Who is the Baby in the Manger?

nativity-baby-jesus-christmas-2008-christmas-2806967-1000-5581_810_500_55_s_c1This Christmas season, I have been reminded anew of the depth of the Christmas story. The simplicity of it is that Eternal God took upon Himself the flesh of a human so that He could pay the price of death for the sin of all mankind. Crucifixion is one of the most horrific deaths, and for Jesus to go through that for us–for me–is astounding and humbling.

But some of the thoughts going through my mind are centered on just how much Jesus gave up for us.

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days He has spoken to us by his Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature, and He upholds the universe by the word of His power. After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs.     Hebrews 1:1-4

Jesus, Who created the whole universe and upholds it with His own power, did not cling to the privileges that He deserved. He could have required (and would have received) complete obedience and honor to His every demand. But knowing that we needed Him, and the salvation that He alone could provide, He humbled himself, submitting to the will of the Father.

6 Who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He Humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.     Philippians 2:6-8

The simplicity of the Christmas story itself is a marvel. A simple young lady. A simple carpenter. Both willing to face the condemnation and stigma of a child conceived outside of marriage. They knew the truth that Jesus was conceived in a miraculous way, that Mary truly was a virgin. But not many would believe them. And would ostracize them. There was no sterile hospital, not even a comfortable home where she gave birth, but a humble stable, a cave where animals were kept. This is where the King of Glory–the Creator of all–was born.

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you by His poverty might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8:9

I hope you look at the manger scene in a new way this year. He is not just a cute little baby in a manger. He is the Creator of all Who gave up everything for you. What will you do with Jesus this Christmas? Come to Him. Kneel before Him and give Him your heart.

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Finding Rest for Your Soul

RestI found some really comforting truths this morning as I was reading my Bible. In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus said,

Come unto me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

When I think of a yoke, I think of restriction. You can’t get out of it. Hard work. I think of two cows or oxen trudging along in grueling work. I don’t think of rest.

oxenBut Jesus was addressing those who were already overburdened with life and were exhausted. Does that sound familiar? Jesus didn’t come to make the burden harder, but to come alongside us to bear the burdens that we already carry. He is yoking Himself to us (He will never leave us or forsake us!) Since He is infinitely stronger than we are, He’s carrying the load for us.

He also says that He is gentle. I don’t know about you, but when I am overwhelmed with the burdens of life, one harsh word is enough to send me over the edge. But Jesus isn’t like that. He cares for us and doesn’t condemn us for not having it all together. For needing His help…again.

He wants us to learn from Him. So many times, our troubles could have been avoided, if we had only done things in the right way. Sometimes, we push for what we think we want, but if it’s not what God has designed for us, we find ourselves floundering and overwhelmed. But God doesn’t berate us. “Come to me…learn from me…I will give you rest.”

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What’s the Real Battle?

KnightEphesians 6:10-13

10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.

This morning, I read an article using this passage in reference to rearing children. It was a really good article and was a good reminder that I only have a few more years with the kids at home. Where are they at spiritually? Are they passionate for the Lord? If I didn’t have any more time with them, would they be where I would like them to be?

I readily concur with the truth that we are in a spiritual battle for the souls of our children. I have been challenged to be more intentional with my own kids. However, as I was spending further time with the Lord, I was greatly burdened.

Our country is facing some very unstable times. With the Presidential elections only a few months away, there is a lot of uncertainty. As it is, our country is floundering, our world is increasingly becoming wicked and violent. It seems as if the arrogant, ungodly people are having their way. It is interesting how God arranges things. Andy just mentioned Psalm 73 this past Sunday when our pastor was away. The psalmist bemoans just this fact that the wicked seem to prosper.

But then comes verse 17, “Until I went into the sanctuary of God; Then I understood their end.” God knows the end from the beginning. He has a plan for all that happens, and you can be sure that it will result in His glory. We may not see it in a dramatic result in the election of godly leaders as much as I desire to see that happen. It might just be in the day-to-day workings of our lives.

But beyond even the political scene, I was really challenged with the fact that every aspect of our lives is a spiritual battle. We don’t always “feel” the struggle; some days are pretty good. But the battle is still there. The battle manifests itself in many ways:  our thoughts, our reactions to tough situations, our dealing with our children, even just our simple lives. Do we try to do it in our own strength? If so, we will fail. We must put on the whole armor of God. We must face the battle in the only winnable way–on our knees in dependence upon God in prayer.prayer

Our pastor has challenged us to spend at least 10-15 minutes in prayer every day. That’s really not much time. But how often do we really take the time to invest even that much in concentrated prayer? Will you join me in this challenge? Let’s “gird up” our minds and prepare for battle!

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When in Doubt…Sing?

keep-calm-and-sing-to-god-3I was feeling a little mopey this morning. Andy, my husband, is away on business. This is his third trip in as many months. The last two were for a week; this time, it will be two. So when I awoke, I was feeling a little low. There’s still a week and a half to go. Adding to that is the fact that my uncle passed away, and while we weren’t close, he’s still family. And compounding it all is the fact that I’m not quite up to par physically.

I was having a little pity-party. But after half an hour of moping, I finally got out of bed, starting my morning with coffee and my Bible. I have been using a devotional that I had downloaded, and today’s passage was 2 Chronicles 20:12.

O our God, will You not judge them? For we are powerless before this great multitude who are coming against us; nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are on You.

Just a little bit of what I was feeling. But as I read the whole chapter, I was challenged. The Israelites under King Jehoshaphat were facing an attack from the Moabites and the Ammonites. The odds were decidedly against Israel (when isn’t it?) The enemy was described as “a great multitude” or “a great horde.” Jehoshaphat was overwhelmed. So what did he do? He proclaimed a fast throughout Judah and cried to the Lord. The Lord answered him telling him not to fear. All they had to do was to stand firm and see the Lord work for them.

Jehoshaphat responded in praise and worship (and those with him) with “a very loud voice”! The next day as they prepared for the battle, Jehoshaphat encouraged the people to believe in the Lord, and they would see God work. Then they did the most unusual thing–they sang! Jehoshaphat had singers go before the army singing “Give thanks to the Lord, for His lovingkindness is everlasting.” They trusted God to take care of them, they showed their trust by praising Him, and God did just as He had said.

Now, I don’t have a multitude of enemies ready to attack. My problems aren’t really even that big, they just seem that way. But in all things, I know that I can trust God. I can trust Him to take care of things–to take care of me because He loves me and has promised to do so.

So how do I express my trust in God–by moping around? No. It is by singing His praises. When I sing, it takes my focus off my situation and re-focuses it on God. Singing to God and worshiping Him in difficult circumstances is the ultimate expression of trust. It shows that even when we can’t see how God is going to resolve our troubles, we trust Him to do so in His time. We trust Him to carry us through. So when you don’t know what to do–SING!

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Is Trusting God the Key to a Healthy New Year?

2016 key2016. How in the world did it happen? I remember when even the thought of the year 2010 was incomprehensible. Yet time goes on, and while I’ve seen growth in my life, it seems like I’m stuck in a rut again. I’m tired of the same old, same old. Can you relate to that? It seems like there are so many areas where I’d like to see changes in both in my personal life and my family life that it can be overwhelming at times.

I think for me, one of the greatest desires for me is to be healthy. It’s not that I’m super sick or even plagued with sickness; I’m just tired of feeling blah. I’m tired of my clothes not fitting quite right. I wish I had more energy.

I know the key areas that I must improve in order to be healthy–proper rest, balanced diet, proper hydration, and the dreaded “E” word–exercise. But as I was reading my Bible this morning, I was reminded of another aspect that is so vital to my health. Trusting God.

My son, do not forget my teaching,
But let your heart keep my commandments;
For length of days and years of life
And peace they will add to you.
Do not let kindness and truth leave you;
Bind them around your neck,
Write them on the tablet of your heart.
So you will find favor and good repute
In the sight of God and man.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.
Do not be wise in your own eyes;
Fear the Lord and turn away from evil.
It will be healing to your body
And refreshment to your bones.

Proverbs 3:1-8

One of the main reasons that we struggle with our health is that our lives are so stressful. It seems like we are trying to do too much. It can be that way for anyone, but it seems like that is more often the way for us as women. My mom had a mug that had this quote. “I am a working woman. I take care of a home. I hold down a job. I am nuts.”

Now, I’m NOT saying that it’s wrong for women to work outside the home. I appreciate all that my parents did for us. They did  what was necessary so that we could go to a Christian school. Some women have to work outside the home just to make the ends meet. I truly get that, because that’s where we are too. God gives grace for each thing He calls us to do. But how often do we go charging ahead trying to make things “work,” only to find that it’s causing us more grief? Do we seek the Lord in all that we do? Do we keep His principles and His Word before us and do them?

I’m not saying that obedience to God is the magical cure for any and all sickness, but there is the truth that much of the ick that we face in our everyday lives could be avoided if we had our lives in tune with what God has intended for us. Each person is different. What God has for me is not going to be what He has for you. But when I focus my energy on the roles God has for me and trust Him to take care of the things I can’t do (or that He doesn’t want me to do!), life goes much easier. I am able to get done what needs to be done. I am much more relaxed. So that even in the busyness of my days, I am refreshed.

Will you join me at the beginning of this new year in refocusing on the priorities that God has for you? I’m not talking about making new year’s resolutions. Just take some time to consider what roles God would have you fill and then be faithful to serve Him in those roles.

So what are some of the roles that God has for you? What are some things that should be dropped from your life?  Comment below and let me know how I can pray for you today.

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A Year of Blessing

blessingThe Lord bless you, and keep you;
Lord make His face shine on you,
And be gracious to you;
The Lord lift up His countenance on you,
And give you peace.

Numbers 6:24-26 NASB

As we begin a new year, most of us would say that we would desire God’s blessing on our lives. We want to be kept safe. We want God to look upon us with favor and grace. Most of all, we want His peace. But in the mundane of everyday life, we lose our focus on God. Our own sinful inclinations draw us away from seeking the Lord. We can’t have His peace and blessing of His presence if we are hiding our faces from Him.

Let’s take the time this day, January 1, 2016, to make a renewed vow to seek the Lord.

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way
And the unrighteous man his thoughts;
And let him return to the Lord,
And He will have compassion on him,
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.

Isaiah 55:6-7 NASB

We all have, no matter how “good” we are, areas where He doesn’t have full control–areas of sin that need to be confessed and forsaken. May we find this year to be one of God’s blessing and peace because we are seeking Him and walk in His ways.

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Unwrapping the Gift of Christ, Part 2

giving handsAs I considered what it meant to me that Jesus was God’s gift to us and began to study the Scriptures, I began to be overwhelmed with all that the Bible says about Christ and all we have in Him. I began to list everything I was finding, but then I came across this excerpt. I’m not sure exactly who wrote this, but it compiled my findings so succinctly, that I had to share it. As you read it, and let the words wash over you. This is simply a fraction of Who Christ is.

One of the great tenets of Scripture is the claim that Jesus Christ is completely sufficient for all matters of life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3-4)! He is sufficient for creation (Colossians 1:16-17), salvation (Hebrews 10:10-12), sanctification (Ephesians 5:26-27), and glorification (Romans 8:30). So pure is He that there is no blemish, stain, spot of sin, defilement, lying, deception, corruption, error, or imperfection (1 Peter 1:18-20).

So complete is He that there is no other God besides Him (Isaiah 45:5); He is the only begotten Son (John 1:14; John 1:18); all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Him (Colossians 2:3); the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily in Him (Colossians 2:9); He is heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2); He created all thing and all things were made by Him, through Him, and for Him (Colossians 1:16); He upholds all things by the word of His power (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3); He is the firstborn of all creation (Colossians 1:15); He is the exact representation of God (Hebrews 1:3).

He has no beginning and no end (Revelation 1:17-18); He is the spotless Lamb of God; He is our peace (Ephesians 2:14); He is our Hope (1 Timothy 1:1); He is our Life (Colossians 3:4); He is the living and true Way (John 14:6); He is the strength of Israel (1 Samuel 15:29); He is the Root and Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:16); He is Faithful and True (Revelation 19:11); He is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:1-2); He is Captain of our Salvation (Hebrews 2:10);  He is the Champion; He is the Elect One (Isaiah 42:1); He is the Apostle and High-Priest of our confession (Hebrews 3:1); He is the Righteous Servant (Isaiah 53:11).

He is the Lord of Hosts, the Redeemer – the Holy One of Israel, the God of the whole earth (Isaiah 54:5); He is the Man of Sorrows (Isaiah 53:3); He is the Light; He is the Son of Man (Matthew 20:28); He is the Vine; He is the Bread of Life; He is the Door; He is Lord (Philippians 2:10-13); He is Prophet, Priest and King (Hebrews 1:1-3); He is our Sabbath rest (Hebrews 4:9); He is our Righteousness (Jeremiah 23:6) He is the Wonderful Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, (Isaiah 9:6); He is the Chief Shepherd (1 Peter 5:4); He is Lord God of hosts; He is Lord of the nations; He is the Lion of Judah; the Living Word; the Rock of Salvation; the Eternal Spirit; He is the Ancient of Days; Creator and Comforter; Messiah; and He is the great I AM (John 8:58)!

This only scratches the surface of Who Christ is and what He means to us. The truth is—the whole Bible is written so that we can know God, to know Who Jesus is. From beginning to end, it’s all about Him! And yet, even if we were able to memorize the whole Bible, there would still be more for us to learn. God is infinite; John 21:25 tells us that if everything that Jesus said or did were written down, there wouldn’t be room enough in the world for all the books. Let us treasure God’s Word, for it tells us Who He is. Treasure the gift God has given us and worship Him. It’s not about what Christ has done for us, but WHO He is.

But it’s possible that you might not have ever accepted God’s greatest gift, His Son, Jesus. As I said in my previous post, Jesus is the real reason why we are here. He created us with the intent that we would bring Him glory, to love Him, to serve Him. But we would not. Romans 3 tells us that there is no one who is righteous, no one on their own seeks God, no one does good, and finally, “There is no fear of God before their eyes.” I think that last part is the most telling. People go their merry ways without any thought of God. They don’t fear Him and turn against Him who created them.

But that’s the beauty of God’s grace. That while we were sinners, Christ died for us. He gave His life on the cross to pay the punishment for our sin so that we could have a restored relationship with God. But Jesus didn’t stay dead. He rose again, proving that He truly is God. And the power that raised Jesus from the dead is the same power that is available to us, to help us to live a life that pleases God.

Gift on tableGod’s gift is, as it were, sitting on the table before you. Jesus truly is the most precious gift you will ever receive. He created you and loves you with an inexpressible love. He died for you so that you can have a relationship with Him. Will you believe Him and receive God’s gift? Or will you leave it there for perhaps another time. This gift is available to all.

For those who have already opened that gift, will you devote your life to knowing Jesus? It’s so easy for us to  get caught up with our own lives, doing even good things, but fail to reflect on our great Savior and worship Him as He deserves. Will you study God’s Word? Will you  treasure this unfathomable gift and worship the One Who gave it?

This Christmas, let’s take the time out from the hustle and bustle that comes with the season. Take time in the quiet moments of the mornings (or evenings) when the house is quiet and reflect with wonder our infinitely-faced Jesus.

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