Monday, December 31, 2012

Thoughts for the New Year

Is it just me or has 2012 flown by?  It seems to have come and gone in a whirlwind, and left many of us wondering at what all has happened over the past year.  Did we accomplish our goals that we set out to do?  Did we make a difference somehow in this world that we live?  Many times a lot of us make new resolutions for what we want to accomplish in the upcoming year.  Things that we hope will last more than a week, when in reality they don't.  Still, we have this hope for future things.  And as Christians, we sometimes find ourselves asking what can we do this year?  And, can we stick to it?  It all seems to focus around change.  Yet, there is always a fear of the unknown when change comes around.

Jeremiah 29:11-13
"For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart."

This verse really rings true to any believer.  In whatever we plan to be different for this year, God already knows about it.  And as long as we are seeking His will in our lives as the driving force for the changes that we want to make, we have no reason to fear.  All of us were born with a purpose.  A purpose designed by God before the creation of the world.  He knows our beginning, our end, and everything in between.  And the plans are for our own good.  Contrary to what you may hear from some people, everything that happens in our lives is for our good.  God does not delight in bad things happening to us.  He has a future for us, and that should give us hope for what is to come.  And when we pray, He listens.  When we seek Him with all of our heart, we will find Him. 

So now that we have no reason to fear this new beginning, what now?  I have three things that I believe will help us as we look forward to 2013.

1.  Forget the Past  
Philippians 3:13-14
"Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."

Whatever has happened last year, be it good or bad, it is in the past.  We cannot go back and change what has happened in our lives.  Many people spend a lot of time dwelling on this.  A famous quote I hear a lot "If I knew then, what I know now" comes to mind.  That is a chapter in our lives that has come to a close.  We must leave it in the past and reach forward to the future and what God has prepared for us in it.  There are new challenges, new opportunities for service, and new blessings on the horizon.  In the end, there is a robe and a crown of life waiting on us.  That is what we are working toward.  We must live each day with the end in site.  Thinking of heaven makes every little thing that happens here seem not worth worrying about.

2.  Wait on the Lord

Isaiah 40:31
"Yet those who wait for the Lord Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary." 

We must understand that things will happen in God's timing and not our own.  His plan has been laid out in our lives, and nothing is going to change that.  We must take comfort in that, and let God lead.  Many times we tend to take matters into our own hands.  Because lets face it, none of us are very patient people in this day and time.  I know that I am not.  And when we do, we tend to make a mess of things.  But God has a time and place set aside for everything.  And His timing is perfect.

Ecclesiastes 3:11
"He has made everything appropriate in its time. He has also set eternity in their heart, yet so that man will not find out the work which God has done from the beginning even to the end." 

3.  Treat Each New Day as a Special Gift

Lamentations 3:22-24 
"The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, For His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; Great is Your faithfulness.  “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I have hope in Him.” 

Each new day is just that, a new day.  And each new day is a gift from God.  His love, compassion, forgiveness, mercy, grace extend to us brand new each day.  He is always there for us.  So, we likewise, need to be there for Him each and every day.  How can we do this?  We need to talk to Him, seek Him, and search for ways to serve Him.  We should be in a constant state of prayer.  Yes, He already knows what is on our hearts.  But, it is still important for us to pray.  Because our faith is based on a relationship.  And you cannot have a good relationship when one party is not communicating.  We seek His will in our lives by reading and studying our bibles.  The scripture is a written account of how He wants us to live.  If we try to model our lives based on these scriptures, we find ourselves drawing closer to His will in our lives.  Lastly, we need to serve.  Our main commandment is to witness to the lost.  This is not only done by the conversations that we have with others, but in the way that we live.  Our actions show who we truly are.  They are our biggest witness to this world.  We need to share the good news of His birth, and His death for all of our sins.

Perhaps you may be reading this today, and have never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior.  If not, all of the hope that is mentioned above is not in your life.  For without Christ we have no hope.  I urge you to seek Him.  He can take anything that you are going through right now, and turn it around.  He can take your life and give you hope.

2 Corinthians 5:17
"Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come."  

He is the only one that can do this for you.  If you are seeking, I encourage you to click the tab at the top of this page for the Plan of Salvation.  Read through this, as it explains the need that we have for Christ.

I hope that you have enjoyed reading this devotion, and I hope that it helps with the hope of this new year.  I pray God will bless you all in 2013! 

Friday, December 14, 2012

We Three Kings?

I just love Christmas carols.  It is one of my favorite things to do this time of year.  I look forward to signing them at church, hearing them on the radio, and going Christmas caroling.  They really seem to lock in on the true meaning of this time of year.  We set aside time now to celebrate the coming of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.  Now was Christ really born on December 25th?  Probably not.  For more on that, you can read my post entitled Traditions for my beliefs and scripture about that.  However, there is one Christmas carol that I never did understand.  And that carol is "We Three Kings".  We're there really three Kings?  What does the bible say?  That is what I would like to talk about in this post.

Matthew 2:1-12
"Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. Gathering together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for this is what has been written by the prophet:
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Are by no means least among the leaders of Judah;
For out of you shall come forth a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.’”
Then Herod secretly called the magi and determined from them the exact time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the Child; and when you have found Him, report to me, so that I too may come and worship Him.” After hearing the king, they went their way; and the star, which they had seen in the east, went on before them until it came and stood over the place where the Child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned by God in a dream not to return to Herod, the magi left for their own country by another way."

Now there is a lot of good information here in this text.  My first question is, how many were there?  Actually, we don't know.  It just says magi from the east.  We don't know if it was three, or three hundred.  It never really said.  All we know is that they brought three types of gifts.  Gold, which represents his Kingship, frankincense, which represents His royal Priesthood, and myrrh, which was symbolic of His death that would come on the cross for our sins.  And because of this we traditionally say that there were three of them.  But, we don't know for sure.

My next question is, were they kings?  That is not what the scripture says.  In the scripture above, it says that they were magi.  Now, historically, magi were known as wise men.  They were experts at astrology with there beginnings in Persia.  These were men, who spent their lives studying the stars and there movement to try to predict what was going to happen.  They were by no means kings.

My last question is, how did they know that the star in the sky was significant to the birth of Christ?  They were not Jews.  They were from Persia.  So how did they know?

Daniel 2:46-49
"Then King Nebuchadnezzar fell on his face and did homage to Daniel, and gave orders to present to him an offering and fragrant incense. The king answered Daniel and said, “Surely your God is a God of gods and a Lord of kings and a revealer of mysteries, since you have been able to reveal this mystery.” Then the king promoted Daniel and gave him many great gifts, and he made him ruler over the whole province of Babylon and chief prefect over all the wise men of Babylon. And Daniel made request of the king, and he appointed Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego over the administration of the province of Babylon, while Daniel was at the king’s court."

I just love how God can take a bad situation and turn it good.  Daniel was taken from his home when Judah fell to the Persians almost 600 years before the birth of Christ.  During that time, he was a part of interpreting many prophecies about the coming of Christ and the End Times.  And because of this, he was made the ruler of the "wise men".  WOW!  I am sure that he took the opportunity to share the prophecies with the wise men under his charge.  Including his 70 weeks prophecy, which talked of the coming of the King, and the Tribulation.  At the end of the 69th week, Christ would enter the gates of Jerusalem.

I know that at the time of the birth that it was getting close to the time of that entry into Jerusalem, and the magi, that at one time were under Daniel, must have been looking for a sign of the coming of the King, which was His star.

Numbers 24:17  
"I see him, but not now;
I behold him, but not near;
A star shall come forth from Jacob,
A scepter shall rise from Israel,
And shall crush through the forehead of Moab,
And tear down all the sons of Sheth."

So, were there really three kings?  No.  But, there story is still a true sign that He is our Lord.  And I will still sing the song for that reason alone.  I hope that you all enjoyed this little study.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless you all this Christmas season.  

Friday, December 7, 2012

Getting Older

WOW!  Time sure does seem to fly by.  There are so many things going on in our lives that we sometimes forget to stop and look at what is going on around us.  Two weeks ago, I hit a milestone in my life.  I graduated into a new decade in my life.  I finally turned 30.  I will be honest, it was not something that I was looking forward to at first.  But, then I realized that it was just another marker in my life.  Something that I could definitely use as sort of a window to my past and to my future.  So what I am going to do in this post is to examine the decades in which I have lived, and then, look to the future as to where God would have me go.

0-10 years

Luke 18:15-17
"And they were bringing even their babies to Him so that He would touch them, but when the disciples saw it, they began rebuking them. But Jesus called for them, saying, “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

These were the great years.  These are the days that we all as adults wish that we could go back to sometimes, because life was simply and easy compared to what we go through today.  There was no worry on bills to pay, no job to rush to, no "responsibility" whatsoever.  I had a pretty good childhood.  I did not have as much as everyone else did.  But, my parents worked hard to provide a good life for us.  There was never a time that I had to wonder whether I was loved or not.  I also did not have an understanding of the world that my parents had.  Everything seemed so simple and easy to me.  Much the same as a new believer.  The concept of faith in Christ is not truly a hard concept to understand from a child's perspective.  Many times you can tell a child that something is true and they will just blindly trust you.  We need to be the same in our walk with Christ.  We need to be at a point that we put our full faith and trust in Christ, and all that He teaches.  And we cannot try to put our own spin on our salvation.

11-20 years

Psalms 25:6-8
"Remember, O Lord, Your compassion and Your lovingkindnesses, For they have been from of old.  Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; According to Your lovingkindness remember me, For Your goodness’ sake, O Lord.  Good and upright is the Lord; Therefore He instructs sinners in the way."

These were the hard years.  This is the time in my life where I truly started to question God and His promise.  No longer was I satisfied with the "just because it says so" answer.  I lost my childhood faith as I grew.  I found that this was a time of many mistakes and repentance.  I rebelled against what I was taught, and surly gave my family some sleepless nights.  But such is true of all those that are of the world.  It wasn't until I was 14 when God truly opened my eyes to who He was.  And how bad that I needed Him.  And I gave my life to Him.  And it was at this time that I failed the most.  I was pulled by the things and temptations of the world.  Much is the same for a new believer.  There are going to be many trials in the beginning.  Temptations seem to be stronger as we begin our faith.  But, those mistakes are not necessarily a bad thing.

21-30 years

Philippians 1:6
"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus." 

This was a time of growth for me.  I had matured out of the foolishness of my thoughts and actions.  I moved to a point that I knew that I was responsible for my faith, and I knew that I had to act on it.  Did I still make mistakes?  Yes, numerous.  However, I found that my mistakes were important to me.  They showed me where my sins were.  They showed me the way in which I needed to turn.  It is much like the Old Testament Law.  It is not there to condemn us, but to show our sins to us.  I saw the sins of my youth, and I worked hard in these years to learn and increase in my faith.  My mistakes were also a way to show that God was still there.  Because no matter the sin I committed, God was right there with me.  I felt conviction from the Spirit inside of me to repent.  With all this in mind, I began to grow.  I began to study more to seek out God's will in my life.  I also looked to find where my shortcomings were, based on past experience, so that I could make the necessary changes.  This represents the time in a believer's life where they begin to need the meat of understanding.  They have moved on from the milk as described in 1 Corinthians 3 and Hebrews 5.

30+ years

Philippians 1:9-11
"And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ; having been filled with the fruit of righteousness which comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God."

And I still have a lot to learn.  I find that there are new ways that I can grow everyday.  Our journey never ends while we are here on this earth.  What does the rest of my life hold?  I have no idea.  But one thing that I am certain in is that I will never be alone.  God has brought me this far, and no matter what, He will always be there for me.  Why?  Because I have put all my faith and hope in Him, and not in anything else.  I depend on Him for everything.  I need His guidance, and His forgiveness.  And my job is to keep on serving to the best of my ability until it is time for me to go home.  As I look to the future now, it is not in fear, but in hope, and anticipation.  What is God going to show me?  What is He going to help me through?  When I look back on these years, what will I have learned?  It is rather kind of exciting now.

Never again will I look at aging as something to be afraid of.  Yet, more of an adventure that is continuing in my life.  My story is not over.  Now, I do know how the story ends, and I take comfort in that.  What is exciting now is what is going to take place between here and then.  Because nothing is more important than my relationship with my Lord.

Thanks for reading, and God Bless You all this week.