Looking back over 2020, looking forward

For many people, 2020 means nightmare scenario. Our memories include sickness, the corona virus scare that began in March, shutdowns and isolation, not being able to see our loved ones, and going through disease and deaths.

For us, living in Spain during much of the year, we experienced all of the above. It was the most difficult year of my lifetime on several fronts, and the only thing that got me through was continually choosing to worship instead of worry.

We faced sickness, death, strict corona virus restrictions, trials, and, on top of that, an international move that began with selling our house and legal issues.

But, God directed our paths.

Even though this was a hard year, we watched as miracles unfolded. I don’t use the word miracles lightly, either. Even our lawyer told us, “You can thank God.” It was obvious that Someone much bigger than us was making things happen.

We arrived in the United States at the beginning of November. Our shipment arrived in good condition in mid-December. We are thankful.

My husband and I are living with a relative while searching for a house. When we found one we both loved and made an offer, we felt like this might be it. We prayed that God would either open or close doors and make it obvious to us if this was the house He wanted for us. Before the inspection, it became clear that this wasn’t the house He wants for us.

I love that we can trust God to guide us well. It is exciting to live like this and watch as He smooths the way or closes the door. All we need to do is follow Him—like silly sheep following the Shepherd. He always leads us well, provides, and protects.

I chose a theme word for 2020. It was worship.

With all that was going on in our lives, much of it unpleasant, I made it a point to turn off my worries and cares and consciously worship. I didn’t do it perfectly. There were days of tears and asking God why. I actually walked out into the yard and poured my heart out to the Lord, telling Him I couldn’t manage without His supernatural help. The great thing is, His help is always freely available.

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not (Jeremiah 33:3).

This is my testimony for this past year. God showed me great and mighty things. That’s what He does.

I am looking forward to seeing His mighty hand in 2021.

How has the Lord blessed you this past year? Want to share? Please feel free to comment.

Explaining the Christmas Star

Even the major news networks are explaining the “Christmas Star,” the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that many were able to see on December 21. The planets got closer together than they had been in 800 years. I find it interesting that people who go to such lengths to discredit the Bible try to explain what the special star in the biblical text might have been.

The Christmas Star has been explained away throughout the decades. Perhaps it was a comet—and that is why it appeared to move.

Maybe it was a meteor zooming by.

This year, it could have been the “Great Conjunction.”

The Bible prophesies Jesus’ coming: I shall see him, but not now: I shall behold him, but not nigh: there shall come a Star out of Jacob, and a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel (Numbers 24:17a). The star actually seems to be a metaphor for Jesus.

When the star indeed appeared, the wise men recognized it as the star that represented the birth of the Messiah. They said to Herod, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him (Matthew 2:2).

As we know, Herod believed the wise men. He asked when the star appeared and plotted to kill all the baby boys, so that his kingdom would not be threatened.

The wise men left the palace, and something amazing happened: lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy (Matthew 2:9-10).

They recognized the re-appearance of this special star, and it moved, guiding them to the house where Jesus lived. It moved and then hovered over that specific house. It must have appeared just above that house, because it doesn’t make sense otherwise.

All the explanations of conjunctions, bright stars, comets, meteors, and all the rest do not match what actually happened.

The wise men:

  • actually saw a star and knew its meaning.
  • went for a time not seeing the star.
  • saw the star again when they exited Herod’s palace.
  • followed the star, which led them to the place where Jesus was.
  • prostrated themselves, worshipped the Child, and offered Him gifts. (Matthew 2:11)

What does the star mean for us, today?

I find several spiritual lessons in this story:

  • People who know the Scriptures recognize miracles when they see them.
  • Real wisdom requires action. These men left and acted upon what they knew. They sacrificed time, energy, and treasure to seek Jesus.
  • God will lead those who seek Him. But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul (Deuteronomy 4:29).
  • Jesus deserves our worship. When historical people saw Jesus, they prostrated themselves (the wise men, Abraham, Isaiah, lepers, the healed lady, and even demon-possessed people). In the Book of Revelation, when the Lamb (Jesus) takes the book, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him.
  • We owe Him our effort and service. Knowing that of the Lord ye shall receive the reward of the inheritance: for ye serve the Lord Christ (Colossians 3:24).
  • Giving as unto the Lord actually stores up treasure in heaven. Jesus said, Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also (Matthew 6:19-21).
  • Meeting King Jesus is humbling.

The planets aligning themselves were not the Star of Bethlehem. That special star has never been repeated. Besides, God calls it a star. Planets together are not stars. God is the Creator of the universe, and we can trust Him to label His handiwork correctly. God produced a miracle for the purpose of guiding people to Jesus, just as He did with the shepherds a year or two before. Remember the angelic announcer and the multitude of angels and great light?

Jesus, the Light of the World, was announced to the world with shining light. To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:11).

Emmanuel: God with us

The miracle of Christmas is tied up in this name: Emmanuel. This name first appeared in a prophecy going back 700 years before Jesus’ birth. Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel (Isaiah 7:14).

The virgin birth involves a whole series of miracles. We have the miraculous conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).

Even though Mary couldn’t understand the supernatural science, she was willing. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word (Luke 1:38a).

In the Gospel of Matthew we read: Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Matthew 1:23). This is a direct quote of Isaiah, with the addition of the meaning of the name, Emmanuel.

God with us.

What an amazing concept! God presents Himself in human form—in baby form—to mankind. He lives among us. God with us.

Its significance is enormous. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6-8).  The Creator makes Himself like the created in order to save His own creation. It is awesome, unfathomable.

Jesus means Savior. This was His human birth name. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Emmanuel. God with us.

Jesus. Savior.

Isaiah’s prophecy adds these names for Baby Jesus: Wonderful Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, and the Prince of Peace (9:6).

God with us.

Jesus said, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world (from Matthew 28:20).

And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:16, 26).

Emmanuel wants us to be content with His presence. Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee (Hebrews 13:5). True contentment is in Him.

Do you know Emmanuel? Is the Holy Spirit with you and teaching you?

Are you content in His presence?

Have a Merry Christmas!

According to plan

When life goes according to plan, we feel happy and secure. But, when it doesn’t? We might become angry, frustrated, confused, lost, or any combination of these.

Why is this?

Because we like to sense we’re in control. It’s a human thing.

Life often doesn’t go according to plan. There are all kinds of reasons: sickness, financial issues, work problems, personality clashes, scheduling, and probably a thousand other causes common to man. We’re supposed to be flexible and go with the flow, but that is easier said than done.

What can a Christian do when his plans don’t work out?

Here’s a little bit of biblical advice.

Trust in the Lord, not our own understanding. Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths (Proverbs 3:5-6).

Read the Bible and know how it applies to your circumstance. Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path (Psalm 119:105).

Jesus told His disciples Follow me. When we pause and ask the Lord what He wants us to do, He will guide us.

Seek wise counsel. Where no counsel is, the people fall: but in the multitude of counsellors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14).

Honest prayer, asking, and thanksgiving bring about peace. Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:6-7).

Recognize that God has a purpose in everything that happens to us, when we are living in His will. It will end up for our good. And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28).

The truth is that every person’s life is uncertain. No one’s goes according to plan.

It is important to put our trust in the One who knows exactly what will happen and who promises to guide us through each day. For this God is our God for ever and ever: he will be our guide even unto death (Psalm 48:14).

This year 2020 has not gone according to plan. Who would ever have thought that small boutiques would only admit six customers or that we would be wearing masks at fairs and stores? No one would have anticipated the changes in schooling, businesses, and even curfews in some places. Would we have thought that other catastrophes would have happened, as well? No.

Since we never know what a day, month, or year may hold, we need a guide. We need someone we can trust. That Someone is the Lord. He knows everything. We can follow Him.

May the Lord bless you today and guide you through this Christmas season and in the New Year.

Christmas whenever it happens

For a bit of background, we were officially missionaries from 1982-2020, when we retired. Over 36 years of that time, we lived in Spain. Our children were small in the eighties and nineties.

Those were times when packages usually came by boat, meaning that some came quite early—kudos to churches that did Missionary Christmas in July. Some came very late, like in the spring. Of course, being on the receiving end, we never knew if anyone had sent any surprises or not, so we never expected anything and were delighted if and when anything arrived.

Back in those days, import customs taxes were handled differently. I believe we only paid high taxes on one item, and I can’t remember what it was. Nowadays, however, it is better to send a gift card or money to missionaries in Spain, as it will cost them as much or more to receive the gift as it cost you to send it. Sad, indeed. (Note: Always ask your missionary what the situation is in his country before spending your time and hard-earned money to send them something he might have to sacrifice to receive.)

Oh, how we—especially our children—loved those boxes! It didn’t matter if they arrived in January or March. It was Christmas all over again. The delight on our children’s faces was worth every penny spent—and the long boatride across the ocean. Sometimes, people even included books, CDs, and post-its and other goodies for my husband and me. We felt loved.

Gifts are especially important for children. I was in dollar store the other day and spent a whopping two dollars on two gifts for our grandchildren. They will love them. And, they will feel the love. They won’t know where I bought them or that I spent only a dollar on each. It is the thought and the gift that count. Shh! Don’t tell. They will be delighted on Christmas Day.

I know that some Christians are against the commercialization of Christmas, and I totally understand. Some don’t exchange gifts at all. Other families draw names. People have the freedom to decide how they will or won’t celebrate Christmas.

For our family, especially when we were abroad and not with the children’s aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents, we felt we needed to have two especially festive holidays a year. What better than Christmas and Easter—celebrating Jesus’ coming and His resurrection?

We would go with our co-workers, dig up a tree—not allowed to cut trees, there—and string lights. I always put up at least one manger scene in our home. I even had a small one in the kitchen. We taught our children about Jesus and giving and the wise men. Our co-workers usually hosted a Christmas Eve or Christmas Day meal. It was a happy time.

As for gifts, we enjoyed another Christmas whenever they arrived.

Jesus is the Best Gift ever. We don’t know when He arrived. December 25 probably isn’t the actual day. The date is a tradition that began many years after His birth. But, the truth is, Jesus came to earth as a Baby. He was born to Mary. Shepherds worshipped Him that night, and Herod later sought to kill Him.

The Bible says, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6).

Salvation is a gift from God. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 6:23). For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).

As with any gift offered, salvation through Jesus must be received. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (John 1:12).

Think about it. Have you received the Gift of Christmas: Jesus? Do you possess the gift of salvation from your sins?

Unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.

Merry Christmas!