Common and Uncommon

name-of-jesus

5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality
with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form
of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found
in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to
the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly
exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name,
10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who
are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue
will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Philippians 2:5-9 NAS

As I begin reading Paul’s words in this portion of the second chapter of Philippians, I sense the development of a theme contrasting the common and uncommon, the natural and supernatural, the ordinary and extraordinary. Let me share with you what I am thinking.

Paul begins by portraying Jesus as the Son of God who also became the Son of Man when He left the supernatural realm of heaven to come down to the natural realm of earth. He set aside His spirit nature to take on human nature. To use Paul words in verse 7, “Jesus emptied Himself and came to earth in the likeness of mankind.” The uncommon became common. We celebrate this occurrence at Christmas when we honor the birth of Jesus to the virgin Mary. This was when He became Son of God and Son of Man. Joseph was told by the angel to give Him the name of Jesus. At that time in history, Jesus was a common boy’s name. With the birth of Jesus, that name became a sacred name, an uncommon name. He was given an ordinary name that became extraordinary.

Going back to verse 6, Paul says that while the Son of God reigned with His Father in Heaven, He did not consider equality with God something to hold on to or take advantage of if His Father had other plans for Him. I am quoting the New American Standard Version of the Bible today because I like the image of the word “grasped” in this verse. While Jesus was born as a baby, I picture Him grasping, or holding on to, the finger of His mother Mary. When thinking of the transition for Jesus from heaven to earth, I picture Him letting go of the Hand of God and grasping the hand of Mary. This is a picture of the transition form the supernatural to the natural. It portrays the uncommon becoming common.

In verse 8, we see Jesus as a humble human being. While being Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus died a natural death by crucifixion to fulfill God’s supernatural requirements for the forgiveness of sin. Jesus died the ordinary death of a common criminal that resulted in an extraordinary, uncommon resurrection. I believe it took great humility on Jesus’ part for the uncommon to become common and the ordinary to be come extraordinary.

This leads us to verses 9-11 to conclude our scripture passage. With great humility, Jesus let go of His place in heaven and came to earth to die for all mankind. This was not a common occurrence – it was uncommon! Because of what Jesus did, His Heavenly Father has now placed the common name of Jesus above all names. Today, His name is an uncommon, sacred name. Now it is our turn to humble ourselves and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. I seems appropriate to conclude with the words of the praise song Jesus, Name Above All Names by Bill Batstone. Sing it along with me if you wish.

“Jesus, Name Above All Names”

Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.

Jesus, name above all names
Beautiful Savior, glorious Lord.
Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.

Emmanuel, God is with us.
Blessed Redeemer, Living word.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Donkey, Horse, or Mule?

jesus-on-donkeyThe disciples went and did just as Jesus had instructed them,
and brought the donkey and the colt, and laid their coats on them;
and He sat on the coats. Most of the crowd spread their coats in the road,
and others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them in the road.
The crowds going ahead of Him, and those who followed, were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David;
B
LESSED IS HE WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD
;
Hosanna in the highest!”
Matthew 21:9-10

As I read the account of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on the Sunday before His crucifixion, I am thinking about what Jesus symbolized for us when He chose to ride upon a donkey. The first thing I think about is the parallel of Mary riding on a donkey on her way to Bethlehem before Jesus was born and now Jesus riding on a donkey on His way to Jerusalem before He is crucified. There must be some significance with this repetition of images. (However, I acknowledge that many scholars believe Mary was walking with Joseph rather than riding on a donkey.)

By riding upon a donkey, Jesus was fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah 9:9 NLT, “Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey–riding on a donkey’s colt.” Jesus did not come as a warring king on a horse, but as a gentle and peaceable king upon a donkey. Let’s elaborate about the symbolic images of a horse and a donkey.

A horse is described as a strong animal with solid hoofs and a flowing mane and tail. In early historical times, leaders of wars often rode horses. Still today, there is a sense of authority and pride for the rider of a horse. In Revelation 19:11, John describes his vision of Jesus riding a horse when He returns to earth by saying, “I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice he judges and wages war.” However, this is not the image Jesus is portraying on Palm Sunday.

A donkey is a lowly animal. It is described as a domesticated member of the horse family with long ears and a braying call. A donkey is often used as a beast of burden. Jesus was the burden the donkey was carrying into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. However, Jesus was also carrying a heavy burden within His heart for all mankind at this time. I wonder if the donkey realized how heavy a load it was carrying physically, emotionally and spiritually. I also wonder if the long ears of the donkey epitomized how well attuned Jesus was to hearing the voice of His Heavenly Father on this day and throughout the coming days.

With the pictorial image of prideful horses and humble donkeys in my mind, I think of James 4:6 that says, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” I wonder which animal I represent. I desire to be humble like Jesus as He rode into Jerusalem over 2000 years ago. However, I have to admit that I can become prideful. Most likely I represent another animal – a mule. A mule is defined as the offspring of a donkey and a horse. It is a pack animal and has the tendency to have an obstinate temperament. Apparently, my personality is a symbolic hybrid of a horse and a donkey. There are times when I can be stubborn like a mule. Also as I consider the mule being a pack animal, I realize that I can pack away a lot of negative thoughts that have the capability of becoming a heavy load to carry.

Jesus was seated upon a humble donkey when He rode into Jerusalem. He chose to reveal Himself as a lowly king rather than a prideful king who would have ridden upon a horse. When entering the city, Jesus was as close to the donkey as He could possibly be physically. I am reminded of James 4:8, “Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.” For myself, if I want to experience a close spiritual intimacy with Jesus, I cannot allow myself to be double-minded with both prideful and humble thoughts. I yearn to portray a donkey rather than a horse or a mule.

In just a few days, we will celebrate Palm Sunday 2017. We will join in the shouts of “Hosanna – Jesus saves!” However, may we also take time to give attention to the humble donkey upon which Jesus rides. May the humility of Jesus and the donkey be reflected in our lives as well.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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The Fragrance of Humility

 

humility-2perfume-bottle-1And there was a woman in the city who was a sinner; and when she learned
that He was reclining at the table in the Pharisee’s house, she brought an
alabaster vial of perfume, and standing behind Him at His feet, weeping, she
began to wet His feet with her tears, and kept wiping them with the hair of her
head, and kissing His feet and anointing them with the perfume.
Luke 7:37-38

humility-2Last week I shared this scripture from Luke 7 focusing upon the brokenness of the woman who anointed the feet of Jesus. This week we will continue to look at the same scripture while thinking about the humility of the once sinful woman. In order for the woman to be able to wash Jesus’ feet with her tears and wipe them with her hair, she had to have her head near His feet. She had to bow down with her face to the ground. To me, this woman’s actions and lowly position reflect humility.

Wikipedia describes humility as an act or posture of lowering oneself in relation to others. Humility involves having a clear perspective and respect for one‘s situation or relationship. Specifically in a spiritual context, this can mean a recognition of self in relation to God. The woman in Luke 7 certainly emulates this description. She experienced brokenness because of her former lifestyle and then she humbly accepted forgiveness for her sins and desired a new relationship with Jesus. James 4:6 states, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”  I believe that Jesus found pleasure in both the presence and the actions of this woman at His feet. He experienced the fragrance of humility exuding from her.

perfume-bottle-1With the fragrance of humility in mind, I want to think about the perfume with which the woman anointed Jesus’ feet. The costly perfume poured out from the vile represented the woman’s life savings. She was willing to give her all in gratitude to the Man who had forgiven her sins. At one point in her life she may have been proud, but now she was humble because she had been broken free from her former sinful life. Most likely the fragrance of this scented oil was myrrh. It is interesting to note that the myrrh seed has a hard shell that must be crushed before its pleasing aroma can be emitted. The existence of the perfume used by this woman was evident by its aroma. The reality of the brokenness of this woman was manifested by her humility. The fragrance of the oil would have been noticed not only by Jesus but by everyone in the room. However, I believe that the humbleness of this woman was more pleasing to the Lord than the aroma of the perfume. There is a sacred fragrance to humbleness that is transmitted through a person’s life in a unique way. C. S. Lewis has said, “True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.” Lewis’ quote describes the character of this woman and it is a character trait I want to assimilate in my life!

Now let’s relate a couple more scriptures with the story in Luke 7 as we continue our study about humility. Colossians 3:12 says, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.” Another scripture in II Corinthians 2:15 says, “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.” Is humility an attitude we simply choose to put on when we get dressed in the morning? Is it a scented oil we dab behind our ears like a spritz of perfume? Definitely not! Philippians 2:3 exhorts, “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves.” If we are to emit the fragrance of humility to those around us, we must not only follow the example of the woman in Luke 7 but we must also follow the example of Christ described in Philippians 2:6-8, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!” Specifically in verse 7, we notice Jesus being in the humble position of a servant. The New American Standard Bible uses the words, “He emptied himself.” This reminds me of the woman emptying, or pouring out, the perfume from her alabaster vial upon the feet of Jesus in Luke 7. It also reminds me that I need to be emptied, or forgiven, of my sins. All these efforts reflect humility in action and they have a pleasing aroma to Christ

My Reader, humility is costly but it is worth the price. James 4:8 exhorts us to “Come near to God and he will come near to you.” This is what transpired for the woman who was forgiven of her sins. Proverbs 27:9 says, “Oil and perfume make the heart glad.” Join me in discovering the joy of the Lord by humbly approaching the throne of grace and experiencing a fragrant fellowship that can only be found at the feet of Jesus. There is a special fragrance found only in humility.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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A Shepherd’s Example

 

shepherd-2-pinterest-noteGod gives grace to the humble
James 4:6 New American Standard

shepherd-4-pinterest-noteThough the LORD is exalted, he looks kindly on the lowly;
though lofty, he sees them from afar.
Psalm 138:6

The scene for the birth of Jesus, the Savior of the world, was in a stall for cattle. His bed was a manger or a feeding trough. Not the sterile hospital suite that is common today. Jesus set the example of humility on the day of his birth. (and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. – Luke 2:7)

sheepI am reminded that the first people to visit the newborn baby were shepherds who were taking care of their sheep in a nearby field that night. They came because the angels chose to invite them. They accepted the invitation and went without changing clothes. They did not feel the need to dress up to go to this birthday party. They went as they were. The shepherds did not realize this was a special day that would eventually become celebrated as Christmas. They were only being obedient to the voice of the angel who told them to go and see. (And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at 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.” … 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 2:8-12, 15-16)

Although the shepherds were occupied with their job on this special night, they were not too busy to go see a baby who was noteworthy enough to have his birth announced by angels. They were lowly obedient men of God. Other people in the area looked down upon shepherds and their occupation, but God honored them. If God honored them, they were definitely going to honor God. Shepherds took care of newborn lambs and these shepherds were ready to go see the Lamb of God born in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a small town but that did not mean great things could not take place there. Wasn’t it amazing that the only reason Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem was because of the required census? They did not choose this little town as a place of honor for the birth of the baby, but God did! God was portraying humility when He chose the birthplace for His Son. These shepherds did not decide to have their flock of sheep near Bethlehem because of the popularity of this city, but God orchestrated it for them to be in the area this specific night. God chose the humility of shepherds and the smallness of Bethlehem to reveal a special part of His story.

jesus-good-shepherdI have heard that these shepherds may have been caring for the flock of sheep that was being raised to be lambs used for sacrifices at the temple. Was it not appropriate that these men be the first to greet the Lamb of God? Did they not personally identify with the one who would grow up to be the Great Shepherd? I wonder if the words of the shepherd David warmed their hearts as they knelt before the manger of straw with the baby Jesus. (The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalm 23 NKJV)
nativityGod chose for His Son to be born in the manger of a barn because He wanted His Son to be received by all classes of people. By being born in a manger, the shepherds felt comfortable enough to go and see the Son of God. Shepherds were not able to identify with Jesus only at his birth, but throughout his life. One of the names for Jesus is Lamb of God. (The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” – John 1:29) Jesus is also known as the Good Shepherd. (“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.” – John 10-11) I think a favorite scripture of any shepherd would be from the book of Isaiah. (He tends his flock like a shepherd: He gathers the lambs in his arms and carries them close to his heart; he gently leads those that have young. – Isaiah 40:11) Shepherds identified with Jesus and accepted him as one of their own just as Jesus identified with them and accepted them as his own.
As I think about the humbleness and lowliness of Jesus, I see a contrast with my mindset for the Christmas season. There were no blinking outside lights surrounding the stable where Jesus was born. (The angels were the ones who provided the spectacle in the sky.) There was no tree decorated for the holiday. (The only tree represented was that of the wood that was crafted into a feeding trough.) Christmas carols did not provide background music. (The voices of angels singing “Glory to God in the Highest” was the only music provided.) With these thoughts in my mind, I yearn to humble myself before God and kneel at the true scene of the birth of the Lamb of God born among the lambs near his stable. I aspire to personify the meekness of the Good Shepherd and the shepherds who worshiped at His manger. I long to celebrate Christmas like it was celebrated over 2000 years ago in the little town of Bethlehem. (For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. – Luke 18:14)

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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