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AWAY IN A MANGER: HE FIXED HIS TENT AMONG US

Blog Pic 12.24.18        

         And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. [John 1:14]

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         In the preceding verse, the word “dwelt” comes from a Greek word which means “To fix one’s tabernacle or tent,” and “To dwell.” There is no doubt this Greek word came from a Hebrew original. God Himself fixed His tent among us.

THE TIME OF HIS VISITATION

         It was in the autumn of the year. The Feast of Sukkot or Ingathering was the last on the annual calendar. It was a weeklong event celebrating the harvest. Also called the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths, it hearkened back to that in-between time in the vast and lonely Sinai desert when Egypt was long gone and in the remote recesses of their rear view mirror. The Promised Land was up ahead in the distant future. It was an unsettled time of transition and hope.

         “You shall live in booths for seven days; all the native-born in Israel shall live in booths, so that your generations may know that I had the sons of Israel live in booths when I brought them out from the land of Egypt. I am the LORD your God.” [Leviticus 23:42-43]

        These booths were crude, temporary dwellings. Constructed of entwined boughs and branches from desert flora and brushwood, these canopied shelters served as impermanent homes as commanded by the Lord. As in all things spiritual with fleeting types and shadows, their otherwise ostensible purpose and full meaning was known only by Him. The Hebrew word is sukkah. The first time it is used in Scripture, it refers to a corral Jacob built for his livestock, the location of which eventually became the settlement of Sukkoth east of the Jordan.

         In escaping Egypt and entering the unknown and ultra-challenging wilderness of Sinai, the sons of Israel were a nation in the making and a people on the move. Forty years of wandering were on tap in order to learn to walk by faith and know the voice of the Lord. It would be a hard lesson for the current populace of that time, being thoroughly engrained with worldly vestiges of a foreign and pagan nation. It would take long years for the Lord to extract the fetters which opposed spiritual life and add the building blocks of circumcised hearts and willing minds. In His own wisdom He chose an unruly and rebellious people with stiff necks and hard hearts to eventually show forth His glory and to bring to this world the hope of celestial communion.

         These rustic booths of branches were thus a stark opening lesson in spirituality 101—that of pure and holy humility—the door which makes all else possible. Whoever declines the offer and refuses to cross this threshold chooses instead to harbor their pride. It should thus be obvious that God chose the most humble of circumstances to enter into this world.

AWAY IN A MANGER

        While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 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.” [Luke 2:6-12]

      Newborn babies are completely vulnerable. They are entirely dependent on their parent’s love and protection. God had carefully chosen Joseph and Mary if for no other reason than their great faith and obedience born of a humble nature to serve and please the Lord. Mary did not understand why she was chosen but she readily complied. Joseph had a tad tougher row to hoe and it took a few angelic visitations to get him on track. As long as these two remained faithful all would be well, but there was no guarantee.

         There is also no guarantee for anyone in this life outside the will of God. Without faith it is impossible to please Him. Each of us enters this world just as the Lord did but each of us is also initially unaware of God’s purpose. Discovering His purpose is the true quest of life. It is what gives our lives meaning. He’s got it all covered as long as we don’t rebel. We know by the life He lived that rebellion and disobedience were never part of His nature. Some of us learn the lesson somewhat easily by comparison to those who fight all the way. For the majority, it is far too high a price and for them, this life is the only home they will ever know. In the drive to escape all things humble they construct the most humble and temporary life of all compared to the glories of heaven.

         The tabernacles of the Lord’s people are temporary. They are necessary for now. We exist to please Him and nothing pleases Him more than to take care of us, rescue us from the ravages of sin, and bless us. This demands a process not at all unlike the process He chose to be with us. He meets us where we are.

       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. [Luke 2:13-16]  

GETTING OUR WINGS

        I love the Christmas movie It’s a Wonderful Life and the overall message it conveys. It illustrates the important role of each person and signifies the far-reaching effect each of us has on the lives of others. We all know the line spoken by George Bailey’s young daughter at the very end of the movie: “Look Daddy. Teacher says, every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings.” For every person who overcomes his or her personal pride and surrenders to the Lord, the same thing happens. A miracle takes place.

        “I tell you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” [Luke 15:10][1] 

         By humbly giving our lives to the Lord as He gave His for us, we also effectively fix our tent as He did. From such humble beginnings, He is then able to bring us out of Sinai into our personal Promised Land, a place of greatly meaningful service to Him and to others.

          I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.    

         © 2018 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

LINK: Exactly eight years ago, in late August of 2010, the Lord spoke to me very clearly: “WE ARE IN THE EARLY STAGES OF A NATIONAL GREAT AWAKENING.”

DEFINING THE WORTHY: Qualifying Clergy, Church, and Ministry Donations (1)

         “How was it possible that the Lord could just go up to men and call them into ministry, telling them to leave their jobs and livelihoods, without somehow taking care of them and their families financially?”

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         Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” [Matthew 8:20]

         No one is more selfless and humble than the Lord Jesus.

         I have promoted a truth on this site in several posts and comments that I have never heard preached or taught anywhere else. It has to do with the Lord and money. How did He finance His ministry?

         Most Christians never consider this question. Here’s the bigger question, however: How was it possible that the Lord could just go up to men and call them into ministry, telling them to leave their jobs and livelihoods, without somehow taking care of them and their families financially? These men were all working very hard to make a living. Their wives and children needed them. How could they just drop everything and walk off with the Lord? Who would take care of their own?

         The reason this equation is a stumper and head-scratcher for many Christians is probably because they have been taught the Lord was poor. The preceding passage of Scripture seems to denote this: He had nowhere to lay His head. But the apostles, their wives, and their children had to be provided for during the Lord’s ministry and their simultaneous spiritual education. The necessary money was certainly not coming from the synagogues or other rabbis. This leaves only one possibility: It came from the Lord. It was He who had the money. There were later donations, of course, but He didn’t go around making collections of the vast sums He would need prior to His ministry.

         When one considers all the people He had to take care of, including as well older relatives dependent on these apostle families, the number is substantial. I’ve written before that it could be like it was when Jacob and his extended family moved to Egypt at the behest of Joseph. There were seventy people (Genesis 46:27). It was roughly the same with the Lord.

         In our day, we have what is virtually the very opposite: One man becomes a preacher and puts the onus on the many to provide for him. This is not necessarily a bad thing. The standard in the recent past was that a local preacher would take a church and receive the tithe. This was his understood entitlement. If the church was small he would not receive much and would have to work like everyone else to supplement his income. Larger churches had more money. You see where this is going…

         The only answer, then, for how the Lord was able to start His ministry from scratch and immediately stock it with chosen disciples was simply that He had to pay their way. He provided for them. This meant He had to have money. Where did He get it? HE EARNED IT. He worked very hard as a carpenter and builder until He was thirty years old. He took care of His mother and siblings after Joseph died. He saved His money for His later purpose in life.

         But He was also provided for as well, long before He could provide on His own. It was a picture of divine providence in which heaven was interspersing itself into the needs of humanity according to scriptural promise, investing in the One who would later give everything He had, when the One was very young…

         After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. [Matthew 2:11] [1]

         © 2016 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved.

         Real Christianity—The Nature of the Church


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

Earning Money to Bless the Lord / Discerning Those Who Bless Themselves (1)

         In the Gospel accounts, the Lord Jesus often talks about giving money to the poor.

         Does He ever talk about giving money to ministers?

         Real ministers of the real Gospel never demand pay for the work they do. They never demand the attachment of a donation to the word they teach. They never associate preaching the Gospel as a means to making a living. They never coerce people into giving, manipulate hearts toward that goal, or summon the specter of guilt to fall upon the undecided in yet another effort to extract their money.

         Those who do will have hell to pay, because they have allowed themselves by their own lust for the funding of their enterprises to be deceived into believing they are more worthy than the people whose hard-earned money they covet.

         Each one must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. [2Corinthians 9:7] [1]

         One will notice when reading the Gospels that the Lord Jesus knew how to stretch a denarius. He got a lot of bang for His buck. There was never anything wasted. There was no extravagance. There was, however, sleeping on the ground, traveling far from home, and being thankful for the good will of others whenever such good will was given. Whatever the case, however, whether the Lord had any money or not, nothing stopped Him from His purpose. He had a job to do, a duty to accomplish, and was, as some say, on a mission.

         He was and remains the greatest individual of all time with the greatest amount of willpower. Like anyone else, He learned it. He earned it. He is the only actual unstoppable Irresistible Force. He is also the only actual Immovable Object and spiritual Rock. By way of illustration, the entire Universe will surrender and cease to function and will admit defeat and give up while the Lord Jesus continues being resolute, determined, and on task.

         He is driven by love for us all. He fights for His people.

         This is the real King, the real God, the one real Christians follow. He is not for the soft, the easily intimidated or swayed, or those who refuse the rigors of real discipleship.

         He has an iron will.

         Thus, one will never find the Lord Jesus stopped or stymied for a mere lack of funding, or see Him stoop to demanding payment for spiritual services rendered as a means of funding. If anything, and if all money avenues are dried up and blocked and no one helps Him whatsoever, He’ll just go to work with His hands and earn His own dough. He calls His followers to do the same.

EARNING HIS OWN SUPPORT

         In fact, that’s exactly what He did His entire life before beginning His ministry. He worked very hard for many years with His own hands, quietly and unknown. He blended in with society to the point of complete obscurity, never giving any hint to the outside world of His future mission. Until He went public at age thirty, the Gospel accounts only speak of Him as a baby, a very small child, a twelve year-old, and then nothing more for eighteen years.

         And the outside world who knew Him as a nobody was pretty much everybody beyond Joseph and Mary. The parents of John the Immerser, Zacharias and Elizabeth, also knew in the relatively brief time they were still alive at and shortly after the birth of both John and the Lord. The latter couple were advanced in years and even more mystery surrounds the life of their son before his ministry. These were about the only people aware of whom the Son of Joseph and Mary really was and they knew there was no sense talking to anyone about it.

         Though traditionally, the Lord was thought to be a carpenter, a man who works primarily with wood, He was more accurately both a carpenter and a builder, in that He constructed things using a variety of materials. He provided not only for Himself, of course, but also for His mother and siblings, especially after the death of Joseph, since He was the first born. He did all this while also preparing for future ministry.

         But as importantly, He spent these years building up the necessary funding He would need for His earthly ministry. And unlike the modern day paid located minister who subsists from the wallets of his congregants, the Lord Jesus did the exact opposite. He did something most ministers see as impossible and completely uncalled for:

         He set the proper example by also providing for the needs of His twelve chosen ones and their families.

         One never hears this fact preached probably because it is far too convicting for those who demand money from those they preach to. There is no way the Lord would tell those twelve men to quit their livelihoods and the means to provide for their families and come follow Him, thus leaving their wives and children in the lurch, without also paying their way. Such a demand upon His disciples and their families would be 100% asinine, and the Lord never did it. But many “Christian ministers” would have no problem doing it, just as most ministers prefer congregants with money. And this gives us a direct clue into the main differences between real ministries and unreal ministries:

         Real ministries and spiritual communities are led by the Lord Jesus, are empowered by His Holy Spirit, and are unified by adherence to His teachings and love for Him and one another.

         Lacking the above, unreal ministries must be led by someone other than the Lord, must be empowered by something else, usually money, and must be unified by religious control and belief systems other than the pure Word of God.

         The twelve original apostles needed to be with the Lord Jesus 24 hours a day to learn all He must teach them. He was their Rabbi. Thus, they had to quit their jobs. Thus, they had no money coming in. Thus, the Lord had to provide for them.

         There is no other plausible method of financial support if one must build a foundational ministry team destined the change the world, especially one composed of hard-working blue collar tradesman and societal misfits without any savings. These men also greatly respected the Lord because they all knew He was a real Man like they were, but so much more, and could outwork any of them any day of the week.

         On the flip side, unreal Christianity has transformed the real Lord Jesus into the image of a sissy. Tell me, why would all those hard-working hard-living guys give up their lives to follow a sissy? Maybe the false sissy image of the Lord is actually a reflection of the unreal ministers who created it. The fakers obviously cannot handle the real Lord Jesus and thus want no part of Him. They could never stand up to the required discipleship and they thus reject Him outright. His missing presence perfectly explains dead churches.

         So imagine the Lord Jesus working with His hands all those years to build up enough funding to provide not only for Himself but also however much money it would take to provide for perhaps as many as sixty people for a period of three and a half years or so (counting an average of three children per apostle).

         Add to that the Lord also providing, after the death of Joseph, for His mother and probably as many as seven or eight younger brothers and sisters (we know He had at least four brothers). That’s about seventy people all together. That’s the same amount of people comprising Jacob’s extended family when they all moved to Egypt during the famine to live with Joseph. Coincidence?

         © 2015 by RJ Dawson. All Rights Reserved. (Part 1 of 3)


[1] Unless otherwise noted all Scriptures are taken from the New American Standard Bible, © 1960, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.