Merry Christmas!

There is a meme floating around that in Iceland, they enjoy Christmas Eve as a day to exchange books, drink hot chocolate, and read. May your Christmas Eve be filled with blessings, love, and lots of reading.

The Announcement of Jesus – Luke 1: 26- 38 (HCSB)

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel  was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth,  to a virgin engaged  to a man named Joseph, of the house of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary. 

And the angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, favored woman! The Lord is with you.”  

But she was deeply troubled  by this statement, wondering what kind of greeting this could be. 

Then the angel told her: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Now listen:You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. He will reign over the house of Jacob  forever, and His kingdom will have no end.”

Mary asked the angel, “How can this be, since I have not been intimate with a man? ” 

The angel replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy One to be born will be called the Son of God. And consider your relative Elizabeth — even she has conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called childless. For nothing will be impossible with God.” 

“I am the Lord’s slave,”  said Mary. “May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel left her.

The Birth of Jesus: Luke 2:1-7 (HCSB)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire  should be registered. This first registration took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.  So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth  in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,  because he was of the house and family line of David,  to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him  and was pregnant. 

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough — because there was no room for them at the lodging place.

The Shepherds and the Angels – Luke 2:8-20

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before  them,  and the glory of the Lord  shone around them, and they were terrified.  

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid,  for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:  Today a Savior,  who is Messiah  the Lord,  was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you:  You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth  to people He favors!   

When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed  at what the shepherds said to them. 

But Mary was treasuring up all these things  in her heart  and meditating on them. 

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God  for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

Merry Christmas!

Today I forgo my usual book review post to wish you a very Merry Christmas. May today be filled with unexpected blessings and time to reflect on the beautiful Savior born to us though we were yet sinners. In case you haven’t had a chance to read the Christmas story this morning, here it is, along with the reason He came and His victory over sin and death.

 

Merry Christmas and God bless you.

 

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Hand-made by a local vendor.

From Luke 2 (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that the whole empire should be registered. This first registration took place while  Quirinius was governing Syria. So everyone went to be registered, each to his own town.

And Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem,  because he was of the house and family line of David,  to be registered along with Mary, who was engaged to him and was pregnant. 

While they were there, the time came for her to give birth. Then she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and she wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough — because there was no room for them at the lodging place.

In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.  

But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid,  for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:  Today a Savior,  who is Messiah the Lord,  was born for you in the city of David. This will be the sign for you:  You will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying:

Glory to God in the highest heaven, 

and peace on earth to people He favors!   

When the angels had left them and returned to heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go straight to Bethlehem and see what has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.”

They hurried off and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby who was lying in the feeding trough. After seeing them, they reported the message they were told about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary was treasuring up all these things in her heart and meditating on them. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had seen and heard, just as they had been told.

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From Luke 23

When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified Him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”  And they divided His clothes and cast lots. 

The  people stood watching, and even the leaders kept scoffing:  “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is God’s Messiah, the Chosen One! ” 

The soldiers also mocked Him. They came offering Him sour wine and said, “If You are the King of the Jews,  save Yourself!”

An inscription was above Him: 

THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Then  one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at  Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us! ”

But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God,  since you are undergoing the same punishment? We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom! ” 

 

And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.”

It was now about noon,  and darkness came over the whole land until three, because the sun’s light failed. The curtain of the sanctuary was split down the middle. And Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit.” Saying this, He breathed His last.

 

When the centurion saw what happened, he began to glorify  God, saying, “This man really was righteous! ” All the crowds that had gathered for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, went home, striking their chests. But all who knew Him, including the women who had followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance,  watching these things.

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From Luke 24

On the first day of the week,  very early in the morning, they came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb. They went in but did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.  

While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men stood by them in dazzling clothesSo the women were terrified and bowed down to the ground. 

“Why are you looking for the living among the dead? ” asked the men. “He is not here, but He has been resurrected! Remember how He spoke to you when He was still in Galilee, saying, ‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’? ” And they remembered His words.

Happy Thanksgiving!

HappyThanksgiving

I pray today is filled with many blessings. I challenge you to count your blessings, not just for the good things but also the bad things. Below is my prayer for you.

 

Dear Lord and Heavenly Father,

We praise Your precious name for who You are. Our minds are incapable of fully understanding Your ways or even Your love. You are Creator, Savior, I AM. You have always been, are right now, and will always be. Thank you.

Forgive us our shortcomings, moments of tempers and complaining, and even the bitterness that sometimes tries to work its way into our day and hearts. Help us to turn our eyes to You and see our family, our cooking, our cleaning, and the service of today through Your eyes.

Thank you for Your Spirit that resides within us, for the sacrifice of Jesus so that we might have Your Spirit and a relationship with You. Thank You, Jesus for Your obedience to death, for Your power to conquer death and bring us back into a personal relationship through Your blood.

Bless my readers today with a spirit of joy and gratitude. Open their eyes to even the smallest blessing, even if it may be in the midst of grief. May those who are alone this holiday be brought into the folds of Your love through the heart and kind gesture of one of Your servants.  Help our focus to be outward and now inward.

It is Your Holy and precious name we pray.

Amen.

 

Happy Thanksgiving, all!

 

InEverythingGiveThanks

TBT: Sea of Galilee

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Here is the research and story for Day 2 of or mission trip prayer journal:

Day 2: Jesus and Peter Walk on Water – Matthew 14:22-33

THE CONTEXT

The Sea of Galilee… or is it?

The Sea of Galilee is known by many names, but the two most important to Biblical studies is Lake Gennesaret (as it was known in Jesus’ time) and the Sea of Chinnereth (as it was known in Old Testament times).

 

The Sea of Galilee’s Geography

This pear-shaped lake extends 13 miles from north to south and 7israel-1162839_640 miles from east to west and has a surface area of 64 square miles. When I researched the depth of the lake I found numbers ranging from 141 feet deep to nearly 200 feet deep during Biblical times. So pick a number, whichever number you pick will still make it a relatively shallow lake.

 

The surface elevation has long been given as 686 feet below sea level, although it has dropped below that level for that last several decades. Surrounding this low elevation are 2000 foot high hills and cliffs on the east, plains to the north, the hills of Lower Galilee to the west, and another plain to the south.

 

Why Did Storms Occur Without Warning?

israel-555771_640The Golan Heights to the east are a source of cool dry air. In contrast, directly around the Sea of Galilee, the climate is semi-tropical with warm, moist air.  The large differences in height can cause large temperature and pressure changes, resulting in strong winds dropping to the sea, funneling through the hills.

Trapped in this area, the winds can be deadly to fishermen. A storm in March 1992 sent waves 10 feet high crashing into downtown Tiberias.  Now imagine being a 23 x 7-foot boat battling those waves… Yikes!

 

Quick Tidbit: The Jordan River flows through the lake from north to south.

 

THE BIBLE STORY

(Retold in my own words.)

Jesus had just finished feeding the crowd of 5,000 men. He told the disciples to get in the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side of the lake while he dismissed the people.

 

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Jesus went off by himself to pray for a while and it was evening before he finished. He was ready to join the disciples but the boat was over a mile away from the shore. The wind was strong and the waves were high.

 

Around three in the morning, Jesus came toward the boat, walking on top of the sea. Waves were crashing all around him. The wind was blowing. When the disciples saw him walking on the water, they thought Jesus was a ghost and they were scared.

 

Jesus wanted to calm them and told them, “Have courage! It is me. Don’t be afraid.”

 

Peter called out to Jesus. “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.”

 

“Come!” Jesus said.

 

Peter had to have the first moment of courage to leave the sure safety of the battered boat to the completely wild waters of the sea. He had no safety net. He truly believed that Jesus would keep him above the water. There was no doubt in his heart. It is almost as if he acted with his heart before his head could catch up and tell him logically why this was not possible.

 

J0UAWTH21ZHe stepped from the boat. Eyes on Jesus, eager to reach him. Then his brain caught up. He could feel the wind tug at his clothes. The cold water lapping over his feet. The waves slapping his legs and soaking his clothes. Fear began to seep in. What am I doing out here? Jesus is too far away. I am going to drown! I can’t do this. The wind is going to blow me over. The waves are going to consume me. I won’t be able to breathe. I will die.

 

So the water begins to rise as he sinks. He panics.

 

“Lord, save me!”

 

Immediately, Jesus reached for Peter’s hand and caught hold of him. But hadn’t Jesus been a long way off? Wasn’t that what scared Peter most? Jesus was too far away to help him. But no, Jesus was right there. Peter would not drown. He was safe now. Jesus had him.

 

“You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

 

I can just imagine the scene as they walked back. The wind is still blowing, the waves are still slamming against Peter. Peter clings to Jesus’ body, soaked, exhausted, trembling, but moving with his Savoir. He will not drown, no matter how bad the storm is. Jesus has him.

 

When they reach the boat, the wind stops, the waves calm, and the boat stills. Peter is still soaked, but he has survived because of his Lord.israel-1162839_640

 

Jesus’ power was demonstrated.

 

Those in the boat worshipped Him and proclaimed, “Truly You are the Son of God!”

 

But if Jesus is the Son of God, why did He allow the storm to happen? He could have prevented the storm or stopped it at any moment. He could have prevented Peter from sinking at all. But He didn’t.  Why didn’t He?

 

To find the answer, you have to look at the results of Peter going through the storm.

 

Because of the storm, Peter’s faith was tested. He was able to start through the storm, strong and firmly holding on to the belief that he could walk to Jesus through the storm on his own. Jesus would give him the power, the strength.

 

As he got farther away from the safety of the boat, and the logic of his mind took hold, Peter grew fearful, frantically looking for Jesus. But Jesus was too far away. He would never make it on his own, so he cried out, and Jesus was there for him at that second.

 

UHVEE852V2Jesus could have prevented Peter from sinking, He could have prevented or stopped the storm, but He didn’t. Instead, He walked with Peter through the storm, allowing His warmth to seep into Peter’s cold, trembling arms. He held Peter up when Peter had no power of his own to stay above the waters.  Peter was not going through this storm alone. The Son of God was with him.

 

When they reached the boat, Peter knew who Jesus was, both in heart and head. He had a stronger relationship with Jesus because he had depended on Jesus to carry him through.

 

No matter the storms in your life right now, you are not alone. Jesus right there, hand extended, waiting for you to call out to Him. He will keep you from sinking. He will walk with you through the storm and you will be closer to Him because of it.

 

He could make the storm go away, but the benefit of drawing near to him during the storm, warms your body, you soul, and your mind. Without the storm, you could miss out on learning just how dependable Jesus really is and just how much He loves you.

 

Reflections for You:

Here are a couple videos of relatively small wind storms on the Sea of Galilee.

How would you feel if you were Peter?

Do you ever think with your heart before your mind can stop you? What was that like?

Are you in a storm right now? How can you see Jesus helping you in the midst of the storm?

 

 

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