Friday, April 6, 2012

The Thief's Tale

Then one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, “If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.”
But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.”
And Jesus said to him, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:39-43, New King James Version)


I am a thief, I stand accused, my verdict is guilty and am now to be condemned for my crimes. He speaks and pronounces that my sentence, is death.  I can hardly hear him speaking, my heart is beating fast in my ears. My knees grow weak beneath me and I steal myself to stand up right. I am afraid. My co-conspirator stands next to me and hears the same sentence of death. He stands defiant, but I just want to run away. How did I get here? What seemed like a simple plan to embezzle money from our Roman master and gain our freedom, has brought me here.  I thought I was so smart and now I will pay the ultimate penalty for my crimes; for today I will be crucified.

The guards drag us away where we are stripped of our clothing and flogged. The lash of the whip makes me nearly unconcious with pain. They pull me back to my feet, laughing and spitting in my face. "Get up dog." one of the guards says to me. "It is time for your final march".  They lay the cross beam on my back and force us to march through the city. It seems that everyone in Jeresalem is lining the streets. Passover is tomorrow, so there are more people than usual.

I hear some people crying and reaching out to the man who is walking in front of me. I watch as he stumbles underneath the weight of his cross. The guard kicks him, to try to get him back up, but he is too weak from the beating he had received to lift the heavy cross piece. They grab a man from the crowd and tell him to carry the cross for him. The women along the way are crying for him, 

But Jesus, turning to them, said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For indeed the days are coming in which they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, wombs that never bore, and breasts which never nursed!’ Then they will begin ‘to say to the mountains, “Fall on us!” and to the hills, “Cover us!”’ For if they do these things in the green wood, what will be done in the dry?” (Luke 23:28-31, New King James Version)
Who is this man who is condemed with me, I hear someone in the crowd cry out the name "Jesus". I have heard this man speak, he is a teacher and a good man.  He told of the Kingdom of God and some claim that he is Messiah. What did he do to deserve to die in this horrible way? I watch as he goes up the hill. He is silent and is not fighting against the guards as they lead him up the hill of Calvary, where he will be crucified.  I watch as He falls on to the cross piece and as they streach his arms out to hammer the nails in his hands, he winces, but the makes no cry and does not move to escape them. I look over to see my former friend who is fighting with the guards holding him down as they tie him to the cross. One of them strikes him across the face and for a minute he stops moving. They finish nailing him to the cross and raise him up toward the sky.

I watch as the guards raise Jesus's cross piece and finish hammering the nails in his feet. I hear him say “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”.  Now, it is my turn to be nailed to the cross. They force me to lay down on the cross, tie my arms to the cross piece and drive nails into my arms. The pain is excruciating. I feel sick. They raise me into the air and force the cross piece into the upright piece then they drive nails into my feet to hold me still. The pain is unbearable, I force myself up on the nails so I can breathe, but the pain is so bad I slack off, but the need to breathe is so great, that I find that I must bear the pain on my feet ever few seconds so I can take in another breath. How long will I stay in this agony?

I watch the guards below the cross of Jesus, they have taken his clothing and are casting lots for it. The tall Centurion wins the lot and takes the robe and folds it up. People around him seer and mockingly say, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if  He is the Christ, the chosen of God.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming and offering Him sour wine, saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself.”  I watch Jesus and he does not say anything.

My former friend joins in with the rest of the crowd and sneers. "If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.” I had all I could stand and said to him. “Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.” I looked at Jesus and said, “Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom.” He looked at me with compassion in his eyes and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.”

All of a sudden, the sky went dark, it was the middle of the day when the sun was highest, but the sun had  stopped shining. It was dark and a chill rose in the air.  The people on the ground around us began to shuffle nervously. Even those who had been insulting Jesus stayed silent. The air around us became eereily silent. It felt like an eternity  And when Jesus had cried out with a loud voice, He said, “Father, ‘into Your hands I commit My spirit.’ and he breathed his last.


With that final cry, Jesus was gone. The crowd was deflated and started to make their way home. The guards came to me and broke my legs, the pain was once again too much to bear. I could not breathe, I could no longer raise myself up to breathe and I was smothering. I tried to fight against the darkness that was over taking me, when I suddenly stopped feeling any pain. I raised my head and saw Jesus standing beside me, I was not on the cross anymore, I was standing next to Jesus in a beautiful place, in front of the Judgement seat of God.

 I was afraid again. I knew my crimes were many and I knew I did not merit being in HIS presence. I dropped my head, waiting for the final verdit to be spoken over my life. Jesus spoke up and said, "Father, this one is with me, he by faith confessed me and I have accepted him. He is one I died for,  Please welcome him into Your Kingdom." I could not believe my ears. Jesus was pleading on my behalf. I heard a sound like thunder and a voice saying, "welcome home, my child, come up hither." I looked up and an angel was standing next to me, and Jesus was walking back the way we had come. I heard him say "Father, I will return when I have completed the final part of the mission you gave me." Then the angel, led me into the Golden city and said, "Welcome, come and see your eternal home."

Just like this thief, we stand condemed in our sin.
for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (Romans 3:23, New King James Version)

We have no way of saving ourselves. God made perfect provision for our redemption in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:6-8, New King James Version)
Just like the Thief, we can be saved.
that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. For “whoever calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Romans 10:9-13, New King James Version)
You stand today at a crossroads. You have a choice. You can choose life, or you can choose death. Which will you choose. I say choose Christ and choose life, today is the day of salvation. You can be saved, if you will but believe. Will you call upon him now?

Let us pray:
Father, right now as best I know how, I admit to you that I know that I am a sinner. I ask that you please forgive me, I confess to you that I believe that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. I accept him as my savior and Lord. I give myself over to you. Thank you for hearing my prayer, and for saving me. Please help me to live a life that is pleasing to you. In Jesus name, amen.

Today's narriative was based on Luke chapter 23
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+23+&version=NKJV&src=embed


© 2011 Brenda J Kent

Saturday, December 24, 2011

The Journey to Bethlehem: Mary, The Mother of Jesus

 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Luke 2: 19

Today is Christmas eve. There are so many things to do today, there is last minute shopping, cooking, wrapping of presents, family events and Church programs to perform and attend. The whole world seems to be scurrying about trying to finish up all the last minute details before Christmas day. Nothing has changed over the centuries. We humans often scurry about too busy with the details of our lives to stop and see what is around us. However, I believe that this Christmas I am going to make a point to ponder the events of this past year and lock them away in my memories just like Mary did on that first Christmas Eve so many centuries ago. Come with me now as we take a trip back in time to that night and hear the story from the heart of Mary, the mother of our Lord.

I am so tired, the long journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was hard on me. The walking brought on my labor sooner than we expected. Joseph helped me up on the donkey for the last few miles of our journey, but nothing was going to help, the birth pains were coming very regular by the time we reached Bethlehem. Joseph was trying to remain calm but I could see that he was worried. He was frantically searching for a place we could stay for the night, but all the inns were full due to the census, so no one had a place where we could stay.

One man did take pity on us when he saw my condition, he said he had a stable in a cave on his property. He told Joseph we could stay there, it was not much, but it was dry and a shelter from the night. He took us out to the stable and helped Joseph make a bed of straw for me. They found some blankets and covered the straw. The man told Joseph that his wife would be available to help should the baby come tonight and that he would send us some food from the house by one of his servants.

The pains were very close together now, and I was no longer able to walk or talk through them. Joseph told the servant that the time was close for the baby to be born. The innkeepers wife came out to help me, since this was my first time, she knew I would need someone to coach me through the birth.  Time and eternity seemed to stand still at that moment as I pushed; then a healthy cry filled the stillness of the night as my son took his first breath.

The pain of the moments before was instantly forgotten as the midwife placed the crying babe in my arms and I looked for the first time into the perfect face of my son; but not only my son, for I knew that was looking into the very face of God.  I was enthralled and filled with the most inexplicable love that I had ever known. It was if my own heart was now outside my body and cradled in my arms; nothing else mattered. I caressed his face and counted his fingers and toes. He grasped my finger and held it tight in his fist and looked me in the eyes is such a meaningful way it seemed like he knew me.
He was perfect and the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

Joseph helped the midwife cut the cord and clean him up. We did not have clothes to put him in, so we wrapped him tightly in some clean blankets that the innkeeper provided for us. The animal's manger became a makeshift cradle. As I fell asleep with my babe in my arms, Joseph stood watch over us; he seemed just as in awe as I of this beautiful little person who just came into the world.

The night was quiet, the only sound was the bleating of sheep and the lowing of the cattle in the field just outside the stable. It was around the third watch of the night when I woke to the sound of voices talking outside. I sat up and Joseph came over to me and asked if I was up for company. He told me that several shepherds had been visited by a band of angels and were told that the Messiah had been born tonight in Bethlehem and they had come to see the newborn babe. 

Joseph helped me to my feet and found a milking stool for me to sit upon and we allowed our first visitors to come see our newborn child. The men came in and knelt beside the manger and the light of love was shining in their eyes as the looked at my son. One of them asked the baby's name. Joseph said "He will be called Jesus." 

The shepherds stayed for a little while and told us about the visitation of the angels. We were in awe of their story and it confirmed once again to me that my son is the Son of God himself. As the sun began to dawn, the shepherds made their way back to the fields rejoicing that the Lord had chosen them to receive the first announcement of His son's birth. I laid back down to rest again and as I fed my baby I looked into his eyes, memorizing his face and treasuring the events of the last few months. I wanted to always remember this night. The night that God became my baby boy and entered the world that He had created.


Let us pray:
Father, thank you so much for sending your son Jesus into this world, born of a virgin, to be the sinless son of God, the spotless lamb who would be the propitiation for our sin. Thank you for sending him into the world to die on the cross, forever making a way for me to be reconsiled to you, so that I could become your child. Lord I love you, I praise you for your excellent greatness, for your loving kindness, and your tender mercies that are renewed every morning. Thank you for coming into the world you created so that mankind could be saved.  To you belong all glory and power and blessings, forever and ever, amen.

© 2011 Brenda J Kent

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Masterpiece

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

What is your definition of a masterpiece? Websters defines the word as a work done with extraordinary skill; especially: a supreme intellectual or artistic achievement.

In 2005 I had the opportunity to go to Florence Italy and see Michelangelo's statue of "David" in the Academia. The statue is an amazing sculpture; a colossus that stands 17 feet off it's base. Michelangelo was just twenty six years old when he received the commission for "David" in 1501. He was given a flawed and neglected piece of marble that had previously been given to another sculptor for a statue of "David". The other sculptor gave up on the piece nineteen years before Michelangelo received his commission and the marble was exposed to the elements during the interim. Many other artist were given the chance to finish "David", but they rejected the commission because the marble was flawed and damaged, only Michelangelo believed he could make something beautiful out of something so flawed.

How many times do you look at the circumstances of your life and think there is no way that my life can be considered beautiful. You have storms that come across your life that wreak havoc; your heart is ripped open because of the death of someone close to you, the illness of your child or the rejection of  someone who promised to love you. You are battered and tossed by the winds of life and sometimes wonder what is the purpose of it all. If you are not careful, you will begin to believe the lie that your life will amount to nothing and just like that piece of marble, you may feel that you are flawed and neglected.
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Romans 8:28-29

In the hands of the master, the hammer and the chisel are utilized to chip away all the excess marble to reveal the image in the mind of the sculptor. The work is hard and it takes a long time to chip away at the edges and for the image to emerge. Just like the sculptor, God chips away at all the rough edges in our lives in order to create the image He has in mind.  He chips away at the sin and the prejudices in order to shape us into the image of His son, Jesus Christ.

We have this hope, that all things work out for good to those who love God and are called according to his purpose. This does mean that all things that happen to us are good, however, what you can trust is that IF you let him, God can work with even the bad things that happen in your life to create His masterpiece with your life. All things we go through, good and bad, can shape and mold us into the very image of Jesus Christ, however, we do need to allow God to work in our lives when we are going through difficult times.  Then God will take our flawed, damaged and sinful lives and make for himself a masterpiece.

James the half brother of Jesus put it this way:

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

 When you are going though the trials of this life and you feel that you are getting nowhere, remember that God is still working. Just because you cannot see him working, does not mean he has finished. God's ultimate goal is to create His masterpiece with your life and that may mean he uses the hammer and the chisel to knock off the pieces that do not resemble His son. Do not judge the value of the workmanship while it is still being created, because you will not see the true value of the work until after the Master is finished. 

Let us pray:
Father God, there are so many times that I find myself doubting your goodness and faithfulness because of the circumstances in my life. I confess that I sometimes doubt you are working in my life because I do not see the results I want to see. Lord please forgive me in my times of momentary unbelief as I struggle to understand your purpose for my life. Lord I submit myself to your hand, help me to endure the trials as you make me into the image of your son Jesus.  Lord I love you, please help me to love you more. In Jesus name I pray, amen.


© 2011 Brenda J Kent

Saturday, September 10, 2011

September 11, 2001: We Will Not Forget


He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.
Colossians 1: 13-14

My friend Shannon sent me this verse at 7:45 am the morning of September 11, 2001. The night before I had told the group that had gathered at her house that I was anxious, restless and uneasy for some unknown reason. In our conversations that night I had stated that I believed the reason so many of us put off things doing things we really need to do is that there was not a sense of urgency; we were not a war and that no one really believed that our time on earth was short.  She sent this to me to give me comfort. She wanted to help me to remember that no matter what happens, that Jesus is our deliver and that I should not be afraid.

Little did we know that in about an hour, the first plane would crash into the first tower of the World Trade Center in New York City, followed by a second plane deliberately flown into the second tower.  At about the same time there was another targeted attack at the Pentagon and another plane went down in a Pennsylvania field which was possibly targeting the White House. This plane crashed because men on this plane decided to act to stop the terrorist who had taken them hostage. They knew they were going to die, but their actions saved the lives of many others.

At first when I heard of a plane hitting the World Trade Center tower, I thought someone was joking. Then we went online to a news station's streaming video just in time to see another plane hit the second tower. I can still hear one of my co-workers saying that we needed to pray.  I remember that I picked up the phone to call my mother who was still asleep. I told her to get up and turn on the television, that a plane had hit the World Trade Center.  What she saw broke her heart. My coworkers and I watched in horror as the first of the buildings came crashing down followed by the second. We saw the damage at the Pentagon and heard of the many people who were missing and presumed dead.   The chaos of the following hours are burned indelibly in my memory. The whole country was in a state of shock.

We saw footage of the rescue workers who bravely went running into the burning towers to save as many as they could. There were stories of people trapped on the top floors of the towers who could not get down due to the flames below, calling their loved ones and telling them good bye. So many men, women and children died that day.

In the weeks to follow we heard the stories of those who were spared. They would tell of the little things that delayed them from being where they would normally be.  One of my parent's friends was stationed at the Pentagon, he was not at his desk that morning, which preserved his life. One of my co-workers daughters was supposed to be on the plane that went down in Pennsylvania. At the last minute she decided not to get on the plane, she was presumed dead, but she contacted her mom several hours later telling her what happened.

That following Sunday our Churches were filled with people trying to make sense out of what happened. There was a sense of unity among the citizens of the United States of America. Not since the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 had this nation been attacked by a foreign enemy. The whole country mourned together and were unified in our grief.

Ten years have past since that fateful day when terrorist took four planes and used them as weapons of mass destruction. We have been at war against those terrorists ever since. Today the nation will stand in remembrance of those who died, we remember the firemen, policemen and others who rushed into the burning buildings, we remember those who gave their lives so that others might live. We remember the brave men who fought back against the terrorist in the plane that crashed over a field in Pennsylvania, saving the lives of those who were the target of the attack. We remember those who lived, who look back and wonder why did I live when so many others died.

Some still question where was God while this was happening and why did he allow so many innocent people to die. I have no answer except what was said by a man named Job who had just lost everything . ...Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” Job 2:10b

Today, as we remember those that are fallen, we need to remember that Jesus is our deliver. He is the lamb that takes away the sin of the world. We are not promised a tomorrow, we are only given today.  If you do not know Jesus as your personal savior, then today is the day of Salvation. You do not know what a day holds, are you ready to meet God and make an accounting of your life? If you do not know Him, what is stopping you? Why not come to him now?  It is written

that if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. Romans 10:9-10

Will you call upon him now?

Let us pray.
My gracious and most precious heavenly Father. I stand before you and confess to you that I am a sinner in need of a saviour. I know that I can do nothing to save myself. I ask that you please forgive me of my sins. I repent of my sin, I surrender my life to you and ask that you come into my heart and save me. Lord thank you for saving me, please help me to live a life that is pleasing to you. In Jesus name, amen.


© 2011 Brenda J Kent

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

You Must Be Born Again

Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  (John 3:3, New King James Version)

The most recognized verse from the New Testament may very well be John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, New King James Version). This verse comes in the middle of a late night conversation between Jesus and a Pharisee named Nicodemus. John is the only Gospel account of this conversation.
There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. This man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?”
(John 3:1-4, New King James Version)
 How can a man be born when he is old? It is a mystery that causes many to stumble before finally they come to the saving knowledge of Christ. Nicodemus is a leader in the Jewish council. He is a teacher of Israel; but he is confounded with the thought that he "must be born again".  Jesus elaborates.

Jesus answered, “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
(John 3:5-8, New King James Version)

 The Greek word "anothen" used in the passage for "again" can be translated either as  "from above" or "anew".  This new birth or regeneration is brought about by God himself. God is the one who imparts the ability for someone to come to Jesus in faith and brings about a Spiritual birth. Without the spiritual birth, a person is not able to perceive spiritual things or enter the kingdom of God. The Spirit of God and the action of being born of the spirit is also likened to the blowing of the wind. We cannot see the wind, but we know it exists because we can feel it's effects. The Spirit of God cannot be seen with the eyes, but we can see the effect of his presence.  In the same way, the new birth can only be perceived by others when the behavior of the person who has been born again changes as a result of being born of the spirit.

Nicodemus answered and said to Him, “How can these things be?”
Jesus answered and said to him, “Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:9-15, New King James Version)
From the very beginning of his Ministry on earth, Jesus was telling his disciples that He came to this earth to die. Every time the phrase "lifted up" is mentioned in John's gospel it is referring to the manner of Jesus death. Numbers chapter 21, relates the story of Moses lifting up the bronze serpent in the wilderness. The story tells of the time when the children of Israel were perishing because they were bitten by venomous snakes. God had sent judgment on the children of Israel for their sin but provided a way for redemption if they looked at the bronze serpent. Those who looked up and looked upon the serpent, lived, those who did not look upon the serpent died.  Jesus relates his death on the cross to Moses lifting up the serpent on the pole. He tells Nicodemus that just like the serpent, Christ will be lifted up between Heaven and the earth for the salvation of mankind.   As he hung there suspended on the cross, Jesus took upon himself the sin of the world and took the full brunt of the wrath of God so that we might live. The reason God did this is in the next verses.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be clearly seen, that they have been done in God.” (John 3:16-21, New King James Version)
God in his infinite mercy, not wanting his creation to perish, had a plan to rescue us from certain destruction and permanent separation from himself from the beginning of time. He sent His only Son into the world he had created and Jesus, the Son of God lived a sinless life here on earth.  At the appointed time, Jesus became the spotless Lamb of God; a sacrifice to end all sacrifices. He was taken by the Roman authorities and condemned to die the cruelst death imaginable; death on a cross. On that cross Jesus became sin and God poured out his wrath and judgement on Jesus. Jesus took the penalty of our sin on himself; that penalty was death. He became the propitiation or appeasement of God's righteous wrath of our sin so that we may exchange our sin for His righteousness.

The cure for our sinful state is right there in front of us, Jesus was lifted up like the serpent on the pole in the wilderness, all we have to do is look to Him and be saved. Just like the children of Israel, some willingly look upon Jesus and are born again. Unfortunately some choose not to look to him and they perish in their sins. You may say "but I have not made up my mind yet about accepting Jesus, so how could I be condemned to death?" Well my friend, not to choose is to choose death. I did not say it, Jesus himself said it.

“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:18-19, New King James Version)

So I ask you, have you come to a time in your life where you repented of your sin, asked God to forgive you of that sin and accepted the free gift of Eternal life by believing in the only Son of God?  If not, why not surrender to Him today. Today is the day of Salvation, the Kingdom of the Lord is at hand. You do not know when the hour of your death will come, you could be swept away into eternity at a moments notice without any warning.  None of us are promised a tomorrow and after this life is over, it is too late to choose. Will you choose to call upon him now?

Let us Pray:

My gracious and most precious Heavenly Father. I come before you now and admit that I am a sinner in need of a saviour. As best I know how, I ask you to forgive me and I repent of my sins. I confess that Jesus is the Messiah, the only Son of the Living God and the only way by which I can be saved. I surrender my life to you Jesus, please take me into your kingdom and help me to live for you. I love you Lord and I ask that you teach me to love you more. In Jesus name I pray, amen.


© 2011 Brenda J Kent

Monday, February 14, 2011

True Love Waits... A Call for Personal Purity

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit. (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8, New King James Version)

I first of all want to wish everyone a Happy Valentines Day; a day when we are to show the people in our lives just how much we love them. The jewelry, greeting card, candy, stuffed animal and flower industries are all hocking their wares, just begging you to buy their products. The airwaves are full of images of couples showering each other with affection. We have an overload of images telling us how to convey our love and desire for that special someone and often those images include the showing of physical affection between both dating and married couples.  The problem with these images is that what is good and acceptable for a married couple to do, is not good and acceptable or even healthy for someone who is only in a dating relationship. The results can be devastating.

We live in a society that is obsessed with sexual desire; you see it everywhere on television, in movies, in the romantic books that are written and the magazines that are read. The culture is totally saturated by illicit images at every turn. If you use the media as a gauge for acceptable behavior, then we live in a hedonistic society where practically anything goes. But The Bible tells us that the will of God is for me to refrain from sexual immorality, so if that is a command, why is it so difficult to do.   C.S. Lewis said in his book Mere Christianity:  "Chastity is the most unpopular of Christian virtues. There is no getting away from it; the Christian rule is, Either marriage, with complete faithfulness to your partner, or else total abstinence.” Now this is so difficult and so contrary to our instincts, that obviously either Christianity is wrong or our sexual instinct, as it now is, has gone wrong. One or the other. Of course, being a Christian, I think it is the instinct which has gone wrong."  (—C.S. Lewis. Mere Christianity, pp. 95-96).

So tell me, how far is too far when you are in a dating relationship? I believe that too many Christian singles today have a tendency to push the envelope so to speak with their actions during a dating relationship. I am afraid that we try to see just how far we can go before we cross over that line into promiscuity and sin. It is a slippery slope, walking along the edge, flirting with sinful desires. As a result of falling into sin, many saints have lost their effectiveness in the Kingdom of God. So how far is too far? Dr. Johnny M Hunt said in a sermon on this passage "Any time something you do brings about a sexual desire that cannot be satisfied Biblically, then you are guilty of defrauding that other person. That is when you go too far."


In other words, if you deliberately touch someone in a certain way or talk to someone in such a way that causes them to desire something that cannot be satisfied in a God honoring way, you have sinned against that person and God will hold you responsible for your actions. Remember, if you truly love someone, you will not want to do anything that will harm their or your relationship with God. You may think that is rather harsh, but we need to stop walking so close to the edge of sinful behavior that we slip over the edge before we know what happened. Once we do, then it is too late to stop it. I had a Sunday School teacher put it to me this way. "If you cannot pray to God in the midst of doing what you are doing, while you are doing it and glorify God in it, and thank him for how you feel, then you need to stop before you go to far."  The apostle Paul said it this way.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. (1 Corinthians 10:13, New King James Version)
 There is another side to Valentines Day that makes many a single Christan feel inferior to their married or dating friends. I have even heard this day called Singles Awareness Day. Valentines Day is also a day that makes many people who are not in a relationship painfully aware of their marital state or lack thereof. Instead of waiting on God, they become embittered because they are single or go into a frenzy trying to find a mate, and disregard listening to God and determining what he may want for them. Elizabeth Elliot said "Often a Christian man or woman falls prey to that cruel and vexatious spirit, wondering how to find marriage, who, when, where? It is on God that we should wait, as a waiter waits--not for but on the customer--alert, watchful, attentive, with no agenda of his own, ready to do whatever is wanted. 'My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.' (Ps. 62:5 KJV) In Him alone lie our security, our confidence, our trust. A spirit of restlessness and resistance can never wait, but one who believes he is loved with an everlasting love, and knows that underneath are the everlasting arms, will find strength and peace." — Elisabeth Elliot (Quest for Love: True Stories of Passion and Purity)
 
I know what it is like to be a single person sitting alone at a table set for two, but I want to admonish all my single friends to remember that your Creator, the Lover of your soul, loves and adores you. You are the apple of his eye. You may think he is withholding a mate from you for punishment, but I assure you that is not the case. God loves you intimately and HE is the one who loves you best. He does not withhold good gifts from his children, but he will not allow his children to be harmed by something or someone that is not His best for them. It is the enemy of your soul that tells you otherwise. We need to relax and allow our Heavenly Father to work in our lives. What God gives us is always his best, however I have found that it is often what we desire for ourselves that is inferior.  Elizabeth Elliot said "Restlessness and impatience change nothing except our peace and joy. Peace does not dwell in outward things, but in the heart prepared to wait trustfully and quietly on Him who has all things safely in His hands."  — Elisabeth Elliot


So my friends, I leave you with this final quote from Elisabeth Elliot.
"This love of which I speak is slow to lose patience - it looks for a way of being constructive.
Love is not possessive.
Love is not anxious to impress nor does it cherish inflated ideas of its own ideas.
Love has good manners and does not pursue selfish advantage.
Love is not touchy.
Love does not keep account of evil or gloat over the wickedness of other people. On the contrary, it is glad with all good men when truth prevails.
Love knows no limits to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that stands when all else has fallen." — Elisabeth Elliot (Let Me Be a Woman)
Let us Pray:

My gracious and most precious Heavenly Father. Lord there are times when I question your intentions toward me. I wonder if you have forgotten me and left me alone here in this world. Then you remind me that you promised to never leave me nor forsake me, that you have told me that you know me intimately, that the number of hairs on my head are numbered and that I am a precious jewel in your hands. Father, forgive me for doubting you and your goodness. You said in your word that you know the thoughts that you have toward me, thoughts to prosper me and not to harm me, to give me a future and a hope. Please help me never to forget that you love me more than anyone. That even if my own mother forgets who I am, you will never forget me, you will always be with me and you love me more than she ever could imagine loving me. Lord I thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die in my stead. Thank you for loving me so much that you would take the punishment of my sin on yourself, in order that I may live and be able to come into your presence. Lord I love you, help me to love you more. In Jesus Name I pray, amen.

© 2010 Brenda J Kent

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unanswered Prayer

Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. (James 4:1-3, New King James Version)

A dear friend of mine was recently regaling to me their tale of an all too common heartbreak story. My friend revealed that they had been in love with someone for several years and had long carried the hopes of one day marrying this person. My friend believed that this person was the one and had been waiting for the Lord to move on this other person's heart and allow them to finally be married. My friend was hoping against all hopes that the Lord was going to allow this sincerest desire of their heart to finally come to pass; but alas,  it was not meant to be as the object of my friends affection has since decided to marry another.  Now my friend is wondering how they could have been so wrong about what they thought was God's will for their life.

While I was thinking about my friend's plight, I was reminded of a song by Garth Brooks released in 1990, called "Unanswered Prayers". It is a story song about the paths we take and how the Lord guides us in them. In the song, a married man went to his reunion and was reunited with a woman he had dated in high school whom he had desperately wanted to marry. He said he prayed fervently and asked God to give her to him, but the Lord did not answer his prayer. After high school, he went one way and his love went another; he eventually met the woman who became his wife, whom he loves dearly. After seeing his old flame again and the person she had become, he realized that the Lord knew what he was doing when he did not answer his prayer and he was even more grateful for the woman the Lord gave to him as his wife.

The song makes you think; did God not answer his prayer, or did God answer his prayer, but not in the way he wanted it answered at the time? It is important to remember, that God is under no obligation to answer our prayers in the affirmative. Just because God does not grant our request, does not mean he did not answer our prayer. He may have just said, "No". 

It has been my experience that God answers the requests of his children in one of the following ways.

1. Yes.
Father may I have a cookie? Yes child, you may have a cookie and here is a glass of milk to go with it.
This is a picture of an obedient child asking and receiving from his Father.

2. He may say No for many different reasons.
Father may I have a cookie? No Child, you may not have a cookie. Why?
A. You did not obey me, therefore you may not have a cookie. The relationship is broken because of sin.
B.  My child, you are a diabetic, the cookie will hurt you, so you may not have a cookie. The item you ask for may harm you.
C.  You did not eat your dinner, therefore you may not have a cookie. Something you were supposed to do is not completed.
D. No child, you may not have a cookie now, because I have cake and ice cream planned for you later. I cannot give you what you asked for because I have something better in store for you. (and sometimes it is an ice cream cake with cookies and cream ice cream, better than we can ever imagine)

3. He may say wait.
Father may I have a cookie? Not now, child. Wait until after dinner, bath, etc, then you may have a cookie, .

4. He may say "You surely must be joking."  because the request is so absurd.

You may be thinking, I am not asking God for a cookie; I have some real needs, I am asking God for a miracle. What are His answers to me?

1. He may give you the gift of His Silence.  God may not say anything at all because he is wanting reveal more of himself to you. For example John chapter 11, Mary and Martha experienced four excruciating days of silent waiting in Bethany followed by Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead. In raising Lazarus from the dead,  Jesus revealed his Deity, he revealed to everyone that he was the resurrection and the life.
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+11+&version=NKJV&src=embed


2. He may show you His glory like he did for Isaiah chapter 6.   In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “ Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!”   And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. (Isaiah 6:1-4, New King James Version)

3. He may reveal to you His Majesty as he did for Job. See Job chapters 38 through 42.  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Job+38-42&version=NKJV&src=embed

4. He may deliver you as he did the children of Israel in the Passover and the parting of the Red Sea.  See Exodus Chapters 12-14
 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Exodus+12-14&version=NKJV&src=embed

5. He may divinely provide for you as He provided for Elijah. See 1 Kings 17 http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1+Kings+17+&version=NKJV&src=embed

6. He may give you His peace. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27, New King James Version)

7. He gives you the gift of the Holy Spirit. See John chapter 14
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John+14+&version=NKJV&src=embed

8. He may give you His Grace as he did for the Apostle Paul.
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:7-10, New King James Version)

9. He gives you the gift of His Presence. See Psalms 23
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+23+&version=NKJV&src=embed

10. God's ultimate answer to our prayers is Jesus Christ himself. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. (Romans 5:7-9, New King James Versionhttp://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Romans+5+&version=NKJV&src=embed


So does God always answer my prayers? Yes he does, every time and his answer is always best.  Matthew's Gospel puts it this way.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. Or what man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him! (Matthew 7:7-11, New King James Version)
You see, God is not a benevolent divine genie ready to grant us our ever whim when ever we rub the lamp. He is the Holy God of the universe and we are his creation. We are here to love and worship him. He is our father and because he loves us, he gives us what he knows is best for us. In our ignorance, we may ask him for something that is not good for us; but in HIS divine wisdom and foreknowledge, He guides our steps and gives us what we need, not necessarily what we want at the time. If we allow him to work in our lives, we will soon find that the desires of our heart change to match what HE desires for us and we are grateful for his divine protection.

Let us pray:
My gracious and most precious heavenly Father. Lord in my ignorance, I have made requests of you that I later found out were not good for me. I want to thank you for answering my prayers in the way that is best, not in the way that I always want you to answer. Lord I love you and I want to know you more. Help me to listen to the still small voice that is saying behind me, this is my way, walk in in it. Help me to trust you when I do not understand what is going on around me and when in confusion, I wonder why I cannot have what I have asked you for, help me to trust that you know what is best for me. Thank you for always answering my prayers, especially when to protect me, your answer was no. I surrender my heart to you, help me to be more like you. In Jesus name I pray, amen.

© 2010 Brenda J Kent

Saturday, December 25, 2010

The Journey to Bethlehem: Wise Men Still Seek Him

  Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2, New King James Version)

"We Three Kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar, field and fountain, moor and mountain, following yonder star". Not much is known about the Wise men from the East, though many have speculated though the years who these  men were.  They are called, the Three Wise Men, The Magi, The Three Kings; some scholars believe that they were Astronomers who study the stars and they noticed that a new star had appeared in the Heavens. The appearance of this star, led them to conclude that a King had been born. They then decided to leave their homes, travel to a foreign land to find and worship the newborn King of the Jews. The Star led them on their Journey to Bethlehem.

The new Star had appeared one night, suddenly and it shone brilliantly in the night sky. My friends and I were fascinated to see this new bright light in the heavens. We somehow just knew the appearance of this new Star was monumental. We searched the scrolls and concluded that the star must be a sign from God. The appearance of the star in the Western sky led us to understand that the a new King had been born. We felt compelled to take a journey so that we may pay homage to this new King. We gathered together our belongings, brought appropriate gifts fit to give a King and we set out on our journey. The star appeared in front of us, it seemed to go before us, leading the way; so we followed the star Westward to see where it would lead us.

Our journey took several weeks, it was a long hard trip across the deserts and mountains. We arrived in Jerusalem at last. We began making inquiries of the people we would meet saying,  "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”  We expected it to be easy to find the new born King in Jerusalem, however it proved harder than we thought to find him. No one seemed to know what we were talking about. The looked at us with suspicion instead of the jubilation that we expected. The king of Israel, Herod, did not seem to know what we were talking about. We expected that the newborn King would be living in the royal palace, however, as we soon found out, that was not the case.

When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
       ‘ But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
      Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
      For out of you shall come a Ruler
       Who will shepherd My people Israel.’

(Matthew 2:3-6, New King James Version)
We were summoned to the Palace, we did not know what to think. Did the ruling king think us to be spies or did he think we were somehow a danger to his throne? We were questioned by king Herod in secret. He asked us when the star appeared. We had no reason to withhold the information so we told him about the time we first saw the star. Then king Herod told us that we should look for the new King in the city of Bethlehem.

Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also.” (Matthew 2:7-8, New King James Version)
When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. (Matthew 2:9-10, New King James Version)
We were so relived to be out of the palace. King Herod had instructed us to return to him when we have found the new King and tell him where he was. We told him we would do as he asked, then he dismissed us from his presence.  When we left the gates of the palace, the star once again appeared in the Heavens before us leading the way. Seeing the star, filled us with joy as we continued our Journey to Bethlehem.

The star continued going on before us, until it stopped over a certain house in the city of Bethlehem.

And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. (Matthew 2:11, New King James Version)
As I entered the door of the house, I saw the Child and Mary his mother. A humbling sense of awe came over me as I looked in to the face of this Child. In his eyes, I saw a radiating glory; I felt my knees go weak when his gaze fell upon me.  I fell to my knees and bowed down before the Child, the King for whom I had been searching. I worshiped and thanked God for the privilege to come into his presence. In my heart I knew, this Child was the Son of God, the long awaited Messiah. With trembling fingers, my friends and I presented the Child with gold, frankincense and myrrh; gifts befitting a King. As I offered him the gift that I had brought, I knew that the gift was not much in light of who HE was, but it was the best I could offer.

Sleep did not come easily that night. My friends and I had an overwhelming sense of foreboding.
Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. (Matthew 2:12, New King James Version)
We each had a dream in which we were warned not to return to Jerusalem and tell king Herod where the Child was living. We all woke with a start; we quickly gathered our belongings long before sun rise and packed up headed for home. We decided that we would not go back to Jerusalem and would return to our country by heading South, we would follow the shore of the salt sea before turning East to go back home. All the way home, we marveled at the things we had witnessed, and Praised the Lord that he would allow us to see and worship HIS Son. As we went, we also prayed to God asking  for the safety of the young Child and his parents.


                                                                     The Escape

 Joseph also had trouble sleeping that night.

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
(
Matthew 2:13, New King James Version)
I was awakened suddenly in the middle of the night. The angel in my dream told me that I needed to immediately take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt. It seems that King Herod had found out about the Child and was seeking to kill him. I woke Mary and told her to gather up Jesus and all of our belongings. I told her "We are leaving for Egypt, as soon as we can get our things together."
 She looked at me and must have saw the urgency in my eyes, because she did not say a word, she just quietly got up and began to pack taking care not to wake the rest of the house.

I went out to gather the provisions that we would need for our trip. I am so grateful that God had sent the wise men to us, the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh would help me to fund our sojourn in Egypt. I packed up the donkey with what we could carry, took Mary and Jesus and we set out that night. We headed West to the city of Ashkelon. Mary and Jesus were riding the donkey; I was walking in front leading the donkey with the reigns. I had a small lamp that was providing some light and I was grateful for small the sliver of moonlight that was also lighting our way. I thought we could buy some provisions in Ashkelon; then we could follow the coast of the Great Sea down through Gaza on our journey South to Egypt. The sooner we were out of Judea, the better. I did not know what Herod would do. I also did not know what I would do in Egypt, or how long we would be there, but I knew that our Lord would provide us with whatever we needed.
When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (Matthew 2:14-15, New King James Version)

                                                                    Herod's Rage

"It was taking too long", Herod thought to himself," those "magicians" left here three days ago;  they should have been back by now. They have deceived me, they had no intention of coming back to tell me where the child was. Well, I will show them all who is king."

 Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying:
       “ A voice was heard in Ramah,
      Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning,
      Rachel weeping for her children,
      Refusing to be comforted,
      Because they are no more.” (Matthew 2:16-18, New King James Version)

                                                      Jesus, The Nazarene
We stayed in Egypt as the Lord had commanded us. I was able to work my trade as a carpenter while we were there. I watched Jesus grow, he was such a beautiful little boy, very astute and I loved him. Then one night I had another dream.

Now when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. (Matthew 2:19-21, New King James Version
The angel came to me in a dream, telling me that Herod was dead. Upon waking I once again gathered Mary, Jesus and our belongings; and then we left Egypt to return to the Land of Israel. When I reached Judea, I heard that Archelaus was ruling in his father's place. I knew I could not return to Bethlehem, like I had planned. I prayed to the Lord for His guidance, asking that he tell me where we should live.
But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” (Matthew 2:22-23, New King James Version)
As the angel instructed, I turned north to Galilee. Mary and I took Jesus home to Israel, where we settled down to live in Nazareth.


Joseph: He followed the Lord's leading from an angel in dreams without question, he was a righteous man with an obedient heart. He was called upon by God to be the Husband of Mary and to love and protect Jesus as his earthly father.

Mary: She was a young girl who willingly accepted the assignment to be the earthly Mother of the Son of God the Most High no matter what the cost.

The Wise Men from the East: They saw an unusual star in the heavens, they set out to find the King for whom the star shown. They were also obedient to God when they were warned not to  return to Herod, but return home a different way.

Herod: wanting to keep his power, sought to kill the Child Jesus by ordering the massacre of all the young boys under two years of age living in Bethlehem and all the surrounding districts.  He died and his three sons split his territory into three districts.

Jesus very existence demands some kind of action from us. We can love him, accept him as our Lord and Savior, or we can deny him rule over our hearts. No matter which way we choose, we must act, we must make some decision about Jesus, we cannot remain neutral; when it comes to Jesus, there is no middle ground.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.
“He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.  (John 3:16-18, New King James Version)
What about you? What will you do with Jesus?

Let us Pray:

Lord Jesus,
Thank you so much for coming to live life here on earth and your willingness to die on the cross for our sin. When we could not get to you, you gave up Heaven and all the riches of the Universe, to limit yourself and live as a tiny baby, grow into a man, live a sinless life and die a sacrificial, substitutionary death on the cross to give me a way to be in fellowship with you. I am in awe of you. I am in awe that you would love so much, that you would come yourself to make a way for  us to be with you again. Thank you for loving me and for dying for me. I humbly lay my life at your feet. Help me to live for you and to be who you want me to be and use me for the furtherance of your Kingdom. I praise your Holy and Precious name, Lord Jesus and I give you all the glory and the honor. In Jesus Name, amen.

Today's Scripture:
Matthew Chapter 2
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+2+&version=NKJV&src=embed

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Journey to Bethlehem: Silent Night, Holy Night

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11, New King James Version)

One of my favorite Christmas specials is "A Charlie Brown Christmas". I watch it every year. It is a great reminder that we should not allow the commercialism of Christmas to cause us to forget the true meaning of Christmas. My all time favorite part of the story is when Charlie Brown, after being laughed at for the little Christmas tree he bought by all the others, yells out, "Can anyone tell me what Christmas is all about?"  and Linus says "Sure, Charlie Brown, I can tell you what Christmas is all about. Lights please."

Come along with me as we journey back through time and envision the events of that night.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. (Luke 2:8, New King James Version)
It was a cold crisp night, a million stars glittered in the night sky.  The moon had risen, casing a pale glow to the hillside. The sounds of a fire crackling and the sound of sheep bleating, were the all too familiar sounds around us in the night. It was quiet, just like any other night. My best friend, John took the first watch, sitting in the gate of the sheep pen. There were eight of us, friends since boyhood, we would bring our flocks together at night for safety and so we could fellowship with each other; we would each take turns at the watch. It was almost time for the second watch, John had come to get me so we could trade places and he could sit next to the fire to get warm and sleep. I was about to head over to the sheep gate to take my turn at the watch, when all of a sudden, the night was not so ordinary.


  And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. (Luke 2:9, New King James Version)
I could not move, the brightness of the vision that was standing in front of me was blinding. I was terrified. What was happening? I felt my legs crumble underneath me, I fell to my knees on the ground in front of this shining, beautiful and terrifying manlike creature. His face shown white with a radiance that came from within. His eyes were blazing like fire and the light from his face was shooting out like the rays of the sun. I covered my face to shield my eyes from the light. I just knew this was my last day on earth; my friends had awakened from the sudden light that surrounded us and I heard them as they cried out in fear.
Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12, New King James Version)
When he spoke, I felt the paralyzing fear drain from my body, I felt a peace in my heart that I had never experienced before. I was no longer afraid. I looked up into the shining face of this man, I heard him speaking telling me not to be afraid, that he was bringing me good news. He proclaimed that the long awaited Savior of Israel had finally arrived.  That in the city of David, we would find a babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. As I was listening to his words trying to comprehend just what he was telling me, suddenly the whole hillside was aglow with a great multitude of these bright shining angelic beings.
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
       “ Glory to God in the highest,
      And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

(Luke 2:13-14, New King James Version)
As suddenly as the man had appeared, he was gone, the night was once again silent, the soft bleating of sheep in the pen and the crackling of the fire. We looked around at each other.

 "Did you see what I think I just saw?" I asked my friend John who was kneeling next to me.

"I saw it too." he exclaimed, and each of our friends nodded in amazed agreement.

"What do you think? I said quietly, "Should we go into town and see if we cannot find this babe that we were told about?"

John looked at me and said, "We were given a gift of this vision for a reason, so we should go and see what we have been told."

So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.” (Luke 2:15, New King James Version)
The moon had risen to its full zenith, and it shown almost as bright as daylight. John went to the pen and secured the sheep, then we ran/walked to Bethlehem as quickly as we could.

The town was quiet, everyone was sleeping. Why was it so quiet? We had just been told that the long awaited Messiah had been born, so, why was everyone sleeping? We walked through the town as quickly as we could, then we saw a light in a stable near the edge of town. We quickly and quietly approached the stable, hoping that we were in the right place. Then we saw them. There was a tall man, with a young woman sitting next to a manger looking inside; we peered in and inside the manger was a tiny baby, wrapped in swaddling cloths, just like the angel had said.
And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. (Luke 2:16, New King James Version)
The tall man approached us and asked :"What brought you here tonight?"

I looked up at the man and said. "An angel had came to us on the hillside as we were watching the sheep, and he told us that a Savior had been born this night in the City of David.  He also told us that we would find the babe, wrapped in swaddling cloths, laying in a manger. When the angels went away, we talked amongst ourselves, we left our sheep to come and see what the angel had told us had come to pass. Are we in the right place?"

The man looked at me and said, " I am Joseph, this is my wife, Mary, and the Babe in the manger, is called Jesus, He is the Christ, the Son of God. Come and see."

I was dumbfounded, all I could do was tremble as I walked over to the manger where the little baby was lying. Then I saw his face, the tiny face of the Son of God.  He was awake and he looked up at me with those eyes; eyes that pierced though my soul.  I wondered how can this be, that God would become a baby, but there he was lying there in a manger of all places. He should be in a palace, not a stable stall, he should be wrapped in the finest of linen, not strips of rough cloth used for a burial. He should be surrounded by royalty, not holding court with a ragtag bunch of shepherds fresh from the fields. Yet here he was, just as the Angel had said. I could not take my eyes off of him. He was beautiful, and in his eyes, I saw not the reflection of myself, but the Love of God shining out though them toward me and then he smiled at me; I know he did, somehow He looked at me, He saw me and He smiled. I felt joy unspeakable fill my soul, I felt a peace come over me that I could not explain.

I looked at my friends as they one by one looked into the eyes of the Babe lying in the makeshift cradle, each of them had the same look of Joy that I knew was on my own face. I was amazed and humbled that God would allow us to be told about the coming of His Son, and that we would be allowed to visit him.

As we turned to leave, I thanked Joseph for allowing us to visit with them and to see the Babe Jesus. The sun was beginning to rise and as we made our way through the streets of Bethlehem, we told everyone that we saw what the Angel had said to us and about the babe Jesus. We told everyone the good news that a Savior had been born to us and that the long awaited Messiah was finally here. We were so grateful that our Lord would allow us to see his Son and that he would let us tell others what we had seen this night.
Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. (Luke 2:17-18, New King James Version)

The whole way back to our sheep we were singing and praising God for all that he has done for us.
But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them. (Luke 2:19-20, New King James Version)

Let us pray:
Lord Jesus, thank you for coming to earth, living a sinless life and dying on the cross as a sacrifice for my sin. I could not come to you with out help, thank you for coming to get me. Lord I love you and I give my life to you. Please live through me and help me to be the woman of God that you want me to be. Help me to make your salvation known to all that I come in contact with like the shepherds did the night you were born. Lord help us as a nation remember who you are and that you are the only way by which man can be saved, you are not a way, but the only way. Help us that know you, declare this good news from the mountain tops to the street corners. Lord Thank you for coming into this world and thank you for dying on the cross to save mankind from sin. I praise your Holy and most precious name. In Jesus Name, amen

Today's Scripture:
Luke 2: 8-20
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+2%3A8-20&version=NKJV&src=embed

The Journey to Bethlehem: Not Just Another Silent Night

And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:7, New King James Version)

Christmas time is here, time to deck the halls, trim the tree, cook for family and friends. We attend parties, have gift exchanges, gather the family together and we eat, drink and be merry. We rush here and there to find that perfect something for that special someone or someones on our list. We eat too much, spend to much and rush around to the point where we are exhausted. All in order to have a great old fashioned Christmas like we remember having when we were children. However,  it never ends up happening like we remember it; does it? Then we become frustrated and think if we just did one more Christmas activity, or bought one more gift, we would be happy at last. The harder we try to make things perfect, the more we end up making ourselves more miserable than we were before. We are so busy trying to make the perfect Christmas happen, that we miss the meaning of Christmas all together. We are too busy and too distracted to remember why we celebrate the Christmas season at all.

When we last left Mary and Joseph, Joseph had just received instructions from God through the visitation of an Angel in a dream, to take Mary as his wife. He was told that the child she was carrying, is the Son of the God the Most High and that his name would be called Jesus and that he would save his people from their sins. Joseph, if you remember, immediately upon waking, did as the Lord instructed and took Mary to be his wife.  Our story continues this way.

  And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. (Luke 2:1-3, New King James Version)
Through out all the many events that were happening; God was working all things together to bring about his master plan for the salvation of the world. Even the Roman government's call for a census of the known world was working out according to plan.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. (Luke 2:4-5, New King James Version)
Jewish customs required every man to be registered in his ancestral home (see 2 Samuel 24); therefore Joseph packed up Mary his very pregnant wife and traveled the 90 miles south from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This journey would take about three days on average, if you were able to travel 30 miles each day. However, with Mary being in the late stages of pregnancy, this journey may have taken a little longer.  Look with me down the annals of time and imagine what may have taken place that faithful night.

Mary had been walking all day, she was tired and weary from her journey. Joseph he was tired too, but it was getting late and they really needed to find a place to stay.  Her pains were coming quite regularly now and it was beginning to be harder for her to breathe through them. Her knees were beginning to buckle as she tried to walk, she had to stop walking to allow the pain to pass before continuing on their journey.
"Just a little farther, Mary, and I will find us some where we can rest. Bethlehem is in sight." Joseph said.
He rearranged their meager belongings on the back of the donkey they had borrowed for the trip, he helped Mary on the back of the beast to give her a rest so they could continue into the town.

Joseph was beginning to worry, "Where are we going to stay? Mary is not going to last much longer, the walking has made the birth-pangs come quicker than we thought, she is trying to be strong, but I know she is scared and tired. We need to find a place to stay where she and the baby would be safe and warm. "Lord," he breathed in prayer,  "please help us find a place to stay the night, Mary is tired and the baby will be coming soon."

As they neared Bethlehem, they heard noise from the masses of people who were gathering there. They had all come for the same reason, they had come to be registered for the census. There were so many people there, the streets were so crowded, it was difficult for Joseph to navigate the streets. He saw a merchant standing next to his cart,closing down for the night and Joseph approached him.

"Sir, we have traveled very far,and my wife is with child, we need a place to stay. Do you know of an inn or public house where we can stay for the night?" Joseph asked

The man looked at Joseph and Mary, and he said "The whole town is full of visitors because of the census, and my house is full of relatives.  I do not have enough room to take in any more tonight. Perhaps you can find a place to stay with my cousin down the road, he may have someplace for you to stay tonight."

Joseph thanked the man and continued on down the street. Another man was outside his house talking to a group of men. Joseph approached them and asked, "Do any of you know of a place where my wife and I can stay for the night? She is with child and we have traveled a long way from Nazareth to get here. She is very tired and the baby may be coming soon."

The man looked at Joseph and said, "Son, I am sorry, I have no more room in my house tonight, we are completely full. Perhaps you can go down the street and see if there is someone else who may have room for you."

Joseph looked imploringly around the circle of men and asked, "Do any of you know of a place we could stay just tonight?"

One of the men looked up at Mary as she was sitting on the donkey and had compassion on her. He turned to Joseph and said; "I do not have room in my house for you to stay, however I do have a stable in a cave near the house where we keep the animals at night. It is not much, but it has clean straw and it is warmer than staying out in the street. I would be willing to let you stay there tonight if you wish."

Joseph looked up at Mary, her face tired and haggard with the pain she was having, he looked back at the man and said" That will be fine, any place for my wife to lay down and rest tonight would be welcomed. Thank you."

Joseph followed the man to the stable, they worked together to arrange a bed of straw for Mary to sleep upon, a few blankets on the straw to make a bed for her. The man's wife came out to see about Mary and brought them something to eat. Seeing that Mary was having birth pains, she looked at Joseph and said, "If you need any thing during the night, please come and get me, I can help her with the birth if the baby comes tonight."
So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:6-7, New King James Version)
There in a stable, in pain, with sweat pouring down her face, Mary brought forth her first born son. His cries filled the stable as he took his first breath. As Mary looked down and counted his fingers and his toes, she looked into the face of her baby as he nursed and his fingers of his hand curled around hers. "He is beautiful, she thought, "absolutely perfect in every way."  As she looked into the face of her son, this baby that she had carried for so long, she loved him and would do anything in her power to protect him. He was her son and she was so joyful to be holding him finally in her arms. As she held her son, Mary remembered the angel and what he had said to her not so long ago,
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:31-33, New King James Version)
She marveled at the events of the past few months as she held her tiny baby against her chest, watching him sleep in her arms. She gently stroked his face and thought, "I am holding God in my arms,  I am touching HIS face, how can it be that my little Jesus, my son that I have carried, is the Son of God?" "Father, thank you," Mary prayed, "for giving me this child, help me to raise him and love him always according to your will."

As Mary drifted off to sleep, Joseph took the swaddled baby from her arms and laid him in the manger next to her. He looked down into the face of the sleeping baby and marveled at what had happened. "His name is Jesus and he will save his people from there sins. How can this be?" Joseph thought. "He is just a baby, tiny and helpless. How can it be that God would become a baby and live among us? How will this baby save the world?" Lord, for now, he is my son, and he must be protected and loved. Lord, help me to be the father that I need to be to raise your son. Help me to teach him your ways and help me to be a good example to him. Lord, please, let him sleep, he is too young to save the world now, let him dream good dreams and sleep. Please, let him be just our child for a while, he will grow up all too soon."

Let us pray:
Father, Thank you for sending your son Jesus to die on the cross to save us from our sins. Please help all of us to remember that we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Immanuel, God with us during the Christmas season. Please help us to be mindful of who we celebrate. As we trim the tree and wrap our presents to place under the tree, help us to remember that the gift you gave to the world, you hung on a tree as a sacrifice to save us from our sin. Lord help me to be ever mindful of the reason Jesus came and not just think about the gifts we give each other, but remember the greatest gift of all, your Son Jesus. In Jesus name, Amen.

Today's Scripture:
Luke 2: 1-7
http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke+2%3A1-7&version=NKJV&src=embed