“He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)
He knew His humanity was temporary.
He knew His Father’s plan.
He knew His perfect life would be tarnished by the imperfections of a world He had embraced.
Jesus knew His purpose, still He chose the path He knew would lead to death.
He was God.
He was man.
Heavenly purpose mingled with earthly fears.
He knew no sin, yet He knew love.
He knew sorrow.
He knew joy.
He knew pain.
“Let this cup pass from me, but not my will but Thine be done.” (Matthew 26:39)
Our Lord knew His journey on this earth would lead to humiliation, anguish, abandonment and death. Still He chose to die. With deliberate intention, He walked the path to the cross pausing only to accomplish the work of His Father in the lives of those He touched along the way.
His steps were not hurried.
His load was not carefree.
He knew His Father’s plan.
He set His face to go to Jerusalem.
He set His face to go to the cross.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16).
I DO NOT UNDERSTAND what I do.
The things I want to do, the things I know to do, I do not do them.
But WHAT I HATE, that is what I DO.
My heart is DECEITFUL and beyond all cure. My sins have SEPARATED me from God and have hidden his face from me.
You must grow weary of my trampling through your courts of grace with my vain requests for forgiveness.
Oh, God, can you still HEAR me?
Please speak to me.
I am undone.
In my darkness, I hear your voice,
And with its sound, I am once again reminded of your TENDER MERCIES.
You are COMPASSIONATE and GRACIOUS, Lord. You are SLOW TO ANGER and ABOUNDING IN LOVE.
You do not deal with me as my sins deserve nor do you repay me according to my offenses.
Instead, you are PATIENT WITH ME.
For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so GREAT IS YOUR LOVE FOR ME.
You are FAITHFUL TO FORGIVE – when I confess – and to cleanse my heart of its unrighteousness.
As far as the east is from the west, you have removed my transgressions from me.
YOU REMEMBER THEM NO MORE.
From your abundance, Lord, I have received your GRACE UPON GRACE.
Of this my heart will forever sing!
*This expression of praise for God’s love, forgiveness and grace is a compilation and personalization of the following Scriptures: Romans 7:15; Jeremiah 17:9; Isaiah 59:2; Isaiah 1:11-15; Job 11:5; Isaiah 6:5; Isaiah 1:18; Psalm 51:1; Psalm 103:8; Psalm 103:10; 2 Peter 3:9; Psalm 103:11; 1 John 1:9; Psalm 103:12; Isaiah 43:25; John 1:16 and Psalm 89:1
Christmas SMILE #25 (Reason to SMILE #359): THE MIRACLES
He became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:14 (ESV)
The miracle of God With Us began with Christ’s advent to earth as a baby but it is not constrained to one day in the past. The miracle of God With Us is experienced every day in the life of the Christian. From the moment of salvation, Christ fills us with his Spirit and continually fills us with his character, his forgiveness, his love, his grace and his mercy.
Have you experienced the miracle of Christ’s birth in your life? If not, there’s no better day than today.
Does it really matter for me that Christ was born if Christ is not born now in my life and my time?
– Author Unknown
May we always remember the miracles of Christmas – Christ’s coming to earth as a baby, to our lives as Savior and Lord and again to earth one day as our Victorious King.
Merry Christmas, everyone!
Christmas SMILE #16 (Reason to SMILE #350): THE NATIVITY
A blanket of white velvet covered the earth as snow gently drifted in the brisk night sky. Houses, adorned with twinkling lights and shiny bows, were aglow with a brightness exceeded only by the umbrella of shimmering stars overhead. The lullaby of carolers took wing on the gentle breezes of winter, filling the air with a song accompanied by the jingle of bells, the whistle of winds and …
… the shrill of a screaming choir angel being chased around the classroom by a shepherd carrying what seemed to be Joseph’s mustache and beard while a clean-shaven Joseph was following closely behind.
Leaping from her chair (and back into reality), Mrs. Jennings scrambled to rescue the angel in distress only to be stopped short by a whining wise man as he tugged at his collar and struggled to keep his crown atop his head. Switching gears from rescue heroine to seamstress, Mrs. Jennings attempted alterations on the magi’s royal robe which she found to be wet along the hem line. Examining a little further, Mrs. Jennings, now detective, found a trail of water leading all the way to the stable where Mary sat whimpering as she held baby Jesus by one arm over a puddle of water on the floor. Swabbing the stable floor, Mrs. Jennings longed for the peaceful winter night of her earlier daydream but reassured herself that practice for the first grade Christmas pageant couldn’t get any worse.
Then it happened. A loud crash echoed through the classroom and the little town of Bethlehem was at last silent. Mrs. Jennings slowly turned to find a choir angel, a shepherd and a clean-shaven Joseph with heads held low and a pile of broken ceramics at their feet. The teacher’s heart sank as she realized that the reckless trio had broken her grandmother’s nativity set, now a precious heirloom. Mrs. Jennings approached the rubble and her students shuffled to take their seats. As she picked up the pieces, she quietly began to speak.
“When I was a little girl, my family and I would spend Christmas Eve at my grandmother’s house. I loved Christmas Eve at Grandma’s. She always baked Christmas cookies and played Christmas music. We had a wonderful time but my favorite part of Christmas Eve was the time just before opening our presents. Grandma would gather everyone around this nativity set. She only displayed the stable stall filled with all the animals and the empty manger until Christmas Eve. As we gathered around, Grandma would tell us the story of Jesus’ birth and display the other pieces of the nativity set as she went along. Like these pieces,” Mrs. Jennings said as she held up a damaged Joseph and Mary.
“Joseph and Mary traveled a very long way to get to Bethlehem and when they arrived, there was no room for them in the inn. The innkeeper led Mary and Joseph to the stable stall because he knew Mary needed a warm place to stay. You see, Mary was going to have a baby.” Mrs. Jennings carefully placed Mary and Joseph in the stable and picked up one of the shepherds.
“That same night shepherds were in the fields watching their sheep and an angel of the Lord appeared to them.” Mrs. Jennings searched for the angel amidst the broken pieces. “The angel told the shepherds that a baby was born in Bethlehem and this baby was the Savior. The shepherds quickly left their sheep and found the Baby Jesus exactly where the angel had said – wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in the manger.” Mrs. Jennings placed the Baby Jesus in the manger and continued, “The shepherds worshipped the Baby Jesus because he was no ordinary baby. Jesus was and is the Son of God. Just as the angels proclaimed, Jesus is our Savior. He came to forgive us for our wrongdoing, and misbehavior,” added Mrs. Jennings slyly. “God wants us to someday live forever with Him in heaven but because of our sin, we can’t enter heaven. So God sent his only Son as a baby to grow up in our world and to show us His love by dying to pay the punishment for our sins and rising from the grave to give us hope. Jesus is God’s gift to us and all we have to do to receive this gift is believe.”
Mrs. Jennings smiled as she remembered her grandmother’s ending to the Christmas Eve story, “As Grandma placed the complete Nativity Set on the fireplace mantel, she would always say, ‘One day, I’m going to celebrate Christmas in Heaven, are you?’ ”
With this question, Mrs. Jennings looked up from the priceless Nativity Set to see a precious miracle. As she was telling of the Savior’s birth, her students had made their way to their places in the stable stall. The choir of angels began to sing the soft lullaby of “Away in a Manger”. Shepherds knelt quietly in the presence of their Savior as wise men gathered with gifts in the background. Joseph, with full beard and mustache, stood proudly by Mary who lovingly wrapped the Baby Jesus in swaddling clothes and laid him in the manger.
The snow gently fell outside the first grade classroom window as the sweet serenade of little voices filled the air. Mrs. Jennings smiled through her tears and quietly thanked God for the long winter nights of Christmas pageant practice.
One day, I’m going to celebrate Christmas in Heaven and the SMILES will never cease. What about you? God has given you a precious gift. All you have to do to receive this gift is believe. Won’t you accept His gift today? I’d so love to see your SMILING faces at our heavenly Christmas celebration one day!
Christmas SMILE #10 (Reason to SMILE #344): THE LIGHTS
There’s a house on my drive home from work that is decked with a huge display of Christmas lights. Glowing Christmas characters and flashing trees fill the yard. And if you tune into a particular radio frequency, you can even hear Christmas music playing along with the blinking lights. This house is a bright and cheery beacon of Christmas spirit on an otherwise dark and quiet stretch of road.
The lights of Christmas are beautiful and whether it’s a simple string of white bulbs draped over the azalea bushes or a grandiose exhibit of colorful luminaries dancing wildly to Trans-Siberian Orchestra’s “Carol of the Bells”, you cannot deny the cheer these lights bring to a dark and dreary world. And for the few brief moments we are enjoying their brilliant display along a neighborhood street or basking in their soft glow around the family Christmas tree, we find a sense of comfort, peace and joy. We forget our worries and we find a SMILE.
Then we drive down the road or unplug the tree lights and the darkness surrounds us once again, stealing away our security and contentment.
Oh, but the respite we find while enjoying the lights of Christmas does not have to end when their gleam can no longer be seen. The darkness does not have to overrun our lives. For there is a Light that brings unwavering joy and everlasting peace. This Light reaches the darkest crevices of our lives, drives out the shadows of our hopelessness and despair and brings hope to a weary world, to a weary soul, to a weary you and to a weary me.
This True Light of Christmas is Jesus. He is the reason for our celebration, the reason for our joy. He is the reason we can SMILE in the midst of our darkest nights.
The people walking in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness
a light has dawned.
You have enlarged the nation
and increased their joy;
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 9:2-3a, 6 (NIV)
A tiny baby born in Bethlehem pierced the darkness of a dying world more than two thousand years ago. Though the shadow of death followed Him, the Light of the Son of God could not be extinguished, even on the cross. The Light of our Risen Savior and Reigning King still shines brightly for all to see today. And though the shadows of darkness threaten to overtake us, we’ve no need to fear. The True Light of Christmas has conquered the darkness so you and I can have life – a life filled with uncontainable joy!
There’s only twenty-five days until Christmas. TWENTY-FIVE! Are you ready? I am!… unless we’re talking about having all my presents purchased, wrapped and sitting under the tree! Then, no. No, I am not. But I am ready for the Christmas season. I love this time of year. There are so many wonderful ways to celebrate, so many sights, smells, tastes and sounds that are unique to the Christmas holiday. And, of course, there are so many SMILES to find and share.
So, without further ado…
Let the Christmas SMILES begin! <SQUEAL> I’m so excited! 😉
CHRISTMAS SMILE #1 (Reason to SMILE #335): THE CHRISTMAS TREE
I’ve always thought it strange to sing a ballad to a tree.
You know the one, don’t you, about the fir forever green?
We hear it playing in the stores, while we’re Christmas shopping.
We hum along to its tune in movies that we’re watching.
As it’s sung, sweet voices raise with fervor and great passion
For the object of their joy and holiday affection.
Friends, families, strangers even, the tree they gather ’round
As hand-in-hand, they sway in sync to music’s mellow sound.
I see these scenes and wonder “Who on earth does this so?
It’s a tree, for heaven’s sake, not a sacred shrine — although…’
I do love my Christmas tree. It’s first to bedeck my halls.
I love to see the twinkling lights drape branches stretched so tall.
It’s smell wafts through the air and prompts frequent inhalations
Made with eyes closed up tight – Oh, the mem’ries it emblazons!
It’s beauty, natural and God-made, is cheerfully adorned
With ribbons, stars of gold and red, and strings of air-popped corn.
Oh, how could I have Christmas if I did not have my tree!
For more than decoration this fir tree is to me.
This evergreen reminds me of a life everlasting.
Hope springs from its branches and the shadows it is casting.
For one day, the One whose birth we joyously celebrate
Did give His life upon a tree for you and me to save.
The precious gift of Christmas gave His life for all the world
So we could live forever in the presence of the Lord.
Yes! I love my Christmas tree; to it’s sign of hope, I’ll cling.
I’ll praise God for it’s message and for all the SMILES it brings!
Just don’t expect me to hold hands in a circle around the thing and sing to it!
It ain’t happenin’.
“He’s back!” shouted a voice from outside. A young man jumped to his feet and peered out of his doorway. To his surprise, he saw crowds of people running down the path in front of his house. He turned to his friends inside and without a word, the three young men inside the house rose to their feet and they all headed to the back room.
The men knew that the news of his arrival was spreading quickly. There was no time to lose. The four friends reached down and firmly grasped the bed upon which a fifth friend was lying. Though startled, the infirmed friend did not make a sound for he, too, had heard the commotion outside. He braced himself for the move as his friends began to carry him outside and into the street.
Their destination was not far, just a few houses away, but as more and more people joined the entourage in the street, the journey of these five friends seemed endless. The four men carrying their bed-stricken friend looked at each in desperation. Were they going to make it? Were they going to miss him? In tandem, the men hastened their steps and carefully weaved through the parade down the dusty pathway.
As they reached the house at the end of the path, the men noticed an unusual silence. Though the crowd was great, the typical noise of such a crowd was replaced by the sound of a single voice trickling through the masses and pouring out into the air. Hearing the words spoken by this single voice, the four burdened men felt a resolve as never before to carry their friend to the one speaking. They tried every entryway, each door, each window, but their attempts to enter the house were thwarted. No one in the crowd was willing to sacrifice their position.
All hope seemed lost until one friend had an idea. With the nod of his head, he convinced his friends of the solution. Not once did any one of them raise a question as they maneuvered their infirmed friend onto the roof of the crowded house. Once atop, they set to the task of tearing a hole in the roof large enough to lower the bed through without jeopardizing the safety of their friend. Though difficult, ingenuity and perseverance prevailed. Slowly, the men lowered their paralyzed friend into the house and laid him at the feet of Jesus. The faith of these four men yielded the forgiveness and healing of the fifth and five friends walked away changed forever.
There are people all around us who are paralyzed, spiritually and emotionally. Their lives are crippled with fear, with hatred, with regrets. They need healing and restoration but most cannot find their way to the One who can forgive their sins, heal their hearts and save their souls. They cannot find their way to Jesus. They need someone to lead the way. They need someone to carry them.
Do you know someone who needs to be brought to Jesus? Do you know someone who cannot make the journey on their own? Will you carry that one to Jesus today? Are you willing to help that friend, that loved one, that neighbor? Take their hand, help them scoop up the broken pieces of their lives, give them a shoulder to lean on and carry the hurting, the broken, the weary, the lost to the Savior. Your faith can make all the difference.
(Adapted from Mark 2:1-12.)
Reason to SMILE #251: A BLESSED ASSURANCE
Irma is headed our way. We’ve filled up the gas tanks and stocked up on non-perishables and water. We’ve rid our yard of any possible projectiles as best we could and we’ve determined the best place to park our vehicles. Mostly, though, we’ve prayed! Oh, how we’ve prayed!
As I’ve been preparing for Irma today, there’s been one song that keeps repeating in my mind. The chorus says, “People get ready. Jesus is coming. Soon we’ll be going home.” (You can listen to the entire song here.) Now, I’m not a doom and gloom kinda person but I guess all the storm prepping has steered my mind toward another event for which we all should be preparing – the day the Lord returns to take His children home.
I know some of you have been thinking of the Lord’s return, as well. I’ve read your posts. Normally, I would have tried to avoid a topic chosen by others but just like the news of the impending storm should be broadcast from every media source available, so also should the news of the Savior’s return be shared by as many of us as possible.
One day the Lord will return. The Bible tells us we won’t know the day or the hour. That means we won’t get several days warning to get our lives in order, to ask forgiveness for our sins and choose to follow Jesus. The time to get ready is now.
“How do you prepare for the Lord’s return?” you ask. Well, it’s easier than preparing for a hurricane, that’s for sure. It’s as simple as A-B-C.
A – Admit that you are a sinner.
For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
The wages (payment for) of sin is death…
B – Believe that Jesus is the Son of God, that He died and rose again to pay the price for your sins.
… the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.
C – Commit your life to Christ and Confess your faith to others.
If you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. One believes with the heart, resulting in righteousness, and one confesses with the mouth, resulting in salvation.
I’ve done all I can do to prepare for Hurricane Irma but I’m not certain whether my preparations will be good enough. Storms are unpredictable. Anything could happen. I’ve also prepared myself for the Lord’s return. The good thing is I can know that I will be ready to meet my Savior.
Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.
And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.
1 John 5:11-13
Now that is a certainty- a blessed assurance – that makes me SMILE.
Reason to SMILE #249: DETERMINATION
I received a phone call no parent wants to receive.
“Your child is sick. You may need to take him to the ER.”
I left work for the school but I knew my husband could get there faster. He was closer. I called him knowing the potential for disaster that lay ahead. You see, when it comes to our kids, my husband is extremely protective to say the least, and it’s “no holds barred” when the situation is serious.
My husband arrived at the school. Upon entering the school office, he approached the receptionist who happened to be on the phone, “I need to get my son, Alex. Where is he?”
The receptionist responded by holding up her pointer finger in the air to indicate that my husband needed to wait.
Everything went downhill from there.
My husband was not going to wait. His son was in distress and needed medical attention. He was going to find his child and nothing was going to stop him. After several minutes of school staff trying to stop my husband from entering the building without following protocol and some intense exchange of words, my husband finally caught sight of our son and he was able to calm down – at least a little bit.
Both my husband and I received a phone call the next day from the principal. She made her case for following school protocol and reprimanded my husband for his behavior. I let her speak then calmly explained, ” My husband was told his child needed medical attention. Nothing was going stop him from getting to his son.”
There’s a story in the Bible about a man characterized with the same determination displayed by my husband. His name was Bartimaeus and he was blind. The book of Mark tells us that Bartimaeus was sitting along the roadside as Jesus and the disciples were passing by. Bartimaeus heard that Jesus was near so he began to cry out for mercy. The crowds that had gathered and everyone around Bartimaeus tried to silence him but Bartimaeus continued to seek the Savior’s attention. He had a need and nothing was going to stop him from getting to the Son of God. His determination paid off. Jesus healed Bartimaeus and his life was forever changed.
Is there something in your life that needs the Savior’s attention? Do you need comfort, healing, guidance, wisdom, peace, forgiveness? Cry out to Jesus right now.
The devil will try to silence you. He’ll distract you with temporary solutions and quick fixes. He’ll fill your heart with guilt and shame and tell you that you are not worthy of the Savior’s love. He’ll use your friends and family to tell you everything is fine and your need will handle itself. The devil will successfully keep you quiet, if you let him.
Don’t let him.
If you have a need (and we all have a need!), don’t let anything stop you from getting to Jesus. Don’t let anything silence your cries. Muster up all your determination and cry out even louder. Jesus is near and He will answer.
Oh, and I can’t wait to see your SMILE when He does.