This is what Jesus told His disciples before He was crucified: "But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you." (John 16:7) "But when He, the Spirit of Truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth...He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you." (John 16:13-14) Those who confess Jesus as their Lord and Savior receive the Holy Spirit--the fullness of God, the Counselor, the Spirit of Truth, the very Presence of God--into their spirits. What an amazing gift!!
Maybe you were given a beautifully wrapped gift box for Christmas that looked so gorgeous that you were hesitant to open it. However, it had to be done in order for you to discover what was hidden inside. Slowly, you slid off the ribbon, released the tape and pulled the paper aside. Once this was done, the lid had to be taken off the box and then the tissue paper pulled back. First, you would get a glimpse of the gift; then you would pick it up and get familiar with it and imagine how to use it. Finally, you would try it out and then use it for its intended purpose. The more you use it, the more valuable it would become.
Jesus gave His disciples and those of us who acknowledge Him to be our Lord, the gift of the Holy Spirit to help us in life and to guide us in all wisdom and truth. He shared this: "Anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father...You may ask me anything in my name, and I will do it." (John 14:12-14) "And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever--the Spirit of Truth..." (John 14:16-17)
Now, we must ask ourselves a question: Have we gotten to know and fully use our gift of the Holy Spirit? Have we unwrapped the gift yet? Some of us finished unwrapping our gift but put it aside. Some of us are using the gift but have not experienced the Holy Spirit in His fullness. I believe that the Holy Spirit is waiting on us to connect with Him regularly so that He can release the fullness of His power into our lives. We must become aware of the Holy Spirit's presence. Daily, we must invite Him to fill us up and anoint us to carry the glory of the Lord wherever we go. May I suggest that we intentionally engage the Holy Spirit in our lives so that we can walk in His power as we begin the new year.
I pray that we will have an experience like the disciples did when they were filled and empowered by the Holy Spirit at Pentecost.
Evidence of Love
It's Christmas eve--the eve when we celebrate Christ's birth--a time for us to remember that the One True God sent us the evidence of His amazing, undying love. It is a night to remember the selfless act of love of the Great I Am who forsook all so that He could demonstrate His great love for us.
In 1994, the year that revival hit several churches around the world, Martin Smith wrote a song that I believe would be appropriate for Christmas time. "Over the mountains and the sea, Your river runs with love for me. And I will open my heart and let the Healer set me free. I'm happy to be in the truth, and I will daily lift my hands, for I will always sing of when Your love came down. I could sing of Your love forever; I could sing of Your love forever..."
His love does flow like a mighty river, overtaking us and saturating us with His Presence. He is called Emmanuel, God with us. Jesus broke into time and space and the chaos of the world as the Prince of Peace, in His timing and in His way, as evidence of God's undying love for us. Apostle Paul puts it this way in Galatians 4:4-5: "But when the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son...so that we might receive adoption as children."
Those who visited the Christ child were amazed! The shepherds and wise men were changed and left declaring the praises of God. Angels and a star spoke to them about the birth of a King. They prepared their hearts to receive this good news by setting aside their daily lives to seek after Him. They were rewarded for their commitment.
Today, hearts need to be reawakened to the reality of God's love. We need to stop and consider the magnitude and wonder of what Christ did as expressed in Psalm 8: "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have set in place, what is man that You are mindful of him, the son of man that You care for him? You made him a little lower than heavenly beings and crowned Him with glory and honor."
God made a choice--love makes a choice. It involves commitment and is rooted in promises. As we receive Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World, into our hearts we become heirs to His promises, and we are given the gift of eternal life in heaven with Him. John, the disciple, tells us that the birth of Jesus was only the beginning. "...Having loved His own who were in the world, He now showed them the full extent of His love." (John 13:1) He was born to die a terrible death so that He could fulfill the requirements of the law and bring us into heaven with Him. What love!!
Christmas should be a celebration of God's love for us. God gave His Only Son, His best, for us as evidence of His love. Should we not give our best and all the love that we have to Him? I pray that you will have a blessed Christmas and a New Year filled with the wonder of God.
A Sign for You
Mary "gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger..." (Luke 2:7) Of course, this baby's name is Jesus/Yeshua, a name given to Him by God, "because He will save His people from sins." (Matthew 1:21) God began to share the good news through an angel that was sent to shepherds. "And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.'" (Luke 2:8-12)
How could this baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger be a sign to shepherds? Michael Norten, author of the book, Unlocking the Secrets of the Feasts, presents an interesting perspective that I believe is worth considering. Outside of the city of Bethlehem in Migdal Eder (Tower of the Flock) there is a two-story tower in the middle of a pasture. The remains of that tower were recently discovered. Micah 4:8 prophesied that Jesus would be announced at the Tower of the Flock. "As for you, O Watchtower of the Flock, O stronghold of the Daughter of Zion, the former dominion will be restored to you; kingship will come to the Daughter of Jerusalem."
In his writing, The Birth - Revisited, author Harold Smith concurs with Michael Norton on the interpretation of Scriptures concerning the birth of Jesus and the visit from the shepherds. Smith explains the significance of Bethlehem and Temple worship. He says, "The hills around Bethlehem were home to the thousands of lambs used in ritual worship." Of Migdal Eder, he says, "This was the station where shepherds brought their flocks destined for sacrifices in the Temple...On the night in which Yeshua was born, the angelic message came to the priests of the Temple whose duties had been designated...to 'keeping watch over their flock'...During lambing season the sheep were brought to the tower from the fields, as the lower level functioned as the birthing room for sacrificial lambs...Once birthed, the priestly shepherds would routinely place two lambs in the double-hewn depression of a limestone rock known as 'the manger' and 'wrap the newborn lambs in swaddling cloths,' preventing them from thrashing about and harming themselves until they had calmed down so they could be inspected for the quality of being 'without spot or blemish.'"
Is it not fitting that "the Lamb of God," along with all the sacrificial lambs for the Temple, would be born in Bethlehem and be wrapped in "swaddling cloths and placed in a manger"? In this season, we must remember that Jesus/Yeshua came as the "Lamb of God without spot or blemish" and was destined to be sacrificed for us. When the shepherds returned from seeing the Christ child in Bethlehem, they glorified God and praised Him for all they had heard and seen. (Luke 2:20) Should we not do likewise?
The Significance of Light
The story of the light that burned in the temple in Jerusalem for eight days, even though there was only enough purified oil for the lamp to burn for one, will be told next week as the Jewish people remember and marvel at the miracle that took place after the Maccabees defeated the Syrian-Greek army and chased them out of the temple. They will celebrate the light for eight days by lighting a candle on the Menorah each night. Do they recognize the significance of the light? Do they know that their Messiah was sent to earth as the "Light of the world"? Even as they celebrate the light, Christians are preparing their hearts to receive the Christ child who came as the "Light of Life."
Light was so important to God that it was the first thing He spoke into existence at creation. "Now the earth was formless and empty; darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, 'Let there be light,' and there was light." (Genesis 1:2-3) At the fall, when darkness tried to overcome the light, God put a plan into action to bring the world an eternal light. That light was to be brought to earth through His Son whose light is pure and so magnificent that it lights up all of heaven. Revelation 21:23-24 talks about this: "The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives the light, and the Lamb (Yeshua) is its lamp. The nations will walk by its light..."
In a discourse with his friends, Job told them how he longed for past days when God's "lamp shone upon my head and by His light I walked through darkness." (Job 29:3) The light of Yeshua is meant to dispel any darkness. Isaiah saw a day when many people would come to the "mountain of the Lord" so that they could be taught by the Lord and "walk in His paths." Isaiah 2:5 encourages the people of God: "Come, O house of Jacob, let us walk in the light of the Lord." Isaiah prophesied about the birth of a Savior and the light He would bring. "The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned." (Isaiah 9:2)
Not only does a bright light dispel the darkness, it also reveals hidden beauty and draw us to look at it. Think about how the light passing through raindrops or mist allows us to see the spectrum of color in a rainbow. Ezekiel had a vision of the Son of God and talks about the brilliant light that surrounds Him. He says, "Like the appearance of a rainbow in the clouds on a rainy day, so was the radiance around Him." (Ezekiel 1:28)
There is a blessing for those of us who recognize the Light of the world and praise His glory. I like the way this is described in the Amplified version of the Bible. "Blessed (happy, fortunate, to be envied) are the people who know the joyful sound...They walk, O Lord, in the light and favor of Your countenance! In your name they rejoice all the day, and in Your righteousness they are exalted. For You are the glory of their strength (their proud adornment), and by Your favor our horn is exalted, and we walk with uplifted faces!" (Psalm 89:15-17) May all of us have a revelation of His glorious light and be transformed by its purity and brilliance as we worship Him.
The Church calls this season Advent. The word Advent means a coming or arrival and is the period that includes the four Sundays just before Christmas where we are to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ. Many Scriptures talk about the importance of preparation. The first chapter of the book of Mark quotes the prophet Isaiah: "It is written in Isaiah the prophet: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way--a voice of one calling in the desert,' 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for Him.' And so, John came..." (Mark 1:2-4a)
As we can see, preparation is key to receiving what God wants to give us. It was explained by John the disciple that the Word already existed in the beginning. It was through Him (The Word) that everything was created and that His life brought light. (John 1:1-5) To prepare His people for the coming of the Word, God sent John the Baptist to testify of His coming.
Miracles would abound during this time of preparation. The birth of John the Baptist through Elizabeth and Zechariah—both of the priestly order of Aaron—set in motion the means by which the story of the coming of Christ would be told. John's birth was miraculous as his parents were childless and too old to have a baby. The angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, was sent to give Zechariah the amazing news. (Luke 1:19) This child was to be "great in the eyes of the Lord" and would be "filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth." (Luke 1:15 - NLT) "He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and He will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly." (Luke 1:17 - NLT - as quoted from Malachi 4:5-6)
The Son of God—The Word—was coming with life and love and light. He was revealing God's Kingdom. Zechariah prophesied about the coming of the Lord: "He has sent us a mighty Savior from the royal line of His servant David, just as he promised...We have been rescued from our enemies so we can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness for as long as we live. And you, my little son, will be called the prophet of the Most High, because you will prepare the way for the Lord." (Luke 1:69, 64-76 - NLT)
Preparation for the Lord's coming should not be overlooked! How should we prepare for the celebration of the birth of our Savior? The prophet Malachi gives us direction. The hearts of the fathers will be turned to the children and children to the fathers. (Malachi 4:6) Grace needs to be extended to family members and friends who are difficult. We should look at ways to impart Christ's love to them.
The prophet Isaiah has much to say about preparation. Isaiah 40:3, 57:14 and 62:10 all talk about building a highway and removing the stones or obstacles that are in the way. Stones of unforgiveness, bitterness, anger and self-righteousness will keep us from building the highway that welcomes Christ to reign in our lives. We must prepare our hearts to worship the Lord in Spirit and in truth. In so doing, we will welcome Him and prepare the way for Him to come and reign on the throne of our hearts. Psalm 85:13 says, "Righteousness goes before Him and prepares the way for His steps." As we live in righteousness and worship the Lord through the leading of His Spirit we can fully prepare for the coming of the Lord that will transform our lives.
Joan E. Mathias