Following His Star

After Jesus was born, wise men arrived in Judea on a mission. Having seen a special star, they followed it to Jerusalem. They went to King Herod and asked where they could find the newborn king of of Jews.

Herod and his people were deeply disturbed. He told the religious leaders to consult Scripture, and they told the foreigners to look for this new king in Bethlehem. The wise men quickly went on their way.

As soon as they left the city, the star appeared again. They were overjoyed as it guided them to the exact place in Bethlehem where they could find the child Jesus.

God obviously used this star to guide those wise men to Jesus.

But what about looking to the stars to guide us? Should we be checking daily horoscopes to help us make choices and life decisions? Our loving God has something important to say about that.

“Call out the demon hordes you have worshiped all these years. Ask them to help you … [Do you hear the mocking in God’s voice?] You have more than enough advisers, astrologers, and stargazers. Let them stand up and save you from what the future holds. But … they cannot even save themselves!” (Isaiah 47:12-14, New Living Translation).

Does it surprise you to see God group astrologers with “demon hordes”? If anyone should know the source of so-called wisdom in horoscopes, it would be God.

To save us from such deception, he invites us to the safety of seeking wisdom from him. “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is good and leads you along the paths you should follow” (Isaiah 48:17-18, New Living Translation).

Do you want to follow a star? God has a star for you to follow. “I, Jesus, … am … the bright Morning Star” (Revelation 22:16, New International Version).

God news! We don’t have to look anywhere else for the wisdom we need. We have had the right star all along–our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ.

Focus: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him” ~ James 1:5, New International Version.

How about you? Where do you go to find the wisdom you need? Does it surprise you to know God is more than willing to give you wisdom?

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Hope for the Future

Snow fell gently out of the evening sky as Jim and I walked up the steps with his family. Inside the chapel, fragrant pine garlands and lighted candles inspired a quiet reverence while we settled in the pew to await the Christmas Eve service.

I glanced at Jim, smiling shyly at my husband of two-and-a -half months. My heart filled with love for him and the child I carried beneath my heart–our first child, God’s promise of hope for our future.

No one but Jim, the doctor, and I knew. After all, our baby wasn’t due for another six-and-a-half months. But I will never forget how totally wrapped in God’s love I felt that special Christmas Eve. I couldn’t help wondering if that was how Mary felt on that first Christmas Eve as she carried Jesus beneath her heart.

Jesus–God’s promise of hope for our future. Out of his great love for us, he came willingly to earth to die on the cross in our place and pay the penalty for our sins. He came so that we might have hope for a good future.

No wonder then, that no matter what we face is this life, we can refuse to be discouraged. Instead, we can lift up our hearts and look to Jesus, the Source of our hope for a good future.

Focus: “I pray that God who gives you hope will keep you happy and full of peace as you believe in him. May you overflow with hope through the power of the Holy Spirit” ~Romans 15:13, The Living Bible.

How about you? What fills you with hope? What keeps you happy and full of peace? Have you yet found the ultimate Source of hope for a good future?

 

 

Fear not!

Talk abut fear! On the night Jesus was born, shepherds in the fields near Bethlehem trembled with fear. From what I hear, we would, too, if we saw these magnificent beings.

But to go on with the story …

A mighty angel suddenly appeared–bright against the night sky–to deliver the joyful news that the promised Savior had been born nearby. But first he had to assure the quaking shepherds. “Fear not!” (Luke 2:10, New King James Version). Soon the shepherds were on their way to find this newborn baby, wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. Just as the angel from the Lord had told them.

Fear not! During his lifetime on earth, Jesus repeated those words again and again. And they are as much for us today as they were for people long ago.

Yet, I’ll never forget waking in the wee hours one night. A suffocating cloud of fear descended on me. After a few moments of panic, I remembered Jesus’ words to fear not. “Lord,” I said, “I give this fear to you.” Then I quoted aloud every Scripture verse I could recall to deal with that fear.

“For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (1 Timothy 1:7). “Perfect love [that’s God!] casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). On and on I went until the fear dissolved, and I drifted back into a restful sleep.

Here’s the truth. We are not at the mercy f fear–whether it is fear of the unknown or the challenges that life throws at us. We have a God who is bigger than all our fear. We have a God whose tender compassion compel him to come along side us the moment we cry out to him. We have a God who has given us his Word so that  we can speak his truth and be comforted. We have a God who drives away whatever fear we place in his hands with childlike trust.

It’s his promise.

Focus: “You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you” ~ Isaiah 26:3 (New Living Translation).

How about you? What fear are you dealing with today? What might happen if you trust your faithful God to deliver you from it?

The Christmas Crisis

The young couple was poor, and their little backwoods town scorned. Yet they have been remembered and their story told for centuries. Through such as they, God can work his mighty plans.

So, the angel Gabriel went to Nazareth to tell a virgin that God had chosen her to bear the long-awaited Messiah into the world. He would be called Emmanual–which means “God with us”! For the child to be born was truly God, the second Person of the Trinity. He would pay the price to free us from sin and restore us to a right relationship with God.

When Mary told the angel, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing to do whatever he wants” (Luke 1:38, TLB), the courageous thirteen-year-old faced great danger. Her fiance would know the child was not his, and unless Joseph provided his protection, the townspeople would stone her to death as required by the law.

Yet Mary said “yes” to God.

It was no surprise when Joseph considered breaking their engagement. But God intervened. In a dream, an angel told Joseph not to hesitate, but to take Mary as his wife, “for the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit … you shall name him Jesus (meaning ‘Savior’), for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20, TLB). Joseph knew the price he would pay. He would lose his good name. The townspeople would believe that he slept with Mary before their marriage, something strictly forbidden. His livelihood as a carpenter would fail if people took their business elsewhere.

Yet Joseph said “yes” to God.

Sometimes, God asks us to bear great burdens. Why must our loved one die? Why will no one hire us? What purpose does deformity and lengthy illness serve? How can our difficult situations can lead to anything but more trouble? Like carrying a baby to term, instead of ending the unwanted pregnancy. Won’t that complicate–maybe even endanger–the mother’s life? Or forgiving those who repeatedly hurt us. Won’t that just encourage them to continue?

Life is full of challenges. Some we bring on ourselves through our own choices. Some come to us through choices others make, or the unrelenting forces of nature. At times like those, we can sink into fear or choose to reap the joyful rewards of trusting God and the wisdom of his ways.

Focus:“Stop being afraid of what you are about to suffer … remain faithful even when facing death and I will give you the crown of life–an unending, glorious future” ~ Revelation 2:10 (TLB).

What about you? When, most recently, have you trusted in God while facing great difficulty and been glad you did?

Christmas Lights in the Darkness

With winter drawing near, days grow shorter and driving home means picking my way down our long, dark country road in the snow. Familiar houses become shadows. Trees and bushes blur into misshapen patches of black.

Until something magical takes place …

Our neighborhood gets busy decorating. Christmas lights appear on bushes and trees, around windows and within wreaths on doors. More lights festoon the eaves of our houses. Some neighbors include outdoor creches where baby Jesus is looked on adoringly by Mary and Joseph.

What a difference a wonderland of lights makes as I turn onto our road after dark! Lighting the darkness, it cheers my heart and points the way home.

Unfortunately, as with the recent attacks in Paris, our world grows darker, and we wish we knew a light to point the way to safety. The good news is that God sent that Light into the world more than two thousand years ago. We’re told that his “light shines through the darkness (John 1:5, NLT), and his name is Jesus. Whatever the darkness troubling our hearts, he is the Light we desperately need.

This Christmas season, we can dispel darkness by inviting him into our lives and letting him show us his good way. “Come into my heart, Lord Jesus. Come in to stay. Reveal your ways to me, forgive me of my wrong-doing, and light the way to your Father’s house in heaven as I travel the days of my life here on earth. Thank you. Amen.

Having done this, hope crests in our hearts, and we find joy in the prophet Isaiah’s encouraging words.

Focus: “Rise, shine for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you!” ~ Isaiah 60:1 (NKJV).

How about you? Have you invited Jesus into your life? Do you know the joy of his eternal Light dispelling your darkness? How did it happen for you?