The Christmas Story in Order

In last week’s sermon notes I (Rick Leineweber at Virginia Beach Missional Church) included a list of Scripture passages that put the events of the Christmas story in consecutive order. One of the traditions that we have established as a family is to read the Christmas story in chronological order every year. It’s lots of fun and it has helped us stay focused on the reason for the season. When our children were younger they would take the nativity figures and move them around to act out the wonderful story of Christ’s birth as we read. You can read it together as a family in one sitting or read a couple of sections each day in preparation for Christmas. If you own a Harmony of the Gospels the section numbers will be helpful but if you don’t you can just turn to the Bible passages. Enjoy!

  • Section 2: John’s prologue: from pre-incarnation to crucifixion (John 1:1-18)
  • Section 3: Jesus’s legal lineage through Joseph and natural lineage through Mary (Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23b-38)
  • Section 4: John’s birth foretold to Zacharias (Luke 1:5-25)
  • Section 5: Jesus’s birth foretold to Mary (Luke 1:26-38)
  • Section 6: Mary visits to Elizabeth (Luke 1:39-45)
  • Section 7: Mary’s song of joy (Luke 1:46-56)
  • Section 8: John’s Birth (Luke 1:57-66)
  • Section 9: Zacharias Prophetic Song (Luke 1:67-79)
  • Section 10: John’s Growth and Early Life (Luke 1:80)
  • Section 11: Circumstances of Jesus’s birth explained to Joseph (Matthew 1:18-25)
  • Section 12: Birth of Jesus (Luke 2:1-7)
  • Section 13: Witness of the shepherds (Luke 2:8-20)
  • Section 14: Circumcision of Jesus (Luke 2:21)
  • Section 15: Jesus presented at the temple (Luke 2:22-38)
  • Section 16: Return to Nazareth (Luke 2:39)
  • Section 17: Visit of the Magi (Matthew 2:1-12)
  • Section 18: Flight to Egypt (Matthew 2:13-18)
  • Section 19: New Home in Nazareth (Matthew 2:19-23)
  • Section 20: Growth and early life of Jesus (Luke 2:40)
  • Section 21: Jesus’s first Passover in Jerusalem (Luke 2:41-50)
  • Section 22: Jesus is adolescence and early manhood (Luke 2:51-52)

Source: A Harmony of the Gospel by: Robert L. Thomas & Stanley N. Gundry, Harper Collins Publisher, 1978

[print_link] [email_link] [Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]

Being a Spiritual Leader

Men, we often don’t lead our families as we should. I sense that most wives are aching for their husbands to be the spiritual driver in the home. Most of the time we drift and outsource that leadership somewhere else.

The Courageous movie will challenge each husband and father to make a resolution… to be resolved… that they will be an active force for God on this earth and in their family.

I once heard Kenny Luck, men’s ministry leader at Saddleback, as he  encourages you on how to be the spiritual leader of your home.

Kenny tells us to:

  1. Own it – own our spiritual lives, don’t outsource that to anyone else.
  2. Show it – demonstrate outwardly what God is doing on the inside.
  3. Lead her and the marriage – not lording over her, but providing leadership.
  4. Lead by serving them – leadership is service, not position.
  5. Love them – love is an active word, not a feeling.

God is Near, Don’t Miss Him

It’s been a busy month, so that is why the lack of posts in July. First I was on a mission trip to Kansas City, MO to help contract the new chapel at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Lots of framing, stage building, window trim, wood staining; take a look at the video presentation we did at church on July 24. It is a great week to spend with fellow believers doing something for someone else. Trips such as these can be life changing.

Then my mother-in-law, Polly Jo Wingo, passed on after a long health battle. Kim was down in Alabama for several weeks trying to care for her and her father. The hospice people were very helpful is getting things set up for Jo’s final two weeks. She died on Tuesday July 26. The experience reminded me how life is a gift and time is short, even when someone had 73 years on this planet.

As I was thinking about the brevity of life, I was reminded about his passage of Scripture from Isaiah 55:1-7.

Seek the Lord while you can find Him; Call on Him now while He is near (Isaiah 55:6)

It reminds me of missed opportunity, but also joy, because Isaiah is telling us that it is not too late.

October 2010, the world looked on as 33 Chilean miners were plucked one by one from their deep, cavernous prison. For more than 2 months, these men hung on to hope and life a half-mile below ground. The rescue teams preparing for the evacuation had many concerns:

  1. Would the escape pod function properly?
  2. Would the men experience hypertension as they rose to the surface?
  3. Would they develop blood clots?
  4. The primary concern, however, was panic attacks. “This is the first time in many weeks that the miners are going to be completely alone,” said Chile’s health minister.

We know what it feels like to be alone. Perhaps you’ve been abandoned by a parent or friend. You have experience the death of a close family member. Perhaps you have been overseas and culture shock is about to overcome you. You may feel lost. Even in a crowd, you feel isolated. In a city of a million people, you feel alone. God, however, invites us into relationship, into friendship. “Come to me,” God says (Isaiah 55:3). He invites us to come out of isolation and embrace relationship with Him.

When we come to God, we’re always welcomed with open arms. Unlike other relationships we’ve known, God’s love isn’t based upon us meeting some expectation or providing something for Him. He simply loves—completely, entirely, without hesitation. God loves us anyway, not for what we have done or what we’ll become. God makes a promise to His people, an “everlasting covenant [of] unfailing love” (Isaiah 55:3).

This everlasting covenant finds its ultimate expression in Jesus, who came to us and brought God to us, along with His life and forgiveness. We didn’t reach up to Him. In Jesus, God reached down to us. We didn’t come near to Him. In Jesus, God came near to us. Since God is near, don’t miss him!

“Seek the Lord while you can find Him,” Isaiah says. “Call on [God] now while He is near” (Isaiah 55:6). The good news is that, in Jesus, “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23). You need to know more? Write to me, a comment here or use my online form, let’s talk.

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Set Apart From Birth

This is the first part in a series on the life of the apostle Paul. First off, using the term, “the apostle Paul” may conjure up images of some holy man, spiritual mystic, saintly statue or iconoclastic portrait, but in the original language of the New Testament (Greek), the term apostle really means “one who is sent out.” That is exactly what happened to Paul in the New Testament, he was called by God and sent out with a message. That is what we read about in the book of Acts; Paul and his missionary journeys take up most of the book’s content.

The passage today is from Galatians 1:15-16, where Paul tells us that he was set apart from birth and called by God; that the Father revealed the Son to him so that he might preach to the nations. The question comes, what may have been the upbringing of Paul? In what sort of home was he raised? Taken from Scripture and the Code of Jewish Law (which for centuries has been the foundation of Jewish life), Paul’s life was surrounded by Jewish custom and tradition, and guided his Jewish moral, social and religious behavior.

In Galatians 1:15-16, since Paul mentions being set apart from birth, he describes the rite of circumcision, which is the sign of the covenant (going all the way back to Abraham, Genesis 17:2, 7, 9, 10, 14). Paul includes in his testimony that he was the son of a Pharisee (Acts 23:6), a topic on which I will follow up next time.

The Jewish household was surrounded by Scripture, even from the very front door of the home. A mezuzah (the little container attached to the doorpost) contained a portion of sacred Scripture from Deuteronomy 6:4-9, and Deuteronomy 11:13-21. These are the bedrock of the Jewish faith.

There were three priorities for the devout Jew: study of the Torah (the Law of Moses), marriage, and doing good deeds. I’ll save the look into Paul’s boyhood home for next time.

So, what does this all have to do with us today? When was the last time you looked at your spiritual past? From where did you come? How far has the Lord brought you? You know more than anyone where you have been, and out of what God has saved you. Do you understand that what he has done in your life is no accident? We can also have the same response as Paul, that we have been called from birth. Circumcision is not the issue, but once we have come into a relationship with Christ, we can begin to see that He has guided us down a path that includes providential care and provision. We might not see it during the early or dark days, but hindsight is always 20/20, we can see how God has led us to where we are today. Take time this day to rejoice in what God has done in your life.

Secondly, how committed are you to the Word of God? Does your soul hunger and thirst for the things of God? Do you long to hear from Him? Do the Scriptures comfort your soul and fill your spirit? How do you handle the Word of God? Do your kids know how much the Bible means to you and your spiritual life? Do they see you reading from it and do you teach its principles each day?

One last question: do you sense the need and urgency to make necessary changes to become all that God desires for you to be? Not just for your own sake, but for your family’s sake.