No Room - Why?

Written by: Tim Wood

And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling clothes and laid him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. [ (Luke 2:6-7)

 No room. Those are sad words at Christmas or anytime of the year. Now one would think that if God so rules the world as to use an empire-wide census to bring Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, He surely could have seen to it that a room was available in the inn. Yes, He could have. And Jesus could have been born into a wealthy family. He could have turned stone into bread in the wilderness. He could have called 10,000 angels to His aid in Gethsemane. He could have come down from the cross and saved Himself. The question is not what God could do but what God wills to do. God's will was that though Christ was rich, yet for your sake He became poor. The "No vacancy" signs over all the motels in Bethlehem were for your sake. "For your sake He became poor." God rules all things--even motel capacities, for the sake of His children. The road to Calvary begins with a no vacancy sign in Bethlehem and ends with the spitting and scoffing and the cross in Jerusalem.

And we must not forget that Jesus said: "He who would come after me must deny himself and take up his cross." We join Him on the Calvary road and hear Him say: "Remember the word that I said to you, 'A servant is not greater than his master,' if they persecuted me they will persecute you" (John 15:20). To the one who calls out enthusiastically: "I will follow You wherever You go!" Jesus responds, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."

Yes, God could have seen to it that Jesus had a room at His birth. But that would have been a detour off the Calvary road. And I am deeply thankful that Jesus finished what he came to do.

 

Why were the shepherds first to hear the Good News?

Written by: Tim Wood

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!    (Luke 2:8-14 ESV)

 Have you ever wondered why God chose the shepherds to first announce the good news of Jesus Christ? Why didn’t God go to the priests? Why didn’t he go to the power people?  No one really knows for sure but I want to offer four possibilities.

1) I believe God went to the shepherds first because God usually does what we don’t expect. So, He comes to shepherds not statesmen. His ways are way different than my ways. His thoughts are way above my thoughts.

2) I believe God went to the shepherds first because Jesus is a descendant of a Shepherd King.  Luke 2:4 tells us that David went to Bethlehem because he was from the house and lineage of King David – a shepherd who became a king. What a beautiful way of honoring the lineage of Jesus.

3) I believe God went to the shepherds first because God never overlooks the humble or the marginalized. Shepherds were not the culturati of the day. They were lower class not elite class. They slept in fields not palaces. Isaiah prophesied that Messiah would preach the good news to the poor (Isaiah 61:1). That night, there was not a more noble job than shepherding because they were the first to hear the good news.

4) I believe God went to the shepherds first because a Lamb was born that night. The Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.  A Passover Lamb whose shed blood sets us free. Worthy is the Lamb! Shepherds were the perfect audience to announce the Lamb of God has come.

The shepherds were privileged to see the glory of the Lord shining around them. The shepherds were blessed to hear an angelic choir giving glory to God. Everyone else gets a shepherd announcing the good news. There’s a lesson, right? Don’t close your ears to the good news because a shepherd brings it. Not everyone gets the bright lights, but everyone can hear the good news. Are your ears open? Sometimes a child brings good news from God. Sometimes it’s the person we would least expect. Don’t wait for the dazzling lights. Don’t wait for a divine vision. Open your ears to God’s good message, even if a shepherd brings it.

Glory to God in the highest!

 

Let it be

Written by: Tim Wood

34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man? ”35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.                               (Luke 1:34-38 NKJV)

Mary was probably 14 or 15 years old when the angel announced this news to her in Nazareth. It’s incredibly good news. It’s amazing news. Mary’s response is amazing too. She responded with complete submission, “Let it be to me according to your word.” I might have responded differently.  Like, “Wow. Let me think about this. Let me sleep on it.” Not Mary. She responded with quick obedience. This was world changing news. The birth of Jesus not only changed the world it turned Mary’s world upside down. Think about how Mary’s world changed. She had to think, “How would Joseph respond? What will everyone in town think? Will anyone ever believe me?” People would not look at Mary and think, “What a godly woman.” They would look at her and think, “What a cheating liar.”

Mary’s response to this life changing news is incredible, “Let it be to me according to your word.” In other words, she was saying to God, “Whatever you want to do in my life is okay with me. I exist to bring you glory and fulfill your purposes in my life.” Long before Romans 8:28 was ever written Mary lived it. “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

Let it be to me according to your word means that we want God’s purposes in our life over our own comfort. This Christmas, let’s join Mary and say, “Let it be God.”

The Day After Thanksgiving

Written by: Tim Wood

He who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving honors Me (Psalm 50:23) 

Charles Dickens once said that we are somewhat mixed up here in America. Instead of having just one day set aside for Thanksgiving Day each year, he said, we should have 364. "Use one day just for complaining and griping. Use the other 364 days to thank God for the many blessings he has showered upon you."

I think he’s right. Thanksgiving isn’t just a day to celebrate, it’s a lifestyle to employ. We honor God when we offer Him thanks. Additionally, thanksgiving is a sacrifice. We are to offer thanks when we don’t feel like it.  We are to give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  Dickens is right. Grumble less and thank God more.

God takes a complaining attitude seriously. The best-case study for this is the Israelites making their exodus from Egypt. They consistently complained about God’s miraculous provision and protection and it cost them 40 years of wandering.

Developing a heart of gratitude is essential to growing a stronger faith.  As John Piper stated in his book A Godward Life, "If we do not believe that we are deeply dependent on God for all we have or hope to have, the very spring of gratitude and faith runs dry."

Make the choice today to take your eyes off yourself and your circumstances, gratefully acknowledging who God is and what He is doing. Deny yourself the right to complain, embracing instead the deep-seated joy of thanksgiving... in all things. Every day be grateful to God. It’s good for your soul.

 

 

Thanksgiving is a choice I make

Written by: Tim Wood

Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever.

(1 Chronicles 16:34)

Giving thanks is a choice we get to make.  Giving thanks is an attitude that shows maturity in my walk with Jesus Christ. The Psalmist wrote, “I will give thanks to you, LORD, with all my heart” (Psalm 9:1). That phrase “all my heart” gives us the idea that he is making a choice. He’s choosing deep down inside his life to give thanks. I can choose to grumble and complain or I can choose to give thanks.  I can choose to complain about what I don’t have or I can choose to give thanks for what I do have.  I can choose to complain about my job or thank God I have a job. I can choose to complain about how people drive their car or thank God I have a car to drive. I can choose to complain about people or I can choose to thank God for people. How much different would our attitude be if we chose thankfulness?

An attitude of giving thanks is a discipline that I choose to work on. For most of us, it doesn’t happen automatically.  Here are some practical ways that have helped me to choose giving thanks.

 1) Prioritize giving thanks in your devotional life.  When you read Scriptures that teach you something about God – stop and thank Him.  When you see something that shows you God’s love – stop and thank him.

 2) Allow Christian songs to stick in your mind.  A simple lyric can change your attitude. The other day this lyric stuck in mind, “thank you Lord for saving me, thank you Lord for saving me, oh my soul cries hallelujah, thank you Lord for saving me.” That lyric made my day go better.  Paul said, “Sing and make music in our hearts to the Lord, always giving thanks” (Ephesians 5:19).

 3) Be thankful when someone blesses you.  Be thankful for big and small blessings that come your way. When I thank people, it completes my enjoyment of the blessing and increases my capacity to thank God.

4) Hang out with grateful people.  They will inspire you to be thankful.

Let’s choose thanksgiving every day! “I will give thanks to you Lord with all my heart!”