Epiphany

Behold, there came wise men from the east . . .

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.

And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down and worshipped him:

and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts;

gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.

Matthew 2:10-11

One of my favorite days in the Christian year – on this day we celebrate the Epiphany of the Lord.

All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being.

What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

John 1:3-5

Waiting

There are times when you cannot understand

why you cannot do what you want to do.

When God brings the blank space, see that you do not fill it in, but wait.

The blank space may come in order to teach you what sanctification means,

or it may come after sanctification to teach you what service means.

Never run before God’s guidance.

 If there is the slightest doubt – don’t.

Oswald Chambers

My Utmost For His Highest

Ten years ago God took us to a quiet country road in Missouri.

We remodeled an Amish farmhouse and enjoyed seven years of country living.

We then returned to Delaware, living with family while building a home.

Covid lockdowns, supply chain problems, lost paperwork, wrong tax ID numbers, and a host of other issues have made this a long drawn out process but we are nearing completion after almost three years.

Todays devotional reading is especially meaningful to me.

There are times when you cannot understand

why you cannot do what you want to do.

Lord, three years ago I underlined those words in my morning devotional reading. We were living in Missouri and my husband had decided (with no consultation or discussion) to sell the farm and return to Delaware. You know me, Lord. You created me. I don’t like sudden decisions. I prefer to ponder the matter under consideration. I need to pray and seek Your will. So I was undone! After much anxiety, and many “WHY”s,” You brought me through. You showed me it was Your plan.

Three years later we are still not settled.

I’m still waiting.

I’m still trusting.

Twelfth Day of Advent

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

as it is written in the prophets,

Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

The voice of one crying in the wilderness,

Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

Mark 1:1-4

KJV

I’m only human –

This is not an excuse.

I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ in liveth in me.

Galatians 2:20

KJV

Oswald Chambers writes in My Utmost For His Highest:

Conviction of sin is one of the rarest things that ever strikes a man. It is the threshold of an understanding of God. Jesus Christ said that when the Holy Spirit came He would convict of sin, and when the Holy Spirit rouses a man’s conscience and brings him into the presence of God, it is not his relationship with men that bothers him, but his relationship with God – “against Thee, Thee only, have I sinned, and done evil in Thy sight.” The marvels of conviction of sin, forgiveness, and holiness are so interwoven that it is only the forgiven man who is the holy man, he proves he is forgiven by being the opposite of what he was, by God’s grace. Repentance always brings a man to this point: I have sinned. The surest sign that God is at work is when a man says that and means it. Anything less than this is remorse for having made blunders, the reflex action of disgust at himself.

When we become a follower of Jesus Christ we are made new. Christ formed in us.

When we surrender self, God gives us the Holy Spirit to work in us.

All this I have spoken while still with you.

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name,

will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. 

John 14:25-26

NIV

God gives us everything that we need to live in this world in a way that honors and glorifies Him. He does not leave us on our own but gives us His Word to teach us, His Holy Spirit to guide us, but we must choose to obey Him. We must choose each day to take up our cross and follow Him. He will not “make” us obey. It is a choice we must make for ourselves.

Yes, I am only human, but in Christ I can do all that God asks of me.

The first step on the journey is repentance.

Eleventh Day of Advent

MAKE A LEGAL U-TURN!

These are the words I hear when I don’t follow the directions from the GPS signal in our vehicle.

This is what God had been saying through the prophets for centuries. Repent! That doesn’t mean you simply regret what you’ve done. It means you recognize your sin, and you turn around and go in the other direction.

God spoke to His people. He spoke to Adam and Eve, to Cain and Abel, to Noah, to Abraham and Sarah, to Isaac, to Jacob, to Joseph, to Moses, to Joshua, and to all the prophets He sent to warn His people. Sometimes they listened, repented, and turned from their own way to follow God.  Other times they chose to continue in their sin and suffered the consequences for their rebellion.

The last book of the Old Testament in the Bible contains the word of the LORD spoken to the prophet Malachi. Only four chapters, it contains words of condemnation and of promise. The first two chapters condemn the worship practices and the actions of the priests who were supposed to be leading the people in their worship of God. The last two chapters challenge them to trust God, to test His promises and see that they are true. They speak of the day that is coming when all will be made right.

For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven;

and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble:

and the day that cometh shall burn them up,

saith the LORD of hosts,

that it shall leave them neither root nor branch.

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings;

and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall.

And ye shall tread down the wicked;

for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet in the day that I shall do this,

saith the LORD of hosts.

Remember ye the law of Moses my servant,

which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.

Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD:

and he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers,

lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.

Malachi 4:1-6

KJV

After Malachi there is silence for 400 years. That doesn’t mean God was not working because we know that He sent an angel to Zacharias to tell him that he would have a son and that he was to call him John. He sent an angel to Mary to tell he that she would be the mother of the Messiah. He sent an angel to Joseph to reassure him that what was happening was all a part of God’s plan. Scripture tells us that there were those who were faithful and righteous before God even in the silence.

With John the Baptist the silence is broken. He proclaims the coming of the Messiah. People heard his message and were moved to repent, to turn from their sin and to turn to God. But not all. There were those who were comfortable in their sin. They liked the power their positions gave them and they resented anything or anyone who threatened that power. When John challenged the religious leaders they sought ways to discredit or silence him. When John challenged Herod Antipas for his sinful lifestyle he lost his head, literally. The king had him beheaded. Standing up for your faith comes at a cost.

We are living in a time when speaking out against sin will come at a cost.

Are you willing to be “the voice of one crying in the wilderness:

Prepare ye the way of the LORD!”

Are your willing to be the GPS signal to your generation, saying

“MAKE A LEGAL UTURN!”

Tenth Day of Advent

In those days John the Baptist came,

preaching in the Desert of Judea, and saying,

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”

This is he that was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:

A voice of one calling in the desert,

‘Prepare the way for the LORD, make straight paths for Him.’”

John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist.

His food was locusts and wild honey.

People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan.

Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them:

“You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?

Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.

And do not think you can say to yourselves,

‘We have Abraham as our father.’

I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham.

The ax is already at the root of the trees,

and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

I baptize you with water for repentance.

But after me will come one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not fit to carry.

He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

His winnowing fork is in His hand,

and He will clear His threshing floor,

gathering His wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable faire.”

Matthew 3:1-12

NIV

GOD DOESN’T CALL THE EQUIPPED

GOD EQUIPS THE ONE HE CALLS

John the Baptist was the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Zachariah served as a priest in the temple twice a year. John did not follow his father into the priesthood but instead he chose a solitary existence in the Desert of Judea. He becomes a “survivalist,” living off the land. As he is living in a desert area this means a restricted diet, since not much grows in a desert. He survives on locusts and honey. His clothing is rough and probably not too clean. A strange man with w strange message.

God has been silent for 400 years. He has not spoken to His people since the prophet Malachi and many had come to believe the promised Messiah was never going to come. But then God calls John and gives him a message for the people. This strange man appears in the desert preaching that the Kingdom is near! He calls the people to get right with God, now. He challenges sin and cuts no slack. When the Pharisees and Sadducees come to see what this is all about John challenges them. Don’t count on Abraham but get right with God. His words convict the people and they turn away from their sin and seek God again, repentant sinners are baptized by John in the Jordan.

Why didn’t God use someone from the religious establishment to carry His message? That would make sense, to use someone who was trained in the Scriptures, someone who knew the Torah from beginning to the end, someone who was respected in the community. But God chose John, a simple man, living a rugged life, but with a heart for God. In the world’s view John was not qualified for the task but in God’s eyes he was just the man for the job because he was willing to be used of God. He was the messenger. He prepared the people for the coming of the Messiah. Hearts were softened. People realized their need for a Savior. They began looking up once more.

Then I heard the voice of the LORD saying,

“Whom shall I send?

And who will go for us?

Isaiah 6:8

NIV

God is seeking those willing to be used of Him.

During this Advent season what is God asking you to do?

The Second Monday of Advent

And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse,

and a Branch shall grow out of his roots:

and the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him,

the spirit of wisdom and understanding,

the spirit of counsel and might,

the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;

and shall make him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD:

and he shall not judge after the sight of his eye,

neither reprove after the hearing of his ears:

but with righteousness shall he judge the poor,

and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth:

and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins,

and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,

and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;

and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together;

and a little child shall lead them.

And the cow and the bear shall feed;

their young ones shall lie down together:

and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.

And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp,

and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice den.

They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain:

for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD,

as the waters cover the sea.

And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse,

which shall stand for an ensign of the people;

to it shall the Gentiles seek:

and his rest shall be glorious.

Isaiah 11:1 – 10  

KJV

Isaiah tells of One who is to come, a Branch, and He will be of the line of David. The Spirit of the LORD will be upon Him. He will possess all seven attributes of the Spirit of God; of the LORD, of wisdom, of understanding, of counsel, of strength, of knowledge, and of the fear of the LORD. The Messiah will have the full measure of the Spirit upon Him.

Isaiah refers back to Jesse who was the father of David because Messiah will not come as a conquering hero but as a newborn babe. The father of David was not a king, but a farmer and he raised sheep. Jesse was the son of Ohed and the grandson of Boaz and Ruth. And the promised One will not be born in a palace but in a stable, a stable that is occupied by animals, so it is dirty, smelly, and rough. In such a place the Savior of the world will begin His earthly life. He will be born in humble beginnings and will grow up with an earthly family until God decrees the time is right and He begins His ministry. After his earthly ministry in completed, Jesus will ascend to heaven for a time and when God decides the time is right, He will return. But this time He will return in power and He will rule.

but with righteousness shall he judge the poor,

and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth:

and he shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth,

and with the breath of his lips shall he slay the wicked.

And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins,

and faithfulness the girdle of his reins.

This passage begins with the promised Messiah coming as a babe but then speaks of His coming in power to rule upon the earth as King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Under His rule conditions will be restored as they were before the fall. The animals will live side by side, there will be no predator or prey, all will be vegetarians, eating straw instead of each other.

In the garden God said to the serpent,

Because thou hast done this,

thou art cursed above all cattle,

and above every beast of the field;

upon thy belly shalt thou go,

and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life:

and I will put enmity between thee and the woman,

and between thy seed and her seed;

it shall bruise thy head,

and thou shalt bruise his heel.

But Isaiah prophesizes that under Christ’s rule the children will play near the serpents and not be harmed.

God’s creation is restored

and the people will seek the LORD.

Jews and Gentiles will come to God’s holy mountain.

COME QUICKLY, LORD JESUS

THE WAY

In the beginning was the WORD,

 and the WORD was with God,

and the WORD was God.

The same was in the beginning with God.

All things were made by Him;

and without Him was not anything made that was made.

In Him was life; and the life was the LIGHT of man.

And the LIGHT shineth in darkness;

and the darkness comprehended it not.

There was a man sent from God,

whose name was John.

The same came for a witness,

to bear witness of the LIGHT,

that all men through him might believe.

He was not that LIGHT,

but was sent to bear witness of that LIGHT.

John 1:1-8

KJV

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying,

I am the LIGHT of the world:

He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness,

but shall have the LIGHT of life.

John 8:12

KJV

Jesus saith unto him,

I am the WAY.

The TRUTH,

And the LIFE:

No man cometh unto the Father,

But by ME.

John 14:6

KJV

God calls us to bear witness to Jesus Christ, just as John the Baptist did.

Jesus is the WAY, and we must share that message with all those God brings into our life.

There are those who say that there are different paths to God, but God’s Word tells us different.

Jesus Christ is the only way. He came to show us the WAY to the Father, the WAY to restore the relationship broken by sin.

Oswald Chambers wrote in My Utmost For His Highest:

There is only one relationship that matters,

and that is your personal relationship to a personal Redeemer and Lord.

Let everything else go,

but maintain that at all costs,

and God will fulfil His purpose through your life.

One individual life may be of priceless value to God’s purposes,

and yours may be that life.

We light this candle as a symbol of Christ the Way.

May the Word sent from God through the prophets lead us to the way of salvation.

O Come, O Come Emanuel.

Seventh Day of Advent

HOPE

Though He slay me, yet will I HOPE in Him

Job 13:15a

May integrity and uprightness protect me, because my HOPE, LORD is in you.

Psalm 25:21

We wait in HOPE for the LORD; He is our help and shield.

In Him our hearts rejoice, for we trust in His holy name.

May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our HOPE in you.

Psalm33:20-22

Why, my soul, are you downcast?

Why so disturbed within me?

Put your HOPE in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God.

Psalm 41:5

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my HOPE come from Him.

Psalm 62:5

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose HOPE is in the LORD their God.

Psalm 146:5

For I know the plans I have for you,”

declares the LORD,

“plans to prosper you and not to harm you,

plans to give you HOPE and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.

I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.

Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have HOPE.

Lamentations 3:19-21

Be joyful in HOPE, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.

Romans 12:12

See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God!

And that is what we are!

The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know Him.

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known.

But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

All who have this HOPE in Him purify themselves, just as He is pure.

I John 3:1-3

We have completed out first week of Advent.

The candle of HOPE is burning brightly, calling others to come to the ONE who offers HOPE, Jesus Christ.

As we continue our Advent journey we will be watching and waiting with great expectation for Christ’s return.

It will be an active waiting, for we want to be found working when the Master returns.

What is the LORD calling you to do this Advent season?

Sixth Day of Advent

Praise the LORD.

Praise the LORD, O my soul.

I will praise the LORD all my life;

I will sing praise to my God as long as I live.

Do not put your trust in princes, in mortal men, who cannot save.

When their spirit departs, they return to the ground;

 on that very day their plans come to nothing.

Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,

whose hope is in the LORD his God,

the Maker of heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them – the LORD,

who remains faithful forever.

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry.

The LORD sets the prisoners free,

the LORD gives sight to the blind,

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down,

the LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow,

 but He frustrates the ways of the wicked.

The LORD reigns forever, your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the LORD.

Psalm 146

NIV

Because of technology today’s generation expects “instant” everything.

We have instant access to information on our computers. The access is always available wherever we go through our cell phones. Even our refrigerators come equipped with computers.

Speed is not always a good thing. (In my opinion soup made in an Insta-pot does not taste the same as soup that has simmered on the woodstove all day.)

With a twenty-four hour news cycle we are bombarded with news of every tragedy as soon as it happens and it remains on a continuous loop until another story pushes aside.

O LORD, we are an impatient people, and we become more so each passing day.

LORD, teach us to wait upon You.

Your timing is perfect.

My cry is often – “Fix this situation, NOW.” – but I know that Your way is the best way.

Your time is the right time.

LORD, I hurt for this world we live in.

My heart aches for the people who are suffering.

They do not realize that You are all that they need.

Blessed are those whose hope is in the LORD their God!

I thank You and I praise You, O God,

for I know that You are at work always

and what to me seems chaos

makes perfect sense to You.

GOD’S PROMISES ARE SURE IN HIS TIME

Fifth Day of Advent

Psalm 122 NIV

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the LORD.”

Our feet are standing in your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem is built like a city that is closely compacted together.

That is where the tribes go up, the tribes of the LORD,

to praise the name of the LORD according to the statute given to Israel.  

There the thrones for judgment stand, the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

            “May those who love you be secure.

             May there be peace within your walls and security within your citadels.”

For the sake of my brothers and friends, I will say, “Peace be within you.”

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God, I will seek your prosperity.

Photo by Haley Black on Pexels.com

Jerusalem, the city on the hill,

the home of the temple where God’s shekinah glory dwelt.

The place where God’s people gathered for prayer,

for worship,

and to receive the word of God.

It was a time of great joy

when the people would travel to Jerusalem to give God glory, honor,and praise.

Everyone gathered together in one place,

 one people united in their faith.

They did not come to be entertained.

They came to worship and to praise God.

Jerusalem,

the city of God,

it was the location of God’s temple,

the place where Jesus was crucified,

the place of His resurrection,

and the place of His return.

The Prophet Ezekiel tells of the time

when Israel’s sin caused God’s glory to depart from the temple.

Now the cherubim were standing on the south side f the temple when the man went in,

and a cloud filled the inner court.

Then the glory of the LORD rose from above the cherubim

 and moved to the threshold of the temple.

The cloud filled the temple,

and the court was full of the radiance of the glory of the LORD.

The sound of the wings of the cherubim could be heard as far away as the outer court,

like the voice of God Almighty when He speaks.

Ezekiel 10:3-5 NIV

Then the glory of the LORD departed from over the threshold of the temple

and stopped above the cherubim.

While I watched,

the cherubim spread their wings and rose form the ground,

and as they went,

the wheels went with them.

They stopped at the entrance to the east gate of the LORD’s house,

and the glory of the God of Israel was above them.  

Ezekiel 10:18-19 NIV

For centuries God had been warning His people that they were turning away from Him.

He spoke through the prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Ezekiel and others

warning them of the consequences of their sin,

but the people didn’t heed God’s warning

and God’s glory departed.

.

There is no temple in Jerusalem today and peace is a faint hope. But John speaks of the vision he received concerning the New Jerusalem:

            Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer and sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.  

John 21:1-4 NIV

That is the future God promises but until that day we are to pray for the peace and security of Jerusalem. God’s people are to be working together to tell others about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, living their faith so that others will see what a difference Jesus makes in our lives.

God has chosen to use His people to demonstrate His mercy and His grace.

This advent season let us share the vision John talks about in the Book of Revelation.

Spread the message of hope so that others will know that there is a better way,

the way of the Cross.