I Bring You Great News!

I Bring You Great News! 

By Pat Knight

On a wintry, star-studded night, the only sound piercing the crisp air was the occasional, familiar bleating of sheep. Located just a few miles outside the village of Bethlehem, the little band of shepherds spread their bedrolls on the cold, hard earth around a crackling fire, prepared to settle in for sleep. The shepherds divided the night hours into watches in case a marauding animal attacked a lamb or robbers slithered into their camp, but usually the nighttime was fairly quiet. The shepherds had no reason to expect this night’s activities to be any different than others before it. Then suddenly, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:9).

The shepherds were paralyzed by their intense terror, initiating the angel’s first words to them, “Fear not.” Their fears allayed, the angels continued: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-12).

The skies then exploded in praise, revealing a large group of angels who joined the original heavenly messenger, proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). The heavenly hosts could be contained no longer, appearing en masse on earth in a blaze of God’s glory and light. The shepherds were singled out to receive a private birth announcement, a celebration that originated in heaven and embraced earth, appropriate acclaim for the birth of a King, the promised Messiah, the Anointed One!

God orchestrated a dynamic duo of heaven and earth to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It was a heavenly response from the angels announcing proclamations, an earthly reaction from the praise of the shepherds, and the marvel of all who hear of these events throughout time.

As the shepherds hurriedly followed the angel’s directions to seek the newborn King in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, they must have recalled the stories handed down to them via the written and spoken word through the centuries, promising the Messiah who would save the people from their sins. With God’s help, the shepherds found the baby in the manger, just as they had been told. It is probable that they exchanged stories of what had just happened to them with Mary and Joseph, augmenting the parents’ understanding of God’s promises that had transpired in their recent lives.

The shepherds sensed that their involvement in the heavenly celebration of Jesus’ birth was not intended to be kept private. Bursting with thanksgiving, they understood that this occasion was significant in history and they must share the Good News. Ultimately, the shepherds glorified and praised God, just as the angels had done in their presence. “They spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-18).

Let us acknowledge the greatest gifts of love and grace the world has ever known in the fashion the angels and shepherds first expressed, with exhilaration, peace, and joy permeating each of our days!

God Most Nigh

Sharing today from Bible Engager’s Blog

God Most Nigh

Understanding the mystery of God with us
December 10th, 2018
Ann-Margret Hovsepian

As the calendar ticks closer to Christmas, one of the first carols we sing at church is “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.” It always gives me goosebumps, not only because the tune is so beautiful, but because I’m reminded that this name (also spelled Immanuel), assigned to Jesus about 700 years before his birth (Isaiah 7:14), means “God with us.” Some people mistake the meaning as “God is with us” (which is also true) but it is important to note that it’s actually “God with us.” The distinction matters: Though God had been with humans since the beginning, for the first time in history, God became a human. When Isaiah called this human “God-with-us,” he was hinting at the mystery of what the church calls the incarnation: Jesus Christ was God in flesh (John 1:14). God’s great sacrifice began thirty-three years before Jesus ever died on the cross, when God left the glory of heaven to walk this earth as a human being and live a life of humility, simplicity, and selflessness.

Consider using this article as an aid to understanding the incarnation better through Scripture. Pause over the Scripture references and reflect on what they are teaching you about Jesus, God with us.

Fully God

Jesus’s deity—the fact that he is God—is paramount to our Christian faith. Many skeptics stumble over the claim that Jesus and God are one and the same. The Gospel writer John, one of Jesus’s closest friends, claimed that Jesus was with God at the beginning of time, and that in fact Jesus was God. John said that the whole world was made through Jesus. He called Jesus both “the only Son” of God (John 1:14) and “the only God, who is at the Father’s side” (John 1:18).

If John’s radical claims are true, they change everything. If Jesus was not God in the flesh, he could not have stepped in as the perfect and blameless sacrifice to pay the price for our sins. If he had been merely a human being, his death would have been tragic but fairly insignificant, especially because he would not have risen from the dead three days later. Jesus lived a human life, but he did not have a human father, so he did not inherit the sin nature we are all born with. Jesus lived in a way that perfectly followed all of God’s commands—something no human had ever been able to do. Thus, he was able to overcome death and offer salvation to all who believe in him. The book of Hebrews tells us that “After making purification for sins, [Jesus] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3). (See also Hebrews 9:14-15 and 10:12-14.)

Read the rest here.

Glory to God

Glory to God

By Pat Knight

“He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of his government there will be no end…The zeal of the Lord will accomplish this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).

Our society is enthralled with current electronic equipment such as computers, cell phones, tablets, and digital cameras, as we impatiently await the discovery of the newest gadget. A university professor who researches such things, sent an e-mail from his home to the college where he works, a mere two miles away. Before the e-mail registered on his work PC, he followed the route of the message with his home computer. As it traveled through several states, it bounced off twenty-one cell towers before reaching its intended final destination two hours later.  As amazed as we are with the latest and greatest electronic devices, they all have their limits.

When you pray, your words are heard instantly in heaven. No bouncing off earthly or heavenly cell towers is necessary. God knows our thoughts even before we utter them.  He listens intently when we approach Him verbally. Have you told God lately how wondrous He is? If we exclaim about the latest electronic development, surely we must express to our Lord His superior and miraculous nature. God is the heavenly Father who promised, and then faithfully orchestrated, the incarnation of Jesus on the starlit night in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.

God performed the only virgin birth ever in the history of mankind. He kept Mary well without prenatal medical care and assured a healthy birth in an age when infant mortality was extremely high. He sent a great choir of angels to earth, specifically to the lowly shepherds tending their flocks in the fields at night, to sing the first Christmas carol, announcing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14). God directed the shepherds to the humble location in Bethlehem to witness the baby Jesus, so they could repeat what they had seen, worshipping God for the greatest miracle of the ages.

God planted a prominent star in the sky, alerting astrologists from the east of the birth of the King. The star eventually led the Magi to the royal family several months after Jesus’ birth, when they presented the family with gold and other gifts, providing financially for them. Once the wise men left, an angel of the Lord forewarned Joseph in a dream that he must move quickly to avoid King Herod’s jealousy for his crown, made apparent by his recent order for his henchmen to kill all the newborn baby boys around Bethlehem. Joseph took his family during the night to Egypt, away from King Herod’s legal jurisdiction.

Christians the world over recognize these historical, supernatural events as part of the Christmas story; a series of miracles surrounding Jesus’ birth, choreographed by the heavenly Father, with every detail fulfilled exactly just as He had promised over the centuries and recorded in His Word.

If ever there were anyone worthy of our awesome, incredible reactions, it is the Lord of Hosts and King of Kings! Let us offer the splendor of our worship to the Messiah this Christmas, as the divine power; the enduring, compassionate provider and protector of His people. The God without limits merits our shouts of joy and adoration for sending the babe of Bethlehem, who joyously offered himself as our Redeemer on the cross of Calvary!

Always Let Your Bible Be Your Guide

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

Always Let Your Bible
Be Your Guide

It’s not wise to allow movies to inform our theology. I grew up with the Jiminy Cricket quote: “Always let your conscience be your guide.” In the children’s movie Pinocchio, Disney’s dapper cricket danced and sang, encouraging the wooden puppet—along with the magical Blue Fairy—to follow his conscience as a moral compass for life. “Take the straight and narrow path,” Jiminy sang, “and always let your conscience be your guide.”

Was Jiminy right?

Culturally, the conscience is thought to help with decisions, and the conscience is considered to be rooted in good morals and virtuous character. Yet in colleges today, morals and ethics students debate what good “morality” looks like, and practical applications are open to interpretation.

A guiding conscience, in some situations, is more like a “be true to yourself” mantra than a moral compass for choosing what is proper, moral, or right.

Following True North

When hiking, if our compass is only one degree off course, we likely won’t arrive at our destination. A good, functional compass won’t be skewed; it will point “true north.”

The Christian’s moral compass points “true north” to the Truth of the Bible. God’s Word is the foundation for the believer’s moral and ethical behavior, and consequences are serious when our moral compass is not correctly aligned with God’s Word.

The Westminster Confession says, “God alone is Lord of the conscience.” God has freed us from submission to “doctrines and commandments of men” that are contrary to Scripture, that go beyond His commands or conflict with His wisdom principles for living.

God’s Word must reign supreme in our conscience! Our moral compass must be captive to biblical truth, not the whims of culture or even the fluctuating leanings of our hearts. As Andy Naselli wrote, “That voice in your head is not necessarily God’s voice. Sometimes your conscience may be theologically incorrect.”

In the Bible, Adam and Eve were the first ones to follow their own conscience, but their moral compass was not aligned with God’s words—His clear command (Gen. 2:17; 3:3, 6). The result was disastrous! Deceived, their human conscience allowed them to make a faulty, rebellious choice.

Read the rest here.

20 Years of Precious Memories

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.
—Song of Solomon 6:3

Just look at the memories of the past twenty years! Yes, twenty years ago today Rick and I were married in a covenant ceremony. In front of family and friends, we pledged to love and care for each other for the rest of our lives. How these 20 years have flown by!

Much has happened over the years. We’ve experienced both good and not-so-good seasons, but one thing has always sustained us:

God is at the center of our marriage.

The path God has chosen for us as a couple has not always been easy but it is always the best for us because it is His plan for our marriage. I have spent many years enduring chronic pain while Rick has been battling leukemia.  All of this has served to bring us closer together as we take care of each other. And how can we not praise and glorify God through all of it? He is the one who brought us together!

Rick gave me a special ring years ago. It has two intertwining bands that read: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” And isn’t that the very essence of marriage? We belong to each other through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

This image is included in the collage of memories above. We call it the Marriage Triangle and you’ll note that Jesus sits at the top. Rick is on one side and I am on the other side. That symbolizes the fact that Jesus is the head of our marriage. We look to Him for guidance each day and through every situation. And we can vouch for how much closer we have become to each other as we have learned how to walk more in step with Jesus every day.

I am always thankful that God chose Rick to be the other half of my orange. I know that sounds strange but here’s how that phrase came to be a part of our marriage. 

When Rick and I were in premarital counseling, our pastor used an illustration of the orange to show how God created husbands and wives to complete each other. If you take an orange and rip it in half with your hands (instead of cutting it), you have two pieces with very jagged edges. That orange can only fit back together one way—by fitting those uneven edges together exactly. That’s the way husbands and wives work together within marriage. The strengths of one may be the weaknesses of the other, but fitted together—in other words, by working together—they can solve a problem or complete a task that one of them may not have been able to do alone. 

This also applies to illness. For example, many days Rick is my caretaker, making sure I do not overdo and going out of his way to drive me on errands that need doing. There are also times when Rick isn’t feeling too well and I make sure he gets enough rest and takes the medications that help when he has a flare-up of his symptoms. 

And let’s not forget about the power of prayer in marriage. Rick and I regularly pray for each other. We pray for our family and friends. We pray together for people we know are in need of prayer. And we also pray before we travel—whether by vehicle or motorcycle—asking God to protect us and our home while we are away. 

Contrary to the belief that marriage is a 50/50 partnership, it needs to be 100/100. Both husband and wife need to give 100 percent all the time. I read this great quote a while back:

Marriage is not 50-50; divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100-100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got! —Dave Willis

To my Rick: Happy 20 years together and may there be at least another 20!!! 💞

Thanking God for Everything

Today I’m sharing from Lifeway Voices.

Thanking God for Everything

by 

Nestled among a long list of exhortations and blessings in 1 Thessalonians is a line we’ll see in plenty this month. Distressed on barn wood at your local craft store, printed on banners hung in the dining room, embossed on the ceramic plate the turkey is served on, and rife in sermons everywhere, “Give thanks in everything,” is the rally cry of November. But, like Aunt Jane’s consistently overcooked turkey, the truncated statement can also leave a dry taste in our mouths.

Gratitude will be on the rise for the next two months, followed by a sharp decline on January first when we resolve to change all the things our mere gratitude couldn’t change: love-handles, schedules, relationships, the project we’ve been putting off. There’s nothing like a full serving of gratitude to show us just how many things exist for which we’re still not thankful. We will give thanks for everything except all the things for which we’re still bent on changing.

I have a stack on my desk of books to read and review, menu-plans to make, a driver’s license to renew, and a book contract to fulfill within the first month of 2019. As grateful as I am for a job I love, the freedom to eat and cook whole, healthy food, and a license to drive, I’m decidedly unthankful for the work they all will require of me. I can trick myself into being grateful, topping my cake of grumbling with the frosting of thanksgiving, but it’s still a dismal cake beneath. I need the words with which Paul follows up his exhortation: “For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

For what is God’s will for me? This.

Read the rest here.