We Quit – God Doesn’t

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Earlier today, the Lord led me to several scriptures that may not necessarily be correlated. However, the Holy Spirit connected them for me. Please give me a few liberties with what I share today.

I began reading II Kings 4:1-7. This is the story of the widow who possessed only a little oil. Elijah instructed her to collect jars from her neighbors. Then she began pouring her oil into the containers. The oil never ran out until she ran out of empty jars.
Could the widow pouring oil into containers be symbolic of my pouring out prayers to the Lord?

 Next I read Psalm 56:8 NLT that tells about the Lord collecting tears in His bottle.
My prayers are often cried out to the Lord in tears.
Can I make the analogy of God keeping my prayers in a bottle? 

Finally, I read Revelation 5:8 that says golden bowls are full of incense – with prayers being the incense. Angels present these bowls to Jesus in the throne room of heaven.
I wonder if Jesus responds to my prayers by pouring out His answers to me from similar golden bowls.

Putting these three scriptures together, this is what I envision:
All my prayers are kept in God’s bottle with my name upon it. At the appropriate time, Jesus tips the bowls of prayers. He pours out His answers in my direction. The number of prayers answered depends upon the number of prayers I have prayed (how many bottles I have filled).

If this is true, why does it appear that not all of my prayers are answered?

It certainly is not because of God’s inability. Luke 1:37 NKJV says, “For with God nothing will be impossible.” It must be me. The Lord declares in Isaiah 55:8, “My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways.”

Sometimes I quit praying before God answers.

I am reminded of Zachariah and Elizabeth’s experience. They prayed and prayed for a child. No baby was conceived. Finally, they decided their prayers would not be answered as they desired. They were too old. They quit praying.

They gave up, but God did not.

Reading Luke 1:5-25, I find out what happened.
While Zachariah was serving in the temple, the angel Gabriel announced that Elizabeth would bear a son named John. Zachariah couldn’t believe it! How? Why at this time?

Scripture says that Zachariah and Elizabeth were “upright in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commandments and regulations blamelessly.” (see Luke 1:6) I believe God wanted to entrust them with a particular infant who would grow to be a man with a message.

God foreknew that He would send His Son, Jesus, to live as a human on earth. Part of His strategy included another man, John the Baptist, who would prepare the way for His Son. Two baby boys had to be born during the same historical time period. God did not answer Zachariah and Elizabeth’s prayer earlier because they were to be the parents of John the Baptist.

Although Zachariah and Elizabeth may not have been faithful to continue to pray their petitions, God was still faithful to answer their previous prayers. God had the answer in His hands, ready to be released at the appropriate time.

I love this concept! God answers prayers we no longer pray.

God collects our prayers in a bottle. They are as sweet as incense to Him. God has no limit to the number of bottles He will fill. Our part is to keep pouring out our prayers to Him. At the appropriate time, He will pour out His answers – answers that will glorify God and be for our good.

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Two Applications of TLC

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TLC – the abbreviation for Tender Loving Care. TLC – the first letters of each word for The Lost Coin parable. Is there a correlation between these two definitions of TLC? Let me share this parable with you and then make a few comments.

Or what woman, if she has ten silver coins and loses one coin,
does not light a lamp and sweep the house and search carefully
until she finds it? “When she has found it, she calls together
her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have
found the coin which I had lost!’ “In the same way, I tell you,
there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one
sinne
r who repents.”
Luke 15:8-10

The woman does three things after losing her valuable coin: (1) Lights a lamp. (2) Sweeps her house. (3) Searches for the coin carefully. With each action, she hopes to find what she has lost. Success! She then invites her friends and neighbors to celebrate with her. I see myself in this parable from two different perspectives.

I am Like the Coin

I am the lost coin. The woman symbolizes Jesus. In the parable, the coin was probably lost because it slipped from the woman’s hands and rolled away. If I do not cling to the hand of Jesus, it is easy for me to stray and become lost. However, I am priceless to Jesus. I am worth more than any coin’s monetary value. Jesus cherishes me. How does He search for me?

First, Jesus not only lights a lamp but He is the light Himself. In John 8:12 Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.” He is the brightest light that shines throughout the world. He can find me wherever I go.

Secondly, He symbolically sweeps the floor, or foundation, of my life. Dirt symbolizes sin. James 2:21 says, “Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” Then John 1:1 declares, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Putting these two scriptures together, I learn that I can get rid of the filth and dirt in my life by allowing Jesus to sweep away my sin.

Thirdly, Jesus is constantly searching and seeking not only for me but for everyone who is lost. Luke 19:10 declares, “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

I am Like the Woman

Another way for me to look at this parable is to put myself in the position of the woman who lost the coin. This time, people lost in sin represent the lost coin. Do I consider lost lives valuable enough to ask Jesus to help seek them? Does my life exemplify Jesus to those with whom I interact?

First, I must light my lamp. Matthew 5:16 encourages me to be a witness to the lost. Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.”

Next, I need to think about sweeping the floor. I do not do anyone a favor if I allow others to sweep the dirt or their sin into a corner. The Psalmist asks in Psalm 94:16, “Who will rise up for me against the wicked? Who will take a stand for me against evildoers?” And James 5:20 says, “Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins.”

Last, I must be diligent to search. Paul says in II Corinthians 5:20 NLT, “So we are Christ’s ambassadors; God is making His appeal through us. We speak for Christ when we plead, ‘Come back to God!’” When searching for those stuck in the muck in sin, I am a witness for Christ. I encourage the lost to come to Him. Everyone is valuable to the Lord. He seeks our help to seek and find those who are lost.

From Jesus’ viewpoint, I am a valuable coin. Jesus also wants to use me as a woman who searches for what is lost. Both perspectives are valid.

Thank you, Lord, for TLC! The parable of The Lost Coin is a perfect example of your Tender Loving Care!

 

No Messy Manger for the Magi

 

While packing away our nativity scene for another year, I reminisce about the significance of each figure. I hold the Magi, or Wise Men, a little longer because I have not blogged about them in the past weeks. I must take time to ponder and print a few words about these men before this season is complete.

According to the Christian calendar, Saturday, January 6, 2018, is the church festival of Epiphany which commemorates the Magi coming to see Jesus. This was the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles because the Magi were not men of Jewish background.

Little is known about these mysterious Magi except that they were seeking a specific baby. Matthew 2:1-12 is the only scriptural account. For an extended time, these men determinedly followed a star. I think they would have visited a messy manger if God’s star had led them to that location. However, we can assume that they were still traveling when Jesus was born in the messy manger. Some say it possibly was as long as two years before the Magi found Jesus. Maybe these Magi represent those who are still traveling the road of life looking for Jesus today.

Although not historically accurate, these men have sometimes been referred to as kings. (Maybe because of the Christmas carol We Three Kings.) Chuck Missler has said that over time the truth and traditions about these men have been embellished. By the third century, the Magi were viewed as kings. I wonder if this perspective has anything to do with the fact that the day is coming when Jesus reigns as King of kings. (See Revelation 19:16) Missler has also written that these ancient men were part of the hereditary priesthood of the Medes. They were known for having profound and extraordinary religious knowledge. Here is another correlation – Jesus becomes the great high priest. (See Hebrews 6:20) If we associate kings and priests with the Magi, maybe we are types of Magi because Revelation 1:6 NKJV says, “(Jesus) has made us kings and priests to God his Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever!”

The Wise Men may not have been totally wise about whom they were seeking. They simply expected to find the one born king of the Jews by following a star. These men even stopped in Jerusalem to ask Herod what he knew about the baby. (see Matthew 2:2) While the Wise Men were not necessarily looking for an infant king in a castle’s cradle, neither were they expecting to find him in a messy manger. They just wanted to find Jesus! Matthew 7:7 says, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Although the Wise Men may not have been wise in every respect, they were wise enough to seek him. There is truth in the quote, “Wise men still seek Him.” Today, Jesus wants us to seek and to find Him.

John 1:11 says, “He (Jesus) came to that which was His own (the Jewish people), but His own did not receive Him.” John MacArthur points out that the Magi were “God-fearing, seeking Gentiles.” They followed a star that led them to the Messiah they had heard about since the days of Daniel. Through scripture, we know that Jesus came first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. (See Romans 1:16) In a previous post, “Messy Shepherds at a Messy Manger,”  I noted that shepherds were the first to visit Jesus when he was born in a messy manger. They were of Jewish lineage. Significantly later, the Magi worshiped Jesus –  they were Gentiles. According to Romans 14:11, every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord – that includes both Jews and Gentiles. Matthew 2:11 says, “On coming to the house, they (the Magi) saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him.”

The word “epiphany” originated in the Greek language and means “manifestation.” The worshiping Magi portray the picture of Epiphany because this season of the church celebrates the appearance or “manifestation” of a divine being, namely Jesus. However, an epiphany can also be defined as a sudden perception or revelation. In others words, a new understanding is “manifested.” Each of us encounters our own epiphanies when we come to illuminating discoveries or realizations. An enlightening fact of faith is an example of an epiphany. Or, it might be a moment when we become increasingly aware of Jesus’ presence. Since it is the beginning of the new year of 2018, now is a good opportunity for each of us to set the goal of becoming more receptive to personal epiphanies. May our epiphanies cause us to bow down and worship our Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 

Manger to Mansion for Me

Christmas is past but our house is still a mess because of our celebration. Consequently, I continue to think about the messy manger. What a mess! Messy manger – messy world – messy house – is there a “messy me” as well?

Throughout Advent, we unpacked how Jesus was born in a messy manger. We came to the conclusion that He is not uncomfortable in our messy hearts or the messy world today. However, Jesus does not leave us in a mess. Philippians 3:20a assures us, “Our citizenship is in heaven.” Yet, there is a preparation process. Acts 3:19 tells us to, “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” Another verse to consider is I Thessalonians 3:13, “May He strengthen your hearts so that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all His holy ones.” When Jesus returns, whether our hearts are messy or cleaned up will determine where we will spend eternity. Listen to what Jesus says about His coming again in Revelation 22:12, “Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.”

As a young girl, I heard a fictional story of a little boy who reminisced on Christmas night about the joy of celebrating the holiday. At the end, the boy said, “Now I have to wait 365 days to celebrate Christmas again!” According to the calendar, this is true. However, Christmas is more than one day of festivities. While Christmas is a celebration of the first coming of Jesus to earth as a baby, He promises to come again. No one knows the time when He will return – it may be tomorrow or it may be in another 365 days or it may be more years than we can comprehend. Luke 12:40 informs us, “You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

While living on earth, Jesus promised in John 14:2-3, “In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. When Jesus first came to earth, we gave Him a messy manger. Now, He is preparing a majestic mansion for us in heaven. What a contrast! When I refer to the manger of Jesus, I am speaking of the natural world, but when I refer to the mansion Jesus is preparing, I am speaking of the spiritual world. Continuing with this comparison, we can say that Jesus experienced a natural birth to make it possible for us to be spiritually born again. In John 3:3 NLT Jesus emphasizes, “I tell you the truth, unless you are born again, you cannot see the Kingdom of God” John 3:16 clearly states, “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.” When our spirits are born again, we are assured of eternal life. Today, we are waiting for Him to come again to earth to take us to His spiritual mansion. In summary, we can say that Jesus humbled himself when He came to earth and lived in a temporal home as a human being so that we can be lifted up into the mansion He prepares as our eternal home. John tells us in Revelation 21:3-5, “And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.’ And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’”

When Jesus was born as a baby, most people missed His coming. As far as we know, many residents of Bethlehem were oblivious to His birth. However, when He comes again no one will miss Him. Luke 21:27 says, “they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” And, within Revelation 1:7 we are told,”… every eye will see Him….” During December we have taken time to prepare for Christmas. Now as we near the beginning of a new year, may we take time to prepare our hearts for Jesus’ second coming. Let’s clean up our messy mangers. We do not want to miss His return!

Messy Shepherds at a Messy Manger

Each day we are 24 hours closer to celebrating the birth of Christ. Although things are still a little messy around our house with Christmas preparations, I still need to take time to prepare my heart for the holidays. Once again, I stop to examine the figures of our nativity scene. Today my attention is drawn to the wooden shepherd. According to the scriptures, the shepherds were in a nearby field taking care of their sheep that starry night when Jesus was born. Suddenly, an angel personally delivered to them the birth announcement of the Savior of the world! They immediately decided to go see this baby. What a glorious birthing party they attended when they arrived at the stable in Bethlehem where they found Joseph, Mary, and baby Jesus! (See Luke 2:8-20)

The shepherds did not bother to change clothes before they searched for this baby boy. They were dirty sheep tenders who lived in the open fields with their sheep. Currently, however, they were more concerned about finding the infant than they were about their appearance. It was probably natural for them to begin their quest for this little one in a stable since they were shepherds. Well, I guess they did have help from an angel. The messy manger was a location where the shepherds were comfortable.

I notice that when the shepherds went to Bethlehem, they left their sheep in the fields. Did they realize they were going to welcome the Lamb of God to this earth? (see John 1:29) Was this newborn babe worthy of a higher priority than taking care of their flock of sheep? Why would the Lamb of God be in a messy stable?

Although the shepherds had little knowledge about the infant who was introduced to them as the Savior Christ the Lord, I wonder if they felt a prophetic kinship with him. When they saw him, did they comprehend who he would become? Let us fast forward about 30 years when Jesus compares his life to that of a shepherd in John 10. In verses 1-6, Jesus shares about how sheep recognize the voice of their shepherd while they do not respond to the call of a hired hand. In verses 7-10, Jesus describes himself as the gate for sheep and in verses 11-18, he reveals himself as the good shepherd. Wow! When the shepherds visited Jesus, he was a baby in a manger. As a man, he became the Good Shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep. What a future for the infant born in a manger!

The messy shepherds were comfortable around the Christ child because they found him in a messy manger. Today, Jesus is comfortable with our messy lives because He experienced a messy manger. According to John 1:29, He is the Lamb of God who takes away our sins, the messiness of our lives. Jesus is also the Good Shepherd who wants to take care of us and guide us so we will not get into more messes. Psalm 23 portrays an excellent example of a shepherd’s job physically and spiritually.

In conclusion, messy shepherds came just as they were, and that is how Jesus wants us to come to Him. I am reminded of the hymn Just As I Am with lyrics by Charlotte Elliott. Please join me in singing or reciting the first two verses of this hymn. It is a good way for us to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ birth.

Just as I am, without one plea,
But that Thy blood was shed for me,
And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,
O Lamb of God, I come! I come!

Just as I am, and waiting not
To rid my soul of one dark blot;
To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot,
O Lamb of God, I come, I come!

Mary and the Messy Manger

As I survey my surroundings, I am aware of Christmas stuff scattered around our home.  While listening to the news reports, I hear of turmoil throughout the world.  Wherever I turn, there is another mess.  I pick up the hand-carved figure of Mary in our nativity scene and realize there were some messy situations in her life as well.  

I wonder what thoughts went through Mary’s mind that night when Christ was born. Most likely, she expected the birth of her first child to take place in a warm, cozy room. She may have imagined herself being surrounded by family and relatives in her hometown of Nazareth. I am quite sure she did not expect her newborn’s cradle to be a feeding trough shared with a cow! After all, who would choose a messy manger in the little town of Bethlehem for the birth of a baby? The answer – God. As Heavenly Father, God chose a messy manger for the birth of His Son! Mary’s perception was interrupted by the Lord’s plans and purposes. God did not do things predictably over 2000 years ago, and He still often does not do things as we expect.

Our Heavenly Father has plans and purposes for each of us as His kids. However, His plans for Jesus, His only begotten Son, were special. (see Jeremiah 29:11 and John 3:16) Being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of Mary, Jesus came to earth not only to live but to die. He died so that we can be born again. (See John 3:3) Jesus relinquished His position beside His Heavenly Father to be born into the world’s messy manger and 33 years later to die for us. Although our lives may look like messy mangers, we are given the opportunity to die to ourselves and be born again. Then we receive the gift of eternal life. The sacred cycle of life and death occurs both physically and spiritually.

While holding the figure of Mary in my hands, I meditate upon the fact that Mary was privileged to hold God in her hands. She was the mom of Jesus. She was the first person to give God in the flesh a hug. Mary experienced a miracle firsthand!

The night of Jesus’ birth, Mary held him in her arms. In a few weeks, Jesus grasped Mary’s finger in response to her holding his little hand. I am reminded of how a person can wrap someone around their little finger. It is possible for a person to gain control over another individual and make that person do whatever one wishes. Although Christ desires to have preeminence in our lives, He allows us to make that choice. (See Colossians 3:18) I must admit that I would rather be held in the arms of Christ than for me to wrap Him around my little finger! Deuteronomy 33:27 says, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

Although the inanimate figure of Mary does not allow my hands to feel her heartbeat, another image of the closeness of Mary and the infant Jesus comes to my mind. I see Mary Mom holding Jesus close to her heart allowing him to hear her heartbeat while she is feeling the rhythm of his heart. Today Jesus wants us to hold Him close to our hearts so that He can hear our heartbeat and we can feel His. He gives each of us a new heart – a heart that is in love with Him. (See Ezekiel 36:26-27) God is love. Jesus is God. So, Jesus is love. Mary had the privilege of holding love in her arms. Now we have the privilege of holding Jesus, the love of God, in our hearts when we personally invite Him into our lives. (See I John 4:7-17)  Jesus in our hearts can help us handle the messiness of our lives.

My Reader, may you experience the love of Jesus in your heart.  Please join me in either singing or repeating the words of the first verse of the Christmas song Love Came Down at Christmas by Christina Rossetti.

Love came down at Christmas,
love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
star and angels gave the sign.

Unplugged

The image posted above is a calligraphy drawing done by our granddaughter Grace. It was appropriate that she showed it to me on a day when we did not have electrical power at home. The previous afternoon we had experienced a wind and rain storm that caused us to lose power. We had become unplugged from our source of electricity!

After the storm, we went out to get something to eat (without electricity I was not able to prepare dinner) and we saw a broken electrical pole and downed wires. The culprit of our power outage was a big tree that had been uprooted and entangled with surrounding electrical cables. As a result, there were pockets of darkness throughout our neighborhood: 6 homes on our street, almost 30 on another street along with an additional 15-18 homes on the third street. It seemed strange that only certain homes in our tract lost power while others remained unaffected. The homes appeared to have diverse connections to the source of electricity, and that influenced whether or not power was lost.

Why different power connections exist within one neighborhood still does not make sense to us in the natural, but I see a supernatural picture of a similar circumstance that is understandable. How securely we are wired to the Lord affects our response when spiritual disturbances blow our way. If we are deeply grounded in our personal relationship with Jesus Christ, our faith will not likely to be uprooted when doubts rain down upon us. James 1:6 says, “… you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” The Amplified Version of John 16:33 says, “In the world you have tribulation and trials and distress and frustration, but be of good cheer [take courage; be confident, certain, undaunted!] I have overcome the world. [I have deprived it of power to harm you and have conquered it for you.]” As a result of our wind and rain storm caused by nature, we were frustrated by our loss of electrical power. However, because of our faith in Christ we were assured that this inconvenience did not have any power to harm us. We were still connected to the greater power of God. Matthew 22:37-39 tells us how to stay connected, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” Romans 8:39 tells us, “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.” Nothing can separate us, or disconnect us, from the power of God’s love!

There is power in God’s Word and God’s Word reveals the power of God. We serve an omnipotent God and our primary source of His spiritual power is His Word. Let me share a few scriptures that will help us recharge our spiritual batteries.

So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed,
for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Isaiah 41:10

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that
this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
II Corinthians 4:7

For nothing is impossible with God.
Luke 1:37

(He) is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine,
according to His power that is at work within us,
Ephesians 3:20

As I stated earlier, storms can cause us to become disconnected from our source of power both physically and spiritually. Let me conclude by sharing a couple of songs that also speak of additional sources of God’s power, namely the blood of the Lamb and the name of Jesus. There Is Power in the Blood of the Lamb was written by Lewis E. Jones in 1899 and still has a vital message for today. The specific words I want to emphasize are as follows, “There is power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb. There is power, power, wonder-working power in the precious blood of the Lamb.” The second song is Break Every Chain by Tasha Cobbs. Again, there are a few specific lines for us to focus upon. “There is power in the name of Jesus. There is power in the name of Jesus. There is power in the name of Jesus to break every chain, break every chain, break every chain.

Mu Reader, I hope you physically have the luxury of electrical power in your home and may you spiritually stay connected to our omnipotent God who is the source of our sacred power. Do not become unplugged!