Thursday, December 31, 2009

One Unchanging Mediator for All

1Timothy 2:5-6 - For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all.

Wow, what a statement. What a clear statement. Jesus is no more than a prayer away. A prayer is defined as worship. Why would we want to worship someone other than God? If we are married, is there anyone else we go to or through to talk to our spouse? Do we, for the most part, talk to their brother or sister or parent to convey a message to them? That's what personal relationship is all about. And that's what God wants...a personal relationship with us, like He had with Adam and Eve before the walk with them and communicate with them. And this is not for some, but all.

When we are ready for this relationship we ask with our whole heart. We go to the throne of God, through the power of Jesus Christ. This is the simplicity of who Jesus is. He is not complicated but sometimes we like to make this whole issue complicated.

John 6:37 - the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. This clearly tells us to go straight to Jesus. John 14:6 - I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father but by MeHere's another clear statement. It's all by way of Jesus. No man on earth can take His place. In fact the first and second commandments tell us that anyone or anything that comes before Him is a sin. 

Nowhere in scripture does it tell us that there is anyone else we can go to to approach God. I once had a neighbor say that Jesus is too busy to listen to our prayers. I was so unable to comment. I'd never heard that before. He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. He knows all things at all times in all people all at the same time. Nothing is too small or too unimportant that He doesn't have time to tend to our issues. He's no more than a prayer away, a word away, even a thought away since He knows all things.  Listen to what Psalm 139:1-2 tells us: O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. This sounds like a 24/7/365 God. 

If we could just allow our minds to comprehend the greatness of God. He's greater than anyone, anything. I think the problem is not being able to wrap our minds around the idea He could be just what each of us needs Him to be in our lives. Maybe it's a case of not feeling worthy enough for His attention to the details of our life. But that's exactly in what He wants to be--every detail of our life.  Psalm 37:23 shows us that...The steps of the godly are directed by the Lord. He delights in every detail of their lives. 

We heard over Christmas that Emmanuel, another name for Jesus, means God with us. God sent His son to earth to be with us, not near us, not too busy, not elusive and only accessible through some other means. He can be as close as in your own heart if you choose. There is no one greater than He, no one can represent Him, replace Him or be a substitute for Him. It's Jesus and Jesus alone.

God is our portion. Psalm 73:26 tells us that. 
My flesh and my heart fail; but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. God and God alone...and God is Jesus. Nothing can take His place. If only the barrier that keeps this realization would be torn down, eyes unveiled, hearts open to receive and minds willing to receive this revelation.

Revelation 3:20 - Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him. The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth. The Bible is very clear who it is we are to call upon, go to, seek. Jesus is the one who is to be lifted up in our churches. It is Jesus who saves. It is He who is the only Truth. It is Jesus we are to worship. It is Jesus who is our Mediator. When I picture Jesus as the center of my life it automatically paints a picture in my mind's eye of seeing Him in that role of Mediator, standing between ourselves and the Almighty God. 

All throughout the Bible are examples of people going directly to Jesus for help: a leper in Matthew 8:2; the Roman centurion who searched for Jesus to heal his servant in Luke 7; the woman with an issue of blood who literally crawled to touch the hem of His garment (Luke 8); Mary and Martha, sisters of ailing Lazarus (John 11). These people had faith that He could do what He said He could. Some might say that was then and it doesn't apply today. But the Word tells us that He never changes, He remains the same; only He is steadfast. I'm sticking with that story!

James 1:17 - Every best gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no change nor shadow of alteration.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

That "Aha" Moment

Isaiah 43:18-19 - [God says] "Do not remember the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth; shall you not know it? I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert."  

A friend, affectionately one of my love to snack, laugh and play cards church ladies, recently sent me a devotion that spoke simply, yet profoundly. The man who wrote the devotion is Joseph Prince. I'm not familiar with him but from the things my friend has sent, he has great wisdom for a young man and preacher.

This devotion, in a nutshell, said that Jesus was born to die that we might live. Imagine realizing that as soon as you were of an age of reason. No greater know that you would die for the entire world...not just some but all. That your body would take on all the sins of every person past, present and future. Jesus lived His life with this knowledge. His sole purpose was winning souls, drawing all men unto Him. And did He run from this? No. He devoted His life to this purpose. He went through the storm. He accepted rejection and moved on knowing that not all men would receive, that He would be mocked, that He would not be taken seriously except by what would seem like a small crowd in comparison to those who rejected Him. Matthew 7:13 tells us  to Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.

Prince went on to say that when Jesus was born He was placed in a manger, which is no more than a stone feeding trough. Later he described the tomb where Jesus was laid after He died. It too was carved of stone. When Jesus was born He was wrapped in swaddling clothes. Webster's defines swaddling clothes as narrow strips of cloth wrapped around an infant to restrict movement. When Jesus was buried He was wrapped in strips of cloth (John 19:40). No one can tell me this wasn't a long, thought-out plan of God? There are no coincidences with Him. Another thought came to me after having heard/viewed a couple of "what the nativity was really like" interpretations last weekend. The stable was probably a cave rather than a wooden structure. And Jesus was placed in a stone tomb, or a cave of sorts. Birth and death similarities.

I can remember that first "aha" moment when I knew I had to ask for Jesus' help and I reached out for Him. I knew deep in my spirit it was He, not a family member, counselor or my pastor who could help me. From that moment on I feel I've become like a sponge wanting to know more and more about Him, to sit at His feet and learn. And those "aha" moments continue even today. When wisdom takes over about who this Jesus REALLY is and what He has REALLY done for us it becomes one of those moments. He is an incredibly interesting person and one I love more and more as I get to knowing Him. I'm so grateful that the more I yearn, the more I dig, the more He shows up. The bond becomes greater and more important. 

It's true that when you let go of the world for God, the void is filled with something greater and more meaningful. It's a byproduct of becoming a new creation in Christ. Old things are gone, old thoughts and old patterns fade (a little slower than I'd like, however). Your life is new in Christ. Hanging on to past hurts, unfulfilled dreams, unforgiveness is like keeping a millstone around your neck. Even the world philosophies agree that it does no good to let words or feelings from the past dictate who you are today. The past is over; move on, move forward.

I cherish the "aha" moments in my life. They keep me moving forward. The "aha" moments in Christ are reminders of what He is able to do, His promises, how much He cares for His people, His children, those who He literally died for years ago. Born to die so we might live. What an "aha" moment when it is finally realized and no longer just words we've read or heard.

Philippians 3:12 - Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead. I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Miracle Worker

Luke 15:10 - Likewise, I say to you, there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

Being laid up a bit after foot surgery I "taped" a bunch of good Christmas movies. I also watched The Miracle Worker one evening....the old movie about Helen Keller and Annie Sullivan, her teacher. Most everyone knows Helen Keller went blind as a small child. If there is any sense I would not want to lose it's my eyesight. Think of the difficulty learning to adjust and the inability to do as before.

Annie Sullivan, who had been blind herself for a time, became Helen's teacher. The struggle was excruciating. Annie was trying to teach someone who could not see or hear much less understand why she was being forced to do things she'd never done...because her parents enabled her...unlearning what seemed to be her whole life. Often I felt the struggle. How exhausted Annie must have felt at day's end after grasping and chasing little Helen...or restraining her. 

I continued to think about this story and thought about how we are before we know Christ. We struggle too. We fight and claw against the knowledge. We are comfortable in our world as it always has been, or has evolved into. We are comfortable with what we'd been taught as children in our own churches, our own families and allowing those teachings to remain constant, not allowing new ones to even be questioned. Helen was comfortable in her way of life. So we become. The only change we look for is something that makes life easier or happier or more secure in a worldly sense. Chances are those things we seek won't bring happier, more secure or easier lives. Seeking in our own strength isn't the answer.

Annie took weeks just to work toward one little hint of understanding, a glimmer of light in Helen's confused and rebellious little head. Helen mimicked, but that was it. It had been said that before Helen went deaf and blind due to illness she was able to say "wa-wa" for water. She was an incredibly small child at that time but she knew. Now her understanding was lost.

One day, according to the film, Annie took Helen out to the family's water pump after Helen had another bout of rebellion at the dinner table. Of course, I realize this might not have been exactly what transpired... Annie was pumping water for Helen to teach her how to spell water. Somewhere in the recesses of Helen's mind came the remembrance of the word "wa-wa." It was clear by her facial expression that the light went on and she began to speak that one little word, the best she could. Helen realized what Annie had been trying to do and she was then in an endless state of desire to know. She had come to the end of herself, a place where we often must go. She didn't want to stop, not even allowing herself to be lovingly cradled by her mother. She wanted Annie...the teacher...she wanted to know more...she wanted life. And the antagonist became a last. Near the end of the movie Helen seeks out her teacher and falls into her arms. Annie was finally able to teach Helen that she loved her.

That's what happens when we allow ourselves to get to the end of ourselves and allow ourselves to fall into the loving arms of Jesus. The fighting stops and we are open to receive and receive and receive.  We cannot stop. We want more. We want to know all we can get our hands on. We once were blind, but now we see. It becomes life to us. All we want is our Teacher...all we want is Jesus. And He shows us how much He loves us...and so much more.

Forgive me for this picture...of Annie being a bit like Jesus...desiring to teach us but struggling with our rebelliousness. Annie may have been a little more patient in the movie, but what about real life? Jesus, on the other hand, is ever patient. He will not leave because of our rebellion, but will continue to open our spiritual eyes of understanding through Himself, clergy, teachers, friends, television, movies, books, but especially through Him. He is ever reaching out wanting to open our spiritually blind eyes to see the Truth.

Helen and her family, servants and Annie were ecstatic over the light that went on in little Helen's head, like the angels in heaven rejoicing when one sinner turns to the Lord! There's a reason why Jesus is called the Light of the world. When we receive Him and let Him teach us, the Light of who He is goes on and life is never the same. 

John 8:12 -  Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, "I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Through the Storm

Deuteronomy 31:8 - And the LORD, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.

Sometimes through hurts or disappointments Jesus shows Himself. I have finished reading the most delightful book. It's Glenn Beck's The Christmas Sweater. I'm sure we can all relate at one point in our lives to the feeling this little boy had at receiving what he viewed as the most unwanted gift of all, a handmade sweater from his mother at a time when money was tight. He had made up his mind the only gift that would make him happy was a bicycle.

The anger and disappointment of a selfish child. We've all been there. We've all disappointed someone because of actions like this. Or...we've been disappointed. It was about what he wanted and so what what others thought of his actions. Is this how we treat Jesus, the perfect Gift? Do we ball Him up and throw His promises on the floor in a heap in total selfishness because it's not what we want? 

Oh, there is such meaning to all our actions. I'm sure I've done the same, balled up something someone else has offered and cast it aside. This is why we have teach us, to show us how to rearrange our lives so we are thinking on the same page as He is, not that we'd ever be perfect as He is. And how difficult it is to learn that we are not perfect, that we fail daily, that we don't always measure up. But when we turn around, there He is, willing to forgive our actions if we just say to Him the words He wants to hear. 

We want others to think we are without fault. We can work as hard as we want and we'll never attain perfection. It's like making the decision that when we are good enough, when we've accomplished just the right things in life, when we've proved ourselves, when we've learned how to be in our best behavior, THEN we'll see about God. There is nothing we can do in our lives to receive God through our works. It's about receiving God, then the works will be done in the right Light.

In the book, the boy's grandfather was his best friend. But even that friendship eroded because of the boy's attitude. His grandfather said to him, "See, Eddie, sometimes the gift you want most is right in front of you, but you have to get out of your own way to receive it." It's like that with us, too. We look to things to satisfy. Oftentimes it's those things that keep us from what we truly need. If we take a look at ourselves we might determine if these things are really making us happy. It can be our own ideas of happiness that causes us the greatest unhappiness. Yes, you're going to hear it...Jesus is the best thing a person can have. From the book: ..."the things that will give you lasting can't buy them in a store."

This boy was learning the truth about life but he was rejecting it. I rejected the Truth several times but one day that Truth became Light and Life. I stopped putting up walls and let God in. People will still hurt me in this world, but He never will. Some people will think the words I write are off the wall, but Jesus knows....

Sometimes we allow our past to define us, but we need to move beyond the past and go forward. "Life is here to be shaped and molded into what you want it to be, but you've done exactly the opposite; you've let life shape and mold you," Grandfather says. Do you know who you really are? Are you who you really are meant to be? God knows who you are meant to be... We may think we've molded our own lives, but how often has the molding been because of hurts from the past or the fierce determination to not allow that hurt to interfere again?

I became very independent because I was an only child and at a certain age decided not to allow myself to be told what to do anymore. I seemed to always be in disagreement with my mother. She had her own issues which I didn't realize at the time. I knew I wanted to be different, not to do what she wanted me to do. I was going to show my parents (or my mom?) what I could do without their help! And for the most part, I did what I set out to do. Achievement borne out of the wrong attitude.

We go through storms in life. We each have our own storm(s). Often we choose to run from them instead of going through them. Remember the disciples on the boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee? Some of these guys were fishermen and would know there was a possibility of a storm at night but because Jesus asked them to go, they didn't think twice. The storm arose and Jesus was sound asleep. The men were frantic and woke Him up. He was as calm as could be and chided them for their lack of faith. With one word He calmed the sea. It was Jesus who took them across the lake. He knew there would be a storm. It was a test. Even with Him by their side they feared. We need to realize there is no fear that Jesus can't handle if we go to Him with it. 

This also reminds me of Peter when he walked on water. He had his eyes focused on Jesus as he stepped out of the boat. When he realized the wind was picking up he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink. In both instances Jesus said, "Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?" Life is about keeping our focus on Jesus...not what's right in front of our eyes.

We will all get to a place in our lives where the greatest storm will hit. I'd lived more than half my life struggling in my storms or finding ways to ignore them before one brought Jesus, The Way, to go through it. Some will fight that storm all their lives until they just can't anymore.  Only God knows how that struggle will end, with or without Him. Better to end the struggle early with Him than continue on in your own strength. Jesus went through a whole life knowing the storm that would come at the end of His life and He kept His eyes on His Father. If He needed to do that, what makes us think we can get through in our own strength?

In the storm, like the disciples, it was dark. Darkness is scary. But remember that Jesus is the Light. If you look back at what you think is safe, reconsider. Look at the storm with your own understanding, through your own eyes, and it will be fearful, we are told in the book. Look at it through the eyes of Jesus and it's not. God is bigger than any storm in your life and He's just waiting for you to grab hold of Him to guide you through, like He did with the disciples.

As The Christmas Sweater says: we should stop feeding our storms. They will overpower us. We might never get through. We might stay lost forever in them, always being fearful. If we go through, it's over! This is the journey of life, facing the storms and getting through them, becoming strengthened by them. We need to ask God to lead us through because He knows the right direction and He already knows the outcome. If we allow Him to help, we will never want to go back. From Genesis to Revelation, God has desired to help His people.

Genesis 8:1 - Then God remembered Noah, and every living thing, and all the animals that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind to pass over the earth, and the waters subsided.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Love, Peace, Joy and HOPE

John 3:16 - For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. 

It's Christmas Eve. No doubt about this time 2,000 years ago Mary was feeling the pain of the soon birth of her Christ child. I wonder what went through her head? Mary would only have been around 14. Earlier she had been to visit her cousin Elizabeth, perhaps to help with or learn from her during her pregnancy. I wonder what Joseph was thinking? These two people were getting along only on their faith in what they had heard from the Angel of the Lord about this Child. They might still have been reeling about the fact that God chose THEM for this task. 

I'm sure despite all their concerns, Mary and Joseph sensed that all was well because their Jehovah God was behind everything that was happening to them. They chose to obey despite what the world would think. If God's hand was in it, nothing was impossible. We don't always see how He's preparing things in our lives. Not until after the fact, which in itself can bring amazement.

Every moment was well thought out in God's mind. Nothing that had happened was a surprise to Him and nothing that will happen will surprise Him. Not even the situations we are facing either personally or in this world today. Not one piece of the puzzle was out of place or missing 2,000 years ago and nothing will be out of place today. That's an awesome God!

Mary, a virgin, is pregnant and telling wild stories about angelic visits. Her cousin Elizabeth, well past childbearing years, is about to give birth to John the Baptist who was to be the "voice in the wilderness crying 'Prepare ye the way of the Lord.'" Joseph gets yet another angelic visitation. The star of Bethlehem leading the wise men...there are amazing astronomic documentations about this as well. The inn with no room but only a stable with a feeding trough for a bed. The magnificence and the humility...the seemingly inconsequential birth of a small Child...who would become King someday, who would give His life to give life to all who wish to receive it. Births happen every day, yet this was special. Put all these together and only the hand of God could have done this. Only God could be glorified. And only God will be glorified when He brings love, peace, joy and hope into our lives.

Love, peace, joy and hope: four words we hear most about this time of year. These are just a few of the gifts Jesus gives to us when we reach out to accept Him.  And these gifts are not just for this season. I mentioned Tuesday that it's all about the love of God that this birth took place. Love was born that day. God extended His love to all the each of His creations. It's the same love He has for you.

When you receive His love, peace will follow. That peace will be with you always even when you are in the midst of difficulties. It's hard to explain, but even if you feel stressed when you sit back and remember that Jesus is with you always, the peace begins to rise up. The trials will not always go away, but peace remains forever. 

With that peace in your heart, there will be an underlying joy. That joy, the joy of the Lord, will not be taken away. That joy, knowing that God is alongside you, will get you through a lot of things. If there is pain or confusion in your life, if there is something haunting your spirit that you cannot decipher, this is the time to accept the love of God. When you accept this love, all these other promises will be met. Choose to accept despite what the world might think.

As for hope...Jesus is our Hope. We see changes taking place in this world. If we are fearful about them, God would say, "Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.'' (Isaiah 41:10)  Man fails, God does not. If this world is coming to a point of imploding, God will have His hand outstretched toward us and will raise us up if we have accepted Him. That is the hope we have.

Let this be the most blessed Christmas ever. Receive the free Gift of Jesus and receive His love, peace, joy and hope.  Have a very merry love-filled, peaceful, joyful, hope-filled Christmas!

Through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring [Jesus] from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace...You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. (Luke 1:78-79, Psalm 16:11, Psalm 62:5)

Luke 2:14 - "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth
 peace, goodwill toward men!"

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's the Real Story?

Psalm 119:160 - The entirety of Your word is truth, and every one of Your righteous judgments endures forever.

I mentioned Monday that we don't always know exactly what lies behind and between all the words in the Bible. I believe it's so our faith becomes stronger.  It's like my husband...he tells me just what he thinks I need to know but not always the details we women love!  :-D  Just like he stops listening after he's heard only what he needs to hear! I often get, "that's more than I need to know!" "Just the facts!" The four Gospels are like this...some containing more information (like women enjoy).

I really like the movie The Gospel of John. It's the one book in the Bible that is replete with the words of Jesus and can offer anyone a close look at His birth, death and resurrection and His teaching. A friend of mine and I once watched the whole movie and at the end said she didn't like it because there was no mention of the thief on the cross whom Jesus pardoned/saved at the last minute. It certainly doesn't devalue John's account. The truth is only Luke spoke of it! When you put the four books together you get a rounded out account.

You and I know that even in our own lives each person sees things differently. Ask witnesses of an accident and you will probably get various recountings of what they each saw. Doesn't make them wrong.

When it came to the birth of Jesus, and for an historical account, God gave each of these men the words to write. Each apostle/disciple came at it from a different view with some points being identical but often written to target a specific audience for their understanding. Matthew was a tax collector, John a fisherman. Luke, a doctor, and Mark, whose occupation was never mentioned, were followers of Christ (and considered disciples), but were not counted as one of the 12 in the inner circle. Mark's role in this documentary was to put into writing the words of Peter, or the words God gave to Peter. Read all four accounts and you get a different view.

Rather than go on with this diatribe, you might find this short animation amusing and educational. Some people find details interesting (have I mentioned especially women). There are two truths, however, that are the most important...the acknowledgment, acceptance and belief of what we know to be God's truth in His word and faith in that truth.

2Timothy 3:16a - All Scripture is given by inspiration of God...

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Gift

Acts 20:35 - It's more blessed to give than to receive.

I listened to a short video clip by Chuck Swindoll, Senior Pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, and radio personality, author.  He was reminding us of what one of the purposes of Christmas is. He stated it's not about the rushing around and preparing and buying gifts, wrapping them and getting ready for our earthly Christmas (my words).

He was reminding us that our gift to Him is our worship of Him. During the hustle and bustle of this season we can get ourselves wrapped up (no pun intended) in the busyness of Christmas instead of Who Christmas is all about.

Christmas is a time of gift-giving. It's not so much about our receiving, but our giving. We've all heard that before. Jesus told us as the ultimate Gift giver that it truly is more blessed to give than to receive. I even think that's a form of worshiping God if done with the right attitude. I have always loved shopping for presents for others. Not for a pat on the back or "oohs and ahhhs." I have nearly always given much thought about what the other person's likes were and shopped accordingly, looking for that one gift the individual really would appreciate. And a handmade gift is even more special. I'm not saying I always picked the right thing.... I can think of plenty of times when I thought my gift was really special only to hear words of criticism. But God knows your heart and what you put into the thought process toward giving. The hardest part is giving to those who have everything already!

But back to the gift of worship. All God wants, all Jesus wants, is our attention...and our love. He came to earth out of love for us. He wants to know in our hearts we are truly thankful for this time of year and for the Gift He is. God, out of love for us, gave us the gift of His only begotten Son, Jesus, who was born to be our Savior in this lost world. And Jesus, in the same love for all, gave the gift of eternal life in Him, through His birth, death and resurrection. I can't say it enough. There is only one Gift that is the most important in this life...the Gift of Jesus Christ. If we are worshipping anything else, we have lost the meaning.

When we belong to Him, are in Him, our hearts should be filled with joy and worship should come easily...through thankfulness, prayer and music. Even when we get together with friends and the name of Jesus is brought up in conversation, He is overjoyed with that. He has a Book of Remembrance where all the times we've spent talking about Jesus (cussing in His name does not count) is recorded. He smiles on us.

So lift up your hearts this season. Lift up your song to the Lord our Savior. As I stated yesterday, He is Immanuel, God with us. He hears our praises (and knows our thoughts). Rejoice in the Gift of Jesus and rejoice in your relationship with Him if you have one. Rejoicing is worship! As we receive His Gift of life, as we rejoice, He will rejoice in us. Rejoice in Him out loud or in your heart. He will be so pleased.

Zephaniah 3:17 - The LORD your God in your midst, the Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Immanuel or Jesus?

Isaiah 7:4 - Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (prophecy)

Matthew 1:21 - And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins." (prophecy fulfilled)

Immanuel, God with us. Jesus, our Savior. What a Promise He is. What a Gift. Everything anyone ever needed wrapped up in one small, but awesome bundle over 2,000 years ago.

Christmas is just around the proverbial corner. Only four more days for the celebration of His life.  Every day is a new day being in Christ, in His life, having His life if we have chosen to do this.

I watched an older movie version of The Nativity last night. They always take some license to fill in where the Bible or historians don't have the exact story, but I'm sure it was pretty accurate. According to the movie, talk back at that time of that year was nothing but the coming of a new King who would overthrow King Herod. Word spread. As the Magi of this film were following the star that they believed would lead them to this King they encountered such people. Even before His birth there was talk of killing powerful for some people, how frightening for others. Just like today. 

So who is this Jesus? We all have heard of Him. He was born of Mary of virgin birth and the Angel of God told both Mary and Joseph His name would be Jesus. So, Immanuel or Jesus? The way I see it, there are many names for Jesus. He is whatever we need Him to be...God with us, the One who saves, our Protector, our Comfort, our exceeding Joy.  He is the First and the Last...all encompassing. He's our Portion. He's all we'll ever need.

Matthew 1:23 - "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."

So, Immanuel was one name. He is God with us. We cannot see Him physically but we spiritually can hear Him if we listen and we can even spiritually see Him. He IS with us. He's as close as a call. He hears our thoughts. He's always waiting for us. 

And Jesus is the One who saves. God desires for all men to bow to the One True God so we can regain the lost relationship we are born into at our own birth. That's why Jesus came to life on this world. 

He humbled Himself to be born in a sinful world. Think about this: How humble a beginning in a stable, born in a feeding trough, reared not by royalty but a carpenter and a simple Jewish maiden. The first to see Him were humble shepherds. The Magi, of more noble stature, came after them. Do you see, Jesus came for the poor and the wealthy...the first and the last. We are told that the last will be first and the first will be last. He wants to draw all men unto Him. And He remained humble throughout His life.

Oh, how I love all the nuances of the story of Jesus. There is so much love and wisdom in each word of the Bible. And from beginning to end (First and Last, Genesis to Revelation) we are pointed to the King who was to come and then came...and will come again. Open your hearts this year to recognizing Him more than you ever have. Let His birth pierce your hearts and let His story do a work within you.

Isaiah 45:22 - "Look to Me, and be saved, all you ends of the earth! For I am God, and there is no other."

Thursday, December 17, 2009

'Tis the Season

1Corinthians 2:14 - But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him...

There are times that it doesn't take much to make me giddy. Usually that happens when after reading or writing something, God speaks about it later to me in another way.

Today Oswald Chambers spoke volumes in My Utmost for His Highest devotion. He wrote about our redemption. He specifically stated it is God who creates the need within us to desire Him. I have heard it said that He created a God-sized hole in our hearts that only He can fill.

God does not force us to receive Him. But He is constantly after us in some way to notice Him. Who created this world and all that's in it? The next time you see a sunrise or sunset too beautiful for words, think of the Creator. Why do you suppose we have so many beautiful things in this world, or amazing things? It's so that we can know we've seen that there is no doubt there is a Creator. His glory is revealed in all things.

I have said before that we are nothing apart from God. We are dead until we have received life in Him as our personal Lord and Savior. It's not about a denomination or a church. It's about a one-on-one relationship with God. It's about our asking Him into our lives. And that's the main point: we must ask. It's an action we must take. Being born again in the spirit as the Word tells us, is the only way. Jesus said "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." Later He said "Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God." And a third time He said "Do not marvel that I said to you, You must be born again." (John 3:3, 5, 7) When God wants to get our attention, He will repeat Himself.

We are born physically but it is a spiritual redemption we must receive. It is the action of our asking God for this redemption. I lived more than half my life without hearing this. I knew little about "born again Christians" but I didn't like, at the time, their insistence upon this, being told what I must do. It's because I was blind and deaf at that time. But God kept working on me behind the scenes until I knew exactly what I needed to do and at the right time. He will get us to a place in our lives where we are searching for answers, searching for relief, searching for joy and then He speaks to our spirits and we respond.

We are in the Christmas season. It is an excellent time to search for the true meaning of Christmas. It's not all about what we want. It's what God wants for us and what He wants to do for us. He wants us to see and understand and know intimately why He sent His Son to this earth. We need to embrace the true meaning. The greatest gift we can give is the gift of Jesus...the gift of salvation...the gift of eternal life. Christ came to earth to live, die and basically be born again through His resurrection. Look at it this way...we came to earth to live and to die. And that's just what will happen without Jesus as the Center of our lives. When He becomes our Center, our Redemption, our Savior we will be resurrected as well. We will rise from the dead as Jesus be with Him.

Chambers also said "Nothing can satisfy the need but that which created the need. This is the meaning of Redemption--it creates and it satisfies." God created us so we could have fellowship with Him. He sent His Son for the act of this redemption. No need in our lives will be satisfied until we reach out to God for it. 

Don't let another year go by without reaching for this wonderful gift. The Gift of Jesus Christ. Remember the Christmas song the Little Drummer Boy? He had no gift to bring for the newborn king. Jesus does not need to receive a gift, but He gladly gives one in return. The best gift He can receive is our love and our hearts. We need not be perfect to come to Him. We need not clean ourselves up. We can go to Him as sinful as we are and He will do the proper work! 

That's what Christmas is all about...the Gift that keeps on giving...Jesus. 

2Corinthians 9:15 - Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another Testimony

1Corinthians 10:13 - No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. 

This is a bit like cheating. Preparing for foot surgery, I was cleaning up some stuff in our computer room. I found some folded sheets of paper and curious, I looked. As I read the pages I thought it might be something to share here. There was no date, but this is something that could have happened years ago or yesterday. Here's what I'd written:

I have been dealing with a situation for the past few weeks that has since been resolved and I thought I would write it down.

I have been really delving in the Word and digging deep for answers lately. I think it's paying off. However, I'm also certain that because of this, I've being fed insecurities and lies, which can happen when we're getting closer to the Lord. The enemy would just love to have us believe what we've learned is useless and he would love to see us revert back to our old selves. An old self sin cropped up.

This sin was one which I'd thought was long since over because it had not been present in my life for awhile, suddenly popped back in in the matter of seconds! Yet it took nearly a day to realize what had happened. It was based on old insecurities--and I do emphasize the word OLD. I'm a new person with a new life and a new outlook--and new faith and strength--in Christ. 

I had not heard from a friend for a long time and had heard some things in the meantime that bothered me. When we don't know the truth our imaginations can run wild. I tried to rationalize the whole situation but still hung on to my joy knowing that it would never be taken away, no matter how much I hurt inside. I believe without my consciously knowing, I had never stopped thinking about it. Days went by and I withdrew from the issue at hand, afraid to even approach God with it probably because I hurt too much.(That's the time one should immediately go to God.) Eventually my thoughts were turned toward how to resolve the issue with the Lord's help. I began to talk to Him and bear my feelings openly with Him. 

It wasn't until one evening while I was driving home from somewhere that God spoke to me.  Again, His voice was not audible, but like a very prominent thought in a "voice" that I knew was not my own speaking to my spirit. His words were so plain, so gentle and so comforting. "Don't worry about your friends. You only need Me."

I knew in an instant it was God and He was just waiting for me to release those thoughts and feelings I'd been harboring to Him. I asked for forgiveness for not doing so sooner. 

When I returned home my husband told me I had gotten a call from someone but she didn't leave a message. And he didn't tell me who it was. Thank God for caller ID! It was my friend who'd been on my mind! And the time she called was about the same time I'd heard from the Lord in my car. That truly amazes me. 

Of course I called her right back and we talked for two hours. My fears and insecurities were banished. God is faithful, He is loving and kind. He cares for each of us and patiently waits for us to draw ourselves near to Him. He already knows what's in our thoughts and hearts but there are times when He just wants us to sit with Him and share these thoughts with Him. 

Yes, our God is alive and very present to those who seek Him. Anyone can call upon the name of the Lord as long as it is within His will. He will renew our strength, He will guide us, comfort us and grant us the wisdom for any circumstance. He loves us to come to Him like I did...and He knows what distresses us. He wants to ease our burdens. I admitted my failure in not coming to Him sooner and although I may have waited to go to Him, when I did He responded so lovingly. 

James 4:8, 10 - Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded...Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Christmas is Near

Psalm 116:12-13 - What shall I render to the LORD for all His benefits toward me? I will take up the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the LORD

In our study on the Book of Esther back in November, we ended one of our days' lessons with a brief note about Christmas. Beth Moore said this:

Though we don't know the exact day Christ was born, taking one season a year to observe, savor and celebrate our most wonderful gift is profoundly appropriate. The commercialism and secularism of Christmas is revolting, but the gift-giving is terrifically fitting. God gave His one and only Son as His portion and we who receive Him have the joy of giving to others out of that lavish portion.

It was also suggested that one of the remembrances of the Book of Esther is that even when we do not see the hand of God upon our lives, He's at work. It is our faith in God that drives us. The world may look at disasters we all face either as individuals or as a nation/world and decide that there is no God, but those of us whose faith is in the Lord know better.

Later Beth tells us to "try to grasp that we are the only reminder some people ever get that God lives, forgives, loves, and remains in control...We can celebrate our deliverance and call upon His holy name...We glorify God when we celebrate our deliverance. Deliverance is our being set free from the enemy. It's our life being in a state of transformation, knowing the Truth of who God is, being allowed entry into the Kingdom of God through Jesus Christ's death on the cross, having our sins removed and being clothed in righteousness.

This is truly our greatest gift. Those who have received this gift know it's importance. We realize that any gift we might receive in the natural does not compare to the gift we receive spiritually. It is up to us who have this gift to be light as Jesus was the Light. When we are able to point others to Christ and they receive His gift of salvation, they will also know the faith we have in Him despite what might happen in this world or in the difficult times in our own lives. It's all about Jesus. It's all about what He can do.

This Christmas season make it a point to clearly hear the Christmas message. Look at it without the glitter and clamor of the world, but with the excitement and eagerness of a child receiving a gift. But look at it as our receiving the Child, our true Gift. Rejoice in remembering His birth. If you've not considered a new life in Christ, take the time to reflect on all He has done for all mankind, from His virgin birth to His sacrificial death. He did it for others, for me and more importantly, He wants to do it for you.

The Old Testament prophesied this Gift:

Isaiah 9:6 - "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." 
And the New Testament showed us the fulfillment of this Gift:
Luke 2:9-12 - An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.