Category Archives: Seasonal

The Gift of Infinite Options

When [the Magi] had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and His mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill Him.” So he got up, took the child and His mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod.  And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” (Matthew 2:13-15)

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I’ve long believed that the central theme in Scripture, from the story of fall in Genesis through the Revelation of Jesus Christ, is the total redemption of GOD’s creation.  In Genesis, we see it in the prophetic word announcing the ultimate victory of “the seed of the woman.”   We see it hinted at in GOD’s covenant with Noah.  We see it at the divinely caused confusion at the Tower of Babel that prevented humanity from early self-destruction.  We see it in GOD’s covenant with Abraham that led to the formation of, provision for, and protection of Israel through whom would come the Savior.  We see it in the promises made to David that his own heir would sit on his throne forever.  We see it in every exhortation and warning of the prophets to trust GOD and to repent from sin and evil.

We see it in the incarnation of the Word, Christ Jesus, GOD’s peace offering to broken humanity, and in whose life is light and in whose way is healing and everlasting life.  We see it at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit fell upon all flesh, and who gave power to those ready and wanting to receive. And we see it in the continuing victory of the Church despite its own shortcomings and all efforts to discount it, disable it, and crush it. Worldwide, the reign of Jesus is growing, not shrinking; and His disciples await the zenith and culmination of Earth’s history with His return.

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The truth is that GOD has not allowed anyone or anything to stop His plan to redeem the work of His hand.  Herod tried in a most savage way, but he was thwarted–“take the child and His mother and escape to Egypt.  Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill Him.”  The Caesars and many subsequent power structures have tried to destroy the vision and promise wrought by “this child,” continuing even today.

“WITH [GOD] GOOD BASICS, YOU’LL HAVE ENDLESS OPTIONS”

GOD however, does not run out of options when it comes to ensuring the work of redemption.  And He does it in the most creative of ways.  For instance, He gave Elisha’s servant a vision of the mighty army of heaven ready to fight against the enemy threatening the destruction of His chosen people.  Later, He introduced an immigrant Moabite woman (Ruth) to a Judean named Boaz and they became the great-grandparents of King David.  He used the aged and reformed profligate, Solomon, to teach us about godly wisdom.  He used Paul’s imprisonment as a way for Paul to witness to the Roman political hierarchy about Jesus.  The examples go on and on.  Attempts to marginalize GOD and His plan have been and are been made.  Those of the past were proven to be ineffective works of straw.  Those of the present and future will be proven to be unwise, irrelevant and ineffective.  GOD always has an option.

The Apostle Paul refers to the status of the faithful as being in Christ, meaning simply our lives have become one with Christ’s, by faith and the will of GOD.  As such, each one of us is an agent and a servant in GOD’s redemptive story; and GOD plans to use us, and does.  In our weakness, it’s easy to lose sight of this truth.  In our weakness, we sometimes feel overwhelmed by life’s challenges, by felt needs not realized, by the weight of our responsibilities, and by our inability to see better options.  But GOD has an option we generally don’t see…until He chooses to reveal it.

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Perhaps a prayer we can pray is to be more trusting of Him with our lives, particularly when we feel like we’re on life’s roller coaster.  I’m sure Mary and Joseph felt that way a lot.  Remember, each believer plays a part in GOD’s grand plan of redemption. Let’s focus on discovering and playing our parts.  How He takes care of us and what He does through us is all up to Him and His creative will.  The story of redemption is one story, and you and I have a part if we are in this same faith.  Recall what Jesus said, “If you remain in Me and I in you, you will bear much fruit…” (John 15:5). 

 In the midst of living our lives, caring for children, going to work, doing work around the house, paying the bills, and doing our best to live faithfully, we may be able to see what that fruit looks like and to watch it grow on the vine…or we may not.  Either way, our job is to be in Christ, to remain Him, and to “trust in the Lord with all of our hearts, leaning not on our own understanding, acknowledging Him in all our ways, and He will direct our paths (Proverbs 3:5-6), just like He did for Joseph that night.

Nothing, nothing will successfully get in the way of what GOD is doing.  He’s got infinite options, including more than enough for you.

May You Enter the New Year with Great Hope and Much Joy  

May GOD Bless You Richly 

© Byron L. Hannon, 2019.  All rights reserved to original text content.

Faith That Ponders

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to themBut Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. (Luke 2:15-19)

I get it why believing faith is so difficult for a lot of folks.  We’ve managed to rationalize away all mystery.  Mystery is uncomfortable, and we don’t like discomfort as a rule, and certainly the discomfort of not fully understanding something, along with several other things, like waiting.  It’s all so frustrating.  And divine mystery operates on an entirely different level, one that many people find offensive.  We want to believe, like William Ernest Henley, that we are the “master of our fate, the captains of our soul.”*

On top of that are the things we see and hear each and every day, and may even be directly affected by…things that engulf our lives in darkness.  Nearly everyone who reads this has experienced or is experiencing something that cuts deep inside: hurts, disappointments, failures, anger, resentment, sadness, loss, grief.  And there are also those who probably won’t see this for whom waking each day presents a new challenge, sometimes about basic safety and survival.  “What is there to eat?”  “My electric is about to be cut-off and I don’t have the money to pay the bill.”  My child is too sick to go to school, but I can’t afford to miss a day of work to stay home with her.” “We have no money to buy Christmas gifts for the children.”  Have you ever known anyone who lost their job a few days before Christmas?

It’s easy to understand why people find it hard to believe in GOD, and certainly to believe in a loving GOD.  That just doesn’t make much sense, not with all this life distortion that surrounds us.  It’s not logical.  There are too many points of evidence that say otherwise. Logic says the best thing any of us can do is to put aside that foolishness; it’s every man, woman and child for themselves.  We need to take control of our lives and make out of them the very best we can.  And that, in a nutshell, is the philosophy of much of our age.  All we need to do is to look around at those we know to see that it’s true, even if many of those same folks wouldn’t admit it.

By all accounts available to us, Mary was a peasant girl who lived among peasant people who lived in a part of Israel that was considered socially low class.  Think of the towns or parts of cities you probably wouldn’t want to live in…that’s where she was from, both she and Joseph.

There wasn’t much in her experience to suggest that she was days away from winning the grand prize of Publisher’s Clearing House.  She probably expected to live out her days as the women in her family before her had lived out theirs, humble, long days of work in and around the home, eventual marriage, bearing multiple children, likely becoming a widow at some point, depending on her sons to provide for her, and eventually dying before age 50.  She had that to look forward to and the prophetic history of her people.

There was nothing else in her experience that suggested life would be any other way…until the events that began with the visitation from the angel Gabriel and which culminated in that animal stall in Bethlehem.  What particularly got to her was what the shepherds and the visiting magi, and perhaps what others who dropped in on them had to say about her son.  They were forecasting phenomenal things…better than Publisher’s Clearing House.  The Word said she pondered these things in her heart.  The only thing she had to validate what was being said was that mysterious visit from the angel (which could have been just a weird dream) and the prophetic history that her people held on to, because everything else said, “This is too crazy to believe.  It’s too crazy for me to put my hope in.”

We ponder things all the time.  We think about and wonder why life is often the way it is.  We have mental wrestling matches about the things we don’t like and can’t control, and don’t understand.  And sometimes our pondering leads to questioning the love of GOD, the truth of GOD, and even the existence of GOD.  Is it not so?

Mary’s foundation, despite its humble appearance, was deep and solid and strong.  All the while she was trying to sort things out, humongous, other-worldly things (literally), her faith in GOD never left her.  It can be said that it was her faith that pondered.

Oh that it might be said of each of us, that our foundations in the Lord are deep and solid and strong.  May our pondering of the mysteries of GOD always be in faith…because one day, the Mystery born that night will be revealed to us in all of His fullness, all of His glory, and all of His majesty.  Our eyes will see and our ears will hear.  Come, Lord Jesus, Come!

Wishing You and Yours a

Blessed and Faith-Filled Christmas

 

 * From the poem, Invictus, by William Ernest Henley.

© Byron L. Hannon, 2019.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.

Emmanuel

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” (Luke 2:7)

I doubt there are very many people who have spent significant time in the church who have not heard a message or some other teaching equating our human lives with the inn with no vacancies told in the Advent story.  The question is always are we more like the inn which has no room for the Savior or like one which has room and which welcomes Him?  It certainly captured my attention the first time I heard a message like this.  But to be honest, I’ve heard it so often I think it needs some updating.

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I can’t recall ever hearing anyone preach or teach about the stable in which the manger (crib) was placed.  Lest there be any confusion, it was an animal stall–a place to put animals during cold or wet nights.  I seriously doubt that it looked like some of the traditional pictures we’ve all seen where the baby Jesus is laying in the crib with Mary and Joseph kneeling over Him, all with halos over their heads while the cattle and sheep looked on Him in wonderment.  They may have…but I betcha it smelled in there. It was an animal stall, for crying out loud!  It smelled like animals and whatever animals produce.

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Think of the last time you rode with the windows down near a farm in the late spring or summer.  You know what I’m talking about?  I had an uncle and aunt and cousins who owned a small farm that had animals.  I used to spend time with them during the summer in my early teen years.  I guarantee you the aroma was farm like.  The one thing we can be sure of is that the manger scene in the Advent story wasn’t a pig pen, like my father used to accuse my room of looking like, it being Bethlehem in the heart of Judea.

GOD the Father chose to allow His Son, the One destined to become the King of Kings, to be born in a smelly animal stall.  There was no pretense, nothing showy, no “Hey, look at me!”  It was the polar opposite; the King born in total humility and near complete anonymity.  Oh, the things GOD does for us because He loves us!

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How different was that stall, with all it contained, all that it might represent, than the condition of your heart or my heart, with all they contained and, perhaps, even now contain?  The Prophet Jeremiah (17:9) was brutally critical of the human heart: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?  Peter, Paul, and John in their letters to the New Testament churches were explicit about what was in the hearts Jesus sought to enter.  Are they any more a fit place for Jesus than that stall?  Is the aroma much more fragrant than Mary and Joseph encountered the night of her labor?

It is all because of GOD’s love and grace that there is a cure, found only in the Son born that night and alive today. “It is by grace that we are [or can be] saved through faith—it is the gift of GOD” (Eph. 2:8).  Jesus is pleased to come into our crowded and maybe foul smelling hearts to do what only He can do.  I heard someone say yesterday, “The birthday is His but the gift is for us.  Let’s together receive the gift anew, or perhaps for the first time.  Come Lord Jesus, come to cleanse, to make new and to renew.

Emmanuel, Emmanuel

His name is called Emmanuel.

God with us, revealed in us

His name is called Emmanuel.*

* Emmanuel. © C.A. Music, 1976 (Administered by Music Services, Inc.)

© Byron L. Hannon, 2019.  All rights reserved to text content unless otherwise noted.

Blessings To You

The fact that you take the time to read these musings of mine is a blessing to me. Some of you I know, others I don’t.  The one thing we all have in common, however, is a desire to know GOD more deeply, more fully, and to be known by Him.  Please accept this meditation as my way of saying ‘thank you’ for taking the time.

The Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron and his sons, ‘This is how you are to bless the Israelites. Say to the: (Numbers 6:22-23)

‘The Lord bless you
and keep you;
(Numbers 6:24)

For to us a child is born,
to us a Son is given,
and the government will be on His shoulders.
And He will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of His government and peace
there will be no end.
(Isaiah 9:6-7)

 May God Himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Thess. 5:23)


the Lord make His face shine on you
and be gracious to you;(Numbers 6:25)

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed Me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (Luke 4:18-19)


the Lord turn His face toward you
and give you peace.’ (Numbers 6:26)

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)

 

“So they will put My name on the Israelites, and I will bless them.”(Numbers 6:27)

The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (Acts 11:26)

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. (Ephesians 1:3)

 

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MAY YOU AND YOURS EXPERIENCE GOD IN CHRIST THIS CHRISTMAS

(AND EVERY DAY)

“The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:16 quoting Isaiah 9:2)