The Why of Jesus’ Birth

“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.

In all the hustle and bustle of Christmas preparations, do we take the time to really think about what the birth of Jesus is all about? There’s also the confusion with the fact that the day we celebrate His birth has its roots in a pagan day.  While we know that Christmas is not the true day of Christ’s birth, we need to understand why He was born at all. Why didn’t Jesus just come down from heaven and live a week or so, then be killed and rise a day or so later? Wouldn’t that have saved us?

With all the controversy over Christmas — from the view that it is totally pagan and should never be celebrated, to the view that it’s roots are insignificant and it should be fully celebrated — maybe we should change our focus to why Jesus would come as baby at all.

As I have pondered why Jesus would come to this earth and be born as a baby, I have seen an importance that we usually miss or pass over lightly. We often look at the cross as being the only thing for our salvation. The cross gives us the forgiveness we need, but His birth gives us the reason and strength to learn how to live godly lives. The why of Jesus’ birth is to give us the desire and strength to live our lives with the connection to Heaven that Jesus had, and to give us the victory over our sinful ways. To have this connection with God in our daily life, as Jesus did, will give us the strength to overcome. This should be something we do every day, so we should celebrate Jesus birth and death every day. Both are vital to our salvation in our lives day by day.

As we enjoy this Christmas season, after all the celebrations and dinners are over, let us not lose the importance of what Jesus came for, and remember His birth every day.

Seeking After God: Seven Topics to Pray About Daily

In today’s world it is more important than ever to be vigilant so that we are not deceived by Satan. We are living in a time where tensions are high, the news is becoming more and more disturbing, and uncertainty plagues the hearts of people both small and great. We know from reading Daniel and Revelation, and from Jesus’ prophecies in the Gospels, that things will only get worse before His return. However, this doesn’t mean we have been abandoned, or that God no longer cares. We do not need to fear, because Jesus has overcome the world (John 16:33). This is the time to strengthen our faith in the One whose Salvation we are sure of! This is also the time to pray earnestly for our children, spouses, friends, and family. Especially as a mother and teacher, I believe warfare prayers are included in my responsibility to God and my children.

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On that note, I want to challenge and encourage you on the subject of prayer for our children and families. The following is a short list of seven topics that I pray about frequently. It changes from time to time, as some issues need more focus, but in general, these are the matters that weigh heaviest on my heart. It is my prayer that this will strengthen and embolden you this school year as you raise and educate your children in the fear of the Lord.

1. Prayers for God to reveal to me what I don’t know that I don’t know. In plain English, these are the areas where I am ignorant, that I am unknowingly blind about. This is an important one since it is my intense desire to know and understand God’s plan for me and my family. As Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” Following closely in this topic are prayers for wisdom and discernment (Proverbs 2:6, Romans 12:2, Matthew 6:33, Jeremiah 29:12-13).

2. Prayers for safety — physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally (Psalm 91). We are fighting a spiritual battle against an enemy that has no scruples, and will cunningly attack us in any way possible to shake our faith in God (Ephesians 6:12).

3. Prayers for strength of character: that we will be quick to forgive (Ephesians 4:31-32), slow to judge (Matthew 7:1-6, Luke 6:37), and graciously show love and mercy to others (Luke 6:35-36). This also includes praying for the character of Christ and the Gifts of the Spirit to be manifested in/through us (Matthew 5:16).

4. Prayers against generational sins and weakness/temptations that may be difficult to overcome. I pray that God reveals what needs changing in order to break the cycle (Exodus 20:5-6). It’s important to note that we often relate to God in the way that we relate/related to our earthly parents. Praying for healing from these types of issues in our family lines can often be beneficial to growing our relationship with God. These will be different for each family:
– Fear
– Anger/hate
– Abandonment/distrust
– Jealousy
– Sexual sin
– Dishonesty/Denial

5. Prayers for the future: jobs, homes, spouses, children. It is my deepest desire that my children delight themselves in the Lord, so that they too may partake of the blessing in Psalms 37:4-5 (Psalms 37:4-5, Matthew 7:11).

6. Prayers for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In order to effectively reach out to our family, friends, and community, we need the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32). No matter what our age or where we go, when we give the Holy Spirit permission to work in us, much can be accomplished. There have been times where I have been amazed at the ministering God was giving me the ability to do, and then I realized it was all because of those prayers, begging God to fill me so that I could let His light shine out to others (Matthew 5:16, again, because it’s the result of this request).

7. Prayers for our will to match God’s will; for Q ualities such as compassion, and love for others, as well as for the truth; for understanding our life’s purpose, and trusting that He knows what’s best for us and our families, even if it doesn’t appear to be (Luke 22:42, Romans 8:28-39).

There are many, many more topics, and I could fill pages with Bible verses further referencing these thoughts, but hopefully this list has triggered some ideas. I’d like to close with a blessing from Deuteronomy 28:3-13, that is my prayer for you this year:

“Blessed shalt thou be in the city, and blessed shalt thou be in the field. Blessed shall be the fruit of thy body, and the fruit of thy ground, and the fruit of thy cattle, the increase of thy kine, and the flocks of thy sheep. Blessed shall be thy basket and thy store. Blessed shalt thou be when thou comest in, and blessed shalt thou be when thou goest out. The Lord shall cause thine enemies that rise up against thee to be smitten before thy face: they shall come out against thee one way, and flee before thee seven ways. The Lord shall command the blessing upon thee in thy storehouses, and in all that thou settest thine hand unto; and he shall bless thee in the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee. The Lord shall establish thee an holy people unto himself, as he hath sworn unto thee, if thou shalt keep the commandments of the Lord thy God, and walk in his ways. And all people of the earth shall see that thou art called by the name of the Lord; and they shall be afraid of thee. And the Lord shall make thee plenteous in goods, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy ground, in the land which the Lord sware unto thy fathers to give thee. The Lord shall open unto thee his good treasure, the heaven to give the rain unto thy land in his season, and to bless all the work of thine hand: and thou shalt lend unto many nations, and thou shalt not borrow. And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them.”

Worship Through Art

What does one write about when simply nothing exciting has happened recently? We have been keeping pretty busy with church activities, school, house projects, soccer, sickness, and anything else that’s been thrown at us. There are a lot of other things we do too, such as grocery shopping, field trips, library visits, and much more. We are in our busy season, and it has been quite interesting to see how we will fit each day’s things all in that one day. It’s tiring.

However, with all this busyness I find myself spending more time with God than I have in a while, even during our “off” season. You see, I have been in a mood — no, not just a mood, more of a dry spell. I was not using my “extra” time to learn anything extra … just doing the normal Bible reading or doing bits and pieces at a time. Don’t get me wrong; I was studying, but I was feeling a bit dry.

12042610_10207717976927984_7722690825084470335_nSo, I was thrown into a Facebook group call Journaling Bible Community. I found revival. I love art, journaling, and spending time in the Word, so putting them all together made sense. Well, I have before, but in a separate journal and nothing like this! So, what is Bible journaling? Well, you see there are so many wonderful people whose God-given talent is art (some of us are not so good but we enjoy it anyway). They use this as their way of studying the Bible, and it is considered worship through art.

I love it!!! Not only do I get to read scripture, I use the SOAP method, pray, and let the Holy spirit guide me on what my I should put on that page for that certain scripture.

So you see I am reading and creating, which helps people like me remember the text that was read. Sometimes its just lettering, writing and drawing, or just drawing to illustrate what you got out the text. There are so many inspiring artists out there that can help you come up with something, or you can go on your first gut feeling. (I feel like that is God saying, “This is what you should do.”) You can even get a journaling Bible that has art work in it for you to color if 12027584_10207684957902529_5246343504436110362_nyou don’t feel like an artsy kind of person.

So, where do you begin? First, many people prefer to get a journaling bible specifically made for this, but others use a regular Bible or a journal. I had an Bible given to me that was already tattered and old, given to me in that condition. I didn’t know what to do with it. I didn’t feel right about throwing it away or recycling it; that felt like I was defacing it or something. I had this Bible on my shelf and it was about forgotten. Then one night I was thinking about what I was going to use for journaling — a pad of paper, a journal, or try to save up the money to buy a new journaling Bible. That old bible popped in my head! I gave it a new life!!! It has become more than just an old tattered Bible. I covered it to make it look pretty, and the pages are coming to life once again!

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So, what happens when you fill your Bible? Save it as a keepsake! Some people even change their Bibles on a regular basis. I do plan on getting a journaling Bible for the New Year, and this one will be put away and given to my children. Or, if it’s not filled up, I will let my daughter finish it. She loves art and drawing so it will be fun for her too!

Below are some links for you to check out that are all about Bible journaling. I hope this will spring up something creative in you!

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http://www.illustratedfaith.com/
https://www.facebook.com/groups/675075232583189/
https://www.facebook.com/13Prayers?fref=ts
http://13prayers.com/ https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=journaling+bible

He will quiet you with his love

My dad answered the phone and asked, “so how is the beginning of the Christmas season treating you?” Inwardly, I moaned. Tomorrow the choir will expect a solid outline of the Christmas music program, a week and a half away, and I haven’t even written the narration yet, much less made copies of their practice CD’s! The kids’ Christmas violin recital is one day before our church event, so keeping the urgency out of my voice during morning practice with the kids is becoming more challenging, though necessary for their sanity. Top that with the necessary baking obligations, the co-op Christmas party and caroling, travel plans, homeschooling and attempting to keep up with everyday chores . . . well, let’s just say the Christmas cards have passed the proverbial back burner and are in the sink.

Sound familiar? Your holiday obligations may be different than mine, but they’re no less burdensome, I’m sure.

The Lord answered my troubled mind through his prophets as I studied to write our Christmas program’s narration, and I’d like to share His comfort with you.

The Lord answers the Death of/within this world by providing the Salvation for our world. The first Advent, widely celebrated by Christians, gives rise to hope and peace. With joy we sing: “For unto us a child is born, a son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6) We marvel at Mary’s Song: “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior . . . From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me–holy is his name.” (Luke 1:46-49) And we wonder at the wisdom of the Magi who asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 1:2)

The wise men from Persia were watching for Christ’s first advent. They anticipated the coming of a baby who would redeem this world. Now, from 20 centuries beyond Christ’s earthly ministry, we seek comfort in the baby of Bethlehem.

Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” The fullness of time? Yes, as Jesus said, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17). As good Adventists, we think of this text as affirming the continuity of the Law, which it does. But the prophecies led our Seventh-day Adventist founders together in doctrinal unity with a vision of the second advent of Christ. Are we still looking? Searching?

Are we teaching our children, not only to look back and appreciate the great gift of salvation through the Lamb, but also to anticipate His coming? (*see note at end of post) Are we acting as the Wise Men were and studying the prophets intently?

Daniel’s prophecies of the Anointed One (70 week prophecy; Daniel 9) are connected to the decree to rebuild the temple; the 1844 prophecy of Daniel is also connected to this decree. Thus, Christ’s earthly ministry is inextricably linked with Christ’s heavenly ministry in a prophetic sense. The prophets all looked forward to the absolute fulfillment of the Salvation Plan set in place before Creation.

The first advent was symbolized by the Sacrifice. The second advent is symbolized with the Marriage of the Lamb to His church, His Remnant. And the marriage ceremony is joyful!! Are we looking at prophecy through “time of trouble” eyes, or are we looking beyond perilous times to our deliverance and the promises of Christ’s full reign as King?

I’ll leave you with a few verses to mull over this busy Christmas season. As you celebrate the joyful entrance of Christ to earth, contemplate how much more wonderful His return will be! Many of the verses associated with Christ’s first advent are actually fully applied at His second advent. Because Christ returns victorious, we are also victorious. There is no more pure joy than this! Just as Daniel, when he was depressed for weeks regarding his visions, was given another vision, this time of the Anointed One who would provide the blood of Salvation, we have this future vision to look forward to: Christ’s second advent and our symbolic marriage to Him for eternity.

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this.” Isaiah 9:6-9

“A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. . . . See the Sovereign LORD comes with power, and his arm rules for him. See, his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.” (Isaiah 40:3-5, 10)

“Sing for joy, O heavens, for the LORD has done this; shout aloud, O earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the LORD has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.” (Isaiah 44:23)

“I said, ‘You are my servant’; I have chosen you and have not rejected you. So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41:9, 10)

“‘The days are coming’ declares the LORD, ‘when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The LORD Our Righteousness.” (Jeremiah 23: 5,6)

“I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the LORD. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart.” (Jeremiah 24:7)

“‘In those days, at that time,’ declares the LORD, ‘search will be made for Israel’s guilt, but there will be none, and for the sins of Judah, but none will be found, for I will forgive the remnant I spare’.” (Jeremiah 50:20)

“Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding a donkey.” (Zechariah 9:9)

“‘In a little while I will once more shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land. I will shake all nations, and the desired of all nations will come, and I will fill this house with glory,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the LORD Almighty. ‘The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house,’ says the LORD Almighty. ‘And in this place I will grant peace,’ declares the LORD Almighty.” (Haggai 2:6-9)

“Sing, O Daughter of Zion; shout aloud, O Israel! Be glad and rejoice with all your heart, O Daughter of Jerusalem! The LORD has taken away your punishment, he has turned back your enemy. The LORD, the King of Israel, is with you; never again will you fear any harm. . . . The LORD your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” (Zephaniah 3:14, 15, 17)

 *In a future post, I will discuss ways and resources to enrich your homeschool Bible & history study through prophecy–with JOY!

Joyful Noises

“Thine is the glory! Risen, conquering Son!”

Eyes squeezed tight with concentration, she belted out Handel’s melody solidly and confidently. With reverence and a degree of parental amusement and awe, in equal parts, I listened as my 5 year old sang her heart out. Though this melody had held a place in our household as part of my sons’ Suzuki repertoire for several years, we hadn’t bothered to learn the words until recently. Now they reverberated through our kitchen as welcome ocean waves on a scorching beach. What a blessing hymn study has become!

“Endless is the victory Thou o’er death has won!”

How much more powerful is the combination of lyric & song!

“Lo! Jesus meets us. Risen from the tomb. Lovingly He greets us, scatters fear and gloom; Let His church with gladness hymns of triumph sing, for her Lord now liveth, death hath lost its sting.”

You would think that two organists would have instituted hymn study long before now in our household, but no, we had neglected it. Aside from singing worship songs around the piano, which our kids love doing, we hadn’t spent time truly learning words to hymns, or learning anything else about them for that matter. The kids had learned about composers and their famous works, but somehow the simplicity and depth of hymns had been missed.

“No more we doubt Thee, Glorious Prince of  life!”

While at a strings camp for kids, At First Sight in Collegedale, TN, my former music professor, Dr. Bruce Ashton, along with his wife, held a seminar for parents about “Raising a Musical Family”. They shared how hymn-singing enriched their family life and how the blessing of sacred song carried forth into their children’s lives, as well.

“Life is nought without Thee; aid us in our strife; make us more than conquerors, through Thy deathless love; bring us safe through Jordan to Thy home above!”

Five short weeks ago, we passed out hymnals after morning worship and sang our first Hymn of the Week, “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder”. My boys, ages 8 and 12, took it upon themselves to learn the tenor part, and our kitchen couldn’t hold all the joyful noise!

“When the trumpet of the Lord shall sound, and time shall be no more, and the morning breaks eternal bright and fair; when the saved of earth shall gather over on the other shore, and the roll is called up yonder I’ll be there!”

In these here parts [of NC] “up yonder” is a phrase commonly understood. “Roll” was a term that required a little explanation, though my kids’ short stint in a church school where “roll” was called helped greatly! Suddenly this song had a concrete meaning for them; they understood that belonging in heaven meant that their names would be on that list, and they wanted to be there–and on time!

“Father, lead me day by day, ever in Thine own sweet way; Teach me to be pure and true; show me what I ought to do.”

As one of my grandfather’s favorites, week 3’s hymn almost brought me to tears as I remembered his simple, genuine faith and life lived for the Lord. “Do my children know what my favorite hymn is? More importantly, am I living it out each day as an example to them?”, I thought.

“When I’m tempted to do wrong, make me steadfast, wise and strong; and when all alone I stand, shield me with Thy mighty hand. May I do the good I know, be Thy loving child below, then at last go home to Thee, evermore Thy child to be.”

Five weeks of hymn study. Five new hymns my children sing by heart. Heart-tamers, these songs are . . . with words to hold onto for eternity.

Our experience with simple hymn study has blossomed, even in a short period of time. The melodies float through the house and their lyrics are written in chalk on the driveway. My eight year-old ventures into the living room and tries to pluck out the latest hymn on the piano, all on his own. Children’s voices beg to sing “last week’s hymn” . . . “pleeeeaaasse!” . . . and when we sing “Jesus Loves Me”, just the first verse won’t do. 😉

Many of you may already use hymnals to sing hymns together. I’d encourage you to start, if like me, you just hadn’t gotten around to it yet. Below are listed a couple of websites that might be helpful as you begin, particularly if you don’t have a piano or know the hymns well. And please share with us! As your family sings hymns together, how is it enriching your lives?

Resources you might find helpful:

http://digitalhymnal.org/dhindex.cfm

Sda Hymnal

http://cyberhymnal.org/

“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day.” Psalm 96:1,2 (NIV)