Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Diary of a Gentile Woman Living in Bethlehem-Dec 22nd

Dear Diary,

Today was a perplexing day. It was filled with both happiness and confusion for me. As I spoke of yesterday, we traveled to Jerusalem. Of course, we woke really early to make the trip. It is a 6 mile journey on foot. So we set out before the sun rose to get there in plenty of time for temple worship and the other items planned for the day.

Once we arrived, the first thing I noticed was the busy market area. There were men and women selling all types of items along the market area. I love walking through that area. You can find just about anything you are looking for at the Jerusalem market. Myself, I always look for new beads to use in my stringing. Today I found some beautiful colors, which I just couldn't resist. I used some of the money I had been saving to buy some beautiful sky blue beads.

The market place is the hub of activity. It is not only the area to be if you are looking to buy or sell, but it is the place to gather. Many people come to the market area and spend all day immersed in conversation. I don't think I've ever heard so many conversations going on in one place in my life. There were people talking about just about everything you can imagine. Except one thing. It stuck me odd that in my little town of Bethlehem, the buzz is all about the Messiah prophecies lately but here I didn't hear anything spoke about them.

Seems so strange that in the main city of Jerusalem they are either unaware of the prophecies or simply just don't care. Hearing them spoke about so frequently lately in Bethlehem, I was sure that it would be all anyone was talking about here. I wonder, have they forgotten the scriptures about the Messiah?

After the trip through the market, I took a little time away from the family. They were going to visit relatives so I excused myself and headed over to the temple.

What a beauty to behold. Each time I approach the temple, I loose my breath. It is truly a work of art. Can you imagine what the real temple in heaven looks like? If God could create such a place here on earth, just imagine where he lives.

I spent the majority of the day at the temple. I just feel closer to Him there. His glory seems to be there. I am awed by it.

After the long trip back, I am exhausted. Tonight, I will dream good dreams. Probably ones about the heaven that awaits. At least I hope it awaits me. I know I am not one of the chosen ones, but I love God with all my heart. Doesn't that count for something? Sure wish someone could tell me...

To tired to think about it all right now. Sleep, I need sleep.

Good night. See you tomorrow.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Diary of a Gentile Woman Living in Bethlehem - Dec 21st

Dear Diary,

As I went to town today, I encountered the strangest thing. There on the lawn in the main court of the square sitting under the big oak tree was a Rabbi. We usually don't see much of the priesthood here. But there he was with his pupils sitting with him. He seemed to be teaching them scripture.

This census has brought all kinds of people here lately. Well, you know me, always curious. I had to hear what they were talking about. Of course, being a woman is bad enough, but being a gentile makes it impossible for me to just walk right up to them. So I circled around behind them and sat behind a tree not far from where they were. I pretended to be engrossed in some beading but I had my ears perked up to full alert.

What do you think they were talking about? The Messiah! Sure seems the topic of conversation around here lately. The Rabbi was discussing who the Messiah would descend from.

The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh comes; and to Him shall be the obedience of the people.

The Rabbi was telling his students that the Messiah would be a descendant of Judah. How amazing, he will not only be born in Bethlehem as Micah prophesied but the scriptures also tell us he will be from Judah. Of course, Bethlehem is part of Judah so that would make sense.

"Behold, the days are coming" says the Lord. That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.

The Rabbi quoted this text and explained that the Messiah was promised to come from the line of David. A King will reign from the descendant of David. The prophet Jeremiah spoke about this.

I am fascinated by the scriptures. If they would allow a woman like myself to study under the Rabbi, I would be so happy. I know you have to leave your home and spend your time following in the Rabbi's footsteps but it would be worth it to hear the scriptures all day long. I would never be allowed to do that though. A girl can dream though.

The best I can get is the women’s court at the temple. It’s all I can have so I cherish every second I am allowed to spend there. As a matter of fact, tomorrow we are taking the trip to Jerusalem. I will spend time at the temple while I am there. I can't wait. It's a long trip so I better go for now so I can get my rest. Like I will get much sleep! Oh well, I am going to try.

Good night, I’ll see you tomorrow.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Diary of a Gentile Woman Living in Bethlehem- Dec 20th

Dear Diary,

Sorry I didn't get to write yesterday. I know I said I would but yesterday was the Sabbath. If you know anything about the Sabbath, you know that there is no work allowed. It's a day of rest, so even writing was out of the question. I wasn't thinking about it being the Sabbath when I promised to write.

Anyway, as I said, yesterday was the Sabbath, so I spent a very restful day with the family. Today however, was anything but restful. With the amount of people pouring into the city for the census, it makes getting anything done much more difficult.

As usual, I woke early this morning before the sun rose. Just as my mother before me, I work in the house of a prominent Jewish family here in Bethlehem. There is much to do for this large family, so I like to get an early start.

I have loved working for the family. Even though others think of me as an outsider, they have always treated me with love and respect. The woman of the house is the one I see most often because her husband is off in Jerusalem for long stints. He is a man of great prominence among all the other Pharisees. He seems to take great pride in his work, which can keep him away from home for many days at a time. I am sure his work is of great importance.

Today, while shaking out the rugs in the front of the house I saw a man approach the stables. He seemed to be looking for the master of the house. He looked rather official to me. The thought crossed my mind that he might have been sent by King Herod himself.

Now that is a man that sends shivers down my spine. King Herod, I mean. He is the most horrifically wicked man. Cruel beyond measure. I sure hope that wasn't who sent the man who visited today. We don't need any trouble around here.

I know I am not a descendant of Abraham but what affects this family, effects me. Thinking about the cruelty of King Herod makes me think about the words of the prophet Isaiah. I think it was called 59:16.

He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor; therefore His own arm brought salvation for Him; and His own righteousness, it sustained Him.

I think about this prophecy and wonder when it will be that God sends His Messiah, the King of the Jews to intercede for them. From all that I have heard living here with the Jews, they believe God is going to send them a King that will overcome the Roman rule. He will be the one that comes and intercedes for them and saves them.

As far as I am concerned, now would be as good a time as any. With Herod on the throne and all, I join them in saying Come Messiah, Come!

More tomorrow....

Friday, December 18, 2009

Diary of a Gentile Woman living in Bethlehem

Dear Diary,

It's year one, day seven BC. Me, I'm a gentile woman living in the small town of Bethlehem. Bethlehem is nestled on a ridge, between two mountain peaks, just 5 or 6 miles due south of Jerusalem. I have lived here on this ridge for forty seven years, which if you’re counting is all my life. Usually, our small city is a quiet, peaceful place. Except lately, not so quiet around here.

The city is buzzing right now with all the Jews returning to their ancestral cities to register for the census. Seems like every room around here is filling up with travelers. Shopping has become a long chore lately too, with all the people pouring in town. If I didn't already feel like an outsider before, I certainly do now. You see, I am a gentile woman living in a mostly Jewish community.

Although, I have lived here all my life, followed their God and Jewish law, they still don't consider me one of them. I am an outcast, a foreigner, a stranger in my own home. I wish it were different, that I could be accepted but I am not. I am not one of them, no matter what I believe.

Lately, the Jewish Pharisees have been standing out on the corner preaching the law. It's only to show their power and superiority but they do it so convincingly. Problem is they just keep adding more and more to the rules. Who can live up to and follow all of them.

I try, believe me I do. Even though I am a gentile living a Jewish community, I believe their God is the one and only. So I try and live to the letter of the law. But it is overwhelming at times.

Not sure what good it will do for them to count all the Jews in this census. Caesar has already imposed his Roman rule over us, why the census? Anyway, it sure has made the city a busy place to be.

Just today, in the center square I saw two shepherds sitting on the grass under a tree. Usually, they are out on the mountain with their herds. As I got a little closer, I realized they were not from around here. Hence them being in the center square like they were.

I heard just a snippet of their conversation and it caught my interest. So I moved in closer so I could hear them without being obvious. They were talking about the Messiah. One man was quoting scripture about the coming Messiah to the other.

It's not like I haven't heard the prophecies before. I've heard them since birth. Although I've heard them over and over, the funny thing is, they never stop fascinating me. I could hear them a million times but still want to hear them again. So I stayed a while, ease dropping, as these two men went through all the prophecies of the coming Messiah.

As I left, there was one that stuck in my mind and it kept rolling around in my head. It was from the prophet Micah. One of the men said something about the numbers 5 and 2. I'm not sure what the numbers meant. Anyway, I quoted it all the way home.

"But you, Bethlehem, Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet you shall come forth the Me, the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose going forth are from of old, from everlasting."

This prophecy always stands out to me because it talks about my little city, Bethlehem. I wonder, will my city really have something to do with the Messiah? Seems unlikely, but who knows... Never say never.

Gotta go for now, I've got chores to do. Have a great day. I'll see you tomorrow.

Monday, December 14, 2009

The Value of a Personal Relationship

My last post we looked at the purpose for life that Jesus gives us when we decide to follow him. Today let’s look a little further and see just how personal God can be. If there was anything that stood out about our disciple Andrew, it was that he knew the value of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.

John 6:8-9 - One of His disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to Him. "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?"

John 12:21-22 - Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him saying, "Sir, we wish to see Jesus." Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus.

In both of these encounters, Andrew does what? He brings the matter and the person to Jesus. He knew what they needed was Jesus himself. Andrew knew better than anyone the solution to life’s dilemmas, it was in approaching Jesus.

It was not in Andrews hands to change circumstances, but he knew that if he brought them to Jesus, they would hear the truth and their problems would be solved through their belief in Him. Andrew brought people to the savior so they could meet Him for themselves. He knew the answers all lay in developing a relationship with God. The same applies today for us.

Personal relationship? How is it possible for us to have a personal relationship with Jesus when He is no longer on this earth? The disciples had a personal relationship with Jesus while they were with Him here on earth, but what about now? How does that work now when we can’t see Him with our eyes?

Some people are a bit skeptical when you start talking about Christ living inside you and having a daily relationship with Him. From the point of view of some, Jesus is dead and gone. So how can he live in us and guide us?

Jesus did die on the cross and was buried, but He is far from dead. We see clearly in John 20 that He rose from the grave on the third day. He is now in heaven but he promised to leave us something when He left.

Acts 1:4-5 - And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, "which," He said, "you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now."

Acts 1:8 - "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth."

They, like us were promised the Holy Spirit. It would come upon them and fill them, giving them power to be witnesses. When we choose to follow Jesus we are given the Holy Spirit to live within us. This is the Spirit Jesus is speaking of. It is through the Spirit that we are guided and are able to maintain a personal relationship with God even though we can not see Him with our eyes.

Acts 2:1-4 - When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.

It was Pentecost, a holy day of rememberance and a day these believers would never forget. The sound came from heaven. Imagine that... your sitting there and a power so forceful that it sounded like rushing wind comes down from heaven and fills the whole house. Picture that in your mind.

Then divided tongues that look like fire sit on you and you begin to speak in a language you have never spoken before. Not a heavenly language but a foreign language. If you read on in Acts 2:5-12, you see the reaction of everyone around that heard them. The multitude came together and each one heard in his own language. They were all amazed and perplexed. Well, I imagine so! I would be amazed and perplexed if that happened right before my eyes.

What do you think, do you believe the Holy Spirit has power?

When we choose to follow Jesus Christ, accepting Him as our Savior, we are filled with that same Spirit described here. Although, you may not speak in foreign tongues, the power contained in the Holy Spirit lives within you. It empowers us to live a life for Jesus Christ, but only if we are yielded to it. Here in lies the value of personal relationship.

We are required to be in daily relationship through prayer and reading of the word of God. The Word of God is living and breathing. The Holy Spirit uses it to communicate the will of the Father God to us. Prayer is communication, a two way conversation between you and God. These things are the way we keep our personal relationship with God alive and growing.

Let me give you a little wisdom from my own personal experience. After re-committing my life to Christ, I struggled with my thinking. It seemed like everything I thought, was wrong. I began to feel like, if I just did the opposite of what I thought, it would probably be what God wanted.

Soon after, I began to be convicted about my time I spent with Christ. I would read my bible here and there but not consistently. When I did read my bible, it was as if I was checking it off a list when I was done. I found no enjoyment in it. It was a duty not an enjoyment to me.

Prayer also was difficult. I would cursory thank Him for saving me and then move on to my list of wants. When I was finished telling Him what I wanted Him to do, the prayer was over. Task complete, on with the day.

As conviction set in, I knew that I should do more than this. I knew that God required more from me but my heart wasn’t in it. I had no love in my heart for His Word and frankly, I wasn’t sure that I really loved Him. At least not like I was suppose to.

Mark 12:30 - And you shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your soul, with all you mind and with all your strength.

I began to ponder on this verse. Did I love God with all my heart and soul? What about my mind and strength? Did I really love God like that?

The answer was no, not with ALL my heart and soul. If I did, I would love to spend time with Him in his word and prayer. My mind was not filled with loving Him and I certainly didn’t use all my strength to love Him. I instead was filled with ME. My ways filled my heart, soul, mind and strength.

I needed this to change but how do you draw closer in relationship with God? How do you change your heart?

The answer is, you don’t. He does.

I began to ask for Him to build that love in me. Then I did what He asked even when I didn’t feel like it. I set a time to read His word and pray.

Soon after, words, His words would leap off the page as I read. He was showing me who He was and in the process I fell hard. Deeper, deeper still I fell as I read and prayed to Him. A love was building in me for Him. A love that I did not create but that I would die for now. Oh, how I love Him now. With a love that would move mountains to be with Him.

When you take the time to get to know Him, He will show you personally how much you mean to Him. It will rock your world and you will never be the same again.

What better time to end in prayer….

I don't know where your heart is, but if it's like mine was, now is as good as time as any to ask for a change.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Given A New Purpose For Life

Have you ever caught yourself thinking, “What’s the purpose of my life?” I remember thinking this type of thing. Throughout my life, I routinely thought, “There has to be a reason I am here on this earth.” I always believed there had to be some purpose for my life or what was the use in being here. Then I met Jesus. I had found my reason, my purpose.

Somehow, when you meet Jesus, I mean really meet him and spend time with Him, you find out why you were created. You find out who you were meant to be by finding out who He is. I know that may sound a bit odd to you but its true. The more I know Him personally, the more I realize I was designed for something bigger then my own petty whims. I was planned out before time began and placed here at this very moment in time for a reason. Maybe that reason has something to do with this blog or maybe not. Maybe it was just a heart felt desire of the living God to have me to love. I don’t know, but what I do know is that my reason for living has changed. Jesus gave me the purpose I had always needed. He filled the hole, the void in my soul.

I wonder if the disciples Andrew and Simon Peter felt the same way when they began to follow Christ. Did they feel full as they gazed at the Savior? Did it fill them with wonder and joy to be in the presence of the living God?

I don’t know the answer to those questions but I do know that their purpose for living changed the day they dropped their nets and followed Jesus. No longer did they spend their days fishing with their father. Instead they became fisher's of men.

Matthew 4:18-20 - And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, "Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men." They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

That fateful day Andrew and Simon Peter's destiny changed. They would no longer grow old, following in the footsteps of their father. It was not to be that they would continue the family business. Instead, they would take a different path, a path created for them by God above. They would take the path that most would think to be less desirable and less profitable. But was it? Think about it. Was it really the less profitable path?

Considering eternity, it was indeed the most profitable path a man could take. For them the road here on earth would be filled with trials, tribulation, suffering and yes, even death. But that road would pave a path to an eternity with much greater reward and benefit then any of us could ever imagine.

Destiny called for a new purpose for these two men. They answer with a resounding YES LORD, YES!

Andrew and Simon Peter were given individual gifts which they used to contribute to the body of Christ. Just like them we are all given individual gifts to help the body of Christ function properly. But there is only one ultimate purpose for life that we all share the same. Right now, let's explore the main reason we are here on this earth. In order to do that, we must begin at the beginning.

Genesis 1: 27 – So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Whose image did God created man in?

Genesis 2:15 – Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and keep it.

Where did God put Adam and Eve?

Genesis 3:8 – And they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden.

Where was God walking that day?

I am blown away when I think about God’s intention here. First He creates man in His own image. He breathes life into him with His own breath. Then He places him in a lush beautiful garden, giving him only one rule. “Don’t eat of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” That’s it, only one rule. As long as man didn’t eat of that tree he would walk in the garden in the presence of God. He would enjoy time with God, being with Him, walking in the garden with Him.

It was no surprise to God what man would do. He knew that man would eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Before God created man He knew the end. He knew that He would have to overcome sin and send His son to the cross. He created man anyway. Why? Why, knowing that man would screw it all up would He decide to create man anyway?

He did it to love and be loved. To walk together with a creation that would choose to love Him and spend time with Him.

That’s it! The purpose we were created for! We were created to be with God, to love Him and be loved by Him. It’s the reason we were put here on earth. So eventually we could spend an eternity in His presence.

For now though, while we wait for eternity, we are given a commission by Jesus. Before He left this earth He told us this:

Matthew 28:19 - Go therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus told his disciples to go and make disciples of all nations. He did not tell them to make Christians, He told them to make disciples. There are many today that believe becoming a Christian is a one time event. You walk the isle, pray the sinners prayer, get dunked in water, then back to your old life. They believe they are safe, in the book, heading toward heaven. But has anything really changed in their life.

Jesus didn't say "go make disciples unless it's to much for you to handle or you don't really want to give your old life up, then it's ok, you don't have to do it." Just as the disciples were told to go out and make more disciples, we told to do the same. This was not a suggestion but a command.

We can not merely accept the gospel of Jesus Christ and keep it to ourselves. Jesus said in Mark 8:38 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him the Son of Man also will be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”

If we are ashamed of Jesus, we need to ask ourselves, do we really love him at all. Is the gift of His life not the most valuable thing that could ever be offered for our wretched sinful souls? If we are ashamed we must fall to our knees asking that He change our heart so we can love Him the way we were intended to do so.

So the commission continues today. We are told to go. While we are here on this earth, our job is to share the good news with those that have not heard. Go tell all nations. That includes here and abroad. Some will go to other lands while some will stay where they are.

Where ever God sends you, the message is the same. Shout it from the roof tops, Jesus of Nazareth is alive! He rose from the grave on the third day! He paid for our sins with His own blood! Go tell someone.

Ending today in prayer seems like the way it should be. Pray. Pray for your purpose to be solidified in your heart. Pray for courage to share the gift you have been given with someone else.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

As I have sat here in the passenger seat of the car most of the day today, I have had many hours to think. So think I have done, and what better thing to do with all those thoughts then impart some wisdom with them. Or at least release the thoughts even if they aren't really wisdom.

We left the house this morning at 7:00am heading from Missouri to Austin Texas. It is now 3:00pm and we are still hours away from landing at the hotel. So I have a little time to just put words on paper.... or blog, if you will.

As my husband drives along and gets almost run over by a passing car in a hurry, I am reminded of how easy it would be for life to end. Here we are in a speeding car, only inches away from other cars speeding along in the other direction, towards me. All it would take is a careless or reckless driver to make a mistake near us for life as we know it to change drastically.

Every day, every hour, no, every second could be our last but do we really get the reality of that? Do we really live as if this could be our last day or our last hour on this earth?

I would have to answer, NO. I do not live as if this was my last moment on earth. If I did, I would do things much differently. I would take advantage of each moment to do those things that mean something. I would put my importance on people not things or circumstance. I would do those things that impact another life first, not secondary.

Maybe thats what Jesus meant when he told the disciples that the most important commandment was love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. Then the second was love others as yourself. He got the importance of relationship. He got that the most important thing you can do is love like God does. He knew when we focused on loving like Him, the other commandments would be obeyed. He knew we would obey because we loved Him and our hearts were right.

We don't seem to get that all things lead back to relationship. It is in the relationship with Jesus that we are saved. It is in the relationship with Jesus we are made right and can stand before a righteous God. It's in our relationship with Jesus that we can now have a relationship with the Father. It is in our relationship with Jesus that we can love others, care for those hurting and make a real difference in the world.

As I sit here and ponder that any moment could be the end, I think, I'm not ready. I'm not done. I need to love some more. I need to touch more hearts. I need to get my hands dirty and let the fallout come. I need to love with no reservation.


When you take me home, let it be when I have done all that I can do to love this broken world. Help me love those around me. Don't let me forget that each moment counts. Let my contribution to this world point clearly to you.