Christmas Hope

Christmas Hope

By Pat Knight

When Jesus was born over two thousand years ago, the Jews were a conquered people ruled by the Roman Empire under King Herod the Great. He was a ruthless, jealous madman, a schemer who took advantage of the Roman political climate to claim his way to the top position. Herod launched ambitious building endeavors and capital improvements, creating an unjust burden on the Jewish citizens, extracting thirty-five percent of their annual income.

The Wise Men stopped in the capital city, Jerusalem, to seek information about the newborn King of the Jews after following His supernatural star for many months. They were looking for the exact time and place of His birth. After King Herod gathered the Sadducees to study the Old Testament prophecy, he informed the Magi to look in Bethlehem. Then Herod the Great secretly commanded the Wise Men to present him with a report as soon as they located the new King.

The Wise Men reached Joseph and Mary with the Christ child at their home in Egypt, where an angel had directed them to relocate after Jesus’ birth.  As the Magi prepared to return home through Jerusalem to report their findings to King Herod, they were visited by God’s angel. He delivered the holy message for them to take another route home, avoiding King Herod altogether. Soon, the king suspected he had been tricked by the Wise Men. In his fury he gave orders to kill all boys in Bethlehem and its vicinities two years old and under, in accordance with the earlier visit from the Magi.

Herod’s ordered killings initiated great sorrow and fear when soldiers stormed every house searching for little victims. The soldier’s orders were non-negotiable. What a heartbreaking massacre, a mass killing to ameliorate one man’s pride. Brutal Herod the Great had already killed several of his family members. Herod was deranged. He didn’t hesitate to kill anyone to advance his personal agenda, his means of abolishing those who stood in his way. Herod didn’t handle competition in a healthy way. He kept order with the secret police and firm tyrannical rule.

Herod’s oppressive, bullying, totalitarian rule isn’t so unlike the style of anarchy we are witnessing by leaders in our current society. As we listen to news broadcasts, we are informed that cities are collapsing world-wide. We gasp in horror when acts of terror are committed within our borders. As in King Herod’s day, heinous acts are rationalized to promote personal power and greed. There are just as many merciless, ruthless madmen holding high government positions  today as there were in Herod the Great’s day (37 BC to 4 AD). There is little interest in discussion or tolerance. Oppressive governments first squash, then annihilate dissenters.

Over the centuries, the Israelites had grown weary of waiting for the promised Messiah. As Roman tyranny grew more suffocating, the Jews were anticipating a political Savior, one who would  finally release the nation of Israel from servitude, particularly from fear of dictators like Herod the Great. But the angels announced a Savior who would accomplish so much more—delivering them from sin and death, a miracle that compelled the angels to sing, “‘Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests’” (Luke 2:14). We are still claiming this victory today.

We cannot ignore the nefarious worldwide activity prevailing all around us. In contrast, Jesus personifies gifts of peace, joy, love, and grace. As we focus on Jesus’ power and authority during this Christmas season, the negativism of this world recedes in our minds; our priorities re-adjust on the blessed hope that changes our perspective.

The cacophony of current event chatter heard from around the world bombards us with discouragement. God assures us that hope is alive and well. Hope is confident expectation in God and His future plans. As humans we cannot manufacture hope by our own efforts. Hope is centered in God, personally demonstrated to us by the death of Christ on the cross. “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13).

Do not allow foreboding fear to overshadow you this Christmas. Instead, renew your hope, gratitude, and love in the Babe of Bethlehem, who matured into our personal Savior. He will lavish believers with love and grace, encouraging you during this hopeful season. God keeps His promises; He never disappoints.

Our Messiah is more creative, powerful, and authoritative than all fear-mongering terrorists combined. Jesus is the very definition of hope, the Prince of Peace, able to rest our fearful spirits with His calming, trustworthy promises. He admonishes you to come to Him for soothing peace of mind. Centuries ago, in the midst of heavy-handed government, the shepherds and Wise Men found cause to rejoice at Jesus’ birth. May we do the same this Christmas.

Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it;
let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy” (Psalm 96:11-12).

Jesus, Savior of the World

Sharing today from Decision Magazine

Jesus, Savior of the World

By Charles H. Spurgeon

Our thoughts turn to the first use of the name, when the Child who was yet to be born was named Jesus. The person to whom that name was first revealed was Joseph: a carpenter, a humble man, a working man, unknown and undistinguished except by the justice of his character.

It is not, therefore, a title to be monopolized by princes, sages, priests, warriors or men of wealth. It is a name to be made a household word among common people! He is the people’s Christ.

The name of Jesus was sweet from the start because of the words that accompanied it, for they were meant to remove perplexity from Joseph’s mind: “Fear not.” Truly, no name can banish fear like the name of Jesus! It is the beginning of hope and the end of despair! Let the sinner hear of the Savior, and he forgets to die! He hopes to live! He rises out of the deadly lethargy of his hopelessness and, looking upward, he sees a reconciled God and no longer fears.

At the time when the name was given, His full person had not been seen by mortal eyes, for He lay as yet concealed. But soon He came forth, having been born of Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit. A matchless man, He bears our nature but not our corruption! He was made in the likeness of sinful flesh, but in His flesh there is no sin! This Holy One is the Son of God, and yet He is the Son of man!

The name of Jesus is a name divinely ordered and expounded. According to the text, the angel brought a message from the Lord and said, “You shall call His name Jesus.” It is a name that—like He who bears it—has come down from Heaven. Our Lord has other names of office and relationship, but this is His own personal name.

And it is the Father who has thus named Him.

The name is the highest, brightest and noblest of names. It is the glory of our Lord to be a Savior. To the best that was ever born of woman, God has given the best name that any son of man could bear. Jesus is the most appropriate name that our Lord could receive.

The Father knew Him perfectly, and He named Him Jesus. We may be sure, then, that our Lord is, most of all, a Savior, and He is best described by that term. God, the Father, who knows Him best, sees this to be His grand characteristic: that He is a Savior and is therefore best represented by the name Jesus.

Trapped in My Own Mind – Three Lies Depression Loves

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

Trapped in My Own Mind –
Three Lies Depression Loves

By

I can’t live like this anymore!” I cried through sobs. “I just want to die!”

I sat on my bed and tried to make sense of what was going on inside. I was tired of the chronic pain, the frequent bouts of illness, and the weariness of dealing with my kids’ struggles. But what broke me was the torture of being a prisoner in my own mind. It took everything in me just to keep breathing, while part of me wished my breathing would just stop.

Oh, how I longed to be with Jesus — free from my aching body and broken mind. But I knew deep within me that my life was not my own and that the Lord must have a purpose for these days.

Constant Cloud

Zack Eswine captured my own inner reality — the constant cloud of depression — in his book Spurgeon’s Sorrows,

Painful circumstances . . . put on their muddy boots and stand thick, full weighted and heavy upon our tired chests. It is almost like anxiety tying rope around the ankles and hands of our breath. Tied to a chair, with the lights out, we sit swallowing in panic the dark air.

These kinds of circumstances . . . steal the gifts of divine love too, as if all of God’s love letters and picture albums are burning up in a fire just outside the door, a fire which we are helpless to stop. We sit there, helpless in the dark of divine absence, tied to this chair, present only to ash and wheeze, while all we hold dear seems lost forever. We even wonder if we’ve brought this all on ourselves. It’s our fault. God is against us. (18)

Depression can cloud our view of God, weigh down our spirits, distort reality, and tempt us to question all that we’ve known to be true. Sometimes, our depression is due to circumstances that have pounded us, wave upon wave, until we can no longer hold our heads above the water. Other times, it comes as a result of illness, as Charles Spurgeon writes, “You may be without any real reason for grief, and yet may be among the most unhappy of men because, for the time, your body has conquered your soul” (“The Saddest Cry from the Cross”).

In Good Company

If you have experienced this kind of darkness, you are in good company. Job, after initially responding with faith in the immediate aftermath of his loss, suddenly found himself walking in the valley of despair as his suffering continued:

“When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.” (Job 7:13–16)

I thank God that he gives us a glimpse into the darkest days of Job’s life. Job’s story assures us that we aren’t alone in our battle with despair, and it offers us perspective when we struggle to feel God’s presence on our darkest days. Whether we are battling depression or trying to encourage someone who is, we must remember three truths in the face of depression’s lies.

1. Depression does not mean God is punishing you.

It’s easy to believe that our despair is a sign of God’s displeasure. Though at times we may feel the heavy hand of God upon us in order to draw us into repentance (Psalm 32:3–4), depression often fills our minds with lies, tempting us to believe that our feelings are an accurate reflection of our relationship with Christ.

Read the rest here.

Press On Toward the Goal

Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect,
but I press on so that I may lay hold of that
for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;
but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind
and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on toward the goal for the prize
of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude;
and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;
however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.

—Philippians 4:12-16

The Hope of the Empty Tomb

Christ’s Resurrection: Our Hope

by Franklin Graham

On the Saturday after Jesus was crucified, His followers must have felt utterly defeated. Meanwhile, the Pharisees felt they had silenced a critic, the Romans felt they had quashed a rebellion, and the governor had washed his hands of the whole affair.

Then Sunday morning dawned, the gravestone was rolled away, and history was turned inside out. The news—Jesus is alive!—was almost too good to be true. Yet it was undeniably true. So true that His disciples dedicated the rest of their lives to telling the whole world the Good News about Jesus Christ.

On the cross, He died for our sins.

In the tomb, He defeated death.

Nowhere else in this sin-sick world can we find such everlasting hope.

Modern medicine is wonderful—almost miraculous sometimes—but doctors will never defeat death. Now, some of us may live to be a hundred or more. … Every day we have on this earth is a gift from God, but ultimately everyone has to be prepared to face death and judgment. Through the triumph of the cross and resurrection, Jesus has already dealt with both of those.

“When you were dead in your sins… God made you alive with Christ” (Colossians 2:13).

Where is your HOPE?

Prayer: Lord, this week, we remember that because of Christ’s death and resurrection, we no longer have to fear death and the grave. Help us to clearly tell others how they, too, can come to You through Jesus’ sacrifice. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Scripture quotation is taken by permission from The Holy Bible, New International Version, copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. From Franklin Graham: “Decision” magazine, April 2011, ©2011 BGEA.

[From “Decision” magazine e-devotional]

The #JOY of #HOPE in the Lord {Reblog}

2016 was the year of JOY for me. 2017 has been all about HOPE. Today’s post is about how JOY ties in so closely with HOPE.

What is true JOY? Charles Spurgeon describes it this way:

 “The JOY OF HOPE—who shall measure it? Those who are strangers to it are certainly strangers to the SWEETEST MATTER in spiritual life. With the exception of present communion with Christ, the JOY of a believer in this present state must be mainly the JOY OF HOPE.

“It does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He is (OUR HOPE),” (1 John 3:2) We thank God that we shall be satisfied when we wake up (from the sleep of death) in the likeness of Jesus! This ANTICIPATION (HOPE) of Heaven makes (the hurt of) earth become endurable! And the sorrows of time lose their weight when we think of the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory (Our future HOPE). (2 Corinthians 4:17)”

Recently I’ve been contemplating the phrase Quality of Life. Here are some of the definitions of Quality of Life, also referred to as QOL:

Wikipedia: is the general well-being of individuals and societies. QOL has a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, politics and employment. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of living, which is based primarily on income. Instead, standard indicators of the quality of life include not only wealth and employment but also the built environment, physical and mental health, education, recreation and leisure time, and social belonging.

The Free Dictionary: Noun, quality of life- your personal satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the cultural or intellectual conditions under which you live (as distinct from material comfort); “the new art museum is expected to improve the quality of life” gratification, satisfaction – state of being gratified or satisfied; “dull repetitious work gives no gratification”; “to my immense gratification he arrived on time” [Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.]

Medicinet.com: The patient’s ability to enjoy normal life activities. Quality of life is an important consideration in medical care. Some medical treatments can seriously impair quality of life without providing appreciable benefit, whereas others greatly enhance quality of life.

BusinessDictionary.com: Daily living enhanced by wholesome food and clean air and water, enjoyment of unfettered open spaces and bodies of water, conservation of wildlife and natural resources, security from crime, and protection from radiation and toxic substances. It may also be used as a measure of the energy and power a person is endowed with that enable him or her to enjoy life and prevail over life’s challenges irrespective of the handicaps he or she may have.

As you can see, there are differing opinions on what quality of life actually means. Some people use it as a measurement of how happy and fulfilled a person is. Others think of it as a way to gauge how someone can enjoy life in spite of physical handicaps or limitations. And many others consider it to be an indication of how much people have overcome in order to enjoy their life no matter what obstacles they face.

Where is God in all of this?

“The world is filled with people trying to adjust to the pain, trying to deal with life without total collapse, break down, burn out, hopelessness, fear, apathy or just giving up. And all of that really is a matter of learning how to endure. And that’s our key word this morning because the passage in front of us gives us the secrets to endurance…the secrets to endurance. How can we endure the pain of life? The profound difficulty of life? The great disappointments, broken dreams, broken bodies, broken homes, broken lives, broken relationships? How can we handle all of that? How can we face life like the Apostle Paul did who said back in verse 8 of this chapter, “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed”? How can we live like that? How can we be so triumphant?” —John MacArthur, GraceToYou.org

So, how can we think more like Paul? Is it possible to be afflicted and still triumphant? I have shared with you before that I live with several chronic pain illnesses. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic migraine plague me every single day. Some days are worse than others, but I can honestly count on one hand the number of pain-free days I have had in the last 15 years and still have fingers left over. And yet I still have more JOY than I ever thought possible.

To me, the HOPE of JOY = the JOY of HOPE.

I do not think we can have one without the other because each produces the other. For example, I can have the HOPE of JOY because . . .

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes— I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
—Job 19:25-27, NIV

And I can also have the JOY of HOPE because of this . . .

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:5-6, 13, NIV

Beloved, don’t you see? It doesn’t matter what is happening in our lives as long as we continue to hang our HOPE on our Savior. That thought alone produces so much JOY that it is impossible to stay down or depressed about our circumstances for long.

Choose JOY!

Yes, JOY is a choice that we make every single day. If we have invited Jesus Christ into our hearts as our Savior and Lord, then we have the certain HOPE of everlasting life in heaven with Him. And if we have that certain HOPE, how can we be anything but JOYFUL, no matter what our circumstances?

My Redeemer lives!

Please enjoy this video of Nicole C. Mullin singing one of my favorite and comforting songs, “My Redeemer Lives.” I know it will fill you with as much HOPE and JOY as it does me!

If for any reason you cannot view the video, read the lyrics here.


[Emphasis on the words HOPE and JOY are mine]

Press On Toward the Goal #presson {Reblog}

But whatever things were gain to me,
those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.
More than that, I count all things to be loss
in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord,
for whom I have suffered the loss of all things,
and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ,and may be found in Him,
not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law,
but that which is through faith in Christ,
the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith,
that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection
and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death;
in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.
Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect,
but I press on 
so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.
Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet;
but one thing I do:
forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead,
I press on
toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Let us therefore, as many as are perfect, have this attitude;
and if in anything you have a different attitude, God will reveal that also to you;
however, let us keep living by that same standard to which we have attained.
—Philippians 3:7-16

I have never been what could be called graceful. I regularly walk too close to doorknobs and bruise my arms. I turn my ankle on real or imagined pot holes when I walk. I trip over things that are not there. When I first saw that the meaning of the name Anna is gracious, I was appalled because I thought it said graceful.

I remember a time when I made the special cherry vanilla creamsicles that both Rick and I love. I poured the mixture carefully into the molds, then wiped away the tiny drops that spilled onto the mold. Just that fast, the mold tipped over. I watched in frustration as the thick concoction oozed over the counter, dripped down the front of the cabinet and onto the floor. A big sigh escaped me as I pulled out paper towels to clean up my mess. Will I ever overcome my clumsiness?

We start every day with another chance to get it right. Some days we do; others we don’t. No matter what happens, though, we should be thankful for the next chance and the next, and on and on. Realize that this side of heaven we’ll probably never get things exactly right but we have the assurance of knowing that one day we will attain the prize that Paul talks about here:

the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Paul is talking about the day when we will be called home to Jesus. Wow, what a time that will be!

Beloved, are things not going right in your corner of the world? Are you struggling with the things of this life and becoming frustrated too? Do you feel as if there is no end in sight?

Press on … just press on. Keep on keeping on.

We who have the HOPE of knowing we’ll be spending eternity with Jesus need to remember that life here on earth will never be easy. I read somewhere once that if we had an easy time of it on earth, would we ever yearn for heaven?

In case you have never asked Jesus into your heart to be your personal Savior and Lord, please visit my A…B…C page to read more about how easy it is to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Or, write to me at faithlhj777 at gmail dot com. I would love to answer any questions you have and help you in your Christian walk.

I love this song because if often runs through my mind, even though it’s been awhile since I first heard it. “Press On” is a great song by Building 429 and is based on Philippians 3:12:14. The lyrics really speak to the stresses and complications of living and how we can all press on to complete whatever mission God has for us in this life. 

If for any reason you cannot view this video, please click here for the lyrics.