Are you excited about all the new things the Lord will do in 2019? For many, 2018 has been a difficult year, and they are anxious to leave it behind.
Several challenges have faced my own family, including my mother’s two eye surgeries and each of my daughters relocating to a new apartment unexpectedly. We have prayed and sought the Lord together like never before, and He always saw us through our trials. We are so thankful!
For such a time as this, let me share one of my favorite Scriptures:
“Do not remember the former things, Nor consider the things of old. Behold, I will do a new thing, Now it shall spring forth; Shall you not know it?” ~ Isaiah 43:18-19, NKJV
Remember to look forward, not behind. Let’s experience His blessings and rejoice together this year. What are you anticipating in 2019?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control ~ Galatians
As 2018 backs off the stage, 2019 is taking her place behind the curtain, waiting for her cue. Soon the draperies will part, and she’ll shyly curtsy in her full-length gown, glittering gold and silver. Her crown will dazzle in the footlights: 2-0-1-9. Confetti will dance in the air like feathers, and she’ll laugh as they tickle her nose. A line of dancing partners will meander endlessly, each eagerly awaiting a turn. The band will strike up, and she’ll twirl through the night, passing from one set of arms to the next. A perfect start for 2019.
The New Year is arriving. As we prepare for her grand entrance, what new expectations swirl in our minds and hearts for this New Year? Many people still engage in the tradition of making New Year’s Resolutions, dreaming of fresh goals or new accomplishments.
I’ve been doing some dreaming myself about something new in 2019. After much prayer, I’m excited to announce that I’ll be partnering with Heart“wings” – a women’s fellowship to lead their first Bible study called The “Front Porch” Bible Study Series. The Lord has been leading me to teach on the Fruit of the Spirit, so that will be the topic for this 52-week study. I’ll be posting a new edition every Monday morning beginning January 7th on my blog, Touched By Him, which will be linked to A Women’s Fellowship/Ministry Community Page.
Everyone is invited to participate, whether you’re a member of Heart”wings” or not. However, all Christian women have an open invitation to become a member of Heart”wings” by sending a friend request to Joyce Graves on Facebook. Here is the link to Joyce’s Timeline.
For this study, all you need is five minutes (or as long as you like), your Bible, and some java or a cuppa. Pull up a chair on the “Front Porch” and read with us. Chat and ask questions in the comments section on the community page or right here on the blog. Join in some prayer to bless your day. I’ll be visiting at different times throughout each day to comment, too.
I’m looking forward to digging deeply into the Word of
God and planting seeds in the good soil of our hearts. By this time next year,
we should have a bumper crop of ripe, mature fruit in our spirits! Let’s grow abundantly
in His love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,
Blessed are those who keep His
testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!
~ Psalm 119:2
See you January 7th on the “Front Porch!” Blessings for the happiest of New Years,
6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.
7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.
9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.
10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.
11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.
16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.
17 And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.
18 And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
19 But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
20 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them (Luke 2:6-20).
Wishing everyone a blessed and a very Merry Christmas! May you make room for Jesus to be born in your hearts this day. Praying that peace, love, and joy abound in your lives this Christmas season.
Have you ever had to travel a road to a new destination, not knowing what to expect? God alone held your future, and all you could do was trust Him to take care of you. Mary and Joseph must have felt the same way on their long road to Bethlehem. Let’s imagine together what that journey may have been like.
Mary sat, rocking gently side-to-side on a donkey led by her husband Joseph. As they traveled the ninety long miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, she had several days to ponder about the supernatural events of the last nine months.
Beginning with Gabriel’s angelic visitation, Mary was astounded at the announcement that God had chosen her, a virgin, to be the mother of His promised Messiah.
And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God’ ~ Luke 1:35 NKJV.
Why her? A poor, fourteen-year-old Jewish girl from a strict, religious family who was betrothed to a carpenter, also devout. But why couldn’t God have waited until after they were married to avoid the scandal of a child conceived out-of-wedlock?
Joseph had confessed to her that he had been planning to “put her away” quietly so that she wouldn’t be disgraced in their community—not to mention avoiding the penalty of death by stoning.
She shuddered and drew her cloak more tightly around her shoulders, recalling the dream Joseph had shared with her. God had reassured him that her unborn child belonged to the Holy Spirit and not to a man.
‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save Hispeople from their sins’ ~ Matthew 1:20b-21 NKJV.
She bowed her head and silently thanked God for His protection, deliverance, and especially for her husband’s obedience to God’s instruction.
Her thoughts turned to her relative, Elizabeth. More supernatural signs had appeared before her eyes that revealed she herself wasn’t the only woman who had conceived by a miracle.
Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible ~ Luke 1: 36-37 NKJV.
After Gabriel’s announcement, Mary had risen in haste to visit Elizabeth. Upon her unexpected arrival, Mary’s voice called out a greeting, and Elizabeth returned it with a prophecy.
And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord’~ Luke 1:41-45 NKJV.
What role was Elizabeth’s child going to play in this drama of the ages? As Mary witnessed the miracle of Elizabeth’s swollen belly, she marveled. It was just as Gabriel had announced.
Then Mary’s heart surged with the infilling of the Holy Spirit, and words of thankfulness and praise poured from her lips.
‘My soul magnifies the Lord, And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. For He has regarded the lowly state of His maidservant; For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed. For He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is Hisname. And His mercy is onthose who fear Him From generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proudin the imagination of their hearts.
He has put down the mighty from their thrones, And exalted the lowly. He has filled the hungry with good things, And the rich He has sent away empty. He has helped His servant Israel, In remembrance of His mercy, As He spoke to our fathers, To Abraham and to his seed forever’~ Luke 1:46-55 NKJV.
For three months Mary had stayed with Elizabeth, who recounted the puzzling story of how her husband Zacharias had been serving in the Temple six months earlier and had experienced some sort of angelic vision. He couldn’t relate what had happened because he had been struck mute and unable to speak. Right after that, Elizabeth had become pregnant and was rejoicing that the Lord had graciously taken away the shame of barrenness in her old age.
No one understood what had happened to Zacharias, but Mary reasoned that the silent man seemed to be at peace, waiting expectantly for the baby’s birth, no doubt.
After three months, Mary had returned home, and her belly continued to swell. She hadn’t meant to worry, but what could she and Joseph possibly offer in the way of parenting such a precious, Holy child? People continued to gossip and look down on her as time progressed. She dreaded fighting the rejection and ridicule this Child would likely face in their community. Raising Jesus would not prove easy.
Then the unexpected occurred. She heard the news of the census, which forced the couple to register in Bethlehem, as Joseph was of the house and lineage of David. She welcomed an escape from the gossip surrounding this Holy Child. Much better to give birth in a strange place where no one would question the parentage of God’s Son. Though difficult and seemingly unending, this trip proved far better than staying in Nazareth.
Joseph paused at the top of a hill, halting the donkey and interrupting Mary’s thoughts. He turned around to her, eyes shining, and he ran his hand through his dusty beard. He pointed. “Look up ahead! Bethlehem. Our journey will be over soon.”
Relief and thankfulness swept through Mary. God had brought them safely to their destination. She joined hands with her husband and offered a prayer of thanksgiving. The baby in her womb kicked, and she cradled her belly. As the first contraction stabbed her, she doubled over.
She searched Joseph’s face anxiously. “Please, let’s hurry. Time is short.”
The Hanukkah celebration isn’t just for Jews. If we look closely, we’ll find Jesus Christ, both the Jewish Messiah and Savior of the world, at its very core.
First, some history…
The significance of Hanukkah is embedded in a miracle. The second Temple was rebuilt in Jerusalem following the successful Maccabean revolt against the Greco-Seleucid Empire. The Jews expelled these pagans, after which the Jews purified the Temple. During this Feast of Dedication, eight menorah candles were lighted, one for each day. The flames required sacred olive oil, but there was only enough oil to last one day. In spite of the impossible circumstances, the flames miraculously burned all eight days.
Today, Jews celebrate this minor religious holiday not only to remember this miracle but also to commemorate the victory God gave to Jewish freedom fighters, the Maccabees, in 139 B.C.
Jesus celebrated Hanukkah…
The gospel of John gives us the only account of Jesus during Hanukkah, also called the Feast of Dedication. In John 10, we find Jesus walking in the Temple along Solomon’s porch.
Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly’ ~ John 10:24 NKJV.
This group of unbelievers (much like a lynching mob) didn’t want the truth—they had already decided Jesus was a blasphemer, and they only wanted His words to legally condemn Him. But Jesus responded with a clever answer.
Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one’ ~ John 10:25-30.
Then the Jews took up stones to kill Jesus, claiming their right to do so since He had made Himself equal with God, a sin in Jewish law punishable by death. But Jesus proved His deity another way.
If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me;but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him ~ John 10:37-38.
This mob refused to believe Jesus’s miraculous works, which proved His supernatural identity. Instead of waiting for them to cast their stones, Jesus slipped away and withdrew to the region of the Jordan.
But isn’t it ironic that just as the Maccabees had driven unbelievers out of the Jewish Temple, now unbelievers were driving out the Son of God from that very Temple?
Jesus’s true identity…
Jesus claimed to be the light of the world.
He [John] was not that Light but was sent to bear witness of that Light.That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world ~ John 1:8-9.
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, ‘I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness but have the light of life’ ~ John 8:12.
‘As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world’ ~ John 9:5.
What does Jesus, the light of the world, have in common with this Festival of Lights, beginning at sundown on December 2, 2018, and concluding December 10th?
The symbol of lights comes from the lighted menorah candles, which burn for eight days and nights. As Hanukkah’s candles light Jewish homes, so Jesus lights the lives of believers.
God created our spirits with a God-shaped vacuum that only He can fill. When we’re born again, the war against unbelief is won, expelled from our hearts. Then our spirit’s “temple” is purified by the blood of the Lamb shed at the cross. The Holy Spirit fills our spiritual “menorah” with His sacred oil and ignites our hearts with the flame of belief. We shine with the eternal light of Jesus living within us, as a lighted lamp for the world to see.
The lamp of the body…
‘The lamp of the body is the eye. If therefore your eye is good, your whole body will be full of light’ ~ Matthew 6:22.
‘You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven’ ~ Matthew 5:14-16.
For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light ~ Ephesians 5:8.
God provides several prototypes of the miraculous advent of Messiah in the Old Testament. Jewish believers will understand how Jesus shines through the eight candles of the Hanukkah miracle, but now it’s time that Christians also discover this truth. Judaism and Christianity fit together like a hand in a glove.
As we come into this season of Christmas, let’s remember that the light of God came into the world through the birth of His Son, Jesus. May we rejoice, as did the shepherds that Holy Night, in the salvation message the angels brought to earth, announcing that a Savior had been born in Bethlehem.
Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.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 cloths, lying in a manger.’ And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’ ~ Luke 2:8-14.
May our eternal spiritual menorahs burn brightly. May all the world see the light of Jesus, our Messiah, shine through our lives.
Wishing you all a Happy Hanukkah and a Merry Christmas!