After Advent…Anna, Rewarded for Patient Faith

Another confirmation from God, on Jesus’ dedication day at the Jerusalem Temple, came from elderly Anna. She was a widow of many years and was undoubtedly allowed to live in one of the rooms at the temple used for various things. She spent her days worshiping, fasting and praying. Anna was called a prophetess which was not as common as her male counterpart, prophet, of which there were many in the Old Testament, like Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Jonah…. However, she was not alone as Miriam, Moses’ sister was called a prophetess in Exodus 15:20, Deborah the mighty leader in Judges 4:4, Huldah in 2 Kings 22:14 and Philip’s daughters in Acts 21:9.

Here is her encounter with the baby Jesus from Luke 2:36-38. “Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.”

What does this encounter with baby Jesus show us? God requires us to be diligent and patient, persisting in our faith. Anna took every opportunity to worship and pray. She was open to hear from God about the future. Her message to Mary, Joseph and all of us about this child is one of Hope. She saw in Him one who would rescue her people.

We may not be prophets or eloquent preachers but we too have a message of Hope from Jesus to tell others. God’s indwelling Holy Spirit testifies with our spirit that we belong to Him and we have the Words of light, hope and salvation to give in Jesus’ name. Light  John 8:12 Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Hope– 1 Peter 1:3-4 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you Salvation- 1 Thessalonians 5:9 “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ,”

Will you persist in faith even when things get hard? Will you lean upon Jesus as your source of eternal light, hope and salvation just as He would want? Patient Anna was rewarded with seeing Jesus and knowing the truth of God revealed to the world. Take encouragement from her today and persist in your faith with diligent prayer and worship. You too will be rewarded by God just as He promises in Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.

Linda

After Advent..’The Rest of the Story’..Naming and Dedication

Just like after John’s birth to Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph had a naming and circumcision ceremony on the eighth day. They named him Jesus, as that was the name the angel had given them even before Jesus’ His birth. Luke 1:31 and Matthew 1:21 Then the Jewish law required the couple to wait 40 days before presenting their child in the temple for dedication to the Lord. On Jesus’ dedication day God prepared yet another confirmation for Mary and Joseph that their child was from God. Here is their encounter with Simeon and his words about Jesus.

Luke 2:25-35 “ At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Wow! What confirmation from this godly man that Jesus was going to provide salvation for all people and bring light into the world. Bringing salvationTitus 2:11 “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.” and Hebrews 5:9 “In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.” Bringing lightJohn 8:12 “Jesus said to them, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” and 2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” Simeon also blessed them and spoke words for them to treasure in preparation for the future that God had planned for their child. Saving the world and giving light to all was not going to be an easy pathway as He would face opposition and many hearts would be effected, even theirs.

What encouragement do you find in this story of Jesus’ dedication? It confirms to me that God is Sovereign and Omniscient. He knows all that will happen and had a plan to redeem mankind. It shows God is Merciful, Gracious and Compassionate as He sent His Son to bring light into a dark world and provide salvation for all. God is loving and keeps His promises just as He kept his word to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Savior. He also prepared Mary and Joseph for the coming life their son would lead, one that would to be filled with godly purpose. God knows each of us as He did Simeon, Joseph and Mary. He knows what we need and His timing is perfect. Reflect today on how God’s timing has been perfect in your life.

How has God fulfilled his promise in Romans 8:28 to you? “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. I can attest to God’s hand in my life even in the darkest times. Even those tough times produced growth and experiences that God has used many times over to help others, to build my faith and produce results I had never envisioned or dreamed possible. God is indeed Sovereign and can and will use all things for my good and His glory as I walk with Him.

Linda

Advent…Gloriously Completed in Jesus’ Arrival

Merry Christmas! I found this Christmas Blessing while blogging this year and really loved the sentiments it contained. May you know the blessings of Peace that Jesus brings, John 14:27 “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” May you see your Hope in Him, 1 Peter 3:15 “but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,” May you feel the Sprit of His Love, 1 John 3:23 “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us.” May you have the Comfort of Faith in Jesus, 2 Corinthians 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort.”

All of these gifts complete the circle of our Advent Wreath as we lit the Christ candle on Christmas Eve proclaiming His birth. May you find Love, Comfort, Hope and Peace in Jesus. May you rejoice in the arrival of Jesus and claim the JOY God has for you.

Linda

Advent…a journey of Delivery and Unending Joy!

My journey though the Christmas scriptures has brought me to Christmas Eve with a humble and open heart. I know I did not get to the Wise men or aged Anna and Simon yet, but the Mary, Joseph and Jesus did not meet them until after his birth. Anna and Simon were encountered in the temple when Jesus was circumsized after 8 days as was their custom. The wise men saw the star when Jesus was born and followed it, arriving about 2 years after his birth. The gifts they brought provided monies for Joseph, Mary and Jesus when they had to flee in the night to Egypt to avoid Herod’s executioners. I’ll continue with their part in the story next week. However, the journey thus far has given me renewed hope in the Sovereignty of God. He was then and is now in control of all things. God has a plan which is to bring as many people to himself as are willing to come. 2 Peter 3:9 “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” All the details before, during and after the birth of Jesus shout of His sovereign power to bring about the impossible.

This Christmas Eve, meditate on the delivery of all mankind from the power of sin and the freedom revealed in Jesus’ birth. Power over sin- Matthew 1:21 “She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Romans 5:9 “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.Freedom- 2 Corinthians 3:17 “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Galatians 5:1 “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.”

Lastly, take time to rejoice in the Savior. He is worthy of all our praises and brings joy for you and me. Romans 5:11 “So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.”

Have a blessed day remembering how God led us in the journey, delivered His promises and provided unending joy for all mankind through the birth of His Son.

Linda

Advent…a Seeker’s Adventure

After receiving the news of the Savior’s birth, the shepherds immediately went in search of the Christ child. “They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, 19 but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. 20 The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” Luke 2:16-20

How often do you remember exactly what someone tells you? We have selective memories and only remember those things we like best, that which impressed us or scared us most. But in this case, God brought to their minds exactly what the angel had said so that nothing was lost of His truth. God will always see that His truth prevails. Here are the angel’s words again from verses 10-12, “but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

The Shepherds told everyone they met how the angels had appeared to them, how they came and found the child just as the angel had told them, how this child was to be their Savior. They were living testimonies to the power and truth of God’s Word and how God keeps His promises.

What about you? Have you encountered the living Savior? Do you trust in the truth of God’s Word and know Him as the God who keeps all His promises? If we believe Him, then like the shepherds we need to tell others of the wonders and power of our God. We need to tell of the truth of His love and forgiveness in sending Jesus to save us. When you have had a ‘God experience’, like the shepherds you will be so filled with amazement over what He has done for you that you will go and seek to know Him more and hurriedly desire to tell others about your amazing God. Does that describe you today? If so, praise Him! If not, seek Him and as He promises He will be found. Matthew 7:7-8 ““Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.” Let us all be seekers like the shepherds were and go in search of the Savior, ready to tell everyone we meet about our amazing God and His Son, Jesus.

May you encounter Jesus in a fresh new way this Advent season. Be ready to enjoy the adventure of following Jesus, knowing Him and walking in faith and trust each day. Ready to tell others to tell others excitedly what God means to you.

Linda

Advent…What is your reaction to the Savior’s Birth?

Luke 2:14-15 is the part of the shepherd’s story that involves the reaction by both the heavenly beings and the earthly shepherds to the announcement of the birth of a Savior found in verses 10-11 “And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Their reaction was:

“Glory to God in the highest,
    and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

15 When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

The large company of heavenly angels came to praise God. Angels are heavenly beings but are not omniscient, and therefore do not know the future. They were genuine in their praises of joy at the announcement of Jesus’ birth. Their reaction was one of praise to God for fulfilling His plan and sending Jesus to bless all mankind. The shepherds reacted to the news from heaven with curiosity and a determination to find out about this child who was born that would save them. They trusted the messenger, their vision of angels and the message sent from God to be true and worthy of validation. So they acted upon this and went to seek out the child. Verse 16 begins “So they hurried off …”

My question for today is What is your reaction to the birth of the Savior? Are you filled with praises towards God for sending a way of reconciliation and restoration in Jesus? Do you praise God for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and resurrection? Do you praise and thank God for the forgiveness of your sins through His Son? That is a spiritual response of grand proportion to Jesus’ birth. In addition to praise, do you act upon the message of His birth? Do you step out in faith daily to follow and seek Him? Are you curious about who God is enough to study God’s Word for yourself? Are you determined to serve this Jesus with your life, acting with love towards others and telling them about this Savior, Christ the Lord? That is a physical response of grand proportion to Jesus’ birth.

Which is it? or Is it both? Meditate on verses 14 & 15 today, talk to God about your reaction to the birth of His Son. The outcome of your reaction will have a profound affect upon your life both today and tomorrow. I am reminded of Psalm 107:2 “Let the redeemed of the Lord say so,  whom he has redeemed from trouble.” Tell others of your reaction to the birth of your Savior; it is a glorious story!

Linda

This is a photo of the hillside just outside of Bethlehem as is looks today. Can’t you just envision the shepherds on the hillside being greeted by the hosts of heaven?

Advent…Do you please God?

On the night Jesus was born Shepherds heard the news in an amazing way. Luke 2:8-14

 That night there were shepherds staying in the fields nearby, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terrified, 10 but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news that will bring great joy to all people. 11 The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! 12 And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in highest heaven,
    and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”

I cannot even imagine seeing a host of angels shouting and praising God. The sound must have been deafening but glorious! It is understandable that the shepherds were afraid. These were God’s warriors from heaven’s armies come to earth, visibly, to announce this amazing news. The angel, probably Michael or Gabriel or the leader of the host of angels calmed the shepherds with his words and then quickly told them of the birth of God’s son, the long awaited Messiah. Their message to the shepherds and all of us too, was one of praise to God for sending this messenger of peace for all mankind. This peace on earth is to be bestowed upon those with whom God is pleased. Our question then is how does one please God?

Scripture tells us what pleases God. Here are a few for you to meditate upon today.

Hebrews 11:6 “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” Faith is essential to pleasing God.

Micah 6:8 “He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
    and to walk humbly with your God?
Living a life based upon His justice, love and kindness with humility pleases God.

Psalm 147:11 “but the Lord takes pleasure in those who fear him,
    in those who hope in his steadfast love.”
Our reverence, awe of Him and our trust upon His love pleases Him.

Proverbs 12:22 “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord,
    but those who act faithfully are his delight.
” Our faithful actions please God.

Jesus said in John 13:34-35 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” Our love for others shows we love Him and our obedience pleases Jesus.

May you be encouraged today as you mediate on the ways you are pleasing God and yet, challenged to do even more.

Linda

Advent…the Unexpected Places God Takes Us

As we enter the last days before Christmas, our focus shifts to the actual birth and arrival of the Christ child. Today’s scripture tells of the birth of our Lord. Luke 2:6-7
“And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.”

In the stable cave believed to be the birthplace of our Lord, we sang Silent Night.

These 2 verses pack a powerful punch. After the long journey by walking or on the back of a donkey, they arrived in Bethlehem to find the city packed and all the inns filled. The census had drawn many others to Bethlehem as well, which was a small town outside of Jerusalem. As they looked for lodging, they found that all the inns were filled, but the landlord of one inn offered them shelter in the stable attached to the inn. They would be with the animals but in a warm and dry place. The irony of the King of kings and Lord of lords, the one who owns all the cattle on the hills being virtually homeless and humble enough to be brought into this world in such a lowly way leaves me in awe. In addition, scripture reminds us again that the baby being born is Mary’s son, miraculously conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit. This was no ordinary child and yet he was born as every other human child is born to a mother. She cared for the child and wrapped him to keep him warm and laid him down in a manger cradle. I’m sure she was exhausted but happy to be safely delivered just as any young mother would have been. Perhaps she had been scared as she only had Joseph to help her deliver the child, worried about his first cries and seeking to be comforted by by his sleeping pose in the manger. Joseph was undoubtedly worried about the delivery and the health of both her child and his young wife. These are possible thoughts that might have been in the minds of both Mary and Joseph that first Christmas Eve. But God, was with them and they both trusted in God’s plan and were walking in faith. Their faith was sufficient to overcome whatever obstacles were in front of them that day. Their faith and obedience to God is evident as no words of panic or despair are present in scripture, just calm hope.

Let us take a lesson from this scene. No matter how bad things look- no room, no place, no how, God is in control and has a plan. Nothing is greater than God and with God ‘nothing is impossible.’ This is hope that required faith on our part as God has got this. We need to walk in trust knowing He has us in the palm of His hand. Isaiah 49:16 is a promise to each of us “See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.”

May the blessed hope shown by Mary and Joseph seep into your soul today as you consider this unusual birth in a very unexpected place. I love the promise in Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good,  a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” Claim God’s promise and know in your heart and mind the truth of His loving care just as Mary and Joseph did that first Christmas Eve.

Linda

Advent…the 4th Sunday, Peace Good Will Towards men

On this 4th Sunday before Christmas, we light the 4th purple candle in the Advent wreath. The first purple candle was lit on the 1st Sunday- 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 was pink symbolizing the Shepherd’s joy at the birth of the Messiah. Today we light the Angel’s 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.

Linda

Advent…a journey of Faith

At this point in our Advent story, John has been born to Zechariah and Elizabeth who was to be the forerunner of Jesus, the Messiah. The angel has appeared to both Joseph and Mary with his heavenly news, and they are now married and awaiting the birth of Mary’s Son by the Holy Spirit. Enter, the real world of politics and domination by both Jewish and Roman leaders upon their lives. Luke 2:1-5 gives the circumstances in which Mary and Joseph are caught, by no fault of their own. See how God uses worldly demands and decrees to further His purpose and fulfill His promises!

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. 2 (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. 4 And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. 5 He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.

What an amazing God we serve! He used the Roman authorities to move Mary and Joseph from Nazareth where they lived to Bethlehem where prophesies foretold God’s Son would be born. Micah 5:2 written hundreds of years before spoke of the coming King who would be born in Bethlehem. “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, are only a small village among all the people of Judah. Yet a ruler of Israel, whose origins are in the distant past, will come from you on my behalf.” Joseph would not have knowingly put Mary in harms way by undertaking the journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem when she was heavily pregnant. They were required to go by the law and could not refuse. But this seemingly hard and unusual task was one of God’s design so that His Son would be born in Bethlehem just as He promised. God went with them and protected them so that no harm would come to them.

This is a lesson for each of us. God is with us in the hard times. When things seem impossible, we need to lean into Him and depend upon His strength. I’m sure that the journey on foot and by donkey was arduous for both Mary and Joseph. But God, provided for their safety and carried them to where they needed to be at just the right time. God is good and God is sovereign overall things that happen in our lives. As I said yesterday about Joseph’s walk of obedient faith, God’s got this.

We too need to walk in trust knowing God is good and has good things planned for our future and His glory. Let the faith walk of Mary and Joseph speak to your heart today and give you courage to keep on keeping on no matter how things appear. God’s providential care is greater than anything man has planned or tries to throw at us. Having fortitude, determination and will for the journey of life requires us to put our trust in Him and step out each day in Faith. Be of good cheer- you can do this with Him! Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:26

Linda