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.

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 to Choose

As we’ve looked at the subject of freedom in Christ, we have learned about justification, sanctification, and now we look at glorification. Our Bible Journaling Scripture for today is Philippians 3:20-21, “But our citizenship is in Heaven, and we eagerly wait for a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of His glorious body, by the power that enables Him to subject everything to Himself.” (CSB)

So far, we have learned that justification is “the act of being declared righteous in God’s sight.” We have learned that sanctification means “to be made holy”. This is a process; it is a life-long journey. Now we look at glorification, which is defined as, “God’s final removal of sin from the life of the saints (through salvation). When Jesus comes back to take the Believer to Heaven with Him, “we will be changed from mortal to holy immortal with direct access to God’s presence.” (taken from http://www.gotquestions.org)

God did not create us to be mere automatons. He gave us the ability to choose the path we want to go. We alone decide whether to accept Jesus as our Savior or to reject Him. When we ask Jesus to be our Lord and Savior, God provides the final removal of our sins because of what Jesus has done for us. Unlike the angels, who were created to worship God entirely, we have a choice. We choose to love Him; we choose to follow His will and His purpose for us. We have a choice!

My first husband was into robots. In fact, he was so enamored by them that he made a couple of them. The last one was almost 6 feet tall and it walked, talked, and moved its arms. We named him Ottomation. But Otto couldn’t do any of those things without my husband rigging up a control panel for him to move and by providing the voice for Otto. The robot couldn’t do anything unless my husband made it do what he wanted it to do. Otto was a robot and could only do what he was programmed to do. God did not want mindless robots who were programmed only to do His bidding. He wanted His people to have the free will to be able to choose whether they would love, honor, obey, and worship Him.

The first test of this was in the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3) God had only one rule for Adam and Eve, they were not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. They failed the test miserably, and because of that, sin entered the world and we have been dealing with it ever since. Because of Adam’s sin, each of us was born in sin. In order to restore the relationship between God and us, we must accept Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for our sins. (John 3:3, John 3:16-17, Acts 2:21, 4:12) God does not beat us over the head, demanding that we follow Jesus, but He lovingly offers us a way of escape from the penalty of sin (Romans 6:23) through Christ’s death on the cross.

Once we have accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, we are promised eternal life with Him, free from all the hindrances we face now. God accepts our repentance, we receive His grace, and we can then live a life full of peace and joy and have the knowledge that God loves us and provides eternal life for us. We are promised that we will have a glorified body, like Jesus, and we will be in God’s presence face to face. The choice is ours. The question remains, “What will you do with Jesus?” I hope that if you haven’t asked Christ into your life, that today you will choose to accept Him as your Lord and Savior. It will be the best decision you will have ever made.

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.

Clinging to God Brings Life

Our relationship with God is determined by how close we are to Him. In today’s Bible Journaling, God says we are to cling to Him because this is our life. Deuteronomy 30:19-20 says, “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants, by loving the Lord your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them.” (NASB) Our life comes from God, physically and spiritually. In order to receive the blessings of God, we must choose the pathway He has laid out for us and we must be obedient to His Word.

In Hebrew the word “L’Chaim” means “to life”. This is a common toast given at Jewish weddings. It is a blessing upon the new couple for a long and happy life. In our Scripture today God is encouraging Israel to turn from their rebellion by being obedient to Him, and walking closely to Him, thereby choosing the life God gives over the death that disobedience and rebellion brings. Israel had been contentious from the moment they came out of Egypt. They were always complaining, going against everything the Lord had directed them to do, and because of their disobedience, a whole generation were kept out of the Promised Land. Israel continued, even after being in the Promised Land, to rebel and follow the idols of other nations. This brought about judgement upon them. God had to punish their disobedience. However, He promised restoration if they chose to follow Him and live the life He laid down for them. He had given them the law by which they were to follow. If they chose to follow Him closely, life was theirs, if not then they would receive curses.

It is the same for us as Believers. God desires a close relationship with us, and He wants us to stay close to His side, live holy and pure lives, offering our last ounce of devotion and love to Him. By walking in the pathway He has for us, we receive eternal life. Blessings will be ours; a life of peace and joy will be our reward. By accepting Jesus as our Savior, and promising and endeavoring to live holy lives, we are guaranteed salvation and a life in eternity in Heaven with Him.

We must remember also that our lives are a shining example of the work God has done in our hearts. When we live pure, holy, and clean lives before the world and love God with all our heart, it is a testament of what Jesus has done for us. Our obedience brings a light that shines, reflecting Jesus’ light in us, and directs them toward God. When we live lives that are so radically different from the world, it becomes a beacon. Just as a lighthouse gives out light to keep ships safe in the harbor, the light of Jesus directs the world to a safe harbor into the arms of God and life.

When we read our Bibles in daily study and quiet time, pray, gather with fellow Believers, follow the instruction given in His word, and show love to others, we are choosing life over death and blessing over curses. Not only do we benefit from obedience to God, but so do those around us. They see how our obedience to Him affects our lives and it makes them desire what it is we have. We witness to others with our lives. The adage, “witness to others and when necessary use words” is so appropriate and true. Our lives are an open testimony of what God has done in us. Love God, live in obedience, and show His love to others. That is how we win this world for Jesus and receive life!

God Provides

 

Today’s Bible Journaling comes from Acts 17:24-25, “The God who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands; nor is He served by human hands as though He needed anything, since He Himself gives to all people life and breath and all things.” (NASB) As we continue to look at God’s provision for us, today’s Scripture reminds us that it is God who gives us all things, even our breath and life!

This passage comes from Paul’s sermon on Mars Hill in Athens, Greece. The Greeks worshipped many gods, and were, as Paul states, “very religious” (verse 22). They erected altars to all the gods they worshipped, including one to “AN UNKNOWN GOD”. Paul preaches to them and explains just who that UNKNOWN GOD is. The climate in that day was full of idols and as Paul was teaching about God and His love for us, the philosophers of the day became curious and encouraged Paul to teach them about the One True God. He explained that it was God who created heaven, earth, and us, and provided life and breath to us. It is to Him we must worship! It was God who sent His Son, Jesus Christ, to be the sacrifice for our sins, who died, was buried, and rose again, and it is through His shed blood that we are forgiven.

Sometimes, I think we lose track of the fact that our very life is because of God’s love for us. He created us, He loves us, and He wants us to live lives that are fruitful, full, rich, and blessed. He provides everything we have, right down to the very air we breathe. He loves us so much that He provided a way of escape from our sins, and a pathway for eternal life. For that I am eternally grateful!

When we come to those times when we begin to worry and fret over our needs, God reminds us in His Word. Jesus Himself told His disciples, “Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ’What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.” (Matthew 6:31-32 ESV) Jesus states that God, the Father, already knows what we need, and He provides those things for us.

Why do we worry so? Why don’t we rest in the knowledge that God knows our needs and He will provide? I think it is because of our impatience sometimes. We want it now, not tomorrow, not next year, but now! How like a 2-year old throwing a temper tantrum we can become! It is during those times of waiting on God’s provision that we must learn to trust His plan and His purpose for our lives. Circumstances may not be in place for the thing that we desire to come to pass. Maybe we are not able to handle what it is that we ask for, even though God wants to give it to us. Sometimes, when other people are involved, it could be that they are not in a place they need to be for the provision to come about. The song, “While I’m Waiting” by John Waller, comes to mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i6X71sXagUY

As you listen to the song, think about what it is that you are waiting for from God. If you are impatient in waiting for God’s provision, ask Him to help you wait. If it seems like God’s provision isn’t coming anytime soon, do as the song states, “worship while I wait.” You will find that He is faithful. Philippians 1:6 says, “I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (CSB) That includes His provision for you.