The family tree

Matthew adds hope inspiring detail to the family tree of Jesus. David’s great-great granddad married Rahab the harlot from Jericho. She was not an Israelite, but she was a wise and brave woman. Rahab and her household were saved by helping the Israelite spies. She is one of only two woman listed in Jesus genealogy. Do you know who she birthed? She is the mother of Boaz, the husband of Ruth. Boaz was a kind man. Ruth’s mother in law, Naomi, asked from whose field Ruth (a Moabite) had gleaned to find such favor. Do you think he learned kindness from the hands of a woman who was not of Israelite ancestry and of a harlot’s background? I wonder if he endured any bullying as a youth. The ideas that swirl through my mind as I think of these lives and how they speak to the kindness and love and forgiveness and acceptance of Christ. All these interesting thoughts from reading his genealogy.

Maybe you are not from an influential family. Perhaps you were raised by a single parent. By chance you may have been ridiculed from a young age for something you could not control. Yep, you are a perfect candidate to proclaim the kindness, love, forgiveness and acceptance of Christ. The only two women mentioned were not of Israelite decent. It shows me again that Gentiles (outsiders) are grafted into the chosen family’s tree. God was confirming to us before He spoke to Peter about the clean/unclean that salvation was coming for men of all nations. It truly is good news of great joy!

Burning within me,

JOY!

Where is the wonder?

From an Abeka school reader of the journey of the Puritans, I read of their desire to leave their religious asylum in Holland to escape the influence of the culture on their children. According to the reader, the children in Holland received candy in stockings on Christmas. The Puritans wanted to maintain the sacred focus of Christmas to the celebration of the birth of Christ. Some of these Puritans found their way to America. What would they think of the culture’s influence today?

Last night I watched and listened as children, as well as adults, were told the Christmas story. The story-teller did his best to add details and enthusiasm, but garnered little attention. The children were focused on the coming birthday cake. The adults were not inspired by the story they have heard all their lives. It was heart breaking and disappointing on many levels. Where is the wonder?

I pondered if it is in our telling. George Whitefield, the renowned orator, shared this conviction.

“I’ll tell you a story. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1675 was acquainted with Mr. Butterton the [actor]. One day the Archbishop . . . said to Butterton . . . ‘pray inform me Mr. Butterton, what is the reason you actors on stage can affect your congregations with speaking of things imaginary, as if they were real, while we in church speak of things real, which our congregations only receive as if they were imaginary?’ ‘Why my Lord,’ says Butterton, ‘the reason is very plain. We actors on stage speak of things imaginary, as if they were real and you in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.'”

“Therefore,” added Whitefield, ‘I will bawl [shout loudly], I will not be a velvet-mouthed preacher.”

Do we tell things that are as if they were imaginary? Perhaps.

Perhaps the wonder has gone from the story because a bird in the hand is better than two in the nest. We are all focused on the tangible: the gifts, the food, the performances and the gatherings. What we can see and hear and smell and taste and feel, is better than what we can only recount minimally in our loud and distracting lives.

I have no answers. My children receive candy in stockings and more. We have family gatherings and decorate the house. There are church socials and performances. We exchange gifts with teachers and friends. And yet, the wonder of His birth is seldom upon me. Only in my quiet moments of study and reflection does the truth penetrate, He has come for us. In the dark, sin stained world we inhabit, God placed Himself into the care of human hands. What an awe inducing thought!

May we all find a way to sit in wonder this Christmas and share that wonder with our children.

Burning within me,

JOY!

No change please

Change is not a welcome word. Much of the time, change is accompanied with angst and sadness. People leave. Companies lay off. Loved ones choose new lifestyles leaving behind holes and heartache. Our health declines, and our resources rust and diminish. Change is inevitable, and it is also often dreaded.

Change is what is on my heart and mind. So how do I view it in light of the season? I am trying diligently to keep Christ in front of Christmas. I thought of how one of my favorite authors/speakers wrote of characters in the Christmas story. Herod was threatened by the news of the Israelite King. He sought the Christ child, and when he could not find him killed all male Israelite children under two. The Jewish religious leaders ignored news Herod had of the birth. They supplied Herod with the information he requested and went on. They missed the Messiah they preached about. Mary and Joseph had a change to their wedding plans. Their reputations were sullied. After the birth of their first-born, they quickly left the country for the safety of the child. The wise men embarked on a long journey. They were not Jews yet recognized something phenomenal had taken place and followed that star. Lives were disrupted.

In summary, the most wondrous thing to ever take place to date had happened. Was it easy or comfortable to any of these? No. Did the change make things better? Yes and no. When change comes it can bring a myriad of scenarios. Some may involve an initial good followed by a long-term bad. Conversely, in the beginning things may seem awful, but in the end a great good takes place. Solomon in his wisdom said we do not know what will come to be after us. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring. So how do we encourage ourselves in the Lord as David did? We turn to the One who has not lost control. The two foundational truths I rely upon are: 1) God is good. 2) God is in control. God says He has a plan, and it will not be thwarted. It may be hard to live through your current circumstances, but God has not forsaken us or lost sight of His goal. He knew what He was doing 2000 years ago, and He does today.

I’m grieved for those with heavy hearts. I know many. I too hate change as it disrupts my orderly, predictable, cautious life. But what if God had allowed things to remain as they were? We don’t want to go there do we? So grab your Bible Christian. Find those verses that remind you God is good and He is in control. Remember, when Jesus came there was an eternity effecting change. It was part of God’s perfect plan. Whatever is happening today is too.

Burning within me,

JOY!

People are rude

“I don’t want to do anymore Christmas shopping”, my friend bemoans via text. People are rude she says, and she wants to avoid “town” as much as possible. She has been shopping online.

I read in the gospel of Matthew this morning of how we are to treat each other. “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 7:12) For a later point, might I add here Jesus said he had come to fulfill the Law and the Prophets. (Matthew 5:17)

As I pondered this experience with my friend and reading in the word, I recalled a fourth of July shopping trip. I had gone to get hotdog buns for a church picnic. I had two or three large bags of buns, and the Sam’s Club I shopped was very busy. A kind lady insisted I go before her. She had a buggy full of items. I had an arm load of buns. I thanked her again and again.  The lady said, “I am giving you an early Fourth of July gift.” What she did was treat me the way she would want to be treated.

So what if while we are shopping in this Christmas season, we treat others as we would like to be treated? Is that being like Christ, fulfilling the law and the Prophets as Matthew mentions in both verses above? Remember Jesus told us to love God and love our neighbor in the same thought, fulfill the Law and the Prophets. Might we shine like a star in the universe and cause others to look to our Lord? I like what Daniel has to say about pointing others to the righteous One. “And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:23) I admit I did an act of kindness and failed to point the recipient’s eyes to Christ. I am going to send a card that will do that hopefully, may my act give me an opportunity to further encourage a soul in a trying time.

It is the season to celebrate Advent, God’s coming to earth in the flesh. Many people can’t hear our proclaiming this good news because of the rush and the noise. But, if we impact their lives with kindness maybe we momentarily have their attention to share life-giving truth. Shine!

Burning within me,

JOY!

Fear of the dark

I remember running to the back of the house at night to grab something out of my bedroom. I ran out of fear of the dark. I would beg a sibling to come with me. If sent outside in the dark to get something, I would ask my parent to stand by the door. I am instinctively afraid of the dark, of the unknown. I know many others that are too, but I won’t name names!

At Christmas time there are displays of lights all around. Candles in windows and large lawn displays make me smile. Lights on Christmas trees shining in a dark room are especially beautiful. Light is attractive and welcoming. How comforting is it to see the lights of home when coming home at night, especially after a long journey or day?

We can use the many light displays as a reminder to keep Christ in front of Christmas. Consider this truth: “The people who were sitting in darkness saw a great light, and those who were sitting in the land and shadow of death, upon them light dawned.” (Matthew 4:16) Light came into our dark world condemned to death. A glorious appearing accompanied a glorious miracle. Christ came to save sinners. Don’t miss that the baby in the manger was a sacrificial lamb. God Himself will supply the sacrifice, Abraham told his son Isaac, and He did. We who were in darkness have seen this great light. We don’t have to fear the darkness, walk in the Light of Life. He came for us. He came to rescue us from the shadow of death. Give Him glory! Christ is Christmas!

Burning within me,

JOY!

All this talk of pain and suffering

There is so much written and spoken today about pain and suffering. This is a point of argument among atheists to deny the existence of a sovereign God. A God of power and love would not allow suffering they purport. I have read Kay Arthur’s, “When the Hurt Runs Deep”. Ravi Zacharias released a book this fall: “Why Suffering”. I have listened to him lecture on the subject. Many years ago, David Jeremiah wrote “A Bend in the Road”, as a reflection from his battle with cancer. It is a topic not foreign to anyone I know. If you live on earth, there is pain from broken toes to shattered dreams. The skeptic or unbeliever states this is an argument against the God of the Bible. I am not knowledgeable enough to refute those who spend their days preparing lectures and writing books as to the absurdity of a belief in the Divine. I do want to share with my friends that with which God calmed my heart in response to this valid question. What about suffering?

I choose at this point not to dwell on the entrance of suffering into the world; it entered with sin. Nor do I choose at this point to dwell on God’s use of suffering. Hebrews states Christ was perfected through suffering, and also, Christ learned obedience through suffering. My comfort comes from God’s response to our suffering. That is what I want to encourage you with today. When God looked at our suffering world, He put on our flesh and came. He was born into the world He created, human like we. Christ suffered as we, yet without sinning. He desired to be the High Priest associated with our afflictions. He lived our disappointments and pains. Then in the utmost declaration of love, He died that we would not suffer the worst of it all, separation from Him.

God’s answer to my suffering was coming. Emmanuel, God with us. Remember this when arguments fly about suffering and evil and a good God. Our good God saw our man-made suffering, and then offered us the gift of His Son.

What are you focusing on this Christmas?

Burning within me,

JOY!

Matthew 1:23 “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.”

What you need to hear

Imagine for a moment the most powerful man in your world is coming for a visit. You know he is coming, but he purposefully has not told when. Maybe you are not expecting to be the recipient of the visit. Surely, he is not going to bother with you. However, he does come, and he is interested in meeting with you. What is your response? If this person has control, power over your life, I imagine there is a healthy amount of fear.

We are told multiple times in Scripture to fear God. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom Solomon writes. He also surmises Ecclesiastes with “Fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person.” Every person small and great should fear Him. So imagine the response of ordinary people like Mary, Joseph and shepherds. They are invited by angels to witness and take part in the Son of God coming into the world! What did the angel say to them? Fear not. WHAT? That’s exactly what the angel told Joseph, “Don’t be afraid to take Mary as your wife.” Joseph had a major role to play in the young Jesus’ life: keep Him alive. From fleeing to Egypt to setting up his home in Nazareth, Joseph was a primary part of God’s plan to protect the infant Christ. That is a role for bravery. Not only is this Joseph’s assignment, Mary’s pregnancy is a source of embarrassment to the Jewish man. He will do this job with his character maligned in the eyes of his people. Mary too has a role of trust to live out. Give birth how? “How is this going to come about?”, she asks. “I haven’t been with a man”, she tells the angel. Sounds like a very important question to me. In the response of many women today, she was thinking perhaps about “her” body. The shepherds were doing their job when in the sky appears angels to announce the birth of the King. They were not the social elite of their time. Yet, here the royal birth was being announced in the field and at night. The angel tells them, “Do not be afraid, for I bring you good news of great joy.” They are invited to take part in the wonder when surely they would never expect an audience with The Messiah.

The thought has been written and expressed by many. When God came to earth, Emmanuel, the angels proclaimed fear not. I have many instances in my heart that require a “fear not”. We live in tumultuous times. We live in ungodly times. And yet I read on a post today there are 365 “fear not”s in God’s Word. I haven’t verified that, but I know they are dispersed throughout the Scripture. So whatever your situation today, I have what you need to hear. The angel said, “fear not”. They could proclaim these words because of Emmanuel. Put your trust in the truth that the Son of God has come. He has come for you, and He is coming again.

Burning within me,

JOY!

He has come for us, This Jesus

He’s the hope for all mankind

He has come for us, The Messiah

Born to give us life (He is born to give us life)

  • Meredith Andrews

Our young feel helpless

A fantastic article written by Ravi Zacharias came across my twitter feed. In light of the season and my conviction to make the most of it in my life and in those children entrusted to me, I have pasted some potent paragraphs below for your edification and encouragement. God blessed our generation with the mind of Ravi Zacharias and in the words of John Piper, his ability to speak beautifully. Keep in mind this is not the entire article. There are paragraphs around these paragraphs. I include a link so that you may read it all. This is to whet your appetite and spur your deep thinking.

“We look around today at the environment and mourn the abuse. Fair enough. But here is the greatest mystery of all. Why do we never think of the “invironment”? What stalks us within? Is there nothing sacred about this body? Is it only the trees that need protection? Is there nothing sacred about my relationships so long as I can pop something into the mouth to negate the behavior of the night before? Is there nothing sacred about work so long as the government will pay my bills? Is success all in the power to enforce and not in the power to change for eternal truths? Has the family no place in the building blocks of a society? Is politics purely left and right without any up and down? Ah! There’s the question.

Having left that question unanswered, we are producing a generation of young people that are ready to cry “justice” when wronged but seldom think of what is right in personal responsibility. They know everything about outer space and very little about inner space. They know how to hate; they simply don’t know how or why to love.

Who stood in Mary and Joseph’s way? Religious and political authorities. Why? Because they lived by the power to enforce laws. Someone who transcended those laws would spell danger to their power. Herod felt threatened and wished to silence the message. We still have the Herods today. “Silence the Christmas songs!” “Don’t let our children hear the message in our schools.” “Take away anything that tells the Christmas story.” Why? “Because we have our laws.” Yes, Herod’s ghost looms large. Is it any wonder our young feel helpless?

Hope is attached to love. Love is the only root for peace. But it starts with love for God as we receive His gift at Christmas. All other gifts are wrapped in paper. His gift was wrapped in his grace.”

The education system won’t teach God’s gift of love to your children. The media won’t. Their peers won’t. It is up to you. Don’t let this season pass by without making it a priority to make Christ first in Christmas. Let’s not just keep Christ in Christmas, let’s make Him first.

Burning within me,

JOY!

To read Ravi’s entire article (I highly recommend it), you can find it at: Kiev to Ferguson.


Another thing about Isaiah

As I am soaking in the wonderful prophecy of Isaiah 9:6-7, I notice another wondrous thing about the “coming” kingdom. The line that says there will be no end to His kingdom also so says no end to His peace.

Have you heard the contemporary Christmas song “Silent Night”?

I need a silent night, a holy night,

To hear an angel’s voice

among the chaos and the noise.

I need a midnight clear,

A little peace right here.

To end this crazy day

With a silent night.

I’m pretty sure those words resound with many. The advent season seems to be filled with anything but silent nights. However, Jesus came to bring calm to our chaos. He is named the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). It can be ours now, not just in the coming Kingdom. “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled, nor let it be fearful.” (John 14:27) His first coming brought fulfillment of part of this prophesy from Isaiah. The Prince of Peace has come, and He says fear not.

Burning within me,

JOY!

To tease you, how many “fear not”s can you think of in the Word? Okay, how many times was it said in connection with his first coming (birth)?

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