The Set Time

We know how long it takes for a baby to form before it is born.

We know how long it takes for certain crops to mature, ready for harvest.

We know how long it takes for the earth to make its journey around the sun.

Yet, there are so many things that we have no idea how long we will have to wait for.

In fact, we are not even sure that some of the things we are waiting for will ever take place.

God sent His Son, Jesus, to the earth at just the right time.

Jesus was not early in coming, nor was He late.

In our own lives, God is in control of time.

We pray, and God answers in His time frame.

He will never be late with an answered prayer.

He will never be early with an answered prayer.

When the set time has come, He will work in the lives of His children according to His will.

Through faith, we must trust Him completely to care for us as our all-knowing Father.

 

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But when the set 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 adoption to sonship.

Because you are His sons, God sent the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.”

So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child;

and since you are His child, God has made you also an heir.

—Galatians 4:4-7

 

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Release to the Captives

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While visiting family for a Christmas meal earlier today, I noticed a ceramic statue in the living room.

This work of art seemed to speak of freedom as the open hands were releasing a bird to the sky.

We may know freedom, as well.

Freedom that only Jesus can give.

Freedom to everyone who is downtrodden.

Luke 4:14-19 reads:

And Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit; and news about Him spread through all the surrounding district. And He began teaching in their synagogues and was praised by all.

     And He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up; and as was His custom, He entered the synagogue on the Sabbath, and stood up to read. And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written,

     “THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME,
            BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR.
            HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES,
            AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND,
            TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE DOWNTRODDEN,

     TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD.”

 

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It is the Gift of God

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Gifts will be given this Christmas to show love to one another.

The greatest gift given in history is the gift of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a sacrifice for our salvation.

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But because of His great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy,  made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved.  And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with Him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus,  in order that in the coming ages He might show the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus.  For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—  not by works, so that no one can boast.

—Ephesians 2:4-8

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Whoever Believes

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Recently, I watched a televised launch of a rocket delivering satellites to space.

This is a fairly common occurrence, at least to me and millions of other people around the world.

As I watched, however, the thought came to me that, even with all the fantastic technical knowledge that went into bringing that event into reality, there were still people on the planet who had never seen a car before…

As a relatively small amount of people in the world watched live camera feed from the side of a rocket that was placing satellites at strategic points in space while traveling at about 17 thousand miles per hour, there were no doubt people going about their lives in secluded forests or mountains, foraging for food, knowing only about their nearby surroundings and nothing else.

Yet, for both types of people—those that stare at numbers and share ideas, culminating with events like rocket launches and those that know very little beyond themselves and their families—God is there.

As He looks on us—the people of the world that He has made—He does so with love and yearning, I believe.

Yearning for all to know Him.

Jesus came to earth on that first Christmas as a baby, born to one day die on the cross.

To die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.

No matter who we are in this world—highly educated or uneducated, rich or poor, old or young—God loves us all just the same.

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For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

—John 3:16

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With Peace

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As I walked along, I saw a beautiful Christmas tree delicately decorated with ornaments.

Looking more closely, I realized there were many ornaments of birds.

There’s something about a small bird sitting quietly and safely in a tree branch that gives a feeling of serenity.

If you think about it, when danger seems to be near, birds will flee.

Their calm presence makes a subtle statement of peace.

Psalm 29:11 reads:

The LORD gives strength to His people; the LORD blesses His people with peace.

It is fitting to have joyful, peaceful bird ornaments at Christmas.

What a perfect time to remember that Jesus is the Prince of Peace.

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Glory to God

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What would it have been like on that night long ago to have seen the angels appearing?

I have always thought of this scene with the angels filling the night sky and the shepherds looking up at them.

The passage below really doesn’t say that.

I wonder if the angels were standing with them.

The shepherds had the glory of the Lord shining about them.

Imagine–light ALL around you.

Imagine–an angel right there with you.

Imagine–a MULTITUDE of angels all standing around you praising God!

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

 

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And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 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 2:8-14

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peace good will

A Branch

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The frosted ferns for sale in the store looked interesting.

I had not seen this type of plant before.

Displayed as a plant for Christmas time, the tips of the fronds gave a hint of snow.

Christmas is the time when we remember that Jesus came to Earth as a baby.

His coming was not a surprise.

It was a prophecy fulfilled.

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A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord
 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

—Isaiah 11:1-3

 

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Branch

Bethlehem

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Imagine being sick.

Really sick.

You arrive at the hospital and soon you are admitted.

After tests have been run, the doctors identify what the illness is.

The bad news: this illness can be fatal without the proper medicine.

The good news: the medicine is available, but it has to be ordered and shipped into the hospital.

During the next few days, you become even more severely ill.

Time is running out.

When you begin to think you can’t make it any longer, a nurse comes into your room and announces that the medicine has arrived.

Because of it, you will live.

When Jesus was born, all that was needed for our spiritual healing had arrived.

The bad news: Without Him, our condition was fatal.

The good news: With Him, we may live.

Jesus would pay the penalty for our sins on the cross one day, offering us the gift of eternal life.

This Christmas, do you know Jesus as your Savior?

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After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem  and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:

 “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

—Matthew 2:1-6

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The Son of the Most High

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A very beautiful Christmas song is “Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming.”

I have been listening to an instrumental version this Christmas season.

Here are the words, telling of the coming of Jesus:

Lo, How a Rose E’er Blooming

Behold, a Branch is growing
Of loveliest form and grace,
as prophets sung, foreknowing;
It springs from Jesse’s race
And bears one little Flow’r
In midst of coldest winter,
At deepest midnight hour.

Isaiah hath foretold it
In words of promise sure,
And Mary’s arms enfold it,
A virgin meek and pure.
Thro’ God’s eternal will
This Child to her is given
At midnight calm and still.

The shepherds heard the story,
Proclaimed by angels bright,
How Christ, the Lord of Glory,
Was born on earth this night.
To Bethlehem they sped
And in a manger found him,
As angel heralds said.

This Flow’r whose fragrance tender
With sweetness fills the air,
Dispels with glorious splendor
The darkness ev’rywhere.
True Man, yet very God;
From sin and death He saves us
And lightens ev’ry load.

O Saviour, Child of Mary,
Who felt our human woe;
O Saviour, King of Glory,
Who dost our weakness know,
Bring us at length we pray,
To the bright courts of Heaven
And to the endless day.

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In the Bible, we have the account of how an angel was sent to Mary:

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God.  You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David,  and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

—Luke 1:28-33

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I Am Alive

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After church this morning, those in attendance were asked to bring flowers and place them on a cross outside to signify that Jesus was alive.

Jesus was crucified and yet, He came back to life on the third day.

Where is Jesus now?

In the book of Revelation, John describes being in the Spirit and hearing a loud voice like a trumpet telling him to write what he saw in a book and then to send it to seven churches, which are listed in the first chapter. Beginning with verse 12, here are a few of the verses that John wrote:

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Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands,  and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest.  The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

 When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last,  and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.

—Revelation 1:12-18

Who is Jesus?

He is the first and the last.

He is the living one.

He died, but He is alive forevermore.

He suffered and died to pay the penalty of our sin, so that we could believe in Him and be alive forevermore, as well.

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forevermore

According to the Blessing

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There is a passage of scripture in the Old Testament that tells about the Festival of Tabernacles. Within that passage are these two verses:

Three times a year all your men must appear before the Lord your God at the place he will choose: at the Festival of Unleavened Bread, the Festival of Weeks and the Festival of Tabernacles. No one should appear before the Lord empty-handed:  Each of you must bring a gift in proportion to the way the Lord your God has blessed you.

—Deuteronomy 16:16-17

The last part of verse seventeen speaks to me apart from this context.

The gifts that God has given us–our spiritual gifts and our talents—are to be given back as gifts or offerings to God.

If our spiritual gifts include teaching, then when we teach we are offering it to God.

If our talents include construction skills, when we are building a structure, our actions can be an offering, as well.

On Christmas morning, I drove to a local hospital by myself.

I had decided that since one of my talents is piano playing, I could play Christmas songs on a piano located in the lobby.

In some way, I hoped that the music would bring both comfort and cheer to those who were there.

As I played, many people came walking by.

Nurses and other hospital staff.

People with young children.

Senior citizens.

Young adults.

Family groups.

Everyone had a reason for being at the hospital on Christmas.

Several people made positive comments and smiled.

A young man found a seat in a waiting area, looking sober and thoughtful.

Was he worried?

Who did he love that was ill?

I played on.

Songs about the birth of Jesus.

Songs about Christmastime.

Because God had given me the blessing and ability to learn the skill of piano playing, I had piano playing to give to others on Christmas Day.

As I left to go home to my own family, I walked past a life-sized nativity scene outside the hospital.

The wise men brought gifts to Jesus long ago.

On this Christmas, my offering was one of music, given back to Him.

What gifts has God given to you?

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every man

A Sign

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I’m not sure how many years I’ve kept it.

The Christmas card that spells out J E S U S is sitting on display in the front room of my home.

I haven’t kept every card that has been sent to me at past Christmas times, but this one was special.

Today is all about Jesus.

Jesus coming.

Jesus saving.

Jesus loving.

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And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.

—Luke 2:12

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A Savior

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In the park, the nativity scene was aglow, silently reminding those who visited that the birth of Jesus is what Christmas is all about.

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For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

—Luke 2:11

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