Party Invitation

Ephesians 3: 12

Because of Christ and our faith in him, we can now come boldly and confidently into God’s presence.

I thought we might hangout in Ephesians 3 a bit more. We all know that the Apostle Paul had a revelation of Christ. Part of what makes the letter to the Ephesians so special is how on display that revelation is. Paul wrote this from prison. I often think that Paul’s imprisonment was for our good. Rather than travelling around setting up churches and speaking, he was forced to convey his thoughts via letter. What Satan meant for bad, God turned for good. It is, Romans 8: 28; lemons for lemonade. Anyway . . .

I see so much of the Apostle John’s revelation in Paul. Paul continued John’s revelation of God with us. He certainly understood about living our lives with and through both the Christ and the Father. In today’s passage, we can see how the life of faith in Christ and our life intertwined with him leads us to a bold and dynamic, full faith relationship lived in the very presence of the Father. Hallelujah! Because of Jesus, and equally importantly, because of our faith in him, we now have confident access to the Holy Presence of God.

The Passion Translation reads thus, “[W]e have boldness through him, and free access as kings before the Father because of our complete confidence in Christ’s faithfulness.” In reading this, one can feel Paul’s complete confidence in the person of Jesus as well as his faith, i.e. full belief, in the faithfulness and completeness of the Christ. He knew that our presence with the King is fully assured in Christ. Paul doesn’t have to humble himself with ridiculous gestures because his eyes are full of the magnificence of Jesus. To even talk about our worthiness, or lack thereof, is almost sinful. It is to take the focus off of Jesus and put it on ourselves. Absurd! It is he who is worthy and because he is so glorious and his faithfulness to the Father so profound, we can walk boldly into the throne room without a qualm. My big brother is the king of kings and I go with him. Who is going to be looking at me with Jesus in the room anyway? But, where he goes, I am always welcome.

If your heart doesn’t almost burst with love for this brother who is prince and king, you just need to see through Paul’s revelatory eyes more. When you see through Paul’s revelation, the glory of Christ so covers you that you shine as he does. Jesus gets on you. His glory shines all about and the Father is overjoyed at your presence. Jesus is the reason for the season, but we are the reason for the Christ. It’s crazy, but we are the reason there is a Christmas. Father sent Jesus down here to get us so that we could hang out in the throne room, no longer to be separated by sin, doubt and worldly distractions. The light has come and filled the room and all who love him are invited to the party, daily. It is a place of great joy and you are always accepted.

Go to Him, child. Go to the Father. Go sit upon His lap and gaze upon the face of love. Listen to the music. Sing aloud and with great joy. Glory to the world indeed, for the Christ has come and in his wake is laughter, singing and confident access to the King. Glory to God and I’ll see you in the throne room.

Feeling Good

Proverb 3: 27

Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, when it is in your power to do it.

I suppose I am feeling the cheer of Christmas for this verse leapt out at me today. Now, it is not an uncommon verse or idea, but I think for many of us its message becomes even more meaningful during this season of celebrating the birth of the Christ.

First, I wish to thank all of you who have sent gifts through this ministry to Deneen and Mike. Your gifts are going to mean much to them, and your kindness and generosity have blessed my heart as well. Thank you! I would have you know that Ivey Ministries contributed to the fund too, as did I personally. Together we have raised a bit over $2000.

It used to be that the church played a significant role in helping people with needs. That role has diminished tremendously, but at this time of year, the joy of Christmas and the pure delight of a savior sent to us, helps us to feel the love of God at a deeper level than at other times of the year. We enjoy doing for others and we feel that warm glow within us. That is the furnace of God burning in our spirits. When fed with acts of charity, it warms us through.

We have so much and are so blessed. I know you support many other organizations. I saw during the MS fund raising campaign how your kindness cannot be contained. There are so many people who need help, so many worthy organizations that sometimes it feels a bit overwhelming. What can any of us do? Maybe we don’t withhold good intentionally but just don’t know how to help sometimes. And, I know that a $20 check doesn’t feel like a lot sometimes, but when we all give, each bit does matter. Because we work as a team, before you know it, we have a sizable amount to give. As I wrote in the initial email regarding Deneen and Mike, Ivey Ministries is not taking out any part of your contribution. There will be no administrative fee or any other cost, not even the cost of the stamp, deducted from your gifts. I want you to know too that this ministry tithes and has since the first dime we received. That means that when you give to Ivey Ministries, at least 10% is moving on to support others.

We do have the power to do good because our Father has blessed us richly. Let us never withhold good from others as long as it is within our power to bless. Let us become known as givers of the highest magnitude. Some people say, “Give until it hurts.” I get it but I say, let’s give until it feels really good, until we feel the blessing of God ignited within us.

For those of you who would still like to join the team in this effort, you can. Send your check to Ivey Ministries at 7726 Amber Forest Lane, Lewisville, NC 27023. Or, to donate through PayPal, click Here.

Three Magi

Matthew 2: 11

Then they opened their treasures and presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

In western culture, the gifts of frankincense and myrrh hardly seem on par with the gift of gold. Is this, then, a dialogue on valuable gifts? Or, perhaps, invaluable gifts? It turns out that historically, frankincense and myrrh were at least as valuable as gold and many historians believe them to have been more valuable than gold.

I got this from Dr. Axe regarding these ancient oils. Visit his website at draxe.com.

Myrrh is a resin, or sap-like substance, that is one of the most widely used essential oils in the world. Historically, myrrh was used to treat hay fever, clean and heal wounds and stop bleeding. Studies conclude that myrrh strengthens the immune system with its antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal properties.

A 2012 study validated myrrh’s enhanced antimicrobial efficacy when used in combination with frankincense oil against a selection of pathogens. Researchers expressed that myrrh oil has anti-infective properties and can help to boost your immune system.

What’s more, new research indicates that these two essential oils are even more effective in combination. Two things of interest I noted as I researched frankincense in myrrh are that they are useful in treating blood disorders. In fact, I was surprised how often blood came up in the articles I read. Secondly, myrrh was used as an embalming fluid. Both of these facts seemed to foreshadow Jesus’ future. How poignant is it that the baby Jesus would be given a gift commonly used in embalming? The two were also ingredients of the incense Jews burned in the temple.
Frankincense and myrrh were very expensive and highly sought after. The trees which produce these resins could not be grown in Israel. Queen Hatshepsut of Egypt greatly sought the two, one article claiming that conquest of foreign lands was sometimes motivated by the desire for the plants which yield the sought after resins. Since the trees would not grow in all climates, the Egyptians would seize territories where they would grow so that they could have their own supply of frankincense and myrrh rather than having to pay exorbitant prices for it.

Today, many medicinal uses have been identified for these two oils. Some believe the potential benefits number in the hundreds. They can be applied directly to the skin but are often burned. Inhaling the essential oils is another healing methodology which has to be a point of interest when considering that the ancient Jews used these two resins in the temple incense. So, going to church really could be good for your health!

I hope as you read the Christmas story this year you will have a better appreciation of how valuable the gifts of frankincense and myrrh really were. It turns out that the offer of gold was likely the lesser of the three gifts. Frankincense and myrrh were very expensive, extremely hard to get and medicinally beneficial. wealth alone, did not secure the valuable oils. Three “Gentile” magi travelled from afar and gave Jesus invaluable gifts. Perhaps the fact that three non-Jewish people travelled a long distance to take the Messianic baby such valuable gifts was a prophetic message in itself.

Comfort and Joy

Jeremiah 31: 13

Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.

I told you I spent Monday outside setting up Christmas decorations and singing Christmas music at the top of my voice (sorry neighbors). One song that made a big impression on me was God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. How many times have you heard that song and even sung it for yourself? I especially heard and appreciated the line which wishes us tidings of comfort and joy. This year, as a group, we need comfort and joy as perhaps we have not in recent years.

I told you in yesterday’s Word of the Day that as I sang it was if I was transported to that little town on Bethlehem all those many years ago. I thought about the situation into which the child savior was born. The people of that day were as desperate for God’s help as we are today. The lived in an occupied territory. Think of that in present day military terms. They were not under self-rule accept to the degree that the Romans did not wish to be bothered with what they considered mundane issues. The big questions of the day were decreed by the Roman rulers. The people cried out for the promised Messiah to come relieve them of the burden of Roman rule. They were oppressed. It is into this environment that the babe was born.

Mary should have been home preparing for the birth of her child. Instead, she was forced to journey to Bethlehem because Caesar Augustus decreed that a census be taken. Can you imagine having to travel with those primitive transportation means when you are near your due date. However, the Jews had no choice but to do everything the Romans demanded. Those were some people who needed comfort and joy.

God promised he would send a savior. He promised He would turn their sorrow to joy and their mourning to gladness. He pledged to give them comfort. And He did. He sent His own son so that generations of people could receive comfort and joy in the place of sorrow.

May you be comforted and may your heart receive joy. The Christmas miracle is reborn in you today!

It’s Time for Christmas

Isaiah 19: 20

And it will become a sign and a witness to the Lord of armies in the land of Egypt; for they will cry out to the Lord because of oppressors, and He will send them a Savior and a Champion, and He will save them.

We have entered the period of Advent. It begins the fourth Sunday preceding Christmas Day. This year that was November 29th. The Advent is the preparation period when Christians ponder the miracle birth of the Savior as well as anticipate Jesus’ triumphant return in the second coming.

I have felt that I should do more than one Christmas message this year. Perhaps something more in line with the concept of the Advent. This year has held tremendous challenge and we certainly need a little bit of Christmas right now, as the song goes. Truly, I think we need a whole bunch of Christmas beginning right now.

Monday I spent several hours outside putting up Christmas decorations. The weather was a balmy 41 degrees and overcast but I was rewarded with several moments of the sun breaking through the cloud cover. It seemed like a personal bestowment of God’s benevolence and I reveled in it.

Some southerners might not have enjoyed being outside for hours in coolish temperatures but to our northern friends it might sound kind of nice. The point is, the day was to be what I made of it and I chose to look at putting up decorations as play rather than as work. Second, I have warm clothes and all it took was a polar fleece shirt and a hat to feel toasty. However, the coup de grace was my music, which dealt the death blow to any humbug sentiments. I had my iPod playing one Christmas album after another. The bad news for my neighbors was that it was blue toothed to a headset so that as I sang along, I didn’t have to hear me and so, could sing as freely and loudly as I wished. I had a grand time.

My spirit got a much needed lift singing songs to my Father about the miracle gift of Jesus. As I listened to the lyrics of some of those ancient hymns, my faith was fed and renewed. I was transported to a little town in Israel where a baby was born who would be the life of my soul. I am glad I was born after that great event and thus, get to celebrate Jesus’ birth. I am grateful he came to rescue us.

I hope you are already in the Christmas Spirit but perhaps this message will give you a little boost this Christmas Season; that it will lift your heart and help you ponder both the savior’s birth and his promised return. I am sending you warm Christmas wishes. May music and joy infiltrate your abode and may your heart continually bask in the glow of Christ.

Father Christmas

Matthew 1: 18 – 21

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Santa Claus is an icon, the world over, for kindness and giving but who is this Santa Claus? He has many names and is idealized in many forms and costumes. He is ageless and has magic powers. For all his iterations, there is but one inspiration, your very own father.
I have thought about Santa Claus quite a bit this year. The word “Santa” means holy. Who is more holy than our Father? Some don’t like to focus on Santa Claus because that image may take away from the real message of Christmas. While it’s true that some people see nothing but reindeer and a jolly old man as the image of Christmas, I love what Santa means to me.

I am still a child at heart so I wouldn’t enjoy the fullness of Christmas without the bells and bows, Santa and snowmen. I love it all and I like how it all makes me feel but Santa is more than a jolly old soul to me. He is an image of my heavenly Father. When I hear the word “Santa” I hear “holy” and that makes me think of Yahweh. I love the Christmas cartoons with their jovial yet inspiring messages but all of that is a mere shadow, a reflection of the great joy our Father brings. Only God could provide the inspiration for a character as benevolent as Santa Claus. And I think, Virginia, the real Santa Claus is Yahweh, our beloved Father and God.

Christmas is the celebration of the first gift isn’t it, the gift of a son who is Immanuel, God with us, but also a savior, the perfect, spotless lamb destined to be the sacrifice for a people who were lost and dying. Our Father gave us His own son on what has come to be known as the first Christmas morn. Santa Yahweh gave the most precious gift ever conceived, which we continue to celebrate thousands of years later. He is the jolly gift bringer who still bestows gifts upon His children. His entire being is that of joy and benevolence. He is the perfect image of Santa Claus and more. He is the Christmas Spirit we hear about but fail to recognize.

Enjoy your Christmas, enjoy it as fully as ever you have. Be filled with all that Christmas means. Gaze upon the nativity scene on your table and ponder the miracle of that glorious day. Let Christmas carols warm your heart and when you see images of Santa, grin to yourself because you know the real Santa Claus. You know the original, rather than the imitations. Let the Father, and the season fill you with real Christmas cheer.

Merry Christmas everyone!
Until next year, Happy New Year and Blessings!

 

Tend the Sheep

Luke 2: 8 – 9          NLV

In the same country there were shepherds in the fields. They were watching their flocks of sheep at night. The angel of the Lord came to them.

Did you ever wonder why the angel appeared to shepherds? Why not clergy or statesmen? If an angel came with a message today, to whom would he appear? The answer, to those who tend the sheep. Selah.

There is speculation about these shepherds. Who were they? I offer you, rather than answers, food to ponder. We know they were shepherds near Bethlehem who were keeping the night watch. That alone is enough to fuel the imagination as it conjures thoughts of the boy David who was lowly and humble. While his brothers were celebrated as soldiers, little David was out in the fields keeping watch over, “those few sheep,” (1 Samuel 17: 28) as his brother taunted him. Mock as you will, big brother, for what city was the Savior, Messiah born but in the city of David. And, who had to save the day, and the nation, when the soldiers all trembled in their boots at the giant Goliath, but the little shepherd boy, David.

Shepherds were not a favored group of people, part of a lower caste. It is interesting that the angel would appear to a group of people who did not rank well on the social ladder. Because they were not people who were looked up to they would seem the least likely to be able to get the message out about the new king. Who would listen to a group of dirty shepherds?

Of course, any mention of shepherds is incomplete without a discussion of Jesus who is the shepherd. Was God, showing us that this newborn child would turn out to be the great shepherd by revealing his coming to a group of shepherds? Another connection to shepherds is that Jesus is often referred to as meek and lowly. He certainly was not a proud or arrogant man. His connection to shepherds doesn’t end there though.

Some scholars speculate that this group of shepherds was tending a specific group of sheep, which would explain why they would be near the town of Bethlehem and why they would be tending sheep in the open fields in winter. This may have been a flock of sheep selected for the sacrifice. How poignant would it be if the angel appeared to a group of shepherds who were tending the sacrificial lambs in order to announce the coming of the lamb whose blood would be offered for the salvation of all people? That is a pretty powerful thought. I told you Easter is embedded in the fabric of Christmas. From the day baby Jesus was born, his sacrifice was revealed.

Jesus’ first heralds were the angels, but they were followed by a group of dusty, lowly, peasant class shepherds. Those shepherds proceeded immediately to Bethlehem to see this miracle birth and having seen the babe, began to tell the good news received from the angel.

A child is born, a humble birth, proclaimed by shepherds rather than church or cultural leaders. To this day, Jesus is the friend of the lowly and savior of all.