102. Have yourself a miracle – it is time.

Therefore, behold, I will again do a marvelous work
Among this people,
A marvelous work and a wonder. (Isaiah 29:14)

The festive days are now much closer. We need to do some things – pack to travel, prepare for guests, shop the fridge full, pick up the turkey or whatever your fare may comprise.

Christmas is special, that’s for sure. Christian or secular, these are days that interrupt the normal schedule. Days of relaxation, days of family, days of joyous reunions and also days of old wounds, buried anger and deep disappointment.

Where are you this week before Christmas? Are you in a frenzy of activity with a load of things to do and quietly panicky? Are you alone with nothing to look forward to? Is Christmas a mountain of pent up bitterness that has not moved for you? Is this the first Christmas after heartbreaking tragedy? Is it the first Christmas with a new baby in the family?

Wherever and in whatever circumstances you may find yourself in, take time to reflect and experience a miracle. Some or other time a tray full of niceties may be offered to you this Christmas. Even if you cannot look forward to something wonderful in the physical world, God has the miracle tray all ready. We may be very sure of it based on that baby’s birth so long ago in the calculation of earthly time. He is waiting for your call.

Will you be quiet with me for just a little while? Please join the true Feast to hold on to as an anchor for the days to come. The majesty of the miracle in a simple cave or barn in Bethlehem so long ago, echoes to this day.

In this moment of prayer, there is one aspect of the greater message that God calls attention to in my heart to write. Above all else, Christmas is the earthly telescope to see the Father’s heart. His heart is set on this broken world and His eyes are looking for a heart to respond to. His response is a miracle in your life.

For the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him. (2 Chronicles 16:9)

His eye is on you this Christmas. He is actively involved in your private feasting in His presence. He wants to be. Hear how the Psalmist expresses this desire of God (32:8):

The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.
    I will advise you and watch over you. (NLT)

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go;
I will guide you with My eye. (NKJV)

We have talked about the rainbow in previous Pebble-pieces. Do you remember we said the rainbow is always there; it depends on how we look? We need a prism, some Godly eyeglasses, to see. Christmas is a miracle prism. If we look through the Christmas prism, we see the rainbow – the full content of the Covenant promise that was made to Noah. The Covenant is the heart of our great God promising to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose hearts choose Him.

Choose Him in this quiet moment we have together and have yourself a miracle. How does it happen?

Let us go to our Bible study in the Gospel of John – not to the nativity story, but to the story of an active Jesus amongst the needs of the people. John 4:46 and further:

And there was a certain nobleman whose son was sick at Capernaum…

The man who came is a courtier (basilikos), the word used for a royal official and somebody of high standing at the court of Herod. Jesus was the village carpenter. Jesus was in Cana and this man lived in Capernaum, some twenty miles away. It took him some time to get home.

The scene is odd to say the least. An important man coming over to see a village carpenter was not very likely. Lots of pride is swallowed. It is obvious his need was deep. He gave no thought of what the people would say.

He refused to be discouraged. Jesus’ statement is not very encouraging:

“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”

Jesus was probably talking to the crowd that inevitably collected. He was making sure the man was serious just like He did with the Syro-Phoenician woman in Matthew 15:21-28. If the man turned away in anger it would have been his loss. His faith proved to be real.

His faith transcended his feelings – it is super-important.

This is a nobleman, a high official displaying surprising faith. Was it easy to turn back and just believe the word of this simple carpenter? I think not. He was like a drowning man clutching to hope given to him.

This encounter illustrates the powerful impartation of peace in the words of Jesus. His hope fuelled his faith. Jesus’ promise of healing just had to be true.

He surrendered. He and his whole household believed. He didn’t receive healing and just forgot. It was a complete “revolution” in his house. It could not have been easy around Herod. The news of the healing was bound to get out. He would have had to withstand mockery and accusations of madness.

He faced and accepted the facts. He surrendered to the miracle. His need was met and he honoured the man through whom it came. This is the true Christian life.

We live in the days after the resurrection. We know the power of God. Will you trust Him and surrender to your miracle?

Go ahead and ask Him. 

His eye is already on you. Receive the peace in these words:

 For there is born to you this day in the city of David

a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 

 

 

 

 

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101. Are you ready for December?

I am writing this piece in the first days of December and somehow it is like it always is. The month is well on its way before I could realize and relish this month of festivities.

I have written on the traditions of Christmas in previous Pebbles pieces. Here is a quote from number 31; something I would like to repeat.

The unspoken, universal announcement has been made. The lights are up, the decoration-plans executed. Retail and wholesale are ready for the harvest and their advertising campaigns spell out the demands of the season. Headaches over gifts and travel plans are painful and real and emphasize the heavy, hurting burden of the so-called time of joy and celebration. Tills and credit card machines deafen the very familiar music in the shopping centres all over the world.

 I don’t have a plan or advice for the secular, empty and sometimes ridiculous celebration of Christmas. As a family we have distanced ourselves from Santa Claus and in stead placed the emphasis on God the Father and the great gift of His son. We do have a tree and other decorations to mark the celebrations, making sure that Jesus is central to everything we do. Gift giving was always limited and balanced – it took great effort to keep it creative and joyful. [Pebbles number 11]

This year, like so many in the past, the tree is up. To me it is the symbol of the stump of Jesse that blossomed and produced the Saviour of the world (Isaiah 11:1).

The Christmas cards will once again go out, proclaiming the events of so long ago. Many, many pageants worldwide will find their Joseph and Mary, baby Jesus, shepherds and angels among the ordinary and everyday to display the simple events of Bethlehem that forever changed the world, whether one believes or not. Within so many pagan societies the spirit of the season, even if it is for gain and greed, displayed in sparkling balls, lights and the giving of gifts, cannot be resisted. Somewhere there in spiritual darkness, a child will again ask… why? Our God reigns, says the prophet Isaiah. God will answer in His particular and spectacular way, in ways we cannot see.

But… we are not ignorant of the truth. We know why and we rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas. We are the church of Jesus. Let us tune in to radio Christmas and hear the bells ringing over the kingdom harvest in the world where we celebrate.

What is on the menu this Christmas? I am sure we are thinking of something good to eat. Traditional fare or something simple – Christmas has developed an entire industry around the food and drink for this one day of the year.

While Jesus was talking to the Samaritan woman, the disciples were going to find food. It was clear that all of them were hungry. When they came back they were worried about Jesus not eating. But He is not hungry anymore. He says: My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me, and to finish His work

Then He talks about the harvest. Let us eat His words. (John 4:35-38)

The harvest is one of the core themes of the words of Jesus on earth. Here He sees the work of His father in Samaria. He sees the fruit and anointing on His words. He introduces the harvest as symbolic of God’s field, God as a sower was already a theme in the Old Testament. As an example is Hosea’s son’s name – Jizreel, which means: God scatters and sows. The harvest is symbolic of blessing on your labour.

The Jews divided the agricultural year in six parts of two months each for seedtime, winter, spring, harvest, summer and the season of extreme heat. Jesus knew that Sychar was in the midst of a region famous for its corn. Arable land is scarce in Palestine. It takes o only four months from sowing to reaping. He looked over Samaria and talked about the harvest that is ready. Again he contrasts the spiritual to the physical. The harvest in Samaria was ready on all levels.

In the ordinary way of things, men waited for the harvest. In the divine nature of things, the spiritual harvest of Samaria was sudden. The people were hungry for the Word, the Promise and the spiritual food.

Harvest is a time of joy. The sower and the harvester rejoice together. How beautiful the Psalmist declares the promise:

Those who sow in tears shall reap in joy.    

He who continually goes forth weeping, bearing seed for sowing,
shall doubtless come again with rejoicing,
bringing his sheaves with him.
(Psalms 126:5-6)

Beneath the surface was the dream of a golden age for the Jews. The promised land was not a desert. It was a land “flowing with milk and honey”. The vineyards were to yield the harvest promised so long ago when the spies carried the bunch of grapes to big for one man to carry. The spies and their grapes are the icon of God’s overflowing abundance. The promised land became a desert because of sin and idol worship.

Jesus expanded His vision of the harvest.

The disciples would reap where they have not sown. Jesus’ word and work on the Cross would be the seed and the disciples would go and reap. We are still busy reaping the harvest.

The day will come when the disciples sow and others will reap. Christianity will be “scattered” and “sowed” and others would reap. Never be discouraged if you do not see the harvest. There will always be a harvest. Nothing is ever in vain, even when you do not see results.

Here we are in the month of December. We are reminded of opportunity. The harvest waits. We can never fail to reap the attraction of people to the Word of God.

We are reminded of the challenge for ministry over years with perseverance and commitment. We plant trees and watch them grow, but we cannot imagine how they will be when they are big, hundreds of years old.

John 4:39-42 are verses that express a core value of our ministry in the kingdom. It is one of the outstanding passages to illustrate that hearsay becomes revelation knowledge.

The Samaritans were introduced to the Truth by words that came to them from an unexpected source. Would they have chosen to hear of the Messiah through this woman? Probably not.

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach unless they are sent?

As it is written:

“How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:14,15)

Closer intimacy comes with growing knowledge. Once they were introduced they sought His company. They asked Him to stay. To experience Christ does not happen through somebody else. You have to invite Him in.

Discovery and surrender – what a wonderful Christmas combination.

John calls Jesus the Saviour of the world. He is the only one to do so. He is thinking about the Samaritans many years after this incident and is still in awe of the barriers broken down in such a short time.

The title comes from the Old Testament. He is the God of salvation. At the time John was writing, the Roman Emperor took this title for himself.

Jesus was not only a great example. If we have to live up to His example it could be frustrating and discouraging. He was an enabler. He was saviour. He rescued from evil and hopelessness. The Samaritan woman was the example of His saving power. She was labeled and despised. She probably agreed that a good life was beyond her hopes and dreams. Jesus broke the chains of her past and gave her a future. That is some saving power for you!

 

Pebble pals, do not shy away from the celebrations. It does not matter that the date is wrong and the onslaught of godlessness nauseates you. We are never victims. Use the opportunity. The feast is coming – whether you like the way it is done or not. Step into it, mindful and aware, and equip yourself with a word in season [Isaiah 50:4]. Bless everybody whose life you touch.

The harvest is ready. Let us feast with our feet shod in the loveliness of the Gospel of peace so that it is us who brings the good news. It is our party shoes for Christmas (Ephesians 6:15).

Put on your party shoes. Wear your white clothes, your garment of praise embroidered with your testimony of salvation. These are the decorations of our lives – truth and life, kindness and grace, insight and understanding, help in need and so much more of the fullness of the riches in Christ.

Bring them in. Just like the old hymn says:

Sowing in the morning,  sowing seeds of kindness,

Sowing in the noontide and the dewy eve;

Waiting for the harvest, and the time of reaping,

We shall come rejoicing, bringing in the sheaves.

 

Please listen with me to this old favourite Christmas song so brilliantly performed. Just think how many times this has been sung all over the world.

[Youtube=https://youtu.be/v5mdybeyLVc]