Thursday, December 18, 2014

Hail to the Lord's Anointed


Poem by James Montgomery

Hail to the Lord's Anointed
Great David's greater Son:
Hail, in the time appointed,
His reign on earth begun!

He comes with succour speedy,
To those who suffer wrong;
To help the poor and needy,
And bid the weak be strong.

By such shall He be feared
While sun and moon endure,
Beloved, obeyed, revered,
For He shall judge the poor,

Through changing generations,
With justice, mercy, truth,
While stars maintain their stations
Or moons renew their youth.

He shall come down like showers
Upon the fruitful earth,
And love, hope, joy, like flowers,
Spring in his path to birth.

Before Him, on the mountains,
Shall peace, the herald, go;
And righteousness in fountains,
From hill to valley flow.

With offerings of devotion,
Ships from the Isles shall meet,
To pour the wealth of oceans
In tribute at his feet.

Kings shall fall down before Him,
And gold and incense bring;
All nations shall adore Him,
His praise all people sing;

For He shall have dominion
O'er river, sea, and shore,
Far as the eagle's pinion,
Or dove's light wing can soar.

For Him shall prayer unceasing,
And daily vows ascend;
His kingdom still increasing,
A kingdom without end;

The mountain dews shall nourish
A seed in weakness sown,
Whose fruit shall spread and flourish,
And shake like Lebanon.

The tide of time shall never
His covenant remove;
His name shall stand for ever,
That name to us is Love. 

A Child's Song of Christmas


Poem by Marjorie L.C. Pickthall

My counterpane is soft as silk,
My blankets white as creamy milk.
The hay was soft to Him, I know,
Our little Lord of long ago.
Above the roofs the pigeons fly
In silver wheels across the sky.
The stable-doves they cooed to them,
Mary and Christ in Bethlehem.
Bright shines the sun across the drifts,
And bright upon my Christmas gifts.
They brought Him incense, myrrh, and gold,
Our little Lord who lived of old.
Oh, soft and clear our mother sings
Of Christmas joys and Christmas things.
God's holy angels sang to them,
Mary and Christ in Bethlehem.
Our hearts they hold all Christmas dear,
And earth seems sweet and heaven seems near,
Oh, heaven was in His sight, I know,
That little Child of long ago.


Accepting the Will of God and Surrendering 

 "And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her." Luke 1:38


Like many women, Mary probably had plans for her future. She'd probably thought out what her life might look like and had her own dreams. She was already a God fearing young lady and she knew that her future involved serving God, until the angel came and changed how that would be done. She is told what probably seemed impossible to her---that she would bear a child, God's son. She doesn't argue or willfully tell God no. Being human, she probably felt fear, uncertainty and maybe anxiety. Yet she still said "be it to me according to thy word."

Mary had trust, faith, and she had strong belief. Yet with the courage to put those into action, to surrender herself fully and totally to God's plan, she fulfilled His will for her. So many times by trying to control things and make well laid, detailed plans with little room for God, we are not leaving Him room to do His work in our lives because we somehow think we know better. As Christians we have to ask ourselves if, like Mary, we have fully surrendered to God's plans for us.

This is hard in a society where planning out a life is viewed as the only way to live. We plan how many children we will have, what house we will live in, what career will occupy our time, where we will go to college and many other facets of life. Somehow we feel secure with this, there is a plan in place and we know how it's going to go, or so we think! The truth is, surrender is scary for the human heart and mind that is programmed to think that control is the only way. Yet surrender equals freedom because we are allowing for the One who died to give us freedom from bondage---even if that means bondage to our own faulty plans. We each have two choices: live a life governed only by our own plans, or live a life ruled by our Heavenly Father.

"Father, if you are willing, please take this cup of suffering away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine." Luke 22:42

Surrender is allowing God to work His miracles, His plans and His word in our lives. His plans are always, always, better and wiser than ours. God's ways are not our ways. He does not need our control! He wants a surrendered and humbled heart.  "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise." Psalm 51:17  We don't have anything to fear in our surrender. While society around us may look at us as strangers and pilgrims, God sees our surrender as a loving Father does, and He takes care of us.

Mary wasn't given a life of earthly luxury for following God. She must have questioned riding on a donkey while nine months pregnant, barely finding a place to give birth in the humblest of circumstances, and having to flee to keep Jesus safe. Somehow through all the circumstances she faced, she knew God was in control, that He had a plan. She knew the ultimate treasure was God's plan, not hers, and she lived out her surrender to God in her daily life. Mary didn't look for the ultimate reward here in this earthly life. She didn't expect to be given a mansion to birth Jesus in, or the most comfortable luxury hotel room. Mary looked to her reward in heaven, and to the birth of the only King who can save mankind.

She trusted and she had a 'hearty' faith. She endured, she loved, she had joy, she surrendered. How many these days have this kind of steadfast, enduring faith? This Christmas, may we see Mary's faith, her courage, her surrender to her God as something to aspire to. Not well laid plans, not control, not presents, not money.  Truly letting God take over our lives to do His miraculous work, to make us anew, to wash away our sins and to embrace us as children of God.

"And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name." Luke 1:46-49

“The reason why many are still troubled, still seeking, still making little forward progress is because they haven't yet come to the end of themselves. We're still trying to give orders, and interfering with God's work within us. ” -A.W. Tozer

“The greatness of the man's power is the measure of his surrender.” -William Booth

“No enthusiasm will ever stand the strain that Jesus Christ will put upon His worker, only one thing will, and that is a personal relationship to Himself which has gone through the mill of His spring-cleaning until there is only one purpose left--I am here for God to send me where He will.”
-Oswald Chambers



Thursday, December 11, 2014

Children are God's Gifts---He sent a baby to save us! 

"Don't be frightened Mary," the angel told her, "for God has decided to bless you! You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus." Luke: 29-31


 He did not appear in the world as a rich, royal, dignified man. God in the flesh is born as a baby, going through childhood until he reaches the age to begin his ministry. God chose not to have His son skip over the baby days, childhood, or teenage years. He sent His son to save us and sent him as an innocent baby. Not only does this show us how much God loves us, but how much he values babies and new life. The angel told Mary "God has decided to bless you." God sees new life---His ultimate creation---as a blessing. The way God sees life and blessing is usually the opposite to how man sees life and blessing.

 Children are seen as burdens by a large portion of society. We want to limit them, control them, rid ourselves of them, and not have to give too much of ourselves away. We want more and more material things and we will gladly exchange human relationships and love for the things that will pass away and for temporary pleasure. We are afraid they will 'ruin our future', but this is not God's way. Jesus came and showed us what it truly means to live for others. There was nothing in life that Jesus collected to show His status, He didn't limit His surrender to God, He fully submitted himself to living for God's kingdom.

Jesus wasn't distracted, and the enemy wants to distract us. He wants to distract us with hobbies, the internet, tv shows, vanity, and anything that can take up so much time that it soon looks like 'the best' life has to offer and we are living for those things. Truly we are cheating ourselves and not giving God control, and perhaps do not understand what it really means to live God's way.

"It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin." Luke 17:2

Have we fully surrendered to God? For the most part, if we are hanging on to any form of control, we haven't. Surrendering to God means giving everything away to Him---our very life. Just as Jesus showed us. It's allowing God to teach us, guide us and direct us on His path. Most of the time this involves giving up that which does not serve our good, and which does not benefit our soul or our growth. The layers we clutter ourselves up with, stuff, screens, busyness and bad habits---we somehow see as freedom. Living the way of the world is slavery to the wrong master. Living God's way---following His commandments, living simply and learning to value what God values---is where true freedom is found.

"I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat is planted in the soil and dies, it remains alone. But its death will produce many new kernels—a plentiful harvest of new lives." John 12:24

Children are the very ones we are to raise, walk alongside, mentor, disciple and love. They bring us out of selfishness and childishness. If our heart is tender and open enough, we sense that God uses them to grow us up and push us along the path of holiness. Even if we do not have biological children, there are children everywhere who are being rejected and do not feel the value and love we should be showing them. To show a child God's love is one less child growing into adulthood with a hard and bitter heart. They have known love and they will show love.  Jesus knew love---His father's love---and He showed it to the world.

Psalm 113:9 says "God nests the once barren woman at home---now a joyful mother with children. Praise the Lord!" In God's perfect wisdom, he nests us at home with those we love. To live for them, to give up for them, and to love them and show them God. To God, being with children and spending time with them is His ultimate blessing. God made Mary a mother, to Jesus, and to other children. He gave her His blessings. He did not give her the "ultimate" career life with recognition and bonuses, He didn't bless her with a face that did not age or physical perfection, nor material things---He blessed her with children.

May we wrap our hearts and minds around God's true blessings this Christmas season and ignore the false and hopeless "blessings" of the world. 

"Glorify the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! For he has strengthened the bars of your gates and blessed your children within your walls." Psalm 147:12-13

"The Bible calls debt a curse and children a blessing. But in our culture we apply for a curse and reject blessings. Something is wrong with this picture." -Doug Phillips

"There can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way in which it treats it's children." -Nelson Mandela

"The greatest legacy one can pass on to ones children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one's life, but rather a legacy of character and faith." -Billy Graham

"To be a good father and mother requires that the parents defer many of their own needs and desires in favor of the needs of their children. As a consequence of this sacrifice, conscientious parents develop a nobility of character and learn to put into practice the selfless truths taught by the Savior Himself."  -James E Faust







Thursday, December 4, 2014

Changing the Heart

"He will turn the hearts the of the fathers to their children, and he will change disobedient minds to accept Godly wisdom." Luke 1:17


 The Christmas season can be busy, sometimes even lived in a flurry of holiday activity.  It's easy to forget to stop, slow down, and live out Christian values during this time of year. Our hearts should be resting in Christ, the one born for us in a small, humble manger. A sweet baby, coming to bring peace to the hearts of God's children. Born to a world that was desperate for peace and forgiveness, hearts that needed to be softened and turned back to God. Isn't it a wonder that Christmas is turned into exhaustion, frenzy, shopping rushes and anything but peace? During this season, keeping our peace, our rest, not being harried, hurried, and being Christ-like is our witness to the peace He was born for.

"And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,
 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:13-14

Before John was born, an angel appeared to Zechariah. The angel told him, "He will precede the coming of the Lord, preparing the people for his arrival. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will change disobedient minds to accept godly wisdom." (Luke 1:17)  The truth is, we all need a heart change, a softening, a transplant. We need the gentle babe born in manger. The human heart can grow stony, sin hardens it, and we turn away from the path of gentleness and love. Notice that John was sent to "turn the hearts of the father's back to their children." Hearts can so easily be led astray from home, from the ones God wants us to love. During the Christmas season are our hearts turned to our children, to Jesus--- have they turned back from the way of sadness and bitterness to be changed and renewed into pure hearts? A business as usual attitude, a busyness, a forgetting what is truly important, a focus on material things does not reflect a change of heart.

"This is Christmas: not the tinsel, not the giving and receiving, not even the carols, but the humble heart that receives anew the wondrous gift, the Christ."
- Frank McKibben

When hearts are turned back again to our children,---to the people who truly matter--- we begin to learn more the way of Jesus. Focused on relationships, on people, rather than the hardness of the world that begins to grate and wear on us. God, in His mercy and perfect wisdom, sent a baby to be born to grow into a man and save us. He knew we needed this miracle. A sweet, innocent baby born to save us, a baby to warm cold hearts and make them new again. To change our disobedient minds to understand that God's wisdom is above ours, that His ways are always infinitely better. A heart turned outward to the world, trying to fit in and find peace and life becomes hard and calloused. A heart that is turned to God, looking upward towards His ways---one that is willing to look inside and see the need for change is a heart that is turning back again.

"And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." John 1:14

Believe it or not, it is difficult, but not impossible, to follow Jesus and His way of peace during Christmas. After all, this is what He came to give us. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you." John 14:27     

Peace for this season takes making wise decisions, planning and deciding beforehand what this season will look like. It also involves saying no. No to frenzied shopping and hurry, no to things that don't contribute to peace, and saying yes to Jesus and His peace. Focusing on our hearts, examining them and praying that He will turn them back to Him, mold them, shape them and renew them again. We can all be like the hardened fathers, who need to turn our hearts back again. This season, may we have a surrendered heart, a healed heart, a softened heart to those He wants us to love and focus on. To focus on people, we rarely can be in a hurried frenzy. We must stop our harried hearts, focus on others hearts, and in doing so we grow closer to the humble One born in a manger.

"And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.
But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.
And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them." Luke 2:18-20

The shepherds, keeping watch over their flocks at night, heard from the angels that a savior had been born.
"And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.  And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger." Luke 2:15-16

The Lord has made known to us "this thing that has come to pass" but like the shepherds do we come with haste to Him? With pure hearts, believing hearts, they made haste to go see Jesus. It seems in our culture we "live in haste" for all the wrong reasons. The most important things that matter to make haste for, Jesus, peace, salvation---are often forgotten. So He came, born in a manger, so that like the shepherds and the wise men, we might hurry to Him.

 "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." Isaiah 9:6

 "God's gifts
put man's best dreams
to shame."
-Elizabeth Barrett Browning 

"How many observe
Christ's birthday!
How few, his precepts!
O!  'tis easier to keep
Holidays than

-Benjamin Franklin