F is for Faith

F is for Faith –

“You just have have to trust.”  “You just have to believe.”  “You just have to have faith.”  Those were phrases I heard, as a child, from my dad when I was in the midst of my millionth time of asking the “but how”, ‘but why”, “but where” questions that I asked on a regular basis.  He was always so calm, incredibly patient and never made me feel like my questions and frustrations were wrong or that I shouldn’t be asking them.  I think that if He had made me feel bad for asking, I would have never come to the place I did in accepting faith as it is.

I am a thinker.  I am concrete sequential.  I am a realist. I never had a difficult time believing that God existed or that He sent His Son to die for my sins or that I needed a Savior.  However, I “needed” to know the answers to all my burning questions. Questions like, why people with different color skin exist if we all came from Adam and Eve, how did the animals know to come to the ark, how did Adam name all those animals, why do bad things happen, and the list went on and on and on… I think the one that I got most hung up on was “where did God came from?”.  I had a difficult time wrapping my young mind around the fact that He has always existed!

I’m not sure how or why, but one of those nights, it clicked.  Faith made sense to me.  I may never be able to completely wrap my mind around the fact that God always been there, but it doesn’t matter.  I finally realized that I had to just believe that everything He said was true and stop worrying about it.  My mom frequently says, “He either IS who he says He is, or He isn’t”.  Don’t get me wrong, I still question things that happen.  I still get frustrated when I feel like He isn’t answering some of my prayers, but I eventually come back to that phrase and know that He is who He says He is and He IS in control.  I can rest assured that He has me in the palm of His hand – caring for me like no one else can.

About the same time in life that I was the “questioner extraordinaire”, I received a little orange autograph book.  My dad wrote a silly poem in there about loving me more than pork and beans, but after he signed it, he added the reference Proverbs 3:5-6.  To this day, it is one of my favorites!!  After all those times of discussion he knew that if I could take this to heart, it would carry me through so many difficult times in my life.  “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”  [NASB]   That my friends, is faith.

Being a Christian is not about knowing all the answers.  In fact, it is quite the opposite.  It is accepting that we don’t have all the answers. That we can’t make it on our own.  Knowing that God understands us when we question.

There is a power much greater than ourselves that is the driving force in the universe.  A divine being who could have obliterated this world thousands of years ago, but chose instead to send His Son because He loves us!  If we can weave into our beings the trust that Proverbs 3:5-6 tells about, our lives can be so much richer.  And as the following verse says, faith is “the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living.”

Hebrews 1:1  “ The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” [The Message]

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E is for Eternal Life

E is for Eternal Life –

Jesus is the only human to have existed prior to His life on earth.  The scriptures confirm, without any doubt, that He resided in heaven with the Father since the beginning of time and was sent for the sole purpose of providing our salvation.  I looked up so many amazing scriptures about this most amazing gift.

1 John 1:1-2 tells us, “We proclaim to you the one who existed from the beginning, whom we have heard and seen. We saw him with our own eyes and touched him with our own hands. He is the Word of life.  This one who is life itself was revealed to us, and we have seen him. And now we testify and proclaim to you that he is the one who is eternal life. He was with the Father, and then he was revealed to us.”

1 Peter 1: 20a reveals, “God chose him as your ransom long before the world began…”

1 John 4:9 “God showed how much he loved us by sending his one and only Son into the world so that we might have eternal life through him.”

Titus 1:2 “This truth gives them confidence that they have eternal life, which God—who does not lie—promised them before the world began.”

As I stated before, we know that he has existed forever, that he was sent by God, and that the whole reason for His birth and subsequent death and resurrection, was so that all who believed on His name are saved and will live eternally with Him.  How then, does one do that?

First we must understand and acknowledge that we are sinners.  No one can be good enough to make it on their own merit.  Romans 5: 12 – 20 does an excellent job of explaining how sin came into the world and how Jesus was sent to provide a way to heaven. Romans 6:23 reveals the plan God has for this that costs us nothing – “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.”  All that is required of us is to put our faith in Christ and accept the gift of salvation.  That’s it!  Neither we ourselves nor life become perfect after we make this decision, but we have a perfect life in heave to look forward to.  The hope we have in Christ is something that can’t really be explained until it is experienced!!

So as we reflect this Christmas season on the reason baby Jesus came to earth, let us do with great rejoicing and joy that God loved us enough to send His son from his place in the perfect and glorious heaven to this cold and sinful world to provide a way that we could one day live with Him forever!  If you have never experienced the gift of salvation, I promise that if you accept it now,  it will be the best Christmas ever!!!!

Additional Scriptures on eternal life:

John 5:24 –  “I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life.”

1 Peter 1: 18-19 “For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.”

1 Peter 1: 3 All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. It is by his great mercy that we have been born again, because God raised Jesus Christ from the dead. Now we live with great expectation, 4 and we have a priceless inheritance—an inheritance that is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And through your faith, God is protecting you by his power until you receive this salvation, which is ready to be revealed on the last day for all to see.

1 John 5:11 “And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.”

John 6:40a For it is my Father’s will that all who see his Son and believe in him should have eternal life.”

John 6:47 “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes has eternal life.

Titus 3:7 Because of his grace he declared us righteous and gave us confidence that we will inherit eternal life.”

All scriptures are from the New Living Translation

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D is for Donkey

D is for Donkey –

Nearly every representation of the nativity includes a donkey.  There is no biblical reference to Mary having ridden on a donkey, however, several things make me think she probably did.

*Joseph was required to report to his own city to be counted for a census.  Although Mary wasn’t required to register for the census, Joseph was most likely hesitant to leave her in Nazareth and subject her to ridicule that she was in all probability facing because of her condition.  More importantly, Micah had prophesied that the Savior of Israel would be born in Bethlehem, thus requiring her to accompany Joseph.

*At the time of the decree, Mary and Joseph were in Nazareth and Joseph was to report to Bethlehem.  The two towns are somewhere between 70 and 90 miles apart and it would take anywhere from four days to week to travel that distance on foot.  I would imagine that at this point of Mary’s pregnancy, they both would want to expedite the trip in any way possible.

*The terrain surrounding Bethlehem is described as “stoney hill country”, making it difficult and dangerous for her to maneuver on foot.

*Donkeys were a common mode for transportation during biblical times.

*Two other extremely significant events demonstrate Jesus entering a venue on an animal.  In Mark 11, Jesus makes a triumphal entry into Jerusalem shortly before His crucifixion riding a donkey, showing His humbility and willingness to become the sacrifice for all mankind.  Revelation 19:11 tells of the Second Coming of Christ.  “And I saw Heaven opened; and behold a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True”.  This entrance shows Jesus in all his glory, power and majesty.  It seems logical to me that his entrance into the world would involve his mother riding a donkey.

In all reality, whether Mary rode a donkey or not isn’t all that significant.  The important fact is that Mary and Joseph followed God’s leading and their obedience fulfilled the prophecies of Christ’s coming.

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C is for Christ

C is for Christ –

Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that she was to name her child Jesus.  Jesus comes from the name “Yeshua”, a Hebrew-Aramaic word, meaning “Yahweh [the Lord] is salvation”.  The word Christ is a title and is derived from the Greek word “Christos”.  In Hebrew, Christ means “the Anointed One” or “Messiah”.

I was looking through some of my dad’s study materials tonight and found the following, written by H.H. Halley in a book entitled, “Halley’s Bible Handbook”.  The chapter was entitled, “Christ is the heart of the Bible”.  I absolutely love how the chapter began…  “The Old Testament is an account of a Nation.  The New Testament is an account of a man.  His appearance on earth is  the central event of all history.”  “The central event of all history.”  One of the definitions of central is “of the greatest importance”.  There really is no better way of defining Christ’s birth, life, death and resurrection, than to say that it was the greatest thing that has ever happened!  His coming to earth generated a new hope for all of mankind. A promise of new life.

One of the most famous references to Jesus being called Christ is found in Luke 2:11, when the angels proclaimed the arrival of Jesus’ birth to the shepherds that were tending their sheep on that first Christmas night.  “For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” [NKJV]

There was no birth before, nor since, that is as well-known or more celebrated than our Messiah.  Throughout history, many have tried wipe His name and his memory away, but He shall remain the only, the one and true Christ, for all of eternity.

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B is for Baby

B is for baby –

Who is this baby named Jesus – this baby, born centuries ago in a cave in Bethlehem –  this baby whose birth we still celebrate – this baby who forever changed the world?

Isaiah 9:6 foretells of this baby – “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” [NASB] The Jews, who had been under the rule of many different governments for centuries, had been waiting and waiting for this promised King.  They believed he would come and free their nation, solving all their immediate problems and hardships.

However, this isn’t exactly what God had in mind when He made this promise in Isaiah.  His plan was a more permanent, eternal plan. This plan is further revealed in Luke 1: 31-33, when the angel Gabriel tells Mary, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” [NLT]

This baby named Jesus, born of virgin, was sent to earth by God the Father to become salvation for dying world.  The gift of this child, was meant for all mankind, for all time.  As you prepare for Christmas this year, I pray that you remember, each and every day, that He was sent, not just for the Jews, not just for a moment in time, but He was sent for you and for me for all of eternity.  All that we need to do is accept the gift of salvation, so that we might know this Jesus who was born to Mary and Joseph that first Christmas night.

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A is for Ancestors

About halfway through my Thankful list in the month of February on Facebook, I decided to do an ABC’s of Christmas. I about talked myself out of it, but have recently been encouraged by Ginger Lobdell’s writings to stop putting things off and dive in, insecurities and all.  A while back we were at a Christian concert and one of the things they said was, “a writer’s gotta write”. I do love to write, so I’m going to give it the old college try.

A is for ancestors. I have wondered at the reason for the genealogies in the Bible many times in my life.  I can’t even pronounce many of the names and, because of that, have difficulty keeping up with their place in history and the significance of their personal story.

Recently, we have been studying “The Story”, written by Max Lucado and Randy Frazee at church. It tells how God’s upper story is woven with the lower (earthly) story of mankind. A few weeks ago we studied about Ruth, who is on the list of Christ’s ancestors. Ruth was a foreigner that married into the tribe of Israel when she married Boaz, who was the son of a prositute.

This sparked my curiosity and I begin to investigate further. As I looked again in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 at the genologies of Christ in a new light, the one thing I noticed (about all the ones I know something about), is that Jesus wasn’t born into a family who had “arrived” spiritually.

Jesus’ ancestors were chosen by God to be the greatest nation on earth. However, upon closer inspection, even this family of Biblical heroes of the faith was in dire need of a Savior. You see, Jesus came from a line of people whose lives and families are full of sin and disfunctionality. There are murderers, adulterers, liars, a man who helped sell his brother into slavery, a woman who tricked her father-in-law into sleeping with her, prostitutes, etc., in his linage.

I believe that maybe one of the reasons God included Jesus’ geneology was to show us that He sent His son into the midst of a family we would be embarrassed by. Think of it this way, had Christ been born into a family of “saints”, who lived neat and clean lives, we wouldn’t be able to relate to him or, even more likely, we wouldn’t believe He could understand or accept where we have come from. There would be no commonality, no connection. Christ’s family story confirms for us, that no matter what we have done, He’s seen it all. He understands.

With all the sin that is told in these Old Testament stories, an even more significant truth is found amongst the lives of these same people. The second half of Acts 13:22 tells us that God said the following of David, who committed many of the sins listed above, “…‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’”  (NIV) Woven through the family that came before David, and those that came after David’s death, is a faithfulness to God. Men and women who longed to have a personal relationship with Him. Men and women that understood forgiveness. Men and women who accepted that forgiveness and strove to be faithful. Men and women whose desire to know and please God produced a couple that would help God bring into this world, a baby, who would ultimately become the Savior to our broken and hurting world.

Jesus so completely understands our story that He gave His own life as a payment for our sins so that we might be saved. We all need that same Savior, that same kind of salvation. A salvation that bridges the chasm of sin to reconnect us to God. John 3:17 tells us, “For God did not send the Son into the world to judge [condemn] the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.” [NASB]

Sin, redemption, a longing to be faithful and to be a women “after God’s own heart”… that is my story.  The gift God sent to me and you, over 2,000 years ago, never ceases to blow. me. away.

Throughout this Christmas Season, I pray that you too are full of wonderment at what God did by sending His Son into the world, amidst the fallen, that He could redeem the world through His death and resurrection.

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Life is a Puzzle

 

In church this morning the man who gave the communion meditation had a song played that was about our lives being like a puzzle.  I do not know the name of the song or who sang it, but it spoke volumes to me and got me thinking.

 

Our lives indeed are like a puzzle.  We can’t see what the finished puzzle looks like because we don’t know what will happen between now and the time our puzzle is completed.  All too often we try to take control of putting our puzzle together and end up cramming pieces of our puzzle together, trying to make them fit, even when they weren’t meant to.  We mess our puzzle up completely – it doesn’t fit together seamlessly and the picture doesn’t look right.

However, if we let God take over and put our puzzle together, things will fit together and become more beautiful with each piece.  At the end of our lives our puzzle will be complete and will be something beautiful for those who love us to remember.

 

 

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