Christ Our Credential

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And he told them a parable to the effect that they ought always to pray and not lose heart. He said, “In a certain city there was a judge who neither feared God nor respected man. And there was a widow in that city who kept coming to him and saying, ‘Give me justice against my adversary.’ For a while he refused, but afterward he said to himself, ‘Though I neither fear God nor respect man, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will give her justice, so that she will not beat me down by her continual coming.’” (Luke 18:1-5)

 

How often do we overlook the incredible privilege of having access to the Almighty God of creation and being able to come to him with all of our cares and concerns through prayer? 

Like the persistent widow, we've been given an open invitation to bother God with our prayers. Persistence in prayer from a heart that's pure pleases our Father in heaven and honors him as the Sovereign Authority over all things. 

However, in our persistence, we must remember Who we are approaching and approach him with proper care. How many of us too often approach God too casually out of a false comfort of self-righteousness? Have we ever subtly assumed that we are entitled to God's ear because of our own goodness? 

Our access to God never depends on our resume of righteousness, but rather access is granted on account of the resume of Christ. Christ is the required credential for entering into the presence of God.

May we approach God persistently with a humble confidence that recognizes the reason we are allowed to pray in the first place. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. May we cry out to our Father in heaven often and out of a heart that's clinging to his mercy.

 

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God With Us

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All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus. (Matthew 1:22-25)

 

Is there anything more reassuring than to know that the Almighty Creator over all of creation has chosen to be with us? God had promised his presence all throughout human history and delivered on those promises in the various ways that he guided and protected his people. Then, suddenly, about two-thousand years ago, a young man named Joseph finds his soon to be bride miraculously pregnant with a child that he is told will literally be “God with us.” God was taking on human flesh and was nine-months away from dwelling with his people. The Creator was stepping into his creation, and it was so subtle that it defied all expectation.


The Creator was stepping into his creation.


The name Immanuel informs us of who he was — “God with us.” But the name Jesus lets us know why he came — “God saves.” Throughout history, God had rescued his people from bondage, delivered them from captivity and restored them as his people. Now, he was coming for the ultimate rescue. A deliverance that could only be pulled off through an Incarnation (God taking on humanity to be with his people). 

When Jesus was born, God was now with us. He was here to rescue his people from their bondage to sin, to deliver them from corruption’s captivity and to restore them back into a right relationship with him. Sin had long separated us from our God, but our Hero of Hope was now with us.

 

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The Appropriate Response

What is the appropriate response to hearing and embracing the gospel? Sometimes we are told that all we need to do is repeat a prayer and raise our hand. But if this was indeed the way that we were intended to respond to the gospel then there’s no doubt that it would have been made clear right here in Scripture. However, Scripture provides a different answer concerning “What shall we do?”

3 Steps to Start Celebrating the Success of Others

Minor League Baseball can breed this awkward team dynamic where everyone's individual pursuit of the Big Leagues secretly but not-so-secretly trumps the overall performance of the team. Sadly (but truthfully), this can cause players to struggle with the success of their own teammates (especially those who play the same position). And so, even though your teammate's success will help the overall performance of the team, it can also be seen as a potential threat to your individual pursuit of being the next guy who gets called up to the Big Leagues.

A Humble Entrance

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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 cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7)

 

Just as we come to realize that Jesus was no ordinary man; Jesus was also no ordinary child. Yet, his entrance into this world was less than ordinary. Man had no accommodations for him so God enters the world in a small obscure shelter made for animals. He then announces his presence to simple shepherds in a field. 

Visualizing the Creator of the universe coming into his creation as an infant lying in a feeding trough with no honorable visitors except some nearby shepherds puts any ambition, arrogance or entitlement on my part into its proper perspective.  

Why do we cling to status or certain privileges in life as if we've earned them and deserve them? If shepherds and a stable were good enough for the Incarnation, I have no right to expect or demand anything greater in life.

May we not live for selfish ambitions or self-exaltation, but in humility, may we count others more significant than ourselves and concern ourselves with their interests just as much as our own. Jesus, who was in the form of God, did not cling to his status and privileges as God, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a humble servant. 

May we always be mindful that the Son of God was born as an innocent infant wrapped in the arms of a teenage mother lying in a dwelling place intended for animals and unannounced apart from some nearby shepherds. All entitlement should be buried, and a heart of thanksgiving for all we've been granted should blossom.

 

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Matt Taylor Reflects on the Ride of Professional Baseball

I spent over twenty years of my life as a passenger on this train, but a few weeks ago, it became apparent to me that it was time to get off. Baseball has been the air that I breathe, and the Major Leagues was always the desired destination. But just this past spring, after one last outing on Field 3 at the Orioles complex in Sarasota, FL., my life as an active player came to an end.

Is God's Love Unconditional?

A careful reading of the Old Testament (OT) may lead us to ask a disturbing question, “Is God’s love conditional or unconditional?” This week in the bible reading plan, we read a particular portion of Leviticus where we heard God warn his people that “if you walk contrary to me then I also will walk contrary to you, and I myself will strike you.” This certainly seems like a conditional love, and we’d be hard-pressed to convince anyone otherwise.