Love Came Down at Christmas

Today’s verse is very familiar. Most people have heard it, even those who are not Believers. Our verse today is John 3:16. Almost everyone has memorized this verse, and I think it has become so familiar that we don’t even think about the significance of it. We rattle it off, not even thinking about how wondrous it is. “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (NASB) Most people wouldn’t associate this verse with Christmas, but it ties in more than we may realize.

When I was a teenager, I sang in our Christmas Cantatas at church every Christmas. It was a family tradition. My parents, when he was old enough, my brother, and I. My sister wasn’t old enough to participate, and at the time, she wasn’t interested. I come from a musical family. My parents started their teaching careers as music teachers, my uncle was a band director for elementary and high school, my aunt played many instruments, including the organ at her church. My grandmother played piano for her church. Many times, my parents and I would sing trios for special music at church. When I married my first husband, we would do quartets with my folks. So, music is very important to me, especially Christian music.

One Christmas Cantata we did had a song called, “Love Came Down at Christmas.” It told of how God sent Jesus, His Son, to be born as a baby, to live, and to die on a cross, because of His great love for us. If it wasn’t for the virgin birth of Jesus, there would be no Easter, and without Easter, there would be no need for Christmas. The cross and the manger are tied together.

In my Bible Journaling, I love how the name of Jesus is written in the form of a cross. It’s part of a kit in this series, and I felt it was fitting to include it in the manger scene. God so loved that Jesus came. He came, not as a King with great fanfare, but He came as a baby, someone who entered this world in the most unassuming way. Only a few knew Who He was.

I think sometimes, we leave Him in the manger as a little baby and forget that He grew up to be a man, a man who would die for the world, as a sacrifice for our sins. He lived a sinless life, showed us how to live, taught us about God’s character, and above all, He loved us “with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

I’m so glad that He didn’t stay that baby in a manger. I’m glad that He lived and walked on this earth, experienced the things we do, knows and understands our thoughts, our feelings, our struggles, and our joys. I’m so grateful for His sacrifice for our sins; I’m grateful for His forgiveness, and I’m grateful for His love. Love Came Down at Christmas!

Christmas Hope

As we continue to look at Christmas, today we look at the hope that Christmas brings to us. Isaiah 9:6 is a familiar passage for us. It has been spoken in countless church Christmas programs by shining little faces acting out the Christmas story. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” (KJV) Isaiah prophesied the coming of the Messiah some 700 years before it was fulfilled. The Jewish people had hope that God was going to step into their lives and rescue them.

Jews today are still looking for the Messiah. What they don’t realize is, He already has come. Two thousand years ago He came in a way they weren’t expecting, and so they missed it. They are still in hope of seeing the Messiah come, they look for His coming. As Born-Again Believers, we have seen that Hope realized in our lives. Jesus came to earth as a baby born in a stable to common people. He didn’t come as a King. The Jews were looking for a grand entrance with lots of fanfare. Jesus came quietly, in a small town, with no fanfare except for a chorus of angels telling of His birth to lowly shepherds on a country hill looking after their sheep.

He lived a simple life, preached to those who would hear about what His purpose for being there was, showing them how to live, who God was, who HE was, and then fulfilled His purpose by becoming a sacrificial lamb for the sins of the whole world. He came to be the Savior of the world and provide the hope of eternal salvation for everyone. That hope is still available today.

Jesus invites each one of us to tap into that hope by accepting His free gift of salvation. He loves us so much that He wants us to become part of His family. He wants to provide for us, not just physical or financial things, but He wants to provide eternal life, He wants to provide to us eternal blessings.

That is the greatest hope we can ever have! The hope of eternal salvation! The hope of having a Friend who is closer than a brother (Proverbs 18:24), the hope of walking with Him daily, the hope of a love greater than we could ever imagine, the hope that our lives will be full of joy, peace, and grace. These things can only be found in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Life in this world is hard, that’s a fact. However, Jesus can help us in those times when it seems life is smacking us down. He can give us hope that He knows what’s going on, hope that this will not last forever and that He has a plan for our lives, and it’s a good plan (Jeremiah 29:11). When we feel as if we can’t take one more step, He will carry us.

He will provide blessings that will overwhelm us. In those times, He will rejoice with us. The joy of His presence, of experiencing His blessings, of finding the peace that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7) is one of the greatest gifts He gives us. Jesus is God’s gift to us! How we love Him for providing such an amazing gift! That is the Christmas Hope we have.

If you haven’t asked Jesus to be your Savior, ask Him to come into your heart and life, confess your sins, and make a conscious decision to live for Him. You will find it is the best decision you will ever make. You will then have that Hope!

Have You Any Room?

Today I want to continue with the verse we studied yesterday, Luke 2:7, “And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.” (NASB) Yesterday we talked about celebrating Jesus’ birth. Today I want to focus on the last part of this verse. As I explained yesterday, Mary and Joseph had to take refuge in a stable because there was no room at the inn for them, even though Mary was about to give birth.

Because of the census being taken, every inn was completely full in Bethlehem. How unsettling that must have been for Mary and Joseph. I can relate! Back in the 1990s, my first husband, Allen, and I went on a “driving vacation.” We only had a week and we decided to head from Montana down to Las Vegas, through Arizona, New Mexico, and back to Montana. Allen wasn’t one for making reservations in advance, much to my dismay. We managed fine until we got to Albuquerque, New Mexico. It was something like 2:00 in the morning, we couldn’t find any motels that had rooms within a 100-mile radius, because, much to our surprise, the annual Hot Air Balloon Festival was taking place and every hotel, motel, and camping spot was taken. We found a motel in a not so good part of town, pulled in, and the counter clerk said they had no rooms available, especially since we had brought our dogs with us. Then, he said, “I have a room that you may be able to take.” He took us to this room, and there on the floor was someone’s suitcase. I said, “This room is already taken.” Then he took us to another room, and it was like the room from Hell! It looked like it hadn’t been cleaned in months. Dirt was everywhere, it had a kitchenette and the refrigerator had spoiled food in it, the bathroom was dirty, and the bed looked like someone had been sleeping in it. On top of that, there were people out in the parking lot that I could swear were doing drug deals. Needless to say, we left our dogs in the car! I told Allen to bring our sleeping bags in and lay them on the bed because there was no way I was getting into that bed between the sheets! The kicker to it all was the name of the motel…Desert Oasis! Wow!

As bad as that was, Mary and Joseph had it worse. They ended up in a stable full of smelly, dirty animals, and that was where Jesus was born. What a way for the Savior of the world to come into the world! No one had any room for Him! It has been that way ever since! When He walked this earth teaching and preaching, He was rejected by His own people. Even the Pharisees and Sadducees, the religious leaders of His day, called Him a blasphemer and plotted to kill Him. What they didn’t realize is that He was God’s Son, come to save the world from sin, to die on a cross willingly as a sacrifice for sins, past, present, and future. He then rose from the grave to be victorious over death and the grave and ascended back into Heaven.

Down through the centuries people have rejected Jesus, not making any room for Him in their hearts. They think that doing good deeds, or “not being as bad as the next guy” will get them into Heaven and save their sins. But the Bible says that we must accept Jesus as our Savior and ask Him to forgive us of our sins, and then allow Him to have complete control over our lives. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” (NASB) Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (NASB) Romans 6:23 tells us, “But the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.” Ephesians 2:8-9 tells us that we can not be saved by our works. We are saved by grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. “For by grace ye are saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works lest any man should boast.” (KJV) Only through the shed blood of Jesus Christ can we become new creatures, have our sins forgiven, and gain eternal life. Revelation 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come into him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” When we ask Jesus into our hearts and lives, He forgives us, cleanses us from all our sins, and then He desires to fellowship with us. He wants a relationship with us.

If you have never asked Jesus to be your Savior, this Season of celebrating His birth is a perfect time. Make room for Him in your heart. You will find it is the best decision you will ever make. He is a friend that sticks closer than a brother, and He will walk with you every day.

What are You Harvesting?

As we continue our series on seasons, we are continuing to look at the harvest. Hosea 10:12 says, “Plant the good seeds of righteousness and you will harvest a crop of love. Plow up the hard ground of your hearts, for now is the time to seek the Lord, that He may come and shower righteousness upon you.” (NLT) As I was reading and thinking about this verse, I asked God to show me what I needed to focus upon. The more I looked at the verse, the second part of it seemed to come to the forefront. As important as it is to plant good seeds of righteousness, the thought came to me, “You can’t plant if the ground is hard or not prepared for planting.”

As I remember how my Grandpa worked in the fields on his farm, I know he had to prepare the soil for seed. The ground would be hard from the winter snows and he needed to disk it to loosen up the soil. Seeds don’t grow in hard soil, at least not very well. So, can we “plow up” the soil of our hearts on our own? The next part of the verse gives us the answer; “now is the time to seek the Lord”, why? So that He can shower righteousness upon us. We have no righteousness on our own, therefore we would not have the seed to plant unless it came from God. When we plant righteousness, our harvest is love.

To plow up the soil of our hearts, we must be willing to allow God to do a work in us that will provide a climate conducive to growth. I know in my case; stubbornness can be a real problem. God, at times, needs to work overtime to get me to understand what it is He wants of me. Even when I understand, it may be something I’m not really wanting to do. Sometimes there are things that I’m doing that may be a comfort zone for me and I’m not willing to give it up. But it may be just that thing that may be hindering me in my walk with the Lord. I must do the hard work of “plowing up the hard ground” of my heart so that I can sow the seeds of righteousness to gain a crop of love.

When we look to God, He will help us. We don’t have to try on our own to remove the seeds of unrighteousness from our hearts, in fact, we can’t remove them ourselves, and we can’t plow up the old soil on our own either. We must “seek the Lord”. It is only with His help that the unhealthy soil and unrighteous seed in our hearts can be removed and replaced with good soil and then He gives us the seed of righteousness to plant in our hearts. As we continue to seek Him, walk closely in the pathway He has provided for us, we will gain a harvest of love – love toward God and love toward others.

As I look at the context of this verse, Israel is being chastised by the Lord. Hosea was God’s “mouthpiece” to the Israelites, delivering a message from God. Verse 13 says, “But you have cultivated wickedness and harvested a thriving crop of sins. You have eaten the fruit of lies – trusting in your military might, believing that great armies could make your nation safe.” Israel turned their backs on God, deciding to do things in their own strength, not relying on God to guide them. Now, the Lord has come to the point where discipline must be meted out. Hosea Chapter 11 is God’s declaration of love toward Israel, and how He wants them to turn back to Him. He catalogs their sins, and in spite of all they have done, He still loves them.

God desires for us to walk with Him. He wants us to trust Him. He wants obedience from His children, and He desires more than anything to give us His blessings. He wants to shower upon us His love and righteousness. He wants us to harvest a thriving crop of love.

The Joy of Worship

This morning I woke with the chorus of a song running through my head. The name of the song is “Humble Hearts Cry (All I Wanna Do)” and the chorus goes like this:

ALL I WANNA DO IS LOVE YOU
ALL I WANNA DO IS WORSHIP YOU
ALL I WANNA DO IS LAY HERE RIGHT AT YOUR FEET
AS I LIFT MY HANDS TO HEAVEN
LET YOUR FIRE FALL DOWN ON ME
REKINDLE THE FIRE WITHIN ME LORD ONCE AGAIN!

This song has stayed with me all morning and I decided to journal about worship. I began searching for Scripture that would speak to the lyrics of the song. I found so many verses where we are commanded to worship God, and I was beginning to get frustrated because I wanted a verse where the author was worshipping God because of their deep love for Him and not because they were commanded to worship. Then I found Psalm 63:1. David is showering his love upon God by saying, “O God, You are my God, I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.” (NASB)

This is just what I was looking for! David echoes the longing of my heart. I love it when God puts a song in my mind, and it stays with me all day long! My heart sings to God as I think of how awesome He is. He has walked with me through joys and sorrows, through disappointments and triumphs, in the good and the bad, He has always been there! Oh, how I love Him!

I love how David says that his soul thirsts for God and his flesh yearns for Him. It is a burning desire to worship God and to keep his relationship with the Lord strong. Most of us think of worship as music – singing about our love for God and offering our praise to Him. But worship can be in many forms. It can be in the stillness when we allow God to speak to us and we marvel at how much He loves us. Worship can be reading His Word and learning more about His character. It can be seeing His beautiful creation and thanking Him for making such a beautiful world for us to live in. Worshipping God can be expressed in so many ways. For those of us who Bible Journal, that is a form of worship for us as we express what we are learning in Scripture, through our artwork. We show in visual form what God is speaking to our hearts.

God created us with a desire to worship. Everyone has that desire, Believer and Non-Believer alike. For those who don’t know Christ, worship can be anything from material goods to their job. They can worship movie stars or sports figures, people of influence. They place so much importance on these people and things and are so devoted that nothing else matters. They live for these things. But these people and things can’t give the satisfaction that comes from worshipping God.

God created us to worship Him! He placed a God-shaped hole in our hearts that can only be filled with Him. He desires for us to love Him and have a deep relationship with Him. It is only through our relationship with Him that we are complete. Our worship of God and who He is, what He means to us, and our love for Him help us live in peace, joy, and a sense of everything is right with the world. When we take the time to worship Him just for who He is, our hearts are so full of love for Him. I encourage you today to take the time to worship Him and you will find yourself full of adoration for our great God, I guarantee it!

Freedom from Fear

Fear. It’s something each of us deals with. Some people are enslaved by fear to the point that they won’t step out and tackle something new. Some are afraid of something that may happen to them. Some are so fearful that it paralyzes them emotionally and sometimes physically. Our Bible Journaling comes from 2 Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (KJV) Notice the verse says that God has not given us the spirit of fear. Fear comes from the enemy!

Satan’s whole purpose is to “kill, steal, and destroy.” (John 10:10) He wants to derail us in our walk with the Lord. He wants us so paralyzed in fear that we become ineffective witnesses for Christ, and our lives are in bondage to the fear that holds us. On Sunday, my Pastor spoke about how Satan speaks to us, telling us we are less than what God says we are, degrading us, telling us we can’t do this because….” In the process we become bound by what the enemy is telling us because we allow him to demean us in our minds. We can be locked up in fear.

But our verse tells us that God has not given us the spirit of fear. Instead He gives us power, love, and a sound mind. Fear can be debilitating to the point of becoming a psychological disorder. Some people are afraid of being out in crowds or around people, that is called agoraphobia, and they are holed up in their houses, afraid to step outside. I have never experienced that kind of fear, but I do have a fear.

I am totally deaf in one ear due to an illness I had as a child. My fear is that I will lose my hearing totally in my good ear and go completely deaf. To this day I don’t like being in totally quiet rooms, I must have noise, the radio or TV, in the background. A few years ago, I experienced an ear infection that was so bad that I lost a part of my hearing in my good ear. My husband could stand next to me and yell in my ear and I could barely hear him. It scared me badly. I experienced the closest thing to being totally deaf, the thing I feared the most, and I was in a panic. Praise God for His healing and antibiotics and medication to clear the ear infection. I did regain my hearing, however; my hearing was diminished a little. I’ve worn hearing aids for about 30 years, and my hearing continues to decline. Losing my hearing completely is still a fear, but God has helped me through that experience, and it no longer is as strong of a fear as it was before. I have learned a little sign language, so that I will be able to communicate with others. I’m grateful for friends who are sign language interpreters and help me out when I don’t understand something. I’ve also learned to read lips a little.

There are other types of fear that can cause us to step back and not be who we are called to be. We can also be fearful to step out into an area of growth that God is calling us into. We must believe that we are who God says we are. We must remember that it is God who gives us the ability to do what He has called us to. When I first started doing my blog, I was very hesitant. Several years ago, a prophetic word, that I was to begin journaling and I would be ministering to others, was spoken over me. First, I had never had a prophetic word spoken over me before and I wasn’t sure just how to take it. After consulting with my Pastor and talking to some others about what I felt God was leading me to, I launched out. It has been a slow beginning, but I am now beginning to see some rewards, small ones, but rewards none the less. I had to believe that I was able to do what God said I could do and not allow fear to stop me from being obedient to step into my calling.

We must go to God’s Word to reaffirm what He says about us. Romans 8:37 tells us that “we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (NASB) God promises that He will not forsake us. (Psalm 37:25) Ephesians 4:8 tells us that He leads us out of slavery. “Wherefore he saith ‘When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive and gave gifts unto men.’” (KJV) Philippians 4:3 says, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” (NASB) Jesus gives us the strength and helps us to step out into whatever it is that we need to do.

We can follow God and His call on our lives because He does not give us the spirit of fear, He frees us from it. All we need to do is allow Him to free us from that fear and surrender it to Him.

Freedom is Found in Christ

In the United States we celebrate our Independence Day on July 4th. There is much celebrating as we remember what was given so that we can live in a country where we are free to live and worship as we please. There is also a Spiritual freedom that comes through belief and acceptance of Jesus Christ. Our Bible Journaling today comes from John 8:36, “So if the Son sets you free, you really will be free.” (CSB)

First off, we need to know the definition of freedom. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines freedom as “the quality or state of being free: such as the absence of necessity, coercion or constraint in choice or action, liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another.” Spiritually, we are free from the power of sin over our lives once we become Born-Again Believers. However, that does not mean we will never sin. We still are human beings who are not perfect and do sin. But that does not mean that all is hopeless. God forgives our sin when we repent and ask for His forgiveness. If we are free in Jesus does that mean we have a license to do whatever we want, even go against God’s law and will for our lives? No. The Apostle Paul dealt with this issue in Romans 6:1-2. “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase? May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” (NASB) There were some in the church who were teaching that because God would forgive their sin when they asked forgiveness (I John 1:9) then they could go out and live any way they wanted, including returning to their old life. What they forgot was, with sin comes consequences and that means discipline from God. Paul had to deal with this issue in the church a lot, it seems.

Freedom doesn’t mean that we can return to our former lifestyle without having to suffer the penalty for disobedience. Just as we in the United States have freedom to live as we please, there are still laws that must be obeyed, or we suffer the consequences.

Today there are still those who think that once they have become Christians, they have an insurance policy to get into Heaven. They think they can go out and live like the Devil himself without repercussion. But Paul says no, there must be accountability and we must be obedient to God and His Word to ensure that we are living holy, justified lives. So, what does freedom in Christ mean? It means that we are free to follow Him and His precepts, Not only are we free from the penalty of our sin, but we are also free to love and worship God and have a close relationship with Him. We are free from Satan’s hold on us and we are free to follow God, free to choose to live a life of joy, peace, and restoration.

We are also free to believe what God says about us. Sometimes, I have a hard time accepting what God says about me. I know myself, and I know I don’t measure up to God’s standards. I look at myself in the mirror and what I see doesn’t please me a lot of the time. But when I look at myself through God’s Word and see what it is that He says about me, then I realize that I must quiet the sound of the enemy in my head telling me that I’m not who God says I am. God says I am His (Isaiah 43:1), He says I am precious to Him (Isaiah 43:4), He says I am loved (Jeremiah 31:3), He says I am beautiful (Isaiah 62:3, Ephesians 2:10), He says I am accepted (Ephesians 1:3-6), and He says that I am restored (Psalm 23:3). We have freedom in Christ to believe what He says about us and to live accordingly. We can then rejoice in our freedom. I am so thankful that God provided a way for me to enjoy the freedom I find in Jesus. My heart is full of peace and joy, knowing that I have freedom in Christ. You can also know that freedom. If you have ever asked Jesus to save you from your sins, now is a good time. 2 Corinthians says, “…Behold, now is the acceptable time, behold, now is the day of salvation.” When you accept Jesus’ free gift of salvation you can begin to enjoy a life of freedom in Him.