Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Afterglow

The Christmas celebration is coming to a close. The gifts are opened and decorations are quietly returning to their boxes, in storage for next year. Loved ones have returned home, and everyone is going back to their normal routines. I sometimes wonder if this is what Mary and Joseph felt after all the excitement of the birth of Jesus.

The shepherds ran to Bethlehem to find them and then excitedly told everyone they met that they had seen the Messiah. The one the angels told them about in the fields outside of town (Luke 2:17-20)

Eight days later, Mary and Joseph were in Jerusalem for the circumcision of Jesus, as required by the Law. There were two faithful servants of the Lord, waiting and watching for His arrival. There Mary and Joseph were greeted by Simeon. He prophesied about Jesus, saying “this child will be rejected by many in Israel, but he will be the greatest joy to many others” (Luke 2:34 NLT). They were surprised.

Next Anna came. Seeing the child, she praised God, and told everyone in Jerusalem who had been waiting for the promised King, that Jesus was the One (Luke 2:38). Mary and Joseph went back to Bethlehem for a short time, because the wise men found them in a house. They brought their gifts and worshiped him. All this excitement was a bit much for Mary and Joseph, but it says a few things.

The Lord was fulfilling the words of the prophets. It's one thing to know about something, yet quite different to see it before your eyes. What the angels spoke to Mary and Joseph separately was also true, being confirmed by many outside sources. Their lives were forever changed by these events. We'll never know what they thought, but one thing we know, they believed.

Knowing the word of the Lord is one thing, but believing the word of the Lord is quite another. We know the story, we celebrate the story, but do we believe the story? How many witnesses have you seen lately? What is their story? If you have believed their report and have received the gift of salvation, this truly is a continuing celebration.

If you haven't believed all these reports, what's the problem? Does it seem too far-fetched to be believable? A virgin can't conceive. Or do you think there are too many contradictions? Only two gospels describe the birth of Jesus and they are both different.

Has it ever occurred to you that faith is the evidence of things not seen, but a confident assurance of what we hope for will happen? (Hebrews 11:1). Don't judge God based on what you think is true; believe God for what He says is true.

Some folks have a sense of sadness at the end of this joyous season, but it doesn't have to be that way, everyday can be Christmas when Jesus lives in your heart!

Copyright©2010 tathorpe-All Rights Reserved-

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Star Light – Star Bright

Since the beginning of human existence, people have looked into the night sky and saw God's creative genius. “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament shows His handiwork. Day unto day utters speech, and night unto night reveals knowledge. There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard. Their line has gone out throughout all the earth and their words to the end of the world.” (Psalms 19:1-4 NKJ) In utter silence they shout to all the inhabitance of the earth the glory of God!

In the Genesis account, on the fourth day, the Lord God placed different lights in the sky for many purposes. The first was so we would never be in darkness. The second, designed as a holy time clock to mark days, seasons and years. The third, so we could see the stability of God's creation. Lastly, I believe was to spur our imagination. The eternal, boundless quality of God is something our minds can not fully grasp, but with an infinite display of lights, millions of miles away from us, we have a starting point.

According to ancient records, the peoples of Babylon were the first astronomers. They studied to movements, patterns of constellations and are credited with the first 360 day calendar. Unfortunately, sinful man began to read much more in the patterns than God had designed. They began to worship these celestial lights as gods and astrology was born.

In the court of the kings, these astrologers were the royal advisors in charge of predicting everything from harvests, fertility, wars and their outcome. Divination, sorcery and magic became heavily associated with their duties. As a result, the king's decisions became the law and people worshiped evil deities and things made by hand.

Praise God that he did not leave people in their ignorance. During a cycle of discipline that the Lord had brought upon his people, the Israelites, a certain prophet named Daniel was maneuvered into the court of the King of Babylon. He was given great wisdom and insight by God. He made known to the king the reality that there is the only one God, who rules everything, even dreams.

During Daniel's life in captivity in Babylon, he was put in charge of the astrologers, sorcerers, magicians otherwise known as “wise men” of the day. Through his love and knowledge of the one true God, Yahweh (YHWH), he instructed them in the ways of the One who rules over all powers in the heavens. Many centuries later, when the time for the birth of Jesus, the wise men had knowledge of the Messiah and what the star that rose in the night sky meant, it was the sign of the King of kings.

There are many traditions and speculations about who these men were; the number in their group; what their titles were and even what part of the world they came from. All traditions agree what gifts they brought and that they worshiped Jesus. Beyond speculation, the point made is they were invited guests to the event that changed everything.

Just as the angels announced the birth to Jewish shepherds, the Lord also prepared a group of gentiles and set them on a two-year journey, by a light in the night sky. For millennia the Lord sent his message to the Jews and gentiles alike, to watch for his coming. He continues to send the message of his truth to all generations. Jesus came for all people and he is coming again. Are you ready?

“Having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation in the fullness of time. He might gather in one all things in Christ, which are in heaven and on earth-in Him.” (Ephesians 1:9-10 NKJ)

May God bless you in the richness of His favor as you recognize His gifts of love!

Copyright©2010 tathorpe-All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sign of Hope

Of all the holiday's celebrated, Christmas is a holiday that crosses all denominational boundaries and prejudices. Those who don't know what the celebration is truly about, join in the festivities. It is that one time of year where the hearts and minds of people are focused around that one Holy event that took place 2000 years ago.

As I consider all the traditions of people that have evolved since that night long ago, I stand in awe of God and his wisdom that in one moment we are united. Time spent in considering that precious gift given, so that we would know his love for us.

Although it has become a season of stress, trial and tragedy, it was never intended to be that way. It's not about all the busyness, decorations, buying gifts or parties. It's not about being perfect or living a perfect life. It is about Jesus our Christ our Savior. We can never out give God. We can never achieve the perfect standard of giving love as he revealed to us.

Let your mind wonder back to that little village, in the middle of nowhere, to a stable where livestock were kept. Close your eyes and imagine the stable smells, musty, dried grass and animal dung. The only light was a few oil burning lamps and the stars. Now hear the lowing of those animals and the cry of a woman in childbirth. Imagine the creator of all came into his creation in this way. The King of Glory, Honor and Praise!!!

In obscurity, without the fanfare and pageantry that one would expect for a king, this is what the scriptures say about the birth of Jesus. In Luke's account, he states that when Jesus was born, an angel told a group of shepherds that the king was born. “Don't be afraid, I bring you good news of great joy for everyone! The Savior- yes, the Messiah, the Lord-has been born tonight in Bethlehem- City of David” (Luke 2:10-11).

Then the angel told them where to find him and how to recognize him. “You'll find a baby lying in a manger, wrapped in strips of cloth” (Luke 2:12). Then a vast army of angels appeared praising God, “Glory to God in the highest, peace on earth to all whom God favors!!” (Luke 2:13-14). Getting over their shock, the shepherds ran to the city to see the baby. Just as they were told about the baby, they began telling everyone about whom they had seen and they had heard. (Luke 2:15-20).

The sign of hope was not the woman giving birth, neither in the angel's message nor the praises of the shepherds whom they had been invited to see. The sign of hope was the baby, the one who prophets foretold, who the angels sang and the one who came to buy us back from slavery. He is the sign that God keeps all his promises to us.

Let's not let get caught up in what gifts we can and can not buy, or the friends and family that we can't be with or the busyness and stress this season brings, but let us focus on what we do have. We have the love of God, whose love knows no bounds. We have the saving grace of Jesus who rescued us from death. Let us put our hope in God from where all blessings flow.
May your light so shine in the love of Christ! Merry Christmas!!!

Copyright©2010 tathorpe-All Rights Reserved-

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Naughty or Nice?

One of the traditions of Christmas most children enjoy is writing to Santa. With pen in hand, they write the biggest letter of the year, hoping Santa will bring that one gift, making everything right in the universe. Special care is taken to tell Santa what good little boys or girls they've been, so it shouldn't be hard for Santa to reward them. Secretly hoping he doesn't discover that they had fudged a little on the “good” part.

I remember my brothers, sister and I would have a secret meeting to discuss what we would ask Santa for. Several weeks before Christmas, we'd sit at the kitchen table writing our letters. Beginning with the things we wanted most, then in descending order, telling Santa all the things we'd like. Socks and underwear were not part of our lists.

When we received socks and underwear, it was a sure sign of the dreaded “naughty” list. Growing up in a family of limited means, we still hoped for that one special gift from Santa that we knew our parents couldn't provide. Sometimes, to our surprise it would come and we'd think we made the “nice” list.

That is the world we grew up in, being taught rewards for good behavior while less than good, received scorn. This is known as “conditional” acceptance. We learned that anything less than good behavior, was unworthy of benefits.

Because many relationships are based in condition, we believe that the Lord's acceptance of us is also based on our good behavior. We don't want to end up on the naughty list on Judgment Day, being sent to Hell, while those on the nice list go to Heaven.

Our acceptance by God is not based on our performance, but based on his love. Before sin ever came into the picture, God loved us and chose us to be his special creation. Even after sin separated us from him, he declared he would redeem us.

“The Lord said, “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself” (Jeremiah 31:3 NLT)

“He will listen to the prayers of the destitute; He will not reject their pleas. Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a nation yet to be created will praise the Lord. Tell them the Lord looked down from his heavenly sanctuary. He looked to the earth from heaven to hear the groans of the prisoners, to release those condemned to die.” (Psalms 102:17-20 NLT)

“The Lord is merciful and gracious; he is slow to get angry and full of unfailing love”
“He has not punished us for all our sins, nor does he deal with us the way we deserve”
“He has removed our rebellious acts, as far away as the east is from the west”
(Psalms 103: 8; 10; 12 NLT)

The “naughty” list was nailed to the cross and all record of wrongs have been destroyed. (Romans 5:9-10). We have been given the special gift that made everything right in the universe, Jesus Christ!

“Therefore, since we have been made right in God's sight by faith, we have peace with God, because of what Jesus Christ our Lord, has done for us” (Romans 5:1 NLT)

Let this be a season of Joy!!

Copyright©2010 tathorpe-All Rights Reserved-