"God moves in mysterious ways, His wonders to perform..." William Cowper

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Merry Christmas!

I'll be taking a blogging break for the next couple of weeks. I leave you with this poem my Sunday School teacher shared with us. It's lengthy, but explores an often ignored part of the Christmas story.

Have a blessed, merry Christmas!



Jake's wife would have been fifty-eight
The day that Jesus passed the gate
Of Bethlehem, and slowly walked
Toward Jacob's Inn. The people talked
With friends, and children played along
The paths, and Jesus hummed a song,
And smiled at every child he saw.

He paused with one small lass to draw
A camel in the dirt, then said,
"What's this?" The girl bent down her head
To study what the Lord had made,
Then smiled, "A camel, sir!" and laid
Her finger on the bulging back,
"It's got a hump." "Indeed it does,
And who do you believe it was
Who made this camel with his hump?"
Without a thought that this would stump
The rabbi guild and be reviled,
She said, "God did." And Jesus smiled,
"Good eyes, my child. And would that all
Jerusalem within that wall
Of yonder stone could see the signs
Of peace!" He left the lass with lines
Of simple wonder in her face,
And slowly went to find the place
Where he was born.

Folks said the inn
Had never been a place for sin,
For Jacob was a holy man.
And he and Rachel had a plan
To marry, have a child or two,
And serve the folk who traveled through,
Especially the poor who brought
Their meal and turtle-doves, and sought
A place to stay near Zion's gate.
They'd rise up early, stay up late,
To help the pilgrims go and come,
And when the place was full, to some
Especially the poorest, they would say,
"We're sorry there's no room, but stay
Now if you like out back. There's lots
Of hay and we have extra cots
That you can use. There'll be no charge.
The stable isn't very large
But Noah keeps it safe." He was
A wedding gift to Jake because
The shepherds knew he loved the dog.
"There's nothing in the decalogue,"
He used to joke, "that says a man
Can't love a dog!"

The children ran
Ahead of Jesus as he strode
Toward Jacob's Inn. The stony road
That led up to the inn was deep
With centuries of wear, and steep
At one point just before the door.
The Lord knocked once then twice before
He heard an old man's voice, "‘Round back!"
It called. So Jesus took the track
That led around the inn. The old
Man leaned back in his chair and told
The dog to never mind. "Ain't had
No one to tend the door, my lad,
For thirty years. I'm sorry for
The inconvenience to your sore
Feet. The road to Jerusalem
Is hard ain't it? Don't mind old Shem.
He's harmless like his dad. Won't bite
A Roman soldier in the night.
Sit down." And Jacob waved the stump
Of his right arm. "We're in a slump
Right now. Got lots of time to think
And talk. Come, sit and have a drink.
From Jacob's well!" he laughed. "You own
The inn?" The Lord inquired. "On loan,
You'd better say. God owns the inn."
At that the Lord knew they were kin,
And ventured on: "Do you recall
The tax when Caesar said to all
The world that each must be enrolled?"
Old Jacob winced, "Are north winds cold?
Are deserts dry? Do fishes swim
And ravens fly? I do. A grim
And awful year it was for me.
Why do you ask?" "I have a debt
To pay, and I must see how much.
Why do you say that it was such
A grim and awful year?" He raised
The stump of his right arm, "So dazed,
Young man, I didn't know I'd lost
My arm. Do you know what it cost
For me to house the Son of God?"
The old man took his cedar rod
And swept it ‘round the place: "Empty.
For thirty years alone, you see?
Old Jacob, poor old Jacob runs
It with one arm, a dog and no sons.
But I had sons . . . once. Joseph was
My firstborn. He was small because
His mother was so sick. When he
Turned three the Lord was good to me
And Rachel, and our baby Ben
Was born, the very fortnight when
The blessed family arrived.
And Rachel's gracious heart contrived
A way for them to stay—there in
That very stall. The man was thin
And tired. You look a lot like him."
But Jesus said, "Why was it grim?"

"We got a reputation here
That night. Nothing at all to fear
In that we thought. It was of God.
But in one year the slaughter squad
From Herod came. And where do you
Suppose they started? Not a clue!
We didn't have a clue what they
Had come to do. No time to pray,
No time to run, no time to get
Poor Joseph off the street and let
Him say good-bye to Ben or me
Or Rachel. Only time to see
A lifted spear smash through his spine
And chest. He stumbled to the sign
That welcomed strangers to the place,
And looked with panic at my face,
As if to ask what he had done.
Young man, you ever lost a son?"

The tears streamed down the Savior's cheek,
He shook his head, but couldn't speak.

"Before I found the breath to scream
I heard the words, a horrid dream:
‘Kill every child who's two or less.
Spare not for aught, nor make excess.
Let this one be the oldest here
And if you count your own life dear,
Let none escape.' I had no sword
No weapon in my house, but Lord,
I had my hands, and I would save
The son of my right hand . . . So brave,
O Rachel was so brave! Her hands
Were like a thousand iron bands
Around the boy. She wouldn't let
Him go and so her own back met
With every thrust and blow. I lost
My arm, my wife, my sons—the cost
For housing the Messiah here.
Why would he simply disappear
And never come to help?"

They sat
In silence. Jacob wondered at
The stranger's tears.

"I am the boy
That Herod wanted to destroy.
You gave my parents room to give
Me life, and then God let me live,
And took your wife. Ask me not why
The one should live, another die.
God's ways are high, and you will know
In time. But I have come to show
You what the Lord prepared the night
You made a place for heaven's light.
In two weeks they will crucify
My flesh. But mark this, Jacob, I
Will rise in three days from the dead,
And place my foot upon the head
Of him who has the power of death,
And I will raise with life and breath
Your wife and Ben and Joseph too
And give them, Jacob, back to you
With everything the world can store,
And you will reign for evermore."

This is the gift of candle three:

A Christ with tears in tragedy
And life for all eternity.

© Desiring God

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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By John Piper. © Desiring God. Website: desiringGod.org

Friday, December 16, 2011

Short and Sweet Friday: CHILD

The name of Jesus I've been meditating on this week is child. Even as far back as Genesis 3, a child was promised to crush evil. Isaiah made reference to a child that would be born of a virgin, one who would be the "Prince of Peace."

Ann Spangler says "One of the reasons I find the gospel so convincing is that it's nothing I would have dreamed up." So true. If you were to dream up a plan of salvation, would it begin with a baby--one who needed to be changed and fed? One who surely got sick? Would you choose him to be the illegitimate son of a teenage mother?

Let us remember that children have a special place in Jesus's heart. He even said we must receive the kingdom of God like a little child, with faith and humility.

May we allow Him entrance to our hearts with the trust of a child, this season and the days to come.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Are You God's Wife?


My mother sent me this e-mail and it really put my thoughts in perspective, particularly amid the chaos of this Christmas season. Enjoy!

Author and lecturer Leo Buscaglia once
Talked about a contest he was asked to judge.
The purpose of the
Contest was to find the most caring child.
The winner was:

1. A four-year-old child, whose next door
neighbor was an elderly gentleman, who had recently lost his
wife. Upon seeing the man cry, the little boy went into the old
Gentleman's' yard, climbed onto his lap, and just sat there.
When his mother asked him what he had
said to the neighbor, the little boy said, 'Nothing, I just
Helped him cry.'
*********************************************
2. Teacher Debbie Moon's first graders were
discussing a picture of a family. One little boy in the picture
had a different hair color than the other members. One of her
students suggested that he was adopted.
A little girl said, 'I know all about
Adoption, I was adopted..'
'What does it mean to be adopted?', asked
another child.
'It means', said the girl, 'that you grew
in your mommy's heart instead of her tummy!'
************************ *********************
3. On my way home one day, I stopped to
watch a Little League base ball game that was being played in a
park near my home. As I sat down behind the bench on the first-
base line, I asked one of the boys what the score was
'We're behind 14 to nothing,' he answered
With a smile.
'Really,' I said. 'I have to say you
don't look very discouraged.'
'Discouraged?', the boy asked with a
Puzzled look on his face...
'Why should we be discouraged? We haven't
Been up to bat yet.'
*********************** **********************
4. Whenever I'm disappointed with my spot
in life, I stop and think about little Jamie Scott.
Jamie was trying out for a part in the
school play. His mother told me that he'd set his heart on being
in it, though she feared he would not be chosen..
On the day the parts were awarded, I went
with her to collect him after school. Jamie rushed up to her,
eyes shining with pride and excitement.. 'Guess what, Mom,' he
shouted, and then said those words that will remain a lesson to
me....'I've been chosen to clap and cheer.'
*********************************************
5. An eye witness account from New York
City , on a cold day in December,
some years ago: A little boy,
about 10 years old, was standing before a shoe store on the
roadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering
With cold.
A lady approached the young boy and said,
'My, but you're in such deep thought staring in that window!'
'I was asking God to give me a pair of
shoes,' was the boy's reply.
The lady took him by the hand, went into
the store, and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks
for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water
and a towel. He quickly brought them to her.
She took the little fellow to the back
part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed
his little feet, and dried them with the towel.
By this time, the clerk had returned with
the socks.. Placing a pair upon the boy's feet, she purchased him
a pair of shoes..
She tied up the remaining pairs of socks
and gave them to him.. She patted him on the head and said, 'No
doubt, you will be more comfortable now..'
As she turned to go, the astonished kid
caught her by the hand, and looking up into her face, with tears
in his eyes, asked her:
'Are you God's wife?'

Friday, December 9, 2011

Short and Sweet Friday: IMMANUEL

Did you know that the different names given to Jesus reveal important insights about his life and ministry? I'm reading Ann Spangler's Praying the Names of Jesus and I can't help but want to share a small portion of the blessing it has been to me. I've decided to set aside Fridays to go over each individual name and highlight what I've learned during the week.

The first name is IMMANUEL, one we hear a lot during the Christmas season because of its awesome meaning, "God with us."

Ann writes "When our sins made it impossible for us to come to him, God took the outrageous step of coming to us....in Jesus we see how extreme God's love is."

How amazing is it that the Creator of the universe desires to be with his people--to be with you! May this truth bless you today and in the coming weeks.

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Twelve Days of Christmas (Re-post)


We set up our Christmas tree yesterday. Sometimes it's too easy to go through the motions without thinking of the true miracle of Jesus's birth. As I do every year, I try to get my kids (and myself) to think of why we do what we do during the Christmas season. This is a post I've taken from last year. It's the story behind that famous holiday song, The Twelve Days of Christmas. Hopefully it will be a great start to giving meaning to the season.

During the sixteenth century, British Catholics were forbidden to practice their faith. Those who broke this law were put into prison, or, if the crime proved severe enough, they would be hung or drawn and quartered. Still, millions refused to abandon their faith and went underground. The Twelve Days of Christmas was a song teaching Catholic children the doctrine of the church. So what do golden rings or a partridge in a pear tree have to do with things of spiritual importance? Keep reading and you may never think of this song the same again.

The children were taught that only pure and true love came from God, so this song was about a heavenly love, not about a boy’s crush on a girl.

Single partridge in a pear tree—A mother partridge lures enemies away from her defenseless chicks in order to protect them. As she sacrifices her own life for her children, so did Christ for us. The pear tree is a symbol of the cross on which Jesus died.

Two turtle doves—symbols of truth and peace, representing the Old and New Testaments.

Three French hens—in the sixteenth century, these were expensive food items reserved for the wealthy. These represent the gold, frankincense, and myrrh brought to the newborn king by the wise men.

Four calling birds—the four authors who told the story of Jesus: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

Five golden rings—stood for the five Old Testament books known as the “law of Moses.” These were to remind the singer of man’s fall from grace, and the awesome fact that a Savior would indeed come to offer salvation.

Six geese a-laying—eggs are a symbol for new life. These six represents how God made the world in six days.

Seven swans a-swimming—the gifts of the Holy Spirit—prophesy, service, teaching, encouraging, giving, leadership, and mercy.

Eight maids a-milking—represents the common man (or woman) whom Christ had come to serve and save. The number eight also represents the beatitudes listed in Matthew: blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, the meek, the hungry, the merciful, the pure of heart, the peacemaker, and the righteous.

Nine ladies dancing—the fruits of the Spirit—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Ten lords a-leaping—the Ten Commandments, represented by lords, who were honorable men and the voice of law in their domain.

Eleven pipers piping—Jesus’ eleven true apostles who took the message of his life and resurrection to the world.

Twelve drummers drumming—symbolizes “The Apostles’ Creed,” taught to all Catholics, containing a dozen different elements.

There you have it—so much more than a silly holiday song, after all. If this song comes dancing across your radio this week, may it be yet another reminder of the true meaning of Christmas!