I’ve Met Jesus’ Sister, and so have You!

Did you know that Jesus had a sister?  You know, I really hadn’t thought about it much.  However, in the last year with the controversy that Dan Brown’s book The DaVinci Code sparked, folks have actually taken a look at such things.  Well, what do we know about Jesus’ family?

The story of Jesus’ birth told in the New Testament reveals that Jesus’ birth was a miracle.  Mary was chosen by God and called by an angel to carry a child conceived by the Holy Spirit.  Joseph, realizing that he was not the father, was going to cancel his engagement to Mary quietly.  An angel appeared to him and convinced him to marry Mary anyway.

From here the details of the story are more sketchy.  So, what do we know?  We know that Mary had more children, sons at least, and that we don’t see any other evidence of Joseph beyond that.  The assumption is that, after the birth of Jesus, Mary & Joseph had several other sons and then at some point, probably prior to Jesus’ public ministry, Joseph died.

Mary shows up in the Gospels on several occasions, most notably at Cana of Galilee when Jesus performed a miracle at her request and at Jesus’ crucifixion.  But, there is another reference to Jesus’ family that includes a reference to Jesus’ sister, however. 

In the opening chapters of the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is shown beginning His ministry of teaching, healing and delivering those possessed by demons.  Crowds of people flocked to him from all over the area.  Then Jesus’ mother and brothers also show up.  Jesus is in a building, probably a home, teaching a group of people crowded around him.  His family, unable to enter the building, are left standing outside.  Someone conveys to Jesus the message, “Your mother and brothers are outside looking for you” (Mark 3:32 NIV). 

Jesus said, “Who are my mother and my brothers?”  Then He looked at those seated around Him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers!  Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” (Mark 3:33-35 NIV)

Now this doesn’t mean that Jesus didn’t respect his family.  We see that Jesus, later, while He was being crucified, specifically made sure that His mother, Mary, would be cared for after His death and resurrection.  The point that Jesus is making is that you and I can be part of His family!  Anyone who chooses to follow God’s purposes, which includes accepting Jesus as God’s Son and our Savior, is Jesus’ brother, sister or mother.

So, do you know someone who is pursuing God’s purposes in her or his life?  That person is Jesus’ sister or brother!  Chances are, you know Jesus’ brother and probably His sister too!

But a more important question is:  Are you doing God’s will?  If you are, guys, you are Jesus’ brother!  Ladies, if you are, you are Jesus’ sister! 

(Maybe the next topic I write about should be “The need for humility!”)

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A New Beginning (with a History)!

We are beginning a new year, 2008! Millions of folk have celebrated the new year in Times Square and around the world. Everyone likes to think that each year we get a new lease on life. A chance to start over, to start fresh! They are right! A new year is a gracious gift, a hopeful promise! Of course, there is no guarantee that we will get to live to see the end of the year, or that we will make good use of the time we will be given. But “here’s hoping!”

What many people forget is that this new year has a foundation: all the years before. What this year will become is not limited to, but is dependent upon what came before. I saw an example of this in Mark chapter 1, verses 1-2. Marks begins his Gospel by saying, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the son of God.” Wow! That’s a loaded title! It marks a new beginning! He says this is “gospel,” which means, “good news!” This good news is about Jesus who is the Christ, or the Messiah, the Savior promised by the Jewish prophets. Some ancient manuscripts record Mark as testifying that this Jesus is the “Son of God!” A divine savior who fulfills the promises of the ancient Jewish prophets…now that’s a new beginning with a history! But this new beginning, built upon a foundation of history, was not limited to that history. Jesus himself said that he came not to abolish the law or the prophets (what had been built before), but to fulfill them (cf. Matt. 5:17).

Mark follows verse 1 with quotations from Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3, who are Old Testament prophets. Mark shows that this new “beginning” has a history.

So, what does that mean for us?

Often we try to get away from our past, but find ourselves tied to it. Many folk find themselves repeating the past, despite their feverish attempts to distance themselves from it! How do we move beyond the past?

First, Mark’s words show me that I can never move beyond my history until I face it. As we start this new year, it may be helpful for us, hard as it may be, to review our life to this point. Ask yourself, what lessons have I learned thus far in my life? What lessons should I have learned from my mistakes? Honestly assess where you are, where you have failed and where you have succeeded.

Second, Mark’s words show me that even if I have a past, I can, with God’s help, have a new beginning! In fact, another apostle, John, quotes Jesus as saying, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10b). We are not defined by our past. We need not suffer an eternal curse because of our history. In fact, Peter is quoted in Acts 10:43 as saying about Jesus that “All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” What an amazing gift that Christmas has given us! A Savior who is willing to forgive us of our sins! The writer of the book of Hebrews (10:17) reminds us of the promise of Jeremiah 31:34 “Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.” In God’s eyes, our history is wiped clean!

Third, Mark’s words show me that my future has its meaning in Jesus Christ. If I want to make a new beginning in my life, it needs to be about Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He is the center of history. The numbering of our year, 2008, is tied to His birth. His birth was the watershed event of history. If I want my life to be meaningful, it must be connected to the One who gives meaning to life! Ask Jesus to come into your life, bringing forgiveness for your past sins, helping you to learn from the past, becoming a companion to bring you joy in each day, and providing guidance and purpose for your future.

Now that’s a New Beginning with a divine history!

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The Quest – Day 16

This is the devotional for Wednesday, October 11, 2006 which is the 16th day of The Quest, our 40 Days of Discovery. Our devotional today offers a summary of the material in Chapter 16 of Frank Moore’s great book, The Power To Be Free.

If you were unable to attend Sunday’s service, focusing on Discovery 2 of the Quest, or if you’d like to hear previous messages in The Quest series, please sign up for our Faith Nazarene Church podcast. You will find the link at www.buildyourfaith.net

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this devotional. Visit http://www.buildyourfaith.net to read the previous days’ devotionals or to subscribe to the “FaithBuilders” podcast.

Day 16 – Imitators of God

Imitate God.

“Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children, and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.” (Ephesians 5:1-2 NIV)

Author Frank Moore says that one of his favorite memories of his son’s childhood occurred during the summer of his third year. There Brent was about three paces behind him pushing his toy mower, imitating every move he made. Like it or not, our kids imitate what they see us do.

That’s the concept Paul had in mind when he admonished us in the Scripture verse above to imitate God. In the verse just prior to it, he explains what he wants us to do, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other” (4:32). Both verses tell us to love as Christ did. We follow His example and show others the same kindness and compassion we have received from Him.

What force drives this love? God’s love flows through us. This love originates in God (see. Romans 5:5). We simply receive it and pass it on to our hurting world. This means that whenever we see something else taking center stage in our lives, we quickly set it aside and restore God to first place. This enables us to reach out to others with the same love with which God reached out to you.

So often when Christians read in the Bible that they must love God and others, they assume they must generate large quantities of this love by themselves. So like the car rental employee, they try harder. Then they become frustrated, because they cannot love God’s way by themselves. The love you’re called to display requires nothing more than receiving God’s love and letting it flow through you to others. You simply imitate God.

The memory verse for this week is Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

Thank you for reading the FaithBuilders devotional. For more information about our church, visit our website at www.jaxnaz.org.

Build your faith today by imitating God.

The Quest – Day 15

This is the devotional for Tuesday, October 10, 2006 which is the 15th day of The Quest, our 40 Days of Discovery. Our devotional today offers a summary of the material in Chapter 15 of Frank Moore’s challenging book, The Power To Be Free.

 If you were unable to attend Sunday’s service, focusing on Discovery 2 of the Quest, or if you’d like to hear previous messages in The Quest series, please sign up for our Faith Nazarene Church podcast.  You will find the link at www.buildyourfaith.net 

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this devotional. Visit http://www.buildyourfaith.net to read the previous days’ devotionals or to subscribe to the “FaithBuilders” podcast.

 

Day 15 – The Great Command

Love God, love others.  That’s it.

 
“The most important one is,…‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this:  ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these..” (Mark 12:30-31 NIV)

We live in a give-it-to-me-quick world.  That’s the mindset that also prompted one of the teachers of the Law to ask Jesus to cut to the chase when it came to the thousands of Jewish laws and interpretations.  Jesus replied with a twofold response:  love the Lord with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and your neighbor as yourself.  The first command summarizes the first four of the Ten Commandments; the second summarizes the last six.

Love for God must always come first; love for others will naturally flow from it.  We do not obey God’s laws out of slavish obligation but with a child’s heart of love.  Sin does not break God’s laws as much as it breaks His heart.

On another occasion, Jesus summarized the Law by saying, “In everything, do to others what you would have them do to you” (Matthew 7:12).  We call this the Golden Rule.  We must always keep the biblical principle of love for God and others at the center of our thinking as we proceed on our Quest to discover the life we’ve longed for.

Jesus calls us to make sure that we mark everything in our lives with love.  We can easily be kind to those who are nice to us; we’re not as easily disposed to have that same regard for those who mistreat us.  But Jesus gave us that revolutionary charge.  Our love responses for God and others create one of the most important characteristics of our Christian faith.

The memory verse for this week is Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this:  Love your neighbor as yourself.  There is no commandment greater than these.”

Thank you for listening to FaithBuilders podcasts.  For more information about our church, visit our website at www.jaxnaz.org. 

Build your faith today by loving God and loving others.


The Quest – Day 14

This is the devotional for Monday, October 9, 2006 which is the 14th day of The Quest, our 40 Days of Discovery. Our devotional today offers a summary of the material in Chapter 14 of Frank Moore’s great book, The Power To Be Free.

If you were unable to attend Sunday’s service, focusing on Discovery 2 of the Quest, or if you’d like to hear previous messages in The Quest series, please sign up for our Faith Nazarene Church podcast.

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this devotional. Click on the recent posts on this site to read the previous days’ devotionals or to subscribe to the “FaithBuilders” podcast, click on the link in the right margin.

Day 14 – God is Love

God is love.

“God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him.” (I John 4:16 NIV)

A song attempted to define God’s love, then gave up on the hopeless task and painted a picture instead. God’s love defies description!

Many of us have heard about God’s love from earliest childhood. Songs like “Jesus Loves Me” and verses like John 3:16 which begins, “For God so loved the world….” For some of us it seems we’ve heard so much of God’s love that it has lost its mystery.

But God does not possess love the way someone owns a pickup truck. Rather, God defines all that we know about love by His very nature and being. He is the source of all love, the very personification of it.

The most amazing picture of God’s love which was given in that song is that of the Father sending His Son Jesus Christ to live among us and tell us personally about God’s love. Then He died on the Cross for our sins. What unbelievable love! When pressed to define God’s love, John pointed to a picture, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us.” (1 John 3:16)

This picture reminds us that God’s love reached out to us before we even knew we needed Him. He sacrificed His most precious loved one for us. He found no price too high for our ransom. He cared, He gave, and worked for our good long before any of us responded to Him. He did the same for those who never responded. This selfless love always was and forever will remain undeserved by us. Yet, He continues to extend it freely.

So, here’s the map for your Quest. Head straight toward a more comprehensive understanding of this God who equals love.

The memory verse for this week is Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

Thank you for listening to FaithBuilders podcasts. For more information about our church, visit our website at www.jaxnaz.org.

Build your faith today by seeking to know this God who is love.

The Quest – Day 13

This is the devotional for Sunday, October 8, 2006 which is the 13th day of The Quest, our 40 Days of Discovery. Our devotional today offers a summary of the material in Chapter 13 of Frank Moore’s great book, The Power To Be Free.

If you are unable to attend today’s service, focusing on Discovery 2 of the Quest, we’d love you have you participate via our Faith Nazarene Church podcast. We will attempt to post the service this evening.

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this devotional. Visit http://www.buildyourfaith.net to read the previous days’ devotionals or to subscribe to the “FaithBuilders” podcast.

Day 13 – Love Floats

Love is the most important virtue.

“But the greatest of these is love.” (I Corinthians 13:13 NIV)

Since author Frank Moore grew up near his grandparents’ farm, he is amused when he visits the local grocery store and sees pints of what they now call “heavy whipping cream.” The name might imply cream to be heavier than regular milk. Quite the contrary. Dr. Moore grew up with a gallon of fresh milk in their refrigerator every morning. He knows that because rich cream is lighter than milk, it floats to the surface.

If we think of putting every Christian virtue in a bowl of water, love will float to the very top as the most important Christian virtue described in the Bible. Furthermore, love represents a key ingredient in every other Christian virtue.

Love is defined as a strong affection leading to action toward another person often based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests. It usually leads to unselfish loyalty or benevolent concern for the good of this special one. These definitions speak more of action than warm, fuzzy feelings. These represent ways we want God and other people to think, feel, and act toward us. They also represent the ways God wants us to think, feel, and act toward Him and others.

Dr. Moore said he recently attended a meeting where he heard a woman say, “I love poor people.” Someone quickly responded, “What are their names?” You see, love is not a lofty abstract; it must translate into a practical, concrete gesture aimed toward a person with a name. True love touches real people.

You know intuitively that love is the greatest and highest virtue. Where and how do you discover this kind of love? That is the focus of our Quest this week.

The memory verse for this week is Mark 12:30-31, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.”

Thank you for listening to FaithBuilders podcasts. For more information about our church, visit our website at www.jaxnaz.org.

Build your faith today by loving God and others in practical ways.

40 Days of Purpose – Day 38

This is the devotional for Tuesday, June 6, 2006 which is the 38th day of our 40 Days of Purpose. Our devotional today offers a summary of the material in Chapter 38 of Rick Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.

Click here to listen to the podcast version of this devotional. Visit http://www.buildyourfaith.net to read the previous days’ devotionals or to subscribe to the “FaithBuilders” podcast.

Day 38 – Becoming a World-Class Christian

The Great Commission is your commission!

“Jesus said to his followers, ‘Go everywhere in the world, and tell the Good News to everyone.’” Mark 16:15 (NCV)

You have a choice to make. You will be either a world-class Christian or a worldly Christian.

Worldly Christians look to God primarily for personal fulfillment. They are saved, but self-centered. They love to attend concerts and enrichment seminars, but you would never find them at a missions conference because they aren’t interested. Their prayers focus on their own needs, blessings, and happiness. They want to use God for their purposes instead of being used for his purposes.

In contrast, world-class Christians know they were saved to serve and made for a mission. They are eager to receive a personal assignment and excited about the privilege of being used by God. World-class Christians are the only fully alive people on the planet. Their joy, confidence, and enthusiasm are contagious because they know they’re making a difference. They wake up each morning expecting God to work through them in fresh ways.

Which type of Christian do you want to be? If you want to be like Jesus, you must have a heart for the whole world. You can’t be satisfied with just your family and friends coming to Christ. There are over 6 billion people on earth, and Jesus wants all his lost children found.

The Great Commission is your commission, and doing your part is the secret to living a life of significance.

The memory verse for this week is Colossians 4:5 (NIV), “Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.”

Thank you for listening to FaithBuilders Podcast at buildyourfaith.net. This podcast is a ministry of Faith Church of the Nazarene in Jacksonville, NC. Visit our website at jaxnaz.org for more information about our church.

Build your faith today by choosing to become a world-class Christian!