Sunday, December 5, 2021

Jesus' Birth Inspires Generosity

As I listened to the Christmas story of the wise men visiting Jesus, I was again struck by the generosity of their gifts.

It wasn't just that they brought gold, frankenscence and myrrh. These are meaningful and prophetic gifts even if they did not know it.

They left their country, traveled long distance by foot or most likely on a camel. 

They sacrificed the time to travel there. One speculation is if these wise men were from Babylon in the east (about 1,677 miles or 2,700 kilometers) it would have taken them four to five months traveling a little less than 19 miles or 30 kilometers a day. 

They sacrificed time with family and work. Can you imagine an astronomer wakes his wife up and says, "Hey babe, there is a baby that has been born in Bethlehem, but will be moved to Egypt and I am going to go do a baby visit. I will be back in a year or maybe even a little more!"

It also would have required a huge caravan to carry what they would need for the journey and for anyone traveling with them. 

The birth of Jesus inspired uncommon generosity and sacrifice.

The birth of Jesus also inspired unimaginable evil. Herod the Great, king of Judea ordered a decree that all two-year-olds and under in or around Bethlehem to be killed when he heard that the King of the Jews was born. This is referred to as the Massacre of the Innocents. 

Herod sacrificed others because of his desire for power. Some hearts have moved so close to evil that they no longer are affected by the beauty and gift of a child or the gift of God. 

Jesus draws out the passion that is held in the heart. His name alone can cause great joy and inspire unimaginable generosity or cause the evil within to be revealed and unleashed on unsuspecting innocents.

What is revealed in your heart when you hear that God so loved the world that He gave His only so that all who believe in Him will not perish? 

I hope it is a yes and you allow the generosity of God to begin teaching you how to be just like Him... generous in all your ways! 

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Treasure These Things

Have you ever noticed how a baby can reduce the the toughest guy to the most gentle of man? I love this! Everyone loves a little baby! 

This irony should not surprise us especially when we discover that God chose shepherds to be the first to welcome the Lamb of God, Messiah! 

If anyone was rough and lowly in culture it was a shepherd. Yet, God chose them to see His Son and tell the people the Savior has arrived. 

If anyone could understand the importance of a first born sacrifice, it would be a shepherd. They were the ones that cared for the mother and delivered the little lamb. They had to inspect it to make sure it was without blemish and then walk it to the temple for it to be sacrificed. Shepherds got it! 

And they were amazed! They ran and told everyone.

While Mary treasured these things in her heart. Little Hinley (5 years old, Anneliese Kliewer) summed it up beautifully, "Mary locked these things in her heart." When he heard the story he understood that Mary was not going to forget the beauty of her little babe being born and the rugged shepherds coming to welcome Him. Or that they declared that a host of angels sang over them as they watched their flock that night. Because an angel told both her and Joseph about Jesus. Jesus would be the Son of God and Savior of the world. 

Have you welcomed the beautiful baby Jesus into your rugged ole' heart? 

I have! Shalom y'all!

Friday, December 3, 2021

Worry and Fear Kill

(Art by Scott Young)

"Death was walking toward a man who stopped him and asked, "What are you going to do?" 

Death said, "I'm going to kill ten thousand people." The man said, "That's horrible!" 

Death said, "That's the way it is; that is what I do!" As the day passed, the man warned everyone he could of Death's plan. 

At the end of the day, he met Death again. He said, "You said, "You were going to kill ten thousand people, and yet one hundred thousand people died." 

Death explained, "I only killed ten thousand. 

Worry and fear killed the others." (Source unknown, but found in Holman New Testament Commentary). 

Worry seems to be in a lot of my conversations and if I am honest my mind spends way too much time worrying, too. 

Been thinking on this alot because Grant has quoted at least three times, well maybe more, a line from Fantastic Creatures. "Don't worry because this means you live it twice." 

Everytime, he says it, I think some die a thousand times over. I know! It is easier said than done. I know this is why we are commanded to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. Mind renewal isn't just taking a positive thinking stance. It is the willful obedience to release the circumstances to the LORD and trust Him with the outcome. Sometimes, this must done a thousand times over before we just realize, "Hey, I did not think on that today!" 

Where are you reliving something two, three times or more?  

Beloved, release it to the LORD JESUS and enjoy the peace which surpasses all understanding to guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus. No point in giving Death more than he is accountable for!

Knowing the Names of God Builds Enable Obedience and Obedience Builds Hope

How do you respond when someone says, "Obey or Obedience!"  Does it cause you to want to fight or listen?  What if I told you that often obedience builds hope? 

In today's advent story, we will discover that Joseph's obedience gave him hope to do the right thing. 

This week as I reflected on the Christmas stories to teach them I wrote out every name given to Jesus through the Christmas stories. Here are some I noted.  They are from the three angel visits to Mary, Joseph, and the shepherd's stories.

Son of the Most High
King David's descendant 
King of Israel
Son of God
The LORD Saves
God with us
The Lord

Knowing the names of God help us to understand His character and that builds hope. It also helps us to obey when things just don't make sense or seem hard. 

I love how God made sure Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds were given the character traits and names that would help them walk in obedience to fulfill His will in their lives. Our lives are changed because of it.

Where do you struggle with obedience? What character trait of God do you call upon to help you walk in obedience?  How did it give you hope? 

Blessings come when we obey! Joseph got to become the earthly father of the heavenly king because of his obedience and we now live in hope because of his gift.

Father, please use this story to build hope today. Here is to knowing the character of God and walking in obedience. Thank you for hope! 

Shalom y'all!

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Christmas: Being Seen Gives Hope

Listen to the story: Mary Visits Elizabeth

Do you ever feel unseen? There is something powerful that happens in us when we are seen. Hope rises. I love that God gave Mary the truth that her cousin was pregnant so that Mary would go see her. This would be someone she could tell what is happening inside her that might understand.

Upon arriving, Elizabeth's baby leapt in her womb because he knew who was in Mary's womb. Talk about miraculous sight! That moment confirmed what Mary had seen and heard from the angel. It gave her hope.

When I feel unseen or unheard I feel despair? Do you? We are created to know and be known.  

The moment Elizabeth saw Mary she was very specific in her words, "You are blessed among women..." As I reflect on how Elizabeth made Mary feel seen, I realize that she was very specific about what was important to Mary in the moment. This may not be what this story intentionally teaches, but this is the power of story unfolding. I see a leader, an aunt, speaking hope to someone in need of hope. She was quick in letting Mary hear her words of encouragement. I see this and I think I can do that! 

How can I speak to someone in such a way that they know they are seen? 

When the Spirit of God is at work in us, He will give us the miraculous in the moment, too. It may not be as dramatic as John the Baptist type moment leaping in the womb, but it will come in giving us insight in what to say.

Father, show us how to help others be seen and find hope!

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Christmas: Uninvited Guests

I love preparing for guests to come over. As I bustle about my house, I consider their needs and how I can care for them. My heart overflows with goodness and I cannot wait for them to enjoy our time together. Yet, sometimes when a guest arrives uninvited it is easy for my response to be fear. My fear may come in many forms. I am not ready. I am not prepared. I am too busy. I am tired or my house is a mess. Ugh! 

As we enter the season of Christmas, I wonder at the bustle of heaven in preparation for Jesus' visitation on earth. People had been praying and anticipating His arrival, but it did not happen as they expected. 

I imagine God was so excited about inviting us to join Him that He sent on three different occassions messengers to prepare people.

The angels visits were not expected. In fact, they caused fear. The people were not prepared and most definitely did not expect it to happen as it did. Yet, each one responded to their uninvited guest with a yes.

How do you respond to uninvited guests? How do you respond to God's unexpected messengers? Have you allowed your bustle to get in the way of seeing the uninvited guests? Have you been preparing for God to come, but not welcomed the gift of His Son? 

I'm praying I am ready! How about you?

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Their Minds are Sweetly Occupied with Higher Things

Do you ever struggle with keeping your mind on higher things?  I know I do! Here is a great reminder.

Spurgeon's response to the quarrel between two women in Philipi (Euodia and Syntyche), "I am glad that we do not know what the quarrel was about; I am usually thankful for ignorance on such subjects; - but as a cure for disagreements, the apostle says, 'Rejoice in the Lord always.' People who are very happy, especially those who are very happy in the Lord, are not apt either to give offense or to take offense. Their minds are so sweetly occupied with higher things, that they are not easily distracted by the little troubles which naturally arise among such imperfect creatures as we are. Joy in the Lord is the cure for all discord." (Spurgeon) 

I love how he notes that those who avoid quarrels are because their minds are on higher things. 

Praying for a mind focused on higher things. I have learned over and over that when I am offended that I am the one who walked out of love. Choosing to love provides so much peace and gives room for all to grow. 

My prayer word this year is rejoice. It has almost been ironic at the moments God has reminded me to choose joy and to rejoice. 

Question for the week... Am I giving offense or taking offense and if so how can I edify God, the other or self in this situation and seek higher ground?

A good reminder from November 27, 2016.