Saturday, December 10, 2016

The Heart of Christmas: The Gift that Was More than Enough


Not enough. 

Whether there's not enough money to pay the bills or not enough food to feed hungry children, not having enough can be a terrible problem. Isaiah 49 tells us  that God experienced a type of "not enough" situation.

This is a Messianic passage in which God says (Leanna paraphrase), "Sending Jesus for Israel alone is not enough. Restoring the preserved tribes of Jacob is not enough." 

If the Messiah was to be sent as the sacrifice for Israel's sin (and He was), it would be a HUGE price to pay. Justifying that sacrifice would require an enormous gain. Israel alone, though dearly loved by God, would not be enough.

"He says, 'It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light to the nations so that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." Isaiah 49:6 nasb

In a way, our Triune God was saying, "If We're going to pay this price for sin, let's make it totally worth it by paying for the sin of everyone. Gentiles and pagans, too."

The plan was that Jesus would be a light to everyone, and His salvation would reach to the remotest parts of the earth. If Jesus had just come for Israel, I'd have been left out. This verse reveals the provision made me for. For you. 

"Let's save them all." It's how our redemption was possible.

Ponder that for a minute. Jesus is the light to the nations that redeemed the ones who didn't even know His name. 

As we celebrate this Christmas season, let's remember that it's not about the boxes under the tree. It's about the Broken Body that redeemed us. 

Today, let's live as the redeemed who have been purchased by the Price that was More than Enough. The Blood of Jesus. 
________
In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Reward that Came in the Most Unlikely Way 

#advent #Jesus

Friday, December 9, 2016

The Heart of Christmas: The Reward That Came in the Most Unlikely Way


Isaiah painted a beautiful word picture that helps clarify what Christ came to give us. Read these words aloud and savor them for a moment:


"Behold, the Lord God will come with might,
With His arm ruling for Him.
Behold, His reward is with Him,
And His recompense before Him.
Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs,
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes."
Isaiah 40:10,11 nasb

He's talking about Jesus. 

If we look carefully at these verses, we'll see an amazing thing. His arm rules. His reward is with Him. His arm gathers and carries the lambs.

Isaiah describes a shepherd who stretches out his hand, gathers his weak little lambs in his arms, and carries them. He snuggles them close in His powerful arms. 

The relationship is the reward, but it's also the way our Lord rules. 

Because The Good Shepherd holds us close enough for us to hear His heartbeat, and for Him to hear ours, there's an intimacy that is unescapable. 

We can know Him, and when we do, we'll want to follow.

This is not the rule of a tyrant. This is the rule of a much-loved, and greatly loving, Father.

Savor that truth for a moment. 

He loves us enough to hold us close. To know us. To gently lead us.

When we know Him, we'll want to follow. 

Today, let's ask ourselves this important question: Do I know Him so well that I want to follow our Lord?

If the answer is no, spend some time in the Word of God today. Get to know Him and ask Him to reveal Himself to you as the Good Shepherd who loves His sheep.

If the answer is yes, revel in the relationship that is the reward. Our Good Shepherd willingly laid down His life for us, then took it up again to give us the intimacy of a relationship that can't be found anywhere else. 

He's a Good Shepherd who He carries His lambs and leads His ewes. Follow Him.
___________
If God leads you to help support this ministry, (prayer and outreach, both digital and in-person) you can use this link: Support Leanna's Ministry (use account #4841)


In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Lamb-Carrying Shepherd and the Glory of God
#advent, #Jesus 





Thursday, December 8, 2016

The Heart of Christmas: The Lamb-Carrying Shepherd and the Glory of God


Some of the most powerful words about our Savior were written by Isaiah. Today, I read those words, not as a separate section, but as the continuation of a difficult time in Israel's past. 

It's left me stunned and blinking back tears at the majestic sweetness of our Abba Father.

Hezekiah was dying. My doctor-interpretation of Scripture is that he was septic from a large abscess. (Leanna paraphrase coming up.)

Isaiah came to visit with glum words. "God says, 'Get your house in order, King Hezekiah. You're about to die.'" 

Everything Isaiah had ever prophesied came true, so Hezekiah's response surprises me. He turned away from Isaiah and prayed. "Remember all I've done for you, Lord." 

That doesn't quite fit Jesus' Model Prayer formula, but God accepted it. "Okay. I'll add fifteen years to your life. And I'll defend you. And I'll give you a sign. And I'll cause time to go backward."

You might think that Hezekiah would be so humbled by this miracle of grace that he would never get over it. You'd be wrong. Hezekiah became proud and it was his downfall.

The king of Babylon sent spies to Hezekiah and he showed them everything from his house to the treasury to the entire dominion. 

Isaiah couldn't believe it. "What did you show them?"

"Everything. It's all mine, and I can show it off if I want to..." Those weren't quite his words, of course. But that's what his heart said.

"Bad move, King. Jerusalem will be completely destroyed and your descendants will be captives in Babylon."

I'd have kept this to myself if I'd thought it, but Hezekiah actually told Isaiah, "That's okay. As long as it happens after I'm dead, I don't care." (Again, the heart of what he said, but not his exact words.)

It's a good thing I'm not God. If I had been, I might have zapped Hezekiah on the spot for that. 

Instead, our God sent the most breathtaking prophesy of our Savior imaginable. The words were so beautiful that Handel put them to music. They've played in my head for hours this morning.


Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken."

"Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs,
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes."
Isaiah 40:5,11 nasb

Hezekiah was flawed by sin, just as we are. He made mistakes, just as we do. He put the people of God in jeopardy because of His pride. Yet God, in His mercy, never rejected him. He loved this imperfect man enough to tell him about the Savior who would redeem every mistake and cover every sin. He loves us just that much, too. 

The baby in the manger whose arrival we celebrate isn't just a cooing bundle of cuteness. He is the lamb-carrying Shepherd who scooped us up by His sacrifice and showed us all the glory of God.

Today, let's celebrate that glory that arrived in a manger only to shine brightest in the darkness of our sin.

Hallelujah! What a Savior!
__________
If God leads you to help support this ministry, (prayer and outreach, both digital and in-person) you can use this link: Support Leanna's Ministry (use account #4841)


In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Heart of Christmas: The Stabilizer
#advent #Jesus  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Heart of Christmas: The Stabilizer


In the midst of uncertain times, we serve a for-sure, never-fail God. 

Isaiah wrote about a time that would be filled with destruction, tumult, and fear. No matter what comes, he wrote, God will still be God.

"The Lord is exalted, for He dwells on high;
He has filled Zion with justice and righteousness.
And He shall be the stability of your times,
A wealth of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge;
The fear of the Lord is his treasure." 
Isaiah 32:5-6 nasb

It's a reminder I need today. Regardless of how far behind I am, how much work I have to do, how uncertain my finances, or how unclear my future seems, God is still God. 

He is still exalted. 

He still dwells on high. 

He still offers justice and righteousness. 

None of our circumstances can change who God is.

The fear (respect, reverence) of the Lord is still our treasure, for when we seek Him, we will find Him. 

Not only do we find relationship with the Most High God, we also find a wealth of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. It's not just a smattering, but more-than-we-need abundance of salvation, wisdom, and knowledge. 

Do we need salvation? Our God is a sinner-saving God.

Do we need wisdom? Our God is a wisdom-giving God.

Do we need stability? Our God is a tumult-stabilizing God.

Do we need hope? Our God is a hope-giving God.

He's a bondage-breaking, future-making, peace-filling God who is able to handle any circumstance we face. 

This Christmas season, let's stop looking to the world for joy and peace. Let's turn our eyes to Jesus, who broke the chains of sin with His precious blood. 

He's the One who loves us most. 

Let's do more than embrace the manger. Let's surrender our hearts to Him in whom our treasure lies. 

Let's live with the cross behind us and heaven itself before us, for the Christ child has come, and He's come for me. He's come for you. 

We once were hopeless, but He has come to give us all the hope we need.

Hallelujah!

______
If God leads you to help support this ministry, (prayer and outreach, both digital and in-person) you can use this link: Support Leanna's Ministry (use account #4841)

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Heart of Christmas: God's Great Compassion
#advent #hope

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The Heart of Christmas: God's Great Compassion


God's people were defiant in their sin. "Stop confronting us..." they told the prophets. (Isaiah 30:11 niv) The people refused every attempt to bring them back to the Lord. 

They were a lot like us. They wanted what they wanted, and they were determined to have it. They didn't really care what God wanted for them.

Our Lord was patient, but there was a limit to His patience. Their sin would have a price that would be hard to bear. What Isaiah described was terrible, but his words were cushioned by some of the most beautiful imagery imaginable.

"Therefore the Lord longs to be gracious to you, and therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you. For the Lord is a God of justice; how blessed are all those who long for Him." (Isaiah 30:18 nasb)

Another translation reads, "He rises to show you compassion." (niv)

Ponder this for a moment: God is on His throne, leaning forward to watch how His people respond to His words, waiting for the time when He can show His great compassion again. Hands on the arms of his throne, He pushes Himself up from the throne with the intention of demonstrating His great love for us.

All that's required is for us to long (or wait) for Him. To turn our hearts fully toward Him.

This waiting, turning, will be accompanied by such blessings as we can't even imagine. 

He will dry our tears and we will weep no more.
God will hear our cries and answer us.
We will see God.
God Himself will be our Teacher.
He will give us clear direction.
We will willingly destroy our idols and embrace obedience. 
(Isaiah 3:19-22)

Even more blessings come with obedience: Provision. Preservation. Peace. Purpose.

Our God longs to radically change our lives for the better, IF we'll allow it.

When His people failed so miserably at obedience, He allowed His plan to proceed, the one He'd made in the garden. 

The plan was Jesus. 

The lover of our soul wrapped Himself in frail flesh and came to redeem us, to restore us, to have relationship with us, to show how much He loves us.

What He offers is worth having. 

It's better than anything we can devise for ourselves. He's already done the hard part. Our job is to turn to Him. Follow. Obey.

Christmas isn't just about the babe in the manger. It's about the Soul-Loving Savior who set us free.

Such a gift demands a response. More than a thank you is required. Nothing short of total surrender will do.

Our enemy would have us believe it's too hard, that surrender would somehow limit us, stifle us, harm us. The author of lies would deceive us so that we would miss the great love demonstrated to us.

Today, let's close our ears to the lies of the world and open our hearts to the One who loves us most. Wait for Him. Long for Him. Surrender to Him.

Rejoice in the nativity but embrace the cross.
________
If you'd like to read more about waiting on God, you might enjoy The Waiting: When the Answer to Your Prayers is Delayed and Your Hope is Gone. It's available from the online store for $10, and the price DOES include tax, shipping and handling. (continental US only)

If God leads you to help support this ministry, (prayer and outreach, both digital and in-person) you can use this link: Support Leanna's Ministry (use account #4841)

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Heart of Christmas: The Costly Cornerstone 
#Jesus #advent #christmas







Monday, December 5, 2016

The Heart of Christmas: The Costly Cornerstone


God's people had continued in a form of religion, but, for most of Isaiah's lifetime, they mingled the worship of idols in with it. In a way, they hedged their bets, worshipping every possible god, in a vain hope to gather the best blessings.

Their idolatry had built a foundation of lies and deception, but it was a shaky, impure foundation that wouldn't hold when the storms of life came their way. 

God spoke through Isaiah. He would lay a foundation that was so solid it would not be shaken. His cornerstone would be tested, with no fault lines in it. A stone that would never crumble or give way. 

He would make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level. They would be the tools by which the builders assured their work was square and solid.

The Cornerstone, of course, is Jesus.

The one who builds his life on faith in Christ, with justice and righteousness as the tools by which decisions are made, "will never be disturbed". 

The word used here literally means, "will never hurry" and suggests the idea of "rushing to safety". 

When our foundation is set on Christ, there's no fear of the future, and no need to rush anywhere else for our safety. 

The photo, above, shows the stones in the Western Wall tunnel of Solomon's temple that made up the back wall of the Holy of Holies. These stones are taller than my head. They're solid and have remained in place for centuries. 

The cornerstone of God would be more secure than those gigantic stones.

And He is.

Our security is not in big retirement funds or lands or houses. It's not in might or wisdom. Our security is in Christ alone. Our cornerstone.

When we anchor our lives on Jesus, they are solid. Secure. Crumble-free.

In the midst of the advent season, let's pause to examine our own hearts. Are we set on Jesus alone or have we incorporated the world's gods, too? Have we mingled false idols into our worship or do we have a pure, Christ-alone faith?

Is our life anchored on our Cornerstone? 

Today, let's tear down the high places in our lives and relinquish the ways of the world. Let's use justice and righteousness as our measure. Let's build on Christ alone. Our cornerstone.
_____


If God leads you to help support this ministry, (prayer and outreach, both digital and in-person) you can use this link: Support Leanna's Ministry (use account #4841)

In case you missed it, here's the link to yesterday's post: The Heart of Christmas: Our Beautiful Crown and Glorious Diadem
#advent #cornerstone #jesus

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Heart of Christmas: Our Beautiful Crown and Glorious Diadem


The "in that day" passages in Isaiah are often frightening in their visual imagery. Today, however, I stumbled across an end times prophecy that is simply beautiful.

"In that day the Lord of hosts will become a beautiful crown 
and a glorious diadem to the remnant of His people; 
A spirit of justice for him who sits in judgment, 
a strength to those who repel the onslaught at the gate." 
Isaiah 28:5-6 nasb

Pause for a moment and read those words aloud. 

If you've lived very long, you know that, even in the twenty-first century, times are often hard. Frightening. Overwhelming. Agonizing. 

Life is not always easy.

When the end times come, and they will, circumstances will be harder. More frightening. More overwhelming. More agonizing. 

But God...

God will still be God. He will still be on the throne. He will still care for His people. No matter what we face. No matter what disaster comes our way.

Isaiah tells us that God will not only be on His throne, He will be a crown for His people. It won't be just a golden circle. He will be a "diadem". A jeweled crown of great magnificence.

This Godly-crowning won't be for the select few "super-saints". This will be for all of His people. I don't know how this will look, but if the presence of God is going to crown us, I want it.

In addition, He will give a spirit of justice to the one who sits in judgment. The one who needs to make a decision will know the right thing to do. 

He'll give strength to the warrior. In the body of Christ, the intercessors are often the ones who get the first word about the enemy's onslaught. He won't just give strength to the ones who fight in the field (the preachers and missionaries), He'll give strength to the intercessors, too. 

For all the women who get up in the night and pray because they can't sleep, God has promised strength. (It doesn't say those words, but I know you're getting up to pray, and God does, too.) Men, he's promised strength to you, too. 

We may not feel like warriors, but, if we belong to Jesus, we are. Strength is promised and it's coming straight from God Himself. 

Take heart today, my brothers and sisters. No matter what comes your way, no matter how hard, our God is still in control, and He will provide all you need to make your way through.
__
Perhaps you've seen God carry you through a dark time already. I've love to hear about it. Feel free to share your story of grace in the comments below.
In case you missed it, here's the link for yesterday's post: The Lavish Banque
____
photo courtesy of freeimages.com
#advent #christmas #Jesus