No Room in His Heart

Image result for picture of the stable jesus was born inJoel, the inn keeper, pulled out his bag of gold and dumped the contents on the table in front of him.  Things were going well for His Inn now that the tax season was here.  People were returning from throughout Israel to Bethlehem to register in their hometown for the tax.  That, of course, meant that they would have to find a place of lodging somewhere in the little city.  Many still had families in the area, but there were also lots of folks that had no family nearby.  It was winter, and even in Israel, the temperature dropped at night.  All this meant more gold for the only Inn in town, and for Joel.

He smiled broadly as he counted the week’s profits.  Certainly, he had to acquire more help to keep the rooms tidy and clean, but he had been able to get several youths to work in the rooms, and they had not expected high wages.  Yes, it was a very good season, so far.  He looked at the map of the Inn.  There was still an area that was unoccupied, the King’s Suite so to speak.  He kept these two rooms vacant so that he could offer special lodging to royalty should any come.  The King’s Suite would bring plenty of gold.  Andrew, one of the teens he had recently hired to clean rooms, had questioned this practice, especially if it meant turning needy folks away.  The King’s Suite was the only area vacant for the coming evening.  Joel expected some argument from Andrew.

Sure enough, just as Joel had returned the coins to the bag, a tall, lean teen knocked on his door. It was Andrew, and he was breathless, “There is a couple outside.  They have come all the way from Nazareth, and have been on the road for several days.  The man has been walking while the woman rode a donkey.  She especially looks tired and VERY pregnant.   Please, can’t we open the King’s Suite to them?   They look like they really need to rest, and there is something very special about them.”

Joel was indignant!  “What?  Let commoners into the King’s Suite?  Then it might take several days to clean the suite and return it to its present grandeur.  No!  Absolutely, not.  We are full!  Tell them to go elsewhere.  Maybe a family in the area can take them in.”

It was a crestfallen Andrew that returned to the young couple.  “Our boss says we are full.  But wait!  The stable!  Would you be interested in using our stable?  I could put in a lot of fresh straw.  There are only a few sheep in there right now.  They are recovering, and can’t be out on cold nights.  We could get hay for your donkey.  It will be warmer than being out in this wind.”

Andrew got the couple settled in the warmest spot in the stable before returning to his duties in the Inn.  It was several hours laterwhent he looked out and saw a light coming from the stable.  “The candles, the straw!…Was the stable on fire?”  He ran out to check.

What he saw amazed him!  The baby had arrived.  He was wrapped in the extra blankets Andrew had provided.  Also in the stable were the shepherds that used the area for their sick sheep.  They were kneeling in front of the couple.  One of them grabbed Andrew’s cloak and pulled him down.  “Get down, kneel down.  This Baby is the Son of God!  The angels sent us back here with the message that He had been born.  There must have been fifty of them!  We heard the most beautiful music.  Look at the glow on the Infant’s face!  Isn’t this all just so amazing!”

After a few minutes, Andrew returned to the Inn.  He tried to awaken Joel to come and see the New Born King but, of course, Joel could not be bothered.  Just as Joel had no room in his inn, he had no room in his heart for generosity, compassion, or faith.  While he looked for an earthly king, he missed the birth of the King of Kings.

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The Mary No One Knew

Image result for picture of mary the mother of jesusMary sat on the corner of her bed with her head in her hands, and tears streaming from her eyes.  How excited she had been six months ago when the angel had visited her with the news:  She was to become the Mother of God!  Then when she began to experience the changes in her body:  the fullness, the morning sickness, the weight gain, she realized that the words that the angel had spoken were actually coming to pass.   She knew that she if she was to keep her secret she must leave home.    She had gone to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who had also been pregnant.

How exciting it had been for both of them when Mary had entered the house!  Elizabeth had immediately recognized that Mary was pregnant, and not just with any child but with the Son of God!  Mary had burst into prophetic song!  “My soul magnifies the Lord…For behold, all generations will call me blessed!”(1)

Mary had continued to stay with Elizabeth during the last trimester of  Elizabeth’s pregnancy, helping the older woman in every way that she could.  When she returned to her home, her morning sickness had gone, but she had another problem:  weight gain just in certain parts of her body.   Her mother was the first to become suspicious.  “Mary are you pregnant?  Did you and Joseph…?”  Mary had glowed with her response.  “Yes, Mother, I am pregnant, but it isn’t Joseph’s child.”  Her mother’s face had fallen.  If it wasn’t bad enough that her daughter had not waited until marriage, now it seemed that she had…, well, she had not even been faithful to Joseph, her fiance.

“No, Mother, it isn’t Joseph’s child, it’s God’s child!”

“Well, of course it is God’s child.  We are all God’s children.”

“But, Mother, this is God’s only Son, the Promised Messiah!  An angel came and talked to me one night.  The Holy Spirit came and overshadowed me.  I am still pure, because this is God’s child!”

Her mother had coughed!  “Well, if this doesn’t beat all the excuses I have ever heard!!  You are pregnant, and instead of owning up to your sin, you are lying about it!  Just think how this sounds!  Has anyone ever even heard of anything like this happening before?  I want you to pack up your things and leave, Mary.  You are a poor example to your younger siblings!”

Mary had next gone to Joseph.  He he had been devastated. “I thought that you loved me, Mary!  I wondered why you went off to Elizabeth’s house.  Now I know what you were doing there!”

Mary had taken hold of Joseph’s arm.  “Please, don’t you understand how special this is!  God has chosen us to be the parents of His Only Son.  I need you to stand by me now, or I will be on the street, maybe even stoned.”

Joseph had pulled his arm away!  “Ha!  You want me to protect you!  If this really is God’s child, don’t you think that God will protect you?  You don’t even believe your own story!”  Joseph answered coldly as he walked away.  However that very night Joseph also had an angelic visitation, and that changed everything!

Mary continued to sit on her bed.  She had made little progress in packing her things.  So much for “all generations calling me blessed,” she remarked ruefully.  She thought about Joseph’s observation that God would protect her.  Yes, she thought, Joseph is right.  If this is God’s son, God will protect Him and me.  God presence is all I need.  A spirit of peace and a rest of faith came over her.  Exhausted, she slept.

The next morning Mary arose, poured some water from the pitcher into the basin, and washed her tear-stained face.  Then she glanced out the window.  Joseph was running toward her house, and there was a big smile on his face!

(1) Luke 1:46,48

Light Dispels the Darkness

Image result for Aerial night view of the rocky mountainsThe Holy Spirit flew over the darkened, mountainous area at the speed of light.   He seemed to be everywhere at once. “So much darkness, so much lack of knowledge, so little of the light of love!”  His movements were watched with keen interest by the Father God.  His communications to the Father were not verbal, not audible, but rather spirit to spirit.

The Spirit slowed and circled downward, not unlike an eagle dropping out of the sky.  From this lowered altitude, the darkness appeared to be broken with tiny points of light.  The Spirit began to hover, flying slowly back and forth, over the area.  In response to the prayers of the Saints, He began to brood over the land.  His brooding changed the hearts of men, melting the hardness, dispelling the unbelief, cultivating them to receive the Seed.  As He brooded, The Father spoke again as He had done in the beginning:  “Let here be light!”  Though they could not be seen from such a height, members of the Lord’s army, each carrying a tiny torch, were infusing the area with light.  The soldiers gathered together and the light intensified as hearts were ignited to burn with His fire.  The area over which the Spirit had flown grew bright.  The Son, the Holy Seed,  was revealed, and He claimed the softened hearts of the men.  The darkness was dispelled.  The area was established in the light of God’s Kingdom.

However, the Spirit, the Father, and the Son were not finished, because much darkness remained.  Hills and valleys were still under the power of the “god of darkness–the god of this world.”  The Spirit would continue to brood.  More soldiers carrying torches would be sent out to ignite flames in the darkened places.  Their task was not complete until all the darkness had been dispelled from the land.

He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love.  (Colossians 1:13)

Give Thanks

This week we will have a special opportunity to give thanks to the God who made us.  I Image result for photo of Thanksgiving cornucopiahave listed some reasons for doing this:

  1.  The Bible tells us to give thanks.  In everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.  (I Thessalonians 5:18)
  2. We should give thanks to God, because no matter what the present circumstances of our lives, He is always there, and He is always faithful to us.  O give thanks unto the God of heaven for his mercy endures for ever. (Psalm 136:26, I Chronicles 16:34))
  3. We should give thanks to God because thanking Him is a part of our testimony to those who do not know Him.  I will give thanks to You, O Lord, among the Gentiles and sing praises to Your name.  (2 Samuel 22:50)
  4. Thanksgiving is a trait of the faith-filled life.  So then just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:7)
  5. Finally, we can give thanks because we know that the outcome of our situations, no matter how dark they look right now, will always turn out for our good.  And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  (Romans 8:28)   My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing the the testing of your faith produces patience.  (James 1:2,3)

GIVE THANKS!

Praying for America!

Image result for free photos of the american flagCheryl pushed her wheelchair closer to the television.  Since her automobile accident more than two years ago, she had been restricted to her wheel chair.  She knew that healing was her right, but somehow it had not yet manifested.  She stared at the television set with an intensity sparked by a personal interest in the story.  She caught glimpses of her friend, Kelly, protesting and promoting her political cause.  Kelly and others were on the steps of the State Capitol.  The TV station even gave Kelly an opportunity to briefly explain her cause on the air.

Cheryl picked up a political flier.  The face of another of her friends was on the front.  Andrea was running for the city council.  Cheryl was so proud of her.  At the same time she was a little envious of her politically-active friends.

Cheryl lowered her head and prayed:  “What can I do for my country, Lord,” she asked.  She could no longer ignore the headlines that boldly announced that her country was in trouble.

Cheryl had to admit that she was confused.  Sometimes she thought that the “right” was right, and the “left”was wrong.   On other issues she thought that the “right” was only partially right.  On still other issues,  she sided completely with the left.

She knew that she should pray, but what should she pray?  Should she just pray, “God bless America?”  She quieted her mind before the Lord.  Several years ago, even before her accident, she had received her prayer language:   the gift of praying in the language of the Holy Spirit.

“Of course!”  Suddenly she understood.   When she prayed in her prayer language, she didn’t understand what she was praying, but she didn’t have to understand.  The Holy Spirit was praying through her in the perfect will of God.  “Even if my politics is wrong, or is misinformed, I can still pray God’s perfect will for America!”  God does have an important role for me to play in politics!   And she began to pray!

The Kinnikinnick Model

Kinnikinnick

Steve walked thoughtfully along the mountain path.  He and his wife were planning to start a church in a neighboring town.  They planned to reach out to smaller towns and villages in the area.  What would that look like?  He needed a model for the outreach.  The Lord seemed to whisper, “Kinnikinnick!”  Steve shook his head.  He was familiar with the ground cover with the strange-sounding name that grew wild in this region.  But a model for a church plant?

He shook his head again.  Again he heard the word “Kinnikinnick”.  He looked down at his feet, and saw the kinnikinnick ground cover.  He reached down, took hold of one of the stems, and pulled gently.  Soon he had an entire string of plants leading from his hand to the ground.  He carefully examined the plant.  He saw that the main plant had established roots, then it had sent out runners in all directions.  Periodically, the runners had sent down more roots, and grown shiny, oval-shaped leaves–a new plant that was still connected to the original plant.  Using this method of reproduction, the original plant was able to cover a hillside with bright, green leaves.

In his study of the plant, Steve learned that in spring, the plants produce white or pink flowers that by fall turn into red berries that birds love and are safe even for humans to eat.  The berries can make a tea that can be used medicinally to treat bladder and kidney disorders.  They bring healing!!! 

Often in fall, the leaves turn a rich wine color, giving a beautiful contrast to the bright, red berries.  This fruitful plant is hearty in sun, in shade, and in drier conditions.  It is non-invasive.  It will not crowd out other plants, but grows harmoniously with them.

Steve turned over the portion of the plant in his hand.  “Humm, This plant is interconnected, reproduces, bears fruit, brings healing, is beautiful, hearty, and non-invasive.  Yes, that is just what I want for our church plant.”

The Sangre de Cristo

Image result for photos of sangre de cristo mountains

A Portion of the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) Range at Sunset

Pastor Harold Bodin* sat at his old, wooden desk with his hands folded in prayer.  “Help, Lord,” he prayed. “I have been faithful here and at first you seemed to bless the ministry of this tiny church in Moffat.  We thought we were in a real revival, but now everything seems to have stagnated.  Most of the folks here are faithful, but all of us are tired of the routine.  No new folks come to town, and we are out of ideas to reach out to the rest of our residents.  What can we do to bring new life to this ministry? ”

Harold turned on his computer and was on his way to a familiar site when a pop-up ad appeared.  “Suggestions for Struggling Churches.”  Harold clicked on the link and read through the bulleted list:

  • Click here for on-line prayer help.
  • Connect with other believing churches in your area.  (The site gave opportunity for individuals and churches to leave contact emails and zip codes)  Fellowship with other believers is important.
  • Organize an area meeting.  (Our organization will send out a team to meet with you and/or provide a mini-conference.)
  • View our live services either for resource material or you may project them to your congregation.
  • Take on-line classes from our school of ministry.

Harold scribbled down a few notes.  He had already sent an email to the pastor of a young church in the town of Saguache eighteen miles away.   Almost immediately the answer came back: “Let’s meet.  I am open on Thursday and Friday afternoons.  I believe that God has such a destiny for this area.  Do you realize that every morning before the sun comes up the great Sangre de Cristo range casts a shadow across this entire valley?  Think of it!!  We are overshadowed by “The Blood of Christ” every morning!  However, it is at sunset, in the last rays of the sun, that these majestic mountains turn blood-red.  What a beautiful type and visual image for those of us who are serving our Lord here!”

Harold got up and walked outside just in time to catch the breath-taking glow of the sunset on the Sangre de Cristo range.  Already Harold felt encouraged.  He breathed a silent prayer, “Thank you, Lord, for the blood of Christ that saves us and washes us so we can have fellowship with You.”

*this is a fictitious name.

A view of the town in winter.

Moffat with the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in the background.  Dry summers and frigid winters result in sparse vegetation and sparse population.

The Sangre de Cristo Range