Happy Birthday Jesus!

I’ve been gone from my blog for a couple of months while my eyes heal from cataract surgery, and I must confess, I have missed our times together. I miss most, the time spent in Bible Journaling. I had good intentions of trying to do a combination of a study on the light of God and Thanksgiving, but it was just too much for my eyes. So, I’m going to start with Christmas. Today we’re going to start at the very beginning…the birth of Jesus! The second chapter of Luke recounts the events surrounding Jesus’ birth. We will study 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)

I haven’t had the joy of bearing children. However, when my sister gave birth to her three children, I saw the joy and love pouring out of her. It was like, she couldn’t believe she could love a little person so much! My niece and nephews’ births were so different from the birth of Jesus. My sister was in a nice, clean hospital surrounded by a doctor and nurses. Jesus was born in a stable. If you have never been in a barn, trust me, it is anything but spotless! Animals are dirty, they have smells all their own, and it is an unpleasant place. It is most definitely not a sterile environment like a hospital.

Mary and Joseph had no choice. They had been told by the angel that they would have God’s Son. I wonder if they expected His birth to be different than it turned out to be. King Herod had ordered a census to be taken and each person was to go to their birth town to be counted, in Joseph’s case, that was Bethlehem. There were no cars in which to travel, Mary being fully nine months pregnant and close to her time to give birth, had to ride on a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. One source I found said that it is a 70 to 80-mile journey depending on which route they took. The source said that one route took them through Samaria, which the Jews avoided at all costs because the Jews and Samaritans didn’t like each other at all, and so Joseph most likely took the longer route. Seeing as they traveled with a donkey, the journey could have taken at least 10 days. Imagine riding on a donkey for 10 days and be very close to having a baby. That could not have been comfortable at all.

When they got to Bethlehem, every inn was completely full. By this time Mary was in full-blown labor and about to give birth. The situation was dire. They needed a place to stay, and they needed it right now! All the innkeeper could offer was the stable behind the inn. A place where the animals were kept. A smelly, dirty barn! When Mary gave birth to Jesus, the only place she could lay him was in a manger…a feed trough for the animals. Not a very clean place for a baby. This was not just any baby, this was God’s Son! There was no castle, no fanfare, just a quiet birth in a barn, and the world didn’t even know the Son of God was born. The only celebration came when the Shepherds came and worshipped Him, and that was low-key.

In today’s world, we celebrate Christmas, but it has become more about getting gifts than celebrating the birthday of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The world dismisses Him. They are all about Santa Claus and what he is bringing, and they ignore the greatest gift given to mankind in the history of the world. They have taken Jesus out of Christmas and He is the very reason we celebrate! He came to earth as a baby for the divine purpose of becoming our sacrifice for our sins. The world has no birthday parties for Jesus, no one sings Happy Birthday to Him. As we enter the Christmas season, let’s stop to remember WHY we celebrate. Stop and wish Jesus Happy Birthday and give Him the best gift you can give Him…yourself!

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!

Grace – God’s Gift

Today our Bible Journaling takes us to Titus 3:4-7, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and his love for mankind appeared, he saved us—not by works of righteousness that we had done, but according to his mercy—through the washing of regeneration and renewal by the Holy Spirit. He poured out his Spirit on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior so that, having been justified by his grace, we may become heirs with the hope of eternal life.” (CSB) As I was doing the journaling in my Bible, I was drawn to the little mouse band. They are so full of joy and thoroughly enjoying making music! I can relate! I play my flute on the Worship team at our church, and sometimes I will sing. My heart is so full of gratefulness for God and His goodness that it must come out in my music!

Our Scripture today explains why we as Believers are filled with gratefulness and joy. His grace to us in saving us from our sins is a gift to us. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, nothing we can do to secure a place in Heaven, nothing! The Apostle Paul writes to Titus that we are justified by God’s grace. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology defines justification as “the declaring of a person to be just or righteous. It is a legal term signifying acquittal …” I have heard justification defined as “just as if we had never sinned.” This is God’s gift to us. We are washed clean, totally transformed (regenerated), and made an heir of Jesus…we are brothers and sisters of Christ. My little mouse band is playing it’s heart out for the joy of knowing our sins are forgiven by God’s gift of Grace.

God showered His mercy upon us by offering a perfect sacrifice for our sin! That is the most awesome gift He could ever give us. So, how do we show our gratitude toward God for what He has done for us? Must I do works to ensure that I maintain that place in God’s family? No, the works I do are an offering of gratefulness and love for everything He has done for me. Works also show others our faith. James tells us that we are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. (James 1:22) Our works are not to show off to others how good or holy we are, but to reveal the love for God in our hearts. We must be careful however; because we can slip into the trap of deceiving ourselves in thinking we are righteous before God because of our works, when in fact, we are just showing off to others, and we end up playing at religion and not exhibiting a faithful walk with the Lord.

Our works should be a show of what has happened inside. It should reveal the work God has done in our hearts. I think there should be a time for us to stop and take an account of why we are doing what we do. Are we doing work for God to look good to others or are we working to bring others to know Jesus because of our gratefulness to Him for what He has done for us? All the good works we can do, things like feeding the poor, helping the sick and afflicted, visiting those in prison, etc., must be an expression of our love for Christ, and used as a tool to draw others to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

This Blood

I am deviating from our study on grace for a moment, but in reality, God’s grace is plainly shown in our journaling for today. We just celebrated the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. During our Easter service at my church our worship team did a song called, “This Blood.” I woke this morning with that song running in my mind. Take a listen:

As I thought about the words and heard the song in my head, I began to get an image in my mind, one of my sin being covered by Jesus’ blood, no longer to be remembered or to be charged against me. The image was so powerful to me that I knew I had to journal it in my Bible. So, I searched for a Scripture that would express what I was feeling. I came upon John 19:30, “When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, He said, ‘It is finished’; and He bowed His head, and gave up the ghost.” (KJV) The thing that hits me is that when Jesus died on the cross, He did it willingly because of His great love and grace toward me. As I am sitting here listening to the song, I can’t help but be completely in awe of what Jesus has done for me. He has forgiven me of every sin I have ever committed or ever will commit. He has welcomed me into His family. He has become my Best Friend, He is my Healer, He loves me unconditionally, and He beckons me to have a relationship with Him.

The Scripture reference highlights for me that nothing more is needed to be done. Jesus finished the work assigned to Him to bring about my salvation. Nothing more is needed, not from Him, and most certainly not from me, because there is nothing I can do to purchase my salvation, only Jesus was the perfect sacrifice! The old hymn, “Nothing but the Blood”, says it all…” What can wash away my sin…nothing but the blood of Jesus! What can make me whole again…nothing but the blood of Jesus!”

Not only did He die for my sins, He rose from the grave three days later and conquered sin, death, and the grave! That gives me hope (confidence). A hope that one day I will also rise again and be joined with Him in the sky to go Home to Heaven! I have nothing to fear because He will walk with me through death.

What can be more precious than that? To walk through a time that can be fearful, with your Best Friend who will bring comfort and strength just as He has done your entire life. Peace beyond anything we can even imagine overflows our hearts and souls at the thought of being with Jesus.

This morning, my heart overflows with love for my Lord and Savior! I am so grateful for His salvation, His love, His friendship, and His leadership. “This Blood” is so precious to me!

My Hope is in God

Today I’m working on two passages as we continue our look at choosing hope. The first Scripture comes from II Corinthians 1:10, “Who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us.” (NASB) The second verse is from Psalm 146: 5, “How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God.” (NASB) As I was thinking about these verses, the song, “The Solid Rock” came to mind. This is an old hymn that I’ve sung since I was a little girl.

The first stanza of the song says, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness, I dare not trust the sweetest frame, But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.” The chorus continues in a declaration, “On Christ, the solid rock I stand; All other ground is sinking sand, All other ground is sinking sand.” Jesus not only is a rock for us to stand upon, but He is also our hope! Psalm 146 echoes this…our hope is in God! It is He in whom we can depend, it is from Him that all good things come, it is Jesus who delivers us, it is His great love that holds us together.

When I think of hope in God, it brings to me feelings of peace, a quiet confidence in knowing that there is nothing I can’t bring to Him, there is nothing that can happen to me of which He is unaware. He holds me in the palm of His hand, and I am engraved into His hand. (Isaiah 49:16)

The second stanza of the song says, “When darkness veils His lovely face, I rest on His unchanging grace; In ev’ry high and stormy gale, My anchor holds within the veil.” He is our rock, our anchor. He is our shelter in the midst of storms. That is also part of our hope…knowing that He will keep us sheltered through the greatest difficulties of our lives. Psalm 146 tells us that God is our help. He brings us salvation, encouragement, strength, peace, and life everlasting.

Stanza three says, “His oath, His covenant, His blood, Support me in the whelming flood; When all around my soul gives way, He then is all my hope and stay.” He keeps His oath and covenant to us through the blood He shed on the cross, and He supports us and is our hope!

The last stanza of the song says, “When he shall come with trumpet sound, Oh, may I then in Him be found; Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.” This to me, is the greatest hope we have in Jesus. We who have asked Jesus to save us from our sins, live in our hearts and are endeavoring to live for Him, have a future! We have the hope of seeing Him one day. We have the hope of being called to meet Him in the air in one great rapture of the church. We have the hope of eternal life with Him, and to reign with Him during the Millennial Reign. We have a bright future with Jesus!

Psalm 146:5 says that we are blessed. “How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, Whose hope is in the Lord his God.” (NASB) Blessing follows those who hope in Christ. Where is your hope placed? Is it in the things of this world, the “sinking sand” if you will, or is your hope placed in God, who is your rock, your firm foundation, and your anchor?

His Love Leads Us

 

As we continue to look at aspects of God’s love, today’s verse tells us that His love leads us. Exodus 15:13 says, “In Your lovingkindness You have led the people whom You have redeemed; In Your strength You have guided them in Your holy habitation.” (NASB) I love the idea that God leads us through each mountain and valley of our lives.

As I was thinking about this verse, I began to think back at my own life. I can see God’s hand guiding me and I see where He led me even though I had no clue which way to go. I became a Christian at the age of 11 in a Youth Group meeting on a Sunday night. I had been having disturbing dreams for a few weeks, dreams of not being a Christian and finding myself in Hell. I know God was talking to me through my dreams, trying to draw me to Himself. I don’t know why I didn’t accept Jesus after having those dreams, but I didn’t. One Sunday night, a guest came to our Youth Group and asked this question, “Why are you a Christian?” She asked it to the whole Youth Group. Each person gave their reason for why they asked Jesus to be their Savior. When it came my turn, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that I couldn’t give her an answer because I wasn’t a Born-Again Believer, and I admitted it. It was then that my pastor asked me if I would like to ask Jesus into my heart, and I said yes. God just wouldn’t let me get out from under His loving invitation.

He guided my life in a miraculous way, at least I think so. When I was in my mid 20’s I wasn’t in the habit of listening to the Christian radio station in our city, but one day I was having a really bad day and decided to tune in. It was then that I heard a promo for their singing group, asking those who wanted to join to come to an audition. I decided I didn’t have anything going on, and it might be nice to be part of the group. I went to auditions and was accepted and it was there I met my first husband. God led me to decide to listen to that station at that particular time, and it changed my life! It began almost 40 years of ministry in broadcasting as my husband and I served Christian radio and television stations for the majority of our lives. I’ve often said God has taken me on an adventure. I had no inkling that broadcasting would be in my life. In high school that was the farthest thing from my mind.

The hardest day of my life was when my husband died. God led me through that dark valley for six years. Being a widow was very hard for me, but God was right there carrying me through that dark time. In the midst of that valley a guest speaker came to our church and he spoke a prophetic word over me, telling me that I would minister to people all over the world using journaling. That troubled me, because I wasn’t a good journaler…very sporadic. But his words haunted me, and about 2½ years ago I found Bible Journaling. Another one of the ways God has led me.

He also led me to get on the Internet and do some online dating and at the end of that six years, I met an incredible man on a Christian dating site, and six months later we were married. God led me to him and birthed a new ministry for me. My new husband has a ministry online and I have a blog into which I incorporate my Bible Journaling.

As I look back, I see God’s Hand so plainly in my life. He has led me every step of the way. It’s good to look back and see from where God has led us. His love is so incredible!
It is because of His love for us that He leads us along the pathway He has chosen for us. (Jeremiah 29:11) He guides us in His strength Exodus 15: 13 tells us. He leads us right to the gates of Heaven, His holy habitation. Oh, how I praise Him for His guidance!

God Sees

Today’s Bible Journaling is from Isaiah 58:11, “And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.” (NASB) I decided to read the entire chapter to get a background of this verse. God is giving Isaiah a message to deliver to the Israelites. They observe the fasts as God required, however; they were doing so with wrong attitudes, wrong motivation, and a wrong commitment. They were fasting and observing holy days with an attitude that was not one of complete dedication to God. They would appear to be holy, yet mistreat their fellow Israelite, not feeding the hungry, having an attitude of, “It really doesn’t really matter if I’m totally committed to this, I’m going to do it my way.”

I decided to look up the definitions of attitude, motive, and commitment to be sure I was applying the correct words to the thoughts I’m trying to convey. Motive is defined as, “a reason for doing something, especially one that is hidden or not obvious.” Attitude is defined as, “a settled way of thinking about someone or something…” Commitment is defined as, “the state or quality of being dedicated to a cause, activity, etc.” In my mind, all of these can be combined in our justification for doing something.

Scripture tells us that God sees the heart (I Samuel 16:7) when others see the outside. We can appear to be so holy and yet have motivations and attitudes that are totally opposite from our actions. God was pointing out that they were not totally sincere in fasting and carrying out the observances He required, and therefore, He didn’t recognize their efforts. But if they would change their motivation, their attitude, and their commitment to Him, then He would bless them, He would guide them.

My mind goes to being on the Worship Team. I love being on the Worship Team! God has called me to use my musical abilities for Him, and it’s my outlet to show God how much I love Him! It gives me an opportunity to lift my voice and my instrument in praise to Him for everything He has done for me. But I also have to be very careful, because I can play and sing with wrong motivations and attitudes. Am I doing this for my own self-gratification and to get the accolades of those in the congregation, or am I singing and playing to give honor, praise, and glory to God? Does what I do point others to Jesus or to myself? Every time I get ready to step onto the platform at my church I pray and ask God to check my attitude. Is it proper, does it reflect Him and not myself? I’m committed to playing and singing, but why? That’s where I must look at myself and check that I’m doing this for Him and not me. I must remember it’s all about Him and not about me.

When I am obedient to what He wants me to do, then He blesses my efforts, He blesses my life, and He fills me with joy at having the opportunity to minister to others. He makes my soul satisfied, and I am like a well-watered garden, growing and full of Spiritual fruit. The more I am obedient to what He asks me to do, the more He blesses me and gives me peace and satisfaction. When I have the proper attitude and motivation, He is pleased with me, and my commitment to Him is even greater, and it is a joy to serve Him in everything I do. Doing an attitude/motivation check is a good way to be certain we are in line with God’s will and plan for our lives.