Good morning, friends,
So the Bible study began two nights ago, it was a beautiful thing to see all the women come out discuss, discover and uncover truths in the word. Those that have done Pam’s studies before, the seasoned look, yep, lots of work. Those who are new have a more “deer in the headlights” look or “what have I gotten myself into” look or “how can I dash outta here and look cool” look.
We did the first week together, discussing the events surrounding the birth of Jesus. Now, this week the ladies on on their own. We read these events so frequently, don’t we? That we forget how shocking they really are to the system. Angels, teenagers with babies, love came to earth and changed it all.
Recently, Noah took a class with our local drama club and studied Shakespeare. Be still my heart, he loved it The woman who taught his class brought Shakespeare alive with many different methods and ideas and techniques. He memorized some brief monologues to recite in class and then perform at the end of season show. What struck me about Shakespeare this time around, because, well, I love Shakespeare, I teach him to my kids, I’ve taught a class in my co-op…I get pretty passionate about igniting a love for him, the beauty of his monologue. Oh, it’s witty, it’s beautiful, it’s gorgeous.
I got to thinking about some of the “monologues” that greet us in the first few chapters of the New Testaments, especially the one ignited by the Holy Spirit. Let’s look at that one together. By the way, you heard me right, ignited by the Holy Spirit. First part of the New Testament, not in Acts, not part of the sweeping, powerful movement of Pentecost, this was Zacharias. Check it out.
67 And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
69 And has raised up a horn of salvation for us
In the house of David His servant—
70 As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—
71 aq]”>[aq]Salvation from our enemies,
And from the hand of all who hate us;
72 To show mercy toward our fathers,
And to remember His holy covenant,
73 The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
74 To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
75 In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
76 “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare His ways;
77 To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
ar]”>[ar]By the forgiveness of their sins,
78 Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
79 To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Remember Zacharias, right? He was serving in the temple, visited by the angel Gabriel and told that his wife would bear a son who turn the hearts back to the Lord and make way for the Messiah. Oh, yeah? How can I be certain? (FACE PALM) Well, easy for me to say, as I’m sitting here comfortably in my pjs, with my cup of coffee, dog at my heels, typing away at my laptop making judgments and NOT in a temple with the angel Gabriel.
Anyway, go back up to verse 67, and let’s pull this text apart together. His name, Zacharias, means God remembers. So, even as Z was entering this world God was blessing the world by reminding us all that He remembers. He doesn’t forget His promises. He won’t let go. Elizabeth was old! And yet, God had a plan, a beautiful plan for this couple that included a baby.
…was filled with the Holy Spirit. Before Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was bestowed for certain times, on certain people. On Saul, who can forget when the Holy Spirit was removed? On David, when the Spirit entered…See 1 Samuel 16 for further study.
And so the song, the monologue begins. John’s name means grace of God and so this song, we shall see, shows us the loving grace of God.
…accomplished redemption. Deliverance, release, purchase from slavery for His people.
…raised up a horn of salvation. picture of horns of a most powerful beast, symbol of power, strength, used in battle and where is this coming from? The house of David, lineage of the tribe of Judah, Mary and Joseph are both from the line of David.
…salvation, deliverance. All prophesied ahead of time, friends, now coming true in the Messiah. It’s all happening, in their time.
…mercy, remember what John’s name meant? Grace. And remember what Zacharias’ name meant? God remembers. His holy covenant. He was bringing all together. Oh, and Elizabeth’s name means oath of God.
…oath which He swore.
…grant us rescue. Deliverance from danger! Salvation! Serve Him.
Now imagine this next part, Z holding his precious child, after nine months of being mute, able to bless this child and see the promise come true. The promise he scoffed. Yet, here was the gift. Oh, how gracious is our God.
John…this is who you will be.
- prophet of the Most High
- go on before Him
- prepare His ways
- to give His people the knowledge of salvation (words of life, hope)
- he grew, he became strong in spirit, lived in the deserts until his appearance in Israel
Jesus…what does Zacharias say about Jesus.
- He is the redemption
- He is the horn of salvation
- He is the fulfillment spoken by the prophets of old
- He is the salvation from the enemies and from the hand of all the enemies who hate us
- He is mercy
- He is the fulfillment of the covenant
- He is our rescue, the oath
- The Lord, the forgiveness of our sins
- The Sunrise…the anatole, the dawn from on high who will visit us..oh, that’s lovely…
- To shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death
- A guide for our feet into the way of peace…
That is quite a list. Over the night I had a dear one request prayer. It was not specified. It was not quantified. That’s okay. God knows. I love this list to pray over someone in dark times, to remember the truth in dark times. Darkness will not win, my dear one. I wasn’t going to include this image but I am…John Piper in a message on this passage describes the horn of salvation this way: (This is written in my Bible from 5 years ago so please allow for some error…)
This symbol of power can be best summed up as a wild ox seven feet tall. The crown of his head is nine feet tall. Both sides of his horn curving up and out, six feet long, twelve inches thick at the base. He stands at the top of the hill, sunlight shooting out all around him, his massive neck slightly cocked. And impaled at the end of his right horn hangs a lion, dead. A conqueror. Imagine the power.
Our God is strength. Our God is power. No matter what our circumstances may seem right now, He is over them and He loves you. Cling to Him.
Pray on. Pray.
Good morning, friends of this blog,
Quite a long silence has befallen this site, my apologies. A year of homeschooling almost under our belt, sports, new adventures (a musical!) and other such things have brought this blog to a forgotten corner. *sob* Now that summer is just around the river bend, I find myself with many ideas in my mind. Many burdens on my heart that I would like to share. So, grab your cup of coffee (in my case) or cup of tea, and join me.
Tonight begins a new Bible study at our church and I fell asleep thinking about what I would want to say to each one of them as we begin our study tonight. Allow me to explain. You see, I’ve done Pam Gillespie’s studies with my friend and teacher now four times. Every time we start with a very large number of women and by the end, the number has dwindled. Significantly. So, I was laying in bed praying for each one of them. Not knowing them all by name, but praying for them nonetheless.
You see, here’s what I wouldn’t want to say. I wouldn’t want it to be a guilt trip. Good heavens, we don’t need any more of those, do we? If you really loved the Lord… OR If you were a faithful follower… OR If you just got up at 5am… OR name your chain. No, I don’t want to play the name your chain game. No, not interested.
I have given much consideration to the reasons behind the numbers dwindling as the weeks continue.
1. Time constraints. We begin a Bible study HOPING we can do this. This time we can make the time. Yet, with all of the games, meetings, and craziness, where do we fit it in? Maybe we are asking the wrong question. Maybe we need to stop and ask, in all the craziness, how can we afford NOT to fit it in? We need Jesus even more in all this.
2. Difficulty. Pam Gillespie’s studies are challenging. And sometimes, we don’t know the answers. And sometimes, we don’t finish the week. And what if someone looks over at our book and sees that. (Just keeping it real, folks). If I could, (I wish, I wish, I wish I could sit with each one of our ladies coming tonight and say…) I have been here. I have walked into the Precepts class for the first time with Mr. Spencer. Sitting through my first class, no, scratch that, wading through my first class, no, scratch that, sinking through my first class…all I knew is, this is where I knew I had to be. I needed to be studying the Bible. I knew I needed to be studying His Words. And this was the place to do it.
3. Exhaustion by the end of the day. I get that. I have four kids. I get weary. I get just wanting to stay home at the end of a long, emotional day. I am amazed, though, how when, we as the body of Christ, assemble together and discuss what we have learned, the transformation that occurs in my heart and mind. So many times, I would drag myself, kicking and screaming, to Bible study, only to have wonderful discussion and fellowship and get home and have trouble falling asleep that night!
Well, the day begins. I am grateful to live where we can still freely study the Bible. Freely study together.
Together. What a wonderful word.
Pray on. Pray on.
Good morning, friends,
Well, I took Christmas decorations down yesterday. I have a tradition of waiting until after the New Year to take everything down, but this year Joshua and I seemed ready to bring it all down early. Our space was much more cramped this year. My normal routine of having my quiet time each morning by the lit tree was hard with three couches, a tree, a chest and two side tables. I would walk in sit and get claustrophobic. So, next year, adjustments will need to be made.
Christmas, this year, for our family, just felt very, very different. Having Joshua gone until right before Christmas for a week was hard for us, but we gave him away freely to his family, to his beloved father. We have watched him over this month just wait. We know the word is coming from Florida, we dread it. Tears come at the most unexpected times for my man.
Christmas Eve brought the news that my parents (whom we normally spend Christmas) were sick with the flu. And so Christmas day was quiet. We walked through the day together, without much pomp or circumstance. There was an awareness of the beauty of the day. The Glorious touching our earth as an infant.
So, as I packed each ornament, I looked at each one remembering who gave us each one. Loving the memory, enjoying the moment, and closing the box brought an ache for my husband. The next time the boxes open…
Truly, the next time the boxes open, we really have no idea what our reality will hold. When we closed the boxes last year, we had no idea what this year would hold. I’m glad honestly. I’m glad I can’t read the future. I don’t want to know. I’m glad my future is in God’s hand. I don’t want to know.
Broken bones, surgeries, cancer, pain, yuck. On the other hand, this year has held beauty, reconciliation, joy, friendship and I look around and I am full. Life is like that. The Lord is in the midst of it all.
Thus says the Lord, Who makes a way through the sea and a path through the mighty waters, Do not [earnestly] remember the former things; neither consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs forth; do you not perceive and know it and will you not give heed to it? I will even make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. Isaiah 43:16, 18-19AMP
So, maybe we do turn over a new year. Yep, 2015. For me, for my family, we hold onto our Joshua, walking with him on these mighty waters. We never expected this turn in the road. God did. He knew. So we reach out for the One who makes a way through the sea. We see death as an end. Of course, we do!
God does not. It is a beginning. He makes all things new. Joshua will see his dad again. This is not the end. This is not his final goodbye. However you close your boxes this year, you have no idea what your life will look like when they open again next Christmas. God does. He can be trusted with this life of yours.
All my life I have been taken by these few verses. I cannot remember how I was introduced to them. I cannot remember why, as a small child, they were my favorite. Maybe it was this idea of mansions. Maybe it was that Jesus was talking. Maybe that it was the promise He was coming back to take me to them. He certainly doesn’t give us a TON of information about the mansions. I want details. If we can have almost 5 verses just on how fat and disgusting Ehud the king (look it up yourself in Judges 3), then I want the beautiful of heaven.
“Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me.2 In My Father’s house are many mansions;[a] if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.[b] 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also. 4 And where I go you know, and the way you know.”
5 Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, and how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14 NKJV
Let not your heart be troubled…we fight death. We fight the knowledge that each day brings us closer. We don’t want to leave family, friends. I follow heartbreaking blogs and posts of moms, children fighting cancer. Fighting to stay on this earth. Oh, friend, I get that. I don’t know when to suggest the fight to stop. Nor should we stop fighting. Or looking for cures, solutions. Death feels unfair, like a great schism has occurred. Death never was meant to be a part of the original plan. Yet, sin entered the world and here we are. Let not your heart be troubled. How can Jesus utter these words? He knew what He was about to face?
you believe in God, believe also in Me…Our belief. Bottom line, friends, hence, “to place confidence in, to trust,” signifies, in this sense of the word, reliance upon, not mere credence.(Vine’s,pisteuo). Our confidence cannot be in our circumstances ever.(Circumstance good? God is GOOD! Circumstances bad? Where is God?) If we have learned nothing during our life as a Christian, then we face the death of a loved one or our own death, this truth will be lost. Jesus calls for us to trust what we cannot see. Faith. Place our trust in Him. As He has saved us, held us in life, He will hold us through.
In My Father’s house are many mansions…this very phrase has brought me many the daydream. I’ll admit it. When I sat with my grandma as she died, I thought about this verse so often. I brought my husband’s hymnal to her bedside and sang to her. Hymn by hymn I sang to her. We were both very agitated the first day as she no longer was able to get out of bed and lost the ability to speak. So, I brought the hymnal and began to sing. I’ll be honest. I don’t have the best voice. The words of the hymns took over.
Peace. And when came the time for Jesus to come for her, I’ll never forget the experience, friends. We fear what we do not understand. We fear because we do not know. I was reading Psalm 23 to her. Her breathing was becoming more and more irregular. Whether I knew a presence in the room because I knew Jesus was about to hold her hand and mine no longer, I’ll never know. The palpable presence of heaven touching earth was in that bedroom that afternoon. As I spoke each phrase of Psalm 23, I let her know, I told her, it was okay to go, that I loved her, I would miss her, but that we would be okay. I felt the heaviness of holiness in the room.
What puzzles me about those feelings, friends, is that He is with me all the time. His presence never leaves me. Never leaves you. So we fight and fight to put a pause button on death, as many of the authors of our Bible eloquently speak (however BRIEFLY) on heaven, Jesus calls us to not be troubled. To trust in God, trust also in Him. Your life, and your death, are in His most capable hands. Is there any better place for them to be?
The Temporal and the Eternal
We live between the two. Whether we want to think on this reality or ignore, when death comes to our door, it is a forced issue to ponder. Do we believe the words of Paul?
5 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven, 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, will not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed but to be clothed, so that what is mortal will be swallowed up by life. 2 Corinthians 5 NASB
As I drove my husband to the airport a week before Christmas to spend precious time with his dad, we reflected on the gift his parents had given him. Peace. His dad knows Jesus, loves Jesus, taught his kids to love Jesus. His dad’s house is being torn down as I write. I watch my husband haunt his phone for word from his family down in Florida. I cannot speak for how Joshua’s dad feels, but as I watched my Grandma pass from this life to her heavenly home, she struggled because I knew she did not want to leave her beloveds here on earth. Yet, heaven was calling for her.
The groans of this life, the burdens feel so overwhelming to us. These last few days, watching my husband as he grieves, processes and moves through the stages of grief, I am so very relieved that he had the week with his dad, with his family. Tears fill his eyes.
6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord— 7 for we walk by faith, not by sight— 8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord. 2 Corinthians 5 NASB
There is always hope when our loved ones know and love Jesus. Always. We can be of good courage. We can face the death of our beloved. Even our own death because, well, reread the quote above! On this earth, we walk by faith. But when we close our eyes for the last time, our faith shall be our sight. Oh, my. We shall be at home with the Lord. That is our real home.
That is not to say that the stages of grief and death are light or easy or pain-free. I am so very grateful for the story of Lazarus being raised from the dead, aren’t you? There is so much amazing about that story to all of us, isn’t there? However to me, today, one point I want to make.
33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews who came with her also weeping, He was deeply moved in spirit and[h]was troubled, 34 and said, “Where have you laid him?”They *said to Him, “Lord, come and see.” 35 Jesus wept. John 11 NASB
Jesus knew He was about to raise Lazarus. He was deeply moved, troubled. He wept. He mourned with them. He knows we need this, He grieves with us. Even. though. HE. knows. the. end. of . the. story. Mercy, He is the end of the story! He sits with us in our grief and loves us through.
To you, my dear reader, wherever you are in the grief process. He holds your hand.
8 You have taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Your bottle.
Are they not in Your book? Psalm 56 NASB
To my husband, I love you. I’m sorry you walk this road. You do not walk alone. I’ll hold your hand the whole way.
11 Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is ·Christ [the Messiah], the Lord. 12 This ·is how you will know him [will be the sign for you]: You will find a baby wrapped in ·pieces of cloth [cloths; T swaddling clothes] and lying in a ·feeding trough [T manger].”
13 ·Then [L And suddenly] a ·very large group [or great army] of angels from heaven ·joined [appeared with] the first angel, praising God and saying:
14 “Give glory to God in ·heaven [the highest place/heaven],
and on earth let there be peace among the people ·who please God [or he favors; L of his pleasure/approval].” Luke 2:11-14 EXB
Let’s be honest. How many times have you heard these verses? They can become so commonplace. Oh, we can say, how lovely. How nice. Let’s just settle on these verses for a moment.
Today YOUR Savior. Your. Personal. Ownership. Each and every one of us has a part of this Savior. He isn’t meant to be held at arm’s length. He is yours. He is mine. How amazing.
He is Christ the Lord. When my daughter was young, she wondered if Jesus’ last name was Christ and if we needed to address Him as Mr. Christ. Laughing, we explained to her the names of Jesus (God saves) and Christ (the Messiah). The long awaited one, the anointed one…
This ·is how you will know him. I can’t imagine anyone expected this is how the Messiah to come. Enter the world, as a baby? Infant? So the God gave the shepherds a map.
lying in a ·feeding trough. Pause. Breathe. Wrinkle your nose. Think about the nice, clean, lovely crib you slept in your first night. And then, think about a feeding trough for the King of the world. Savior. Blessed Jesus. He lit up that stable with His beautiful presence. That feeding trough was all Mary had to hold her sweet baby.
Then a ·very large group [or great army] of angels from heaven ·joined the first angel, praising God. The shepherds were given a window into the worship of God by the angels. Giving honor to God!
“Give glory to God in ·heaven [the highest place/heaven],
and on earth let there be peace among the people ·who please God [or he favors; L of his pleasure/approval].” On earth, let there be peace among the people who please God. Peace. Oh, how we long for peace. Each day this month has brought more distressing news. It hasn’t felt peaceful. It hasn’t felt like Christmas. It hasn’t felt magical.
We watched A Christmas Story last night and yes, it is funny. Yes, it’s a classic. It’s also representative of a time when life seemed simple. Maybe it wasn’t, but as a child, life felt carefree. Now today, each day seems to bring more and more.
My husband flies home from Florida today. He says good bye to his dad who was recently diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer. The family has spent the last week together, building memories, helping one another, talking, working. It’s been a good week for my husband that I know he will treasure for the rest of his life. If you would like to join us in praying Joshua’s dad, please visit his page: https://www.giveforward.com/fundraiser/qk17/harold-butch-bruinius-pancreatic-cancer/updates/105900?utm_source=facebook
The peace cannot be found in our circumstances. The peace can only be found in Jesus. We can only rest in Him. He is the one who can choose to calm the storms or calm the child in the midst of the storms.
And today, as the storms rage around us, remember this, my friend, He is our peace.
Shepherds Hear About Jesus
8 ·That night [L At night], some shepherds were [living out] in the fields ·nearby [L in that region/place] watching their ·sheep [L flock]. 9 Then an angel of the Lord stood before them. The glory of the Lord ·was shining around[surrounded] them, and they became very frightened. 10 The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. [L …for/because] I am bringing you good news that will ·be a [or bring] great joy to all the people. 11 Today your Savior was born in the town of David. He is ·Christ [the Messiah], the Lord. Luke 2:8-11 EXB
God came to the shepherds. Do you notice they were living out in the fields? This wasn’t a part-time job. They lived out in the fields. Far away from the rest of humanity, keeping the smell and grime at a reasonable distance. Isn’t that interesting? They remove themselves from the people. And who does God choose to announce His Son’s birth?
God didn’t mind the smell. Or the noises. He brought the noises and the lights and the glory to them. He decided to rock their world. This story, we’ve become so accustomed to it, should explode our minds every time we read it. We formulate opinions about people, status, symbols, positions and God just blew through them. He went and shared His great news with shepherds.
We are His messengers. God shared showed us how to share. He didn’t look on the outside. He didn’t care where they rested their heads. He shared the news as if it were the greatest gift ever given or told (it was and is). The day had finally come. His Son was on the earth. He was so very proud.
We should be so proud. We hold in our hands the story. The greatest story.
That is what Christmas is all about. That is the story that needs to be shared. I’m not a very good gift giver. In fact, I really do not have that “gift”. I’ll be honest. I recognize though the greatest gift. And we won’t find it wrapped under any tree this Christmas. No, He’s alive. The grave could not hold Him. Death was could not defeat Him.
So, as I pack up my kids this morning and head to my Mom’s to make cookies, I am thankful. Thankful for the Gospel writers who gave us the story. We can imagine the story, piece it together, what happened on that most glorious night when the Messiah came to earth. Everything changed.