Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Sunset on the Year of Our Lord 2014 - December 31, 2014

Genesis 8:22(New International Reader's Version)
22 "As long as the earth lasts,
there will always be a time to plant
and a time to gather the crops.
As long as the earth lasts,
there will always be cold and heat.
There will always be summer and winter,
day and night."

Today marks the last day and the last sunset on the Year of Our Lord 2014. Another year in the history books, both in the world and in our individual lives. What did this year bring to you? What is it one to remember, or would it be one that you would rather forget? As you contemplate what was, how will it affect what is to be?

For me, the end of each year is bittersweet; there is always the wonderful and blessed times, and there are the difficulties and challenges I would rather not live through again. I wonder why God allowed the things to happen that did, and I hold on to the promise that the New Year will be better than the last. Although it leaves me a little melancholy, I am hopeful that God will work everything out for my good.

As we leave 2014, we need to meditate on what God intends for us in 2015. What is His will for our lives? What does He want to accomplish through us? What impact does He want us to make? How does He want us to serve His kingdom? What old challenges will He resolve and what new ones will He allow us to experience?

As you leave 2014, don't forget to lift up the New Year in prayer. Thank Him for His goodness and the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ. Ask the Holy Spirit to show us God's will, and cling closely to our intercessor before the Father's throne, Jesus. If you know Him, you are in good hands. If you do not, let 2015, let tonight, be the moment that you surrender your life to Him. Let Jesus Christ give you the life change you need to make the best out of the new Year of Our Lord, 2015. Happy New Year!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Redeeming the Time - December 30, 2014

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

One of the things we never have enough of is TIME. It is a commodity that is often wasted and seldom spent efficiently. For me it seems that it has gone by much to quickly. Where has all the TIME gone? Only yesterday I was in school and college, then married and having a family, and now my youngest is thinking about graduating from high school and going to college. The oldest is headed far away with her family, and soon my dear wife and I must think what it will be like to keep each other company.

I don't believe God really intended for us to have too much TIME, because what is important to Him is how we spend it for His kingdom and not for ourselves. Yes, He does give us a glimpse of eternity in things such as when we are in love and loved, and when we spend time in praise and worship. Those are good uses of the TIME that He gives us, and they make TIME on this planet worthwhile. What is important is is for us to take every minute of TIME He gives us, and make sure it is worthwhile.

Tomorrow ends another year, 2012, and I am sure for many it has been a difficult year, but for others it has been best of years. As we approach the new year, it is time to reflect on both the bad and good. We need to be especially thankful for the good, and as we look forward to next year, we need to be careful to heed God's warning about how to spend our new year of TIME:

15 Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, 16 making the most of your time, because the days are evil. 17 So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Ephesians 5:15-17 (New American Standard Bible)


Monday, December 29, 2014

His Best, Our Best - December 29, 2014

2 Peter 1:3-7 (New International Reader's Version)
3 God's power has given us everything we need to lead a godly life. All of that has come to us because we know the One who chose us. He chose us because of his own glory and goodness.

4 He has also given us his very great and valuable promises. He did it so you could share in his nature. He also did it so you could escape from the evil in the world. That evil is caused by sinful longings.

5 So you should try very hard to add goodness to your faith. To goodness, add knowledge. 6 To knowledge, add the ability to control yourselves. To the ability to control yourselves, add the strength to keep going. To the strength to keep going, add godliness. 7 To godliness, add kindness to believers. And to kindness to believers, add love.

Over the last month we have looked forward to the celebration of Christ's coming. We have enjoyed a season of anticipation and celebration for the great gift God has sent us. God has stepped into the world and on behalf of His creation He has given us His best. He has given us His Son and our Redeemer and King. In giving us His best, He has also made a commitment and promise to us that can never be broken, and at the same time He has given us the ability to receive His gift, His promises and His commitment.

As we look back onto the year passed, we need to recount His goodness to us. At the same time, as we look forward in anticipation to another year, we need to commit to Him to give Him our best. What is our best? The second letter attributed to the apostle and eye-witness of Jesus's earthly presence, Peter, touches on this in verses 5-7.

Our best is offered in how we live out our faith in Jesus Christ, and this is lived out in our goodness to others, our hunger to know God more, how we control our earthly desires, our endurance in the face of difficulty and persecution, our behavior and character before God, in how we treat fellow believers we serve with, and most importantly how we demonstrate love to all.

I have found that in times of trial and distress, the closer I get to Him, the more confident I am in the future. And the more confident I am in the future with God's help, the more I am able to serve others for Him. I have resolved to listen more to His voice in my heart, to turn from doing things my own way, and to follow His leading in all things.

In these last few days of 2011, consider how you have lived out your faith in Jesus Christ over the last year. Despite your circumstances, consider God's goodness and blessings to you and yours. Finally, commit yourself to following Him even more closely in the New Year, seeking Him through prayer and meditation. In all things, resolve in your own heart to give Him your best.

Photo Winter Peace: "A nice moment of contemplation under a beautiful maple", by Peter Jowett

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Overcoming Post Christmas Letdown - December 28, 2014

Galatians 3:23-25 (New Living Translation)
23 Before the way of faith in Christ was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, until the way of faith was revealed.

24 Let me put it another way. The law was our guardian until Christ came; it protected us until we could be made right with God through faith. 25 And now that the way of faith has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian.

Galatians 4:1-7 (New Living Translation)
1 Think of it this way. If a father dies and leaves an inheritance for his young children, those children are not much better off than slaves until they grow up, even though they actually own everything their father had. 2 They have to obey their guardians until they reach whatever age their father set. 3 And that’s the way it was with us before Christ came. We were like children; we were slaves to the basic spiritual principles of this world.

4 But when the right time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, subject to the law. 5 God sent him to buy freedom for us who were slaves to the law, so that he could adopt us as his very own children.

6 And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call out, “Abba, Father.” 7 Now you are no longer a slave but God’s own child. And since you are his child, God has made you his heir.

It's all over; the presents are all opened, celebrations have been shared, carols have been sung, and yet for some of you the days after Christmas are a real let down. Here you have spent all of this time preparing for Christmas, shopping for those perfect gifts, stringing lights, writing cards, attending holiday parties, and decorating trees and homes, and now you wonder is this all there is? You wonder if these exhausting weeks getting ready really matter.

For many, Christmas is just a time for being good and trying to give out presents. Many others keep on wanting to cling to a "works based religion" that says we need to do something to be acceptable to God, and you go through the traditional motions surrounding Christmas, like making the obligatory trek to church and participating in a service now and then. But here again, the let down leaves you wondering why you went through all of this in the first place.

If you fail to unpack the gift of the "new life" that is available through Jesus Christ, you have missed the true meaning of Christmas, and all of the time spent in celebration has been for nothing. You are probably finding yourself depressed and sad that it is all over, and all you have to look forward to is the approach of another year. Christmas without the change that takes place in your heart is meaningless.

Jesus has come so that you can be free to enjoy the wholeness of life found only in him. Jesus Christ is the reason for the season, and only a life focused on that truth can be filled with hope and joy during this special time. Have you failed to unwrap the true gift of Christmas? In the silence of a quiet room, seek Him and the gift only He can offer.


Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Word Walks Among Us - December 27, 2014

John 1:1-5;14 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

As you read the daily headlines, about the current assault on many Christians in the third world that risked their lives to celebrate Christmas, one wonders if we would risk our lives and well-being for the sake of believing in Jesus Christ, God becoming a human being and sacrificing himself for our sins on our behalf, to reconcile us to Him.

We in the Western church, especially in America, really take Christmas and Christianity for granted. There are countless believers in other countries around the world that had to celebrate Christ's birth in the shadows, offering their worship and praise in the face of strong opposition. Would we be be so willing to participate in the Christmas celebrations that we do, if we knew it would mean certain death or imprisonment?

As we pack up the trees, decorations, garland and nativity sets, after spending time with family and friends celebrating the gift of our Savior Jesus Christ, let us truly understand the immense and amazing reason for season. We shouldn't just go through the motions, without knowing deep within in your soul what all the festivities are for. It is not just a time to enjoy, but it is a time to really commit to what it truly means to be a Christian.

Let us remember why we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, who came quietly onto the planet, in simple surroundings, a child of lowly birth. Remember that the Creator of the universe, "emptied" himself, and clothed himself in the same flesh as you and me. He did this so that we would be able to relate to and become as close to God as a friend or a brother. As you take down the trappings of this past Christmas, remember in whom you have believed!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Steps to the Manger: The Magi (Wise Men) - December 26, 2014

Matthew 2:1-2; Matthew 2:10-11 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi[Wise Men] from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. 11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

They were know as the wisest men in their country, and the king and other leaders relied on their interpretation of signs and stars to know how to rule and govern the land. Since the time the Jewish captives lived in thier kingdom, they had studied the ancient texts and prophecies about a future Messiah. He was to be not only for the Jews but for all of mankind, and he would save many. Now they had followed a strange and wondrous star that had brought them over the deserts to the Judean countryside. Although the baby had been born months earlier, they journeyed on until the found what they were looking for.

Here they were on the way to see the wonder they had searched for all of their lives, but what could they bring that would be worthy? Their gifts seemed trivial and common to give to the king of the universe. How would the Messiah receive them? Although they were noble by birth, they had no more to offer than the humble gifts they would bring. The fact that they in faith had come so far to see the baby, seemed to be pleasing to the child's mother and father, and they would cherish this experience to their dying day.

Has God asked you to follow the signs and wonders He gives to you? Have you noticed unexpected answers to prayers and the many "God things" you encounter in life? His word tells us His promises, and they point to the One we have come to worship. Have you given Him your humble gift? Have you laid it all at His feet in faith? As we pass yet another Christmas on the calendar, lay your all before Him and come and worship Him.

Painting The Adoration of the Magi, by Gentile da Fabriano, 1423

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas! - December 25, 2014

Luke 2:11-14(New King James Version)
11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14 “ Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

1 Timothy 3:16(New Living Translation)
16 Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith:

Christ[God] was revealed in a human body
and vindicated by the Spirit.
He was seen by angels
and announced to the nations.
He was believed in throughout the world
and taken to heaven in glory.

1 Timothy 3:16(King James Version)
16And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.

Often disputed and often ignored, but there should be no doubt. As Paul so honestly and personally stated in his letter to Timothy not long historically after the event, the birth of Jesus Christ was a fact. The greater fact that Jesus Christ was God is also a fact. Two thousand years of history and the personal experience of billions makes it clear that it is true.

Any true seeker will find, and any true skeptic will always deny until true life change happens, God bore our humanity to give us the opportunity to know Him. This Christmas make sure that you know Him; He went through the trouble of taking your physical nature to get to know you. Merry Christmas!

Painting Angels Announcing the Birth of Christ to the Shepherds, Govert Teunisz Flinck, 1639

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

O Come Let Us Adore Him! - December 24, 2014

Luke 2:1-20 (New King James Version)
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.

6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid.

10Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12A nd this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:

14“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”

16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.

A story so simple, yet it has become the most important story ever told; God steps out of Heaven and steps into the flesh of a tiny baby, to do for us what we can not do for ourselves. Humanity's Creator and King was born among us and lived among us, walking in our shoes, and experienced every thing we experience; joy and happiness, sorrow and pain, and he did it without sin, to redeem our sin. He did this to be the sacrifice that would be acceptable for the forgiveness of everything that would ever seperate us from Him. He did this for us and to reconcile us to God. One day Jesus Christ will return to bring us to himself where we will spend eternity with Him.

As we begin our celebration this Christmas, we need to be sure we worship and give thanks for the newborn King. As the angels in the heavens, the shepherds, and later the Magi, we need to bring our gifts of praise to Him, our God, Savior and King, who is deserving of our highest praise. On this very special "Silent Night", during this very special celebration of Christmas, "O' come let us adore him, Christ the Lord!" Let us bring Him our worship and praise for this wonderful thing he has done!

Silent Night
by Joseph Mohr

Silent night, holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon Virgin Mother and Child
Holy Infant so tender and mild
Sleep in heavenly peace
Sleep in heavenly peace

Silent night, holy night!
Shepherds quake at the sight
Glories stream from heaven afar
Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!
Christ, the Saviour is born
Christ, the Saviour is born

Silent night, holy night
Son of God, love's pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth
Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth "

O Come All Ye Faithful
by John Wade

O Come All Ye Faithful
Joyful and triumphant,
O come ye, O come ye to Bethlehem.
Come and behold Him,
Born the King of Angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

O Sing, choirs of angels,
Sing in exultation,
Sing all that hear in heaven God's holy word.
Give to our Father glory in the Highest;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

All Hail! Lord, we greet Thee,
Born this happy morning,
O Jesus! for evermore be Thy name adored.
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

Christmas Carols from

Painting Adoration of the Shepherds, by Gerrit Harmensz. van Honthorst, 1622

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Steps to the Manger: Us - December 23, 2014

Isaiah 60:1(Amplified Bible)
1ARISE [from the depression and prostration in which circumstances have kept you--rise to a new life]! Shine (be radiant with the glory of the Lord), for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you!

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and each of us has the opportunity of visiting the Manger. Each and every year God reminds us of His mercy and grace; He reminds us of the gift He has given us in Jesus Christ stepping into the flesh of mankind. Through the Holy Spirit, Christ took on all our frailties and vulnerabilities by being born fully human. Yet at the same time He was fully divine.

We could do nothing for ourselves, that could bridge the chasm we created with God through our sins. Only through the sacrifice of the One that was perfect could we hope for eternity with our Maker. Only through the birth of a baby in lowly and humble circumstances, could we hope to be made whole again in this life. Christmas allows us to pause and reflect on the wonder of it all.

As you step towards the Manger this Christmas you must ask yourself if you have prepared yourself to receive the gift of the Savior. Have you accepted God's gift of freedom from sin and salvation for your soul? If the answer is "Yes", then your visitation is one of joy, wonder and thanksgiving. If it is "No", then you must fully grasp what is celebrated for almost two millennia. Accept the gift of the baby in the Manger this Christmas, and make sure that you have discovered the true meaning for the season.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Steps to the Manger: The Shepherds - December 22, 2014

Luke 2:8-18 (New International Version, ©2010)
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

They struggled, working out a meager existence on the Judean hillsides, watching the sheep that were used for temple sacrifices. No one thought much of the shepherds and their families. In fact, most times the sheep were more highly valued than them. Nevertheless, they were faithful to their duty and took good care of their flocks. if necessary, they would have given their lives for one of their flock if they faced danger. This was just another cold night on the hills, and this was supposed to be just another night watching over the sheep.

What they had just seen and heard was the most amazing thing that ever happened to them, and they wondered loudly amongst themselves why God would come to them, and ask them to visit the newborn Christ child, their Messiah. Was it because their love and care for their flocks was to become a beautiful example that Jesus would later use in his teaching? Was it because like the shepherds, Jesus would also willingly look for the one sheep that wandered away, and willingly give up his life to protect them? No one knows why God had sent his angels to give them the good news, but now in faith in what they had just seen, they were hurrying through the countryside telling all of the wonder of the Christ child.

Has God revealed something to you that He wants you to accept by faith? Has He moved you to spread the word and let others know about the wonder He has shown you? Through the Holy Spirit, God reveals the truths of the kingdom to those He has chosen. He is also very clear about what you should do once you know the truth about Jesus. He does not want you to keep it hidden, but to share what he has given you.

As you spend time with family and friends this Christmas, will there be someone that needs to hear the good news of the Christ child? Is there someone you know that needs the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ? You have been chosen to be His messenger; don't forget to share His truth with that someone that needs to know.

Painting Adoration of the Shepherds, Bartolome Esteban Murillo, 1650-1655

There were several steps of faith on the way to the manger, to the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Each of the characters had to take a step of faith and trust to help fulfill God's plan. God's conversation with mankind, his reconnection and plan of redemption would start with these faithful servants.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Remembering the Incarnation - December 21, 2014

John 3:16-17 (New International Version, ©2010)
16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

As we celebrate the fourth Sunday before the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we are mindful of the love God showed to us. Even now God's love is extended to all of His creation through the "incarnation", the embodiment of God the Son in human flesh, Jesus Christ. He has given us a magnificent gift to be our King, our High Priest, and our Savior.

We need a King to reign supremely over our lives, because without one we would falter and be brought down by our sin. Our King Jesus gives us His example of how we are to live and treat one another, and because of His sacrifice we strive to live a right and faithful life, serving others before ourselves.

We need a High Priest to act as our intercessor and our advocate, standing on our behalf before the throne of God. He is continually appealing our case before the Father so that we might be seen righteous through Him. He also guides and instructs us as we serve through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that we might grow and mature as we prepare for eternity.

We need a Savior, because on our own we are destined to perish for the sins we commit in this life. Our Holy God requires payment for sin so that justice and righteousness can prevail over this world and the next. We need to always recognize that He has paid the price for us, and in doing so deserves our highest praise and thanksgiving.

As you contemplate these days just before celebrating his birth, take time to meditate on these purposes of Jesus, and God's will for your life as you serve Him, our King, our High Priest, and our Savior.

Painting of The Nativity, by John Singleton Copley 1776-1777

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Steps to the Manger: Joseph - December 20, 2014

Matthew 1:18-25 (New International Reader's Version)
18 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary and Joseph had promised to get married. But before they started to live together, it became clear that she was going to have a baby. She became pregnant by the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Her husband Joseph was a godly man. He did not want to put her to shame in public. So he planned to divorce her quietly.

20 But as Joseph was thinking about this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. The angel said, "Joseph, son of David, don't be afraid to take Mary home as your wife. The baby inside her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She is going to have a son. You must give him the name Jesus. That is because he will save his people from their sins."

22 All of this took place to bring about what the Lord had said would happen. He had said through the prophet, 23 "The virgin is going to have a baby. She will give birth to a son. And he will be called Immanuel."—(Isaiah 7:14) The name Immanuel means "God with us."

24 Joseph woke up. He did what the angel of the Lord commanded him to do. He took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not make love to her until after she gave birth to a son. And Joseph gave him the name Jesus.

He was a good man, hard-working, well-respected in the community, dedicated to the congregation and his synagogue. He had tried to follow the law all of his life and he was a righteous Jew. Fact was though, he had never quit found the right one, a woman who he could have his children with. Yes, he was a little older, but it was customary for a man to be established before he married. He had a friend of his father's who had a young daughter; she was very beautiful and pleasant to his eye, so had made an agreement with her father, and so he was pledged to marry her when their engagement was up in a year.

What should he have done? She was only gone a few months, and now she is pregnant. People already were talking, and the rumors were that it was probably a Roman soldier; but her father and many others suspected him. Nonetheless, he could easily deny it, prove it wasn't him and divorce her, but that would mean certain death for her, and despite all this he really loved her. She said that God had appointed her to be the mother of the Messiah, and if it weren't for that dream he had where an angel told him what God's plans were, he probably would have just walked away.

Now he would keep his pledge and do right by Mary. Although it would hurt his position and reputation in the community, he would be the baby's father and bring him up as his own. It all seemed very strange and confusing, but if God had a hand in all of these events, he surely needed to be obedient and in faith, humbly follow what God had promised.

Has God asked you to stand up for someone or something where your reputation would be on the line? Has he called you out to faithfully be His example among those who oppose or ridicule you? Are you willing to say that you are a Christian, support Christian principles and not compromise your values? God's calling takes guts; it is not for wimps. It requires sacrifice and may possible bring harm to you. Do you have the courage to do the right thing and take a stand for Jesus no matter what the consequences?

Painting The Dream of St Joseph, by Georges de La Tour, 1640

There were several steps of faith on the way to the manger, to the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Each of the characters had to take a step of faith and trust to help fulfill God's plan. God's conversation with mankind, his reconnection and plan of redemption would start with these faithful servants.

Steps to the Manger: Mary - December 19, 2014

Luke 1:39-56 (New International Version, ©2010)
39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. 41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!

46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.

From now on all generations will call me blessed,49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me— holy is his name.

50 His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.

51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.

52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble.

53 He has filled the hungry with good things but has sent the rich away empty.

54 He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful 55 to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

It must have been very unsettling for this young teenage girl. All she had known was the closeness of family, helping around the home, working to help provide a living. She had been promised to an older man, a carpenter maybe in his thirties. He had looked upon her very favorably, and her upcoming marriage would insure support for her and her aging parents. Would she ever be able to overcome the ridicule and shame, now that she would be with child, though she had never even been close to anyone?

She would have in her heart, because the angel of God had comforted her and let her know that God would be with her. She would find understanding and support from her older cousin Elizabeth, and as her baby grew inside of her, she would have many quiet times with the Father, and would contemplate the tremendous responsibilty he would give her. Her faith would sustain her as she would walk ion obedience to God.

Are you facing something that God expects of you, but you know it will bring you ridicule, and maybe shame? Like Mary, will you take God at His word that He has planted in your heart, and step out in faith to serve Him? He has a purpose in what He is asking you to do. Be obedient to Him and be blessed.

Image Source: Visitation from Altarpiece of the Virgin by Jacques Daret, 1434

There were several steps of faith on the way to the manger, to the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus. Each of the characters had to take a step of faith and trust to help fulfill God's plan. God's conversation with mankind, his reconnection and plan of redemption would start with these faithful servants.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Keeping it Simple - December 18, 2014

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 (New Living Translation)
26 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. 27 Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.

28 God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. 29 As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

30 God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. 31 Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.”

He could have chosen a royal family, a queen and a king. He could have picked and important and elite Jewish family, with a rabbi or a priest. Or, He could have just descended from the heavens for the whole world to see. There could have been many ways for God to step into the world and the affairs of mankind, other than the way He chose.

A simple peasant girl, promised to a simple village carpenter, living in a small Judean town, going about simple lives, these were the circumstances God chose in which to bring His Son and change the world forever. He would choose the simple through which to do something supernatural and bring about the extraordinary.

Even today God's ways have not changed. He still chooses the simple in which to do something supernatural. He chooses us, and because He has, we can become extraordinary. This Christmas be empowered by the Holy Spirit and do something extraordinary in someone's life, who may be in need of the supernatural.

Le Nain, Antoine and Louis (d.1648) & Mathieu (1607-77) Private Collection / Photo © Christie’s Images / The Bridgeman Art Library

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Witness to the Truth - December 17, 2014

Luke 1:1-4 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

How do we know what we believe in is true? How is the Christmas story and the events surrounding it still as new 2016 years later as it was on the night it occurred? We have Dr. Luke to thank for that. He had a front row seat to many of the occurrences in the book he authored, and those he did not witness, he had the benefit of interviewing those who were eye witnesses.

Imagine being able to have conversations with Mary the mother of Jesus and the rest of her family members. Wouldn't have been great to follow in the footsteps of John the Baptist, the apostles and Jesus. Many of these stories happened to important people, such as was the case with Zechariah, who as a temple priest had access to the "Holy of Holies", and was considered to be very righteous and trustworthy. So when he related the events surrounding the birth of his son, his word was accepted as being factual.

As a physician Luke was of the mindset that what he would detail for readers needed to be as accurate and truthful as possible. In an effort to do so, he must have spent many days and hours with those whose stories he chronicled. Being a Gentile, he sought to write what would appeal to both Gentiles and Jews, and wanted to be sure he dispelled much of the error about Jesus that were circulating during his time. Since he interviewed direct eyewitnesses, we can be sure that he wrote what was true.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Prepare the Way - December 16, 2014

Malachi 3:1 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 “I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty.

Luke 1:57-58;65-80 (New Living Translation)
57 When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58 And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her.
65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.

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. 69 He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of his servant David, 70 just as he promised through his holy prophets long ago.

71 Now we will be saved from our enemies and from all who hate us. 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.

74 We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live.

76 “And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord. 77 You will tell his people how to find salvation through forgiveness of their sins.

78 Because of God’s tender mercy, the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us, 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, and to guide us to the path of peace.”

80 John grew up and became strong in spirit. And he lived in the wilderness until he began his public ministry to Israel.

If you know anything about farming, you can't just stick seed in the ground and expect it to produce the quality of crop that you will be happy with. You have to spend time in preparation, making sure all the elements are in place before you go to plant your crop; the preparation is most important to insure that the crop will grow in the right way, and survive everything that will be thrown at it during the time it is growing.

The same thing was important with God's plan to bring salvation to His people. He intentionally prepared the "ground" over the centuries before the birth of Christ to make sure it would be the right time for His plan and His message to be heard by all peoples. At this time, Rome had conquered much of the known world surrounding the Mediterranean Sea and beyond, building the infrastructure for roads and cities, allowing easy access from one end of the empire to the other. Into this fertile environment He brought His messenger John the Baptist, that would prepare the way for "the coming" of the Lord, and the news of his coming and his message would spread throughout the world.

The Christmas Season does the same thing today. It creates a fertile "ground" in the hearts of men in which to plant the seed of God's living Word, and through the watering of the Holy Spirit, allow faith in our Savior Jesus Christ to take root and grow. If there are those around you who do not know or have not accepted the sacrifice of Jesus on their behalf, now is the time to guide them to the manger, and point them to the birth of the One who will set all things right once again in their lives.

Painting of Birth of St John the Baptist by Artemisia Gentileschi, 1635

Monday, December 15, 2014

Good News of Great Joy - December 15, 2014

Luke 2:8-20 (New International Version, ©2010)
8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

As we celebrate the days before the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we celebrate with joy along with the shepherds, who saw their anticipated Messiah spoken of long ago by the prophets. He was born in humble circumstances, and He came not as a ruler or conqueror, but as a tiny infant in a place fit only for the lowly. Though He came in this way, He was destined to be the greatest among men, and the image of God, sent to give Himself as payment for the sins of mankind.

It is only in these humble circumstances, among the lowliest of society, where we can truly find our redemption. Unless we too humble ourselves and admit our shortcomings, accepting our need for a Savior, we cannot truly find hope, peace and joy for our souls. For God lifts up the weak and makes them strong, by offering them His forgiveness. Let is too join the shepherds in praise and thanksgiving, as we consider in amazement and wonder the presence of "God with us".

Sunday, December 14, 2014

The Righteous Judge - December 14, 2014

Isaiah 11:1-5(New King James Version)
1 There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse,
And a Branch shall grow out of his roots.

2 The Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him,
The Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
The Spirit of counsel and might,
The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD.

3 His delight is in the fear of the LORD,
And He shall not judge by the sight of His eyes,
Nor decide by the hearing of His ears;
4 But with righteousness He shall judge the poor,
And decide with equity for the meek of the earth;
He shall strike the earth with the rod of His mouth,
And with the breath of His lips He shall slay the wicked.

5 Righteousness shall be the belt of His loins,
And faithfulness the belt of His waist.

2 Corinthians 5:10 (New International Version, ©2010)
10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

The prophet Isaiah points us to "the coming" of the righteous judge, who will give out justice fairly and without bias. He will treat all with fairness and honesty. Only God can do that. Fallen mankind is incapable for doing so, because their hearts are corrupt and immoral. They judge based on their own needs, interests and attitudes.

Someday soon, each and everyone, those before us and after us, will stand before the righteous judge. He will judge all of the nations, and give out justice that is deserved. If we are judged by what we deserve, we all would perish, but because our judge has come first as our Lord and Savior, and has offered himself as payment for our wrongdoing. Accept God's gift to you before you have to stand before Him in judgment.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

The Lord Who Makes Us Right - December 13, 2014

Jeremiah 23:5-6 (New King James Version)
5“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD,“ That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called:


Jeremiah 23:5-6 (New International Reader's Version)
5 "A new day is coming," announces the Lord. "At that time I will raise up from David's royal line a true and rightful Branch. He will be a King who will rule wisely. He will do what is fair and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved. Israel will live in safety. And the Branch will be called The Lord Who Makes Us Right With Himself.

2 Corinthians 5:21 (New International Version, ©2010)
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

How long do we need to go through life depending on our own efforts to be made right with God? For some, this life is all there is and they feel that they might as well enjoy all that they can. For others, they feel as long as the are good and better than the next guy, if there is something on the other side, they hope that somehow things will balance out.

There are many who try to follow a religion that tells them that their works, the things they do or follow will make them right with God. For some, they twist this to mean that the many awful and violent things they do in the name of god, justify their evil acts. They could be no farther away from the truth. Many will only learn on the "other side" the folly of their deeds.

There are even religions that call themselves Christian that only believe what Jesus did on the cross is but a part of what you need to do to be made right with God and acceptable to Him. Instead of thinking through this, those other religions would rather place the burden back on the people to somehow make themselves right with God. The sad thing is that many go to the end of their lives still wondering if they are good enough, which they will never be.

At the end of your life there will be no scales on which to measure your works or deeds. There will be no heavenly accountant at the pearly gates. The standard will be that if you stand on your own, you will have to be absolutely perfect to be made right with God. There can be no lies, no lusts, no thefts, no sins, nothing that could be considered evil, or you will be condemned.

The amazing truth is this: God did for us what we could not do for ourselves. It is God alone who provides righteousness to mankind through Jesus Christ. He endured his journey in the flesh, bore the guilt and shame of the cross, and the agony of his death, so that we could be seen as not guilty before God and saved from all of our sinful deeds. That is all there is to it.

Why people find it so difficult to accept and take the much harder road of trying to be come righteous on their own is beyond me. Unless we are born perfect and stay that way throughout our entire lives we will never make it. If you have accepted God's Christmas gift to you, embrace it and share it. If you have not accepted it, ask for it and take it.

Painting of the birth of Christ by Dutch painter Gerard van Honthorst


Friday, December 12, 2014

Who Would Do This? Only God! - December 12, 2014

Isaiah 53:1-12 (New International Version, ©2010)
1 Who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot, and like a root out of dry ground. He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

3 He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

4 Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him, and afflicted.

5 But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed.

6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

7 He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away. Yet who of his generation protested? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was punished.

9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth.

10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.

11 After he has suffered, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.

12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

Do you recognize who Isaiah is talking about in the passage above? Can you believe that someone would grow up to endure what is described above? Someone who was born very ordinary, then despised, rejected, pierced, oppressed and afflicted, and all for the purpose of justifying the many? Who would go through all of this? How could any normal human being do this?

Answer is no human could, without being fully God as well. I pray that everyone will know the man spoken of above, that came to earth as a baby in a manger. I pray all would know that the baby born in humble beginnings we all celebrate during Christmas was destined to die so that we all might live.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Our God, Our Servant, Our Savior, Our King - December 11, 2014

Isaiah 49:1-7 (New International Reader's Version)

1 People who live on the islands, listen to me. Pay attention, you nations far away. Before I was born the Lord chose me to serve him. He appointed me by name.

2 He made my words like a sharp sword. He hid me in the palm of his hand. He made me into a sharpened arrow. He took good care of me and kept me safe.

3 He said to me, "You are my true servant Israel. I will show my glory through you."

4 But I said, "In spite of my hard work, I feel as if I haven't accomplished anything. I've used up all of my strength. It seems as if everything I've done is worthless. But the Lord will give me what I should receive. My God will reward me."

5 The Lord formed me in my mother's body to be his servant. He wanted me to bring the family of Jacob back to him. He wanted me to gather the people of Israel to himself. The Lord will honor me. My God will give me strength.

6 The Lord says to me, "It is not enough for you as my servant to bring the tribes of Jacob back to their land. It is not enough for you to bring back the people of Israel I have kept alive. I will also make you a light for other nations. Then you will make it possible for the whole world to be saved."

7 The Lord sets his people free. He is the Holy One of Israel. He speaks to his servant, who is looked down on and hated by the nations. He speaks to the servant of rulers. He says to him, "Kings will see you and rise up to honor you. Princes will see you and bow down to show you their respect. I am the Lord. I am faithful. I am the Holy One of Israel. I have chosen you."

Luke 2:25-35 (GOD’S WORD Translation)
25A man named Simeon was in Jerusalem. He lived an honorable and devout life. He was waiting for the one who would comfort Israel. The Holy Spirit was with Simeon 26and had told him that he wouldn’t die until he had seen the Messiah, whom the Lord would send. 27Moved by the Spirit, Simeon went into the temple courtyard. Mary and Joseph were bringing the child Jesus into the courtyard at the same time. They brought him so that they could do for him what Moses’ Teachings required.

28Then Simeon took the child in his arms and praised God by saying,29“Now, Lord, you are allowing your servant to leave in peace as you promised. 30My eyes have seen your salvation, 31which you have prepared for all people to see. 32He is a light that will reveal salvation to the nations and bring glory to your people Israel.”

33Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what was said about him. 34Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother, “This child is the reason that many people in Israel will be condemned and many others will be saved. He will be a sign that will expose 35the thoughts of those who reject him. And a sword will pierce your heart.”

Once again, the words written by the prophet Isaiah point us to the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. No other man in history could have satisfied the prophecies that Isaiah penned, and no other man could bring about the redemption of all of mankind. The truths found here are as true today as when the prophecies were fulfilled.

God had the perfect plan. He alone could come up with it, because He alone could do what was necessary. Mere man could not do it; nor could the angels. Nothing could bring back the creation to Himself but Him. Only God could step into the world, live a sinless life, serve mankind around him to point the way to the Kingdom of Heaven, and in obedience lay down his life on the cross to be the Savior, not only for the Jewish people and but for all of mankind.

One day all of us will bow down to our Savior. Some will come kicking and screaming, and others will come in utter anguish. As for the believer, we will joyfully approach His thrown of grace and call out to the one who gave so much, because He loved us so much. Christmas allows us to consider and wonder about the greatness of God; it allows us to ask ourselves, "why us?" Read and meditate with me as we consider our God, our Servant, our Savior and our King.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Our Righteous Servant - December 10, 2014

Isaiah 42:1-4 (New Century Version)
1 "Here is my servant, the one I support.
He is the one I chose, and I am pleased with him.
I have put my Spirit upon him,
and he will bring justice to all nations.

2 He will not cry out or yell
or speak loudly in the streets.
3 He will not break a crushed blade of grass
or put out even a weak flame.

He will truly bring justice;
4 he will not lose hope or give up
until he brings justice to the world.
And people far away will trust his teachings."

I continue to marvel how the prophet Isaiah was able to prophesy so accurately the coming of Jesus Christ to the earth seven centuries before it happened. These prophecies for Christians tie the Old Testament and the New Testament together, and it can be easily seen with a little study that the Old Testament points to "the coming" of our Lord and Savior to save us from our sins.

Only in the Bible is prophecy this accurate, yet many in this world are reluctant to accept the truths found in it. Have you ever asked yourself why this is so? Is it lack of knowledge, because non-believers will not take the time to read the Bible? Is it willful disregard for the Bible, because people are afraid of what it they will find out about themselves? Or is it our right rejection, because although it can be seen as truth, people would rather pursue their own agenda and reject God?

There are probably many reasons why people reject God's chosen servant, yet rejection of God's free gift in this life, will lead to eternal consequences that no one really want to experience. This Christmas Season, why not surrender yourself to Jesus? Why not accept the baby in the manger for who he truly is, God's chosen servant and our redeemer? It is rare that we are given the chance to respond to God. Be sure you do before it is too late.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

All About Time - December 9, 2014

Isaiah 40:3-5;9-10 (New International Version, ©2010)
3 A voice of one calling:

“In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.

5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all people will see it together. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
9 You who bring good news to Zion, go up on a high mountain.
You who bring good news to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout,
lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah,

“Here is your God!”

10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and he rules with a mighty arm. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.

If we were to go back in history from today the same number of years between the Prophet Isaiah's prophecies about the coming of Jesus and the actual events, you would find your self at the time of China's Mongol emperor, Kublai Khan, who was once served by Marco Polo, and who died in 1294 at the age of seventy-nine. His grandson, Temur Oljeitu, succeeded him, made peace with Japan and maintained reasonable prosperity. In 1291, Muslim armies captured Acre, the last Christian holdings in Palestine, marking the end of successful crusades, for the next 627 years, the Middle East would be in the hands of the Muslim armies and Ottoman Turks, until the British took over Jerusalem in October of 1918.

In 1297,Scottish rebel William Wallace leads ragtag band of Scottish clans to victory against the English at the Battle of Cambuskenneth, temporarily establishing independence of Scotland. In 1300, good King Wenceslas II ascends the throne in Poland, and in 1312,The King of France abolishes the Order of Knights Templar, accusing them of witchcraft.

And finally, 1325 marks the traditional date of the Aztecs arrival in Tenochtitlán (Mexico City). It was the Middle Ages, marked by bad popes, bad kings, the Black Death, and hordes of Mongols. No one had even thought about the Americas yet, although the Norseman explored Greenland a few hundred years before, and Christopher Columbus would land in the Caribean a couple of hundred years later.

Can you believe that its been over 13 years since 9/11, over 25 years since the Berlin Wall fell and the Soviet Union collapsed, almost 35 years since the US Olympic Hockey Team beat the Soviets, almost 43 years since man landed on the moon, over 51 years since Kennedy was assassinated, almost 60 years since the Korean War, over 73 years since Pearl Harbor and WW II, almost 85 years since the Great Depression started , over 100 years since WW I started, and almost 103 years since the Titanic hit an iceberg and sank, over 153 since the start of the Civil War, almost 239 years since our Nation declared its independence from England?

Why the history lesson? All to show you just how long ago 700 years actually is, and that is about the same amount of time from when Isaiah penned what God had told Him about "the coming". We tend to lose perspective of Biblical timelines, because to us, time seems to be rushing by. But Isaiah saw everything so clearly; one would come to announce the coming of the Sovereign Lord and our Savior would begin to minister soon after.

And to think his coming began in a quiet stable in a small Judean town almost 2000 years ago, and each Christmas we can feel as if he has just been born. When we get to know Jesus, he becomes as real as the day he arrived, he is with us now, and he will be with all believers forever.

Digital Art Print of Good King Wenceslas by Carelde Winter


Monday, December 8, 2014

Our Deliverer - December 8, 2014

Psalm 18:2 (New International Version, ©2010)
2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield[sovereign] and the horn[strength] of my salvation, my stronghold.

Isaiah 19:20 (New International Version, ©2010)
20 It will be a sign and witness to the LORD Almighty in the land of Egypt. When they cry out to the LORD because of their oppressors, he will send them a savior and defender, and he will rescue them.

It almost seems impossible that God would love us enough to rescue us from our sin. Have you ever stopped and wondered why? You know it is real. It can't be just how we were raised or who we were mentored by, because deep down within our soul, we know that we have done wrong. We know that without something or someone, we would be lost not only in the present, but also forever.

Why do you think that there are so many faiths and religions that require you do something to be made right with God? Even those who are atheists know the difference between right and wrong, although they will never admit it is a God given feeling within them. There is a time in everyone's life when they know that they have to become right with their Maker. We all have to place our trust and hope in something.

Thank God that long before we were a thought, the plan was made to provide us with a deliverer and a Savior. That is what we look forward to when as we approach Christmas. That is why we look to "the coming" of Jesus as a time to celebrate and keep holy. It is not a mere man we are looking for; it is the One sent from heaven who will rescue us.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

The Impossible Made Possible - December 7, 2014

Luke 1:26-38(New Living Translation)
26 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.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.”

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

As we celebrate the second Sunday before the coming of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we remember how His birth was made possible. To most, the story above might seem crazy; how could a young woman become pregnant having never been with a man, and how can a human being give birth to God? Believing requires faith, but believing in this supernatural truth can transform your life.

God did step down to earth, was born to a young woman, lived among men and died on a cross as the penalty for the sins of mankind. He then stepped out of the grave, and after being seen by over 500 witnesses, returned to Heaven. He offers us eternal life with Him, simply by believing and accepting what He has done. Once we do accept Him, Christ changes your life. Nothing compares to the way He lifts the burdens of all who follow Him.

As we anticipate His coming and celebrate His birth among men, make sure you accept God's special gift of mercy and grace, meant for all who love Him. This Christmas, make sure you don't miss the real reason for the season; make sure that you discover the One who has come to save you from all of your sins, and who offers you life forever with Him.


Saturday, December 6, 2014

Joy to the World! - December 6, 2014

Psalm 47(New International Version)
1 Clap your hands, all you nations;
shout to God with cries of joy.

2 For the LORD Most High is awesome,
the great King over all the earth.
3 He subdued nations under us,
peoples under our feet.
4 He chose our inheritance for us,
the pride of Jacob, whom he loved.

5 God has ascended amid shouts of joy,
the LORD amid the sounding of trumpets.
6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;
sing praises to our King, sing praises.
7 For God is the King of all the earth;
sing to him a psalm of praise.

8 God reigns over the nations;
God is seated on his holy throne.
9 The nobles of the nations assemble
as the people of the God of Abraham,
for the kings of the earth belong to God;
he is greatly exalted.

He arrived to earth in a feeding trough filled with straw, but yet angels gave praises on high and gave glory to God for His coming. His arrival marked God's reaching out to us in love and compassion, and in joy He came to save us all. We need to sing praises, because indeed He brings joy to the world for what He has done for us. He now awaits us, and one day we will all offer Him glory, honor and praise.

"Joy to the world the Lord has come; let earth receive her King. Let every heart prepare Him room. And Heaven and nature sing."


Friday, December 5, 2014

Little Town of Bethlehem - November 5, 2014

Micah 5:2(New International Version)
2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
though you are small among the clans of Judah,
out of you will come for me
one who will be ruler over Israel,
whose origins are from of old,
from ancient times.”

Matthew 2:1-6(New International Version)
1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. 5 “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

6 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

This is probably one of the most famous prophecies about the birth of the Messiah, Jesus. In fact, it was quoted in the Bible as the passage that drew the Persian Magi to seek the Savior, and the reason King Herod murdered all the male infants under two to eliminate his "competition" for the throne of Israel. Once again a prophet of God predicted over 700 years before the event, that Jesus Christ the Messiah would be born in this town of King David's birth, a town which has long held Biblical significance.

"Biblical scholars believe Bethlehem, located in the "hill country" of Judah, may be the same as the Biblical Ephratah, which means "fertile", as there is a reference to it in the Book of Micah as Bethlehem Ephratah. The Bible also calls it Beth-Lehem Judah, and "a city of David". It is first mentioned in the Tanakh and the Bible as the place where the Abrahamic matriarch Rachel died and was buried "by the wayside" (Genesis 48:7). Rachel's Tomb, the traditional grave site, stands at the entrance to Bethlehem.

According to the Book of Ruth, the valley to the east is where Ruth of Moab gleaned the fields and returned to town with Naomi. Biblical tradition holds that Bethlehem is the birthplace of David, the second king of Israel, and the place where he was anointed king by Samuel. It was from the well of Bethlehem that three of his warriors brought him water when he was hiding in the cave of Adullam."*

Today as has been for almost 2000 years, we celebrate the birth of our Savior in a little backwater place, in a dusty dirty stable. How marvelous of God to select such humble beginnings for the King of the Universe; only He would confound mankind and send His Son into such lowly circumstances. Only He would forsake all splendor and glory to relate to us in most simple terms, so that we would not look at what He was, but could relate to who He was to be.

Photo: Visit to Bethlehem, October 2010

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Immanuel, God Is With Us - December 4, 2014

Isaiah 7:13-14(New Living Translation)
13 Then Isaiah said, “Listen well, you royal family of David! Isn’t it enough to exhaust human patience? Must you exhaust the patience of my God as well? 14 All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).

Matthew 1:19-24(New Living Translation)
19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

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,[meaning "The Lord Saves"] 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.

That He should chose to walk among us is amazing to me. That is probably why it is so hard for Non-Christians to believe this. Why would the Creator of the Universe chose to become one of us? Why would He chose to live the same life we do, but without sin? This is a difficult concept for many to grasp. There is no doubt that Jesus was a real man who lived, and His crucifixion has been well documented from sources outside of the Bible. So why would God chose to be "with us"?

The true demonstration of how much you love someone has to be very personal. You can't really show it over the phone or in writing for too long before it will start to fade. Eventually it has to be shown in person. That is true of God's love for us. No matter how much He showed people His love in the Old Testament, it still was difficult for the common man to understand an up-close and personal God. He had to be with us and demonstrate His love to the point of sacrificing Jesus Christ on the cross.

So the next time you are thinking of "Immanuel, God with us", why not take it a step further and think of "God Really Loves Us". We can only understand just how much because Jesus did walk among us and show us.

Photo: 'Joseph's Dream', painting by Gaetano Gandolfi, c. 1790

Follow me on my Advent journey as I travel the path of "the coming", the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

What's In a Name? - December 3, 2014

Isaiah 9:6(New International Version)
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Isaiah 9:6(New Century Version)
6 A child has been born to us;
God has given a son to us.
He will be responsible for leading the people.

His name will be Wonderful Counselor, Powerful God,
Father Who Lives Forever, Prince of Peace.

You may wonder why I spend so much time on this passage in Isaiah. It is because this prophesy about the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was written more than 700 years before the event. This was a very important thing. Many of us just pass by this series of names when we read this verse, but just as a name is significant for us and who we are to become, an expression of our identity, so it is with the names of the Christ child.

To understand their importance, we need to understand what they describe Jesus to be:

The Wonderful Counselor -
26But the Comforter (Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, Standby), the Holy Spirit, Whom the Father will send in My name [in My place, to represent Me and act on My behalf], He will teach you all things. And He will cause you to recall (will remind you of, bring to your remembrance) everything I have told you. John 14:26(Amplified Bible)

The Mighty God -
1 The Mighty One, God, the LORD, speaks and summons the earth from the rising of the sun to where it sets. Psalm 50:1(New International Version)

The Everlasting Father -
6But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him. 1 Corinthians 8:6(King James Version)

The Prince of Peace -
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 heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
John 14:27(New King James Version)

These names of Jesus describe Him as God. There is no doubt as you read the Bible that Jesus claimed to be God and was God; He took on these names to let those around Him know who sent Him and where He came from. When we settle our hearts about accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are settling the eternal issue in Whom we have placed our trust. We trust not just any man, but we trust in The Father, The Son and The Holy Spirit, One God, without end.

Follow me on my Advent journey as I travel the path of "the coming", the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Our Coming King - November 2, 2014

Isaiah 9:6-7(New International Version)
6 For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

7 Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end.
He will reign on David’s throne
and over his kingdom,
establishing and upholding it
with justice and righteousness
from that time on and forever.

The zeal of the LORD Almighty
will accomplish this.

In 1741 George Frederic Handel composed an oratorio we know as Messiah. It is a symphonic and choral production about the life of Christ that has been presented around Christmastime ever since it was composed. The chorus is probably the most famous section that is known as the Hallelujah Chorus, and we all most likely have heard these lyrics written from the Book of Revelation about the future reign of Jesus Christ in Heaven:

The kingdom of this world
Is become the kingdom of our Lord,
And of His Christ, and of His Christ;
And He shall reign for ever and ever,
For ever and ever, forever and ever,
(From Revelation 11:15)

King of kings, and Lord of lords,
King of kings, and Lord of lords,
And Lord of lords,
And He shall reign,
And He shall reign forever and ever,
King of kings, forever and ever,
And Lord of lords,
Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

The words of Isaiah 9:6-7, prophesied in 700B.C., speak of the coming reign of Jesus Christ, and when we think of the coming Lord and Savior, we need to remember that he came as a suffering servant to die for our sins, but in eternity, He will govern over all forever and ever. The advent, or the "coming", or our Lord set in motion a chain of events that will culminate in the just government that will be established in God's Kingdom. Human governments will all fall away and make way for true justice, freedom and peace, only found in the coming of a baby in a manger.

Revelation 21:3-5(New International Version
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”