God’s Love, a word of encouragement

My family and I are blessed to have a home with stunning water views, on a clear day we can see a long way across the bay to cliffs.

Recently a fog rolled in and I couldn’t see past the railing of my balcony, the view was completely obscured from view.

fog 1

If you had visited me that day you might not have believed my gorgeous view.

God spoke to me as I looked out into the mist.

He said that the fog of sickness and circumstances in my life had obscured me from seeing God’s love. When I was in the depths of despair I felt so distant from God’s love. I couldn’t see it and I definitely couldn’t feel it. All I could see and feel was overwhelming defeat.

As I sat and looked out at the fog and prayed a wonderful thing happened- slowly and steadily the fog rolled back. At first the rooftops came into view, then the edge of the water, then iron pot and finally the cliffs on the far side.

As I sat and watched I knew that’s what God had done in my life. When sickness trapped me in bed God healed me and bit by bit and He has been restoring my strength. Each day I’m feeling more of His gracious love and His great goodness.

I share this with you because I want to encourage you that even though it feels like it there is a wonderful promise that NOTHING can separate us from God’s love. When you’re surrounded by the fog of despair His love is still there!

I know this because of what God has shown me and its confirmed in Romans 8:38-39: So now I live with great confidence, in fact I’m convinced beyond any doubt, that there is nothing in the universe that has the power to separate us from God’s love. I’m truly convinced that His unlimited passionate love will triumph over death, life’s troubles, fallen angels and all created things. I know that Jesus has conquered our past, is at work in our present and will triumph in our future. Because God’s extravagant love is lavished upon us through our Lord Jesus, the Anointed One!

I want to encourage you today that if circumstances or situations have you feeling trapped in a fog that is obscuring your view of God and feeling His love then please hold tight. Declare that there is NOTHING that can separate you from God’s love and allow Him to roll back that fog from your heart and mind.

I’ve been battling a bit of a writing fog when it comes to ‘The Greatest Story’ but I’ve set aside some time next week so I’ll try to get back on-track with it after Easter. Thanks for your patience, prayers appreciated.

Many blessings, Keona

Picture – Pixabay

 

Marriage: leaving and cleaving.

This week hubby and I celebrate 23 years of marriage, which is terribly exciting! I cannot begin to say how grateful I am for Trav’s love, his support and care for me over the past 23+ years (we’ve been together for 28 years) has been amazing and in particular the past intense 5 years. The challenges we’ve faced have been difficult and confronting but looking back I realise that God’s grace has been at work helping us each step of the way. This reminds me of the promise in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God’s grace is all we need in our time of trial, for His great power works best in weakness. I see that now but I did not see it at the beginning because when I laid in bed, barely able to get out, I could not see how God was at work.

My dear friend Elisa sent me a link to the song ‘Gracefully Broken’ and the following lyrics really helped me to process the season I’m in:

“Your power at work in me

I’m broken gracefully

I’m strong when I am weak

I will be free”

My weakness has forced me to rely COMPLETELY upon the only One who is always strong – God. As I’ve allowed Him to break away all the bits of my life that have needed to be destroyed, I’ve discovered a new level of freedom.  I asked God to show me something in regards to my marriage and I was surprised when He asked me to look more into leaving and cleaving. Here is the journey God took me on:

I was talking to a friend about being homesick and I shared with her that when my kids were little I was DESPERATE to move back to the NW coast to be with family. But with Trav being the main earner the right job just wasn’t there. For at least a decade every visit home would leave me feeling depressed, I’d feel a heaviness hit my heart the moment I got into the car and it would grow with the distance. For days after I’d be so annoyed, sad and mad that we lived so far away. I asked God many times for a door to open. Early into my deep inner healing journey I discovered a truth that helped me so much, I realized that closed doors can be God’s sovereign protection. I love how Lysa TerKeurst explains it:

“When God says no, we are sometimes tempted to wonder if He loves us. In reality, it’s because He loves us, He sometimes says no. Instead of feeling like it’s the end of the world, we can remember His no may simply mean not now, not yet, not necessarily, or not in your best interest. Let’s stand on His Promise of love so we don’t get deceived with doubt in this process. And let’s trust His best for us is on the way!”

I see now that we are called to be here, that God has a plan and a purpose in this. So what is this leaving and cleaving all about? In Genesis 2:23-24 Adam proclaims: “Finally! At last, this one is one of my bones and flesh of my flesh. She will be called ‘woman’ because she is taken from ‘man’.” The verse finishes with this statement: this explains why a man leaves his father and mother to be joined with his wife, the two are united into one.

Ted Cunningham explains that we are to leave home physically, relationally, emotionally, financially, spiritually and sometimes geographically.

  • Physically (and sometimes geographically) – you move out of your family’s home and that can sometimes be some distance away.
  • Relationally – Your preferred person in life is now your spouse.
  • Emotionally – process a decision through with your spouse taking into account their feelings. Don’t allow your parent’s emotions or opinions cloud your decision making.
  • Financially – blaze your own financial trail.
  • Spiritually – It is a personal faith in Jesus saves you, not just your family’s faith.

These are points I’ve found so helpful. I am extremely grateful that God is so patient with me and as I look towards the future I’m grateful that I can learn, grow and encourage others.

Here is my prayer:

Lord Jesus, You dealt with the root of all issue – sin. You defeated it and I no longer need to be a slave to sin. Lord, please help me to leave behind my old ways and cleave to You – to be set apart for You. I ask You to unite me deeper with my husband, I’m so grateful for him because he is such a blessing to me. Thank You for Your truly amazing grace that sustains us and works in our moments of weakness. Thank You for being our strength and refuge in life’s storms and trials. Lord smile upon us and be gracious towards us (Number 6:25). May the grace of our Lord Jesus and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit continually teach us (2 Corinthians 13:14). In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen

Blessings, Keona

Notes:

‘Gracefully Broken’ by Matt Redman YouTube link

““At last!” the man exclaimed. “This one is bone from my bone, and flesh from my flesh! She will be called ‘woman,’ because she was taken from ‘man.’” This explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one.” Genesis 2:23-24 NLT

“Then Adam said, “This is now bone of my bones, And flesh of my flesh; She shall be called Woman, Because she was taken out of Man.” For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and shall be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” GENESIS 2:23-24 AMP

“The Man said, “Finally! Bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh! Name her Woman for she was made from Man.” Therefore a man leaves his father and mother and embraces his wife. They become one flesh. The two of them, the Man and his Wife, were naked, but they felt no shame.” Genesis 2:23-25 MSG

The Greatest Story – Part 14: Water into Wine

The next day Jesus was walking through town when John the Baptist called out: ‘Look! I see the Lamb of God!’, then John’s two disciples quickly followed after Jesus. He turned around when He noticed them following Him and asked: ‘what is it that you want?’ Andrew (Simon-Peter’s brother) and Philip exchanged a glance and Andrew replied: ‘Rabbi we wondered where You were staying.’ Jesus replied: ‘come and I’ll show you.’. They made their way through the narrow streets and then gathered into the small room as Jesus patiently spent time teaching and sharing what was on His heart. Late into the night Jesus looked intently at Simon and declared: ‘you will be called Cephas’ Peter looked at Him with surprise ‘Lord do You mean rock or Peter?’ Jesus smiled ‘You will see’.

After a refreshing night’s sleep Jesus set out to find Phillip and invited him to join him, Philip readily agreed and went searching for Nathanael to tell him to good news. It wasn’t a hard search and Phillip excitedly declared: ‘We’ve found the person Moses and the great prophets spoke about! His name is Jesus, to son of Joseph from Nazareth!’, Nathanael looked at him with surprise ‘Nazareth? I haven’t heard of anything good coming from there!’ Phillip urged him: ‘please come and meet Him, see for yourself.’. As Nathanael approached Jesus he heard Him declare: ‘now here comes a genuine son of Israel, a true descendant of Jacob. Here is a man of complete integrity, there is no deceit hidden in his heart.’ Nathanael looked at Jesus with surprise ‘how do You know all this about me?’ Jesus smiled and replied: ‘I saw you under the fig tree long before Phillip found you.’ Nathanael fell onto his knees and proclaimed; ‘Rabbi! You are the new King of Israel. You are the One we have waited for, the Son of God!’ Jesus pulled Nathanael to his feet ‘do you really believe all of that?’ Nathanael nodded with tears of joy flowing down his face, Jesus looked intently into his eyes ‘do you believe just because of what I said?’ Nathanael shook his head and replied: ‘I know You are Him.’ Jesus smiled ‘Oh you will see great things! You will see the heavens open and sight heavenly beings, you will understand that I’m the stairway between heaven and earth.’. The other disciples didn’t understand what Jesus was saying but a deep revelation hit Nathanael’s heart and he embraced Jesus.

After another late night of teaching Jesus and His disciples finally managed a few hours of sleep. Wearily they awoke and made their way to a wedding celebration in Cana. When they arrived Mary smiled as her gaze fell upon Jesus, she quickly ran to Him and embraced Him. After a short time chatting the formalities began and the large crowd settled down to witness the ceremony. The wedding feast was a sight to behold, tables were laden with the finest foods and people greedily ate their fill. The wine flowed freely and the mood was merry and light. Late in the night Mary noticed that the groom’s mother seemed anxious and concerned, she made her way over ‘is everything ok?’ the lady turned and tried to smile ‘um..’ Mary could see her reluctance and pulled her to a quiet corner of the room ‘I’d like to help if I can.’ The groom’s mother smiled ‘Oh Mary you’ve already helped so much, I don’t want to burden you further.’ Mary grabbed her hand and replied: ‘if I can help I will, just tell me what the concern is, please.’ The groom’s mother reluctantly shared that they had no idea so many people would arrive, looking quite embarrassed she continued to explain that they were almost out of wine. Mary gasped she knew that if that happened the family would be disgraced and much shame would fall upon the newlyweds, the words that she had often heard Rabbi’s declare rung in her ears: ‘Without wine there is no joy!’. Oh dear she could see the dilemma that the family faced, Mary assured the groom’s mother that she would do all that she could and made her way to Jesus.  Stooping down she whispered in His ear: ‘there is no more wine.’ Jesus looked at her puzzled ‘that is not my concern.’ Mary insisted that He help but He replied: ‘Mother, it is simply NOT My time yet.’ Mary smiled, patted Jesus’ hand and walked to the nearest servants. Within listening distance to Jesus she pointed to Him and said: ‘Please do WHATEVER He tells you to do.’, she smiled at Jesus and sauntered away. The servants quickly raced to Jesus and looked intently to Him for instruction. Jesus sighed and prayed quietly before instructing them: ‘fill those jars with water’, Jesus indicated to the six stone jars that were nearby. The servants looked at Him a bit puzzled ‘we use those for the ceremonial washing which has been completed.’ Jesus sighed and patiently replied: ‘please just fill them with water.’ The servants nodded and quickly filled the jars. When the jars were full Jesus instructed them to take some out and present it to the master of ceremonies. The servant closest quickly obliged but Jesus could see his hand shaking as he carried the cup, walking up to the master of ceremonies the servant bowed and presented the cup. The man tasted it and exclaimed: ‘Oh how wonderful!’, beckoning the bridegroom over he declared: ‘a host always serves the best wine first and when people have had their fill they usually bring out the less expensive wine.’ Taking another sip he continued: ‘but you have kept the best until now and what a pleasure it is to taste!’. The master of ceremonies slapped the bridegroom on the back and loudly declared that the best wine was now being served. The crowd let out a loud shout and Mary winked at Jesus. The servants stood amazed and looked at Jesus with curiosity, they dared not question the fact that it was only water that had been served to the master of ceremonies, or was it? The servants gathered around the jugs they were serving from and smelt the surprising scent of a rich wine, they looked at each other with slight fear gripping their hearts, who was this Jesus?

Notes:

You read the wedding story in the Bible: John 2:1-12.

For more details about the importance of not running out of wine you can read the sermon ‘What Do You Do When The Wine Runs Out’ by Steven Spence, found at faithlife.com.

Also Biblehub.com has several commentaries that delve into this story.

The disciples can be found mentioned in: John 1:35-50; the first Disciples called: Matthew 4:18-22 & Mark 1:16-20 & Luke 5:1-11; and the 12 Apostles (Matthew 10:1-4 & Mark 2:13-19 & Luke 6:12-16). Those I haven’t mentioned yet I’m sure will weave their way in soon.

Picture – Pixabay

The Greatest Story – Part 13: The First Disciples

When Jesus was rested He returned to Galilee and regularly taught at the synagogues where He was praised by everyone, reports about Him soon spread around the entire region. He was filled with the Holy Spirit and therefore taught with great authority and wisdom. One Sabbath Jesus was asked to read at the synagogue in His home town Nazareth, the scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to Him. Jesus unrolled it and read:

‘The Spirit of the sovereign Lord is upon me, for He has anointed me to bring Good News. I bring hope to the poor; comfort for the brokenhearted; new eyes for the blind; I proclaim liberty for the captives; and freedom for the oppressed. I have come to share the message of Jubilee, for the time of God’s great favour had come!’ (Luke 4:18-19 paraphrased)

Jesus rolled up the scroll and handed it back to the attendant, He could feel everyone’s eyes looking at Him intently. He took a deep breath and declared:

‘The Scripture you’ve just heard has been fulfilled this very day!’

The crowds murmured: ‘but isn’t this Joseph’s son? How can it be?’. Jesus looked at them sadly ‘why do you disregard a prophet in His hometown? Why do you doubt and squabble so? Elijah battled with this same disgruntled unbelief, he was sent to a widow of Zarephath and healed a Syrian leper. Foreigners welcomed and embraced him and he in return brought food and healing to their lives.’

The crowds became furious, jumping to their feet they raced forward and grabbed Jesus roughly. At the edge of town they dragged Him towards the cliff, determined to push Him off, but confusion hit them and Jesus passed right by them and safely escaped.

With a heavy heart Jesus made His way to Capernaum where He began teaching in the synagogue every Sabbath. People were amazed and greatly impacted by His teaching and the word soon spread. One day as Jesus was teaching a man began yelling out: ‘Go away! Why are you here? I know You’re the Holy One sent by God, have You come to destroy us?’. The man fell to the floor and Jesus walked over to the man ‘Be quiet!’ He yelled, ‘Leave this man alone, come out of him right now!’. The man’s writhing stopped and immediately he stood up looking slightly dazed. Jesus smiled, blessed him and sent him on his way. The crowd watching were amazed and began speaking to each other ‘who is this man? He speaks with such power and authority, look even the demons obey Him!’.

Jesus pushed through the crowds and made His way to Simon’s home. He was greeted at the door by a servant who was weeping ‘please help, the lady of the house is very ill.’ Simon heard the voices and made his way to the front door ‘Jesus! Welcome, please come in.’ As Jesus made His way through the home He could feel the grief and tension hanging over everybody’s hearts, He turned to Simon ‘Is you mother sick?’, Simon hung his head and nodded, ‘can you show me where she is please?’ Simon looked up with surprise and led Jesus to her room. Jesus walked in and saw another servant trying to bring the high fever down, Simon’s mother writhed in pain and mumbled incoherent words. Jesus made His way to her bed and rebuked the fever. Immediately Simon’s mother opened her eyes and smiled, Jesus helped her to rise up as Simon and the servant stood with astonished looks upon their faces. Simon’s mother embraced Jesus ‘thank you! Now let me get changed and I’ll make you a meal.’ Jesus and Simon left the room and soon enjoyed a delicious meal which included lots of laughter as joy filled the hearts of all in the home.

That evening people throughout the entire village brought their sick to Jesus, no matter how severe the illness was Jesus was able to heal them all. He didn’t allow the demon possessed to speak instead He delivered them immediately. The people were amazed by the power and authority that Jesus wielded. There was much rejoicing as the people were ecstatic to see such dramatic transformations take place.

The news spread like a raging wildfire throughout the entire region and soon people began to search for Jesus. Early one morning, as Jesus was alone praying, the crowds found Him and begged Him to stay with them. Jesus replied: ‘but I must go and preach the Good News to many more towns, that is why I was sent.’ The people did not understand and begged Him to stay but Jesus left and travelled throughout Judea.

A little while later, as Jesus was preaching on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, a great crowd gathered to listen to His message. As the crowds grew Jesus saw two empty boats and approached the owner, Simon, ‘can I please teach from your boat?’ Jesus asked and Simon readily agreed. They pushed Jesus out so that all the people could see and hear Him.

Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God, calling out to them : ‘Repent, seek eagerly after God’s purpose for your life and believe in the Good News. Trust deeply the glorious message, believe that God loves you and longs to grant you salvation.’ (see Mark 1:15)

As the day drew to a close, and the crowd disbursed, Jesus turned to Simon ‘Please take me out to the deep and drop your nets to catch come fish.’ Simon looked at Jesus wearily ‘Master we worked hard all night and didn’t catch a single fish.’ He hung his head and continued ‘but because You’ve asked me, I will do it.’.

Jesus smiled and watched with delight as Simon wearily went about his tasks and issued orders to the others. When they were deep enough the nets were let down. To Simon’s great surprise and delight the nets began to fill immediately and they shouted for help from the nearby boat. Quickly both boats were filled to the brim with fish and were even on the verge of sinking because of the vast quantity. As Simon gazed upon the vast quantity of fish a reverence fell upon his heart, kneeling before Jesus he cried out: ‘Oh Lord, please leave me for I’m too great a sinner for You to be around!’. Jesus pulled Simon up and replied: ‘don’t be afraid, I’ll make you a fisher of men.’. When the boats made it to shore Jesus called out to the men: ‘come, follow me and I’ll make you fishers of men.’ Immediately Simon, James and John (the sons of Zebedee) left everything behind and followed Jesus.

Jesus cries out still today: ‘Come follow Me. I will transform you into servants who capture people for the glory of God. I’ll teach you how to turn their hearts back to the One who loves them and longs to care for them. Just come and follow Me!’

Notes:

This story can be found in the Bible: Luke 4, Luke 5, Mark 1:16-19 and Matthew 4:18-22.

The Greatest Story – Part 12: Temptation

Jesus smiled as He heard His Father’s voice boom out from Heaven, oh how He missed hearing Him so clearly. He thanked John and waded out of the water as people stood with a look of wonderment upon the faces. Many pushed closer to touch Him and Jesus smiled, welcoming them to Him. When all the fuss died down He withdrew to the mountains nearby to pray and was then led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness.

For forty days and forty nights Jesus had fasted and prayed, today He felt as if all His strength evaporated and His parched lips reminded Him of how desperate He was for a drink. Although He felt physically weak His spirit remained steadfast and strong. The fact that Jesus could call upon Scripture had brought Him much comfort over the long days and nights. He knew that it was the words from the Psalms that had enabled Him to endure and in particular He had often called out for God to revive Him, just like the Psalmist had cried out:

“I’m bruised and broken, overwhelmed by it all;
breathe life into me again by your living word.” Psalm 119:107 (TPT)

As Jesus rolled over His weary head began to pound and He once again cried out for a refreshing. He could feel the sun beating down on Him causing further damage to His aching skin but He couldn’t find the strength to move. He tried to roll His head to the side but sharp rocks cut into His scalp. Jesus laid there and tried to pray through the pain and discomfort. As darkness began to creep over the land Jesus felt a change in the atmosphere and knew that something was shifting, as He slowly sat up He was surprised to see that He had company. The hooded figure remained standing over Him and Jesus tried to see who it was. The Accuser glared at Jesus and menacingly growled: ‘Are You really the Son of God?”, Satan bent down and spat the last word out and then continued: ‘IF You are then why don’t you tell these stones to become loaves of bread?’, he laughed as he kicked rocks towards Jesus. A few tumbled and hit Jesus’ knee which caused a shooting pain. Jesus calmly returned the menacing gaze and softly replied: ‘No! The Scriptures explain that man does not live on bread alone but lives by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’

Satan continued to sneer at Jesus and walked to the edge of the cliff, beckoning Jesus to join him. Jesus slowly pushed Himself up and stifled a groan as His freshly injured knee tried to take His weight. As Jesus looked out over Jerusalem He smiled, the Temple sparkled as the sun’s rays hit the golden carvings.  Satan turned to Jesus and indicated to the ground below ‘IF You’re truly the Son of God then jump off the cliff.’ Satan leaned in closer and sneered ‘the Scriptures say that God will order His angels to protect You.’, he looked down at Jesus’ injured leg and laughed ‘I thought the angels were meant to hold You up with their hands so that You wouldn’t even stub Your toe on a stone.’ Satan indicated to the ground again ‘jump!’. Jesus took a step back from the ledge and replied: ‘it is written that you must NOT test the Lord God.’

Satan quickly turned and climbed higher up the mountain, beckoning Jesus to follow. Jesus took a deep breath and slowly made His way higher. Near the peak of the mountain Satan stopped and Jesus joined him but at a distance, Jesus could feel His legs shaking and prayed for strength as the dark spots danced before His eyes trying to overtake Him and pull Him into a dark slumber. Satan turned to Jesus and smiled ‘I will give ALL of this to You, just one taste and You will see how intoxicating power can be!’ his hand made a grand sweeping gesture. Satan leaned in close to Jesus ‘just kneel down and worship me.’, he smirked and looked at Jesus with eager anticipation in his eyes. Jesus lifted His eyes and looked back into the Accuser’s face ‘leave me alone, get out of here! For the Scriptures say that we are to worship only the Lord God Almighty and serve only Him!’ Satan looked closely at Jesus’ face with delight, he could see that Jesus was struggling, but Jesus screamed out: ‘GO!’ and Satan quickly withdrew down the mountain. As soon as Satan was out of sight Jesus collapsed onto the ground, as He laid there He could feel the last of His energy leaving His body.

Jesus felt a cold cloth being pressed to His mouth and quickly tried to sit up, ‘shhh, it’s ok’ Jesus forced his tired gritty eyes to open and smiled as He took in the magnificent face of Michael. Jesus looked around and saw that Michael had brought his faithful warriors and breathed a sigh of relief as He took in the sight of many angels surrounding Him. He could feel hands of comfort tending to His injured knee, blistered feet and sunburnt face.

Michael handed Jesus manna and He grabbed it with gratitude ‘ah the food of angels.’, Michael smiled ‘yes but for some strange reason eating it 3 times a day for 40 years tends to make people grumpy’, Jesus laughed but then reflected with sadness on the Israelites in the wilderness, they had witnessed many astonishing miracles, but yet their hearts had quickly turned to rebellion and disobedience. God’s beloved and delivered people had been led by a cloud each day and a pillar of fire each night, but yet still they had doubted God’s presence amongst them. They had been given food, the very same food that Jesus now held in His hands, which had been delivered direct from the heavens, but yet still they had grumbled and complained doubting God as their perfect Provider. When Moses had struck the rock and water gushed forth surely that would have been an amazing sight to behold, but yet they took their fill and still mumbled and complained. When the Promise Land was within easy grasp fear and trepidation has arisen in their hearts, they still had not learnt that God is a mighty, fierce and faithful Warrior. Jesus allowed tears to flow as His heart ached, how He longed for all to know and truly believe that God IS faithful towards those who believe in Him.

Jesus sat up and broke the thin bread, He could smell the sweet coriander and as He placed it on His tongue the richness of honey revived Him immediately. Michael handed Jesus a jug of water and Jesus took great big gulping sips, ‘hey slow down’ Michael laughed, ‘I can’t have you getting all water logged on me’. Jesus laughed and put the jug down to have some more of the delicious manna.

As the stars came out Michael and Jesus talked late into the night, by the warmth of the fire Jesus slept soundly and awoke feeling strong and revived.

“For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize and understand our weaknesses and temptations, but One who has been tempted [knowing exactly how it feels to be human] in every respect as we are, yet without [committing any] sin.” Hebrews 4:15 Amplified Bible (AMP)

Notes:

The temptation of Jesus is found in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.

You can read more about it at allaboutjesuschrist.org.

If you would like to read more about manna gotquestions.org has an interesting article.

Jesus, the only One

who deeply understands

our weaknesses

see Hebrews 4:15

The Greatest Story Part 11: John The Baptist

John smiled as he looked around his home, the inhabitable hostile environment had become a place of refuge for him. It was here in this dark cave, away from the crowds and family expectations, that he had been prepared for what he was about to embark on. He looked around with some sorrow in his heart for he knew that he would miss this place. As he prepared to leave he reflected upon the journey that had brought him to this place.

His wonderful and loving parents took great delight in telling him, every birthday, about his miraculous entry into the world. They had both given up hope of ever having children until a visit from an angel told his father, Zechariah, that his mother, Elizabeth, would soon conceive a boy and that he was to be called John (Jehovah is gracious), for God had heard their prayers and was now answering them. John’s mother would laugh each time his father humbly recalled how he doubted that it could happen. John’s mother would say it was wonderfully quiet when his father was unable to speak and then they would all smile and laugh.

When John had been presented at the temple his father was given the ability to speak and had prophesied over John:

‘Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has extended to us His amazing grace. He has visited and redeemed His people.
He has sent us a mighty Saviour, One who will rise up in strength and fight for us. The promise made to David has been fulfilled and the prophet’s words from long ago will now unfold. The covenant made with Abraham now is revealed, oh how merciful and faithful God is!

What a glorious day for now we will be saved from our enemies and those who despise us. We can serve God without fear, in holiness and righteousness we bow down to the only One who can save, may we serve Him faithfully for all of our days.

You, my precious son, will be called the prophet of the Most High and you will prepare the way for the great Redeemer. You will tell people how to find salvation and turn their hearts to repentance.
God’s tender mercy is extended to us and the morning light from heaven is about to break upon us. This Light will shine on those who sit in the darkness, pulling them from the shadow of death and guiding them along the path of perfect peace.’ (Luke 1:76-77 paraphrased)

John had memorised every word that his father had declared that day because each time he heard it something had stirred deep within him and now he knew it was time to act.

John’s appearance, clothes woven from course camel hair, and strange eating habits, wild honey and locusts, should have turned people away but his words struck at their hearts:

“Prepare your hearts for the coming of the Lord Yahweh” Mark 1:3 (TPT)

“Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” Matthew 3:2 (NLT)

People flooded to him from Jerusalem, Judea and all over the Jordan Valley to listen to him speak. When people repented John would baptise then in the Jordan River. His following stirred the interests of the Pharisees and Sadducees, but they did not appreciate him calling them a ‘brood of snakes’; they were outraged that John did not respect their ties to Abraham and that he dared to even say that their lineage would not matter to God; they had almost dragged John away when he referred to them as being chaff and that God was ready to separate the chaff from the wheat, that God would then clean up the threshing floor and burn the chaff with an never-ending fire (Matthew 3:1-15).

They became so outraged that they tried to turn people away from listening to John, however, no matter how hard they tried people kept flooding in to hear John’s message, just as the prophet had foretold the messenger prepared the way:

“The Coming Day of Judgment: ‘Look! I am sending my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. Then the Lord you are seeking will suddenly come to his Temple. The messenger of the covenant, whom you look for so eagerly, is surely coming,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” Malachi 3:1 (NLT)

The people were stirred into a great excitement and expectation for John often referred to another that was coming. One who would be greater and more powerful, who would come and baptise them with the Holy Spirit:

“There is a man coming after me who is greater and a lot more powerful than I am. I’m not even worthy to bend down and untie the strap of his sandals. I’ve baptized you into water, but he will baptize you into the Spirit of Holiness!” Mark 1:1-8 (TPT)

Then suddenly the day arrived, John was baptising people and sharing the Good News when suddenly Jesus appeared. He waded into the water and walked up to John ‘hey cousin’, Jesus embraced John as the crowd stood watching. John embraced Jesus with tears in his eyes ‘oh it is good to see You.’

Jesus stepped back and said ‘please baptise me’

John looked at Him puzzled ‘but I need to be baptised by You’

Jesus smiled ‘it must be done, for we all have to be obedient to God and follow His commands.’

John’s heart filled with deep revelation and understanding, and he nodded. As John lowered Jesus into the water words flowed from his mouth with great reverence and awe ‘I baptise You in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’

As Jesus came up from the water He smiled at John, then stepped away a little and prayed. Suddenly the heavens opened, the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus in the form of a dove and the voice of God declared:

“This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me such delight and great joy.”

Notes:

The article Who Was John the Baptist? By Wayne Jackson is a fascinating read, if you’d like to know more about the amazing man here is the link: www.christiancourier.com

The baptism of Jesus can be found in Luke :21-22, Matthew 3:13-17 and Mark 1:9-11. See more details at BibleStudyTools.com.

The Greatest Story – Part 10: Pilgrimage

The years flew by, life In Galilee suited Joseph and Mary. Joseph set up a carpentry business and they welcomed more children into their family: James, Elizabeth, Joses, twin girls Joanna and Sapphira, Judas and Simon. Jesus proved to be a helpful big brother and Mary was grateful for His constant encouragement and help when He wasn’t studying or assisting Joseph. Elizabeth was just as sweet and kind as Mary’s cousin and become a second mother to the other children, even Jesus listened to her and James when given a stern look from his mother. Mary’s heart was full of love for her children and her life was busy but wonderful.

Each year Joseph and Mary had made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover festival (Luke 2:41). Mary always loved the journey because it meant quality time with her family and friends. She always found that the eight-day festival was a time of refreshing and rest because there were many hands to help out with the children. As she prepared for the upcoming pilgrimage she smiled and rejoiced, this one felt extra special. Jesus in particular seemed to be cherishing this trip more than the others. Mary smiled as He raced in to wash up for dinner, He had been out helping Joseph deliver items and was covered in sawdust. ‘slow down’ she called out as He raced past and nearly toppled Simon. ‘sorry’ Jesus yelled back with a grin. Mary tried to look stern but her heart swelled with pride, Jesus was just always so excited about everything and He brought so much joy to her life. Joseph came in and Mary smiled as he was swamped by the children ‘all set?’, Joseph smiled ‘yes I’ve finished what I can and there is no rush for the rest of the items.’.

After a noisy dinner Mary and the children settled down to listen to Joseph retell the story of the first Passover. When he had finished Mary put the youngest children to bed, she came back into the kitchen to find Joseph and Jesus busily packing the last items as Elizabeth prepared the final food stores they would need. Mary looked around at all the items they had gathered, ‘you’d think after all these years we would be able to pack a bit lighter?’. Joseph laughed ‘yeah right’. When the final preparations had been made Mary collapsed into bed utterly exhausted, she wasn’t sure how she would fare on the long trek and prayed for a refreshing sleep.

Over the next few days the kilometres quickly clocked up and Mary discovered that the fresh air actually invigorated her, it probably had a lot to do with the wonderful conversations she was able to have. Each night she laid down feeling content and happy. There was something truly special about this trip, the closer they got the more convinced she became. On the outskirts of Jerusalem, the crowds increased and Mary kept a close eye on her children. Mary and Joseph would be staying with Rufus and Merry again and she was so excited about being able to catch up with her dear friends. Each year it was one of the highlights at the end of the long journey. The upstairs room was crowded with all of them squeezed in so Jesus and James insisted on sleeping in the hay with the animals. Mary laughed at Jesus’ request and took great delight in showing Him exactly where He had spent His first few nights. Mary stood there squeezing Jesus and re telling the tale of His birth, tears flowed freely as she recalled the shepherds and the young boy. Jesus was fascinated and listened to Mary retell the story as He stroked the sheep that had gathered around them. Making sure that the boys were comfortable Mary went in to help with dinner preparations.

The next few days passed in a euphoric blur, they days were busy and full. Mary was able to take the younger children home most afternoons so that they could all have a sleep and stay up late for the evening events. Jesus and His cousin John spent a lot of time together and Elizabeth and Mary were harassed regularly by their constant requests to go into the hillside. Most days the boys would escape before dawn to explore the woods nearby and Mary constantly prayed for their safety.

The days passed quickly, Joseph and Mary soon found themselves packing up to leave. As usual Jesus was off with John so Mary gathered her other children and began the long trek home. At camp the first night Mary made her way over the Elizabeth to check on Jesus, her stomach dropped when she saw that Jesus was not with them. John explained they he hadn’t seen Jesus all day. Mary raced back to Joseph with her heart hammering and her mouth uttering a prayer: ‘Oh God, I’m so sorry’. She rushed into Joseph’s arms crying and blubbering that Jesus was lost, ‘I’m sure He’s here, why don’t you check with your relatives that way and I’ll check over this way.’. Mary nodded numbly and stumbled in the direction Joseph had pointed her. By the time darkness fell over the camp Joseph and Mary realised that Jesus was most definitely NOT with them. Mary cried herself to sleep that night and they made plans to return and look for Him.

Rufus and Merry were surprised but delighted to see them return so soon but their celebration soon turned into concern when they heard the news that Jesus was missing. For 3 days Joseph and Mary exhausted themselves looking everywhere they could for Jesus and each night Mary fell into a fitful sleep. She awoke early each morning with the feelings of guilt and condemnation falling heavy upon her heart. Her mind was assaulted with constant questions: how could she have been so careless? Losing the Son of God, how could she ever be forgiven? What if something truly terrible had happened to Him?  Mary fretted that her 12 year-old son was somewhere strange, alone and afraid.  As the sun rose Mary drew upon God’s grace and mercy afresh and asked for help to find Jesus.

Joseph and Mary had checked everywhere they could think of when a cousin came running up to them ‘I’ve found Him’ he puffed and tugged them along to the temple. Mary wept with relief when she saw Jesus but was surprised to find Him surrounded by the religious leaders and her ears could hardly believe that Jesus was actually asking extremely in-depth questions. As Joseph and Mary made their way closer she could hear Jesus asking all sorts of questions and was amazed that the Rabbis were patiently answering. Mary could hear the murmuring from those close by ‘for a young man He seems so full of wisdom’, she looked around and could see that people were amazed by His knowledge. But then the relief in Mary’s heart quickly turned to anger, didn’t He understand that they had been frantic with worry! Why did He stay behind? As Mary got closer she called out: ‘Son, why have you done this to us? We’ve been frantic with worry and searching for you everywhere!’ Jesus looked at her and smiled ‘there was no need to search, you should have known I would be in my Father’s house.’ Mary looked at Joseph puzzled and troubled, what did He mean? Joseph shrugged and gave Jesus a hug and they made their way home. (Luke 2:43-50).

“As Jesus grew, so did his wisdom and maturity. The favor of men increased upon his life, for he was loved greatly by God.” Luke 2:52 The Passion Translation (TPT)

Notes:

Jesus’ brothers are mentioned in the Gospels (Matthew 13:55-56 and Mark 6:3) but his sisters aren’t mentioned by name. The book: Jesus’ Family Tree: Seeing God’s Faithfulness in the Genealogy of Christ (Rose Publishing), suggests that there were at least seven children in the family. I researched for some girl’s names and found Yeshua in Context, I picked 2 from that list and decided that Mary’s close relationship with her cousin Elizabeth probably would have led her to choosing to name her first daughter Elizabeth.

More info can be found at Bible Info  or Chrsitianity.com.

Pilgrimage
A long journey
A quest
A devoted search

Following Jesus and learning about His wonderful ways is a lifelong journey.

Studying God’s Word and trying to live it out is a lifelong quest.

Getting to know the Holy Spirit is a devoted search that transforms us from glory to glory for all of our days.