The First Promise of Advent

The First Promise of AdventThe four Sundays prior to Christmas are traditionally known as “Advent,” within most Christian churches. It is a time of both anticipation and preparation for the celebration of Christ’s birth into our world more than two millennia ago.

December 1, 2019, is the first Sunday of Advent on the church calendar. Many churches feature special events prior to or even as a part of congregational worship gatherings. These usually include the introduction of Christmas “hymns” or special music selections familiar to most of the people who will attend.

Since Christmas is a time that many people visit churches who don’t regularly attend, Advent is also a time when additional presentations are held such as dramas and musical performances. These special services are often prepared months in advance with the help of numerous volunteers who strive to make the season more meaningful for those who attend.

There are some potential problems with the tradition of Advent that can go largely unaddressed because they are unrecognized. One problem fits the old saying, “familiarity breeds contempt,” in that the more practice one has over many years participating in Advent, the more one can overlook the meaning of doing it at all by simply taking Advent for granted.

Another significant problem involves those who are among casual church-goers whose main motivation may be to observe children or other relatives participating in Christmas plays or in a special choir performance. Instead of taking Advent for granted, these people can easily just dismiss it altogether as one more “event” to attend around the ‘holiday’ season.

In short, this epitomizes the difficulty every church and every pastor has in preparation for this time of year. How can the marvelous message of Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, bring born as a human being to bring His creation the good news of God’s love and grace, be meaningful and impactful for everyone?

The First “Advent” Promise, the Proto-Evangelium

Advent wreathThe four Sundays of Advent also feature an activity only engaged in during this time of year, the lighting of the Advent candles. A different candle is lit each week symbolizing the qualities of hope, faith, joy, and peace given to humanity by the coming of Jesus.

The candles are most often arranged in a circular pattern within an Advent “wreath.” In the center of the wreath, a larger white candle is usually placed to symbolize the birth of Christ, and is thus known as the “Christ candle.” Usually, a short ceremony/teaching accompanies the lighting of each candle to help express the meaning behind the concepts.

I will not delve into the history of how the idea of an Advent season came about and how it has developed until today. Rather, I propose to present a biblical case that the true meaning of Advent is contained and expressed within the Word of God.

I have always believed that the true meaning of anything is inextricably tied to its origin. Therefore, the meaning of Advent as a concept [rather than the meaning of the term itself] can be found in the origin of the concept in the Bible.

Advent originates in the Bible where the writing begins, in the book of Genesis. It is first presented by the words of God in the Garden of Eden in the aftermath of Adam and Eve’s first disobedience of God.

God spoke to Satan who had taken the form of a serpent,

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15 [ESV]

This verse is known by biblical students and scholars as the proto-Evangelium, or “first gospel” message ever presented.  In the midst of pronouncing the punishment for the original sin of humanity, the LORD drops a nugget of golden “good news” to look forward to in the future.

Gabriel, Mary, AdventSpecifically, God promised that sometime in the future, the offspring of the woman would fight against and triumph over the offspring of the ‘serpent’. It is a unique promise because it identifies the one who will come as the “her” offspring, rather than a descendant from both Adam and Eve.

There are other instances in prophecy when God specifies that the promised One is going to be born of a woman alone. The most familiar of these comes from chapter one of Luke’s gospel as announced to Mary by the angel Gabriel.

And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Luke 1:30-35 [ESV]

The first promise of Advent is that Christ is coming to fulfill the plan of salvation set in motion way back in Genesis. Moreover, the promise was also that He is coming in a miraculous manner that God alone could accomplish, being born of a virgin!

Advent helps us recall the hope of this promise, and look toward God to fulfill it on our behalf, even at great cost to Himself. Realizing and accepting that promise in each heart brings the ultimate hope for our eternal life in the Kingdom of God.

Take time this Advent season to grab onto the promise of God for yourself through faith in Christ. It will be the best Christmas gift anyone could ever acquire.

D.T. Osborn

Sources: The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, Crossway Bibles, 2001

Featured and Top Image courtesy of Reel Ministry’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 1 courtesy of Christine Macintosh’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License
Inset Image 2 courtesy of Percy Sledge Agbunag Carballo’s Flickr page – Creative Commons License

All other sources linked or cited in the text

Originally published at TIL Journal

 

Advertisements

A Christmas Celestial Event

A perfect scene… a star like none other, sitting above a stable in the peaceful night, and it’s announcing the birth of a holy Messiah. The Gospel of Matthew was the only book in the Bible that described “The Star of Bethlehem” occurrence.

Matthew 2:2

“…and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”

What did the wise men witness in the sky that night? Was it real? Was it a star, a comet, or something else? The magi were skilled astrologers and scholars, so their fixation was not in the stars, but on large astronomical events which they believed would predict something happening. But why were they the only men to witness and describe a star guiding them? If they were well trained then why didn’t they understand what they saw in the sky?

Many astrologers of 2,000 years ago, the Chinese, Korean, and Babylonians, documented the heavens because they placed predictions based on events. The writings recorded then, are in a constant review by our astronomers today, and theories abound. But, one thing is for sure, no answer or explanation for this divine incident is clear. Here are the details I discovered, and you may come to your own conclusion.

I know little of astronomy, but for certain, stars do not move relative to themselves. Planets continuously shift through the solar system. Based on this, how did the sacred star move, leading the magi to Bethlehem? One theory suggests a heliacal rising. The planets Jupiter and Venus lapped each other while moving through the background stars. If the sun caught up to one of the planets, the planet would disappear until the sun moved far enough away from it. Then it would reappear shockingly bright in the sky, just before sunrise. Historical records show this exact occurrence on April 17 of 6 BC to December 19 of 6 BC. But, this natural alignment of planets, sun, and earth would not create a long, extended tail to the ground such as the one described by the magi.

A second theory suggests a comet. This seems to be the most logical explanation because it can hang over a city or land mass as did Halley’s Comet on March 8, 1986. Historical astronomy records revealed a tailed comet in the timeframe of the magi’s travels, and it lasted for seventy days. However, from Jerusalem’s vantage point, the comet would have been in the southern sky with the head close to the horizon and the tail pointing upward. The magi described the “Star of Bethlehem” as one they never seen before and comets were frequent visitors in their galaxy. So, as scholarly astrologers, why couldn’t the magi tell the difference between a comet and a star? Apparently, something confused their decision.

A final theory suggests the birth of a star, known as a nova. It certainly matched the biblical description. Once again, Chinese historical records reveal a new star was born in the northern constellation of Aquila in 4 BC. During the time the three wise men traveled from Jerusalem, the star would have lit their sky south into Bethlehem and not in the west. This explains why no one else witnessed this bright star. However, the star did not move, and it certainly didn’t stand over the city of Bethlehem; nor would it have stayed bright for the one to two years they took to find Jesus.

Revealing all the facts described in this blog, I will stand on my own theory. The Star of Bethlehem was an incredible act of God and one created for a unique purpose. God can use natural law to carry out His will because He is not bound by the laws He created for this world. When you think of the whole miraculous event of Jesus’s birth, a special star is not beyond His scope.

What do you think?


Don’t miss an issue of the “Everything Christmas Blogs!” Click HERE to have them sent to you by email!

All Things Become The Teacher

Maybe it was the lack of sleep or the weight of thousands of miles traveled, but I nearly cried when I saw Spam Fried Rice on the menu. The overwhelming sense of nostalgia came with that one uniquely Guam dish.

Even though it had been 25 years since I was last on Guam, the place felt the same. The individuals, the business names, and the political players changed. Roads have widened and beaches narrowed. Yet the essence that is undeniably Micronesia is perhaps stronger than before.

My trip to Guam in September of 2019 was a lesson in synchronicity and serendipity. For the 10 days that I was there, I only had one activity planned: the book launch on Wednesday, September 18. I went with an open heart and mind to let the journey unfold as it would and trusted a Higher Power to guide each step of the way.

The reason for the trip? Back in 1992, while attending the University of Guam, I was part of an Anthropology field school on Ulithi Atoll. Fast forward 20-some years, the professor retired and finally had time to compile a book about Ulithi. Papers myself and fellow students wrote as a result of the field school were part of the volume, Ulithi Atoll, Micronesia: Recalling the Past, Reaffirming the Future, along with more recent research from the 21st century.

Less than a month before the formal book launch, I was contacted by one of the book’s editors to inform me about the existence of this book. That was just one of a cascading volume of “coincidences” that were part of my Guam experience.

My former professor had tried to track me down me before. When time was running out, she asked the other editor to try. If this person had tried a week or two earlier, she would not have established contact.

The only reason she was able to reach me was that, merely a week prior, I had added the URL for this blog onto my Facebook page. If I hadn’t done that, I would have completely ignored the friend request and I would have absolutely no knowledge that this book existed, and hence, I would not have journeyed to Guam. As it was, she conveyed a message through the comments section on my blog, which comes straight to my inbox.

Guam is an island of connections. It seemed that everywhere I went and everything I did wove tiny threads of synchronism linking events, people, the past, and the future into a cohesive whole. I had such an overwhelming sense that I was exactly where I was supposed to be when I was supposed to be there.

The day I arrived, a two-day conference ended about decolonizing Guam. This is a topic I was actively learning about to inform the novel I’m writing. Turns out, a former classmate who I had been looking to reconnect with was very involved with the issue. When we met for dinner, it was as if no time had passed and we talked and talked, much to the annoyance of people waiting to be seated at the restaurant.

Another motivation for returning to Guam was to get more information about the Suruhana, the traditional healers on Guam. This was also to inform my writing. ‘Coincidentally,’ my friend was familiar with a number of Suruhana and an avid supporter of helping the tradition survive in the 21st century.

Oh, and so many more parallels. When I had been on Guam in the 80s and 90s, I knew my friend had grown up on-island. Little did I realize that she had gone to high school in Medford, Oregon, a rather small, rural town. At that point, I had never been to Oregon. After moving away from the island I had happened to go through Medford shortly after my husband and I married in 1995. We fell in love with the area and have lived there ever since. So, my friend and I also had Medford in common.

There were too many other coincidences and parallels to mention. I’ll just say that every conversation confirmed that I had needed to be on Guam at that moment, to have that conversation, to gain that insight.

Overall, a strong sense of “it is time” pervaded my consciousness. It was time to act. Time to show up in the world. Time to let my voice be heard. Time to move beyond fear and fulfill my purpose. Heady stuff? Yes. Yet all it really means is that I must trust myself and do what is in front of me.

I can’t help but believe that my meditation practice allowed my mind to be clear and to fully discover the joy and meaning of each moment. In Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche’s words, “As we grow accustomed to looking at the clear surface of our minds, we can see through all the gossip about who and what we think we are, and recognize the shining essence of our true nature.” (The Joy of Living, p. 132).

I believe that you can come to know your true nature through many different religions and paths. As my husband recently heard, when the student is ready, all things become the teacher. So whether you’re in a 12-step program, a devout follower of a religion or anything in between, my wish for you is that you come to know how amazing you truly are and can follow your passion to your ultimate fulfillment.

Reprinted fromI Am Many Things

The Dynamic Story of Paul the Apostle, Part 2: First Missionary Trip

The year was 46 A.D., and with the death of King Herod, the church was again free to preach the gospel. However, the persecution of Christians in Jerusalem by the Jews and Roman authorities increased; they forced many believers to leave the area.

Paul and Barnabas headed to Jerusalem to meet Cephas (birth name Simon but later renamed Peter, by Jesus). Cephas was the fourth child born to Noah after the great flood. The men spent fifteen days fasting and praying. One day, news arrived the melting pot church in Antioch (in Syria) wanted missionaries to preach to the Jews and Gentiles. Many believers moved during the upheavals in Jerusalem, and they needed churches throughout the region.

The Holy Spirit spoke to the church elders in Antioch, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) The church laid their hands on Paul and Barnabas in 47 A.D., and they boarded a ship headed to the island of Cyprus on their first missionary trip.


SALAMIS/ PAPHOS

They arrived in the port city of Salamis. The Roman influence was everywhere – public baths, a large theater, and a temple dedicated to Zeus. The Graeco-Roman world was ready for the message of the gospel. Focusing on the Jews, Paul and Barnabas wasted no time proclaiming the word of God in local synagogues. Most who spread the word of God were Jews who scorned and persecuted Christian missionaries. But many believers were ready to receive Paul’s ministry across the island.

Three months passed, and the two disciples decided to walk westward to Paphos, the seat of the Roman government. It was the worship center for the goddess Aphrodite (Venus). Word spread quickly they arrived in town. Soon a message arrived – the island’s Roman governor, Sergius Paulus, wanted to meet them and hear God’s word. It was also an investigation who was causing all the commotion in his community.

When the governor entered the room, Elymas (also called Bar-Jesus), a threat to the Christian community, strayed in behind him. Paul heard about this false prophet (sorcerer), and he became infuriated of his intentions, but just the same, they spoke the message for the governor. Elymas turned to the official and urged him not to pay attention to their untrue words. Paul was livid and stared Elymas in the eyes. He remembered his own experience in Damascus and knew blindness would humble a proud man.

“You son of the devil, full of every sort of deceit and fraud, and enemy of all that is good! Will you never stop perverting the true ways of the Lord? Watch now, for the Lord has laid his hand of punishment upon you, and you will be struck blind. You will not see the sunlight for some time.” (Acts 13:10-11)

Image courtesy of wikipedia.org

Elymas stepped back, and a mist and darkness came over his eyes.

“Help me! I can’t see! Someone, please, take my hands and guide me out of here!”

The governor’s eyes opened wide, and he proclaimed the gospel as truth.

*SPECIAL NOTE: This incident was a critical turning point for Paul and his ministry. He became the team leader, initiated by Barnabas because Paul showed unusual faith and courage. The move showed Barnabas was selfless enough to set the good of others above personal glory. Instead of always striving for power, it is always seeking to help.


PERGA/ PISIDIAN ANTIOCH

Paul and Barnabas set sail once again, this time to the mainland of Turkey. They arrived in Perga, an ancient city of Pamphylia, and proceeded onward to the Roman colony, Pisidian Antioch. On the Sabbath, they visited a synagogue and the church leaders invited them to speak.

Paul lifted his hand and began his speech. He started with the Israelite history, and finally, he introduced Jesus.

“It is one of King David’s descendants, Jesus, who is God’s promised Savior of Israel! Before he came, John the Baptist preached that all the people of Israel needed to repent of their sins and turn to God and be baptized… Brothers – you sons of Abraham, and also you God-fearing Gentiles – this message of Salvation has been sent to us!” Acts 13: 23-24

He told the story of Jesus’ crucifixion and the laws of forgiveness. Paul ended his speech with these final words:

“Brothers, listen! We are to proclaim that through this man Jesus there is forgiveness for your sins. Everyone who believes in him is made right in God’s sight – something the law of Moses could never do. Be careful! Don’t let the prophets’ words apply to you.” Acts 13: 38-40

Many of the Jewish and Gentile listeners were so enthralled, they invited him back the following week. This time, the whole city gathered to hear the news. Angry, jealous Jews stood in the crowd slandering, and they created arguments with Paul. Persecution soon followed Paul and Barnabas. In a state of frustration, they declared they would no longer preach the word of God to Jews…

“…since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles. For the Lord gave us this command when he said, ‘I have made you a light to the Gentiles, to bring salvation to the farthest corners of the earth.’” Acts 13: 46-47

The Ruins of Antioch

The elated Gentiles spread the Lord’s message throughout the region. They celebrated their conversion to Christianity. However, the furious Jews gathered prominent members of the city to expel Paul and Barnabas from their city. They did not want the missionary’s blasphemy in Antioch. So be it…


ICONIUM

With a smile in their heart, and the happiness of converting many Jews and Gentiles to Christianity while in Pisidian Antioch, Paul and Barnabas headed southeast to Iconium. They preached much in synagogues, and the Lord gave them the power to perform miracles. The city became divided in their beliefs of the Good News – is it Judaism or Christianity? Upheavals ensued, and the opposition grew in strength. A huge plot to kill Barnabas and Paul spread across the town. Rumors of their impending death instigated the missionaries to flee Iconium. Paul and Barnabas left immediately and traveled to the remote city of Lystra, just twenty miles away.


LYSTRA

This little city laid within tall Roman walls and many beautiful temples dedicated to Greek Gods stood tall and proud. The temple of Zeus was the most popular for he was the father of the Greek gods. Paul and Barnabas settled right into their new surroundings. They continued to minister in the synagogues and converted many to Christianity.

One Sunday, Paul looked out over the audience and noticed a man with crippled feet intently absorbing his spoken words. Paul thought, “He needs the faith of God.”

“You! Stand up!” Paul yelled to the man. The startled man jumped to his feet and started walking. (Acts 14: 8-10)

A loud gasp of shock, then cheering erupted from the crowd. People everywhere shouted, “These men are gods in human form!” (Acts 14:11)

The priest of the temple of Zeus and a crowd of people began laying wreaths of flowers and some pulled bulls to the town gates. These were signs of sacrifices to Paul and Barnabas. The people mistakenly thought Barnabas was Zeus and Paul was Hermes. The apostles tried to convince the crowd they were mere men.

“Friends, why are you doing this? We are merely human beings – just like you! We have come to bring you the Good News that you should turn from these worthless things and turn to the living God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them.” (Acts 14: 15-18)

It was impossible to restrain the crowd. In the distance, Paul and Barnabas saw some Jews from Antioch in Turkey and Iconium arrive on the scene. Were they here to support them? No! The Jews yelled out to the masses.

“These men are imposters! They are blasphemous! Stone them! Stone them!”

Stoning of Paul. Attribution to Sweet Publishing/FreeBibleimages.org

The crowd, in great anger, surrounded the apostles and pounded Paul with rocks and stones. (It was never disclosed if Barnabas was also stoned in the Bible). In the agony of pain, Paul passed out, so the angry people dragged him out of the city. A small group of believers gathered around him for they thought he was dead, but God had different plans. The Lord miraculously healed Paul on the spot, and he got up off the ground and walked right back inside the city.

The next morning Paul and Barnabas made the grueling thirty-mile walk to Derbe in central Turkey.


DERBE

Paul preached the Bible with great success in Derbe, and in each town, he established priests to say Mass and celebrate the sacraments. The early Christian churches were quickly establishing themselves as a stronghold in every city he visited on his mission trip. Eighteen months passed, and they felt it was time to go home.


REVISIT TO LYSTRA, ICONIUM, AND PISIDIAN ANTIOCH

Though victims of persecution, Paul and Barnabas decided to retrace their steps. They would return through Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch on their way to the ship. The apostles strengthened and comforted believers and they appointed elders in the church of each city. Paul was confident the Lord would protect these early churches.


GOING HOME TO ANTIOCH OF SYRIA

Paul and Barnabas returned home by ship to Antioch of Syria in 48 A.D. Paul gathered his church together and reported all of his good deeds while in each city. “…we’ve opened a door of faith to the Gentiles,” he exclaimed with delight. The gospel spread far and wide. Paul’s journey was a preparation of more to come.

COMMENTARY:

Paul’s first successful missionary trip gives us an idea of the very beginning of Christian churches in the world. King Herod’s reign boasted fear and hatred, particularly amongst the Jews. After he died, Christianity took hold of the land for many witnessed the life and resurrection of Jesus. The church of Antioch of Syria was the foundation for sixteen more Antioch’s built in the ancient world. They had several outstanding leaders of which Paul and Barnabas were two of them.

What can we learn about the early Christian churches?

  1. Though God selects who will disciple His word, the early churches developed the skill of leadership. They meticulously trained their missionaries and ministry teams which came from many diverse backgrounds. Strong support for their apostles came in the form of prayers, education, and mentoring skills.
  2. The first Christians were Jewish Christians, either by conversion or birth. They revered the Hebrew bible in religious text which was often in Greek. They were a sect of Judaism in Rome.
  3. The early Gospels spread only by word of mouth, so training of leaders was critical for success. Preaching included the history of Jesus and His parables, salvation, and forgiveness.

Paul built many early Christian churches in this eighteen-month trip. His first journey covered the regions of south-central Asia Minor, Turkey, and Syria. He traveled about 1,400 miles spreading the Good News.

Paul’s first missionary trip teaches us several Christian highlights:

  1. Christianity met with horrible opposition and much persecution. As I’ve always said, history repeats itself for this perplexing situation still continues today. God warns all Christians; many will not believe in Him. Walk away from non-believers and pursue those who want to find a better way of life. In Paul’s case, he always began teaching to the Jews, but the Gentiles became the church’s followers.
  2. Perseverance is a virtue and is a mark of great spiritual maturity. A strict dedication to God is the only way to covert doubters to believers.
  3. It is unnecessary to fully convert non-believers. God uses Christians just to plant the seeds.
  4. Paul demonstrated the ultimate meaning of forgiveness. They expelled him from Perga, plotted his murder in Iconium, and almost died from stoning in Lystra, yet he walked back into every city and pardoned their people. He prayed for their forgiveness of sins.
  5. Paul could perform unusual miracles, but they were done as a last resort – to testify of God’s power and strength.

In conclusion, I pray for those who do not know the light of God. Let us never give up planting seeds, but remain in constant prayer… just as Paul.

Did you miss Part 1? Click here to read it.


www.danabicksauthor.com/subscribe-today

The Dynamic Story of Paul the Apostle: Part 1, The Conversion

The short, balding man with crooked legs leaned against the stone pillar of the Christian church and sneered at the attendees. As believers left the service, he picked up stones and threw them yelling, “Blasphemy! You mock my Messiah with your false religion! Run, or I’ll stone you to death too!” Saul of Tarsus never regretted watching Stephen get stoned to death. “Jesus the Savior”, he exclaimed, “only God is our Savior!” Stephen was a wicked and disgusting Christian, just as the people in this church, he thought to himself. It was Saul’s job to serve and protect God and the Jewish religion. All the talk of Jesus living on earth was lies so he would see to it Christians were imprisoned and killed for their false doctrines.

It was 33 AD, and Saul decided to leave his regular tent making job behind, and head to Damascus with three friends on a 136-mile trip. He was on a mission to arrest all Christians and bring them back to Jerusalem for prosecution by the Romans. Saul limped down the dusty road, when suddenly, a great light shone directly in his eyes. He stumbled onto the ground. As he glanced up, he witnessed a vision of the resurrected Jesus.

“Who art thou, Lord?”

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” (Acts 9:4-5)

Stunned and speechless, Saul’s friends backed up and looked away with their hands over their eyes. Saul trembled and staggered to his feet, but when he opened his eyes, he was blind! The men took Saul by his hands and led him the rest of the way to Damascus. Saul refused to drink or eat for the three-day trip. He could only stay in deep prayer with every step he took on the road. The Lord had revealed himself to Saul so what else could he do but praise God’s name? Everything he believed until now was wrong – the Mosaic Law. Jesus was the name he should worship!

Upon Saul’s arrival in Damascus, God ordered him to visit Ananias, a disciple (or prophet) of Jesus. As Ananias entered the room, he spoke to Saul, “Brother Saul, the LORD-Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here, has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”

Ananias laid his hand over Saul’s eyes and the “scales” of dead tissue on the surface of his eyes fell to the floor; Saul’s vision was restored again. The next event was even more profound for Saul was baptized in the name of Jesus Christ and filled with the Holy Ghost. It washed away his sins and he later adopted a new Christian name – Paul.

Now baptized in the Holy Spirit, Paul (Saul of Tarsus) quietly headed for Arabia. It was a spiritual retreat where he could learn about himself and the reality of his true Savior. He was comforted and strengthened by God’s powerful presence as he studied the scriptures of the Old Testament. It is here Paul met his confidante, a Christian leader called Barnabas, who put God before his physical possessions. It intrigued Paul that Barnabas sold a field and laid the money before the feet of the apostles. The mentoring relationship between the two men laid the groundwork for Paul’s future superb ministry. He also met with Jesus’ brother, James. God was preparing Paul’s way for the ministry for the next three years. (Galatians 1:18)

COMMENTARY:

Saul of Tarsus (modern-day Turkey), better known as Paul, was born into a devout Jewish family in 5AD. Most Jews, in biblical days, were not Roman citizens, but Rome gave him and his family the honor. It is an educated guess they were of moderate wealth, which made significant contributions to the Roman Empire. Citizenship outside of Italy was only granted to people of substantial influence.

At fourteen Paul went to Jerusalem and trained to be a Rabbi, an occupation he could fall back on if tent-making proved unsuccessful. It was during this time he became a man of firm convictions for the Jewish faith. His fiery temperament caused the death of many early Christians, including Stephen, the first martyr of Christianity. Paul went from house to house, dragged out men and women believers, and threw them into jail.

If we revisit history, Paul was born in the era of Jesus’ birth and entire life. Christianity was the newest religion established in the Middle East and very much frowned on by the Jews. They do not believe in the resurrection of Jesus for he was a mere prophet and son of God. Also, this new Messianic movement (as they called Christianity) denied Roman rule and antagonized much chaos throughout the land. Therefore, Paul’s anger triggered towards the blasphemy which Christians spoke – Jesus was “King of the Jews” and “Jesus the Messiah.”

What can we learn from Saul’s conversion? A person who persecutes a Christian is persecuting Jesus and this sin is mighty. The same fall-from-grace stands true today. The Lord will seek revenge on those who attempt to destroy His children. But like Saul, if we admit our sins and seek God, we will be forgiven.

A little-known fact about Paul, he was NOT one of the original twelve disciples. As he turned his love of God into mission work, many believers assumed God assigned him to be a disciple, but this was not true. Paul began using his name, “Paul the Apostle” in his later writings. He became a prolific writer for of the twenty-seven books in the New Testament, Paul wrote thirteen of them in his lifetime – 1st Thessalonians, 1st and 2nd Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, Philemon, and Romans.

I began this blog just before Paul converted to Christianity. We can read his conversion story in Acts 9:1-19; Acts 22:3-16; Acts 26:12-18 and 1 Corinthians 15:8-9. As I researched Paul, I realized his marvelous story spread over many books of the Bible; thus the motivation to condense all the chapters and tell of his life in one dynamic narrative.

Next Sunday, we will cover Paul’s tracks just after his conversion. We will examine the profound impact he established on Christianity during his first missionary trip. His life is nothing short of miraculous – he witnessed and lived through God’s blessings and love. Isn’t this something every Christian should strive to do?


Don’t miss any blogs! Sign up today to receive them in your email by clicking on this link… www.danabicksauthor.com/subscribe-today

Spiritual Happiness

Much is written about joy in the Bible. Jesus spoke of being joyful unto His Father, later transcribed to, “Be joyful unto the Lord.” As we face disillusions and fears, of either, we endure many hardships. I, too, have these familiar symptoms, but God always remains constant in my mind. These words resonate in my mind, “Bring Me your woes and do not worry for I will help you with your inspirational battles.”

Unforeseen problems arise in the worldly pressures and obligations that meet us, not greet us, at every doorstep. Life, sometimes, can appear to be short-lived… unless your faith asks God for a special blessing and miracle. Some have experienced God at His best as unfortunate events end with a silver lining.

I often write of my sordid past life, but I glance back at those times and realize God intervened in my life. Today’s blog, however, is not about me, but the one I’m closest to, my wife. This young, vibrant, and outgoing woman, plagued with a virtue of grief and sadness in the past few months, almost lost her life in a car accident twenty-five years ago. The doctors just diagnosed her with heart failure as a repercussion of the injuries.

In disbelief, we took part in many tests and things seemed questionable, but nevertheless, okay… until the last test screening. It confirmed her life might be terminal. I can’t say how one prepares to die, except to “live life like there’s no tomorrow”… and so we did, in apprehension. With no other choice, I fought for the spiritual happiness of both of us. I walked on pins and needles, often hearing the crunch of eggshells. I was too frightened to speak much, so I stayed in constant prayer. Following my blog called Faith for Two, I knew only God would see us through this dilemma.

Matthew 6:25-27

25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? 26 Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27 Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?

The day arrived for her medical procedure, and hopefully, it would not become an open-heart decision. I watched the love of my life that morning, and I observed her quietly whispering, “Goodbye, mommy loves you” to her favorite parrot of twenty-seven years. I read her last words, “No food or drink after midnight,” as she prepared herself for a procedure which could end her life. It would have been easier to move a mountain than to keep her spirits positive. I maintained my strong convictions and stayed where I knew God wanted me to be – in prayer. Only my Lord Jesus could restore that which would destroy her many years ago.

In the lobby, in front of the doors to the operating room, I kissed her goodbye. Keeping up our spiritual happiness, I told her,” I’ll see you for lunch.” With tears in her eyes, we prayed it was not our last forever kiss. I needed to go to God! Father bless her and keep her in your arms, my dear Lord.

The wait seemed like an eternity. I took a seat beside a minister, and we shared our own hearts. The door at last opened, and a doctor in scrubs called out my name, “BICKS.” He took me into a quiet room and invited me to sit beside him on the couch. I had my faith until the moment he elected to move closer to me.

“She’s all clear, Mr. Bicks,” he said. “We found no blockages, and she’s as good as new.” My sweet love, who worried for five months of dying, was born again to the likeness of the sweet, little girl I remembered thirty-two years ago. She will live! Thank You, Jesus!

A curious thought crossed my mind. Two weeks ago, the cardiologist saw the blockage in a scan, and now it doesn’t exist!? Was this one of God’s miracles? You decide…

It has been six days now, and I see a glow where worry over-shadowed her face. A renewed life called spiritual happiness far exceeds a biblical joy. Saved by grace, quite literally, His miracle child is born again. There is no greater gift than the gift of life; and when death comes calling, defying Satan’s force is a miracle!

Living in a spiritual realm of happiness, where no pressure or problems exist, can be conquered when we reach out in faith. A great example of this in the bible was the story of Jesus feeding 5,000 people on five loaves of bread and two fish (Matthew 14:15-21 and Luke 9:12-17). It is called the marvel of God’s healing hands, just as He did to my wife.

We read the miraculous stories of defying doctors’ diagnoses, but until it happens to you, we shun it with some other explanation. The Lord’s greatest feat was saving my wife’s life, and not once but twice; she put her heart and soul close enough for Him to heal her with His touch.

May I suggest we armor ourselves in prayer each morning to maintain spiritual happiness? Don’t identify with suffering, loss, or sickness. Remain steadfast in our Lord’s word, and He will calm every facet of your life. Today, my wife and I wake with a smile and a good-morning kiss, for God came to bless us with another anointed day. Our spiritual happiness is more than we ever asked for, and it is all because we serve our Almighty Savior.


NOTE FROM ANNE BICKS:

I would like to sincerely thank everyone for your cards, love, and support through this difficult time. Your kindness means the world to me! God bless you all!


BE SURE TO JOIN US!

www.danabicksauthor.com/subscribe-today

Miracles, My Love, Lie at the Foot of the Rainbow

The shadows lingered from a restless night, but I tried to be positive as God’s light rejuvenated my soul. I listened quietly as my wife dreamed, and I tried to adjust myself to fit into her position. I kissed her soothing body and prayed over her tragic health news this week. Sometimes in life, you wish you could put the world in reverse and take back past mistakes of bad decisions. We wasted too many years apart before finding each other again. Now, I’m left with little time to make up for my stupidity, and guilt haunts the “what if” category.

I’m reminded, reverently, we live our lives in God’s perfect timing. Our past life experiences are only to prepare us for the future. I crawled out of the covers. It was a new day, and the sun blessed the flowers; the birds chirped, and that which lied upon God’s planet came to His glory. I would be a speck of smudge on the earth’s surface if it weren’t for my faith. All things happen for a reason, and it is only God’s choice. I try to stay strong while our friends rally around us to rescue the brokenness of my will. It’s like kids on a little league team – everyone jumps out of the dugout and runs to help their fallen comrade. It’s a wonderful feeling when you’re lying face down in the dirt, and the whole team arrives to lift you out of the pain.

Tears have grown now as my appreciation outweighs the love which continues to pour into us. How can I sincerely thank all our friends, family, and followers, except to pray God’s glory will shine on their kindness? The Lord watches over His flock, no matter the situation. The sheep are gathered in herds, waiting to be fed once again. Christ, our Shephard will feed the hungry who are gathered in His name.

But, thoughts turn to my beloved. I find my strength in God, for I must be a pillar for her to lean on in this time of distress. So, I take her hand to rededicate, before God, my deepest love for her. I pray, in the name of Jesus, I will give her my all for His love is all we need now. We will walk together in the valley of the elms and take refuge in God’s shade. Our mighty Savior will bring us through this, just like our many other scenarios. Miracles, my love, lie at the foot of the rainbow. ~~www.danabicksauthor.com~~

Somewhere Over the Rainbow by Judy Garland

Thank you everyone for your love and support during this difficult time!


___________________

Struggle

Life is all about struggle.

You never live without struggle.

Life begins with a struggle.

Life ends with a struggle.

Struggle is the part of our life.

A mother struggles to give birth to her child.

Every living creature struggles for survival.

Struggle is the rule of life.

If you struggle to get something today,

Tomorrow or in your near future, you’ll receive your grand rewards.

Don’t scare to struggle.

Enjoy your struggle and hug it like your true pal.

Your grand success and victory is always waiting for you.

Source: POSITIVE THOUGHTS OF SELF-MOTIVATION! Only you can motivate yourself… Only you can bring positive changes in your life…. Birister Sharma

To Buy this Book- POSITIVE THOUGHTS OF SELF-MOTIVATION!

Thank you for reading. Let us make a beautiful world together. God bless!

Follow me On Twitter

Follow me On Facebook

COPYRIGHT © Shubham Verma

The Sleeping Saints

A simple bible scripture quietly wrapped up within the Easter season, placed a conviction on sinners and nonbelievers. Christ’s crucifixion was not in vain. Allow me to test your knowledge of an event which surrounded the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. It is written in the Apostle’s Creed.

Did you know many saints were raised from the dead along with Jesus? It’s a shocking revelation, written only in the Book of Matthew, and overlooked by many because the occurrence is not mentioned by any other author of the Holy Word. But, here it remains…

Matthew 27: 52-53

52and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

As Christ died to take away our sins, the heavens turned an angry gray and black. The earth rattled and split rocks on the sacred grounds where He hung on the cross at Golgotha. God’s power showed His wrath to the Romans who did not believe He sent Jesus to earth to prove His existence. What better way to convince them than to raise the sleeping saints from Jerusalem?

The tombs of many people were broke open in a strong earthquake. After Jesus arose from the dead, the saints raised out of their graves and returned to Jerusalem, known as the Holy City. Friends and family instantly recognized them. Though we do not know for sure who these holy people were, they stayed alive during the forty days Jesus continued on earth, after His death. It is suggested they returned, along with Jesus, to heaven.

Can we not testify this biblical event immortalizes God’s power over life and death? The resurrection of the sleeping saints reveals all believers should have no fear of death, for one day, we too, will be raised to join our Almighty Father. This gives us reason to have hope in eternal salvation, and perhaps, assurance our sins will be forgiven in heaven if we become faithful followers of God today.

Image courtesy of Redeeming Grace Church

_____________________

EDITOR’S COMMENTS:

Matthew’s Bible passage swirls in controversy. Biblical scholars feel there is no validity to it because the raised dead, seen by others in Jerusalem, was not referenced anywhere else in the Bible. They suggest we should understand this passage to be a preview of our resurrection at the End Times. But, would resurrecting the dead really be so hard to believe since it was a divine act?

Based on 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, this event would undoubtedly undermine Jesus’s resurrection. Theologians believe God has resurrected no one to eternal life as an immortal spirit yet—except Christ.

As we’ve always commented on other controversial blogs we cannot disprove any biblical passages in this life. Our wonderful Lord wrote the Bible with the message it is never to be deciphered as we see fit, therefore in my eyes…so it shall stay.

“Father forgive them, they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

www.danabicksauthor.com

____________________

The Humble Mother of a Christmas Savior

The Humble Mother of a Christmas Savior cover

Welcome to Part Two of a three-part Special Edition of Everything Christmas Blogs. As Christians, it is important to know about Jesus. For example, how many details do you actually know about His family? Though most information is minimal, try to use your imagination, along with the details and facts of the Bible, to understand this holy dynasty. Today, we will learn of Mary, the virgin mother of Jesus Christ. Enjoy!

Enjoy this gorgeous Christmas song, “Mary, Did You Know?” sung by Clay Aiken:

 

Nothing is more glorious or miraculous than giving birth to a child. Who will the baby resemble and what will they become in adulthood? But, can you ever imagine going to sleep a virgin and waking up to discover a baby growing in your womb? And then, to compound the mystery, you are told the child will be a Savior to all mankind! What?? How does this happen? God’s power over man is astounding, if not scary. It proves we, ultimately, have no control over our lives. His miraculous deeds exceed earthly desires, so let us praise His name!

This is the true account of Jesus’s mother, Mary, a poor Jewish girl who lived in Nazareth. Her honorable family was descendants of King David, but they were not any different from others who struggled to live daily in the thriving, small town. Mary’s parents raised her with strong convictions and a deep love for the Lord. She was carefully trained in the Scriptures and so highly favored by God to be the mother of His Son.

Mary’s story begins in the Bible at the tender age of twelve to fourteen where she lived with her parents but betrothed to Joseph. (This is young to be engaged but the lifespan of the generations in biblical days were short.) One day, the angel, Gabriel, came to visit her and said:

Luke 1:28-33

“….Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

the-humble-mother-of-a-christmas-savior-pic-1.jpg

 

Put yourself in Mary’s place. What would your reaction be to such a claim? I think it would terrify me, as it did Mary, for she was still a virgin. Though she didn’t understand, she humbled herself before the Lord. Her faith and trust in God would see her through the explanation to Joseph and the birth of the child. What a remarkable young girl!

Mary paid a visit to her older cousin, Elizabeth and her husband, Zechariah in a small town of Judea. Would they believe her story? They were preparing for the delivery of their first child. As the Bible tells, when Mary arrived, Elizabeth dropped to her knees and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” God used Elizabeth to confirm to Mary that she would be the mother of the Son of God. She knew nothing was impossible for God. But, Elizabeth understood, too, an unmarried mother in their culture could be stoned or put to death. It would place shame on the tribe in their township. So, she let Mary stay with her until their son, John the Baptist, was born three months later.

The Humble Mother of a Christmas Savior Pic 2

 

Upon Mary’s return trip home, many thoughts afflicted her. How would she explain her pregnancy to Joseph and her parents? They would accuse her of something she did not do. This young woman of such character was about to be put to the ultimate test.

When Mary relayed her story to Joseph, he appeared extremely upset and hurt. She knew he didn’t believe her. What would she do now, and where would she go to stay safe in Nazareth? The Bible does not detail her parent’s reaction, but one can only imagine. Mary’s stress level must have been unbearable.

The next day, Joseph arrived at Mary’s home to pick her up and take her to his house. He loved her! A visit from an angel to him the night before confirmed her pregnancy. (Read Joseph’s history in the first part of this Special Edition – www.danabicksauthor.com/blog/a-real-father-christmas). He protected her and her character, and still wanted to marry even though the townspeople gossiped and shadowed her reputation. Is being a servant of God ever easy?

Near the end of Mary’s pregnancy, she and Joseph trudged an eighty-mile path to Bethlehem. Caesar required the citizens to enroll in a tax census but there was a hidden agenda. He knew a child was to be born who held the name “Savior.” The only way to find out who was carrying the miracle was to demand all citizens report to him in person. So, not only was Mary very pregnant, tired, and concerned of Caesar’s request, she endured a trip which must have been physically painful. Little to eat and little to drink, Joseph, and Mary climbed the many mountains, probably making many short stops along the way for her to rest.

The Humble Mother of a Christmas Savior Pic 3

As they approached Bethlehem, Mary began the early stages of labor. The city was full of people, and no place was available for them to stay the night. Joseph found a stall for animals and made a bed of straw for her to lie upon and be comfortable. In a strange town, with no relatives to help, a young Mary gives birth to her first child. She must have been terrified, and perhaps, even a little sad she could not share their joy with family members. But God’s celebration of His son was her drive to remain strong and steadfast. What an extraordinary, uncomplaining mother!

The Humble Mother of a Christmas Savior Pic 4

 

Mary, the humble mother of our Savior, Jesus Christ, was an incredible girl. She served God at any cost and was an obedient follower. How many women, today, can hold a candle to her? She was a nurturer, entirely devoted to her son’s health and spiritual well-being. But, as like all servants of the Lord, there’s great suffering too, especially being the mother of a Messiah. She was a holy woman of rare strength, confirming the human nature of Jesus Christ.

I think it’s proper to remember Mary on Christmas. She taught us to reach out and take a gift, accept God’s blessings, with a faithful and sincere heart. This is the reason for the season, my friends.

www.danabicksauthor.com

Please join us for the final part of this three-part Special Edition of “Everything Christmas Blogs” on Sunday, December 9th.


A KOBO Best Seller!

Christmas ad for book Instagram