I trust your Easter weekend has been a wonderful experience, from Maundy Thursday to Good Friday to Easter Sunday. Hasn’t it been a mixture of emotions?
The Garden of Gethsemane
We witnessed the dread of Jesus’s coming to terms with His assignment in the Garden of Gethsemane where He shed drops of blood in fervent prayer.
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will’
Matthew 26:39, NASB
On Good Friday, we turned our heads as Judas hanged himself and Peter denied Christ three times.
We agonized with Jesus as He was unjustly accused and sentenced to die by crucifixion.
We cringed in horror as they lashed His back thirty-nine times and slapped the crown of thorns on His head.
We wept as He carried His cross, assisted by Simon the Cyrene, up the hill to Golgotha where they drove nails into His hands and feet.
But Jesus was saying, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing’
We sat amazed when He forgave His tormentors as well as the thief crucified next to Him.
And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!” And He said to him, ‘Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise’
We mourned with Mary, His mother, as she watched her Son suffer unto death.
But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother, and His mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son!’ Then He said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ From that hour the disciple took her into his own household
We waited on Saturday. But where was Jesus from Friday night to Sunday morning?
Descent into Sheol
After death, Jesus descended into the bowels of the earth to Sheol. Sheol is a two-sided holding tank for the dead, with the righteous on one side and the wicked on the other, separated by a chasm. We know this from the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16:19-30.
First, Jesus took away the keys of death, hell, and the grave from Satan. Then He preached the Good News to the damned, giving them the opportunity to escape from their prison of hell. Every person who has ever lived must make the choice to accept or reject Jesus as Saviour. Last, the righteous vacated Sheol to live in heaven.
I am the first and the last,and the living One; and I was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades
Good Friday seals the forgiveness of our sins and the healing of our physical bodies through Jesus’s shed blood at Calvary.
The Third Day
The miracle of Jesus’s bodily resurrection on Sunday seals our eternity with Jesus Christ in heaven. We rejoice because His tomb is empty! Our Lord is risen, just as He said.
What joy fills our souls as we rejoice in the goodness of our Saviour! To realize that He loved us that much–to come down from heaven to be the perfect sacrifice for us. We owed a debt we couldn’t pay, and He paid a debt He didn’t owe. He restored our broken relationship with God out of his abundant love for each one of us.
Christianity isn’t a dry, dead religion. It’s a living, personal relationship with the One True GodJesus Christ.
Dear Father, May we carry Easter in our hearts all year long. May we be forever humbled and grateful, showing our sincere thanks to Jesus for providing us with the precious, priceless gift of salvation. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
He is Risen! by Karen Jurgens copyright 2018 and 2022, All rights reserved
“…looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”
Hebrews 12:2 NKJV
As Christian believers, we observe the crucifixion of Christ beginning on Maundy Thursday and concluding on Good Friday. Interestingly, this year Passover will also fall on April 15th. The Passover story celebrates the Israelites’ deliverance from Egyptian bondage and their redemption through the blood of a lamb. Jesus became that Passover lamb when he died for our sins and redeemed us with His blood. Christ is truly the fulfillment of Passover as seen in the book of Revelation where He is referred to as “the Lamb of God” twenty-nine times.
The definition of shame
When Jesus died as our Passover Lamb, He bore our sins and despised the shame. What is the meaning of shame? The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines it as, “a painful emotion caused by consciousness of guilt, shortcoming, or impropriety; a condition of humiliating disgrace or disrepute; something that brings censure or reproach” (Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/shame).
We have all experienced shame at some point in our lives. The good news is that Jesus not only took our sins to the cross, He also took away our disgrace. When we humbly confess our sin and receive God’s forgiveness, He throws both sin and shame into the Sea of Forgetfulness.
Freedom from sin involves Jesus’s blood, which cleanses our spirits, while freedom from shame involves cleansing our minds and emotions. Since habits and memories dwell in a deep place in our souls, we must allow the Lord to purify them with His sinless and atoning blood. We may not be able to forget them completely, but Jesus can take away the sorrow and pain, and give us His perfect peace that defies logic.
Let’s regard shame another way. Did you know that it can also refer to physical nakedness?
Adam and Eve’s shame
And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.
Genesis 2:25 NKJV
Adam and Eve experienced shame and fear after they ate of the forbidden fruit. Their sin opened their eyes to their nakedness, and they hid from God’s presence. How did God react?
Also for Adam and his wife the Lord God made tunics of skin, and clothed them.
Genesis 3:21 NKJV
Why is this act significant? God slayed an innocent animal–most likely a lamb–marking this event as the first blood covering for forgiveness of sins. God requires a blood sacrifice for sin, which continued until Jesus, the perfect Lamb of God, shed His sinless blood once for all for the sins of mankind.
King David’s guilt
Psalm 51 reveals King David’s heart when he repented from his sin against Bathsheba and Uriah.
Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
Psalm 51:7 NKJV
David also pleaded with God to cleanse his guilty conscience so he could again sing praises to Him:
Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, The God of my salvation, And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
Psalm 51:14 NKJV
Jesus bore our shame
Let’s envision Jesus as He hung on the cross. Do you know that the familiar artwork of Christ is partly wrong? The Romans imposed a cruel penalty, crucifying a person naked. On that Passover day, Jesus wore no loin cloth. Yet, although He despised the shame of His nakedness, He endured it for our sakes and for the joy placed before Him.
For the Scripture says, ‘Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.’
Romans 10:11 NKJV
What a wonderful promise! No shame for believers! No condemnation, as Romans 8 explains:
There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.
Romans 8:1-2 NKJV
As we ponder the wondrous cross on this day of Christ’s passion, may God give us a deeper and fuller understanding of what Jesus purchased for each one of us. He has freely given us this priceless gift of salvation and taken away our guilt and shame.
Let’s pray with King David:
O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
Psalm 51:15-17 NKJV
“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.”
Revelation 16:15 NKJV
Dear Father, we humbly worship You on this day when You suffered and died for our sin and shame. Apply Your blood to our hearts, just as the Jews applied lamb’s blood to their doorposts. Deliver us from the evil one, just as You delivered the enslaved Jews from the Egyptian Pharaoh. Thank you for freeing us from sin and shame through the cross of Christ. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Despising the Shame by Karen Jurgens Copyright 2022 All rights reserved
During the month of March we celebrated Purim, the day the Jews were legally allowed to defend themselves against annihilation. Most people are familiar with the story of Queen Esther and King Ahasuerus, but Mordecai shines as one anointed and appointed by God—a reflection of Christ.
A protector of an orphaned girl
Mordecai was bringing up Hadassah, that is Esther, his uncle’s daughter, for she had no father or mother. Now the young lady was beautiful of form and face, and when her father and her mother died, Mordecai took her as his own daughter.
Esther 2:7 NASB
How blessed was orphaned Hadassah when her cousin took her to raise as his own child. When King Ahasuerus invited the virgins of the land to audition for queen, Mordecai supported Esther’s participation. He had wisely cautioned her to keep her Jewish race a secret. After the king chose Esther to be his bride, Mordecai stayed close, monitoring daily for news of her at the king’s gate.
A protector of the king
In those days, while Mordecai was sitting at the king’s gate, Bigthan and Teresh, two of the king’s officials from those who guarded the door, became angry and sought to lay hands on King Ahasuerus.
Esther 2:21 NASB
God placed Mordecai in a key position at the exact time to overhear a plot against the king’s life. Mordecai immediately reported what he had heard to Queen Esther, who informed the king in Mordecai’s name. The two officials were immediately hanged, and the scribes recorded it in the king’s Book of the Chronicles.
An honored man
The king said, “What honor or dignity has been bestowed on Mordecai for this?” Then the king’s servants who attended him said, “Nothing has been done for him.”
Esther 6:3 NASB
After the king understood from reading his Book of the Chronicles that Mordecai had saved his life, the king asked Haman what should be done for the man the king wished to honor. Haman pridefully believed the king wanted to honor him, so he thought up an ostentatious list. When the king ordered Haman to do just as he said for Mordecai the Jew, Haman was mortified.
So Haman took the robe and the horse, and arrayed Mordecai, and led him on horseback through the city square, and proclaimed before him, “Thus it shall be done to the man whom the king desires to honor.”
Esther 6:11 NASB
A protector of his people
Dispatches were sent by couriers to all the king’s provinces with the order to destroy, kill and annihilate all the Jews—young and old, women and children—on a single day, the thirteenth day of the twelfth month, the month of Adar, and to plunder their goods.
Esther 3:13 NKJV
Not only did Mordecai save the king’s life, but he also saved the Jewish nation from annihilation. After Mordecai refused to bow before Haman, whom the king had promoted above all other nobles, Haman became furious. When he discovered that Mordecai was a Jew, Haman talked the king into killing all the Jews in the kingdom through a decree sealed with the king’s signet ring. In fact, evil Haman constructed a gallows on his land on which to personally hang Mordecai.
The news of the approaching genocide spread far and wide. Mordecai fasted in sackcloth and ashes along with every Jew in the kingdom. He appealed to Queen Esther and urged her to beg for the king’s mercy. She explained that her husband hadn’t sent for her in thirty days, and appearing without being summoned could cost her her life. Then Mordecai uttered his renowned response:
“For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish. And who knows whether you have not attained royalty for such a time as this?”
Esther 4:14 NASB
A promoted man
The king took off his signet ring which he had taken away from Haman, and gave it to Mordecai. And Esther set Mordecai over the house of Haman.Then Mordecai went out from the presence of the king in royal robes of blue and white, with a large crown of gold and a garment of fine linen and purple; and the city of Susa shouted and rejoiced.
Esther 8:2, 15 NASB
During her second banquet, Queen Esther exposed her ethnicity to her husband and Haman as an enemy of the Jews. King Ahasuerus, furious, witnessed Haman falling on the queen’s couch, begging for his life. The king ordered Haman to be hanged on the gallows at once. Afterward, he granted Esther’s plea to save her people by giving Mordecai authority to write each province a letter, sealed with the king’s signet ring. This allowed the Jews to defend themselves against Haman’s edict of destruction.
The Jews killed 75,000 of their enemies, and the twelve sons of Haman were also hanged on the same gallows, which Haman had constructed for Mordecai. Mordecai became greater and greater in the kingdom because he had saved the Jewish people.
The Feast of Purim established
Then Mordecai recorded these events, and he sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, obliging them to celebrate the fourteenth day of the month Adar, and the fifteenth day of the same month, annually, because on those days the Jews rid themselves of their enemies, and it was a month which was turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and rejoicing and sending portions of food to one another and gifts to the poor.
Esther 9:20-22 NASB
Instead of genocide, the Jewish race flourished with feasting and rejoicing. They celebrated Purim from that day forward, even until today.
As a savior of his people, we can also discern our Savior in Mordecai.
How does Mordecai reflect Christ?
Just as Mordecai adopted orphaned Hadassah, we Christians are all adopted sons and daughters of God.
He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will,
Ephesians 1:5 NASB
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.
Galatians 4:4-7 NASB
Just as Mordecai saved the king and the Jewish nation, Jesus came to save the world from death, hell, and the grave.
And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
Acts 4:12 NASB
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8-9 NASB
Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
Hebrews 12:1-2 NASB
Just like Mordecai,Jesus was honored and promoted in His Father’s kingdom.
So then, when the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, He was received up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God.
Mark 16:19 NASB
Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.” And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.” And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.
Revelation 5:11-14 NASB
How do these attributes apply to our lives?
May we fight for the safety and freedom of our children in these evil days. May we protect these innocent ones from all harm and wickedness lurking in the darkness.
May we promote truth, righteousness, and peace in our world, protecting those who stand up and fight for our godly freedoms.
May we expose wicked plans to destroy our free societies and see to it that those evil ones face justice.
May we thank God and rejoice when He defeats our enemies. Let’s remember that we always have the victory through Christ!
Dear Father, let us mature in our faith so that when people look on us, they see Jesus. May we reflect Your attributes and proclaim Your salvation to a lost and dying world. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Mordecai, a Reflection of Christ by Karen Jurgens, copyright 2022 All rights reserved
“There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—”
Ecclesiastes 3:1 NASB
Timing is of the utmost importance in our lives. Solomon, the son of King David, outlines examples in Ecclesiastes using parallelism and juxtaposing two contrasting ideas in each line.
What does that look like? Let’s examine verses 2-8:
A time to give birth and a time to die;
A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.
A time to kill and a time to heal;
A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to weep and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn and a time to dance.
A time to throw stones and a time to gather stones;
A time to embrace and a time to shun embracing.
A time to search and a time to give up as lost;
A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear apart and a time to sew together;
A time to be silent and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate;
A time for war and a time for peace.
Solomon’s beautiful poetry captures the very essence of life. No matter the year, month, or day, one of more of these lines will apply to each time.
What are we to learn from Solomon’s wisdom? The beauty of these truths is encouraging as we sojourn through life. We may have times of pain, but there are also times of joy. Times of destruction but times of rebuilding. Times of despair but times of hope.
Whatever painful time you may be experiencing right now, be encouraged. Its anthesis — its opposite– will also come. Remember how Habakkuk cried out to God for justice from the Chaldeans who were destroying Judah?
Then the Lord answered me and said, ‘Record the vision And inscribe it on tablets, That the one who reads it may run. For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.‘
Habakkuk 2:2-8 NASB
Take heart in the knowledge that God is in control of everything. His justice and truth will ultimately conquer the evil in our world. But the key is God’s timing, a crucial point which generally escapes our understanding.
Let’s learn from Solomon’s wisdom. Life may be full of vanities, but our toil in the Lord is never in vain.
I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one’s lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor—it is the gift of God.
Ecclesiastes 3:12-13 NASB
Which of these lines in Ecclesiastes relates to your life today?
The Byrds recorded the lyrics to the song, Turn, Turn, Turn in 1965. It’s a beautiful song that records the words in verses 2-8. Do you remember it?
A Time for Everything by Karen Jurgens copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved.
This post was originally published in February, 2021, and was updated in February, 2022.
Who is the author of love? On Valentine’s Day, the world may claim it’s Cupid. But as Christians, we know who is the real author is—Jesus Christ.
What are the characteristics of love?
4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6 does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 8 Love never fails.
1 Corinthians 13:4-8 NASB
On Valentine’s Day, most of us have someone special on our minds. The day lends a unique opportunity to express our appreciation in a way that demonstrates devotion to our loved ones.
What about exchanging valentines with Jesus?
God gave us His valentine when He sent Jesus into the world.
16 For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.
John 3:16-17 NASB
Jesus signed his valentine in red from the Cross.
8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8 NASB
How much does He love us?
15 Can a woman forget her nursing child And have no compassion on the son of her womb? Even these may forget, but I will not forget you. 16 Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands.
Isaiah 49:15-16 NASB
Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.
Matthew 10:29-31 NKJV
Let’s rejoice in His love!
9In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
1 John 4:9 NKJV
I will extol You, my God, O King; And I will bless Your name forever and ever. 2 Every day I will bless You, And I will praise Your name forever and ever. 3 Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised;
Psalm 145:1-3a NKJV
How will you celebrate your love for Jesus during this Valentine’s month?
The Author of Love by Karen Jurgens copyright 2021 All rights reserved
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
1 Peter 2:9 NIV
We all desire to be chosen.
Remember elementary school days when the gym class played team sports? The P.E. teacher would appoint two kids to pick sides. The rest of us would wave our hands frantically, calling out, “Choose me! Choose me!”
Or in our early teen years, girls and boys would stand on opposite sides of the dance floor. We girls would wait, some impatient and others nervous, while the boys chose whom they would ask to dance. Every girl’s heart cried out, “Choose me!”
When a young woman reached the age of marriage, she hoped the right man would choose her to be his wife. Wearing a wedding band symbolized that she had been chosen from all others to love and be loved by her husband.
Jesus has a love letter written in red for each of us. He assures us:
You are chosen.
The Bible has many examples of everyday people being chosen for great things in God’s Kingdom.
Mary, Mother of Jesus
Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.‘
Luke 1:30-33 NKJV
Elizabeth, Mother ofJohn the Baptist
But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years.
Luke 1:7 NKJV
But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, “to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,” and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.‘
Luke 1:13, 17 NKJV
Sarah, Mother of Isaac
Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, ‘Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?’ And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!’ Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him.’
Genesis 17:17-19 NIV
Hannah, Mother of Samuel
And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed to the Lord and wept in anguish. Then she made a vow and said, ‘O Lord of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a male child, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life, and no razor shall come upon his head.‘
1 Samuel 1:10-11 NKJV
Then they rose early in the morning and worshiped before the Lord, and returned and came to their house at Ramah. And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her. So it came to pass in the process of time that Hannah conceived and bore a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, ‘Because I have asked for him from the Lord.’
1 Samuel 1:19-20
The king loved Esther more than all the other women, and she obtained grace and favor in his sight more than all the virgins; so he set the royal crown upon her head and made her queen instead of Vashti.
Esther 2:17 NKJV
‘For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet who knows whether you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this?‘
Esther 4:14 NKJV
The Apostle Paul
But the Lord said to him, ‘Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.‘
Acts 9:15 NKJV
The Twelve Apostles
Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles: Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.
Luke 6:12-16 NKJV
God has chosen you, too, for a great purpose.
Don’t ever feel left out of life. You are a chosen vessel of the Lord. Let His Holy Spirit be born in you. Carry the heart of heaven, full of hope, out of which faith grows.
‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you,’ says the Lord, ‘thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.‘
Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV
God has a wonderful plan for every person who belongs to Him. The Lord has chosen all of us to praise and worship Him. He alone receives the glory from mankind, who is the crown of His creation.
God has chosen each of us. But, have you chosen God? God has made a way of salvation through the blood, death, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ. Accepting Jesus as Savior is the key to living a chosen life full of blessings and hope.
Will you choose Jesus today?
Dear Father, I choose to receive Jesus into my life. I repent of my sins and ask you to wash them away in Your precious blood. I ask Jesus to be my Lord and Savior and write my name in the Book of Life. Thank you for your mercy and grace, and thank you for Your promise of eternal salvation. I will love and serve You all the days of my life. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
You are Chosen by Karen Jurgens, copyright 2021. All rights reserved. Be Born in Me by Francesca Battistelli.
“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; ”
(Luke 21:25a NKJV)
Did you hear that the Christmas star reappeared last year on December 21st? Saturn and Jupiter once again came together in the night sky to form what is also known as the Bethlehem Star. This sign in the heavens hasn’t been witnessed exactly like this since the 13th century. (Read more HERE.)
But what about the star’s appearance in the first century?
“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.’”
Matthew 2:1-2 NKJV
The birth of Christ occurred during an era of political unrest and upheaval, much like our day.
“When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.”
Matthew 2:3-4 NKJV
The chief priests and scribes knew the prophecy well. They told the magi,
“In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet: ‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, Are not the least among the rulers of Judah; For out of you shall come a Ruler Who will shepherd My people Israel’” (Matthew 2:5-6 NKJV).
Herod’s heart was black with envy and murder. He pinned down the magi about the exact time the star had first appeared. Then he instructed them to report back to him regarding the Child’s whereabouts, pretending that he also wished to worship Him.
This star led the three magi on until it rested above the place sheltering the holy family.
“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
Matthew 2:10-11 NKJV
God supplied the material and spiritual needs for His Son’s thirty-three years on earth. The gold represented His kingship; frankincense was for His high priesthood; and myrrh was for His suffering and burial.
“Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.”
Matthew 2:12 NKJV
This Christmas season is another unlike any the world has experienced. The political upheaval and worldwide plague we are still suffering has led us down a dark path. But on December 21st, great hope appeared in the night’s sky. We witnessed the same star that will lead us, like the magi, to our Lord and Saviour. May we fall on our knees and worship the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, as we enter into His holy presence. May we give Him our gifts–our whole hearts–and rejoice in the true meaning of this Christmas season.
Let’s commemorate this amazing event together with one of my favorite carols, We Three Kings. Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr., wrote the lyrics and music in 1857. It was published in Carols, Hymns, and Songs in 1863. Below are the lyrics along with a YouTube video from King’s College, Cambridge.
We Three Kings (lyrics)
We three kings of Orient are Bearing gifts we traverse afar Field and fountain, moor and mountain Following yonder star
O Star of wonder, star of night Star with royal beauty bright Westward leading, still proceeding Guide us to thy Perfect Light
Born a King on Bethlehem’s plain Gold I bring to crown Him again King forever, ceasing never Over us all to reign
O Star of wonder, star of night Star with royal beauty bright Westward leading, still proceeding Guide us to Thy perfect light
Frankincense to offer have I Incense owns a Deity nigh Prayer and praising, all men raising Worship Him, God most high
O Star of wonder, star of night Star with royal beauty bright Westward leading, still proceeding Guide us to Thy perfect light
Myrrh is mine, its bitter perfume Breathes of life of gathering gloom Sorrowing, sighing, bleeding, dying Sealed in the stone-cold tomb
O Star of wonder, star of night Star with royal beauty bright Westward leading, still proceeding Guide us to Thy perfect light
Glorious now behold Him arise King and God and Sacrifice Alleluia, Alleluia Earth to heav’n replies
O Star of wonder, star of night Star with royal beauty bright Westward leading, still proceeding Guide us to Thy perfect light
Let’s follow the Christmas star, which points the way to peace, hope, and salvation. Wishing you a blessed Christmas season!
The Christmas Star copyright 2020 by Karen Jurgens
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.
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 their marriage 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 His people 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 His name. And His mercy is on those who fear Him From generation to generation. He has shown strength with His arm; He has scattered the proud in 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.
Elizabeth 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 was now 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.”
Dear Father in heaven, may we give birth this season to the heart of heaven that has been growing and swelling in our spirits. May this next year be full of God’s glory, and may the Lord’s light shine upon us with favor and blessing.In Jesus’s Name, Amen.
Road to Bethlehem by Karen Jurgens copyright 2018 All rights reserved
Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart, All you who hope in the Lord.
Psalm 31:24 NKJV
Christmas Day may only last 24 hours, but its message of hope to the world rings strong and true 365 days a year. Let’s enjoy a post that brings HOPE to the forefront during this Christmas season.
Do you think Mary dreamed God-given dreams? Perhaps even becoming the Mother of God? From their study of the Scriptures, every girl knew of the promise that Messiah would one day be born of a virgin. So, can you imagine her shock when Gabriel appeared, unfolding God’s purpose for her life? Chosen above every other woman, Mary listened as the angel told her she would carry the Promised One, Messiah, in her womb. She even discussed with this heavenly messenger the biological technicality of how this pregnancy were possible, seeing as how she was a virgin. All she had to do was trust God, and the Holy Spirit would deposit this immaculate conception inside her—a marvelous mystery of Scripture fulfilled.
Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel ~ Isaiah 7:14 NASB.
Like Mary’s physical womb, God fills up our spiritual wombs with godly hope and dreams. We must guard them carefully to avoid spiritual abortion. Our enemy, described as a roaring lion, is secretly lurking to devour us and steal our deepest desires.
But sometimes God may give us a dream and then call us to move. And it may seem to make absolutely no sense.
God moved Mary in the last days of her pregnancy due to a census registration in the land. Instead of staying home in her warm bed surrounded by family and friends, Joseph placed her on the back of a donkey and led her to Bethlehem.
Why did God do that to her at a time so close to her delivery date?
When they arrived, Mary was in hard labor. Although imperative that Joseph find a place for her immediately, even that was tenuous. No room at the inn for a mother-to-be, but a smelly stable full of animals and straw was available. I imagine that Mary was grateful for any place she could lie down and give birth to Jesus, even if it meant being surrounded by a chorus of moos, baas, and neighs of animals witnessing this great event.
The blessing of the birth taking place in Bethlehem is also a fulfillment of Scripture.
‘But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth from Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity’ ~ Micah 5:2 NASB.
It’s easy to understand from a human perspective how a stable in Bethlehem would be God’s perfect plan. In Nazareth, Mary’s reputation was tarnished by this out-of-wedlock pregnancy. Which of those prejudiced townsfolk would have understood that this was the Savior of the World? This great event had to take place where Mary and Joseph were strangers, as well as apart from crowds registering for the census.
The angels appeared in the skies that night to the shepherds in the fields, who came running to witness the miracle told to them. Could that announcement have been possible in Nazareth? With all the gossip during those nine months, perhaps no one would have believed that Messiah, instead of an illigitimate baby, had been born.
God always brings glory to Himself, and that is what He did the night of Jesus’s birth. He glorified His name through the birth of His Son, who was born both fully God and fully man. The sinless One was born to die thirty-three years later for the sins of every person. The time to worship Him is now as we celebrate His divine entrance into the world.
No matter what trials you face in this life, Jesus brings ultimate hope. Like Mary, may you conceive and carry God-given dreams, and may this Christmas season birth in you the hope of heaven.
Although Hanukkah has come and gone early in 2021, its truths are still relevant as we enter the season of Christmas.
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 November 28th, 2021, and concluding on December 6th?
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!
Copyright 2020:Finding Jesus in Hanukkah by Author Karen Jurgens: All Rights Reserved