Miracle Birth

rough nativity

This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. Joseph, to whom she was engaged, was a righteous man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

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. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

All of this occurred to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet:

“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.’” Matthew 1:18-23 NIV

How babies come into the world is the focus of intense conversation between mommas everywhere. It matters to daddies, too. Especially if they were away on business or serving their country during the blessed event. With the details of Jesus’ birth, though, there is cause for every ear around the globe to perk up, for while we may say that this baby or that baby came to earth by way of a miracle birth, no one was born of a more miraculous means than Jesus.

Look! The virgin will conceive a child!

That Jesus was born, and how his birth came about, are details of interest to all those who believe he is the long-awaited Messiah. Our faith is fixed on his divine origins–the mingling of mortal with God. No one before Jesus could say these things about their son. No one after him will ever be able to do likewise.  No one, save Jesus, is our Redeemer.

A Virgin, a Manger, a Baby; Divine!

That’s what Christmas means to us.

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Speak Life, Find Favor

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” Luke 1:28 NIV

highly favoredWhen the angel Gabriel came to the virgin Mary, he spoke words of life to her.

He spoke prophecy.

He spoke redemption.

He spoke change.

And he spoke hope.

He spoke of a highly favored status, and when Mary heard the words and understood the message, she could hardly believe her ears.

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.”

Mary knew about the prophecies of a coming Messiah, but she was blown away when she heard that he would come as a result of her pregnancy, and this, when she had never been intimate with a man. That Mary was able to take it all in and move forward without numbing fear, it’s nothing less than a miracle. That she would pass through all the grace it took for the promise to be fulfilled and never falter in her steps, that’s astonishing. At the moment Gabriel confirmed her highly favored status, Mary was living a common life, in a little town, run by a ruthless king. “How can this be?” she asked. There were many reasons for Mary to doubt, but she believed!

If you are a Christian today, you are highly favored of God. You, too, may have reasons to doubt, yet you believe. God is honored by that faith, and He does not count it little.

He sees you.

He cares for you.

He hears your prayers.

He will answer.

You matter to God. Go, in the miracle of that truth, and do good to all men.

When have you felt highly favored by God?  When have you wondered if the gospel really could be true? What changed your mind?

Jesus is on the move!

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. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

“‘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.’” Matthew 2:4-6 NIV

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. Colossians 3:23 NIV

While driving in to work today, I was listening to another Ron Hutchcraft moment on Family Life Network, our local Christian radio station. Ron’s message was the same today as many days, an invitation to allow Jesus in and to draw from his strength in order to live a purposeful life.  Ron brought up the CS Lewis classic, The Chronicles of Narnia in his devotional today, and pointed his listeners to that five-word phrase spoken in the book that brought hope to the people of that fictitious land, when the White Witch’s reign had caused them to fall into an endless winter with no promise of Christmas. This is that five-word phrase:

Aslan is on the move!

If you’ve never read The Chronicles of Narnia, you can’t know how powerful a statement that is or why it brought such hope to the land, but you probably can identify what it feels like for Jesus to be “on the move” in your life. When Jesus is on the move, we feel revitalized, renewed, and ready to meet each day.

We have hope that things are going to work out exactly as they should.

We have confidence that Christ will straighten out the crooked places.

We trust he’ll turn our messes into something magical.

We know He has the power to make beauty out of ashes.

Today, let’s make sure our work is done as unto the Lord and allow our hope to rest on the fact that Jesus is on the move…in our lives, in our families, in our workplaces, and in our world.

Jesus is on the move! Glory, Hallelujah! 

What does it feel like for you to have Jesus “on the move” in your life?  What are you hoping to find in Him this Christmas?

Mercy. Me?

forgive

The more merciful we are to those who wrong us, the more merciful God is to us. And blessings flow out of relationships that extend mercy. Want to experience true joy today? Give…and receive…mercy. -Unknown

Live carefree before God; he is most careful with you. 1 Peter 5:7 MSG

One of the things that puts me in a merciful frame of mind is remembering how often I’ve been in need of mercy and how generously God’s granted it. Again and again as I’ve stumbled and bumbled my way through life…making mistakes, recalculating and beginning again…God has been my constant supporter. He’s given me grace, filled up my love reservoirs, and forgiven me my trespasses more times than I can count. Should I do any less with my fellows?

Maybe someone has walked all over you.

Maybe they’ve jumped your fences and are right now twirling around on soft grass and rutting up your pastures.

Maybe they’ve done something so wrong that you’ve wondered,”Can I, should I overlook this one?”

Christ says, “Forgive! Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Hard!

But God…

Grant mercy.

Give unmerited favor.

Let bygones be bygones.

“Act as if” until you can feel the real feelings of forgiveness sweeping over you.

Forgiveness is a matter of the will. You CAN do this, if you CHOOSE to do it.

Don’t be the one to keep accounts on such things as grudges. Now is the season of good cheer to all men, even those who offend.

Today, let’s be like Jesus, remembering that “they know not what they do.” We can live carefree before God and trust Him to be most careful with us. We don’t need more than that. We might want more, but we don’t need more.

Trust God and give mercy. It’s the best way to honor who Christ is and what He’s made us to be this Christmas!

Have you ever felt a divine influence moving in and over you, so that you were able to forgive a seemingly unforgiveable wrong?  Can you tell me more about that?

If the Son sets you free

Grace

…if the Son set you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36 NIV

May our Lord Jesus Christ himself and God our Father, who loves us and by his grace gave us eternal encouragement and good hope, encourage your hearts and strengthen you in every good deed and word. 2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 NIV

I hear it all the time, that number that represents people of the world who are living in bondage of one kind or another. It’s sad, and makes me wonder…is there more slavery going on in our world, or are we just getting better at recognizing and reporting on it? Either way, the number of people forced into bondage these days is a sad commentary on life here and another reason why we need to heed the call of God and surrender everything we have to His oversight and love.

Being God’s slave brings us freedom of every kind!

Did you know that in ancient times there were many examples of slaves being treated like one of the family? There were. Those individuals, Joseph among them, were recognized for their good service, loved for how dutifully they took care of their households, and lauded for the way they stewarded the resources God put under their control. Given the opportunity to leave their masters, these slaves begged to stay. So much better were their lives serving their masters, that they could not imagine living any other way.

Today, it’s the same for those who call upon God to be their master, and Christ their King. They are the most blessed of individuals, and their lives the most highly favored. They know real freedom, which is a combination of purposeful living and the abundant love of someone who has offered them unmerited grace.

We can know this too, this Christmas!

Have you experienced the unmerited grace of God in your life?  How has it changed you?

Dad Love

O God, in mercy bless us; let your face beam with joy as you look down at us. Psalm 67:1 TLB

Encourage one another… 1 Thessalonians 5:11

Have you ever seen a new dad hold his baby…how he interacts with her…the tenderness he shows her and the expressions of joy on his face as he cradles her in his arms and mimics back to her the cooing noises she vocalizes to him? That! That look on his face—that’s the look on God’s face when he sees you.

That look!!!

Do you believe that God looks at you the way the Scriptures say He does? I hope you feel that way about God and I hope you know that He feels that way about you.

You are His delight!
You are His treasure!
You are His creation!
You are His beloved!

Do you feel like God loves you?  If so, why? If not, why not?

 

Speak Tenderly

For your Maker is your husband—
the LORD Almighty is his name—
the Holy One of Israel is your Redeemer;
he is called the God of all the earth.
The LORD will call you back
as if you were a wife deserted and distressed in spirit—
a wife who married young,
only to be rejected,” says your God. Isaiah 54:5-6 NIV

Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly… Isaiah 40:1-2b NIV

I’m not someone taken to speaking tenderly much of the time, plus I can be emotionally oblivious. But even I know that when someone is bruised, crushed, or on the brink of giving up you don’t kick sand in their eyes. In those moments, tenderness is called for and mercy is appreciated.

Today, if you know someone who is on the brink, or getting tossed around by a cruel world, please stop and pay them a little attention.

Give them a smile.

Pay for their meal.

Invite them for coffee.

Send up a prayer to the One who has all power, on their behalf.

Pray for good to come to them.

Tell them about Jesus, if they do not know.

Be instruments of peace and agents of change. You can, because the Holy Spirit lives in you!

Be brave. Reach out. Let the glory come down because of you.

Be His hands and feet in a broken world.

Lord, equip us today to do the work that You find valuable, that You find redemptive, and that You find eternally significant. Equip us, direct us, and empower us we pray, in Jesus Name. Amen.

Of Goodness, No End

small mercy

You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
they rejoice before you
as people rejoice at the harvest,
as warriors rejoice
when dividing the plunder. Isaiah 9:3 NIV

Of the greatness of his government and peace
there will be no end. Isaiah 9:7a NIV

Devout followers, those who search the Scriptures and sift through the Truth of God’s Word in order to advise their lives…they know there are dark stories in that book.

Lots of rebellion.

Lots of neglect.

Lots of outright idolatry is recorded for us in the Bible.

We read it, we know it, and we tend to wonder how our ancestors could have been so wicked. How could they have done so much to frustrate God?

Then we remember, oh yeah, we do those things too!

The Good News concerning our bad behavior, is that it doesn’t have to mark us for destruction forever.

Not anymore.

We have a Healer, a Warrior who fights for us; a Savior, Christ the Lord. And what the Bible has to say about Him and His ability to wash away every blemish from our souls is astounding!

Jesus enlarges His family and increases their joy. He causes them to rejoice over the harvest and celebrate their good fortune; good fortune, provided by Him.

Of the greatness of Christ’ government and peace there will be no end!!

And all God’s people said, “Amen!”

In helping, I was helped!

“Love and tolerance of others is our code.
And we have ceased fighting anything or anyone…” Pg 84 BBAA

Perspectives-little-old-lady

Today I got another lesson in patience.

It started when I ended up behind a little old lady while trying to quickly pay for my food purchases at lunch time.  This, after moving from one lane to another because of my desire to move quickly along.

She was slow getting those groceries onto the conveyor belt.

She was slow writing her check.

She had to show her license to the clerk (which she couldn’t find).

She was very hard of hearing and very sharp of speech (dare I say sassy?).

I think I saw the clerk roll her eyes, but I can’t be sure. I know I was doing an eye roll in my mind. I’ve been practicing not doing them in visible ways, so I think I was safe there.

I know, I know…not really a habit the born-again should be practicing, which is why I’m working on it.

While I waited for this sister of Eve in a perfectly impatient way, I was reminded that God asks me to be a servant to others, especially when they are disabled in some way. It was at that moment I decided to take the time I would have spent fretting about being late returning to work, and spend it praying for others I know are struggling today. What a difference!

My reward for obeying God and practicing patience instead of eye rolls, was that I learned from this woman that we share a last name.

She also told me a little about her family.

She told me her dad worked for the county, putting electrical lines into service all over Bradford County.

She told me he died in the 1940’s at only forty years of age!

She said too much electricity flowing through his body had weakened his heart and one day it could take no more.

She repeated that story to me three times in the short time we spent together. I found it endearing. It reminded me of gramma.

She thanked me again and again for helping her.  I said, “I’m glad to,” but I hadn’t been ten minutes before that. As I loaded her car with groceries, we shared a moment when the world looked very small and a woman helping a woman seemed like a noble thing. We parted by wishing each other a Merry Christmas!  My heart was warm once more, though my fingers felt cold enough to break off into tiny pieces.

Thank You, God, for reminding me what’s most important, and to never, ever serve the tyranny of the urgent first-no matter how loud it roars!

What is something serendipitous that happened to you recently and left a lasting impression?  Who did you help today?

Poetic Passion

GOD is bedrock under my feet,
the castle in which I live,
my rescuing knight.
My God—the high crag
where I run for dear life,
hiding behind the boulders,
safe in the granite hideout;
My mountaintop refuge,
he saves me from ruthless men. 2 Samuel 22: 2-3 MSG

I wonder: Do we see God as he really is?
Do we acknowledge or recognize his magnificence in a true and proper way?
When we get a little glimmer of His glory, do we embrace it or run away?

Are we in awe of the Lord of Lords and King of Kings?

Or when we come to Yahweh, are we so full of us that we can’t seem to see Him?

Giving my Castle and Rescuing Knight some extra consideration today.

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching–for what are you thankful?  Why do you think its so often hard to see God for who He really is?