Love Song

We were treated to a spontaneous mini-concert by our two-year-old grandson, whose full repertoire consisted of “Jesus Loves Me.” He belted out the chorus with vigor and quality. If one of us attempted to sing along, he abruptly fell silent until we ceased. He indicated in non-verbal terms that he intended to perform solo.Then he resumed the lyrics, never missing a word.

The words of the song are simple, yet profound; personal, yet universal; gentle, yet powerful. Little did our grandson appreciate the joy and heart-warming belief he conveyed in his memorized lyrics, booming out the Good News of the Gospel. Jesus heard the succinct but sincere words of “Jesus Loves Me” and acknowledged the love the words generated in our grandson’s heart. If there is no doubt in a toddler’s mind regarding the unconditional love of God, why would any of us harbor skepticism?

Throughout God’s Word we are presented with substantial evidence of God’s love: “Love comes from God” (1 John 4:7), explains the source of love. “God is love” (1 John 4:8), condenses one of the most powerful messages in the Bible.

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16), states the purpose of God’s love. His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 118:1b, NLT), describes the eternal nature of our Lord’s love.

“One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch and bless them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. When Jesus saw what was happening, he was angry with his disciples. He said to them, ‘Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them!’ Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them” (Mark 10:13-14; 16, NLT).

If Jesus had appeared, our grandson would have eagerly run into His open arms. Children of all ages readily believe God. They do not require long explanations; just a statement of the love of God from trustworthy adults is convincing enough for them. Children love Jesus because Jesus first loved them. God simplifies, removing cobwebs and confusion. Young children readily understand simple, direct explanations and commands, for their faith has not yet been sullied by deceptions of the world. God instructs us to mirror the faith of children who possess uncomplicated, unpretentious faith.

There was another young boy who expressed his love in a tangible manner. One day when Jesus withdrew by boat to a solitary place to pray, multitudes of people who anticipated his next stop walked ahead of Him on land, “When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). All through the day, Jesus ministered to the people, offering healing to body and soul. As evening approached, the disciples suggested their Master send the crowds away. Instead, Jesus commanded His disciples to feed the multitudes in the remote countryside. When Jesus’ disciples returned to Him after checking the crowd for any remnants of food, they had found only five barley loaves of bread and two fish, donated by a boy in the listening throng.

We have no knowledge of the boy whose lunch was used in Jesus’ miracle to feed thousands of hungry, attentive followers. Had he been sent from his home that morning to accomplish an errand, but intrigued by the crowds, he fell into the rank and file of those pursuing Jesus? When the disciples circulated among the people asking for any available food, the boy offered his own lunch. In a time when many people went hungry, the gift of food for Jesus’ use displayed phenomenal generosity.

The little boy who contributed his lunch of bread and fish, gave it up willingly. The loaves were small, like individual dinner rolls. The fish were also diminutive, perhaps a smoked or a pickled variety, like herring, a delicacy for lunch.

God had already planned to use the boy’s meal to feed the entire multitude of five thousand men plus women and children, who would minimally total about 15,000 people. Jesus’ disciple, Andrew, took the boy’s small lunch to Jesus. “Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish. When they all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, ‘gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted’. So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten” (John 6:10-13).

If we allow God to use our availability and material possessions, as the little boy demonstrated, we may also be used as catalysts for a miracle. Imagine the thrill and amazement on the face of that boy who watched as Jesus multiplied his meager lunch to feed the masses. Fascinated by Jesus’ miracle, he then participated in the picnic created from his personal lunch donation. What a story he would tell his family when he finally arrived home later that day!

Jesus loves and respects boys and girls, and they know it. “‘I tell you the truth: anyone who will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it’” (Luke 18:17); a severe warning, encouraging us to simplify our faith enough for a child to understand. Though Jesus’ disciples initially displayed doubt, they learned a new level of uncomplicated faith displayed by a child. Jesus commands all of us to emulate the frank openness of a child’s faith.

The miracles Jesus accomplished aroused anger and hatred among the Jewish rulers and teachers of the law. When they “saw the wonderful things he did and the children shouting in the temple courts, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David,’ they were indignant” (Matthew 21:15). When those same rulers asked Jesus if he could hear what the children were saying about him, Jesus replied, “‘From the lips of children and infants you, Lord, have called forth your praise’” (Matthew 21:16). Jesus acknowledged praise from children. They were His ardent supporters; they knew they were loved, professing their faith as they enthusiastically sang about their Savior in the temple courts.

Envision the children clasping hands, dancing around the courtyard in a circle, singing exuberant worship songs to Jesus. If you listen intently, there will arise above the crowd an angelic voice singing, “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. We are weak, but He is strong.” Suddenly Jesus’ attention will be focused compassionately on our grandson, the little boy with unsurpassed love for Christ, the one who treasures his adoration and praise.

Heart Treasures

Heart Treasures

By Patricia Knight

Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).

Mary was an ordinary person who accomplished the extraordinary. As a young teenager, a mere twelve to fourteen years of age, Mary possessed a quiet faith, one that conveyed submission, humility, and inner strength of character. The angel assured her, “Do not be afraid. You have found favor with GodYou will be with child and give birth to a son and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1: 30-32).

Mary was initially overwhelmed and perplexed by the announcement, but she asked only one question of the angel, Gabriel: “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34). Once Gabriel responded that the Holy Spirit had overcome her to create her pregnancy, Mary replied, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).

Her next response was to sing a song of praise and glory to God, rejoicing in His mercy lavished upon her. Mary’s song ends with conviction that God is faithful to His promises. She felt honored that she had been chosen to participate in a miracle that would fulfill God’s sacred word made centuries ago to bring the prophesied Savior to the world.

Mary didn’t attempt to live in the future, avoiding futile “what if” questions. She relied upon her Lord to meet all of her needs on a daily basis. Whenever she was reminded of a new aspect of Jesus’ future predicted by a prophet or an angel, “Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). God recognized Mary’s superlative heart value. He chose her as the mother of Jesus by examining her heart and found it overflowing with goodness.  To hold the Son of God in her arms, to cuddle Him, to nurture and instruct Him, must have been a tremendous privilege and responsibility, not so different from the devotion and love all mothers feel toward their children. However, a sense of wonder must have constantly permeated Mary’s emotions.

As Jesus matured, He gradually developed an awareness of His unique relationship to God. He was also perfectly obedient to His earthly parents. Mary and Joseph must have yearned for their firstborn to experience every aspect of life, but Jesus was unable to fall in love, have a family, or experience any permanent status on earth. Jesus Christ was God in the flesh.  He was focused on the work with eternal consequences that He must perform during his brief time on earth.

Jesus’ parents had no forewarning that their adult son would walk on water, cure the blind, or heal the lame. But they believed unreservedly in His mission. At a wedding feast where the wine supply was exhausted much too early in the celebration, Mary asked Jesus to help in some way to prevent embarrassment to the bridegroom. Then she instructed the servants, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). Though Jesus had never performed a miracle before, Mary trusted His abilities and judgment explicitly. She was likely as surprised as the servants that Jesus converted gallons of plain water into elegant wine.

Jesus was born on earth not to constantly perform fantastic miracles, as needed as they were, but to bring redemption of sin to the multitudes. 

Soon the prediction the prophet Simeon uttered when Jesus was an infant, was proving true: Mary as well as Jesus would suffer deep anguish in the future. When Jesus claimed to be the son of God, storm clouds of opposition and rejection gathered over His life. Mary must have felt personally attacked when she viewed mob hatred escalating toward her son. Jesus was the subject of intolerance and shame; scorn and disbelief.  Mary paid a tremendous price to bring the Savior into the world; she paid an exorbitant price to stand beneath the cross, witnessing the physical and emotional torment of Jesus’ during his heinous crucifixion. Mary’s heart must have completely shattered, spilling forth all the treasures she’d pondered over the past thirty-three years of her son’s life.

As He hung from the cross, Jesus assigned His beloved disciple, John, to care for His mother for the rest of her earthly life. Then Mary retreated into seclusion with Jesus’ committed followers, where they hid from the Roman authorities, praying for protection and guidance. Three days later, news arrived that Jesus had risen from the dead. How Mary rejoiced!  Her son, the Son of God, was alive!  Thanksgiving filled the air.

Are we willing to cling to our beliefs, as Mary did, even when the rising tide of public opposition threatens to chip away at our spiritual commitment, like granite eroding from the constant battering of surging tides? Just as plans for the incarnation of our Savior were flawlessly choreographed in heaven, God loves us so much that His purposes for each of our lives are also perfect. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas season, let us follow Mary’s example, learning to treasure all the Words of God and ponder them in our hearts.

Waiting for our Savior Jesus Christ

But as for me, I will watch expectantly for the LORD;
I will wait for the God of my salvation.
My God will hear me.
—Micah 7:7

What a wonderful example the prophet Micah is to us! As one of the minor prophets, the first few chapters of his short Old Testament book are messages of God’s judgment on Samaria and Jerusalem. But toward the end of this book, we see clear evidence of Micah’s faith and confidence that God would send a Savior.

We humans think we’ve got all the answers. And even when we don’t, we have the technology to find those answers in an instant by searching the internet for whatever may be baffling or confusing to us.

Because of the huge advancements in technology over the past few years, many people today believe that the Old Testament is irrelevant in this modern world. However, the Old Testament is filled with verses which talk about a Savior or foretell His coming. Here are only a few:

  • You faithfully answer our prayers with awesome deeds, O God our savior. You are the hope of everyone on earth, even those who sail on distant seas.
    —Psalm 65:5
  • It will become a sign and a witness to the LORD of hosts in the land of Egypt; for they will cry to the LORD because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will deliver them. —Isaiah 19:20
  • Yet I have been the LORD your God since the land of Egypt; and you were not to know any god except Me, for there is no savior besides Me. —Hosea 13:4

 Read the longing in these and many other verses. These men yearned for the Savior of the world to come soon, and exhibited great faith that it would happen. They obviously loved God without restraint and absolutely believed that God would send a Savior, someone who would rescue them from themselves and their sins and provide a way for them to live with and worship God forever.

So many people say they believe in God but when it comes to eternal issues, they are floundering in a huge sea of doubt and frustration. It is understandably difficult to believe in a being we cannot see. On top of that uncertainty, we are asked to trust that believing in Jesus Christ as our Savior is the only way to heaven.

I love what J. Vernon McGee has to say about this:

You may think you have your way of salvation, but God is the only Savior, and He is the only one who can offer you a plan of salvation.

God’s plan for our salvation was always in the works but was truly fulfilled with the birth of Jesus Christ, His Son. Jesus was born a human and lived an earthly life so that He could experience and relate to every single thing we go through.

The birth of Jesus Christ paved the way for His death on the cross, where He took our sins upon Himself and died on our behalf. That death paved the way for Him to be resurrected from the dead on the third day, proving that death and sin have no more eternal hold on us. All this to show how much God loves us and longs for us to live in heaven with Him forever.

This is where faith and trust come into the picture. We must believe that our only chance for eternal redemption comes from Jesus Christ and has nothing to do with ourselves or what we do or don’t do:

Jesus said to him,
“I am the way
and the truth, and the life;
no one comes to the Father but through Me.”

—John 14:6

Sadly, though, too many of us seem unable to take that giant leap of faith and trust:

He was in the world,
and the world was made through Him,
and the world did not know Him.
He came to His own,
and those who were His own did not receive Him.

But as many as received Him,
to them He gave the right to become children of God,
even to those who believe in His name, who were born,
not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man,
but of God.
—John 1:10-13

Beloved, Christmas is definitely a time of celebration. If you take away all the glitter, packages, decorations, baked goodies and music, we still have the greatest thing for which to be thankful. We celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the One whom God sent to free us from the bondage of sin.

So if all you have to celebrate Christmas with is that certain knowledge of the saving grace of Jesus Christ, then you have it all and more!

Let’s try to remember that Christmas is more about the Reason and less about the Season.

A very Merry and Blessed Christmas to all of you!

And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us,
and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father,
full of grace and truth.
John testified about Him and cried out, saying,
“This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me
has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’
For of His fullness we have all received,
and grace upon grace.”
—John 1:14-16

 … for today in the city of David
there has been born for you a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.
—Luke 2:11

Pearl of Great Price

Pearl of Great Price

by Joni Eareckson Tada

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls.
When he found one of great value,
he went away and sold everything he had and bought it.

Matthew 13:45-46

One day my father-in-law, Dad Tada, presented me with a family heirloom, a string of genuine pearls.  He told me they had been harvested in Japan, not far from where he lived much of his life.  I was captivated by the milky, soft glow of each perfect pearl.  Ken draped the pearls around my neck, and I wheeled to a mirror.

As I admired them, Dad Tada explained how a pearl is produced.  A tiny bit of sand lodges in the flesh of an oyster and becomes an irritating intrusion.  Unable to expel it, the oyster covers the particle with layer after layer of a milky secretion until the irritation has become smooth, round, and acceptable.  It also, inadvertently, becomes a precious gem.

A pastor once wrote, “Pearls, unlike other jewels, are drawn from the animate creation.  (Other jewels are made from rocks and crystals and are mined out of the earth…)  Pearls are produced by life — a life which has overcome the working of death.”

Jesus, the Pearl of Great Price, is unlike any other.  He is the precious gem set apart from the rest.  He lived in such a way that He overcame the working of death.  He is superior because His love poured forth from a life wounded by pain.  He has become our example.  We experience irritants in our lives, but God gives layer after layer of grace until the irritation becomes smooth and acceptable.  What was an intrusion becomes a precious gem for all to admire… and for God to receive glory.

Pull your string of pearls (imitation or not) from your jewelry box and hang them over the mirror above your dresser for a few days.  They will brighten your bedroom and your appreciation for Jesus, the One and Only Pearl.

My wounded Savior, teach me through Your example to let intrusions in my life become pearls.  Remind me how You transform pain into beauty.

Joni and Friends


Copyright © 1998. More Precious Than Silver, Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.

Sunday Praise and Worship: My Savior My God

When life is rough and things never seem to get better, it is easy to dwell on the negatives. The daily news reports focus on the many problems in our world so that, like David, we “long for you, O God.” And just like David reminds himself as he prays, we can choose to put our HOPE in God, and praise Him again and again as our Savior and our God!

Beloved, there is HOPE!

Remember that our ultimate Hope is in our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ and no one or nothing else. The song “My Savior My God” by Aaron Shust often runs through my mind, especially when I’m struggling with life in my little corner of the world. This section of the lyrics always soothes me:

As you listen to this song, ponder the words of David as he sang his trust and HOPE in God in spite of his discouragement and breaking heart.

Psalm 42 

As the deer longs for streams of water,
    so I long for you, O God.
I thirst for God, the living God.
    When can I go and stand before him?
Day and night I have only tears for food,
    while my enemies continually taunt me, saying,
    “Where is this God of yours?”

My heart is breaking
    as I remember how it used to be:
I walked among the crowds of worshipers,
    leading a great procession to the house of God,
singing for joy and giving thanks
    amid the sound of a great celebration!

Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my HOPE in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!

Now I am deeply discouraged,
    but I will remember you—
even from distant Mount Hermon, the source of the Jordan,
    from the land of Mount Mizar.
I hear the tumult of the raging seas
    as your waves and surging tides sweep over me.
But each day the Lord pours his unfailing love upon me,
    and through each night I sing his songs,
    praying to God who gives me life.

“O God my rock,” I cry,
    “Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I wander around in grief,
    oppressed by my enemies?”
10 Their taunts break my bones.
    They scoff, “Where is this God of yours?”

11 Why am I discouraged?
    Why is my heart so sad?
I will put my HOPE in God!
    I will praise him again—
    my Savior and my God!


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 If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

[All emphasis on the word HOPE is mine.]


New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright© 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Publishers Inc.

The True Identity of Jesus of Nazareth

Shared from GraceThruFaith.

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The True Identity of
Jesus of Nazareth

Of all the so-called holy books, only the Bible authenticates itself. It does so through a method we call predictive prophecy and it works like this. Only God knows the end from the beginning. To help us learn to believe Him, He told His ancient people things that hadn’t happened yet. Then when they came to pass just like He said they would, He had them document everything and preserve it for future generations. We call this documentation the Bible, which by many accounts consists of nearly 40% predictive prophecy, some fulfilled and some still to come.

When asked what work God requires of us, Jesus replied, “The work of God is this. Believe in the One He has sent.” (John 6:28-29) Because He’s told us so many things in advance and has always been right, He expects us to believe in Him. His view is that He’s proven Himself so far beyond any reasonable doubt that people who say they don’t believe in Him are really being disobedient by refusing to believe. And belief is a requirement. That’s why in the New Testament the Greek word translated unbelief also means disobedient.

The Old Testament is so chock full of the proof of God’s existence that there’s simply no justification for unbelief. (In my article Proving The existence Of God I used the examples of Cyrus the Persian and Alexander the Great to show that anyone with a Study Bible and a competent history book can verify the existence of God simply by comparing fulfilled prophecy with world history.)

The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”(Psalm 14:1). Only a fool can say that. But even a fool can’t say it logically, with his mind, because there’s too much evidence to the contrary. He has to say it emotionally, in his heart. Foolish opinions based on emotion don’t need to be true.

Read the rest here.

Sunday Praise and Worship: Holy is the Lord

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Welcome to the year 2017! My hope and prayer for all of us is that we devote time in our busy lives learning more about our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ through His Word. It’s like getting to know someone we enjoy spending time with. The more time we dedicate to discovering what makes them who they are, the closer we get to them.

Let’s all join with the prophet Isaiah in praising our Lord to the utmost as we sing “Holy is the Lordalong with Chris Tomlin.

In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne,
high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple.

Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings:
with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew.

And one cried to another and said:

“Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!”

And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out,
and the house was filled with smoke.

—Isaiah 6:1-4

 

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

 

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