How to Hear from God – Part Two: The Holy Spirit.

In his letter to the church at Ephesus, Paul prayed “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might…” (1:17-19).
In the same letter Paul wrote that according to the will of God, we who are in Christ are sealed by the Holy Spirit, who serves as a guarantee of our inheritance of eternal life while we are still here in our earthly bodies (see Ephesians 1:2-14). In John 16:7 Jesus declared, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you.” This Helper is the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus described as “…the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.” This distinction, between the world, which does not know the Spirit of truth, and the Body of Christ which has received the Holy Spirit, is the key to understanding how to hear from God.
It is understandable that Jesus could be in the Father and the Father could be in Jesus, but how can it be that Jesus is in us and we are in him? This can happen because when God the Father received Jesus back to himself to sit at his right hand after the resurrection, he sent the Holy Spirit to live within us as our comforter, helper, teacher, and guide.
When Jesus was on earth, he was fully God and fully man, and was born in a human body. Of course, one human body cannot occupy the same space as another human body. While Jesus could be close enough to touch us, he could not enter fully into us. Therefore, for God to get as close to us as possible so that he could literally live inside us forever, he had to send his Spirit. Because God as the Holy Spirit is omnipresent, he can be in all places at the same time, and that includes dwelling in the heart of everyone who receives Jesus as their Lord and Savior.
 In fact, the mystery of the Church as the Bride is that at salvation each individual believer’s spirit is sealed with the Holy Spirit. As Paul wrote, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20).

The Bible provides a blueprint of God’s plan for ever-increasing intimacy with his people. In the Old Testament, God spoke to mankind from heaven, through his prophets, or even from a burning bush! In the Gospels, God was born in a manger to walk among us as a man so that we could see him, touch him, and embrace him physically. Beginning in Acts chapter 2, through all the epistles, and even unto this hour, God lives inside of his people as the Holy Spirit. Paul described this in his first letter to the Corinthians, “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many” (1 Corinthians 12:12-14).
Jesus gave us the promise of the Holy Spirit just before his crucifixion, saying “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (John 14:18-20).
The Spirit of truth is standing by to explain God’s will to all of us who inquire of him. Therefore, if you want to know the will of God, first you must be filled with his Spirit. Which brings us to Steps Four and Five of our series: Let God Fill You, and Let God Help You.

First let’s look at Step Four, Let God Fill You. As we said above, each individual believer receives the gift of the Holy Spirit – and is sealed by the Holy Spirit – at salvation. This is so important that Paul wrote to believers in Rome, “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him” (Romans 8:9).
The Holy Spirit is not an abstract idea, or an impersonal force. He is an equal member of the Holy Trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Therefore, when the Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us, God has come to dwell within us, because there is no separation between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. With that understanding it makes sense that to know the will of God, we must first be filled with the Spirit of God.
Listen to what John wrote in his first epistle, “But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him.  And in his gospel, John recorded Jesus as saying, “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15). The presence of the Holy Spirit teaches us what the will of God is.

Step Five is to Let God Help You. When we want to hear from God, it is not enough to be filled with the Spirit, we must also be attentive to the Spirit. Romans 8:5 says “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.”
Elijah was a great prophet, but sometimes he, too, had problems. 1 Kings relates how after Elijah called down fire from God and defeated the prophets of Baal on Mount Carmel. This made the evil queen Jezebel so angry that she vowed to murder Elijah. When he heard this, the mighty prophet lost his cool and ran for the hills, where the word of the Lord found him, hiding. And the word of the Lord said, “…‘Go, stand on the mountain at attention before God. God will pass by.’
A hurricane wind ripped through the mountains and shattered the rocks before God, but God wasn’t to be found in the wind; after the wind an earthquake, but God wasn’t in the earthquake; and after the earthquake fire, but God wasn’t in the fire; and after the fire a gentle and quiet whisper.

When Elijah heard the quiet voice, he muffled his face with his great cloak, went to the mouth of the cave, and stood there. A quiet voice asked, ‘So Elijah, now tell me, what are you doing here?’” (1 Kings 19:11-13 MSG).
Because Elijah was accustomed to participating in great demonstrations of God’s power, he believed that God only spoke in ways that were obvious, like earthquakes, whirlwinds, fire from heaven, and the like. When Jezebel came after him, he expected God to show up with an impressive show of force, and when God did not perform the miracle that Elijah expected, he was disappointed.  So, God provided Elijah with a display of all the things that Elijah thought were worthy demonstrations of God’s might…but God was not in those things. Rather, God showed up for Elijah, his anointed prophet, as a still, small voice.  And in the still, small voice was the Holy Spirit.
Now don’t miss my meaning here. God was surely the one who manifested the whirlwind, earthquake, and fire on the mountain. But he proved for Elijah that it was not always necessary for God to speak in great sweeping gestures. Most of the time, God speaks to his people through his Spirit as a calm, quiet voice. God does not always make his will known with manifestations of power falling from heaven to impress everybody, as he did for example in the story of Job chapters 36-42. Most of the time, the voice of the Spirit of God bubbles up from the depths of our spirits, into our souls, and through our hearts to guide, comfort, and encourage his children with wonderful tenderness and intimacy.
Psalm 46:10 instructs us to “Be still, and know that I am God” when we are surrounded by enemies or in the midst of catastrophe. Our part is to be still, so that we can hear God’s guidance from his Holy Spirit. Remember, the mystery of the Body of Christ is that the Holy Spirit is joined with our spirits. He does not have to shout to get our attention, he already abides in the deepest part of our beings. A quiet whisper will do if we will only be still and listen.
In Part Three of How to Hear from God, we will discuss how The Word of God Speaks.
God bless and please stay tuned!

For more information on Elijah’s encounter with God, please visit this link:
How to Thrive Through the Struggle: Have a Snack and a Nap.
For more information on the Holy Spirit, please type “Who is the Holy Spirit?” in the search bar, above.

 

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation, unless otherwise noted.

 

Salt and Light – Repost.

In times of crisis and turmoil, it is very easy to get caught up in taking sides, expressing opinions, and pointing fingers. But that is not what Jesus instructs us to do as ambassadors for God in this world. The Message translation expresses Jesus’ words this way: “Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage.
Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14-16).
The most radical, world-changing, life-affirming action that we can take in this dark and broken world is to stand up and shine brightly as representatives of Christ. We are here to be light – light-hearted, life-giving light-bearers, whose speech is seasoned with salt. Our words are not meant to carry the stinging ‘salt’ of slander or reviling, but the cleansing, purifying saltiness that comes from speaking the truth of God’s Word.
Let’s get into the habit of supporting and affirming the good and laying the bad at the foot of the cross – trusting that God knows what he is doing and because he is Almighty all is eternally well, no matter what it looks like to our earthly eyes.
“He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:5-7 ESV).
We hope you enjoy these reposts from September 2018. It is always amazing how God’s unfailing Word provides help and comfort for yesterday, today, and tomorrow!
What Does it Mean to Be Salt and Light in a Broken World? Part One
What Does it Mean to Be Salt and Light in a Broken World? Part Two

Bible Study – Genesis 3

Wisdom And Discernment

Carefully read Genesis 3 out loud, even though it may be a familiar story. Pay attention to details you may not have noticed before. Look up additional scriptures throughout the study below as well as those He brings to your mind. Pray for wisdom and discernment, for Yahweh to show you what He wants to teach you today. Make notes. This should be regular practice with Bible study.

Tree Of Knowledge Of Good And Evil – The World’s Way

No one would choose to do evil if there were no pleasure in it and it did not seem good. The forbidden tree actually had good qualities; it was pleasant to look at, the fruit seemed good for food and the serpent told Eve that it would open her eyes and she would be like God. Knowledge can be a blessing (truly good) when given by God, or a curse and a distraction (evil) in that without love and wisdom from God can cause one to be prideful, arrogant and self righteous (1 Corinthians 8:1). Occasionally we all have fallen into this trap and if we are not careful to repent, it will lead us down a more dangerous path.

Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man (Adam), and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned ---... ~Romans 5:12  

But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolators, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death."~Revelation 22:8

So knowledge of any kind comes with great responsibility to choose wisely. Adam and Eve made a burdensome choice with huge consequences, not just for them, but for all generations to come. Our choices do affect others even when it would not seem so. Along with corruption comes the fight for survival in an often cruel world and we must cling to Him in order to overcome. Satan is hostile towards humans, but especially God's people and his goal is to steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). However, Satan cannot touch Yahweh and he cannot harm humans without their cooperation which involves deceptively  trapping them into sin.

Partial Truth

There is a way that seems right to a man, but it's end is the way to death. ~Proverbs 14:12 

I am going to share a story with you that is a good example of partial truth: One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people. He said, My son, the battle is between two wolves. One is evil - he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego." He continued, "The other is good - he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you - and inside every other person, too." The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one you feed."

It is very true that this battle rages within each one of us. And it is true that the one you feed is the one that wins. However, let us put this in proper perspective. The complete truth is that God Wins. He simply cannot be left out of the equation because good and evil are not equal forces. 

Tree Of Life – God’s Way

Adam and Eve failed and their relationship with God was severed, but our merciful Yah already had a plan. The temporary solution to restore the relationship involved animal blood sacrifice to atone for sin. It had to be a serious reminder so they would understand that sin leads to death. This was in preparation for the future and final sacrifice of the perfect Lamb of God Who is Yeshua, our one and only Salvation. Yah's Way is the superior, righteous and victorious choice. (Hebrews 9-10)

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of (true) knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction. ~Proverbs 1:7

The heart of the discerning acquires (His) knowledge, for the ears of the wise seek it out. ~Proverbs 18:15

Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace...~Proverbs 3:13-18

So as we make our daily choices, let us not compare it to two wolves being fed, but to the two trees, one of life which bears good fruit and one of destruction which bears bad fruit.  ...the fruit of the (Holy) Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. ~Galatians 5:22-25

A highway shall be there, And it shall be called the Highway of Holiness. The unclean shall not pass over it, But it shall be for others. Whoever walks the road, although a fool, shall not go astray. ~Isaiah 35:8 

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes/conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. ~Revelation 2:7

Encouragement for the New Year: How to Hear from God – Part One.

We often without thinking approach the Bible as a collection of anecdotes, as if we are only reading stories about people from ancient cultures, far removed from our modern times. While it is true that the men and women of scripture lived on earth thousands of years ago, it is not true that God’s Word is not relevant for us today. In fact, the very same Jesus and Holy Spirit that we read about in the scriptures are with us right now and are willing and longing to participate in our daily lives.
God never had any intention of making himself difficult to find. On the contrary, Jesus said “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened unto you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8). Our part is not to struggle to make ourselves perfectly acceptable before God takes notice of us. Our part is simply to Ask, Seek, Knock - because Jesus said everyone who asks receives, everyone who seeks finds, and to everyone who knocks, God will open the way.
You may still be wondering how this works because you may have prayed and felt like God did not hear you. Or you may be wondering how to tell whether the voice you hear in response to your prayers is coming from the Holy Spirit, from your own mind, or from some outside influence. Take heart, Beloved Friends! God hears our every thought, knows all the desires of our hearts, and plans only the best for us.  He wants to be in relationship with us, and he even went so far as to send his Holy Spirit to abide in our hearts to make certain that he is always only a thought or a whisper away.
Hearing from God is not complicated, and Jesus himself gives us plenty of reassurance on the matter. For example, in Matthew 11:25-30 he declared “…I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding (the Pharisees) and revealed them to little children (that’s us!); yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.”

Then Jesus went on to instruct us on how this happens: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him (again, that’s us, the Body of Christ). Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
Why does God hide himself from “the wise and understanding”? Because they are so wise in their own eyes and understand so much in their own minds that they refuse to come to Jesus like trusting, expectant children and ask him to teach them about the Father. Jesus did not say that we should figure it all out for ourselves. He said that we should simply come to him, and he would teach us and give us rest for our souls. And in this context, our souls represent our thinking, acting, willful selves. The Pharisees’ souls were so full of pride that no matter what Jesus said or did, they rejected him. But Jesus promised that we can come to him and exchange our heavy burdens for the light of his continual presence.
He said that it would be easy – not difficult or impossible – so let’s line it out in three simple steps.
First, Jesus said, “Come to me.” He means this literally. Jesus offered to exchange our heavy burdens and our enslavement to sin and suffering for his light and easy yoke. He was using the picture of a beast of burden, heavy laden under a cruel master, as a metaphor for the condition of humanity in this fallen world. He offered to exchange our slavery under sin for his freedom through salvation. Jesus broke the yoke of sin at the cross and replaced it with the light of his presence in our souls, hearts, and minds.
So, Step Number One is to come to Jesus and exchange our sin for his salvation.

If you have never prayed the Prayer of Salvation, or if the Holy Spirit is prompting you to rededicate your life to Jesus as your Lord and Savior, please repeat this prayer, and exchange the burden of your sin for the grace of God:
Dear God, I believe with all my heart that Jesus died on the cross for my sake, and that He has risen from the dead for my deliverance. Lord, I receive your Word, and I repent of my sins.  I receive the gift of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. I receive Your complete forgiveness and my new birth into Your kingdom. I receive Your Holy Spirit to guide me and teach me, and I make You the Lord of my life. I receive salvation in the holy name of Jesus, today and forever. Amen.
Congratulations! If you prayed this prayer from your heart, you have been forgiven of all your sins, past, present, and future. You are now a member of the Body of Christ, and all of God’s blessings and promises belong to you: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Romans 8:15).
Now that we have come to Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we have the right as sons and daughters of God to ask him for help in every situation, no matter how big or how small.
Therefore, Step Two is to A.S.K.: Ask, Seek, Knock.

The Greek word for “ask” in these verses from Matthew is aiteo, which means “to ask, beg, crave, require.” Notice that these are different types of asking, that we might use under various circumstances. We may ask God for help in passing a test at school. Or we may beg for his help if we receive a frightening diagnosis from the doctor. We may require his help when we need strength to get through a long day or face a difficult challenge. God offers his guidance, in every situation.
The Greek word for “seek” is zeteo, and it means “to seek in order to find; to meditate on or ponder; to crave or require, demand, or strive after.” This is not about half-heartedly looking around and hoping to find what we need – this is setting out to seek something from God with the assurance that we will find it because he promised to provide for us.
The Greek for “knock” is krouo, meaning, simply, to knock at a door. We do not need a magical phrase or password to enter God’s presence. Jesus promised that all we need do is knock, and he will open. As Paul instructed in his epistle to the Hebrews: “Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
Step Three is to receive what God has for us in response to our asking, seeking, and knocking. This is where we let go and let God. And that, my Friends, is often much easier said than done. Why? Because we would really, really, really like for God to fulfill our requests according to our human understanding of time and necessity, instead of waiting for the results of “God’s perfect plan in God’s perfect timing.”

God is aware of our dilemma, and he makes sure to remind us in his Word of the times that he has come through at what seemed like the very last moment to rescue his people from their own folly. Psalm 136 begins like this: “…Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever; to him who made the great lights,  for his steadfast love endures forever; the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever; the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever…” The sweet psalmist is reminding us that God’s love is not fickle or changeable – it lasts forever; and that God is the almighty and all-powerful Creator. Nothing is impossible for him. The psalmist goes on in the next seventeen verses to declare God’s steadfast love and proclaim the miracles he wrought on behalf of his people. It is God Almighty, who created the heavens and the earth, who answers our prayers. When we cry out, “Abba! Father!” we can depend on his love, provision, and power in all circumstances.
Jesus illustrates God’s willingness to give to his children in Luke 11:10-13. Here is a paraphrase of his parable from The Message translation: “Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need. This is not a cat-and-mouse, hide-and-seek game we’re in. If your little boy asks for a serving of fish, do you scare him with a live snake on his plate? If your little girl asks for an egg, do you trick her with a spider? As bad as you are, you wouldn’t think of such a thing—you’re at least decent to your own children. And don’t you think the Father who conceived you in love will give the Holy Spirit when you ask him?” Of course, the point Jesus was making is that if we mere humans love our children enough to give them good things, how much more will Almighty God provide for us! We can trust God as our good and perfect Father to fulfill all his promises.

In Part One of this series, we have focused on why we can be confident that God hears and answers our prayers. In Part Two we will explore how the Holy Spirit has been sent by God as our Teacher, Comforter, and Guide. It is the Holy Spirit who brings with him the wisdom to discern what God’s will is for us, and how and why God answers prayers and gives us instructions in the ways that he does – but not always in ways that we might prefer or expect!
Jesus gave us the promise of the Holy Spirit just before his crucifixion, saying “When the Spirit of Truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15).
In Part One of “How to Hear from God” we explored Steps One through Three: Come, A.S.K., and Receive. In Part Two we will discuss Steps Four and Five: Let God Fill You, and Let God Help You.
God bless and stay tuned!

 

 

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation, unless otherwise noted.

Our hearts are with Nashville on Christmas Day.

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
“For he will hide me in his shelter in the day of trouble; he will conceal me under the cover of his tent; he will lift me high upon a rock” (Psalm 27:5).
“The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him” (Nahum 1:7).
“And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock” (Matthew 7:25).
“Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!” (Psalm 93:4).
God bless the people of Nashville as they rebuild their city, and protect and strengthen all of our country’s military, first responders, and law enforcement personnel, as we remain One Nation, Under God.

Christmas 2020 – Why was Jesus Born in a Manger?

The gospel of Luke opens the story of Jesus’ birth with some interesting facts:
“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed…And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city” (2:1-3). Notice that on this particular year, Caesar made a decree that affected the whole world. People everywhere were required to go to their ancestral city to pay this universal tax. Joseph and Mary could not just put a check in the mail, they had to personally show up and be counted and deliver the money.
 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child” (2:4-5). These verses specifically tell us that Joseph, Jesus’ stepfather, was a descendant of Kind David, of the tribe of Judah, as was Mary. Therefore, even in the womb Jesus was, legally through Joseph, and genetically through Mary, a Son of David. He made his entrance into Bethlehem, the city of King David, riding on a donkey. Matthew’s gospel describes Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem one week before his crucifixion by quoting the prophet Zechariah, “Say to the daughter of Zion, ‘Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.” (21:5). Mary, the virgin daughter of Zion, came, riding on a donkey, bearing the infant King of kings into the city of David.
Luke goes on to describe the reason for Jesus’ humble birth, “And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (2:7). There was no room at the inn because the whole world was returning to their ancestral territories be taxed. God selected this specific night for the Savior to be born when there was nowhere to receive him. Three decades later, Jesus famously said, when his face was set like flint toward Jerusalem and the crucifixion, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Luke 9:58). But Mary was prepared. She had brought swaddling clothes to wrap her baby in. She knew that her time to deliver was at hand. These swaddling clothes were not like the receiving blankets we wrap newborns in today. Rather they were strips of cloth, that allowed the mother to swaddle, or wrap, the baby up securely. And, once she had swaddled Jesus, Mary laid him in the manger.

Most of the nativity scenes that we enjoy placing around our homes at Christmastime depict Jesus’ birth as taking place in a typical barn, full of hay and surrounded by cattle. But it was much more likely that the “barn” that sheltered the infant Jesus was a cave and not a wooden structure. Likewise, the manger into which the baby boy was laid was probably not made of wood – a scarce resource in desert regions – but was hewn out of stone; a stone feeding trough.
Luke tells us that something remarkable was happening nearby at the same time…
“And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men” (2:8-14).

The angels told the frightened and wondering shepherds that a Savior had been born that very day in the city of David, and that the sign that they were to look for was not a mother and baby resting comfortably in an inn, but to seek out a child, tightly swaddled and lying in a manger. God’s angelic host appeared in the middle of the night to inform humble shepherds out tending their sheep that the good tidings of great joy for all people were that they would find the Savior of the world wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a stone trough in the city of the great king.
Luke, the man of science, was a stickler for details. In chapter 24 of his gospel, he relates the story of the next time angels proclaimed good tidings of great joy to wondering and frightened people, “But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, ‘Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen" (24:1-6a).
The angels told the shepherds that the swaddling clothes and the manger were a sign of the identity of the Savior of the world. Listen to what happened when Peter and John entered the tomb (and the gospels report that Jesus’ mother and the other women had been there also): “But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened” (24:12).
When Jesus was born, the sign of his arrival were the strips of swaddling cloth in which he was wrapped and the stone trough in which he was laid. When Jesus rose from the dead (see 1 Corinthians 15:20), the sign of his victory over death, hell, and the grave were the abandoned strips of cloth that he had been buried in, and the empty stone shelf on which his body had been laid. Angels were present both times to explain the events to awe-struck observers.

“And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.” (2:15-18).
Eight days later, Joseph and Mary took the infant Jesus to the temple, to present him to the Lord, “(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’)” (2:22-23), where they met Simeon, the aged prophet, who blessed the baby and spoke these words over him, saying “Lord…my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for the revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And to Mary, his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (2:22-35).
Luke tells us that at Jesus’ birth “…Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.” (2:19).

Much later, Mark reported, “And when the sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James [Jesus’ mother], and Salome [likely Mary’s sister, wife of Zebedee and mother of James and John], had bought sweet spices, that they might come and anoint him.
 And very early in the morning the first day of the week, they came unto the sepulchre at the rising of the sun.
And they said among themselves, Who shall roll us away the stone from the door of the sepulchre?
And when they looked, they saw that the stone was rolled away: for it was very great.
And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted.
 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him" (Mark 16:1-6).
Finally, remember that the manger that Jesus was laid in at his birth was a feeding trough. And the city of David was also known as Bethlehem, which means the “house of bread.” God prepared everything exactly on that day so that Jesus, who was also known as the heavenly Ox whose yoke he asked us to share (see Matthew 11:30), would be born in a stone cave that was used as a stable.
The Bread of Life (see John 6:35), would be born in the house of bread. The Savior of the world would be wrapped in linen cloths at his birth and at his death, and this would be heralded by the angels as a sign to all people that the Son of Man, who is also the Son of God, had conquered death and breached the veil, reconciling us to himself, forever.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.
For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:16-17).
All of us at Speak Comfort wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas and Blessed New Year!

 

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation.

Christmas Eve 2020 – Glory to God!

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.
(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)
And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.
And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)
To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.
And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, 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, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
(Luke 2:1-20 KJV)

Hanukkah: The Festival Of Lights

Mazel Tov!

Did you ever wonder about the time period of history, often called the silent period, between what we know as the Old Testament and the New Testament. Often God does some of His greatest work during these times because it is unexpected. Of course the enemy is always at work to destroy what God has set in motion and Satan's work speaks loudly through tyranny and oppression. His goal is nothing short of crushing God's people and hindering the Salvation of souls.

Here is a positive note: in Jewish festival tradition and general story line, the saying goes, "they tried to kill us, we won, let's eat! Mazel Tov!" What you may not know is that without Hanukkah, Yeshua may have never been born because of the dark work of the enemy....But God... 

During Old Testament times, the lampstand, called the menorah, was intended by Yahweh to be kept continually burning by the high priests for a people called Israel, who were to be set apart and Holy unto Him. But over and over again the people failed to be obedient and allowed themselves to be corrupted by the surrounding nations and cultures including practicing worship to Pagan gods. Eventually God removed His hand of protection, the light was extinguished and these people, after being continuously warned, were taken into captivity in Babylon. After the prophesied 70 years, Yahweh brought them back to their land and led them to rebuild the temple and the walls of Jerusalem amongst heavy persecution. (Ezra and Nehemiah) Sadly, the kingdom would never fully recover.

Times Of The Maccabees

The celebreted Hanukkah story is not part of cannonized scripture, but a historical account written in the books of the Maccabees 1 and 2, that is part of the Apocrypha. On the timeline it is roughly 300 years before the birth of Christ. The world power of the time as well as the third notch of Nebuchadnezzar's prophetic dream statue (Daniel 2) was Greece.

The infamous tyrannical leader was Antiochas Epiphanes, who called himself so, believing himself to be "god incarnate." Many of the Jews gradually began to blend into Greek culture, compromising the word of God to the point of apostasy to avoid persecution. In our day we can observe the same as evil seems good and good seems evil to the general population and it becomes increasingly difficult to publicly worship God.

Eventually it became illegal to have and to study Yahweh's Word and followers were driven into hiding. Furthermore, the madman Ephiphanes set himself up to be worshiped in the Jewish temple as Zeus. This is common with tyranny and it has and will happen again throughout history as prophesied; an antiChrist figure sits on the throne making himself like God, demanding worship and allegiance. 

But God... always has a remnant and a plan. During this particular time , there was a high priest named Mattathias who had a son called Judah. Along with others, they refused compliance with the plans of the tyrannical government that hindered their worship of God and they fought back. Eventually they got the temple back and by a great and mighty miracle of Yahweh, they lit the lampstand with merely one days worth of lamp oil and it burned continually for eight days straight which was enough time to produce more lamp oil. The temple was rededicated and the Way cleared yet again for the coming Messiah, Yeshua Ha Mashiach.

Light Of The World

The Hanukkah lampstand, called a hanukkiah, is different from a menorah in that it has eight lights with one servant light to remember the Hanukkah miracle, instead of six lights with one servant light. The servant light, called the Shamash, lights the other lights just as Yeshua gives us light. He freely gives His beloved and set apart remnant the oil and the fire of the Holy Spirit to brighten the world with truth in the midst of madness and deception. (Matthew 251-13)  

Now it was the Feast of Dedication (Hanukkah recognized by Yeshua) in Jerusalem, And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon's porch. ~John 10:22-23 

"I have said these things to you so that, united with Me, you may have Shalom. In this world you will have tribulation. But be brave! I have conquered the world!" ~Yeshua, John 16:33 

"Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives (as compromising with the world) do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." ~Yeshua, John 14:27

Celebrating Hanukkah

The eight day celebration commemorates the eight day miracle and this year, 2020, 5781, begins Thursday, December 10 through Friday, December 18. Each day lights are kindled on the hanukkiah lighting first the shamash/servant candle and using it to light the far left candle on the first day. The second day, use the servant candle to light the far left candle and then the one next to it. Each following day light one more candle working from right to left allowing the candles to burn all the way down each night, finishing up on the eighth night.

Traditionally small gifts are exchanged each night. The Dreidel game is played. You can find the rules online. During the times of the Maccabes, the game was used as a cover to have secret Bible studies. Fried (oil) foods such as Latkes are eaten. Further recommended reading about Hanukkah: Day Of Atonement: A Novel Of The Maccabean Revolt by David DeSilva

Happy Thanksgiving!

I will give thanks to the LORD according to His righteousness, and will sing praise to the name of the LORD Most High. ~Psalm 7:17 

To all ye Pilgrims: "In as much as the great Father has given us this year an abundant harvest of Indian corn, wheat, peas, beans, squashes, and garden vegetable, and has made the forests to abound with game and the sea with fish and clams, and inasmuch as He has protected us from the ravages of the savages, has spared us from pestilence and disease, has granted us freedom to worship God according to the dictates of our own conscience; Now I, your magistrate, do proclaim that all ye Pilgrims, with your wives and ye little ones, do gather at ye meeting house, on ye hill,.... and listen to ye pastor and render thanksgiving to ye Almighty God for all his blessings." ~William Bradford, Ye Governor of Ye Colony, Plymouth, 1623

"No employment can be a greater honour to a man, than to praise God. It is the peculiar dignity of the nature of man, and the very thing wherein his nature is exalted above all things without reason, and things without life; that he is made capable of actively glorifying his Creator. Other creatures do glorify God: the sun, moon and stars, and the earth and waters, and all the trees of the field, and grass and herbs, and fishes and insects, do glorify God (Psalm 19:1-6, Job 12:7-8). But herein is the peculiar dignity of the nature of man, that he is capable of glorifying Him as a cause, by counsel, understandingly and voluntarily, which is a heavenly work."~Jonathan Edwards, The Priviledge of Worship, A Thanksgiving Sermon, November 7, 1734  

Gratitude is an offering precious in the sight of God, and it is one that the poorest of us can make and not be poorer but richer for having made it. ~A.W. Tozer (1897-1963)

Thanksgiving 2020: Give Thanks to the Lord, for He is Good!

Ladies and Gentlemen, even though 2020 has been a year of great upheaval, please take heart. God is still on the throne!
Have you ever heard it said that someone has “the patience of Job”? That saying is about the hero of one of the oldest stories in the Bible.  Here is how it begins:
“There was a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job, and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil” (Job 1:1). Now the name of the area of Uz, where Job’s story takes place, means “unseen inner strength.” The theme of the Book of Job is about how God allowed Job’s inner strength – his faith – to be severely tested. In fact, the instrument of this testing, the agent of God’s action in this case, was the enemy, Satan. And even he did not understand what God’s plan for Job actually was.
Let’s eavesdrop on their conversation…
Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them. The Lord said to Satan, “From where have you come?” Satan answered the Lord and said, “From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.”
And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil?” (Job 1:6-8)

…As this discussion continues God grants Satan permission to do just about anything he wants to do to Job and his household, short of taking Job’s life. Afterward, innocent and uninformed Job suffers a series of devastating losses that caused him to tear his robe, shave his head, and fall on the ground and worship saying “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (1:20-22). The scripture says that even in the presence of his terrible suffering “…Job did not sin or charge God with wrong” (1:22). Job kept the faith. But it wasn’t easy! In fact, after days of misery, Job cursed the day he was born (3:1)!
While pondering why God would allow such devastation to overtake an upright man such as himself, Job was beset by his best friends, and even his wife, who blamed his woes on what they believed must have been some heinous hidden sin in Job’s life, and they insisted that God really did not care for Job in the first place. After about ten more chapters of harassment by these well-meaning busybodies, Job steadfastly proclaimed, “Though he slay me, I will hope in him…” (13:15a). Which is surely the proper attitude in the midst of difficulties, but there was still a small fly in Job’s ointment because he followed that statement of faith with one of defiance, stating, “…yet I will argue my ways to his face” (15b).
Shortly thereafter God gave him the opportunity to do just that, appearing to Job and his friends in a whirlwind:
Then the Lord answered Job out of the whirlwind and said:
“Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? (38:1-7)

Have you ever said to one of your teenaged children or grandchildren something like, “Well, Sonny, you’d better go on and leave home and get yourself a job now, while you still know everything”? That’s pretty much what God was saying to Job. In fact, God continued, “Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty? He who argues with God, let him answer it” (40:1). To which Job replied, “Behold, I am of small account; what I shall I answer you? I lay my hand on my mouth” (40:4). God took this conversation very seriously, going so far as to caution Job to prepare himself and “gird up his loins” or to “Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. Will you even put me in the wrong? Will you condemn me that you may be in the right? Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like his?” (40:7-9).
Some of the most beautiful poetic passages in scripture are in God’s descriptions of his creative power in Job chapters 38-41, where the Almighty himself puts everything in its proper context. Job finally comes to understand who The Creator is, in the final chapter:
“Then Job answered the Lord and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.  ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know’” (42:1-3).
What God has given Job is perspective. It wasn’t that Job had blatantly sinned, or even that he did not have faith. He could have gone along worshipping God and enjoying his life without ever questioning himself, or God. But if God had allowed his servant Job to remain ignorant, Job would have been unknowingly worshipping an idol – his idea of God, rather than who God really is. And hidden at the center of that worship would have been Job’s belief in his own blamelessness - that God blessed Job because Job deserved it. But, Beloved Friends, that is never the case. God does not bless us because we deserve it. We cannot, in our own strength and by our own wills, measure up to the holiness, glory, and power of Almighty God. If God had allowed Job’s hubris to go unchallenged, Job would have strayed even further down the wrong path. And so Almighty God, who is also a loving Father, interrupted Job’s progress, and altered his course.

At the end of the story, Job finally says, “Hear and I will speak…I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (42:4-6). At the beginning of the story, after God allowed Satan to take every earthly thing away that Job valued, he repented in dust and ashes. But this time, after seeing God with his own eyes, Job’s repentance was genuine because it was based on knowledge and not pride. As Solomon wrote in Proverbs 9:10, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding” (NIV).
After Job’s position before God was restored, God also restored everything that had been taken away:
And the Lord restored the fortunes of Job, when he had prayed for his friends. And the Lord gave Job twice as much as he had before. Then came to him all his brothers and sisters and all who had known him before, and ate bread with him in his house. And they showed him sympathy and comforted him for all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him… And the Lord blessed the latter days of Job more than his beginning…And after this Job lived 140 years, and saw his sons, and his sons’ sons, four generations. And Job died, an old man, and full of days. (42:10-17).
One day when we meet Job in heaven and he tells us about everything he went through, we can simply say in return, “I lived through 2020.” And Job might say, “Friend, I completely understand! Isn’t God awesome!” Because Job was given the blessing in his lifetime of coming to know that, no matter what happens, God is good all the time; and all the time, God is good.

What makes God good? No earthly measure. God is good because God is God. And he is good, all the time. Everything that God allows is ultimately for the good. As Paul wrote in Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”
As God said to Isaiah the prophet, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 53:8-9).
And as God assured Jeremiah, “’For I know the plans I have for you,’ says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. In those days when you pray, I will listen’” (Jeremiah 29:11-12 NLT).
God is on his throne, and he is Almighty. He is always working behind the scenes, turning everything to the good for his people who trust in him. We have nothing to fear, because God is God, and he is good. And for that we give thanks, in all circumstances.
“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear…the Lord is on my side as my helper…It is better to trust in the Lord than to trust in man. It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in princes.
Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” (from Psalm 118)

 

 

All scriptures are from the English Standard Version translation, unless otherwise noted.