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The Baby That Changed the World

As we approach this Christmas holiday we may have certain expectations of how everything will turn out—baking cookies, playing Christmas music, sending out cards, wrapping gifts, hanging lights, decorating a tree, etc.  These things set the stage and prepare us for the celebration of Christmas.

Imagine if we didn’t decorate for Christmas, send out cards or bake cookies, would anyone recognize it’s time for Christmas?

Two thousand years ago many were anticipating something great to happen, the arrival of the “Messiah the Prince”  of the “Anointed One, the ruler” (Daniel 9:24-27).  People were expectantly waiting for a new Messiah around 30 AD when Jesus was born, based on the prophecy of Daniel.  Jerusalem had a lot of preparation to do before the arrival of their new king.

Little was known how their new king was going to arrive or what he would look like.  Was he to arrive in a chariot of gold, or on a cloud from heaven?  Was he to be surrounded by royalty and clothed with robes and riches?  A worldly expectation would be for a king to be surrounded by all these things.

The Israelites only had the prophecy of Daniel to prepare their hearts for God’s timing and that their Messiah would be a descendant of David (Matt. 1:6, Luke 3:31).  They were not given a description of what their new king looked like only His titles of what He was to fulfill when He came.

“For to us a child is born, to us, a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6 NIV

The Israelites weren’t looking for some lowly figure to be their new king, but someone of great importance such as a great military leader or a mighty politician (MacAruthur p. 130).  They were not expecting a baby to fulfill God’s promises.

The Israelites didn’t know their new king would not meet any of their expectations. Because they put their own worldly expectations on who their new Messiah would be, they didn’t even recognize their Messiah when he arrived.

Luke 2:11-12 NKJV
“For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be the sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager.”  

Their new king didn’t make a grand entrance announcing his arrival by riding on a horse, being surrounded by royalty, wearing a crown or holding a scepter in his hand.  Instead, He was born of two peasants Mary and Joseph.  His birth was announced by an angel to shepherds and born in a stable amongst barn animals.

God fulfilled His promises of a king, but the only Israelites who recognized and “understood that Jesus was the Messiah at His birth were Mary, Joseph, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna,” people of no significance (MacArthur p. 130).

Can you imagine waiting for your king to arrive and not even recognizing him?  

God’s plan wasn’t to have Jesus raised up on a pedestal and be brought into this world among royalty (even though he was a king), but be born among the humble and to dwell among us (John 1:14).

God has the most amazing plans ever. He used a baby to change the world. Click To Tweet

God was fulfilling a greater plan for His greater purpose.  Imagine all of the Israelites who missed out on the birth of their Messiah because they were expecting something different. They inserted their own expectations and definitions of a king, not allowing for God’s greater plan to unfold.

Have you ever inserted your own expectations and definitions into God’s plans?

Have you ever been in the presence of Jesus and didn’t recognize Him?

If God can use a baby to become our Savior and change the world he can use you for his almighty plans.Click To Tweet

We can rejoice because our “Savior has been born!” (Luke 2:11).  He is our Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace!  Praying your Christmas will be filled with all of God’s greatness and glory of our king, Amen!

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“12 Extraordinary Women,” by John MacArthur.  Thomas Nelson 2002. page 130.

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Mary- A Heart Prepared

 

Are you getting ready for Christmas?  I don’t know about you, but every year I get caught off guard with all the preparation to get ready for Christmas!  It seems no matter how much I plan, there is always something to get ready for.

The busyness of Christmas can be distracting and overwhelming to our hearts because of all the extra stress the holidays add to our plates.   Then before we know it we are missing out on the very reason why we celebrate Christmas.

A prophet named Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David!  Is it not enough to try the patience of men?  Will you try the patience of men?  Will you try the patience of my God also?  Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel (God with us)” (Isa. 7:13-14).

I Love how God Uses the Unlikely to Carry out His Almighty Plan.

In the verse above, the Prophet Isaiah was preparing our hearts for the arrival of Jesus.

Luke 1:26-35….”God sent the angel…to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary….

Mary was just a young peasant girl who was about to be married.  Why would God choose her?  The angel Gabriel tells Mary, “Do not be afraid, you have found favor with God” (Luke 1:30).  The Greek word for highly favored is charis which means grace.  God had found favor in Mary and bestowed a special honor on her.  God sent an angel to prepare Mary’s heart for God’s greater plan.

Gabriel, the angel prepares Mary’s heart, that she will be with child and his name will be Jesus.

Gabriel goes even further and tells Mary five things about her future son.

1.  He will be great.  Luke 1:32

2.  He will be called the Son of the Most High. Luke 1:32

3.  He will be given the throne of His father David.  Luke 1:32

4.  He will reign in the house of Jacob forever.  Luke 1:33

5.  His kingdom will never end.  Luke 1:33

“How will this be,”  Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”  (Luke 1:34).  This is what I love about Mary.  She doesn’t question the fact that the Messiah is coming, but rather that she would be used as a vessel for his arrival, a young virgin peasant girl.  She didn’t doubt or question God’s plan but how will this even be possible since she is a virgin?

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…”  (Luke 1:35).  

I don’t know about you, but I want a heart like Mary’s.  A heart that is ready to trust and receive God’s promises. Mary’s heart welcomed the angel’s message, by submitting her heart almost immediately after hearing his message!  She didn’t let her doubts or fears get in the way of God’s plan.  She allowed for God’s greater plan to happen through her by submitting her heart to God.  How wise was Mary’s heart to recognize this message could have only come from God Himself.

Mary heard the message of God’s promise, and her heart of faith was reassured by the words, “For nothing is impossible with God”  (Luke 1:37).  She even uttered the words, “I am the Lord’s servant, May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38).  No wonder God found favor with Mary.  God already knew Mary’s heart before He chose her.

I want a heart like Mary’s.

Can you imagine if Mary didn’t allow for God’s greater plan to happen and allowed her doubts and fears to get in the way instead?

Have you ever allowed your doubts and fears get in the way of God’s greater plan?

I have many times.

May we all have a heart like Mary's, a heart that faithfully responds to His promises. Click To Tweet

This Christmas before we allow busyness and distractions to take us away from the true meaning of Christmas, let’s stop and allow God to prepare our hearts for His greater plan.  There is a fullness of joy when we stay present in the presence of Jesus.  We can rest assured—that His peace will fill our hearts and joy will fill our souls when we allow for God’s greater plan to happen through us.

A heart prepared is a heart ready to receive God's promises of peace, hope, and joy.Click To Tweet

Have you allowed God to Prepare your heart to receive His Promises this Christmas?

If God sent an angel to you with a message, “Do not be afraid.”  Would you go where God was asking you to go?

Prayer:  Dear Lord Jesus, thank you God for your greater plan.  Thank you God for Jesus and preparing a place in heaven for us.  We pray we will have a heart like Mary’s, one that is obedient, faithful and trusting of your plan even when we don’t understand.  Prepare our hearts Lord for your greater promises.  We pray we will not get in the way of your plan but allow your greater plan to happen through us.  We pray for your will and ways to be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Help us not be afraid like Mary and allow for your greater promises to fill our hearts.  Help us stay present in your presence this Christmas and focus on the true meaning of Christmas, the birth of Jesus.  In Jesus name, Amen.

Did you enjoy this blog post? Please share with others! Want more encouraging messages sent right to your inbox? Subscribe to my blog and receive a weekly Monday Message or like my Author Facebook page to catch the latest posts.  Have a blessed week!

I would love to hear from you! Leave your comments below!  Would you like to know more about the Christmas story!  Join me next Monday as we learn more about what the Christmas story means to you.  

Martin, J. A. (1985). Luke. In J. F. Walvoord & R. B. Zuck (Eds.), The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures (Vol. 2, p. 205). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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What to Say When You Don’t Know What to Pray

Have you ever sat down to pray and just didn’t know what to say? Or felt like your prayers were empty and meaningless? Or if God was even listening?

Prayer is one the most important things we can do in our lives, yet when life gets busy, its one of the first things we omit out of our daily schedules and what we give up when we do don’t see ‘our prayers working.’

Maybe one of the reasons prayer can be so difficult is because of its meaning.

In English, Pray means ‘to ask or beg.’

In Hebrew, the word for Pray Tefillah means to ‘self-examine.’ The root word for Tefillah is Tofel, which means to ‘attach, join or bind together.’

In Aramaic, the word for Pray salah means ‘to bow, worship.’

In Greek, the word for Pray proseuchomai means to ‘supplicate, to worship.’

As one can see, the definition for pray has a variety of definitions. So which definition is correct?

All of them.

Prayer is a way to worship God, it is a way to sit before God to self-examine ourselves and how we ask God to intercede on our behalf and bow before Him in His presence.

Nonetheless, prayer doesn’t have one singular definition and fit into a box. Making prayer fit one singular definition would limit God’s abundant meaning, purpose, and power for prayer. The purpose of prayer isn’t solely meant to just ask God for our own needs and personal gain, or just to ‘self-examine’ ourselves or just to worship. Prayer goes way beyond that.

Prayer is our invitation to God to open the door for His divine power to move the mountains in our lives and others. Taking our struggles to God through prayer invites Him into our lives, brings us into His presence and binds us closer together with Him.

So what do we say when we don’t know what to pray?

God doesn’t judge our prayers. They don’t have to be filled with eloquent words or with verbatim Scripture. We don’t have to be on our knees, bow our heads or even fold our hands. The prayer posture and how we pray is God’s least concern. God is more concerned about when we don’t pray and the condition of our hearts. Our prayers are a way to get our hearts right with God and communicate with Him.

If you struggle with what to say during prayer here is a prayer tool that may help.

Praise
Repent
Ask
Yield

PRAISE
If you don’t know what to say, start with the very nature of what prayer is, praise. Some of the best prayers written in the Bible are prayers of praise spoken by David in the Psalms. Start telling God everything you are thankful for. Praising God first sets our hearts and minds on our Creator and His greatness and puts us in His presence. Praise purifies and softens our hearts, so we can hear what God is saying. (James 4:6-10)

REPENT
Next comes the hard part of what prayer is—repentance. No one likes to admit their wrongs or even speak them out loud. Confessing our sins to God opens a door for His forgiveness, so we don’t allow sin to reign in our lives but allow more room for God’s truth and grace. Confession allows us to humbly come before our Lord, lay our burdens at His feet, so He can do something greater than we ever could on our own. Confession invites God in to intervene on our behalf. (Matt. 3:8, Isa. 30:15).

ASK
Next, tell God all that is troubling you. He wants to hear what is in your heart. He wants every part of you, struggles and all. Ask God for help and healing, to supply for your needs, your provision, safety, wisdom, discernment, guidance, direction. God is always bigger than our struggles and can handle anything we ask of Him. (Phil. 4:19)

YIELD
Lastly, yield to God. Submitting our ways to God to His will and way allows for God’s greater plan to happen through us. Pray for God’s desires to be your desires. At the end of the day, it’s about God’s plans, not ours. (1 Peter 5:6, James 4:7)

We may not always know what to say, but know when we are silent that is what Satan desires for us. Click To Tweet

Satan tries to limit your praying because he knows your praying will limit him. ~Zig Ziglar

Next time you pray, don’t allow Satan to keep you silent. Cutting prayer out of our lives, cuts our direct communication and relationship off with God, which is exactly what Satan wants. Your prayers matter and make a difference to God. Never stop praying, He is listening.

What is one action step you can take today, to make prayer more meaningful and purposeful in your life?

What does prayer mean to you?

What do you pray when you don’t know what to say?

Prayer- Dear Lord, We praise you even when we don’t understand. We thank you for your greatness and power of what you are able to do. We know prayer can move mountains but can let the busyness of life to get in the way of doing what matters most—spending time with you. Forgive us, Lord, for allowing busyness and distractions get in the way of what you desire for us. Help us stay committed and devoted in prayer daily and integrate it into our lives. We praise you, in Jesus name. Amen.

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Praying Through the Storms

Have you ever been through a storm of life and asked yourself the question, “When is this going to end?” ‘How am I going to get through this? Or “Why am I even here?’

The storms of life we go through can feel so burdensome, out of control and chaotic.

One scene in the Bible that sticks out in my mind that describes the storms we go through is the scene where the disciples are rocking in the boat with waves crashing and the wind blowing in Matthew. The disciples are scared and looking for a way out of this storm. Then they see what they think is a ghost, who is actually Jesus.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus was walking towards His disciples on the water during the storm instead of just waiting for them on the other side of the lake (Matt. 14:25)?

Before Jesus came to the disciples in the storm, He was asking them to cross the lake in the boat, to literally be on top of the chaos. The Hebrew word for water is Mayim which literally means chaos. The disciples were fearful and wondering how everything was going to play out.

Like the disciples, we may not like being in the chaos, but can be encouraged that Jesus is always with us in the storms (Matt. 14:24-32).

We can be encouraged that Jesus prays for us in our stormsClick To Tweet

“….he came to them, walking on the sea.” Matt. 14:25 ESV

When the disciples were in the boat being tossed by the waves and wind, Jesus was right there with them. He was praying the disciples’ (Rom. 8:34) faith would not waver. Jesus didn’t send the disciples into the storm by themselves, He was experiencing the storm with them (Mark 6:48). God will never push us into a storm and say, ‘see you later, good luck.’ He is always with us.

Jesus will always come to us in our storms of lifeClick To Tweet

“He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.” Matt. 14:29

The disciples became fearful when their focus was on their circumstances—the big waves, the boat rocking, and the harsh winds. Right before Jesus tells Peter get out of the boat and come to Him, Jesus tells the disciples to “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid,” (Matt. 14:27).

We too can get focused on our circumstances, elevating our fears which limits our ability to see Jesus in the storms. Jesus was trying to teach the disciples that both fear and faith cannot reside at the same time in our hearts and will always blind us to His presence.

The very thing the disciples feared (the sea) is the very thing Jesus used to bring them through. He was showing them that even in the chaos of the storm, Jesus is always in control, we just need to trust in Him.

Jesus will see us through our stormsClick To Tweet

“And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.” Matt. 14:32

God knows we would never willingly go towards the storm ourselves. He knows what’s best for us and cares for our every need. To pick and choose the parts of life we do and don’t want, is to forfeit God’s greatest blessings. Jesus did not allow Peter or the disciples to sink or drown but showed them what God can do when we have faith.

Imagine what Peter was thinking after he got back into the boat. “I just walked on water with Jesus!” Just think what Peter would have forfeited if he allowed his fears to dictate his response and stayed in the boat. He would have never witnessed first hand what God is able to do when we trust in Him.

When we are going through a storm we can trust….

In our chaos, Jesus is in total control and is always with us.

God has divine authority over all things.

When we are in God’s will, we will always be kept safe in the storms.

We can trust God to take care of us in our storms.

Jesus is the key to eternal peace.

God promises a safe landing, not a calm passage.

We can always trust in His plans.

God will prevail.

Jesus walking towards the disciples in the storm is a physical representation of what he does for us in our everyday lives. He is right there with us we just have to look up and reach out.

In our storms, God prays for us and hears our cries. God desires every single crevice of our hearts—even the broken parts. Even when circumstances look bleak, keep praying through the storms, He will protect us and get us safely through.

Are you going through a storm of life right now?

Do you trust in what God is able to do, to step out of the boat like Peter, reach out your hand and say, “Lord, save me?” (Matt. 14:30)

Prayer- Dear Lord, we know you are the God of peace and maker of all things. Sometimes life can get so hard and burdensome. We pray that we will seek you in our storms and trust in your plans, your ways, and power. We pray we will hold onto your promises when our surrounding circumstances look defeating. We pray our faith will not waver and we will be anchored in the storms. Thank you, Lord, for praying for us and being our God who loves us. We praise you in our storms. In Jesus name. Amen.

Did you find this post to be encouraging and helpful?  Please share with others who are in need of prayer.  For more encouraging messages, Subscribe to my blog to receive a weekly message of hope right to your inbox or like my Author Facebook Page. to keep updated on posts.

Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 51). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

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Crumbs From the Table

With the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday, I am sure we are thinking, what can we do with all of our leftovers?  There is a division in our household whether or not leftovers should even be allowed.  Leftovers are a great solution for a quick meal in a busy family household.  However, there are definite rules for the leftovers in our house.  They can’t be kept in the fridge or eaten past 3 days and they can only be heated up once (so only take what you will eat).  And whatever is leftover from the leftovers usually goes into our dog’s bowl.

How do you approach leftovers in your household?

Would you be happy to have leftovers?

Leftovers make me think of the Syrian Phoenician woman in the Bible.  This woman approaches Jesus and cries out, “Lord, Son of David, have mercy on me!  My daughter is suffering terribly from demon-possession.”  Jesus did not answer a word.  So his disciples came to him and urged him, “Send her away, for she keeps crying out after us.”  He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.”  The woman came and knelt before him.  “Lord, help me!” she said.   He replied, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs.”  “Yes, Lord,” she said, “but even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.”  Then Jesus answered, “Woman, you have great faith!  Your request is granted.”  And her daughter was healed from that very hour.  Matthew 15:21-28

The Syrophoenician woman’s name is not mentioned in these verses, but her story is such a powerful one.  She recognized Jesus had the power to heal the sick and sought His help on behalf of her daughter who was possessed.  His disciples tried to encourage Jesus to send the woman on her way.  Jesus then replies He is only there to save the lost sheep of Israel, meaning bring the good news of the gospel to the Jews.  Jesus and His disciples had just entered the city of Tyre, a city of Gentiles.

Jesus’ presence in the city could not be kept secret.  He was trying to explain to the woman, a person wouldn’t give a dog their meal first without eating, then that person would be hungry.  He was explaining let the lost sheep eat first.  The woman understood what Jesus meant and replied she was willing to settle for crumbs from the table–mere crumbs would be sufficient for her.

Can you imagine this scene?  A desperate mother kneeling in the presence of Jesus, recognizing He is her Lord, asking for healing for her possessed daughter, who wasn’t going to stop until she received an answer.  Because of her faithfulness, Jesus granted her request.  He recognized she was a woman of great faith, who was willing to settle for whatever Jesus gave her.

I will be honest.  I don’t know if settling for crumbs would be good enough for me.  Sometimes in my set ways, I want the whole meal.  This woman’s faithfulnesses impresses upon me because she recognized that the crumbs were enough and all her daughter needed to be healed.

Would you be happy with mere crumbs?

Sometimes in life, I want it all.  If I could choose what I want, I’d choose to have good health for my family, a nice house, a good job, and happiness all the time.  But life doesn’t work that way does it?  We can’t have everything all the time, can we?  The power of God’s will is greater than anything we could ever desire.

 This woman’s faithfulness allowed her to see the crumbs of Jesus are greater than anything this world could ever offer her.

God's leftovers are better than any meal we could ever have.Click To Tweet

To pick and choose what parts of life we do and don’t want, we miss out on God’s greatest blessings along the way.  Keeping our eyes on Him and being content with His provision leads to the most victorious life ever in Him. His leftovers are greater than anything this world could provide.  So……..

Who wants leftovers?

 

Are you willing to accept crumbs from the table?

 

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:10Click To Tweet

Prayer:  “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread.  Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.   And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”  Matthew 6:9-13

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