Sunday, December 23, 2012
Matthew 1:18-25 NLT Now this is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiance`, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly. As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All of this happened to fulfill the Lord's message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us).” When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded. He brought Mary home to be his wife, but she remained a virgin until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.
God knew who to choose to be the mother and father of His only begotten Son, who would come to save the people from their sins! He chose Mary and Joseph, two who were devoted to Him, determined to do His will and unashamedly determined to moved forward regardless of what might be said of them by their peers and elders in society.
There were three steps in a Jewish marriage. First, the two families agreed to the union. Second, a public announcement was made and the couple was officially “engaged”. This was similar to an engagement today except that in Jewish tradition their relationship could only be broken through death or divorce (even though sexual relations were not yet permitted). Third, the couple was married and began living together. Mary and Joseph were in the second state of that union, the betrothal period. Because they were engaged Mary's apparent unfaithfulness carried a severe social stigma. According to Jewish civil law, Joseph had a right to divorce her, and the Jewish authorities could have had her stoned to death.
Deuteronomy 22:23, 24 NLT “Suppose a man meets a young woman, a virgin who is engaged to be married, and he has sexual intercourse with her. If this happens within a town, you must take both of them to the gates of the town and stone them to death. The woman is guilty because she did not scream for help. The man must die because he violated another man's wife. In this way, you will cleanse the land of evil.”
Joseph, being a just man decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace Mary publicly. He was a “just” man. The Greek word for “just” is dikaios and it means “upright, blameless, righteous, conforming to God's laws and man's.” Joseph was fair and righteous, not looking to expose Mary by rejecting or casting her off before witnesses. He was compassionate towards her. He did not want to make a public example of her. This concerned him and as he thought about how he would do this he fell asleep. As he was sleeping the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and explained how Mary became pregnant. The angel told Joseph that the father of Mary's child was the Holy Spirit and that he did not have to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because she had not been unfaithful to him. Fear, when received, can be a determent to receiving the promises of God. The enemy always speaks fear to us to try to get us off track, to keep us from fulfilling God's plan for our lives. But Joseph, being a godly man, received the message from the angel with faith, just as Mary had when the angel appeared to her to tell of her upcoming pregnancy.
Matthew 1:24, 25 NKJV Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.
Joseph knew about the prophecies of which the angel of the Lord had spoken; how Isaiah had prophesied that a virgin would be with child and bear a Son, and that they would call His name Immanuel, meaning “God with us”. He knew the Word of God as recorded in the Old Testament. And he knew that when the angel of the Lord appeared to him with those prophecies that he could believe him and trust that what God had said He would do would happen. Joseph's faith reached out and grabbed onto the word of God and caused him to step out believing that God would do what He had promised.
Isaiah 7:14 NKJV “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
Joseph so honored what God was doing in Mary's and his lives that even after they were married he refused to have sexual relations with her until after Jesus was born. They did not enter into normal marital relations until after her Son was born. Mary was still a virgin when Jesus was born and so the scripture was fulfilled that a virgin would be with child and bear a son!
Joseph called His name JESUS. The name means “Yahweh is Salvation”. The angel gave him instructions from the conception to the birth and even what they were to name the child. The scripture records that Joseph called His name JESUS; he followed the commandment of the Lord in every instruction that he was given. He didn't worry about what the community would think of him; his only concern was that he would do the will of God and care for the wife that God had given him. His full devotion was to doing God's will.
When we look at the life of Joseph we see a man who was not afraid to follow God. He was a disciplined man doing what needed to be done to work with His heavenly Father in order to see the manifestation of the promise of God in his life. He was focused on what God was doing in his life instead of what people and circumstances might dictate. He was determined to obey regardless of public opinion.
Immanuel, God with us, was the promise that the Christ child would bring to the world. God with us, in a different way, the way of salvation. Jesus was born to save His people from their sin. He was not born as a baby to be worshiped in a manger, but as the Savior of the world, who took on human form that He might face all the trials and temptations that we face and yet overcome and become the payment for our sin, our failures, our brokenness and iniquities.
The question we each need to ask ourselves at this time of the year is would we be willing to give up our lives to usher in the will of God in our world today? What would it take for God to be able to depend on us to work with Him to establish His will in the hearts and lives of those around us?
Matthew 16:24 NKJV Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”
Philippians 2:5-11 NLT Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal's death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Father, I thank You for the story of Joseph and how he obeyed Your instructions regardless of whether it meant public disapproval or not. I thank You for his resolve to obey You in order to see the fulfillment of the plan that You had to bring Your Gift of salvation into our world. I pray that I will be that kind of person to be able to work with You in effecting change in my world as well. Father, I ask You to give each one of us the determination to obey You regardless of the opinion of those around us. May we be people of integrity that not only speak of You in our lives but act out of what You tell us to do. May we walk the talk and not just talk it. Thank You, Father, for sending Jesus to save us from our sin. Thank You for being with us in the form of humanity in order to identify with the problems that we experience in our lives. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for dying a criminal's death to purchase our salvation! To You be all the honor and glory due Your name! Amen.
Saturday, December 22, 2012
Luke 1:5-25 NLT 5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old. 8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.b 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children,c and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” 19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary. 23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
Zechariah, a Jewish priest, was Elizabeth's husband. The scripture records that they were both of priestly lines; they were righteous in God's eyes; both were well advanced in age and they had no children. We learned about Elizabeth's visit from Mary, the mother of Jesus, yesterday. Each morning a priest would enter into the Holy Place in the Temple and burn incense. When the incense was burned and the smoke went up out of the Holy Place the people would see the smoke and pray. Incense in the Bible represents the prayers of the people.
On this particular day the lot fell to Zechariah for this duty. But it was not by chance that God had Zechariah in the Holy Place that particular day for He had a message for him that the Angel was to deliver that morning. While he was in the Holy Place burning the incense the Angel of the Lord, Gabriel, appeared to him and gave him this message: “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.” Zechariah was afraid for he had never had a visitation from an angel. But Gabriel told him not to be afraid because he had a message for him from God. After delivering the message we hear something totally different coming out of Zechariah's mouth than we did from Mary in our lesson yesterday. Zechariah exhibited unbelief in his response to Gabriel where Mary exhibited faith in her response. Zechariah said “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Zechariah allowed his age to speak more loudly than the promise of God or God's ability to bring into manifestation the promise that He had given him. The waves around him were bigger in his mind than his God! He couldn't see past the roadblocks in his life to see that God could make a way where there seemed to be no way!
Have you ever felt like Zechariah in not being able to see that God could do anything about your situation? Faith takes God at His word and expects that word to come to pass; doubt sees only the negative aspects of a situation and doesn't believe that God can do anything about it. Thomas, when Jesus had arisen from the dead and was being seen by all the disciples said, “I won't believe it unless I see....”. (John 20:25) Zechariah said to Gabriel, “How can I know this will happen?”. He was basically saying, “what sign can you give me that this is true?” The difference between doubt and faith is taking God at His word without requiring a further sign or revelation to guarantee it's proof. Just the fact that an angel was standing before him in the Holy Place should have been proof enough to Zechariah that God had given him a promise and He was going to fulfill it! So Gabriel gave Zechariah the sign that he requested but not without consequences. Verse 19-20: Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”
Sometimes we don't understand the roadblocks along the path to the fulfillment of our promise. But often they are to show us the power of God in our lives so that we will believe what He has promised in it's fulfillment. Zechariah's mouth was shut until the promise could come into manifestation. His ability to pass on a doubtful attitude was silenced because we speak what we believe.
2 Corinthians 4:13 NKJV And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak.
The only way Zechariah could communicate the message of a miracle coming into their lives in the form of a little baby was through gestures and possibly writing. Elizabeth later told Mary that she was blessed because she believed that the Lord would do what he said. (Luke 1:45) Jesus told Thomas in John 20:29: ...”Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway.”
God honors faith! He expects us to believe Him when He gives us a promise. Many are the promises of God and they are all “Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) God's fulfillment of His promises in our lives gives Him glory! He is glorified through us as He brings into manifestation those things that He has promised. When we reach out and take them by faith He opens the door for them to happen and they are fulfilled in His timing. We work with Him in believing that He is doing what He has promised.
Hebrews 11:6, 7 NLT So, you, see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. It was by faith that Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood. He obeyed god, who warned him about something that had never happened before. By his faith he condemned the rest of the world and was made right in God's sight.
Faith brings the grace of God into our lives. Without it God's ability to work in our lives is greatly hindered. According to Hebrews 11:6 we can't be pleasing to God without faith.
Do you believe today that God will perform His promises in your life? Or, maybe I should say, WILL you believe that God will do what He has promised in your life?
Father, I thank You for the accounts in Your word of how You have performed Your promises in the lives of real people to show us that what You have done for one You will do for another. I know that You are no respecter of persons, Father, and I thank You that I have been able to look into Your word and see those times that I needed encouragement through what You have done in someone else's life to enable me to stand firm in faith believing that You would do it also in my life. Thank You for giving us the measure of faith that causes us to believe that Your word is true and that You will do what You promise. I pray for those this morning who may be struggling with their faith walk. I ask You to give them a glimpse in Your word of how You have performed a promise for someone else so that they can have their faith built up to believe that You will do the same for them as well. I pray that they will guard their speech so that they do not negate the promise that You have given them. I pray that their speech will be of only Your word and not their fears. Father, silence the voice of the enemy in their minds that's saying it will never happen or that it's impossible for that promise to be fulfilled. Father, there is nothing impossible with You and You've said that all things are possible to him who believes. Thank You, Father, for giving us Your word to stand on and Your Spirit within to confirm the word to us. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for leading us and guiding us into all truth! Lord Jesus, may You be glorified in us as we believe that the promises of God are Yes and Amen to us in our lives. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Friday, December 21, 2012
Luke 1:36 “Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren.”
There are so many miracles that occurred with the birth of the Savior that we often overlook them. This is one of them. Elizabeth was the wife of Zacharias, the priest. The scripture records that they were well advanced in age and they had no child because Elizabeth was barren.
Luke 1:6, 7 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
We often don't understand why things happen as they do. Here was a couple that had walked before God righteously, had kept all His commandments and ordinances and were blameless in His sight and yet the blessing of childhood had eluded them. There was a stigma that was attached to barrenness in women during Biblical times. It was said to indicate a curse from God upon the woman who could not bare children. It was of utmost importance to women in Biblical times to be able to fulfill their role as a wife in being able to bare children to their husbands that would carry on the family name.
There are many this morning that are praying and have been praying for years to conceive a child and yet find themselves month after month without the good news of pregnancy. Elizabeth had been “called” barren; it says in Luke 1:36. People had said that it was impossible for her to become pregnant. She had been termed as a “hopeless case” for pregnancy. The voices of those around her had reinforced her greatest fear of not being able to conceive. But there was one thing they hadn't thought about.....God's power to intervene and bring into existence the impossible!
God had a purpose for Zacharias and Elizabeth and the child that He would bring into their lives. That purpose had a time for fulfillment and He needed a couple who were dedicated to living according to His will to bring that child up in the way that he should go so he could fulfill the purpose of being the forerunner for the Christ child. Elizabeth had grown wise in her knowledge of the Lord in all those years of waiting. She would be the perfect one to encourage Mary, a little, young virgin to whom He had given the express purpose of being the mother of the Savior of the world. She would be able to confirm to Mary that God is the God of impossibilities and all that He had spoken to her would come to pass because she, herself, was a recipient of His miraculous power at that very moment! Mary knew to go to the one person that would be able to encourage her and share with her about the mighty workings of the Lord. She left immediately after the angel told her that she would give birth to the Son of God to go see Elizabeth because she knew that she would be able to give her wise counsel regarding this miracle.
Luke 1:43-45 “But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? “For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
Mary, immediately after conferring with Elizabeth, wrote what my Bible records as “The Song of Mary”:
Luke 1:46-55 And Mary said: “My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever.”
Mary rejoiced in the fact that she was blessed to be the one who would bring the Christ child into the world. Elizabeth's son, also, would play an important part in ushering in the Savior of the world. He went before Jesus to pave the way for the people to receive God's perfect gift of salvation.
Elizabeth said to Mary that day, “Blessed is she who believed for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” She had already walked that path of believing; she knew the importance of receiving by faith what God had said through the angel. It was happening to her and she had had to believe when her husband came home unable to speak because of his encounter with the Angel of the Lord that had told him they would have a son in their old age. Elizabeth knew that in order to receive the impossible you had to believe that God was able to do what He had promised.
Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months after that miraculous conception. I believe she stayed that long to be encouraged in her faith to continue to believe. She had no visual proof of her pregnancy prior to that and it would have been easy to waiver in her faith until the visual manifestation of pregnancy could be seen or felt. But with Elizabeth she could voice her concerns and know that she would be understood and encouraged to continue to believe. She was sheltered from the questions of the community and given time to prepare for that time when everyone would know that she was pregnant and the accusations of being pregnant outside of wedlock would occur. With Elizabeth she could be herself, strengthened in her faith and prepared to walk the walk that, as a young virgin, she could not have even imagined would happen to her.
When God speaks a promise to us we can be sure that if we will receive it by faith and expect it to happen, that it will come to pass.
Numbers 23:19 NLT God is not a man, that he should lie. He is not a human, that he should change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?
Mary believed and received the promise that God gave her through that Angel.
Luke 1:37 “For with God nothing will be impossible.”
Maybe you're in an impossible situation this morning. Has God spoken a promise to you that you have not yet seen fulfilled? Are you wavering in your faith wondering if He really promised that or if you were just presumptuous in thinking you might receive the impossible? God is faithful to keep His promises!
Ephesians 3:20, 21 NLT Now glory be to God! By his mighty power at work within us, he is able to accomplish infinitely more than we would ever dare to ask or hope. May he be given glory in the church and in Christ Jesus forever and ever through endless ages. Amen.
Father, I thank You for Your miraculous power that is working in us, Your children. I know You are able to do the things that You have promised us in Your word and through the times we have communed with You in prayer. Father, there are those today who have been standing in faith waiting for the fulfillment of those things that You have promised them. I ask You to encourage them as only You can. Place people of faith around them to help them continue to believe. Father, give them a glimpse of what You are doing in their lives to keep the vision of the promise alive within them. Thank You for showing us through this story of Mary and Elizabeth how You work the impossible in different situations in the lives of Your people. I thank You for the purpose that You have for each of our lives. May we reflect Your glory while we wait for our promises. Thank You, Father! To You be all the glory and honor. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Thursday, December 20, 2012
Isaiah 9:6 NLT For a child is born to us, a son is given to us. And the government will rest on his shoulders. These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the LORD Almighty will guarantee this!
This prophecy that is recorded in Isaiah was given to reveal to us the attributes of the Savior of the world, the Lord Jesus Christ. And the government will rest upon His shoulders! All governmental authority rests in Jesus Christ. He is the hope of the nations! In His government there is fairness and justice. He judges righteously, not according to man's decrees but according to God's. Jesus is the hope of the nations. The phrase “And the government will rest upon his shoulders” gives Him the entitlement to rule and reign over all the governments of the the world. If all governments would give Him His rightful place in ruling there would be no war, no hate, no destruction or fear of attack from surrounding neighbors. There would be peace on earth, goodwill towards men as the angels declared at the birth of the Christ child! His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end!
This portion of scripture identifies the Christ child as having four primary attributes:
Wonderful, Counselor – Isaiah 28:29 says that the LORD of hosts is wonderful in counsel and excellent in guidance. The only one who can counsel rightly is the One who knows all, sees all and is all powerful. This name that was given to the Christ child, Jesus, expresses His ability to govern rightly, to counsel with fairness, which is essential to any political leader. He is the living Word, the infallible source of guidance. He is all wisdom and knowledge; the Truth and the Way. There is no beginning to Him and no end.
Mighty God – He is God Himself. There is none above Him and none beside Him. He is the ultimate authority. The Child is God incarnate, the omnipotent One. The primary meaning for the Hebrew word for “Mighty” is power or strength. He is the All-powerful God!
Isaiah 11:1-5 NLT Out of the stump of David's family will grow a shoot—yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root. And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him—the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. He will delight in obeying the LORD. He will never judge by appearance, false evidence, or hearsay. He will defend the poor and the exploited. He will rule against the wicked and destroy them with the breath of His mouth. He will be clothed with fairness and truth.
Everlasting Father – This name expresses Christ's fatherly care. His place as the second person of the Trinity does not over-ride the Father, but He is an extension of the Father. He is the exact representation of His Father God.
Hebrews 1:1-3 NLT Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. But now in these final days, He has spoken to us through His Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son He made the universe and everything in it. The Son reflects God's own glory, and everything about Him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of His command. After He had died to cleanse us from the stain of sin, He sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God of heaven.
He said He came not to do His own will, but the will of the One who sent Him.
John 6:38-40 NLT For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to do what I want. And this is the will of God, that I should not lose even one of all those He has given me, but that I should raise them to eternal life at the last day. For it is my Father's will that all who see His Son and believe in Him should have eternal life—that I should raise them at the last day.
When you look at the life of Jesus that He lived here on earth you see the will of God in action. He did those things that He saw His Father doing and said what He heard His Father saying.
John 5:19; 30 NLT Jesus replied, “I assure you, the Son can do nothing by Himself. He does only what He sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does. But I do nothing without consulting the Father. I judge as I am told. And My judgment is absolutely just, because it is according to the will of God who sent me; it is not merely My own.
Prince of Peace – When sin entered the world through Adam at the Fall in the Garden of Eden, man was eternally separated from the Father; he was at enmity with the Father because God is a holy God and will not co-exist with sin. But when Jesus died on that cross to save man from His sin, the power of sin was broken and abolished and man, upon receiving Jesus' payment for his sin, was then able to come into God's presence as sinless, with nothing held against him because the payment for his sin was paid by the crucifixion of Jesus. Jesus made peace between God and man. He is the Prince of Peace.
Ephesians 2:14-18 NLT For Christ Himself has made peace between us Jews and you Gentiles by making us all one people. He has broken down the wall of hostility that used to separate us. By His death He ended the whole system of Jewish law that excluded the Gentiles. His purpose was to make peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in Himself one new person from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of His death, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He has brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and to us Jews who were near. Now all of us, both Jews and Gentiles, may come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us.
Not only did Jesus make peace between us and God, but He also created peace between Jews and Gentiles. He rules with peace! If we could only understand the greatness of His dominion and power there would be no fighting between the Jewish nation and their brothers and neighbors. Jesus paid the price for us to have peace in our world! He paid the price for us to have peace with God and with man!
What a wonderful world this would be if people would follow the Christ child this Christmas! How great is our God! He paved the way for peace to rule and reign in all of our lives through the birth of that One little baby, Jesus Christ! How awesome was His plan to redeem mankind. Who would have thought that the King of kings and Lord of lords would come as a little baby, born to a virgin who was betrothed to marry and laid in a manger because there was no room for Him in the Inn. No room—we have proclaimed in so many ways through the years that there is no room for Him in our governments, our schools, even in the hearts of so many. NO ROOM!
Will you make room for Jesus in your heart today? Will you receive Him as your own personal Lord and Savior. Peace begins in our own hearts when we accept the payment that Jesus paid for our sin. Once peace is established with God we can then extend it to those around us. Peace is spread one person to another. It is possible for our world to be a peaceful world.....if we will make room for the Savior!
Father, I come before You this morning to thank You for giving Your Son that we might have peace with You and with those around us. May Your peace permeate our hearts this Christmas and may it be a lasting peace that will follow us through into all eternity. I pray for those who have no peace in their lives this year. Those that have not followed Jesus as the Prince of Peace. I pray that You will show them their need for Jesus as Savior and Lord. I pray that they will surrender their hearts to Him and make Him the Lord of their lives. I pray that many will come to salvation as they read that Jesus is the hope of the nations. I pray that this will be their day of salvation. Open their blinded eyes and minds to see Jesus as the Savior, the One who paid the price for their sin and the One who wants to redeem them from the bondage of sin. Thank You, Father!
I pray also for all the people of the world that You would re-establish your rule and reign in the hearts of government leaders. I pray that governments will turn to You as the Wonderful Counselor, the One who is entitled to rule through the governments. I pray that the government will be on Your shoulders once again and that government leaders will turn to You and seek Your face and guidance in order to lead their countries in peaceful habitation with others. May You rule through them with fairness and justice!
Father, I thank You for hearing and answering my prayer this morning. I believe that I receive when I pray as instructed in Your word in Matthew 21:22. Thank You for effecting change in the hearts and lives of people all over the world! In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Psalm 53:2 God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.
Living with a mountain view gives a person a whole new perspective on life in the valley. When I get up in the morning while it is still dark, I look out the back windows to see all the lights of the surrounding communities and it seems as if I'm perched high above all the happenings of the world. The lights shine and twinkle; you can point out different places and it's like being removed from life with all of it's joys and sorrows. One day I was standing at the back window looking down on the valley and I saw a car moving on one of the roads below. It looked like a matchbox car traveling along a narrow trail. It was then that the Lord quickened my heart to the fact that God sees all the busyness of man, as he hustles here and there, living his life as if that's all there is to it. And yet, God, looks down from His position high in the heavens and sees our world from a whole different perspective. We are often oblivious to what is going on around us because we see from a limited perspective, but God knows all and sees all from His omniscient, all-knowing perspective.
Isaiah 55:8, 9 “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the LORD. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”
God thinks differently than us; He acts are different from ours. His ways and thoughts are so much higher than ours. So, does that mean that we can't know and understand our God? I don't think you'll find any substantiation to that thought in God's Word. He makes it clear that we can know Him; that if we will draw near to Him, He will draw near to us. We often hear 1 Corinthians 2:9 preached and the message is usually that we can't know what God has prepared for us; that His ways are so much higher than ours that we can't ever understand our God. And yet when you look at the context of that 1 Corinthians passage we can see that God reveals His will to us through His Spirit. We can know what is in the heart of God and His will to give us the good things that He has planned for us.
1 Corinthians 2:7-16 NLT No, the wisdom we speak of is the secret wisdom of God, which was hidden in former times, though he made it for our benefit before the world began. But the rulers of this world have not understood it; If they had, they would never have crucified our glorious Lord. That is what the Scriptures mean when they say, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him.” But we know these things because God has revealed them to us by his Spirit, and his Spirit searches out everything and shows us even God's deep secrets. No one can know what anyone else is really thinking except that person alone, and no one can know God's thoughts except God's own Spirit. And God has actually given us his Spirit (not the world's spirit) so we can know the wonderful things God has freely given us. When we tell you this, we do not use words of human wisdom. We speak words given to us by the Spirit, using the Spirit's words to explain spiritual truths. But people who aren't Christians can't understand these truths from God's Spirit. It all sounds foolish to them because only those who have the Spirit can understand what the Spirit means. We who have the Spirit understand these things, but others can't understand us at all. How could they? For “Who can know what the Lord is thinking? Who can give him counsel? But we can understand these things, for we we have the mind of Christ.
Paul says that man's wisdom is not the same as God's wisdom because if the rulers of the world would have known the good things that God has planned for those who love Him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. They would have embraced Him as their King and ruler over the hearts of men. The only way to know God's thoughts and ways is to be born into His family; to be awakened from the spiritual darkness that separates man from God. Then when we seek the Lord, through His Spirit, He reveals to us the things that He has planned for us. He shares His secrets with us. We can understand His ways because we are born of His Spirit; we have the mind of Christ through the entrance that He has provided for us into the family of through His shed blood. He is our Head and we are His body. The head tells the body how to act, what to do in each situation. It is as we draw near to Him that He reveals the secret things to us.
Psalm 25:14 AMP The secret [of the sweet, satisfying companionship] of the Lord have they who fear (revere and worship) Him, and He will show them His covenant and reveal to them its [deep, inner] meaning.
God reveals the deep, inner meanings of His covenant to those who have a sweet, satisfying companionship with Him; those who revere Him, worship Him and spend time with Him in prayer and Bible study.
Psalm 103:7 He made known His ways to Moses, His acts to the children of Israel.
God revealed His ways to Moses through the intimate relationship that he had with Him, but the children of Israel just got to see God's acts. They didn't want to come close to God because they were afraid of Him. They told Moses to go be with God and then come back and report to them what God had said. But Moses spent time with the Lord and it is said that God spoke with Moses face to face as a man speaks to his friend.
Exodus 33:11 So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend...
Jesus told His disciples that He didn't see them as servants, but as friends and as such He revealed the Father's heart to them.
John 15:15 “No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing, but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”
As friends of God we can know His heart, we can understand His ways and through our relationship with Him we can do His will. We have the mind of Christ because the God who is all-knowing lives in the hearts of those who trust Him for salvation. Those who receive Jesus as Savior and Lord become the body of Christ. The Head is Jesus, the believers are His body. The Head shares with His body what He wants done and the body responds through obedience.
John 15:14 “You are my friends if you do whatever I command you.”
Does God consider you His friend? Are you responding to His call through obedience? Do you have a living and vital relationship with Him that is characterized through love and obedience?
God has made Himself available to His man; His family. Will you move from the outer court into the holy of holies and be known as a friend of God?
Father, I thank You for revealing Yourself and Your ways to those who know You, who through entrance into the family of God through the blood of Jesus, have come into relationship with You. I pray that those who don't know You will come to the saving knowledge of Jesus and be born again into the family of God today. May this day be the day of salvation for the lost. May they come to Jesus and be saved from their sin and given entrance into the family of God. Thank You, Father, for giving Jesus to die for their sins, to pay the penalty for sin in their lives. Thank You for drawing them by Your Spirit and for convicting them of their need for Jesus.
Father, I also pray for those who are in Your family, but haven't drawn close to You to experience Your sweet, satisfying companionship. Father, I pray that they will draw near to You so that You can draw near to them. Father, place a hunger and thirst within their hearts that is unquenchable, a fire that cannot be put out that will compel them to come close to You to know You and live through their relationship with You. Enlighten their spirits to Your Spirit within them and show them the secrets of a life lived in the Presence of Almighty God. Thank You, Father, for hearing and answering my prayer. In Jesus' name I pray. Amen.
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