This Thanksgiving season is a perfect opportunity to give thanks to God for His great mercies towards us. The Lord is awesome, and He is worthy to be praised! He is the provider of every good thing. He has placed everything in order, including the sun, the moon, and the stars. The Lord has created everything for His purpose and for our enjoyment. The varieties of shapes, colors, and sizes in animals, bodies of water, flowers, trees, and fruits are all amazing and incredible!
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, 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.” Matthew 2:1-2
Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.”
When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, 15 and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. Matthew 2:13-16
Jesus was born under the nose of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but they didn’t notice or recognize Him! On the other hand, the wise men as outsiders, from a far country, came a long way seeking to see the King of the Jews and worship Him! Sometimes, we think that if we had been raised in a Christian home, we would have had an advantage in knowing God early in life and having more knowledge of Him. Looking at the religious people of Jesus’ day, it is clear that they they had knowledge but no revelation! They were blinded to the reality of who Jesus was even when He walked among them. It was the illiterate and the uneducated who accepted Him more readily and believed who He was!
The wise men came to King Herod looking for the King of the Jews, but this became a point of intimidation for King Herod! He was so scared of this baby that he was willing to take the lives of many boys under the age of 2 to ensure that Jesus was eliminated. How can a baby be so intimidating!? Did he ever stop to ask what was the baby’s lineage that would qualify Him to be the King of the Jews!?
In John 10:10, Jesus stated that the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy. The enemy is threatened by those who worship the King of Kings and attempts to steal the seed of life! He tried to snuff out the life of Jesus before He had the opportunity to grow and fulfill the Father’s mission. He will try to do the same in the lives of people!
Thankfully, Mary and Joseph were warned in a dream about King Herod’s plans and fled to Egypt to ensure that Jesus would not be touched by his men. Similarly, God provides a way of escape from temptations and the trappings of the enemy. We need to remain in tune with Him and listen to His instructions. It would have been very inconvenient for Mary and Joseph to travel all the way to Egypt with a baby on a donkey, but it was necessary if they were going to protect the promised Child!
Sometimes we have to distance ourselves from certain people or situations to ensure that we are not affected by the behavior or lifestyle of others. We have to guard what the Lord has entrusted to us from those things that could endanger our faith or the call of God in our lives. It may feel lonely for a season. It may also cost us something, but if God has directed it, He will provide the grace to go through it until such a time that He opens new doors.
The Lord entrusted the King of Kings in the hands of Mary and Joseph. They carefully paid attention to God’s instructions every step of the way and protected God’s son for the call that He had on His life! Are you stewarding what God has placed in your life? Are you protective of the call of God? We are all carriers of His seed of life in us, and we’re called to steward it for His glory and purpose!
Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. 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. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”
Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”
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. Luke 1:30-35
The angel brought the good news of upcoming Jesus’ conception and His birth to Mary. Mary had no idea how this was going to happen since she had not been with any man. She only accepted and received the will of the Father. Interestingly, she did not even mention anything to the angel about her being engaged, and neither did she ask the angel to tell Joseph about this exchange. Mary’s pregnancy had the potential to alienate her from everyone and even put her life in danger. Her parents could have accused her of wrongdoing, and Joseph could have accused her of being with another man. In addition, her countrymen could have shunned her for claiming to carry God’s child. Furthermore, the religious people could have stoned her to death. There were many risks for Mary in accepting the call of God in her life. However, Mary trusted God’s plan and did not worry about all the “what ifs”!
The angel told her that the Holy Spirit would come upon her, and she would have a holy conception! Those statements were all future tense. Mary was informed about this beforehand, and she chose to humbly accept the call, believe the angel, and receive God’s plan for her life. This assignment was a great privilege for Mary, but it was also a great responsibility and a costly one for her.
As you do not know what is the way of the wind, Or how the bones grow in the womb of her who is with child, So you do not know the works of God who makes everything. Ecclesiastes 11:5
The only involvement that Mary had in Jesus’ conception was to accept the work of the Holy Spirit in her life. The King of Kings began to take on the human nature in her womb and grow in His stature and wholeness inside of her. Jesus was dependent on His mother to take care of Him while in the womb until such a time that He was ready to be born. The Holy one inside of her grew just like any other baby, but Mary knew hers was someone special who had come from on high!
Similarly, when we accept Jesus as our Savior and Lord, the Holy Spirit begins to dwell within us and brings life to our spirit man. Intellectually, we do the works of God and what happened inside of us, but we become born again and the new nature of God begins to grow in us. Mary knew she was a carrier of a Holy child. Do we know we are carriers of His holiness when we receive Him as our Savior and Lord!? Initially, we accept the change by faith. We know we have been touched by God but we don’t completely understand the extent and the ramifications of being born again! At the beginning, the transformation is not visible to others, and it looks like nothing has changed. However, over time when the new life grows inside of us and begins to take on the nature of God, our change will become more noticeable and profound!
The King of Kings who entered the world through Mary’s womb, desires to take His place in our hearts and in our lives. When we make Him the priority and give Him room to grow, we begin to see the magnificence of the gift entrusted to us by God! When we nurture the seed of life in us and recognize His holiness within us, we are compelled to live a sanctified life and to prepare a dwelling place for Him who is holy!
We live in such a disposable culture that we have no problem moving on from people and things easily. We acquire cell phones, expensive cars, or modern appliances, but we can easily toss them away for a better version. Furthermore, our relationships are not what they used to be. We measure our connectedness by the number of friends, followers, and likes we have on social media. These trends create a shallow existence where we don’t have to get too involved with others, and we can presumably coast through life without the pain of working on relationships. However, the very thing that many of us avoid, which is truthful and loving relationships, is what gives us the opportunity to grow, to belong, and to become better.
We are designed to help each other grow and become sharper. Just as a knife is meant to be sharp or has no good use, so are we meant to be sharpened to be useful for the Kingdom. I sharpen my knives at home from time to time. When I sharpen them, I use a metal rod and slide my knife against it until they are sharper. The sounds made in the process of two pieces of metal rubbing against each other is an unpleasant and screeching sound which is not fun to listen to. The purpose is for my knives to be sharp, so they can function for the purpose they were designed. If I can’t sharpen them, pretty soon I would have to get rid of them because they are not doing what I bought them for. Similarly, we are meant to be sharpened by one another. We are not meant to live a comfortable and dull life by merely co-existing with one another! Growth requires us to remain engaged with others and work at relationships. The sharpening process will cause us to holler or cry at times, but in the end it will be worth it!
Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy. Proverbs 27:6
One of the cultural trends nowadays is that people are very sensitive to being judged by others. Unfortunately, that trend is also true in the body of Christ, so anytime anyone tells us anything that is contrary to what we like to hear, we feel judged! Rather than being offended or hurt by others, we should allow the Lord to examine our lives and be quiet before Him. This gives room for the Holy Spirit to show us our rough edges and soften us, so we can grow stronger in our relationship with the Lord and with others. I would rather have friends who talk to me truthfully about my flaws rather than having many people flattering me with nice words but not addressing any issues in my life.
If we are willing to be open to the sharpening of others, we will find greater satisfaction in life. Our true friends can also help us with our blindspots. Sometimes, the Lord puts people in our lives who are like us to show us the weak areas, and at other times, he places people opposite of us on our path to stretch us out of our comfort zone!
Are you committed to your relationships even when they make you uncomfortable? Do you see the value in those relationships that tell you the truth even when it hurts? If we want to be sharpened by God, we can’t just attend Bible studies or church services; we also need to role up our sleeves and get involved in relationships. When we tend our relationships, remain committed to the people the Lord has placed in our lives, and allow them to sharpen us as we sharpen them, the end result will be more Christlikeness and God is glorified!
Then Jesus entered and passed through Jericho. Now behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus who was a chief tax collector, and he was rich. And he sought to see who Jesus was, but could not because of the crowd, for he was of short stature. So he ran ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see Him, for He was going to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, He looked up and saw him, and said to him, “Zacchaeus, make haste and come down, for today I must stay at your house.” So he made haste and came down, and received Him joyfully. But when they saw it, they all complained, saying, “He has gone to be a guest with a man who is a sinner.”
Then Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord, I give half of my goods to the poor; and if I have taken anything from anyone by false accusation, I restore fourfold.”
And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham; for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” Luke 19: 1-9
Zacchaeus was hated by his countrymen for being a traitor and working for the governing authorities against his own people. He was shunned by the people, and he was certainly in no position to ask those around him to get in front of the crowd to see Jesus. But he was curious and desperate enough that he was willing to climb a tree and have a look at Jesus.
When Jesus saw him, He knew that this man was searching and seeking for the truth. Jesus called him by name, and told him that He wanted to stay at his house. Zacchaeus rushed down to receive Jesus joyfully! This could have been the first time that someone used his name in a positive context and showed their acceptance of him. He was elated in being accepted and received by the Lord! While those watching were furious with Jesus for choosing to spend time with the despised Zacchaeus, Jesus had the heart to see this man restored to his true identity!
Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? Romans 2:4
The Lord has been longsuffering towards all of us, but we can never confuse His longsuffering with His approval of our behavior or lifestyle. While on the surface it looked as if Jesus was accepting of Zacchaeus’ lifestyle of extortion, Jesus was after his repentance! By Jesus reaching out to Zacchaeus, it caused him to recognize the goodness and lovingkindness of God, and it convicted him to change!
Zacchaeus confessed his sins by declaring that he was going to give away half of his wealth to the poor, and he was going to restore fourfold to anyone that he had cheated and stolen from! This was a total transformation in this man’s life! If he were to restore someone’s stolen property, it would have meant that he needed to confess his sin to those he had falsely accused, restore his relationship with them to some degree, and then pay them back fourfold. It also meant that he would have had to change his lifestyle and career and give up being a tax collector for the Romans. He also gave up his wealth in order to be in the right relationship with God and with others!
This is the difference between God’s recompense versus the Lord seeking repentance. Zacchaeus could have easily assumed that he was so special that Jesus chose to come to his house. He could have also claimed that God was recompensing Zacchaeus for the bad behavior he had endured from the hands of the Jewish people. To the contrary, Zacchaeus saw God’s lovingkindness through Jesus and caused him to wake up to his true sin condition. He realized that had been wrong about the treatment of his countrymen.
Sometimes, when God is good to us, it is not because we were right or that he is paying us back for others’ bad behavior. Instead, He is doing it to show us our true condition through His love. The Lord is always after restoring us to truth and to turn us in love towards Him and towards the people we have hurt or offended. If we were wrong on how we treated others or falsely accused people, we need to confess those sins to the Lord and have the courage to restore what we damaged due to our insecurities or selfish reasons!
We live in a world that has insatiable desire to blame others for every wrong, and people have no interest to change or to take responsibility for their part. Unfortunately, this is also true in the body of Christ, but it should not be so! We should be courageous people who are willing to see ourselves in the mirror of the word of God and take responsibility for our sins and shortcomings. We may not have the 100% of the blame for something that happened, but we did our part to contribute to the problem. Therefore, we can do our part to make it right and allow the Lord to show us how we can be part of the restoration process. Those we have hurt or offended may not receive us, but we can show lovingkindness and longsuffering just as Jesus has shown towards us. We can allow the Lord to convict them to change in due time!
Have you experienced God’s mercy today? Has He been undeservingly kind to you? Is He calling you to turn to Him or to restore a relationship that is broken? What is required of you to restore a right relationship with the Lord and with others?
Heaven is My throne,
And earth is My footstool.
Where is the house that you will build Me?
And where is the place of My rest?
For all those things My hand has made,
And all those things exist,”
Says the Lord.
“But on this one will I look:
On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,
And who trembles at My word. Isaiah 66:1-2
Our all powerful God is the creator of the heavens and earth, but His rest on the earth is dependent upon our rest! In the Old Testament times, God’s presence rested in the Tabernacle, but Isaiah spoke prophetically about God desiring the habitation of people’s hearts as His resting place.
The Lord is looking for His people as His resting place. Our hearts is the place of God’s habitation, reign, and rest! Those who are poor in spirit and proclaim that they can do nothing apart from God are the kinds of people that God can rest upon. He is seeking those who don’t get agitated easily but are humble in spirit. They trust in God’s ways and His timing. The Lord wants people who take Him at His word and are able to rest in faith and confidence in Him. When we are in the position of faith, humility, and dependence on the Lord, it makes us available and open vessels for God to have a place of rest in our lives!
In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious. Isaiah 11:10
Isaiah provided the answer as to how humanity will reach this place of rest. He spoke prophetically of the Messiah who was going to come from the family line of Jesse. He was going to bring salvation and deliverance from the hands of the enemy. He was going to rest upon His people and His resting place was going to be glorious!
When we come in faith to Jesus, we enter His rest! He is not expecting us to do more to be worthy of the relationship. We are no longer orphans and don’t earn the relationship by working at it. The Lord knows our needs and He wants us to look to Him and depend on Him with eyes of faith and humility. The Lord has a plan for our lives, and He will show us how to partner with Him. Our job is to make every effort to enter His rest and remain in it. This in turn allows God to having a resting place on the earth by inhabiting His people thereby His name is glorified on the earth! The fruit of resting in God will be evident as we fret less, don’t lean on our own understanding, and leave things in the Lord’s hands.
Praise God for the finished work of Jesus that allows us to rest in our relationship in Him! Jesus came to make us a restful habitation for God! As He rests upon us, His glory shines through his people! How marvelous are God’s works among His people! Those who are at rest in their spirit and in lifestyle are shining lights in a dark and stressful world. The testimony of this kind of life is bound to touch many who are looking for rest in their own lives!
But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away! 2Timothy 3:1-5
I shared in the last devotional the danger of loving ourselves and indulging our carnal nature. Being lovers of self is also important as it relates to raising loving and respectful children! The above scripture, tells us that in the last days children will be disobedient to parents. Paul prophesies that they will be unthankful, unholy, and unloving. This is a warning for all of us as parents and grandparents!
Many of us can be guilty of spoiling our children/grandchildren and making excuses for their bad attitude or behavior. Sometimes, we are so focused on their success, good grades, entering top colleges, and developing an impressive career that we forget what God cares about! The Lord cares more about the condition of our children’s hearts than their impressive accomplishments!
If children are disobedient and unthankful in their younger years, someday they will carry those attitudes to their jobs and their marriages when they are adults. Some parents marvel at their children talking back to them and having a sassy rebuttal. They see it as a leadership or negotiation gift. There might be some truth to it, but it’s the parents’ job to channel the children’s gifting and to teach them self-control. The truth is that if the children are comfortable challenging their parents at age 8 0r 9, by the time they get to teenage years, they have the capacity to rebel at a whole another level, and that sassy response won’t be cute anymore! Instead, their rebellion can create much pain for the children as well as their families.
There is also the danger of raising unthankful children! We live in a land of plenty, and many parents are blessed with vast amounts of resources. This allows them to give their children anything they want or desire. It is incumbent upon us to show self-control and not feed their every demand and desire. It’s good for them to hear a “no” from time to time. For example, if the girls are getting regular manicures when they are 15 years old, what will be a special treat for them when they are 25 or 30!? Every time we give-in to their desires, we increase their standard of satisfaction thereby leading them to dissatisfaction! It makes it harder for them to be happy with simple things in life.
Dissatisfaction in life leads to having an unthankful attitude! Unthankfulness is one of the characteristics of being lovers of ourselves that Paul writes about in the above scripture. Children need to learn to be thankful and use the words, “Thank you!” Some people including children seem to have a problem to say, “Thank you!” That could be an issue of pride, and it shows that the person thinks more highly of themselves than they ought. There are many scriptures that instruct us to be thankful and to praise God in all things. Thankfulness is a state of humility and appreciating what God is giving the person. It is also a reminder that we need the Lord and others in our lives and that we are not an island to ourselves. If we want to raise thankful children, we have to put limit on how much we cater to their demands and observe their attitude when they don’ get their way!
I will continue with this subject in the next devotional.