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building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Jesus’ birth”

Puzzle Pieces

Since Thanksgiving, I have been working on a jigsaw puzzle. My sister started one when I went to visit for the holiday. So naturally when I got home, I had to start one of my own. I finished it last night. It took the longest time to see the picture come together, but the last thirty minutes all the pieces fell into place quickly. I could see the big picture by then and the crazy-looking pieces could be easily placed in the right holes quickly.

As I looked over the final picture, I realized God was doing the same thing in the world today. Since the beginning of time – let’s say the edge of the puzzle was put together. It was fairly easy in the beginning. God breathed and it was done. The edge of time was born. Then slowly, each piece was put in place around the outer edges. Throughout the centuries another part of the picture would be made clearer as each piece of the puzzle was put in place. Then Jesus Christ was born.

The puzzle piece of Jesus didn’t make sense to the religious folks. They failed to look at the big picture which was given on the “box top.” They didn’t see Jesus as the main theme of the picture. They thought they knew what the box top revealed only they didn’t actually look to see if it was true. Their thoughts didn’t match up with the true picture. They were also missing some of the pieces of the puzzle. They didn’t connect the right pieces in the right places.

In the first week of working my puzzle, I didn’t have a clue how all those pieces in the box were going to reveal the picture that was on the box top. I just trusted the box top was true and the pieces would come together eventually. Each piece was examined closely to see if it would match the hole. I looked for the distinct shape and color to match the picture that was forming slowly before my eyes.

God has given us the “box top” for to see the true picture. It’s God’s puzzle although it’s not a puzzle to Him. He had the picture in mind from the beginning. He just places the pieces at the right time in the right order. We just get to watch it take place over time. Sometimes we miss the event that places the piece on the table. It just looks strange to us. But God is faithful to reveal the big picture one piece at a time in His own way.

We celebrate Jesus’ birth next week. Jesus’ life was a major piece of the puzzle that helps us make sense of the big picture. For the last two thousand years, the puzzle is coming together. The pieces in the box are becoming less and the bigger picture is being revealed. We may think this world has gone crazy; but in reality, it’s just one more piece of the puzzle being put into place. The closer we get to the missing pieces being put in place, the quicker the puzzle will be complete and the picture will be revealed. It will happen just as the “box top” has shown us. One piece at a time.

There was a quote I read the other day by William Penn. “For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.” After losing my Dad this year, the quote resonated with me. Dad is not gone, but was turned over to eternity. We will all go from time to eternity. One day our individual puzzle will be complete. Every piece will be put in place and then it will all make sense. Of course, it will be hindsight that reveals God’s work on our puzzle – but it will make sense (hopefully).

Right now, it might be a jumbled mess with pieces still in the box and the picture on the table incomplete. But one day, a piece will fit into place that will bring a bit more revelation of what God is doing in our lives. We just have to trust His picture of us that He is putting together. It is always about our character – one piece at a time. It’s His purpose to get us to the place of completeness in Him. One piece at a time. Trust Him. It’s the only way to live in this jumbled mess when the pieces are still in the box and nothing makes sense.

God started time when He breathed the sun and moon into existence. There will be an end to time – when the last piece of the puzzle is put into place – when we will be turned over to eternity. One day, it will happen just as God revealed it. If we don’t see the complete picture yet, we need to look more closely at God’s Word. The Word is true. If you need proof, look to Jesus. Jesus was God’s biggest move of a puzzle piece put into place. Trust Him. In this time and through eternity. It’s all His. One piece at a time.

And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And his will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” Luke 2:8-12 (ESV)

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Many Rooms

One of my Mom’s favorite scriptures was John 14:1-3 – in my Father’s house are many rooms – He’s going to the Father’s house to prepare the rooms for His people. If He goes to prepare the rooms, He will come back. It was the assurance that Mom held onto until her last breath. I was reading the passage this morning in my quiet time and I recalled the past – my Mom, my Dad and my sisters and me – in our childhood home.

I remembered all the Christmases when we waited in anticipation to see what goodness we would receive because of our “goodness.” We would count down the days. The night before, it was a struggle to go to sleep. I was so hyped up; it took me forever to sleep. My parents waited patiently for sleep to claim me so the magic could begin. I was the youngest so that meant I was the first to bed, but bed didn’t always mean sleep until the lights were completely out.

As I read the Scripture this morning, I saw the words Jesus promised. Go to prepare the room so that He would return to receive us as His bride. It was the Jewish custom. The bridegroom would go prepare the place where he would take his bride to live. He went back to his father’s house and made room for his new bride. When the room was finished, the bridegroom went to get his bride. When the disciples heard the promise, they understood the meaning.

Sometimes when we hear the stories from the Bible, we lose the significance because we don’t know the traditions or the settings involved. They become words on a page instead of the true importance of the passage. I glance over many a story and miss the impact it should have, but this passage I finally get. Maybe because it was so significant for my Mom or maybe I just understand the context now. I do believe what Jesus promised – He’s coming back to get His bride, the church.

The bride always had to be ready to receive the bridegroom. She never knew when the room would be complete and he would make the journey. She eagerly anticipated that day when they would be together. It feels like the anticipation of a child waiting for Christmas to come. I don’t have that same anticipation for Christmas as I once did. The magic is gone. Things change. However, as a future bride, I should have that same anticipation for the coming of my bridegroom. Jesus is coming back one day. We just don’t know when.

As I contemplate this Christmas season, celebrating His first appearance, it reminds me to be like a small child in anticipation for the next appearance. He is preparing many rooms. I told my Mom when she was leaving this earthly home if she had any say so on my future room, please don’t suggest pink. I don’t know if she heard me or not, I guess I will find out when I get there.

My childhood home had three bed rooms. My Mom’s favorite color was pink – two of the bedrooms were pink and mine was green. I don’t remember requesting green, but I shared the room with one of my sisters, maybe it was her choice. I was just glad I didn’t have the pink room. It was truly PINK.

One Christmas morning, I was surprised to find a “banana” bike next to the Christmas tree. I was so excited to see it with the bright lights of the tree sparkling against the frame. To my dismay, when the light of day hit that frame, it was a pink bike. I guess girls’ bikes didn’t come in another color. It still was a bike though and I ignored the bright pink as much as I could. I rode that bike until I out grew it. I had many adventures on that bike, at times to my Mom’s dismay.

Even if my Mom didn’t understand my disdain for pink, Jesus knows how to prepare my room. Maybe I should be more concerned about the treasures I am sending rather than the color of the room. Jesus promised many things throughout His time on earth. The Old Testament foretold many times of Jesus’ first appearance – we celebrate it – but the Old Testament gives many more indications of His second coming.

If the first was fulfilled (and it was), how much more should we be anticipating the second? Like a child at Christmas – expecting, anticipating, eagerly, breathlessly – waiting for that day. The rooms are about complete. The timing is just a blink away. Do you anticipate it like you should? Is your room being prepared?

Believe the promise as a child of your good Father in heaven. Anticipate all He has prepared. Continue doing the good work until that Day. Keep looking up; the time is getting close!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. John 14:1-3

The Fulfillment

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6 

When I began my college career, I started at a Christian college. It seemed like a good idea at the time. My parents were thrilled with my choice. I signed up for chorus; again to the delight of my parents. They thought I would follow in their footsteps singing in church choirs in my future life. Both of my parents loved singing. When they moved to new towns, they chose churches based on choirs first; preachers second (or at least that was my perception).

I didn’t really want to fall into their footsteps. I really wasn’t musical at all. I could hold a tune, but to sing in such a formal arrangement really held no interest, yet I did it anyway; maybe to please them. However, it was an easy grade. But I hated the black gown that I had to wear in our choral recitals. I didn’t like all the time spent going over the same song until every syllable was emphasized correctly on the right beat. It just seemed tedious. Some love singing in that manner. To me, I endured it.

Every Christmas season, when I hear Handel’s Messiah; I am brought back to that time in the college choir singing the choral presentation. “For unto us a child is born… unto us… a Son is given.” Can you hear it? Being a part of the choral presentation still brings me goose bumps when thinking about it. One hundred plus voices blending together in perfect harmony with such a beautiful arrangement of Scripture. For that alone was a good enough reason to have gone through the tedious practices and putting on that black gown. I lasted one year at that college and in that choir. That was the extent of my choir duties for the rest of my life. I’m done with it unless Jesus calls me to the heavenly choir as a background singer.

As I contemplate Isaiah’s prophecy of Jesus’ birth, I look at the names Jesus is given. Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua meaning He came to save us. The name Emmanuel tells us that He is with us; He will never leave us or forsake us. Wonderful Counselor means He is personal with us; we can go to Him with anything. Mighty God means He’s everything to us; nothing is beyond Him. Everlasting Father means He is more than just God to us but shows His loving nature as a wonderful Father who loves us unconditionally. Prince of Peace means He is destined to be King of the Kingdom; the Kingdom that will never end and will be one of peace and love.

God promised a miraculous birth a few centuries before its fulfillment. He put into place everything that needed to happen at the right time. He chose Mary. She would carry the child; give birth in an unexpected place by her understanding but was perfect in God’s prophecy. Can you imagine Joseph having to make the decision to take his very pregnant wife on such a long journey? But he had to go because of the Roman law to go to one’s ancestral home. Joseph was a descendant of King David as was Mary. It just so happens this was foretold as well. Jesus would come through the line of David; be born in David’s hometown of Bethlehem. God chose a Roman government to issue a decree at the time of the Savior’s birth to get them in the right place at the right time. Nothings impossible for God.

We can go all the way back to Abraham and Sarah to see how God planted a seed that would be fulfilled many centuries later. God promised and it happened just as it was foretold. Genesis 17:6 God tells Abraham the promise that would change history. I will make you very fruitful; I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. God became personal and brought forth the promised son who would bring forth the nation of Israel and eventually bring about Jesus through this ancestral line.

From Abraham to Jesus was written in God’s Word long before Mary had a clue that she was the one chosen for this blessing. The Gospel of Matthew records this genealogy. The Gospel of Luke goes even further back in time to the first man – Adam – from Adam to Jesus. God’s plan was established from the very foundations of the world. Jesus was sent to redeem what Adam had done. It just took a couple of thousand years to bring it about to make the conditions right for the Good News to spread.

If we can see this far back, we can see into the future because it’s all right there in black and white and read all over. God’s future promises will be fulfilled; we just don’t know the timing of it all. But at the right time, it will happen. We can believe it because of Jesus – He was promised, and He fulfilled it all. Birth. Death. Resurrection. Ascension to Heaven. Redemption for all who believe. The promised Spirit to come and be with us until Jesus’ return.

It happened just like He said it would. 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). For us a child is born, a Son is given and His government will rule forever. “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her (Luke 1:38). And it was done.

All I want for Christmas

My Mom used to say “there will always be a Santa Claus as long as you believe.” When we were growing up, Christmas was BIG. We got most of all our “wants” and a few of our needs. I would sit with the Christmas catalog from Sears Roebuck for hours figuring out what I really wanted for Christmas. My list was filled with the latest toy or gadget.

We had traditions that we established over the years. We all had our favorite items that Mom would incorporate into her menu planning. Things changed a bit when my sisters got married. Christmas morning didn’t seem to be as exciting as when we were all under the same roof. Then nephews came along and the excitement crept back in with each squeal of discovery. After my parents moved back to my hometown, it just became the three of us on Christmas morning. The large family gathers after all the other family units have their celebrations. The traditions took a little bit of tweaking with each passing year.

As I have grown older, my Christmas wish list has gotten smaller. But the things on it have been more expensive. Last year, I needed a new heating unit. Another year, I needed new tires. Of course, these were “needs” not “wants.” My wants have really become less and less as I try to live more simplistic. Over the last few years though, since my Mom has gone home, I realized Santa Claus no longer exists. Christmases are just not the same. We try to keep the same traditions we grew up with. We incorporate our favorite dishes into our menu planning. But it hasn’t been the same, and it never will be. I’m okay with that now.

Since Mom’s departure, I realized it’s not about the stuff anyway. My family is important to me. Jesus is important to me. All I really want for Christmas, now, is to love Jesus more. I want to spend the time wisely with my family as we never know what will change before next Christmas. If everything is stripped away, would it still be Christmas to me? I want fresh eyes to see Christmas in a new way. I want to see the Christmas story in the light of a new believer experiencing the joy of Christmas for the first time.

The Christmas story is a precious gift to us. We are given new life through Jesus’ birth. We are given a new hope through Mary’s submission. We are given a new joy as the shepherds experienced a glorious appearing. We are given a picture of humbleness, of peace, of love that is not matched in any other way in history. There has been no other birth that has changed the world as this one.

Jesus said He came to give us life – abundantly. He came to save us from our sins, but He came for so much more. If we are only getting the “get out of hell” ticket punched by Jesus’ death, we have failed to see the life that Jesus gives. Freedom. Redemption. Relationship. Joy. Peace. Love. Jesus came to remove the obstacle of religious tradition – He ripped the curtain wide open, so that we could have a relationship with God, the Father through Him, God’s Son.

Christmas might be different now than when I was a child; but the anticipation of Christmas is still here. It might look different, but Jesus is still the reason for the season. I appreciate the reason so much more today than I did as a child. Santa may be dead for me, but Jesus is alive and well. That’s the way I really want it. That’s all I really want for Christmas anyway; Jesus to be alive and well in my soul.

The Savior—yes, the Messiah, the Lord—has been born today in Bethlehem, the city of David! And you will recognize him by this sign: You will find a baby wrapped snugly in strips of cloth, lying in a manger.”

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.” Luke 2:11-14 (NLT)

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