Monday, December 29, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

I spent last week with family over the Christmas holiday. I've had a wonderful time from the regular routine celebrating the birth of Christ and visiting with family & friends I have not seen in a while. Therefore, this week I'm catching up on my domestic duties. I'll be posting on my regular schedule of Monday and Wednesday starting January 5, 2009 (Lord willing).

May you have a blessed and Happy New Year 2009!

Engrafted by His Grace--

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Word Study Wednesday - Merry

Merry Christmas!

All the days of the afflicted are evil, but he who is of a merry heart has a continual feast. ~~Proverbs 15:15 NKJV

Merry in this scripture means good, pleasant, and agreeable.

On Christmas, most of us have a feast serving turkey, stuffing, candied yams, mashed potatoes, green beans casserole, dinner rolls and gravy. In south Texas, tamales are a Christmas tradition. Whatever the tradition, lots of good food usually is included in our family feasts. So we’re merry.

Gifts are part of our feasts. We enjoy sharing our blessings with our loved ones this time of year. I find it pleasant to watch my children open up their gifts hoping for the one they want. I find it good and pleasant to see their eyes light up when the wrapping is removed revealing the contents.

My prayer is that each of us is in a merry state this Christmas. I pray that we can learn to be as Paul stated, “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content: I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need.” (Philippians 4:11-12 NKJV)

So whatever state we are in this season, let’s find our contentment in Christ. The Bible Readers Companion states in regard to Proverbs 15:15 “Our disposition rather than our circumstances is the key to enjoying life."

James E. Smith wrote in The Wisdom Literature and Psalms, “Solomon is advocating positive thinking. Though one is poor, he can still find life enjoyable if he cultivates a cheerful spirit. The implication is that the disposition is not dictated by outward circumstances. One who rejoices in his portion, however meager, has true riches.”

Therefore, whatever state—economically, emotionally, mentally, physically, socially, or spiritually—in Christ we can have a merry heart this Christmas and everyday we can enjoy the continual feast.

Merry Christmas!

Engrafted by His Grace--

Monday, December 22, 2008

What I Want for Christmas

I asked the Lord for a total lobotomy. I've determined in my mind by the grace given through Jesus Christ to have a new attitude. A mind that focuses on the truths and ways of Jesus. A mind that focuses on the positive and not the negative.

I'm fed up with irritating circumstances. The type of pesky circumstances that seem like chiggers. Those annoying little red insects that embed themselves just underneath the skin cause the itching sensation. This year I want to suffocate those pesky circumstances like I suffocate the chiggers with nail polish. (Painting nail polish, usually the clear coat, suffocates chiggers to death and stops the itching. I'm not a medical professional, so please consult a physician before starting this or any medical treatment at home.)

Let me say, I've been experimenting with this new attitude. I started practicing my new attitude on my husband a few weekends ago. Sometimes he does little things that annoy me like a chigger. (Please, if you're married to Mr. Perfect, then I praise the Lord. But for me, the Lord uses my husband [and children] to work me over.) My 19 year old adult child stopped by for a visit and the three of us were discussing the purchase of a new vacuum for his apartment. We told him about some that are on sell at Home Depot. He quickly claimed he did not want a cheap $40 vacuum. Then his dear daddy, my loving husband spouted off, "We paid $1000 for ours and your mom does not use it so you can take it." (Now you had to hear the tone and see him looking around the house to catch him implying I did not clean.) At this moment to keep peace in the home, I said nothing (except my vacuum cleaner stayed at home). As the conversation progressed about what we wanted for Christmas, I asked for a housekeeper. Neither one of the guys got it.

But in reality, I asked for a new mind. After praying about it, I spoke to my husband the next day. I started explaining to my husband that I did not think he was the enemy. I did not think he intended to hurt me. But then I explained how hard I work to keep up with the house and how his words to our son hurt me. He explained calmly and sweetly to me that it was only meant as a joke. Since we bought the vacuum, we've laid ceramic tile in most of the house. That's what he was thinking.

What I learned from this is my husband's thoughts were one direction. I took his comment in another direction in my mind that started to grow into hostility. That equals miscommunication. Something like this in the past could have easily sparked an argument that would last all day. But since I'm seeking the Lord for a new attitude. I applied the nail polish over this little annoyance stopping the irritation.

Now my prayer is that my new attitude carry over when all the family arrives for Christmas. My old attitude, a Martha type spirit, would get upset that no one else is helping. I want to be thankful that I have family I can serve. But starting now and throughout the year, I want to have a new attitude.

Last week I read the following scripture which I think sums it all up.

Practice hospitality to one another (those of the household of faith). [Be hospitable, be a lover of strangers, with brotherly affection for the unknown guests, the foreigners, the poor, and all others who come your way who are of Christ's body.] And [in each instance] do it ungrudgingly (cordially and graciously, without complaining but as representing Him). ~~ 1 Peter 4:9 (AMP)
Engrafted by His Grace--

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Word Study Wednesday - Joy

In researching joy in the New Testament, I found two distinct Greek words for joy. Using the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance, I found the following definitions:

Agalliasis means exultation, extreme joy, gladness.

Chara means 1 joy, gladness. 1a the joy received from you. 1b the cause or occasion of joy. 1b1 of persons who are one’s joy.

When the angel announced to Zechariah the birth of John the Baptist, he said, “You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” (Luke 1:14, NIV) In this verse, we see both Greek words used to represent the joy Zechariah and Elizabeth will experience. Both the extreme joy that comes from the Lord and the joy from the situation of having a desire fulfilled.

Later when Mary visited Elizabeth, she announced, “For behold, when the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby leaped in my womb for joy.” (Luke 1:44, NIV) The Greek word used is agalliasis. The Bible Exposition Commentary states that John rejoiced in Jesus Christ even before their births. This joy comes from the Lord, regardless of circumstances.

Announcing the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, the angel said, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.” (Luke 2:10 NIV) The Greek word is chara meaning joy, gladness; the cause or occasion for joy. This circumstance provided joy to the shepherds.

We can also experience joy when things are not going so well. Elizabeth was in her golden years. I know of people who experienced pregnancies after 40. These were difficult pregnancies. Still she had joy as the Lord called her to bring forth the one prophesied to foreshadow the Messiah.

We can have joy in our circumstances. We experience this type of joy at the birth of a child in our family. Or when loved ones return home from war. Or we win a contest. The shepherds knew the birth of Christ was life changing and this announcement brought them joy. This bubbling over joy provoked the shepherds to spread the good news of the birth of our Savior.

Our circumstances change and are not always joyous. Therefore I want to end this word study with a passage related to joy, but used the synonym “happiness” from the Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations.

Where Is Happiness?

Not in Unbelief—Voltaire was an infidel of the most pronounced type. He wrote: “I wish I had never been born.”

Not in Pleasure—Lord Byron lived a life of pleasure if anyone did. He wrote: “The worm, the canker, and grief are mine alone.”

Not in Money—Jay Gould, the American millionaire, had plenty of that. When dying, he said: “I suppose I am the most miserable man on earth.”

Not in Position and Fame—Lord Beaconsfield enjoyed more than his share of both. He wrote: “Youth is a mistake; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.”

Not in Military Glory—Alexander the Great conquered the known world in his day. Having done so, he wept in his tent, because he said, “There are no more worlds to conquer.”

Where then is happiness found?—the answer is simple, in Christ alone.

—The Bible Friend

We can rejoice in our good situations. But ultimately let’s focus on Christ and find true joy beyond our circumstances!

Engrafted by His Grace--

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Chosen People

But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." Luke 1:30-33 NIV

Approximately 2000 years ago, the Lord chose Mary to bring His son into this world. Mary was found to be highly favored and chosen among women. What was so special about Mary? Mary had a willing spirit. The Lord used her to bring forth the gospel message, the message of hope to the dark and dying world. Through Mary, salvation came to earth. Grace arrived.

But this conception was different from other conceptions. Virgin Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. She received Christ in the most literal sense. Through her obedience and willingness, the Lord permanently established the throne of David for Jesus Christ will reign forever. Mary, a young woman, witnessed the gospel message come forth and shared Him with those around her.

What Mary birthed still exists today. Jesus Christ is alive and seated on the right hand of the Father in the heavenly realms. As a believer, one who confesses Jesus Christ as Lord, we’re to have a willing spirit. We’re to bring the gospel message to those whom God places in our path. We are chosen by God to spread the message of hope.

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 1 Peter 2:9 NIV

How are we to share the message of hope with those around us? By declaring His praises!

We can share with others the hope we have in Christ. What? Don’t know how to evangelize? Actually it’s quite easy. We don’t have to be preachers or scholarly Bible teachers. We just have to know Christ and share our experiences.

Wherever we go throughout the day, people are seeking for answers to their problems. People want to know there is hope. As a chosen one, we can share the hope wherever we go—shopping, work, ball games, laundry mat, etc.

Standing in line at Wal-Mart, one lady started sharing with me about her problem with her neighbor. After she finished, I simply said, “I can relate. I had something similar, but we reconciled.”

She asked, "How?" (Open opportunity.)

I replied, “As I read the Bible one day, the Scriptures said to bless and not curse. So I baked a fresh loaf of bread and took it to her. Then the Lord used her to help me, for at the time she called to thank me for the bread, my house caught on fire. She was there for me and our relationship reconciled.”

To bless and not curse seemed a bit overwhelming to this stranger in line, but she said she would think about it. But it was an opportunity to share how the Lord worked in my life. The gospel message, a message of hope shared and spread.

Today we still live in a dark and dying world. Mary had a willing spirit. Let us have a willing spirit to bring Jesus to those around us. As God’s chosen one’s, let’s declare His praises who brought us out of darkness into His marvelous light!

Engrafted by His Grace--

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Word Study Wednesday -- Peace

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests." ~~Luke 2:13-14

Peace on earth. Isn’t that what every one wants? In Luke 2, one angel announced the birth of Jesus to the shepherds, but then suddenly a multitude appeared praising God. Can you imagine this scenario?

Peace is the word study word today. I don’t know about you, but I could use more peace and the good news is God sent His peace for us to experience. As I researched briefly on this today, I found an explanation in The Bible Exposition Commentary that explains the above scripture and peace very well.

“What was the Good News? Not that God had sent a soldier or a judge or a reformer, but that He had sent a Saviour to meet man’s greatest need. It was a message of peace to a world that had known much war. The famous “Pax Romana” (Roman Peace) had been in effect since 27 b.c. but the absence of war doesn’t guarantee the presence of peace.

The Stoic philosopher Epictetus said, “While the emperor may give peace from war on land and sea, he is unable to give peace from passion, grief, and envy. He cannot give peace of heart for which man yearns more than even for outward peace.”

The Jewish word shalom (peace) means much more than a truce in the battles of life. It means well-being, health, prosperity, security, soundness, and completeness. It has to do more with character than circumstances. Life was difficult at that time just as it is today. Taxes were high, unemployment was high, morals were slipping lower, and the military state was in control. Roman law, Greek philosophy, and even Jewish religion could not meet the needs of men’s hearts. Then, God sent His Son!

The angels praised God at Creation (Job 38:7), and now they praised Him at the beginning of the new creation. The whole purpose of the plan of salvation is “glory to God” (see Eph. 1:6, 12, 14). God’s glory had dwelt in the tabernacle (Ex. 40:34) and in the temple (2 Chron. 7:1–3), but had departed because of the nation’s sin (1 Sam. 4:21; Ezek. 8:4; 9:3; 10:4, 18; 11:22–23). Now God’s glory was returning to earth in the person of His Son (John 1:14). That lowly manger was a holy of holies because Jesus was there! “

Engrafted by His Grace--

Monday, December 8, 2008

Blessed Hope

When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" Luke 1:41-45 NIV

After the angel announced to Mary she would conceive the Messiah, she traveled to see her cousin, Elizabeth. As soon as she heard Mary’s voice, she was filled with the Holy Spirit as the presence of the Lord came near her. The Holy Spirit revealed to her that Mary carried the promised Messiah.

This must have been such an exciting moment for both these women who were chosen to be used by God to fulfill His prophecies. Being good Jewish women, they’ve heard the writing of the prophets read aloud. After Jewish people had not heard from God for approximately 400 years, the fulfillment of the long awaited promise was great news to their ears.

For years the people put their hope in the promises of God. They may have wondered if it would come to pass. Now the One God promised was conceived. God keeps all His promises. Not one has failed to come to pass.

Sometimes it seems as though we wait and wait for a promise, wondering if it will ever come to pass. But God is faithful to keep all His promises. Jesus Christ was born as promised in the writings of the Prophets. He will return again as written in the Prophets. We have that glorious hope. We have Jesus Christ. We have the Scriptures. We have the Holy Spirit.

For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. ~~Romans 15:4 NIV

All the trials we go through create endurance in us. We have the Scriptures to read for encouragement so we have hope. When I faced a problem, one of my first instincts was to complain about it with whoever would listen whether it was my husband or an available friend. I’ve had to learn over time and retrain myself to have a new first instinct—to run to the Lord in prayer and read His Word. He provides the answer.

When we receive the answer, then we can run to our loved ones and friends as Mary went to Elizabeth. They celebrated the great news. Let’s spread the good news instead of our frustrations. We have the blessed hope in the Messiah.

Engrafted by His Grace--

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Word Study Wednesday - Righteousness

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: "The righteous will live by faith.” ~~Romans 1:16-17 (NIV)

Righteousness. How does one become righteous? By obeying all the rules? Have you obeyed all the rules? Never sinned? According to Scriptures, we all have sinned and fall short.

What is righteousness? According to the Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance it means

1. in a broad sense: state of him who is as he ought to be, righteousness, the condition acceptable to God

  1. the doctrine concerning the way in which man may attain a state approved of God
  2. integrity, virtue, purity of life, rightness, correctness of thinking feeling, and acting

If we cannot follow all the rules or laws, how are we to obtain “the condition acceptable to God?” None of us have to power in us to obtain righteousness, but as it says in verse 17, “a righteousness that is by faith.” We must have faith. But faith in what?

Since righteousness is unobtainable by human efforts, it is achieved by faith in the gospel of Christ. “In response to faith this righteousness is imputed by God in justification and imparted progressively in regeneration and sanctification, culminating in glorification when standing and state become identical.”[1]

Paul quotes Habakkuk 2:4. In many English versions you’ll see the word “just” translated for righteous. These two words are closely related in the Greek. “Righteousness” is dikaiosynē, and “justify” is dikaioō. To justify a person is to declare him forensically (legally) righteous. As a result of faith in Christ, a person is declared “righteous” and is given eternal life. What a marvelous work of God!”[2]

Therefore, as we focus on Christ, the Messiah, this season we by faith believe He was born of a virgin. But let us also believe that He was the Lamb who was slain, and rose again. By faith in Jesus, we are approved by God--righteous. If we have God’s approval, we can boldly and unashamedly declare the gospel to this world.

Engrafted by His Grace--

[1]Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:441

[2]Walvoord, John F. ; Zuck, Roy B. ; Dallas Theological Seminary: The Bible Knowledge Commentary : An Exposition of the Scriptures. Wheaton, IL : Victor Books, 1983-c1985, S. 2:441

Monday, December 1, 2008

Not Impossible with God

For nothing is impossible with God. ~~Luke 1:37

An angel announced to Mary, a virgin girl, she would be with child. Not just any child, but the one foretold by the prophets—the awaited Messiah. Mary, full of faith, still wondered how it could be since she was still a virgin. The angel explained that the Holy Spirit would come upon her. She would give birth to a son and he was to be called Jesus, the son of the Most High God.

Mary replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said,” (Luke 1:38)

Has an angel appeared to you with a great promise? If so, I want to hear your story. But for most of us, we feel moved by the Holy Spirit that the Lord wants to fulfill a promise through us. When we receive that feeling, sometime we reason with it. Mary reasoned she was a virgin. She must have been thinking of the natural conception process. God thought supernatural. Remember His thoughts are higher than our thoughts.

When my children were young, I felt a strong urge and desire to home school. At the time it seemed impossible. I worked full-time to help support our financial commitments. The mountain of debts seemed too large. I rationalized with God, how it would come to pass as there was always some bill to pay. One gets paid off, another financial crisis happens. It seemed to be never-ending.

Finally after five years, the financial burdens were lifted. I became a stay-at-home mother. Yet now other situations arose that I still did not home school. I substituted at my sons schools. I volunteered on the PTO. In the meantime, my neighborhood started changing. Three families moved on our street with school age children who homeschooled. I felt tormented. But I would not let go of the feeling inside that one day I too would homeschool. Like Mary had to wait the nine months for the birth of the promised Messiah, I had to wait for the right timing to homeschool. Since then, my oldest has graduated and my youngest is now working on sixth grade in homeschool. What seemed impossible for me, was not impossible with God.

I now I have more situations I feel the Lord has promised for me. I am waiting for His timing as nothing is impossible with Him. Perhaps you too feel a strong desire for something to come to pass in your life. Let’s stay focused on the Lord as Mary replied to the angel, “I am the Lord servant.” Let’s serve the Lord while we wait for His promise to come to pass.

Jesus came as a child, all man yet fully God. He experienced everything we experience. He died and rose again so we can have a fully engrafted, abundant life. Let’s put our faith and hope in Him as His promises will come to pass.

Engrafted by His Grace--