Tuesday, December 31, 2013

He's coming back! Happy New Year : ) (Matt. 24:6-7, Matt. 24:36, 1 Thess. 4:16-5:10)

"He's coming in the clouds!"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

The story doesn't end in the manger, it is the beginning.  We have faced many struggles this year in the US, and around the world.  The good news is Jesus is coming back for those who believe in Him.  We don't know the exact day or time.  But He will be back : ) It will be the ultimate New Years party! 

Jesus said there'd be days like this.  He also said that no one knows when He's coming.

Matt 24:6-7
6 And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.  7 For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.

Matt 24:36
36 "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only."

The Apostle Paul wrote about the second coming of Jesus in 1 Thessalonians.  You can read more about it in Matthew 24 (some of my blog posts are very long so I don't want to copy the whole chapter).
1 Thessalonians 4:16-5:10
16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.

5:1 But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. 2 For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. 3 For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. 4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. 5 You are all sons of light and sons of the day. We are not of the night nor of darkness. 6 Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him.

This song came out after 9-11 and has been a huge blessing!
My Redeemer Lives, Nicole C. Mullen (link)

Jeremy Camp has put together another great song, There will be a Day (link).

If you have never accepted Jesus as your Lord and Savior, I've written how here (link).  

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Jesus is born! (Christmas Story 6) (Isaiah 9:6, Luke 2:6-7, Matt. 2:9-11, Luke 2:15-20, Isaiah 11:10)

"We have a Savior!"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6  

Many Jews, like Joseph, were in Bethlehem for the Census.  The inns were full.  Perhaps the travel between Nazareth and Bethlehem took a bit longer for Mary and Joseph.  There wasn't a mid-wife or Mary's family to help out, they were alone.  But they did just fine.  Mary may have felt a little sad that Jesus' birth turned out this way.  She probably felt bad that the Son of God was born in a manger.   Maybe she even had special plans for His birth.  But, God had this all figured out...  

6 So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the innLuke 2:6-7
There would've been this strange star lighting where Jesus lay.  A heavenly spotlight on the baby.  
The wise men came to see where the star shone in Bethlehem and they found the King of the Jews.  God can use anyone to fulfill His plan!
9 When they heard the king, they departed; and behold, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came and stood over where the young Child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceedingly great joy. 11 And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrhMatthew 2:9-11
The gold was a gift for a King.  The frankincense was used as incense or perfume.  It was also used in temple sacrifices.  Jesus would become the sacrifice for our sin.  The myrrh was used to embalm bodies- these gifts were of great financial worth.  It took faith to follow a star from their own country to another.  They were rewarded, and rejoiced with exceedingly great joy!  All doubt is gone.  Perhaps Joseph burned a little frankincense for his wife.  Or maybe the gifts were too sacred to touch.  Joseph and Mary had money to take care of Jesus.  Amazing how He provides our needs.

It was dark out, and while Mary rested with the baby, and Joseph talked with the wise men, a strange bleeting and the excited voices of men started getting closer.  Suddenly, a crowd of shepherds and sheep came to them.  The experience they shared must've filled Mary and Joseph with awe and wonder.  Tingles.
15 So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, "Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us." 16 And they came with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger. 17 Now when they had seen Him, they made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at those things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told them.  Luke 2:15-20 
If I were a shepherd I'd run to Bethlehem too!  You notice the shepherd's weren't shy about spreading the word of the Angel's visit.  God knows people, He created them.  All through scripture He has chosen people who will either spread the word or remain silent. Mary pondered this in her heart.  I could never do that.  I'd be talking about this for years.  He's finally here!  For the first time in many years shepherds are treated as important people.  God spoke to them, He lit up the sky with angels.  Shepherds were important!  It didn't matter how people treated them.  Almighty God sent His angels.  We are important to Him too, no matter what we've done or been.  He came for us.

10 "And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious.Isaiah 11:10
"And His resting place shall be glorious," there were wise men in fine robes, expensive gifts and camels.  Shepherds and sheep gathered near.  A brilliant star lit the manger.  And a radiant Mary and Joseph rejoice in all they are experiencing.  They are a part of a much bigger plan; Jesus is no longer their secret.  Usually referring to a resting place means a grave.  But Jesus didn't rest... He rose from the grave!  He conquered sin and death.  Now it is 2014 and we wait for more prophecies to be fulfilled, Jesus' second coming.  I believe it will happen as naturally and supernaturally as His first.  There will be no more doubt. 

Silent Night, Sarah McLachlan (link)

May God bless you abundantly!
Merry Christmas from New Jersey!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Shepherds and Angels (Christmas Story 5) (Luke 2:8-14, Isaiah 11:10, Micah 5:2-4)

"Such an amazing sight, angels everywhere, singing!"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

The first time the full impact of this part of the Christmas story really dawned on me, was when I was watching a movie about Jesus.  I'm not one to get real emotional, but I cried.  The shepherds were the lowest of the low socially.  They were humble people who lived in the fields tending sheep.  They told each other stories about the constellations in the night sky; they played instruments.  They didn't have fine robes and big houses. If God had waited 2000 years He could've made an announcement on TV.  But that wasn't His plan.   I'm so grateful.  King David was called by God when he was a shepherd boy.  These were simple, humble, and honorable people- like us.
Luke 2:8-14
8 Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were greatly afraid. 10 Then the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. 11 For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be the sign to you: You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger."
13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
14 "Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

I think I would be afraid too if I saw an angel.  Just imagine, it's the dead of night.  The shepherds are listening for any disturbance in the bush, a wolf? A lion?  There may have been a soothing song playing in the background to calm the sheep.  They always protected the sheep, their income.  When suddenly a great light appears before them!  An angel speaks.  Sheep?  What sheep?  What is this?  Then the whole sky lights up!  And the angels rejoice right in front of the shepherds!  We will see this in Heaven too.  How awesome is that?  In verse 10 you see "I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people." The message is expanding it's no longer just for Jews it's for all people now.  Even those of us who are Gentiles.  There are many prophecies in Isaiah and Jeremiah about the Gentiles.  Here's one:
Isaiah 11:10
10 "And in that day there shall be a Root of Jesse,
Who shall stand as a banner to the people;
For the Gentiles shall seek Him,
And His resting place shall be glorious."

The Jews will always be God's chosen ones, always the first-fruits.  God chose to include the Gentiles as well.  For that I am very grateful.  Jesse was David's father, Mary and Joseph are of the lineage of David.  Jesus came through the root of Jesse.  This prophecy sounds like it's referring to the manger in Bethlehem.  The wise men were Gentiles.  

God mentions the shepherd many times in Scripture.  He is God, I'm a sheep...  But, from what I've read a shepherd's job is very taxing.  They need to watch everything their sheep do.  They're not the brightest of animals and will eat poisonous food, get scared to death literally, and fall off of cliffs.  It does sound familiar ...  They are also considered a tasty treat by meat eating animals so they constantly need to be guarded and protected.  It would take a great deal of patience and love to handle a job like this.  

2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting.”
3 Therefore He shall give them up,
Until the time that she who is in labor has given birth;
Then the remnant of His brethren
Shall return to the children of Israel.
4 And He shall stand and feed His flock
In the strength of the Lord,
In the majesty of the name of the Lord His God;
And they shall abide,
For now He shall be great
To the ends of the earth;
(Micah 5:2-4 NKJV)

My favorite Psalm, I memorized this and repeat it before I go to sleep sometimes.  God calls Himself our shepherd.
Psalms 23
1 The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.
2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
3 He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name's sake.
4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
For You are with me;
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
My cup runs over.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
All the days of my life;
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
A great Christian book on God as our shepherd is A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, by W. Phillip Keller.

One day we will see the angels in glory, and sing in their choir!  Tonight we'll be heading to the Presbyterian Church up the road to sing to Jesus.

The Little Drummer Boy, Pentatonix (link)
Gifts from the heart are the very best.

Do you hear what I hear? Carrie Underwood (link)

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wise Men from the East (Christmas Story 4) (Matt 2:1-7, Matt 2:12)

"Wise Men still seek Him"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

Matthew 2:1-8

1 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."
3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.
5 So they said to him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:
6 'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
Are not the least among the rulers of Judah;
For out of you shall come a Ruler
Who will shepherd My people Israel.'" (Micah 5:2)
From these verses we can see that people believed the prophecies before the birth of Christ.  And even knew them by heart.  Sadly Herod did not know or care. He was the current King of the Jews.  All of Jerusalem was troubled.  You would think the coming of the Christ would be a good thing in the temple- that it wouldn't be a surprise.  It took wise men from the east to point this out, they were the ones who worshiped Jesus.  This shows the deterioration taking place in the Jewish leaders since the time of King David.  David did everything for the glory of God.  When he sinned, he was forgiven, and went on to bring God glory again.

7 Then Herod, when he had secretly called the wise men, determined from them what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the young Child, and when you have found Him, bring back word to me, that I may come and worship Him also."
Herod was a wicked King.  His desire was to destroy the competition, it was all about his glory.  So he lied telling the wise men he wanted to worship Jesus. 

Here's how God worked it out with the wise men:
Matthew 2:12
12 Then, being divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed for their own country another way.

One of my hobbies is astronomy.  It is documented that a very rare and unusual incident happened during this time period where the planets Venus and Jupiter were in the constellation Leo.  Leo is the constellation of Kings and the tribe of Judah.  Jesus is the lion of the tribe of Judah. 

I read in my research that this has never occurred again in over 2000 years.  One of the proofs that God exists is the orderliness of the universe.  There have been many theories, over the years, as to how the universe will end.  However no one can truly explain how it has lasted this long.  The constellations we see in the sky today, are the same as when Jesus walked the earth.  The earth has changed through war, storms, earthquakes etc.  But the constellations have not.  What a grand entry for the Son of God!  A great and glorious light shone in the sky over Jesus.  When we are in Heaven we'll know all of these details.  For now, we know nothing is impossible for God.  The Bible says a star for the King of the Jews.  That's good enough for me.

This is a rap song by This Hope.  It's pretty fun : )

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Born in Bethlehem? (Christmas Story 3) (Micah 5:2, Luke 1:26-27, Luke 2:1-5)

"Messiah would be born in Bethlehem"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

An Old Testament prophecy was written that the Ruler of Israel comes from Bethlehem:
Micah 5:2
2 "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,

Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting."

But, Mary and Joseph lived in Nazareth, about 80 miles from Bethlehem.
Luke 1:26-27
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David.

Here's how God worked it out:
Luke 2:1-5
1 And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. 2 This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. 3 So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.
Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, 5 to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child.
Census and taxes!  God used the government to bring about His plan.  This proves that nothing is impossible for God and He can use anything to bring about His will.  By this time it may have been a relief for Mary and Joseph to leave Nazareth.  I'm sure they both received a lot of advice and who knows what happened in the local gossip mill.  Getting away was a good thing in many ways.  However, the trip was very difficult.  Mary was almost ready to deliver Jesus.  

I remember how it feels when I step out in faith, and go where the Lord leads me- like a Nursing Home.  I am overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit's presence and joy.  Mary wasn't carrying a normal baby.  He is the Son of God, she must have been blessed for her service and His presence within her.  Joseph was also blessed.  I don't know if the road was easier because of her assignment. I hope so.

Usually women are the talkers, but I suspect Joseph finally got his chance to think this all through.  Maybe he said something like, "We're going to have the Son of God!  No, wait.  Mary's going to have the Son of God.  My Mary, God chose my Mary.  I knew she was special.  I knew she would stay faithful.  I'm going to be a Dad!  But I'm not worthy, why would God?  I'll teach Him everything I can!  But what could I possibly teach the Son of God?" 

I imagine Mary giggling and saying something like, "Oh Joseph, you'll be a fine Father.  Just remember this baby is a miracle.  God has a plan for us as parents.  He will guide us."

Or maybe they just travelled rejoicing in their hearts to have this awesome role in God's  plan.  Perhaps they prayed, no doubt the angels were nearby.  The Savior was coming as a baby.  No doubt they were exhausted by the trip.

I can't find the name of the musicians in this song but it's beautiful : )

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Joseph's Reaction (Christmas Story 2) (Psalm 19:7, Matt 1:18-25, Isaiah 9:7)

"Joseph didn't know what to think"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

Over a thousand years before the birth of Christ, David wrote this Psalm.  This verse seems to fit what Joseph and Mary had to deal with.  It would be amazing to be visited by an angel. 

Psalm 19:7
7 The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul;
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple;
Matthew 1:18-25
18 After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came togethershe was found with child of the Holy Spirit. 19 Then Joseph her husband, being a just man, and not wanting to make her a public example, was minded to put her away secretly.
Joseph seemed to have the same reaction to this as Mary, "What!!?  Wait a minute..."   Joseph, like a lot of men, came up with a plan in his mind and knew how he was going to fix things.  By this time, Mary knew she was carrying a baby.  She trusted God, believed Gabriel, and now she would've felt incredibly alone.  It's important to realize that during this time period women were stoned to death for adultery.  Joseph didn't want this to happen to Mary so he was thinking about hiding her.  He must've loved her.  

This is how God worked it out:  
20 But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." 
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: 23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."  (Isaiah 7:14)
24 Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, 25 and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus.

Joseph strikes me as a simple man, a carpenter.  He's honorable and keeps his word.  Obviously he has great strength and faith that God would choose him to take care of Mary and Jesus.  Joseph and Mary were asked to believe and do the unacceptable, the impossible.  But the purpose behind what God had in mind is beyond comprehension. Both Mary and Joseph were from the lineage of David fulfilling this prophecy about Jesus:
Isaiah 9:7
7 Of the increase of His government and peace
There will be no end,
Upon the throne of David and over His kingdom,
To order it and establish it with judgment and justice
From that time forward, even forever.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

I'm so glad they took God at His Word and didn't give up.  I can only imagine what Joseph was thinking through all of this :  )

Nicole C. Mullen is one of my favorite Christian Musicians.  This song seems to apply to Joseph's thoughts.
O Come, O Come, Immanuel, Nicole C. Mullen (link)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Mary and Gabriel (Christmas Story 1) (Isaiah 7:14-15, Luke 1:26-38)

"God chose Mary to give birth to the Messiah"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

The story begins in the Old Testament with prophecies.  It's such an incredible story, I'm sure people debated how the prophecy could possibly be fulfilled for many years.  I wonder if they discussed whether the scripture is literal or figurative...  Here's one prophecy:
Isaiah 7:14-15
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.  

After many many years, God sent the angel, "Gabriel," to visit Mary.
Luke 1:26-38
26 Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin's name was Mary. 28 And having come in, the angel said to her, "Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!"
29 But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was
I would have been nervous too if I heard the words, "Rejoice highly favored one..."  I'd be skeptical of who this was, and what this was about.  This is a common reaction to an angel's appearance in the Bible.    
30 Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. 33 And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end."
34 Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?"
Her response is so sincere.  What!!?  Wait a minute...

35 And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. 36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.
38 Then Mary said, "Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word." And the angel departed from her. 
Her faith must've been very strong.  She happily and willingly submits, acknowledging she is His maidservant.  Perhaps this is why God chose her to bear His Son.  Her faith is simple trust, she is humble, and wise.  You would think God would choose a wealthy family, people with educations, and a big safe house.  But not our God.  He chose Mary and Joseph, two hardworking young people, with a simple faith that helped change the world.  I can only imagine what Mary must've been thinking after meeting Gabriel.  I would've been going over this for awhile in my mind.

P.S.  I didn't get to doing new artwork this year, but I did add some music for the parts of the story.
Here's a song that describes how Mary may have felt:   A Baby Changes Everything - Faith Hill (link)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Anchor of our soul (Hebrews 6:13-18, Genesis 22:1-19)

"Hope is an anchor for our souls"
This is a bronze ship above the Asbury Park Convention Hall, NJ.
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
The more I study Hebrews, the more interesting it becomes.  I wouldn't think of hope as an anchor normally.  But when you think of the opposite, "despair."  It makes sense.  I know the empty, dark feeling of being without hope.  I think we all do in some respect.  We lose family members, and feel the emptiness.  Yet our hope is restored knowing one day we will be together again in a better place.  I've searched for jobs and couldn't find any.  So I volunteered to visit a Nursing Home.  Only to find a much more fulfilling job that paid in joy.  Then when I felt worthwhile, and was happy just serving, the call came with a paying job.  So it makes sense hope is the anchor of our souls, giving up is our enemy.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
(Romans 8:28 NKJV)

Hebrews 6
13 For when God made a promise to Abraham, because He could swear by no one greater, He swore by Himself, 14 saying, “Surely blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply you.” 
God is always good on His Word.  He's not like us, err me.  I have best intentions to do something and then wind up doing something else.  He never fails.

It's good to know God has planned to include us even though we are weak at times.  I've never tied this story to Christmas before, but the Holy Spirit and the Bible have led me to this passage.  I am sorry it is long, but if you have time it's quite relevant to the birth of Jesus.  It took place many years before Christ was born in a manger.
Abraham and Isaac-
1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!”
And he said, “Here I am.
2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.
3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.
6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!”
And he said, “Here I am, my son.”
Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”
8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together.
9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son.
11 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!”
So he said, “Here I am.”
12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”
13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The- Lord- Will- Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”
15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said:“By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba.
(Genesis 22:1-19 NKJV) 
Back to the passage in Hebrews.  Abraham is described as "patiently enduring the test."  That must have been how God felt while Jesus walked the earth.  It must have been horrible during the crucifixion.  God didn't allow Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, but He did allow Jesus to become the sacrifice for all men who change their ways and turn to Him.
15 And so, after he had patiently endured, he obtained the promise. 16 For men indeed swear by the greater, and an oath for confirmation is for them an end of all dispute. 17 Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath, 18 that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.
(Hebrews 6:15-18)

My prayer,
Dear Heavenly Father,
I praise You and thank You for bringing us through all the storms we've faced in our nations.  It's been quite a year.  I pray You will be present with us as You've promised.  Please renew a right spirit within us.  We are weary, some of us are broke, and some alone.  Refresh us Father with new hope, faith, and love.  Sing over us the songs of love You long for us to hear.  Thank You so much for Your Word.  Bless us all as we celebrate Jesus' birth.  Thank You for a Savior, we need Him indeed.
In Jesus Name, Amen.

Here are definitions of hope and faith from Hebrews.  Love is defined in 1 Corinthians 13.  It's good reading for us all.  These words are very much a part of the American Christmas tradition.  I'll start reposting the true Christmas story on the 20th, may even do some new drawings this year : )  
19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
(Hebrews 6:19-20 NKJV)
1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
(Hebrews 11:1 NKJV)
Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect has come, then that which is in part will be done away.
(1 Corinthians 13:8-10 NKJV)
Here I am Lord : ) God bless you!
Comments are always welcome.

Monday, December 9, 2013

God's Holy Spirit (Hebrews 6:3-12, Matt 12:22-32, Prov 24:12-14)

Personally, I love God's Holy Spirit.  Once we become Christians He can dwell in us.  When I'm afraid, I ask Him to grant me peace.  When I can't figure out how to say or write something, I ask Him for words to say.  (Lots of praying while I blog!)  When my husband and I are having an argument, the Holy Spirit comes between us and helps us calm down.  When I couldn't figure out algebra in school, I acknowledged that God created Math and would be the best one to help me.  He did!  I got an A and when the teacher asked me how I was improving so much.  I told him I prayed.  : )  God will help us in anyway that is in line with His character of righteousness and love.  He loves the planets and stars in the sky He created.  He gave me a desire to learn the constellations.  He loves us. Ok, I confess He also nudges me.  I feel like I should do something... then I feel like I really should do something... then I feel like NOW would be a good time.  That's the Holy Spirit seeking to use me.   And yes, He just nudged me : )  I would naturally be a lot more shy without Him.

Hebrews 6
3 And this we will do (put aside elementary principles) if God permits. 4 For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.
I have to admit these words are hard.  I know I have sinned since becoming a Christian.  I know other Christians have sinned.  So how can it be that a person can't go back to God in repentance?  There is one unforgivable sin.  That is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.  When I walk past someone I could help, I grieve the Holy Spirit.  Blasphemy is much worse than that.  I looked up the definition in a dictionary and here's what I found:

a :  the act of insulting or showing contempt or lack of reverence for God
b :  the act of claiming the attributes of deity

Here's a story where Jesus describes the difference between blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and sin.  He is God's Holy Spirit.

22 Then a demon- oppressed man who was blind and mute was brought to him, and he healed him, so that the man spoke and saw. 23 And all the people were amazed, and said, “Can this be the Son of David?” 24 But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, “It is only by Beelzebul, the prince of demons, that this man casts out demons.” 25 Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand. 26 And if Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? 27 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 29 Or how can someone enter a strong man's house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? Then indeed he may plunder his house. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 31 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. 32 And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.
(Matthew 12:22-32 ESV)

7 For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; 8 but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.
Ouch! When we are useful, we do what God loves and receive blessings.  I like that.  However, if we only produce thorns and briers (weeds), and hurt others, we're in danger of going to Hell.  

Here's some encouragement from Proverbs (the book of wisdom):
If you say, “Surely we did not know this,” Does not He who weighs the hearts consider it? He who keeps your soul, does He not know it? And will He not render to each man according to his deeds? 13 My son, eat honey because it is good, And the honeycomb which is sweet to your taste; 14 So shall the knowledge of wisdom be to your soul; If you have found it, there is a prospect, And your hope will not be cut off.
(Proverbs 24:12-14 NKJV)
Basically it's encouraging us to seek wisdom and not dwell on the bad.  Do the do's and not the don'ts.

9 But, beloved, we are confident of better things concerning you, yes, things that accompany salvation, though we speak in this manner. 10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister. 11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end, 12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.
(Hebrews 6:3-12 NKJV) 

I plan to repost the Christmas story around December 20 so we can celebrate Jesus birth on Christmas morning.  Comments are always welcome.

God bless!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Elementary principles (Hebrews 6:1-2, Romans 10:17, 1 John 2:5-6, Matt 3:13-17, 2 Tim 1:6-7, 1 Thess 4:15-18, Revelation 21:8, 1 John 4:17-19, 1 Cor 13:1-3)

"Ocean Grove Auditorium, NJ"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

Must've had too much fun at Carnegie Hall.  I got a cold.  But I promise not to leave germs on the blog hahaha.  It's almost gone now : )

I heard an interesting story on the News.  A Mormon Bishop was touched by the concept of compassion.  He wanted to see how compassionate his Church was.  So he went to a make-up artist and asked her to make him look homeless.  It was so real looking, people in his Church walked far away from him.  One person gave him money.  He went into the Church and sat on a pew.  People were horrified and asked him to leave.  Yikes!

It makes a statement about us doesn't it?  He got up behind the pulpit and revealed who he was.  How embarrassing.  Maybe this is in line with the elementary principles described in Hebrews 6.

Here's the News story:
Mormon bishop (link)

Back to Hebrews:
Hebrews 6:1-2

1 Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, 2 of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment

There's a lot here to think about.  To me, repentance from dead works are the things that have no value.  When I get annoyed with my husband and decide I'll say something to bug him. I'm doing a dead work.  There's no value in it.  Faith toward God, comes from reading and doing His Word.  

Faith toward God
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.
(Romans 10:17 NASB)

The best way to grow in faith is to study the Bible (daily quiet times).  And then go out and give it a try.  Pray first and go help someone or give to someone in need.  Pretty soon it's part of our foundation and becomes natural.  Bible Study can be a verse, paragraph, chapter, or if you're really inspired a book a day.
Bible Study
But whoever keeps His Word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. 6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
(1 John 2:5-6 NKJV) 

God is pleased when we study His Word. Those who read and retain it, are blessed.  What really delights God, is to see us doing our best to do His Word and bless others with it.  I find peace and compassion in His Word. 
From these verses it looks like studying the Bible helps us gain confidence so we can be useful in helping others.  Everything hinges on love.
13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. 14 But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John consented. 16 As soon as Jesus was baptized, He went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on Him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with Him I am well pleased.”
(Matthew 3:13-17)
Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.  The method of baptism was being dunked in a river.  It symbolizes the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  I was baptized in a Southern Baptist Church.  There was a baptismal filled with water at the front of the Church.  Some Churches sprinkle (holy) water or just water to baptize.  Most Christians can't agree on this one- we'll find out in Heaven.  I have a hunch it's all good.  Baptism isn't a requirement for salvation, it's symbolic of making a public profession of faith.

Laying on of Hands
6 Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7 For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
(2 Timothy 1:6-7 NKJV)

This is simply placing a comforting hand on a person who is suffering.  With prayer we can help others heal.  Personally, I can't just zap someone into good health.  But I can pray.  Almost lost my brother last year and now he's back to work.  The liver transplant was a success!  The final answer comes from God.  God also uses this to give spiritual gifts to believers.

Resurrection of the Dead
15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words.
(1 Thessalonians 4:15-18 NKJV)
There will be a day when Jesus will return for those believers who have died. It will be a glorious day!  Then those who are alive will rise to be in Heaven. No more temptation, or fear. 

Eternal judgment 
8 But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.
(Revelation 21:8 NKJV)

I really don't like to think about this part...   Eternal judgment will come to those who deny God's existence and are filled with evil.  I believe it's people who have become like animals.   They feed on their own selfish desires.  God's wrath will be unleashed.

Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. 18 There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. 19 We love Him because He first loved us.
(1 John 4:17-19 NKJV)
True love is the opposite of fear.  It's reaching up and silently asking the Lord what to do, asking for the Holy Spirit to give me words, because I want to help someone in need.  I remember when I first went to Church.  I felt like a fish out of water.  I was afraid to say anything because someone might be offended.  The people seemed so "good" and I felt so "bad."  After awhile I realized we all feel bad when we mess up.  Maybe true love is forgiving ourselves along with others.
This describes the resurrection of believers when Jesus comes back for us. 
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NKJV)
It's like what the Bishop did.  He decided he'd walk in someone else's shoes so he could understand compassion and love for those in need, and help others see people are not always who we think they are.  So, what I get from this is perfection is in loving like Jesus does.  It's about putting my fears and misconceptions aside and doing what I know pleases God.

*12-5-2013 Did some edits and separated Eternal judgment and Resurrection of the dead.  It just wasn't making sense to me so I did more research.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Singing with Thanksgiving and JOY in Carnegie Hall! (Psalms 95:1-7, Psalms 96:1-13, Isaiah 40:31)

Wow Carnegie Hall is something else! And the music was so amazing : ) I woke up this morning with these words in my mind, "God is real. He's not an imaginary friend. He lives!" The concert went really well. I downloaded some photos for you that were taken by the concert photographer (free to us).
"Long shot of the choir on the Carnegie Hall stage."

"Our Fearless Leaders!  Talk about faith..."
The guy in the center is the composer, "Dr. Phil Barfoot,"
2 men to the right is my Choir Director, "John Cavicchio.

"Inside Carnegie - view of the seats"
"The top circle is me, and the one on the right is my hubby."
I didn't squeak "Woohoo!"

"America's not done yet."
That was such a fantastic experience.  I am so glad we did it.  It was the, "American Festival Choir."  The ladies that stood on either side of me confessed that they sang over the solo and missed a high note or two just like me.  I was so relieved and we all had a laugh. 

The composer was very fun to work with.  He challenged us to worship as we sang.  Hope we'll all meet up again someday and sing.  

US Congressman, Louie Gohmert, from Texas stopped in to say, "Hi" to us.  He was in NYC.  He told us how grateful he was that we were singing Christian music.  It's discouraging in the White House right now.  He said that there aren't many people singing about God.  His family always taught about God and family.

The song must go on. Here's the Hallelujah Chorus (link) give it a try and see if you can get those high notes : )  Eesh it's a challenge for sure!  The trick is to sing with your abdomen.

Here are some awesome Psalms about singing and thanksgiving.  May everyone in the USA, have a wonderful holiday this year.

1 Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
3 For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
4 In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
5 The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.
6 Oh come, let us worship and bow down;
Let us kneel before the Lord our Maker.

7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His pasture,
And the sheep of His hand
(Psalms 95:1-7 NKJV)

1 Oh, sing to the Lord a new song!
Sing to the Lord, all the earth.
2 Sing to the Lord, bless His name;
Proclaim the good news of His salvation from day to day.
3 Declare His glory among the nations,
His wonders among all peoples.
4 For the Lord is great and greatly to be praised;
He is to be feared above all gods.
5 For all the gods of the peoples are idols,
But the Lord made the heavens.
6 Honor and majesty are before Him;
Strength and beauty are in His sanctuary.
7 Give to the Lord, O families of the peoples,
Give to the Lord glory and strength.
8 Give to the Lord the glory due His name;
Bring an offering, and come into His courts.
9 Oh, worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness!
Tremble before Him, all the earth.
10 Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns;
The world also is firmly established,
It shall not be moved;
He shall judge the peoples righteously.”
11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;
Let the sea roar, and all its fullness;
12 Let the field be joyful, and all that is in it.
Then all the trees of the woods will rejoice before the Lord.
13 For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth.
He shall judge the world with righteousness,
And the peoples with His truth
(Psalms 96:1-13 NKJV) 

31 But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint
(Isaiah 40:31 NKJV)

I'll be back into Hebrews on Friday.  May God bless you abundantly!
Karen Kyle Ericson