Christ’s Presence


“And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,

   are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

   who will shepherd my people Israel.”

Matthew 2: 6

To the best of my understanding, Jesus was never formally tended sheep; yet, he shepherds a flock that numbers in the millions. As Matthew refers to the prophet Micah’s comment about the birthplace of the coming Messiah, he also mentions a distinctive that stood out in the first century and that remains remarkable today. In Jesus we have a king, a person with great authority and holding the power to exercise that authority to its fullest extent. However, this king chooses to tend to the needs of His people and to guide them to the safety of righteousness. He could have made things much easier if He had simply taken control of this world and utilized His remarkable might and control over all of the forces of nature and of humanity to accomplish His wishes. Instead, Jesus lived a humble existence and experienced the death of a criminal so that people for all time hence would have direct and immediate access to God.

Jesus leads us into the presence of all that is holy, righteous, and loving as He operates as the shepherd of the human flock. There are many of us sheep that choose to follow Jesus as our ruler and king, but there are also many more that reject Him. Despite the rejection of so many, Jesus continues to seek after each and every person on this earth. He is that shepherd who never stops searching and seeking after all that are lost. His heart breaks at the thought of not sharing this life and the eternity to follow with each of the people that walk upon the earth. Frankly, this love and devotion is impossible for me to fully grasp or to understand. I do not care for or about people to this degree. Yet, God does, and He determined to do something about our rebellion and rejection. Thus, Jesus was sent into this world, lived as He did, and was crucified as the perfect sacrifice for all of our sinfulness. In His death we have the payment for our forgiveness, and in His resurrection we have rebirth into true and everlasting life.

This is the life that Jesus shepherds us into. He provides us with the wisdom and the understanding that is required to live well and to love greatly. Christ grants gifts of the Spirit to each of His people, and He guides us into using those gifts in a place and a manner that demonstrate the presence of God to others and that bring honor and glory to Christ’s name. Jesus is a shepherd for our hearts, minds, and souls, and His care and provision are with us through all of the journeys that we take in life. There is no valley too deep or mountain too steep for Christ to travel there with us. We will encounter nothing in this life that is beyond Christ’s capability or capacity to overcome. The victory may not look like what we would design or describe it to be from our perspective; yet, it will be the one that accomplishes God’s objectives and that fits into His plan for eternity. We can truly rest in the comfort of our shepherd’s care as we also seek to live with bold confidence by proclaiming Christ as our Lord, King, and Good Shepherd.  

Enlarge the place of your tent; stretch out the curtains of your dwellings, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, and strengthen your pegs.

Isaiah 54: 2

This may be a time of serious trouble, concern, or personal crisis. There is certainly much going on in our world to cause considerable anxiety, and I know that my life is influenced mightily by the tension that is in the air all around me. So, this would seem like a good time to focus on protection, self-preservation, and on holding onto what I already have. As is often the case with my perspective and the Lord’s, He sees things differently.

God tells me to keep looking outwardly, for He sees the opportunity in the hard times. The Lord wants me to open up the curtains of my heart and let others inside so that they can get a closer look at the miracle that is found in living life in a relationship with Christ, and He tells me to keep claiming more of the territory around me for His glory. In other words, God fears no one and nothing, there are no circumstances that are greater than His will, and He will not place me in a situation that is beyond His capabilities. The only limits that exist in my life are the ones that I create.

My role today is to be a builder, a seeker, and a giver of Christ’s love. I need to look at the ways that I am closing up the curtains of my heart in an attempt to protect myself and let God’s Spirit open me to His possibilities. Thus I can step out of my established boundaries and touch others with God’s grace and mercy, and as I take these seemingly risky actions, I am granted the opportunity to continually strengthen my foundation through prayer, reading of God’s Word, and connection to my family of faith.  

Having therefore such a hope, we use great boldness in our speech.

2 Corinthians 3: 12

My relationship with God that is formed in and through my acceptance of Jesus has changed the way that I can view the entire world. Now I am able to see beyond the moment to the much bigger reality of God’s loving grace, His desire for total communion with me, and the miraculous way that Christ’s Spirit continually works to move me ever closer to the transformation that is realized in becoming the total image-of-Christ being that is my eternal promise.

There is both comfort and challenge in this realization. The comfort comes from the sure knowledge that Christ is alive in my life, for me in every aspect of living, and throughout all of my days. The comfort also comes from God’s promise that He will continue to reveal more and more of Himself to me as I walk through life with Him. Additionally, the more I open my heart and mind to Him, the more He shows me the image of myself as viewed through the Lord’s eyes, and God’s view of me is like a picture of a beloved child that a committed father keeps on his desk. That picture frame holds the likeness of the Son, Jesus. The challenge comes from the continual realization that I am not there. I fall far short of living in the grace filled, love inspired, and truth imparting manner that is Christ’s calling to me; so, I am always being called upon by the Spirit to look deeply into God’s Word and to seek Him more of the time. 

One of the ways that I can seek God is through the nature of my speech, for there is a powerful connection between our language and our hearts. The Lord wants me to be bold, fearless and confident, in the way that I talk about Him with everyone that I encounter. This includes family, friend, neighbor, coworker, and total stranger. He wants me to talk as if Christ truly is my identity. Thus, as I speak of God, I am speaking from my own heart and mind. God also is telling me that I can always speak to Him with complete openness and honesty. He will never dismiss my thoughts as unimportant or lame, He is never too busy or preoccupied to hear me, and God always understands the true needs that are beneath the surface of my words. Also, God tells me to be honest and real with myself; yet, He reminds me that a truthful perspective of who and what I am needs to be formed from His vantage point. Being bold with myself means that I stay focused on my new identity and image that comes from Christ.   

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

John 1: 1-5

As we have just entered into the season of Advent, this time of waiting and of anticipation, I want to look at its inception. I admit that when I have considered this idea in the past that I have usually started the thread of this part of the story with the coming of the angel to Mary. This is then traced backward in time to Old Testament prophecies of the coming Messiah which are founded in God’s words about the crushing of the serpent’s head in Genesis 3. All of this would seem to ground the narrative of God’s plan and design for our salvation and restoration into the earliest days of humanity’s earthly existence. Yet, it occurs to me that there is a quality to this that is somewhat like crisis management. By the third chapter of Genesis our ancestors have already defied God and are being set out on their long and wandering journey through life.

Although God is the ever-present and only true answer to all of the crisis that come in life, the God that I know is not surprised or caught short by anything that we do or by what happens in the world. He knows and sees and is prepared to respond to all of it. Even in His power, knowledge, and absolute capacity and capability the Lord God is always the Father. Everything in His dealings with people is framed and motivated by His unending desire for us to have a deeply intimate relationship with Him. God yearns for the time when each of us will surrender our stubborn, isolationist ways and turn to Christ in humility and submission to His righteousness. God knew from a time when the concept that we consider as time had not been created that there would be a fatal break in our relationship with Him. Yet, He proceeded with the creation of humanity, but God did so with our restoration to a relationship with Him in full view.

This point in absolute pre-history would seem to be the true inception of Advent. God always knew that He would come to dwell among humanity. He was actively preparing for that time from before the moment that he first touched the soil of the new born earth in order to form the man whose descendant we all are. God imparted the life that came from His breath, that is His Spirit, into us, and He determined that we would be brought back to life from the self-imposed grave that we entered through disobedience. In our time, God has already come. Christ entered into our world, and the way to salvation and the means to transformation is present with us. Now we wait in anticipation of even more. The advent to come is the one in which all that is broken and diseased in all of Creation will be destroyed and heaven and the new earth will become one. Today we can live in the hope of the light that is Christ in us and the promise of His glory which truly overcomes all that is darkness in our world. 

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.

Matthew 1: 1

The details of history that Matthew records mattered greatly to his primarily Jewish intended audience. They also matter to the rest of us. Matthew shows that Jesus has a direct relationship to both the foundational prophet for their people in Abraham, and He is also a blood relative of the anointed king, David. Thus, Jesus is the rightful heir to the one and only God-ordained role as ruler over all of God’s people on earth. Although Matthew places Jesus within a Jewish context, God has never been so limiting when He considers the extent of who are inclusive as His own people. The separation of humanity into races, tribes, and separate people groups is something that came about as a result of our departure from God’s righteous path for living. None of them are outside of God’s grace, and no one is excluded from God’s desire and intent to save and to redeem. So, from the beginning of time, the Father planned and prepared to send the Son into our world in order to effect and perfect their plan for setting forth that heavenly redemptive work.

Matthew sets out a part of the careful detail that God included in His plan for the coming of the Savior. There were no accidental twists and turns in this long history of human relationships, for it all led to that point in history when the time was right and the setting was established for God to step into the earthly narrative in a tangible and personal way. Jesus was born in improbability into a family of little to no means and raised in that obscurity; yet, He was filled with all wisdom and understanding in a manner that made His elders wonder when He was still a youth. Then, in or about His thirtieth year Jesus moved out into the public sector and did the Father’s ordained work until the established power structure became concerned about Him so that He was considered too dangerous to be allowed to continue on. As Jesus was not to be intimidated or bought off, His societally legal murder was orchestrated by those same religious and political leaders. However, death was not permanent, and silence was not secured by the cross.

Instead, the cross and the grave that followed it were just the first steps in the Father’s plan for the perfection of His eternal design for the redemption of creation. The initial aspects of this plan are demonstrated by the recitation of many of the names of the people that came before Jesus and that form into His human family tree. The existence of the plan is stated by numerous prophetic citations in God’s Word so that when Mary gave birth to her miraculous son she was in Bethlehem as had been prophesied, and that child had the right by reason of lineage to the designation of Anointed One, which had been proclaimed by God to David through Samuel. God’s heart is made glad when people respond to His call to come to Jesus in order to be reconciled with the Father. When this happens, God’s intricate planning and perfect execution of His means for redemption is fulfilled as we are restored to our place as God’s beloved children.        

Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1 John 5: 5 

There are forces all around us in this life that not only can harm us but that are actively seeking to overcome us. I am not thinking about situations and circumstances that are overwhelmingly difficult; although, they are quite real, I mean that there are spirits and powers that have evil as their core intent. They are set on a coarse of assault, entrapment, and disablement that is placed into every one’s daily path of travel. 

However, everything that is in opposition to God has already been defeated by Jesus; so, every human failing, each flawed thought, and all of our unloved and unloving images have become traps with their springs removed by the power of Christ’s love for each of us. We need to accept this reality and believe from the center of our hearts that it is true and that it is my own, personal and absolute truth. 

Jesus is the victor in my life and over all that seeks to harm me and to lessen my ability to demonstrate the life changing and transformational love of God in a lost world. Belief leads to faith, which takes us to a place of trust; then, trust allows us to walk with bold confidence through the mine field that is this world while knowing that we are safe in every way that matters. Since I believe in Christ, who has given me the promise of His victory, I can face all of the situations, people, and decisions that will come to me today with the strength and the boldness of the knowledge that the Lord will use it all for His glory.   

“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” – that is, the word of faith which we are preaching.

Romans 10: 8

When we enter into a relationship with God through Jesus, the Christ, we are brought from a far away place to the actual presence of the Lord, God Almighty. His Spirit is literally breathed into us, and we become infused with the expression of God’s nature and character. That is, we are granted access to and understanding of God’s word. This is the platform that we can stand on with total confidence, absolute certainty, and complete trust. God’s word can lead each of us to understand Him more fully, and it should guide us to an ever increasing degree of trust of God through our faith in Him.

Paul’s challenge to all who believe in Christ relates to what we are doing with God’s word. Is it something that we use as an occasional curiosity, a personal source of comfort, or as a private aspect of our relationship with God? Although, most of us are not called to stand before large crowds of people or even on street corners and proclaim the great truth of God’s desire for the salvation of all souls, all of us are granted the gift of those truths, and we are accompanied through life by His Spirit who will provide the insight and the words that are needed to express those truths to others.

We are called by God to share who He is and why that matters with the world around us through the way that we live, the attitudes that we hold, and the love that we express. The word of God comes alive to people who do not know Him in the people who do. Everyday of our lives is important to the Lord, for our faith and the way that it sets us apart from the norms of this world is what preaches God’s word loudly and passionately, and it is our love that softens the hardened hearts around us so that they can hear their own word of salvation.  

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