What a privilege to write for Gracefully Truthful on the matter of prayer. Today we are looking at Nehemiah’s prayer as he prepared to request permission from the king to go rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. Come along with me as we dig in.
As a teenager, I remember many times saying to my father that I “intended” to do this or that. His response was always the same, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”. It sounds a bit harsh but I believe there is a lot of truth in the statement. All the intentions in the world will not get the work done. There must be something more than intention.
Advent Hymn #3 – How Great Our Joy! Traditional German Carol
v. 1-2 by Theodore Baker
images created in Canva.com
Christmas Icons provided by Creative Market
I am overwhelmed with joy in the Lord my God!
For he has dressed me with the clothing of salvation
and draped me in a robe of righteousness.
I am like a bridegroom dressed for his wedding
or a bride with her jewels.
Perhaps you are not feeling it this Christmas.
Maybe you are more like Cindy Lou Who, saying, “Where are you Christmas?” Somehow the JOY has been lost. For many, it has been a dismal year. I hear of tragedy every week. Every day, my Open Doors app goes off with yet another person being persecuted. So how can there be joy?
Let’s take a closer look at this advent hymn, How Great our Joy!
Maybe there is a clue here. This hymn speaks of the shepherds’ response to the Good News. Perhaps they can teach us about finding joy when all seems hopeless.
While by the sheep we watched at night,
Glad tidings brought an angel bright.
It was a quiet night. The shepherd-priests we learned of last week were settling down for another night. It had been over 400 years since they had even a word from God and the prophets. When would the Messiah come? Surely they had feelings of despair. “It’s never going to happen. We are stuck under the control of the Romans. At least they were allowing us to worship God and offer sacrifices in the temple. But When, When would the Messiah appear?
Emotions can turn on a dime. Imagine at one moment you are feeling hopeless; thinking it’s never going to happen. Nothing will ever change. I am stuck here in this trial forever. Then in a moment, everything changes. Imagine the excitement that came over the shepherds when they saw the angels and heard the Good News.
“Glory to God in highest heaven,
and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
The shepherd-priests didn’t stay stuck in their despair. They were filled with joy. They immediately said, “Let’s go see this thing…” After they saw Jesus, they were “glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.“
How Great was their Joy!
There shall be born, so he did say,
In Bethlehem a Child today.
A Child in Bethlehem! These were keywords from the prophets. They were words of HOPE.
But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
are only a small village among all the people of Judah.
Yet a ruler of Israel,
whose origins are in the distant past,
will come from you on my behalf.
They remembered the prophecy of Micah that a great ruler would come out of Bethlehem. Was it finally true? Had a child finally been born who would save them from tyranny? Hope was beginning to burst forth from the hearts. They just had to believe that it was so. After all, angels had come to tell them the news.
And again, Jeremiah had spoken of a Righteous King…
I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, [that is, someone in David’s line] a King who will reign wisely.
This is another indication that salvation would come from the lowly town of Bethlehem; the City of David.
There was indeed HOPE RISING!
There shall the Child lie in a stall,
This Child who shall redeem us all.
A Promised Redeemer
Ah! Redemption! Whether you realize it or not, the thing your heart desires most is redemption. Just as God’s heart breaks because of the separation sin has caused, so our own hearts ache for restoration. Oh! How we need to be restored to God. From the beginning, at the Fall of Man in Genesis 3, God had promised a Redeemer. One who would restore man from the fall.
Then the Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this, you are cursed more than all animals, domestic and wild. You will crawl on your belly, groveling in the dust as long as you live. 15 And I will cause hostility between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring. He will strike your head, and you will strike his heel.”
Revelation 12:9 confirms that God was speaking not just to the serpent but to Satan, himself.
This great dragon—the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world—was thrown down to the earth with all his angels.
And believers grasp on to the Apostle Paul’s statement to the Romans
“The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. May the grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.” (Romans 16:20)
God promised Moses that He would redeem Israel for Himself. (Exodus 6:6-7 ) There was the short-term promise of redemption from Egypt. This promise was also the promise through Christ for all who would believe. (John 1:12, Galatians 4:4-5 ) And finally, the complete fulfillment will come when He returns to restore the world and set up His Kingdom. (Revelation 21 )
Now that GIFT will be JOY indeed!
This gift of God we’ll cherish well, that ever joy our hearts shall fill.
“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope”
P.S. I came across this poem by Annie Johnson Flint recently. Had to share it.
For All the Morrows
Has the year brought sadness? Joy is yet in store. Has it given gladness? Next year giveth more. Let your Father measure All your pain and care, Let Him weigh the burden That your heart must bear, Sending light or shadow As He deemeth best, For in His sure wisdom You can safely rest. Peace for all the morrows, Strength for all the days, These shall be your portion Through the New Year’s ways.
Advent Hymn #2 – O Little Town of Bethlehem by Philip Brooks, 1865
Created in Canva.com
Christmas Icons by Creative Market
This week we consider the theme of peace. Christ has brought us perfect peace; something the jews for ages have desired. His blood and sacrifice bring us the true peace that we hope for. The peace that renders our soul free of guilt and sin. However, we often think of peace as quietness, like the little town where Jesus was born.
O Little Town of Bethlehem was written by Phillips Brooks around 1865. He wrote it for a children’s program at church, but it has become a favorite among adults as well. Phillips had visited Israel a few years earlier and took a tour that included riding a horse from Jerusalem to Bethlehem and arriving at dusk. He was so impressed by the little town. So quaint and peaceful. When he sat to write a song for the Christmas service, he was reminded of his time in Israel and these beautiful words came forth.
Advent Hymn Studies #1 – Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus
All Images Created in Canva.com
Christmas icons from Creative Market
I love to study the lyrics of hymns. They often bless my heart probably because so often they are words straight from scripture. I haven’t done a hymn study in a while so I’m going to try to study some Christmas hymns during December. Won’t you come along with me?
I was privileged to write for Gracefully Truthful on waiting. There is so much to learn about understanding and accepting God’s timing. I offer a piece of my study here; but, please read it all at Gracefully Truthful (link at the bottom)
Read Ecclesiastes 3:1-15
Fatalism vs Grace
Some people today, especially those without Christ, take on the same fatalistic approach as Solomon. “Que Sera, Sera – What will be, will be”. Fatalism is a doctrine teaching that events are fixed in advance and human beings are powerless to change them. (Merriam-Webster Dictionary) We might as well live life and accept what happens because there is nothing we can do to alter it.
This viewpoint leaves no room for God’s mercy and grace. It says God’s will as primary. They say,
“If it’s not God’s will for me to be saved, I won’t be saved.”
In their eyes, God neither hears nor answers prayer. As Christians, we know it’s God’s grace, mercy, and love that bring us joy. We know we can talk with God, pray about our sorrows, and through prayer, effect change. He is the one who brings true peace to the human heart.
He was not rebuked for his questions; his questions were patiently answered. (Habakkuk 1:5-11)
The Lord’s Answer
5 “Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed. For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.
Understanding God’s Timing
God may not answer our questions in the manner or timeline we want, but, if our questioning is sincere, He will give us understanding and unfathomable peace. When we look back on our life, we will see that God’s timing is beautiful. I’m reminded of this prayer set to music by Maranatha Music.
“In His time, in His time. He makes all things beautiful in His time
Lord please show me every day as you’re teaching me your way
That you do just what you say in your time.”
Accepting God’s Timing
When my husband was forced from his job and we needed to move from our home and take early retirement, we wondered,
“God, what in the world are you doing?”
Sure, we had been praying about a change, but this wasn’t what we had in mind. We could only see what was plausible in the “mind of man.” But now, six years down the road, we have more understanding of God’s plans.
1) We now live near three of our children & their families,
2) we are in fellowship with several life-long friends than have been a great support to us,
3) we are within driving distance to doctors who treat my chronic illness, and
4) our daughter met and married a wonderful Christian man and they are in ministry together.
There’s more, but you get the picture. We didn’t know the plans of God whose purposes are so much more amazing than anything we could have considered. We held to prayers as Habakkuk did,
“How long, Lord, must I call for help and you do not listen or cry out to you about violence, and you do not save? Why do you force me to look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?”
And God answered,
Look …. be utterly astounded! For I am doing something in your days that you will not believe when you hear about it.” (Habakkuk 1:1-5)
If you enjoy my devotions, perhaps you would like to receive a series of devotions in your email inbox once a week. Sign up for this EMAIL EXCLUSIVE series “BUT GOD”. It’s all about scriptures that state, “But God”. Just Click Here.
We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.
Drifting from safety
When my children were small, my greatest fear was taking them shopping. My son stayed right by my side, but my daughter was the curious type. She wanted to see everything. And it would only take a moment for her to wander away from me. She was a tiny thing and could get easily hidden within a rack of clothes. I would be frantic.
I’m inspired by a godly woman from our church, Delores. A year or so before my illness, she ultimately healed from stage 4 brain cancer. She was a vivacious lady around 60 years old living life to the full. She and her husband ran the local annual rodeo and a western store.
One Saturday evening, she laid down because she had a headache. The next thing you know, she was having a full-blown seizure. Soon afterward, we learned it was cancer. I have never seen someone have such a positive attitude. It was the most beautiful thing to see. She spoke life to the entire church during her journey to heaven. She would always tell us, “I’m just along for the ride.”
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation eagerly waits with anticipation for God’s sons to be revealed. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility–not willingly, but because of him who subjected it–in the hope 21 that the creation itself will also be set free from the bondage to decay into the glorious freedom of God’s children. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together with labor pains until now. 23 Not only that, but we ourselves who have the Spirit as the firstfruits–we also groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for adoption, the redemption of our bodies.
What were the sufferings of the present time and what future glory was Paul speaking of? vs18
Persecution of the church began from the very start of the church. Immediately in Acts we find the temple police and the Sadducees putting the apostles in prison (Acts 4) and stoning the Christians, including Stephen. (Acts 7) Some of this was in the leadership of Saul (later Paul).
We tend to get this idea in our heads that Christian leaders have everything in perfect order; that they are always holding a good hand. We think that they have had a great Christian life and have never been tempted to sin or been through troubled times. But this is far from the truth. When we look through scripture we find that God oftentimes chooses the weak or the least expected to do mighty things for Him.
I have said many times that we need to have more times of testimony. Times when we share about our troubles and weakness. And then also to share how God has gone through the fire with us. How can others be encouraged or know that God is an amazing God when we aren’t sharing these things?
As I picked up Phillip Yancey’s memoir, Where the Light Fell, I found the story of his life heartbreaking. But I learned some things in my reading that I will share with you today.