Jesus-Our Wonderful Counselor

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Isaiah 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (NASB) The names of Jesus struck me, but mostly the name of Wonderful Counselor.

In researching what this means, I found a website called “Walk in the Word” by James MacDonald. (https://jamesmacdonald.com/jesus-the-wonderful-counselor/) He had some insightful things to say about the name given Jesus as Wonderful Counselor. As we read this passage in Isaiah, James MacDonald says, “Isaiah says, “His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor.” He’s not the angry counselor, the gruff counselor, or the disconnected counselor. He understands what we’re going through and can advise us while He accompanies us through whatever we are facing. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).” (CSB)

He also explained the meaning of Wonderful. It is not as we would think of today, but we need to look at it from the perspective of Isaiah. MacDonald says, “…the Hebrew word for wonderful is “pela” which actually means wonder or miracle. So the “wonderful” in Wonderful Counselor doesn’t just mean delightful and pleasing but also miraculous. He is a miracle-working Counselor who does what no one else can do for you. The biblical idea of counsel involves both careful listening and clear advising. It describes someone who is wise; someone who really knows how to live and will share that knowledge.”

Just think, Jesus is our miracle-working Counselor, someone who knows what we are going through, who guides us with wisdom and understanding. He also walks with us through those times when we are confused or do not understand the what’s and why’s of the situation. He directs our pathway. (Isaiah 48:17) Proverbs 16:9 says that He “establishes our steps.” (NIV)

He is far greater than any human counselor can be. People can only give advice, imperfect as we are, for we can offer only what we understand. God Himself, Jesus, has perfect understanding because He sees our lives from beginning to the end. He sees the whole picture, and we can only see a portion. He also knows what He wants to accomplish in our lives. He has a plan mapped out for us. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans that I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope.” (NIV) His plans are the best for our lives. We may think we have our lives all planned out, but they can’t supersede what God has in store for us. It’s up to us to decide to follow God’s plan for us or not. He has only good in mind for our lives. The end result is for our betterment, even if the situation may not seem good at the time, the result is for our good.

How many times have we gone through something that was so horrible that we would not want to ever repeat it? But once it is over and we’ve come through it victoriously, we have found that if it were not for the experience, where we are right now would never have come about if we had not gone through it. Jesus’ counseling, guiding, leading, and directing has brought us to a higher level of relationship with Him, and we have become stronger in the process.

I look back at my life and I can see His Hand in so many areas. I have often said that my life is an adventure with Jesus. I have had so many experiences that I never would have imagined when I was a young teenager. One example is my life with my first husband. When I was in high school, if someone would have told me that I would be on radio and television, I would have told them they were crazy, and yet God saw fit to have me meet my first husband and marry him, and enter the world of broadcasting, because he was a chief engineer of Christian radio and television and we found ourselves on the air in front of a mic or TV camera quite often. This was not something I had planned for myself, but Jesus guided me, “counseled” me, and led me into a life of ministry that has spanned almost 50 years.

I praise God for being my Counselor. Left to my own devices, I would have made a miserable mess out of my life. He knows and loves me, and He wants the best for me! Are you going through a time of difficulty or indecision? Look to Jesus, our Wonderful Counselor, He will walk with and guide you.

Advertisements

Adopted into God’s Family

 

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Galatians 4:4-5, “But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth his Son, born to a woman, born under the law, that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons.” (ESV) The thought that popped out at me in this passage was the idea of adoption. Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection made the way for us to be adopted into God’s family.

Jesus came as a baby, fully human, to be our Sacrificial Lamb, to redeem us from the penalty of our sins. The verse says “when the fullness of time came…” At the right time, and in the right place, God sent His Son to be born of a virgin. Jesus was fully God and yet He was fully human. Before Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross, humankind was under the law. God gave Moses the law so that we would be faced with the fact that we are not perfect, and can not fulfil the law, but God sent Jesus to rescue us from the penalty of not following the law. When we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, God adopts us into His family. “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” (John 1:12 KJV) Because of that we are no longer under the law, but under grace. We experience God’s grace and mercy because of our acceptance of His Son and His finished work on the cross.

Now, in the Old Testament, those who trusted and obeyed God, the Father, were accepted by God as His people. They were faithful to Him and worshipped Him. But they still had to offer sacrifices for their sins because Jesus had not yet come to take the penalty for their sins. Romans 9:4 says, “…Theirs is the adoption as sons; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises.” (NIV)

Once Jesus’ sacrifice was completed, the sacrifice of animals was no longer needed because He was the final sacrifice. When we ask Jesus to come into our hearts and forgive us of our sins, He does just that, and we then become children of God through adoption.

Adoption is such an awesome thing. It takes a child who is without a family and makes them part of a family. By law, that child is a bonafide member of that family, they have the same rights legally as a child born into that family. Because of Jesus and what He did for us, we can be part of God’s family and become a child of God. We can share in the same rights that Jesus has. God doesn’t see our sin, but He sees Jesus’ shed blood covering our sins and we are made perfect because of His blood shed for us. Ephesians 1:5 says, “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” (NIV)

I have a friend who has adopted several children. Those children are her kids! She sees no difference between her blood birthed children and her adopted ones. She loves them all equally. In God’s family, God sees us as His sons and daughters, there is no difference between Jesus and us…we are His! We have the same rights of sonship as our big brother, Jesus!

I am so grateful to God for adopting me into His family. I can go to my Abba Father anytime and talk to Him about my struggles, my joys, my anxieties, and those things I need His help with. Jesus’ birth and death has helped make all of that possible, and I love Him so much for what He has done for me!

Jesus-Our Good and Perfect Gift

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from James 1:17, “Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.” (NLT) As I was reading this today, my first thought was, our good and perfect gift is Jesus. God gave us His Son as a gift for our salvation because He loves us.

I think especially at Christmas some tend to think only of the Baby in the manger and not think about why He came. The Christmas story for some is just a nice little story about a baby who was born in a stable and laid in a manger and was visited by shepherds and wise men. The core point of why He came as a baby never seems to come to their minds. For some, Jesus is left as a Baby in a manger, and His ministry and sacrifice don’t seem to have an effect. But for the Believer, Christmas and Easter is tied together. His birth, death, and resurrection complete the picture.

When I lived in Northern Wisconsin, I was choir director at our church. One Christmas we did a play/cantata called, “Born to Die.” The fact that those who played the acting parts were unable to memorize their lines and had to read from the script, did not deter from the message of the whole cantata. It was a powerful production relating a modern day “prodigal son” who, at the end comes home and finds his family at the Christmas service in church, he hears the Gospel from Jesus’ birth to His death and resurrection, is convicted, and turns his heart over to Jesus and finally comes home, repentant and forgiven. The production had an amazing effect on our congregation…people were weeping! You see, it wasn’t just a nice Christmas play, with the manger scene, it was the story of how God gave the gift of His Son to save a young man who had wandered far away from Him, and how He lovingly wooed that young man back to His side.

Jesus was a PERFECT gift because He “knew no sin” (II Corinthians 5:21). He lived a perfect, sinless life, yet was still human, experienced the things we experience, was tempted, was victorious over that temptation, and knows just what we endure on this earth. God’s requirement for punishment for our sins was perfection, spotless, and pure! Just as God required a blood sacrifice of a perfect lamb, “without spot or wrinkle” (Ephesians 5:27), Jesus is our Sacrificial Lamb. He willingly gave up His life so that we could have eternal life. He died because He loves us, and He wants to have a relationship with us. The following verse, James 1:18, says that we “became His prized possession.” He chose us to be one of His own, and He would give anything, including His Son, for us to be His!

All we need to do is accept His gift. Ask Jesus to live in our hearts, make Him Lord and Master, have complete control over our lives, and then live for Him for the rest of our lives. Salvation is so simple a small child can do it! Nothing complicated, just talk to Jesus, ask Him to live inside of you, ask forgiveness for your sins, and then choose to live for Him. When I was a Sunday School teacher for 4 and 5-year-old’s, this became so clear to one of my little ones. His face beamed as he said, “Jesus didn’t stay dead!” He not long after that accepted Jesus as his Savior at 5 years old. He understood that Jesus lives today. That was over 35 years ago, and although I’ve lost track of him, I’m hopeful that he remained true to his promise to live for Jesus and knows without a shadow of a doubt that Jesus lives in His heart and that he is a godly man today.

If you have never asked Christ to be your Savior, it isn’t too late to turn your life over to Him. He’s waiting for you to come home!

Our Hope

 

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from I Peter 1:13, “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” When I read this from the devotion time the Scripture comes from, I wondered why this verse was used for Christmas…it just didn’t seem to be a Christmas kind of verse. But, as I went through the devotion, I began to see where it can apply to this Season.

The first thing the verse tells us is to gird up our loins. Now, in modern times, this phrase doesn’t mean much to us. I mean…what does it mean to gird up your loins? In Bible times, people wore long robes. If they needed to do something like running a race, take a journey, or do work of any kind, they needed to fasten their robe so that it didn’t get in the way of what they were doing. It denotes getting prepared, becoming ready to accomplish the task you are about to undertake. The commentary I read (John Gill’s Exposition of the Bible) referenced the Israelites as they prepared to leave Egypt. They were to leave at a moment’s notice, so they had to be sure that everything was ready so that they could take off quickly. We are to have our minds prepared for this journey we call the Christian life. We are also to be sober-minded, not allowing anything to distract us from the things God calls us to do, keeping our minds focused on Jesus and the precepts the Bible teaches us to apply to our lives.

Our Scripture also says we are to “hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” In trying to answer a question in the devotion about what it means to hope for grace, I turned to the commentary. The commentary said the Arabic version of the verse interprets it to mean “trusting with confidence.” So, I understand that we are to trust confidently or completely in the grace God gives us through Jesus as He is revealed to us. That hope comes us through trusting in the finished work of the cross of Jesus Christ. He paid the penalty for our sin completely.

The revelation of Jesus as I see it, is the birth of Jesus, coming to earth, as fully God and fully human. That hope we have when we ask Jesus into our hearts and make Him the Lord and Master of our lives, is because of His birth, ministry, death, burial, and resurrection!

When we live in preparation for whatever He has for us to accomplish as His followers, stay focused on that task He has given us, and trust completely and confidently in what He has done for us, we not only have hope for today, but we have hope for the future. We, as Believers, look forward to, or HOPE, in the eternal LIFE with Him we receive, and we anxiously await His return to come for those who are still alive at the time of the Rapture of the Church.

Therefore, Christmas is a celebration of that revelation. We rejoice because Jesus has come to do the work that God the Father commissioned Him to do, He accomplished it perfectly, and we are the recipients of that work. His grace, unmerited favor, is poured out on us when we receive Jesus as our Lord and Savior. We receive what we do not deserve (eternal life) and are released from what we do deserve (eternal death.)

I hope that you have accepted Jesus into your heart and are trusting in His finished work on the cross. Rejoice! Our Savior has come! May you and your loved ones have a very Merry and Blessed CHRISTmas!

Jesus, the Lamb of God

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from John 1:29, “The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” (KJV) At first glance, this seems to be a strange verse to equate with Christmas, but when we really understand why Jesus came, it fits perfectly. Often, we don’t think about Christ’s sacrifice when we think about the Baby in the manger. However, the two are so interconnected that we really cannot separate them.

God had a plan set up to save us from the very foundation of the earth. He needed a way to deal with sin. There had to be a punishment for rebellion against Him, for after all, that is exactly what sin is…rebellion against God. Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” (KJV) Every single one of us has had rebellion in our hearts toward God. When we decide in our hearts to disobey God, there is a consequence, and with that consequence comes a penalty. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (KJV) Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”

We cannot pay the penalty for our sin. We cannot work our way into salvation, we can’t buy our way into salvation, only through Jesus’ sacrifice are we redeemed, are we made pure. God requires a perfect sacrifice, without blemish, without sin, pure, and by the shedding of blood from that sacrifice. There was only one who could fulfil those requirements, and that was Jesus. Jesus, who was born of a virgin, the Holy Son of God, who walked this earth and experienced everything we do, and who knows just what we go through, yet He was perfect. The book of Hebrews says He experienced everything we do “yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15 KJV)

The four Gospels look at Jesus from different vantage points. The book of Matthew shows Jesus as our King, the book of Mark views Him as the Servant, the book of Luke shows Him as the “Son of Man”, whereby Jesus shows His compassion toward those who are considered outcasts, and the book of John shows Jesus as the Son of God. All these attributes of Christ are given to us so that we understand more clearly Who He is, What He came to do, and Why He came to do it.

Without the Cross, Jesus’ birth is just another baby that was born. Without Jesus’ birth as the Son of God, His death on the Cross would just be another execution. The two are tied together. Jesus’ story is complete only when we include His miraculous birth and His redeeming death on the Cross.

Then, once we know and understand Jesus’ plan for us, we have a decision to make. What will we do with this information, what will we do with Jesus? We must choose to accept His loving sacrifice. He took the penalty for our sin to save us from having to meet that requirement of death for our sin. What better way to celebrate His birth than to accept Him as our Lord and Savior!

Dear reader, if you have never chosen to accept Jesus as your Savior and Lord, now is the perfect time! Just pray and ask Him to come into your heart, to be the ruler of your life, to forgive you of your sins, to cleanse you from all of your sin, past, present, and future, and then promise to allow Him to be the Master of your life, and to follow Him all the days of your life, serving Him in all that you do. My friend, He will do just that, and as He takes over, you will find peace, joy, and contentment.

God – Fully Human

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Hebrews 2:17, “Therefore, it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God.  Then he could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people.”  Jesus was fully God and fully human!  That’s something that our finite minds just can’t fathom.  It’s hard for us to wrap our minds around that.  But God required a spotless, pure, blameless sacrifice for our sins.

In the Old Testament, God required an appropriate sacrifice for the sins of Adam and Eve, a spotless lamb, perfect in every way. (Genesis 3:21, 4:4) Although Scripture doesn’t explicitly say God sacrificed a lamb, it does say that an animal was killed in order to provide animal skins to clothe Adam and Eve.  One commentary (from Abide in Christ Ministries) said that garments were symbols for righteousness.  The fig leaves that Adam and Eve made for themselves is a representation of man’s attempts at righteousness through good works and religious ritual.  Man-made attempts at righteousness are poor substitutes for the proper sacrifice required by God.  Only the blood of a spotless lamb could cover sin.

Jesus is called “The Lamb of God” (John 1:29) and He is our sacrifice for our sins.  He had to be fully God to fulfill the requirements for a perfect sacrifice.  But He also had to be fully human in order to identify with our life here on earth.  He went through all the temptations, trials, joys, sorrows, everything we experience, He experienced.  How else could He understand our predicament?  One thing is different, however; He went through everything we do, but did not sin!   Jesus was tempted by Satan, just as we are, and He came through the temptation victoriously.  There is no way we could ever be that spotless, perfect sacrifice, nor can we ever pay for our sins.  We can’t buy our way, we can’t work our way, nor can we ever be perfect enough to provide the proper sacrifice for our sins.  The work Jesus did on the Cross was the full requirement of payment for our sins.  All we are required to do is decide whether we will accept His free gift of salvation, as punishment for our sins.  God’s plan provided a way of escape for us.  He sent Jesus in the form of a tiny helpless baby.

This past Sunday our church had their Christmas program, and a song was sung that pretty much sums up the feeling of most people who don’t understand what God was doing.  The song is called, “What a Strange Way to Save the World”.  The song is sung about Joseph as he is trying to understand why God would choose to provide salvation for the world by choosing to send Jesus as a baby, by choosing Mary to be His mother, by choosing Joseph to be His Step-father.

The Bible says that God’s ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:8-9), His ways are higher than ours.  He sees the grand scheme of the plan, and we see only a small portion of His plan for us.  We can’t see how things are being set out, nor can we see the final outcome for our lives.  God’s plan is perfect, and He has the best in mind for us.  His plan of salvation is the best plan, and He put it into motion because of His love for us.  He wants a relationship with us.  Our sin breaks that relationship.  He made a way for us.

The girls in our Youth group did a painting as part of the Christmas program….as far as I’m concerned, it was true Bible Journaling without painting on a Bible page!  As they painted, our worship team sang the song, “He Made a Way in a Manger”.   It was so powerful!  The picture covers Jesus birth, His ministry, His death, His resurrection, and shows His great love for us!  Our girls did such an amazing job on this!  Everyone was just spell-bound!  That’s the Gospel from beginning to end.

Joseph – Obedience in Hard Circumstances

Today’s Bible Journaling is taken from Matthew 1:18-25. Today, we’re looking at just the birth of Jesus, not the shepherds or the wise men, but just the circumstances around His birth. The story is so familiar to most of us that I’m not going to include the passage here, and I encourage you to read it for yourself.

The Bible tells us that Jesus’ birth was prophesied long before His birth. According to scholars, the book of Isaiah was written in the eighth century B.C. As I read our passage in Matthew today, I began to focus more on Joseph. We know so much more about Mary, but Joseph is only mentioned in the Bible just a few times, and then we hear nothing more about him. I couldn’t help wondering how Joseph felt when Mary told him that she was going to have a baby. Here he is, engaged to Mary, they have been pure, and suddenly, she says she’s pregnant! I’m sure he had a myriad of questions and thoughts swirling around in his head. At last, he decides to divorce her quietly, so as not to bring her more embarrassment. I’m sure he had a hard time sleeping. God sees his confusion, his hurt, his unsettledness and reassures Joseph by sending an angel to confirm what Mary has told him, and to encourage him to go ahead and marry her. Matthew, the author of the book, confirms the prophesy made by Isaiah centuries before, “this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet.” (verse 23)

The Bible says that Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel told him. In the time of Jesus’ day, weddings were different than we know them. The Bridegroom, with his friends, would go to his beloved’s home in the evening and take her from her father’s house. The procession, with lots of singing and rejoicing, would go through the streets to his parent’s home where they would proclaim a blessing over the couple. There would be singing, dancing, lots of games, and a great party. The bride and her attendants were given a room at the parent’s home set up just for her. The following day was the wedding feast with a full day of partying. By evening, the groom comes and the wedding ceremony with vows takes place. Sometime in the evening the couple vanishes to be alone and consummate the marriage. However, the party is still going on for several days, and the couple didn’t have a honeymoon as we do now, they would join in the celebration for the remainder of the time of rejoicing. The Bible says that Joseph kept Mary a virgin until she gave birth to Jesus. (verse 25)

As I read about what Jewish weddings were like in Jesus’ day, I wondered, considering the circumstances, if there was any celebration. Did Joseph gather his friends and have a huge wedding celebration, or did he just marry her quietly? The Bible doesn’t tell us. But we do know that Joseph was honorable. It’s possible this was an arranged marriage between Joseph’s parents and Mary’s parents, we don’t know if they knew each other well or not. But what stands out to me is his obedience to God and His plan. He trusted God although he didn’t necessarily understand all that was happening.

Aren’t we like that at times? Circumstances around us have us swirling, sleepless nights, muddled thoughts, being unsettled, and not knowing what to do. Joseph is an example of one who put their full trust in God and His plan, even though he didn’t understand the where’s or why fore’s. Like Joseph, we are to trust God with the situation and the outcome. As hard as that is, we must remember that God’s plan is always perfect and while we can’t see that now, we can trust Him that He has the best in store for us and He is with us. Even Jesus’ name tells us that. The prophet prophesied that His name was to be called “Immanuel, which translated means ‘God with us.’” Jesus means Immanuel. He is with us, through good times and bad, through struggles and joys, daytime and night. Joseph was obedient, in everything God told him to do, up to and including, naming Jesus, because he trusted God’s plan.