Those who are wise worship Him

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“To worship Him.” This was the reason the Magi (wise men) came. Travelling from their homes in the East to Jerusalem then to the place where Jesus was residing. It is estimated that their journey lasted several months to over one year. It was not an overnight trip or a spontaneous one. But it was a journey they deemed worth the time, distance, and effort, “to worship Him.”

We too come to the Messiah, the Word made flesh. We come and do so at His invitation. We come for various reasons because our needs are varied and numerous and only He can meet them all.

But when we come, let us first worship Him.

Worship:

An active response to the character, words and actions of God, initiated by His revelation and enabled by His redemption, whereby the mind is transformed (e.g. belief, repentance), the heart is renewed (e.g. love, trust), and actions are surrendered (e.g. obedience, service), all in accordance with His will and in order to declare His infinite worthiness.”1

 “… the submission of all our nature to God. It is the quickening of conscience by His holiness; the nourishment of mind with His truth; the purifying of imagination by His Beauty; the opening of the heart to His love; the surrender of will to His purpose – and all of this gathered up in adoration, the most selfless emotion of which our nature is capable and therefore the chief remedy for that self-centeredness which is our original sin and the source of all actual sin.2

Dr. Michael L. Williams, pastor, author, Christian Educator and Biblical counselor notes, “Every decision is an act of worship. Worship is based on our salvation and reflects the Spirit and truth of God and His Word. Worship reminds us of our position before God and His worthiness and position above us. Worship is for God’s glory, praise, and honor.3 

May we end this year in a place of worship and begin 2017 in a place of worship. And remain there all year long. For those who are wise worship Him.

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In 2017, may you and those you love experience prosperity as God defines it.

Blessings,

Esther

Advent Week 4: Day 7 – LOVE

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It is Christmas Eve. What does a verse about the genealogy of Jesus have to do with Christmas Eve and what does it have to do with love? Everything.

Centuries passed after Adam and Eve believed the Serpent’s lie that God was lying to and defrauding them, and they made the choice to disobey Him. Centuries passed after He told them the consequences of their sin and He told the Serpent the consequences of his deception.

“And I will put enmity
Between you and the woman,
And between your seed and her Seed;
He shall bruise your head,
And you shall bruise His heel” (Genesis 3:15, NKJV)

Centuries passed from that moment to the time that the angel Gabriel spoke God’s words to Zechariah and to Mary and to Joseph. And Joseph and Mary travelled to Bethlehem. And “the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn”  (Luke 2:1-7, NKJV). And an angel said to the terrified shepherds, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger” (Luke 2: 8-12, NKJV). Centuries passed and God kept loving us and kept executing His plan of redemption through generations of men until His plan of redemption was fully accomplished.

It is Christmas Eve. What does a verse about the genealogy of Jesus have to do with Christmas Eve and what does it have to do with love? Everything.

May you awake on Christmas Day full of anticipation and gratitude for God’s incomprehensible love for us. For you. Merry Christmas.

Prepare (Repost)*

What are you preparing for this Christmas season
As others deck their halls
And light up their trees
As they shop for presents
And look forward to time with loved ones?

What are you preparing for this Christmas season
As the Salvation Army bell ringers say cheerful “Merry Christmas”
And offer opportunities to share, to give to the needy
As gifts are wrapped and cards are addressed and mailed?

What are you preparing for this Christmas season?
The familiar ache of loneliness?
The pain of the anniversary of the death of a loved one
A marriage
A dream?

Whatever hard thing you are preparing yourself for the best you know how
Know this
The God of all comfort has also made preparation for you
There is a Balm in Gilead
He is near to the broken hearted and heals those who are crushed in spirit
He keeps your tears
He has numbered the hairs on your head
He knows you are hurting more than you can describe or even believe you can bear
He is ever present and calls you to the shelter of His arms
The healing virtue of His presence
He is with you always and will walk you through this season as He has every other one

*This post was originally posted as part of Five Minute Friday, December 12, 2014.

Joseph

Beginning on Christmas Day, I watched The Nativity Story:The Journey of a Lifetime, a Story for all Time, in its entirety and then watched various scenes again, several times. And  I am seeing Joseph as I have not before. I see his compassion which was demonstrated before he knew the truth about the conception of the Child Mary carried. I see he must have had a heart that was tender toward God. Unlike Zacharias, who initially doubted the word spoken to him in person by Gabriel, Joseph believed the word spoken to him in a dream. I am thinking of his total obedience and how his reputation was likely forever damaged in his community but he had the applause of heaven.

The Bible tells us that Mary was highly favored but I believe Joseph was favored also. He was trusted by God with a task that few other men would have accepted, much more executed as he did. Trusted to protect and provide for Mary and the Word made flesh. He knew in the most intimate manner what others would later discover – the long awaited Messiah had come. God had kept the promise He made. Also, if the birth scene in this movie is an accurate depiction of what occurred, in helping to deliver Jesus, Joseph was given a  gift that no one else ever received – He was the first to see God in human flesh and the first to hold Him. Joseph. One of the lessons of his life is – obeying God may result in loss, heartache, struggle, and pain but obeying God is always worth the cost and is always rewarded by God.

The Journey

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Photo Credit

“And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:1-7, bold emphasis added).

God used a man’s decree to move Joseph and Mary from all that was familiar to the place where He had decreed Jesus would be born. Pregnant on the back of a donkey. The King James Version notes, she was “great with child.” There is no way this journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem was a comfortable one for Mary. One writer estimates it was a journey of approximately 100 miles and took 8 to 10 days to complete. No, it was in no way a comfortable journey, but it was a necessary one.

So it is at times for each of us – He sets us on journeys to birthing places He has ordained, sometimes initiating the journey through external circumstances and at times which are inconvenient, at least according to our self-directed plans. The journey can be taxing on every level, with alternating moments of doubt and trust but the One Who calls us out also guides, provides, and accompanies us each step of the way.

Joy Unleashed: Elizabeth and Mary

maryandelizabeth2Photo Credit

When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby in her womb leaped. She was filled with the Holy Spirit, and sang out exuberantly,

You’re so blessed among women,
    and the babe in your womb, also blessed!
And why am I so blessed that
    the mother of my Lord visits me?
The moment the sound of your
    greeting entered my ears,
The babe in my womb
    skipped like a lamb for sheer joy.
Blessed woman, who believed what God said,
    believed every word would come true!

And Mary said,

I’m bursting with God-news;
    I’m dancing the song of my Savior God.
God took one good look at me, and look what happened—
    I’m the most fortunate woman on earth!
What God has done for me will never be forgotten,
    the God whose very name is holy, set apart from all others.
His mercy flows in wave after wave
    on those who are in awe before Him.
He bared His arm and showed His strength,
    scattered the bluffing braggarts.
He knocked tyrants off their high horses,
    pulled victims out of the mud.
The starving poor sat down to a banquet;
    the callous rich were left out in the cold.
He embraced his chosen child, Israel;
    He remembered and piled on the mercies, piled them high.
It’s exactly what He promised,
    beginning with Abraham and right up to now. (Luke 1: 39-55)

Prayer:  Father, this Christmas, as we read and hear familiar passages of Scripture, may we experience a fresh sense of wonder and joy, as if we were being told of Your indescribable love for the first time.

Christmas and Easter

Christmas and EasterPhoto Credit

Five Minute Friday: Prepare

Joining Kate Motaung and a community of writers for Five Minute Friday. The prompt is, “Prepare”

What are you preparing for this Christmas season

As others deck their halls

And light up their trees

As they shop for presents

And look forward to time with loved ones?

What are you preparing for this Christmas season

As the Salvation Army bell ringers say cheerful “Merry Christmas”

And offer opportunities to share, to give to the needy

As gifts are wrapped and cards are addressed and mailed?

What are you preparing for this Christmas season?

The familiar ache of loneliness?

The pain of the anniversary of the death of a loved one

A marriage

A dream?

Whatever hard thing you are preparing yourself for the best you know how

Know this

The God of all comfort has also made preparation for you

There is a Balm in Gilead

He is near to the broken hearted and heals those who are crushed in spirit

He keeps your tears

He has numbered the hairs on your head

He knows you are hurting more than you can describe or even believe you can bear

He is ever present and calls you to the shelter of His arms

The healing virtue of His presence

He is with you always and will walk you through this season as He has every other

STOP

NB: Scripture links added after 5 minutes were up.
Five Minute Friday

Prepare Him Room

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room…

Prince William and his wife, Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge, are in NY as I write this. I acknowledge unashamedly that I cannot fully imagine all that was necessary to prepare for their visit. I think also of my own preparations when a family member is coming to visit. There are all the different tasks, none which feels onerous, to prepare the guest room just so. There is also the anticipation of the arrival which makes me smile wide and often.

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room…

My preparations for Christmas Day began the Saturday after Thanksgiving. My tree with its gold snowflakes, balls, ribbons, and clear lights is completely decorated. The mantle above the fireplace has a similar color scheme, combined with a Nativity scene, framed by three red cranberry spice scented candles and two angels, one at each end. A wreath with four battery operated candles are components of the center piece on the coffee table. A wreath hangs on my front door. The menu is a work in progress as are the decorations for the dining room table.

Joy to the World, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room…

What about the preparations of my heart? How am I preparing my heart for Him, my King, this Christmas? How am I preparing myself to celebrate Christmas so that He, my Savior, is truly the focus of the celebration of His birthday? Umm. “Let every heart prepare Him room.”

Scents of Christmas

“Cranberry spice,” was the label on one candle. I imagined the candle on the mantle of my fireplace and placed three in my cart. On another shelf, the label on a red packet proclaimed, “Red Hot Cinnamon: Luxurious Simmering Potpourri.” I picked up the packet and the scent of cinnamon teased my nose. I inhaled and could imagine the scent filling my home.

Scents. They are such an essential part of Christmas.

Freshly baked bread.

FRESH-BAKED-BREADPumpkin pie.

Pumpkin-Pie-ImageA natural Christmas tree.

Christmas-Tree-Natural-Wallpapers-3Pine Cones.

Pine_cone_edit I am thinking also of another scent that can permeate our lives this Christmas season as we engage in every activity, including standing in long lines to purchase groceries and gifts. The scent I am thinking of is that of prayer. In Psalm 141:2, David prayed, “Let my prayer be like incense offered before You, and my uplifted hands like the evening sacrifice.”

Revelation chapter 5 paints a gripping scene in which the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, Who is also the Lamb, takes center place and is worshiped. He is worshiped by angels, and elders, and the living creatures, and every creature in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and in the sea. In the midst of this awe inspiring scene, our prayers are mentioned. Verse 8 states, “Now when He had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each having a harp, and golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints” (emphasis added). Our prayers are incense to the One Who sits on the Throne and to the Lamb.

incenseWhat would happen if this incense permeates our lives this Christmas? What if we prayed for each person on our Christmas card and/or gift list? Prayed as we purchased their gift and/or wrapped it? What if we prayed for the impatient person ahead of us in line? The frazzled cashier? The person who cuts us off in traffic? The postal worker or whomever it is who delivers our mail this Christmas season? For those who are without whatever we are enjoying in a given moment … warmth, shelter, fellowship, a meal? What if we prayed for ourselves … that His peace will flood our hearts, that we will chose joy, that we quiet our souls in His presence, that we remain focused on Him Who is both the Giver of every good and perfect gift and the Gift? What if we prayed as we never have before during previous Christmases?

The prayers mentioned above involve petitions but I pray that our prayers also be prayers of worship, praise and thanksgiving. Prayers in which we do not make any requests; instead we worship Him for Who He is. Prayers in which we praise and thank Him for what He has done and is doing. Prayers in which we thank Him for loving us and we express our love to Him.

May our lives be scented with prayer this Christmas.

Photo Credits: Bread. Pumpkin Pie. Tree. Pine Cone. Incense.