Friday, December 21, 2018

She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. Luke 2:37b NIV

Anna, a prophetess was very old. The Bible tells us, when Jesus came to the temple in Jerusalem for the first time, Anna was there. She, like Simeon was waiting and watching for the fulfillment of the promised Messiah. 

Her husband died after seven years of marriage. I wonder if she thought about what her life would have been like if he hadn't died?Would she be serving God in this capacity in the temple? I think we can surmise from her dedication to the work of God she didn't dwell on the past.

I think her focus was on what God was about to do in the world. A birthing of a new dispensation and freedom among the people of God. A salvation that would bring eternal perspective, and change the way others thought of each another.

God, in human flesh! The impossible made possible.

It's never easy to figure out exactly what a move of God would look like. Did Anna know that many people would believe and others would not? Did she realize the upheavel and change the Promised One would bring to the Hebrew people?

None of these things mattered as much as His coming. The hearts of all men would have to decide if Jesus spoke God's truth and live with the consequences of their choices. The same choice is necessary for us today. 

Jesus said: "I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. John 14:6 We can't choose to believe He was a good man, because He says His is God. Either we choose to belive He is who He says He is, or turn away completely.

There is no middle ground and the enemy of our souls know this too. He is well aware of the power and magnificence of God, and will do anything to keep us away from this truth. Don't believe His lies. God loves you and wants to pour down blessings on your life.

He is a good, good Father and has done all to save you. His plans are for you to be whole, in every way. May Jesus come afresh and anew in your heart this Christmas!

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel. Luke 2:29-32 NIV

Simeon is looking for Jesus, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. It had been many years that he sat, and prayed and longed for their meeting. God spoke to Simeon about this time, when the two would be in the same place, at the same time. The verse above is what Simeon spoke over Jesus at the proper time.

God spoke to Siomeon's heart that he wouldn't die until he saw the Messiah! He was a devout man which means he was dedicated and set apart for God. This knowledge of the meeting to take place was a serious and exciting time for Simeon. The Holy Spirit would lead him to the place, at the right time.

Israel was under Roman rule, and no Isrealite was happy about it. Some thought Messiah would deliver them from Roman hands, but Simeon  probably knew better. He knew Jesus would be: "a light of revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel."

This would be a new era in Biblical history, the time of revelation to the Gentiles, or the church era. This is where we live now. The ingathering of the Gentiles. It is a sacred time, and it may be coming to a close soon. God, in His excellent grace has extended His salvation to all those who will believe.

Every race and country in our world has believers who will stand for the kingdom of God, and in Jesus' name. Simeon and Anna had a part in the fulfillment of the promise. They dedicated themselves to prayer and to the will of their Heavenly Father. 

* We are the Annas and Simeons of our day.

God ushered in the promise, by His grace, but He used His servants and heard their cry. Their suffering is over. The promise is a baby, destined to cause the "falling and rising of many in Israel." Luke 2:34.

 The shaking to come for the people would be severe. Those who had contrite hearts, truly desiring to see Jesus, would be blessed, healed, and given revelation into the things of God. Those who liked religion the way it was, would be appauled and offended. These would call for His crucifiction.

Nothing has changed. Today we see people polarized to one position or another. Some may call their religion secularism, or liberalism, but it is their God. Some call out to Jesus, as Simeon did, for Him to come and right every wrong. This is God's heart, and He will come, in the proper time. He knows all things.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018

When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives had heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. Luke 1:57-58 NIV

A baby for Elizabeth! What a blessing after many years of waiting. A baby after her body was not able to produce a child? Yes, after everyone thought it was impossible, the God of the possible brought it to pass.

I'm sure there was singing in heaven on that day as well. Rejoicing and dancing by angels and God, because another huge step was set in motion. The plan was unfolding for the Messiah's entrance into the world! John the Baptist was the child born, and he was the forerunner of Jesus Christ.

Elizabeth and Mary were expecting at the same time, and I'm sure were able to comfort and help each other. "I can imagine Elizabeth, soon to be mom of John the Baptist, drawing Mary, soon to be mother of Jesus, onto her aging shoulder. Two women, the old and the young, embracing in mutual identification. Two women seeking solace in each other's company. Two women honorably connecting to one another. Sisters of divine circumstance shouldering the future of humanity." Patsy Clairmont- "The Women of Faith Study Bible"

Did they have any idea the divine destiny unfolding before their eyes? I think they understood in part, but the full magnitude of this historical event no one could fathom. Even today it is hard for me to imagine all the difference the coming of the Son of God meant to the world at large.

Where would we be if He hadn't come? Would the world still exsist? There might never have been any charitable organizations, or food pantries. The Holy Spirit would not have been sent, and we would be empty and cold on the inside, but He chose to come, in obedience to His Heavenly Father.

This day of celebration, Christmas, and all the happenings before it, is a blessed time of remembrance and joy. It makes life worth living, because of the hope of the Savior. What He has accomplished by His coming, death and resurrection, and what he does in our own lives on a daily basis. Let's not forget what He plans to do in the future!

Restoration of all the earth is on God's agenda for the future when He returns. Restoration of our bodies and minds. No decay, loss or sadness, ever again. Just as Mary and Elizabeth looked forward to Jesus' first coming, we look forward to His second. He first restored our Spirits to the Father, but soon all things will be restored. 

As Mary and Elizabeth couldn't fathom the future neither can we!

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

How will this be, Mary asked the angel, since I am a virgin? The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be callled the Son of God." Luke 1:34-35 NIV

This is a silly tree. It reminds me of Charlie Brown's tree in a way. This one has needles, but it's missing a top and something around the middle. It's not meant to be a Christmas tree, but then It could be. It depend how you look at it.

Charlie Brown loved his tree, and didn't care if anyone else liked it at all. It had special significance to him. The verse for today has nothing to do with how Charlie felt about his tree. It cannot be interpreted any other way than the way it's said.

Angels don't fool around. They deliver the message given them and then exit. God made them to send us messages and so this is their job, at least some of them. Gabriel is used for the most important messages in history. He's not the type of fellow you want to mess with!

Most angels are horrifying huge and overwhelming to mere mortals.This is why, before the message is given they say, Don't be afraid, because you might faint.The little cheribs we see in artwork through out the centuries do not justify the reality of who these creatures are.

Mary had every reason to believe every word Gabriel said. This didn't make life easy once she told others. We can only imagine the trouble she went through when others didn't believe the reality of her experience. We are told how Joseph took the news.

He wanted to put her away privately because he didn't believe her. Remember,  400 years of silence since God had spoken to His people. God is faithful to care for the details. Joseph is visited by an angel and told all is well with Mary and he should marry her.

Many Jews in the times of Joseph and Mary were crying out to God for the promised one, the Messiah. Many centries past were filled with those who longed to see Yeshua. This was His time to enter into our world.

Just the thought of God coming to be "with us" is mind boggling. We cannot comprehend such a love, and sacrifice! My words, once again, are very limited in expressing His majesty. The Holy Spirit is here to help us receive just a taste of the glory of God! 

Monday, December 17, 2018

The angel answered,"I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time." Luke 1:19-20 NIV

 I have decided to choose a verse for each day this week that I like about the birth of Jesus. You may not see this verse often but I will explain why I like it. The angel has just told Zechariah that he and his wife would have a son, after many years of being barren and old.
 Zechariah was chose by lot to enter the holy of holies which happened once a year. As High Priest he may have waited years for this opportunity and he probably wouldn't have another chance in his life. He represented all of the people, and if he didn't do everything just right he could die from the intensity of the presence of God.

I don't know what thoughts were flowing through his head at this time, but maybe he was nervous about his duties? Was the angel in likeness as a regular man, and Zec didn't recognize him as Gabriel, coming from the throne room of God Himself?

It is hard for me to believe Gabriel would come in any way other than in magnificant splendor and power. Why would Zechariah not believe his words? Was he old and cynical about the power of God to do such a thing? Maybe he had never seen a miracle as this?

Before we write off Zechariah as an unbeliever, maybe we ought to remember God hasn't spoken to His people in 400 years. Miracles were talked about but not seen in his day. Every Israelite wanted to see the day of the Messiah as God had promised so long ago.

Mary had a visit from Gabriel too. Her response was different. "I am the Lord's servant, Mary answered. May it be to me as you have said." And the angel left her. Luke 1:38 NIV What a remarkable young woman she was. God's grace and strength was on her. What would I have said? I hate to think!

I think I would have argued with every excuse imaginable! To be publicly exposed as "with child" and not married? Not me, but what stands out in this verse to me is:"it will come true at it's proper time." Isn't this true for us too? God has set a time and hour for everything to happen at the "proper time."

It's not our time clock, but His. Why the 400 years of waiting? Why did Zechariah and Elizabeth have to beyond child bearing age? We may never know but it was the right time. Can we trust God with timing in our lives? Yes, we can.

Friday, December 14, 2018

For he longs for all of you and is distressed because you heard he was ill.  Indeed he was ill, and almost died, but God had mercy on him, and not on him only but also on me, to spare me sorrow upon sorrow. Philippians 2:26 NIV

Paul is writing to the Philippian church from Rome. Depending on the route taken, this can be 800 to 1,200 miles away. When Epaphroditus left Philippi to come to Rome, he traveled over land  probably on foot.

How long did he travel? It's just a guess, but I think about 2 months. If you think we have snail mail, what did these people have? Waiting and praying was a necessary attribute. Personal messengers brought letters back and forth.

As nice as it is to receive gifts, the greatest gift we have in our lives are people. Paul is thankful that Epaphroditus didn't leave this world on his watch, because Rod, {I call him this for short} was a great help and blessing.  People are what make life worth living, because God made us for relationship.

Many have lost relationships because God's basic principles  have been swept aside. Honoring God by doing what he said is huge because he has good reason for what he said. Just because we don't understand doesn't make His way wrong.

Obeying when we don't understand is a great form of honor. It's trusting God because we know He is GOD, and He has our best interest in mind all of the time. Listen to this: For the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation. Psalm 149:4 How can this be true? The Bible says God delights in me?

Maybe this is a mistake. Someone didn't translate the verse properly. The Lord is gracious and full of compassion, Slow to anger and great in mercy. The Lord is good to all, And His tender mercies are over all His works. Psalm 145:8-9 Can this really be true? Yes, it is!

God sees me through eyes of mercy because Jesus has washed me clean by the work He did on the cross. The truth is better than a lie, it transends every fake accusation against God and His nature, and leaves us with peace and restoration.

This is what His coming is all about. Tranforming us to be a people who are filled with the power and presence of God. It's a free gift for every person who believes. It is truly the best gift ever!

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

But I think it necessary to send back to you Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier, who is also your messanger, whom, you sent to take care of my needs. Philippians 2:25 NIV

It's beginning to look like Christmas! I love the richness of this wreath against the old door. You can tell the wood is aged because it's not smooth, and it speaks of many years gone by. The molding is heavy and shows a craftsman took time to measure, cut and design just the right look.

Perhaps the wreath is hand-crafted too. Someone had to carefully place each ornament in its place to give it a certain appeal.The right balance of dark and light colors form an article that stands out and stands for something special.

No time of the year is as decorated as this! Why do people get all decked out and fancy? I don't know about them, but I do it because of Jesus. God wants us to be a people that celebrate, and what could be better than the birth of the one and only Son of God!

He is the best gift to come into our world. No one gave more than God did when He gave His son. No one could love us more.When you think of Jesus giving up heaven to come to our stinky, sin drenched and evil world, you realize the sacrifice made by both Father and Son.

Heaven is a perfect place with no heart ache and disease. No lying, cheating, robbery or abuse. No one ages and dies because death is a defeated foe. No worries or fears either. We can hardly comprehend such a place. It seems surreal, but only because we see mostly this side. 

The Bible is clear about the fullness and completness we will have in heaven. We can have it now because Jesus made the way for us to be whole on earth. We have to fight for it though. Fight lies and distortions of who God is and His goodness for us.

Where do we hear the truth? Church, and others who know the truth, but the most reliable source is His Word. Love the Word of God. Hold on to it as if your next breathe depends on it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

And I am confident in the Lord that I myself will come soon. Philippians 2:24 

I love Paul's optimism in this verse. He is unshaken, immovable, and steadfast in God. His heart is undivided and enduring regardless of the circumstances.What a witness he is to all of us throughout the ages.

His life is a miracle, but then, so is yours. You were ordained to be you from the beginning of time. God created you as He wanted you to be. You are here on earth at this specific time, to be His hands and feet. What great things does He have for you?

My husband said to me last night, "God has much for me to do." And I replied, "You have done much for so many already." He wasn't satisfied with my answer. Every day he touches people who are hurting and lost. He walks forward being who He created us to be. 

If only I could have half of the faith and tenacity of Paul! God says, "Call it forth!" His power is within me, and as I allow Him more  space in my heart, foward I will go. It doesn't matter if I don't see it now. We don't see very much of what happens spiritually.

We can know because God's Word is true, when we ask, He will provide. Not according to our whims, but according to His will and what's best. Life is tough, but it helps to know He holds everything in His hands. 

Some day we will see the puzzles of our lives, and how all the pieces fit. From God's perspective looking down, He sees every curve in each peice and exactly how it fits. We are too close to our "pieces" to understand. As we read His word we can see how He weaved people's lives to make sense.

Look at Ruth, left with her mother in law, no support, or plan, until she went to Israel. She clung to the God of her husband's people. God gave her family, provision and peace. Mary, a young girl, pregnant and unwed, but in the will of God, and He made it all fit exactly as He had planned.

None of these knew how their story would end.  God did, and He took their faith and trust in Him and put life together. God honors faith and trust. We are just as important as those who have gone before us. 

Monday, December 10, 2018

Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me. Philippians 2:23 NKJV

Grace is an important gift. It's a gift from God to us by way of His son. Maybe you have never thought of grace in this way. Unmerited favor is the common Biblical definition for grace. We certainly haven't earned a right to belong to God.

Grace was available to believers before Christ came by way of remembering the promise of the coming Savior. They looked forward to the coming Messiah, as we look back to the completed work on Calvary. 

What a day of celebration we have each and every day as we pursue Christ, our All consuming fire, our all in all. He is aware of eveything we are thinking, doing and feeling at any given moment. This is a great comfort to me, and I hope for you too.

His eye is on us because of His abounding love for us, not to catch us in sin. "Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one's life for his friends." John 15:13 These are Jesus' words. Verse 14  says we are his friends if we do whatwever he commands us.

God is not looking for perfection, but for willing hearts to serve Him. Did you know He cares for you right now, where ever you are, and no matter what you are feeling toward Him. He is a good good Father as the song says.

There are many hurts in this world, but He has overcome them all. He invites you to partake of His healing for you heart. The goodness of God is greater than any hurt you are experiencing, and He knows about hurt. Even His best friends denied ever knowing Him, but still He loved them.

If you reach out to Him now He will welcome you into His arms. A simple task but one that can be so painful and humbling. I assure you He will not disregard your feelings. Be blessed today as you are loved! 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

But you know that Timothy has proved himself, because as a son with his father he has served with me in the work of the gospel. Philippians 2:22

Is this what your church looks like? Probably not, but bless those who come out in the snow to this simple place of worship. It never matters what the building is like, since we are the tabernacle, the dwelling place of the Lord. 

Every one of us could use a Timothy in our lives. Someone who understands where we have been and why we think the way we do. Paul is mighty blessed to have a young man who is dedicated to his care. Maybe Timothy knows this is his calling for God?

Timothy takes over the church in Ephesus while Paul is in prison,but I'm jumping ahead here. I think this young man is called and set apart to serve the Lord, and he isn't looking out just for himself either.

The young man sat with the Apostle Paul and learned much from the seasoned leader. I can see them now sitting together in Paul's house while under house arrest. "Now Timothy, make sure you tell all of my friends to visit me. I know I'm far away but I'll make it worth their time. I'll find a place for them to sleep somewhere!"

Timothy hurriedly writes every word so he remembers each command. The anointing of the Holy Spirit was probably flowing from Paul like river over a cliff. Oh, how I wish I could have been there to hear Paul's words and instructions.

When I get to heaven, I will ask Paul to tell me what was said. I might not remember this particular verse, because I'm sure I will have lots of questions for everyone. Who do you want to find first and what will you ask them?

Jesus is the first one I want to talk to, and rightfully so,  He is the King. Can you imagine having access to the Supreme Ruler of the Universe? Wait a second, I already do! Yes, but this is different. I will see Him face to face. 

I can't imagine I will be able to formulate words, so forget about questions. Do you think about what heaven will be like? The Bible is full of answers for us. Why not find some facts today in God's Word? 

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. Philippians 2:21 NIV

Do you remember being a child in someone's arms? I can't quite bring a memory up but I know I was, and you were too. What was life like at age 5? Most likely ego centric, and now oriented. I pray, as I am an adult I do not ever act this way.

Having a giving heart begins when we look outside ourselves to those around us, I guess about age 13 as I recall. I remember being in History class and the teacher was enthusiatic about her subject. I recall all of a sudden being aware of other places and people, and I wanted to know more.

It was an awakening for me of life outside the four walls of my home and school. I feel bad Paul says no one is caring for the cause of Christ.  He is inside the four walls, and  he may be feeling the world to be a small place at the moment.

Perhaps it refers to a specific situation we don't know about, or is it a general insight he has? 

As I read Paul's other letters I have to say He must be referring to a specific situation. Maybe he is tired of being in jail, and he feels no one is doing what needs to be done. His perspective may be tanited by the surroundings at the moment.

Perhaps he isn't updated on the progress of the work of the Lord, but we know it was happening. Anyone can have an off day. I'm sure he wasn't having any picnics chained to a palace guard. 

We are not going to take this verse out of context and develop some theory about the man. God knows enough of this sort of thing has happened over the ages. We will let him be. We can enjoy this man for what he was, a true disciple of Christ. How many millions has he influenced for Christ? Maybe I can ask him when we meet!

Monday, December 3, 2018

I have no one else like him, who will show genuine concern for your welfare. Philippians 2:20 NIV

Can you believe the weather today? It is 58 degrees in New York on December 3. I have never experienced this. If you are south of us this may not seem like a big deal, but it is. I went outside with my pruning shears and trimmed my hydrangeas!

I was in the car about 10 minutes ago, and my daughter Stephanie called to tell me she lost our puppy in the woods. Our golden retreiver is having surgery on is hind leg today for a torn ligament. He will be in the hospital for two days. The dog scenerio is ridiculous, and the saga continues.

Those of you who are empty nesters can laugh because you remember being in this place. My Lena passed almost two weeks ago, and now I'm back at the Veterinary Hospital. Some years are like this. I praise God we can have such lovely animals.

The time we have with loved ones, animals or human, is only temporary. Chaos has no hold on me because I know it is temporary. I walk with God regardless.When I feel weak, I lean in to Him a lot more. This is how we learn His faithfulness. 

God has given us precious relationships to show us His love. Paul is thankful for Timothy because he cares for the church at Phillipi with the same intensity Paul does. Paul is blessed by the loyality of his friend. God uses people in our lives to the extent we allow him. 

Some of us have been hurt by others and are hesitant to allow help, and not everyone is trust-worthy. We will know others by their fruit. How consistent is another's concern for you? 

Yesterday our Pastor shared about giving and the first thing he said was he wasn't talking about money. Often we think of our monetary giving in a church setting, but God has given us many other gifts we need to share. Time, compassion, listening, are only a few of what we all need. If we are friendly to those around us, eventually friendship will be returned. Thanks for listening to me today.