Aftermath- a Homeward Journey

The old saying, “It is so good to go but oh so nice to come home”, could be said of Joseph, Mary and Jesus in this last episode of the Christmas Story. God again directed their pathway and protected them from harm. He led them to the place Jesus would call home until His public ministry began some 30 years later. Matthew 2:19-23 “But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.”

As this portion of Jesus’ life concludes we see the hand of Sovereign God protecting the child and his parents yet again from the evil leader who might seek to harm the child. Archelaus was evil and tyrannical like his father Herod. He only remained in power for 10 years but was know as unusually cruel and tyrannical before being deposed. His reign was short and Judea a became a province of Rome thereafter and was ruled by those appointed by the emperor. Again, God spoke and Joseph listened and obeyed his dreams. Going back to Nazareth was probably comfortable as that was where they had lived prior to having to go to Bethlehem for the census several years before. Even though people would have known their history, they were returning as a married couple with a small child. Scripture does not indicate there was any animosity towards them or held beliefs or prejudices. Nazareth was a quiet backwater type of town where obscurity could be achieved and the child protected. Again, this protected location is seen in the prophesies that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. These exact words are not found in the Old Testament but their meaning of one who is despised and rejected is referred to in Psalm 22:6 and Isaiah 53:3. Being referred to as a Nazarene in Jesus’ day was synonymous with one who is despised. Surely, nothing good could come from Nazareth was the assumed idea. No one would look for the ‘king of the Jews’ in such a place and no one did!

What can we take away from this story today? We see that God’s will and plan for the redemption of mankind through His Son could not be thwarted by men. God had a plan for our salvation and nothing could disrupt it. Job 42:2 reminds us of this ““I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.” We also see God’s hand of protection in Mary and Joseph’s story and His guidance to Bethlehem, Egypt and back to quiet Nazareth. So many things could have befallen them on their journey, but God protected and guided them home. He can and does this for us in our lives, too. We may not see it, but as God grows our faith and opens our eyes to His goodness as we come to trust more fully in His plans and ways. It is a life long process of growing in the Lord that matures our faith. I’m confident that this ‘journey’ was one of growth and trust in the Lord for both Mary and Joseph.

As we leave this last installment of the Christmas Story, let us remember with confidence that God’s plan is sure Job 42:2, His ways are not our ways Isaiah 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord,” His ways are always right Psalm 71:19 “Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you? and He does things for our good and His glory Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.”

Praise God for His blessings and what He teaches us through His Word. The Advent Season is one to be cherished and loved. We can cling to the Hope, Love and Redemption we see throughout the year. Jesus is the reason for Advent Season! “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life”. John 3:16

Linda

Dissensions caused by Boasting, Try Boasting in God!

There are people that love to argue. They will take the opposing view to stimulate discussion, rile up their opponents, stir up descent, cause a ruckus or feed their own egos. There is certainly a time and place for healthy debate and exchange of thoughts, but that is not what Paul is speaking of in our Stream of Water passage this week. 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 relates to people stirring up trouble in the church through arguments about who is following whom? They were wrongfully trying to take pride in who they were following, claiming one was better than another. Paul rejects this and pleads for unity. He is telling them they have lost the right focus- which is following Christ, their savior.

Do where do you see this in the church today? Are people prone to boasting about their pastor and extoling his virtues? It is one thing to tell others of your godly Pastor and encourage them to listen to his teaching from the Word and another to brag that your Pastor is better than others and has a monopoly on the truth. Paul is saying that all this does is create disunity and division among believers.

A better way? Yes, Paul pleads for unity. Later in 1 Corinthians 1:31 “so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” and 2 Corinthians 10:17 he tells them, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” Let us follow that advise and take up the practice of boasting in the Lord. Can you praise Him today for: provision He has provided, protection in a dangerous or precarious situation, hope you received from another brother or sister in Christ or His Word, love you experienced, help you received by His grace and mercy, guidance about a problem or direction or knowledge of Him you received through prayer or study? Let us boast to one another about the Lord and be encouraged in our faith!

Here is my boasting for this week. Last week when our ladies met for bible study, we were sharing prayer requests. One gal asked for prayer for her daughter as she was refinancing her home asked that all go smoothly. I did not realize that interest rates had fallen that much. So that evening after group, I began pursuing this. I learned that mobile homes, which are limited in financing, usually did not quality. God led me to call the man who arranged my loan a year ago when I purchased my home. He said that loans were available if all criteria were met to refinance my home at 1% lower. This week I was approved and am now gathering my papers. Praise God for His provision and intervention in my finances. Thank you Jesus!

Let us share our boasting about God to uplift and encourage one another creating unity for all believers.

Linda

Full text for this week: 1 Corinthians 1:10-17 “I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there is quarreling among you, my brothers. 12 What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” 13 Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one may say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas. Beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.

#3 Practicing Devotion to God- Pray

prayerThe third practical way to experience love and commitment to God is to PRAY.  The Bible is filled with people talking, communing, listening and responding to God in prayer.  Isaac prayed for his wife Rebekah to conceive as she was barren, Hannah prayed rejoicing as God gave her a son to love,  David prayed for protection and guidance as he fled from Saul, Solomon prayed for wisdom to rule the people, Nehemiah prayed for the restoration of Jerusalem,  Jonah prayed from the belly of the fish, Jesus prayed many times to commune with His father while here on Earth, the Apostles prayed for guidance in presenting the gospel and encouraged all believer to pray constantly.  These are just a few examples of the who, when and why people prayed.

We often think of prayer as me talking and God listening.  All of the above knew that God was accessible in prayer and that He would answer with guidance, hope, love and compassion.  In Psalm 16: verses 7, 11 David reveals how he feels about prayer.  I bless the Lord who gives me counsel;  in the night also my heart instructs me.”  ” You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy;  at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”    David received God’s guidance and counsel as God laid on his heart what he should do.  God revealed the right pathway in life to him. 

 Jesus instructed us on prayer in Matthew 6: 5-13He told us what not to do in verse 5,7-8 and then what to do in verses 6, 9-13.  Do Not “And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.“And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.    Do “But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”   Pray then like this:

lords-prayer“Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name.
10 Your kingdom come,
your will be done,
    on earth as it is in heaven.
11 Give us this day our daily bread,
12 and forgive us our debts,
    as we also have forgiven our debtors.
13 And lead us not into temptation,
    but deliver us from evil.”

Prayer is personal as you alone can speak with Almighty God and lay your concerns, hopes, dreams and desires before Him.  As you learn to trust Him, He will reveal His will and desires to you.  Psalm 37:3,4 are some of my favorite verses and I pray and claim them often.  “Trust in the Lord and do good;  dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.Take delight in the Lord,  and he will give you the desires of your heart.”   

Psalm-37-4Talk with God, trust Him with the desires of your heart, keep on doing good and be safe in His arms.

Linda

Where are you placing your future? Is it done with Hope and Assurance?

Do you have verses that are yours?  One of my life verses is Jeremiah 29:11.  I first connected with this verse when I was asked to choose a verse for my grandson at his baby dedication. God led me to Jeremiah 29:11 and I began to cling to the promises it holds.   The connection for today and every day is the hope contained with God’s Words. romans 8-28“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”   This verse tells me God knows me and my future and He has good planned for me.  Those things He has planned are designed to give me hope and a positive future.  I am convinced that God loves me and wants the very best for me.  I am convinced that God is good,  desiring the best for me- for my good and His glory.  How can I not have hope?

Does this mean that everything will always be good, happy and fulfilling? No.  It means that whatever happens in my life, God can use it for my good.  Romans 8:28 confirms Jeremiah-29-11this, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”   Since I know and love Jesus, I am assured that He can and does use all things in my life for good.  In the hard times, it is difficult to be assured of this,  but looking back or looking at others suffering we can often get a glimpse of this truth.  This calls for our faith and trust in Him.

I cling to the truths of Jeremiah 29:11 when hard times come, when I see amazing things happen, when I look and plan for the future and seek to know what He would have me do.   I ask for His help and guidance as His will is perfect His direction is true.  Let Psalm 25:4-5 be your prayer as it is mine.                                                                                            psalm 25 5 “Show me your ways, Lord,
    teach me your paths.
Guide me in your truth and teach me,
    for you are God my Savior,
    and my hope is in you all day long.

Linda

Never doubting their guiding God, Jesus and family return

Herod the Great died in about 4 B.C. so an angel appeared to Joseph again and gave them the directions they were waiting in Egypt to hear.  

Return to NazarethMatthew 2:19-23:  But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene.”

History proved Joseph’s fears to be real and God’s direction faithful as Herod Archelaus  was an incredibly cruel and tyrannical.  He was deposed after 10 years and the Roman’s took over with governors appointed by the emperor.

Joseph followed God’s direction and settled in Galilee in the town of Nazareth.   God was an amazing Guide throughout Joseph’s journey’s.  From leaving Nazareth to travel to Bethlehem with pregnant Mary for the census to Egypt and back to Nazareth,  God led the way.  God was their guideGod God-is-our-guide-videoleads us in the way we should go.  His Word teaches us how we are to live and think.  Because God gives His children the Holy spirit, they recognize His voice and follow Him.  We can trust God to lead us in the right way.  Without God’s guidance, we would stumble and fall like people in darkness.  Jesus is our guiding light so we can walk with God where He leads us with confidence and assurance.

Just as God was their Guide, He can be our guide in life too.  We just need to listen for His voice, John 10:3, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.”  We can be confident that God will guide and lead us.  Here are a few verses to reassure you can trust Him as your guide:

Psalm 23:2-3 He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. 3 He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.   

Psalm 31:3  “For you are my rock and my fortress; and for your name’s sake you lead me and guide me;”

Psalm 32:8  “I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;  I will counsel you with my eye upon you.”

Psalm 48:14 “that this is God, our God forever and ever.     He will guide us forever”

ps-23-2-3_origMay you follow His leading each day,  knowing that God is faithful and trustworthy.  He will guide you, just as He did Joseph and Mary.

Linda