IMMANUEL CAME TO US – PRAISE HIS NAME!

The advent hymn “O Come, O Come, Immanuel” originated in part from the “Great ‘O’ Antiphons,” part of the medieval Roman Catholic Advent liturgy.  In the 13th century a metrical version of five of the verses appeared on the musical scene.  That version was translated into English in 1851 by J. M. Neale.

The tune for this hymn is Veni Immanuel, originally music for a Requiem Mass in a 15th century French Franciscan Processional.  The chant tune was adapted to the poem by Englishman Thomas Helmore (1811-1890) and was published in Part II of his The Hymnal Noted (1854). 

Tradition tells us that on each day of the week leading up to Christmas, one responsive verse of this carol would be chanted, each stanza referencing a different Old Testament name for the Messiah who would be coming.

The text for this 8th century hymn comes from a 7 verse poem that was used in a call and response fashion during vespers, or the evening, service.  As a side-note, the original text created the reverse acrostic “ero cras,” which means “I shall be with you tomorrow,” words that are particularly appropriate for the advent season.  

Here is the text of this beloved Christmas hymn. As with all carols that have been sung through the centuries, there are variations in the content of the verses.  So, if the following stanzas do not include one that you are familiar with, forgive me; I believe that the majority of the verses in use today are reflected in this listing.

Please feel free to read this as you listen to an instrumental version by The Piano Guys on their album A Family Christmas.

1 O come, O come, Immanuel,
and ransom captive Israel
that mourns in lonely exile here
until the Son of God appear.

Refrain:
Rejoice! Rejoice! Immanuel
shall come to you, O Israel.

2 O come, O come, great Lord of might,
who to your tribes on Sinai’s height
in ancient times did give the law
in cloud and majesty and awe.

Refrain

3 O come, O Branch of Jesse’s stem,
unto your own and rescue them!
From depths of hell your people save,
and give them victory o’er the grave.

Refrain

4 O come, O Key of David, come
and open wide our heavenly home.
Make safe for us the heavenward road
and bar the way to death’s abode.

Refrain

5 O come, O Bright and Morning Star,
and bring us comfort from afar!
Dispel the shadows of the night
and turn our darkness into light.

Refrain

Although many hymnals do not include all the 5 verses translated by Neale, each verse is an acknowledgement of Christ as the fulfillment of Old Testament prophesies and we can consider the names and think about what they mean to us and for us in our walk with Jesus.

  • “Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14, Matthew 1:23) means “God with us”
  • “Adonai” (Leviticus 18:4) which is a name for God that means “the giver of the law”.
  • “Branch of Jesse” (Isaiah 11:1) refers to Jesus’ lineage
  • “Key of David” (Isaiah 22:22, Revelation 3:7) refers to Jesus’ lineage as well as His high calling in the kingdom of God – He has the key to heaven and only He can open/shut its door.
  • “Daystar” (Malachi 4:2, Luke 1:78-79, Revelation 22:16) this refers to the East and the dawn of the morning star, daybreak or the sunrise

We sing this hymn recognizing that the Kingdom of God has already come but is not yet here in its completion.   Christ’s first coming gives us a reason to rejoice again and again. Yet the minor tone of this carol reflects our realization that all is not well with the world. So along with our rejoicing, we plead using the words of this hymn that Christ would come again to perfectly fulfill the promise that all darkness will be turned to light.

As we read these words and think about their meaning through the centuries of Christianity, we come to a new realization of the power of our Lord and His Word.  We mourn for our brothers and sisters in Christ who are in physical danger and exile in today’s world.  But even if we are not in physical exile, we experience the separation from society that comes when we follow the commands of our Lord which run counter to the culture around us.  In short, we are different or as Peter puts it:

But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: [KJV]

1 Peter 1:9.  The English Standard Version translates “a peculiar people” as “a people for His own possession”.  In short, although we reside in our various countries on earth, believers in Jesus Christ are citizens of another kingdom in which Jesus Christ is Lord of Lords and King of Kings and in which we are brothers and sisters in Him.

Each of the verses of this beautiful carol ask that the Lord would guide us so we could live in His kingdom that was ushered into this world by the birth of the Babe in the Manger. 

While it has been over 2,000 years since our Lord was born, our God is the same today as He was when Christ was born and as He was before the creation of the world.  He does not change and He will be with us today and through the end of time.  Time has no hold on Him and His names that applied in the millennia before the coming of the Babe in the manger still apply in the millennia since that Christmas blessing.  

Take time to praise Him as you contemplate these names of God and the incredible Gift that He has given to us both in the Babe at the manger as well as in the salvation that comes through that Babe’s atoning sacrifice on the cross thirty-three years later.  Listen to the carol and sing it to yourself, letting the names of our God and His Christ resonate within your heart and soul.  Celebrate Immanuel’s coming as God is surely with us!

Father, I thank You that Emmanuel did come to this earth as a human Babe. I further thank You that He lived a perfect life that I cannot live, and that He took my sin upon Himself and died an atoning death on the cross of Calvary.  Finally, I thank You that He conquered death and is currently alive in heaven, interceding on my behalf before Your throne.  Thank You for salvation that was the very reason that He came at Christmas.  Thank You that in the manger, we see the shadow of the cross, all for the saving grace extended to Your children through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

WHAT ARE YOU DOING THIS CHRISTMAS?

Many years ago, my daughter gave me a Christmas gift that has brought delight for over 3 decades.

I had always loved looking at Christmas villages in the store and once my daughter laid eyes on it, it was a foregone conclusion – that was going to be her present to me that Christmas.  Mom was going to have a Christmas village. They presented me with an early Christmas present that year and it has been on display during the Christmas season ever since. We even call it “Lindaville”.  I am, of course, the Mayor (an uncontested race!) and my husband is all the other officials of the village, including the Utility Board, the Village Land Planner and the Village Building and Architect (he takes the building out of the boxes each year, creates the cityscape and foundation for the village, and then he sets up the electronics for lighting, animated accessories, etc.).

village - original set
The original Christmas Village set purchased by my daughter years ago.

Needless to say, she had no idea what she started when she first pointed to that village display.  Every year since that initial purchase, we have added new buildings, accessories, and scenery reflecting our interests.

The Village downtown with grocery, theater and the County Courthouse.
Village sweet shoppe
Christmas village Sweet Shoppe with delivery man and truck.

 

 
Village house with children playing
One of the homes in Lindaville. 

On a quiet evening, I sit and stare at the village, imagining the people in their houses, the business people at work, the craftsmen delivering the goodies from the bakery. Of course, the people in the village are ceramic – they can’t actually think or do anything.  I understand that, but my thoughts move from the pretend village to that of my town, my country, my world.  What are my family and friends doing, thinking, planning, enjoying, fearing?

We often respond to the inquiry “How are you, today?” with a quick “Fine, thank you.” or “Okay.” or “Better than I deserve.” But we seldom take down the façade and let others see us as we really are – perhaps hurting physically, perhaps in pain because of harsh words spoken by someone we love, perhaps fearful over concerns about health, perhaps in fear of the mail in January when the bills for the presents purchased will arrive and we know the income will not be sufficient to pay them all. The list could go on and on and is as varied as there are people.

The Christmas season brings out smiles and acts of generosity when penny-pinching is the norm at other times of the year. It provides occasions for us to don our holiday sweaters and our holiday ties, we put on the bright jewelry and party vests, and we polish up our smiles that hide our real hurts and concerns. But for many it is a very difficult, painful time.

The Good News, however, is that the Christmas season is a giant birthday party for the One born over two thousand years ago, in a Bethlehem manger. This One is the Son of God and He does not need to ask: “What are they doing?” He already knows exactly what we are doing, and He even knows why we are doing it! This One has come to show us the Way out of our crushing fear, our overwhelming struggle as we seek to run from our problems, and our continual convicting awareness of our sin and guilt before God.

Indeed, this is the Christ whose birth was announced along with the admonition not to fear and to be at peace!

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. … Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2:10 and 14.

This is the Christ who told His disciples:

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you.  Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.

John 14:27.

This is the Christ who said, after His resurrection:

As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!

Luke 24:36.

This is the Christ of whom it was written:

“And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.

Acts 4:12.

What is the best present to receive this Christmas? It is the gift that has already been given … no strings attached … free to all who believe on Jesus’ Name.

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23.

The Babe who was born in that Bethlehem manger became our atoning sacrifice on the cross.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9.

This gift, when accepted, gives peace with God, fellowship with other Christians, a life with the Holy Spirit guiding and securing your steps as you are transformed into the image of our Savior.

What are we doing this Christmas season?

I am confident that there are a bunch of activities that we will have on the agenda. However, I pray that we will have as our priority the worship of the One who was born so long ago, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas, and may we take the time to be still before Him, casting our cares upon Him and giving Him our love and adoration.

I pray that God’s Gift that we celebrate at Christmas will energize us to worship Him, study His Word, praise Him, and witness to others of His love, mercy and grace.

So, what are you doing this Christmas?

Father, may I honor and worship you throughout the year, not just at Christmas, and may I glorify your name in all that I say and do. Accept the gift of my heart and life, Lord, and may I live for you throughout my days, as you give me the grace and mercy to so live.

HAPPY ANNIVERSARY

Celebrations of meaningful life events is common in our culture, and I expect in many cultures that differ from ours in various respects.  We celebrate events that are exciting, which are blessings to us, which have consequences and expectations that reach far into the future.  Consider birthday parties, for example. 

Birthday party and balloons (C)
Birthday balloons 

Being the intrepid dog lovers that we are, we even celebrate the birthday of our canine family members.  Here is a party when our beloved Goldie, a retired racing greyhound, was the Birthday Princess and, standing next to her, was her sister, Sweetie, wearing a snazzy party hat.

Doggie party

Today is the 32nd anniversary of my marriage to my husband, Bill.  It is a date that we celebrate because of the love we have for each other and because November 27, 1986 marked a wonderful change in our lives, and in the lives of our children.  Both of us had been married previously so the marriage was between us as husband and wife as well as between us as parents of the children.  (We avoid the step-child/step-parent designation.  We both share in the children as if they were our own to the best extent possible.)

We thank God every day for the love that He has given to us in the form of our spouse.  And we thank God that He is part of our marriage. 

Triangle for marriage illustration

We often praise God for when we draw closer to each other, we are closer to God as well.  And, when we are closer to God through worship, our Bible reading, study, and fellowship with others, we are drawn closer to our Christian marriage partner.

We are in the midst of the “holiday season” in which we celebrated Thanksgiving Day (in the U.S., at least).  As a matter of note, we were married on Thanksgiving Day in 1986, signifying our thanks to the Lord for His hand in bringing us together.   Now that we have finished the Thanksgiving turkey, we turn our attention to the celebration of the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, Christmas Day. 

The heavenly host celebrated Jesus’ birth with their choir anthem to the shepherds.  The magi celebrated in worship when they delivered their gifts to Him.  But there is no directive that we are to celebrate His birth.

We remember events that may not be exciting or happy but are events which mark a change in our life or future.  Consider the remembrance of major surgery, or the marking of the date that a parent or spouse died.  These remembrances are not usually considered celebrations in the party-like sense, but they are things that we recall because of the effect that they had on our lives.

There is such an event described in Scripture.  Indeed, it is something that the Lord expressly directed His disciples to do, to celebrate, to remember.

“And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’  And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’”

Luke 22:19-20

Jesus celebrated the Passover feast with His disciples the night he was betrayed into the hands of the soldiers. He knew what was immediately ahead of Him, what suffering and humiliation He was going to endure.  He knew that the disciples would abandon Him and that He would be scorned, beaten and crucified.  He also knew that He was innocent of any wrong-doing.  He had lived a perfect life (which  we cannot live) and He was going to die a hideous death (a death that we deserved because of our sins).  He was going to die so we could live. 

That is a celebration that we have every time we participate in the Lord’s Supper.

Beloved, celebrate the wondrous things in your life – anniversaries, birthdays, births, weddings, and the list goes one.  Remember the difficult times in your life – deaths, illnesses, divorce, and the list goes on.

Above all, celebrate and remember what the Savior has done for you, no matter if everything is bright and rosy in your world or if everything is dull and gray.  The Savior has given you life, abundant life now and eternal life hereafter, if you believe in His name and claim Him as your Savior.  Honor Him and remember His sacrifice for you. 

Listen as the hymn “Turn your eyes upon Jesus” is presented on the album Hymns in the Vineyard by Vineyard Music.

Keep your eyes upon Jesus, and He will be near you no matter what this world throws at you.  Celebrate His presence and you will find His peace even in times of hardship and difficulty.

Father, thank You for bringing us together in marriage, and thank You for being with us through various trials, surgeries, and difficulties that the past 32 years have brought.  Thank You too for Your gracious loving hand on the family and on each of the children and grandchildren, for which we praise Your Holy Name.  I pray that these words would be of encouragement and that You would be glorified.

SILENT NIGHT, HOLY NIGHT

I love the cold weather, and I thoroughly enjoy some snow.  Not enough to cause horrible accidents, power outages or massive difficulties, but snow on the trees and bushes and lightly covering the ground.  I love the calming effect and profound silence that falling snow brings.

snowy-tranquility-c
Snowy quiet and tranquility.

One Christmas carol that is calming even in the midst of a season of tumultuous activity is Silent Night, Holy Night.  This calming effect is due, at least in part, to its sound theology.  Let us look at the words of this carol and consider the Scripture that relates to each stanza.

  • Silent night, holy night; All is calm, all is bright. [1] Round yon virgin, mother and child,Holy infant, so tender and mild, [2] Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace

[1]  The prophet Isaiah foretold in Isaiah 7:14:

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”  

This prophecy was quoted in Matthew 1:23 with a small addition, the meaning of the term “Immanuel”: 

Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).

Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to her son, Jesus.   Indeed, she confirmed that this prophesy was being fulfilled when she said, in Luke 1:34:

“And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?””

[2]  Then there is the phrase “Sleep in heavenly peace”.  

Jesus is, truly, the source of peace.  When His disciples were afraid, He said:

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”

John 14:27

The peace Jesus provides is overwhelming, and is heavenly peace!

  • Silent night, holy night,  [1] Shepherds quake at the sight; Glories stream from heaven afar, [2]  Heavenly hosts sing Alleluia!  [3] Christ the Savior is born, Christ the Savior is born. 

[1]  The word “quake” is not found in the description of the shepherds on that hillside.  However, Scripture does support the concept in Luke 2:9 where we read:  

“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.” 

I have to say, if I saw an angel of the Lord, with the glory streaming from the angel surrounding me, I believe that I would be filled with fear and would likely “quake” too!

[2]  Luke 2:13-14 tells that there was great singing by the heavenly host:

“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 among those with whom he is pleased!”” 

I can’t write these words without smiling and hearing in my soul the choir singing these words during Christmas anthems.  Another way to say “Glory to God” is by use of the word “Alleluia” or Hallelujah meaning “God be praised”.

[3]  “Christ the Savior is born”.   The angel told Joseph that Jesus was going to be the Savior of men when he announced to him that his betrothed was with a heavenly child.  

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

Matthew 1:21

The angels also announced this to the shepherds on that hillside so long ago: 

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

Luke 2:11

  • Silent night, holy night, (1) Son of God, love’s pure light; (2) Radiant beams from thy holy face With the dawn of redeeming grace, (3) Jesus, Lord, at thy birth, Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.

[1] The babe in the manger was truly the Son of God and “love’s pure light”.   Jesus said:

“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

John 15:12

“Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. .””

John 8:12

I doubt that the Babe in the manger had a halo around His head as depicted in religious art.  But radiance does assuredly apply to our Lord.  Consider the description of Jesus when He was transfigured before three of his disciples.  Matthew describes it as follows: 

“And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light.”

Matthew 17:2 

[2]  Redeeming grace was truly brought to earth when Jesus was born.  Paul sums this up in Galatians 4:4-5 where he says:

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

[3]  The carol concludes with the statement “Jesus, Lord, at thy birth.”   This is, too, an accurate statement and it is an affirmation of faith and belief in that wonderful Babe.  Again  Paul writes:

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Philippians 2:9-11.  Jesus is Lord of all, and He was Lord even as the Babe.  He gave up His heavenly place so He could save us from our sins; but He was no less Lord when He was a man than when He was in heaven.  The God/Man Jesus Christ is and always has been part of the Triune God, from the time before time began and He will remain such when time no longer exists and we are in heaven for eternity.  Jesus is Lord.  Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

May the blanketing silence of snow cover you, whether literally or figuratively, so that you experience the peace that our Savior brings to your heart and soul even in the hectic days of the Christmas season.  

Perhaps listening to Silent Night, Holy Night as sung by Nashville Liberty Acappella on their album Christmas Acappella will get you into the stillness mode.    

Do whatever it takes to calm yourself this Christmas.  You will be glad you did and your relationship with your Father will grow stronger even in  the hectic Christmas season.

Father, thank You for Your Word that tells of the birth of Jesus even hundreds of years before it occurred.  Thank You for Your Word that speaks to us today, thousands of years after Jesus was born, telling us of His birth, death, resurrection, ascension and promised return.  Help me to keep my eyes on You and Your gift to us, the Babe in the manger who became our Sacrifice on the Cross and is now our Savior in Heaven.   Give me the grace to “Be still”, even when chaos reigns around me, through the power and love of Your Son, Jesus Christ, my Savior.

FOR THE BEAUTY OF THE EARTH

When we were in England, we had the opportunity to visit the city of Bath.  It was a fascinating day as we saw the Roman baths, the wall around the city, and the Abbey.

 

Bath 6
Looking down a street in Bath, England

The town is quaint — who could resist this shop of Cornish delicacies!

Bath 5

The hot springs that existed there were known to people in the area for centuries prior to the Romans’ arrival.  According to the Victorian churchman Edward Churton, Bath was known as “Akemanchester” (translated “aching men’s cry”) during the Anglo-Saxon period, this name referencing the reputation the baths had for healing the sick.  

However, the city of Bath became a world-renowned spa in 60 A.D. when the Romans built public baths and a temple. 

Bath 13

Massive sculptures of Roman gods and soldiers line the colonnade around the baths, dwarfing the tourists visiting the area. 

Bath 19

In the Pump Room, the restaurant that is attached to the baths facility, there is this fountain which provides hot drinking water for those who desire it.  The thermal springs that made Bath famous thousands of years ago are still providing warm rejuvenation for people in the modern era. 

Fountain of hot spring water at Bath England
Fountain of hot spring water from the thermal spring that has provided hot water for millenia.

Of course, one of the most imposing structures in the city of Bath is Bath Abbey, founded in the 7th century.   An incredibly ornate, beautiful building complete with leaded stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings.  

100_3127
Bath Abbey

We were mesmerized by the town, its history and its beauty.  But we are not the only people who loved the place!

Folliott Pierpoint [1835-1917], a classical scholar who lived a rather leisurely life, loved his hometown of Bath, England.  It is thought that the loveliness of the area inspired Pierpoint to write this hymn in 1864 when he was 29 years of age.  While he wrote other hymns and poetry, this is his most remembered and cherished hymn.

It was originally written as a Eucharistic hymn with the title “The Sacrifice of Praise”.  The repeated refrain was :

Christ, our God, to thee we raise
This, our sacrifice of praise.

Later, the refrain’s text was changed to read:

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our hymn of grateful praise.

And, it is these words, rather than the original words, that we find in most hymnals today.  The hymn praises God for a host of beauties, indeed, they are things that we encounter in everyday living, but which we often fail to appreciate:  the beauty of the earth and skies, the beauty of each hour, the joy of ear and eye, and the joy of human love.  Moreover, it includes thanksgiving for the church and for our Christ. 

Listen to this hymn that began in Bath, England and marched around the world in celebration of the great gifts from our God and our Savior Jesus Christ.  

In lifting your heart and your voice in thanksgiving, you are acting in accordance with both the Old and New Testaments of Scripture.  Consider these passages from Psalms and 2 Corinthians:

” To the choirmaster: according to Muth-labben. A Psalm of David. I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart; I will recount all of your wonderful deeds.”

Psalm 9:1

Sing praises to the LORD, O you his saints, and give thanks to his holy name.

Psalm 30:4

I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.”

Psalm 57:9

“Praise the LORD!  Oh give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!”

Psalm 106:1

All your works shall give thanks to you, O LORD, and all your saints shall bless you!”

Psalm 145:10

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. For the ministry of this service is not only supplying the needs of the saints but is also overflowing in many thanksgivings to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:11-2

This Thanksgiving holiday, stop and thank God for the multitude of blessings that He has bestowed on us each and every moment of every day. 

Then, make it a priority to give thanks to our God each day, not just on the secular day of Thanksgiving.  Make gratitude your “default position” … putting thanksgiving at the top of your list daily.  You will be edifying our God and you will be encouraging your own heart in so doing.  And, the Holy Spirit will be able to work in you in ways that will surprise and excite you.

Be thankful in all things.  Bless His Holy Name!

Father, may we see Your blessings and gifts to us every day.  Open our eyes so that we can recognize the gifts that you so bountifully grant to us moment by moment and then may we give thanks in humble gratitude and recognition that we cannot do anything on our own, it is all through Your grace and love that we even exist, let alone thrive.  Thank You Father.

THE SNEAKY WAY OF SIN

We all like to do things that we enjoy.  Just watch children playing together with their Playdoh.

Grandchildren at table playing (C)

 Or watch children playing in the sprinkler during the hot summer sun!

playing in sprinkler

When the children get a bit older, what could be more fun than a multi-generational game of backyard football.  No refs and no goalposts, but fun nonetheless!

USED family playing football (C)

None of these things are sinful, in and of themselves.  But sin has an insidious way of breaking into our daily routine even when what we are doing is innocuous.  Indeed, even good things can become sinful if it results in disobedience to that which we know God wants us to do.

The other evening, we had finished supper, cleaned up the dishes, and descended the stairs to the family room where we watched television.  We had been discussing, that very day, about how we needed to rethink our meals and eating habits because we need to lose weight for any number of health-related reasons. 

Following our normal course, at 9:00 we had ice cream bars, low calorie bars so in our minds they are ok to have, especially since we had no dessert for dinner. So far, so good.

But then the program we were watching focused on a family in various humorous, although troubling, life situations.  At the end of their day, the teenaged children came into the kitchen and found the Dad sitting at the table, looking haggard.  He had something in front of him that was not really identifiable for the audience.

The television Dad looked up at the children and said: “want some cheese toast?”

At that the program ended, and at the same moment, my husband and I looked at each other and simultaneously said “Cheese Toast!” 

Within moments we had retrieved the toaster oven from over the freezer and were siding bread onto the rack while the cheese was being unwrapped and made ready for melting.

Cheese toast is certainly not sinful.  But, what struck me most was how quickly our dedication to the proposition that we should lose weight fell by the boards when we heard the words “cheese toast” even though it was 11:15 p.m. 

Not a word was uttered in support of dietary restraint.  We bounded up the stairs as quickly as we could, toting the toaster oven to the kitchen and grabbing the bread and cheese almost in one smooth, coordinated, motion. 

When sin beckons me, do I really run toward it like we ran to cheese toast?  What if Satan puts something else in front of me so as to tempt me to leave the Lord that I love … will I run to it as fast as I did to cheese toast?

Our culture has done a great job of inoculating us from the actions of Satan.  We think of him as a guy in a red suit with horns and a pitchfork, certainly nothing that we would be inclined to follow!  But that is not how Scripture talks of him.

“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.”

1 Peter 5:8

I have not been in the wilds of Africa to see a lion up close and personal however I  did see a lion in the zoo!  But, when the lion prowls around, I believe that it sneaks up on its prey, saving the roaring for after the kill.

In speaking of the false teachers who were misleading the Corinthian church, Paul says this about Satan:

“For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.”

2 Corinthians 11:13-15

Of course, Satan’s ultimate goal is to eliminate the Church and all that Christ accomplished through His death on the cross.

“But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you–I, Paul, again and again–but Satan hindered us.”

1 Thessalonians 2:17-18

The good news is that Satan is not the victor – He has been defeated by our Lord and Savior Who is more than capable of holding on to us as His people.  Indeed, James put it this way:

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”

James 4:7

If we resist Satan, he will flee because he understands that the only way we have the power to resist him is through Christ, and our Savior’s power far exceeds that of Satan any day of the week.

Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever.  Amen.

Jude 1:24-25

With that benediction I end this post.  Blessings to you, Brothers and Sisters in the Lord.  Take heart – cheese toast does not win the day.  We can meet the adversary and sin has no controlling hold on us anymore.  We are still sinners, yes.  But now, through the blood of Jesus Christ, we don’t have to yield to sin – we can resist it through the poser of our Lord and Savior.

Father, I praise Your Name for the gift of salvation through belief in Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.  I praise Your Name that I am no longer a slave to sin and that through Christ’s power I can resist Satan and claim life with Christ for eternity.  Thank You Lord.

A COMPASSIONATE HEART

When your children were young, did they ever have an accident that resulted in a broken bone, or perhaps a burn or a sprain?  Often the injury is the result of some foolishness on the child’s part.  Perhaps the child is doing something that he/she knows they should not do, or perhaps he/she is taking a shortcut through an area that is dangerous, or perhaps he/she decides to try flying! 

But, the cause is not relevant to the pain in the parent’s heart!  When your child is injured, that hurt, while not physical, brings such pain to your heart that it is as if you had sustained the injury too.

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Child’s cast for his broken leg.

When dealing with the immediate aftermath of the injury, the focus is necessarily on getting help, treating the wound, stemming the tears and insuring no further harm is experienced.  And, while this is going on, compassion is enabling us to handle things that we never dreamed we could.

Compassion – sympathy, empathy, commiseration, feeling, pity, tenderness.  This is just one of the emotions we feel when someone we love is injured.  Compassion frequently expresses itself in an anguished cry on behalf of the one who is, or will be, experiencing pain.

Jesus is known for His compassion as is evidenced in the Gospels, for example, when He fed the 5,000 people who came to remote locations to hear Him teach. 

“When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.”

Mark 6:34 NIV

Jesus’ compassion expressed itself by an anguished cry in the book of Luke, when He was on His way to Jerusalem, the city in which He would stand trial and be crucified.  As He was on the road to the city, Jesus said:

“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing!”

Luke 13:34

The compassion of our God is evidenced throughout Scripture, both Old and New Testaments.  Consider Moses’ discourse to the Israelites as he recounted what happened during the wilderness years.  In Deuteronomy 5:27 Moses reminds the people of their promise to do all that God said, and then he tells them what God said to him in response to the people’s promise:

“’Go near and hear all that the LORD our God will say and speak to us all that the LORD our God will speak to you, and we will hear and do it.’ And the LORD heard your words, when you spoke to me. And the LORD said to me, ‘I have heard the words of this people, which they have spoken to you. They are right in all that they have spoken.  Oh that they had such a heart as this always, to fear me and to keep all my commandments, that it might go well with them and with their descendants forever!  Go and say to them, “Return to your tents.” But you, stand here by me, and I will tell you the whole commandment and the statutes and the rules that you shall teach them, that they may do them in the land that I am giving them to possess.'”

Deuteronomy 5:27-31

God chose His people and loves them as a Father.  In verse 29, you can almost hear the anguish when God said, “Oh that they had such a heart as this always”.  God’s compassionate heart screamed the desire that His people would be loyal and devoted to His worship and that they would obey His commands.   He wanted it to “go well with them and with their descendants forever” and such would be the case if they were obedient, if they would make good on their promise of that day!  But He also knew that this would not happen!

Punishment is forgotten when the injury occurs.  Fix the injury, then consider  the punishment.  In Israel’s case, their punishment was wandering in the wilderness for 40 years and, later in their history, captivity and removal to Babylon, all because of disobedience.

How like the Old Testament folk we are.  We read Scripture and say that we will do what it says.  But, like our New Year’s Resolutions, slowly but surely, we forget about the words of Scripture as the things of everyday life push it out of our minds and schedules.  We want to do what God says, but we just can’t seem to pull it off.

It is for this reason that Jesus Christ was born, lived a perfect life of obedience to God’s commands, had no sin in Himself, but took our sin on Himself, that we might have life through belief in His Name.

“Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” – John 20:30-31

When we commit our hearts to Jesus, when we fall at the cross and acknowledge Him as our Lord and Master, then we will receive forgiveness of our sin and the Spirit can infuse us with the nature that Jesus Christ had.  We will still sin, surely, because we are a sinful people.  But there is forgiveness and restoration through the cross of Christ upon our confession and repentance. 

Then we can express compassion that is not self-centered or self-aggrandizing.  Rather, our compassion will be a characteristic of our loving Father, of our Savior Jesus Christ, and from the Holy Spirit Who will give it to us as we seek to do the Father’s will in our world.

Blessings to you today as you serve our God and Savior.

Father, I pray that I would exhibit Your compassion to those that I meet.  May my heart break for the things that break Your heart, Lord Jesus, and may I express my compassion through the power of the Holy Spirit in words, thoughts and deeds that glorify Your Name.

THANKSGIVING IS A HIGH HONOR!

I am doing a good bit of embroidery since last Christmas when my beloved husband gave me an embroidery sewing machine.  Although I am certainly not an expert in using the machine and all its features, I am enjoying my new-found hobby immensely. 

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We joke that the machine is the “gift that keeps on taking”!

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Because of the continuing costs of fabric, embroidery floss, stabilizers, and, of course, embroidery patterns there is some basis for this assertion. 

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I was looking at new designs and found many with Thanksgiving as the theme, understandably so since, in the United States, we will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday on November 22.

There were innumerable designs, many with expressions such as:

“In Everything Give Thanks.”

“A Grateful Heart is a Thankful Heart”

“O Give Thanks Unto the Lord”

“There Is Always Something to be Thankful For”

“Grateful Hearts Gather Here”

While it seems that our celebration of Thanksgiving often is more focused on the meal including the turkey, dressing, potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin pie, the real foundation for our Thanksgiving is not food, not even a great harvest: it is in our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

In the book of Leviticus, we read:

“”And this is the law of the sacrifice of peace offerings that one may offer to the LORD. If he offers it for a thanksgiving, then he shall offer with the thanksgiving sacrifice unleavened loaves mixed with oil, unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and loaves of fine flour well mixed with oil.  With the sacrifice of his peace offerings for thanksgiving he shall bring his offering with loaves of leavened bread.”

Leviticus 7:11-13

Thanksgiving was a part of worship throughout the Old Testament.

“Then on that day David first appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the LORD by Asaph and his brothers.”

1 Chronicles 16:7

“And the Levites: Jeshua, Binnui, Kadmiel, Sherebiah, Judah, and Mattaniah, who with his brothers was in charge of the songs of thanksgiving.”

Nehemiah 12:8.  These folks were specifically set apart to be in charge of the thanksgiving songs of the people in worship.

The one who offers thanksgiving as his sacrifice glorifies me; to one who orders his way rightly I will show the salvation of God!”

Psalm 50:23

Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!”

Psalm 100:4

Thanksgiving continues to be extolled in the New Testament as well.

“You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God.”

2 Corinthians 9:11

“Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.”

Ephesians 5:4

“do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”

Philippians 4:6

Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.”

Colossians 4:2

Thanksgiving will continue even after the end of the age and we are in Heaven with God. 

“After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” And all the angels were standing around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.””

Revelation 7:9-12

Can you hear it?  Can you see it in your mind’s eye? 

Thanksgiving is not just something that is imposed on people.  Rather it is from the heart and it is ranked in the same category as “blessing”, “glory”, “wisdom”, “honor”, “power”, and “might”.  Listen as these words are sung in the Chorus “Worthy is The Lamb That Was Slain” as presented in Handel’s The Messiah. 

Thanksgiving is due to God because of Who He is and what He has done for His people.  Thanksgiving is due to the Lord Jesus Christ, the Lamb Who was slain, because of His atoning work on the cross that paid the price of our sin, satisfied the wrath of God against us because of our sin.  Thanksgiving is due to the Holy Spirit for His quickening of our hearts which had been dead because of sin, and for His leading and guiding us as we are being transformed into the image of Jesus Christ.

Make thanksgiving the norm, the modus operandi of your daily walk.  Look for opportunities to give our Lord thanks throughout the day, however murky and disappointing it may be.  At a minimum you could thank Him for life, grace, mercy, and His unconditional and unfailing love … that should provide sufficient fuel for you to lift your eyes and your heart to Him, even as the day is swirling around you.

Blessings to you as you journey along your walk of faith. 

Father forgive me for the multitude of times that I have accepted Your gifts with open hands without so much as a whispered prayer of thanks.  Forgive me for the myriad of days that have passed through my fingertips without any acknowledgment from me that the day is, in itself, a gift from You, a gift for which I should be profoundly thankful. Lord, forgive me for accepting the gift of mercy and grace, of salvation and of Your love without even humbling myself so as to bow at Your feet in adoration and thanksgiving for the great work that You did in securing my salvation from my sin.  Lord, have mercy and forgive.

SABBATH REST

We enjoy camping.  While our method of camping is certainly not “roughing it”, we do enjoy the retreat into the RV and the varied scenery that we encounter in different campgrounds that we have visited across the U.S. 

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Mississinewa River, Indiana Standing along the shore looking at the 7 pillars of the Miami Nation of Indians near Peru, Indiana

Camping, getting away from the hectic schedule even we retired people have, is a marvelous way to unwind and just relax, contemplate your relationship with the Lord and with the various people in your family, church, work, etc.  And we do just that, but for the vast majority of the time, we relax.  We rest.  We just sit and look at the beautiful scenery, or we walk and get closer to it. 

Shoshone Falls in Twin Falls, Idaho

There usually is no schedule and nothing that would require our attention if we didn’t want to pay attention to it.  And, at least after the campground deadline for “quiet time”, there is the solitude that comes from being in God’s creation, simply soaking in the silence and then the sounds of the evening. Rest for the mind, rest for the body, and rest for the soul.

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Colorado National Monument, Grand Junction, Colorado

God knows that we need rest – He made us and knows us intimately.  He knows that nonstop work is harmful to us, just about as harmful to us as nonstop idleness.  He commanded that we stop work and rest on the 7th day, the Sabbath, the day that He declared to be holy unto the Lord. 

In giving the Ten Commandments to Moses, God said:

Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the LORD your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”

Exodus 20:8-11

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River in Yellowstone National Park

In the Garden of Eden things were wonderful – Adam and Eve were not subject to the difficulties that sin introduced into the world.  However, once they were banished from the Garden and subject to sin, God had to set out commandments so that His people would know His moral law. 

“The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.”

Psalm 19:7-9

Consider what the Psalmist says about keeping the law of the Lord.  The soul is revived, the simple become wise, the heart rejoices, the eyes are enlightened, not to mention that the fear (reverence and awe) of the Lord endures forever, and His rules are true and righteous. 

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Badlands National Park, Interior, South Dakota

Needless to say, these commandments are not just for the Old Testament folks!  While the New Testament Christians are not “under the law”, the commandments reflect how our God wants us to live, and we are told of the benefits of following the commands of our God.  Surely, we must obey them even in the 21st century. 

[I realize that there are many in service professions that must work on the weekend, and that includes the day called the “Sabbath” or for the Christian on Sunday, the first day of the week;  but for those folks, there should be another day on which they look to their Savior dedicating their time and energy to Him.]

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Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

God understands that we need that time to recalibrate our lives and to refocus so that we are looking to God as the source of life and all that it has to offer.  Contrary to our world’s culture and Hollywood, we are not the center of the universe, God is.  He is due our reverence, loyalty and love.

Rest is not only a subject of the commandments — Jesus had some poignant words about rest as well.  In one of the most beautiful passages in Matthew, Jesus says:

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Matthew 11:28-30

Rest for your souls.  That, my Beloved, is what our culture is longing for and which they will not find in materialism, philosophies, or any place other than God.  Don’t be deceived by anything that promises joy, comfort and rest without reliance on God, the Father Almighty.  It is in His arms that rest and relief from sin can be achieved.  He is the author of rest and it is only through Him that it can be received.

Father, I praise Your Name for the rest that comes only from You through Jesus Christ, my Savior and Redeemer.  For those who seek this rest, I pray that You would grant them Your Spirit to show them the way, through Christ our Lord, I pray.