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Christmas Vignettes: Anna

Christmas really happened. Perhaps a bit like this:

Anna

“Glory to God! Glory to God!” The praise burst out from deep inside me.

 

“What’s the matter with Anna? She’s usually such a quiet little mouse.” People who frequent the temple know me well. For 84 years I’ve rather been a fixture around here. Widowed after just seven years of marriage, I’ve devoted my life to prayer here in the house of God. And God, true to His Word, has taken care of me. I’ve been in this temple day and night, fasting and praying that God would send us His Deliverer for Israel.

 

That day, I saw Simeon (God had promised him he would see the Messiah, you know). His face was absolutely beaming. He was speaking intently to a young mother, and he was holding a Baby! Immediately in my soul I knew that Baby was God’s fulfilled promise to Simeon – and to the world.

photo credit:jeffblock.com

photo credit:jeffblock.com

“The Christ is come! The King is in the temple!” I shouted above the noise. The strange mingle of intense excitement and real peace within me was amazing.

 

“Glory to God!” Out the praise burst again! “The quiet little mouse is changed,” the people were saying today. Many, many of us have been looking for redemption – and here is our Redeemer! I must find them and tell them the Good News! I must find Esther, and Johanan, and Susannah, and, – “Oh, everyone – glory to God in the highest! The Lord is come!”

 

Merry Christmas to all!

Jamie Lucero

1Timothy 1:17

Christmas Vignettes: Simeon

Christmas really happened. Perhaps a bit like this:

Simeon

I wakened early that morning, earlier than usual – and I’m an early riser. I felt–anticipation. Something was in the air! Nooo, it was in my heart; in my mind! The Holy Spirit was pressing me to go to the temple right away. Never one to resist Him, I got dressed and walked there.

 

Long time ago, the Holy Spirit had spoken to me: “Simeon, before you die, you’ll be privileged to see, with your own eyes, the Messiah.”  I’ve grown quite elderly awaiting the fulfillment of that promise. But this pressing feeling of mine had me wondering if today might be the day!

 

Entering the temple, I was strangely affected at the sight of a couple and their Baby son. Old as I am, I pushed through the people and stopped in front of them. I reached out and gently tugged the cover from the Baby’s face. I was touched deeper than I could have imagined. I recognized, in the face of an eight-day-old infant, my Messiah. THE Messiah! The Promised One had arrived!

No doubt His parents were startled, but His mother didn’t resist as I took the Baby and held Him in my arms. I believed God’s promise to see Him, but to hold Him? That was a gift and honor beyond my ability to describe.

 

I lifted my eyes and my voice to God: “My eyes have seen Your Salvation which You have prepared for all people!” I could not but worship. After all those years, God had kept His Word. I have seen the Lord!

 

As I placed the Baby back into her arms, I gently gave a stark warning to the young mother. Her heart would be broken that many hearts might be made whole. She didn’t understand, but she will.

 

As for me, I’m ready to go home in peace.  I’ve seen, and held, the Savior of the world. God ever keeps His promises.

Merry Christmas to all!

Jamie Lucero

1Timothy 1:17

Christmas Vignettes: the Shepherds

Christmas really happened. Perhaps a bit like this:

 

Shepherds

Boring job. Great conversation. That pretty much describes shepherding on the night watch. The sheep are asleep, and we talk, discuss, probe deep subjects, and brag about our families. We stand and stretch, wander the perimeters of the fold, and munch our lunch, trying to stay alert to critters that would slip in and endanger the sheep. Same-o, same-o every single night.

 

Until that night. Everything about that night was wildly different from any night before – and probably any night to come. Angels. Angels, I tell you! And light. Brilliant light that made us squint and shade our eyes and scramble to our feet.

photo credit: claricejames.com

photo credit: claricejames.com

And the most amazing announcement! An angel said the Savior had been born that night in Bethlehem. Right in the town down the hill from us! Then a song like you’ve never heard! The night sky was filled with angels pouring out praise to God. What a glorious sound! Indescribably glorious. We stood with our mouths open in awe.

 

Silence again descended as the angels ascended back into the heavens. We slowly gathered our wits about us, and then with one consent, we left the sheep on that hillside and ran into town to search for the newborn BabySavior. In a manger, the angel had said. Wrapped in cloths.

 

We now know the inside of every stable in Bethlehem. We searched until we found them – Joseph, Mary, and the Baby in the manger, just as the angel had said.

 

Well, you can’t keep news like that to yourself! We couldn’t anyway. So we told everyone we saw about the family in the stable. And that angels had told us the good tidings of great joy – of the Savior born that night, Christ, the Lord. Some, no doubt, waved us off as crazy, while others soberly considered our report. Lots of chin rubbing and puzzled thoughts and questioning conversations that night for those who heard our story.

 

We finally calmed down and walked back out to the sheep. They must have been awed by the angels, too. Not one was missing from the flock.

 

No other night like that one, to be sure. We’ll talk about that night as long as we live. The night of our dear Savior’s birth. We heard about it from the angel, and you heard about it from us. Glory to God in the highest!

 

Merry Christmas to all!

Jamie Lucero

1Timothy 1:17

Once Upon a Dark and Stormy Night

***This blog is written by Jamie Lucero, though posted by Jodi Greene***

All their lives they were men of the sea. But this dark and stormy night they were afraid for their lives. They were doing exactly what they needed to do to stay alive and doing it with all their might. And these were men’s men, broad and brawny, strong and brave. But they expected any moment to capsize and sink to the bottom of the raging waters. They were mortally afraid.

pixabay.com

pixabay.com

But Jesus was making His way to them. Walking on top of those same waves they thought were going to be the death of them. He came conquering and to conquer. They just didn’t know where He was. They couldn’t see Him in the dark of the storm. They may have thought He didn’t know where they were or that they were fighting for their lives.

Then He was there – in their storm – sighted through the torrents of the rain. They saw Him walking toward them on the sea that they thought would drown them. They heard Him speak to them above the roar of the wind, “It is I. Be not afraid.”

Their minds immediately turned from the storm to the Lord. Their fears fell with the wind and waves. Their hearts, and the elements, were calmed by the words of the Master. Their fears evaporated along with the spray. Peace reigned in their spirits and on the sea. The Lord was there. The dark and stormy night immediately became a memory, a testimony to the power of the Presence of the Lord.

calm-sea

pixabay.com

Are you experiencing a dark and stormy night in your life? Are the waves riding high while you’re sinking low? Do you feel engulfed by the fury of the storm? Do the dark and the storm threaten to overwhelm your ability to stay above the fray in spite of all your work to stay afloat? Is your strength losing ground to the elements around you?

Lift up your head; your Redemption draweth nigh.” He is there though you don’t see Him. Whatever He brings you to, He’ll bring you through. His Word is your lifeline and His hand upholds you. He is in control of the storm and His Voice speaks calm. Don’t you ever doubt that.

Let this quote by Billy Graham’s mother soak into your spirit. “And when the storm is all passed, the brightness for which He is preparing you will shine out unclouded. And it will be Himself.”

Does the political nightmare threaten to drive you crazy? Does our world seem ready to crash and burn, leaving you fearful and distraught? Is it dark and stormy on every side wherever you look? Remember this with Shirley Dobson: “There is no security apart from Him. When troubles threaten to engulf us, we must do what believers have always done – turn to the Lord for encouragement and solace.”

Whatever the circumstances of your dark and stormy night, if chaos is your lifestyle, if the mundane has you questioning your value in the grand scheme of things, if illness has you sidelined, or the illness of a loved one tempts you to question God’s heart, if you’re doing all you know to do and the waves still threaten to sink your ship, when you think God has left you to your own resources, let this reminder from Anne Ortlund redirect you: “In your good times, in your bad times, when life is wonderful, when life is awful – don’t fix your eyes on your life, fix your eyes on Jesus.”

In a threatened world, in the kaleidoscopic whirl of our life patterns, it can be enormously reassuring to remind ourselves that God is Unchanging” writes Gina Andrews. He knows about dark and stormy nights. He knows about your dark storm. He’s walking above it. To your rescue. Don’t you ever doubt that.

Jamie Lucero

1Timothy1:17

Idol Numero Uno

Idolatry is struck down with the very first commandment: Thou shalt have no other gods before Me (Exodus 20:3). And boy, howdy, there are idols aplenty. Gather a few girls in a group and ask for a list of idols and it grows long in a hurry. But what is our number one idol today? A hint – it hasn’t changed since the beginning of time.

ten-commandments

photo credit: freedomoffaith.tripod.com

Self is the number one idol. “I want what I want when I want it. Consequences be hanged.” Self breeds rebellion and pride against God and sets up substitutes for God in our hearts and lives.

 

What was the very first sin? In a short narrative in Isaiah 14, we read five times that Lucifer said in his heart “I will. I will be like God.” And he was thrown out of heaven. He used that very self-issue against Eve in the garden: “In the day you eat of that tree, you will be as gods.” Governed by self-will. No bowing to God or anyone else.

 

God later pleads with Israel: “Remember the commandments of the Lord, and do them. Seek not after your own heart to go into idolatry, but do My commandments and be holy” (Numbers 15:39&40).

 

For every self-idol mankind sets up, God offers cleansing and a holy choice instead. To every one who chooses the way that seems right but ends in death, God calls out “this is the way, walk in it.”

 

When Self-Righteousness rears its ugly head, it says “I’m good enough on my own. I’ll get to heaven by good works. I’m not so bad!” But God proclaims His Name – The Lord Our Righteousness. All our righteousness is as filthy rags. Dressed in His righteousness alone will we be able to stand faultless before His throne.

 

Self-Sufficiency says, “I can do it! I don’t need any help, or advice, or instruction. I’ve got this covered.” God says, “I AM Jehovah-Jireh. The grace I provide you is sufficient. It’s better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man. Worship God and rejoice in Christ, and have no confidence in the flesh. But be confident of this very thing, that He which has begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ!” “The arm of flesh will fail you; you dare not trust your own,” the hymn-writer warned.

 

Self-Defense is a touchy one, isn’t it? “I’m no worse than anyone else, and really, what I did wasn’t so bad. There are extenuating circumstances you don’t know about. It wasn’t really my fault at all.” Self-Defense is a poor resting place when Infinity is offered. David said, “God is my Defense.” Paul wrote, “The Lord stood with me, and strengthened me.” John tells us that “we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous.” He’s at God’s right hand and by our side to defend us! Jehovah-Nissi. God is our Protector, Strength, and Victory.

 

Self-Indulgence proudly proclaims, “I’ve worked hard and I deserve it! Who deserves it more than I? I will not be deprived.” But Paul wrote, “Don’t trust in uncertain things, but in the Living God Who gives us richly all things to enjoy.” Luke stated that God fills the hungry with good things. David reminds us that those who seek God lack no good thing. Jesus said He came that we might have life abundant! Paul tells us that God “is able to do exceeding abundantly above all we ask or think!” Wow! Women can think up some pretty abundant stuff. But God’s not trapped by our thoughts. He can exceed abundant!

 

Self-Seeking gets a lot of attention. Who hasn’t heard a rendition of this? “You’ve got to take care of yourself. Look out for Number One. No one else is going to!” But God says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things you need shall be added to you.” “For my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus”!!! Hallelujah! The one set of footprints is real, Girls.

 

Self-Consciousness is a strange one. When God calls, Self-Consciousness bows its head, kicks the dirt, and responds, “I can’t.” Within Moses, Self-Consciousness cries, “Who am I to do that? They won’t believe me. I’m not eloquent. I can’t do what You’re asking, God. Send someone else.” But God says, “My grace is sufficient for thee, made perfect in your weakness. Commit your work to Me, and I’ll help you think. Have you not known? Have you not heard? The Everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth fainteth not, neither is weary. He gives power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increases strength. They that wait upon the Lord shall renew strength. They shall mount up with wings as eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” Sing with me – “I can do all things through Christ Who strengthens me!”

 

Self can never be anything but hateful to God, Tozer states. Self is the enemy of God. And the only safe course with this enemy is death. To be rid of self, we come to the cross. “I am crucified with Christ. Nevertheless I live, yet not I but Christ liveth in me. And the life which I now live in this body, I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.”

cross

Photo credit: johnsanidopoulous.com

Read the old song lines with me: “Let me lose myself and find it, Lord, in Thee. May all self be slain; my friends see only Thee. Though it cost me grief and pain, I will find my life again – if I lose myself, I’ll find it, Lord, in Thee.”

 

Paul wrote, “It is a faithful saying, if we be dead with Him, we shall also live with Him.” We must be crucified with Christ that we may live a life pleasing to the Lord. Death to self is the way to life.

 

Jamie Lucero

1 Timothy 1:17

She Laughs

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come.” Proverbs 31:25

 

She laughs. I don’t know about you, but the political, social, and spiritual state of our country leaves me with little desire to laugh these days. Christianity is on trial around every corner. Politicians mock, kill, curse, lie, and cheat at every opportunity. Abortion ravages our children. Riots bloody our streets.

While Proverbs 31 is a timely description of a virtuous woman in those days, its general idea equally suits every time and place. Every day, every age, every woman faces genuine concern over what is happening in her world and how it will affect her children and her future. Concern, as a matter of analyzing events and effecting change, is healthy and God-given (Luke 10:25-37). But left unchecked, concern often creeps its way into anxious fear, and fear is neither healthy nor God-given (2 Tim 1:7).

Oh, how Satan desires us to fear the future! If we’re fearing the future, ladies, we’re not stepping out in faith to change it. We instead become pawns in the enemy’s game to stir up more fear and spread it to others. Sisters, our future does not dangle from the finger of the enemy, but instead is held secure by the Creator of heaven and earth who seals us with His Spirit (Eph 1:13)!

school-girl-473096_960_720

photo credit: Pixabay.com

The strength and dignity with which women of God are clothed is found in the joy of the Lord (Neh 8:10), filling us with peace that surpasses understanding and mounts guard over our hearts and minds (Phil 4:7). We can laugh without fear because we know the Lord Himself stands at our side, strengthening us to fully share the Good News of Jesus Christ (2 Tim 4:17).

What a vibrant, holy, shining life we would live if all we feared was the Lord Himself (Ps 11:10; Prov 9:10), revering His name, His love, and His mercy, and laughed without fear for the future!

Troubles come – that’s guaranteed. But it’s those very troubles that produce the fruit that produces the joy of the Lord that is our strength. Don’t strive against trials and tribulations. Glory in them (Rom 5:3). Count them joy (Ja 1:2-3). Allow them to do their full work, and then the genuineness of our faith will be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:7).

Fear not evil, Sisters, for the Lord is with us (Ps 23:4). He fills our mouth with laughter and our lips with shouts of joy (Job 8:21). She who is clothed with strength and dignity laughs at the time to come. Go ahead, laugh, for the Lord has done great things for you (Ps 126:2)!

In His name and for His glory, Jodi Greene

What Will You Die For?

What are you willing to die for?

 

The 56 signers of the Declaration of Independence were willing to die to birth a new country in freedom from tyranny. “For the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred honor.”

These were men of means and education with families and much to lose. Yet they valued liberty more than life itself. These were men who believed in a cause far greater than themselves. And the majority of them lost their homes, their lands, their businesses, their wealth, their peace and security without wavering in their stand, and gave to us the United States of America and the freedom in which we now stand.

 

What are you willing to die for?

 

The apostles were willing to die for the cause of Christ.

  • Matthew was martyred.
  • Mark died for the cause of Christ.
  • Luke was martyred.
  • Peter died for the cause of Christ.
  • James, Jesus’ brother, was a martyr.
  • James, John’s brother, was beheaded.
  • Bartholomew died for the cause of Christ.
  • Thomas was a martyr.
  • Jude, Jesus’ brother, was killed for the cause of Christ.
  • Matthias died for the cause of Christ.
  • Stephen was stoned to death for his testimony.
  • Barnabas was martyred.
  • Paul was beheaded in Rome.
jesus-disciples

photo credit: soulpants.wordpress.com

These were men who believed in a cause far greater than themselves. They valued spiritual liberty and freedom over sin, hell, and the grave. They were willing to give their all that they might save some. And they stood without wavering, contending for the faith in which we now stand.

 

What are you willing to die for?

 

  • Esther was willing to die for her people: “If I perish, I perish.”
  • The three Hebrews were willing to die to remain obedient to God: “Our God Whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace – But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not worship the image you’ve set up!”
  • Paul knew from the outset of his calling that he would suffer for Jesus’ sake: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

 

 

When Jesus told His followers to take up their crosses daily and follow Him, to lose their lives that they might be saved, He knew exactly what He was requiring of them – and us. John put it this way: “He that says he abides in Him ought to walk even as He walked.”

 

Many good men have fought to the death for our civil liberty. The saints died to pass onto us the faith we live by. Jesus died and lives again that we might have spiritual liberty.

 

Paul admonishes us to stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free. “You’ve not yet resisted unto blood” the author of Hebrews reminds us. Have you purposed in your heart, with Daniel, not to be defiled? Will you carry your cross? Lose your life that you may find it? “For what shall be the profit if you gain the whole world and lose your soul?”

 

David wrote, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me.”  John stated that the saints overcame the enemy “by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony, and they loved not their lives unto the death.”

 

There are things worth dying for.

 

Jamie Lucero

1Timothy 1:17