For Yahweh is good, and His love is eternal;
December 31st, a time for reflection, a time for goal setting, a time of new beginnings. Many of us will spend the next few weeks trying to figure out what goals and resolutions we want to implement in order to enrich our lives. For me, goal setting is pretty much like dragging my fingernails across a chalkboard. It really is a grueling process, so I don’t participate in the tradition of New Year’s Resolutions. But for some reason, this year I really wanted my mindset to change in this area. I would love to say that I sat down and fervently prayed for God to change my heart, but I did not. However, God, in His infinite grace, brought me to an understanding of Himself one day while I was reading Psalm 100 (HCSB).
Shout triumphantly to the Lord, all the earth. Serve the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Acknowledge that Yahweh is God. He made us, and we are His, His people, the sheep of His pasture. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise. Give thanks to Him and praise His name. For Yahweh is good, and His love is eternal; His faithfulness endures through all generations.
Through this Psalm, I realized that my view of God is what dictates my choices, in essence, my goals and resolutions. Do I have a BIG view of God, or do I have a small view of God? I also realized that my decisions and choices become more clear and easier to make in light of who God is.
So who is God? According to Psalm 100, God is faithful, eternal, good, trustworthy, the King of Kings, our shepherd, and unchanging in His character. Hebrews 13:8 echoes this truth, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” This means that no matter what is going on in the world (in my world), Jesus Christ is the same. He does not change based on circumstances. He will, and always will be, love, joy, peace, patient, kind, good, faithful, just, and merciful.
What would it look like for us to walk into the new year with a proper view of God, a clearer view of who God is and what He is capable of? I believe our goals and resolutions will fall into place when we have a proper understanding of God. When we realize that all we do should be centered around bringing Him glory, making His name renowned.
Knowing God takes time and it takes commitment. Verses 1-4 of Psalm 100 tell us how we should respond to God. We are to shout, serve, come before, acknowledge, enter, give thanks, and praise Him. Let’s make these responses our resolutions this year. In 2020, let’s enter His presence with thanksgiving. Let’s check our hearts daily to make sure we are prepared to enter into His presence…so that He can speak to us. So that He can minister to our souls. So that He can reveal to us the purpose He has for our lives. So that He can come in and clean out the burdens we have been holding onto all year. Oh the joys of walking intimately with our Savior who is crazy about us, loves us unconditionally, and wants to give us abundant life!
I believe this coming year would look like freedom if we choose to open our eyes to the greatness of our God, His unchanging character, and focus on aligning our goals with who He is and who we are in light of eternity.
And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew 2:11
As a child, my family and I attended candlelight services at church every Christmas Eve. My favorite part was holding the burning candle and watching the wax drip while singing Silent Night. Another favorite song that we sang then and still sing today is “We Three Kings of Orient Are.”
Who were those kings from the Orient who traversed so far and brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to a child in Bethlehem?
According to Matthew 2:1, the kings were wise men, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and have come to worship him.”
These wise men, also called Magi were wealthy and educated men who studied Scripture and astronomy. They knew the prophecies of a coming Messiah and they knew the stars. They were watching for a Ruler who would shepherd God’s people (Micah 5:2, 4)
When they saw the new and unusual star, they knew it was “His star.” They selected gifts fit for a king, packed up their belongings and started walking about 400 miles towards that star.
When they finally reached Judea, they approached King Herod and asked where was the King of the Jews. King Herod was troubled (Matt. 2:3) and probably very threatened of the news of a new king in his territory. He told the Magi that when they found this King of the Jews, to let him know so that he could go and worship this king also.
When the Magi left the king, they continued following the star which led them to where the Child was (Matt. 2:9). Because of the long journey, the Messiah was no longer a baby in the manger but was a child between the ages of one and two years old. “When they saw the star they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when….they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshipped Him” (Matt. 2:10,11).
Imagine grown men, walking for over a year, finding a toddler and falling down before this toddler and worshipping Him. They were confident of the Truth in Scripture and willing to humble themselves and worship their Messiah!
As their worship continued, “They opened their treasures and presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11). These three gifts were unusual gifts for a child but appropriate gifts for the King of Kings! Each gift was very valuable and had a significant purpose.
Gold was the metal for kings - very appropriate for Jesus, King of Kings.
Frankincense was generally mixed with oil and used in worship by the high priest - another appropriate gift for this perfect High Priest who came to save.
Myrrh is a perfume that was used for embalming. Also, appropriate as the Savior was going to suffer and die for our sins.
We worship Jesus because we know of His great love for us - how He was perfect, yet willingly suffered and died on the cross for our sins so the we would be spared eternal separation from God Almighty. At this point, Jesus was a toddler and hadn't done anything for anyone. The obedient and humble actions of these Magi reflect that they truly were wise men full of faith and obedience!
When they were ready to leave the Christ child, they were “divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod …[but] to go to their own country another way” (Matt. 2:12). Once again, the wise men showed their wisdom by listening to the Lord and not to a man as they did not return to Herod. After Herod realized they were not returning, he sent forth word that all boys age two and under be put to death; attempting to kill the Messiah the Savior of the world. Praise the Lord that his plan didn't work.
As we think about the wise men, they have a lot to teach us. Do you think that the Lord wants all of us to be wise men and women?
To seek Him
To know His word
To bow before Him
To humble ourselves
To worship Him
To surrender our most valuable gifts of our heart, our time, our family, our resources?
"For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord"
When Logan was in elementary school we would participate in our church’s Christmas pageant. One year he was a shepherd and his prop was a live baby goat. My prop was a basket with a whiskbroom and dustpan, my job was to make sure when the goat exited stage left he did not leave anything behind for Mary and Joseph to step in. Yes, I was essentially the pooper-scooper. I am convinced that the bright stage lights scared it right out of him. That year I experienced first hand how disgusting taking care of livestock really is.
Genesis 46:34 gives us the earliest account of how shepherds were viewed. In Egypt they were considered an abomination, and they did not fair much better in Hebrew society. In 1 Samuel 16, Samuel went to Jesse to anoint one of his sons to be the new king of Israel. Jesse brought all of his sons before Samuel, except David, who was shepherding his father’s flocks. Jesse thought so little of David he did not even call him in from the field. Samuel insisted that Jesse bring David before him. And to the shock of David’s family, God chose David as the future king of Israel.
1000 years did not change the status of the shepherd. In a culture where cleanliness symbolized holiness, shepherds were on the fringe of society. But just as God chose the lowly Bethlehem shepherd David to be king, he gave the shepherds of Bethlehem the privilege and honor to be the first visitors at the birth of the King of Kings.
Over and over in scripture we see the Lord choosing those who society would overlook or avoid, to accomplish His plan. In the Old Testament he chose Joseph the slave, Rahab the prostitute, Ruth the Moabite, David the shepherd, Moses the stutterer. In the New Testament we see Him chose Peter the fisherman, Matthew the tax collector, Elizabeth the barren woman, Mary the peasant girl and the shepherds that night on the hills of Bethlehem.
The shepherds had no power or influence, popularity or wealth, but God chose them in spite of their weakness to witness His glory made flesh. These shepherds were so overwhelmed by what they saw they left the manger praising God and telling anyone who would listen what they had been told concerning the Child. The angel’s message to the shepherds was, “for unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
Ponder this for a moment, for unto you is born Christ the Lord. Jesus the Creator of the universe, the one who merely spoke and all creation leapt into existence (John 1:1-3), the One who is holding all of creation together (Col 1:17), who calls the stars by name (Psalms 147:4), humbled Himself to enter a world filthy with sin. His creation that was made to be pure and to reflect His image was wallowing in a pit of sin it created for itself.
A shepherd is one who is willing to live among the filth of the sheep; to protect them from the prowling lion; to calm them when afraid; to lead them to green pastures; to carry them when injured; to search for them when lost. In John 10:11-18 Jesus called Himself the Good Shepherd who would lay down his life for His sheep.
To the first century Jew, Jesus calling himself The Good Shepherd would have seemed disgraceful. He was identifying himself with those in society who were considered impure and unclean. But what so many didn’t realize (especially the religious leaders) is that even the most pious Jew is unclean, not because of something they touched or ate but because of their sin.
Jesus came to live among us and then to die for us so that we could truly be clean; the filth and shame of our sin forgiven and remembered no more. The shepherds at the manger invite us to worship and glorify the Good Shepherd, the Savior, Christ the Lord, just as they did on the night of his birth.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled. “
Thirty-five years ago, this month, I married my husband. We were young; I was 21, he was 23. I remember meeting his grandfather, whose first words to me were: “She’s just a baby!” That was a strange greeting! I didn’t feel like a baby. I felt grown up and ready to be a wife. All these years later, I understand his grandfather’s viewpoint. I was young; my husband and I were both young! But the young age of 21 was possibly several years older than the age of Mary, when she was told that she would be the mother of God’s son. The angel Gabriel brought the news to Mary: “‘Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.’” (Luke 1:28)
Scripture tells us that Mary was greatly troubled at the angel’s words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
Gabriel’s message continued, “‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.’”
Wow! That is a lot of unbelievable information to take in! But Mary did believe. The only question Mary asked of Gabriel was, “‘How will this be…since I am a virgin?’”
Gabriel explained that the conception of the baby would be the work of the Holy Spirit. Mary’s response was one of humility and faith: “‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May your word to me be fulfilled’” (Luke 1:38).
On a day which probably felt like just an ordinary day, God interrupted Mary’s life with His plan. Mary had the humility and character to accept the angel’s message as truth and submit to God’s extraordinary will for her. She didn’t present a list of fears and doubts to Gabriel. She just submitted to God, trusting Him to work out the details.
After this encounter with Gabriel, Mary travelled to visit her cousin Elizabeth, whom she had learned from the angel was also pregnant. When Mary arrived at Elizabeth’s home, Elizabeth had her own greeting for Mary: “‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!...Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!’”
At this, young Mary broke into spontaneous praise to God:
“‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, For He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One Has done great things for me—holy is His name.’” (Luke 1:46-49).
God was doing a great work and Mary recognized it. God was carrying out His promises given centuries before and she had been chosen to be a part of it. Mary also recognized that God was fulfilling her need for a Savior. Yes, she had been chosen to carry, birth and parent God’s Son here on earth, but Mary also knew that she too needed a Savior to save her from her sins. This Savior would come in the form of a baby, grow to be a man, minister to multitudes and then die a horrific death as a perfect sacrifice to redeem us all.
As the narrative of Christ’s birth unfolded Mary treasured in her heart all of the incredible things surrounding it: the journey to Bethlehem, accommodations found in a stable, a visit by shepherds and later the wise men bearing gifts. And 30 plus years later Mary watched at the foot of the cross as her son was crucified, pain ripping her mother’s heart apart. Three days later, Mary was filled with joy as her son, her Savior rose from the dead!
Give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.
Luke 2:11, “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”
Throughout this month, our desire at He Is Your Life Ministries, is to help each one of us to stop and ponder what is familiar, and fan into flame our joy, faith and obedience to the One who is worthy of all our praise; our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ!
God chose to begin the New Testament with the genealogy of Jesus.
The list ends in Matthew 1:16, “and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”
Joseph was part of God’s plan from the beginning!
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” (John 1:14)
And it was because “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)
It was God’s plan to have Joseph be part of the birth and life of Jesus. We may think that his role was small or insignificant, but when God chose him to take Mary as his wife, He knew Joseph’s response to this extraordinary, holy event would be handled in love and obedience.
Joseph and Mary were engaged to be married and were following the Lord's guidelines by remaining pure in their physical relationship when Mary announced that she was pregnant. Joseph could have reacted in rage at the news that Mary had been unfaithful and was pregnant. He could have made a spectacle of her or even worse, had her punished according to the law, which could have been death.
We know through Scripture, though, that Joseph was “a just man.” (In other translations, righteous, faithful to the law Mt.1:19). When Joseph found out that Mary was pregnant he was going to handle it quietly. (Mt 1:19) Even when it appeared he had a right to be angry, he chose to respond with kindness.
Joseph could have reacted in fear or sought counsel when an angel of the Lord spoke to him in a dream saying, “Do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. (Mt.1:20)
But instead... “When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.” (Mt 1:24)
Joseph followed in obedience two more times when an angel of the Lord appeared to him. Both of these occasions were to immediately get up and leave the place they were living. (Mt. 2:13-15, 19-21)
Let’s think about this for a moment. Would it be safe to say that the upcoming marriage was probably on Joseph’s mind quite a bit? He was beginning a new, exciting chapter in his life when God intervened and Mary became pregnant. I’m assuming Joseph certainly didn't include that in his plan!!
God's plan was very different than Joseph's. We, like Joseph will have plans that will be altered from what we anticipated or desired in the flesh and when we don't understand His plans, we can still trust that He is good and so are His plans.
The question for you and I today is, “Will we respond like Joseph, in an upright, godly manner when plans don’t happen as we think they should?” Will we respond quickly to God’s command?
Joseph didn’t question God’s plan.
God chose Joseph to be Jesus’s earthly father, beginning with call to, “Give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Mt.1:21)
God has a plan for you and me that includes proclaiming the name of Jesus as the Savior of the world.
May we be found faithful in following His plan in our lives!
My precious husband, Bill, and I have been planted in Fort Myers, Florida for almost 35 years. As a newly married couple, God most graciously had placed people in both of our jobs to share Christ with us. Its hard to believe it has been almost 34 years since we asked Jesus into our hearts! Bill and I have been blessed with four children, 3 daughters, then a son. These blessings came quickly, all within 6 years!! During these years I'm so thankful I was able to be part of women's ministry classes at our church, helping me to grow in my walk with Him. Then came the day when I was asked that question that stretched me way outside of my comfort zone...will you teach a class? Its hard to believe that I have now been teaching more than 20 years. Bill and I love to travel, most of the time going to visit our 9 grandchildren, oh ya, and their parents! I also love reading, walking and hanging out with some very special young moms in Beloved that bless my socks off!
Julie is a Kansas girl who resides in sunny Southwest Florida. She's been married to her husband Sean for 23 years and they share two boys ages 21 & 17. She enjoys baking and biking, but her absolute favorite thing is snow skiing which is a little difficult to do in a sandy 80 degree land.
She became a follower of Christ at age 10. She loves studying and teaching God's Word. She has a passion for encouraging moms to love and follow Jesus.
Beth grew up in a loving home; however, in her early 20s she faced a very lonely time. During that time, she cried out to God and asked “If You are real, please show yourself to me!” God met her where she was and she trusted in the Lord Jesus at that time. Her life verse and desire is “no matter what happens, to conduct herself in a manner worthy of the gospel.” Philippians 1:27
Beth now resides in Tampa, Florida with her husband Larry. The Lord has blessed them by blending their family of five children. They currently have eight grandchildren and are hoping that there will be more grandchildren in the future.
Donna accepted Jesus as her Savior at the age of nine and has been amazed at God’s goodness and faithfulness throughout her life. She has been blessed to have had many mentors through each season of life, who have shown her what trusting God looks like. Donna and her husband, Bryan, have five children, one son-in-law, one soon to be daughter-in-law, and one wonderful grandson. Donna and Bryan have recently moved back to their home state of Arkansas after livingin southeast Alabama the past 23 years. Donna enjoys spending time with her family, laughing with friends (usually over coffee), going for long walks with her husband, and reading a good book (which may also be accompanied by a cup of coffee).
Sarah is a true Florida Cracker. She was born and raised in Southwest Florida. At the age of 6, Sarah accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior, and she hasn't looked back since. Hebrews 13:8 is one of her favorite verses, "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever." Eating delicious desserts, spending time with her family and friends, and teaching people about Jesus are a few of the things she enjoys to do in her spare time.
Sarah has been married to her best friend and husband, Brandon, for 7 years. They have been blessed with one beautiful, determined son, Asher, who keeps them on their toes. Sarah and her family live in the Tampa area. They love exploring their community together, family hugs, and eating pizza whenever possible.
Katie Flint just recently moved back home to Fort Myers, Florida with her husband, Ryan and two children, Collins and Madden. At the age of 5, Katie accepted Jesus Christ to be the Lord and Savior of her life, after attending Vacation Bible School. Through each phase of her life, God has shown her that He alone is trustworthy. The verse that has been her life source is Psalm 46:10- “Be still and know that I am God.”
She is a stay-at-home mom and enjoys exercising and baking. She has been married to her husband Ryan for almost 9 years, who is her high school sweetheart. They enjoy trying new restaurants, family trips to the beach, and relaxing at home.
Marsha grew up in a small rural town in upstate New York. In 2006, after finishing college, she moved to sunny SW Florida where she met her, now husband, Shawn. Together they enjoy spending family time with their two fun-loving toddler boys Zachariah and Kairos.
Marsha enjoys living an active lifestyle, which is helpful, considering that her favorite hobby is baking.
Though she attended church as a child, Marsha was not saved until adulthood when her eyes were finally opened to the love and mercy of Jesus Christ.
Since being saved, God has placed a loving burden on her heart to share the truth about God’s healing grace with those who may feel like forgiveness is not possible for them.