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Saturday, December 16, 2017

12.16.17 // Expecting the Messiah: Prayers of a Lifetime

Luke 2:22-38
“And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord's Christ. And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.” And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

I love that Simeon and Anna are part of the Christmas story. Their testimony is so precious. Simeon was a priest who walked closely with the Lord. This passage records that he was righteous, devout, and waiting for the Messiah to come. He truly was expecting the Messiah! The Lord promised Simeon that he would not taste physical death until he laid eyes on the Promised One. How amazing for Simeon to hold that promise close and then experience its fulfillment! I can’t imagine how Simeon must have been feeling on the day that he entered the temple and saw Joseph and Mary approaching with the newborn baby Jesus. Because Simeon was “in the Spirit,” he immediately knew Who this baby was the long awaited Messiah that was promised to Israel. Immediately, Simeon voices a song of praise to the Lord for keeping His promise. The Spirit also reveals to Simeon that Jesus will be for the Jews and Gentiles. This passage goes on to say that Anna, a woman who had lived in the temple every day and night since her husband had passed away at least 60 years ago, worshipped the Lord because of the testimony she heard from Simeon. Anna praised the Lord and repeated Simeon’s testimony to all who would hear. What a blessing the two of them received! The Lord saw their faithfulness and remembered His promises.

This Christmas season, like Simeon and Anna…
-    Expect to hear from the Lord. Read and know His promises as Simeon did. Expect them to be fulfilled. Live your life based on trust in His unfailing love and faithful Word.
-    Be faithful to do what the Lord calls you to do. Simeon showed up to do his priestly duties day in and day out. Each day, he waited and longed to behold the Messiah. Anna lived in the temple and did nothing but worship, pray, and fast. Because they were faithful with seeking the Lord daily and fervently, they were blessed abundantly as the Christ child was revealed to them. Just as Simeon and Anna were faithful, be faithful in the everyday, small, obedient steps.
-    Live in the Spirit. As a Christ-follower, the Holy Spirit indwells you and can empower you to live an obedient, victorious life. I’m afraid that many times, we don’t walk in the Spirit; rather we walk in defeat (because we’re living in our own strength or pursuing our own agenda). Simeon was walking closely with the Lord, and as soon as he entered the temple, He was “in the Spirit.” That’s how he knew that the baby that just entered the temple was more than just a baby! The Spirit has the power to reveal supernatural things to us, but are we listening? Are we seeking? Are we living in His power daily? Are we pursuing the things God desires?
-    Don’t cease to worship with fasting and prayer as Anna did. Pray continually. Plead with the Lord on behalf of the salvation of others. Just as we studied yesterday, remember that you are Christ’s ambassador and it is your calling to “implore” others on Christ’s behalf to be reconciled to God. Go to the Lord in prayer for the lost world around you.
-    Share your faith with other believers. Be a blessing to others. Just as Simeon’s testimony blessed Anna, Mary, and Joseph, causing them to worship the Lord, you, too, can be a blessing to others. Your testimony of God’s faithfulness can encourage and build up fellow believers. Who can you encourage today?

This Christmas season and every day, I pray that you will expect to experience the Messiah in new and fresh ways just as Simeon and Anna lived with expectancy. Jesus is not far from us. I love the following verses in Acts:

Acts 17:24-28
“The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for “‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, “‘For we are indeed his offspring.’

Jesus longs for us to seek Him. For the nonbeliever, He longs for them to seek Him for the first time. And for the Christ-follower, He longs for us to seek Him deeper and more passionately each day. I love how Luke explains that Jesus desires us to find our way toward Him and that He is not far from each one of us. He is so close, and yet we miss Him many times because we are not seeking Him. This Christmas, don’t miss Christ! Seek Him, and find Him!  

Merry Christmas!


Always, Jacquelyn

Friday, December 15, 2017

12.15.17 // Expecting the Messiah: Go Tell It On The Mountain

Luke 2:8-20
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger. And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”

The shepherds were truly changed upon encountering the Christ child! There was no way in the world that they could keep silent! This evening must have been a whirlwind for them. Here they are, minding their own business, tending their flocks at night. Then, an angel appears, frightening them and bringing wonderful news that the long-awaited Messiah has been born right here in Bethlehem. Next, a host of angels joins the first angel to sing a glorious praise medley to the Lord. After the angels depart, the shepherds converse with each other and decide to leave the sheep to go find this baby. Upon finding and worshipping Jesus, they run into town and make the news known to all. Because of their testimony, people are amazed at what has happened. At the end of the evening, they return home, glorifying and praising God for what they had seen. What a night!  

Like the shepherds, are you changed from encountering Christ? Did your first encounter with Him change you from the inside out as He saved your soul? And each day that you meet with Him in your secret place, are you changed more and more? When you experience Him, are you compelled to share Him with others as the shepherds were? They could not keep silent. They praised the Lord in front of anyone who would listen. They were the first witnesses for Christ on that first Christmas night. All of the praise went directly to the Lord, for looking upon them with mercy and revealing the news to them lowly shepherds!

As I think about the shepherds response to encountering Christ, I’m challenged to consider my own life. What is my response when I encounter Christ? Does each encounter with Him impact my soul and life and actions in this way? Do I intentionally make time alone with the Lord free from distractions so that I am available to hear from Him? Do I constantly have fresh encounters with Him, or am I living off of past experiences with Him? Am I compelled to share the Good News with others?

These verses come to mind when I think about how my life should look like the shepherds’ lives/responses that first Christmas night.

2 Corinthians 5:14-21
“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

This Christmas season, be humbled by the fact that YOU KNOW THE GREATEST NEWS OF ALL. JESUS. You live in a country where you can freely share this news with others. If God has saved you, then you have become an ambassador for Him. Your job is to implore others on behalf of Christ to be reconciled to God. Christ’s love should control you and compel you to share this life-saving news with the lost and dying people surrounding you. Don’t let the busyness of the season keep you from sharing what is most important Jesus Christ. Don’t let your own agenda and comfort hinder you from being an effective and obedient ambassador for Him. He revealed Himself to you for a reason! Don’t keep silent! Be a shepherd this Christmas!

Merry Christmas!


Always, Jacquelyn

Thursday, December 14, 2017

12.14.17 // Expecting the Messiah: For Shepherds and Kings

Shepherds - Luke 2:8-16
“And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!” When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in a manger.”

Wise Men - Matthew 2:1-11
“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 saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”

If we look at the Christmas story alone, we can see the kinds of people that the Lord revealed the Messiah to:
-    His humble parents, Mary and Joseph
-    Elizabeth, the mother of John the man who was to prepare the way for Christ
-    Simeon, an old priest to whom the Lord promised that he would not die until he laid eyes on the Messiah
-    Anna, a prophetess who prayed in the temple every day and night for sixty years
-    The shepherds, the lowliest citizens with the dirtiest job
-    The wise men, the most prestigious citizens

When we look beyond the birth of Christ and onward to His earthly ministry, we can see even more people He ministered to and spent time with:
-    Fishermen
-    Tax collectors
-    Lepers
-    Demon-possessed men
-    “Sinners”
-    Mary Magdalene, an adulterous woman
-    The Samaritan woman (Remember, she had 5 husbands, and the man she was currently living with wasn’t her husband! This interaction was remarkable because Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans, AND men didn’t interact with women, especially a woman of this reputation.)
-    Nicodemus, a Pharisee

And after Jesus’ ascension into Heaven, Paul’s and Peter’s ministries reveal to us that salvation was for the Jews, God’s chosen people, AND the Gentiles…us!

All that to say, JESUS CAME FOR ALL PEOPLE! No one is excluded. You can’t be too poor, to rich, to sinful, too lowly, too powerful…Christ came to save all people. He desires all men to seek repentance. He wants all people to know Him. While He was on earth, He pursued all kinds of people, and He is still pursing all kinds of people from all walks of life!

In the first Christmas story, we see that God spoke to people right where they were. The shepherds were in their fields doing their jobs watching sheep. They were lowly citizens with a dirty job. They lived outside with their sheep. So, while they were watching their sheep that night, God sent angels to deliver the message! The angels told them exactly what to look for, and when they had left, the shepherds decided to go find the baby! God spoke to the wise men in a different way. The wise men probably studied the heavens and stars as their profession. What greater way to communicate the coming King to them than through the stars! They knew of the prophecy, and they saw the star, so they knew which direction to travel in to find the baby. God met the shepherds where they were, and He met the wise men where they were AND He met them to tell them the news of their Savior’s birth!

Let’s take a look at how these people responded once they encountered Christ:
-    Shepherds: Luke 2:17-20 “And when they saw it, they made known the saying that had been told them concerning this child. And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.”
-    Wise Men: Matthew 2:10-11 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.”
-    Simeon: Luke 2:27-32 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”
-    Anna: Luke 2: 38 And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.”

JOY. Pure joy. Worship. Thankfulness. Awe. Wonder. Faith. Evangelism. Peace. Trust. Praise. Sacrifice. Giving. This was their response upon seeing their Savior face to face. This was their response upon being chosen as the first witnesses to the Messiah. This was their response as they saw prophecies and promises fulfilled.

Praise the Lord; we are just like them! We are just as lowly as the shepherds. We are sinful. We are dirty. We are wanderers. And yet, the Lord has chosen to reveal Himself to us in the most mind-blowing way. He sent His only precious Son into the world as a sacrifice so that we can know Him intimately forever! This Christmas season, I hope you can view the Christmas story from the perspectives of shepherds, prophets, prophetesses, and wise men. I hope you will fall on your knees in worship that the King of Kings chose to reveal Himself to YOU! What are you doing with that revelation?? Is your response the same as the responses listed above? How can you worship Christ afresh this Christmas season!! Christmas is fast approaching. Are you ready to encounter the baby in the manger who changed your future forever!?

Praise the Lord!

Merry Christmas!


Always, Jacquelyn