After Advent…Epiphany, Wise Men’s Obedience Speaks to Us

Each year Western Christians celebrate January 6 as Epiphany. It commemorates the arrival of the Magi to worship Jesus. For the last several days I have been blogging on the arrival of the Magi and what their story has to say to us today.

The heart of their visit to Jesus’ family was one of worship and obedience. Obedience brought protection for Mary, Joseph, Jesus and the Magi against the evil intent that God knew was in Herod’s heart. The Magi were obedient to follow the message in their dream to not return to Herod. Joseph was again visited by an angel and told to take Mary and baby Jesus and go to Egypt. He was obedient and packed them up and left immediately. The Magi returning home and Joseph took his young family to Egypt and eventually to Nazareth after Herod’s death. This shows God’s omniscient power over current threatening events and prophecies given hundreds of years before Jesus’ birth.

Matthew 2:12-15 “And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way. 13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

Where is God calling you to be obedient? Is He directing you to share, give, comfort, lend a helping hand, provide care or listen with a loving heart? Our obedience is important and loved by God. It is an attribute God desires for our lives and shows our love and respect for Him in a very real and tangible way. When I think on the priority God places on obedience, my thoughts go to 1 Samuel 15:22. “And Samuel said, “Has the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice,  and to listen than the fat of rams.” God desires that we are obedient and with that obedience comes blessing. The Magi were blessed with seeing the child and not giving further help to the evil of Herod. Mary and Joseph were blessed by continued protection from harm and provision through the gifts of the Magi. All of their acts of obedience brought glory to God and His plan for mankind.

Have you ever considered how your obedience is a tool for God to use in the lives of others? Your obedience, like that of Joseph, Mary and the Wise Men can and will be used by God to bless others. Meditate today on the effects of your obedience to God and His Word. 1 John 5:3-4 gives us a guide by which we can frame our obedience. It is specific and direct- not always easy but true. “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.” Walk in faithful obedience to God’s Word and His Son and see how God blesses and multiplies your effect upon others for Him.

Linda

After Advent… What Gifts did you bring to Him?

After the Wise Men met with King Herod and got further directions on where to find this child born ‘king of the Jews’, they proceeded to Bethlehem. Matthew 2:9-12 “After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.”

Here we see the provision, protection and love God has for His Son who was now on earth. We know the Magi did not visit on the night of Jesus’ birth as in verse 2 we were told they came to see Herod after Jesus’ birth. Also there is no mention of a stable or animals but a house. (When visiting Bethlehem, guides took us to a house believed to be where Mary and Joseph lived during this time period. It is very near to the stable cave and had several rooms where they could have lived comfortably.) The Magi followed the Star and found where Mary, Joseph and baby Jesus were living. The gifts they presented to them were very costly and befitting a king. We see God’s Sovereignty in the fact that He warned the kings not to go back to Herod. God knew what was in Herod’s heart and protected His Son.

As you prepared for Christmas and the celebration of Christ’s birth, what gifts did you present to Him? Did they include love, worship, devotion, service, monies to be used for His work, passion for telling others about Him, or time to spend in God’s Word studying to learn more about Him? Any and all of these gifts are desired by God and yet in Micah 6:8 He tell us: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” God desires our hearts be aligned with Him so that we can act justly towards others, be merciful in love towards others and ourselves and walk daily with humility. Let these be your gifts to the Savior this New Year.

Linda

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

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…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…God with Us, Immanuel

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. 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 learned in 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

Advent…A Time of Reflective Praise

After being mute for 9 months because he questioned God’s ability to create a child through he and Elizabeth, Zechariah let’s his praises pour forth in a song of praise and prophecy about the Messiah to come and his own new born son. Luke 1:67-75 is today’s portion of this song. I have interrupted Zechariah’s song with verses from the Old and New Testament that speak of his prophecy being true.

67 Then his father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and gave this prophecy:

68 “Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has visited and redeemed his people.
Jesus came to redeem and save us. Romans 10:9-10 assures us of this. “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.

69 He has sent us a mighty Savior
    from the royal line of his servant David,
Jesus was repeatedly called the Son of David. The blind beggar called him Son of David and was healed, “They told him that Jesus the Nazarene was going by. 38 So he began shouting, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”39 “Be quiet!” the people in front yelled at him. But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and ordered that the man be brought to him. As the man came near, Jesus asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” “Lord,” he said, “I want to see!” 42 And Jesus said, “All right, receive your sight! Your faith has healed you.” 43 Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus, praising God. And all who saw it praised God, too.” Luke 18:37-43

70 just as he promised
    through his holy prophets long ago.
Paul proclaimed Jesus was the long awaited Messiah in Acts 13:23 “And it is one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel!

71 Now we will be saved from our enemies
    and from all who hate us.
Paul tells us in Romans 5:9-10 how Jesus saves us “And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 10 For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.

72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
    by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
    to our ancestor Abraham.
Genesis 17:1-10 describes God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants. God reminds him repeatedly in Genesis 18:18, 22:18 and 26:4 that all nations will be blessed through him.

7We have been rescued from our enemies
    so we can serve God without fear,
Jesus call us to serve and follow Him in John 12:26 “ Anyone who wants to serve me must follow me, because my servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves me.”

75 in holiness and righteousness
    for as long as we live.
Paul reminds us in Romans 1:16-17 how we are to live. “For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. 17 This Good News tells us how God makes us right in his sight. This is accomplished from start to finish by faith. As the Scriptures say, “It is through faith that a righteous person has life.”

May the prophesies of Zechariah’s song reassure you that God has a plan, God is sovereign and God desires good things for us through faith in Jesus. May you too raise your voice in praise for all God has done for you.

Linda

Advent…An Unexpected Answer

Our Advent journey continues with Mary’s answer from the heavenly angel. He had surprised her, soothed her fears and told her she would give birth to a son whom she would name Jesus. She asked the angel how this was even possible as she was a virgin and had known no man. Here is the angel’s unexpected answer from Luke 1:35-38.

And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Talk about a miracle birth! Wow! Imagine Mary’s surprise at those words, “the Holy Spirit of God will come upon you.” She was to bear the Son of God. In her wildest dreams she would not have conceived the idea that she could bear the Messiah. It was the impossible. It was the unthinkable! But God, said it would be so and she knew that would it would be true because God keeps His promises. She knew how God had kept his promises to her people by bringing them out of Egypt, giving them the land of Israel, bringing them back from Babylon and keeping them for generation to generation as a people who called Him Lord. If she was doubting at all, the angel added in the fact of Elizabeth’s pregnancy which would be considered a miracle at her age and something only God could make happen. His final words brought hope to Mary and definitely to me, “with God nothing is impossible.”

What was Mary’s response to the unexpected news? Mary answered in faith. She did not question the angel but accepted his miraculous news by faith, trusting God to work out the details. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” What would you have said? Do you have that kind of trusting faith in God and His plans for your life? Perhaps Mary recalled Jeremiah 29:11 and claimed it for just a time as this, “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.” She trusted her future to the Lord and looked forward with expectation knowing He was going to do great things for her good and His glory. Can you have that same attitude this Advent season? Can you look forward to the way God can and will use you to bless others and show His love? Claim Jeremiah 29:11 in your own life and look expectantly for the ways God will use you for your good and His glory each day.

Linda

Advent…Expect the Unexpected

Mary enters our Advent story today. She is a young virginal woman who is engaged to be married to a man named Joseph. An angel appears to her with a startling message. Luke 1:26-34

 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!””

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.

God is gracious to us in that we know the time this takes place. It is only 6 months after Zachariah was in the temple and Elizabeth conceived. The angel messenger sudden and miraculous appearance caused Mary to be afraid. That is understandable as the appearance of an angelic heavenly being was most unusual and would have been cause for fear. The angel had a special message just for Mary that was one of hope and wonder. Being a Jewish girl, she knew of the coming Messiah- the anointed holy one to come. But, she was perplexed as to how this could happen as she was pledged but unmarried and had not had relations with Joseph. Her question was one of How can this be? She was not doubting God’s ability to cause this to happen as Zachariah had in the temple. Her doubts were answered by the messenger factually as we’ll see tomorrow.

What lessons can we take away from this portion of Mary’s story? Mary was open and receptive to God’s message. She was willing to listen and desired to know more about God’s will for her life. Are you open minded towards God? Do you look expectantly for His work in your life? Unexpected things can happen to each of us and they are solely dependent upon God’s mercy and grace. We need to trust in God’s providential care just as Mary did to receive the blessings God has in store for us.

Will you look God’s hand of care in your life today and praise Him?

Linda

Advent…Elizabeth Thankful for God’s Kindness, What about You?

How do you react to unexpected news or changes in your life? In today’s portion of the Advent journey, we see Elizabeth’s response to her unexpected pregnancy? She was advanced in age and had long since given up hope of having a child. God miraculously provided and we see her humble, thankful response in Luke 1:23-25. When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”

Just as many women today do not announce their pregnancy until the first trimester is completed, Elizabeth went into seclusion giving herself time to adjust to this new life within her. Her joy is evident in her words and she gives praise and credit to the Lord. The sigma of not having children was more than just being deprived of the joy of being a parent as people also thought the woman was not favored by God. Elizabeth’s joy at realizing her dream of having a child and being favored by God to have a son with a specific purpose was overwhelming. She chose to thank God for His attribute of kindness. She recognized God’s kindness in sending her a child and also his promised Messiah to come. As believers in Jesus, we see this as stated in Titus 3:4-7 “But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love, he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit. He generously poured out the Spirit upon us through Jesus Christ our Savior. Because of his grace he made us right in his sight and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.” Elizbeth saw God’s love and mercy towards her, His generosity and grace. Her whole being was thankful. We too see this same kindness towards us in Jesus. God’s provision of salvation and hope is overwhelming and filled with His grace.

What about you? What makes you joyous and thankful to your very soul? Is it your relationship with God? Is it God’s expressions of love, joy and grace towards you? Mediate on your attitude and ask God to create in you a spirit of whole thankfulness so you may enjoy this season of great joy!

Linda