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Tuesday, December 26, 2017

In Times Like These

We just celebrated Christmas, and another new year follows close behind.  We look at the world and see doom and gloom at every turn. It can’t be, we just celebrated a beautiful moment in the life of Jesus – His Birth.
   Psalm 4:6 –Many people say, “Who will show us better times?” Let your face smile on us, Lord.
         We look to government of men and see greed. The Christ Child Who came to give us Peace, is forgotten.  We run to men to find the answer, and there is none.  What will make the Happy New Year wish, the ‘best of times’? We have heard the answer many times.  It is not on this earth in what we drink or eat, or earn.  It is simply following and believing in Jesus.  Happy New Year” becomes an empty phrase unless these words are colored with the Name of Jesus and His Love.
         God sets our time and place on this earth. God does not use the clock we use. He sets His schedule, lasting eons, in our reckoning of time.  If the brief time we have on earth belongs to the Lord, what is His purpose for us on earth?  For God saved us and called us to live a holy life. He did this, not because we deserved it, but because that was his plan from before the beginning of time—to show us his grace through Christ Jesus. 2 Timothy1:9.
         Our culture talks about ‘me’ time to do what we wish to be refreshed. Jesus often left the crowds who followed, did He take up a new hobby?  No, He prayed to glorify God, the Father.  What does God want us to do with our leisure time?
         My Mother grew flowers, not just for enjoyment, but to share and take to the ‘old people’ she visited until she was 84 years old. Mother baked countless loaves of wheat bread and cinnamon rolls to give away.  She glorified God with her God-given gifts.
         Purposeful living, using the gifts God has given each of us, will bring a way of serving Him.  On Christmas Eve Morning, I read Philippians 4:8 - Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Suddenly I realized Jesus, who said,’ I am the truth the way and the life’ is the same baby’s birth we celebrate each year. The place to begin thinking of ‘true and honorable things’ is at the birth of Jesus.
         Each time I read a verse in the Scripture, God gives me a new thought-connection to think about. I hear His joy in letting my mind and heart soar with Jesus and His recorded Word.
         Recently I heard a phrase I learned in the first grade, “Don’t color outside the lines!” It is difficult to stay in the lines in the first grade and the second grade, too.  The world draws lines of fictitious boundaries according to accepted culture.  In order to belong, we learn to thwart rejection through staying within the lines.  So Christ has truly set us free. Now make sure that you stay free, and don’t get tied up again in slavery to the law.  Galatians 5:1.
         In Jesus, we are free to love and serve God and others.  Color your life on this earth with Jesus and His love.  Praise Him and watch your New Year become rich with treasures from above. 
         What are our longings in 2018? How will we use this year of time God gives us? I read this quote on Christmas Day – Trust the Wait - during those mundane moments serving others.  Embrace the Uncertainty – Fill the unknown with the joyful expectation of Jesus’ Second Coming.  Enjoy the Joy of Becoming – a Child of God. For if we are faithful to the end, trusting God just as firmly as when we first believed, we will share in all that belongs to Christ.  Hebrews 3:14.
         Listen to God’s direction, asking God to reveal His purposes for us. Trust in God’s promises, He has a plan for each of us (Jeremiah 29:11).  Praying through the day with each God-given breath we draw, His Will is done in us.  Share our thoughts God gives us with a friend or family member.  Think of others and serving them. This begins a closer walk with our Lord God…in 2018.
         The hymn, In Times Like These, was written during World War II, by Ruth Caye Jones, a housewife. The song was written in response to the daily stresses and strains of a woman and her family, living through the uncertainty of world-wide upheaval and war.  Ruth Jones was ironing when these words the inspiration came. She jotted down the words and the melody on a pad of paper from her apron pocket.  Ruth was born in 1902 and died in 1972, and her words continue to be timely.

In times like these you need a Savior,
In times like these you need an anchor;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock!
This Rock is Jesus, Yes, He's the One,
This Rock is Jesus, the only One;
Be very sure, be very sure,
Your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock

Psalm 9:9-10 - The Lord is a shelter for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble.  Those who know your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, do not abandon those who search for you.
         Hebrews 1:1-2 - Long ago God spoke many times and in many ways to our ancestors through the prophets. And now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he created the universe. 


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Hark, the Herald Angels Sing

   All through the ages God’s Messengers have proclaimed His messages.  The Book of Luke has twenty-four recordings of the appearance of angels, and Revelations has seventy-five recordings in the ESV version. Their messages, begin, “Fear Not!”, and stirs our hearts anew.  
   Man has tried to depict angels as sweet cherubs, young girls, and fierce warriors for God. Yet, when we hear the message of the angels, it touches our hearts, not the visual representation we may perceive. The appearance of an Angel or a group of angels is a call to action of listening and obedience.
   Whether the message is spoken or sung by the angels, their message is the song our hearts hear.  The night, Jesus, our Hope, was born, the Angels proclaimed to the shepherds, And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” Luke 2:10-14.
   A lasting praise to God in a hymn, often is the work of several people. This is the case for this Christmas Carol, written by Charles Wesley.  He wrote Hark how all the Welkin rings. Welkin is the old English for the vault of the sky, referring to the firmament of Heaven. George Whitefield, a friend of the Wesley brothers, made changes to Hark the Herald Angels sing, and a few other changes. This carol was first published in 1739. In 1856, a Mendelssohn tune was adapted to the lyrics, by W. H. Cummings, we now sing.
    My Mother, Anna Daisy Siemens, grew up with a laconic painting in her room of two children on a bridge and guarded by the artist’s depiction a guardian angel. She grew up on a farm in Central Kansas, in a household of deep faith. The farm house rang with hymns of faith and the rich tones of voices blended in delightful harmony all year long.
         The Christmas Eve celebration included the reading of Luke 2, singing Christmas carols, and prayer, as the family knelt together. Real candles on the Christmas tree were lit during the Christmas Eve celebration.  A bucket of water stood nearby as a precautionary measure.  The candles were snuffed out as the last ‘Amen’ sounded.
         I recall, as a child, the old Victrola in one corner of the living room at Grandpa’s house, where old records of early great singers, including Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink, could be heard and enjoyed.
         Truly, God was praised as the birth of Jesus is celebrated in the center of Kansas, and the uttermost parts of the world. Hope was born in Bethlehem during the first Advent and this Hope and spread over all the earth. No matter how often those who disbelieve, try to eradicate all that God is, they cannot. Our world was created and held together by Jesus Christ and His Love.  We remember the birth of salvation and freedom from sin came to the hearts of men who listen and proclaim His love. Not just in December, but throughout the year with our prayers, praise, and joy in song. But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head. Psalm 3:3.
         This hope and joy is not all there is. Hope is not static.  It grows the more we delight in our Lord and Savior. When we have a taste of God’s love, wisdom, and forgiveness, we want more. Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8.

        Hark! The herald angels sing – Glory to the new-born King,
         Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.
         Joyful, all ye nations, rise, Join the triumph of the skies.
         With angelic host proclaim Christ is born in Bethlehem.
         Hark the herald angels sing – Glory to the new-born King.

         “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why are you standing here staring into heaven? Jesus has been taken from you into heaven, but someday he will return from heaven in the same way you saw him go!” Acts 1:11.
Jesus will return as our King.  This is the Second Advent.  The first Advent was filled with Glory and Angels!  How great will the Second Advent be when every knee is bowed, and every tongue confesses - Jesus is our Lord?
          For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39.
         And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?   For the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father and will judge all people according to their deeds. Matthew 16: 26-27.

         “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power.
For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.”
Revelation 4:11.