End the Year with Gideon

 

colored-candlesHow do I describe the month of December? Busy! A good busy, but busy. Now it is time for me to take time to reflect upon not only the past few weeks but the whole year in general. Listen to the message of the quote below taken from the December 24 entry of Streams in the Desert by L. B. Cowman.

Yet our time is never more profitably spent
than when we set aside time for quiet meditation,
talking with God, and looking up to heaven.”

When I first read these words, I was too busy to do what was suggested. I know it would have been to my benefit to sit by the manger and look into the eyes of Jesus, the baby who became my Savior, but I did not choose to tarry in His presence. Now at the end of the year, I want to accept the challenge of setting aside time for quiet meditation. And, My Reader, I challenge you to do the same.

spread yourself like Gideon’s fleece,
allowing itself to be soaked with the moisture of the dew of heaven.
We should have intervals of time when we do nothing, think nothing,
and plan nothing but simply lie on the green lap of nature and “rest awhile.”

These words are also from December 24th reading in Streams in the Desert. I like the image of my lying down and soaking in the presence of God. After all the commotion of Christmas, I tend to have a feeling of spiritual dryness regarding some aspects of my life. The dew of heaven is very appealing! I want to drink in the Lord’s nearness. I desire to sit in the lap of my Lord. I open my Bible to the story of Gideon.

Then Gideon said to God, “If You will save Israel
by my hand as You have promised –
look, I will place a wool fleece on the threshing floor.
If there is dew only on the fleece and all the ground is dry,
then will I know that You will save Israel by my hand, as You said.”
And that is what happened. Gideon arose early the next day;
he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a bowl full of water.
Then Gideon said to God, “Do not be angry with me.
Let me make just one more request. Allow me one more test
with the fleece. This time make the fleece dry and the ground
covered with dew.” That night God did so. Only the fleece was dry;
all the ground was covered with dew.
Judges 6:36-40

Commentators have criticized Gideon for testing God, but that is not my focus today. I want to think about what happened for Gideon with his fleece. I reread some handwritten notes in my Bible that suggested the fleece represented Gideon himself. When the fleece was wet, it promised Gideon that he would be filled with the Holy Spirit who would empower him to fulfill the task the Lord was asking of him. When the fleece was dry, it assured Gideon that even though he felt dry, God could and would still use him. The message for me today is that even though I feel tired and dry at the end of 2016, if I will bring myself before the Lord, I will experience the presence and power of His Spirit. He is just waiting for me to lie down in His green pastures in order to be refreshed with His quiet water. (see Psalm 23:2)

“Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”
Mark 6:31

This is how I want to end the year of 2016. I want to take time to be alone with Jesus in a restful quiet place. Judges 6:24 tells how Gideon had made an altar to the Lord and had called it “The Lord is Peace.” I find it interesting that Gideon knew God as his source of peace before he made his petition to the Lord regarding the dryness and wetness of the fleece in Judges 6:36-40. He may have needed this extra reassurance of a sign from the Lord as to how God worked in his life. Maybe he had been busy working on the threshing floor and needed a touch from the Lord before he began his next assignment. Maybe he needed an additional anointing. I have been reading the words “Peace on Earth” on Christmas cards and singing about it through the words of the traditional Christmas carols. However, I have not been experiencing the peace that passes understanding to its fullest extent. I, like Gideon, need a fresh anointing.

My Reader, how are you feeling today? Are you still too caught up in the busyness of Christmas celebrations? I pray you will find a quiet place and take time to drink in some of the dew of heaven. Let the Holy Spirit fill you with His presence so that you will be able to spend your time more profitably in 2017.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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The Gift

christmas-giftnativity

Gift giving has become very commercialized in our society today. However, I like to think that when I give a Christmas gift, I am following the example of God who first gave a gift. His gift is revealed in Romans 6:23, “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” John 3:16 explains why He gave us a gift by saying, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” The first Christmas gift was Jesus when He was born in a stable in Bethlehem!

Through this gift, Jesus set the example of being born. His birth was unique because His birth was from spiritual life to human life. Jesus was not just born, He was born again into a more limited life. Physical life was a new or second nature for Jesus. In contrast, we also need to be born again but for us it is from limited physical life to eternal spiritual life. We gain a second nature when our spirit is born again allowing us to become like Christ. Through this new life we receive the gift of eternal life. In John 3:6-7 Jesus says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’” In II Corinthians 5:17 Paul says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here.” When Jesus came to earth as a baby born to Mary, He became a human being. Max Lucado says, “He became like us so we could become like Him!”

Jonathan Cahn says in The Harbinger Companion with Study Guide says, “Every heartbeat is a gift from God.” I like to think about this concept that every time my heart beats, it a gift I am receiving from God. This is the gift of life in its simplest form. As I listen to the sound of my heart beat, I hear Jesus repeating Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.” I imagine every beat of my heart as a knock of Jesus at the door of my life. I cannot live without Him. I do not want to live without Him. He is the greatest gift I could ever receive.

In the December 2015 issue of Guideposts, Pope Francis is quoted as saying, “God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If He gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it.” God gave us the gift of Jesus and now we have the choice of whether or not we receive this gift. My desire this Christmas season is to receive the gift of Jesus more fully and understand Him more deeply. Jesus says in John 10:10, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Whether it be a gift from God or a gift I give, the person receiving the gift has the option of accepting or rejecting it. When I give a gift to someone, it is my hope that they will unwrap it, use it, and enjoy it. God has the same desire for the gift He has given.

My Reader, I pray that you will accept the gift God gives you this Christmas and that you utilize His gift every day of your life.

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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Detours and Destinations of Dreams

dreamdetourdestinationbaby-jesusIn Matthew’s account of the birth of Jesus, we learn about destinations and detours through the dreams of Joseph and the Magi.

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to
Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And
Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send
her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold,
an angel of the Lord appeared
to him in a dream
, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife;
for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. “She will bear a Son; and
you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took
place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN
SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS
NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.” And
Joseph awoke from
his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him,
and took Mary
as his wife, but
kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
Matthew 1:18-25*

DREAM at night led to DETOUR in the morning! When Joseph first learned that Mary had conceived a baby, he conceived a plan of his own. He developed a detour regarding how he would secretly send Mary away. However, an angel told him in a dream not to be afraid to take her as his wife because the child she was carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit. A detour of a detour took him back to his original DESTINATION or intention with Mary. It is a credit to Joseph that he obeyed the angel in his dream.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the
east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we
saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” . . .
After hearing the king, they went
their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and
stood over
the place
where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly
with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they
fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him
gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream
not to
return to Herod,
the magi left for their own country by another way
.
Matthew 2:1-12*

Moving on to the second chapter of Matthew, we read about the journey of the Magi to a find the Messiah. For at least two years these men had been following a star that was leading them to Jesus. Although they were following a star rather than a dream, I see their act of obedience to divine direction as being similar to Joseph’s response to a dream. The star had been a reliable GPS leading them to their destination of the Christ child. After their visit to Bethlehem, they expected to retrace their steps home. DETOUR! An angel warned them in a DREAM to travel a different route to return to their original DESTINATION. Like Joseph, the Magi were obedient to directions given to them in a dream.

Now when they (the Magi) had gone, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in
a dream
and said, “Get up! Take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and remain
there until I tell you; for Herod is going to search for the Child to destroy Him.
So Joseph
got up and took the Child and His mother
while it was still night
, and left for Egypt.
He remained there until the death of Herod. This was
to fulfill what had been spoken by
the
Lord through the prophet: “OUT OF EGYPT I CALLED MY SON.”
Matthew 2:13-15*

Now we read the next two verses of Matthew 2. Here is another destination that appeared to be a DETOUR revealed through a DREAM. Once again an angel appeared to Joseph and this time told him to take his little family to Egypt, another DESTINATION, for the safety of Jesus. Joseph’s response to the dream’s directive was immediate. He did not even wait until morning to follow the demand of the angel.

But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt,
and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother, and go into the land of Israel; for those who
sought the Child’s life are dead.” So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came
into the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his
father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Then after being warned by God in a dream, he left for
the regions of Galilee, and came and lived in a city called Nazareth. This was to fulfill what was
spoken through the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Matthew 2:19-23* 

Another DREAM about a DETOUR with directions to another DESTINATION. After Herod died, an angel directed Joseph to take Mary and Jesus to Israel. Finally Joseph would return to Nazareth in Galilee, the location from which he and Mary began their journey. Joseph’s obedience to the Lord’s directions led him to his desired destination of home.

While both Joseph and the Magi may have thought their DREAMS resulted in DETOURS, in reality they were being obedient to the Lord regarding their DESTINATIONS. They were being used to help fulfill prophecies about the Messiah. Each time God spoke to Joseph and the Magi, it was for their good and the attainment of the greater eternal purposes of God for His Son Jesus. We may not have dreams like Joseph and Magi, or maybe we will. If God does give us a DREAM, He will have a special DESTINATION in mind; and it would not be a DETOUR from His perspective. It will always be to our best interest to heed His direction. We can never discount the way the Lord wants to direct our lives. He may have detours mapped out for our lives. Obedience should always be our response to DREAMS and DETOURS in order for us to reach the proper DESTINATIONS.

My Reader, what about you? Are you so determined about your DESTINATION that you are unable to capture a DREAM if God is directing you on a DETOUR?

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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*Highlighted phrases found in the quoted scriptures are the choice of the author.

 

Revealed as Child and Son

nativity-wood-pd-so-linkWhile decorating for Christmas today, I set up our nativity scene. As I held the baby Jesus in my hands, I asked myself, “Who does this hand carved baby truly symbolize?” I took time to delve into scripture to answer my question.

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor,
Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:6

This complete verse is an amazing answer to my question, but I want to focus upon two simple words within the verse: CHILD and SON.

The first fact Isaiah points out is that the One who is born is a child. This is a generic description of a human baby. This fact does not distinguish Jesus from any other baby who is given life. He is an infant who requires all of his needs to be fulfilled by another human being, most likely his mother or father. He cries when he is hungry or needs to have his diaper changed. He fills a special place in the arms of his mother who lovingly holds him.

The next word tells me that Jesus is a son. Here is the first specific thing I learn about this child. He is a boy, not a girl. Back in Bible times, a son was given higher status in the family than a daughter. A father took great pride in a boy who would carry on the lineage and heritage of his family.

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you,
and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.
So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”
Luke 1:35

We learn a little more about this baby boy born to Mary in the gospel of Luke. This time period in history was before ultrasound technology that allows us to know the sex of the baby before the actual birth. Yet, Mary knew she would have a boy because of the words spoken to her by an angel. She also learned that her baby would be the Son of God rather than the son with a human biological father. The wooden figurine that I hold in my hand represents a unique baby unlike any other baby ever born or conceived. He is God’s Son!

And suddenly a voice came from heaven saying,
This My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”
Matthew 3:17

When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, these are the words proclaimed by God stating that Jesus was not only His Son, but His beloved Son. God loved His Son and was pleased with Him. As I place the hand carved piece of wood shaped like a baby into our nativity scene, these scriptures from Luke and Matthew assure me that Mary and God are the mother and father of this special child, Son of Man and Son of God. It is incredible for me to think about Mary holding God in her arms.

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.
John 3:16 NKJV

I want to think a little more about the description of Jesus being God’s begotten son. Begotten comes from the Greek work “monogenes” that distinguishes Jesus as being uniquely God’s Son. Jesus has the same divine nature as God.  In contrast, we as believers are God’s sons and daughters by adoption according to Ephesians 1:5 NLT, “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” From this perspective, I can say that Jesus is God’s “one and only” Son. However, God not only loved Jesus, but He loves all the people of the world. He loves us so much that He allowed Jesus, whom He loved, to die so that we might live eternally. Each one of us can be a child of Our Heavenly Father, whether born physically as a boy or a girl. In a sense, the baby Jesus who I place in the manger of our nativity represents the potential for each of us to be in that manger as well.

I like the following quote from an article I read online at gotQuestions?org, “The bottom line is that terms such as “Father” and “Son,” descriptive of God and Jesus, are human terms that help us understand the relationship between the different Persons of the Trinity. If you can understand the relationship between a human father and a human son, then you can understand, in part, the relationship between the First and Second Persons of the Trinity.” This helps me to comprehend who is portrayed by the figurine of Jesus within our crèche.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you;
he is the Messiah, the Lord.
Luke 2:11

Here is another description of the carved wooden baby that I fingered with my hands earlier today. It amazes me to think about Mary holding God in her arms! It is incredible that God would plan for His beloved, begotten Son to be born as Son of God and Son of Man and for Him to then die so we could be born again to new life in Christ. He is God’s Son whom God the Father gave to all humans on earth as a gift. His magnitude is beyond any figure depicted within our nativity scene. My Reader, please do not limit Jesus to just being a baby whose birth we celebrate at Christmas!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
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