Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Did you have a Merry Christmas? Not everyone does, you know. Sometimes holidays can be hard. When I was in my 20's, I spent Christmas eve with my father, and Christmas day with my mother. When  I met my husband Rudy, we spent time at his parents before we went to my father. It was confusing, and not much fun, but it was what we had to do. 

When I look back on these memories I thank God for his grace to see me through. It was one step at a time, one day, one hour. The scripture gave me evidence of who I was on the inside. If we look at Ephesians  chapter 1, I will show you what I mean. 

The apostle Paul wrote to this body of believers and he assures everyone of their spiritual blessings. He tells them to praise God, and that he had "Blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ." Ephesians 1:3 This is a huge promise, and we can't even begin to unpack it here, but I will try a little.

The earthly kingdom we live in is governed by the heavenly one above. Everything that happens here is either from God's hand, or he has allowed it, or it naturally occurs  because of the fallen world in which we live. All dominion has been given to Christ by His Father, so that Christ can in turn bless us. 

The work that was finished on the cross  has already purchased everything we need to live godly lives, and to overcome the enemy. How come we don't seem to have victory all the time? We don't always walk in the flow of this reality. The flow is like a river, where we allow the current to bring us along. Sometimes we go with it, and sometimes we get out of the river entirely.

As Christians, we can get in or out depending on circumstances. It is painful for me to admit that I can allow anger to pull me out at times. Surprise circumstances can pull me out, and cause me to walk on my own. When I do this, I am not in harmony with God, and I can choose to fall back in line, or choose my own way. Oh, how I hate telling you this, but I need to be perfectly blunt.

Don't get out of the way of God's blessings! Stay close to him and allow Him to form you into his image. You will forever praise him for it, and be ahead in your walk with Christ. I am saying all this to help you to be an overcomer, and hopefully you won't lose time like I did. God's grace and out of this world love for us covers us no matter what, as long as we choose to go with the current.  Blessings and love, always. 

Thursday, December 21, 2017

"In Bethlehem in Judea, they replied, for this is what the prophet has written: 'But you Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; out of you will come for me a ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.'"         {Matthew 2:5-6} NIV 

As I think of the birth of Jesus, and the town where he was born, it is a well known place to me. Not so for the people of the day. Judea was the smallest tribe of Israel, and Bethlehem a remote village. Surely King Herod found it strange that a King would be born in such a distant, small place. 

The Jews would have known that King David,  the greatest King of Israel was born in the same Bethlehem. God doesn't make mistakes and so we see a connection here. The earthly King and the spiritual King, had similarities, as David was a "type" of Christ. God enjoys using the so called "weakest or smallest" things to show His power and ability. 

God is good at being God. He has a higher vantage point! Being eternal gives him a clear advantage too. What I am saying is, he is so far removed from our earthly realm, and far greater than our imagination can stretch. God knew exactly the right moment to send His son, as a defenseless, helpless babe.

 The prophet Micah said " out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times."Jesus is called "the ancient of Days." He was from the beginning, and always will be, yet he paused to become flesh and blood. What, but love would compel Him to do such a thing?

 It says, "Every Good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights," James 1:17. Certainly God has given the best gift of all time in his precious, only son.What does he ask in return? Obedience. Worship God today just because He gave us his son. I don't know of a better way to obey him than that.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

"When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born."   {Matthew 2:3-4}

The first question that comes to mind when reading this passage is: Why didn't the King and Jerusalem know about the birth that was foretold so many years ago? King Herod, not being of Jewish descent may not have heard of a coming Messiah, the true King of the Jews. What about the Priests and other Jewish leaders? 

Doesn't it stand to reason that the leaders would be looking for the promised Messiah? Yes, however I think these leaders liked the arrangement that was currently given them. Herod listened to them, and most of the time he did what was acceptable to their way of thinking. A Messiah coming as a babe wasn't according to their plans, or what would help the leadership to excel. Oh! the plans of rulers that ruin life for so many!

God works regardless of the plans of even the slyest ruler. Jesus came as a helpless babe, to truly experience life as a human, but also to be totally acceptable to the lowly and downcast. No job could be found in Israel that would be more demeaning than that of a shepherd. Who was out at night watching the stars, but those who tended sheep. Who would be hungry for the truth of God? Those who were satisfied with their high calling, so those who did not dare lift their heads when the Priests walked by?

It is still the same today. Those who find Jesus, and allow Him to rule in their hearts are those who are hungry for the truth. You and I are among the ones who would be standing at the manger, worshiping the new born King! Not because we are outcasts, but because we are among the Children of God. We are among God's finest, and he calls us his beloved. I will take that reputation over any other for sure.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him."  {Matthew 2:1-2}

Stars have always been a favorite part of creation to me. I feel close to God when I look up into the sky and see many bright lights twinkling back at me. You can almost imagine anything when looking up.  We are told to keep our eyes on the sky, because our Savior and Lord will return someday from above.  

It makes sense  that the very wise men from the east, scientists, and those who studied the stars would see a difference in what was happening above. The sign of his first coming was foretold by the stars, and his second coming will also be seen in the sky. God, who is all magnificent, completely holy and all knowing will come the second time with a power and authority beyond anything we have ever seen.

The sky will be filled with his marvelous light, and everyone will know and see that our God reigns.  Because of his great power, he is holding back until more people come to know him as Lord. The time is near, but our gracious and loving God, does not want one soul to go to hell. He never intended for any person to go there. It was created for the devil and his dark angels, who still blatantly throw themselves at those who will listen.

The devil does not tell the truth, so those who hear him are believing lies about themselves and others so that their lives are ruined. God is not seen as the Almighty, Benevolent Father that he is, when the lies of the enemy tell the lost that there is no chance for them. Our God, who is rich in mercy, will forgive anyone who will humbly acknowledge him as Savior and Lord. It is not too late, until we breathe our last.

I am curious how the magi knew about the promised King of the Jews? I suppose it is one of those details that I wrote about yesterday or before that we will never know. Many ideas are shared among bible scholars that there was a link between these magi and ancient Israel, and so the story was handed down. This sounds plausible, but one thing is for sure, the magi causes quite a stir in Jerusalem.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

"All this took place to fulfill what the Lord said through the prophet :' The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son. And they will call him Immanuel- which means God with us.' "{Matthew 1:22-23} NIV

"Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel." {Isaiah 7:14} NIV

Isaiah the prophet lived about a thousand years before the coming of the Messiah. His writings are overflowing with prophesies about the coming King. Isaiah had no idea the time frame that God had in mind when he was given these wonderful words. This did not change how amazing or important the truth would be. Time has a way of eroding our faith if we are not careful.

The book of Isaiah can be difficult to read at times because the prophet is given words that describe Jesus in his first and second coming. In his first coming, we see Jesus as the suffering servant. In his second coming we will see Jesus as the victorious King.

Just as the people of Israel waited for the coming of the Messiah in his first coming, so you and I wait for his second coming. We have been given the Holy Spirit to fill us with his presence, and so He is "with us" in the spiritual sense, but will also be in the physical. "The with of God" as  Bible teacher Beth Moore calls Jesus, has left the comforter, to give us peace and grace in times of need.
I don't know about you, but I need his felt presence everyday.

I have a feeling you are saying "amen" to that as you are reading this right now. In this world we will have tribulation, and we need to know that Jesus will never,{No never} leave us. Leaving is not in his DNA. It is so foreign to God that he cannot do this. If we feel distant to him, guess who moved? If you need to, make things right with God right now.

We don't know what a day may bring. Life in God is not about our feelings, but the gift of the Holy Spirit is freely given so that we know we are never alone. Allowing God to move in us brings joy and peace to us and many others that we touch everyday. Say yes to whatever He may be saying to you.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

"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."  
{Matthew 1:21}

 Joseph must have thought that his ears were not hearing what the angel said. "You mean, this child will be the long awaited Messiah?" I can't imagine the expression on his face! Thousands of years have gone by, and I get to be the one to raise the Savior of the world? He will be thought of as my son? I think he probably thought about this for a minute, and then ran to find Mary.

"Mary needs to know that I believe her now. She must know that I will not divorce her, and that we can be safe because God is with us."Peace must have filled his heart, as well as excitement for the life that would be ahead. What a miracle, he might have thought as joy and exuberance flooded his soul. If anyone but an angel told him this story, he wouldn't have believed. Would you have believed Mary?

I don't see how I could say that I would believe such a thing. This was the first move of God in 400 years. The time between the old and new testament was 400 years of silence. God did not speak through a prophet, or do any miracles. Maybe Mary and Joseph were so hungry to see God, and to know him, that their faith was just in the right place to believe. 

Perhaps anyone else would have shuttered in  fear. I think God prepared Mary and Joseph long before this time and of course God knew before each was born the importance of their lives. These parents were ordinary people like you and I. No one would have pointed to one of them as a future leader. Thankfully God doesn't look on the outside, but at the heart.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

"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 as your wife, because what is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit."       {Matthew 1:20}

I don't know about you, but having an angel visit is not my idea of a relaxing time. Most heavenly visitations are not of little cherebs with cute chubby cheeks.  They do not look like babies in diapers, and are not a friendly sight! Usually an angel comes with a frightening size, and a deafening voice. This is why you hear each one say, "Do not be afraid."

I suppose having an angel speak to you in a dream may take some of the shock away. This angelic creature only tells Joseph not to be afraid to take Mary as his wife. Hopefully this dispels any sorrow that he may have had from thinking Mary was unfaithful. What a turn of events for our friend Joseph! 

In the beginning of the chapter he is planning on marrying Mary. He is told by her that she is expecting a child by the Holy Spirit, which he doesn't believe. Now, he is planning a divorce. The poor man must have been frazzled, but wait, we don't know that for sure. Maybe the voice of the angel was peaceful, and reassuring and he felt calm. We may never know because scripture doesn't tell us.We know that as a rule an angelic visitation is no laughing matter.

We can guess that Joseph went for an emotional roller coaster ride. I think he may have needed to stop and take a deep breathe before he found Mary to tell her about his dream. I would think she breathed a huge sigh of relief when told by Joseph that he believed her  initial report. 

God is good at turning around the worst circumstances and making them complete. Both of our precious friends are tried to the max with this situation. Mary and Joseph are amazing people, but were also human like you and I. God knew each would need to really lean on Him to get through the situations ahead. Can we lean on Jesus in our circumstances? We surely can, and God wants us to look to Him in every aspect of life. Thank God for His indescribable gift!

Monday, December 11, 2017

"Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her  to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.  {Matthew 1:19}

Joseph was considered Mary's husband. It is a bit confusing but that was the culture of the people. A marriage was a betrothal, and in our thinking that would be an engagement. When researching this I found that it is almost the same. Why was the word husband used here, I cannot figure out, except that it is the original word used.

Sweet Joseph thinks that Mary has betrayed him with another man. This must have been heart breaking for him. Even in his pain, he is a good man and doesn't want to harm her. He truly was a good husband, one that would be able to handle the rigors of raising the Messiah.

 Joseph couldn't think of having Mary stoned for her betrayal. Public disgrace would make her a fornicator, and her family would also live with that label for a long time. If she had done such a thing, would she even be allowed to stay with her family?

I shutter to think what the consequences might have been for this young girl of 15. Her maturity far outweighs what a teen in our culture would be at this age. She was considered an adult, and all of her upbringing prepared her for the life of a wife in Israel at that time.

 I have tried to put myself in her shoes, but I know so little about what life was like in that day. We know that God's grace was upon her, and he held her steady through all that happened. Maybe one day I will ask her to explain it all to me, when I get to heaven. What would you like to ask her?

Friday, December 8, 2017

Watercolor Christmas Floral Set - Illustrations - 7

"Now this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit."   { Matthew 1:18}

There is no story that can match the story of Jesus's life. How he was brought to this earth, how he lived and what he said are unique to him alone. This could be said of any life, but none stand out in the miraculous power of God like Jesus. No life was born of a virgin, one with God, and yet fully man at the same time, but Jesus.

In Mary's pledge to Joseph, it would have been fine if they had sexual relations before the final ceremony. It was acceptable in the culture of the day for this to happen. Joseph knew that it hadn't occurred, and thought that Mary had been unfaithful. Nothing could have bee farther from the truth. Can you blame him for not believing her story?

Who had ever heard of such a thing, except from the lips of those who had been unfaithful. Every girl in Israel wanted to be the mother of Messiah, Savior of Israel. The work of the Holy Spirit is not something that can be understood with our heads. There is no sensible  way to understand what God does by His Spirit. There isn't a book in the world that can teach us how God does what He does. Faith believes beyond what is seen, into what is not.

Faith stands on its own, because it is not based on anything of this world.The spiritual truths of the universe are true whether or not we believe them. Our unity with God is born out of faith in the unseen truths that hold the universe together. The Holy Spirit doesn't need us to believe. We need the Holy Spirit to believe, to have life, that is everlasting. 
Until Christmas, I hope to take a verse relating to this miraculous time in history and expound on it. Please send it to friends, relatives, neighbors or anyone who you think would be blessed by it. If interested, your friends can receive these e-mails in their inbox by going to wholeheartedlady.com and adding their e-mail to the list on the right side of the page. Blessings and love during this precious time. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

"I will extol the Lord at all times, his praise will always be on my lips."

Some days go along without a problem, and then other days, seem to fall apart.The challenge is to keep my heart from complaining when everything seems to be up side down. God's word is true no matter how I feel or what goes wrong. It is usually "the little foxes that spoil the vine,"as Song of Solomon 2:15 says. These are the things that can get under our skin. 

The grape vines were especially vulnerable  during the harvest, because of their sweetness. Everyone wants grapes that are just right to the taste. Sour grapes ruin our taste for anything else. Unfortunately, the varmints in the land feel the same way.These "little" foxes can run quickly in and out of the vines undetected.They grab here and there, until the vine looks like it has been in a war zone.

We can choose to put aside these small annoyances, or allow each and every little thing chew away at us. Praising God and keeping our focus on Him allows us the pleasure of forsaking every little 
fox easily. Who wants to take their eyes off of heaven to contend with a pesky interference? It happens to me though, when  my guard is down. 

Here I am, writing to you. I'm not paying attention to my little west highland terrier Lena, who has bladder issues. I am not watching her as she urinates at my feet onto my kitchen floor. How is that for timing? I can thank God for a perfect example, or I could get mad. I have chosen not to entertain the "mad" because I enjoy writing to you more than going with that negative. I know I can't always be attentive to my Lena, so I clean the floor, and write some more. You are very precious to me, and I can't get caught up in the foxes. One does not know what a day may bring!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

"May your unfailing love rest upon us, O Lord, even as we put our hope in you." {Psalm 33:22}

We had our yearly Christmas Tea last Friday at our church. We transform the school gym into a holiday wonderland, and with the lights down low, you would never know that just a few hours before stinky, sweaty teens were running about with a basketball. Our speaker was Ellie Lofaro, who had been a member of our church 24 years ago, before she "bonded with the blond ladies of Virginia," as she says.

Ellie shared about love, as the world sees it, according to songs that are all familiar to us. The Beatles, "all you need is love", "I love you Babe," by Sonny and Cher, but these fall flat when we realize that this type of love is temporary, and nebulous. Nebulous means cloudy, unclear or vague. If all you need is love,  why did drugs play a major role in their lives? No offense to those of you who are Beatles lovers. My point is, what kind of love did they have, and why was it not enough for them?

It wasn't the unfailing kind of love that only comes from Jesus himself. Today, most of the current music isn't about love, but negative, in the sense of break ups and failed relationships. Where is the happy medium? I guess when it comes to music you have to look at the culture that drives it. Relationships that are based on sexual love only don't last according to statistics, because there is no depth of soul, and lack of true relationship.

The love we long for, every human on the face of this earth, is heavenly in nature. It is unfailing, endures trials, and sin, and comes out on the other side unscathed. It never leaves, never fails, and never falls apart. This love, is given in everlasting waves of goodness when our lives are surrendered to God. The enemy of our souls has blinded many to think that God is all about rules, and that His love and favor is conditional. The only condition he desires is unrelenting surrender, and everything else falls in place.

Monday, December 4, 2017

This fountain is quite different from the one I posted last week. Very formal, as it stands on the grounds of Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. There is a wall of fountains just like this one, that travels about a 1,000 feet or more along the front of the property. Larger fountains cover the top of this wall, and dance to music at night, in the summer.

I suppose you could say I like fountains, but what interests me even more is the power of the a Holy Spirit in how he presents water as a healer and liberator. Water brings restoration to weary bodies in times of drought. It sweetly sprinkles on us in the heat of day. It brings pleasure as people for many generations have basked in its waves floated in boats, rafts,  kayaks and what have you.

Water is always associated with washing, but then we can’t wash without soap, unless we are talking about the Holy Spirit. He has never needed soap to make us clean. His style of cleansing meets us in a way that never had to be repeated. Once he gets hold of us, we are never the same. The work that God does with His cleansing, it lasts for eternity. Once he takes our sin, it is washed even if others try to remember them.

No one can forget like God. Does that surprise you, that God forgets? He does. He forgets sin that has been confessed and made clean, from a humble heart. Sorrow over our sin is a godly sorrow, that is never mentioned again.  Can we forgive ourselves? This is sometimes the much harder thing.Ask Jesus to help you, because he has been helping other for many years with the same problems. He knows.