My thanks to Trace Kennedy for writing today’s blog. Trace is the very talented brand manager for our Foundations brand. We are blessed to have her at the ministry, and I think you will be blessed by her words this week. I’m grateful for her, and for you, our readers. —Janet Denison
If you’re a baseball fan, you’re likely watching the playoffs and more than likely know who Adolis Garcia is. In case you don’t, he is the Cuban right fielder for the Texas Rangers who has a smile that can light up the field and enough power behind his swing to make baseballs soar to the top-tier stands.
I have to admit I’m new to baseball fandom. My son graduated from college in May and is living with us for a season. I’ve gotten to know the Rangers through his love of the game and his enthusiasm for this particular team.
Garcia has become my favorite because of his radiant smile, his obvious rapport with his teammates despite a language barrier, and his ritual of kissing his fingers and lifting them and his eyes up to the sky when he comes up to bat. To me, it looks like he is saying, “This one’s for you, Lord.”
He must be doing something right because he ended the regular season with thirty-nine home runs (tied for seventh) and 107 RBI (tied for sixth). He was also awarded the ALCS Most Valuable Player after helping the Rangers earn a spot in the 2023 World Series.
I’ve told people I adore him and have even asked for his jersey for Christmas. Yet if I encountered him in person, he might say hello, but he definitely wouldn’t hug me like a friend or a loved one. I could know every stat about him, his personal journey to the major leagues, and even how he grew up, but until I meet him face-to-face and develop a personal relationship with him, I only know things about him.
Just one encounter with Jesus
We’ve been walking through the book of Matthew in the Bible study I attend, and a few weeks ago we were in Matthew 2. This very topic came up when we were discussing the magi.
As you probably know, the magi, or the wise men, are only mentioned in Matthew. They were Persian kings who had traveled a thousand miles to meet the King of the Jews. They had seen “his star when it rose and . . . came to worship him” (Matthew 2:2). They traveled to Jerusalem, the capital of Judah, because it was the most likely place for a king to be born and asked the current ruler, King Herod, where they could find him.
Disturbed by their inquiry, Herod called the religious leaders and teachers of the law together and asked them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem in Judea, for this is what the prophet has written: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel’” (Matthew 2:5–6 NIV).
In the next several verses, Herod finds out when the star appeared and tells the magi to go to Bethlehem, find the child, and then report back to him. He told the magi that he wanted to worship Jesus too, but Scripture tells us he, in fact, wanted to kill him. So the magi set out, and verses 10–11 tell us they were overjoyed when they saw the star and found the child with his mother: “They bowed down and worshiped him.”
One encounter with Jesus, and they knew he was Messiah, Immanuel—God with us. They met the Savior of the world, and their lives were changed that day and eternally.
When the know-it-alls know the least
Isn’t it interesting that those who knew about the prophecy of the Messiah, those who studied Scripture and obeyed the Law—those who knew the most about him from what was foretold— chose not to go with these wise men and discover for themselves the King of the Jews?
Over and over we read in Scripture that the people who should have recognized Jesus chose to believe their own narrative about who the Messiah would or wouldn’t be. Their pride and personal agendas got in the way of encountering Jesus, the Son of God, who stepped out of heaven to come and give us the abundant life (John 10:10).
When was the last time you encountered Jesus and were so moved by your time with him that you responded with heartfelt worship?
Do you go to church every Sunday, do a morning devotional, or attend Bible study without fully encountering Jesus?
Do you walk away from church, your quiet time, and Bible study more informed about Jesus but not transformed by your time with him?
The difference between knowledge and intimacy
I oida Adolis Garcia.
Oida translates “know” but leans more toward a knowledge about facts. It’s the kind of knowledge acquired through observation. All that I know about Garcia has been acquired through other people or resources that report about him. Oida is knowledge that educates us, makes us smarter for sure, but doesn’t necessarily impact our hearts.
Ginōskō, on the other hand, describes the kind of knowledge that comes from developing an intimate relationship with someone over time. It means to perceive, understand, realize, come to know. Ginōskō impacts you deeply and personally, like how our most treasured relationships change us and bring value and depth to our lives.
Ginōskō is one of my favorite verbs in the Bible because it describes the knowledge involved in building an intimate relationship with a person and beautifully illustrates a deeply personal, experiential, growing knowledge of God.
Jesus chose ginōskō to describe the intimacy between the Father and the Son, as well as the connection between himself and his sheep: “The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes on ahead of them, and his sheep follow him because they know his voice” (John 10:3–4 NIV).
I seek to ginōskō the Lord.
Changed to be change-makers
The magi left from their encounter with the Messiah changed and more than likely took their newfound knowledge of Jesus back to their own lands, resulting in even more changed lives.
That’s what Jesus does, and that’s why Jesus came to earth. He came to save and transform, to “give us life and give it abundantly.” He came to change our lives so we could then be used by his Spirit to transform the world around us.
He wants everyone to know his peace, joy, and hope—for today and for life eternal.
When last did you meet Immanuel, God with us, and walk away from that encounter renewed, restored, and known?
Why not take a few minutes right now to meet the Savior of the world and allow his love to transform your day?
It’s his great joy to get to know you more deeply, and he is waiting with open arms.
If you would like to spend this upcoming Christmas season with a new focus on Immanuel, God with us, I want to encourage you to order Janet’s latest Advent book, The Gift of Immanuel. It’s the perfect devotional to fix your heart, mind, and soul on our greatest gift of Christmas—Jesus. An email that has “Discover the gift of Immanuel” in the subject line will hit your inbox this Friday around 10 am CST with all the details you need to order the devotional.