Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Week Fifty-Two - Blessed are They Who Receive

We've had several days of receiving, haven't we? Not only have we received gifts, but also food and friendship, fun and memories. I do hope you had a lovely Christmas, and the gifts under your tree brought joy to your heart. We are in Spain still waiting to share Christmas with our family here as our suitcase of gifts went missing on the flight. It has been found and what a fun time we will have once it catches up with us! The kids can barely wait. Watching their joy reminds me it is more blessed to give than receive.

As we finish out the year, we have been considering the believing of Mary and the obedience of Joseph. Today, I want us to take time to look at those in the Christmas story who received.

Elizabeth, Mary, and Joseph received direct commands from an angel. God speaking purposefully into their lives meant their paths were forever altered and what they received opened the door for eternal life through this promised Messiah.

The Shepherds also received Good News from a host of angels. Imagine the night sky lit up with a choir of heavenly beings singing and praising God. It would certainly catch your attention, don't you think? These shepherds were getting on with their job, settling the sheep, and preparing for a night in the open when the announcement came. And what did they do? They came with haste and found the baby just as the angels proclaimed. They received the blessing of being the first ones to visit the baby Jesus.

The Wise Men also received a blessing as they made their way across the desert following a star that led them to the Messiah. There, they presented gifts fit for a king and received direction from God to depart another way. They went home with a blessing.

Simon and Anna received the answer to their prayers as they met Mary, Joseph, and the baby Jesus in the temple. They had long awaited the promised Messiah, and God gave them confirmation. What a blessing when our prayers are answered and our faith is rewarded.

You can probably think of other ways people received things in the Christmas story. I also think of King Herod. He received something, too. He received word that a king was born, but he did not want to receive that message. So he determined to stomp it out and, through his violence, missed the blessing.

The story of the nativity is an invitation to receive. The Messiah has come, this one for whom the Jewish nation anticipated. And what did they do with him? They, like Herod, rejected him. He hadn't come as they thought - to conquer and put them back in power. Instead, he came as a baby born in a lowly manger, then, entering the city on a donkey, humble and meek.

We, too, make the same mistake if we aren't careful. We hear the news of the Saviour, know the story, and yet, miss the blessing. Why do I say that?  Well, like I said, the nativity story is an invitation to receive. Christ came to save. That is precisely what the angel told Joseph.

Matthew 1:21 "And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins."

This is the gift offered by Christ - forgiveness from your sins. But knowing the story isn't enough. You must receive the gift. That means bowing your heart in humble repentance to the King of Kings and giving Him the right to be Lord of your life. That is the invitation of Christ. And when you do, you receive the blessing - forgiveness and eternal life.

It is my prayer today that you have already received the gift of salvation. And if you haven't, I pray you will take time to thoughtfully consider receiving Christ as your Saviour.  Blessed are they who receive. 

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Week Fifty-One - Blessed is He Who Obeyed

We've been talking about Luke 1:45, where God's word says of Mary, "Blessed is she that believed." Mary, the little Jewish girl, betrothed to Joseph, waiting for her wedding day, is now faced with an angel with a rather unsettling announcement. In the face of unalterable change, what did Mary believe?

As you read, you see she had favour with God; she knew the circumstances were out of her control and that God was at work, and this work included her. She believed God would take care of the details, and God had provided support through Elizabeth. The angel assures her that nothing was impossible with God, and she agrees that God's word must be fulfilled, surrendering her life to God's plan (Luke 1:30-38).

As she speaks to Elizabeth, we can see Mary's view of God. Just look at what she knows. She knows God as mighty and holy, merciful, strong, of great power, caring, and her only help (Luke 1:49-54). And with that belief in her God and his word, she surrenders.

But today, let's also look at Joseph. He, too, was godly. The Bible calls him a just man. Yet, his life was greatly affected by the news from the angel. He was ready to set up home with his fiance. No doubt, he was preparing and excited, but when Mary tells of the angel's visit Joseph is forced to make a decision. What will he do? He knows what the Jewish law says, but his love for Mary and desire to protect her causes him to think carefully before he acts. There was no sudden outburst from this man! He is so disturbed that even his dreams are affected. And in one dream, an angel appears, giving him a direct command. "Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost" (Matthew 1:20). And Joseph, by faith, obeyed. 

He seems to disappear as the Scripture moves to the events with Herod and the Wisemen in the book of Matthew, but in the book of Luke, we see Joseph obeying the law and taking his young wife, expectant with child, to Bethlehem to fulfill the taxes. Joseph is mentioned at the arrival of the shepherds, and then, with Mary at the giving of sacrifices in the temple marveling at the words of Simeon.

Matthew records one more important time when Joseph obeyed. After the visit from the Wisemen, when Herod's jealousy and anger decreed that all children under the age of two years were to be slaughtered, an angel again appears to Joseph with instruction to take Mary and baby Jesus into Egypt until it is safe to return.

Here is a man willing to obey God and lay aside his personal desires. It takes a genuine character and great faith to take on a calling. And this was Joseph's calling - to be the protector and provider for the Son of God.

As I think about Joseph, I imagine a man of strength and purpose, a man with a caring and gentle demeanor, but also a man of integrity and trustworthiness. This was no small task, and as he and Mary marveled at all that was going on, I can only believe they were in awe of their role.

Both Joseph and Mary believed, and both obeyed in the face of unexpected circumstances beyond their control.

What is our reaction to life-altering news? What do we believe? Mary's initial panic did not hinder her belief and obedience because she had a solid trust in God and His word. Blessed is she that believed. For all generations, the faith and action of this one young woman have been a beacon and example. Likewise, Joseph exhibited his faith and obedience as he stepped up to take on his God-given role with character and integrity.

So, the next time an angel brings you news or life throws you a curveball, be ready with a solid belief. The God who met with Mary and Joseph is also at work in your life. Will you be blessed and obedient in believing?

If you missed last week's blog, go back and read! We are looking at the belief of Mary and Joseph, and if you want to hear more, go over to YouTube and listen to more on Mary - Blessed is She that Believed, and Joseph - Blessed is He Who Obeyed. We will have one more on this theme - Blessed are They Who Receive coming next week.  Until then, I hope you are successfully preparing to celebrate the birth of our Saviour.  Catch you next week - Gail

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Week Fifty - Blessed is She That Believed

In the days of Herod, the King of Judea, two unsuspecting women were getting on with life. One attends her duties as the wife of a priest, while the other lives in joyful anticipation of her wedding day. Little did either know God was about to step into their lives in an unalterable fashion.

As you read Luke 1, you cannot help but be impressed with their faith. The elder, Elizabeth, receives long-awaited news - she will have a God-given son whose sole purpose is to prepare the way for the Messiah. No doubt her heart rejoiced, for she had longed for a child, and the Jews had waited generations for this promised Messiah.

While her husband remains speechless, a child develops in her womb, and not just any child, a child filled with the Holy Ghost - John the Baptist, the one ordained by God to prepare the way of the Lord.

Then comes a gentle knock on the door as Mary comes to visit. Elizabeth's baby leaps in her womb as Mary tells about the visit of an angel and the promise of the Messiah - a baby boy to be named Jesus. God is at work, and Elizabeth exclaims, "Blessed is she that believed." Luke 1:45

And indeed, Mary is blessed. Her willingness to risk all and cast herself on the Lord is a beautiful part of the Christmas story. In Luke 1:38, she says, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord, be it unto me according to thy word." Blessed is she that believes, for through her obedience, we have a Saviour.

Blessed are we when we believe.

I've been meditating and thinking about what it looks like to be a person of belief. I've come to see it as calmness in the face of uncertainty, a resolve with confidence, and an indwelling power that gives wisdom and discernment. Walking by faith - believing - is not a blind walk. Instead, it is a confident, assured stride based on the knowledge of God's word, character, and promises.

And what is the blessing of belief? Answered prayer, inner assurance, and hope are three things that come to my mind. Several Scriptures attest to the blessing of belief. Have a look at just these few.

Matthew 21:22 read, "And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believe, ye shall receive.

Romans 1:16, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek."

Romans 9:33, "Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed."

1 Corinthians 13:7 tells us love "believeth all things."

And 1 John 5:5 says, "Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God."

Truly, we must believe, not only for salvation but also for service and Christian growth.

So, with Mary as our example, let's ask ourselves a few questions. Do we readily believe and accept God's word as truth, or do we try to bring our own reason to bear? Are we standing ready to obey and serve or do we hesitate and question? Would we cast our lives into God's hands as Mary did or do we hide behind self-made boundaries?

Let me show you just two words that assure us of Mary's attitude and words that could be ours if we believe.

In Luke 1:46, Mary uses the word magnify. Her heart was full of praise. Believing unto obedience does that! It reveals God's greatness and awe rises in our hearts.

In Luke 1:47, she says her spirit rejoices. Praise and thankfulness reign because those who believe discover the blessing is on the other side of obedience.

So, where do you stand? Are you a person who believes? Not just in the Christmas story but also in the Saviour? Have you experienced the blessing of obedience by believing? Is your heart full of awe and rejoicing in God's activity in your life?

Dear friend,

Because this idea of believing has caught my attention, I will stay on this subject through the coming two blogs, and I am also recording video lessons on this theme.  You can find them on YouTube by searching for my name. I hope they are a blessing to you. I know I have been very encouraged looking at the believing of Mary and Joseph. I pray your Christmas is one of believing.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Week Forty-Nine - What Time is It?

Before you start reading, please take a good look at the picture below. It was shared on Facebook and caught my attention. You see, I have been praying about a situation for several years, and this past week God began opening doors for me to start walking through, or as the illustration shows, the time had come to start walking to the other side. 

I'm sure you can relate. We've all had times when we have prayed and prayed about a situation only to hear God tell us to wait - the time is not right. Maybe you are at that point now? Perhaps you have a need or prayer request that is being met with a "wait" or a "not yet."

Here's what I can tell you from my experience. 

First, waiting can be a hard place. The enemy wants you to become unsettled, try to figure things out for yourself, make moves to manipulate the situation or get things going. But if you do that, like Sarah and Rebekkah, you will be moving ahead of God - you won't walk across to the place God has planned for you, but you'll arrive in an area of more turmoil and incredible difficulty.

Waiting also requires wisdom. Wisdom to know the difference between pushing and trusting. Wisdom to keep your heart with all diligence. Wisdom to rest in the promises of God and not lose hope.

Waiting is also a private place. Some prayer requests are very personal. Opening them to the public before God reveals the answer only creates anxiety and pressure. Better to wait with hope and watch for God's hand than to make loads of noise.

When His glory shall be revealed - when God shows His hand, when He begins moving, you rejoice. Joy rises in your heart and you understand that your prayers are being met.

One verse, among many the Lord gave me while I have waited, and am still waiting, is Psalm 119:49, "Remember the word unto thy servant, upon which thou hast caused me to hope." To me, this verse means I can rest my hopes in what God tells me. Through prayer, His Spirit, and His word, He gave me instruction to wait - He confirmed that with promises and encouragement along the way. And every time my heart grew anxious, He spoke gently and confidently to me through His word.  

Psalm 27:13, 14 is another short passage that resonates in my ears as I wait. "I had fainted, unless I had I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: Be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord." To faint means to quit, but I also see it as having a weakness of heart, or to lose heart. Waiting long holds that temptation. But God assures me of His goodness, His purpose, and His instruction again - just wait.

And the promises of God abound while I wait. "No good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly" (Psalm 84:11). "Call unto me, and I will answer thee" (Jeremiah 33:3). And many, many others. I rested my hope in the word of God.

So, I waited and prayed, like the woman pleading for crumbs or the man asking for bread at midnight, and God assured me through His word that He heard my prayer. There's a tremendous little portion on persistent prayer in Isaiah 62:6, 7, which reads, "ye that make mention of the Lord, keep not silence, and give him no rest, till he establish, and til he make Jerusalem a praise in the earth." Now that's God's instruction for prayer! Give Him no rest! Keep praying. And when you get the answer to wait - wait. But when it comes to mind again - pray.

It is tempting to grow anxious and begin to think you are a fool for waiting, but this truth remains - God knows our need, and He has a plan. But, unfortunately, we sometimes just have to wait. This is because the hands of the clock aren't yet in the right place.  And remember, God knows our request before we even begin praying for it, He uses it to teach us more about Himself, and He already knows how it will all work out.

Now, as I see the anticipation of the answer to my prayers, I am thankful I have waited. But, I am also willing to continue waiting if need be, and when the hands of the dial are in the exact place, God will lead me across.

Dear friend, if you are in a place of waiting, content yourself. Don't fight against the Lord; just wait. Don't fret and stew; just wait. Don't lose hope; just wait. God will show Himself mighty to deliver in ways you cannot imagine. He rarely works things out the way we devise anyway. His plans are always for a greater purpose than just rescuing us from our situation. We'd be happy with just that, but He moves that we might glorify His name. He answers prayer that we might testify to His greatness. He meets our needs that we might be drawn to trust Him more fully.

So what time is it?  It is time to seek the Lord. Time to trust and wait. It is time to believe that all things truly do work together for good to those who love the Lord and are willing to entrust their lives and desires to His perfect will while they wait.

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Week Forty-Eight - Getting Ready to Go!

In November, Tom and I traveled home for a reunion with the Gritts family that lasted four full days. Now, that's a lot of reunion, food, and fun! The following week we visited with old friends, more grandkids, and my side of the family. Those two weeks were packed full of sweet memories.

I got to thinking about the anticipation leading up to our journey. Back in January, when we traveled, things were very different. Then, we were traveling due to a bereavement, and the hurdles of traveling during Covid made everything difficult and expensive. But this time, things were much easier, and the expectation of a joyful reunion carried us through every flight.

You know, all of us who know the Lord will soon take a trip of joy with every expectation of a safe arrival and a great reunion. That trumpet will blow, and we will be ushered into the presence of our loving Lord. But what are we doing in preparation?

We ought to be getting ready to go! That would mean laying aside things that spoil the trip, like fear, unforgiveness, or a sour attitude. Sorting your baggage is another good idea. You won't be taking anything with you, so why let stuff bog you down now? Listening to the news and being duped into thinking this old world has the final say is to be listening to the wrong announcements. But oh, the joy when we lift our eyes and look to the future with anticipation and readiness.

The Bible talks about trimming our lamps - getting that Holy Spirit oil stored up and letting our lights shine brightly. It speaks of preparing our house - of putting things in order and knowing we are right with God, ready to stand before Him unashamed. It also calls us to be watching - looking for His appearing. And it talks about lifting Him up so others can also find the way.

Maybe you haven't even made your booking? If you don't know the Lord, now is the time to get that done, too. Today is the day of salvation. There is no need to wait for a better time. Eventually, we will all stand before the Lord. Better to have prepared now because there is no opportunity later.

So, what are you doing in preparation? Have you accepted Christ? Are you getting ready and bringing others with you or plodding along with your knees dragging in the mire of this world?  The future is bright, my friend, when you know the Lord. So, let's get ready to go!