Advent (4 of 4): Celebrating Jesus the Christ

Alright Ladies, we are entering our fourth part of this series on Advent. Today’s narrative will be based on Matthew 2:13-19. I encourage you to grab a Bible and follow along with the actual text as we try to see this unfolding scene through the eyes of those present.

 

After the magi and their caravans had left your dwelling in Bethlehem, you and Joseph spoke about the incredible visitors and their testimonies of the unique star. How extraordinary to think that these prestigious men had followed that same star for all those months—in hopes of meeting the newborn King of the Jews—Jesus the Christ. After dinner, two-year-old Jesus was put to bed and evening chores were attended to. All seemed wonderfully tranquil. All appeared perfectly calm. As you closed your eyes and thanked the Lord for the wonderful day, you snuggled your Son a little closer as you drifted off.

 

“Now when they 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.” Matthew 2:13 (NASB)

 

Suddenly, in the dark of night, Joseph awakens you. Although you cannot see him well in your dark dwelling, his voice reveals eminent danger. “Mary. You must get up quickly. You must stay quiet and keep Jesus quiet. An angel has appeared to me and said that we are to leave for Egypt at once. The angel also said that we are to remain in Egypt until we receive further instruction. King Herod is trying to kill Jesus.”

 

At hearing this, Mary gasps and places her hand on sleeping Jesus. With a deep breath and a silent prayer for God’s help, Mary quickly prepares for the journey. They had to move fast. The very life of her Son, Jesus was hanging in the balance! It was time to leave the land of Judea and enter the land of Egypt.

 

Joseph continued, “We must remain quiet. Hurry; there is not a moment to waste. We must leave now.” (Reference Matthew 2:14) You wrap sleeping Jesus with a few extra blankets and carry Him out of the house to where Joseph has already prepared transport. And as the city of Bethlehem slept, by the light of the moon, Joseph and Mary began the quest to save Jesus’ life from a murderous king. By escaping to a foreign land that had murdered countless Jewish people in generations past, God would keep His own Son, Jesus safe from an eminent genocide.

 

Moses had been used by God to deliver the Israelite people from Pharaoh, the wicked ruler of Egypt, in generations past (Exodus 3:4-8). And now, God was directing them into that very land for safety from King Herod who ruled over Judea in Israel. The very place where the  Jewish people had suffered anguish, wrath and death at the hands of foreign oppressors, was now being used by God as a safe house for His very Son. This was a test of Joseph’s faith in following the Lord’s leading. He was found faithful to obey the angel’s message from the Lord and fled with Mary and her Son to Egypt. They would remain their until the angel would appear to them to announce the Lord calling them out of Egypt, to fulfill the words of the prophet Hosea (Hosea 11:1).

 

“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 2:15 (NASB)

 

King Herod had grown impatient with the return of the magi. After inquiries had confirmed that they were not in route back to Jerusalem to report to him of the Christ child’s whereabouts, he was livid! His rage would be felt through an entire generation of his own people. With anger spewing from his royal mouth, King Herod ordered the massacre of all young boys, two-years and under, who lived in Bethlehem and its vicinity—given the timeline of the first appearance of the star from the magi’s account (Matthew 2:16). Screams, shouts and the sound of horror arose from Bethlehem of Judea and its vicinity at the order of King Herod. This fulfilled the words of the prophet Jeremiah (Jeremiah 31:15).

 

17Then what had been spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: 18“A VOICE WAS HEARD IN RAMAH, WEEPING AND GREAT MOURNING, RACHEL WEEPING FOR HER CHILDREN; AND SHE REFUSED TO BE COMFORTED, BECAUSE THEY WERE NO MORE.” Matthew 2:17-18 (NASB)

 

Yet, Joseph, Mary and Jesus were already well on their way to Egypt. The hands of mortal man could not thwart God’s plan of salvation. Jesus would one day give up His perfect life as a ransom for mankind, but it was not to be taken (Isaiah 6:7, Isaiah 53:4-12, Romans 4:25, Hebrews 9:28, 1 Corinthians 5:21, 1 Peter 2:24). Divine rescue for each soul, within each generation across the globe, would be grasped through the absolute power; authority and embodiment of the living God encapsulated within this Child, Jesus Christ (Romans 5:6, Romans 5:8 & Romans 5:18).

 

“For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-7 (NASB)

 

 

After the death of King Herod, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, announcing King Herod’s death and stating that it was time to return to Israel; now. At these words, Joseph put his hand on Mary’s shoulder as she slept. “Mary. Mary. It is time to return to Israel. We must leave now. The angel said that King Herod is dead. It is time to go home.”

 

20“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.” 21So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.” Matthew 2:20-21 (NASB)

 

Just as before, under the darkness of night, Joseph led Child Jesus and Mary back to their homeland of Nazareth (Luke 1:26). With all preparations made in a very short time, they set off to return to Israel. The Lord’s hand of protection was on Jesus. It would be through the acknowledgement and acceptance of Jesus’s perfect life, death and resurrection from the grave that all, within each generation around the globe, would receive the Lord’s protection from eternal suffering and death.

 

9By this the love of God was manifested in us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world so that we might live through Him. 10In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10 (NASB)

 

After learning that Herod’s son, Archelaus, was reigning in Jerusalem, Joseph grew terrified of a second attempt at Jesus’ life. In a dream, Joseph was warned not to go there. Joseph then settled with his wife Mary and her child in Nazareth of Galilee, his hometown (Luke 2:4). It would be here, within Nazareth in Galilee of Judea, that Joseph and Mary would raise Jesus. Nazareth was not highly esteemed among cities (John 1:46), but through this act of faithfulness to the Lord’s leading, the words of the prophet were fulfilled.

 

Just as Mary and Joseph were willing to be obedient to the call of God for their lives, may we too, be found faithful to follow the Lord’s leading each day. Jesus Christ has the power to transform any twisted situation, shattered life or absent purpose. When Jesus Christ declared His public ministry at the age of thirty, the next three years, would be filled with astounding miracles (e.g. bringing many back from the dead (Luke 7:7-10, John 11:38-44), casting out demons (Matthew 8:28-34, Matthew 9:23-26, Matthew 9:32-33, Mark 1:21-34, Mark 7:29-30 & Luke 11:14), battling injustice of the downtrodden (Matthew 8:2-3, Matthew 9:2, Matthew 9:21-22, Matthew 9:28-29, Matthew 12:13, Mark 10:51-52, John 4:14) and ultimately reigning victorious over death and eternal suffering (1 Corinthians 15:4)).

 

8He will swallow up death for all time, and the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the LORD has spoken. 9And it will be said in that day, “Behold, this is our God for whom we have waited that He might save us. This is the LORD for whom we have waited; Let us rejoice and be glad in His salvation.” Isaiah 25:8-9 (NASB)

 

Ladies, I encourage each one reading, if you have not yet met this Jesus, the Son of the Living God—personally—I encourage you to do so at this time. In complete sincerity, it does not matter how much you may have “screwed up” or how much unforgiveness you may hold for another. Bring your heart and life before the Lord Jesus Christ in prayer this very moment. Invite Him into the hard places—the memories that are difficult to speak of—the ones you wish will never become a post on any social media platform. There is forgiveness of all shortcomings, failures and screw-ups. There is hope for each day through His divine leading. There is purpose for your life. Come clean before the Lord Jesus Christ and ask Him to be the ruler—the ultimate input that matters—in your life. Why? Because you are worth it.

 

  “6For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 9Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. 10For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. 11And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.” Romans 5:6-11 (NASB)

 

There truly is much to rejoice over during the Christmas season! As you recount the story of Jesus’ birth, recall also His perfect life (Hebrews 4:15) and His divine determination to obey Father God’s direction to bring healing to a broken world through His own death on the Cross of Calvary (Luke 22:42) and resurrection from the grave on the third day (Acts 10:40). Ladies, there is hope, a fresh start, clear direction and eternal security through Jesus Christ. May you meet the One, called Christ, whom we celebrate this season.

Jesus Christ is the answer. And for this truth, it is a Merry Christmas indeed!

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Advent (Part 3 of 4): Celebrating Jesus the Christ

Following the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem of Judea, a strange star had appeared in the night’s sky. Trained and learned magi, a specialized caste of wise men, took eager note of this celestial appearance. These men were experts in astrology, astronomy and the natural sciences (reference footnotes Matthew 2:1). They knew the significance of this unique star and set out to meet this newborn king of the Jews, as had been foretold in ancient texts (Micah 5:2). These men of power and great influence prepared their staff to drive their camel caravans across desert lands and far away places in order to meet this newborn king. With royal gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh secured to their caravans for the babe, their elaborately adorned camel caravans were pointed west. The time had come. The prophesied arrival of the King of the Jews had come and not a moment could be lost.

 

The magi followed the star to the city of Jerusalem of Judea and went directly to King Herod to inquire of this new king’s location that they may go straight to the babe to worship the new king.

 

1Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, 2“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.” Matthew 2:1-2 (NASB)

 

Upon hearing the words of these magi, King Herod was very worried. King Herod had come to power after much war and fighting. And most likely, he himself, was called King of the Jews. Thus, to hear of an inquiry of a newborn king with the same title demanded immediate attention and ultimate termination of any potential threat to his throne over Judea. The whole land of Jerusalem was buzzing with the news of the magi. To maintain his royal status and place over his people, King Herod ordered an assembly of all the head priests and teachers of the Law in order to learn more of this prophetic birth of the Messiah, the Christ—announced through the dawn of a distinct star. With well-known leaders standing before the king, the king was ready to wipe out any potential uprising. The head priest and teachers shared that according to the Law, the Messiah, the Christ, was to be born in Bethlehem to fulfill what the prophet had predicted hundreds of years previous (Micah 5:2). The priests and teachers then read the prophesy to the king (Matthew 2:3-5).

 

“‘6And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah, are by no means least among the leaders of Judah; For out of you shall come forth a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel.’” Matthew 2:6 (NASB)

 

King Herod called a secret meeting with the magi to glean from their expertise of the night sky. He inquired of the exact date that they first noticed this star. The magi stated confidently that it was around two years previous that they had first viewed this star, which they had come to follow now for about as long, in search of this prophetic birth. With this information, King Herod plotted to kill the Christ child. He planned to use the magi as spies for him to locate Jesus within Bethlehem. But, rather than stating his insidious plan to these leaders from a foreign land, with deceptive eyes sparkling as much as his jewels, a falsehood of a deadly kind was presented to the magi (Matthew 2:7).

 

“8And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” Matthew 2:8 (NASB)

 

The magi showed their respects to King Herod and continued on their journey to locate the Christ child in Bethlehem by following the unique star that had so faithfully directed them for roughly two years now. When they saw the star again, they were filled with great joy. As the star rested above the house where Mary and Joseph lived, they found Jesus with His mother (Matthew 2:9-10)

Ladies, put yourselves in the place of Mary in that moment. Imagine that you are preparing bread for an upcoming meal or playing outside with your toddler Son, when a prestigious entourage approaches the place where you are staying. As the camels halt before your dwelling, water is grabbed for their camels by their escorts. A wide variety of expensive textiles cover the backs of these enormous animals. Even the caravans of these men were decorated. The magi wore fine linens and held themselves with confidence and prestige. 

 As they dismount and approach your dwelling, fine linens and prestige, give way to sincere awe and uncontainable joy at the sight of your Son. All of these foreign dignitaries fall face down onto the ground before your toddling Son and worship Him. You thank God in your heart for this incredible moment. These magi were yet another declaration from strangers that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ. The magi then presented their precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the toddler King, who was Jesus, the Christ—the prophesied Messiah (Matthew 2:11).

 

“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 2:12 (NASB)

Advent (Part 2 of 4): Celebrating Jesus the Christ

Alright, Ladies, allow us to continue to put ourselves in Mary’s place as we now travel with our husband, Joseph, to Jerusalem. You carry your eight-day-old baby boy, Jesus, into the temple courts. It has been a journey, this time 6 miles, to travel from Bethlehem to Jerusalem to perform these acts of faithfulness to the Lord within the temple. 

 

The purpose of this temple visit within Jerusalem was to consecrate eight-day-old Jesus to the Lord as was necessary within the Law of the Lord for all Jewish males (Exodus 13:2 & Exodus 13:12). Circumcision was part of the purification process according to the Law of Moses. Jesus was circumcised at the age of eight-days-old to adhere to this law. It was at this time that Joseph gave Him the name Jesus, as the angel had commanded prior to the Child’s birth.  Joseph and Mary also offered a sacrifice of a pair of doves or two young pigeons, to keep with the traditions within the Law of the Lord as people of Israel. One of the birds was sacrificed for a burnt offering and the other bird was offered as a sin offering (Leviticus 12:8). Joseph and Mary upheld the Law of Moses and the Law of the Lord through the fulfillment of these practices (Luke 2:21-24).

 

While Joseph and Mary were still in the temple courts, a man by the name of Simeon approached them. Simeon was a man completely devoted to the work of the Lord who lived in Jerusalem. The presence of the Holy Spirit rested on Simeon. He had been moved by the Holy Spirit to walk into the temple courts at that time, and there he found Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus. Simeon had been waiting for reassurance that the people of Israel would be redeemed. Through the Holy Spirit, God had told Simeon that he would not die until he saw the coming of the Christ child, the Messiah (both “Christ” (in Greek) and “Messiah” (in Hebrew) mean “the Anointed One” reference Luke 2:11) with his own eyes. Simeon took the baby Jesus into his arms and praised God, saying:

 

29“Now Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; 30For my eyes have seen Your salvation, 31Which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32A LIGHT OF REVELATION TO THE GENTILES, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

33And His father and mother were amazed at the things which were being said about Him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed— 35and a sword will pierce even your own soul—to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

Luke 2:29-35 (NASB)

 

All that Simeon had shared about Mary’s newborn son astounded Joseph and Mary. Simeon stated that the denial of Christ’s teachings, the dangers and vicious plots would all take a toll on Mary’s heart, like a sword to pierce the heart (Luke 2:35) due to her deep love for her son, Jesus. Not knowing all of the details of what the babe’s life would entail, they marveled at how much greater this Christ child’s story was than they had even imagined.

 

As they stood there, a prophetess named Anna, a widow of the tribe of Asher, approached and thanked God for the redemption of Jerusalem (meaning “city of peace”) through this child called Jesus the Christ; Jesus the Messiah. Anna, a woman whom fasted and prayed in the temple day and night, comforted all in the temple with her encouragement that salvation had been born to Israel through this eight-day-old babe (Luke 2:36-38)!

 

To see this Child, the One whom the whole Jewish world had been waiting for, finally within the temple of Jerusalem to be dedicated and consecrated to the Lord—the emotions of both Simeon and Anna must have been nearly overwhelming! The Christ, the Messiah, the Anointed One had been born at last to save and redeem all back to the Lord! Hallelujah!

 

39When they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city of Nazareth. 40The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” Luke 2:39-40 (NASB)

Advent (Part 1 of 4): Celebrating Jesus the Christ

As this season of Advent has begun, may our hearts turn towards the bustling town of Bethlehem and the sound of cattle and other barnyard animals as a young, betrothed woman prepared to give birth, in a humble stable, to the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; Jesus the Christ child.

 

Many of us have heard this story year after year, but never really given pause to the full weight of the significance of each interlude.

 

Ladies, put yourselves in Mary’s shoes. You love God. You are a virgin. You are betrothed to a man by the name of Joseph who builds things for a living. You live in the town of Nazareth. There, you witness a spectacular sight, an angel of God, Gabriel, appears to you. After being nearly scared out of your skin by seeing a heavenly being, the angel assures you that you don’t need to be afraid—but have been found highly favored in God’s eyes.

 

Gabriel explained that Mary would become pregnant, as a virgin, by the Spirit of God. As Mary tried to wrap her head around this, the angel Gabriel shared that this child would be called the “Son of the Most High” and that His reign would never end. Mary asked how this could be possible. (She was a virgin, remember?) The angel assured her that with God, all things are possible. Mary exhibited incredible faith and trust in Almighty God as she acceptance this unexplainable feat (Luke 1:26-38).

 

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38 (NIV)

 

The angel of the Lord also visited Joseph. Try to grasp the love this man must have had for his betrothed, Mary. The period of betrothal is much different than Western cultures. When a couple is betrothed to be married, they had declared that they are committed to waiting for the other–until the resources and witnesses are in place to come together in marriage. Thus, to have a betrayal within engagement demanded a drastic punishment. Joseph, is left in an awkward place. He is going to marry this woman. Yet, now he is being told that she is pregnant with the Son of Almighty God. How would your fiancé react, if you were Mary? It is not like he could have just hopped online and asked if others had experienced this sort of thing before. This was a total blow to the male ego; feelings of betrayal and confusion must have swirled within his mind–not to mention that death was the expectation, by stoning, for such an act outside of wedlock within the Jewish culture (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Although Joseph was betrothed to Mary, he was going to send her away quietly, because he loved her. Joseph did not want to publicly see her shamed.

 

As he considered the logistics of divorcing Mary, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream. He was then commanded  by the angel to take Mary as his wife—even though she was obviously with child. The angel assured Joseph that Mary was indeed carrying God’s Son and that Joseph was to call the child Jesus—to fulfill the prophecy of old that a virgin will give birth to a son and His name is to be called Immanuel, which means “God with us” (Isaiah 7:14). Joseph, in great faith and obedience, heeded the command of the angel. Joseph took Mary as his wife, but did not know her until after she would give birth and he named the child Jesus in Bethlehem (Matthew 1:18-25).

 

20But 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. 21“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 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.” 24And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, 25but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.” Matthew 1:20-25 (NASB)

 

In response to a decree from the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, all of the people within the Roman world had been ordered to return to their own towns to be counted. Joseph and very pregnant Mary enduring the arduous journey from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem within Judea. Bethlehem was known as “the town of David” (Luke 2:4) and Joseph was both of the line and house of David. This also fulfilled a prophesy of ancient days regarding the Christ child to be born within Bethlehem of the house of David (Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 11:1, Micah 5:2, Luke 1:33 & Revelation 22:16).

 

“In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it– one from the house of David– one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness.” Isaiah 16:5 (NIV)

 

As Mary and Joseph arrived into Bethlehem, the city bustled with activity from all the many traveling. Bethlehem was terribly overcrowded with visitors and finding lodging was a major issue. The whole Roman world had been moved around in order to carry out this royal census as desired by Caesar Augustus—and compliance to the decree was not a suggestion. No matter how great the inconvenience may have been to any given individual or family, each and every citizen within the Roman world had to obey this royal degree from Caesar Augustus.

 

The time had come for Mary to give birth to Jesus, but they still could not even find a place for her to labor and deliver—let alone lay down! Every bed and breakfast that they stopped at gave them the same response, “Sorry, no vacancy”. Finally, one owner of a B&B told Joseph that he did not have any vacancy, but that he did have a stable that would provide Mary with some relief while birthing the baby. They took the man up on the offer with sincere gratitude. Mary labored amongst the sites and smells of the livestock within a stranger’s stable. They welcomed baby Jesus into the world and Mary wrapped her newborn son in swaddling cloths. She then laid Him in a manger—which is a long, open box where barnyard animals ate their food (Luke 2:6-7).

 

6While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7And 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.” Luke 2:6-7 (NASB)

 

At this time, shepherds were protecting their flocks in the darkness of night from any natural predator that might try to steal away any wandering lamb. And then, suddenly, the shepherds were filled with great fear! The fields had become instantly illuminated with brilliant light! They saw an angel, surrounded by the glory of the Lord, and were scared out of their minds! The angel assured them that they did not need to be afraid, but rather needed to rejoice! On that very day, in the city of David (Bethlehem), the savior of the world—the Messiah—the Christ child had been born! They were instructed that they would find the child wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger. At these words, a company of heavenly hosts appeared alongside the angel and began to praise God. Can you even imagine how wild this must have looked?! The illuminated sky above is suddenly filled with heavenly beings who are praising the Lord for the arrival of Jesus Christ, the savior of mankind!

 

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.” (Luke 2:14)

 

After the angel had left, the stunned shepherds looked at one another and agree that they needed to go to Bethlehem and see what the Lord has done. With great desire to see the Christ child, the shepherds hurried off to find Mary, Joseph and the baby who would be lying in a manger. Talk about an unsurpassable and supernatural display of celestial jubilee and excitement by the heavenly hosts! The God-Man, Jesus Christ, had officially entered into His own creation in the form of a babe! Christ the Lord was born!

As the shepherds arrived to the stable, with dirtied clothing and scruffy appearance from living amongst their sheep in the fields, they entered to view the Christ child. And just as the angel had said, baby Jesus was wrapped in swaddling cloths lying in a manger! The shepherds marveled at this. They recalled the magnitude of this child’s arrival, as stated by the heavenly hosts. With celebration in their hearts, they left the stable telling everyone within crowded Bethlehem what the angel had shared to them regarding this child. Mary, now a mama for the first time, treasured all of these things in her heart. God was fulfilling the promises that she too had been assured of by the angel (Luke 2:8-20). How faithful is the Lord Almighty! 

 

(End of Part I)

Christmas Tea: Middle Eastern Style

Ladies, there is SO much to celebrate at Christmas!!! We have had the divine privilege from Jesus Christ to meet many Muslims who are SEEKING to know God…and very curious to learn more about a GOD OF LOVE…who speaks!!!

 

Praise the Lord! We had the privilege recently of going to the home of new Muslim friends who wanted to know who we said Jesus was and were able to speak of the trinity. We spoke of how a woman can be a daughter, a wife and a mother all at the same time…but still only be one person. The young woman seemed amazed by the explanation…and she was very open to hear more!

 

These precious people thought that protestant Christians worshipped and prayed to multiple things, but were very intrigued to hear that we serve and worship only one God. May the LORD BE PRAISED!!!

 

The Lord has stirred my heart to host a Christmas tea this year and invite these new friends to enjoy the Christmas season with us. I offered last night and was amazed by their quick response of “we would love to!”

 

Ladies, in this Christmas season may we remember that SO MANY ARE HUNGRY to learn more of the true reason for the Christmas season. Most of the time, such people just need someone to start the conversation! Praise the Lord Jesus for the excitement of Christmas…LOVE FOR ALL PEOPLE WORLDWIDE WAS GIVEN A NAME…JESUS THE CHRIST.

 

Below are five questions that commonly come up between Christians and Muslims. May you also, if the Lord prompts your hearts, host a Christmas Tea for those of other faiths to sip and consider a Savior whom they have never met. What a joyous and exciting time of year! May the Lord Jesus be praised! And if you do not know someone of another faith to share a warm cup of tea with, spend some time praying for the unreached people and lost of this world…over your own cup of Christmas tea!

 

Do not let kindness and truth leave you; Bind them around your neck, Write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute In the sight of God and man.” Proverbs 3:3-4 (NASB)

 

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  1. Do I (as a Christian) believe that Jesus had to die to satisfy God?

 

My response, absolutely yes. Jesus was not simply a prophet, but the Holy Bible records that He was born of a Virgin (as does the Qur’an) and that He lived a sinless life (I believe as the Qur’an does as well). And that Jesus died upon the cross (as the Qur’an states three different times Qur’an 3:55, Qur’an 4:157 and Qur’an 19:33).

 

From the conviction of my soul, Jesus is not simply a prophet of God…but the top prophet, great high priest and God incarnate.

 

I wholeheartedly believe that God is holy and totally set apart from all wrong. And as a result, God cannot be near the weakness of rebellion against Him. The Holy Bible speaks of the rebellion of Luciphor, one of the top angels in heaven, who wanted to be like God and led a rebellion against God in heaven. As a result, this angel and 1/3 of the angels in heaven were kicked out of heaven for treason. This fallen angel became known as Satan.

 

We then see this same line of thought in the Garden of Eden…when Satan, in the form of a snake, convinced Eve that she should not trust God and that better awaited her by disobeying God and eating from the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. As a result, both Eve and her husband Adam disobeyed God by believing the lie of Satan that God was holding out goodness from them. And as a result of this, they too were kicked out of the perfect place called Eden…where they enjoyed perfect fellowship with God…and daily walked in the garden with God.

 

But, that is the beauty of Christmas! The great love of God was manifested that while humanity was still in the midst o rebellion, God launched the greatest and far reaching rescue plan to save His creation through sending Himself in the form of a human. This is a season of great joy as recorded in the Holy Bible book of Luke chapter 2. An angel of God announced the birth of “Christ the Lord” in the “city of David” to a group of shepherds. They went to see the birth of the One prophesied about…that is Jesus.

 

We have all made mistakes in our lives and are seen as imperfect before God. We cannot pray enough, do enough good for others or even travel to sacred places to make up for our wrong doings. Just as Eid calls for a blood sacrifice, God calls for a blood sacrifice to atone for each of our wrong doings…that is why Jesus came. As God in the flesh, Jesus was then able to satisfy His own standard and rule of perfection and holiness by paying the penalty for each one of us (each person in all of human history) who have committed rebellion against God–whether by saying something, thinking something or doing something that brought shame to God. What a truly loving God to take my punishment…when I deserve it!

 

See, if God didn’t keep His standards of perfection…then God would not be holy or righteous. If God did not make a way for us to draw near to God, then God would not be loving. But, praise be to God that He stepped down from His eternal throne to put His love for all humanity on display…through sending Jesus to pay the penalty that not one of us could Stand up under. And now, as I have seen the goodness and holiness of God (as Isaiah experienced in his vision of God), I came to realize my great and pressing need to be washed clean of my wrong doings…and only God Himself could wash me. And so, through faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God, I have been forgiven of all my wrongdoings and my heart has been washed in His blood through faith…to declare before heaven, earth and under the earth that there is One name in all of existence that humanity can be saved…and thy name is Jesus Christ, who took my guilt, my shame and my wrong doings and took my punishment…and in return Jesus gave me His grace, His mercy and His righteousness. Jesus had the authority to lay down His life…no one took it from Him…and with that same authority, on the third day of being in the tomb…HE RAISED FROM THE DEAD…conquering death and assuring right standing before God for all who trust in Him alone.

 

  1. Do I really believe (as a Christian) that my God is not one, but three?

 

My response…there is only one God. God has three functions, which play three very distinct roles. Much like the sun plays three distinct roles: Heat, light and radiation. You do not need to wear sunglasses because of heat…we wear sunglasses because of the sun’s light. Much in the same way, we do not wear sun block due to the light of the sun, but the radiation. Yet all three things come from one sun.

 

In the same way, God has three distinct functions: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. God the Father resides in heaven. God the Son, Jesus, came to earth to drawn humanity back to God through taking the punishment for our sins. And eternal life is freely offered to all who call upon the name of Jesus. The Holy Spirit is who comes to reside inside our souls once we accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

 

God is perfect and the Qur’an speaks clearly on the authenticity of the Holy Bible. Qur’an 3:3-4 and Qur’an 10:94

 

As a Christian, I worship the One true God…who loves all people from all countries and desires that not one should have to suffer with Satan for rebellion against God.

 

Another example of this would be the one sharing tea with you. They are a child of their parents, a friend to you and an employee at their work place…but the individual is still only one person.

 

 

  1. Which apostle should we follow as Christians?

 

My response…none of them. I follow the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

The apostle of Jesus by the name of John records in his book John (within the Holy Bible)…John 1:1…in the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.

 

 

This matters because even the apostles and closest followers of Jesus did not claim to be God, but always rightfully elevated Jesus as God.

 

Jesus Himself said that if you have seen Me then you have seen the Father in heaven (John 14:9). I do believe that the Holy Bible is the last and completed work of God…made complete by the actual coming of Himself in the flesh. And when Jesus hung upon the cross at Calvary, also known as Golgotha (both mean the “place of the skull”), He cried out “it is finished” (John 19:30). The anger of God for the rebellion of all humanity had been satisfied through the death and shed blood of Jesus Christ. And now, all who choose to put their faith in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior can also experience that same peace with joy…that’s same joy that bubbles from deep within the soul…and everlasting hope that the best is ALWAYs still to come as we will one day be together with Jesus in heaven. And the assurance of our forgiveness of sin because we confess with our mouths that Jesus is Lord and believe in our hearts that God raised Jesus from the dead (1 John 1:9-10).

 

 

  1. What does the Christian church believe about other churches that practice other creeds?

 

My personal conviction is that all of the prophesies of the Torah (also called the Pentateuch) as well as the Psalms and other prophesies within the Bible all pointed to the coming of One from the House and Line of King David who would redeem NOT ONLY the Jewish people, but ALL people.

 

John 3:16 says “For God so loved the world that He gave His One and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life.”

 

Qur’an 3:3-4 says that God sent the Torah (Old Testament), the Injeel (the New Testament) and the Light (Jesus is called the “Light of God” in the Qur’an)…”and those who do not believe in them have gone astray.”

 

Qur’an 10:94 says that God told Muhammad, if you are in doubt, speak to the “People of the Book”…this was reference to only the Jews (in the Old Testament of the Holy Bible) and the Christians (referenced in the Nee Testament of the Holy Bible). Muslims were not called “people of the book until Mohammad’s death…when the Qur’an was compiled.

 

Therefore, since the Qur’an tells those who follow Islam to believe the Holy Bible (“The People of the Book”), it is assumed then that Muslims should listen to the law spoken of in the Holy Bible. The law was completed through Jesus Christ. So, the idea that Jesus did not “die” according to one phrase in the Qur’an does not make logical sense.

 

 

  1. How does one decide on which principles are right and worthy of following?

 

What a beautifully honest question! The Bible teaches that God desires that no one should suffer, but that while we were still rebelling against God, Jesus Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

 

The reality is, we could not do enough…of anything…to become right with God.

 

In Islam, you believe in sin…and agree that we have been stained by impure things. As a result, things must be said, thought and done to balance the scales and make the good weigh more. But, as a Christian, I realize…ONLY BE GOD’s GRACE do I realize this…that I cannot do enough, think enough or even say enough to gain right standing before the One and Only Righteous and Holy God–the Creator of All things. It is by admitting that I cannot make it on my own and accepting God’s FREE GIFT of rescue through Jesus Christ that I am CLEAN. Praise the Lord.

 

I believe that the desire for peace, joy, and eternity is placed within the hearts of all humanity as the Bible declares (Ecclesiastes 3:11). And because of this, we seek to find if there is something or someone greater than humanity. And if we are honest with ourselves…as we watch the sunset each night, hear the birds call to one another, feel the warmth of the sun and the gentle breeze from our roof tops…something in us stirs…there must be someone who created this all…this simply cannot be by chance. There is too much order in the natural world for this to have all just “happened”.

 

And that is exactly what the Bible teaches. That even if we do not worship God through declaring that Jesus is the Messiah, the very rocks will.

 

“As soon as He was approaching, near the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the miracles which they had seen, shouting: “BLESSED IS THE KING WHO COMES IN THE NAME OF THE LORD; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” Luke 19:37-40

 

Because God loves us, He made a way for us to find Him. He uses the created world to point out His goodness and creativity. He uses love to show us how much we are cherished by Him. He uses dreams and visions, to speak to the heart to assure those seeking that He desires to be found. And He confirms the longing in our hearts to be right and declared as clean before God by making a way for all this to be possible through the birth, death and raising from the dead of Jesus Christ the Savior for all who believe.

 

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May we see Christmas through the eyes of evangelism for the GOOD NEWS OF HOPE AND NEW BEGINNINGS THROUGH FAITH AND TRUST IN JESUS CHRIST THE LORD!

 

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.” Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB)

 

 

The Greatest Gift At Christmas Is Jesus Christ

With Christmas shopping budgets in full swing as we look down our lists of those “needing” gifts; may we not neglect the greatest gift that EVERY PERSON on your list truly needs. You see, regardless of age, personal preference and even geographical location, the ultimate desire of every soul remains the same.

 

When we consider what really matters, we will never find it in a store of any kind. Lasting contentment and the sincerest of joy will never be tied to a sale rack, address or even “striking it big”. So, what should we put on the top of our shopping lists? What should we prioritize most as the marketing schemes convince our society that “happiness” and even “joy” is found through the reconstruction of our physical self, pleasure injected from a needle or even through the ownership of the latest name brand line? Simply stated, the top of each of our lists needs to be Jesus Christ. Sound a bit overreaching? Allow me to expand upon this point.

 

Lasting feelings of hope, love, security, acceptance and unquenchable peace are found through a right standing with Almighty God. Period.

 

As Thanksgiving is now behind us and our culture counts down to the day of Christmas—even if it is no longer politically correct to even mention the day of Jesus Christ’s physical birth by name—many feel great stress and anxiety as this season of artificial holly, fir scented candles and credit card bills take center stage. And if we are not careful, in the midst of this season of sincerest of Joy, we too can fall prey to the never-ending cycle of “more” that continue to be pumped out through marketing plans and storefront windows. Yet, if we are honest with ourselves, should it matter how many lights are on our homes, if we bake as a family or even if we cut down our own Christmas trees? Of course not. Yet, if we allow our culture to define the season of Christmas, we will find ourselves striving to keep up with the latest “do it yourself” Christmas project and feeling as though you are missing out on something. And the truth is, you would be right.

 

The truth of Christmas is centered around a noisy outer room of a home in Bethlehem, where Joseph and his betrothed wife Mary needed to stay for the night while she gave birth. You see, she had been with child—not of Joseph, but of the Holy Spirit of God. And it was time to deliver the Child who was called Jesus. He is the very Son of the Living God. And due to His full diety and full humanity (also known as the “God-Man”), He was able to live a sinless life that we could never live. Why is this relevant? And why does this matter in 2017?

 

I am so glad you asked! You see, the world that we see today is broken. The Holy Bible records that when the Earth and all of creatures of the earth were created, God declared them as “very good” (Genesis 1:31). It wasn’t until Adam and Eve rebelled against God, through disobedience, that sin entered the human experience (Genesis 3:6). And as a result, they were separated from God (James 1:14-15). The perfect union with God that humanity had known within the Garden of Eden was lost (Romans 5:12). But! This is the where the joy of Christmas comes in! It was after that act of rebellion, that in His great love, God launched the greatest rescue plan to save His creation (Romans 5:17). And the fulfillment of this plan was through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave (1 Corinthians 15:20-22). Jesus came to redeem and reconcile all of humanity back to God (John 3:16). And by admitting our wrongdoings and believing that God raised Jesus from the dead, we will experience the greatest gift of all; peace with God (1 John 1:9-10). And this peace with God includes eternal life, unquenchable joy, and hope that endures for all time (John 14:26-27). How? Because as a follower of Jesus Christ, we can rest assured that we have the victory over every heartache and adversary because we follow the Risen King, Jesus Christ (1 John 5:1-21). Amen!

 

Ladies, to each heart reading, may you be encouraged this very minute! I give testimony to the fact that even now, hearts are being led to repentance and are seeking the Lord Jesus with full hearts. Believers of Jesus Christ are presently doing the work of an evangelist (2 Timothy 4:3-5) and rejecting the lies of culture that happiness and “inner joy” are found through laser treatments and other sources with high price tags, rather than through the completed work of Jesus Christ.

 

This is an exciting time to be a follower of Jesus Christ! There are so many hurting and desperate people—right in our own zip codes (Matthew 25:40)! May we be used by Jesus Christ in this season of greatest joy to share the hope of reconciliation with Almighty God and everlasting peace with those who are in dire need. May we continually run to the feet of our Risen Savior Jesus Christ as we shine His light to a lost and suicidal world; a world that is killing itself with striving, addictions, power grabbing, worship of people, piling of possessions as well as sexual promiscuity.

 

May we be filled with the love of God and the unwavering spirit of Jesus Christ. Remember, Jesus Christ came to seek and save the lost; that includes all people regardless of age, gender, religious affiliation, mother tongue or nationality. May we spread the news of the true definition of Christmas joy! Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came to reconcile all of humanity back to Almighty God through the great exchange of His righteousness for our rebellion…think about that for a minute. God loved you, me and the rest of the world SO MUCH that He sent His only Son into the world to suffer and die in our place, so that we could regain right standing with God. What a good and truly loving God. May we rejoice in the reality of Jesus’ birth and thank God for His great love, that was manifested through the birth and years later the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave to atone for the wrong doings and short comings of every single person who has ever drawn a breath.

 

God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him. 10 This is real love—not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as a sacrifice to take away our sins.” 1 John 4:9-10 (NLT)

The “Thanksgiving Special”

While driving in the Middle East a few years back on our way home from a play date, I remember listening to a teaching on Thanksgiving by Nancy Leigh DeMoss. At the time, it was near 98 degrees and due to sensitivity to the culture in which we were living (and more to the point, wanting to represent Jesus Christ well), I was wearing a denim jacket, a short sleeved shirt, maxi skirt and a very high ponytail. Driving was not for the faint of heart in this specific country as you could literally be passed at nearly 100 mph…while the speed limit was 80 mph out away from the city limit…and those passing would display extreme road rage if one did not get out of the lane once they decided to flash their lights behind you as you were driving. It was a continual opportunity to practice preferring others to myself. But that day, all seemed too much to handle at once. As I struggled to deal with the chaotic driving, the oppressive heat and our two precious babies crying for nap time, the lesson shared that day would be sheered in my memory and has blessed my soul to this day.

 

The premise of the story revolved around a flower shop. The story begins with a phone call between a woman and her husband. She is upset given that it is Thanksgiving and also the anniversary of a very sad day for them both. As more bad news pours through the phone lines, the woman sees a flower shop and says she will go in to see if a bouquet might cheer her up. She is caught off guard by the “Thanksgiving Special”. As a customer in front of her pays for a bundle of sticks with a ribbon around it, she is brought to ask the man why anyone would pay many for roses that have had the heads cut off! The store owner smiles as the return customer gladly explains that it reminds his family to always thank the Lord for the situations in our lives; not only the roses, but also the thorns. By the end of the story, the woman decides that she will try a bouquet of gratitude as well as a way of remembering that God can and does use all circumstances in our lives to draw us closer to Himself.

 

I recall vividly hearing this message and wiping the tears from my eyes. We lived in a walled in and guarded compound and above the cement wall and wrought iron security bars, beautiful bougainvilla grew through the cold black spikes and draped down onto the white cement walls. I quickly went outside and gathered my own bouquet of bougainvilla thorns and put them into a vase. As the customer in the flowershop had explained, I too named the various difficulties our family was dealing with that year in the Middle East; and thanked the Lord for each one. How strange it was for friends to come over and look at our bouquet of bougainvilla thorns displayed in a vase with labels! Hahah But, once they heard the reason behind it, they too were inspired by the idea.

 

In light of continued hardships and challenges within the Christian life, may we be marked as a people who give unabashed praise to Almighty God for His love, His Son Jesus Christ and for the forgiveness of our sins (John 3:16). May we not forget His faithfulness, His grace, His mercy and His guidance through the journey (Jeremiah 29:11-13, 2 Chronicles 5:11-14). As I stepped back and reflected on the bouquet within our home, it was as if a HUGE burden had been lifted off of my chest. Rather than fretting about the various items causing pain in our lives, I had been challenged to offer thankfulness to the Lord and my heart was forever changed.

 

If you too would like to listen to the full message from Revive Our Hearts, the link is included here.

The Blessing of Thorns

https://www.reviveourhearts.com/radio/revive-our-hearts/blessing-thorns-day-1/

 

I encourage each one reading to consider displaying your own bouquet of thorns this year as a way to spark conversation of Jesus Christ and the everlasting HOPE we have in Him (1 John 5:1-21) regardless of the circumstances around us (1 Peter 5:7).