What Is REAL LOVE?

This is LOVE; the acceptance of the Will of the FATHER of ALL, even at the very real risk of ostracism or even being stoned to death by becoming pregnant before marriage: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His Name JESUS. He will be Great and will be called the SON of the MOST HIGH. And the LORD GOD will give to Him the throne of his father David, and He will Reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His Kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the LORD; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.” – Luke 1:31‭-‬33‭, ‬38 ESV

This is LOVE; the Absolute belief that her cousin, Mary, was pregnant with the Son of GOD, the MESSIAH: “….. and [Elizabeth] exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and Blessed is the fruit of your womb! And Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” – Luke 1:42‭, ‬45 ESV

This is LOVE; shown by the man the Almighty GOD chose to serve as father to GOD’s ONLY SON while on earth: “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called His Name JESUS.” – Matthew 1:24‭-‬25 ESV

This is LOVE; as demonstrated by the proclamation and worship of the Baby JESUS at His birth: “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 among those with whom He is pleased!” – Luke 2:13‭-‬14 ESV

This is LOVE; the prophecy of Zechariah, husband of Elizabeth and father of John the Baptizer, who proclaimed JESUS to the world: “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the LORD to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender Mercy of our GOD, whereby the Sunrise shall visit us from on High to give Light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” – Luke 1:76‭-‬79 ESV

This is LOVE: the Adoration and acceptance of the Magi that this baby boy, this child, was, indeed, the SAVIOUR and MESSIAH of the world – “And going into the house, they saw the Child with Mary His mother, and they fell down and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” – Matthew 2:11 ESV

This is LOVE; the Love of our LORD and Triune GOD in the person of JESUS CHRIST for us, His friends: “This is My Commandment, that you love one another as I have Loved you. Greater Love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. You are My friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my FATHER I have made known to you.” – John 15:12‭-‬15 ESV (also read John 10:11 and 1 John 3:16)

This is LOVE; that JESUS CHRIST, Almighty GOD, would leave His place in Heaven – a place where He is worshipped and adored by the entire heavenly host, something far outside of anything we can humanly imagine – He left all of that in order to come to us, a baby, 100% man and 100% GOD. He came to live on earth with us, as a human, to encounter temptations and trials and tribulations beyond anything any other man has ever, or will ever, endure, including gruesome torture and an inhumane death.

WHY??

Because: this is what LOVE really looks like. This is LOVE; the LOVE of our LORD, CREATOR, and MOST HIGH: “For GOD so Loved the world, that He gave His ONLY SON, that whoever believes in HIM should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16 ESV Would you, as a parent, allow your child to be sacrificed? I would willingly step in and become the sacrifice, but I would kill before allowing it to be my child that becomes the sacrificed.

And finally, This is LOVE, as shown by our FATHER: Whoever confesses that JESUS is the SON of GOD, GOD abides in him, and he in GOD. So we have come to know and to believe the Love that GOD has for us. GOD IS LOVE, and whoever abides in Love abides in GOD, and GOD abides in him. If anyone says, “I love GOD,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love GOD whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves GOD must also love his brother.” – 1 John 4:15‭-‬16‭, ‬20‭-‬21 ESV

MERRY CHRISTMAS EVE!

A Spicy Christmas

I opened my box of spices this morning! (Remember, I’m still unpacking and organizing from my move 😁 ) It was an insulated box, and the moment I lifted the top, the wonderful aroma of all the spices drifted out and enveloped me in warmth and memories. Cinnamon and nutmeg reminded me of my Grandma and my Mom making our ‘Christmas pudding’ and loads of cookies. We always had Apple Pudding, a cake-like dessert redolent with apples and cinnamon, and lots of assorted cookies…. add in vanilla and nutmeg and allspice; turmeric and chili powder, and the room becomes a tumult of spicy smells.

All of this reminded me of our SAVIOUR and the gifts that were brought to welcome Him to our world. Frankincense, an aromatic resin used as an ingredient of the incense burned in the Tabernacle, and later the Temple, as a symbol of the Divine Name. Myrrh, another aromatic resin was brought to JESUS. It was also used in the Temple, both as a part of a consecrated incense and as an ingredient in the Holy anointing oil. I believe they were brought the CHRIST child to Glorify Him as the Divine LORD, and in preparation of His Body for His death.

From http://www.gotquestions.org/gold-frankincense-myrrh.html :

Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. The gift of frankincense to the Christ child was symbolic of His willingness to become a sacrifice, wholly giving Himself up, analogous to a burnt offering. [Myrrh] was a spice and was used in embalming. It was also sometimes mingled with wine to form an article of drink. Such a drink was given to our Savior when He was about to be crucified, as a stupefying potion (Mark 15:23). Matthew 27:34 refers to it as “gall.” Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction. The baby Jesus would grow to suffer greatly as a man and would pay the ultimate price when He gave His life on the cross for all who would believe in Him.

The Magi, or the wise men of the East as they are popularly called (Matthew 2), brought gold to JESUS along with the Frankincense and Myrrh. In that time, gold was used as currency, jewelry, and for decorating. The Ark of the Covenant was overlaid with gold, and many of the accoutrements of the Tabernacle and the Temple were made of gold (Exodus 25; 1 Kings). It was a symbol of royalty and divinity, so it was quite an appropriate gift for the CHRIST-Child, the King of the Jews. By receiving the gold, Joseph was presented with the funds He would need to take his family to Egypt, as King Herod set about his massacre of all the baby boys in his kingdom, also known as the “Slaughter of the Innocents” (Matthew 2).

As we breathe in the wonderful, spicy aromas of this season, take time to worship the Baby Boy, the Son of GOD; the One Whose birth brought all of this about, and eat a Christmas cookie for me!

‘Tis the Season!

And what a season it is for me! JESUS is the reason I love Christmas and all the trappings. It’s such a fabulous celebration of the birth of the SAVIOUR of the world, even when we have to do some serious digging through the overwhelming and rank commercialism and secularization of what should be a holy time.

Have you missed me? I’ve missed you! No internet access for a week, and I felt like I had been abandoned in the middle of the desert…. a very cold desert! A full week ago, the closing of the house I was selling and the one I bought finally happened, after being delayed and postponed for weeks. (Long story; not really relevant except to say that I was leaning heavily on my LORD to get me through it with my sanity intact – such as it is!!) The internet provider turned off access at the old house, then couldn’t get me scheduled for install at the ‘new’ house – for a solid week. Oh, the frustration of it all….. Please, GOD, in all seriousness, please I don’t ever want to move again! Then, just for the joy of it, the furnace quit the day I closed. 44° in the house with below freezing temps for the weekend, and this was on a Friday afternoon. Really? I mean, Really? I am so blessed to have family who are well-established in the area, and got a repairman out – only to discover that the furnace was toast. Caput. Finished. Again, thanking GOD for family! Four borrowed heaters kept the house a toasty 60° degrees (bwahaahaahaa!) until they could get a whole new HVAC system installed on Monday. Ah, the absolute joy and blessing of heat! Again, I am so grateful to the provision of the LORD that I could access the funds to pay for the new system.

So, finally, everything I own has been moved. Not moved in and settled, but moved. There’s still a storage pod half full in the driveway to be unloaded today (It’s being picked up tomorrow!) and my helper hasn’t shown. I’m not complaining (okay, yes I am, at least my body is – a little!) because I’m really happy it’s all here. The radio has been blasting K-LOVE and beautiful CHRIST-centered songs since the first day here – yet another blessing! I don’t know how people make it through each day without Matt Maher, We Are Messengers, Danny Gokey, Matthew West, NEEDTOBREATHE,” Big Daddy Weave, Phil Wickham ….. sweet Christmas music, too! (Addendum: the pod is unloaded, cleaned out, and ready for pickup tomorrow!)

The thing about this move I’m most thankful for? Instead of being 35 miles and 45 minutes from my sweet 92 year old mama, I’m less than 5 miles away! As a bonus, a sister and her family (all 13 of them!) are also within 5 miles. Much easier for getting together. I can attend Sunday services with my Mom, and see her much more, just in time for the celebration of our LORD’s birth! Are you excited to celebrate His birth? Not His birth date, per se, but His birth. What a fabulous gift the GOD of the Universe gave us in the baby JESUS!

“The Adoration of the Shepherds,” Gerard van Honthorst, 1622 AD

Triumphant Entry

At the time of JESUS’ birth, and again at His entry to Jerusalem, there were people (and angels) praising Him. At His birth, Herod, the king over Israel, tried to have the baby known as Jesus murdered in His bed. When JESUS entered Jerusalem for the celebration of the Passover, the Pharisees were busy plotting His death. As we anticipate His return to earth, there are millions who are Praising and Glorifying His Name – and millions plotting His death. Again. Will the enemy ever learn that the LORD is the Triumphant One, and that His return will be met with tremendous rejoicing both in Heaven and on earth? (Spoiler alert: the answer is ‘YES’!)

As we approach the Christmas season, where is our focus? Is it on praising the LORD and His Triumphal Entry, or is it seeing how much “stuff” we can get? How has JESUS’ birth brought about the absolute insanity that comes over people, driving them to save a few dollars on “Black Friday” and the shopping days leading up to Christmas, the day we have set aside to celebrate His birth? I’m not a shopper like many in my family and friends. Put me in a department store crammed with clothes and merchandise and people, and I am looking for a way out. I’d rather do without than to have to deal with the craziness. (Make it power tools or guns, and that’s a whole different story!)

“Now may the GOD Who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to CHRIST JESUS, so that with one accord you may with one voice Glorify the GOD and FATHER of our LORD JESUS CHRIST.” – Romans 15:5‭-‬6 NASB

My perseverance and encouragement fly right out the window in the crowded, rowdy shopping encounters on these big shopping days! I love receiving gifts, and I especially love to give them, but for people’s birthdays – or just because I want to – not because it is expected by society. Couldn’t we focus on the reason we even celebrate this day? Could we give our LORD the Triumphant Entry, the Birthday celebration He deserves? Before you take offense, I know that it is highly unlikely that JESUS was actually born on December 25, and that early Christians preempted and adapted the day from the pagan celebration of the winter soltice. Why should it matter what day we use? No one has been (or will be) able to pinpoint the actual day or date of His birth, so that day was chosen as a substitute for the ‘real’ day. What matters is that we celebrate His Triumphal Entry as a baby, and give thanks that the Creator deigned to live with us and suffer for us, so that we could be washed clean of our sins against Him!

” …. Blessed is the King who comes in the Name of the LORD; Peace in heaven and Glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.” But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” – Luke 19:38‭-‬40 NASB

The day we stop Praising and Glorifying our LORD, Savior and Deliverer; that is the day that His entire Creation will cry out to the LORD.

“Shout Joyfully to the LORD, all the earth; Break forth and sing for Joy and sing Praises. With trumpets and the sound of the horn Shout Joyfully before the KING, the LORD. Let the sea roar and all it contains, The world and those who dwell in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, Let the mountains sing together for Joy ….” – Psalms 98:4‭, ‬6‭-‬8 NASB

“Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD from the heavens; Praise Him in the heights! Praise Him, all His angels; Praise Him, all His hosts! Praise Him, sun and moon; Praise Him, all stars of light! Praise Him, highest heavens, And the waters that are above the heavens! Let them Praise the Name of the LORD, For He commanded and they were created. He has also established them forever and ever; He has made a decree which will not pass away. Praise the LORD from the earth, Sea monsters and all deeps; Fire and hail, snow and clouds; Stormy wind, fulfilling His word; Mountains and all hills; Fruit trees and all cedars; Beasts and all cattle; Creeping things and winged fowl; Kings of the earth and all peoples; Princes and all judges of the earth; Both young men and virgins; Old men and children. Let them Praise the Name of the LORD, For His Name alone is exalted; His GLORY is above earth and heaven.” – Psalms 148:1‭-‬13 NASB

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you Good News of Great JOY which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a SAVIOR, Who is CHRIST the LORD. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “GLORY to GOD in the highest, And on earth Peace among men with whom He is pleased.” – Luke 2:10‭-‬14 NASB

His first Triumphal Entry was Glorified throughout the heavens and the earth, and His Return will be accompanied by the greatest Praise session of all time!

” ….. I heard something like a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, “Hallelujah! Salvation and Glory and Power belong to our GOD; And a voice came from the throne, saying, “Give Praise to our GOD, all you His bond-servants, you who fear Him, the small and the great.” Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns.” – Revelation 19:1‭, ‬5‭-‬6 NASB

Every thing, every person, every part of GOD’s Creation, even the Enemy and all of his followers will Praise and Glorify JESUS and His Triumphant Entry!

If It Feels Good, DO It!

“And now we thank You, our GOD, and praise Your Glorious Name. But who am I, and what is my people, that we should be able thus to offer willingly? For all things come from You, and of Your own have we given You. For we are strangers before you and sojourners, as all our fathers were. Our days on the earth are like a shadow, and there is no abiding.” – 1 Chronicles 29:13‭-‬15 ESV

It’s hard to let go of people, things, and especially money, that we think we deserve. Oh, my friends, if we really got what we deserved, I imagine we would all be in some really rough, ugly circumstances. One of my ‘life-partners’ (yes, I’ve had too many, and I have married too many – but that’s for another time) liked to throw scriptures at me. One of his favorites was “Wives, obey your husbands.” (1 Peter 3:1a) In his mind, the words before and after that single sentence were irrelevant to him. He needed my obedience (read: servanthood) to make him happy. He expected me to accept his selfish behaviors, his affairs, to make him happy. My feelings and concerns were of no importance as long as I was catering to him. He had had a rough life and he considered ‘happiness’ his due. Like the hedonists who came before him; like his contemporary hedonists, and like the many who are still to come, He lived the creed “If it feels good, do it.” A commitment was just a tool to get others to support him and do as he wanted – the commitment itself was just a string of words to use as a tool. I read an article this morning that really nails this topic in relation to real happiness, which can only be found in our LORD JESUS CHRIST.

“A Deeper Look At What The Bible Says About Happiness,” by Owen Strachan on the websire “explore God” at https://www.exploregod.com/what-the-bible-says-about-happiness-paper

Every thing we have, every healthy relationship we have, every financial blessing we have, does not come about because of us. They are all from God. Like the author of 1 Chronicles, we should be thanking GOD for the abundance He has Blessed us with. If you think you don’t have any of those Blessings, take a look around you. Even bowing under the strain on me right now, I can count many Blessings (Be thankful for toilet paper! Thanks for that reminder, Katy). God doesn’t promise continual happiness on this earth; however, He does promise Grace, Mercy, JOY, Peace, and contentment within our hearts when we walk with Him. Happiness is fleeting; Joy is not. Happiness; abiding, forever Happiness, will be ours when we join our SAVIOUR in heaven.

And now I thank You, my GOD, and praise Your Glorious Name. …. For all things come from You, and of Your own have I have given You. …. My days on the earth are like a shadow .In JESUS’ Name we pray these things, Amen.”

Acknowledge HIM

“Religion in the United States” is a survey done in 2016, and published on Wikipedia.org. According to the report, 73.7% of adults in the U.S. claim Christianity as their religion. Judaism claims 2.1%, Islam 0.8%, other non-Christian religions are 2.5%, unaffiliated 18.2%, and those who didn’t answer in the survey 2.7%.

I wonder, how many of the 73.7% and how many of the 18.2% of the unaffiliated go beyond ‘religion’ to really know JESUS CHRIST as their personal Saviour? How many of these people live as though JESUS were standing next to them, or show the Love of JESUS to their ‘neighbors’? Are we religious ‘Christians,’ ‘pew-Christians,’ Sunday Christians ….. or are we spirit-filled, life-changing, followers of CHRIST CHRISTIANS?

JESUS said: “I tell you the Truth, everyone who acknowledges Me publicly here on earth, the SON of MAN will also acknowledge in the presence of GOD’s angels. But anyone who denies Me here on earth will be denied before GOD’s angels. Anyone who speaks against the SON of MAN can be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes the HOLY SPIRIT will not be forgiven.” – Luke 12:8‭-‬10 NLT

Remember, even Satan and his followers know Who JESUS is and admit to Him being the SON of the LIVING GOD. I think they bask in the lies of the so-called Christians who say the words and claim the title but live in the world. I’m sure the enemy rejoices every time a Christian neglects the LIGHT of our LORD, opting for the glitz and glamour of sin. I know that I gave the enemy many years to gloat over my fallen life before my eyes were re-opened to see Truth, the Light, the Hope and Mercy of my LORD JESUS CHRIST.

Fellow Christian, CHRIST-followers, lovers of the LORD, how do we comport ourselves; how do we let the LIGHT shine in our lives? Are we Christian in name only? Listen to For King and Country “Joy” – do you lift your voice in prayer to the LORD, do you choose JOY in JESUS CHRIST? That is Christianity!

Are you too busy to give Him your time? If we aren’t praising the LORD and acknowledging Him in our lives; if His Light isn’t Shining out through our flaws and brokenness, then we are liars living an empty life – EXACTLY what the enemy wants!

“But you, beloved, build yourselves up on your most Holy Faith; pray in the HOLY SPIRIT; keep yourselves in the LOVE of GOD; look forward to the Mercy of our LORD JESUS CHRIST that leads to ETERNAL LIFE.” – Jude 1:20‭-‬21 NRSV

Eternal LIFE, or eternal DEATH. My choice. Your choice. “Hallelujah, death has lost it’s grip on me! JESUS CHRIST is my LIVING HOPE.” (Phil Wickham, “Living Hope”)

Courageous

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22 NIV

And just what, exactly, does courage have to do with a cheerful heart? I am asking myself that same question…. All I can do is follow the prompting in my heart and explore what it is that GOD is trying to say to me (I’m notorious for tuning HIM out so that I can hear ME better….)

The definition of courageous is “not detered by danger or pain; brave.” I am emphatically NOT courageous by definition! What I have found in my own life is that when I listen to my GOD, and follow through with what He is telling me, it requires some courage on my part. When I accomplish the objective, and even if it’s not accomplished but I know I gave my best effort, my heart is cheerful. If I don’t even try, my spirit is crushed and my attitude spirals. Danger is often subjective. Obviously I don’t mean physical dangers you can see: a chasm in the roadway, snakes …. and other wild animals lke bears – and skunks! …. someone breaking into your home. Less obvious dangers can be the person you can’t see on the other end of your computer (stalkers, people wanting to make you a victim), a gas leak, having a blowout. There are individual dangers, too, that no one else can perceive. Fears of the dark, heights, meeting new people, driving, having to ask for help, even the danger of physical pain can prevent us from stepping out courageously, to do GOD’s work.

“No, O people, the LORD has told you what is good, and this is what He requires of you: to do what is Right, to love Mercy, and to walk Humbly with your GOD.” – Micah 6:8 NLT

There’s this thing that happens inside of us when we take that first, courageous, step past our fears and our perceived dangers. Our hearts open up and we become susceptible to GOD’s Mercy and His Blessings in our own lives. When we don’t take that step, our spirit begins to die, figuratively. It becomes crushed. A friend told me once that if I refused her help, I was stealing a blessing away from her – did I really want to do that? A crushed, dried up life doesn’t know courage or recognize blessings, and it misses out on GOD’s Mercies. Being courageous doesn’t mean bragging and boasting of our accomplishments. It means walking humbly in the shadow of the LORD, doing, to the best of our abilities, whatever He should ask of us. Remember what JESUS said:

“…. When someone has been given much, much will be required in return; and when someone has been entrusted with much, even more will be required.” – Luke 12:48b NLT

Listen to Casting Crowns sing this scripture in their song “Courageous”!

Photo by Horsley Lab – Harvard