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The Great Escape

In a few days, Christmas will be over.  Gifts will be given and presents will be opened. Just because Christmas will be over doesn’t mean the story of Jesus ends.

A very important prayer was answered over 2,000 years ago that changed the course of our lives forever.  During the time of the birth of Jesus, King Herod an appointed Roman ruler was king of Jerusalem.  He was a very ruthless and mean man.  He murdered his wife, his 3 sons, his mother-in-law, uncle, babies in Bethlehem and many others.  He was not a person the Jews wanted as their king.  They very much were waiting and praying for a new king, one that would save them from Herod’s rule (Matthew 2:1-2).

It all started with the Magi, the wise men who were following a star that predicted the birth of Jesus, the king of the Jews.  Even though the Magi were Gentiles, they went to seek Him in Jerusalem the Jewish capital city so they could worship Him (Matthew 2:2).  But after meeting with the chief priests and teachers they discovered baby Jesus wasn’t in Jerusalem but born in Bethlehem.
When King Herod heard the news of a possible king being born, he was angry.  He called upon the Magi to tell them “Go and make a careful search for the child.  As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him” (Matthew 2:7).  What the Magi didn’t know was Herod was an evil man and never had any intentions to worship the new king.
The Magi were overjoyed when they finally met baby Jesus and Mary.  They brought them gifts and bowed and worshipped Him (Matthew 2:10-11).  In their rejoicing, Satan was at work behind the scenes, using Herod as his vessel, creating a plan to have baby Jesus killed.
I love how God intervenes to protect His will and plan. 
How was baby Jesus able to escape the evil plan of the Satan?

3 Ways God Intervened:

  1. God warned the Maggi about Herod’s evil plan in a dream.  The Magi decided not to return to Herod but back to their country by another route (Matthew 2:12).  Herod learned he had been outwitted by the Magi, that he gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under (Matthew 2:16).
  2. God sent an angel to appear to Joseph in a dream.  The angel said, “Get up, take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him” (Matthew 2:13).  So Joseph and Mary left with baby Jesus to Egypt until the death of Herod.
  3. After Herod died God sent another angel in a dream to Joseph telling him it was safe to head back to Israel (Matthew 2:19).

God was always one step ahead of Satan.  He knew Satan was using Herod for his evil plan, in an attempt to stop one of God’s greatest plans ever—God is bigger.

God heard and answered the prayers of those praying for a new king and saved (Mary, Joseph and Jesus) from the evil hand of Herod. God provided a way to escape from the plans of the evil one.  His merciful hands had it under control the entire time.
Satan will always be at work trying to prevent God’s plans from happening.  Whatever our circumstances are please know, if God is able to provide Mary, Joseph and Jesus an escape from Satan’s evil plans then God is able to do the same for us.  You are loved!
The only temptations that you have are the temptations that all people have. But you can trust God. He will not let you be tempted more than you can stand. But when you are tempted, God will also give you a way to escape that temptation. Then you will be able to stand it.  (1 Corinthians 10:13 ICB).
God’s timing and plan are perfect in every way.  If God can answer a prayer from 2,000 years ago, He can answer yours as well.
Your Prayers Matter.  Don’t forget to include PRAYER in Your Christmas Story.   You never know what one prayer can do, it might just change your life or someone else’s.
Do you include Prayer in your Christmas Story?
What have you prayed for this Christmas?
Here is a Christmas Prayer for you.  

A Christmas Prayer-

Dear God-  Thank you for your amazing gift of Jesus this Christmas.  Thank you for hearing our prayers and sending us Savior, a Messiah one that will redeem our world.  You are so merciful and gracious.  Thank you for sparing us and delivering us from the hands of the evil one.  May your light shine through us this Christmas to others.  May they see your bright light and know you have sent them a Savior.  May everyone know and witness your love.  May everyone receive the greatest gift of all this Christmas, eternal life through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen
Enjoy your families and know you are loved!
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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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The Truth About Picky People

The other day my son was hungry and wanted a snack.  We had just been the store and bought bulk size snacks for kids’ lunches for times like these.  I started to give my son options for what snacks he could eat.  As I ran through the list of 4 or 5 options, he said “no” and had a reason for why he didn’t want every single one of them, but yet he was hungry.  As a parent, these moments sometimes are frustrating, because when I was a grew up there weren’t 4 to 5 options of snacks to eat.

As a kid….. You get what you get and didn’t throw a fit.  

When did kids receive the right to be so picky?

These snacks were perfectly fine last week, but for some reason this week these snacks didn’t meet his criteria.

Was I the one to blame for his picky palate by providing him with multiple options?

By allowing him to have all of these options was I setting him up for discontentment?

These moments make me question my actions as a parent.  Was I setting the foundation for him to be picky in other areas of his life as well?

This picky culture isn’t so far off from how the Sadducees used to live in the Bible.  The Sadducees were a Jewish party that represented the wealthy and sophisticated.  In Jesus’ time even though this group was small in number they had a strong political and religious influence in Jerusalem.  The Sadducees were the ultimate picky culture.  They picked and chose which truths they wanted to believe and not believe.

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?”  Matthew 3:7

In this passage, John the Baptist was preparing the way for Jesus.  John the Baptist was calling the Pharisees and Sadducees a “brood of vipers,” because they wanted to hear and see the message of baptism he was teaching, but thought the message didn’t pertain to them.  John was preaching about repentance, a deliberate turning away from sins in order to be forgiven and receive the righteousness of God.  He was teaching everyone needed to repent and be baptized in order to be made new in God and that God always forgave those who repented.

John knew the Sadducees only believed in half-truths.  They only accepted five books of Moses and rejected all other oral traditions (Mark 12:18 footnote).  They didn’t believe in the resurrection or a personal Messiah but held onto to the promise of the Messianic Age a future era where there would be peace, harmony a life without strife or hardship (Acts 4:1, Matt. 3:7 footnote).  They wanted to believe in the promise of life with harmony but didn’t want to walk away from a life of sin.  John actually refused to baptize the Pharisees and Sadducees because he knew they failed to repent (remove sin from their lives).  The Pharisees and Sadducees had one thing in common, they believed their salvation and deliverance was already given to them because of their birthright into the Jewish heritage.

When John asked them “Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” he was asking them ‘who told you the Messiah is coming to bring repentance or judgment?’  Did they only want to hear the message when their lives were at stake?

How true is this for our lives as well.

“….I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full. ”  John 10:10 NIV

Jesus came so we could have life and have it to the full.  But somewhere along the way we can get caught up in picking and choose the parts of Jesus we want and don’t want just like the Sadducees. I for one have been guilty.

Have we become a picky society that picks and chooses what we believe?

Do we want the promise of heaven and the crown but not the suffering of the cross? Do we want the promise of the resurrection of our circumstances in our lives but not the sacrifice of Jesus?  Do we believe in the Bible, but only the red letter parts?  Do we want a Savior and God’s grace to be extended in our mistakes but not for him to be Lord over our lives?

Have we become like the Sadducees?

Do we believe in the sanctity of marriage except when times get difficult?  Do we believe in the power of prayer only if God answers our prayers our way in our timing?  Do we believe in preserving our children’s innocence except in times of worldly persecution?  Do we believe attending church is enough to maintain a relationship with God?  Or that God is only loving when things are going well in our lives?

Choosing half-truths for our lives somehow along the way has been substituted for God's truth in our lives. Click To Tweet

By allowing these half-truths in our lives, are we setting the foundation to pick and choose which parts of Jesus we want to accept and not accept?

Living on the slippery slope of choosing what parts of Jesus I want and don’t want is dangerous.  When I am being picky, I am missing out on the greatest blessings Jesus has to offer.  Jesus is meant to live in our lives wholeheartedly, not halfway.  What if there was only the death of Jesus without the resurrection, how meaningless would that be?  Sadly I think this is how many of us live today.  We believe Jesus is our Savior but not that he is able to resurrect our circumstances by being Lord in our lives.  In God all things are possible.

Jesus is the piece that makes us all whole, He completes us.Click To Tweet

He is the source, maker, provider for all our needs. The more we understand who Jesus is and His role in our lives, the more we can understand God’s love for us—the better we can understand our identity in Him and be filled with His fullness. In God, we lack nothing.  Jesus came so we can have life and have it to the full.  The fullness of everything God has to offer is ours already; we just have to open, receive, and allow room for it in our lives.

Can you relate to the Sadducees?  

What half-truths have you substituted for God’s truth in your life?

God’s love and grace are transformational.  We become victorious when His word is alive and active in our lives!

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The Demon Who Needed Prayer

Inner Demons.  We all have them.  They’re around every corner, behind every temptation.  We wrestle with them.  We stuff them down so we don’t have to deal with them.  We avoid them.  We lie to ourselves and pretend they don’t exist.  But they are there.  Always lurking around, waiting to take hold of us, to control our lives.  If we’re not careful these inner demons can lead us to places we don’t want to be and take us captive to the point of destruction.

One boy in the Bible, reminds me of what can happen when inner demons take control of our lives.  We don’t know his name, but we all can relate to his story.

In Mark 9, we see the desperate plea of a Father who is frantic to find help for his son.  He approaches Jesus and says, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech.  Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground.  He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid.  I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not” (Mark 9:17-18).

Jesus then says to the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?” (Mark 9:21).  The Father answers, “From childhood.”  We have no idea how old his son is or how long he’s been possessed.  But the father paints the picture of torment the boy has endured, telling Jesus the impure spirit often throws the boy into fire and water trying to kill him.  He begs Jesus, ‘if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us’ (Mark9:21-22).

“If you can?” said Jesus.  

'Everything is possible for one who believes' (Mark 9:23). Click To Tweet

How patient God is with us.  Jesus had performed many miracles upto this point.  What was it going to take for people to believe?

Immediately the boy's father exclaimed, 'I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!' (Mark 9:24).Click To Tweet

Jesus then rebuked the impure spirit and said, “You deaf and mute spirit, I command you, come out of him and never enter him again.  The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out.  Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up  (Mark 9:25-27).”

How many times have we been there, doubting God that He is able?  Everything is possible for one who believes.  When we believe, the unbelievable happens.  Everyone was amazed and shocked at this scene.  The disciples who had previously tried to cast out the demon questioned, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?” (Mark 9:28).

Jesus replied, 'This kind can come out only by prayer' (Mark 9:29). Click To Tweet

Wait, you’re telling me the disciples forgot to pray!?!?!  We too can be guilty of trying to handle our demons in our own way by ourselves, forgetting to allow God to handle it.

This story shows me how powerful prayer really is.  Prayer is the language the deaf can hear and the mute can speak.  Back in biblical times, it was believed only the Messiah Himself could cast out mute and deaf demons.  But Jesus tells us, prayer is what the demon understood and what drove it out.

Maybe you’re wrestling with deep, dark hidden demons right now.

Maybe you struggle with finding your worth and value in status, money, external beauty and things of this world. Maybe you’re trying to fill a void by seeking attention in not so good places.  Maybe your demons are shame, doubt, guilt, keeping you in an ugly cycle of brokenness not allowing you to move forward.

We can all relate to effects the demon had on the little boy’s life.  The demon took away his ability to speak, it seized him, paralyzing him from living life.  The demon placed him in harm’s way almost destroying his life to the point of death.   

Whatever your demon is--it needs prayer to drive it out so it will never enter again.Click To Tweet

There is freedom when we release our demons to God.  I promise when we give our demons to God in prayer He will take us by the hand, lift us up, so we can stand just like he did for the boy.

Do you believe everything is possible for the one who believes?

Do you have inner demons that hold you captive from what God desires?

Spend time with God today, ask Him, ‘what are my inner demons that hold me back from what you desire?’  Ask for prayer from a friend or a pastor.  Write out your prayer to address your inner demon, give it to God so you can live the abundant life God desires for you, free from strongholds holding you captive.

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