Saturday, December 10, 2016


“But as for you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel.  His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity…”
                                                                                      (Micah 5:2  NASB)

                                                                                                December 10, 2016

    I have always found it interesting that the Christmas story in Matthew actually begins with His geneology. “The book of the geneology of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham…” (Matthew 1:1). I was recently  working on my own family geneology  and was amazed as I considered all those who came before me, in order to get to me. Who were these people, and what did they have to go through, in making me the unique person I am today? Some were born in France, others Ireland, England and many in Quebec. One woman was from the nobility in Canada and was disowned for marrying a commoner, etc. All had their own unique story and place in my history. 
   The genealogy of Jesus Christ is different, however. For, though Matthew’s version of it (Matt chpt 1) traces him back to prove he is the son of Abraham  & David --and thus in line to be the rightful Messiah, Luke’s version of His genealogy  (Luke chptr 3) actually traces Him all the way back to Adam, and declares Him the Son of God.  So, who we are from is important. Where we are from also makes us who we are as well. Jesus was born in Bethlehem. The same Bethlehem-Ephrathah that Micah told us was the ‘runt’ of the clans of Judah. I like that. God has often chosen the ‘runts’ of the world to accomplish his purposes—those whom others consider not even worth mentioning—who they may even want to disown for being different.  When the prophet Nathan was sent to anoint the new King of Israel, David’s father and brothers were so sure he didn’t matter, that they did not even call him in from caring for the sheep, for the ceremony.  You can imagine their surprise then when it turned out God wanted ‘the runt’ of the lot to rule over them—over all Israel!! So when the Christmas story tells us that Jesus was ‘born in Bethlehem’, it is telling us, that God has once again chosen the runt—that Jesus deliberately became the runt among His own people, Israel, to come to the world and make all men know they matter with God! No one is insignificant to Him. We are all desired by Him! Hallelujah! 

   But who we are, and where we are from, is not the most important thing about us; nor is our occupation, regardless how lofty a position we may hold. Nicodemus, was the head Rabbi/teacher of all Israel when he was told by Jesus what the most important thing was for a man, as he approached Christ secretly by night to inquire of Him. Jesus told him the real secret of Christmas, the real secret of a successful and fulfilling life: “You must be born again.” Nicodemus responded much like you probably are—“what do you mean by that? How can one be born a second time?” Jesus explained that, there is a spiritual birth a man must have before he not only understands spiritual things, but also before He can be received into heaven. For, just as the Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary, his mother, and brought Him to her womb, so too, must the Holy Spirit come upon our own hearts and bring forth a new birth within us—that Christ must be formed within us, be ‘born’ in us, creating us as ‘new creatures’ (2 Cor 5:17). Paul tells us in Colossians 1:26-27 that this is “the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations; but has now been made manifest to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the Glory of this mystery among the Gentiles—which is: CHRIST IN YOU, the hope of glory!”
    This is the most important thing about a man—has he been born again? Has he received the very Life of Jesus Christ within his heart, and been born of the Holy Spirit? Not, ‘is he a member of the Church’; nor ‘is he a Bible teacher’---for Nicodemus was all of those things already; in fact was he was the CHIEF of those things in Israel---yet Jesus told him that it was simply not enough….Jesus told him “You MUST be born again!” It wasn’t optional. It was the only way back to reconciliation with God the Father; that way which our father Adam had lost for all of us when he fell in Eden. But God had sent His Son Jesus to Bethlehem, and then to Calvary, to provide the way for us to return to Him—to provide the way to restore us to Himself, and the glories of heaven. . . Christmas is about Jesus being born the first time in Bethlehem. But it is also about His coming to provide the way for our own second birth-- into His Kingdom.

    So this Christmas I tell you a mystery---a secret that most will never understand---you must be born again, you CAN be born again!!—and I ask you---have you been ‘born again’?? There is nothing a man can do to make such a birth happen, any more than he did the first time he was born. “The wind blows where it will” Jesus told us. We can no more control the Holy Spirit than we can the wind. We must wait upon His coming—watch for Him, long for Him—but do so expectantly---knowing He will indeed come to us in His own time. What we must do while we wait is humble ourselves before Him; admit we are not worthy to receive His pure life within us—admit we do not deserve to be a part of his people---yet tell Him we do long to be restored to Him. We must confess our sinfulness to Him, and cry out for the deliverance that Jesus died to bring to us…Call upon the Holy Spirit to come into your heart this Christmas, and give you the New Life that Christ died to bring to you. Call upon Him; Cry out to Him, and do not give up until you can truly say in all sincerity that he has indeed had mercy on your soul and been born in you!
     YOU are meant to be the ‘Little Town of Bethlehem’; the runt that God does not want to overlook, or cast out. The original hymn “O Little Town of Bethlehem” had 10 verses. (see below for the link to all 10 verses)  However verses 6 & 9 especially make my point this Christmas. I pray you will indeed ‘receive’ the gift that God has sent you this Christmas, and be born again.    


No ear may hear His coming,
But in this world of sin
Where meek souls will receive Him
Still the dear Christ enters in….

O Holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born in us today!


Here is the link to the 10 original verses…     and Merry Christmas!!    
http://www.songlyrics.com/traditional/o-little-town-of-bethlehem-lyrics/               Joann

Monday, September 19, 2016

Window Shopping

 
 

These are the things I wonder
As I gaze through the window of your world--
watching your lives unfold before me
from the outside:

What does it feel like to have a man say
"I love you"--and really mean it
To have him NOT want to walk away;
to hear the heartfelt proposal you've hoped for?

What's it like to feel a new, separate, life
move within you
or hear the cry of your own creation
and see your reflection in a child's face?

What is it like to have a man come home to you
who considers you his home---
more than the house?
to have someone willing to work his fingers to the bone
--just to see you smile?

What is it like to have an anniversary
that you share with another person; to be a part of an 'us';
and no longer just a me, myself, or I?

When you are scared --to be able to roll over
and find someone's arms to hide in
or cry in--and not be made to feel foolish for having needs?

I wonder if, when you look through my windows
if you ever wonder -- what it is to be confined
to a lifetime of solitude; a lifetime of longing--
--of unfulfillment. A LIFETIME!
Do you know what it is to ache for a child that will never be
as you stand cursing yours, for irritating you? 

Can you comprehend the frustration of such a woman--
watching you disrespect your man--
your imperfect gift from God?
Some of us would settle gladly for imperfect husbands,
for spoiled-rotten, ungrateful children.
Some of us would be glad
to have the heartache of really living
and not merely existing.

These are things I wonder,
as I sit at home alone
watching my TV
and petting my cats....

~Joann Longton~
September 19, 2016

Monday, July 27, 2015

How have the Mighty Fallen!




My parents on their 68th anniversary


 Originally written on August 24, 2014 upon the passing of my wonderful father into eternity
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To all my wonderful family---

Today we lost our father, our grandfather, our great-grandfather, our in-law, etc.  Though few can suspect it yet, who are not related to us, the world has also lost a great soul as well. I do not mean great in the typical way the world counts greatness—he left behind few possessions; he never managed to acquire much wealth that wasn’t already owed to someone else somewhere, and he never lead any army into military battle etc. However he was great in CHARACTER. Great in the way the world deeply longs for greatness-- but rarely sees. Great in that he reflected to the world, and especially to those of us who knew him best, more of the Image of God than most of us have found elsewhere in our travels. Things like FAITHFULNESS, HONOR, HUMILITY, TRUSTWORTHINESS, DEPENDABILITY, COMPASSION, PATIENCE, KINDNESS; all wrapped up in a servant’s heart.  Many men possess some or a few of these qualities in good measure. But we were blessed to find them all residing in him at once. That is why so many of us struggled with the pain of not being able to have as much time or develop as much of a relationship with him as we wanted—we felt cheated to have to share him with so many others when we needed him more for ourselves. But he was only one man. How one man was able to divide himself among so many needy little people without losing his mind is astounding to contemplate. He did it though--by never taking time for himself. Rare were the fishing trips that, even there, he didn’t have to take someone with him for company. But he didn’t complain. He merely used it as time to give us even more of himself than we were normally able to get. He stayed with his wife FAR, FAR beyond the limits that most of us—even the ones who love their spouses the most—could have or would have endured. Why?-- I asked him that once. He told me that when he made his wedding vows he knew he was not making them merely to my mother, but to God as well; and that even if he could walk away from my Mom, he could never walk away from God, and still have his honor. He intended to keep his vows until death as he had promised. And so he did.

I could stop writing right there and it is enough to meditate on for the rest of our lives. But he was so much more. He had such a big heart---such a reflection of God’s welcoming love. He didn’t care or hardly noticed that some of his grandkids were bi-racial, or mentally challenged etc. They were just his grandkids; “the kids” he called them. They were all his, and he loved them all dearly. If you were related to him you can be completely assured that he prayed for you on a regular basis. That he worried over you when you were having difficulty. That if he was able, he would sell what he needed to keep himself, in order to get money to keep you out of jail, or from being evicted. He never complained that it meant he was paying the consequences for your actions---because he loved you. It was just something he regarded as his role as your relative. In this also he reflected to us the heart of God, who paid the ultimate consequence for our mess, in sending his Son Jesus to die to set us free.

I believe in eternal security today. I believe God will always forgive me and stand by me. Why—merely because the Bible says so? No. That should be enough. But I have the added benefit as my father’s daughter of having had his living example: If my dad, a husband who was mistreated and hurt many times over by his bride could always love her forgive her, and restore her despite herself, being only a mere man—HOW MUCH MORE can the heart of God be faithful to me who has walked such a crooked path to his kingdom? No, God will receive me there with open arms, just as he has happily welcomed my dad today; with the loving, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant”. May we his family all follow him there, by shining forth that same Image of the Glory of God to the world we have been left behind in. He would be praying for nothing less now from those of us left on earth, who have been blessed to bear his name.         You’ll always have my heart, daddy…..


He could always take my heart of stone and melt it with his love
 




God still has HIS Men


This is shared from my Facebook page
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HAPPY BIRTHDAY BILL WILLARD---I want to share with the whole world what a wonderful man you are!
50 years ago, my sister married THE most wonderful man. Bill Willard came into our family when there were a lot of problems and chaos. His coming led to his younger brother Bob (ALSO a wonderful man) meeting and marrying my next older sister Nancy. Together they shephered us kids and even also helped to guide our parents to greener, safer pastures. I was 8 years old when Bill came. What a wonderful influence he has been on our entire family! Known as "Uncle Bill" to probably hundreds of people, and just beloved "Mr Bill" to so many others...he is loved by thousands, and all who know him. He helped to lead me to Christ when I was only 18 and has been better than 10 brothers could have been to me my entire life. When I left home at 19 it was he and Pat who took me in until I could afford to support myself. And many siblings since can say the same of either Bill & Pat or Bob and Nancy who also housed many of us at one time or another. He started a "Good Neighbor" backyard Bible club that was so popular in our little, poverty stricken neighborhood that he had to continue it year round in his basement once the summer was over. Then he bought a little bus and used to drive all those kids to church. So many kids were saved and follow Christ today as a result! He and Pat at one point built a 3 bedroom addition onto their house so they could take in a family of 3 kids, whose Mother was being counseled by Pat in the local jail, so they could be brought to visit her more often; as they lived too far away from her otherwise. They parented them for several years until she got out and lived near them until she could get on her feet again and get her kids back. At one point they had 7 foster kids along with their beloved son Chris. They later blessed our family by adopting 2 of them, and giving them that good Willard name. I could go on and on---part owner of the local Christian bookstore for years, they used a lot of the profit to help the needy in the area anonymously (I found out by accident) (Did you get a new washing machine and didn't know where it came from---it was probably from the Cornerstone Bookstore!) He left a massive hole in the heart of eastern CT when he moved to Texas. He had personally begun the Care and Share soup kitchen and food programs in our area that are still active 20 years later-- helping the poor and unfortunate in their time of need--which won him the prestigious Diamond Award for community service. And a diamond he surely has been and shown as in our lives. He moved to Texas and again became the heart of the church he is a part of. Being named an elder---but still the deep heart of a Deacon, he has served the elderly in the soup kitchens there, become 'Papa' to a little girl there who had no father ---and who has blessed and comforted his own heart after the death of his son Christopher. When my parents became unable to live at home anymore a few years ago, he gave up his den and his own private space with his wife, and took them in and cared for them lovingly and devotedly until they each passed away peacefully in his home last summer. Last summer he was still (at 70) out every day in the hot Texas sun mowing lawns for the elderly near him who had no one else to help them....
 

Friends THIS is what a godly man looks like! Humble, caring, and always smiling with the Joy of the Lord in his heart. Devoted loving heart, serving the needy with gladness.. WELL DONE thou blessed man of God! How we all Love you and bless you and wish you the HAPPIEST OF BIRTHDAYS this day! We are SO VERY GLAD God brought you into our world, and made us a part of your blessed Life!!!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Prodigal Daughter

               (written awhile ago--I decided to post it on my blog today hoping it might help someone else)

     

     I  found out recently that a young woman I know had had an abortion. Her father almost upset me more by his reaction, than the deed itself did. So intent upon being sure he was seen as excluded from any guilt in the situation, he avoided her altogether, when she went to his house—and he went to someone else’s house to avoid all ‘contact’ with her. It was good, in a way; in that it kept him from speaking his immediate mind; however, it was the ‘immediate mind’ that troubled me….

When we sinned, God did not distance Himself from us, or avoid us when we turned to Him. He took our yoke, our sin, upon Himself; entered into our humanness, became one with us, and bore the penalty for our sin—as if He Himself had committed it.

Instead of being ashamed of us, like this father was with his daughter, He ‘despised the shame ’(i) and ‘was not ashamed to call us brethren’(ii) . He, who was perfectly pure and sinless, did not shrink from us in our deepest sin; but, stooping low, He identified with us---in order to lift us out of it…. How beautiful is the Love of such a Father!

One of the most amazing passages in Scripture, is the story of the woman caught in adultery. (iii) In a world where women have (traditionally) been despised for having relations outside of marriage—most women, when reading the story for the first time, fully expect Jesus to turn the woman over to the angry mob, and call for her stoning, Himself. What AMAZING GRACE dawns upon the heart of every woman however, when this Man of Sorrows, who’s so acquainted with our grief, not only does NOT condemn her, (as most men would have), but actually turns his gaze upon the sin of the mob, which was calling for her blood (as if they were not also capable of the very same sin, or worse!) ‘…Herein is Love!--- NOT, that we loved God…’(iv); NOT that we were sinless; NOT that we were worthy— Oh!, but that HE, Sinless, Pure and SOLELY Worthy of adoration, loved US---in the very MIDST of our sin; and took it upon Himself, to enter into our heartache—into our condition, and redeem us in the midst of our guilt!!!

That man missed his greatest teaching opportunity as a father today, when he did not stay home to receive the daughter who came to him in her shame. She was given a distorted view of God by his self-centered action….. I love the stories Jesus told in this regard! The prodigal son returned in shame,--but did his father avoid him, hiding out at someone’s house in an attempt to control his self-righteous anger? NO!! We are told by the Scriptures “…the father RAN…”(v)  to meet his son. Even before the son had repented, the father had already determined to gladly receive him!

Oh! How we misjudge the heart of God, when we assume he is as selfish and unmerciful as men are! How WONDERFUL to find that He, knowing full-well that we are deserving of His condemnation, turns His gaze upon our accusers, and dares ANY to condemn, whom God Himself has determined to forgive! ----What wretches we are to ever grow cold, or ungrateful of such a Love!!!




[i] Heb 12:2
[ii] Heb 2:11
[iii] John 8:1-11
[iv] 1 John 4:10
[v] Luke 15:20

 

Monday, December 9, 2013

"For Thy Sake...", Oh Lord...--Christmas 2013


                                                                                                                                                                                  December 8. 2013
 
“…And in the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flocks by night. And an Angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them…and it came about, when the angel had gone away...the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go…and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us…and when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds…and the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God…” (Luke 2: 8-9a, 15a, c, 17-18, 20a)

     Apart from using them as props in our annual plays, we often completely overlook the shepherds in the Christmas story. I have been thinking about them the last few days, however. What exactly do we know about them from the text? Well, that they were faithful, self-sacrificing men; sleeping in the cold, open air to care for their defenseless flocks. They were favored men; chosen by God to be the very first ones, in all of history, to hear the good news of our Savior’s birth. Their actions proved they were men of faith; quickly responding to the Word of the Lord told them by the Angel. They were also the world’s first evangelists; who could not contain the wonderful, joyous news they had been entrusted with and which they themselves had found to be true. Finally, they were worshipers; the kind the Scriptures tell us God eagerly seeks, ‘…who worship in Spirit and in Truth” (John 4:23), In short, apart from the Holy parents, they were the very first Christians. And so, it must follow that, after these things, life was ‘lived happily ever after’ by them, once they became Christians, right? Oh-- wait a minute...is that what the Bible says? Let’s continue on and see what happened…
 “…Then when Herod, saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children in Bethlehem and in its environs, from two years old and under…’a voice was heard…weeping and great mourning…refus(ing) to be comforted because (the children) were no more….” (Matthew 2: 16a, 18b)

      These men-- these faithful, Godly, and trusting men, had their most beloved little boys, the sheep of their very bosoms, ALL slaughtered by Herod; merely because the Savior had favored them by being born in their midst… This horrific, holocaustic event is known in Church history as “The Slaughter of the Innocents”.   HOW could this God of Glory, who had just revealed to them the truth that their new King and Savior had finally come into the world—had come to THEM!—how could He have allowed such an unspeakable abomination to take place? How could He tell them one day of His love and care, and shortly thereafter let all Hell break loose upon them? Their grief had to be absolutely paralyzing…Yet, I wonder--once they regained their senses---did they seek out their new King to inquire of Him and his parents the one blazing question every parent would want to SHOUT at them,“WHY-- MY GOD—WHY”??? If they had done so, they would have surely gotten yet another great shock--Their King was GONE!! He had vanished as quickly as He had come. Had He abandoned them in the hour they needed Him most? Had it all been just a bad dream? Were they losing their minds? Surely they would have struggled with these doubts….And what about us? Surely we must wonder—how could God consider it ‘just’ to spare His own Son, while allowing everyone else’s to be killed by Herod?  These are some of the things I have been thinking about as I pondered the Christmas story this year…
      It is true…God did indeed spare his own Son…hid Him away, safely sheltered in Egypt, while his earthly relatives’ hearts were breaking.  It is true, He did indeed allow this slaughter to take place—against the very ones who had responded so joyfully to the Gospel message—against the most innocent of them—the children of the covenant...
       I was unable to find any evidence that Jesus ever returned to Bethlehem. I thought about this, and wondered why God had instead, sent Him to Nazareth to live. Think about it. Jesus was the only boy left from that generation from that entire home town region. He would have always stood out as a painful, daily, reminder to the other mothers and fathers around him, of the terror of that day. There would probably have been great jealousy towards his parents that their son had somehow miraculously survived the attack—and they probably would have blamed them for the murders, knowing he must have been the one that Herod had been searching for. Also, however, had he gone back to Bethlehem, He never would have been able to have the normal, quiet, childhood that the Scriptures  (from their silence regarding  his youth) seem to indicate He had. He would have been the talk of the region. The laying of the foundation of His young life, however, was far too important for God to allow anything to interfere with His Plan for Jesus. So, on to Nazareth they went: a quiet Jewish upbringing in the Law, in the carpenter’s trade-- all the while on a hillside somewhere in Israel, a Tree was growing that also was planned for a Purpose…

     Yes, God had indeed spared his only Son that day in Bethlehem, but only for a future, more horrific slaughter: The Slaughter of the One and Only Truly ‘Innocent’ the world has ever known. God the Father preserved Jesus that day, only for Him to later be slaughtered by the same government which had slaughtered the sons of Bethlehem. He had been spared that day, however, because He had something which had to be accomplished first: He had to live the only Perfect Life of obedience toward God which has ever been lived; something that is required of all of us, but which we have been unable to do because of our sinful nature. Only THEN would this One, Pure, Unblemished Sheep be ready to be slaughtered— in our place –as our Passover Lamb. To be our scapegoat; bearing away the guilt of all our sins—for all eternity. This is why the Apostle Paul tells us later in Scripture: God “…did NOT spare his own Son, but offered Him up for us all…” (Romans 8:32)
     Paul further goes on to speak of those who have received the Son of God into their hearts to be born within them, who are the faithful , chosen, worshippers and evangelists of the  King of the Universe—those known as Christians: “…For Thy sake we are…considered as sheep to be slaughtered…” (Romans 8:36) We are all ‘His brothers from Bethlehem’…completely in His wise, loving and nail-scarred hands; to be disposed of at His bidding, and for His greater Glory. Because, like his little cousins, “…we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture...” (Psalm 100:3c) You see, there was another Shepherd ‘keeping watch over his flock by night’ on that hillside in Bethlehem. “The Lord is our Shepherd’, ‘…the Good Shepherd, (who) lays down His life for His sheep…” (Ps 23:1; John 10:11)
                        In this story, we are taught some important truths:
 
 1) Herod showed a small measure of the depths of depravity to which the human heart has fallen since Eden—depravity which resides in each of us, to one degree or another. (Cain slew Abel, his brother; Herod however, slaughtered the children of the ‘brothers’ of our Lord.)
2) It is an awesome, fearful thing for God Himself to draw near to us—to be called His own; yet, it is a privilege beyond all measure, and one we should gladly sacrifice our lives for; if called upon to do so.
3) The devil sets his face against all who would receive the Savior, allowing Him into ‘their midst’.  As a type of AntiChrist, Herod warns us that we should know our lives are expendable as God sees fit.
4) Finally, and most importantly: though terrible, painful things sometimes do happen to even the best and most faithful of men, God has NOT abandoned us, but is “Emmanuel’—i.e ‘God with us’. Like the Good Shepherd He is, He has gone before us, into whatever tragedy He may ask us to bear for his own wise reasons-- which we may not understand--, and will tenderly care for us in our trial, as we turn to Him.
 

There IS a PLAN. It IS good, All SHALL be well. Our Savior has already defeated the greatest ‘AntiChrist’, and won’t be surprised or out-done by his lesser minions….
We can rest, even in our trials knowing Jesus IS Lord, and REIGNS SUPREME in all the Universe. Hallelujah!

 

Merry Christmas,

Come Lord Jesus, your Second Advent is longed for by all who love you!

 


   

      This past year or so has thrown me a lot of curveballs. I returned from Texas in July 2012, after deciding, with my family’s blessing, that Texas just was not the place for me, at least at this time in my life. I continued working and saving towards the home I hoped to buy and settle down in, in CT. I finally found it and moved in July 19, 2013. On Sept 19, 2013, just as I was leaving for vacation (to go back to Texas and give Pat a break) I was terminated from my job for reasons I dispute, but won’t go into here, as the story is too long. I have, thankfully, been able to obtain and receive unemployment during this time, and can testify that all my bills are paid in full at this writing. However, I have found that the job market for LPNs in my region has shifted to now being mainly an ‘RN only’ environment –and the local hospital just last week went out on strike --releasing hundreds of RNs into the marketplace for me to compete for jobs with. I have, so far, only been able to find a ‘per diem’ position, supplemented by unemployment. But God is faithful……I do, however, covet your prayers for a stable and Good position (that pays enough for all my bills) to open up for me before my unemployment benefits run out. (Late April at this point)—or for God to do whatever else He plans, to provide for my needs.

     The Herods in our lives, have tremendous authority and power over us, and can do tremendous damage to what we hold dearest, if the Lord releases them to do so as part of His mysterious Will.  But I take solace in the knowledge that, though I am not one of the ‘innocent’, I am His sheep, at His disposal, not 'Herod’s', my ex-boss's or the devil's; myself, and all I am, belong to God. If He wants me to lose the house, my car, my reputation: it is all in His hands. If He wants me to be in the unemployment line as His hands and His feet, ‘Here I am Lord’.  What the future holds, in this world, I do not know. But I am HIS. I, therefore, know where eternity will be spent: In HIS house, in HIS chariot, praising HIS reputation!!

Let the devil do his worst—Jesus is VICTOR!
 
Love, Joann

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wisdom from the Christmas Story



 “…Now it came about in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all were proceeding to register for the census, everyone to his own city.  And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, because he was of the house and family of David; in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with Child…” (Luke 2:1-5)

                                                                                                                November 27,2012

    Too often, I’ve skimmed through this, the beginning of the Luke’s Christmas story, without giving much thought to what this section meant.  I’ve been thinking about it this week, however:

“In those days” a census meant that the people had to be counted and registered---in order for them to be taxed by the government.  To do this, they were required to return to the land of their tribal inheritance to register.  Remember that ‘In those days’ there were no convenient or comfortable means of transportation, so it was a hardship for everyone to have to do this. The roads were rocky, and probably crowded and noisy.  Businesses and agriculture were being disrupted, schools probably had to be shut down —and life simply could not go on as usual until the decree from the governmental authority was obeyed. Caesar ruled supreme, and he simply had to be obeyed; however his authority was deeply resented by the Jewish people.  In this passage then, we realize that though Jesus was not yet even born—yet, because Joseph and Mary were engaged, Joseph already had to pay taxes on Him…. Jesus’ family was oppressed by the government ---while He was still in the womb…

   In our own country, we have just experienced another contentious election, and there is much discontent and anger over the results throughout our land. Many are grumbling about who now rules, and holds authority over their lives. There is talk of our taxes probably going up and other inconveniences having to be endured due to the decree of the ones in power. Yet, if we look at the example of the Holy Family in this passage, we see that they merely went about their lives, obeying the authority that God had allowed to be over them.  To be obedient, Joseph probably lost many days at his job without renumeration, and was forced to take his pregnant fiancĂ©e on a dangerous and inconvenient journey-- just when she was due to give birth. He had to pay taxes on a Child he hadn’t even fathered, as well as be forced to come back into the midst of his tribal relations at a time when the child’s birth would surely cause a scandal for him.  And yet, Scripture records that they simply obeyed. They didn’t rise up and call for Caesar’s head on a platter, or offer disrespect to him, in any way. Was it convenient for them? No. Did they have a lot of spare money? --Probably not. Then why did they obey? Here they were; the ones God the Father had entrusted with the Holy Messiah of the world—the One we had waited for, since Adam & Eve’s expulsion from Eden; surely they had a right to rebel  if anyone did. And yet---they did not. What kept them silent and obedient?

They knew who really ruled the world. And it wasn’t Caesar.

They knew and were in covenant with the God of Israel and knew that all Authority is ultimately given to and taken from men by His decree alone.  No mere man could decree anything at all on earth, unless God had first allowed it for some good purpose of His own. (John 19:11) It was in this great Truth that they rested, found their peace, and ultimately their strength.  To what ‘good purpose’ then, was Caesar’s decree issued; for his own glory? No, not for his glory--but for God’s. The Scriptures declared that God’s Son would come from Bethlehem. God was  willing, therefore, that ‘all the inhabited world’ should be inconvenienced—including the Holy family--  in order that the Scripture (His revealed Plan) be fulfilled… “…But as for you Bethlehem Ephrathah, too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity…” (Micah 5:2) God keeps His Word..

    Be at peace this Christmas…..No one and nothing can or ever will thwart the Will and Plan of God.  Not Caesar, not Obama, not the Republicans, not the Democrats, and not new taxes or inconveniences of any kind…... God’s Will shall “be done in earth as it is in heaven” ---though our limited understandings may not comprehend in this life why such painful inconveniences  are allowed to come upon us as they do.  No, we needn’t fear anything at all, except our own hearts’ rebellion against the ONE who Truely Does rule the world.  In the light of that thought, here then, is a warning for all our hearts this Christmas, from Psalm 2:

“But as for me, (says the Lord), I have installed MY King--upon Zion, my Holy Mountain. I will surely tell of the DECREE of the LORD: He said to Me, ‘Thou art My Son…’…Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth. Worship the LORD with reverence… Do homage to the Son, lest He become angry, and you perish in the way. For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blessed are all who take refuge in Him…” (Psalm 2: 6-7a,10-12)

                                                                Merry Christmas----“Let earth, receive her KING…”
                                                                                                Joann Longton