"What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors, saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'"
December 23, 2015
We have all heard the Christmas story numerous times; perhaps to the point where it has lost some of its meaning for us. Yeah, yeah.... a virgin named Mary conceived when the Holy Spirit came upon her and became pregnant with the Messiah.... she was engaged to be married to Joseph, who was a carpenter..... right before time for her to give birth, they had to travel to Bethlehem to take part in a census..... no room in the inn..... and Jesus was born in a stable..... blah, blah, blah. I'm not trying to be sacrilegious, but sometimes I think that the birth of Jesus has become a cute story that the little kids act out at church on Christmas; and that over time, the meaning and awesomeness of God sending His Son as a baby to be our Savior has became lost. I want the wonder of the reason we celebrate Christmas to become more real and alive in my heart. I want to be in awe of the miracle of what this season represents.
A while back I was driving down the road and God placed something in my heart regarding miracles. The birth of Jesus really was a miracle. There is no way that a virgin can conceive and become pregnant without it being a miracle. That is not something that Mary could have done on her own. When the angels visited the shepherds out in the field and announced the birth of Jesus, that was a miracle. The shepherds couldn't conjure up angels proclaiming this great message on their own, no matter how hard they concentrated or tried to do so. The star leading the wise men to the place where Mary, Joseph, and baby Jesus were staying, so that they could worship Him and honor Him with gifts, was a miracle. We've all seen stars, and I don't think any of them have ever led us to the location of a miracle.
Here's the message that God spoke to my heart: the miracles didn't begin with the birth of Jesus. There have been miracles since the beginning of time. Genesis chapter one begins with a miracle. God spoke the world into being. How awesome is that?! In a span of seven days, God created the heavens and earth and everything on the earth.... He created man.... and even took the last day as a day of rest. Wow! That is a huge miracle. Scientist can do their best to try and explain it away as some great phenomenon that occurred, but God spoke and created, and the heavens and earth and everything upon it are here because of Him. Any great phenomenons that occurred were because God allowed and caused it to happen. So when we read the very first words in Genesis, "In the beginning God created" we know that it all began with a miracle.
The Bible is full of examples of God-given miracles. The truth is, only God can perform miracles; man cannot do the impossible, unless God works through him and allows it!
When the Israelites were fleeing from the Egyptians and God parted the Red Sea so that they could cross on dry ground -- that was a miracle. It wasn't just a handful of people who were needing to get across in order to escape the enemy, but there were thousands of adults and children and animals. In fact, according to Exodus 12:37 there were 600,000 men, plus women and children! Verse 38 tells us that there were some non-Israelite people who also went with them, along with great flocks and herds of livestock. I don't know the exact number, but if there were 600,000 men and a great number of them were married, then if most of the couples had at least a couple of kids, then you are looking at well over a million people! It would have taken a long time for them all to cross over the Red Sea. But God held back the waters that entire time so that they all could get safely across. As soon as the Egyptians got to the Red Sea and tried to cross behind the Israelites in order to capture them, God caused the waters to roll back and drown them. The entire army of Pharaoh was destroyed. This was all a miracle of God!
When Daniel was thrown into the den of hungry lions for an overnight stay, God shut the mouths of the lions and Daniel was not hurt in any way and walked out the next morning. That is a miracle!
When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into the hot burning furnace for refusing to bow down and worship an idol, God went into the furnace with them and they walked back out without one hair of their head being singed, and they didn't even smell of smoke. That was a miracle!
Jonah survived three days in the sea in the belly of a big fish, before being spit up on dry ground in Ninevah. That was a miracle!
When Joshua and the Israelites marched around Jericho seven times, blew their trumpets and gave a shout, then the walls collapsed and the city was destroyed -- that was a miracle.
In Joshua 10:13 we read, "So the sun stood still and the moon stayed in place until the nation of Israel had defeated its enemies. Is this event not recorded in The Book of Jashar? The sun stayed in the middle of the sky, and it did not set as on a normal day." That was a miracle!
David, a young shepherd boy, defeating a giant named Goliath with only a slingshot and a stone, was a miracle.
The Old Testament is full of other examples of miracles. Miracles aren't something that began with the conception of Jesus in Mary's womb. It didn't begin when Jesus performed His first miracle in His earthly ministry by turning the water into wine. They began when God spoke the world into existence and have been ongoing ever since.
During Jesus' ministry on earth we read of blind eyes being opened, deaf ears being unstopped, dead being raised to life, demons being cast out, lame walking, etc. Those were great miracles.
When Jesus was crucified, He rose from the grave on the third day. That was a miracle!
But the miracles continued after Jesus ascended into heaven. Many sick were healed and delivered. An angel sprung Peter from prison. Paul was bitten by a poisonous snake, but he shook it off into the fire and was unharmed. Just because Jesus was no longer on earth didn't mean that the miracles stopped.
Throughout every single era of history there have been many records of miracles. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever and He is still willing to do miracles today. He hasn't withdrawn His miracle working power from the earth, but is still able to do the impossible.
Do you need a miracle in your life or in your family today? Don't stop praying and don't stop believing! I don't understand why some are healed from cancer and other diseases and some aren't. I don't understand how and why God works as He does. But as long as I have breathe in my body, I'm not going to stop praying and asking and believing God to perform miracles. I'm going to keep praying for the salvation of loved ones. I'm going to keep praying for healing in bodies. I'm going to keep praying for those in bondage to be delivered. I'm going to keep praying for relationships and families to be healed. I'm not going to give up praying and believing for miracles!
I encourage you this Christmas season to allow the true meaning of what we're celebrating to resonate in your heart and become more real than ever before. I pray that hope and faith will fill your heart as you pray and believe God for miracles in your own life and family!
I think we all know how awesome it is that God sent Jesus to pay for our sins. But we don't always focus on His childhood. Jesus came as a helpless newborn baby. He went from being the all powerful Son of God, to being an infant. He had to be fed, clothed, kept warm, and even changed, just like any mortal child.
He even went through puberty. That's definitely not something I can imagine volunteering for.
We know that He had to pay an ultimate price to cover the cost of our sins; and He took the stripes on His back to give us healing. I don't know that He had to go through childhood for us, but He did it anyway. And now, He understands us in a way He might not be able to otherwise.
Granny Schwyhart's Fudge
1 can evaporated milk
1 jar marshmallow cream
4-1/2 cups sugar
1 stick butter
24 ounce package Nestle chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups nuts (optional)
Put evaporated milk and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil for 6 minutes. Stir constantly to keep from scorching after 4-1/2 minutes. In a large bowl put all other ingredients. Pour boiling mixture over ingredients in bowl. Stir until glossy. Pour in a buttered pan.
(I like nuts in my fudge and Jon doesn't, so I pour half of the fudge in one buttered dish; add in the nuts and stir, then pour the remaining fudge in another dish.)
A while back I told Jon that I really missed the old Christmas plays that churches used to do -- and he had no idea what I was talking about, because he's never gotten to experience that. I'm not talking about the cantatas and kids musicals and productions or acting out the nativity -- but the plays that churches used to act out and perform when I was a kid. It was a big deal, and I remember in particular that Highview and Elm Tree always scheduled their plays on different nights of the week so that we could visit one another's church and see their play. Sometimes we would do a couple different plays so that more people could participate. All ages would be involved from the older people to the kids. Sometimes the kids would sing a song or quote Christmas poems. Sometimes the plays were a little hokey, but that's what made them fun and enjoyable and I absolutely loved it! It was a big deal and we'd even close the curtains on the stage between scenes and have props.
Afterwards the church would hand out little brown paper bags with either an apple or orange in it, a few pieces of candy, and a few nuts. It was awesome!
One play that I remember in particular was at Elm Tree Church and was named "The Old Bus". It had been written by one of the women in the church. They had big pieces of cardboard that had been put together and painted to look like the side of a bus. People sat in chairs by the cutout windows and bounced up and down like they were riding in a bus. I don't remember the storyline, but the set has stuck in my head!
What great memories!
The Son of God became a man to enable men to become the sons of God. - C.S. Lewis
We love you!
Loretta & Jon