Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Story 6, Jesus is born! (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 and Gentiles.  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 myrrh. Matthew 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 were 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.  Angels sang.  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 2015 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)

We'll watch The Nativity (link) on DVD tonight.  It's always a blessing to see Israel and have a small view of what happened that night.  It's one that can be shown in Church groups.

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

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Christmas Story 5, Shepherds and Angels (Luke 2:8-14, Psalm 23, 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 at night.  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 (link), by W. Phillip Keller.

One day we will see the angels in glory, and sing in their choir!  My husband is bringing Santa Claus with him to the Nursing Home, where he works.  They always get a big laugh and have fun.

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

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

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Christmas Story 4, Wise men from the east (Matthew 2:1-8, 12, Micah 5:2)

"Wise men & women 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 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.

Jesus came to earth to become the, "King of Kings."  "Herod," the Roman appointed ruler was afraid he would be conquered.  He was an evil man.  

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 understand the meaning 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 repented, 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 desired 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 the baby 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 : )

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Christmas Story 3, Born in Bethlehem (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.  Tradition shows Mary riding a donkey.  I suspect because Joseph was a carpenter, he would've built a wagon for Mary.
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.  At one point Mary went to visit her cousin, "Elizabeth."  She also became pregnant with John the Baptist.  When Mary and Elizabeth met both of the babies moved in their wombs.  
Usually women are the talkers, but I suspect Joseph finally got his chance to think this all through. My Dad always talked the most when we were driving.  Maybe Joseph 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.  Somehow God always has a way of bringing us through the rough times.

Monday, December 21, 2015

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

"At first 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 together, she 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. 

This is how God worked it out:  

18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: After His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph, before they came together, she 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. 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.”

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.
(Matthew 1:20-25 NKJV)

Joseph strikes me as a simple man, a carpenter.  He's honorable and keeps his word.  Obviously he had 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.

'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)

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Christmas Story 1, Gabriel and Mary (Luke 1:26-38, Isaiah 7:14-15, 1 Corinthians 1:27-29, Luke1:46-55)

It's time to read the Christmas story again.  I hope it's a blessing.

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.  
27 But God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; 28 and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, 29 that no flesh should glory in His presence.
(1 Corinthians 1:27-29 NKJV)

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.  But it also shows how humble Mary was.  She didn't say, "You got that right!"  

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?"

Jacob became Israel after wrestling God.  Another twist is that there already was a king in place for Israel, "Herod."  He was put in place by the Romans.  So what Gabriel is saying is that her child would reign over Israel.  Her response is so sincere.  "What!!?  Wait a minute... She might've been thinking, I was just picking flowers and feeding animals what is all this?"

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 seeks to please God, 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.  

"Mary pondered these things in her heart"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.
Mary's song:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
   of the humble state of his servant.
   From now on all generations will call me      blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is his name.
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
53 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

Luke 1:46-55

Here's a song that describes how Mary may have felt:   

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Hidden in my heart (Acts 18:18-28, Psalm 119:11-16)

Just in case you are feeling overwhelmed with the Bible.  I started out reading the Bible everyday, just a chapter or some verses.  I thought I knew a lot.  But when I went to Grand Canyon College to study the Bible, I had a really hard time getting through the tests.  Several of the guys at school tried to help me learn.  There was just so much to remember.

So I wrote a prayer:
"Now I lay me down to study,
I pray the Lord I won't go nutty,
And if I die before I wake,
That's one less test I'll have to take."

When it came time for finals, I finished my term paper and turned it in late to the Professor. He asked what my excuse was. Trying to be noble, I said, "I don't have one. I messed up."
He said, "Ah come on I collect excuses." I told him the truth, "I led someone to Christ." He said, "That's a new one."

"But you still get a low grade."

I also got to meet Dr. Puckett at Grand Canyon. He had a wonderful Southern accent. Before each test, he'd say, "I don't want to scare anyone. But I don't think it's a good idea to cheat on your Bible test. You know, lightening bolts, stuff like that."

The details in the Bible seemed impossible to remember. I kept reading it, and realized I wasn't planning to be a Theologian.  I just wanted to learn about God's Word and share Christ, be His servant.  So, I listened to sermons at Church and kept reading the Bible on my own. I've always been hungry to learn more.  There's still some books in the Bible I haven't spent a lot of time on.  I plan to keep studying.

I did get through the year. Unfortunately, I couldn't afford to go back to Grand Canyon in Arizona. My parents moved up to Washington. God didn't let me slip away. I was able to spend some time in a Community College so I could finish my Bachelor's degree in Art and the Bible at Seattle Pacific University. I wound up working part-time in Financial Aid offices while going to school. I was on Financial Aid to go to school, and the Director asked if I wanted to work. I agreed and it went well. My brother married a German girl.  When I got my degree, my Sister-in-law stood up and yelled, "Heil Karen!" I didn't know what to think.  Remembering all of this brings back good memories. As I look back today, I'm smiling and reminded how God has a plan for us all even when it seems impossible.  I've been studying the Bible for 39 years now.  As for the Art degree and Bible minor, I was sitting in a cube at Boeing when the web became public.  My Art degree got me lots of jobs.  And the Bible?  God's Word has always given me courage.  He knew exactly what I would need : )

11 Your word I have hidden in my heart,
That I might not sin against You.
12 Blessed are You, O Lord!
Teach me Your statutes.
13 With my lips I have declared
All the judgments of Your mouth.
14 I have rejoiced in the way of Your testimonies,
As much as in all riches.
15 I will meditate on Your precepts,
And contemplate Your ways.
16 I will delight myself in Your statutes;
I will not forget Your word.
(Psalms 119:11-16 NKJV)

11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.
(Jeremiah 29:11-13 NKJV)

Paul Returns to Antioch
18 So Paul still remained a good while. Then he took leave of the brethren and sailed for Syria, and Priscilla and Aquila were with him. He had his hair cut off at Cenchrea, for he had taken a vow. 19 And he came to Ephesus, and left them there; but he himself entered the synagogue and reasoned with the Jews. 20 When they asked him to stay a longer time with them, he did not consent, 21 but took leave of them, saying, “I must by all means keep this coming feast in Jerusalem; but I will return again to you, God willing.” And he sailed from Ephesus.
So we're back in Acts.  Paul made a lot of friends along his journeys.  In Antioch, they didn't want him to leave.  He was a great teacher and lead many to Jesus.

22 And when he had landed at Caesarea, and gone up and greeted the church, he went down to Antioch. 23 After he had spent some time there, he departed and went over the region of Galatia and Phrygia in order, strengthening all the disciples.

Paul's work produced many books in the Bible that we can still read after all those years, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Romans, Colossians and more.  It's hard to imagine how the Lord could use one man to accomplish so much.

Ministry of Apollos

24 Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he desired to cross to Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him; and when he arrived, he greatly helped those who had believed through grace; 28 for he vigorously refuted the Jews publicly, showing from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Christ.
I really like how Aquila and Priscilla pulled Apollos aside to teach him, rather than embarrassing or discouraging him in public.

Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank and praise You for the plans that seem impossible and turn out the way You planned all along.  I know You never leave or forsake us.  You are able to carry out plans we can't even imagine.  I pray You will bring a new desire to read Your Word, so everyone can know how truly awesome You are.

In Jesus Name, Amen.

(Acts 18:18-28 NKJV)

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving (Psalm 103)

"Jake could sleep anywhere"
© Karen Kyle Ericson, all rights reserved.

Each year we try to remember to give thanks for our blessings at Thanksgiving.  It's been a tradition in the USA since the pilgrims first came to North America.  We lost our cat, "Jake" this year.  He had 6 toes on his front paws and an amazing personality.  We are so grateful we got to have him for so long.  We still have the other white cat, he snores... Really he does.  Sometimes it's good to be thankful for the stuff we've had and not just the stuff we want.

This is my favorite Thanksgiving Psalm.

Psalm 103

1 Bless the Lord, O my soul;

And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 
2 Bless the Lord, O my soul,
And forget not all His benefits: 
Who forgives all your iniquities,
Who heals all your diseases
4 Who redeems your life from destruction,
Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies5 Who satisfies your mouth with good thingsSo that your youth is renewed like the eagle's

6 The Lord executes righteousness

And justice for all who are oppressed
7 He made known His ways to Moses,
His acts to the children of Israel. 
8 The Lord is merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger, and abounding in mercy
He will not always strive with us,
Nor will He keep His anger forever
10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,
Nor punished us according to our iniquities

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,

So great is His mercy toward those who fear Him;
12 As far as the east is from the west,
So far has He removed our transgressions from us.
13 As a father pities his children,
So the Lord pities those who fear Him.
14 For He knows our frame
He remembers that we are dust. 
15 As for man, his days are like grass;
As a flower of the field, so he flourishes.
16 For the wind passes over it, and it is gone,
And its place remembers it no more.
17 But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting
On those who fear Him,
And His righteousness to children's children,
18 To such as keep His covenant,
And to those who remember His commandments to do them. 
19 The Lord has established His throne in heaven,
And His kingdom rules over all

20 Bless the Lord, you His angels,

Who excel in strength, who do His word,
Heeding the voice of His word
21 Bless the Lord, all you His hosts,
You ministers of His, who do His pleasure

22 Bless the Lord, all His works,
In all places of His dominion.

Bless the Lord, O my soul! 


Dear Heavenly Father,
I thank You for your patience with us and your never-ending love.  I pray You will bless us all with creative ways to serve You.  You've given all of us a bit of talent.  Please be present with those who don't have much this year, those who are living in fear, struggling to survive. I pray for peace and safety. 
In Jesus Name, Amen.

My favorite Thanksgiving song-  Thanks Matt!
Matt Redman, 10,000 Reasons (Bless the Lord) (link)