A Happy and Blessed 2020 to You!

This was our Christmas card for 2019. The pictures show some of the bright spots of our year. 

2019 passed much too quickly for us but it was a year of great joy in our family. Although Rick and I have considered ourselves grandparents to twins Austin and Alex since June 2016, their adoption became final on April 3, 2019. They will be 4 years old next February and are the light of our lives. Their cuteness and energy keep Alan and Denise very busy. It’s not easy keeping up with twins!

Although Rick and I are both dealing with health problems these days, we want to do more traveling and enjoyed a trip to Morro Bay last month. Morro Bay is a sweet town on the central California coast, one of our favorite places where we used to camp when we lived in California.

We have much to be joyful and thankful for this Christmas. In the busy-ness of our lives, let us never forget what the birth of Jesus means to us. Let us echo the angels in praising God.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”

What Was the Christmas Star?

Today I’m sharing from Answers In Genesis.

What Was the Christmas Star?

by Dr. Jason Lisle

What was the star? And how did it lead the magi to the Lord? There have been many speculations.

The apostle Matthew records that the birth of Jesus was accompanied by an extraordinary celestial event: a star that led the magi1 (the “wise men”) to Jesus. This star “went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was” (Matthew 2:9). What was this star? And how did it lead the magi to the Lord? There have been many speculations.

Common Explanations

The star mentioned in Matthew is not necessarily what we normally think of as a star. That is, it was not necessarily an enormous mass of hydrogen and helium gas powered by nuclear fusion. The Greek word translated star is aster (αστηρ), which is where we get the word astronomy. In the biblical conception of the word, a star is any luminous point of light in our night sky. This would certainly include our modern definition of a star, but it would also include the planets, supernovae, comets, or anything else that resembles a point of light. But which of these explanations best describes the Christmas star?

A supernova (an exploding star) fits the popular Christmas card conception of the star. When a star in our galaxy explodes, it shines very brightly for several months. These beautiful events are quite rare and outshine all the other stars in the galaxy. It seems fitting that such a spectacular event would announce the birth of the King of kings—the God-man who would outshine all others. However, a supernova does not fit the biblical text. The Christmas star must not have been so obvious, for it went unnoticed by Israel’s King Herod (Matthew 2:7). He had to ask the magi when the star had appeared, but everyone would have seen a bright supernova.

Nor could the Christmas star have been a bright comet. Like a supernova, everyone would have noticed a comet. Comets were often considered to be omens of change in the ancient world. Herod would not have needed to ask the magi when a comet had appeared. Moreover, neither a comet nor a supernova moves in such a way as to come and stand over a location on earth as the Christmas star did (Matthew 2:9). Perhaps the Christmas star was something more subtle: a sign that would amaze the magi but would not be noticed by Herod.

A Conjunction?

This leads us to the theory that the Christmas star was a conjunction of planets. A conjunction is when a planet passes closely by a star or by another planet. Such an event would have been very meaningful to the magi, who were knowledgeable of ancient astronomy, but would likely have gone unnoticed by others. There were several interesting conjunctions around the time of Christ’s birth. Two of these were triple conjunctions; this is when a planet passes a star (or another planet), then backs up, passes it again, then reverses direction and passes the star/planet a third time. Such events are quite rare.

Nonetheless, there was a triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn beginning in the year 7 B.C. Also, there was a triple conjunction of Jupiter and the bright star Regulus beginning in the year 3 B.C. Of course, we do not know the exact year of Christ’s birth, but both of these events are close to the estimated time. Advocates of such conjunction theories point out that the planets and stars involved had important religious significance in the ancient world. Jupiter was often considered the king of the gods, and Regulus was considered the “king star.” Did such a conjunction announce the birth of the King of kings? However, the Bible describes the Christmas star as a single star—not aconjunction of two or more stars. Neither of the above conjunctions was close enough to appear as a single star.

But there was one (and only one) extraordinary conjunction around the time of Christ’s birth that could be called a “star.” In the year 2 B.C., Jupiter and Venus moved so close to each other that they briefly appeared to merge into a single bright star. Such an event is extremely rare and may have been perceived as highly significant to the magi. Although this event would have been really spectacular, it does not fully match the description of the Christmas star. A careful reading of the biblical text indicates that the magi saw the star on at least two occasions: when they arrived at Jerusalem (Matthew 2:2) and after meeting with Herod (Matthew 2:9). But the merging of Jupiter and Venus happened only once—on the evening of June 17.

Although each of the above events is truly spectacular and may have been fitting to announce the birth of the King of kings, none of them seems to fully satisfy the details of the straightforward reading of Matthew 2. None of the above speculations fully explain how the star “went ahead of ” the magi nor how it “stood over where the child was.” Indeed, no known natural phenomenon would be able to stand over Bethlehem since all natural stars continually move due to the rotation of the earth.2 They appear to rise in the east and set in the west, or circle around the celestial poles. However, the Bible does not say that this star was a natural phenomenon.

Read the rest here.

Remember My Birthday?

Remember My Birthday?

As you well know, we are getting closer to my birthday. Every year there is a celebration in my honor and I think that this year the celebration will be repeated. During this time there are many people shopping for gifts, there are many radio announcements, TV commercials, and in every part of the world everyone is talking that my birthday is getting closer and closer.

It is really very nice to know, that at least once a year, some people think of me. As you know, the celebration of my birthday began many years ago. At first people seemed to understand and be thankful of all that I did for them, but in these times, no one seems to know the reason for the celebration. Family and friends get together and have a lot of fun, but they don’t know the meaning of the celebration.

I remember that last year there was a great feast in my honor. The dinner table was full of delicious foods, pastries, fruits, assorted nuts and chocolates. The decorations were exquisite and there were many, many beautifully wrapped gifts. But, do you want to know something? I wasn’t invited. I was the guest of honor and they didn’t remember to send me an invitation. The party was for me, but when that great day came, I was left outside, they closed the door in my face… and I wanted to be with them and share their table. In truth, that didn’t surprise me because in the last few years all close their doors to me.

Since I was not invited, I decided to enter the party without making any noise. I went in and stood in a corner. They were all drinking; there were some who were drunk and telling jokes and laughing at everything. They were having a great time. To top it all, this big fat man all dressed in red wearing a long white beard entered the room yelling Ho-Ho-Ho! He seemed drunk. He sat on the sofa and all the children ran to him, saying: “Santa Claus, Santa Claus”… as if the party were in his honor!

At 12 midnight all the people began to hug each other; I extended my arms waiting for someone to hug me and …. do you know… no one hugged me. Suddenly they all began to share gifts. They opened them one by one with great expectation. When all had been opened, I looked to see if, maybe, there was one for me. What would you feel if on your birthday everybody shared gifts and you did not get one? I then understood that I was unwanted at that party and quietly left.

Every year it gets worse. People only remember to eat and drink, the gifts, the parties and nobody remembers me. I would like this Christmas that you allow me to enter into your life. I would like that you recognize the fact that almost two thousand years ago I came to this world to give my life for you, on the cross, to save you. Today, I only want that you believe this with all your heart.

I want to share something with you. As many didn’t invite me to their party, I will have my own celebration, a grandiose party that no one has ever imagined, a spectacular party. I’m still making the final arrangements. Today I am sending out many invitations and there is an invitation for you. I want to know if you wish to attend and I will make a reservation for you and write your name with golden letters in my great guest book. Only those on the guest list will be invited to the party. Those who don’t answer the invitation will be left outside. Do you know how you can answer this invitation? It is by extending it to others whom you care for … I’ll be waiting for all of you to attend my party this year…

See you soon … I love you! 

Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. ─Revelation 3:20

─Author Unknown

The Hope That Does Not Disappoint

We can REJOICE, too, when we run into problems and trials,
for we know that they help us develop endurance.

And endurance develops strength of character,
and character strengthens our confident HOPE of salvation.

And this HOPE will not lead to disappointment.
For we know how dearly God loves us,
because he has given us the Holy Spirit
to fill our hearts with his love.

—Romans 5:3-5, NLT

Is it really possible to rejoice in our sufferings? I don’t know about you, but I sometimes moan and groan instead of rejoicing. I am klutzy by nature and tend to do things that cause pain. A few years ago I got out of the passenger side of our truck at church and backed up while trying to keep hold of my Bible. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pay attention to both my Bible and my steps at the same time and tripped backward on a piece of wood that was sticking up as a marker for our parking lot. I fell down hard, whacking the back of my head on the gravel. We never did make it to the worship service because Rick had to take me to the ER for some staples in my noggin. 

Last week I did almost the same thing as I backed away from our mail carrier’s car while laden with packages. I completely forgot that the concrete driveway right behind me is about 2 inches higher than our rock landscaped front yard. Down I went onto the rock but somehow I remembered to keep my head up so I wouldn’t hit it hard on the rocks again. I don’t recall rolling to my right side but in the process managed to bruise my right elbow and hip. Sigh… it’s not easy being me at times. I can’t say I was rejoicing after those spills, but I did thank God that I was not hurt worse. 

I tend to be quite optimistic, but what is there to rejoice about when you wake up with the same pain you had when you went to bed last night? When I rest my aching head on my pillow while trying to ignore the various aches and pains that plague me, I still hope to wake up without any pain at all. However, the nature of chronic pain is that it is almost always there in one form or other plus add to that the extreme exhaustion of ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)  that has decided to stay with me at all the times now. 

Beloved, please believe me when I say there is hope for those of us who feel like things will never get better. We have a hope that transcends anything here on earth and that hope lies in the fact that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, ensuring eternal life for all who believe. Even though our earthly bodies may suffer, we have the assurance that our heavenly bodies will experience no pain … ever.

How’s that for the hope that doesn’t disappoint? In spite of how I used to react to such things, I have been purposely trying to hold on to that hope as I persevere through the pain I live with during the short time I am here on earth. Compared to living in heaven for eternity, my time here is thankfully very limited. I live in hopeful anticipation of a pain-free eternity with my LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, what would I do without the promise of Your hope? Help me to remember that through my trials I can develop the kind of character that leads to the hope that does not disappoint. May I always be found faithful to lean on Your strength for help in my earthly suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

They Sang a New Song

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

They Sang a New Song: Charles Spurgeon’s Reflections on the Heavenly Hymn in Revelation 5

By Randy Alcorn

In a sermon on “The Heavenly Singers and Their Song,” Charles Spurgeon wrote this:

“They sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Revelation 5:9-10). I must take away the poetry for a moment and just deal with the doctrines of this heavenly hymn.

The first doctrine is that Christ is put in the front; His deity is affirmed. They sing, “Worthy are you.” A strong-winged angel speeds his way over Earth and Heaven and down the deep places of the universe, crying with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” (Revelation 5:2). But no answer comes, for no creature is worthy. Then came One of whom the church cries in its song, “Worthy are you.”

Yes, beloved, He is worthy of all the praise and honor we can bring to Him. He is worthy to be called equal with God; He Himself is God, very God of very God. And no man can sing this song, or ever will sing it, unless he believes Christ to be true deity and accepts Him as his Lord and God.

Next, the doctrine of this hymn is that the whole church delights in the mediation of Christ. Notice that it was when He had taken the scroll that they said, “Worthy are you to take the scroll” (Revelation 5:9). To have Christ standing between God and man is the joy of every believing heart. We could never reach up to God except that Christ has come to bridge the distance between us. He places one hand on man and the other upon God. He is the mediator who can lay His hand upon both, and the church greatly rejoices in this.

Remember that even the working of providence is not apart from the mediation of Christ. I rejoice in this, that if the thunders be let loose, if plagues and deaths around us fly, the child of God is still under the mediator’s protection. No harm shall happen to the chosen, for Jesus always guards us. All power is given unto Him in Heaven and in Earth, and the church rejoices in His role as mediator.

But now notice: in the church’s song, what is her reason for believing that Christ is worthy to be a mediator? The church says, “Worthy are you . . . for you were slain” (Revelation 5:9). Ah, beloved, when Christ undertook to be her mediator, this was the extreme point to which His pledge to be her substitute could carry Him—to be slain! Jesus is never more glorious than in His death. His substitutionary atonement is the culmination of His glory, as it was the very utmost depth of His shame. Beloved, we rejoice in our mediator because He died.

A thing that is redeemed belonged originally to the person who redeems it, and the redeemed of the Lord were always His. “Yours they were,” said Christ, “and you gave them to me” (John 17:6). They always were God’s. You cannot go and redeem a thing that does not belong to you. You may buy it, but you cannot redeem it. Now that which belonged originally to God became indebted through sin. We, having sinned, came under the curse of the law. And though God still held to it that we were His, we were yet under this embargo: sin had a claim upon us.

Christ came and saw His own, and He knew that they were His own. He asked what there was to pay to redeem them, to restore His ownership. It was His heart’s blood, His life, Himself that was required. He paid the price and redeemed them, and we tonight sing, “By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).

He has, by redeeming us, separated us to Himself and made us a holy people, bought with blood in a special sense out of all the rest of mankind.

This redemption is the grounds for the distinction of God’s holy people: “By your blood you ransomed people for God” (Revelation 5:9).

God never wearies of the precious blood, nor will His ­people who know where their salvation lies. They do not, even in Heaven, say that it is a dreadful word to mention. I heard a man the other day say of a certain minister, “Oh! We want another minister; we are tired of this man. He is always talking so much about the blood.” In the last great day, God will be tired of the man who made that speech.

Read the rest here.

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.

My Lord is the Lifter of My Head 

My Lord is the Lifter
of My Head 

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the one who lifts my head.

─Psalm 3:3

For many years summer monsoon season has been a struggle for me. The combination of living at high altitude, plus the constantly fluctuating barometric pressure, used to keep me homebound and in bed. The way my body used to react to my migraines was to shut down, meaning that I slept most of the time. That was my before. As I write this, I still have migraines but the accompanying head pain is gone. Now I only know I have a migraine when my vision gets blurry and/or I have lots of nausea. This is my after.

The difference between before and after is that I have been undergoing special therapeutic treatments since January of this year. I am calling 2019 my year of healing because I truly believe that the Lord led me to this treatment because many people had been praying for me for many years.

While I was burdened with these daily migraines, I found it amazing that every time I went to sleep with a migraine I awoke feeling very hopeful that my migraine would be gone. And I did this over and over again, only to be surprised when I woke up to the same migraine I went to sleep with.

Why do I think this is amazing? Because instead of being disappointed when I awoke to the same pain time after time, I felt hopeful. I admit to a bit of discouragement, but I believe that God knows what I feel deep in my heart and soul, and since He is the “lifter of my head,” I believe He granted me the ability to praise Him with a joyful heart no matter how I was feeling.

I used to struggle with the why of my situation, wondering if it would ever end and why it had gone on for so long. Now there is a huge sense of peace within me because I know without a doubt that my Lord ─ my “shield” ─ was and is always with me to soothe and comfort me when I cry out to Him in pain. Even before I started the treatments that have eliminated my migraine pain, the frustration that at times consumed me is gone and has been replaced with “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Beloved, have you ever been in a situation when you have questioned why God has allowed it in your life? Do you wonder if it will ever end? Are you so mired in despair that you find you can’t even talk to God about it? 

In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness; 
for we do not know how to pray as we should, 

but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us 

with groanings too deep for words. 

─Romans 8:26

Now what does the Spirit ask for when he intercedes for us? There are three ways the text points to an answer for this question: 1) It says the Spirit asks for things that we don’t know we should ask for. Verse 26: “We do not know how to pray for what we ought.” 2) It says the Spirit asks for things that we don’t know to ask for because of our weakness. Verse 26: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” 3) It says the Spirit asks for things that are in accord with the will of God. Verse 27b: “The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”¹

Although my migraine head pain is gone, I am still living with the chronic pain and other symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The treatments are also relieving most of that pain, and now my overwhelming symptom is unrelenting fatigue that nothing helps, but I am anticipating a release from that too as I continue these treatments.

God knows everything about us, even our doubts, frustrations and anxieties. He is our ultimate Healer ─ physically, emotionally and mentally. He longs to hold us close to His heart and soothe our tears of frustration, disappointment and grief. Allow Him to do so! Let Him into your heart and share your deepest feelings with Him, because He is always available to listen to you and comfort you.

I continually hold on to this hope: that one day all of my pain and exhaustion will be gone and I will no longer have any tears because of the incredible joy and happiness of being in heaven with my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Only by abiding in Him can any kind of true joy and contentment be found.

And endurance develops strength of character,
and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.

And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

For we know how dearly God loves us,

because he has given us the Holy Spirit

to fill our hearts with his love. 

─Romans 5:4-5

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,

the Creator of the ends of the earth,

neither faints nor is weary.

His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,

and to those who have no might

He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary,

and the young men shall utterly fall,

but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
─Isaiah 40:28-31


¹John Piper, Desiring God