Random Acts of Kindness Award

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Thank you Jess of jesskidding.wordpress.com for nominating me for the Random Acts of Kindness Award today. I enjoy following her blog as she shares about her family life and faith.

Amy of anewlife had also nominated me the other week, but I had not followed through yet, so when Jess did today, it seemed like the idea was knocking.

God knows how to get our attention and often does in ways we don’t realize what is happening until after it occurs. When I was a student in a bible college in Minneapolis, I was experiencing a difficult time and had 33 cents until my next payday a few days later. I went to a convenience store a few blocks away to buy a package of Ramen noodles for at least something to eat for that day. While I was looking at the Ramen noodles, a man came over to me and said, “You’re a student at the bible college aren’t you?” I told him I was and he said, “Let me buy you some food,” He bought me enough food for a week. We went to the cashier and he paid the cashier. I wanted to thank him and went to the parking lot to do so. It was only a matter of seconds, so there wasn’t enough time for him to be gone. When I went out to the parking lot, he was gone. There was no sign of him anywhere. It made me think of the Hebrews 13:2- “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” I had not shown him hospitality, but I was sure God had sent a messenger to help me.

Another moment that made me think of that verse happened a month before that day. In November 1991 there was a 14 inch snow that fell close to Thanksgiving Day. Being in the inner city, the sidewalks were not cleared off. I walked to a market to buy some food and saw an older woman struggling to walk in the snow. I went up to her and asked if I could help. She told me she needed to get to the pharmacy for her blood pressure medicine. I helped her walk the three blocks by walking backwards, stomping footprints for her to step in, while holding her hands. While we were walking, I wanted to reassure her I wasn’t a danger to her, so I told her I was a student at bible college and worked at Billy Graham ministries part-time. She looked at me and said, “I pray for Billy Graham. I am a big believer in prayer especially when it seems there is no hope.” I had just told God there was no hope and I wasn’t going to pray before I left my place. We made it to the pharmacy and she told me she would be fine. I started to walk to the market, but want to make sure she would be okay. I went back to the pharmacy for check on her and she was nowhere to be found. I asked the cashier about her and the cashier told me no one had come in yet that day.

I would like to nominate Lily of retrospectivelily. She shares about her life with an autoimmune disease, her faith, and also about literature.

I would also like to nominate faithonthefarm a blogger who shares his faith.

Thank you for reading. God Bless.

 

Here are the rules:

• Tell who you nominate and why.

• Copy and share the picture that shows the award, posted above.

• Share a paragraph of something that impacted your own life in the way of receiving kindness or how you extended kindness to someone else.

• Nominate anyone or share to your own page. If you so choose to Participate. Tag or ping-back to the original person who nominated you, or the original post.

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Christmas Season- …Name Him Jesus for He Will Save His People…

When children are born, one of the most important decisions is what name to give to the baby. Names have meaning to them. Some names are from grandparents or parents. Other babies are named because of the meaning behind the name. We have celebrities who are known their first name. If someone says Oprah there is little doubt show they are talking about.

The angel told Mary her baby’s name would be Jesus. The angel told Joseph to name the baby Jesus. in that culture it was the father chose the names of the babies. Joseph was Jesus’ earthly step-father, so on earth it was his role to choose a name for the baby, however, it was God who actually chose the name Jesus.

The name Jesus means salvation. That is why the angel told Joseph to “name Him Jesus for He will save His people from their sin”. The whole purpose of Jesus coming to earth was to save us. God wants us back with Him. God wants us to be His children. He loves us so much that He sent His best. He sent His only Son, Jesus.

Christmas Season- A Choir of Angels

When God wanted to announce the birth of Jesus, He first had one angel make the announcement to the shepherds. After the announcement was made, it was time for the musical celebration. I have been blessed to hear several choirs sing wonderful songs. My favorite is still the Hallelujah Chorus in Handel’s Messiah. I have heard many choirs sing the Hallelujah Chorus. Still to this day that song moves me. However wonderful a choir may sound, it cannot compare to that first choir celebrating the birth of Jesus.

The bible tells us in Luke Chapter 2 that after the angel made the announcement, “a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel praising God.” They sang “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” Imagine being there to witness the heavenly host appearing and singing. It would have been a stunning and breathtaking sight.

As glorious as that was, what is even more amazing to me is who God shared this with. He shared it with shepherds out in the field. It was not a formal event with a red carpet that was invitation only with the invitations going to the rich and famous. It was a spectacular event shared with the lowly of the culture to show that God’s love is for all people.

Christmas Season- God’s Way of Announcing the Birth of Jesus

I always enjoyed the new product launch announcements by the late Steve Jobs when Apple would launch a new product or updated product. He would come out on stage dressed in a black turtleneck and bluejeans with a big screen behind him showing the new product. Millions of people waited in anticipation of the new product whether it be the iPod, iPhone or iPad. When anyone plans a major announcement like running for political office, introducing a new coach etc, it is a major event with the press there to cover it and put it on TV and the internet.

In contrast when it was time to announce the birth of Jesus, God did not call the press corps to cover it. There media coverage available. They did not have TV, radio or internet back then. God sent angels to announce the birth of Jesus, but not to the rich and important of society. God sent the angels to shepherds who were in the fields watching their sheep at night. Think about the significance of God sending the angels to shepherds. Shepherds were not important in that culture. They had hard lives which consisted of staying with the sheep 24 hours a day 7 days a week. By sending the angels to the shepherds God announced to the world not only that Jesus was born, but also that Jesus is for all people no matter what their standing in society is.

It is also interesting to reflect on the fact that these shepherds took care of sheep and lambs. When Jesus came to John the Baptist at the river, John cried out “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” The angels announced to the shepherds that the Savior of World had been born. Jesus would become the Savior by sacrificing Himself on the cross and the Lamb of God.

Jesus is for all people and wants all people to come to Him. No one is unimportant to Him. His love is equal for all people.

Christmas Season- Angels Amazed

Several years ago I wrote a drama monologue from the perspective of the angel Gabriel and what he must have thought to see Jesus born as a baby. The piece began with Gabriel looking down at the manger and then coming down to check it out and being stunned by the scene. Think about the angels who had served Jesus since He created them. They had not only served Him over the centuries, but had also seen Jesus in His glory in heaven. They had seen Him as He really is in the fullness of His glory.

The bible says in I Peter 1:12 that the angels long to look into things pertaining to our salvation. They long to understand God’s love for us and to comprehend the plan of God. I think about how the angels must be amazed by God’s love for us especially since they have never sinned against God. How they must be in wonder over the love God has for us.

Then ponder the fact that the angels who had worshiped Jesus for countless eons, witnessed Him being born as a human baby. Jesus was sent by the Father because as the bible says in John 3;16, “For God so loved the world, He gave His one and only Son so that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” How they must have marveled at the sight of Jesus the Son of God laying in a manger which was a feeding trough for animals. One day Jesus was on His throne in heaven and nine months later He was a newborn human baby  in a stable surrounded by animals. It is incredible enough for us to ponder, but think about the angels who knew Him in all of His glory in heaven. No wonder the bible says they long to look into the things pertaining to our salvation.

Christmas Season- Joseph’s 3rd Dream- Guidance

In our modern culture filled with things like twitter, facebook, emails, youtube, internet, and TV, it can difficult for us to imagine having none of those things to help us communicate major events. At the time Jesus was born, they didn’t have any of those forms of communication. Communication between people in different countries could take months via a message brought by a friend. When Herod died, it was safe for the Holy Family to return to Israel. The vicious ruler, who had wanted to kill Jesus, had died. God sent the message to Joseph through the 3rd dream of Joseph. The angel spoke to Joseph and told Joseph it was safe to return because the one who wanted to kill Jesus had died.

Joseph brought Mary and Jesus back to Israel, but after hearing it was Herod’s terrible son Archelaus who reigned in Judea, Joseph took the family to Nazareth. Even in this small detail an ancient prophecy was fulfilled about Jesus being called a Nazarene.

God spoke to Joseph in three dreams that we have recorded. In those dreams God gave Joseph assurance and guidance and revealed to Joseph God’s plan. Joseph followed through on God’s guidance and did what he was told to do.

When I reflect on Joseph’s part of the Christmas events, I wonder if I listen to God enough. Do we in the modern world rely so much on our technology that we do not listen to God? Do we get so busy that we do not make time for God? I remember an older gentleman at my church and what he asked a pastor who was excited about new technology at the church office. he asked him “does it pray for you?” I am not against modern technology at all. I use it all of the time. I am simply pondering whether we listen to God like Joseph did or do we try to keep God in a box and limit God’s influence in our lives. My desire is to reconnect with God this Christmas Season and take time to reflect on the people and events of the first Christmas.

 

Christmas Season- Joseph’s 2nd Dream Leads the Family to Safety

The angel spoke to Joseph in three dreams. The first one was to assure Joseph the baby Mary was pregnant with was indeed from God. The second dream was a warning to get out of town fast because danger was coming. King Herod was furious that the three wise men did not return to tell him where the baby was, so Herod ordered all of the male babies under 2 years of age to be killed in Bethlehem. Imagine what must have been going through Joseph’s mind as he woke Mary up and told her they needed to flee to safety. As Mary’s husband and Jesus’ step-father, Joseph was responsible for their protection and welfare. He was told by the angel in his first dream that the baby was from God and now the angel tells him the baby is in danger.

So the Prince of Peace was born and King Herod wanted to kill Him. Jesus who came to bring us back to God, who healed the sick, who brought the dead back to life and performed many other miracles, as a baby was a threat to a king. Love had come into the world in the baby Jesus and evil wanted to destroy Him.

It makes me want to pray for the protection of those I care about and also pray to be able show His love to those who have suffered due to the violence of others such as my friends who have come her as refugees and my friends who have come here seeking a better life and have been taken advantage of. There is great deal of suffering in the world and there are people around us who need love and compassion.

Christmas Season- Joseph’s First Dream was one of Assurance and Guidance

Joseph is a good example of how we at times need assurance from God and at times need guidance from God. Joseph had planned to quietly divorce Mary, so she would not be publicly disgraced and be at risk of public stoning. He did not believe Mary at first, but did not want to harm her. In America when we have a big decision to make we like to say “let me sleep on it” as in give me some time to make a good decision. Well Joseph literally slept on it. He went to sleep and the angel spoke to him in his dream to tell him that the child Mary was going to have actually was from God and to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife.

There are times we can face a big decision or have confusion. During those times it helps to slow down long enough to hear God’s calm voice of guidance. Take time to pray and meditate on God’s word. God is speaking all of the time. It might be through friends, through life circumstances, or through prayer. He may even speak to us in a dramatic fashion if we don’t listen to His first messages and He wants to get our attention like He did with Joseph.

When the angel spoke to Joseph in the dream, the angel gave Joseph assurance about God’s will by saying the child was from the Holy Spirit and to not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. There are times we need assurance that we are in God’s will. The angel also gave Joseph instruction regarding God’s plan. The angel told him, “you are to name him Jesus because He will save His people from their sins.” Joseph had his first instructions as to what he needed to do. As we read later in Matthew’s account, Joseph followed directions by naming the baby Jesus. When we ask for guidance, it will come with directions. The follow through is what we need to ask God for strength to do sometimes.

Christmas Season- Swirling Thoughts in Mary’s Mind

Life can turn and change so quickly at times. We experience the highs and joys and then reality comes crashing in and we hit a low point. Things can happen so swiftly that we can feel like our minds are swirling in the currents of  life. I often wonder how Mary must have felt during the weeks before and after the birth of Jesus. She had already made it through the initial difficulty of revealing to Joseph that she would have a miracle baby from God, Joseph not believing her, and then God speaking to Joseph so he would believe and take Mary as his wife. Then the long journey while due any day pregnant to the town of Bethlehem. A journey made riding on a donkey, not in a luxury car. Then they can’t find a room anywhere and Jesus is born in a stable where animals normally ate and slept. This is the baby that the angel told her is from God. The most special baby ever born and there they were in a stable.

Then shepherds come rushing to them after Jesus was born and tell them about angels visiting them to tell them about the birth of Jesus and of all the wonderful things the angels told them. The bible says that Mary-“treasured these things in her heart”. What wonderful memories to treasure: Gabriel’s message to her, the angel speaking to Joseph, and angels announcing the birth of Jesus to shepherds. Not to mention being visited by wise men from the East who brought expensive gifts to Jesus.

But there were also ominous warnings she heard such as what Simeon said to her about a sword piercing her soul and the angel speaking to Joseph to flee to Egypt because King Herod was seeking to kill the baby Jesus. These kind of events do not seem to fit in with a Joy to the World scenario of a “happiest time of the year” overly romanticized holiday we celebrate in America. They certainly not seem to fit with the joy a new mother would feel with her new baby.

I also wonder at times how Mary must have felt about the seeming contradiction between the song she sang under inspiration of the Holy Spirit when she visited her cousin. The one where she said all generations will call me blessed and even her older cousin called her blessed among women. Contrast with the gossip she must have endured in her hometown of Nazareth.

Mary went through all of these things as a result of saying yes to God’s plan. She stepped out in faith trusting God to take care of her. She stayed faithful to her call even to the point of watching her son die on the cross. She was there at the foot of the cross watching him die a horrible death. I wonder what she was thinking at that time. She would also see him after He was raised from the dead.

There may be conflicting views about Mary within Christendom, but the one thing we should all agree on is that Mary deserves to be respected. Respected for her faithfulness to God and willingness to serve God at her own expense and resulting difficulties. Respected for the example her life is of living for God. Most of all respected because she is the mother of Jesus and ministered to Jesus as His mother and was there for Him when He died.

Christmas Season- the Angel Gabriel Speaks to Mary

Luke Chapter 1:26 to 33-  26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

Thanksgiving is over here in America and it seems the Christmas Advent Season came so quickly. Nevertheless, my thoughts now turn to the first Christmas when Jesus was born.

Imagine being Mary and suddenly an angel appears to you. Mary was perhaps 14 or 15 at the time.  She was engaged to Joseph and her life was normal and then all of the sudden out of nowhere an angel is talking to you. She is startled by his appearing and his words trouble her. He says “Greetings you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” This is not a normal greeting. Even back then people didn’t just walk around saying greetings like “you who are highly favored” to each other. Understandably Mary is troubled by this surprise visitation. We would all be troubled if an angel popped out of nowhere and began speaking to us.

The angel Gabriel tells her, “do not be afraid Mary”. Easy for the angel to say, but perhaps not so easy for Mary to be speaking to an angel. He goes on to tell her that she will have a son who will sit on David’s throne. Mary knows the promises from the law and the prophets that the Messiah will come. Now this angel is telling her that she will give birth to the Messiah. Imagine being in her place. One minute you are minding your own business walking along on a normal day. The next minute the angel Gabriel pops out of nowhere and tells you that you will give birth to the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

One thing I have learned about following God- expect the unexpected. God ways are not our ways. He is always at work around us, but to us it seems sudden when it happens in our lives. We go about our normal everyday lives, and surprise God shows up. We think our situation is hopeless or we think God has forgotten us, and then there He is doing His work and we are surprised. The Romans had occupied Israel for so long that there seemed little hope of a Messiah coming, and now an angel is telling Mary that she will give birth to the Messiah.

Only one small problem that Mary can think of at that moment. If she is to give birth to the Messiah, the problem is that she is a virgin. In our modern society it is possible for a virgin to have a baby with medical intervention. Back then doctors thought bloodletting was a good idea. They did not have hospitals or OB-GYN doctors. So Mary asks the angel a question, “How can this be since I am a virgin?” Gabriel tells her that the she will conceive of the Holy Spirit and the child will be the Son of God. He tells her that nothing is impossible with God. How many times have we had a situation we think is impossible? The birth of Jesus by the Virgin Mary is a testimony that stands for all time of how nothing is impossible for God. Tomorrow I will look at her response to all of this. For today I want to reflect on the fact that NOTHING IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR GOD.