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!

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!

A Thankful Heart

For the past week or so, I’ve not been posting because I had cataract surgery on my right eye, and I need to let it heal. Today I decided to try Bible Journaling, and I’m finding that I may need to wait a while longer. I will be having the other done in a week, so I may be out of service for a couple more weeks or so. With that said, I need to finish our devotion to how we can be the light, and we will be working on being grateful for this month. I want to try and incorporate both of those thoughts this month somehow.

For today though, we will look at I Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” We need to have grateful hearts. There are so many things for which we can give God praise and thanks. Even during times of distress, there are things for which we can be grateful. As I was doing my Bible Journaling page, I listed a few things for which I am thankful that God has given me. I am so grateful for my husband. He came at the right time in my life. He ended a time of darkness in my life. God knew I needed him then, and He blessed me with another wonderful man of God! I have been so blessed to have two husbands who were/are in ministry with a heart after God. The time between them was a period of grief and darkness, but as our verse tells us today, we are to rejoice always…even in the darkness.

I am also thankful for the talent He has given me in music. I am so grateful to be able to be part of the Worship Team at my church. I find it a blessing to express my gratefulness, love, and devotion to Him through my singing and playing. I can use the talent He has given me for His glory.

Most of all I am thankful for His salvation. His grace is above and beyond anything I can even imagine. He loved me before I loved Him! He sought me out and drew me to Himself because He wanted a relationship with me. As I look at my Bible Journaling page, it kind of looks like a bit of a mess, but then I remember, He takes my mess and makes it something beautiful and for that, He gets the glory!

Our verse says we also are to pray unceasingly! Now, that doesn’t mean that we are in constant prayer, unable to do anything but pray. No, we are to be in an attitude of prayer daily. Our thoughts should be in a conversation with our Lord and Master throughout the day. In that way, we keep our relationship with God strong. It helps us to hear His voice, we become familiar to His still, small, voice even when constant chaos and noise is around us. As we listen to His leading and we spend time with Him, as we’ve been discussing, we can then allow His light to shine in and through us, drawing others to Him. As we go about our day doing the things we must do, our attitude should be that of being in contact with Him, seeking His will and asking what would give Him glory and honor.

Our verse today also goes on to say that we are to give thanks in everything! That includes times when nothing is going right. My husband is teaching me to praise God even when we don’t get what we prayed for, or when things are falling apart. He daily says, “Thank you God for this difficulty. I don’t understand why things went this way, but I give you praise for it anyway.” He is an example of giving thanks in everything. I admire him for being the example I need to see. I’m not one to say thank you for hard times, for the most part, and I need to learn how to honestly say thank you at that moment. What I notice about our verse is, it is God’s will for us to be thankful even in times of distress.

Even though this is the time of year that we are more conscious about being grateful, it is not just at Thanksgiving that we are to be thankful, it is for every day of our lives. When we show gratitude, it also allows God’s light to shine out to a dark world that needs to see a clear pathway to salvation and life.

Rejoice in the Season of Harvest

My Grandfather was a farmer. He had a 96-acre farm in Central Indiana, and I remember Grandpa working with the dairy cattle and hogs and farming the land. When Spring came, he worked the land to prepare it for planting, then once the land was prepared, he would plant corn, hay, and other crops. When the crops were ripe and ready to harvest, there would be workers who would come to help him bring in the harvest. My Grandmother would make a feast for all the workers. It was like a celebration, because there had been a good harvest, and my Grandparents would get a good price for their crops and money to keep the farm running.

As we think about the Season of Harvest, our Scripture for today talks about rejoicing at harvest time. Isaiah 9:3 says, “You have multiplied the nation You have increased their joy. They rejoice before you according to the joy in harvest, as men rejoice when they divide the plunder.” The CSB version says, “You have enlarged the nation and increased its joy. The people have rejoiced before you, as they rejoice at harvest time, and as they rejoice when dividing spoils.” Just as in a physical harvest, there is rejoicing in the Spiritual realm when there is a harvest of souls. Like a farmer who does the hard work of preparing the soil, planting the seed, watering and tending the crop, and harvesting the result of all of that hard work, as we work to prepare others to know Jesus by planting and watering seeds of faith into their lives, harvest doesn’t come except through hard work. Harvest also doesn’t come quickly for the most part. Just as it takes time for the crops to grow and ripen before harvest, the seeds of faith must germinate and ripen before harvest can come.

We may never be able to see the fruit of our labors. God may have us at the planting or watering stages, and not at the harvest. This is not meant to be discouraging, but to bring encouragement in knowing that our hard work at witnessing, with God’s help, will result in a harvest of that soul in coming to know Jesus, and that when that one soul comes to Christ, there is a party going on in Heaven, (Luke 15:10) and we can rest in the knowledge that we had a part in that one soul coming to know Jesus as their Savior.

Especially when we are trying to reach a family member, the work can be very difficult. It may seem like they will never come to faith in Christ. But our job may only be to prepare the soil, (their heart) or plant the seed, (witness to them) or water that seed (giving the Word to them so that they gain understanding). We may not be called to be the harvester. However, if we are privileged to be part of the entire process of them coming to Jesus, know that it involves hard work, and the process is sometimes neither quick nor easy. It could be years before we see any evidence of a seed growing in them. As we patiently work toward helping them to salvation, we can rejoice with them when they make that important decision, and know we had a part in their decision.

When we look at television evangelists, it may seem that they came to notoriety over-night. But know that before they became famous, there was hard work involved in getting to where they are. Years of schooling, possibly many years pastoring a congregation and going through the struggles of shepherding a flock, before they became well-known.

Is there something that God has placed in your pathway, a ministry or a person to reach for Him? Are you in the middle of the process? Does it seem that you do nothing but plant but never see the results? Do not be discouraged. God has placed you just where He needs you, to be able to reach that person or a group of people to come to Him. As we talked about in our last post, “Let’s not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don’t give up.” (Galatians 6:9 WEB) Know that God has you where He can utilize your influence and talents and bring about a harvest, though you may never see the harvest. Rejoice in knowing that you had a part of the harvest.

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 the Fear of Death

Death is not something most of us don’t want to even think about. As Believers, we don’t have to fear death because Jesus has conquered it. Today’s Bible Journaling Scripture is taken from Hebrews 2:14-15, “Now since the children have flesh and blood in common, Jesus also shared in these, so that through His death He might destroy the one holding the power of death—that is, the Devil— and free those who were held in slavery all their lives by the fear of death.”

Why do we fear death? I think for some it is fear of the process of death. What will we feel? will we be aware that we are dying? will there be pain? … all of these can be sources of our fear. For those especially who do not know Jesus as Savior, it is fear of what happens to us after we die. The Bible tells us that there is life after death, the question is where will we spend that life? The Bible says that life after death is eternal. John 5:28-29 says, “Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.” (NIV) Now some may say, “Well, all I have to do is be a good person and I will live in Heaven.” But that isn’t what the Bible says. Sin separates us from fellowship with God. We all are born in sin because of Adam’s sin in the Garden and that destined us all to death. Romans 5:12 says, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned.” (CSB)

But when we put our full trust and belief in Jesus Christ, accept His sacrificial death on the cross for our sins and live for Him, we can then look forward to eternal life. Jesus is the only way to salvation and life eternal. (John 14:6) God set out a plan to save us from our sin at the very beginning. (Genesis 3:15) Jeremiah 21:8 says, “But tell this people, ‘This is what the Lord says: Look, I am setting before you the way of life and the way of death.’” (CSB) He sent Jesus to die for our sins because of His great love for us. (John 3:16) Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, anyone who hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not come under judgment but has passed from death to life.’” Therefore, we have no need to fear death. The Bible says that Jesus conquered sin, death, and the grave! Revelation 1:18 tells us, “And the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.” We have nothing to fear, Jesus has the keys and He has locked the door, never to unlock it again!

For those who fear the process, the Bible talks about death, saying that we sleep. (Daniel 12:2, Matthew 9:24, John 11:12-13, I Corinthians 15:51) It says we fall asleep here and wake up in eternity. Whether we wake in Heaven or in Hell depends on what we have decided about Jesus. We can rest in the knowledge that Jesus has conquered death and we know that He loves us and wants to take away all our fear. When we accept Jesus as Savior and Lord, we can rest, without fear of what is to come, knowing we have a Savior who loves us and has given His life for us, and has prepared the way for us. (John 14:1-3)