Bible

Christmas lessons from the shepherds

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.  But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  And suddenly there appeared 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.”

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”  So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.  When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.  And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.  But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.  The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

Luke 2:7-20 (NASB)

Flock by night

The Shepherds

During Christmas time I like to read the story given to us in the Gospel of Luke.  He tells of the story giving a highlight to the shepherds who were watching over their flock at night.  We are not told how many there were, but I picture three to five shepherds of sheep.

I noticed the shepherds did three things during this event that I believe would do us all well to follow.

First we see that when the angel appeared they were afraid.  Can you blame them?!?  Here are these shepherds doing exactly what they are supposed to be doing when an angel appears with the glory of the Lord shining, and of course they have never seen this their life!  I can imagine how they probably wanted to run for their lives.  But the angel spoke and said to not be afraid – good news was to follow.  What a tense moment they had to have experienced as they decided in their minds to stay still and listen to the angel.

We see next that the shepherds did in fact stay still and listen to what the angel had to say.  These are startled shepherds and I am sure that the details of what was being said had to be hard for them to remember in their state of uncertainty.  I think the angel waited long enough for them to gain composure and listen intently.  We are not told, but I have my thoughts.

Then after the angel had told them the good news of the Savior’s birth, they were obedient.  They got up and went in search of this baby in Bethlehem.  Notice they did not get their affairs in order, but the went just as they were told.

Two lessons from the Shepherds

I think there are two lesson we can learn from the actions of these untrained shepherds.

We all become afraid at times.  Some people do not like to admit this emotion, but we all have times we fear for our health, finances, death, family or future.  Some people fear these kind of situations on a constant unhealthy basis and some of us just fear them quietly in our heads.  I think the key is to recognize the emotion and determine it’s source.

Then like the shepherds we should take these fears and let the glory of the Lord shine on them.  For us that simply would look like committing it to prayer.  Ask God just what I need to do with this fear.  Is there truth in the sources of the emotion?

Once we consult and hear from God, then we need to follow the example of these shepherds and take action.  Take positive action just as God lays out for you.  Don’t add your thoughts to it, but be obedient to the Lord.

I think if we follow these two steps from a time of fear, then we also would be blessed by our actions.  The shepherds were blessed beyond measure by being a witness to Mary about the message they heard from the angel about the baby Jesus.  Then they were one of the first on this planet to lay eyes on God who had come in the form of a human to be it’s Savior!  Wow – how they were blessed!

The Rest We All Need

Thus the heavens and the earth were completed, and all their hosts. By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.  Genesis 2:1-3

I read this scripture again a few weeks ago and realized something significant – God rested.  Wow!  The creator of our universe, who is without boundaries or limitations rested.  Why on earth would God do that?

I think he rested to provide an example for us to follow in our lives.  We have to rest or our body will shut down on its own.  Sometimes we think there is no time for rest because there is so much to do.  Or does that just happen to me?

I’ll admit, I have so much to do at times that I really feel rest is a waste of time.  It doesn’t get me anywhere.  It just lets me, well ……. wind down –  recharge  –   refocus.              Oh yeah … rest.

I need rest in my life for no other reason that to refocus at times.  I get so wound up with the things in my life I think must be accomplished.  I also am a bit of a perfectionist at times.  I think some things I do have to be absolutely finished and completely right before I can stop or let it go.  Now sometimes that is a good thing of course, but sometimes it just drives me to the end of my physical and mental usefulness.

River
Peace like a River

Three kinds of rest we need

Daily

I don’t know about you, but my body needs 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep every day.  It would be awesome if I could keep a consistent rhythm of getting that much sleep every day, but I usually don’t.  And when I get behind on a good night sleep it seems to affect me in a lot of ways.  I find it hard at times to just quit what I am doing and go to bed – I have so much more to do!  But what I make up in productive activity … I lose in rest.  My body will suffer as a result.  So only when I get wise do I lay things down and get a good nights rest.

Weekly

Here is the Biblical example we are given – to take a weekly rest.  Some call it a Sabbath day, the Lord’s day or even the day of rest.  For my family it is Sunday.  That is the day we set aside to rest from work and worship our Savior.  I will do everything I can to keep this day set aside and not work.  I don’t like to do business on this day if I can help it.  I also like to spend Sundays visiting with family.  We usually eat lunch with family members on Sunday and it is so good to recharge those relationships during those times.  I also like to get in a good Sunday afternoon nap.  For me that nap gives my body  that extra rest that I missed during the week.  It also gives me peace knowing all is well with my family that I can check out for an hour or so to just rest.

Yearly

One of the best ways we rest is with a good vacation.

Think about the best vacation you have ever had.  Was it a fun vacation?  Was it a restful vacation?  Usually the two are not the same.  During the season of our lives when we have young kids – rest is the furthest thing from a vacation.  However, I have felt the releasing of tension from work and my hustle/bustle life.  I may not have rested in the sense I would like, but my mind let go long enough to recalibrate the priorities in life.  Like spending time with family.

So for six days God worked.  I hope I showed you last week that work is actually a good thing.  Then God rested.  So let’s think about a couple of things.  God cannot be a part of anything evil.  So if God is in rest, then it must be a wonderful thing.  Notice that God blessed and sanctified the seventh day.  What God did was declare the seventh day good and set apart.  Since work was also good, God gave a separate time and weight to resting.

For me God speaks to me and says that I need that same time of rest.  I need a break from work to let my mind and body separate the activities.  Both work and rest are good and they both are something we all need.

Note to reader:  I finished this blog one night and thought I had it complete.  I went to bed and after resting had some more insight to this topic.  So I included it this morning before posting.  The overnight rest gave me a more clear picture to describe rest.  I hope this topic is as beneficial to you as it has been for me.

Are you heartily at work?

Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men – Colossians 3:23

Before sin came to our world there was work. Did you ever think of that?

In Genesis 2:15 we see that God put man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. This means that gathering fruit and vegetables was work, but in a good way. Imagine loving to do work! It brought Adam joy, food for life and a sense of accomplishment.

Digging work
Digging work

Then when sin came along that same work became toilsome. In Genesis 3:17-19 God said that the ground then would produce thorns and thistles.  You know what they are – competition for healthy plants. God also said that work then would cause us to sweat and make us exert a lot of effort.  Sometimes work is physically hard and sometimes it is just mentally draining.

Most people in our American society look at work as something that is hard and a duty they don’t look forward to. Commercials, TV shows and movies all give work a bad name. But we should realize that God created us for work, and by realizing that is part of our human design accept work as a way of glorifying God!

In Colossians 3:23 we are instructed to work heartily – just as if working for the Lord instead of humans.  To work heartily means with all your heart, to work genuinely, sincerely and warmly.  Is there anything in your life you do this way?  I know of people with a commitment to a team or cause with this kind of zeal, but not usually to work.  If you think of it, the matter comes down to a heart issue.  I think we need to work from our heart just as we love, play, sing or dance.

So when you work in retail you are obviously serving a customer, but you are also working to please God. If your job is to make widgets, then make them as if God paid you. At staff meetings, sales conferences, deliveries and while answering the phone see to it that you are pleasing God with your efforts.  If mowing, cleaning, chores and the like is your thing – then do them all in a way that would be pleasing to God!

One of my favorite quotes gives a great description of what somebody looks like who is working heartily:

The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.     – James A. Michener

So – how heartily are you at your work today?

Yes, Work is good

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters

Colossians 3:23

Before sin came to our world there was work.  Did you ever realize that?

In Genesis 2:15 we read that God put man in the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it.  I think God intended Adam to gather fruit and vegetables daily to provide for nutritional needs.  Harvesting was work, but in a good way.  Imagine loving to do work!  Work brought Adam joy, food for life and a sense of accomplishment.

Then we see that when sin came along that same work became toilsome.  In Genesis 3:17-19 God said that the ground then would produce thorns and thistles – competition in several ways for healthy plants.  God also said that work then would cause us to sweat – to make us give a lot of effort.  Those same fruits and vegetables now became more difficult to harvest because of the weeds choked them out.

Split Wood
Austin and Spud split wood

Most people in our lifetime look at work as something that is hard and a duty they don’t look forward to doing.  Commercials, TV shows and movies all give work a bad name.  But we should realize that God created us for work, and by realizing that is part of our human design accept work as a way of glorifying God!  Work is another way to worship God!

So if you work in retail you are serving a customer, but you are working to please God – that’s how He designed you.  If you stack, ship, move or manage for a living – do your tasks to please God.  If your job is to make widgets, then make them as if God paid you.  If mowing, cleaning, chores and the like is your thing – do them all to be pleasing God!

Below is one of my favorite quotes that gives a great description of what somebody looks like that loves working and is bringing glory to God.

“The master in the art of living makes little distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which. He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to decide whether he is working or playing. To him he’s always doing both.”

James A. Michener

Anticipation

Image

My son planned a cookout and bond fire at our home this past Friday night.  He contacted his friends and made food plans with his mom.  Then he and I prepared the yard and fire pit for the evening.

A couple of his buddies came over early to help us finish off the last details of moving cinder blocks and gathering wood.  Each of them were giddy and willing to do just about anything I asked them to do as we prepared.  Why?  Anticipation

They each anticipated who would show up for the event.  What conversations they would have. Maybe a new friendship would develop.  For sure, somebody was going to do something so funny that the whole school would be talking about it Monday morning!  That’s the beauty of anticipation – it is hoping for something great that is unseen and uncompleted.

Their anticipation reminded me of two great anticipations that I have on my mind:

1st – I am anticipating the new acquaintances, friendships and adventures I will have as a result of writing and maturing this blog.  The ability to purposefully share my thoughts and adventures makes me just giddy!  God is giving me wisdom as I journey, and I am so glad to share with anyone who will listen.

2nd – I am also anticipating the glorious meeting I will have in Heaven with my Savior!  I know in Heaven there will be a great reward for the things I do for the glory of God here on earth.  Hebrews 11:1 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”  I have never seen Heaven, but I sure do have faith that it will be a wonderful place to be for the rest of eternity!

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My son and his buddies did not know for sure who was coming to the cookout or what kind of fun it would be.  But they anticipated a really good time.

This blog and eventual book journey are certainly uncharted for me, and I know will include many highs and lows.  But I do anticipate how it will change me and my future.

My personal journey toward Heaven will be tough at times, but will also include many mountain top experiences.  Best of all I anticipate the final reward when I meet Jesus face to face!!!

So how about you?  What are you giddy about or greatly anticipating in your life?