How Bright the Star of Bethlehem

Did only three men see the star over Bethlehem? Might others have looked seeing nothing more than an ordinary light? The world never knew it was there.

What did the wise men see but a star that led them to “the light of the world”?

In the beginning, before there were stars, a sun, a moon, or anything visible, “God said, ‘Let there be light.’ And there was light” piercing the darkness so that His creatures would see the heavens and the earth He would so wondrously make.

Pillar of Fire

He provided the special light of His presence for His people when He led them out of Egyptian bondage. 

“And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to lead the way, and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so as to go by day and night.” Exodus 13:21

At night, while there was darkness on the Egyptian side, He provided light for the Israelites “so that the one did not come near the other all that night” (Exodus 14:20).

Light in the Heart

He is still providing light for His people today. 

For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us.” 2 Cor. 5:6-7

“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27) is the light that pierces the darkness of our own hearts and through us, into the darkness of the world.

 “that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast the word of life,” Phil. 2:14-16

Eternal Light

More important than water or food, when our heavenly Father created the heavens and earth, he provided an eternal light ~ the most important thing for life. The first light is the same light that has been with His creation since the beginning, through the wilderness, to the light of Christ that takes us in death to eternal glory with Him.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.”
Jn. 1:4

“The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it,
for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light.”.
Rev. 21:23

Gracious heavenly Father, as the world is unable to comprehend the eternal light, we pray you would shine this light into the hearts of men, today, to reveal through Jesus Christ, your Son, the knowledge of your glory. Pierce the darkness by your own presence and power. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Fran
Suggested Reading: What the Holy Bible Says about LIGHT

The Tension Between Life and Death

As Christians, we live between two extremes ~ between two worlds. We have been “delivered from the power of darkness.” Our heavenly Father has “translated us—conveyed us (NKJV) into the kingdom of His dear Son.” Col.1:13 

A follower of Christ knows the reality of “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27). 

While we live in this world, the Christ in us will be stalked like a lion.  

 If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.” 1 Pet.1:14

Even as Jesus was betrayed by those who lived in darkness, we experience this opposition by those who cannot rest unless the light is put out. While we want to bring others out of darkness, it is to live against the god of this world. 

“Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world.” 1 Pet. 5:8-9 

The oppressor is a constant foe against God’s people. This has been true since the beginning. The enemy – God’s enemy, and ours – will not leave us alone as long as we live in his territory.

It may seem, at times, that we are safe and let our weapons fall by our side. It is then, the foe within may raise its ugly head. Pride can remain dormant until our thoughts are taken captive to the world’s thinking. Whatever has our attention, politics, social media, or any earthly thoughts, we are at war. The tension will rise as death desires to subdue us.

When the enemy gained his stronghold and set up his kingdom, he set God’s creatures against each other. Death ensued to put down anything good. Cain murdered Abel and the pattern of this world was set. 

The Spirit and the Flesh
As God’s people, we still live in the flesh. It has been appointed that men shall die (Heb. 9:26-28). We cannot live forever in this body. Those who are born of the Spirit have eternal life – a life that transcends this one. As long as we are in this body, we will continually be at war with the flesh and its proneness to satisfy its desires.

This tendency flairs whenever we are faced with an opposition of some form, whether a lust of the flesh or in a relationship. “The old man” is stirred up when others will not see our point of view, agree to our leading, or bend to our will. This happens between husbands and wives, parents and children, siblings, friends, etc.Blessings and Curses
Recently, I have looked at this subject in light of God’s relationship with the Israelites. He promised blessings and life to his people as a result of their obedience – curses and death to those who rebelled (Deut.11:26-28). Does this not sound like His promise to Adam and Eve?

The nation of Israel was not able to acquire the blessings and life. They could not keep His commandments. Death continued to rule in the lives of men.

That curse was broken when, as He had promised to send a Messiah from among their people, Jesus came. And those who believe are given eternal life through His sinless life and death on the cross for us.

Eternal life does not mean we are free from temptation, but we have what Adam and Eve, and the Israelites did not have. As Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit is within the believer, setting up the kingdom of God within us, revealing the life of Christ.

He is the constant power and presence in us to keep us in God’s Word, training us to war against the flesh and pride that still lurks within – and to work obedience, and blessings in and through us to others.

I am tempted to make this a series and touch on the subject of curses handed down through generations, but I will stop here, else we have started another book. Our books already published proclaim the presence and the power of our heavenly Father, the legacy of His kingdom in His people, and His victory in Christ and His Spirit over our flesh, sin, and death.

But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Pet. 5:10-11

Gracious Father, thank you for delivering us from the power of darkness and death. Though we suffer for the name of Christ, let us live by the indwelling of your Spirit and so, overcome the enemy’s tactics. Keep us always sober, fervent in prayer and your Word, knowing you and Jesus whom you sent to be our life here and forever. Let us with the humility of Christ face any opposition. In His name, I pray. Amen.
Fran
Books

Image: Google

 

Book Introduction

(The following will be the Introduction to the book, Beyond a Mere Christianity. As I begin the steps required for publishing this new book, I would like to do something I have never done — to share the process with our readers. It began as a series in June 2018, as we have posted what the Lord has given for this project. I appreciate all who have responded with Likes and Comments.

As I continue to write and publish, I want to start a beta group. Beta readers receive a copy of the book and read and reply with comments and critique. These read before the book’s final edit. For those who are interested in being a part of this group or of a review group, please leave a comment to let me know. Readers and reviewers receive free copies.)

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Introduction
When I began this series on my blog in June 2018, I did not know if it would become a book. Like Abram, not foreseeing what the end would be, I simply started with faith that the Lord was leading and blessing the process for me to seek His will, His instructions, and His provisions. He continues to reveal amazing things of His kingdom. Even as I write this introduction, it is with a knowledge that I did not have a year ago.

Now, I want to continue on this new course with joy and excitement to edit, and format as soon as possible. I had hoped to publish by my eightieth birthday on August 1 but decided to settle down and enjoy how the Lord would bring this to pass in His own timing. Every day in obedience, there is communion and fellowship with Him as He continues to show me His ways, teach me His paths, and lead me in His truth – for He is the God of my salvation, and I wait on Him all day (Psalm 25:5)

Why the title Beyond a Mere Christianity? C.S. Lewis’ book was the first of the two other books and a sermon that came to mind when I posted the list of chapters on the blog. Each of them is used in reference to the Christian faith, each by men who have died but whose works are still speaking to people today. After reading and studying these books by C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer, Oswald Chambers, and Jonathan Edward’s sermon, my memory retained much of what they taught. The Lord used each one to bring me to a greater knowledge of Him.

Though I have lived longer than these men, I can never know all they knew. But the Lord has challenged me during every decade to seek more and more of His kingdom through a committed and vibrant relationship with Him.

This treatise is meant to challenge each of us to take what we have received from all sources, to seek and add more and grow stronger in our faith. Most of the valuable works for the kingdom are by men who are no longer living but the Lord still lives to lead us beyond what we have already – so as not to be satisfied with what men give us.

He sits as our great High Priest, with the promise and power of the Holy Spirit, to teach us from His Holy Word. The more time we spend with Him personally in prayer and study of His Word, the more powerful our Christian faith becomes. From generation to generation, we learn and share with others.

Meaning of the Word Mere
Until beginning the introduction to the book, I did not do a thorough search for the meaning of the word mere.

There is a definition of mere meaning pure, simplebeing nothing more than specified.
From the same source is another definition: a small pond of standing water. Vocabulary.com

This meaning has become intriguing as the noun mere, which means lake; a shallow body of water. This definition lends itself to the meaning of this book.  Christianity is thought by some to be shallow – as a small pond of standing water. Such thoughts negate the moving of the Holy Spirit and the depth of His working in the hearts and lives of God’s people.

In a synonym study, Dictionary.com compares the words mere and bare, which imply a scant sufficiency. They are often interchangeable, but mere frequently means no more than (enough). Thus, a mere livelihood means enough to live on but no more; a bare livelihood means scarcely enough to live on

So, when I hear the title Mere Christianity, it seems from my former understanding  to mean that Christianity is nothing more than any other religion. When we try to make Christianity a common faith, we are in danger of dumbing down the power that Christ died to give us. We lose the essence of the faith that is by grace alone, the working of the Holy Spirit for revelation of the truths of God’s Word. 

Many, by reading Lewis’ book, have been encouraged to embrace Christianity even as he did. I believe God has used His work to bring many to a knowledge they never had and who may have become followers of Christ. My purpose in writing is to look beyond what he believed, spoke, and wrote, to discover a greater depth, beyond a mere Christianity; for a mere Christianity will not suffice for Christ’s followers to proclaim and live the legacy God has bestowed on His children.

Lewis may have used the word “Mere” to express the idea of the Christian faith as pure and simple. It is pure. It is simple and needs nothing added for those who embrace Christ and who live by the power of the Holy Spirit. But to those who do not know Him, Christianity is a complex, misunderstood faith. It is much, much more to those who are growing in the doctrines of the faith. It is a living faith — a powerful faith beyond any others. It is a way of life to those who have been transformed by the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Word of God – The Holy Bible.

When the gospel is watered down to satisfy everybody, we withhold the wealth that comes only by a personal relationship with the Father and Jesus, His Son. Christianity comes at a high price, the blood of Jesus Christ, and requires more than we are able to give in return.

To receive the inheritance that is ours in Christ is a supernatural act of the Holy Spirit working through new hearts, drawn to and committed to Him. His grace does not relieve us of duty, but binds us to it and fulfills the requirement, whereby we experience this new life, a heavenly life above and beyond what most people know.

Others have written from Lewis’ theme but from different perspectives. In the following chapters, we will incorporate many facets of the kingdom that our heavenly Father reveals to us, through His Word and His Holy Spirit, in and through the life of His Son, Jesus Christ. Through these, we pray He will make clear His role as a loving heavenly Father, Creator, Redeemer, and our Life; His presence, power, His name, His kingdom, and His will.

These are His truths, promises, and blessings for a people who know Him, fear Him, love Him, obey, worship, serve, praise, pray, proclaim, and live in the power of  the good news of Christ, who are being transformed as living sacrifices and conformed to His image, bearing the fruit of love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance, holiness, righteousness, truth, grace, humility and compassion.

This is to live the “abundant life” (John 10:10) in the “fulness of God” (Ephesians 3:19) — “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27)  here in this life, as He continues to prepare us for eternity with Him. True Christianity is separate from any other religion — and the reality of a holy life in union with our heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, by the power of His Holy Spirit. (I know that I am repeating myself.)

He reveals Himself to and in us as Jehovah, the Lord our God. He sires children of His own who are HIs image-bearers. Though not perfect, we are His off-spring through His Son, as He continues to lead us through an imperfect world, shining through us His holiness and humility.

He calls us to discover the deep things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10). He leads us to more than a casual swim in a shallow pond. He brings us to the ocean’s edge and directs us to “Launch out into the deep.”

Gracious and glorious Father, continue to lead us in the paths of righteousness, leaving our shallow thoughts of you to plunge the depths of your grace, your love, your presence and power — to live the abundant life to which you call us in Christ. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.
Fran

Just When We Thought

We were beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel……

It was mid-2006. Mother had continued to decline in the four years she lived with us. Her physical condition was adding its toll to her dementia. We had done all we could since my dad died of cancer several years before.  While caring for her, we kept two of our granddaughters two days a week ~ a joy and a respite for us and Mother.

But, something had to give.

Her month in a nursing home before she died did not make life any easier. Even so, we hoped this would end our adventures with adversity. No so. Five weeks through the settling of her small estate, Jerry had emergency by-pass surgery on his left leg.

A month later, his leg had to be amputated. After three years of not healing, he had a third surgery to remove the graft inserted for the by-pass.  The stump finally healed seven months later and for a short while he used a prosthesis with a walker. But it is still painful.

For the last two years, he has not driven a car, walked, or worn a shoe because of issues with wounds that would not heal. His heart disease and diabetes are not our best friends.

Why am I rehashing these affairs? One reason is to witness of the fulness of God’s grace during trials in this life and to compare the lives of God’s children to the children of Israel as He delivers us from our bondage to self and sin and brings us through this wilderness to His promised land for us.

A Worse Scenario
God’s people had been in bondage four hundred years when the Lord sent Moses and Aaron to Egypt. Their case before Pharoah to deliver Israel only made their condition worse. Not only were they still required to make bricks, but they had to find their own straw. They could not understand how the Lord was working for their freedom.

“Then, as they came out from Pharaoh, they met Moses and Aaron who stood there to meet them. And they said to them, “Let the Lord look on you and judge, because you have made us abhorrent in the sight of Pharaoh and in the sight of his servants, to put a sword in their hand to kill us.” Exodus 5:20-21

Like the people of Israel, we cannot see how the Lord is working on our behalf until we get past a breaking point. Adversity is His means of proving His presence and power in the lives of His children, enabling us to live in the assurance He gives and to praise Him every day.

“My brethren, count it all joy
when ye fall into divers temptations; 
Knowing this,
that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
But let patience have her perfect work,
that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”
James 1:2-4

More and more, we are learning what Paul meant when he said, “I have learned to be content.” Jesus becomes more precious with each trial, endears us to Him and excites our hope for eternal life with Him.

It is in the “something has to give” times that He fills us with His grace and shows His mercy ~ growing us in the process to understand the truth and reality of His promises. Christ in you ~ the hope of glory is experienced in every turn of this life, bringing us closer and closer to Him, His glory and His joy.

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time
are not worthy to be compared with the glory
which shall be revealed in us.
Romans 8:18

Dear Father, as we are still learning what it means to grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ, we pray your Holy Spirit to prove us to be yours. Fill us with your grace and make us know your goodness and mercy that follows us all the days of our lives; that we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.
Fran
Suggested Reading: TWO FULL PLATES ~ Learning to be a Caregiver

Image: Pixabay

When Jesus Cleans House

A new thought for Filled with Grace ~ Wrapped in Glory.

 

 

“Know ye not that ye are the temple of God,
and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?”
1 Corinthians 3:16

 

 

Christ in you, the hope of Glory (Colossians 1:27) ushers in a new life in which He changes everything. You are His building, His temple, His field. All belongs to Him. He cleans house ~ every nook and cranny He knows intimately. If He is to live there, He must have full reign to make things suitable for Him.

“And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought;” Luke 19:45

He casts out the spirits within and takes up residence so that they cannot return. (Matthew 12:45)

“But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” Hebrews 3:6

Praise the Father for His indwelling power to conform us to the image of His dear Son (Romans 8:28-29) ~ through His Word and Spirit, by His grace and for His glory. In Jesus’ precious name. Amen.
Fran