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Given for the Saints at Medicalodge, Neosho, MO, 12/22/02

"While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn" (Luke 2:6-7).

Once again this week, I had planned to do something else today, but the Spirit of the Lord led me in another direction. When I heard this phrase, "born in a barn," it brought to mind the lowly birth of our Lord and Savior. When we were kids, I can remember our mother or grandmother or aunts saying, "Shut the door. Were you born in a barn?" Many of you probably heard this as well. It was meant to shame us into preserving either heat or cool, depending on the time of year. Our friend Pat Savas, who is currently "on assignment," by the Lord in Israel for a couple of months, sent an essay called "Posturing, the Opposite of Christ," by Michael Clark. His comments and the phrase I heard from the Spirit triggered this writing today. Here is what I want to share from what Clark wrote:

"Have you ever noticed that Jesus never went around claiming that He was the Messiah? Even when pressed by the Jewish leaders to say so, He seemed to avoid taking the title to Himself. Instead he let men tell Him what He was while they observed His actions and words (see Matthew 16:16). The title does not make the man, and neither do his degrees. On the other hand, Jesus did take the title "the son of man." There was nothing special about being the son of a man, now was there? Or how about the title that Paul chose, "the offscouring of the world" (1 Cor. 4:13) as our example? ("scum of the earth, refuse of the world," NIV)

"Have you ever noticed that Christ's whole life was one of seeking the lowest place? He was born in a barn, and laid in a feed trough in the least of all towns in Judea. He grew up in a town in Galilee that also was considered least by the Jewish leaders of that day. Referring to Him they said, "Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?" He spent most of His life in what was called "Galilee of the Gentiles" with disdain by the Jews. He was rejected by the leaders of His own people and finally He was tried like a common criminal, crucified between two thieves and His body placed in a borrowed grave. If being born in the right family and having a place of respect in the local community was an asset for gaining power, somebody forgot to tell God.

"There is a great lesson to be learned here. Today we often see men who are in ministry getting degrees and taking titles to them and seeking the highest places in their denominations and churches. We seem to be observing a Christianized version of the world systems of men. There is Pastor Wonderful, Prophet Profit, Apostle Covering, and Doctor Eschatology, etc. Then there are those out there who love to take God's name to themselves "Reverend."

"He sent redemption unto his people: he hath commanded his covenant for ever: holy and reverend is his name" (Psalms 111:9, KJV). End Quote.

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Israel was looking for a Messiah who would be King of the Jews and lead them out of their bondage to the hated Roman overlords. When He came, born in a manger of poor parents, they didn't recognize Him. He was the Light of the world, the Hope of Israel, the Redeemer of Zion, but they missed Him by a Country Mile.

Let's listen in on what the shepherds heard: "And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, "Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger." And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!"" ( Luke 2:9-14, RSV). This annunciation makes my heart sing because the good news of great joy will come to ALL the people, not just the Jews. This must have royally constipated God's chosen people, for they believed they had the fast track to God, and that He preferred them above all others. In fact, it was sometimes the non-chosen who showed more faith than the children of Jacob, as evidenced by the healing of the centurion's servant.

Jesus was in Capernaum when the centurion approached Him saying, "Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, in terrible distress" (Matt. 8: 6). Jesus was very willing to help, replying, "I will come and heal him. But the centurion answered him, "Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof; but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I am a man under authority, with soldiers under me; and I say to one, 'Go,' and he goes, and to another, 'Come,' and he comes, and to my slave, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard him, he marveled, and said to those who followed him, "Truly, I say to you, not even in Israel have I found such faith" (Vs. 8-10). Here was a man who understood authority and power, one who had only to speak the words and have his commands obeyed. Jesus was clearly amazed that this man whom He had never met believed in His power, when even His disciples had failed to believe what He said on occasion. His subsequent comments to them sound harsh, but God is non-negotiable, as John Gavazzoni is wont to say, about His plan spoken from the foundation of the world. Jesus never hesitated in calling it like He saw it: "I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. But the subjects of the kingdom will be thrown outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 8:11-12, NIV). I have heard this verse used to prove that those who don't obey will burn in hell forever. That's not what it says and not what it means.

Jesus was making the point in language they could understand that the children of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were not guaranteed a seat at the great feast. It's another way to say that harlots and tax collectors (scum and refuse), would go into the kingdom ahead of the Pharisees and so-called righteous people. Why? He said, "For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him" (Matt. 21:31-32). Like a lot of religious people today, the Jews thought they knew it all and understood how the Messiah would come and what He would do when He got there. They had been studying the sacred scrolls for generations, after all, and wasn't that what would lead them to Messiah?

This is the same mindset many Christians have today as well. I've been dialoguing with a young man who is led by his natural mind, and he cannot get beyond what his logic tells him the scriptures mean. He strains out the gnat and swallows a camel on a regular basis (Matt. 23:24), but until and unless God opens his eyes, he will not see the truth hidden among the words. Likewise, when Christ stood in the midst of Israel's finest religious scholars, they accused Him of doing His miracles by the power of Beelzebub (Mark 3:22). These were God's chosen people talking. To them He asked, "How can Satan cast out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand. And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end. But no one can enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house. "Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin," for they had said, "He has an unclean spirit" (Mark 3:23-30, NIV). When we deny the power of God to do the impossible, i.e. save the ungrateful and the selfish (Lk. 6:35), we are really saying that Christ has an unclean spirit.

The episode with the homeless couple and child that I shared last week ("A room at the Inn, Angels among us." Link at end), brought out this self righteous spirit in some who profess Christ. When I told one elderly woman that we had been led to give them money, she said to me in a scornful tone, "You NEVER give money to people like that. They were scamming you!" What came across in her tone was, "People like that don't deserve help!" Harry and Jeri Fox and I had a great phone fellowship Saturday morning, and he mentioned that while they lived in Orum, UT, they encountered people like this every week. Having had four sons which were products of the 60's generation, he quoted the saying about the hippies that they were "flaky," meaning they had no foundation, and no solid basis to work with. To my comment that this is the basis upon which some Christians disqualify them for help, he said, "Jesus helped the poor, the needy, AND the flaky. He was not codependent to them, in the sense that he enabled them to stay sick." In other words, He met them right where they were, loved them, forgave them, and then said, "Go and sin no more" (John 8:11).

As long as I have mentioned the homeless couple, I will say that the end of the story is not yet written, but our Father knows how it will turn out, and since He is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish AND the flaky, we can be confident that He will lead them home. I have a mental picture of someone walking toward God, but the pressures of the world, the flesh, and the devil, cause them to detour left. When they do, they will find Him waiting there. If they detour right, likewise, He is there as well. He knows the end from the beginning, and just what kind of detours, and pig pens we must encounter on our way home to Him. Belief is the key here, and I rejoice daily that even faith is a gift from Him, who Himself is the greatest gift! Jesus said to the centurion, "Go! It will be done just as you believed it would." And his servant was healed at that very hour" (Matt. 8:13).

The homeless man told a resident at the Compassionate Ministries Shelter that they were going to hitch hike back to New Mexico. It was a cold, blustery day, when this happened, and they have a five year old child with them. We drove up to Joplin and back down to Anderson looking for any sign of them, but there was none. So, we envisioned them in the arms of the Father, who waits at the door for each of us to come to ourselves, pick ourselves up from whatever pig pen or barn we find ourselves in, and come home to Him, where He has a robe, a ring and a crown waiting for each one of us. One size fits all, hallelujah!

Each of us was born in a barn, no matter what it looked like from the outside. We were "separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Eph. 2:12). God came from His palace in glory and took up residence in our humble hearts. The Christ child is born and laid in the manger of our heart when we receive Him there. Father, open our eyes to see You as You are, that we may love and give to others as You have freely given to us. You came to us in our stable, washed us clean by Your own blood, and made us white as snow. Then, You seated us in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, joint heirs with Him of all You have and are. We worship and praise You every day for what You have wrought in our lives for Your glory. Amen. Jan Antonsson.

 

Sarah Blattner demonstrates the size of a manger at Tel Megiddo, probably like the manger where they lay the infant Jesus. March, 2000.

 

Gift Wrapping

by Jan Antonsson

 

No one knows the date when Love swallowed hate;

when angels sang with joy to greet the baby boy,

who would set all men free.

He came as a babe, the whole world to save,

with God's power and might, He ushered in the Light.

Darkness had to flee.

 

There was a time, when eternal truth sublime

walked among men, forgiving guilt and sin;

freedom's flag unfurled.

He came not to judge, removing every smudge,

of sin and blackest stain; when we were born again,

God graced our world!

 

Every Jew and Greek and all who seek,

find the Lord of creation, the King of every nation

under the sun.

His mighty work is done; every battle won.

Satan is defeated; his demon hoards unseated.

Life has just begun.

 

 

At the end of the story, our Father shares His glory

with all of Jesus' brothers, the world and all the others,

according to the plan.

God is the reason to celebrate the season,

with bells to ring and songs to sing:

His Gift was born in Bethlehem.

 Poem written 11/19/02 for the Saints of the World

Jan and Lenny Antonsson

17178 Highway 59, Neosho, MO 64850 (Snail Mail)

"A Room at the Inn, Angels Among Us"

The Glory Road

We always enjoy hearing from you!

jantonsson@aol.com

This page was uploaded to the web on 12/21/02

by Jan Antonsson, Webmeister,

and last edited on 10/29/08.