Behold Immanuel

Behold Immanuel

This advent season I have heard a lot about two terms; Behold and Immanuel. The word “Behold” is used 1298 times in the whole Bible. It means to look intensely not just a glance but to gaze upon, regard, pay attention to something special.

 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. [8]   Isaiah 7:14

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.      Isaiah 9:6

Immanuel means God with us. It is a title (among others given) and not another name for Jesus.  Immanuel is spelled with an I in Hebrew (old testament) and an E in Greek (new testament). In Hebrew the title expresses the wonder of the incarnation, that God became flesh and made His dwelling with man. (John 1:14)

Ward Cushman, in an article on To Every Nation, gives four reasons why Jesus’ title Immanuel is important to us.

  • Immanuel means the Father showed Himself to us.
  • Immanuel means Jesus identified Himself with us
  • Immanuel means Jesus gave Himself for us.
  • Immanuel means the Father, Son and Spirit have stayed with us. 

He promises to be with us Matthew 18:20. One way that is fulfilled is by the presence of the Holy Spirit in our lives John 14:16-18. This means we can rely upon Him. Immanuel is a practical truth that can change your life.   The shepherds were given the glorious message of good news and told to go, see, examine, and investigate for themselves.

And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ (Messiah) the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”  Luke 2:10-11

Behold -have you examined this good news for yourself? Prophecy was and will be fulfilled because God keeps all of His promises.  The Messiah, our Savior was born as a baby in very humble circumstances and not in a palace so all people could draw near.  And because He was confined to time and space Jesus understands all of our problems. Remember this Christmas that God loves us so much He gave His only Son to be the ultimate sacrifice for sin.  The question remains, is there room in your busy life for him? He promises internal and eternal peace and joy despite our current difficulties. We don’t have to be afraid of the future because Immanuel has come.

***Come and behold Him, born the King of angels . Come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord. ***

The Message of the Angels

The Message of the Angels

Angels play a big part in the Christmas narrative. They appeared first to Zechariah, then Mary, Joseph and lastly a group of shepherds.  But the initial reactions to these supernatural beings was not joy but; dismay, being gripped with fear, perplexed and terribly frightened. I would have been too. Angels in Scripture are formidable and shine brilliantly they are not fluffy little child like creatures. The message for each person was individual but they all heard the comforting words: “do not be afraid, we have good news”.     

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. 10 And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”     Luke 2:8-12 (ESV)

 “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”   Luke 2:14 (NKJV)

Even though the birth of Messiah had been prophesied long before by Isaiah, Micah and other prophets it seems very few were actually looking for him like the wisemen and not everyone was happy. Zechariah was a priest and he had trouble believing the angels’ message. King Herod was afraid of competition for his illegal position on the throne. People respond the same way today to God’s message.

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. (which means God with us)    Isaiah 7:14 (ESV)       For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.      Isaiah 9:6 (ESV)

Whatever our journey has been or the circumstances we find ourselves in today, God doesn’t want us to be afraid but instead to come to Him.  “A child was given” – He came as a baby so people would approach him. Jesus grew into a man and experienced everything that we do so he really understands our feelings and problems. The good news is for everyone.

For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.17 God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.         John 3:16-17 (NLT)

The Jewish word Shalom is more than just simply peace; it is a complete peace.  It is a feeling of contentment, completeness, wholeness, well-being, and harmony. The peace Jesus offers is not like what the world offers. He is Immanuel. God is with us, watching over us and walks beside us. The angels’ message of good news is for everyone. Can you hear them?

From Casting Crowns- I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

I heard the bells on Christmas day
Their old familiar carols play
And mild and sweet their songs repeat
Of peace on Earth, good will to men  *** Chorus

And in despair I bowed my head
“There is no peace on Earth, ” I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on Earth, good will to men

But the bells are ringing (peace on Earth)
Like a choir singing (peace on Earth)
Does anybody hear them? (Peace on Earth)
Peace on Earth, good will to men

Then rang the bells more loud and deep
God is not dead, nor doth He sleep
(Peace on Earth)
(Peace on Earth)
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail
With peace on Earth, good will to men  ****

Do you hear the bells, they’re ringing? (Peace on Earth)
The light, the angels singing (peace on Earth)
Open up your heart and hear them (peace on Earth)
Peace on Earth, good will to men

Make Time for Soul Care This Holiday Season

Make Time for Soul Care This Holiday Season

We all know the Holiday season can be stressful and exhausting!  Approximately 6 weeks of non-stop advertising and extra to-do’s added to the calendar. This year the media added the stress of not “getting what you want” and running out of supplies due to the backup of cargo ships . Plus we are still feeling the lingering effects of the pandemic. We can get caught in the trap of consumerism so easily but building memories and caring for people is more important than things. I believe we really need to re-evaluate what is truly important. Everyday we have choices and can control the chaos this Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What are the most important traditions for you and your family?  Put those at the top of the list!  Carefully consider other events before saying yes to others.  Don’t try to do it all or you won’t enjoy anything yourself. If Mommy (or Daddy) isn’t happy then nobody is happy!

Have limits and lower expectations that everything will be Hallmark perfect. If you have  small children and especially if you have children with special needs, you may have to say no to too many extra activities.  Don’t feel guilty. No time to bake? Buy cookies. Limit the visiting hours and try to maintain a regular bedtime. One year we just couldn’t get our family Christmas letter done and didn’t send any cards. Nobody died because of it (but I did get a reprimand from an elderly friend).

If this is a particularly stressful or financially tight year for you then only decorate the Tree, the mantle or table and the front door. The tree represents – eternal life and Jesus the Light of the world.  The mantle or table decoration is right in view for you while the front door is what others see and where you enter and exit everyday.

Plan and limit your shopping. It is too stressful to push through the crowds of people to “find the perfect gift”. I have been so happy with online shopping but watch your spending and set limits there too. Getting into debt over gifts does not leave a satisfying feeling afterwards.

tired shopper

Stop and take a deep breath – seriously. Breathing helps clear our minds, calms our racing thoughts and lowers blood pressure.

Make sleep a PRIORITY –  Take cat naps if necessary – I am finding a great benefit to it. Have a coffee or tea and take a 5 minute power nap – it really will refresh you!

I love the idea of  “no politics” at the table. Sharing funny stories or remembrances is a much better way to enjoy and connect even with difficult relatives. Take a walk, play a board game or watch a classic movie together instead.

group-of-friends-and-family-thanksgiving

Take advantage of FREE things. Driving around the neighborhood to view different lights and displays is fun!  Enjoy a local holiday parade (or Macy’s on TV).  Play music: slow to relax or fast to pump you up to finish a task. Music is the international language that speaks to the soul and that’s why everyone loves Christmas music!

Most important DO NOT neglect your time with God!  Read a Christmas devotional or one Chapter of Luke each day for the month. Read the real story of  Thanksgiving. Learning about their first winter and harvest meal will make you grateful! Christmas is about celebrating Jesus’ birthday and the reason He came.  Ask God to help you count blessings and not focus on difficulties. He will fill your heart with peace, wonder and the joy of the season.

God Rest You Merry, Gentlemen

God rest you merry, gentlemen, Let nothing you dismay

Remember Christ our Savior was born on Christmas Day

To save us all from Satan’s power, when we have gone astray

O tidings of comfort and joy – O tidings of comfort and joy!!!

Gratitude in a Forgetful Nation

Gratitude in a Forgetful Nation

Americans celebrate the holiday of Thanksgiving each November with a huge feast and a gathering of friends and family but are we truly thankful?  The marketing campaigns started pushing our need to buy holiday gifts asap back in September. That is all about greed not gratitude. We have forgotten our humble and crude beginnings. We forget how blessed we already are and what matters most.

Last year marked the 400th anniversary of the original Pilgrims landing in Plymouth, Massachusetts. Stepping aboard the fully refurbished replica of the Mayflower this summer was a shocking reminder of how cramped and horrible it really had been. The merchant ship was built to carry cargo not people, but 102 passengers and 30 crew members climbed aboard with great hope for a new home in a new world.

The Mayflower ll in Plymouth harbor

It took 66 days to cross the ocean. They ate the same thing every day while onboard and some of it became hard and moldy. The living conditions became intolerably smelly and they ran out of clean water. Each family could only bring one chest for clothes, weapons, and tools to cook, build and garden with. Now imagine that the crew you are trusting to get you there safely doesn’t like you, nor you them. Arriving in September didn’t give enough time to build adequate shelter and 45 people died that first harsh winter. I would not have signed on for this.

These men (including only four women) were resolved to make it work. Some had left family behind to send for once they were established. There was no turning back. The first Pilgrims had risked their lives for the freedom to worship God independently of the Church of England and government control. They had very little and absolutely nothing was given to them but they were grateful.

From dictionary.com : Gratitude means thanks and appreciation. … Gratitude, which rhymes with “attitude,” comes from the Latin word gratus, which means “thankful, pleasing.” When you feel gratitude, you’re pleased by what someone did for you and also pleased by the results. Unlike indebtedness, you’re not anxious about having to pay it back.

That first thanksgiving was actually a three day harvest celebration that was not repeated. Documents describe a feast of deer, assorted wildfowl, a bounty of fish and flint, a native variety of corn harvested by Native Americans, which was eaten as corn bread and porridge. They also ate native fruits, vegetables and lobster. Lobster was very plentiful but they didn’t like it! And there wasn’t any pie because they didn’t have any ovens to bake in.

Recreation of Pilgrim village dated several years later

Many more ships would come in the years to follow because of these first brave souls. It is good to remember the past. We should not erase or change it. Gratitude should spring up in our hearts when we remember the sacrifices of others. Our greatest example is Christ who sacrificed His own life to give us peace with God, a hope and a future. He paid a debt that He didn’t owe and we can never repay. Christians in America need to realize that we enjoy the freedom to worship which is something that many others in this world are denied.

In a society that has forgotten where we came from and only cares about personal agendas you can make this Thanksgiving special. It’s cute to dress up the children with paper hats as “Indians” and “Pilgrims” while eating popcorn but also tell them the real story. It was a hard life!  Talk about some of the losses of the past year but also the fun times you shared. Throughout the holiday season resolve to stay focused on the many blessings you already enjoy. Choose to remember and be grateful.

Keep Your Tools Sharpened

Keep Your Tools Sharpened

I recently bought a new set of steak knives and a vegetable peeler. I really can’t remember how old the ones we were using were. Not a big deal, right? But oh what a difference they made! Cutting through steak was easy and not like sawing through rubber and oh how quickly the carrots were peeled! Over time and with use the wear and tear affects their sharpness and effectiveness. It’s a gradual decline in the cutting edge that isn’t noticeable until simple tasks become difficult. All chefs, carpenters and gardeners know how important it is to keep their tools clean and sharpened to avoid injury and get the best results.

Many of us have not been careful to guard our minds from the constant barrage of adds telling us what we need and what to believe. The immoral and often untrue drone of the media feeds into our subconsciouses. We believe the lies and fall into the trap of mediocrity as our souls become dull to the decline in the very fabric of our society. There aren’t many ways to God – Jesus said ,”I AM the way”. There can’t be a “my truth” and “your truth”, there is only THE TRUTH. We shouldn’t be tied up and confused by all the jargon being spit out by the world. God’s word tells us that it doesn’t need to be this way. It’s NOT supposed to be this way for His children. Jesus was quick to answer Satan with Scripture. The value of memorization is incalculable as the Spirit will bring verses to mind in our need.

 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. Eph 6:13-18 (ESV)

 Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour.9 Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are. 1 Peter 5:8-9 (NLT)

We keep our focus sharp by reading His word, prayer and being in fellowship with other believers. How can we encourage each other if we don’t know what is going on each other’s lives? God has always called His people to corporate prayer and worship. We sharpen each other by discussing God’s word and how to apply it to our daily situations. The blessing of having services online during our national shutdown has caused some to stop the habit of coming together at all.

No photo description available.

 And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, 25  not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Heb 10:24-25 (ESV)

 Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Prov 27:17 (ESV)

I believe we are in the beginning of the End Times. Keep looking up and your tools sharp!

Seeds of Potential

Seeds of Potential

There is a bumper crop of apples in New England this year.  The too hot and too wet weather for people was great for the fruit trees.  Each seed has potential for life and growth and an abundant harvest. Each apple has the potential to be used in a lot of ways….eating, baking pies, muffins, pastries, making cider, applesauce, decorating and the list goes on.  An apple tree takes eight years of growing before it will bear any fruit and then varying amounts each year. How many apples will there be in its lifetime?

IMG_0909

Did you know that apples are not native to the US? They were introduced to North America in the 17th century by European colonists and their descendants.   Most stories about the American folk hero John Chapman, aka Johnny Appleseed, are more fiction than fact.  Born in  Massachusetts, he planted apple orchards as far as the Midwest. He  never married, lived a very simple life and shared the message of God’s love to everyone including native Indian tribes.

The word potential means, “ having latent qualities or abilities that may be developed and lead to future success or usefulness”.   Synonyms for potential are possibilities, prospects, promise, capability and capacity.

The Bible tells us that most of the twelve disciples were hard working but uneducated men.  They were trying hard to understand and follow Jesus’ teaching but questioned how they could possibly do what He asked.   5  The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!” 6 And the Lord said, “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.         Luke 17:5-6 (ESV)

We serve a God with Whom nothing is impossible.   When the Hebrews were taken out of Egypt – God parted the Red Sea.  When David faced off against the giant Goliath – God took him down with a stone and a slingshot.  When Daniels friends refused to bow to the kings statue  – God rescued them from the fiery furnace.   Jesus fed 5000 people with only a little boys lunch.  

 For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37 (NLT)

Since we don’t have any mustard trees in New England, can I use the term “apple seeds of faith”?  Is your faith as small as an apple seed?  Every person has potential and so does each day. We need to find our gifts and abilities to develop and use them by reading the Bible – God’s manual and by talking to the Master Gardener.   Every day we are given new opportunities and choices to share our faith with a lost and hurting world.   Just think of all the possibilities!           

Whatever circumstance you may face today ask God to show you the potential within and take a small step forward even with “faith like an apple seed”.