Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Tuesdays with Jesus #181

#181 Reflections for a New Year
December 28, 2010
"...But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3: 13b-14)

Hello, dear ones. I hope that your holiday weeks have been blessed and that Jesus was front and center in all of your thoughts and celebrations. Hopefully you were able to carve out some time to spend alone with Him in worship and adoration. He is the King, the Lord, and our One and Only Christ.   

This week we stand at the threshold of a brand new year. 2011...can you believe it? I'm sure that in some ways you are like me and that there are some things that you are glad to see behind you. But I'm sure that there are also good memories and hope for the days ahead. How do we most effectively go forward into the New Year with renewed faith and a closer walk with God? I believe that it can be done in three important ways. And we must do them now...while the year is just beginning. There is nothing like a fresh start.

The first thing to do is to take a look at the past year. A brief, but close look. Brief enough to stay away from wallowing in self-pity over things that didn't go right or letting bitterness take root because of hurts you have suffered. Brief enough to not become self-satisfied with your Christian career and think that you can slacken your pace. But close enough to see your many blessings. Close enough to see your many failures as well. Not to beat yourself up over them by any means. Remember there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (See Romans 8:1). Take a close enough look to learn from your mistakes. Learning produces growth. If we do not learn and grow from our mistakes we are doomed to repeat them. The Israelites just couldn't get that one right and as a result they wandered around the desert for 40 years. Where did you fail? What did you refuse to give up to God in stubbornness or rebellion, thinking that you had it all under control? Is there anything that you can own as a recurring sin over the last year? A secret place in your heart where God just isn't allowed? Ask Him to show you. Take a quick inventory of every area of your life...your marriage, your role as a mom or dad, your work, your friendships, your service to Him. In each area, thank Him for His abundant blessings and ask for help in the areas where you find yourself lacking. Tell Him that you can't do it without His help. And then move on.....say goodbye to the past...throw away all that extra baggage that weighs you down. Remember our verse? "Forgetting what lies behind." God says in Isaiah 43:18, "Forget the former things: do not dwell on the past." It sounds like we can look at the past, but we just can't "dwell" there. To "dwell" in the Hebrew is to abide, to root, to settle, to remain. Doesn't sound like a suggestion to me...when God says it, it's settled...it's a command! "Forget....don't dwell." Then....

Have faith for today. 2 Corinthians 6:2 says, "...now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." Don't make Martha's mistake. When her brother Lazarus died, she called for Jesus to come. She had faith for yesterday because of the miracles she had seen Jesus do. If she didn't, she wouldn't have called Him. She had faith for the future....when Jesus told her that her brother would rise again, she said, "I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." (See John, Chapter 11) Faith for tomorrow...not today. God's mercies are new every morning. ( Lamentations 3:22-23) Yesterday's mercy will not work today. Tomorrow's mercy will not work today. His mercy if for whatever you face TODAY! God heals...today. God is our provider...today. God is our strength...today. He is everything we need and is able...today! Whatever you are facing, God could answer your prayer...today!!

Prepare for the future. Build a solid foundation. Jesus said that it is the wise man who hears His words and puts them into practice. He is like the man who built his house upon a rock. When the winds and the rain beat against his house, it did not fall. It had a sure foundation.(See Matthew 7) Build your life on the solid rock of Jesus Christ and His word. The house was built on the solid foundation before the storm came. Preparations are made for war when there is still peace. Prepare now for what lies ahead. There will be good days and bad days in 2011. Jesus made us the promise that in this world we will have trouble. Guaranteed, my friend, it will come. You must be prepared ahead of time to get the victory in the future. Read His word. Memorize His word. Renew your mind and think like God thinks, so that when the enemy of your soul, the devil, attacks and tells you lies, you can fight back with the mighty shield of faith in one hand and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, in the other. You can fight back with the truth that you have already learned in the good times. Get your armor on now (See Ephesians 6). It will be too late when the trouble is here. The successful Christian is ready at all times and attracts the attention of the unsaved by his responses to adversity. A calm, peaceful demeanor, void of panic, is a true witness of the power of Christ and His word residing in your spirit. Done consistently, the unsaved will want to know what you've got that they don't. And then you will be able to give the reason for the hope that you have. (1 Peter 3: 15) Preparation is often not for your benefit but perhaps for the benefit of others who don't know the Lord.

The good news is that while we may face trouble in 2011, God's promises for the future are for us too. Remember, He has a plan for your life. He says so in Jeremiah 29:11. He has plans for a future and a hope. For you. Things for you to accomplish. Blessings for you to receive. Favor to shine on you like the sun. Believe for better things this coming year. Remember that in Haggai 2:9 God said, "The glory of this present house will be greater than the glory of the former house". Remember Isaiah 43:18? The next verse after God tells us not to dwell in the past says, "See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland." Believe God for the coming year. I have felt in my spirit for some time now that this is going to be the year of the Lord's favor for those who are trusting in Him and believing Him with all their hearts. I'm believing for big things in 2011. Why not? My God is a big God! This is your year...I'm not sure who this is for...but it's your year!! Set your face like flint. Believe God to be the God of the impossible. The God who loves you more than you can ever fathom. And "strain toward what is ahead" (Phil 3:13) as our opening verse says. Straining means stretching, pushing, and reaching. It won't always be easy. Keep looking forward. You can't look back and walk forward at the same time. Go ahead, try it...can't do it. Forget the past. At the very least, put it into perspective and ...believe for today and have bright hope for tomorrow.

You will be ever in my prayers during this upcoming year. You are so dear and precious to me. Your encouragement and love has made the decision to restart Tuesdays with Jesus so worth it. Keep your eye out for more blog postings and feel free to comment and let me know what you're thinking. I would love it if we could be more interactive and share some community and fellowship around the Word of God. We need one another and I would love it if I could provide an avenue for prayer requests, laughter, tears and encouragement between us, on the blog. I'm praying for that. I don't have all the answers. But if we make an effort to be a community of sorts, we can all help each other out and hold figurative hands and hearts somehow in cyber-space. You may have something to offer someone in need that I do not. Let's give it a try. May you have a Blessed, Happy, Wonderful 2011 as you build your life on the Solid Rock of our One and Only Savior,  Jesus the Lord's Christ.
Living the Word along with you,     
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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

"What Child Is This?"

#180 "What Child is This?"
December 21, 2010
"This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." (Luke 2: 12)
What child is this who laid to rest, on Mary's lap is sleeping?
This child was a sign. In the Greek, that word meant that He was the finger-mark of God. He was Savior, Christ and Lord all in one verse (v.11). He shone with the radiance of the Father's glory and was the exact representation of His being. (Heb. 1: 3)
This child was born in Bethlehem and laid in a manger, not in a palace as would have been befitting a King.
His little eyes would one day weep over Jerusalem and her sins. They would cry over the death of a friend.
His little hands would one day touch the blind and they would see. They would touch ears and they would hear. Those hands would cleanse the leper and drive out the fiercest demon. When His hand would raise, storms would still and winds would lose their breath.
His cry would turn into a voice that would stop hurricanes with a single "Hush." His voice would comfort an adulterous. Speak with love to a sin-full woman. Laugh out loud when the lame started dancing. Call men to follow Him. Teach multitudes. Pray to His Heavenly Father. Cry out in unimaginable pain nailed to a Roman cross.
His heart would be filled with compassion for the hurting, the poor, the abused, and the down-trodden. A heart that bursts with everlasting, unconditional, out of this world, love for you and me to this very day.
Those little feet would one day walk the dusty roads of Galilee, searching for anyone who would dare to listen to His words. They would be anointed with perfume from a broken woman's alabaster box. One day those feet would walk the road to Calvary.
What child is this?
This is a child that angels watched. Shepherds greeted. Kings worshipped. Learned men listened. Fishermen followed. Sinners dined. Crowds cheered. Blind men and lepers called out. Crowds jeered and cursed. Officials flogged. Governors condemned. Roman hands crucified. Women anointed. Gentle hands buried. A stone rolled away. A tomb empty. A Savior alive!
What child is this?
It was written about Him in the ancient Hebrew scroll. "Unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." (Isaiah 9: 6)
He was anointed to preach good news to the poor. He was sent to bind up your broken heart, and proclaim freedom for whatever has you captive. If your world is dark today, He came to give you blessed release. (Isaiah 61: 1) He came to turn your ashes into beauty, your mourning into gladness, and array you richly in a garment of praise, to replace that spirit of heaviness you've been wearing for so long. (Isaiah 61: 3)
What child is this?
He is the one who read those very words on that scroll in the synagogue one Sabbath evening, and sat down saying, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."
What child is this?
"Then I saw in the right hand of him who sat on the throne a scroll with writing on both sides and sealed with seven seals. And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming in a loud voice, "Who is worthy to break the seals and open the scroll?" But no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth could open the scroll or even look inside it. I wept and wept because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or look inside. Then one of the elders said to me, "Do not weep! See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."

Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing at the center of the throne, encircled by the four living creatures and the elders. The Lamb had seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth. He went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who sat on the throne. And when he had taken it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each one had a harp and they were holding golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of God's people. And they sang a new song, saying:
   "You are worthy to take the scroll
   and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
   and with your blood you purchased for God
   persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
 You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
   and they will reign on the earth."
 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
   "Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
   to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
   and honor and glory and praise!"
 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
   "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
   be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!"
 The four living creatures said, "Amen," and the elders fell down and worshiped." (Revelation 5)
What child is this? He is The Christ, the Son of the Living God. The child who began His life in a wooden manger and exchanged it for a wooden cross. The child who began His life in a stable and exchanged it for a throne.   
This is Jesus the One and Only!
Wishing you a blessed and exceedingly Merry Christmas from Living the Word Ministries and from our house to yours! May you know His abundant love, mercy, and grace. May you make it your life's passion to seek Him with all that is within you, worship Him with every fiber of your being, believe Him always, and to chase hard after Him until you see Him face to face.      
Living the Word along with you,     
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Tuesdays with Jesus #179

#179 "Did Heaven Miss Him When He Came To Our World?"
December 14, 2010
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." (John 1:1)
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Jesus was there. "Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made". (John 1:3) God made the universe through Him (Hebrews 1: 2). We speculate on what came before the creation. We speculate about exactly when the "beginning" was. There is no speculation on the fact that Jesus was there, in the presence of the Father, full of glory (John 17:5).
He breathed life into the first Adam. His heart broke when Eve was so easily led astray. He accompanied Abraham as he set out from his home, and He stopped the knife before it hit the mark in Isaac's chest. He strengthened Joseph in the pit and in the prison and elevated him to the palace. He heard the cries of His people Israel when they were slaves in Egypt and He was the power in Moses' staff as it parted the Red Sea. He caused the walls of Jericho to come down with only a shout. He raised up Judges and Kings to rule over His people. He watched as they lived out the never-ending cycle of disobedience, supplication for help, and restoration... until the next time they chose to forget Him. He was the Root from which King David sprung. He anointed prophets to plead with His people. And then for almost 400 years, there was neither prophet nor anointed writer. The Voice from Heaven ceased. But Jesus was there.
How glorious it must have been for the heavenly beings and those gone before us to always be in the presence of Jesus. That must be why they call it Heaven! Which one of them would have ever thought that there would be one day in Glory without Glory Himself?
But in the fullness of time. I love those words. The fullness of time. At just the right time. At the proper time. At the pre-determined time. In the fullness of time, God sent His Son, born of a woman, to planet Earth. (Galatians 4:4) Conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb, the time came for the baby to be born (Luke 2:6). "The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world". (John 1: 9) Heaven's loss would become Earths' great gain and our salvation. Did Heaven miss Him when He came to our world?
Mind you that I have nothing theologically sound to back up what I'm about to say. I just got to thinking. Purely speculating here. I doubt that God the Father shared His plan with everyone in Heaven. Did they wonder where He'd gone? The seat at the right hand of the Father was conspicuously empty.
But in the fullness of time. Bethlehem was overcrowded with people in town to register for the census. Animals roamed the streets. In the pre-dawn hours, street vendors were busy setting up their wares, in hope that the many travelers would spend a farthing or two. Some were still sleeping; some were getting the jars ready for their morning trip to the well. The inn was full. Just another night in Bethlehem. No one even noticed.

No one noticed that in the town of David a baby had been born. No one heard the voice that would one day speak to a raging storm and say, "Peace, be still", let out His first cry. No one noticed. No one cared. Lowly. Humble. Understated. No fanfare. No trumpets. No earthquakes. But I'll bet that all of Heaven ROCKED!

I imagine the Father and all of His angels peering over the banisters of Heaven. Holding their breath. Waiting for the sound. And when it came, that first cry, there must have been cheering and shouting and rejoicing at near biblical proportions. And the proudest Papa ever turned to everyone and said, "That's My beloved Son. And I am well pleased." And for the next 33 years, Heaven watched their Darling, emptied of His Glory; carry out the plan of His Father. Did Heaven miss Him when He came to our world?
I think the saddest verses in my Bible are found in John 1: 10-11. "He was in the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him. He came to that which was His own, but His own did not receive Him". And Heaven watched it all. Was Heaven different because He was now on Earth? Did it not smell as sweet? They understood the Treasure...why didn't those on Earth? The Word had become flesh and was dwelling among them. They failed to see the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. (see John 1: 14) And then Heaven watched Him die.
For three days, Satan and his minions rejoiced, while Heaven cried. But again, in the fullness of time, they watched as the stone was rolled away from the tomb and Jesus, the One and Only was alive, resurrected, and full of amazing Glory! Just a little while longer and He would sit down at the right hand of the Majesty in Heaven...right where He deserved to be all along. Oh, how Heaven missed Him when He came to our world. But now they understood. It couldn't have been any other way.
In a spiritual sense, we don't have to miss Christ now that He no longer walks the sod of our world. He lives on the inside of each of us who have accepted Him as Lord and Savior of our lives. The Bible says that we are seated with Him in heavenly places. (Ephesians 2:6) However, "the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time". (Romans 8: 22) Do you long for His glorious appearing? Do you long to see Him face to face?
One day, dear friend, Heaven will not have to watch from a distance when He comes to our world again. He will bring those who have fallen asleep in Him (1 Thessalonians 4: 14). He will come with the armies of Heaven following Him (Revelation 19: 14). We will see the Son of Man, Jesus, the One and Only, coming on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory. He will send His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather us, His elect, from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other, to be with Him forever. (Matthew 24: 30-31) Heaven won't ever have to miss Him again. We will never have to long for Him again. Our world will be His world. Our dwelling will be His dwelling.
"To the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! (Jude 25) Amen.
Living the Word along with you,
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Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Tuesdays with Jesus #178

#178 "He Before Me Except After Nothing"
December 7, 2010
"I have set the Lord always before me." (Psalm 16:8a)
Because it's the Season, I take a lot of walks through the Gospel of Luke. This time I happened to be strolling by after the shepherds were gone. They took their leave to go tell it on the mountain. The tourists were settling themselves at the "No Room Inn". Night was upon her, and I happened to catch Mary as she ventured outdoors, babe in arms, on this mild Bethlehem night.
I watched her slowly remove the cloths from her new son's little body so carefully, as if she thought He might break. Like any new mother, I saw her smile as she counted His tiny fingers and toes. I watched her brush the back of her hand against His warm, soft skin. She looked at His eyes. She had never seen such dark eyes before. I heard her whisper, "Beautiful"...as tears gently fell from her own. I thought that I might be doing something wrong...trespassing on this very private moment between mother and son...but I couldn't stop looking...couldn't stop thinking.
Nothing would ever be the same for this young girl. By allowing God to interrupt her life, it would be forever changed. When she uttered the words, "Be it unto me according to Thy word", natural met supernatural; humanity collided with divine, and life as she knew it would be transformed for the purposes of God. From that moment forward, she set the Lord always before her.
I had always read the verse in Psalm 16:8a to mean the Lord was always before me in the sense that He walked before me. He was ahead of me and I would always follow. If I followed, while He was ahead, I would always be safe. I guess it depends on where you put the emphasis on the words. Could it be ... "I have set the LORD (emphasis) always before ME (emphasis)?
Motherhood is sacrificial. From the first second that we hold our children in our arms, it becomes about THEM...not us. ME fades away. It was the same for Mary. Her beautiful baby boy would become the focus of her life, for the rest of her life. She would literally set the LORD always before herself. She had already sacrificed so much. All her dreams of a perfect wedding to Joseph had to be put down. Everyone knew that she had become pregnant out of wedlock. And when the fullness of time arrived, she had to give birth in Bethlehem, Joseph's ancestral home. Oh, how she had wanted her own mother to be there!
The shepherds had said some very strange things to Mary and Joseph. All of the words that she had heard about this child were almost unbelievable. I saw her look up into the starlit sky and I heard her soft voice say, "O Mighty One, could it be that this is Your Son?" I wanted to go to her and say, "Oh, sweet girl...those little hands you are holding are the very hands that put those stars in that night sky. His cries...His voice...the very same one that spoke the world into being. His sweet smelling breath is the very breath of God." She seemed confused and full of joy, all at the same time. She treasured up everything that had been said, and everything that had happened thus far, and pondered it all in her heart.
On this night, as I watched, Simeon had not even told her yet that he could die because he had finally seen the Lord's Christ. Prophetess Anna hadn't told her yet that a sword would pierce her soul. She didn't know that those who paid her son homage now would turn on Him one day, and put nails into the very same hands and feet that she marveled over on this Bethlehem night. Her joy at His birth would one day turn to excruciating sorrow as she would watch His death. No mother should ever have to watch her child die before her. But she would. And all of her life, she would set Her Son, His Son, always before her.
I watched her wrap Him up to keep Him warm in the night air. I watched her kiss His cheek so tenderly. I watched her go back inside. But I couldn't move. I was glued to my hiding spot, because I couldn't stop thinking about what watching this exchange between mother and Son had taught me.
Mary taught me that I must always put her Son, my Lord, always before me, before my purposes, and before my plans. I was reminded that every single, solitary time that God has interrupted my life it has ALWAYS turned out for good. The Lord's Christ has NEVER, no, not EVER, let me down. Whatever the interruption of my plans for His has entailed, it has been for His kingdom purposes, and that, friend, is always good.
We've had a tough year at the Schultz's. We've dealt with job loss, illness, relationship issues, tough decisions, and most recently, three deaths in six week's time.  And that's just the tip of our iceberg. But I can honestly say that I am truly content. I am truly filled with joy. True joy runs deep. I have been witness to seeing what putting the Lord and His purposes always before me can do. Not a day goes by that we don't see the fruit of His work in our lives. Loss has turned to great eternal gain. Beauty has risen from ashes and rubble. Death has turned into abundant living.
Your calling will never be like Mary's. You will never be asked to carry the Son of God in your womb. Hallelujah...He is the One and Only! But you never know what He will call you to do, to endure, to suffer, or to give up for Him. Put yourself aside and make it all about Him, His purposes and His plans. Accept the lot that He has assigned, because it is secure. Eventually, one day, the boundary lines will fall for you in pleasant places. I guarantee you...it's a fact...you will be filled with joy unspeakable and full of glory, as you are witness to His perfect plans working perfectly in your life!
On that night, I watched Mary carry the Lord's Christ inside to keep Him warm and protect Him. There would come a day when she would no longer be able to keep Him safe, but instead He would carry a wooden cross down the Via Delarosa for her sins and our sins. Three days later He would win the victory over death, hell and the grave and every single, solitary thing that Mary went through would be worth it.  She always put her Son before her. I want to put her Son before me in everything. Oh, Lord, give me that kind of heart! May it be done to me according to Thy word. No matter what that may prove to be.  "I have set the Lord always before me. Because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken." (Psalm 16:8)   
Living the Word along with you,
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