The Greatest Story – Part 5: The Promised One

As Mary slept she dreamt of a man with clothing stained red marching with great strength. As the man marched closer to Mary she heard Him declaring: “It is I, the Lord, announcing your salvation! It is I, the Lord, who has the power to save!”

Mary ran after Him and heard Him continue: “The time has come I will avenge My people, I alone will ransom them from their oppressors. I come to tell the world of God’s unfailing love. I will praise my Lord God for all He has done. I will rejoice in His great goodness to Israel, for He extends mercy and love. God has sent me to His people for He longs to become their Saviour. He has seen their great suffering and He personally rescues them. His great love and mercy is here to rescue and redeem them. He has lifted them and carried them.”

In her dream the man had led Mary to the Red Sea “people need to remember the days when Moses led the people out of Egypt. When the people doubted and feared for their lives the sea was parted and they walked across on dry land. As soon as they were safe on the other side the seas swallowed up their enemy. Let the people disown their stubborn rebellious hearts!” (Isaiah 63). Mary’s heart filled with grief and her eyes wept as she listened.

Then Mary was in a great throne room and she could see a giant golden throne, as her eyes tried to process all that she was seeing the man declared: “The Lord God Almighty will raise up a righteous descendant from the line of King David. This man will be a great King who rules with great wisdom doing what is just and right throughout the land. His reign will never end. His name will be the Lord is Our Righteousness.’ The man turned to Mary and continued ‘Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety.’ (Jeremiah 23:5-6, Jeremiah 33:15-17)

Mary tried to grasp all that the dream was revealing to her and she struggled to wake so that she could share this wonderful revelation to Joseph. She awoke tangled in the bedding, sweaty and with her heart pounding. As if he had known her heart Joseph arrived in her room just moments after she had woken. Mary took a few steadying breaths and quickly relayed the wonderful messages from her dream. Joseph sat with a stunned look on his face. Eventually Joseph found his voice and said: “I don’t know why but I’ve been reflecting a lot on what Daniel wrote long ago” Mary nodded “I know I have been reflecting on many of the promises of old as well.”.

“The thing that puzzles me is that Daniel wrote that the Messiah would come with the clouds of heaven, with great authority, honour and sovereignty over all the nations. It even states that every race and nation would obey His eternal rule because His kingdom will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14). Jesus’ arrival was far from spectacular.” Mary smiled “yes I know, hidden in a stable rather than arriving on clouds. Revealed to those considered of lowly stature, the shepherds, who worshipped Him with such adoration.” Mary smiled at the memory of seeing the shepherds eyes filled with wonder and their excited chatter that had filled her heart with joy.

They both sat in silence for a few moments before Joseph continued: “But Jesus was also revealed to those considered wise and knowledgeable, the Magi’s confirmed Micah’s prediction of Him being born in Bethlehem but there are still many Israelites scattered and they have not returned yet from exile so the undisturbed peace still seems far off! How can our small child possibly contain all of that which is promised?” (Micah 5:2-5)

Mary nodded still trying to process her own thoughts.

“I mean we both think that we have seen the coming of the great prophet who was predicted to rise up just before the Messiah. Elizabeth’s son, John, is believed to be that prophet but he is still a child himself, how can he possibly prepare the way? Can our son really be the Promised One who will be like a blazing fire that refines metal or like a strong soap that bleaches clothes? How is any of this possible?” (Malachi 3:1-2)

After many moments of silence, where both Mary and Joseph were lost in their thoughts, Jesus stirred. Mary spent time attending to His needs and then Merry announced that dinner was ready. Joseph and Mary, carrying Jesus, made their way downstairs.

Marry rushed to grab Jesus and allowed Mary to eat while she fussed over Him. Mary smiled and sighed, how wonderful it was now that it was just the 5 of them. With both Mary and Joseph wrestling with some big questions Rufus and Merry delighted in helping them to unpack all the thoughts racing through their minds. With Jesus being the only child in the home he was doted on by all of the adults and Mary appreciated greatly the help and extra hands.

After their lovely meal Mary spent time unpacking the revelation that Jesus could be the Promised One. As the hours ticked away scriptures were recited and passionately discussed before Mary’s weary body demanded sleep. Thanking everyone for their insight and encouragement Mary carried Jesus up the bedroom where she prayed for a deep sleep.

 

The Promised One – Jesus.

God’s extravagant love gift

to the world. 

(John 3:16)

 

“For this is how much God loved the world—he gave his one and only, unique Son as a gift. So now everyone who believes in him will never perish but experience everlasting life.” John 3:16 The Passion Translation

 

Sara Strong “It’s very significant that the shepherds were the first to be told by the angels that a baby had been born who was the Messiah who would save Israel and all the world, and the first to visit the baby Jesus lying in a manger. At that time, shepherds were the lowest in the social hierarchy; they were despised because they lived out in the fields with their sheep and didn’t fulfil the requirements of the Jewish law.  So God chose the least and the lowest to see the glory of the angels announcing the Messiah’s birth, the baby born in a stable, the most humble place, because there wasn’t room for him in an inn. So God’s Son, sent to share our humanity and to die for our sins, came to a mother and father not endowed with any wealth, in the humblest of circumstances.”

The Greatest Story – Part 4: The Messiah

As the upstairs room was now available Rufus and Merry helped to move Joseph, Mary and Jesus. Mary was grateful that she had a proper bed to sleep in and the room was bright and sunny which lifted her spirits immediately. The exhaustion was still very present and Mary spent most of her time resting and found that the quietness meant that she was able to regularly nap. Mary did miss her woolly companions though and they had made a slight fuss as she had packed up her things, she had stroked their gentle faces and thanked them for their warmth and companionship. Between her naps and attending to Jesus Mary had lots of time to think and she found herself reflecting on this wonderful child that had been gifted to her.

The Magi’s reminder of the prophetic declarations had sunk deep into Mary’s heart and she had gradually been unpacking the other prophecy’s as they returned to her mind.

It was just as the prophet from old had foretold, Mary as a virgin had indeed conceived and given birth to her son Jesus. As she gazed upon His face she wondered if He really could be Immanuel, God dwelling with the lowly. (Isaiah 7:14)

As Jesus began to stir she wondered how the tiny bundle before her could possibly hold the promises that had been foretold. Could the government truly rest upon those currently feeble shoulders? Could Jesus possibly live up to the names of Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace? How was it possible for His government and peace to never end?

Mary smiled and picked Jesus up as she declared over Him that He would rule with fairness and justice from the throne of David for all of eternity. Mary kissed Jesus’ cheek as she held onto the promise that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies would make it happen. (Isaiah 9:6-7)

Mary wondered if the angel who had visited her would one day visit her precious son.

As Mary attended to Jesus’ needs she wondered if He could possibly be the new shoot, the new branch that would bear the Spirit of the Lord. As she looked into His eyes she wondered if she could already see wisdom and great understanding buried within. She hugged Him closer as she prayed for the promised spirit of counsel and might and for the fear of the Lord to fill Him so that He could delight in obeying God. Mary reminded herself that she needed to teach Jesus to judge based on a person’s heart not their appearance and she prayed that Jesus would indeed seek justice for the poor and exploited.

As Jesus let out a small cry Mary laughed and wondered how such a small voice was to one day develop into a powerful voice that would make the earth shake. As Jesus continued to fuss Mary hugged him close and prayed that He would grow up to be strong enough to destroy the wicked.

Mary changed Jesus’ soiled cloths and wondered what a belt of righteousness would look like on Him and as she placed a clean cloth over his bottom she wondered what truth undergarments would be made out of. (Isaiah 11:1-5)

With Jesus fed and clean Mary carried Him over to the window to gaze at the world below, as people rushed here and there Mary wondered how Jesus could be a banner of salvation to the world. Apart from the few unusual visitors people seemed oblivious to His existence. How were the nations to rally around Him? How was this oppressed land to become a glorious place to live? (Isaiah 11:10)

As Jesus squirmed in Mary’s arms she wondered how He could be strengthened enough to carry the Spirit of God. As she gazed upon His small face she couldn’t understand how He could possibly bring justice to those who were wronged and to all the nations. As she felt Jesus’ heart beating next to her own she prayed that He would be strengthened to never falter or lose heart and indeed bring the promised justice to the entire world.

Mary’s eyes filled with tears as she thought of her baby boy leaving her for distant places but He was foretold to take His instructions and teachings to the furthest lands. (Isaiah 42:1-4)

Mary gently rocked Jesus to sleep and surrendered her precious child to God. She knew that she needed to completely trust God and clung to the assurance that her son would bring the message of salvation that the people so longed to hear. Her heart broke as she recalled the promise that He would be despised, rejected and scorned by men. Mary prayed that hearts would be open to hear His message.

Tears rolled down her face as she prayed against the promise of great sorrow, pain and grief. She kissed Jesus’ cheek as she wondered how He could possibly bear the world’s sorrow and pain. Mary held Jesus tighter as she prayed against the promise of being struck down, degraded, humiliated, wounded and crushed. Her heart felt heavy at the thought of Jesus being harmed in any way, as she looked at His perfect face she couldn’t contemplate it scrunched with pain.

Mary cried out to God to spare her from the pain of seeing Him snatched from her and prayed for Jesus to have a long fruitful life. She couldn’t comprehend how her small child could possibly bear the sins of many and intercede with God over the transgressions of men. (Isaiah 53:1-12)

As Mary watched Jesus sleep she stood at the window and allowed the warmth of the sun to take away the heaviness that was threatening to lodge in her heart. More tears flowed freely down her face as she spent more time unpacking the prophetic declarations. Mary wondered how it could be possible for Jesus to be the One to intervene for the oppressed? How could this small feeble child possibly step in and save many? Could He really force the enemies of Israel to pay for their evil deeds? Would those in the West truly respect the name of Jesus? How could those in the East glorify Him? As Mary stood gazing at her small child she wondered how He could be the great Redeemer.

There were so many mysteries foretold.

How would God’s spirit come to dwell with them and never leave them? Would it be a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night like when the Israelites were in the desert?

Mary grew up knowing that she would be required to pass God’s promises from her generation to the next, just as her parents had done with her, but the current dangerous times raged around them threatening their freedom. Would Joseph be able to pass on his wisdom to their son? Would she be able to freely share all the wonderful promises of God?

Mary wrestled with all her questions and turned to look at the clouds gathering in the sky above. As the rain clouds gathered Mary prayed for a refreshing to come to the land that she loved but more importantly for a refreshing to people’s hearts.

As the first rain drops fell she was reminded of the great prophet Isaiah, he had promised that the Lord would bring about a freedom where the lips of the faithful could tell the tales with no end. (Isaiah 59:16-21)

Mary smiled, a great courage entered her heart and she softly sung a song that her father had taught her about the coming Messiah:

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon me, for the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor.

He has sent me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.

He has sent me to tell those who mourn that the time of the Lord’s favour has come, and with it, the day of God’s anger against their enemies.

To all who mourn in Israel, take heart for you will give a crown of beauty for ashes, a joyous blessing instead of mourning, festive praise instead of despair.

In righteousness you will be like great oaks that the Lord has planted for His own glory.

Strength will be given to you to rebuild the ancient ruins, repairing cities destroyed long ago.

The Lord will revive you even though you’ve been deserted for many generations.

Foreigners will be your servants, they will feed your flocks, plow your fields and tend your vineyards.

You will be called priests of the Lord, ministers of our God.

You will feed on the treasures of the nations and boast in their riches.

Instead of shame and dishonour, you will enjoy a double share of honour.

You will possess a double portion of prosperity in your land, and everlasting joy will be yours.

For the Lord God loves justice and hates robbery and wrongdoing.

He will faithfully reward His people for their suffering and make an everlasting covenant with them. Their descendants will be recognized and honoured among the nations.

Everyone will realize that they are indeed God’ beloved people when they see how much the Lord has blessed them.

Oh how my lips shout with praise, I’m overwhelmed with joy!

For the Lord my God has dressed me with the clothing of salvation and draped me in a robe of righteousness. I am dressed and ready for the great wedding.

The Sovereign Lord will show His justice to the nations of the world.

Everyone will praise him!

His righteousness will be like a garden in early spring, plants will be springing up everywhere.

(Isaiah 61:1-11)

With the smell of fresh rain filling the room, her song finished and Jesus sleeping soundly, Mary laid down to nap.

Jesus – God’s lamb, the One sent to take away the sins of the world! (See John 1:29)

Jesus Messiah – Chris Tomlin – YouTube video

Messiah -Francesca Battistelli – YouTube video

Messiah dance by Bezalel School – YouTube video

The Greatest Story – Part 3: Faithfulness

Mary looked down into Jesus’ sleeping face and smiled. She was so grateful to have this moment of relative quiet to sit and enjoy her precious child. As she laid back and rested she let her mind wander. Mary’s face smiled softly as she recalled the moment she told her dear cousin Elizabeth the news. Mary had known that her cousin would understand the marvellous mysteries of God seeing as she had conceived a child after she had given up all hope. Mary laughed quietly as she recalled Elizabeth’s greeting, it had been unlike anything Mary had ever experienced before. Elizabeth had been truly glowing in her pregnant state and Mary had noticed that the pregnancy had also given Elizabeth a new vigour and enthusiasm for life. Elizabeth had declared that her own baby lept in her womb at seeing Mary’s approach and had boldly declared Mary blessed for her absolute trust in God’s promises. Mary recalled the song of praise that had burst out of her heart at Elizabeth’s greeting and softly sung it to her sleeping child:

Oh how my soul magnifies and exalts the Lord!

Oh how my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour.

Oh how He has looked upon me with loving care, He did not care that I was so lowly or ill-prepared instead He has used me to bring life and love.

The generations to come will recall how blessed, happy and favoured by God I am, not because of any great statute in man’s eyes but because of God’s great grace.

Oh how I praise God for He who is mighty has done great things for me.

Oh how holy is God’s name, so worthy of all our praise.

Oh how mercy flows from one generation to the next for those who stand with awe and reverence before the Lord.

Oh how powerful His arm is, He quickly scatters the proud; He tears down unrighteous rulers from their thrones; and exult those with humble hearts.

Oh how He fills the hungry with good things.

Oh how faithful He is and He remembers His great promise to Abraham, YES faithfulness is my God’s nature.

How blessed will be those who trust in Him, how life-giving His reign will be.

(inspired by Luke 1:46-56 Amplified)

As Mary allowed the song to ring out in the small stable she was reminded of God’s faithfulness towards Abraham. His story was one that was often told because Abraham and Sarah’s story was a truly inspiring one. Mary smiled as she recalled the story of Isaac, the promised child who eventually was gifted when Abraham was around 100 years old and Sarah 90. As Mary reflected upon that divine miracle she was again reminded of her dear cousin Elizabeth who had a similar miracle occur, although she hadn’t been quite that old. Mary and Elizabeth had reflected on the similarities many times during her 3 month visit. Mary had raced to be with Elizabeth upon the news of her pregnancy and Mary had found great comfort as she had struggled with the news that she would become a mother in such an unusual way.

As Mary laid down to nap with her resting child she recalled the precious time that she had spent with Elizabeth. She had treasured the instruction and encouragement that Elizabeth had instilled in her and missed her terribly. Mary desperately longed to see her right now and allowed Elizabeth’s sweet face to lull her into a deep sleep. Mary awoke to the sound of rustling nearby and she was surprised to see a young boy sitting near her with a look of utter adoration upon his face. Mary wondered who he was and smiled at him as she gently cradled Jesus. The boy crept closer and gazed at her sleeping child. Mary smiled again and offered to hand Jesus to the boy but the young boy shook his head and just reached out a hand to gently touch Jesus instead. Mary noticed that the boy had a drum sitting next to him and watched smiling as he grabbed it and gently started playing. As Mary laid back in the straw Jesus kicked his arms and legs with great excitement, Mary laughed and the boy looked at her with tears streaming down his face.

‘Come they told me, a new born King to see.

Our finest gifts we bring to lay before the King.

So to honor Him when we come.

Little baby I am a poor boy too, I have no gift to bring that’s fit to give the King.

Shall I play for you on my drum?

Mary nodded, the ox and lamb kept time.

I played my drum for Him, I played my best for Him.

Then He smiled at me, me and my drum.’

After a few more moments his sweet song ended and he scurried away into the night. Mary laid back and treasured the little boy’s song in her heart, it seemed like such a fitting gift and one that she knew had the angels in heaven rejoicing over. Mary was reminded of King David and his ability to create such wonderful songs, as Mary thought back through the many to choose from she softly sung:

‘The Father says to His beloved Son: ‘Sit with Me at My right hand while I subdue every enemy. They will bow low before You and I make them a footstool for Your feet.

Come my beloved Son take the sceptre of strength and rule in Zion where Your Kingdom will have no end. Rule in the midst of Your enemies!

Oh my precious Son Your people will lovingly offer themselves to You, ready and willing to battle with You in the day of Your power. You will dwell in holiness from the womb until the very end. Forever You will be a priest of the highest order, One of great righteousness. I will be at Your right hand ready to crush the kings that rise against You.

My beloved Son execute judgement among the nations and shatter the strongholds of ruling powers. My Son drink from the flowing brook and be refreshed by My love. Know that in the end You will stand victorious!’ (Inspired by Psalm 110)

Mary lay back in the straw exhausted from her song but feeling refreshed in her spirit. She wondered how it could be possible for her precious son to help fulfil God’s promise to Abraham. Was Jesus to be like the other kings who take on hundreds of wives? Mary shuddered at the thought and sighed. Her weary brain was simply too tired to try and make sense out of any of this, as she laid back down she allowed the promise between God and Abraham to lull her back to sleep:

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘I am God Almighty; Walk [habitually] before Me [with integrity, knowing that you are always in My presence], and be blameless and complete [in obedience to Me]. I will establish My covenant (everlasting promise) between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly [through your descendants].’ Then Abram fell on his face [in worship], and God spoke with him, saying, ‘As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And [as a result] you shall be the father of many nations. No longer shall your name be Abram (exalted father), But your name shall be Abraham (father of a multitude); For I will make you the father of many nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you’” Genesis 17:1-7 Amplified

Lauren Daigle – ‘Little Drummer Boy’- YouTube Lyric Video

Little Drummer Boy lyrics

Notes:

According to The Passion Translation Psalm 110 is related to Jesus Christ and is quoted more often than any other Old Testament passage. There is an article that looks at this in great depth by 500 Questions.

I also studied “Great People Of The Bible And How They Lived” The Reader’s Digest Association Inc. Printed in 1974 by John Sands Pty Ltd Halstead Press Division. Sydney, Australia.

2019 = JOY. My Emotional Healing Testimony

Today I’d love to share with you my emotional healing journey, please note that this is the very brief overview because there is just SO much that God has done that I’m compiling it all to eventually release in a couple of books!

In February 2017 God invited me upon a deep inner healing journey and a huge part of that was dealing with the emotions that I had struggled with my whole life. Over the next few months God gradually unpacked grief, rage, hurt, pain, despair, fear, doubts, disappointments and so much more. Many times it felt like my heart would explode with the pain. I thought my mind would melt from the memories of despair combined with the emotion of hopelessness. I felt like my spirit was completely crushed beneath the weight of all I had endured and it was weak and failing me fast.

But praise God for He sustained me!

My heart full of pain was replaced with a heart full of grace and love.

My mind overwhelmed with despair has been renewed with hope and blessed assurance.

My ocean of tears filled with bitterness and great grief were replaced with tears of redemption!

My weak spirit is now steadfast and strong!

It was a journey where I needed to continuously cry out: “not my will but Yours my Lord!”.

God has taken me on a journey of embracing the fact that I‘m emotional and a couple of things that really helped were:

Firstly studying the life of Jesus and recognising the many INTENSE emotions He dealt with whilst here on earth and coming to the revelation that His emotions were centred in God.

Secondly studying James Goll who is a prophetically gifted man, he explains that prophetic people are extra-sensitive so that they can be receptive to the gentle nudging of the Holy Spirit. Sensitivity enables us to quickly perceive things in the spirit realm. I gained a great comfort from knowing that God wants people with sensitive soft hearts.

I’ve noticed that when we prophecy we feel the pain of others so that we can convey the heart of God. We can feel God’s pain or love or compassion for those we are speaking to so that we can engage appropriately. As emotional people we can be highly sensitive to the Holy Spirit which is a wonderful thing!

As God has patiently and gently taken me upon this journey I’ve seen a shift where I can now fully embrace my sensitive and emotional nature and allow God to use it for His great glory.

I wanted to share my story because I believe that God can heal every area of people’s lives – spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. God can make us WHOLE!

Larry Sparks, in his book “Ask For The Rain: Receiving Your Inheritance Of Revival & Outpouring”, explains it like this: “It’s not about who we are; it’s about Who He is in us and through us. If God is really inside of us, then everywhere we walk, we carry the rule, reign and administration of the Kingdom of Heaven.”

For God to do a work through us He needs to remove the rubbish and fill us to overflow with Him and His glorious presence, it is then that we will see as it is in Heaven unfold. It is a painful process but one that produces such freedom!

I felt prompted to declare over 2019 the following which has been inspired from Isaiah 61:

Jesus comforts and heals the wounds of the brokenhearted, He grants joy to ALL those who mourn.

He proclaims release from confinement and condemnation.

Jesus’s great sacrifice has freed us from every sin that would entangle and entrap us.

For those who are disheartened, Jesus grants the garment of praise.

Grasp hold of Jesus’ righteousness that makes you magnificently strong and full of integrity.

Jesus can rebuild that which seems destroyed and restore that which seems lost.

No longer will shame shadow you or humiliation be your name for a double portion will be restored to you and an everlasting joy bestowed upon you.

For our Lord God loves justice and hates robbery.

When others see our prosperity, they will know and acknowledge that we are God’s dearly loved and highly prized children.

Let us REJOICE greatly in the Lord, let our souls exult Him and His wonderful ways.

He clothes us in garments of salvation; covers us with the robe of righteousness; places a crown upon each of our heads; and adorns us with His goodness.

Just as the earth springs forth that which is sown into it, let us spring forth with righteousness and praise because we have the Word of God sown into our hearts producing a great harvest!

Praying 2019 unfolds with much joy. Many blessings, Keona

The Greatest Story – Part 2: Immanuel

Mary’s exhausted body finally succumb to sleep but after only a few short hours she awoke with her heart racing. It took her a moment to remember where she was and as she tried to roll over a soft moan tumbled from her lips as her weary achy body made known its protest. Mary took a few depth breaths to calm her racing heart as she felt her sleeping baby next to her, she pushed herself up into one elbow and tried to stare at his beautiful face in the dim light. Jesus lay in a very unusual crib, a feeding trough, but he didn’t seem to mind as he slept soundly. Mary’s ear picked up strange voices mixed with Joseph’s voice and wondered what was going on. As if he had read her mind Joseph crept quietly to her side to check if she was awake “are you ok?”, Mary tried to sit up and Joseph rushed to assist her as she let out another moan of pain, Joseph’s face filled with concern “I’m so sorry that you’re stuck here in this uncomfortable place”, Mary caught her breath and replied: “it’s ok Joseph, you tried everything, at least we are warm and safe”. Joseph smiled and stroked Mary’s face “you’re really so special”, Mary smiled back at him “you’re pretty amazing yourself”. Their moment was interrupted by Jesus stirring and Joseph gently picked him up “I think someone else wants your attention also”. Mary smiled and reached out for her son. “I’ll grab you some food and then we have some unusual visitors that insist on seeing you and our son”, Mary looked at Joseph with curiosity but he was gone before she could ask for more detail. A few moments later Merry, the homeowner’s wife, came to check on Mary with some food, fresh water and more cloth for Jesus “did you manage some sleep”, Mary sighed “yes thank you and thank you again so much for your assistance I was really quite scared”. Merry smiled “I’m so pleased I could help. I’m sorry that this is the only space we have free at the moment.”. Mary smiled and replied: “I appreciate having somewhere warm and safe, thank you for your kindness.” The two women sat in silence as Mary ate and fed Jesus. Once Jesus had finished Merry helped Mary to change him into fresh swaddling and she rocked him as Mary laid back sipping her water. “I’m sorry that you can’t rest longer but as Joseph mentioned we have some very keen people who are insisting on seeing you and Jesus, is that ok?” Mary again was extremely curious but just smiled and nodded. Merry handed Jesus back to Mary and left to find Joseph. A few moments later Joseph returned with Rufus, the homeowner, and a group of men. The first man laid down a staff as he knelt next to Mary and she recognized it as a shepherd’s hook. Mary smiled and offered Jesus to the man but he just knelt with a look of awe upon his face. One by one the shepherds gathered around Mary and Jesus kneeling with strange looks on their faces. Finally one of them spoke “blessed Mary we thank you for allowing us to visit. We have quite an unusual tale to tell.” Mary’s eyebrows shot up and she noticed Joseph winking at her over their heads, as she nodded the shepherd continued: “we were out in the fields not too far away and it was just like any other night except one particular star seemed extraordinarily bright.” The man’s face lit up as he continued “then the most amazing thing happened an angel appeared and the brightness of the Lord God shone all around us. We were terribly afraid but the angel told us not to fear because he was bringing good news of great joy. He told us that we would find a newborn baby right here in Bethlehem, wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a manger. We of course wondered just what was so special about a new baby and it was as if the angel understood our thoughts because he explained that this baby is the One we have been waiting for, he is the Messiah!”
Mary’s eyes filled with tears at the shepherd’s words. Then all of them began to speak at once about how a choir of angels had filled the sky and one shepherd sung out the song he had heard:
“Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!” (Luke 2:14 NKJV)
The first shepherd managed to get the others to quieten down so that he could explain “when the choir of angels left us we packed up and rushed straight here. It was easy to find you as the bright star led us here!”. The crowd that had followed the shepherds listened with amazement and pressed closer to see the baby that they spoke about. Mary hugged Jesus tightly to her chest and smiled as she allowed their words to sink deeply into her heart.

As the shepherds and the crowd disbursed Mary lay back in the straw to unpack all that they had told her, eventually her exhausted eyes closed and she dreamt about the choir of angels. She awoke to another crowd of visitors, at the sight of the distinguished looking men Mary felt unprepared and dishevelled. The men approached and knelt beside Jesus with a look of absolute wonder in their eyes. As Mary sat up straighter one of the men explained how they had been studying and searching. Mary gasped as one man reminded her of Balaam’s prophecy that her family had often recited:
“I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near; A Star shall come out of Jacob; A Scepter shall rise out of Israel, And batter the brow of Moab, And destroy all the sons of tumult.” (Numbers 24:17 NKJV)
Another man quickly explained that they had been closely watching the skies over Bethlehem because of Micah’s prophecy:
“But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.” (Micah 5:2 NKJV)
They explained how they had been watching the skies year after year and had seen the dramatic changes. They had enquired with King Herod about the new born king but he had seemed shocked and disturbed by their news. Joseph gave Mary a concerned look as they both felt uneasy at the mention of King Herod.
As the men explained how the star had appeared and moved to where Jesus lay a great excitement bubbled forth, “today we meet a great King and we have prepared gifts for him”. Each man brought forth a small chest and presented them to Mary, with shaking hands she opened them one by one to find gold, frankincense and myrrh. Tears of gratitude rolled down her face and she thanked them for their kind words and generous gifts. The men visited with Mary, Joseph and Jesus for a little while discussing in great detail their journey and observations and then rested nearby.
The next morning they bid farewell to Joseph as Mary and Jesus slept and explained that they would not return the way they had come because they had all had dreams that warned them to not return via King Herod. As Joseph thanked them again he wondered if Mary was strong enough to leave also because the Magi’s words had increased the unsettled feeling in Joseph’s heart.

“All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).” Isaiah 7:14 (NLT)

Picture – Westminister Church PCA

Read the visit of the Wise Men in Matthew 2:1-12

The Greatest Story. Part 1: Joy To The World

Mary had feared so many things about this pregnancy. She had feared when the angel had visited her…. Mary had awakened many months ago with her heart beat madly in her chest, a disturbing dream had gripped her entire body with fear and then someone had called her name in the dark of the night. Mary had been too scared to answer and then her room had been filled with a blinding light. Mary had held her arm up to her eyes in an attempt to block the light. As it had dimmed slightly Mary gasped and realised that someone had been standing in her room. Mary had called out: “Who are you?!”. The response had surprised her: “Mary, my name is Gabriel I have been sent from God with a message for you”. It was then that Mary’s entire body had trembled. Gabriel had continued his greeting to her: “greetings and grace to you, young favoured one. The Lord is with you!”. His words had meant to comfort her but Mary’s concern and confusion had grown as her mind raced to grasp the situation and the words. As if he completely understood her fear and confusion Gabriel had proclaimed: “Do not be afraid dear precious Mary, for you have found great favour with God.”

Mary had sat up straighter and focused her heart upon Gabriel’s words, she had fought hard against the fear gripping her heart. Then Gabriel’s words had granted her a great peace and the moment that Jesus was implanted in her womb she had felt as if peace had been implanted into her heart.

That peace was desperately needed as she had tried to find the words to explain to Joseph something that was unexplainable. Her heart had physically hurt as she watched disbelief and betrayal flash through his eyes. She hadn’t blamed him at all because her story was extremely hard to believe. She had tried to articulate the experience of seeing an angel and the message given. She had tried to explain that the Spirit of God had implanted the precious child within. She had wept for days wondering what his response was going to be. She had known that he could have accused her of adultery and that would mean being stoned, but her prayers had been answered and God had confirmed her story through an angelic visitor to Joseph. They had both wept tears as he had retold her about how close he had came to letting her go.

Mary reflected upon the fact that God had delivered her then and tried to ignite the peace in her heart. But as a strong contraction hit she felt a desperate need to find somewhere safe and fear began to creep into her heart. It was if this whole journey had been shadowed by fear and she had feared so many things.

Mary lifted her weary head, her dusty tear stained cheeks revealed just how painful and difficult the journey had been. She watched through her grit filled eyes as Joseph dragged her and their faithful donkey from place to place, she heard his desperate pleading for a room and wondered if they would ever find a place to rest. Mary cried out to God as another pain hit her abdomen, the birth pains had started as soon as the outskirts of Bethlehem had come into view and were much more frequent and strong now. Mary hadn’t needed to tell Joseph that the time of delivery was imminent because he had sensed it the first moment she had let out a soft moan. Joseph’s kindness, love and concern for her was evident in his pleas with each place they stopped. Joseph had almost exhausted all of his family contacts and there was only a handful of places to try. Mary’s pains continued regardless of the fact that she feared delivering her baby in the street with no shelter. Joseph looked at Mary with utter love and concern as he appologised:  “I’m so sorry we only have 1 more place to try”, Mary tried to smile but tears poured down her cheeks instead, she took a deep breath and mumbled “then let’s pray they can help us”. Mary tried to not get angry about the fact they had travelled for days and now there appeared to be no place for her to rest. She tried not to rage at the injustice of it all, how was she suppose to give birth? Was it to be on the back of the donkey? She feared that she really was going to deliver her child in the middle of the street! What if they could find some sort of shelter, but what? Under some tree if they could find one? Under a stall holder’s table? There simply seemed to be nowhere!

Mary had been afraid of many things but the conditions of her birth hadn’t entered her mind until now. The injustice of the Roman rule seemed personified in this moment just because they wanted to greedily grab every tax penny they could Caesar Augustus had issued a decree for a census to be taken of the entire Roman world. This ruling had forced her and Joseph to travel from Nazareth in Galilee to Bethlehem in Judea, the town of Joseph’s ancestor King David. Mary had feared their journey through the frightening Jordan valley wondering if they would face a lion or a band of robbers, knowing that both would show no mercy or acknowledgement to the fact that Joseph had ties back to King David and that she was bearing the Messiah. Mary had felt such relief when they had made it through the dim forest without too many troubles. Joseph had done an amazing job of finding shelter at just the right moment, so Mary placed her trust in him once again and thanked God for getting them here safely. As they made their way to the last place on Joseph’s list Mary issued another desperate plea to God.

The man who answered the door tried to explain that he simply had no room but as Mary’s moans rung out in his ears a great compassion filled his heart. He quickly ushered them inside and raced to find his wife.

Mary tried to get comfortable in the hay but the smell of the animals around her made her stomach turn. She issued a prayer though because she was so grateful to have finally found somewhere to rest but if she was honest this hadn’t been what she had imagined. Her ears had registered that they were surrounded by animals but it had taken her eyes quite some time to adjust in the dim light to see them all around her. Mary now smiled at the three sheep who had quickly surrounded her, they had simply ignored Joseph’s prodding and she was grateful for their warmth and comfort. “Joseph” Mary cried out “I did not expect to give birth here!” Joseph apologised yet again to Mary and knelt down beside her “I know I’m so sorry”.

“It’s ok” Mary gasped and Joseph reached for her, “do you want me to try and move those sheep away?”. Mary shook her head “no it’s ok I appreciate the warmth and softness of their wool, it’s actually kinda comfy now”. Joseph smiled and stroked the head of the sheep closets to him  “This journey has made me think a lot about my ancestor King David, he probably slept in a place like where you’re sitting right now”. Mary smiled and nodded unable to speak as another pain gripped her stomach. When the pain finally eased Mary gasped out for help. Just then the homeowner’s wife came rushing to Mary’s side with comforting words. She was soon issuing orders to her husband and Joseph who acted quickly and obediently to the commands issued.

A little while later the sheer terror of the past few hours melted away as Mary gazed into her newborn son’s eyes. Her body felt heavy from the arduous journey, the hours of pain and her arms shook slightly as she reached out for her son. Mary smiled as she watched Joseph gently hold and coo at Jesus, she desperately wanted to enjoy some quiet and calm but surrounded by animals and strangers she felt on high alert.

Joseph had urged her to get some sleep but the adrenaline was still racing through her veins, her racing heart refused to slow down and her tired eyes simply wouldn’t close. Mary shifted in the blankets and lent back into the warmness of the sheep around her. Her trio of comforters hadn’t left her side despite many attempts by Joseph and the owners to shift them. Eventually Mary had managed to convince Joseph that they were a comfort to her and so their presence still remained. As she laid back the companion to her right lifted her head to gaze at her, Mary reached out and stroked the curious nose “I’m ok” she whispered quietly. The sheep looked around as if checking all was ok, looked back at Mary and sighed. Despite her exhaustion Mary laughed, it was as if these three mild creatures had taken on the role of being her personal body guards.

“For today in Bethlehem a rescuer was born for you. He is the Lord Yahweh, the Messiah. You will recognize him by this miracle sign: You will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a feeding trough!” Luke 2:11-12 The Passion Translation

sheep

Mother and Baby Picture – Pixabay

Sheep Picture – Pixabay

Joy To The World – Jeremy Riddle – YouTube video

Notes: This story is inspired by the Biblical account of the birth of Jesus. I hadn’t ever really considered what the journey would be like between Nazarene and Bethlehem and I was surprised when I read Los Angeles Times article explaining that the journey was fraught with danger. Joseph and Mary had to contend with a long (90 miles/144 kilometres) difficult journey and possibly content with things like lions, bears, wild boars and bandits.

When Joseph and Mary finally made it there would have been such a sense of relief but then to find no shelter would have been terrifying. Mary would have longed to be around people she was comfortable with and also to have some skilled people on hand such as midwives. Giving birth is a dangerous thing especially back in those days when mortality rates were much higher. For her to have been surrounded by animals is very likely and believable. As James Cooper explains homes in those times were built with at least 2 levels: the ground floor was used by the family during the day but was where the animals slept at night while the family slept on the first level. Sometimes there was even an upper room which was a guest room on the roof.

Forgiveness Series – Part 7: Staying Free

Wow this has been an epic journey. I pray that as you’ve studied and pressed into God, freedom and healing has been released to you. Galatians 5:1 declares that Christ has completely liberated us, we are not partially but completely and wonderfully free! We must always cherish this truth, stand firm and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of our past. So let’s look at ways that we can stay free:

Our hearts

One way that we can stay free is to guard our hearts because it determines the course of our lives, we need to pay attention to the welfare of our innermost being for from there flows the wellspring of life (see Proverbs 4:23).

We need clean hearts because they can store up evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, lying and slander and these things defile us (see Matthew 15:18-19).

It’s vital that we store up good things in our hearts because:

  • whatever is in our heart will determine what we say (Matthew 12:34 & Luke 6:45)
  • we produce good things from the treasury of a good heart (Luke 6:45)

Jesus urges us (in Matthew 22:37) to love the Lord God with all of our heart, all of our soul and all of our minds.  Meaning that every passion and desire we have needs to bring honour and glory to God; we are to extend every ounce of energy towards serving God; and every thought needs to be worthy of praise.

Our minds:

Romans 12 encourages us to surrender our lives to God, to become His sacred living sacrifices. We’re urged to live in holiness so that we experience all that delights God’s heart. We need to allow the Holy Spirit to inwardly transform us through a complete and total reformation of how we think. This will empower us to discern God’s will as we live a beautiful satisfying and perfect life (Romans 12:1-2 TPT paraphrased).

Sound great doesn’t it? I think that we all desire to live a beautiful satisfying and perfect life.

Let’s live lives with our hearts and thoughts continually filled and fixed on all that is:

  • authentic and real
  • true and confirmed by God’s Word
  • honourable, admirable and worthy of respect
  • beautiful and respectful
  • pure, wholesome and holy
  • merciful and kind
  • things that bring peace

Let’s fasten our thoughts on God’s glorious works and praise Him always (Philippians 4:8)

Another way that we can stay free is by building our relationship with Jesus:

I love Paul’s letter in Ephesians 1 and it is my prayer for you: I pray that the Father of glory, the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to you the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know Him through your deepening intimacy with Him. I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of your imagination, flooding you with light, until you experience the full revelation of the hope of His calling—that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that He finds in us, His holy ones! I pray that you will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power made available to you through faith. Then your life will be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through you! This is the mighty power that was released when God raised Christ from the dead and exalted Him to the place of highest honour and supreme authority in the heavenly realm! (Ephesians 1:17-20 TPT paraphrased)

Perseverance 

You may find yourself still struggling and I want to remind you that it’s a journey. Keep pressing into God because Matthew 7:7-8 urges us to ask and KEEP on asking because it will be given to us (if we ask for things that line up with God’s will and plan for us); seek and keep on seeking and we will find those things that we’re looking for. Because

  1. those who keep on asking will receive
  2. those who keep on seeking will find
  3. and the ones that keep on knocking will find that the door opens to them

Here is a prayer that you can pray to stay free:

Thank You Jesus for completely liberating me, I’m not partially but completely and wonderfully free! Help me to always cherish this truth, to stand firm and stubbornly refuse to go back into the bondage of my past (Galatians 5:1).

Holy Spirit help me to guard my heart because it determines the course of my life, I know that I need to pay attention to the welfare of my innermost being because from there flows the wellspring of life (Proverbs 4:23).

I ask You to cleanse my heart from all evil thoughts such as murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, lying, slander and any other things that defile me (Matthew 16:18-19). Wash my heart in the blood of Jesus and return it to me whiter than snow with no spot or stain of sin.

I desire to produce good things from the treasury of a good heart (Luke 6:45).

I desire to love God with all of my heart, all of my soul and all of my mind.  I want every passion and desire to bring honour and glory to God; I will extend every ounce of energy towards serving God; and I’ll fix every thought on Him so that it will be worthy of praise (Matthew 22:37).

I surrender my life to God, I desire to become His sacred living sacrifice. I want to live in holiness so that I can experience all that delights God’s heart. Holy Spirit I invite You to inwardly transform me through a complete and total reformation of how I think. Please empower me to discern God’s will and live a beautiful satisfying and perfect life (Romans 12:1-2).

I endeavour to live my life with my heart and thoughts continually filled and fixed on all that is:

  • authentic and real
  • true and confirmed by God’s Word
  • honourable, admirable and worthy of respect
  • beautiful and respectful
  • pure, wholesome and holy
  • merciful and kind
  • things that bring peace

I fasten my thoughts on God’s glorious works and I will praise Him always (Philippians 4:8)

I pray that the Father of glory, the God of my Lord Jesus Christ, would impart to me the riches of the Spirit of wisdom and the Spirit of revelation to know Him through my deepening intimacy with Him. I pray that the light of God will illuminate the eyes of my imagination, flooding me with light, until I experience the full revelation of the hope of His calling—that is, the wealth of God’s glorious inheritances that He finds in me, one of His holy ones! I pray that I will continually experience the immeasurable greatness of God’s power which is made available to me through faith. Let my life be an advertisement of this immense power as it works through me! That is the mighty power that was released when God raised Christ from the dead and exalted Him to the place of highest honour and supreme authority in the heavenly realm! (Ephesians 1:17-20).

Lord I ask for perseverance to keep pressing into God and I hold fast to the promises in Matthew 7:7-8, that those who keep on asking will receive; those who keep on seeking will find; and the ones that keep on knocking will find that the door opens to them.

Thank You Lord for doing a great work in my life. Let me move forward today with deep gratitude and thankfulness. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

I think it’s important to finish this series with the words from Jesus:

Heavenly Father dwelling in the heavenly realms

Hallowed be Thy name.

Thy kingdom come.

Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Give me this day my daily bread.

Please forgive my sins, as I forgive those who have sinned against me.

Lead me not into temptation but deliver me from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen!

(Paraphrased NKJV, TPT & NLT Matthew 6:9-13)

Thank you so much for taking this journey with me. Many blessings, Keona

Picture – Pixabay