How are you affected by Jesus?

What affect does the Savior have upon you? In our passage today we see the shepherd’s encounter with the baby Jesus and his parents.  After the news from the angels, they went immediately to find the child. They did not stop to consider it was nighttime, their sheep, the distance, or their weariness from the day. The only thing that mattered was finding the babe. Are you seeker of Christ who puts finding Him first each day? I’m sure they were curious but more than curiosity would have been the desire to see this child from God. They were eager to see their Savior first hand. Are you curious about Jesus, His Word and are you eager to pursue Him? The thought of seeing the Savior who would bring peace into their lives gave them energy and motivation to seek Him out. Are you ardently seeking Jesus for the peace only He can provide? They even knew where to look and what they would see. A manger would mean a stable of some kind and He would be with his parents, wrapped up in cloths lying in the manger. Being familiar with the area, it did not take long for them to locate Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus. Are you familiar with Jesus and know where to find Him? Do you open your Bible regularly to learn about Him? Here is our passage-see their eagerness, curiosity and amazement.

Luke 2:16-20 “So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

After seeing Jesus, how were they affected? They were amazed!! They wanted to tell others! Their joy could not be contained and they wanted to praise and glorify God. What about you? How are you affected by Jesus? Do you want to tell others about your Savior? Are you amazed at His love and compassion, His mercy and forgiveness? Does it make you want to sing praises and glorify God?

I pray that this Christmas season you encounter the living Jesus and have a reaction similar to the shepherds. We all need to be amazed, curious, eager and desirous of telling others while praising and glorifying God. May it be so with you.

Linda

Why would YOU travel to see the New Born King?

In yesterday’s passage from Luke 2:8-13 we saw the bucolic scene with shepherds tending their flock by night. Their calm evening was interrupted by an angelic host of angels who arrived with news of the new born king, the Messiah. The angel announced this baby’s birth to the amazed shepherds. “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” After this startling announcement, the angelic host burst into praises to the glory of God and proclaimed what this newly arrived king would bring. He was to bring peace if His favor rests upon you. God’s favor is His grace which is undeserved, unearned and a gift from Him. To receive this promised grace, one just needs to believe in His Son, Jesus.

Luke 2:14-15 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

Obviously the shepherds’ interest was piqued and they wanted to go and see the baby for themselves. They believed that traversing to Bethlehem would bring them face to face with this marvelous child, their long awaited Messiah. So immediately after the angelic hosts departed they decided to go and see for themselves.

What about God piques your interest? Are you curious and seek to know Him more fully and understand His ways better? Are you just interested in answered prayers or daily comfort? Do you love fellowshipping with believers and want to serve Him with others? Are you looking for answers to the problems of life and relief from worry and pain? Are you looking for promises to claim in your life? There are so many aspects to faith and a daily walk with the Lord. All of the above may be of interest to you but I pray your major motivation towards God is LOVE. He loved you and me enough to send Jesus to die to restore our relationship with Him. He desires that we fellowship with Him for eternity. John 3:16 reveals God’s motivation towards us. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” He loved us while we were still sinners according to Romans 5:8 “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What a gracious and loving God!

I pray that you can catch a glimpse of the love God has for you and me in the Christmas story. May it show you God’s love in a new way and motivate you to a renewed faith and commitment now and in the New Year.

Linda

Talk About A Surprise Appearance!

I love thinking about the shepherd’s scene. They were peacefully resting with their sheep on a hillside near Bethlehem. All was quiet and calm and into the night an angel appeared to them. Just like the others in our story, they were afraid. The angel knew they were not just afraid but terrified. They were told to put their fears away and rejoice in the news the angel had for them.

Luke 2:8-14 “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,  and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Why would God choose lowly shepherds as the first to know this glorious and heavenly news? Perhaps because it shows that the Savior, God’s Son, came to all people not just kings and priests. He was the Savior and Messiah of all men- rich and poor. Perhaps it was because Jesus was to be known as the shepherd of God’s own people. Many times Jesus used analogies about believers as being sheep and He called himself the good shepherd in John 10:11 I am the good shepherdThe good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” We as sheep know the shepherd’s voice. John 10:27 “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” Whatever God’s reasons, they were a privileged group that did not let this heavenly experience leave them unaffected. They marveled at the scene, took in the message and acted upon it as we will see in tomorrow’s passage.

The shepherds were given the Who– Christ, the Savior, Messiah has arrived

When– right now,

What– a special child, the Messiah has been born

Why– because His arrival brings good news and joy to all mankind

The shepherds were told this glorious, heavenly news and could not stay put but left their sheep and went in search of this Christ Child.

What about you? What heavenly news have your received? You probably were not visited by an angelic choir but God called and spoke to you when you came to know Jesus. Was it life changing? If it was and you feel your first love has faded, pray and ask God to renew your first love for Him. In Revelation, the church at Ephesus was chastised for losing their first love. They had persevered in the faith but had lost their fervor. Revelation 2:4 “Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first.” Let us renew our love for Christ this Christmas and bask in the joy of His coming. Let us rely upon the truth of His Word as we seek to live daily for Him. If you have not received the truth of who Jesus is and His love and forgiveness, don’t waste another minute. Pray and ask God to forgive you and claim His gift of eternal life. John 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” John 3:16  For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Rejoice this Christmas in knowing Him as Savior.

May your encounter this Christmas with the Christ child be glorious and joyful!

Linda

God of the Unexpected, Yet Again!

Two simple but profound verses add to our Christmas Story today.

Luke 2: 6-7 “While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 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.”

What do we learn about Mary and Joseph? First and foremost they made it to Bethlehem. That 90 mile journey accomplished, they looked for a place to stay. There were no places available so an innkeeper allowed them to stay in his stable. I have visited the place thought to be where Jesus was born and it is a cave in the side of the mountain, cozy and sheltered. When you consider who visited them that first night, the shepherds, it is a perfect setting with easy access to those coming from the fields. We also see that Mary gave birth with just Joseph’s help. I’m sure as there were no women there to assist her or scripture would have told us. A birth is beautiful but messy and stress filled. Alone in a strange place, this must have taken great courage and determination to see this night through for both Mary and Joseph. Scripture does not give us additional details except to say that her time had come and she delivered the baby and wrapped him in cloths. Providentially, there was a manger available to use as a crib.

What do we learn about God? God protected them on the journey. God provided a place of shelter for them to stay that was warm and safe when there were no rooms anywhere. God watched over them and there were no complications or problems mentioned in the birth so we can know that there were none. God provided what they needed in a place that was accessible to those who would first come to see and worship His new born son. God is Sovereign over all things that happen in our lives. God is our great protector and provider. Just like Mary and Joseph, we can trust in God to be all those things for us.

Where do you need to trust God today? Are you facing a long journey of your own? Do you think there will be perils on this trip? Are you needing to stay someplace and you are concerned about the availability of room? Take your concerns to God and pre-pray the situation. Let God know of your concerns and worries. 1 Peter 5:7 tells us Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” Take you faith in hand and put them in Jesus. He loves and cares for you. Then proceed with a prayerful heart knowing the truth of Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Linda

This is a photograph I took of the manger area. We gathered and sang Silent Night. It was very moving.

God of the Unexpected

 Today’s passage shows us courage and determination in both Mary and Joseph. Mary was 9 months pregnant and had to endure a journey of about 90 miles going by the safest route in their day. It would have taken days. Joseph’s concern for his pregnant wife, the hazards of travel by foot/donkey and possible dangers on the road undoubtedly filled his mind as he sought to obey the law of the land and go to Bethlehem for the required census. Unlike in our day where we fill out a paper and mail it in, they had to appear in the town to be physically counted by the government. It was not an option to not go. So they went.

Luke 2:1-5 “In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.”

Even though this was an unexpected turn of events for this family, they endured and persisted to accomplish what was required. I’m sure they must have wondered, why Lord? Why do we have to go at this time in our life? In a few months this would be easier, right? However, maybe they knew the child was to be born in Bethlehem as foretold by the prophets. Scripture is silent on this and as we have seen in previous passages, both Mary and Joseph were good Jews and sought to follow the Law. They were devoted and sought to be obedient to the Lord.

What about you? When things don’t go as you planned or unexpected road blocks appear, what is your response? Do you try to blame someone or even God? Or is your response one of diligent persistence and prayer? We can look back now at this story and see why they had to endure this hardship of travel. Jesus was to be born in Bethlehem. They needed to travel to this unexpected place for this blessed event to occur. What blessing does God have for you as you seek to follow through with His plans? He is the God of the unexpected and when you look back on your trials you will see His hand protecting, providing and guiding you all the way. You will see, perhaps, why the detour was needed. Following God requires faith and trust in His Sovereignty. He knows the way. We just need to follow and go just as Mary and Joseph did long ago.

Linda

The 4th Sunday of Advent, Peace to You!

On this 4th Sunday before Christmas, we light the peace candle. The first candle we lit on that First Sunday was the prophecy candle which symbolized the hope the coming Messiah brings to mankind. The second was the Bethlehem candle which reminded us of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem. The third candle symbolized the Shepherd’s joy at the birth of the Messiah. Today we light the Angel candle symbolizing the message given to the angels which was one of “Peace on Earth, Good Will Towards Men.” The final white center candle will be lit on Christmas Eve which speaks of the arrival of the Messiah, the Christ child.

Rejoice today as you worship and sing carols. Ponder the blessings of hope, joy and peace that come to us because of God’s mercy and grace in sending Jesus as our Savior. Here is Psalm 130 which speaks of our cries to God for mercy as we realize our own sin. The answer rests with the Lord and His mercy towards us in sending Jesus.

From the depths of despair, O Lord,
    I call for your help.
Hear my cry, O Lord.
    Pay attention to my prayer.

Lord, if you kept a record of our sins,
    who, O Lord, could ever survive?
But you offer forgiveness,
    that we might learn to fear you.

I am counting on the Lord;
    yes, I am counting on him.
    I have put my hope in his word.

I long for the Lord
    more than sentries long for the dawn,
    yes, more than sentries long for the dawn.

O Israel, hope in the Lord;
    for with the Lord there is unfailing love.
    His redemption overflows.
He himself will redeem Israel
    from every kind of sin.

Thank you Lord for your unfailing mercy and love. Thank you for sending Jesus to redeem me from every kind of sin. Thank you Lord that You have everything under your control. I will trust in You.

Linda

Joseph, A Second Look

Joseph’s encounter with the angel and his stunning message to Joseph is worth a second look. Matthew 1:20-25 is the rich account of how God told Joseph in a dream of His Son that was to be born to Mary, Joseph’s fiancé. Yesterday we looked at Joseph’s character that shone with faith and obedience to God and we looked at the attributes of God revealed to us in this heavenly meeting. Today I want to focus on this Son of God that was to be born of Mary.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

23 “Look! The virgin will conceive a child!
    She will give birth to a son,
and they will call him Immanuel,
    which means ‘God is with us.’”

24 When Joseph woke up, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded and took Mary as his wife. 25 But he did not have sexual relations with her until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

Joseph was told by God in a dream that the child conceived within Mary was God’s Son by His Holy Spirit. He would be named Jesus, which means God with us. This Son was coming with a purpose which was to save all mankind from their sins. All men inherited their sinful nature from Adam and Eve when they sinned in the garden. God’s plan was one of restoration and redemption though the coming of His Son Jesus. This was a lot of information for Joseph to process. He was righteous, which meant he was knowledgeable about the scriptures and laws of Moses which he practiced faithfully. Joseph would have known the quote in verse 23 is from Isaiah 7:14. He would have known of God’s promised Messiah who was to save His people. Joseph must have been overwhelmed by the responsibility and privilege God was placing upon him to be the earthly father of His Son. He took all this in and stepped out in obedient faith to follow the command God gave him. He married Mary immediately and did not stop to count the cost. The cost as we will see was significant but the blessings and privileges of serving the Lord would have been immense.

What obstacles are you facing in your service to God? Are they ones you create in your mind, the what ifs? Are they circumstances that you feel are too big for God to overcome? If so, think about Joseph and all he had in front of him, and yet he trusted God and walked in obedience. Jesus is the key- He came to be with us ‘Immanuel’ and to save us from our sins. Take His hand and walk with Him. When things get hard He promises to never leave you nor forsake you, He’s got this!

Linda

Joseph’s Example

In today’s portion of the Christmas story we transition to Joseph. As we see in this passage, he was an upright Jew who followed the law. He shows compassion and caring for Mary as he does not want her disgraced and plans to divorce her quietly. Their betrothals were more binding than our ‘engagements’ as to end them they actually had to seek a divorce.

Matthew 1:18-25 “This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. 20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel”(which means “God with us”). 24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus”.

From this passage we can tell that Joseph is open to listening to the angel and takes what he says as truth. He does not question the angel as to how this could even be possible, but accepts the circumstances of Mary’s pregnancy as fact and acts in faith by taking Mary home to be his wife. He did not object to the possible ridicule they would face or the difficult times ahead for them both but trusted the Lord to see them through as he knew it was God’s plan. I admire Joseph’s faith and trust in God and his compassion and love for Mary.

From this passage we can also tell things about God. God knew Joseph’s inner most thoughts. He did not have to hear them aloud as the angel came and addressed Joseph’s concerns and future plans as He had prior knowledge of his thoughts. God is Omniscient and knows all that happens and will happen in our world. God knows our inner most thoughts and there is nothing we can hide from Him. God had a plan to save all mankind through His Son Jesus and used a miraculous plan that only God could conceive and execute. God is Sovereign over all actions in our world and can make things happen that defy our natural world though his Omnipotent power. By using the Holy Spirit to indwell Mary so that she would conceive a child showed God’s ability to be present within us, His Omnipresence.

Which of these attributes of God is most meaningful to you today? Do you forget that God is Omniscient and try to ‘get away’ with sin? Do you rationalize it by thinking it is a little sin and God won’t care? What about His Sovereignty and Omnipotent power? Do you trust God to be in control of all things in your life? Do you pray like you believe that He is and can do all things? Forgetting or ignoring the fact that God is Omnipresent denies the truth that He is with us always. Jesus’ parting words in Matthew 28:19-20 say otherwise, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus promises to be with us, Omnipresent with each believer always. Do you live life like Jesus is right there with you in the problems and in the celebrations?

There is much to ponder in this portion of the Christmas story that can lead us to greater faith and trust in Almighty God. Will you follow in Joseph’s path and walk with humility, faith and trust in God today? Will you trust God to walk before you and with you to face the problems and challenges each day brings? Use your faith and see the miracles only God can do in your life!

Linda

Zechariah’s Child Brings Hope of Redemption

Zechariah’s prophecy part 2, Luke 1: 76-80. In these verses of Zechariah’s song of praise to the Lord, he focuses on his own new born son and the place and purpose God has for him..

Luke 1:76-80 76 And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
    for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
    through the forgiveness of their sins,
78 because of the tender mercy of our God,
    by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.

Here is what scripture tells of Zechariah and Elizabeth’s son just as prophesied: John 1:6-8 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.” He was known during his ministry as John the baptizer or John the Baptist. Not only did Zechariah give prophesies about John and his mission for God but the ancient prophet Isaiah has also foretold of one coming to pave the way for Jesus hundreds of years before. Matthew 3:1-3 “In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’” Mark 1:4 “And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Luke 3:2  during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”

All 4 gospels speak of John and his mission to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming. He was to enlighten the Jews as to their sinfulness, like the prophets of old, and point them to Jesus. Zechariah’s prophesy speaks of the condition of the people at that time- living in darkness under the shadow of death. This refers to the bondage of sin that Jesus came to lift and to Him bringing His light of life. John 8:12 “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Not only would Jesus bring the light of life but peace to their souls. In John 14:27 Jesus says, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

How do these prophesies encourage you today? First, they tell me that God had a plan long ago to redeem us from our sins. He planned to send Jesus to bring us life, light, freedom from sin and peace. Next, God is Sovereign. Over that centuries He wove His plan through the people of God, the Jews, through the line of Seth to Abraham to David to Jesus. He brought them over distances far and wide using rulers who believed as well as those who did not. Only God is Sovereign over time, space, people and things. Only God could preserve His people through thousands of years. Lastly, it strikes me that God is love. He loved us so much that He brought His plan to completion by the sending of His one and only Son, Jesus to die for our sins. John 3:16 says God orchestrated all time and space to bring His Son Jesus and just the right time in just the right place for all the right reasons, to save us. Thanks be to God! Praise Him this season for His love, sovereignty and plan of redemption. He did it for you and me!

Linda

Promise Keeping God is Revealed

Today we hear the first half of Zechariah’s prophesy about the coming Savior.

Luke 1:67-75 His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:

68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us
    in the house of his servant David
70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71 salvation from our enemies
    and from the hand of all who hate us—
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
    and to remember his holy covenant,
73     the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
    and to enable us to serve him without fear
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

What do we learn about the coming Messiah from Zechariah’s prophesy? Verse 68 tells us he will be sent by God to redeem or buy back people from the penalty of sin. The Messiah will be the vehicle for that redemption before God. Verse 69, he will be from the house of David, just as God promised to Abraham that though him all people would be blessed. Genesis 12:3 “and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” David was a direct descendant of Abraham. Verses 71 and 72 speak of salvation from enemies and haters which they thought meant the foreign oppressors, Rome, but in the long term our greatest enemy is Satan and Jesus will rescue us from our bondage to sin and its power over us. This is further explained in verse 74 which speaks of freedom, rescue so we can serve Him without fear. God is sending the Messiah as promised as He is remembering the Covenant to Abraham to be their God and they would be His people. Verse 75 tells us that the promised one will be holy and righteous and will enable us to serve him in holiness and righteousness.

This was a lot to take in at the time and much was still hidden from their understanding. More was fully revealed though Jesus’ life, teaching, death and resurrection. Lastly, more is revealed to us through His spirit that indwells us, His Holy Spirit. Jesus said in John 14:26 “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” We have the benefit of God’s Holy Spirit to help us understand in a new way God’s plan of redemption, the message of salvation, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and the truth of His complete Word. Just as Zechariah was blessed that day by God’s revelation, we too are blessed by our knowledge of Jesus and our faith in Him.

Let the truth of God’s Word and character be renewed in you today. God is who He says He is and will eternally keep His promises. The whole world is indeed blessed by Jesus and His redemptive work on the cross, His death and resurrection. Stand on His promises with hope and conviction this Christmas season as you experience anew Christ’s work in you.


Linda