Precious See, Precious Do

 

Have you ever been left speechless by the words or actions of your precious child that shot straight to your heart? I experienced this very thing today as our nearly four-year-old daughter, Ruth, opened her play make-up and called it her “computer”. She then proceeded to tell Daniel, our two and a half year old, that she was video chatting with their grandpa. They both stood before the imaginary “computer” and greeted their grandpa. In that moment, my spirit was called into check.

 

As young mamas, speaking from experience here, it is easy to become overwhelmed by the daily chores and tasks that tug at us for attention and guidance. Yet, in watching our son and daughter reenact what they watch mommy do – in my time of rest—it really got me to thinking.

 

When all is said and done, our children will reflect what they have seen both mommy and daddy role model, without even trying. As little ones begin to imitate patterns and form the basis of whom they will one day be, may we as mamas, be willing to champion our little ones to follow hard after Jesus Christ. How do we do this; especially if they are young—through living it out day in and day out.

 

“Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.” Proverbs 22:6 (NLT)

 

Ladies, take this incredible truth to heart, as mamas you have been entrusted with precious gifts of God. Children are a biblical blessing from the Lord whom have a powerful role to play in the Lord’s kingdom (Psalm 127:3-5). As mamas, it is our sincere privilege to encourage, coach and correct our living legacies whom refer to us as “mom”. With all the enthusiasm, energy and creativity that children enjoy within youth, may we bring them to the cross of Jesus Christ and teach them why He is relevant to their precious lives today (John 14:6). This may sound daunting and even “too much” to take on. Or perhaps you are recalling the ways in which you “are not perfect” and are not “qualified” to be a role model for your children. Ladies, to believe that you are not qualified is to believe a lie from the pit of hell. Call it for what it is—an attack on where you have been seated—graciously within motherhood for God’s divine purpose (Colossians 3:17, Colossians 3:23 & 1 Corinthians 10:31). Thus, rest assured, you were made for this and are more than capable to fulfill this calling through Jesus Christ.

 

“If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:11 (NIV)

 

 

In the book of Isaiah chapter 6, a vision is recorded that has always struck me with much personal significance. My maternal grandfather was an evangelist in northern California, where I am from. As a young child, he would give each of the grandchildren a small monetary reward if we would memorize Isaiah 6:1-8. How blessed I am to have been raised with four grandparents whom were passionate about a life submitted to the will of Jesus Christ. I loved to sit with them to talk about the Holy Bible. On Sunday afternoons, I would have lunch with my paternal grandparents and we would talk about the sermon that we had just listened to together at church. I cherished those moments with them. I always loved with my Grandpa Hull would open the Bible and read as we would discuss matters of the Scriptures. There has always been something beautiful to me about a man opening the Bible with his family. How blessed I was to have two grandfathers who loved to open the Word of God. And now, I have married a man whom always loves the Word of God–such a blessing! Although I did not always have the words to express it, I watched both sets of my grandparents with a close eye—I wanted their steadfast faith that had stood the test of time, tragedy and triumph.

 

In the vision recorded in the book of Isaiah, the prophet Isaiah describes a glimpse of the Lord with astounded detail. While reading it, one feels as though they are looking onto a great throne room and are actually present (Isaiah 6:1-3). As Isaiah observes what is taking place in the heavenlies, he is convicted of heart (Isaiah 6:5). He wonders how in the world can he be in the presence of Almighty God with such “unclean lips”—let alone that he is from a people who have the same sin nature. It is in that moment that a heavenly being flies to him and touches his lips with a burning coal from the altar of sacrifice. The heavenly being states that his sin has been taken away and that his rebellion against God has been forgiven (Isaiah 6:6-7). Thus, he is clean. He is seen as pure in God’s sight. And because of that, when the Trinity asks who will go on their behalf to the nations, Isaiah responds in sheer jubilation, “Here am I, send me” (Isaiah 6:8).

 

Ladies, be encouraged. Regardless of the ways in which you may feel that you have “blown it” with your children—don’t give up. Keep starting each day by surrendering your plan to the Lord’s in prayer. Ask for His eyes and heart in the various roles you will need to play that day. And above all else, pray that your children will give their lives to the Lord at an early age. The prayers we lay at our Lord Jesus’ feet are not forgotten. Praise God, they are answered in the perfect way—for His divine purpose and end. May we never loose heart in thinking that “nothing” is happening—far from it! God’s methods cannot be tracked like a package soon to be delivered, but His words are proven as faithful and true.

 

Ladies, when we ask the Lord to forgive us, we are forgiven indeed (Hebrews 7:25). Allow us to model this to our children—and watch the impact that takes root. Regardless of the unique challenges that lie behind your family’s front door, know that God dearly loves each one under your roof. And for this reason, know that He is intimately interested in seeing your family thrive through following the examples and teachings of the Holy Bible. Our little ones are precious and they absorb what we do. And it is our great honor to exhibit for them attributes and characteristics that echo this to their young hearts. Why? Because each heart of your family is worth it to God. May we lean into His goodness and mercy as we breathe in another day of motherhood and thank Him for another opportunity to live out a life of Christ submitted servanthood as we minister to our families in steadfast love as Christ Himself modeled.

 

“For 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.” Romans 5:10 (NASB)

Picture Perfect: Adjusting The Focus

In the fast paced world we live in-where one can instantly share a photo, thought or live stream-when is one supposed to step off center-stage?

 

While scrolling through a social media site today, I smiled as I saw many of those I love having a great time on Christmas day. Yet, today is the 26th and all boxes have been opened and enjoyed. Today, the clean up is in full swing in our home and it got me to thinking.

 

How often are we, as young adults and possibly young parents, able to hit “stop” on the chaotic spin of chores, engagements and obligations in order to just “be still” or “rest” before the Lord? I can speak from experience; this is not my strong suit! As a type-A personality, I want every always perfect. I want my house clean, my kids well dressed and laughter to always be heard from our home. Perhaps you can relate!

 

With more and more of “social” interactions needing less and less of actual face-time with real-life individuals, people begin to crave depth and sincere relationship. Have you ever wondered why there is a hint of dissatisfaction when you upload a photo and the ones you really wanted to see it, miss the update all together? Let’s be real, how many time have you felt social pressure to “look good” in a photo? Who else has actually changed clothing when talks of pictures came up? I know I have been there! Ladies, simply put, we were made for real relationships. So, what’s the fix? Where can we, as women, find true relationship that will edify and refresh our souls—regardless of our relationship status?

 

Regardless of one’s situation, there is a sound and refreshing truth that is applicable to all. Before the days of carrying our phones with us to the restroom or updating a group of “friends” on our dinner menu, there was One who was unabashedly interested in you and your life—and wanting to spent time with you—just the two of you. Who is this die hard romantic that tells each willing heart come as you are and I will give you rest?

 

“Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.” Matthew 11:28 (NLT)

 

With my hair in a mess and no make-up today, my “scheduled sick day” is in full swing. I do not want to upload a single picture from today. Why? Because I feel completely and utterly unpresentable. Yet, is this what the Lord would say about me—even today? With crazy hair and piles of things my family and I needed to accomplish today, what would be His response amidst the chaos?

 

“Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.” Mark 6:31 (NLT)

 

Regardless of the plates you may be juggling in your life, regardless of how many things are staring back at you from your to-do lists, I encourage you to make it a point to rest with the Lord. What does it mean to rest? It is a beautiful word—that grows more precious with each year we inherit more responsibilities. But, does rest simply mean that we are to curl up for a nap? Or, perhaps there is more to it.

 

Just before Jesus Christ was to be crucified—part of His to-do list for saving all of mankind—He went away to pray in a garden called Gethsemane. In that time, He laid His heart bare before Father God. He knew the incredible task that lay before Him and He addressed this matter, openly and honestly. He was so stressed and filled with the weight of what lie ahead of Him that He actually sweat blood (Luke 22:44). Due to the extreme pathological circumstances that awaited Him just moments to come, Jesus surrendered His will to Father God in order to carry out His perfect will. (Matthew 26:36-46)

 

As Christians we are to be still before the Lord. To effectively do this, we are to separate ourselves from our obligations for a time and simply realign our hearts with His. The Lord has spoken such beautiful truths to my heart at just the right time as I have made a point to get alone with Him. In those times I can vent my frustrations, share my chaos and be completely bare before the Lord. Nothing is hidden from the Lord. How grateful I am that God does not just want to see my status update, but desires to share not only this life, but eternity also, with me. He desires the same for you as well.

 

In times of busyness it can be so incredibly easy to forget the importance of spending time alone with God. As 2016 prepares to make its debut, may we choose to take the time and make the effort to align our hearts to the Lord through times of deliberate rest with Him. Why? Because you are worth it to an infinitely loving God.

 

“Be still, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation. I will be honored throughout the world.” Psalm 46:10 (NLT)

Meeting Jesus Christ on Christmas Eve

“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Micah 5:2 (NIV)

(Reference Luke chapter 2 from the Holy Bible)
The time had come. Mary was to give birth to her firstborn. This would be unlike any other. This baby was conceived of the Holy Spirit. She would not have the luxury of her own family to comfort her nor familiar surroundings as she labored. No. She was in a borrowed stable with the sites and smells of livestock as a result of all of the Roman world needing to comply with the census of Ceasar Augustus. Thus, she and Joseph had traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem in order to be counted in the “City of David”, which is Bethlehem. Joseph was both of the house and line of David.
Try to put yourself in their shoes for a second. You are traveling and at the mercy of any who would find room for you. All bed and breakfasts were completely full. Bethlehem was overflowing with inhabitants for this census to be carried out. The streets were packed and the amount of displaced people were incredible for this event. Yet, debating the words of Caesar was not an option.
It was there, in a humble stable, that Jesus the Christ (Christ is Greek for “anointed one”) entered into His own creation to fulfill the long awaited rescue and redemption of mankind. How would such a Babe due this?
Jesus was (and will always be) the Messiah (Messiah is Hebrew for “anointed one”) and the only One whom would be able to wipe away the filth that we, as mankind, continue to wallow in–generation after generation. Seeing as mankind could not meet the standard of perfection, God in His infinite grace, took on the form of a Babe in order to COME TO US to seek and save.

 

“By 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.” 1 John 4:9 (NASB)

 

This Christmas season, regardless of whether or not you are with family and loved ones, or perhaps grieving the loss of those you love, take heart. The God of all creation, the God who sent His very own Son to rescue our souls from eternal punishment, offers us comfort and peace amidst hardships. Know that no matter what your situation, no matter how many may be seated around your table, Christ is seated at the right hand of Father God in heaven–and Jesus Christ personally cares for YOU. I implore you to press into learning more about this God of the Bible this very day. What a perfect time of year to personally meet Jesus Christ the Messiah who takes away the shortcomings of all people.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23 (NLT)

 

“that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.” Romans 10:9-10 (NASB)

 

Jesus Christ is the answer to all the hurts, confusion and heartaches of life. And for this reason, it is indeed a very Merry Christmas.
Come meet Jesus Christ today.

“And just as it is appointed for people to die once–and after this, judgment–so also the Messiah, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for Him.”
Hebrews 9:27-28 (HCSB)

The Season of Advent: Fall On Your Knees (Part IV)

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!

The Season of Advent: Fall On Your Knees (Part III)

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)

*This article is featured on Wonderfully Made’s Official Blog Site. Click on the title in teal below to view.

Fall On Your Knees

The Season of Advent: Fall On Your Knees (Part II)

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 4.4 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)

 

 

(End of Part II)

The Season of Advent: Fall On Your Knees (Part I)

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 publically 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)