A Message in a Manger


I am going to revisit some of the Christmas articles I have written in previous years in the coming weeks, starting with this one. I may freshen them up a bit as I do so. This was one of the first articles I wrote on this blog, and I think the message still resonates today: A Message in a Manger.

The Word of God Is Living and Active

Unlike the other sacred texts I read, the Bible was hard-edged, and it confronted me with me! It penetrated my heart, and I wanted to look away!


I have made the statement in a previous article that the truth of God is not hidden from those who truly seek Him and desire to know Him. The truth is only hidden to those who don’t really desire to know God for who He is.

The following statement was made in the sermon I heard today: “Holiness and wholeness are hidden where only the humble can find them”.

I recognize that it’s easy for someone who believes in God to say these things. A person might even say these things in an arrogant and elitist sort of way, but that attitude would be 180 degrees wrong.

God is not an elitist. Elitism is antithetical to God and the fruit of the Spirit that should characterize those who believe and know Him.

Jesus, who claims to have been God in the flesh, came not to be served, but to serve and give his life. God “emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness….” (Philippians 2:7) These are not the actions of an elitist God.

The Gospel story of God descending from His place of privilege and power as creator of the world to enter His creation is not the story of an elitist God. He didn’t come as the greatest of all men with power and might. He came as a child, and He embraced the life of a servant, washing his disciples feet, healing lepers by touch, embracing prostitutes, and loving vulnerable people on the edges of society.

We also read that God created all humans in His image. Therefore, all human beings have intrinsic value. Since our value is given by God, it has nothing to do with our station in life. That value is not connected to how gifted or smart we are. It is not dependent on who our human ancestors were, or anything other than the image of God that we bear in ourselves by virtue of being born.

The flip side of that is the statement that God is “no respecter of persons” (He doesn’t show favoritism according to our standards). (Romans 2:11-16) If God is hidden to some people, His hiddenness is more a reflection of what people are looking for than who God is.

As a case in point, His own people, the nation to whom He spent hundreds of years revealing Himself, didn’t even recognize Him when He entered their world in real time and encountered them stripped down to human form:


He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God….”

John 1:10-12


Jesus confronted the elite, religious leaders. He called them blind guides. They, of all people, should have been able to recognize Him, but they didn’t.

We see in those interactions that they were looking for a savior that would overthrow the Roman Empire and ascent to the throne of Israel. They wanted an earthly savior. They were jealous of his popularity. They didn’t expect God to come to them humbly as He did. They didn’t remember their own Scriptures that say,


“though the Lord is exalted, yet he regards the lowly”.

Psalm 138:6


They didn’t remember or perhaps understand that the long-awaited Messiah would not fit a worldly model of power and strength. They should have known that he would have “no beauty or majesty to attract us to him” and “nothing in his appearance that we should desire him”. (Isaiah 53:2) They should have known that he would be “despised and rejected by mankind”, “a man of suffering, and familiar with pain” who would be “held in low esteem”. (Is. 53:3)

At the same time, we can understand why they missed these details or didn’t understand them. God is the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords! Why would He stoop so low? The kings, lords and rulers of the world did not stoop.

God called the nation of Israel to separate from the nations around them and to be different, but they continually failed to do that. God’s revelation from the beginning was an exercise in demonstrating that He is different, and not like the other gods, but they like the familiarity of those gods.

God’s people demanded a king to be like all the other nations. In doing that, they were rejecting God as their King who was distinctly different. They embraced the other nations’ gods; and Israel became indistinguishable from the character of the other nations.

They were meant to be a city on hill, a light to show the uniquely different character of God to the nations around them. They were continually urged to welcome strangers, to care for widows and orphans, and to do justice. (See 25 passages, including 19 Old Testament passages, with these instructions.) God desired them to be different from the world around them, as He is different from the gods of the other nations, but they failed to be different.

It’s no wonder that the Jewish leaders in the days of Jesus failed to recognize him. The Pharisees were so focused on the minutia of of their religious observances they neglected the “weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness”. (Matthew 23:23) They failed in their religiosity to appreciate and embrace God’s character that is embedded in the concepts of righteousness and justice. (Psalm 89:14)

They didn’t recognize God in the flesh because they lost sight of His real character. They were religious, but they lacked a real understanding of God.

The prophets, like Jeremiah, warned the nation of Israel many years earlier that they were going astray. The human heart is deceitful. (Jeremiah 17:9) We fool ourselves too easily.

Our fears, insecurities, pride, desires to be like the Joneses (other nations) and many things that get in the way of knowing God for who He is take priority in our thoughts and attitudes. We buy into narratives of ourselves, others and God that are warped.

Religious people are not immune to self-deception, and Christians are no less susceptible to self-deception than others. This is the lesson of the Pharisees, the leaders of God’s people in the days that Jesus walked the earth. In fact, religious people may be even more susceptible to self-deception because we use religion to legitimatize and justify our deception!


“The eye is the lamp of the body. If your eyes are healthy, your whole body will be full of light. But if your eyes are unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light within you is darkness, how great is that darkness!”

(Matthew 6:22-23)


What is the cure for this human malady?

There is one thing that is specifically designed by God to reveal (expose) the hearts of people. It may not work exactly as we might want it to work. It isn’t a magic device, and it doesn’t work unless we submit to it. Rather, it’s the tool God uses to do His surgery in our hearts if we allow it in to our hearts to do its work. That tool is the inspired word of God.


“[T]he word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”

Hebrews 4:12-13


Continue reading “The Word of God Is Living and Active”

Holding onto Truth with Humility

Today I read A Slice of Humble Pie, in the newsletter, Science for the Church, by Drew Rick-Miller. This piece is noteworthy for at least two reasons. First, it models a high regard for truth (and joy in discovering it), and second, it models the integrity that is required for humility.

Truth matters, because our Father is the progenitor of all truth, and through his Word all things seen and unseen were made. (John 1:1-3) His Word, of course, “became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (John 1:14) – Jesus. Thus, Jesus was able to say accurately, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6)

The statement that all things were made through the Word/Jesus, particularly speaks to the truth of science, which is the truth that we can discover in the creation. Rather than fear scientific truth, we should embrace it, as God is the creator of all things.

I like the approach of Hugh Ross to the seemingly contradictory “truths” of the Bible and science. He says that we have the book of revelation (Scripture) and the book of nature (which science reveals); if we see contradictions between them, then our understanding of one, or the other, or both must be inaccurate.

We should not hold so tightly to our assumptions and understandings that we fail to recognize and acknowledge truth. We should not fear the need to adjust our understanding because God is not the author of confusion, but the author of truth.

We are finite beings. That means that we sometimes need to hold truths in tension with each other when we don’t know how to synthesize the truth as we understand it. We do this in the hope and expectation that we will grow in our knowledge of God and the truth. If we can’t harmonize those tensions that we see today, we hope to understand them better tomorrow.

We don’t only find tensions between science and faith. We find tensions within Scripture, itself. Free will is implied in Proverbs (“In their hearts humans plan their course….” (16:9) and in the words of Jesus (“Anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God….” (John 7:17)) Predestination is implied by Paul (“He predestined us for adoption as son…” (Eph. 1:5) and in the words of Jesus (“You did not choose me, but I chose you….” (John 15:16)

As finite beings, we have to recognize that our efforts to harmonize everything will likely never reach the point of comprehensive understanding and synthesis of all truth with certainty and without gaps in our understanding. If we were able to achieve such a synthesis, we would be like God… and we aren’t.

(And that was the original temptation, wasn’t it!)

Even if we highly value truth, we are going to get it wrong sometimes, and we need to be ever open and willing to acknowledge when we are wrong. This humility is also a recognition of the truth – the truth that we are finite creatures

There is freedom in valuing truth and in being humble. We don’t need to hold on stubbornly to assumptions and dogmas when we value truth and humility.

This is not to say that we should allow ourselves to be tossed about by every wind that blows. God is a rock whose foundation is secure and does not change. We can rest in that.

Sometimes, though, we build onto that foundation structures that we mistake for the very foundation, itself. We invest much of ourselves in those structures and are, therefore, tempted to cling to them when we should be letting go and embracing with humility truth as it becomes known to us that might suggest some remodeling is needed in those structures we have built.

We will never need to restructure the foundations, which are of God, but we may need wisdom to know what is foundational and what is structural. Fortunately, if anyone lacks wisdom, we simply need to ask God, who provides wisdom generously to all who ask. (James 1:5)

It’s interesting to me that, when James talks about asking God for wisdom, affirming that God will give wisdom to all who ask, he goes on to talk about humility. (James 1:9-10) We need humility (and faith) to receive anything God offers to us. James affirms this later in his letter, quoting Proverbs 3:4:

“God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”

James 4:6

The Redemption of Korah: the Sons of Korah

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked.


Have you ever heard of the rebellion of Korah? How about the Sons of Korah? The rebellion of Korah and the Sons of Korah have a connection with each other, and the connection is fascinating.

The rebellion of Korah occurred during the 40 years Moses led the nation of Israel in the wilderness following God’s miraculous deliverance of the people out of captivity in Egypt. Korah rose up during the wo year desert wandering and rallied a group of people to oppose Moses.

Korah was a grandson of one of Levi’s three sons (Kohath). He was a Levite, which meant that he was involved in the Levitical duties of caring for the tabernacle and the tent of the tabernacle where God’s “presence” resided in the midst of the people. The Levitical duties were sacred and honorific.

The Kohathites were specifically in charge of caring for the Ark of the Covenant, the table, lamp stand, altars, articles of the sanctuary and the curtain behind which the priests did their ritual thing. (Numbers 3) Unlike the other Levites who were allowed to transport their items in carts, the Kohathites were required to hand carry their items. The Ark of the Covenant was particularly sacred.

Maybe the Kohathites were jealous of the ease enjoyed by the other priests who didn’t have to hand carry the items for which they were responsible. We don’t know. The text doesn’t tell us.

The text does tell us that Korah and several others rallied 250 men to oppose the authority of Moses publicly. They claimed that all the people of Israel are “holy”, and they questioned why Moses and Aaron “exalted themselves” above everyone else. (Numbers 16:3)

Moses responded by challenging Korah and his followers to put the issue before God. He said, “This is how you will know that the LORD has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea.” (Num. 16:28)

As the story goes, they all gathered in front of the Tent of Meeting, each man with incense burning in censors. Moses and Aaron did the same, facing off with the contentious lot. God warned Moses, and Moses warned the larger crowd to stand back. When he finished talking, the ground opened up and “swallowed” the 250 men up alive. (Numbers 16)

The story stands as a warning to those who are not content with their place in the world and get jealous of others to whom God has given greater responsibility. God chose Moses and Aaron to lead the people. By opposing God’s chosen leaders, they were opposing God’s authority.

I assumed that Korah and his group were wiped out The text seemed to imply that his clan were included in the 250 agitators. It turns out that my assumption was wrong because the “sons of Korah” appear many generations later, and their place in the history of God’s people is truly an intriguing “rest of the story”.

Continue reading “The Redemption of Korah: the Sons of Korah”

Finding Humility and Civility in Loving the Truth and Loving Others

The shades of grey are difficult to navigate, no doubt, but it isn’t all black and white. Life isn’t that simple.

I am finding some solace today in the increasingly polarized world in which we live. I can always find some balm in humor! Over the last half decade or more, I have stepped outside the political fray psychologically, taking a seat in the audience and observing the circus. I vacillate from horror to sadness, but there is always humor to which I can turn for solace.

Today, someone posted on Facebook an article with the following clickbait headline: No one blamed Obama during the 2009 swine flu pandemic that killed over 12k! Killer headline, right? It didn’t take another poster to find this gem: Trump in 2014 said Obama was ‘a psycho’ not to immediately cancel flights into the US amid Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

I have not checked the facts, by the way. Does it matter anymore? Doubt everything. That’s just easier!

I have been meaning to “collect” a bunch of articles and memes in pairs that are the exact opposites of each other. For instance, one article might say, “Trump beats up little girls!” While, another article might say, “Hillary Clinton approves of beating up little girls!”

When I start looking for these supremely ironic pairings, I begin noticing them often, but I haven’t found the energy to do the collecting. Democrat says, “Scientists have proven the world is black”; Republican says, “Scientists have been debunked: the world is white.” Each posting is made with the certainty of inalienable truth.

Most people respond with hearty signals of knowing acknowledgment, replying according to the identities and protocols of their particular form of group think. Though one or two brave souls might dare to post rebuttal, this modern ritualistic dance on social media is practiced to perpetuate and strengthen what we already think, gaining the knowing approval of the people “who matter” in a series of empty triumphs over the time and energy it takes to be candid and introspective about truth.

The truth is that there is plenty of rebuttal to be found if one is simply looking for it. For every black, there is a white. It’s easy, of course, to get lost in the myriad shades of grey. And, perhaps, that’s the real problem of modern (postmodern) people. We fear getting lost and sucked down in the shades of grey. If we can “rise” above that gravitational force of contrary facts, virtually skimming the surface lest we get sucked under the waves, we can maintain our preferred position.

Might I dare suggest another course? The shades of grey are difficult to navigate, no doubt, but it isn’t all black and white. Life isn’t that simple.

That isn’t to say that truth doesn’t exist in a postmodern world. Truth is still truth. It just isn’t as simplistic as we prefer it to be.

Continue reading “Finding Humility and Civility in Loving the Truth and Loving Others”