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Archive for December, 2012

Editors Note:  The series this week focuses on making a transition from 2012-2013—bridging from what is behind us to connect with what is ahead of us and preparing ourselves to receive God’s best in 2013. 

 

Listening to the children on Christmas morning, I heard, “but that isn’t fair…”  It made me smile as I remembered so often saying that or hearing something similar from one of my siblings while growing up and my dad would response, “no one said life is fair.”  His comment never satisfied us, but as an adult, I have been able to recognize that one of the bridges in my life that I need to burn is the bridge of unfairness.  That “match” I use to burn that bridge is maturity or perspective of life.  Life is not a level playing field.  There isn’t always equality, balance, or equal opportunities.

 

Even among the disciples of Jesus Christ, there was this issue of fairness and Jesus offered perspective when he reminded them that we are all called to different roles and responsibilities that may create circumstances that seem unfair.  Peter too met with Jesus’ perspective in John 21 when he asked Jesus what role and responsibilities John was being called to accomplish.  Jesus instructed Peter that what he should be focused on was his personal walk, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You follow me.” John 21:22.

 

Focusing on what we are called to do, affords each of us the opportunity to be at peace.  Our Heavenly Father knows what we need (Luke 12) and is faithful to work all events in our lives for our good.  (Romans 8:28).

 

Oh, Heavenly Father, thank you for perspective.  Thank you that I don’t have to be concerned about what may appear “unfair” from the world’s standards.  I can trust Your perspective to know what I need and leave every concern in Your capable hands.  Fill me with peace today and give me Your perspective of the circumstances I will find around me.  Amen

 

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This week acts as a bridge as we transition from 2012 to 2013.  We are completing the traditional holiday period from Thanksgiving to New Years.  Are you prepared for 2013?

This week’s series will focus on preparation for a new year and helping us cross this bridge with open hearts and minds ready to receive all the Lord God has for us in 2013.

Ephesians 3:20 reminds us that God’s love is so abundantly filled with grace and mercy that He wants to accomplish more in our lives than we could “ask or imagine.”  But, to receive all that He offers, we must release the past and open ourselves to the future.  In order to go forward into that future, there are bridges we need to burn from the past.  Bridges offer connections—from the past to the future.  But, often in order to find the bridges that will take us to the future, we must first recognize there are bridges that must be burnt or crossed.  Yet, some bridges can’t be crossed and left standing; some must be eliminated and burned.

The first bridge I recognize that I need to burn are the wrongs that have been directed toward me through 2012 and perhaps those I have carried all year from further back in time.  Matt 11:25 reminds us: “And when you stand praying, if you hold anything against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive you your sins.” 

The “match” to burn this bridge is to take the high road through forgiveness. Forgiveness allows us to be free from the nightmares of the past and to reclaim the dreams God placed in our hearts for the future.  By burning this bridge we “die” to that which as bound us.  We are new! IICor 5:17 reminds us that we have been liberated! We no longer have to be captive to the power of our pasts or the sins that committed.  (Romans 7:6).  After encouraging us to love others, Jesus Christ admonishes us in love, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven”. Luke 6:37.

What bridges do you need to burn?

Additional Study Re: The Power in Forgiveness:  Psalm 25:11, Psalm 79:9, Jer 31:34, Hosea 14:2, Matt 6:12-15, Matt 18:21, 35, John 20:23, II Cor 2:7, 10, Col 3:13, Hebrews 8:12, I John 1:9,

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Seven years ago, my first child was born, just a few days before Christmas.  I remember when we were told the “official” due date, thinking that her birthday would always be wrapped into the busyness of Christmas.  I remember discussing with my husband how we would carve out specialness for her birthday, so it wouldn’t get “lost” in the Christmas celebrations.

 

It wasn’t until late in the pregnancy, when Christmas decorations came out and Christmas carols started playing, that I realized I had something in common with Mary.  I was waiting.  She had been waiting.  But she had been waiting for so much more than just her precious child to be born…..She was waiting for her Messiah, her Savior, her Promised One.

 

Since then, as I’ve held my newborn babies, I’ve silently wondered…

“Why would He come like this?”  

In my head, I know all the theological reasons.  I understand how different it was, how unexpected, how He was showing us how truly revolutionary He is.  I can see the humbleness angle.  And then I look at my totally helpless newborns, who needs their little diaper changed and can’t even keep a pacifier in on their own, and I think…..

“Why would He come like this?”

He could have come as anything.  He didn’t even have to come at all.  And He came as a baby.  As I’ve wondered, my mind has wandered to another man who asked another question along the same line….

“How can this be?”

Nicodemus enters the stage in John 3.  He’s a religious leader, and he was a guy in charge, “a member of the Jewish ruling council” (vs. 1).  He has some questions to ask Jesus, but he’s also a little scared, so he visits Jesus at night….

 

Now there was a Pharisee, a man named Nicodemus who was a member of the Jewish ruling council.  He came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the signs you are doing if God were not with him.”  Jesus replied, “Very truly I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”  “How can someone be born when they are old?” Nicodemus asked. “Surely they cannot enter a second time into their mother’s womb to be born!”  Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.”  “How can this be?” Nicodemus asked.

(Good question!)

“You are Israel’s teacher,” said Jesus, “and do you not understand these things? Very truly I tell you, we speak of what we know, and we testify to what we have seen, but still you people do not accept our testimony.  I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?  No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven—the Son of Man. Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up,  that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.”

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.   For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

 

As I read John 3 and Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, my question gets answered too.  He came as a baby, was born like all of us, so that we can be BORN AGAIN.  He is both flesh and spirit.  He came from heaven so we can go there too (vs. 13).   There are lots of things I don’t know and won’t understand this side of heaven.  What I do know is this….He was born–He chose to be born–so that we can be born again.  It is in this passage that we find arguably one of the most popular and most memorized Bible verses, John 3:16, which is a Christmas verse if I’ve ever heard one!

 

“For God SO LOVED the world that HE GAVE His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”

Now, my seven year old doesn’t need a diaper, and can talk and walk and read and write.  Now, when I look at her, I wonder and pray about what she will be when she is older, what God has for her future.   That is where Mary and I differ.  She knew what Jesus would grow up to be…..Her Savior!

 

 

 

 

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Yesterday’s devotional looked at the story of Simeon and how he first met the baby Jesus Christ in the temple.  The story moves forward immediately to another amazing moment, with another amazing and devout God-follower.

 

There was also a prophetess, Anna,

the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher.  She was very old; she had lived with her husband

seven years after her marriage, and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. 

She never left the temple

 but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 

Coming up to them at that very moment,

she gave thanks to God

and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jersualem.

 

Luke 2:36-38

 

Just as Anna and her society hundreds of years ago needed God’s redemption, our world today and we as individuals desperately need God to be with us and to save us.  We are flawed and we fall short, we need to find peace with God through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.  And like Anna, I need to be looking for the people in my circle of influence today who need to hear about the Christ child, the only One who can offer that promise of personal redemption.

 

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In my reading through the account of Jesus’ birth, Simeon has always intrigued me.  He appears to be the kind of guy that would have been a bit awe inspiring, yet still approachable; a very good and upright man, and a man with a real knack with words.

 

I imagine that were I to go back in time a couple thousand years or so and walk towards the temple courts in Jerusalem, I might run in to a kindly older gentleman who would look at me under bushy eyebrows with intensity, but then I would relax when I saw the twinkle in his eye and the half smile under his bushy beard.

 

He would tell me his name was Simeon and, he would be grateful for my lending him an arm as he made his way slowly up the cobbled and narrow street. He would tell me, as we walk arm in arm, about how he had been given special information about the longevity of his life… I won’t have much longer to worry about his aching joints, he would say, I just have a very definite feeling “the time” is coming. He might tell me how he has spent as much of his time as he could every day in prayer and meditation, waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled. And in fact, he would tell me, I am on my way to the temple this very moment because the Spirit of God is directing me there in a special way.  Perhaps, Lord willing, today is the day that the “consolation of Israel” will appear and then I can go in peace.  Because, he would assure me with his direct gaze looking straight in to my eyes, God always keeps His promises!

 

 

 

Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon,

who was righteous and devout.

He was waiting for the consolation of Israel,

and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit

 that he would not die before he had seen

the Lord’s Christ.

Moved by the Spirit,

he went into the temple courts.

When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the law required,

Simeon took him in his arms and praised God saying,

“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,

you now dismiss your servant in peace.

For my eyes have seen your salvation,

which you have prepared in the sight of all people,

a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel.”

The child’s mother and father marveled at what was said about him.  Then Simeon blessed them…

Luke 2:25-34

 

Thank you, Father God, for always keeping your promises and for sending Jesus Christ, your Son, to be a light to our world.  I praise you and I worship you! 

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In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree

that a census should be taken

of the entire Roman world.

(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea,

because he belonged to the house and line of David.

He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him

and was expecting a child.

While they were there,

the time came for the baby to be born,

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.

She wrapped him in cloths

and placed him in a manger,

because there was no room for them in the inn.

Luke 2:1-7

 

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

 

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Mary, a young woman going about her daily chores is visited by an angel. (Luke 1:28) Stop right there!  How do we accept a heavenly visit without screaming, panic or worse—running away?  Though Scripture relates that Mary was shaken and “greatly troubled” by the angel’s greeting, she didn’t run and she didn’t question the validity of the angel’s presence.  In fact, when she was told she would become pregnant with the “Son of the Highest” her response was not doubt, laughter, sarcasm or even denial.  “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

 

“Why me” or “are you kidding” would have been my response.  How could Mary have logic-defying faith?  She could have studied the Torah and prophets just as we have.  She could have been taught of the coming of the Messiah from the time she was a small child just as we have been taught that He will someday return.  Yet, when she is informed that she will become pregnant by the “power of the Most High”, her response is still amazing.  She simply responds, “I am the Lord’s servant.”  (Luke 1:35-38).

 

 

Joseph was a humble and righteous man who had lived according to Jewish law and tradition and was chosen by God to be the earthly father that would guide and teach Jesus from birth to adulthood.  Matthew 1:19 reminds us Joseph was a “just” man.  Within the culture of the day, Joseph would have been considered a man of character.  He was a business owner — he had a carpentry business.  He was betrothed to Mary.  Betrothed in that culture meant that the couple had a year period of living apart but separated from other relationships to make certain they were pure when they married.

 

Joseph learns Mary is pregnant.  He knows he isn’t the father yet we are told he quietly tries to figure out the situation.  He doesn’t react in anger.  He doesn’t desire to embarrass her or her family, but rather seeks to find a way to end the relationship quietly.  While he is considering all of this, he falls asleep.  I do that.  Sometimes my brain just needs to rest because it is weary from all of the conversations going on in my head.  But there is a difference from that type of rest than what Joseph experienced because while he slept he was visited by an angel of the Lord.

 

In the dream, Joseph is told something that goes against everything he has ever been taught or known is right.  Yet, he obeyed the angel’s direction without wavering or hesitating. “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  But he had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.”  Matthew 1:24-25

 

2000 plus years later we still read the legacy of faith in these two young people’s lives and we are inspired.  Not a wealthy woman.  Not powerful or raised in a place of position.  Not a learned man.  Not a scholar.  An ordinary girl and an ordinary tradesman—a simple couple who trusted in their God enough to go against all of the dictates of logic and tradition.

 

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