The Greatest Gift Ever Given!

Angels singing Glory to God

Luke 2:8-20 NLT That night some shepherds were in the fields outside the village, guarding their flocks of sheep. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared among them, and the radiance of the Lord’s glory surrounded them. They were terribly frightened, but the angel reassured them. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born tonight in Bethlehem, the city of David! And this is how you will recognize him: You will find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped snugly in strips of cloth!” Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to all whom God favors.” When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Come on, let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this wonderful thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” They ran to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. Then the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their fields and flocks, glorifying and praising God for what the angels had told them, and because they had seen the child, just as the angel had said.

Can you imagine how quiet it must have been in that dark night after the sheep had been bedded down and the shepherds were relaxing from a day of caring for their flocks? When SUDDENLY…..an angel of the Lord appeared among them and the night sky lit up with the radiance of God’s glory! In just a twinkling of an eye their whole world changed from dark to light! That’s what happens in a person’s life when God’s glory shows up! Jesus is the glory of God in human form. His message of hope was shared with a group of shepherds. This was the greatest birth announcement ever made and it wasn’t given to kings or priests; it was given to lowly shepherds; those who, as an occupation, cared for sheep.

The first thing the angel said to the shepherds was “don’t be afraid”! In every visitation that we’ve seen from an angel that came to give a message to someone from God regarding the birth of Jesus we’ve heard “don’t be afraid”, or “do not fear”. God’s love casts out all fear. Fear is not from God, it comes as a message from the evil one who is the instigator of all negative forms of fear. The reverential fear of God is what comes from God; it is a respect, a reverence for who God is to us that causes us to love what He loves and hate what He hates. But fear that causes terror within the heart of a person comes from our enemy, the devil. The angel was instructed to tell the shepherds to not fear because God is the God of love.

2 Timothy 1:7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.

1 John 4:16-18 NLT We know how much God loves us, and we have put our trust in him. God is love, and all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them. And as we live in God, our love grows more perfect. So we will not be afraid on the day of judgment, but we can face him with confidence because we are like Christ here in this world. Such love has no fear because perfect love expels all fear. If we are afraid, it is for fear of judgment, and this shows that his love has not been perfected in us. We love each other as a result of his loving us first.

It has been said that there are 365 “fear nots” in the Word of God; one for each day of the year. God does not want His children to be afraid and especially not when they are encountering Him, or communing with His Spirit or having a visit from an angelic messenger. If fear is present when you are having a spiritual encounter with the Lord, it may be another spirit other than God’s Spirit. We are instructed in 1 John 4:1 to test the spirits to make sure they are of God.

1 John 4:1 NKJV Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3NwaiAMPtHs

Immediately after the angel gave the shepherds the message from God the night sky became aglow with the heavenly host singing praises to our God! “Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” Christmas is not about giving and receiving presents, although we celebrate His birth through giving gifts to others. But Christmas is about Jesus! He is the Center of Christmas! He is the reason that we celebrate! Glory to God for sending Jesus to save mankind from their sin! Jesus came to bring peace on earth; peace between God and man and relationally to men with each other. When the Prince of Peace comes to live in the hearts of men we will see the ultimate peace on earth that Jesus came to give us. When we receive Him as Savior and Lord we experience peace with God that dispels all fear and gives us the hope for a bright future filled with His goodness!

Know Jesus, know peace

Know Jesus—know peace! No Jesus—no peace!

The next thing that we see happening in the life of the shepherds on that night when an angel of the Lord came to tell them of the birth of the King was that they acted on His word. We can hear the word of God spoken to us through His messenger but it’s not really ours or appropriated into our lives until we act on it. They could have heard what the angel said and rejoiced in what they heard but it was made more real to them when they acted on it by going to see the baby of which the angel had spoken. When we act on His word we are stepping out in faith saying, “I believe it and I receive it as God’s word for me in my life right now”! James calls that action as being a person who is not just hearing the word of God but doing it!

James 1:22-24 NLT And remember, it is a message to obey, not just to listen to. If you don’t obey, you are only fooling yourself. For if you just listen and don’t obey, it is like looking at your face in a mirror but doing nothing to improve your appearance. You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like.

The Word of God is exponentially multiplied in your life when you hear AND do it. When you read or hear it you receive one level of power from it, but when you add to it the doing then the reality of it is multiplied to you and change comes into your life. We are changed by what God says to us. His word changes our hearts and lives. We are changed from the ways of the world to know the way God thinks through the renewing of our minds to His word. (Romans 12:2) The shepherds lives were changed that night by what the angel of the Lord said to them and through their obedience to go see the baby for themselves.

When the shepherds heard the word from the angel and went to see the baby Jesus they couldn’t contain their excitement and had to go tell what they had heard and seen! When we have an encounter with the living God we are compelled to tell others about Him. We want to share what He has placed in our hearts; we want to give away the salvation that He has given us so others can know Him as well. The shepherds told everyone what had happened to them and what the angel had said to them about his child.

Luke 2:18, 19 NLT And all who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary quietly treasured these things in her heart and thought about them often.

They had to tell others about Jesus! When you’ve had a great experience in your life you want to share it with others. It is natural to let what is on the inside of you flow out to those around you. The greatest story ever told is the story of Jesus!

And the last thing that we see taking place in the lives of these shepherds is that they went back to their flocks praising God for what the angel had told them and having seen the child, just as the angel had said. The outflow of an encounter with the Lord Jesus is praise! When we draw close to Him through a living and vital relationship with Him the natural thing to do is praise Him! Our spirit connects with the Holy Spirit within us and the automatic outflow is that of praise! God fills your life with praise for Him!

Have you had an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ, or do you simply know Jesus as the baby in the manger? Have you seen Him as Savior and Lord or just a little baby, helpless and defenseless? If you want to see Him as Your own personal Savior and Lord, just ask Him into your heart today and He will come in and save you and give you a new life, filled with His presence.

Father, I pray for those today who may want to receive Jesus as Savior and Lord. I pray that they will open their hearts to You and ask You into their lives to change them and give them a reason to continue living. For those who are depressed I pray that they will allow the Prince of Peace to come into their lives and bring peace in the midst of their sorrow. I pray that they will ask You to save them and give them new life. I pray that the eyes of the blind will be opened today to see Jesus in all His glory! In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

 

~If you want to know more about receiving Jesus as your own personal Savior and Lord, please go to my page titled “The Road To Salvation”.  There you will find instructions on how to pray to receive Jesus as your Savior.

Do Not Be Afraid, Joseph!

Angel appearing to Joseph

Matthew 1:18-25 NLT Now this is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Joseph, her fiance`, being a just man, decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace her publicly. As he considered this, he fell asleep, and an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to go ahead with your marriage to Mary. For the child within her has been conceived by the Holy Spirit. And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. All of this happened to fulfill the Lord’s message through his prophet: “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and he will be called Immanuel (meaning, God is with us).” When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord commanded. He brought Mary home to be his wife, but she remained a virgin until her son was born. And Joseph named him Jesus.

God knew who to choose to be the mother and father of His only begotten Son, who would come to save the people from their sins! He chose Mary and Joseph, two who were devoted to Him, determined to do His will and unashamedly determined to moved forward regardless of what might be said of them by their peers and elders in society.

There were three steps in a Jewish marriage. First, the two families agreed to the union. Second, a public announcement was made and the couple was officially “engaged”. This was similar to an engagement today except that in Jewish tradition their relationship could only be broken through death or divorce (even though sexual relations were not yet permitted). Third, the couple was married and began living together. Mary and Joseph were in the second state of that union, the betrothal period. Because they were engaged Mary’s apparent unfaithfulness carried a severe social stigma. According to Jewish civil law, Joseph had a right to divorce her, and the Jewish authorities could have had her stoned to death.

Deuteronomy 22:23, 24 NLT “Suppose a man meets a young woman, a virgin who is engaged to be married, and he has sexual intercourse with her. If this happens within a town, you must take both of them to the gates of the town and stone them to death. The woman is guilty because she did not scream for help. The man must die because he violated another man’s wife. In this way, you will cleanse the land of evil.”

Joseph, being a just man decided to break the engagement quietly, so as not to disgrace Mary publicly. He was a “just” man. The Greek word for “just” is dikaios and it means “upright, blameless, righteous, conforming to God’s laws and man’s.” Joseph was fair and righteous, not looking to expose Mary by rejecting or casting her off before witnesses. He was compassionate towards her. He did not want to make a public example of her. This concerned him and as he thought about how he would do this he fell asleep. As he was sleeping the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and explained how Mary became pregnant. The angel told Joseph that the father of Mary’s child was the Holy Spirit and that he did not have to be afraid to take Mary as his wife because she had not been unfaithful to him.  Fear, when received, can be a determent to receiving the promises of God. The enemy always speaks fear to us to try to get us off track, to keep us from fulfilling God’s plan for our lives. But Joseph, being a godly man, received the message from the angel with faith as Mary had when the angel appeared to her to tell of her upcoming pregnancy.

Matthew 1:24, 25 NKJV Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

Joseph knew about the prophecies of which the angel of the Lord had spoken; how Isaiah had prophesied that a virgin would be with child and bear a Son, and that they would call His name Immanuel, meaning “God with us”. He knew the Word of God as recorded in the Old Testament. And he knew that when the angel of the Lord appeared to him with those prophecies that he could believe him and trust that what God had said He would do would happen. Joseph’s faith reached out and grabbed onto the word of God and caused him to step out believing that God would do what He had promised.

Isaiah 7:14 NKJV “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Joseph so honored what God was doing in Mary’s and his lives that even after they were married he refused to have sexual relations with her until after Jesus was born. They did not enter into normal marital relations until after her Son was born. Mary was still a virgin when Jesus was born and so the scripture was fulfilled that a virgin would be with child and bear a son!

Jesus

Joseph called His name JESUS. The name means “Yahweh is Salvation”. The angel gave him instructions from the conception to the birth and even what they were to name the child. The scripture records that Joseph called His name JESUS; he followed the commandment of the Lord in every instruction that he was given. He didn’t worry about what the community would think of him; his only concern was that he would do the will of God and care for the wife that God had given him. His full devotion was to doing God’s will.

When we look at the life of Joseph we see a man who was not afraid to follow God. He was a disciplined man doing what needed to be done to work with His heavenly Father in order to see the manifestation of the promise of God in his life. He was focused on what God was doing in his life instead of what people and circumstances might dictate. He was determined to obey regardless of public opinion.

Immanuel, God with us, was the promise that the Christ child would bring to the world. God with us, in a different way, the way of salvation. Jesus was born to save His people from their sin. He was not born as a baby to be worshiped in a manger, but as the Savior of the world, who took on human form that He might face all the trials and temptations that we face and yet overcome and become the payment for our sin, our failures, our brokenness and iniquities.

The question we each need to ask ourselves at this time of the year is would we be willing to give up our lives to usher in the will of God in our world today? What would it take for God to be able to depend on us to work with Him to establish His will in the hearts and lives of those around us?

Matthew 16:24 NKJV Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it, “For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works.”

Philippians 2:5-11 NLT Your attitude should be the same that Christ Jesus had. Though He was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God. He made himself nothing; he took the humble position of a slave and appeared in human form. And in human form he obediently humbled himself even further by dying a criminal’s death on a cross. Because of this, God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name that is above every other name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Father, I thank You for the story of Joseph and how he obeyed Your instructions regardless of whether it meant public disapproval or not. I thank You for his resolve to obey You in order to see the fulfillment of the plan that You had to bring Your Gift of salvation into our world. I pray that I will be that kind of person to be able to work with You in effecting change in my world as well. Father, I ask You to give each one of us the determination to obey You regardless of the opinion of those around us. May we be people of integrity that not only speak of You in our lives but act out of what You tell us to do. May we walk the talk and not just talk it. Thank You, Father, for sending Jesus to save us from our sin. Thank You for being with us in the form of humanity in order to identify with the problems that we experience in our lives. Thank You, Lord Jesus, for dying a criminal’s death to purchase our salvation! To You be all the honor and glory due Your name! Amen.

Thanks be to God for the birth of Jesus

Doubt Believes The Roadblocks Are Bigger Than God

Gabriel with Zechariah

Luke 1:5-25 NLT 5 When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. 6 Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. 7 They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old. 8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. 10 While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.  11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth.b 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children,c and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” 18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” 19 Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah to come out of the sanctuary, wondering why he was taking so long. 22 When he finally did come out, he couldn’t speak to them. Then they realized from his gestures and his silence that he must have seen a vision in the sanctuary. 23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”

Zechariah, a Jewish priest, was Elizabeth’s husband. The scripture records that they were both of priestly lines; they were righteous in God’s eyes; both were well advanced in age and they had no children. We learned about Elizabeth’s visit from Mary, the mother of Jesus, yesterday. Each morning a priest would enter into the Holy Place in the Temple and burn incense. When the incense was burned and the smoke went up out of the Holy Place the people would see the smoke and pray. Incense in the Bible represents the prayers of the people.

On this particular day the lot fell to Zechariah for this duty. But it was not by chance that God had Zechariah in the Holy Place that particular day for He had a message for him that the Angel was to deliver that morning. While he was in the Holy Place burning the incense the Angel of the Lord, Gabriel, appeared to him and gave him this message: “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John.” Zechariah was afraid for he had never had a visitation from an angel. But Gabriel told him not to be afraid because he had a message for him from God. After delivering the message we hear something totally different coming out of Zechariah’s mouth than we did from Mary in our lesson yesterday. Zechariah exhibited unbelief in his response to Gabriel where Mary exhibited faith in her response. Zechariah said “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Zechariah allowed his age to speak more loudly than the promise of God or God’s ability to bring into manifestation the promise that He had given him. The waves around him were bigger in his mind than his God! He couldn’t see past the roadblocks in his life to see that God could make a way where there seemed to be no way!

Have you ever felt like Zechariah in not being able to see that God could do anything about your situation? Faith takes God at His word and expects that word to come to pass; doubt sees only the negative aspects of a situation and doesn’t believe that God can do anything about it. Thomas, when Jesus had arisen from the dead and was being seen by all the disciples said, “I won’t believe it unless I see….”. (John 20:25) Zechariah said to Gabriel, “How can I know this will happen?”. He was basically saying, “what sign can you give me that this is true?” The difference between doubt and faith is taking God at His word without requiring a further sign or revelation to guarantee it’s proof. Just the fact that an angel was standing before him in the Holy Place should have been proof enough to Zechariah that God had given him a promise and He was going to fulfill it! So Gabriel gave Zechariah the sign that he requested but not without consequences. Verse 19-20: Then the angel said, “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.”

Sometimes we don’t understand the roadblocks along the path to the fulfillment of our promise. But often they are to show us the power of God in our lives so that we will believe what He has promised in it’s fulfillment. Zechariah’s mouth was shut until the promise could come into manifestation. His ability to pass on a doubtful attitude was silenced because we speak what we believe.
Faith is believing God

2 Corinthians 4:13 NKJV And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak.

The only way Zechariah could communicate the message of a miracle coming into their lives in the form of a little baby was through gestures and possibly writing. Elizabeth later told Mary that she was blessed because she believed that the Lord would do what he said. (Luke 1:45) Jesus told Thomas in John 20:29: …”Blessed are those who haven’t seen me and believe anyway.”

God honors faith! He expects us to believe Him when He gives us a promise. Many are the promises of God and they are all “Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us.” (2 Corinthians 1:20) God’s fulfillment of His promises in our lives gives Him glory! He is glorified through us as He brings into manifestation those things that He has promised. When we reach out and take them by faith He opens the door for them to happen and they are fulfilled in His timing. We work with Him in believing that He is doing what He has promised.

Hebrews 11:6, 7 NLT So, you, see, it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that there is a God and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. It was by faith that Noah built an ark to save his family from the flood. He obeyed god, who warned him about something that had never happened before. By his faith he condemned the rest of the world and was made right in God’s sight.

Faith brings the grace of God into our lives. Without it God’s ability to work in our lives is greatly hindered. According to Hebrews 11:6 we can’t be pleasing to God without faith.

Do you believe today that God will perform His promises in your life? Or, maybe I should say, WILL you believe that God will do what He has promised in your life?

Father, I thank You for the accounts in Your word of how You have performed Your promises in the lives of real people to show us that what You have done for one You will do for another. I know that You are no respecter of persons, Father, and I thank You that I have been able to look into Your word and see those times that I needed encouragement through what You have done in someone else’s life to enable me to stand firm in faith believing that You would do it also in my life. Thank You for giving us the measure of faith that causes us to believe that Your word is true and that You will do what You promise. I pray for those this morning who may be struggling with their faith walk. I ask You to give them a glimpse in Your word of how You have performed a promise for someone else so that they can have their faith built up to believe that You will do the same for them as well. I pray that they will guard their speech so that they do not negate the promise that You have given them. I pray that their speech will be of only Your word and not their fears. Father, silence the voice of the enemy in their minds that’s saying it will never happen or that it’s impossible for that promise to be fulfilled. Father, there is nothing impossible with You and You’ve said that all things are possible to him who believes. Thank You, Father, for giving us Your word to stand on and Your Spirit within to confirm the word to us. Thank You, Holy Spirit, for leading us and guiding us into all truth! Lord Jesus, may You be glorified in us as we believe that the promises of God are Yes and Amen to us in our lives. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

Let It Be To Me According To Your Word

Luke 1:38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the LORD! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.

Did you know that when God speaks a word into your life that you will never be the same again?

Mary had a visitation from the angel of the Lord that totally changed her life. She received what He told her by faith and humbly submitted herself to God’s plan for her life without questioning every detail of how it would happen or what others would think of her. By understanding her position as a servant of the Most High God, Mary was willing to pay the price to be the vessel that God would flow through to impact the world for His Kingdom. She simply responded with her desire that His will be done in her life.

“Let it be to me according to your word.”

Can you imagine what could have been going through her mind at that moment? Here she was a young teenager engaged to Joseph, ready to being her married life, and an angel appears to her and tells her that she is going to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and impregnated with the seed of Almighty God and will give birth to the Son of God! Her only question was, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Mary knew what it took to get pregnant. She was a virtuous young lady, and yet she willingly submitted to God’s will for her life. She knew the risks of becoming pregnant before marriage and how she could possibly lose her future husband and be stoned to death for unfaithfulness. She knew the possibility of her family rejecting her and all of society looking at her as an outcast. All of these things must have been going through her mind and yet…..”Let it be to me according to your word.”

The calling that God had on Mary’s life was a very real calling; He wanted to do great and mighty things through her life. He has a calling on each one of our lives. Will you be willing to surrender to His calling regardless of the possible consequences on your life?

Mary’s cousin, Elizabeth, later made this statement about her: “Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” Elizabeth called Mary “blessed” because she believed the message from the Lord that the angel had delivered to her. Mary was blessed to be a vessel that God could use to usher His salvation into the world. Each one of us is blessed to be a blessing to those around us, no matter how small or how great. We tend to view the ones that are more visible as being of greater use to the Lord, but He sees each one of us as His own special messenger, sent to do the work that He has called us to do. None is greater than another in God’s eyes. But each calling is just as vitally important as the next one. The only requirement that God has of us is as we yield to His will for His life that we have faith to believe that, as Mary, it will be as He has said; that we will believe Him to fulfill His work through us.

Father, I thank You for choosing me to do whatever You desire to do through my life. I yield my will to Yours and receive the calling that You have on my life to effect change in my world. Father, I ask You to make it clear to me what You would have me to do and say as You direct me to share Your word and Your love with those around me. I ask You, Lord, to give me the courage that I need to stand up and be counted for Your righteous cause in this day and hour; that I might not give in to the ways of the world, but will continue to stand in faith believing that You will do in me and through me what You have planned for my life. I pray for my friends this morning that they might also seek Your will for their lives and then stand in faith believing that You will bring it to pass in Your time. Give them the vision that You want them to have of the calling that You have on each of their lives. Empower them by Your Spirit to do the work and give them courage to stand strong in the face of adversity. Thank You, Father, for making us world changers in these last days. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

MY LOVE

My life is in You, Lord

My heart is in Your hand.

Each day Your Spirit guides me

And causes me to stand.

I listen for Your voice,

I love to hear You speak.

You brighten up my valleys,

Without You I am weak.

Thank You for Your love, Lord.

You are my life, my light.

You are my King, my Master,

My song in the night.

I pledge my love to You, Lord.

I give You all I am.

I’ll walk this day with You,

My shepherd, like a lamb.

~Avanell ~ 1999

Where Have You Come From and Where Are You Going?

Genesis 16:8 And He said, “Hagar, Sarai’s maid, where have you come from, and where are your going?” She said, “I am fleeing from the presence of my mistress Sarai.”

Hagar, Sarai’s maid ran away from her because she mistreated her. She suffered an injustice at the hands of her mistress.

How many of us have suffered injustices at the hand’s of another? We see and hear of it all the time in our world as evil grows more prevalent. The mistreatment of children, women and even the elderly. God sees all the injustices that are taking place in our world and He cares!

The angel of the Lord told Hagar to go back and submit herself to Sarai.

Genesis 16:9 The Angel of the LORD said to her, “Return to your mistress, and submit yourself under her hand.”

I have often wondered why God would ask Hagar to go back into a situation where she was being mistreated. It seems so unjust; so unfair. The heart of compassion that I have for the hurting says, “no, run away, as far away from it as you can get.” And yet, my ways are not God’s ways. He often asks us to do things that seem to us as “over the edge”. But God had a plan to bless Hagar’s life and if she had continued to run away from her uncomfortable situation it would have changed the course of God’s plan for her life.

The angel of the Lord went on to tell Hagar a little bit about that plan:

Genesis 16:11, 12 And the Angel of the LORD said to her: “Behold, you are with child, And you shall bear a son. You shall call his name Ishmael, Because the LORD has heard your affliction. He shall be a wild man; His hand shall be against every man, And every man’s hand against him. And he shall dwell in the presence of all his brethren.”

 

The name Ishmael means “God hears”. God heard Hagar’s crying; He saw her distress and He came to her aid. God understands and cares about the injustices in our lives. He is a restorer of those things that have been stolen from us. He blesses us in the midst of the injustices and gives us a glimpse of the good future that He has in store for us. Even though Ishmael would be a man that would constantly be in disagreement with his brothers, Hagar knew that God saw and heard and understood her situation and was there to bless her through it.

Genesis 16:13 Then she called the name of the LORD who spoke to her, You-Are-the-God-Who-Sees; for she said, “have I also here seen Him who sees me?”

Hagar was in the desert. There was no one around her. She had sat down by a spring of water in the wilderness and yet God saw her there; He came to meet with her in her despair and disappointment. She called His name El Roi, the God who sees.

God sees everything that happens to you. He is aware of the injustices and He often directs us to stand up and confront the wrongs in our lives because until we confront the fears that come along with the injustices we are held in bondage to the lies of the enemy. God asked Hagar to go back and submit herself under Sarai’s hand. There was something that God wanted to do in Hagar’s life that meant that she would have to submit herself unto her mistress. We can’t fully understand God’s ways until we do things His way. Submission is God’s way. He asks us to submit to those in authority over us so He can have an open channel to work through. As long as we are adamantly set on doing things our way in our time we are not open to allowing God to work in His way and timing. It is as we submit to those over us that we prepare an open avenue for God to move in our situations.

I remember a time in my working career when I was employed as an office manager for an insurance agent. He was a former military man, very harsh in his mannerisms and communications with people; definitely not a “people person”. He had me in tears my first day before noon and yet God had given me the job; I knew I was there at His will and every time I prayed about leaving He would not release me. This one particular time I was very upset about a situation that he had asked me to deal with in relation to a person in the community that I felt was not my place to handle. It was regarding something personal and even though I was his office manager I felt that he should have handled his own personal communications. I had prayed about the situation that morning and as a part of my devotions that day I was reading out of a Bible that I had purchased to give to one of the youth in our church. It was a New Century translation and I was reviewing it for accuracy before giving it to the Youth Director. My reading that morning was in Ecclesiastes 10. I began in verse 1 and when I got to verse 4 the Lord spoke to my heart:

Ecclesiastes 10:4 Don’t leave your job just because your boss is angry with you. Remaining calm solves great problems.

I was floored! I had just prayed about leaving my job, one more time. I was miserable in his employment. Such injustices constantly happened. Every new employee we would hire would cry on my shoulder because our employer was so harsh and difficult to work for. They never stayed and yet God wouldn’t let me leave! Why, Lord! I don’t understand why I have to stay and others get to leave. God knew I needed preparation to lead through submission to the authority over me. He continued to speak to my heart through 1 Peter 2:18-23:

 

Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps; “Who, committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;

Could this really be God’s way? Does He really want us to bear with those who are harsh and hard to get along with? Jesus gave us an example by not reviling in return for the injustices done to Him but instead committing Himself to Him who judges righteously. He turned the injustices over to God for Him to deal with.

God always has a “come back” for every “set back” you encounter!

Romans 12:17-21 says: Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. Therefore “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Now, before you leave saying that I am in favor of women and children staying in abusive situations, please listen to my heart. I believe the key here is found in verse 18: If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. There are some situations where it is just not possible to live in peace. Those would be the situations of extreme abuse, where a person’s life is in danger. I do not believe God wants a woman to stay in a relationship where her life is in danger or the lives of her children are at risk. Put distance between you and the abuser! God is in the delivering business and He will make a way for you to be freed from the abuse. Take it and then let God deal with the abuser!

But in situations such as I have described in my experience with my employer, He had a blessing waiting for me that could only happen if I stayed in that situation. As my employer progressed towards retirement God impressed upon his heart to reward me for the years of service in his employment. He always paid me well; he never wanted me to work if it was snowing outside. He would begin pacing and looking out the windows as it snowed until he would finally say, “I think you need to go home; I don’t want you driving in the snow.” When he sold his agency at retirement he told the new agent that I was a part of the deal; if he didn’t keep me in his employment and honor my salary and benefits he would not sell his agency to him. It wasn’t until three years after his retirement that God released me from working in that agency and gave me a new place of employment in my own town close to my home. I worked for him for eight years and three years longer in the employment of the new agent. During that time I learned the beauty of submission and how God blesses people through their attitude of humility towards those who are in authority over them.

1 Peter 5:5-7 Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you,

God resists the proud, but gives grace, unmerited favor, the ability to do in and through you what you can’t do for yourself, to the humble. When you submit yourself to the authority over you, you are opening the door for God’s grace to move into your life. And in due time He will exalt you; He will lift you up and bless you as you cast your cares upon Him.
God always has a “come back” for every “set back” in your life.

This morning I ask you these questions: “Where have you come from and where are you going?” What are you running away from? Are you fearful of the injustices that have been done to you? Are you allowing God to be your defender or are you trying to defend yourself? God has a blessing with your name on it! The centurion in Matthew 8:8, 9 told Jesus that he knew the power of authority because he, himself, was a man under authority and he said to his soldiers that were under him ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes. He then told the Lord to only speak the word and his servant would be healed. The power of submission to authority! Jesus responded to him:

Matthew 8:10 When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”

Could it be that submission to authority is tied to God’s idea of “great faith”? According to Jesus it is.

Father, I thank You for seeing every injustice done to Your children. I thank You, Father, for protecting the defenseless ones. Thank You for delivering them from harm and protecting them from evil. Father, for those who are struggling with submitting to the authority that You have placed over them, I pray for them to have courage to live at peace with those around them. I pray that You will show them that You are working in their situations. That you are bringing deliverance and freedom as they submit themselves to you and their superiors. Be close to the brokenhearted, Father, and heal their hurts. Strengthen them and give them peace! Thank you, Father! In Jesus name I pray. Amen.

God has a “come back” planned for every “set back”!  Will you believe in Him?

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