Monday, January 16, 2017
But one testified in a certain place, saying: “What is man that You are mindful of him, Or the son of man that You take care of him? You have made him a little lower than the angels; You have crowned him with glory and honor, And set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:6-8
I don't think there are many of us who haven't, at some point in their lives, looked up into the heavens and shouted, "Why?" We do this in the face of both wonder and tragedy, don't we?
The verses above are actually referring to an old testament, Psalm 8:3-4, where David stood in awe of all God had created. In other words, a positive experience. However, a lot of us have said basically this out of extreme distress. As though God should disrupt the natural occurrence of nature and consequences for an individual or group of individuals.
All of us die from one thing or another--some slowly and in pain and suffering, some so quickly that they hardly notice the moment of transition. All of us experience one accident or another, some because of something we did, some because of something someone else did. We all encounter germs and diseases not caused by germs. Happenstance. Nature. Cause and effect.
Sometimes God steps in and heals. I've seen miracles, but I've seen many more progress to the end of life. I don't know why now and probably will not know until I also die. Then, the Bible says, we will know as we are known (1 Corinthians 13:12). I am looking forward to that day.
Lord, so many things I don't understand or know the reason for, but You do, and that is enough for me. I trust You with and in everything because You know best. In Your precious Son's name and for His glory, amen.
Saturday, January 14, 2017
When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way. Matthew 2:9-12, NKJV.
(continued from last week)
Excited voices sounded from outside Mary and Joseph's small stone house in Bethlehem. Curious, she stopped washing their evening dishes and walked to the open door. She peered through the darkness at the train of camels and men who made their way down the street toward her.
She reached down to stop the small Boy at her side from running to meet them. "Jesus, no! Come back inside. Those camels could step on You."
The Toddler stopped, pointing at the travelers with one hand and grasping His mother's hand with the other. "See?"
"You can see them from here, Son. Joseph, come look at this."
"Who is it, Mary?"
"I don't know. Oh, my; are they stopping here? We don't have room for all of them to sleep in here, but I could go to the marketplace and get some more food for them, if the vendors haven't closed their businesses for the day."
Joseph pushed his wife and Jesus into the house. He stepped forward and bowed. "Shalom, friends. May we offer you a little to eat? Our house will not hold all of you, but as many as will fit are welcome to come in to sleep."
One of the strangely dressed men dismounted and approached him, straightening his turban that had slipped out of place. "Shalom. It is the Child we've come to see, sir," he said with a strong eastern accent.
Joseph frowned. "The Child?"
"Yes. We saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him."
The man looked up. "Hm. I don't see it now, but it was right up there just moments ago, directly over this house, brighter than the morning star and evening star combined. May we come in and speak to you and your family?"
Joseph stepped aside, pulling Mary with him. "Please enter. Our house is yours."
Their new friend turned to his companions and signaled them to follow him. Their servants carried ornamental boxes and jars behind the visitors. Together they crowded into the one-room home and knelt on the dirt floor in front of Jesus, pressing their foreheads to the ground.
The Child touched each man's shoulder and stepped back to His mother's side.
The first man, the apparent spokesman, lifted his head. "Divine King, we have brought gifts for You." He motioned the closest servants forward and opened the lid of one of the boxes that had each taken two strong men to carry. Gold coins spilled over the sides as they set it on the floor.
Joseph and Mary gasped.
Again, the leader waved servants forward, and he broke the wax seal of a jar painted with trees and flowers. The spicy sweet odor of frankincense filled the room. The second jar, decorated with gold and silver leaves, held the equally aromatic scent of myrrh.
"What is this?" Mary breathed, her heart alternately stopping and then thumping like a thousand galloping donkeys.
"Our gifts, lady. Your Son is King of the Jews, isn't He?"
"Y-yes. How did you know?"
"We have been following the star of the King for many months. He is the greatest King to have been born, and we had to see Him and worship Him."
Joseph cleared his throat. "Yes--Gold for a king; I understand that. But why the frankincense and myrrh?"
The visitor looked puzzled. "Do you not know frankincense is for one who is holy and righteous? And myrrh for the burial cloths?"
Mary shivered. "Of course," she murmured.
Joseph stared at her, then turned his gaze back to their guests. "We thank you, then. May we offer you a place to sleep? We don't have ...."
"No, but we thank you. We have to leave immediately. The ruler in Jerusalem said the King we sought would be in Bethlehem, but he wanted us to return and let him know where we found Him. An angel appeared to us in a dream said that we should go by another route and not return to tell that ruler, that he was not as benevolent as he tried to look. Therefore, we bid you farewell." He bowed low, and he and his followers silently left the house, mounted their beasts, and made their way into the night.
Joseph turned to Mary. "That was an odd visit. And these gifts! Mary, we have enough to support us for all of our lives."
Mary lifted her eyes to her husband's. "Jesus does. These gifts are for Him."
Joseph's eyes widened. "Oh; yes, of course. How could I have forgotten?"
(continued next week)
Wednesday, January 11, 2017
Caryl McAdoo is really making a name for herself writing historical romances. This one intrigued me from the beginning. It's an unusual story with an unusual twist or two.
A lady lawyer (white) in the 1928 is set to defend a black man accused of murdering his white brother. Alice Parmalee isn't too sure she's the right one to handle this case. She wants her boss to defend the client. The case is one that would be difficult to impossible to win. Billy Sinclair was the son of a white man and his bedwarmer/common law wife/slave, Jasmine. The victim was Billy's daddy's white son (Jamison) by the woman Billy's grandmother insisted his daddy marry legally.
Billy is convinced Alice is the just right one to defend him. So's Will, Billy's son. Or maybe he just wants Alice to hang around a while longer. He's smitten, but he won't make a commitment--he's Christian and she's not.
Between the KKK's supposed threats and the story that Alice can't wait to hear the next chapter of, Will takes her out dancing and to the movies. Cupid's working on both of them.
This spellbinder can be bought from Amazon or Barnes and Noble. Excellent reading.
I received a free copy of this book from the author in return for an honest review.
Monday, January 9, 2017
There are certain days or occasions when giving thanks seems to be expected, but what about when it might be uncomfortable or even a little embarrassing? Would you express your gratitude to God in a crowded restaurant? How about when you're out with your friends?
And how long does your gratitude last--all the way through the meal, or just until someone tells a socially incorrect joke? There've been times when I've said my thanks under my breath, and there've been too many times I've "kept my peace" when someone did something offensive or embarrassing to me or to another person there. In other words, I didn't stick up for the person being offended.
How about other times when you've felt someone should have said thanks to you? Or when they did, but then turned around and cut you down? Sometimes I wonder how God feels when we give thanks at dinner and then use His name for a swearword at the same meal--or anywhere, for that matter.
Those aren't the only examples. I don't want to count the number of times I'm sure I embarrassed or offended my Lord, the same One who chose to make the ultimate sacrifice for people who don't retain their sense of gratitude for more than a split second or two.
I can't change how others act or speak, but I can work on me.
O Lord, may I remember how much You have done for more than a couple of seconds. May I constantly be aware of how much You love. May I pass that love on to others, that they may see You in me and maybe remember also how much You've done for us. For Christ's glory, Amen.
Saturday, January 7, 2017
The passages about Simeon and Anna are too long to reproduce here, so I'm asking you to read them yourselves. They start at Luke 2:22 and go through Luke 2:38.
The story of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus continues from last week....
Mary wished Joseph would hold her hand while they walked through the crowd going and coming at the temple. She knew he wouldn't--it wouldn't be seemly--but the crush of people threatened to overwhelm her. "Joseph! Joseph, wait for me. I can't walk as fast as you."
Joseph slowed until she reached his side. "I'm sorry, Mary. I'm so eager to redeem our son...ah, God's Son. I hope God wasn't offended by my thinking that. Jesus seems like my son, and it seems God intends us to raise Him as yours and mine."
"You're right, husband. It still seems so unreal, the Son of God arriving as a baby to you and me. At first I was afraid to even cuddle Him, feed Him, or even to kiss His head."
A gray-bearded older man ran up to them. "This is the One, isn't He? This Babe...is He the Son of God?"
Joseph's jaw dropped.
Mary's eyes widened, and she tightened her grip on the Infant.
Joseph stepped between Mary and the stranger. "Who are you? Who told you?"
"Then it's true? Praises be to the Most High! My name is Simeon. The Holy Spirit of God told me to come to the temple today to see His Son. Please, please. May I hold Him for just a moment?"
Mary stepped forward and held Jesus out to Simeon. "Of course. Our names are Joseph and Mary, His parents here on earth."
With a glad cry, the old man pulled the Babe to his chest, then lifted Him as though to present Him to God. “Lord, I can depart in peace, now, as You have said. I have seen Your salvation. He handed Jesus back to Mary, and his eyes teared. "May God greatly bless you, Joseph and Mary. You will need His strength, because many people will oppose this child, such that even your own souls will be pierced." With a shake of his head, Simeon departed, singing praises in his aged voice.
Another person approached them, an elderly woman this time, bent and toothless. "Are you the mother of God's Son? My name is Anna, and I live here at the temple."
"Anna the prophetess? I've heard of you," Mary said. "Yes, this is God's Son. His name is Jesus."
The old woman lifted her head and her hands. "Blessed are You, O Lord, Maker of heaven and earth. Thank You for Your gift to this world, this tiny Child who will save all those who call on Him. Bless these young people who will care for Him, too." She climbed the steps that led from the Court of Gentiles to the Court of Women. She threw up her hands toward the sky. "Listen, all of you. This is the Holy Son of God, the One who will save the world from their sins." She walked through these two courts of the temple where women were allowed, tugging on cloaks and tunics and repeating the refrain.
Mary stared in awe. "Joseph...."
"I know, wife. I know."
(don't go away--this will be continued next week)
Wednesday, January 4, 2017
I love Christmas books, and this is a good one. I know I can depend on Kathi Macias to deliver an inspiring and uplifting story, and this one is definitely my cup of tea.
When Paul Michaelson finally gets an opportunity to plant a church in a small town two hours away from he and his wife.s beautiful, spacious house, he believes their prayers have been answered, After all, before they even got married, they both talked about how they'd love to plant a church somewhere. He accepts without a qualm. Why is it then that Diana is less than thrilled? Paul expected her to be as excited as he is.
Diana pastes smiles on her face and goes with Paul without complaint. The parsonage is smaller and anything but modern. She hasn't been able to find a suitable preschool for their two toddlers. She misses her friends terribly, and her loneliness threatens to overwhelm her.
What will it take to get Diana onboard with this project? Will their relationship survive? Why did he accept this position without even asking her? She alternates between feeling resentful and feeling guilty. Paul's a wonderful, loving husband and father, but it's just not fair.
I know it's not Christmas right now, but even though the tree has been undecorated and all the lights are put away, this is one that will give you that last little Christmas lift. Available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
Monday, January 2, 2017
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, Because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23, NKJV
Sometimes I'd like to go back to being a brand new baby with a chance to start over and not make some of the mistakes (aka sins) I've done over the past. Not to mention, I'd be rid of all of the old sagging skin. ☺
One thing nice about following the Lord: all we have to do is ask forgiveness (and mean it) to become brand new, sinless, again.
"Sin" has become a forbidden word in our society these days, but no one should panic when they're labeled sinners. To sin means that a person has fallen short of perfection. I've never met a perfect person; have you? White lies, a snippy attitude, not helping when you could have, giving less than your best--all sins. It doesn't take much to become a sinner, but God is eager to forgive.
That's why He sent His only natural Son. What a God we have! No one loves like God does--completely, without reason. And all we have to do is accept His gift. Isn't that amazing?
We can't earn it. We can't buy it. It's free for the asking. So go ahead and ask.
Father, beloved Father, Holy Son, forgive me once again. I'm so sorry I disappointed You once more. Return me to Your good graces. Thank You. Thank You for Your forgiveness, and thank You for Your everlasting love. In Jesus's name, amen.