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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.”

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Fighting For the Promised Land

         Sometime today, find the time to take a break. Turn off the TV. Step away from the computer. Find a quiet place to think and pray. See if you can hear the Lord. He is speaking. He is trying to tell us something very significant.

         When they returned from spying out the land, at the end of forty days, they proceeded to come to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the sons of Israel in the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and to all the congregation and showed them the fruit of the land. Thus they told him, and said, “We went in to the land where you sent us; and it certainly does flow with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. Nevertheless, the people who live in the land are strong, and the cities are fortified and very large; and moreover, we saw the descendants of Anak there. Amalek is living in the land of the Negev and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites are living in the hill country, and the Canaanites are living by the sea and by the side of the Jordan.”

         Then Caleb quieted the people before Moses and said, “We should by all means go up and take possession of it, for we will surely overcome it.”

         But the men who had gone up with him said, “We are not able to go up against the people, for they are too strong for us.” So they gave out to the sons of Israel a bad report of the land which they had spied out, saying, “The land through which we have gone, in spying it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants; and all the people whom we saw in it are men of great size. There also we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak are part of the Nephilim); and we became like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight.” [Numbers 13:25-33]

         Twelve men were sent into the land. Ten returned displaying a wicked heart of unbelief. Only two of the ten, Caleb and Joshua, believed. 

         Pessimists, religious traditionalists, and Christian wimps are everywhere. They man our pulpits, saturate the airwaves, and insist that all is lost.

         Only they are not saying it in quite those terms. They say it in the sense the ten weasel spies of Hebrew infamy said it. They say it the way every fearful, non-believing betrayer of the Lord in a Christian costume always says it:

         “All is lost but we must carry on, taking our shots, knowing we have lost and will continue to lose, the country is too far gone, all have bowed the knee to Baal, the enemy is too powerful, the fix is in, there is no way to change the status quo, they’re gonna get us. O woe to us, the persecuted! On we go with sad faces and depressed demeanors, we are left with merely going through the motions and waiting for our blessed rapture, can’t wait to get out of here, this world is not my home, I’m only passing through, let America die, let the devil have our country. The sons of Anak are giants! We are mere grasshoppers! Alas, God is too weak…”

         And we wonder why the Lord will have to toss most of mankind headlong into hell.

         Christian unbelievers are the worst unbelievers on the planet. They say all of kinds of great stuff but at their hearts are weak, wimpy, and very unclear-on-the-concept Judas Iscariots. Keep in mind, the Lord is not asking us to do His job. He is only asking us to agree with Him and obey Him so He can do His job. He considers this whole human mess as His problem in a certain sense, and has created the requisite perfect solution. He personally paid the price for our sins. He blesses us with undeserved favor called grace. He enlists in His movement toward spiritual liberty whoever might be willing.

         “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” [Matthew 11:28-30] [1]  

         Everyone on the planet has sinned, yet the Lord desires to release us from the pain and bondage of our sin so we can be free. Many have been set free. His desire is to bless all and love and care for us. He tries to take the pressure off our minds and burdens from our backs if we will only let Him. Imagine someone who deserves the death penalty or a life sentence in some hellhole prison suddenly being released. Would that not solicit off-the-scale joy?

         But our joy is curtailed as His is often curtailed through Christian unbelief and disobedience. No group of people betrays the Lord more often and more consistently than those who call themselves “Christians.” There are real Christians, of course. There is a real remnant of true believers and obedient followers, but these comprise a distinct minority.

         To this I say, “So what?” God’s followers have always been in the minority. The majority has always been wrong. God has never needed them. He has always made do with whatever small group or community He can muster together. Consider the fight facing the first Jewish believers of the first century who had to go up against the powerful and bigoted religious parties of Judea. By 70 AD, the vaunted Jewish Temple was destroyed but real believers were growing by leaps and bounds. How did these believers stand fast against the brutal Roman Empire? They were getting killed and persecuted right and left but continued winning the spiritual war.

         Fast forward to America of the present: Real Christians in this country are not facing the Roman Empire. We are not facing hateful Pharisees and Sadducees willing to kill and butcher us on a whim. AMERICA IS OUR COUNTRY AND WAS PAID FOR WITH THE BLOOD OF PATRIOTS. Christians have constitutional rights here that Christians in other countries do not possess. Great victories have already been won but most American Christians continually fail to take advantage of them. The Lord is asking us to take what is ours just as He commanded the twelve spies to take hold of their promised land.

         No, we are not supposed to “take over the country.” Christians are simply supposed to obey God and let everyone feel our weight. Christians in this country are weak for two principle reasons: (1) A general refusal to obey the Lord Jesus fully and (2) A further refusal to unite as one people under His dominion. “Christians” insist on denominations and separate camps and hate and resistance toward our fellow believers. “Christians” demand to indulge their flesh and pride. “Christians” hate love and “Christians” hate unity. Instead of doing things God’s way, “Christians” attempt to have “interfaith” dialogues and major on things held in common.

         IT WILL NEVER WORK. This is what will work: Each Christian must get right with God and obey Him. It starts with the individual. At the end, we will all be judged as individuals, so why do most Christians continue to hide behind their denominational beliefs, church communities, religious leaders, and dead traditional practices?

         We have an incredible opportunity at present to show this country what Christian love and unity are all about. The country is coming unglued and the fracturing will only continue. Very hard times are ahead. American citizens are turning against one another like never before in history. No one really knows what will happen or how bad it will get but experts know these times are unprecedented. It is the perfect setting for the greatest Great Awakening America has ever seen.

         There are two choices for American Christians: The majority will continue to wimp out like the ten spineless spies who had no faith in God. The minority will be like Joshua and Caleb who will fight any fight and take down any giant in their way. Only this time, the country will not be saddled with the unbelieving majority. This time, Caleb and Joshua will not have to pay a forty-year sentence for something they never did. This time, the Lord will not condemn America to further wandering in the Sinai deserts.

         This time, Real Christians will win. And by that win, the nation itself will be renewed and restored. Think about that when the Lord hands out the spoils of war. Those who fought and followed the Lord into freedom will be blessed as Joshua and Caleb were blessed. All other “Christians” will look under their Christmas trees and find a one-way ticket to diddlysquat.

         © 2011 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.