Monday, December 24, 2018

Men at the Manger ...

This post was originally published on this blog in December of 2011 and I republished it in 2013 and I believe the message is still relevant today:

                It is always fascinating to me that when we talk about the manger we focus only on two groups of men that came through the little door on that special morning - the Shepard’s and the Wise Men.  Of course we know that Mary and the baby Jesus was there.  However,  I believe that we miss some sufficient men that would influence the course of history by their presents that night. Let’s think about a few men that were around that night, or very close there upon. 

The first guy present that night was a man that had already been in the presents of God (the angel of the Lord had visited him), and he has agreed to be the step-father to King of King, Lord of Lords, and the “Great I Am.”  Now,  I don’t know about you but the thought of raising the Son of God would scare me. What if I made a mistake!,  what if I taught him the wrong thing!,  what if he could read my mind (like God can)!, what if something happens to Jesus!, what will God do to me?  Yet, Joseph sat there that night beside Mary, holding her hand, encouraging her, and takes part in the greatest miracle in history up to that time. We don’t know anything about Joseph as a father, beyond Jesus being 12 years old. The scripture is silent about the influence he had. However, I’m sure that it was significant. He held Jesus hands as he learned to walk, encouraged him to say his first word, watched over him playing in the field, helped him learn a trade, and maybe even taught him to read the scripture.  I have to say what a man, having raised two (what I believe) great children, I can only say I hope that can I do a good job.

The Second guy present that night was the Inn Keeper.   Please understand I know that the scripture does not say it was a man but provided the costumes of that time, it is a great possibility that it was. He is often criticized for his actions of not opening a room for Mary, but we don’t know all the details that happened that busy week with the census. I want to believe in my mind that throughout the night he was in and out of the manger, bringing the blankets, water, and maybe even kindling the fire. I’m not sure if there is remorse for not providing more or contentment that he had done all he could. But one thing would be clear, despite the lack of scriptural reference, his life was forever touched that night.

The third (Guys) was a group men that I view as the common man- - a group of shepherds working hard, providing for their families, and taking care of the sheep. As they were working, it says the angel of the Lord appeared and told them about Jesus’ birth.  They came running, they came to see, they came to worship!  Then they went and told everybody they could what they saw and heard that night. Can you image a group of shepherds being invited to the hospital to witness the birth of the Prince Charles or one of the Saudi Royal families? Not only was they invited, they were allowed to see Jesus up close and personal!

The Fourth (Guys) was a group of men that I view as the elite, educated, and of wealth. They traveled hundreds, if not thousands, of miles to see Christ; they came bearing gifts worthy of a king --gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  However, what is amazing to me is that God knew the need and provided the needed resources for a trip to Egypt (to escape the killing spree of Herod).  Think about these men’s arrival in Bethlehem; it would have to rival that of Kings, or even the president. Everybody was talking about these guys. Yet, the scripture says, they came and worshiped the King!

The Fifth guy never saw the baby Jesus.  However, he attempted to change the course of history.  He rejected the legitimacy of Jesus being King of Israel.  Even though, he himself sat on the throne of Israel by appointment of the Roman government, and not birth right.  He was the first person to outright reject the Messiah.  He set out on a mission to stop the Christ from fulfilling the mission that God had set in motion.  He died never seeing the Christ, but would earn a spot as one of the most treacherous men in history all because he missed understanding the significance of Christ Birth.

As I close, I have a question today especially to men, which man/group best represents you?  Is it Herod?, The Wise Men?, The Shepard’s?, The Inn Keeper, or maybe you feel like Joseph? Regardless, understanding that we may not have been at the manger the first Christmas morning, this Christmas morning with it falling on Sunday will we be worshipping him in church --reflecting on the alter (manger), or will we be at the toys’ alter worrying about the batteries or if the clothes we bought fit, or will we just claim he doesn’t exist?

Remember gentleman … Jesus is the only Reason for the Season!!!!

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Top 10 websites to help prepare a message!




I personally find it so ironic when an individual has a “Doctorate” so many people want your opinion on books to read, speakers to listen to, and websites to visit. I continue to get asked these questions, I’m not sure how having an earned PhD makes me any smarter that the Pastor down the street that has been ministry longer than I have.

However, I will attempt to help individuals to tap in resources that will help them in their Christian Walk and Study of God’s Word.  Recently, one of my students at Grace Church of the Valley School of Ministry asked “What are the top research websites you use to prepare a message or Bible teaching.

So, I have combined the list of my top 10, some you will agree with some you will not. However, the goal is to provide relevant information to everyone seeking to study and share God’s word.



       Christian Classics Ethereal Library @ www.ccel.org

       This is one the first places I go to find great information.

       Bible Gateway @ www.biblegateway.com

       Great site for comparing various translations of scripture.

       Bible Study Tools @ www.biblestudytools.com

       This site has access to some great translation of the Bible as well commentaries and concordances.

       Study Light @ www.studylight.org

       This site has access to some great translation of the Bible as well commentaries and concordances.

       Logos Bible Software @ www.logos.com

       Full-disclosure here …I currently have on my computer LBS free version, and find it helpful at times.  However, I find most things required to purchased I can find other places free.

       www.Christianity.com 

       This is a great site with some awesome resources as well.

       International Standard Bible Encyclopedia (ISBE) @ www.internationalstandardbible.com

Please understand the websites listed below may be controsvial to many. However, I have found them helpful in understanding the historical and even customs of the Bible, as well understanding the Early Church.



       The New Advent: The Catholic Encyclopedia @ www.newadvent.org/cathen

        Jewish Encyclopedia @ www.jewishencyclopedia.com

       Jewish Virtual Library @ www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org



I pray that you find the list helpful in your study of the scripture and in sharing your faith and walk with Christ.






Thursday, December 6, 2018

My list of top 10 Commentaries:




              I was recently asked by a Student @ Grace Church of the Valley School of Ministry what was my list of top 10 commentaries because she was wanting to update her library.  So, with that challenge I created her a list and thought I would make it available to you as well.

              Please keep in mind that I was raised Baptist church and started my formal college education in a Baptist college but would go on to serve in Pentecostal and Non-denominational churches over the past several years. So, my view of commentaries will be a little different than some folks that are locked into denominational lines.  

1.       Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (This awesome commentary can be found online free at various resources.)

2.       Thru the Bible Commentary, Volumes 1-5: Genesis through Revelation  by J. Vernon McGee

3.       Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture by Thomas C. Oden, (As a pastor I have found this commentary very rewarding in understanding the scripture from the writing of the Founding Fathers of the church)

4.       The Moody Bible Commentary, by Michael Rydelnik

5.       The Bible Exposition Commentary, 6 Volumes by   Warren W. Wiersbe

6.       The Baker Illustrated Bible Commentary, by Gary M. Burge and Andrew E. Hill

7.       Adam Clarke's Bible Commentary by Adam Clarke (remains one of the classics and can be downloaded free at various resources)

8.       Barnes Notes on the Whole Bible, by Albert Barnes (remains one of the classics and can be downloaded free at various resources)

9.       Liberty Bible Commentary, by Jerry Falwell, Edward E. Hindson, et al. (This is one of my favorites, do to using it a lot while in college. I know many will disagree with me, However, I have found it very helpful)

10.   Jamieson, Faussett, and Brown Whole Bible, by Robert Jamieson, A. R. Fausset and David Brown (remains one of the classics and can be downloaded free at various resources)