Thursday, December 31, 2009

Prayerlessness

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help, and rely on horses, who trust in chariots because they are many, and in horsemen because they are very strong, but who do not look to the Holy One of Israel, nor seek the LORD!
Isaiah 31:1

For the shepherds have become dull-hearted, and have not sought the LORD; therefore they shall not prosper, and all their flocks shall be scattered.
Jeremiah 10:21

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.
James 4:2


Prayerlessness

I do not know whether there is a Christian alive who has not been guilty at one time or another of the sin of prayerlessness. Surprisingly, prayerlessness creeps up when you least expect it, when everything seems to be going very well and you feel the closest to God!

Why is this true? We are very prideful creatures; as soon as things are going better we tend to lapse into trusting ourselves. Yet, there is no time, good or bad, when we Christians should ever forget our prayer life. There is never a time when we do not need the faithful hand of God leading and guiding our lives.

Many times after the Israelites left Egypt, they were tempted to turn back to the lives they had in Egypt. Instead of trusting in God, they trusted in the horses and chariots (the strength) of Egypt rather than God. In Isaiah 31, God pronounces woe (or a curse) unto them. Our only help comes from the faithful and true God who never leaves or forsakes us. As soon as we put our trust in someone or something other than God, everything will begin to crumble around us.

Jeremiah 10 is speaking of the shepherds (pastors) of the flocks. How appropriate this passage is for us today. It is no longer possible to go into any church and hear the Word of God preached faithfully. Many pastors, like these in Jeremiah, have become dull-hearted and do not trust the Lord. As soon as the leaders put their trust in anything or anyone other than God, the flock will be scattered. Oh, they may remain in that church, but their hearts and their understanding will be far away from God.

James 4 is speaking to all Christians. In the time of great prosperity, people become discontent; they covet what they do not have, and are even willing to murder to obtain their desires. Doesn't that sound like our culture today? Contentment only comes from God; no person or thing can bring you peace, joy, and contentment, because they are found in God alone. Pray that you will be content like the Apostle Paul in Philippians 4:11-13 who stated,

I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

Ask God to keep you from the sin of prayerlessness so that you, too, will be content in all things.

God Bless You,
Linda

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Prayer in Secret


Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went home. And in his upper room, with his windows open toward Jerusalem, he knelt down on his knees three times that day, and prayed and gave thanks before his God, as was his custom since early days.

Daniel 6:10

But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.
Matthew 6:6

But Peter put them all out, and knelt down and prayed. And turning to the body he said, “Tabitha, arise.” And she opened her eyes, and when she saw Peter she sat up.
Acts 9:40

The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour.
Acts 10:9

Prayer in Secret

God is a personal God; He cherishes those times His children spend alone with Him. It is in those secret times that He fellowships with them and fills their lives with His peace and hope for the future. He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)

Daniel spent much time in prayer to God; the Bible tells us that three times a day he went up into his room to pray. Even though he was in a prominent position in the government, he knew that his success depended upon God alone. We have lost that understanding today in this self-help society. The truth, however, has not changed since the time of Daniel; only in God do we accomplish the great things and the simple things in this life.


It was very common for the Pharisees of Jesus' day to stand out in the open and pray loudly so that everyone could see how Godly they were. Jesus rebuked them for such a public display in seeking the praise of man instead of the praise of God. Instead Jesus told us to pray in secret; then God would reward us openly. He is not telling us to pray so that we can be rewarded, but rather to pray to Him alone so that we may have our own personal prayer time with God.

In the book of Acts, Peter understood the concept of praying alone to God. When Tabitha had died, he first sent everyone out of the room before praying. Even in coming to a new city, he went up on a housetop to be alone with God.

Our prayer in secret with God is one of the most precious gifts that God has given to us. Imagine, God who created the world and rules it with a mighty hand still desires to spend time alone with each one of His children. How many presidents or rulers do you know who spend time alone with each of their citizens every day!

Go to Christ; spend time alone with Him each day. Enjoy those precious times alone with God bringing your joys, sorrows, and tears to Him.

Wait on the LORD;Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the LORD! Psalm 27:14

God Bless You,
Linda

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Prayer for the Church


Therefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints, do not cease to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers.
Ephesians 1:15-16

For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
Ephesians 3:14-19

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.
Philippians 1:4-6

Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power, that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12


This devotion, Prayer for the Church, is based upon the prayers of the Apostle Paul to the churches in Ephesus, Philippi, and Thessalonica shown above. But first, we must ask the question, for whom are we praying when we pray for the church, and who is the church?

In our day we tend to think of "brand" names (Baptist, Catholic, Lutheran, etc.) when we think of the church. However, this is not God's perception of the church; God's church consists of all true believers from the past, present, and future. Simply stated then, when we pray for the church we are praying for other believers.

If I were going to pick a person to be my best friend, I think someone like the Apostle Paul would be my first choice. It is evident from his prayers that his love was first to God, and then to other true believers. His life was truly selfless! Just look at how he prayed for the saints.

Ephesus:

I . . . do not cease to give thanks for you.

I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ . . .that He would grant you . . . to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man.

That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.

That you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height [of the love of God].

To know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.

That you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Philippi:

I thank my God upon every remembrance of you.

In every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy for your fellowship in the gospel.

That He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.

Thessalonica:

We also pray always for you.

That our God would count you worthy of this calling.

That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you.


How do you pray for other believers? Do you even pray for other believers? How often do we find Christians warring with one another instead of praying for one another?

Pray that God would keep you focused on your true mission, to be a testimony to the lost around you. Pray that God would find you continually, without ceasing, to be in prayer for the Church of God.

God Bless You,
Linda

Monday, December 28, 2009

Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth


3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:

6 “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”

19 But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
Matthew 2:3-6, 13-15 & 19-23

Bethlehem, Egypt, Nazareth

In today's Bible reading we read of the birth and early years of Jesus. Look at the Bible prophecies that were fulfilled in Matthew 2, alone. It certainly must have been confusing to the scholars to put together his birth in Bethlehem, his being called out of Egypt, and his being called a Nazarene.

In our familiarity with the story of Jesus' birth, we often miss the significance of the many details. Literally hundreds of years before this took place, God spoke these things to the prophets.

Micah, in chapter 5, verse 2 prophesied:

But you, O Bethlehem Ephratha, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old,from ancient days.

Hosea 11:1 states:

When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son.

It is so important for us to realize the hundreds of prophecies that Jesus fulfilled in His earthly ministry. Why does that matter? It helps to solidify our faith, knowing that the writings of the Bible span thousands of years, and yet one message is significant in all of the books. Every book points to the Lord Jesus Christ; every prophecy in the Bible will come to pass exactly as it was written. As Christ came the first time, born of the virgin Mary, He most certainly will come again.

So how could the scholars of Jesus' day miss the fact that He was the fulfillment of the Messiah? The most obvious answer is that their hearts were blinded by their sin. How often do we see that in our day? People will often go a long way to disbelieve the Word of God.

What an amazing God we have! For Christians, the Word of God opens up a whole new way of life, filling our hearts with joy. Yet, to the non-Christian, the Word of God is a sword, piercing their very hearts.

As we think of the fulfillment of the prophecies that Christ would come from Bethlehem, Egypt, and Nazareth, we must thank God that He has revealed the truth of His Word to us.

Go out this day, knowing that everything that God has prophesied will most certainly come to pass, and He will come again to receive His people to Himself.

Lord, God, hasten the day!

God Bless You,
Linda

All Scriptures are from the English Standard Version of the Bible.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Anna the Prophetess


22 Now when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were completed, they brought Him to Jerusalem to present Him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every male who opens the womb shall be called holy to the LORD”), 24 and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”
25 And behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon, and this man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 So he came by the Spirit into the temple. And when the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, 28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
29 “ Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation
31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”

33 And Joseph and His mother marveled at those things which were spoken of Him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
36 Now there was one, Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was of a great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity; 37 and this woman was a widow of about eighty-four years, who did not depart from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day. 38 And coming in that instant she gave thanks to the Lord, and spoke of Him to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
39 So when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth.
(Luke 2:22-39, New King James Version)

When Jesus was eight days old, Mary and Joseph took Him to the Temple in Jerusalem to be circumcised. Not only was this the time when Jesus was named, in obedience to the Angel who came to Mary, but two other important people were there as well: Simeon, who had received a vision that he would see the Lord's Christ before he died, and Anna, who served God day and night.

The Spirit of God brought Simeon to the Temple at the same time that Mary and Joseph arrived with Jesus. Holding Jesus in his arms, Simeon blessed God for showing him the salvation of the Jews and Gentiles alike. Turning to Mary, he prophesied that this Child was destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel.

Anna the Prophetess had been a widow for several decades and lived at the Temple; the Bible tells us that she worshiped God with prayer and fasting day and night. She appeared at the temple when Jesus was brought in, and immediately gave thanks to God for Him. God used her to proclaim that this Jesus was the Redeemer, the promised Messiah.

Even though Anna was aged in years, she understood correctly that God still had work for her to do. Because she spent time in prayer and fasting, she was ready, spiritually, to do the work that God had given her when the time arrived.

It is easy for us to develop that "retirement" philosophy in our spiritual life and our work for Christ when we reach the age of retirement from our normal daily work. Retirement is a wonderful thing, but when it comes to our Christian walk and worship of the Lord, there is no retirement. It is true that as our abilities change, the duties we are called upon to do for the Lord often change as well. In reality we are never too old, never too disabled, never too poor or too lowly to work for the Lord.

Most of us are not called to a prominent position in the work of the Lord, but all of us are equipped by God to serve Him in whatever capacity we are able. We worship God in everything we do in our daily lives: doing a good job at work, keeping our house clean, taking meals to the needy, helping young mothers with child care, mowing the lawn or shoveling the snow for our neighbors, praying for others, visiting the sick, sending cards or letters to the sick or grieving, visiting nursing home residents, etc. etc. etc.

When I think of Anna the Prophetess, I realize that all of the excuses I tend to use for not being more involved in the work of the Lord are really not true. Quite simply, serving the Lord is just living each day as a Christian and taking the opportunities that come our way for service to others and for proclaiming Christ to those around us.

May God find you living faithfully today like Anna the Prophetess.

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, December 25, 2009

The Birth of Christ


1
And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
4 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, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. 6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 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.
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 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. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.”
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 “ Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

15 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.” 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child.
(Luke 2:1-17, New King James Version)

The Birth of Christ

God bless you all. Have a wonderful Christmas.

Linda

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Birth of John the Baptist



57 Now Elizabeth’s full time came for her to be delivered, and she brought forth a son. 58 When her neighbors and relatives heard how the Lord had shown great mercy to her, they rejoiced with her.
59 So it was, on the eighth day, that they came to circumcise the child; and they would have called him by the name of his father, Zacharias. 60 His mother answered and said, “No; he shall be called John.”
61 But they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by this name.” 62 So they made signs to his father—what he would have him called.
63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, saying, “His name is John.” So they all marveled. 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, praising God. 65 Then fear came on all who dwelt around them; and all these sayings were discussed throughout all the hill country of Judea. 66 And all those who heard them kept them in their hearts, saying, “What kind of child will this be?” And the hand of the Lord was with him.
(Luke 1:57-66, New King James Version)

Birth of John the Baptist

From the beginning, it was evident that John the Baptist would be no ordinary person, but was ordained for something special. Elizabeth gave birth to a baby boy, and on the eighth day, when he was to be circumcised and named, his mother said he was to be named John. Her neighbors and friends objected, because it was customary to use a family name; none of the relatives of Zacharias and Elizabeth was named John.

Thinking she must have made a mistake, they insisted that they ask his father, who was still not able to speak. I love the answer he wrote on a slate. "His name is John." He did not say, we will call him John, but his name is John, for he had already been named by God! As soon as he wrote those words on a slate, his mouth was opened and he spoke, praising God.

Now the friends and relatives went from being amazed to being afraid saying, “What kind of child will this be?”

Luke 1:66 ends with, And the hand of the Lord was with him.

The stage was now set, the child who would become the messenger of Christ was born. With the publicity that the birth of John the Baptist received, one would think that the people were ready to believe his words when he proclaimed the coming of Christ, the Messiah.

I suppose it is easy for us to say that, however, because we have the entire story of Christ's birth, death, and resurrection laid out before us in the Gospels, as well as all of the references to Christ's coming in the Old Testament, beginning in Genesis 3:15.

It was an amazing time to live. How would we have fared if we lived during that time? Would we have the same faith in Christ that we do today?

Take sometime today and tomorrow to read the story of the birth of Christ from Matthew and from Luke; do not forget to include the circumstances surrounding the birth of John the Baptist. How easy it is to become distracted with the world's celebration of this holiday, but it is really a celebration for Christians, as we honor this "holy-day".

God Bless You,
Linda

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mary and Elizabeth


39 Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, 40 and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
(Luke 1:39-45, New King James Version)

Mary and Elizabeth

I love this interchange between Mary and Elizabeth. Hearing the news that Elizabeth was pregnant, Mary hurried to visit with her. As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, her baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"

Elizabeth continued with this prophecy for Mary.

"Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months--just think of the time they had together discussing the miraculous way God was working in their lives. What is most impressive is their immediate acceptance and faith of God's working in their lives.

Oh, to have that kind of faith in our own daily lives! I am the world's worst at becoming agitated or worrying over events that are going on in my life or the lives of my family members. Why is that? Why do we spend so much time being stressed by the events of our lives.

This same God is alive and at work in our lives as well. Nothing that God has ordained to come to pass will fail; everything is according to His great love and mercy. His plan for man continues to advance exactly on schedule.

As we think of the miraculous events of the Christmas story, especially of the faith of Mary and Elizabeth, may we, too, be filled with joy that God has so worked in the lives of man that His only Son came to this earth, born as a baby, for the sole purpose of saving a people for himself.

How amazing is that?

God Bless You,
Linda

Monday, December 21, 2009

Gabriel's Message to Mary


26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”
29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. 30 Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. 32 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. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
34 Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
35 And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 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. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”
38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
(Luke 1:26-38, New King James Version)

Gabriel's Message to Mary

I am sure it seemed like just another ordinary day to Mary; little did she know that her life was about to change forever! The angel, Gabriel appeared to her with this message.

“Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

What kind of a greeting was that? Gabriel's comment troubled her, but then he continued, "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.”

Now that would be a rather startling message, would it not? Who was this man that he would say such things to her? Do you think she realized that this was an angel of God? Mary responded in surprise, "How can that be; I am a virgin?"

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God."

Gabriel went on to explain that her relative, Elizabeth, was pregnant, explaining that nothing is impossible for God. Think of how amazed she must have been, as understanding dawned upon her. How did Mary respond to this unbelievable proclamation?

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

We are so familiar with this story, that we often do not take the time to ponder what this might have been like for her. Just think, from before time began, God had ordained that Mary would be the mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world! Look how calmly she replied. All doubt and fear was gone; we only see her gentle submission.

How aware are we of God's leading us through this life? How do we respond to the circumstances He brings our way? Oh that we would have the faith and acceptance that we see in Mary.

God Bless You,
Linda

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Birth of John the Baptist

5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
8 So it was, that while he was serving as priest before God in the order of his division, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, his lot fell to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people was praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15 For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17 He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”
19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marveled that he lingered so long in the temple. 22 But when he came out, he could not speak to them; and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple, for he beckoned to them and remained speechless.
23 So it was, as soon as the days of his service were completed, that he departed to his own house. 24 Now after those days his wife Elizabeth conceived; and she hid herself five months, saying, 25 “Thus the Lord has dealt with me, in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”
(Luke 1:5-25, New King James Version)

Birth of John the Baptist

It was an amazing time! Life had continued much the same for the Jewish nation as it had for the past thousands of years, but all that was about to change. The prophecies were there in their Scriptural writings--the time would come when a Messiah would be born, but do you think the people of that day really thought it would happen in their lifetime?

The first change took place in the lives of Zacharias and Elizabeth, who were described as righteous before God. While Zacharias, a priest, was serving incense before God, the angel Gabriel appeared to him, announcing the future birth of a son to he and Elizabeth. But, there was more to the announcement.

For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zacharias responded with doubt.

And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”

We can understand Zacharias, can we not? We, too, are waiting for the coming of the Lord, but do we really believe He will come in our lifetimes? If an angel came to us with such a message, how would we react?

Sometimes it is hard for us to relate to the circumstances because we are so familiar with the story of the birth of Christ. It is pretty evident that God chose special people for the task at hand. Zacharias may have doubted, but he showed implicit obedience to the instructions of Gabriel.

What an amazing time this is for us as well. How are we going to spend Christmas? Are we going to be so immersed in the "busy-ness" of the season that we hardly take thought as to its meaning? I would challenge you to take some time, especially on Christmas Day, to read through the Biblical accounts of Christ's birth in both Matthew and Luke, and to praise God for sending His Son.

Our culture is so far removed from the real meaning of Christmas, that we Christians must be careful to not neglect the impact of Christ's birth on our lives. Without Christ, there would be no salvation!

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, December 18, 2009

Arise, Shine!


1
Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.
2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you.
3 The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising.

(Isaiah 60:1-3, New King James Version)

Arise, Shine!

With it only being one week before Christmas, I thought I would write Christmas devotions for the next week. Isaiah 60 is a perfect place to start; verses 1 - 3 are quite familiar as they are used as the text for parts of Handel's, Messiah, which is often sung at this time of the year.

The coming of Christ is not confined to the New Testament; as a matter of fact, there are many Bible passages such as this one from Isaiah 60, which proclaim the coming of the Messiah, the Light.

A quick perusal of history, especially church history reveals to us that darkness was, indeed, over the face of the earth at the time of the birth of Christ. As is also happening in our day, darkness even covered the church.

We love light, do we not? Especially at Christmas, how we enjoy the colored light displays. Yet, in the middle of all of the beautiful Christmas lights, darkness still pervades the minds of most people. How can that be?

God is calling Christians, not just unbelievers, to come to Christ, the Light.

Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.

Have you ever pondered your purpose, as a Christian, on this earth? Often, we are the only light that those who walk in darkness all around us ever see. What kind of light display do they see in us? Are we one of those lights that just cannot decide whether it wants to stay on or not? There is nothing more irritating than a light that struggles to stay lit. Just try reading a good book when the light you are using flickers continuously.

Unfortunately, many Christians today are just like that flickering light. We tend to shine our brightest when we are among other Christians, but how soon our light starts to flicker when we are surrounded by people of the world. Yet, one small light, shining in the darkness, spreads hope to the lost who are stumbling blindly in that darkness.

As Christmas draws nearer each day, let us draw near to Christ, the Light, who came so long ago as a baby in a manger. He was not courted in the halls of kings, but was placed in the humble home of Mary and Joseph. Yet, His Light has spread from that humble beginning and has covered the earth.

Take some time today to thank God for His light that has shone down upon you, and pray that God will use you to be a beautiful light display before others. May the Lord arise over you, and may His glory be seen upon you.

Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.

God Bless You,
Linda

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Glory of the Lord


1 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. 2 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. 3 And one cried to another and said:

“ Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”

4 And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke.
5 So I said:


“ Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The LORD of hosts.”

(Isaiah 6:1-5, New King James Version)

Glory of the Lord

The book of Isaiah is filled with so many references to Christ; one of my favorite passages is this one from Isaiah 6. Look at the contrasts shown between the glory of the Lord and the true state of man as he stands before the Lord of hosts.

Isaiah 6 begins with the proclamation, In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord.

Look at the amazing description given in the next few verses.

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.

Every time I read these verses I am filled with awe; this is our Lord and Savior being described! Does this sound like the Lord as we think of Him in our day? We must be so very careful that in our thoughts and descriptions of Christ, we do not minimize His character in any way. In this scene at the throne of Christ, the seraphim cried out, "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!"

And so it is true, is it not? The whole earth is full of the glory of the Lord. Can you see it? When you see a gorgeous sunset, or a rainbow, or listen to the birds singing their praises to God, or view the depths and heights of the mountains, or watch the sky filled with streaks of lightning, or observe the power of a hurricane, whose handiwork is being displayed?

As Isaiah observed the glory and the wonder of the Lord upon His throne, how did Isaiah react?

“ Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The LORD of hosts.”

This Christmas season, as we think of our Lord God humbling Himself to come to this earth as a mere baby, born of the virgin, Mary, into a poor family, rather than into the courts of a king, let us fall before Him as did Isaiah. May our hearts be filled with our poor and wretched state before God and cry out, "Woe is me, for I am undone! . . . For my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts."

As we gather with friends and family in this festive season, may we not be overwhelmed with the traditions of this world, but may we, rather, be filled with the glory of the Lord.

God Bless You,
Linda

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Yours is the Glory!


11 Yours, O LORD, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O LORD,
And You are exalted as head over all.

12
Both riches and honor come from You,
And You reign over all.
In Your hand is power and might;
In Your hand it is to make great
And to give strength to all.

13 “Now therefore, our God,
We thank You
And praise Your glorious name.
(1 Chronicles 29:11-13, New King James Version)

Yours is the Glory!

How often do we take the time to praise and adore the Lord in our own private time with Him? As we hasten to the upcoming Christmas holiday, I cannot think of a better Bible passage to internalize than the one shown above from 1 Chronicles 29. When the angels sang, "Glory to God in the highest," what were they saying? What did they mean?

Though Christ had just come as a baby in a manger, in the eyes of God and the angels, His work was already completed. As they looked ahead to Christ's death, burial, and resurrection, how could they not sing praises of glory and adoration to Him?

This is a hard time of year for many; the "busy-ness" of the season can almost be overwhelming. For others, it is a hard time due to the loss of loved ones in the past year who will not be there to celebrate the holidays with them.

Often, we Christians are so far removed from the real meaning of Christmas as we get caught up in the commercialism of our age.


Let us take time today, and everyday until Christmas, to read and meditate on the few short verses shown above. It is not about us, is it? It is not even really about spending time with family and loved ones! It is all about Christ, and the glory due His name.

Yours is the glory, oh Christ! We thank you, and praise your glorious name.

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, December 11, 2009

Declare His Glory

24 Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.

25 For the LORD is great and greatly to be praised;
He is also to be feared above all gods.

26 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the LORD made the heavens.

27
Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and gladness are in His place.

28 Give to the LORD, O families of the peoples,
Give to the LORD glory and strength.

29 Give to the LORD the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come before Him.
Oh, worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness!

(1 Chronicles 16:24-29, New King James Version)

Declare His Glory

In 1 Chronicles 16 we note that the Israelites have gone through a rather tumultuous time. During the last battle of King Saul, the Philippines stole the Ark of the Covenant. Now, several years later, David, King of Israel, is bringing the Ark back to the people. In the middle of His joyous celebrating David is compelled to write the words of the Psalm shown above.

This would be a good Bible passage to memorize and meditate upon. Who is this God we serve? Is He just another God among all of the gods of the world? Is He the God that Christians worship just like other nations bow to their own gods? No, He is not! He is God of all Gods, and Lord of all Lords, the Creator of Heaven and earth!

For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the LORD made the heavens.

Let us, by the grace of God, declare His glory among the nations. Let us live and serve God in view of all those around us, that God's grace might be spread among those we meet each day. That is why we are here on earth; we remain here as long as the Lord has work for us to do.

How would our day be different if we lived this day, and every day hereafter giving glory to His name, and worshiping the Lord in the beauty of holiness? Only by the grace of God is that possible, but, oh, what a difference it would make in our lives and the lives of those around us.

Give to the Lord glory and strength!

God Bless You,
Linda

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Show Me Your Glory

17 So the LORD said to Moses, “I will also do this thing that you have spoken; for you have found grace in My sight, and I know you by name.”
18 And he said, “Please, show me Your glory.”
19 Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” 20 But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.” 21 And the LORD said, “Here is a place by Me, and you shall stand on the rock. 22 So it shall be, while My glory passes by, that I will put you in the cleft of the rock, and will cover you with My hand while I pass by. 23 Then I will take away My hand, and you shall see My back; but My face shall not be seen.”
(Exodus 33:17-23, New King James Version)

Show Me Your Glory

I always marvel every time I read this Bible passage from Exodus 33. No other Bible patriarch had the same relationship with God as did Moses, but when he asked to see God's glory, even He could not see the face of God and live.

Then He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.” But He said, “You cannot see My face; for no man shall see Me, and live.”

God told Moses to stand in the cleft of the rock, and when His glory passed by Moses, God would put His hand over Moses' face, so that Moses would only be able to see God's back.

We do not often stop to think of the effects of sin upon us. Though we are purified by the blood of Christ, our sinful bodies still cannot see the face of God and live. We are so tangled in the cares and concerns of this life that we cannot even imagine the glory that awaits us.

It is so difficult for us to see loved ones pass away, but if they were Christians, do we really want them to have to come back? They now rest in the glory of God! Selfishly, we may want them back, but we are comforted knowing the glory which surrounds them now--a glory which we will one day also enter into.

I am reminded of the chorus of a song.

Oh that will be, glory for me,
Glory for me, glory for me.
When by His grace I shall look on His face,
That will be glory, be glory for me.

Amen. So let it be.

God Bless You,
Linda