The birth story of Jesus is a story that a lot of the church misconstrues into something that is common. We see it as the birth of Jesus, the son of God; which is very true! However, we don't see the story behind the story. When I read the birthing story from the Gospel of Luke, I normally read over the first passage. Here is what Luke 2:1-3 says,
The Birth of Jesus
1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.
When I read this, I normally thought and was taught that this was the reason that Mary and Joseph were going back to Bethlehem. When taking a closer look, this was not the only reason that Luke made this account. Here, he is setting up a time when two kingdoms are about to collide.
In High School, we are taught that Julius Caesar was murdered in 44 BC because many of the Roman senate thought he had too much power. Before his death, he adopted a grandnephew and named him heir to the Roman empire. After Caesar's murder, Octavian did three things:
1. He adopted the name Caesar.
2. He set out to kill his father's murderer's, which set up a decade long civil war.
3. He set up games that were in honor of his fallen father.
During the games, a comet appeared and many saw this as a sign of the divinity of Julius Caesar. Octavian used this against his enemies. If his father was a God, this meant that he was the son of a god. After this, a decade long civil war engulfed the Roman region. In 31 BC, Octavian defeated his rival Mark Antony. This was the beginning of "peace" in the Roman empire. People labeled Octavian as the "bringer of peace". Priests included his name in prayers and they made his birthday a national holiday. Soon Octavian was given the name Augustus which means "the illustrious one". He became known as a "savior" and was starting to earn his own divinity on earth. After all, he was the son of a god.
Caesar went on and started to bring "peace" in the region, but it was by the sword. His divinity was political and "divine" in his own eyes. You either chose to be part of the Roman Empire and worship Caesar Augustus or you were killed.
The reason for this quick history lesson is to set up something major. Luke's mention of the census was to set up the stage for how Caesar was trying to take control of the Roman Empire and how far his power reached. The census was to show his power and to see how far his empire reached. Luke set up the stage for the birth of Jesus. In one corner you have the Roman Empire, the greatest kingdom on earth and in the other you have the birth of Jesus who was ushering in a new kingdom. One that would challenge the being of the Roman Empire to the core.
When we look further into The Gospel according to Luke chapter 2:-14,
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”
The two different empires were established when Jesus was born. The amazing part about these two passages from Luke is that we see that the story is not just of Jesus being born and that Mary and Joseph were going to Bethlehem for a census. We can clearly see Luke is showing that Jesus, even from birth was starting to be a radical Christian. He came into this world, already setting up issues and problems that challenged the authority of that day.
I am writing this blog to see if we can challenge the way we think about God. Challenge what we know about Jesus and start to act as Jesus of Nazareth did. He challenged the authority of the day to get people to worship the true God. I am asking us to seek the true Jesus that walked the walk and talked the talk. We see a Jesus who does one or the other, and in a lot of churches this is how we are taught. Rethink what we know. Don't love the westernized Jesus, we need to love and show the love as the Jesus of Nazareth.
P.S. Happy Thanksgiving! It is refreshing to know I can be thankful for so many things. Family, Friends, a great church family and youth group, an amazing wife, and a God who loves me unconditionally.
The problem with these stories are that a lot of them are pure speculation. How many times do we sit there and we speculate about something, only because we have a little bit of information about the situation? We make judgments so quickly, without full knowledge of what really happened. Cam Newton has been a champion in dealing with all of his allegations and having negative media and press against a 21 year old man.
Sitting in the office with my senior minister, we briefly talked about how Satan can intervene himself into something that is bigger than he is. When our focus is taken off of God, it is a small win in the eyes of Satan. However, when we are doing things for the Kingdom of God, Satan is going to turn up the heat to get our attention off of God's work.
Wednesday night, I used an example of a student named Zach Hunter. Zach is a youth who at 17 was challenged by his youth pastor to do something to change the world. Zach started thinking about things in the world that were still prevalent around the world. He chose to fight slavery in the world. Human trafficking is where humans are bought and sold on an under ground market. Zach chose to hit this head on. He started the ministry "Loose Change to Loosen Chains". He wanted to break the bond of slavery.
Zach's youth pastor told him to "Be the change!" Zach took this literally. I used the illustrations from the Bible, out of 2 Corinthians 4: 3-6 which state
2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (New Living Translation)
3 If the Good News we preach is hidden behind a veil, it is hidden only from people who are perishing. 4 Satan, who is the god of this world, has blinded the minds of those who don’t believe. They are unable to see the glorious light of the Good News. They don’t understand this message about the glory of Christ, who is the exact likeness of God.
5 You see, we don’t go around preaching about ourselves. We preach that Jesus Christ is Lord, and we ourselves are your servants for Jesus’ sake. 6 For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ."
I also used 2 Corinthians 5: 20 which states:
2 Corinthians 5:20 (New Living Translation)
20 So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making his appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, “Come back to God!”
Here are two points out of 2 Corinthians where Paul is saying that the gods of this world have veiled our eyes to not see the glory and image of God in Christ Jesus. Distractions take our eyes off of the main goal. When we have a large goal, it takes smaller goals to achieve the bigger goal.
I challenged my youth group and also myself to "Be the Change" in the world around me. When I am doing God's work, Satan is going to send his distractions in my life. Nothing has been more obvious. Seeking the wisdom of those who I work with and by leaning on Christ in the time of despair, I see that God is clearly going to prevail.
At the end of the Bible study on Wednesday night, I did a little exercise with the students. I turned out all of the lights and I told all the students to bring out their cell phones. I told them to keep them off for a minute. I shined my pone into the darkness and asked everyone if they could see it. Then I asked everyone else to turn on their cell phones. The room lit up more and we could start to see details of the room in the darkness. Then I told them to turn their phones off again and I kept mine on. I asked the students if they could still see my phone in the darkness. They all said they could. We turned the lights back on.
I then read the verse John 1:5:
John 1:5 (New Living Translation)
5 The light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness can never extinguish it.
The light shines through the darkness and it can never be extinguished. The great part about this verse is that Love wins! I am going to be the change and I am going to let the light of Christ, which is inside of me, shine through the darkness of where Satan is trying to be right now. The darkness can never extinguish the light. In the end, Love wins!
And in the greatness that is there is a band called "The Darkness". This was a hairband that got lost in time and they had a huge hit called "I Believe in a Thing Called Love". I thought I would share this video with everyone. I do believe in a thing called love, and love wins in the end.
This week, I started my new job as the youth minister at my church. This will be my fourth church, but I plan on having a sustainable youth ministry for a while at this church. Things have been great so far! I met with the students on Wednesday night, I have been developing media for the student ministry like crazy!
It got me thinking though, that in our lives we go through MANY phases of how we react to things. It is like watching a child on Christmas morning open up all their new presents to play with them for so long, and then they forget about them. They have this instant high about the new things, then as things gather age on them, things start to cool down. I compare this to youth ministry. When we start a new year, a new job, or a new plan, we get really excited about it. We do so much to promote it, we do so much to do our best, then as we grow complacent with what we have or our job, we start to slack off.
I read in an online article that said, "We can plan and plan and plan and youth ministers can have a 6 year plan. The first two years really start to go according to plan. Year three hits and suddenly your plan is not working anymore. You start to wonder what happened and then you try to adjust the plan to keep it on pace. However, nothing works. Suddenly, you are just going with what doesn't work because it takes too much time to try to adjust to the changes needed."
We look a our lives, our ministries, and our plans and we see complacency in some areas, excitement in others, and things that are going to be left on the back burner for a long time. I want to keep this level of excitement for the youth group. In youth ministry, or in any new area of life, we have the honeymoon effect and then it wears off. Just as I want to love my wife to the best of my ability and what she deserves, I want to maintain the same level in all areas of my life.
Some of you are thinking that this is impossible. We are going to go through ups and downs, we are going to hit a low point and we will hit really high points. Life is much like a roller coaster; there are twists and turns, ups and downs, but in the end we all end up on the even keel. I never want to be complacent with my life, marriage, or ministry.
God has blessed me with a lot of things in my life. It is only my duty to honor Him in all I do in all areas of my life.
“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling (1 Peter 4:8-9).” - Bible
“Be patient and you will finally win, for a soft tongue can break hard bones. (Proverbs 28:13)” - Bible
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalms 30:5)” - Bible
“And now abideth faith, hope and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity (I Corinthians 13:13).” - Bible
“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:12).” - Bible
“The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked (Proverbs 10:11).” - Bible
“Work hard and become a leader; be lazy and never succeed. (Proverbs 12:24)”
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