Cows in the Stable

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.
And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths,
lying in a manger.
Luke 2:11-112 NKJV

Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus! I linger in front of our nativity scene. The creche illustrates what transpired the day Jesus was born. I ponder what it might have been like to be present at this extraordinary event. I wonder if the animals sensed something sacred happening in their secular stable.

Jesus is, and always will be, first and foremost! However, I have enjoyed meditating upon the various animals during Advent. A donkey, a few tranquil sheep, the approaching camels, now a cow. Such a privilege for the animals to be included in welcoming Jesus.

Cows will be our final focus. Cattle are often a part of the nativity scene although they are never mentioned in the Christmas story. I think about cattle because of the Christmas carol Away in the Manger. The second verse begins, “The cattle are lowing the baby awakes, But little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.”

Lowing is defined as a deep low sound characteristic of cows. Maybe their mooing was a soothing sound to the newborn baby in the manger.

Cattle are ruminating animals – meaning they chew their cud. For cows, “to chew the cud” means to turn food over and over in the stomach in order to digest the food. For humans, “to chew the cud” refers to turning thoughts over and over in our minds.

For cows, chewing the cud breaks down the complex properties of grass and grains. For us, chewing the cud breaks down the complex meanings of scripture to gain understanding. Chewing the cud allows us to fill our minds with spiritual truth in order to better understand it, apply it, and be transformed by it. Cows munch on pastureland. We taste and see that the Lord is good. (see Psalm 34:8)

Cattle ruminate – chew over again. We meditate – contemplate, question, reflect, think.

The Psalms provide us good guidelines for meditating. Psalm 77:12 proclaims, “I will consider all Your works and meditate on all Your mighty deeds.” David declares in Psalm 145:5, “I will meditate on Your wonderful works.” He also says in Psalm 19:14, “May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in Your sight, LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.” Let us echo Psalm 104:34, “May my meditation be pleasing to Him, as I rejoice in the LORD.

Paul gives us specific things to think about that will result in positive meditation. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”

Ponder is another word for meditate. According to Luke 2:19, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.So many things for Mary to think about! Let us take time to ponder the significance of Jesus being born among animals in a stable. Maybe we should chew the cud a little more. Let us learn from the animals how to welcome Him into our hearts.

Celebrate the birth of Jesus today! Meditate upon the meaning of Christmas.

God’s Word is Alive!

The Bible. It is not simply words about God – it is the Word of God. It is not just printed ink on a bunch of pages – it is the voice of God in print. Graham Cooke says, “God’s Word is living and active. It contains divine energy, always moving and accomplishing His purposes.”

I quote numerous scriptures in most every blog I post. I use scripture verses to support what I write. Today, I want to share verses that validate the power of God’s Word.

The sum of Your word is truth [the total of the full meaning
of all Your individual precepts]; and every one
of Your righteous decrees endures forever.
Psalms 119:160 AMP

The grass withers, the flower fades,
but the word of our God will stand forever.
Isaiah 40:8 AMP

Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass.
I have purposed it; I will also do it.
Isaiah 46:11 NKJV

So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please,
And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.
Isaiah 55:11 NKJV

Then said the Lord to me, “You have seen well,
for I am alert and active, watching over My word to perform it.”
Jeremiah 1:12 AMP 

For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God
shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.
Luke 1:37 AMP

All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching,
for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness;
so that the man of God may be adequate,
equipped for every good work.
II Timothy 3:16-17

For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword,
it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;
it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
Hebrews 4:12

But the Word of the Lord (divine instruction, the Gospel) endures forever.
And this Word is the good news which was preached to you.
I Peter 1:25 AMP

Do you believe these words from the Word? According to Hebrews 6:8, it is impossible for God to lie. Romans 4:21 reminds us that Abraham was convinced that God could do whatever He promised. We can have the same confidence. II Timothy 2:13 AMP declares, “He remains true (faithful to His Word and His righteous character), for He cannot deny Himself.”

There is no doubt in my mind that God’s Word is true and powerful!

Hidden Mysteries

Have you ever found the perfect gift that you just had to buy for someone? Did you then hide the gift because it was not the right time to give it?  I think God does this with us.

It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
Proverbs 25:2
It is interesting that God hides things. Although God interacted with the people of the Old Testament, He also chose to keep some things concealed. He revealed messages through pictures and prophecies but the people did not completely understand all He was saying and doing. I sometimes wonder if God hides things from us just so we will look for them. Today, I am searching for what He has hidden.

. . . filled with the full riches of complete understanding, so that they may know the mystery of God, namely Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Colossians 2:2-3
Paul is talking about Christ being the mystery that was concealed in the Old Testament but revealed in the New Testament. He also emphasizes that there are more treasures hidden in Christ.

So was fulfilled what was spoken through the prophet: “I will open my mouth in parables, I will utter things hidden since the creation of the world.”
Matthew 13:35
Jesus taught through parables. He fulfilled the prophecy of Psalm 78:2. I will open my mouth with a parable; I will utter hidden things, things from of old.” Sometimes His parables hid meaning and other times they gave insight. Although I have read Jesus’ parables many times, the Holy Spirit continues to give me fresh perspectives. I can discover things that had previously been hidden.

there is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
Matthew 10:26

Jesus spoke these words as He sent His disciples out to “the lost sheep of Israel”. They were to reveal the Gospel’s hidden message.

I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth
John 16:12-13
Jesus is referring to the Holy Spirit. People were not ready or able to comprehend all that God still wanted to reveal. Now we have the Holy Spirit as our Helper so we can gain new understanding about God and His plans and purposes.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.”
Jeremiah 33:3
Although God has concealed things, He also desires to reveal things. He promises to tell us things we have not even thought about! When we need to hear something fresh and are able to understand more deeply, God will reveal it to us. I find this verse very encouraging.

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
Deuteronomy 29:29

Although Moses spoke these words to the Israelites, they still apply today. When God entrusts us with His revelations, it is our responsibility to share His insights with those who have not yet heard the gospel or do not understand it.

You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.
John 13:7

Jesus spoke these words to Peter while washing the disciples feet. However, I also hear Jesus saying them to us
today. The greater eternal purposes of God are beyond our comprehension. Our knowledge is limited while God’s wisdom is beyond measure.

Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.
Hebrews 11:1 NLT

“What we cannot see” can refer to our lack of ability to see intellectually as well as impaired vision of the eye. Faith does not require us to know everything perfectly. All of us have questions for God. However, we need to be content knowing that what may now be concealed will be revealed in the future.
If I knew everything about God, I would have facts not faith. Faith allows us to accept the mysteries that God keeps concealed. It allows us to accept the limits of our revelation and honor God’s secrets. Although what our eyes see is easier to understand, faith is always more challenging and exciting.

Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.
I Corinthians 13:12 NLT
It is still God’s glory to conceal some matters. As long as we seek deeper insight, God will give us
clearer understanding. The mysteries of God encourage us to grow in our faith. Personally, His mysteries keep me from becoming bored. I am not content. I always want to learn more.

God has purchased the perfect gift for each of us. He still hides the fullness of this gift. However, He gives partial revelations at the appropriate times. God is too big for us to fully understand with our finite minds. But, the day will come when we will completely know Him. What a wonderful promise! Meanwhile, what an awesome journey!

Bitter to Better


Imagine what would happen if I picked fresh fruit from a lemon tree, squeezed the lemon juice into a glass and took a big gulp. Oh-oh! My face would probably pucker. The lemony liquid would be so sour that I would have a bitter taste in my mouth. Quickly, I would add a big spoonful of sugar. Hoping for a more refreshing taste, I would take another sip. From sour to sweet. From bitter to better.

The process “from bitter to better” results in the pleasant drink of lemonade. The opposite happens for a woman in scripture. The process “from better to bitter” occurs for Naomi in the book of Ruth.

We first learn about Naomi when she and her family move from Bethlehem to Moab. While living there, her sons married Moabite women. Over time, Naomi’s husband and two sons died. Then she returned to Bethlehem with her daughter-in-law Ruth. She had no money and no male relative to provide for her. When she arrived, she requested to be called Mara. While Naomi meant pleasant, Mara meant bitter. Ruth 1:20-21 says, She said to them, ‘Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?’”

Subsequently, Ruth married a kinsman-redeemer named Boaz. According to Old Testament law, a kinsman-redeemer was a male relative who had the privilege or responsibility to act on behalf of a relative who was in trouble, danger, or need. Boaz was a kinsman who redeemed, or vindicated, the family of Naomi by marrying Ruth. He redeemed the family of the deceased Abimelech, Kilion and Mahlon.

Ruth had a son, Obed. According to custom, Naomi became the nurse of this baby boy. The women of the community exclaimed that Naomi was blessed. Ruth 4:14 says, “Praise be to the Lord, who this day has not left you without a kinsman-redeemer. May he become famous throughout Israel!”

Naomi had a grandson. She had a family heritage. Obed is listed in the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5. Any bitterness Naomi once experienced was turned into joy.

Naomi went from better to bitter – and back to better. God knew Naomi had encountered a hard life and understood why she felt like Mara. However, He added sweetness to her bitterness. He revealed a kinsman-redeemer named Boaz.

God knows we will encounter difficulties that may cause us to become bitter. God provides us with a kinsman-redeemer named Jesus. Colossians 1:13-14 says, “For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. With the help of Jesus, we can become better rather than bitter.

Romans 8:5-6 says, “For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.” There are numerous reasons why we may feel bitter. Unforgiveness can ferment within one’s heart resulting in a bitter feeling. Discouragement can settle into bitterness. Telling a lie can leave a bitter taste in one’s mouth. If we focus upon a fleshly attitude, we will become bitter. If we concentrate on the Spirit, we will become better. We become pleasant as the name Naomi implies.

Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.“All things” means everything. With God’s help, we can learn from our mistakes and become better rather than bitter. Romans 8:29 goes on to say that God uses everything that happens to conform us into the image of His Son. Jesus was never bitter while living on earth.

With God’s help, there is no good reason for us to be bitter. Romans 8:31-35 says, “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all—how will He not also, along with Him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

With God’s help, we can be better. Romans 8:37-29 tells us, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Why be bitter? We can be better when the Holy Spirit is our helper.

Although Naomi had been bitter, she changed for the better when Boaz became the kinsman-redeemer of her family. From bitter to better – from Mara to Naomi. Jesus is our savior, our kinsman-redeemer, who changes us from bitter to better. Galatians 3:13 says, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law.” Ephesians 1:7 says, “In Him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace.” (my emphasis)

II Corinthians 5:17 say, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!The new is better – no longer bitter.

Naomi’s story reveals the changes in her personality from pleasant to bitter to better caused by her circumstances. It is interesting to note that the people of Bethlehem never followed Naomi’s request to call her Mara. She is always known as Naomi throughout the book. To the people of her heritage, she was always considered pleasant. They saw her as God saw her. I am glad God intervened in her life allowing her to become the woman He wanted her to be.

We have all heard the proverbial quote, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” Naomi was given a bitter lemon. With God’s help, the sweetness of a kinsman-redeemer became part of her life. In her old age, she drank lemonade.

My Reader, what is happening for you today? Do you feel bitter? Do you want to feel better? Psalm 119: 103 says, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” Through His Word, God adds sugar to our bitter lemons. When we say yes to God, the Holy Spirit reveals His will through His Word making the bitter circumstances of our lives sweet. Drink the sweetness of His Word! Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in Him.” Be refreshed with a glass of spiritual lemonade.

ASK!


Ask, and it will be given to you;
seek, and you will find;
knock, and it will be opened to you.
For everyone who asks receives,
and he who seeks finds,
and to him who knocks it will be opened.
Matt 7:7-8

While “ask” is the first word this scripture, it is also the acronym for the three verbs:
Ask
Seek
K
nock

There is a corresponding promise for each action:
Ask and receive
Seek and find
Knock and be opened

ASK

When praying, can we ask for anything and get what we want? Can each of us be like a little child and say, “Give me, give me, give me!”? No, more is involved if we are to be confident that we will receive.

In Mark 11:24, Jesus says, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”
We must have faith in God’s ability to answer our request. We must have the kind of faith that trusts God to answer according to the way He sees best.

Jesus goes on to say in John 14:13, “And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son.”
First, we must ask in the name of Jesus. This involves more than saying “in Jesus’ name.” Joseph Prince emphasizes that when we pray “in Jesus’ name,” we acknowledge that our prayers will be answered because of what Jesus Christ has done for us – not because of who we are or what we have done.
Secondly, our Heavenly Father must be glorified. Ultimately, prayer is about what gives God glory.

SEEK

Seeking is not simply a verbal request. It’s action time. We seek God’s will by searching the scriptures. This helps us find out how to pray.

Luke 8:17 says, “For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.
There is something to seek. And, there is something to be found. God plays a game of spiritual hide and seek with us. Amazingly, He always lets us find Him.

Matthew 6:33 instructs us to “Seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
Seeking is looking. Looking for God’s kingdom. We are not only to seek health or wealth. We are to seek God’s will. He has a unique plan for each of us. Unless we seek to know His kingdom plan, we may ask incorrectly.

David says in Psalm 27:8, “My heart says of you, “Seek his face!” Your face, LORD, I will seek.
To grow in our relationship with the Lord, we must seek Him rather than just what His hands can do for us.

KNOCK

Knocking is more than tapping on a door. It is a repeated pounding. When we are confident in what we ask and seek, we will knock tenaciously until the Lord answers. Knocking implies that we believe God has better and deeper things yet to be acquired.

In James 1:6 we are told, “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt.”
I associate knocking with believing while tapping reflects doubting. Knocking is persistent.

Jesus says in 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.”
If we have answered Jesus’ knock at our heart’s door. If we have invited Him into our life. Then, He will answer our prayerful knock upon the door of His throne room. Our answer may be just behind a door.

ASK – SEEK – KNOCK

The parable of The Lost Coin in Luke 15:8-10 is a good example of asking, seeking and knocking. The woman knocked on her neighbors’ doors asking them to help her seek her lost coin. Her need, or her prayer, was answered – the lost was found.

Jeremiah 29:12-14 is another inclusive scripture. “Then you will call upon Me (ask) and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search (knock) for Me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the LORD.”

Thank you, Lord, that we can ask and receive – seek and find – knock and have it opened!