Let the Heavens Rejoice!

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Let the Heavens Rejoice!

By Patricia Knight

It was near the first century A.D., in Bethlehem of Judea, when Jesus, the Son of God, was born on earth. An angel previously had assured His mother, Mary, that Jesus would be the long-awaited Messiah promised to the Israelite nation. Shepherds visited the infant; an angelic choir sang glorious refrains; Magi traveled from distant foreign countries to visit the newborn King.

The Jews were a conquered nation, ruled by Herod the Great of the Roman Empire. Herod was ruthless, a schemer who clawed his way to the top of the political scene, maintaining discipline with secret police. He couldn’t tolerate competition. Even an infant King was a political thread to him. Herod’s family members were victims of his violent tendencies. He killed two of his ten wives, two sons, and his in-laws, among others.

Magi from the east stopped at the palace in Jerusalem to inquire regarding the whereabouts of the newborn King of the Jews, whose supernatural star they had been following for months. King Herod instructed his chief priests and teachers of law to research the Old Testament. The Magi were then directed to Bethlehem with a secret command from King Herod to report back to him details about the newborn King.

While visiting Jesus, the Magi were warned by angels to return home via an alternative route, avoiding their planned stop at King Herod’s palace. When the Magi didn’t return to Jerusalem, Herod suspected he’d been tricked. He immediately gave an order that all boys age two and younger be slaughtered throughout Bethlehem and its vicinities, according to when the Magi indicated the first star appeared.

Imagine the horror and helplessness the families endured when their toddler sons were selectively slain for no reason other than the king decreed it. The soldiers stormed every house searching for victims, their orders non-negotiable. What an agonizing massacre, a mass killing simply to validate one man’s pride.

Were Herod’s oppressive, totalitarian tactics so unlike the style of anarchy we are witnessing in our modern world? In geographic pockets around the world, terrorism has become the rule of the land. Cities and entire countries have collapsed. Christians, particularly, are beheaded or tortured for their faith in God. Women and children are brutalized or annihilated. At the very least, families are separated or displaced.

We gasp in horror when atrocities are committed within our own borders. As in King Herod’s day, the heinous acts are rationalized to promote personal power and greed. There is little interest in discussing or compromising issues of mutual importance. Have our governments made progress in peace-keeping methods since ancient times?

The Israelites had grown weary of waiting for the promised Messiah over the previous centuries. As Roman tyranny grew more suffocating, the Jews were anticipating a political savior to release them from servitude to Rome.

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But, the angels announced a Savior who would accomplish so much more—deliver His people from sin and death, a miracle that compelled the angels to sing at Jesus’ birth: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests” (Luke 2:14).

We cannot ignore the nefarious worldwide brutality prevalent today. Neither can we allow a foreboding shadow of fear to invade our Christmas joy. However, we are capable of minimizing the negative effect on lives as we pray for peace and hope in an exploding world.

The cacophony of threatening chatter is heard from around the world, bombarding our minds with pessimistic messages. Discouragement develops easily if we allow our minds to get mired in the news of abominable current events. The good news is that God is the author and embodiment of all hope. “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1).

Hope is confident expectation, a reliance on God’s blessings and provisions, not equated with unfounded optimism. We enjoy blessed assurance of our future destiny based on God’s love and power. As humans, we are incapable of conjuring up hope with personal efforts. Hope is a gift from God. “May the God of all hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Hope resides in God, revealed to us by the Holy Spirit, and demonstrated in the death of Jesus on the cross, further reinforced by His resurrection from the dead.

Unlike world forces of evil, God is creative, powerful, and authoritative. Jesus is the Prince of Peace, able to calm our fearful spirits with His peaceful, trustworthy assurances. He encourages us to come to Him for soothing peace of mind and a joy-filled heart. Let us worship Him with enthusiasm and gratitude, as the shepherds and Magi did following Jesus’ birth over two thousand years ago.

“Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad;
let the sea resound, and all that is in it.
Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them.
Then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy” (Psalm 96:11-12). 

God created the earth and everything in it with an unfolding plan for the future that will lead to Jesus’ second coming to rule all nations in peace. God is in control. Let us praise our Lord for His magnificent plans that encourage hope. Vow to claim sovereign triumph in the midst of human chaos, as you give glory and gratitude to Jesus on His birthday this year.

I will #REJOICE in the Lord

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Though the fig tree does not bud
and there are no grapes on the vines,
though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food,
though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls,
yet I will REJOICE in the LORD,
I will be JOYFUL in God my Savior.  

—Habakkuk 3:17-18

When Rick and I lived in the central valley of California, we lived in the midst of a farm belt that feeds the whole country. We lived near groves of almost every kind of fruit and nut trees. Cotton, strawberry and corn fields bordered farms and housing developments alike. I could therefore relate to the words of these verses as I gazed upon field after field of grape vines.

During the summer months, we could see certain fields of grapes drying in the sun to make raisins. And when we looked out into our backyard, there was our fig tree, several weeks past harvest but still in full leaf.

As I contemplated these verses, I wondered about Habakkuk’s strong faith. Here was a man who questioned his LORD’s motives and supposed inaction, yet he also learned to trust and REJOICE in Him, no matter what. His JOYFUL attitude makes his words sing.

What about me? Can I still “be JOYFUL in God my Savior” in spite of how I feel each day?

I have spent many years learning to live with chronic illness. In addition to several illnesses, my immune system doesn’t work that well after years of taking too many antibiotics. I seem to fall prey to all the little bugs that are going around, and it takes me more time than most people to recover. I have little energy to complete the smallest tasks in my home; even sweeping the floor seems a monumental project. But in spite of all this, I can still trust that God is taking care of me, that He is still in control, and that I can actually REJOICE in that fact.

This season of my life in which I’m struggling with different illnesses is a time when I can complain about the injustice of it, or I can instead be JOYFUL and thankful for God’s presence in my life, no matter what. I choose to be JOYFUL because God promises to be with us in every situation, good or bad.

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REJOICE in the Lord always.
I will say it again: REJOICE!
Let your gentleness be evident to all.
The Lord is near.
—Philippians 4:4

Heavenly Father: Thank you for the JOY You provide in every situation. Help me to be Your light, your JOY and your promise of hope for others, even during times of pain and frustration. Amen.

Sunday #Praise and #Worship: #REJOICE in His #Salvation

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If you’ve been around my blog for very long, you know that I live every single day with several chronic pain illnesses. For the last month or so, I have been REJOICING with the Lord that my doctors have found a medication that has completely blocked my daily migraines. Yes, you read that right. After too many years of daily debilitating migraines, I am now migraine-free!

I have been repeatedly praising the Lord for this miracle in my life. But I have also been thanking Him for what He has taught me through my migraine saga.

I would never have become as close to Him as I am now if I had not had to cling so tightly to Him and His promises for me.

As a very close friend of mine says, God wastes nothing!

My Savior and Lord Jesus Christ taught me how to be JOYFUL within my circumstances. How is this possible? Because my JOY of the Lord pours out of a thankful heart for the salvation He has granted me through His suffering and death on my behalf. That means I will be praising and glorifying Him forever in heaven!

Ever since I have been migraine-free, I’ve somehow forgotten at times that I am still living with Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and I’ve overdone my activities every so often. That means there is payback, so I still have to be very careful about my energy levels. But this doesn’t dampen my JOY at all, and I love sharing my JOYFUL news with you! 

Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me;
Fight against those who fight against me.
Take hold of shield and buckler,
And stand up for my help.
Also draw out the spear,
And stop those who pursue me.
Say to my soul,
“I am your salvation.”

Let those be put to shame and brought to dishonor
Who seek after my life;
Let those be turned back and brought to confusion
Who plot my hurt.
Let them be like chaff before the wind,
And let the angel of the Lord chase them.
Let their way be dark and slippery,
And let the angel of the Lord pursue them.
For without cause they have hidden their net for me in a pit,
Which they have dug without cause for my life.
Let destruction come upon him unexpectedly,
And let his net that he has hidden catch himself;
Into that very destruction let him fall.

And my soul shall be JOYFUL in the Lord;
It shall REJOICE in His salvation.

—Psalm 35:1-9

Perfecting Our Faith

I’ve been having trouble with my computer lately, so I’ve been using the WordPress app on my tablet. I do much better with a full-size keyboard, so until I can figure out what’s wrong with my laptop, I’ll be sharing simple posts of images with Bible passages. Thank you so much for your patience with me and this process!

 For now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord.
For what thanks can we render to God for you,
for all the JOY with which
we REJOICE for your sake before our God,
night and day praying exceedingly that we may see your face
and perfect what is lacking in your faith?
-1 Thessalonians 3:8-10

 

Sorrowful Yet Always #REJOICING

As you know, my theme this year is all about JOY. When I read the following in my daily Streams in the Desert devotional recently, I knew I must share it with you. It is wonderful!

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…sorrowful, yet always REJOICING.
—2 Corinthians 6:10

SORROW was beautiful, but his beauty was the beauty of the moonlight shining through the leafy branches of the trees in the woods. His gentle light made little pools of silver here and there on the soft green moss of the forest floor. And when he sang, his song was like the low, sweet calls of the nightingale, and in his eyes was the unexpectant gaze of someone who has ceased to look for coming GLADNESS. He could weep in tender sympathy with those who weep, but to REJOICE with those who REJOICE was unknown to him.

JOY was beautiful, too, but hers was the radiant beauty of a summer morning. Her eyes still held the HAPPY laughter of childhood, and her hair glistened with the sunshine’s kiss. When she sang, her voice soared upward like a skylark’s, and her steps were the march of a conqueror who has never known defeat. She could REJOICE with anyone who REJOICES, but to weep with those who weep was unknown to her.

SORROW longingly said, “We can never be united as one.”

“No, never,” responded JOY, with eyes misting as she spoke, “for my path lies through the sunlit meadows, the sweetest roses bloom when I arrive, and songbirds await my coming to sing their most JOYOUS melodies.”

“Yes, and my path,” said SORROW, turning slowly away, “leads through the dark forest, and moonflowers, which open only at night, will fill my hands. Yet the sweetest of all earthly songs—the love song of the night—will be mine. So farewell, dear JOY,  farewell.”

Yet even as SORROW spoke, he and JOY became aware of someone standing beside them. In spite of the dim light, they sensed a kingly Presence, and suddenly a great and holy awe overwhelmed them. They then sank to their knees before Him.

“I see Him as the King of JOY,” whispered SORROW, “for on His head are many crowns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of a great victory. And before Him all my SORROW is melting away into deathless love and GLADNESS. I now give myself to Him forever.”

“No, SORROW,” said JOY softly, “for I see Him as the King of SORROW, and the crown on His head is a crown of thorns, and the nailprints in His hands and feet are the scars of terrible agony. I also give myself to Him forever, for SORROW with Him must be sweeter than any JOY I have ever known.”

“Then we are one in Him,” they cried in GLADNESS, “for no one but He could unite JOY and SORROW.” Therefore they walked hand in hand into the world, to follow Him through storms and sunshine, through winter’s severe cold and the warmth of summer’s GLADNESS, and to be “SORROWFUL, yet always REJOICING.”

All emphasis mine

Copyright © 1997. Streams in the Desert, by L. B. CowmanZondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

Mother Mink

Mother Mink

 By Patricia Knight

Mink usually do not make themselves known to people, especially during daylight hours.  One splendid warm summer day there were seven of us around our dock near the lake.  While our grandsons were captivated with fishing we adults detected a sleek, black, lithe creature slithering its way around the children’s sandal-clad feet. Our son commanded his boys to stand motionless, using only their eyes to observe the oddity of nature. 

The wet, glistening mink investigated everything, including foot gear worn by the boys and wet socks draped on a rock to dry. The mink’s nose never stopped wriggling and sniffing as it wove its body among every human foot firmly planted on the dock. Its conical snout with the incessant quivering was on a mission. What was bothering this mink so much that it would voluntarily wander among the enemy? We talked quietly. Then the mink slinked away as quickly as it had appeared. Our activity resumed in slow motion. The boys continued to fish as they cast a wary eye in the direction of the intruder, wondering if she would return.

It wasn’t long before mother mink emerged, this time on a new quest. She had previously disappeared into the rocks to the left of the dock, probably in the location of her den.  Now, with a limp kit helplessly dangling from her mouth, mama mink hastily scampered across the dock without stopping to socialize and plunged into the water, bound for the cribwork on the opposite side of the dock. There she remained with her kit, in an area her instincts told her would be much safer than their last home. We weren’t privileged to see the mother mink or her kit again. Their short performance left us astonished, albeit entertained.

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Jesus told this parable to His disciples: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents” (Luke 15:3-7).

Jesus taught a truth using familiar objects his audience would understand. One hundred sheep would comprise a flock for a modest shepherd of that day. Shepherds often worked in teams, so it would not be irresponsible for one shepherd to leave the ninety-nine safe sheep in the care of his other companions in the open field. The shepherd would not take the remainder of his herd home until the lost lamb was found.

Throughout Scripture, Jesus is portrayed as the Good Shepherd; we are His sheep or His flock. Sheep are without direction in life. They must be led to good grazing grounds and protected from danger. They are passive animals, unequipped to find their own food to fight predators. A good shepherd supplies his sheep’s needs. The picture we see in Jesus’ parable is one of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, protecting His own. He is willing to leave His glory in heaven to search for the one who is lost. When that person is found, Jesus places His beloved on His shoulders, the place of strength, and rejoins him with the rest of His flock. Jesus always rejoices when His people return to Him for salvation, safety, and guidance throughout life. 

The mother mink protected her one kit, going to great lengths and endangering her life by carrying her offspring past the enemy to safety. She was willing to risk her life for the security of her young.

Though initially the scene of the kit dangling from its mother’s mouth may appear pathetic, the instinctive submission and obedience of the kit saved its life. Though Jesus handles us much more gently, He requires our posture to be one of complete trust and reliance upon His care.

We confront danger on a daily basis. Are we willing to put our lives in the care of the Great Shepherd, who incessantly rescues His wayward children from harm, one individual life at a time? Trust Jesus daily as He readily  enfolds you beneath His protective arms and leads you to safety.

Jesus went further than risking His life for us. He came to earth with the express goals to sacrifice His one perfect life for mankind, to redeem us from our sins, and to carry us on His shoulders to our refuge in heaven for an eternity.

Jesus’ mission on earth was unselfish. He sacrificed His pure, unblemished life to save His children, one-by-one. The Good Shepherd came to secure an eternal victory for His wayward ones. Submit to Him, for His plans are always perfect.

Time for an Update!

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On April 25th, I wrote about having to take a blogging hiatus. After several months of dealing with various infections (bronchitis, sinus, ear, flu), I ended up in the ER with pneumonia. All of this upper respiratory stuff took a big toll on me and I needed a lot of rest and sleep.

I think I’m finally getting to the other side of this mess, so I will soon resume blogging. I hope to get back to my previous Sunday-Tuesday-Thursday schedule, but if I find my health backsliding again, I’ll  just post once a week for awhile.

Thank you all so much for sticking with me. It means the world to me! Never forget that God is good all the time, all the time God is good!

And my soul shall be JOYFUL in the Lord;
It shall REJOICE in His salvation.
Let them shout for JOY and be glad,
Who favor my righteous cause;
And let them say continually,
“Let the Lord be magnified,
Who has pleasure in the prosperity of His servant.”
And my tongue shall speak of Your righteousness
And of Your praise all the day long.
—Psalm 35:9, 27-28