesus, as a human, spiritually matured. Here is a phrase for you: "He learned obedience through the things that He suffered" (Hebrews 5:8). Chew on that one. Jesus learned obedience.

We learn to obey through disobedience, God's discipline, forgiveness and restoration. Christ learned it through life's trials, being tempted by the Devil and rejected by His own people. In the Garden, He honestly states His preference to not be crucified. Yet, in the face of torture and humiliation, we hear: "Not My will but Thine."

As we live in the realm of obedience, we are in the place where God can favor, not discipline us (Hebrews 12:1-12; 1 John 2-4). He cannot love us more than He has or does (see Romans 5:1-11; 8:1, 31-39). However, we can live in such a way that He can bless His good kids (John 14:19-15:27).

Last of all, we discover that Jesus grew in favor with man. Common ones received Him gladly. Sometimes the crowds around Jesus swelled as they hoped for another free lunch and miracle show (John 6). Yet, we also know social outcasts and serious sinners felt at home in His presence. Children loved Him and they are often a great test of character.

One of the descriptions of an Elder, spiritual exemplars for the church, is that they would have a good reputation with outsiders (1 Timothy 3:7). If you often make waiters and cashiers mad, drive like a loony and regularly tick off people, you might want to look into this area of growth.

Having favor with man does not mean you are compromising truth, snuggling up to the world. What we often call persecution and rejection of Jesus by people we witness to is often the sensible reaction of hurt people whom we treat like trash (see 1 Corinthians 5:9-13; 9:19-23).

It is time to grow up, to keep pressing on (Philippians 3). As we face a still young year, repent of any stagnation in the past year. With God's help, commit to further growth in Him.

In honor of Dr. Luke, may I prescribe 2 Peter 1:5-11? If the baby Jesus grew up, so must we (1 John 2:6)!

Friday
Jan202012

Not "Know it Alls", but "Know Some things"

**A coffee cup and a T-shirt snagged my imagination recently. My sister had on the shirt. The cup was from that chic coffee franchise we'll call "Stellar-dollars."

The T-shirt said on the front: "I know that I know that I know that I know." With this being my sister,* I didn't know* where that shirt was going. Did I dare ask?

Reading her back (the shirt, not a tattoo) I saw what she knew. It was a quote from a Nicole C. Mullins song: "...that my redeemer lives. I talked to Him this morning." A great song which quotes in part from Job.

I never doubted you Kara. Thanks for the reminder! Hallelujah, we can know our risen Savior lives - even if we neglected to talk with Him this morning. Even if we never talk to Him - He lives.

So that was the shirt. Now, the coffee cup was immediate preacher fodder (i.e. sermon supplement). I drained the cup Saturday PM (decaf, mind you) and used it Sunday AM. For the record: not that I was desperate for material - this time. It genuinely fit my sermon.

Despite my "cool-because-she's-college-aged" daughter's teasing, I feel very hip in getting such a great quote from Stellar-dollars. They are an international company that celebrates multiculturalism (all cultures and their "truths" are equal) and total tolerance (again, all truths are equal). Later, go Google "postmodernism."

The cup read in part: "This is what we know to be true: We opened our very first store in (insert city and state), in (insert year). We still roast our coffee ourselves... We served the best cup of coffee 37 years ago... "

Did you see what got me juiced? Read their simple, wonderful assertion again: "This is what we know to be true." Wow! Truth that can be known, verified, legally, historically documented and even printed on a 10% post-consumer recycled fiber cup!

They know that they know that they know. And they want us to know what can be known with certainty as well. They point us to a place, a time, a process, a history. They even tell us they make the best coffee - daring us to taste and see that they are good.

It thrills me to see in a day of doubt which questions all truth claims that someone still uses such language. Alas, some sensible sanity! Verifiable data and historical reliability exists!

They rightfully expect that most cup-readers will understand this narrative of their origins is a clear, sensible, provable statement. No deconstruction or cultural reinterpretation needed.

This perky little cup holds its truth claims to be more than self-evident. It gives us enough facts to investigate and see if it will stand-up under scrutiny.

Were we to research this truth claim without bias - say, a preference for someone else's coffee - we could prove or disprove their truth claims. We too could say: This is what WE now know to be true! We too would know that what they know that they know.

Assuming their claims are valid, they are true even if I do not believe them. It does not need my faith to make it true. It can hold it own truth-grounds even if we did not drink a cup this morning.

The Bible gives us truth-claims about our living Redeemer. It asks - almost dares us - to verify them. The Apostle Paul set forth 500 eyewitnesses to Jesus' resurrection. The Corinthians were invited to investigate if these multitudes had in fact seen Jesus alive again (1 Corinthians 15).

Dr. Luke tells us he investigated thoroughly what he wrote in his gospel account (see Luke 1:1-4, Acts 1). He spoke with eyewitnesses who heard Jesus teach, saw Him perform miracles, watched Him die a hideous death and then come back alive. Luke gives us names, places, times.

The Apostle John tells us he too was an eyewitness. He writes of what he heard, saw, touched and carefully observed (1 John 1). In an historical place, in a specific time, Jesus lived, died, rose again, ascended back to heaven and now offers salvation to all who obey Him by believing (John 1:1-18; 3:14-17; 21:24, 25).

Don't kid yourself: seeing ain't always believing. Many saw and did not believe. They had - as we do - heart issues, not intellectual difficulties.

Jesus graciously let Doubting Thomas see Him after His resurrection. He then blessed those who do not see yet still believe (John 20:24-31). Jesus left behind enough witnesses for us to be held responsible for making the right faith-choice concerning Him (John 1:12; 3:36; 5:24).

Jesus equates belief with obedience, not brain-deadness. We do not believe despite lacking facts. We believe because it is true, He is truth and the evidence is more than sufficient, reliable and compelling. Disbelief is disobedience.

Why will we take at face value what a hot beverage cup says? Simple: it makes no moral demands on my life, other than to recycle. Jesus, the Creator of the stars, is not one you should buck. You can talk to Him any part of the day. He lives and shall once again take His stand on the earth.

Some books for further investigation. First, the Bible! Then, mull over The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, currently on the New York Times bestseller list. Also just out is Choosing Your Faith by Mark Mittelberg, a unique approach that helps you see why you believe what you believe and if your faith-choice is solid.

I also recommended two classics by Josh McDowell: More than a Carpenter and Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Most importantly, I commend you to Jesus, who invites us to taste and see that He is good - Truth that you can know.

*Kerry S. Doyal* - Pastor *Grace Bible Church (an EFCA)* *Kingsport, TN*

Monday
Jan092012

Wanted: Carpenter Apprentices

We all know a couple that we love one of the two and we - shall we say - struggle with the not-better half. I am sure I have been that half for some people. That’s okay, they have some friends struggling with their spouses’ choice too.

Many feel this way about the church. They love Jesus, but struggle with His bride. There seems to be a glaring disconnect: how did He end up with her, what was He thinking?

The church is an easy target and does much to paint bull’s-eyes on herself. Some of the attitudes and behaviors of Jesus’ chosen spouse are astounding, inexcusable. “She said and did what? And she is married to Him?”

Pick your favorite and convenient horror story. Does it involve an abusive pastor, fickle so-called friends, gossip, closed cliques, abused pastors, “those preacher’s kids”, or wrongly judged and mistreated preacher’s kids and spouses?

Maybe your church story’s main character is a hypocritical deacon, or a Holy Joe that lived like the devil? Is money involved, or improprieties of 1000 different kinds?

GUILTY! Yes, His bride should blush and tear her wedding gown in repentance over her sinfulness. But this is not news. Most of the New Testament is written to help Christ’s Bride learn to be beautiful. The letters – epistles if you like church talk - are filled with correctives. This Fair Lady needs much learnin’ and refining.

Jesus’ earthly father handed off a trade to his boy: carpentry. This included wood and stone construction. He learned the hard, honest trade of building. According to Matthew 16:17-18, Jesus is still doing construction:

“Jesus replied, "…And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” Using those who know Him, He is erecting, correcting and perfecting a spiritual house (Ephesians 4:11-16; 1 Peter 2).

Among the things Jesus is doing in heaven, at the top of His list is shepherding His sheep: finding the lost ones, healing the hurt, separating those fighting, and protecting, providing for and using all of them. Have you read Psalm 23 or John 10 lately?

In our fair city literally built around churches – Church Circle – if you cannot find one church to connect with, guess who might be the issue? With over 200 to shop from – which is what we consumer Christians do – if not one suites your taste – how convenient.

Yes, I know they ask for money, dress and talk funny, have hard pews, boring sermons and imperfect leaders (come visit my church if you need Exhibit A). Also agreed is that not everyone there is as sincere as you are (“hypocrites” is such a tired excuse). True too that some people use it as a social club.

Your point? Can the church “do church” better? No doubt. So? If Jesus says He is in love with His bride – He did die for her – then who are we to demand perfection this side of heaven? That is one of the promises of heaven – a pure, spotless, wrinkle-free Bride (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Yes, you got hurt one time, or several times. Tell it to Jesus who let his future bride nail Him to a cross.

Yes, speak prophetically to her of her sins, but not merely pathetically of her in your bitterness.

Do football fans give up because a few fans behave poorly? Some act like morons every week without fail. As one wit said: did you give up eating because Mom once burned the biscuits? Can you say potluck casseroles? But I digress.

Here is a hot secret: If you trash talk my wife, tell me you hate her, we are going to have issues. She is mine, I am hers, we are one. To try to separate us, to get me to side with you to impress me is worse than dumb, that may prove painful.

Ask a policeman the most dangerous calls they receive: domestics. If they get between sparring spouses, they risk creating a powerful tag team. Ask Jesus if you can disrespect and dismiss His bride? Don’t get Him started.

Which church or pastor do you owe a thank you note for providing you with a cheap excuse to give up on church?

Jesus the Carpenter is still building: creating, enlarging and putting finishing touches on His church. Rumors of His bride’s death are greatly exaggerated. Hell’s gates may look stronger and seem more daunting, but not to Him.

Christ has not given up on His church and neither must we. It is not an option. To stay outside the church is in some real ways to stay away from Jesus. Selective accountability is a dangerous place to be. All pride is (1 Peter 5).

Jesus is forming and fortifying Himself a people. He is using and empowering those who know Him – confess Him in truth. Build with Him! (Matt. 16:13-23; Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 10:24, 25; Acts 2:42). If I dare: Any old jackass can kick down a barn.

Get on His winning team! Christ’s church – His called-out ones - cannot be stopped (1 Peter 2:4-8; Romans 8). When we keep Christ as the chief cornerstone, building on Him, look out, hell.

*Kerry S. Doyal* - Pastor *Grace Bible Church (an EFCA)** *

Wednesday
Dec212011

The Fruitful Family tree of Jesus

The Fruitful Family tree of Jesus Son of David, Our Ruler Seed of Abraham, Our Righteousness

“In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David…

“Jesus, when he began his ministry, was about thirty years of age, being the son (as was supposed) of Joseph… the son of David… the son of Abraham… the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 1:26-27; 3:23, 31, 34, 38 – ESV).

People who research their genealogy often make some boast-worthy discoveries: been here since the 1600’s, fought in the Revolutionary War, from *this* part of Ireland. Optimal bragging rights belong to those who can claim kinship to someone of renown: royalty, a president, an inventor. “George Washington is my great, great…” carries some nice weight.

Jesus’ family tree has some serious bragging rights: related to King David and to Father Abraham, to name a few. However, it’s one thing to be a distant son of David and a seed of Abraham. It is another to be THE Son of David - God’s Ruler - and THE seed Abraham - our Righteousness.

When Dr. Luke carefully tells us in his gospel of Jesus’ credentials and credibility, he points to some very sweet fruit from Jesus’ family tree. This virgin-born son of Mary, the “supposed son” of Joseph, is indeed the Christ. Jesus’ birth, up-bringing, baptism and now his birth record all reinforce His royalty and righteousness.

Genealogies give legal legitimacy. They point out true heirs and rightful relations. Jesus’ genealogy goes further than mere legalities, it points to His lordship – He is the virgin-born, adopted son of Joseph (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1). It also testifies of His linkage to God’s promises, His people and all people – son of Adam.

Christmas is a time of anticipation: longer lines, crankier customers, antsy kids and last minute shoppers. Hang tough, men! I’ll see you at the store Christmas Eve.

Christmas has always been a time of anticipation. When Jesus was born, God’s people had been waiting, longing for centuries for God’s promised Messiah. King David’s heir was to rule on the throne, restore the people to the land and the city to its glory (2 Sam. 7:2-16; Psalms 89:1-4; 19-37; 132:11, 12).

As still happens, false Messiahs in Jesus’ day claimed to be God’s anointed one. Yet only Jesus, as Luke clearly attests, is God’s Sent One, the Christ. He is the righteous Branch, the suffering Servant, the Son of David, the seed of Abraham.

As the son of David – not just “a” son – Jesus is the rightful Ruler of the Universe, not just Jerusalem. He belongs on the throne of the heavens and our hearts. He will - as Handel wrote, quoting scripture – reign forever and ever. We are wise to get not just on the right side of history, but eternity.

Even King David, the previous premiere emperor of Israel, calls his great-grandson Jesus “Lord” (Ps. 110; Matt. 22:41-46). Jesus, the Son, is greater than David; that happens when you are God. To King Jesus, every knee will bow and tongue confess that He is Lord, to the glory of God (Phil. 2:5-11).

A barren old man was given a promise of progeny: “You’ll have so many kids”, the Lord pledged to Abraham, “that you won’t be able to count them” (Gen. 12, 15). This seemingly laughable legacy lead not just to uncountable seeds, but a Seed. One in whom all the nations of earth would be blessed: Jesus (Galatians 3).

Abraham, the Father of faith, believed God’s wild promise and God declared him righteous. His faith – not law obedience – lead to a standing of righteousness before God; as does our faith (Gal. 3 & 4; Romans 5).

Paul, the Rabbi-turned-Apostle, tells us that The Seed, Jesus, is our source of righteousness. Because of Jesus’ death for us - taking our sin - God can count His righteousness to all who believe (2 Corin. 5:21). The Just died for the unjust.

Because of the Seed of Abraham, God can justly declare us innocent, acquitted, righteous, justified (Romans 3-5). Such a Seed, that supposed son of Joseph is! Oh Vey!

Dr. Luke gives us not just a birth record, but a praise-prompt. Jesus, the Ruler, is the son of David: bow. Jesus, our righteousness, is the seed of father Abraham: believe.

My Dad used to say he was afraid to research our family tree. He feared finding a horse thief hanging from it. Ironically, he did. There is another One who hung in our family tree – the crucified King, the Sovereign Seed.

Jesus said you can judge a tree by its fruit. His family tree points to a tree on which He took our judgment. Now He is alive, ascended and enthroned above and some day will return and rule.

Bow before the King. Believe in Him. Enjoy this fabulous fruit from God’s family tree. O come, let us adore Him, our Ruler and our Righteousness.

*Kerry S. Doyal* - Pastor *Grace Bible Church (an EFCA)* *Kingsport, TN ** *

Saturday
Dec102011

God will raise up for you a prophet

Moses told the people preparing to enter the promised land:

“The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” Deuteronomy 18:15<http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?version=NIV1984&search=Deuteronomy%2018:15> NIV<http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/index.php?action=getVersionInfo&vid=102>

And He did: He raised up many prophets various kinds and at different times faithfully and graciously

And they did not: listen to them learn from look to them

And Yet, He sent One more He raised up a Son, His Son He was from among the brothers He was from God, was God

*As John 1:11-14 conveys:*

11He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

*As we read in Hebrews* 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (ESV)

*Indeed, as Moses said:* “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him.” Deuteronomy 18:15<http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?version=NIV1984&search=Deuteronomy%2018:15> NIV <http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/index.php?action=getVersionInfo&vid=102>

This is still a great admonition: *"You must listen to him.” *

Kerry S. Doyal - Grace Bible Church, an EFCA Making disciples of Jesus who love God & others by living & sharing His truth