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Monday, December 21, 2009

Dec. 21st. The Shortest Day of the Year

The Shortest Day of the Year

Today, December 21st is the shortest day of the calendar year. This is the day in the year because of the earth’s rotation that it is furthest away from the sun. If the earth were to keep moving away from the sun as it has for the last six months, everything on our earth would soon die in frozen darkness. Aren’t we glad that God the Creator has His Hand on the earth’s annual rotation around the sun? Today is the day that the earth stops moving further from the sun and starts moving closer again.

Tradition has it that the reason December 25th. was chosen as the day to celebrate Christ’s birth was because by December 25th the ancient astronomers could ascertain that our earth was finally moving closer to the sun again. The first sign that warmth and light were returning to the earth! Springtime and hope were on their way. In the winter of our lives when darkness is taking over; the hope of the Christ Child arrives to bring us the promise of light and life. Praise God!

Our next devotional will not be posted until January 4th.

The Christmas Star

The Christmas Star

For more than a thousand years people have wondered about the star that led the magi to Bethlehem. Many proposals have been put forth—comets, conjunctions, supernatural phenomenon—and of course, each has its supporters. (I'll tell you the idea I support, if you ask.)

Why did the magi travel hundreds of miles to see the King of the Jews? What did they care about the Jews—already an outcast people for hundreds of years? So what if a new star or sign concerning a Jewish king suddenly appeared?

I believe the magi were Jews themselves who had been living by the Euphrates since the Babylonian captivity, descendants of the bright young Jews Nebuchadnezzar trained in all the wisdom of the Babylonians. Of these young men and of all the royal astrologers, Nebuchadnezzar had set up Daniel as head.

Daniel was a man of faith, knowledgeable in the Scriptures. He accurately prophesied the fall of the Babylonian Empire, the rise and fall of the Persian Empire, the rise and division of the Greek Empire, and the rise of the Roman Empire.

More significantly to the Christmas star, he prophesied that a command would be given for the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and that about 400 years would pass between that command and the coming of Messiah.

And so, I believe, the magi of the Christmas story knew the timing was right for Messiah, and they were watching for the sign: “A star shall come out of Jacob; a scepter shall rise out of Israel,” Numbers 24:17.

God is there for those who ask, seek, and knock. He rewards those who believe that He exists and who diligently seek Him. The magi were among those. May we all be.

Written by Jane Poole

Monday, December 14, 2009

Prepare the Way of the Lord

Prepare the Way of the Lord

For many centuries the nation of Israel had been waiting for their promised Messiah. Prophets had foretold the Saviors’ birth and the Scriptures and Old Testament laws were full of references to this promised Hope. But still the people weren’t ready. They were slow to understand.

That first coming of Christ was so powerful. Isaiah 60:2 tells us, “The people sitting in gross darkness beheld a glorious light.” Eternity was breaking in! There were signs in the heavens – a special star. The shepherds in the fields were knocked over by the brightness of the angels praising and singing all around them in the sky. They hadn’t been ready. They were slow to understand.

And so in Luke 3:1-6 it tells us that the word of God came to John in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. God didn’t call a rich ruler to prepare the way for Jesus. He didn’t raise up an important leader to proclaim that the marvelous Gift of Salvation was among men. He called John the Baptist, a simple man who lived in the wilderness, to spread the Word that the Savior was coming. The Messiah was here. The kingdom of God was at hand. God’s people didn’t need to remain in darkness, despair, depression, bitterness, doubt or bondage anymore. The Gift of Salvation was being given. Radiant luminous living was their inheritance and ours too.

Luke 3:3-6 tells us that John obeyed God and walked from house to house around the Jordan calling people to prepare. Their Savior was at hand and they needed to get themselves ready for Him. John shouted out to any who would listen that the way to get ready for the coming Savior was to repent and turn from their sins. Many people followed John as he ran from town to town urging people to repent. Along with calling everyone to turn from their sins, John cried out, “Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be raised up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3:4-6.

“Every valley shall be raised up,--“ This doesn’t say that God will only take care of some of the valleys. But Scripture says, “every valley”. Does that mean that the Savior will right all the wrongs, raise up all the oppressed, make all the un-important become important, and cause the last to be first? And every mountain and hill made low.” Will the proud and arrogant be put down, the first now made last, the ones who oppressed others are now stopped? And the “crooked and rough places will be made straight.” How many rough or crooked places are there in your life that you are waiting for the Savior to make straight? Isn’t it almost too amazingly wonderful to imagine?

This is the time of the year that we put up decorations and buy gifts and send out our Christmas cards. We’re all busy preparing for Christmas. But are we listening to John’s call? Are we busy preparing ourselves to meet our Savior? The message is still the same. John first preached regarding the need to repent. Let’s not be slow to understand. We need to search our hearts and repent of any ill will or lack of forgiveness for anyone that may still linger there. Then John urged people to make His paths straight. Does that mean that we should love justice and mercy and make His path straighter in our lives with kindness? How are you preparing yourself for your Savior this Christmas? Are you ready? Are you making the paths straight for Him in your life? What gift will you bring Him? Will you give Him your heart?

Monday, December 7, 2009

Psalms 1 - Just Two Kinds of People

Psalms 1 – Just Two Kinds of People

It’s all laid out before you in black and white. The very first Psalm paints two graphic pictures: one of the “righteous” and another one of the “unrighteousness” .There are no descriptions or pictures of the “in-betweens”. No grey areas!

Psalms 1:1 begins by proclaiming a blessing! Not a blessing on what a person does but on what he doesn’t do. This blessed person doesn’t “walk” in the counsel of the ungodly. He doesn’t “stand” in the path of sinners. And she doesn’t “sit” in the seat of the scornful. This person doesn’t walk, stand, or sit anywhere near evil. He doesn’t believe, behave or belong to the realm of the wicked. Deep within a person either wants to follow God’s ways or he doesn’t. Psalm 1:1 is a description of one who wants to stay far away from un-just and un-loving ways, – even in his thought life. Here is how Psalms 1:1 reads: “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful:”

The sin of being scornful or critical or having a mocking spirit is specifically mentioned here in this first Psalm and also in other Bible passages. Doesn’t a scornful or cynical outlook cause one to have less sensitivity and less love for others? Doesn’t Scripture tell us that a habit of mocking others is offensive to God? But it’s so easy for a critical spirit to creep up on us and Scripture warns us not to sit in the seat of the scornful. Do we need to be on guard against this?

And the second verse describes not just what this blessed one doesn’t do but also what he does do. “But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” Psalms 1:2. Now we have it, - the blessing falls on what this person does do as well as what he doesn’t. She does delight in God’s Word and she reads and meditates on God’s laws constantly. And since God’s Word is alive and powerful, the person who immerses himself in it is changed and blessed.

This seeker of God is so blessed that Psalms 1:3 gloriously describes him as: “He shall be like a tree, planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither, and whatever he does shall prosper.” What an amazing picture of the person who loves God’s Word and tries to stay away from evil. He is like a fruitful tree that Someone has purposefully planted by a river of water. His leaf will never wither or his life will never run dry because he draws his life and strength from the Water of Life. And her life will be fruitful or productive – so much so that everything she does will prosper!

This picture of the one who seeks after God goes right off the scale! He isn’t living out his life on his own but God’s Hand is all over him! Planting him, feeding him, making everything he does prosper! This amazing picture shows more than we could ever ask or think! He plants us right by the River. We draw our very life from the water that won’t run dry. Our leaf never withers and everything we do prospers! He speaks in mysteries, too marvelous to comprehend.

And then Psalms 1 continues by describing the “unrighteous”. Not much to say about them. Blunt and to the point Psalms 1:4 declares that “the ungodly are not so. But are like the chaff which the wind drives away.” Those who seek after God are like a planted tree fed by the rivers, but those who don’t seek after God are like empty husks which are easily blown away. These two pictures –the prosperous tree and the dead chaff-described in Psalm 1 are in stark contrast to one another.

The last two verses of our Psalm close with more condemnations on the “ungodly”. Verse 5 and 6 end with “Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” Not only are the ungodly like chaff that the wind blows away, but they won’t be approved when they are judged. They won’t share with the righteous in their congregation, and their ways aren’t known by the Lord. So they will perish.

The picture in Psalm 1 of those who refuse God’s Way is as bad as it gets. The last verse says it all, “But the way of the ungodly shall perish.”. And the picture of those who allow God to plant them by His River – is too wonderful for our small minds to be able to take in. Just two pictures are set before us here in this little Psalm: pictures of a tree and of chaff. Of life and of death. Let’s choose life.