Posts Tagged ‘Jesus’
Posted on December 6, 2013 - by Dawn Ford
Any of us who have had children know that it would have taken awhile before Mary was able to travel after having given birth to Jesus. In that period of time, it would seem natural that others in the area would have seen the baby Savior before Joseph and Mary moved on. It is pure conjecture, but if I had to choose to be someone who witnessed Jesus, I would’ve chosen to be a child, possibly the Inn keeper’s child or a neighborhood child whose curiosity got the best of them and they stopped by to catch a glimpse at the new born baby. Children have an amazing ability to see things we, as jaded critical adults, do not. What would a child see when they looked upon the face of glory manifest?
In Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”
And in Matthew 18:10 He says, “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.
I don’t think it’s just angels that can see the face of God when looking upon a child. Have you ever witnessed a tender moment of a young child looking at a baby? I’m always amazed at their inherent ability to understand how precious that little babe is, and how gentle that bundle of energy can be toward them.
If I looked through a child’s eyes into the face of my Savior I’m sure I would’ve beheld the face of God. I remember when I looked upon my own children’s face for the first time the infinite joy and love that overcame me. Why is it that babies in general tend to bring out the best in people? Who can deny God in the face of these newly born creations? Not me.
So if I were to behold the face of Jesus, I would want to be as innocent as He. Through a child’s eyes.
Posted on December 3, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
The Bible uses another word for a donkey, but since the world has sullied that word, I’ll stick with donkey. In Bible times, having several donkeys was a sign of wealth. Donkeys aren’t worth much these days.
My parents bought a donkey because they took in a stray dog with a penchant for herding their cows. Their cows were right where they were supposed to be and didn’t need herded. So, they bought a donkey because donkeys would just as soon kick a dog witless than to look at them. Dogs know this and being the smart animals they are, dogs don’t go near donkeys.
It worked pretty good – instead of their dog herding the cows, he stands at the fence and barks until we all go insane – but he doesn’t go near the donkey. My parents decided the donkey was so cute, they’d get a male and have a donkey baby. Soon after one male donkey baby was born, mommy was expecting again. When they separated mommy and daddy, daddy hee hawed until we all really went insane. So they took daddy donkey to the sale barn. They paid more in fees to the sale barn for selling the donkey than they made from the sale.
When dogs aren’t around, donkeys are serene, gentle, and reliable, but they’re also known for being stubborn when it comes to being ridden. I’ve been to a donkey basketball game and trust me, donkeys don’t like to be ridden. Yet the donkeys God used did exactly what He told them to do.
Back in Numbers, he used Balaam’s donkey to teach Balaam a lesson, save his life, and He even gave the donkey the power to speak. In Judges, God used Sampson and a donkey’s jawbone to slew a thousand men. Later, Jesus sent two disciples to find the donkey and her colt for him to ride into Jerusalem and fulfill prophecy before everything went downhill.
Before Jesus’ birth, Mary rode a donkey to Bethlehem. No, the Bible doesn’t say that. It says, “And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.” (Luke 2: 4-5)
No details of how they got there. But the trip from Galilee to Bethlehem was 70 to 90 miles and most scholars believe Mary rode a donkey. Even if Mary didn’t ride a donkey to Bethlehem, I bet there was one in the stable where Jesus was born. The inn owner was probably wealthy and owned lots of donkeys.
Whether there was a donkey at the Nativity or not, God used donkeys in the Bible. I guess I identify with the donkey because if God can use a donkey, surely He can use me.
Posted on December 2, 2013 - by Lorna Seilstad
What time of year is it?
Obviously, it’s Christmas, and as the song says, “it’s the most wonderful time of the year.”
But Christmas goes beyond the shopping sprees, the Christmas programs at school, and stories of Santa and his tiny reindeer. During the next two weeks the Inkspers want to celebrate the greatest gift every given–the birth of our savior, and we want you to step into the story with us.
Most modern theologians agree that Jesus was not actually born on December 25 because the shepherds would not be in the fields in the winter and no census would be taken during the cold season. But the date is not nearly as important as the gift of the Christ child. Have you ever wished you could have been present when Jesus entered the world? Would you have wanted to hear his first cries? Been an angel bringing the good news? Each of us are going to choose someone from the story of Christ’s birth that we’d to exchange places with if only for a moment. Join us every day in the next two weeks and take a fresh look at an age-old story.
Elizabeth spent years of being barren. I can imagine the hours she spent on her knees praying for a baby of her own. When the angel Gabrielle tells Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah that she was going to conceive and bare him a son, Zechariah didn’t believe. He was struck mute until their son was born.
Now, imagine and older mother Elizabeth, several months along, seeing the knowing smile on her husband’s face every day. If only he’d had enough faith he could have shouted for joy every time he saw her!
Elizabeth was heavy with baby John when her unwed cousin Mary came for a visit. According to Luke 1:41-45, here’s what happened. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!’” (NIV)
If I could change places with someone from the nativity story, I’d choose Elizabeth and here’s why.
1. Custom would dictate that Elizabeth would not have been happy with the appearance of her unwed, very young cousin appearing on her doorstep. Still, Elizabeth listened to the Holy Spirit over traditions. How hard that is to do sometimes! She blesses her young cousin with her praises.
2. Baby John leaped in her womb at the sound of Mary’s greeting. If you’ve ever been pregnant, you can imagine what an eye-opening moment that had to be. Elizabeth would never have to doubt that Jesus was Lord.
3. Elizabeth is joyful for Mary. Because it had taken Elizabeth so many years to conceive, she could have been bitter. She could have looked down on Mary. Instead, she lifts her up. I imagine Mary really needed that kind of support at this point in her life. While Mary knew the truth about the child she carried, all those around her did not.
At this time, a girl who became pregnant out of wedlock would have been terrified. The whole social structure was set up for children to be born within marriage. Genealogy and ownership of children was seen as very important. Girls who became pregnant outside marriage would probably have had to leave their homes and their families.
There was the potential of being sold into slavery or of being stoned to death. She may have been married off quickly or banished from her home and village, which may have led a women to prostitution or slavery when she had no way of supporting herself.
But it is in the arms of her older cousin that Mary finds the love, affirmation and support she needs at just the right time. I’d love to be her for day.
What about you? Have you ever thought of Elizabeth’s role in the nativity story?
Posted on October 15, 2013 - by Stacy Monson
When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Do not go over your vineyard a second time or pick up the grapes that have fallen. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the Lord your God.
It’s interesting that these verses fall to me at a time when I’m studying Ruth in a women’s Bible study. In the 2nd chapter of Ruth, she heads out to glean in Boaz’s field. Gleaning meant to pick up the leftovers after the field had been harvested. Not the best of the crop but the leftovers. And yet, those leftovers were what fed Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi.
Here’s the Cliff Notes version of the story of Ruth: Naomi and her family moved from Bethlehem to Moab because there was a famine in Israel. One of the sons married Ruth, the other Orpah. Then the sons died, as did Naomi’s husband. This left the women in quite a bind. When Naomi decided to return home, Ruth insisted on going with her. This is where the “Where you go, I will go” verses come from – Ruth’s insistence on leaving her homeland to accompany her mother-in-law. (Ruth 1:16-18)
Since the women couldn’t just get jobs after arriving in Bethlehem, Ruth went to work in the fields. She “just happened” to glean in the fields of Boaz, a relative of Naomi’s and a wealthy landowner to boot. (Don’t you love it when God provides a “coincidence”?)
By following God’s command not to harvest to the edges of his property and to leave the gleanings for the poor, Boaz was unwittingly providing for the woman who would become his wife. And years later, Jesus would be born of that very lineage.
Nowadays, society tends to be inner-focused, striving to take care of “#1″ and get what we can while we can. This particular directive from God stands against that attitude. He doesn’t tell them not to harvest, just not to be greedy. To make a conscious decision to provide for others.
Perhaps we can follow this command today, especially with the holidays approaching. When we buy a toy for one of our children, why not buy a second to donate to Toys for Tots? Buying a sweater for your grandmother? Buy another for an elderly neighbor. If we have a closet full of warm winter coats that we no longer wear, wouldn’t it be better to give them to someone who has none?
God provides all that we need, and then some. Rather than greedily gathering it all to ourselves, why not find ways to share God’s goodness? If we are blessed to enjoy a harvest, how can we not provide for those who cannot?
How can you provide for the poor and alien in the coming weeks? How will you share your harvest with others?
Posted on October 8, 2013 - by Shannon Vannatter
Therefore said he unto them, The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. (Luke 10:2)
I’ve never been much of a laborer or harvester. I grew up in suburbs of large cities – Chicago and Atlanta. When I was twelve, I moved back to the small town where my parents grew up. Where there are more cows than there are people. This was my first brush with gardens, crops, and farm animals. Though the peacefulness of small town life and wide open spaces grew on me, farming did not.
In the labor department, I’ve caught chickens. In the harvest department, I’ve picked strawberries, okra, and peaches and dug potatoes. Ugghhh to all of it, especially the chickens. Okra and peaches itch the harvester to high heaven. And none of the harvesting is easy on the knees or back even during the teen years.
Since my grandfather had a peach orchard, before the harvest, I used to take a paring knife and walk through the orchard—picking, peeling, and eating peaches—with juice running down my elbows until I couldn’t eat another bite. The orchard is long gone, but I’ve still never tasted a peach that good. Not even fresh from an orchard.
As an adult, my laboring and harvesting ended. I’ve never even planted a garden. Since several of my family members have gardens, they keep me in fresh veggies. And trust me, those things you buy in grocery stores are nothing like the fresh, homegrown variety.
I know, Jesus wasn’t talking about vegetables or fruit. He was talking about souls. But laboring and harvesting veggies is a lot like laboring and harvesting souls. It’s not fun. Or easy. It’s hard to witness to someone you know couldn’t care less. It’s hard when you’ve done it before and they’ve shut you down. It’s hard to witness to strangers. It can prickle your nerves like a fuzzy peach or okra. Prayer can be hard on the knees. It’s not necessarily hard on the back, but it can hurt your heart. The burden of not witnessing—when you know you should—can be hard on the heart. Trust me. I know.
It’s been at least three years ago. I was in Walmart in Little Rock in the makeup aisle. There was another woman there—probably in her late twenties or early thirties. We scanned the makeup, acknowledged each other with kind smiles, and tried not to get in each others way.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man walk by. A few seconds later, he came down the aisle and struck up a conversation with the woman. They were around the same age. She knew him, but I don’t think they were in a relationship. Yet, the talk soon turned casually raunchy about plans for the weekend including a party, drinking, and worse. It made me mad that they thought nothing of talking nasty with me right there listening. I left and went several aisles away so I couldn’t tell what they were saying.
After what seemed like eons of me stewing, the talking stopped and I saw the man pass the aisle I was in. Finally, safe to go back and get my makeup. On the way, I realized this girl needed help. My anger toward her disintegrated as the Holy Spirit convicted me, she needed to know there’s more to life than parties, drinking, and worse. And I needed to tell her. I hurried back to the aisle. She was gone. I searched several aisles and women oriented departments. But I never saw her again. My heart still hurts from that burden.
I’ve thought about her often since then and wondered if she’s still on that self-destructive path. I’ve prayed she ran into a better laborer than me. And that maybe she’s been harvested by now. I’ve even prayed for the man. I also determined that I would never let another opportunity like that pass. And I haven’t.
Posted on February 14, 2013 - by Shari Barr
I know, I know, we’re supposed to write about a fictitious hero, but since I haven’t read a lot of fiction lately, I’m writing about my favorite hero…period. Since it’s Valentine’s Day, I felt inspired to write it as a poem. Yes, a poem, but I warn you–I really don’t do poetry. So here goes:
Loves me though I’m not deserving,
Walks beside me day by day.
He feels my every sorrow
And shares in all my pain.
He wipes away my tears of woe
And sheds some of His own.
He wraps His arms around me
To shield me from my fears.
He whispers words of comfort
To cheer me when I’m down.
He blesses me with all my needs
Though not my every want.
He teaches me to grow,
To be humble in my ways.
He gives me many joys,
More than I dare to ask.
He knows just what my heart needs
To give me hope again.
He asked me to come follow Him
To walk life’s rocky path.
How could I not say “Yes”
When He said these words to me,
“Take my hand, don’t let go.
I promise I won’t let you fall.”
Though troubles came at every turn,
I forgot that He was there.
I let Him go
Not looking back.
When enemies taunted
And threw barbs at my soul,
I stumbled and fell, scared and alone,
Weeping for all I thought I had lost.
I looked for my Hero,
And cried out to Him.
“Lord, my body is bruised,
And my heart is scarred.
I don’t understand
Why I’m hurting so much.”
I felt a warm presence
And looked up to see
My Hero beside me,
A red bud in his hand.
“Take this, my child, for a job well done.
You’ve turned out quite well, just as I planned.”
Confused, I said nothing,
But accepted the gift.
“This bud,” He continued, “is just like you.
To become a rose of great beauty,
You must get past the thorns.
Posted on December 25, 2012 - by Stacy Monson
Over the years, we’ve had plenty of Christmas disasters:
- New potatoes that never cooked (maybe they were old?) – left like tiny bowling balls on every plate.
- A tree that had to be tied to the ceiling with dental floss.
- A dog helping herself to part of the meal – before it had been served (a few dog germs never hurt anyone…I don’t think).
There are funny memories too:
- Our five-year-old exclaiming for the camera, “My very own scissahs! (She couldn’t say her r’s very well). And a toothbwush!” Good thing her expectations were low for what was in her stocking. She’s always been a particularly grateful kid!
- Learning to open the gifts from the in-laws at the exact same time since we all received the exact same things.
- And the infamous box of Ribbon Candy that gets passed around each year to one unsuspecting person (the box is from 1982). It has appeared tucked in an old book after the gift-giver cut out the insides, arriving from China more candy dust than pieces (not one of my brother’s most stellar ideas), hidden in the bottom of a homemade reindeer planter.
But the memory that stands out the strongest for our family is the year we had to unveil “the secret.” That particularly grateful five-year-old was deathly afraid of anything in a costume. We have exactly one photo of her on Santa’s lap – the year she had just turned one. Screaming bloody murder, her bald head a deep red from the exertion. Poor thing!
She hated clowns (we found that out after attending the circus – once). Didn’t like any character in a parade approaching her. She liked dressing up but didn’t like any kind of spooky costume at Halloween. She was even leery of pumpkins once they were carved.
As we tucked her into bed one night, she shared with us that she was afraid of that man.
“What man?” we asked.
“Santa. The man that comes into our house.”
“But honey, he just comes in, leaves presents under the tree, and goes on to the next house. He won’t come into your room.”
Tears. “I don’t want a stranger in our house!”
Oops. I guess she took that stranger-danger lesson a little too much to heart. After a few days of ongoing conversation, her anxiety escalating, my husband and I decided we’d have to tell her the truth.
After her three-year-old brother was in bed, we sat down with her and prefaced our talk with the admonishment, “What we’re about to tell you, you cannot ever tell your brother. Not even when you’re mad at him. This is something only big kids get to know.” Truly a first born rule follower, she nodded very seriously and promised. So we told her the truth. Santa wasn’t real. He was just a fun way to celebrate the gift that God gave us – the real gift of Jesus. (It was a great chance to talk more about the real reason for celebrating Christmas.) We told her the presents under the tree were actually from us. Nobody would sneak into our house on Christmas Eve night. It was just her Daddy and me.
To say she was relieved was an understatement. Thrilled would be a better word. The rest of the season passed happily (while we held our breath hoping she wouldn’t spill the beans). She didn’t tell her brother that year – or anytime after that. We finally had to break it to him when he was nine!
To this day we get a chuckle out of that crisis. She’s grown into a lovely, well-adjusted twenty-six-year old married woman who still isn’t particularly fond of clowns – but at least she doesn’t run away from them anymore. We can’t wait to see if she takes her future children to see Santa or just skips that whole scene and goes right to the manger.
Blessings to you this Christmas time. What a joy to celebrate the gift of Jesus with all of you!
(By the way, that’s a photo of my friend “Santa Joe” – Joe Courtemanche, a fellow writer and member of MN-NICE and ACFW.)
Posted on December 11, 2012 - by Stacy Monson
Christmas is a time of traditions – from certain foods to favorite carols to opening gifts in a certain order (or in a free-for-all). One of my traditions is reading my favorite Christmas books. Here are a few that are always out on our coffee table.
“The Mark of the Maker” by Tom Hegg, illustrated by Warren Hanson. This is a family favorite that follows Joseph’s journey from childhood to becoming the husband of Mary, and the father of Jesus. The illustrations are fabulous, the storyline different from most, revealing a wonderful peek into an aspect of Christmas rarely considered.
The story opens with Joseph as a teen learning carpentry from his father, Jacob. From fights with other boys to meeting Mary, Joseph learns lessons about integrity, choices, and being true to one’s calling. His journey from apprentice to master carpenter is complicated by Mary’s surprise pregnancy, a message from God, and an arduous trip to Bethlehem. It’s only there, as he lays his son, God’s Son, in a manger (that he realizes he himself built) that he learns the most important lesson of all.
“The Christmas Letters” by Bret Nicholaus (a fitting name for a Christmas author, don’t you think?). As the family gathers at Grandpa’s house to celebrate Christmas, he surprises them with a different kind of gift.
Using the letters that spell Christmas, he gives one to each person along with a personalized note explaining how that particular letter describes them and how they’ve brought joy and happiness to his life. Afterwards he pulls out the letter “J” and explains that without Jesus, there is no Christmas.
It’s a lovely idea that can be used for our own families, for small groups, for the neighbors, etc. to share how they’ve touched our life in ways as unique as they are. It just might become a family tradition!
“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear” by Henry F. French. This was first written and delivered as a Christmas sermon in two voices, the author (a missionary pastor, teacher and seminary professor) and his wife. As he states in the Preface, “The Christmas celebration marks the beginning of what a Hollywood screenwriter once called ‘The Greatest Story Ever Told.’ It would have to be a pretty great story to bear telling for some 2,000 years. The story begins with God. And that is the way it should be, for all things begin and end with God. Which is another way of saying that all things – including you and me – begin and end in love. Which is just another way of saying that you and I are also central characters in this greatest of all love stories.”
This unique writing is part narrative, part story – starting with a conversation between God and the angel Gabriel. More than just “the Christmas story” as we often think of it, this little book reminds us how much we are loved by God and what lengths He will go to show us.
Whatever your traditions, I hope reading the Christmas story (in all its glorious detail) will be part of it.
Posted on September 25, 2012 - by Shannon Vannatter
I was torn between two super heroes. On the one hand, I love Captain America. I mean he’s so American, he’s a soldier fighting for right, and I especially love his line in The Avengers when he says there’s only one God.
On the other hand, I love Thor. He’s so. . . cute. And since I’m shallow when it comes to good-looking men, in the end, I pick Thor. He’s not usually my type. He’s blond. Anyone who’s hung around the inksper blog for very long knows I’m a dark hair type of gal. On top of that, I hate cocky men.
So I pondered on why I love Thor. First I found out, the actor who plays him, the totally yummy Chris Hemsworth, isn’t really blond. His hair was bleached for Thor. That leaves his cockiness. Why do I love a cocky superhero? Because he doesn’t stay that way.
My favorite scene in the movie is when Thor goes to reclaim his hammer. He beats up numerous security guards in his quest and finally ends up fighting the huge guy in the mud. It takes a while, but Thor comes out on top. Then he struts to his hammer, thinking he can just pick it and be on his way.
But he can’t.
Only then does Thor realize he’s unworthy. Because of his brashness, his cockiness, he’s lost the one thing that gave him power. He’s broken and surrenders, doesn’t even flinch when they cuff him and take him away. It’s then that Thor is humbled and becomes a true superhero.
When I initially watched Thor, I was uncomfortable because I’ve always squirmed at the idea of numerous mythical Greek gods. I’m with Captain America—there’s only one God. But we have a ten year old. He loved the movie. Of course he knows there’s only one God and we were careful to reiterate the fact and point out the mythical part. We ended up buying the movie and we’ve watched it at least fifty times.
About the thirtieth time, my son said something profound I’d never thought of. He said that Azgar is kind of like heaven with it’s gold city and streets of gold. That Thor is kind of like Jesus because he dies and comes back to save the world. That Thor’s dad is kind of like the one and only God because he controls everything. It’s a stretch, but I can see some symbolism in Thor.
So maybe I’m not so shallow after all.
Now for my super power choice. . . flying. I know that’s not as creative as microwave fingers, but it would be fun just to zip around wherever you wanted to.
What’s your take on Thor?
Posted on September 18, 2012 - by Stacy Monson
Jesus Heals Ten Men With Leprosy
11 Now on his way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. 12 As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy[a] met him. They stood at a distance 13 and called out in a loud voice, “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”
14 When he saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” And as they went, they were cleansed.
15 One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. 16 He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan.
17 Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? 18 Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?” 19 Then he said to him, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
Did you catch that? Even Jesus seemed incredulous. One of the ten healed lepers returned to fall at Jesus’ feet. Only one! And to make it even more remarkable, that man was a Samaritan, someone who was not “allowed” to mingle with Jews.
He knew what the rules were yet he couldn’t stay away. Jesus had healed him, saved his life, perhaps saved him for eternity. He recognized Jesus’ sovereignty, his authority – his love. He knew Jesus could have healed the other nine and left him, the Samaritan, out. Jesus could have been selective about which of the lepers to heal, maybe pausing to look into their hearts to see who “deserved” it most. But without even approaching the men, He healed them all, the Samaritan included.
So why would ten people in desperate need of healing, outcasts from all of society, not climb over each other to thank their Healer? Why would only one think to turn back and fall at His Master’s feet in worship and thanks?
Based on today’s society (which I don’t think is all that different from thousands of years ago), I would venture to guess it was a sense of entitlement that kept them from bothering. He was Jesus, after all – wasn’t it His job to heal people? They asked, He provided. End of story.
We live in a society that provides the best of everything. Even if your life isn’t worthy of being on Entertainment Tonight (thank goodness!) and you struggle to make ends meet, you are still better off than 95% of the world. Yet how often do we throw ourselves at our Master’s feet to thank Him for all that we have? How often does it occur to us to stop everything, lift our hands and cry out our thanks?
Not often enough for me. I think I’m a pretty thankful type of person. I’m so grateful for my health and my family, a lovely home, dear friends, a solid church. I know I deserve none of it, yet He has been gracious enough to fill my cup to overflowing. But I will admit I still stomp my foot when things don’t go my way, when I don’t get what I want when I want it. Hmm.
In all honesty, I am probably more like the nine than the one. Ouch. This passage reminds me that all I have is by the grace of God and I should be on my knees regularly thanking Him for providing for me, forgiving me, healing me, dying for me, loving me.
I think I’m going to work harder at being the one – and encourage others to join me. Perhaps one day it will be nine who fall at His feet and one we drag along with us.