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A Christmas of Promise

The focus of Christmas has long ago shifted in meaning to me from receiving gifts to remembrance of the promises and fulfillment of God. Sending His Son was more than just demonstrating a good life, more than bringing new teaching and much more than fulfilling the Law. Jesus, God Himself, came and experienced the life of a man from cradle to grave and continues today to be a resurrected man while confusing to be God. He took on the sins of the entire world, past present and future and paid the full price for those sins so that we could also be resurrected with Him. Each Christmas, I read through the following verses to keep my heart and mind fresh with regard to these promises.  I pray the in reading these God will draw our hearts close to His.

Isaiah 7:14

Luke 1:26-38

Isaiah 9:6-7

Luke 2

Isaiah 53:4-7

Luke 23:44-49

Genesis 3:15

Luke 24:1-8

Isaiah 9:2

Rev 21:22-24

The following are the verses listed above from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Isaiah‬ ‭7:14‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:26-38‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, on the throne of David and over his kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.”

Isaiah‬ ‭9:6-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn. 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. And at the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus, the name given by the angel before he was conceived in the womb. 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. And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.” And he said to them, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭2:1-52‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭53:4-7‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭23:44-49‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭3:15‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were perplexed about this, behold, two men stood by them in dazzling apparel. And as they were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the men said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Mary the mother of James and the other women with them who told these things to the apostles, but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter rose and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; and he went home marveling at what had happened.”

‭‭Luke‬ ‭24:1-12‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shone.”

‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭9:2‬ ‭ESV‬‬

“And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb. By its light will the nations walk, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it,”

‭‭Revelation‬ ‭21:22-24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Relax!

It seems when life gets a bit challenging, when I am struggling with a situation that I just can’t solve, my time with God is the first victim.  As I fight the constant battles in my mind, I have less and less time to sit still before God and listen to His guidance, and before I know it I’m running on fumes.  When I get to this point, where I feel so un-inspired that I don’t even know how God could possibly speak to me amidst my chaos, I find it comforting to look back through my old journal entries.  I can remember previous struggles, challenges, end-of-the-world type crises that I have somehow survived, and I can remember how God whispered to me in those times, to reassure me, to direct me and guide me, to remind me that I am still His cherished child.

This is one of those mornings.  My pen has been quiet for some time, and I’m not even sure where to begin.  As I began to flip through the pages of my journal, this entry caught my eye:

February 5, 2011

Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.   Ephesians 3:20-21

Notes:

v20 – Our Amazing God is capable of doing ANYTHING He wants.  He is not bound by our human limitations.  We cannot begin to predict His actions, and we ask such limited questions when we dictate to Him how to solve our problems!

v21 – He will receive glory through the lives of His faithful, regardless of societal culture and popular opinion.  Throughout ALL generations!

Thoughts:

Am I limiting God to human solutions?  Do I truly believe that He can accomplish His Will?  What crazy things do I trust Him to do today?  Am I trying to defend God, to protect Him from the damage of society?  He is way more than that.  He doesn’t need my protection – He wants my worship.  There is no need to despair – God is in control and He will be glorified!

It’s as if I can hear the gentle whisper of my Creator, reminding me yet again, “Relax, my over-anxious child.  I’ve got this covered.  We’ve been over this before …  I’ve got this!“  Knowing that God is in control, that He loves me so much to reach into my mental war zone and give me a gentle “snap out of it already” nudge,  and realizing that this current dilemma is still well inside the realm of “things God can handle” …   I can’t think  of a better way to start my day!

A New Chapter

Welcome to The Conservative Reader: Faith, a new TCR site specifically devoted to discussions about what God is doing in our lives!

The Conservative Reader has been focused on providing commentary in the Political realm for both national and Iowa topics.  We began this site in an effort to bring truth regarding topics that impact all of us in society.  Fundamentally, we believe that getting solid information and well-reasoned opinions could, perhaps even a little, help people to understand conservative thought and over time be persuaded to think as conservatives tend to, which is to pursue building a strong productive society and push back against the decay we have experienced in the past few decades as people have become less disciplined, less self-sufficient, and have begun forgetting the lessons of our past.  We have abstained from pressing matters of faith themselves into the political conversation.

We would like to start talking about our faith.  How is God working in our lives?  Where is he taking us, as individuals, as a Church, as a Society?  What should our priorities be?  How should we engage with the world, whether politically, socially, or economically?  This new site at The Conservative Reader, labeled “Faith”, is intended to be a place for a number of different voices to bring topics of interest specifically to those who are believing Christians, and those who seek to understand our faith better.  Some will share very personal stories, others may bring topics that God has simply laid on their hearts to share.  Let this be a place, not for actual political discourse, but for all of us to explore what God is teaching us in all parts of our lives.

Becky Cox will bring the first piece early this week.  Art Smith will be sharing as well, and others will follow.  We are very interested in finding additional writers… if you are interested, please send us a message on the Contact page.

We cherish your feedback.  Please feel free to leave us comments on particular articles, or leave a message for us on the Contact page.  Forgive us for the visual changes that will be occurring as we make adjustments along the way!

May Christ richly bless you today and in the New Year!

Art Smith
Publisher, The Conservative Reader

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