October 18, 2017

God Draws Near

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In the same region there were shepherds staying out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord flashed and shone around them, and they were terribly frightened. but the angel said to them,

“Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people. for this day in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord (the Messiah).

And this will be a sign for you [by which you will recognize Him]: you will find a Baby wrapped in [swaddling] cloths and lying in a manger.”  Then suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host (angelic army) praising God and saying, “glory to God in the highest [heaven], and on earth peace among men with whom He is well-pleased.

Luke 2:8-14

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Did you ever wonder why all the shepherds in that area, and even some of the town’s people, didn’t respond to the angel’s appearance to the shepherds?  Due to some translations and traditional art works, we tend to picture the night sky filled with the brilliance of the angel’s appearance. But the original Greek words say this, “and behold, an angel of Lord stood by them, and glory of Lord shone around them….” God sent His angel to make a personal appearance to these humble shepherds.

What a shock to have someone suddenly appear at your campsite, shining with a light—“the radiance of The Lord’s glory”—like nothing you could ever imagine. (No wonder they were terrified!) The angel’s reassurance calmed their souls, and they heard the greatest news (the news all Israel had been waiting for) they would ever hear—the Messiah has come! Then a vast host of angels joined in with praise to God. Wow, what a scene, and it was just for this lowly audience of a few poor shepherds.

I think most people around the world consider God as very powerful, unreachable, and impersonal. This event with the shepherds shows us a very different God. Oh yes…He is powerful; but He uses His power to reach us, to draw near to us.  God is very personal.

In the Old Testament we see that God appeared to Abraham, Noah, Moses, and many others time and again. His message to them was very personal. If they heeded His Words and obeyed Him, they were blessed and many others were blessed as well as they shared what God instructed them to share.

How blessed is the one whom You choose and bring near to You,
to dwell in Your courts.
We will be satisfied with the goodness of Your house, Your holy temple.
Psalm 65:4

The LORD is near to all who call upon Him,
to all who call upon Him in truth.
Psalm 145:18

Again in the New Testament we see numerous times when Jesus personally appeared to those He wanted to bless. They weren’t anyone special from the world’s point of view, but they were special to God. Here’s just three such events:

So when they [the disciples] had rowed about three or four miles,
they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat;
and they were afraid.
John 6:19

And it came to pass as they [followers] conversed and reasoned,
that Jesus himself drawing nigh, went with them;…
Luke 24:15

As he [Saul] was approaching Damascus on this mission,
a light from heaven suddenly shone down around him.
He fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him,
“Saul! Saul! Why are you persecuting me?”
“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.
And the voice replied, “I am Jesus, the one you are persecuting!”
Acts 9:3-5

Although it may seem implied, the Scriptures (Luke chapter 2) don’t actually say that the angels instructed the shepherds to go find Jesus. However, because God drew near to them, they were drawn to Him, and went searching until they found Him. Neither were they told to go tell others, but in their excitement of personally experiencing God Incarnate, they told “everyone” they could, and they too were “astonished.”

When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the Baby, lying in the manger. After seeing Him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this Child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished.

Luke 2:15-18

We may be small and insignificant from the world’s perspective, yet to God we are like the lowly shepherds–we are very important to Him. He is personal. He has drawn near to us by sending His Light, Jesus, to dwell in our hearts. During this Christmas, we have the wonderful opportunity to show others just what a personal God we love and serve by sharing Jesus—Emmanuel—with anyone who will listen.

So, go tell it on the mountain, (in your workplace and in the mall), go tell it everywhere that Jesus Christ is born!

This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine!

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Dear God, thank You for drawing near to us through Jesus, so that we can draw near to You. Thank You for dwelling in us who believe, so that others will have the opportunity to be astonished at what a personal God You really are. May we be Your “little lights” so that others will be drawn to You. In the Precious Name of Jesus, we pray. Amen. It Is So!

Forever, O Lord

SeekingHimLogo

Forever, O LordYour word is settled in heaven
[standing firm and unchangeable].

Your faithfulness continues from generation to generation;
You have established the earth, and it stands [securely].
Psalms 119:89-90

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Listen to a beautiful chorus to help us memorize this passage….

Forever, oh, Lord
Your Word is settled in heaven
Your faithfulness, Lord
Continues to all generations
Your covenant magnified
Exalted along with Your holy name
Rejoicing in promises
I meditate on Your righteous ways
I lift up my hands and praise the power of Your command
Forever, O Lord, Your Word shall stand
Forever, O Lord, Your Word shall stand
Integrity Hosanna! Music
written by David Morris

This Week…Psalms 25:8 and 9

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Good and upright is the Lord;
therefore He instructs sinners in His ways.
He guides the humble in what is right
and teaches them His way.
Psalms 25:8 and 9 NIV

What a loving and kind God we have—He doesn’t just tell us that we must follow His ways (though He could do that).  He instructs and teaches us His ways. Who could be a better teacher than He?  No one.  And when we humbly seek His instruction and guidance, He faithfully teaches us His ways.

This week’s devotionals have centered on verses 8 and 9 of Psalm 25.  Earlier on in this psalm, David asks his God to teach him; listen:

Show me Your ways, Lord,
teach me Your paths.
Guide me in Your truth and teach me,
for You are God my Savior,
and my hope is in You all day long.

And these are the very things that my friends…Ann, Ahmee, Cynda, Laura, and Tina…have shared in the Seeking Him devotional blog this week.  Here is a short synopsis of some truths that they have shared.

Laura shared about the vital importance of being in a relationship with our Teacher:
“We become wiser the longer we stay in the Word of God and immerse ourselves in our relationship with Christ…By allowing God to be our Teacher, we gain the wisdom to be able to discern what is right and wrong. We become humbled and are able to teach others about God.”

Tina reminded us how humility allows us to be teachable:
“We, as believers, continue to learn every day. Each day is a new opportunity to learn about the wonder of our God. He shows us what is available to us. All we have to do is look and take action. God wants us to seek after Him and be teachable. We can do this by becoming humble. We are to ask God to reveal His heart to us and we need to be receptive to His Word.”

Ahmee wrote about God’s accessibility and willingness to teach us:
“…all you need to do is ask Him for help and He will guide you…One thing I love about God is that He is accessible. Even though He lives where we cannot physically see Him (like we would our friends or family), He is still ever so close to us. He also has a limitless wealth of wisdom and knowledge, and He is willing to share with us!”

Ann brought us back to foundation of asking and seeking:
“…seeking His guidance. And also make sure we are guided by the Spirit of God through the Word of God.” Take a look, again, at the some of the Scriptures she shared with us.
When we allow God to guide us…Psalm 32:8
He will guide us into glory..Psalm 73:24
He will guide our path…Isaiah 42:16 (also Isaiah 48:17, Luke 1:79)
He will guide us in all truth…John 16:13

Cynda focused on the value of biblical humility—’a lowliness of mind’ and being ‘submissive, meek, contrite, teachable.’  She wrote, “I would much rather bask in God’s grace than have God oppose me; wouldn’t you? Psalm 25:9 states that if we are willing to be humble, God Himself will teach us His ways. I couldn’t ask for a better teacher!”

How very thankful I am for each of these reminders!  I want to be humble and meek…teachable…soaking up like a sponge all that my Father chooses to teach me.  You, too?

Blessed Are The Believers

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Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.  Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.  Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.  Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.   Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

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Sticks and stones may break my bones,
But words will never hurt me.
Yet, words hurt me when I am alone,
With no one to help me be
Happy and to be me.

People are going to talk
Behind my back
As I quietly walk
Down the road and back.

Evil will be spoke against me,
And I will try to block it out
As I try to be
My best without any doubt.

There will be those who hate
The belief that I hold dear
But I know my fate
Just as I know theirs.

They will answer one day
For all that they do
And everything they hurtfully say
Yet they have no clue.

Yet I know what that one day
Will bring to me and believers all
Who believe what One has to say
For we answered His call.

Our reward brings joy
To our hearts because it is great
To know that glory
Is now our fate.

Those who went before
Were treated the same
But they knew the score
Was with the one without blame.

We should all smile
And hold our heads high,
As we walk our hard mile
For our reward is nigh.

He will come soon
And end all the hate.
It may be high noon,
But unbelievers will meet their fate.

Believers will have eternal life,
With joyous smiles and eternal glory.
Nonbelievers will have eternal strife,
Within the confines of eternal fury.

The Cross bore the brunt of the hate, but Jesus still won.  He beat the persecution and the evil so that we could live in eternity.  The prophets knew this was coming, and we know that it happened.  We know the joy and the rewards that await in Heaven, and that should get us through these days of hate and pain.

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Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for defeating evil.  Thank You for the opportunity to walk with You and be in a relationship with You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Peace of Jesus

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Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
Matthew 5:9

Ever been in the middle of an argument?  Ever been in the middle of chaos?  When you have kids, it seems like you are there every day.  Our children are now five and three, and the arguments, though low in frequency, have started.  As a mother, I sometimes feel like I am at my wits’ end.   Yet, they are a blessing from God that I would never give back.  As their mother, it is my job to be the peacemaker when they fight or do something to each other.  For my role in that, I get the blessing of being their mother, and they get the joy (and thrill) of being my children.

Peacemaking is just not about settling the petty arguments of our children.  It is about bringing peace to world.  It is about bringing the peace that Jesus brings to the world.  For those of us who bring that peace or know the peace of Jesus, we are the children of God.   Jesus lives in us, and He is with us at our most troubled and stressed times.  He comforts us and brings us the peace that we ourselves cannot give to ourselves.

As the children of God, we know peace, love, joy, healing, hope, and we receive the blessings of God every waking moment.   God loves us and, through this love, He brings peace to our hearts.  It is up to use to feel the peace that God brings. If we do not feel the peace, then how can we survive this world.  This world has gotten chaotic, and it is getting harder to live in.  Let God bring you the peace that He wants you to have at this moment.  Then share this peace with the world by living as God has intended us to live in this world.

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Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the peace that You bring to us as Your children.  That peace brings us through each day in this troubled world.  For it is in Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

CHRISTLife – God Has Surely Listened

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Quite the journey this is turning out to be, wouldn’t you say?  This study of CHRISTLife: Embracing Your True and Deepest Identity is no light matter!  Our author, Mrs. Myers, has been challenging us to dig deeply as we consider some of the questions she has posed throughout our readings this week.

  • Right off the bat on Monday, we are reminded that we have the freedom to choose whether to focus on the images in our minds that pull us down or lift us up.  And she asks, “Are you fully using this…freedom for spiritual growth...?
  • Then later in the week, we are reminded that God made us for Himself…and that our love for Him should be with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30).   And the question is asked, “Are there areas of life in which I’m holding <God> at arm’s length?
  • And a little further into our reading this week, we read, “To be realistic in the way we view and accept ourselves—that’s the challenge.”  (Ummmm…yes, yes it IS!)  Do we view ourselves too highly…or perhaps too lowly?

These questions and the thoughts that have been wandering around in my head and heart have caused me to recognize anew how very much I must be running to my Father and seeking His help and guidance and answers through prayer!  How about you?

I have been so comforted through this as each day I have also been reading the Seeking Him daily devotionals blog here at Girlfriends Coffee Hour (do you ‘follow it?).  This week, our friends who write the devotionals have been sharing on Psalms 66:16-20.  Listen:

Come and hear, all you who fear God;
let me tell you what He has done for me.
I cried out to Him with my mouth;
His praise was on my tongue.
If I had cherished sin in my heart,
the Lord would not have listened;
but God has surely listened
and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God,
who has not rejected my prayer
or withheld his love from me!

Oh, how good God is!!!  Did you read that?  God ‘has surely listened and has heard my prayer.’  You know, God is not expecting anyone of us to live perfectly. Or expecting us to never have doubts, or worries, or be unsure of just how to change. Perfection will be reached—not by anything we will EVER do—but only through Jesus, our Lord, at His return.  We have been enabled in so many ways to grow to be holy and pure as our Lord, and to be able to renew our minds, and to take our thoughts captive to obey Him!  But it is a lifelong process begun when we are born anew!  For now, we do struggle. And we do falter…and we do fail at times.  And so we need to remain prayerFULL.  We must consistently be seeking God and His help as we endeavor to be our best for Him.

So as you think back on what you have considered and learned this week…and in your struggles to wholeheartedly address these issues that come up…remember to pray.  And as you pray, remember that “God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.”

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“Our whole being by its very nature is one vast need; incomplete, preparatory, empty yet cluttered, crying out for Him who can untie things that are now knotted together and tie up things that are still dangling loose.”
C. S. Lewis (quoted on page 44)