Pt 20: Christmas – Fear Not

Fear Not

Six times in the Christmas Story fear is mentioned:

  1. Zacharias was told to fear not—that his prayer was heard, and his wife Elisabeth would bear him a son in his old age.
  1. Mary was told to fear not—for she has found favor with God and would conceive in her womb and bring forth the Messiah.
  1. Joseph was told to not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, for what is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
  1. The shepherds were told to fear not when the angels appeared and the glory of the Lord shone brightly all around them.
  1. Joseph was afraid to go to Judea when he heard that Archelaus, son of Herod, was now reigning.
  1. Fear is the natural emotion that parents must have felt when Herod sent soldiers to brutally slaughter all the baby boys two years old and under.

Fear cripples a person. Fear is the opposite of faith, and contaminates faith. When we face certain situations in our lives where we are afraid, we can put our trust in God and hold tightly to His hand. He is our refuge and strength.

There are hundreds of Scriptures on fear, but a few of them are:

2 Timothy 1:7 (KJV) For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.

Luke 12:32 (NKJV) Do not fear, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Mark 5:36b (KJV) Be not afraid, only believe.

Isaiah 35:4 (KJV) Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.

Isaiah 41:13 (NKJV) For I, the Lord your God, will hold your right hand, saying to you, ‘Fear not, I will help you.’

Psalms 56:3 (NKJV) Whenever I am afraid, I will trust in You.

The only kind of fear that the Lord wants us to have is a healthy reverential fear of God.

God tells us in His Word that fearing the Lord prevents sickness and promises healing.

Proverbs 3:7-8 says, “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and depart from evil. It will be health to your flesh, and strength to your bones.”

The fear of the Lord prolongs our life. Proverbs 10:27 says, “The fear of the Lord prolongs days: but the years of the wicked shall be shortened.”

God promises in His Word financial provision to those who fear the Lord.

Psalms 25:12-13 says, “Who, then, is the man that fears the Lord? He will instruct him in the way chosen for him. He will spend his days in prosperity, (the NKJV says “ease”) and his descendants will inherit the land.”

Psalms 112:1-3 says, “Blessed is the man who fears the Lord, who delights greatly in His commandments. His descendants will be mighty on earth; the generation of the upright will be blessed. Wealth and riches will be in his house, and his righteousness endures forever.”

When we fear God, things will go well for us and we will see and enjoy many good days upon the earth.

The Hebrew word for “fear”, as it relates to fearing God, is the word yare. It implies reverence and showing God the utmost respect and honor. It’s having awe for Him, holding Him in high esteem and obeying His commands. It is loving Him.

In the Unger’s Bible Dictionary, the fear of the Lord is defined as:

“This kind of fear has its spring in love, and prompts to care not to offend God and to endeavor in all things to please Him. It has virtues of godly character. It is produced by the Holy Spirit, and great blessing is pronounced upon those who possess this Christian trait. This kind of fear dreads God’s displeasure, desires His favor, reveres His Holiness, willingly submits to His will, is grateful for His benefits, sincerely worships Him, and conscientiously obeys His commandments.”

Zacharias, Mary, Joseph and the Shepherds all had a reverential fear of the Lord. All of them worshipped God. All of them were considered to be righteous. All of them had a visitation with an angel (the shepherds were visited by the hosts of innumerable angels).

Pt 18: Christmas – God is Faithful to Keep His Promises

God is Faithful to Keep His Promises

The theme of God keeping His promises is interwoven throughout the entire Christmas Story.

The Lord was faithful to His words to Mary, Joseph, Zacharias, Elisabeth, the shepherds, Simeon and Anna. God did for them exactly what He had said He would do.

There are 332 Messianic promises and implications in the Old Testament regarding Christ’s first coming. God fulfilled every single Messianic prophecy when Jesus came to earth—from His conception up until His resurrection and ascension into heaven.

For a complete list of every Messianic prophecy regarding Jesus’ first coming, I would highly recommend a book entitled Lamb of God: Yesterday, Today and Forever (Clarion Call Marketing, 2004) by Benny Hinn. Please go to his website at http://www.bennyhinn.org/ .

If God has spoken prophetic promises to you, or that of a loved one, just know that He will be faithful to fulfill those words in His due timing.

Numbers 23:19 (NIV) declares, “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should change His mind. Does He speak and then not act? Does He promise and not fulfill?”

God has promised us many things in His Word. Also, many of us have received prophetic promises that were spoken over us. We want to receive our promise or healing. We know that God is able to do it, but for some reason or another, many are not completely ready to receive their promise or healing at this moment. We have to get to the place where we not only know that God is able to do it, but that He will do it.

In John 5:5-9, Jesus came by the pool of Bethesda and found a lame man who had suffered with an infirmity for 38 years. Jesus said to him, “Do you want to be made whole?”

Rather than the man instantly saying “yes”, he gave Jesus the reasons why he hadn’t been healed in the past. Plus, the man was stuck in the mode of blaming others for his condition. When the man decided to take responsibility for his own life and stop blaming others and making excuses, then he was able to receive his healing.

If prophetic words were spoken over you and it bore witness with your spirit and is in agreement with the Bible, then trust God to perform His Word.

May we prepare our hearts to receive all that God has for us. May we make whatever changes God tells us to make, so that we are ready to receive.

It is time to cross over into our promised land and receive what we have been believing God for. May we not let fear, doubt and other issues get in the way of receiving our promise.

Romans 4:17 says that God calls those things that are not as though they already were. That is what we need to do … begin calling those things in our lives that are non-existent as though they already were in existence. Then we will begin to see those things come into manifestation.

God wants to do something in our life that’s bigger than us. He wants us to believe for the impossible. He’s able to do miracles, even creative miracles.

Jeremiah 32:27 (KJV) says, “Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh: is there anything too hard for Me?” In verse 17 Jeremiah declares, “Ah Lord God! Behold, Thou hast made the heaven and the earth by Thy great power and stretched out arm, and there is nothing too hard for Thee.”

When Zerubbabel (mentioned in Haggai and Ezra) had faced opposition to restoring the temple in Jerusalem and work had been suspended for several years, the situation looked bleak. However, God spoke through the prophet saying, “Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a [level] plain” (Zechariah 4:6-7).

We can personalize this for our own lives. Replace the name Zerubbabel with your name or that of a loved one. Declare aloud, “The Word of the Lord comes to __________ saying, It’s not by your might, nor by your power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? Before __________ thou shalt become a leveled plain.”

Matthew 21:21 says that if we speak to our mountain and tell it to move out of our way, and do not doubt in our hearts, that it would obey us. What is the mountain (the obstacle or problem) in your life that stands in your way and tries to intimidate or taunt you? You have to speak to it, telling it to get out of your way.

Luke 3:5 speaks of Jesus, saying that He would cause every valley to be filled and exalted, every mountain to be made low, every crooked path to be made straight, and every rough way to be made smooth.

God wants us to keep our focus on Him, and see Him as powerful and mighty and awesome. Who else is like unto Him? Who else can do what only He can do? There is none like Him!

Hebrews 11:11 says that Sarah received the promise (giving birth to Isaac) because she considered Him faithful who had promised. Like Sarah, we need to believe that God is faithful to fulfill everything He said He would do even before we see it happen.

Mary said to Gabriel, “Be it unto me according to thy word”, and then she conceived. May we have the heart of Mary and say to the Lord when He speaks something to us, “Be it unto me according to Thy word.”

This is a season of leaving the wilderness and crossing over into our promised land. There are giants there—new challenges and new devils to contend with, but God will conquer every giant. Although the old can be miserable, it’s familiar. The new seems scary because it’s a place of the unknown.

God has a “promised land” for each of our lives (a place of blessings, joy, abundance and fulfilled dreams). The Lord will lead us there if we take His hand, and be willing to leave the past behind.

Pt 16: Christmas – A Voice Was Heard in Ramah

A Voice Was Heard in Ramah

King Herod, when he realized that the wise men had outwitted him and were not returning, was exceedingly angry.

He sent soldiers to Bethlehem, and all its surrounding districts, to slaughter all the male children two years old and younger, for the wise men had told him that the star first appeared two years before.

This brutal massacre fulfilled the words of the prophet Jeremiah, who said: “A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted because they are no more” (Jeremiah 31:15).

Rachel is used figuratively to represent the city of Bethlehem. She was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin, the wife of Jacob, who was buried near Bethlehem. Ramah was a small farming community about 10 miles away from Bethlehem.

After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Arise, take the young child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead” (Matthew 2:20). So he arose and took the young child and Mary to the land of Israel.

However, when he heard that Archelaus, the son of Herod, was now reigning over Judea, he was afraid to go there. Being warned by God in a dream, he took Mary and the young child to the region of Galilee and dwelt in the town of Nazareth. This is where Jesus grew up, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets: “He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:23).

The Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him (Luke 2:40).

Pt 15: Christmas – Wise Men From the East

Wise Men From the East

When Jesus was born, there were wise men (also called magi or astrologers) in the East who saw His star and they journeyed to Jerusalem to find the One who was born King of the Jews so they could worship Him (Matthew 2:1-2).

The wise men inquired of the leaders in Jerusalem as to where the newborn King of the Jews was located. When King Herod heard about this, he was troubled, as was also all Jerusalem (Matthew 2:3). Herod was the king of the Jews and felt threatened by the idea of someone else being born to replace him as king of the Jews.

Herod gathered the chief priests and the scribes (religious lawyers) together, inquiring where the Messiah was to be born (Matthew 2:4-6). So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet ‘But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting’” (Micah 5:2 NKJV).

Herod secretly summoned the wise men to his palace to question them, to determine when the star first appeared (Matthew 2:7-8). Then Herod sent the wise men to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the young child, and when you have found him, bring word back to me—that I may come and worship Him also.”

In his evil heart, Herod had no plans of worshipping the Christ Child, but of murdering Him.

The wise men departed from King Herod’s presence, and the star that they had seen in the East went before them leading them to the place where Jesus and His parents resided. The star stood over a house where the young child was (Matthew 2:9-10). When the wise men saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy!

From the time that the wise men first saw the star, they didn’t arrive in Bethlehem until two years later. By the time they left for their journey and traveled hundreds of miles to Jerusalem and were detained there, when they finally arrived in Bethlehem, Jesus was around two years old. Joseph, Mary and the toddler Jesus were living in a house and remained in Bethlehem until Jesus was about two years old.

Although the wise men are depicted today as being three in number because they presented Jesus with three gifts, it was probably a whole caravan of magi that came. In those days travelers journeyed in caravans for safety purposes, as there were robbers along the side of the roads.

When the wise men came into the house, they saw the young child with Mary His mother. The wise men fell down and worshipped Jesus. They had brought costly gifts for Him that are suited for a king. When they had opened their treasures, they presented Him with gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11).

Gold symbolizes Divinity and Eternity. The gold is representative of the fact that Jesus is God, who was in Heaven with His Father and sent to earth to take on human flesh to ransom mankind. Gold also represents the wealth of a King.

Frankincense is a sweet perfume, symbolizing the sweet fragrance of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14-15). Song of Solomon 1:3-4 (NIV) says, “How pleasing is the fragrance of Your perfume; Your Name is like perfume poured out … let the King bring me into His chambers.” Frankincense speaks of Jesus being our bridegroom and king. Frankincense also speaks of worship and prayers that are offered up to God ascending to the Throne as a sweet-smelling aroma that is accepted by the Father. Frankincense symbolizes the Shekinah Glory of God.

Myrrh is a sweet smelling, but bitter resin, used for cleansing and burial of the dead. Myrrh symbolizes Christ’s sufferings and His death on the Cross. Myrrh also represents the sufferings we go through, and dying to the fleshly nature (Galations 2:20, 5:16-25).

The wise men were divinely warned in a dream that they should not return to Herod. So they departed for their own country another way.

When the wise men had departed, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream saying, “Arise, take the young child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young child to destroy Him” (Matthew 2:13 NKJV).

When Joseph arose, he took the young child and Mary by night and departed for Egypt. They remained in Egypt until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying “Out of Egypt I called My Son” (Hosea 11:1).

Pt 14: Christmas – Jesus Dedicated at the Temple

Jesus Dedicated at the Temple

When the baby Jesus was eight days old, He was circumcised (Luke 2:21). At the circumcision ceremony, Mary and Joseph named Him JESUS, the name given by the angel Gabriel when he appeared to Mary in person and later on appeared to Joseph in a dream.

The Greek name translated into English as Jesus, is the name Iesous (pronounced ee-ay-sooce, Strong’s New Testament #2424). It is of Hebrew origin (Strong’s Old Testament #3091) from the name Yehowshua, or Joshua, meaning “Jehovah is Salvation”.

When the days of Mary’s post-birth purification had been completed, according to the law of Moses, Joseph and Mary brought Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem to be dedicated to the Lord (Luke 2:22-24).

In the Barnes’ Notes Bible Encyclopedia, it states that among the Hebrews, a mother was required to remain at home for about forty days following the birth of a male child and about eighty days after the birth of a female child. During that time she was reckoned as impure, and was not permitted to go to the Temple or to engage in religious services with the congregation (Leviticus 12:3-5).

A sacrifice was required when dedicating the firstborn son at the Temple. Mary and Joseph brought a sacrifice to be offered. As it is written in the law of the Lord (Exodus 13:2), every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord. And in keeping with the law of the Lord, a sacrifice must be offered of a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

At the temple, there was an elderly man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon (Luke 2:25-40). This man was just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel (a name for the Messiah), and the Holy Spirit was upon him.

It had been revealed to him by the Holy Ghost that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ (the Messiah). So he came by the Spirit—he was led by the Lord to come—into the temple that exact particular day that Mary and Joseph were there with baby Jesus. When the parents brought in the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the law, Simeon took Jesus up in his arms and blessed God and began to prophesy over Him saying:

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your Word. For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel” (Luke 2:29-32 NKJV).

Joseph and Mary marveled at those things which were spoken of Him (Jesus). Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, the mother of Jesus: “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35 NKJV).

Now there was a prophetess named Anna, who was the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher (Luke 2:36-38). She was 84 years old. When she was young, she was married to her husband for seven years and became widowed. She never did remarry but remained single the rest of her life. She remained at the Temple for all those years, serving God with fastings and prayers night and day.

When she saw the baby Jesus, at that very moment she came up and began to give thanks to God, and continued to speak of the newborn Messiah to those who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem and all of Israel.

Pt 12: Christmas – The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

The Birth of Jesus the Messiah

In those days, a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that a census be taken of all the inhabited world. The King James Version says “taxation”, while other versions say “census”. Maybe it involved both things. This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria.

Everyone was on his way to register, each to his own city of lineage. Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of King David. (King David’s birthplace is Bethlehem.) Joseph registered, along with Mary his wife, who was in the later stage of pregnancy.

While they were there in Bethlehem the days were completed for her to give birth. There were no rooms available in the inn since there were so many people in Bethlehem during that time to register for the census.

The only available shelter they found was a stable or cave where the animals were kept. Mary gave birth to her firstborn son; she wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger—a feeding trough (Luke 2:7).

In the same way that there was no room in the inn for the Messiah to be born, many people today make no room for Christ in their lives. They have room for others and for things, but no room for Jesus. May we make room in our hearts for the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus should take first place in our lives.

Jesus was born in “humble” surroundings although He is a King. He was not born and raised in a palace like kings of this earth. He wasn’t even born in a hospital or a house.

He was raised in Nazareth and worked in the family business as a carpenter along with His father. He was a King, but was not raised in a wealthy and influential family, although He was not poor either. His family had a prosperous carpentry business. He did not grow up in a prestigious city. God chose who His parents would be not based on economic status, but on their blameless character and righteous living.

Jesus’ disciple Nathanael said in John 1:46 “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The city of Nazareth was held in great contempt by the people of Judaea, because the people of Galilee spoke a crude dialect and were less cultivated. Also, the Galileans were held in disrepute because they were largely influenced by the Gentile heathen who mingled with them, and also because of their lower type of moral and religious character. The people of Nazareth and the Galilee region were less educated.

Jesus left the wealth of Heaven to come to earth. On earth He was poor in comparison with Heaven’s wealth. But He was not poor according to this world’s standard. His family owned a business. Jesus owned a home in Capernaum. Jesus had a treasurer in His ministry. When Jesus died on the Cross, lots were cast for His seamless tunic.

Most of Jesus’ disciples were from the region of Galilee. They were rough around the edges, but the Lord used them powerfully.

On the Day of Pentecost, the 120 who gathered in the Upper Room were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in languages they had never learned before. In Acts 2:7, devout Jews from every nation who came for the feast of Pentecost were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another “Look, are not all these who speak Galileans?” The Galileans were uneducated and yet began to speak fluently in languages they had never learned before. Another significant thing is that the Galileans, who usually spoke rough and rude, began to speak with eloquence and gracefulness.

This goes to show that God can raise up a person who feels like a nobody from nowhere—from any neighborhood or economic situation—and prosper them and use them for His glory.

Jesus understands the financial pressures that most people go through. God wants us to be blessed and walk in abundance, having all of our material needs met and be able to pay all of our bills, and have money left over in the bank, plus have investments and assets, because He bore the curse of poverty on the Cross.

Second Corinthians 8:9 (AMP) says, “For you are becoming progressively acquainted with and recognizing more strongly and clearly the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ (His kindness, His gracious generosity, His undeserved favor and spiritual blessing), [in] that though He was [so very] rich, yet for your sakes He became [so very] poor, in order that by His poverty you might become enriched (abundantly supplied).”

If we be Abraham’s seed, we are heirs of the promise or the covenant (Galations 3:29). In the Abrahamic Covenant, one part of it is that God would bless us and that we would be a blessing to others. You can only bless others if you have it to give. God is Jehovah Jireh, our Provider. He wants to bless us.

Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 9:8 (AMP): “And God is able to make all grace (every favor and earthly blessing) come to you in abundance, so that you may always and under all circumstances and whatever the need be self-sufficient [possessing enough to require no aid or support and furnished in abundance for every good work and charitable donation].”

Pt 11: Christmas – Mary’s Dilemma

Mary’s Dilemma

The time came when Mary had to tell her fiancé Joseph that she was with child. She tried to explain to him how the conception occurred: The archangel Gabriel appeared to her in person, he announced that she was chosen to be the mother of the Messiah, the Holy Spirit overshadowed her and she conceived, and the child she is carrying in her womb is the Son of God.

Of course, how could Joseph believe such a preposterous story? It sounded ludicrous. How could a mature, logical and sensible man like himself buy such a story? After all, every young woman dreamed of being chosen to give birth to the Messiah.

Just imagine all of the tumultuous emotions that Joseph was feeling. He was betrothed to Mary and in love with her. He had dreams and plans of spending his entire life with her, but now his dreams of the two of them having a future together was dashed on the ground into a thousand pieces. He must have felt betrayal, anger, confusion, hurt, rejection, deep pain, disappointment and grief. He felt jilted. He had been cheated on, or so he thought. He was brokenhearted.

He must have felt rage in his heart, wondering which man it was that took advantage of Mary who was a young teenager, using her for his own selfish desires. If he found out who the man was, he was probably ready to kill him.

Song of Solomon 8:6 (NKJV) says, “Love is as strong as death; jealousy as cruel as the grave.” Proverbs 6:32-35 (TLB) states: “But the man who commits adultery is an utter fool, for he destroys his own soul. Wounds and constant disgrace are his lot, for the woman’s husband will be furious in his jealousy, and he will have no mercy on you in his day of vengeance. You won’t be able to buy him off no matter what you offer.”

In that culture, the betrothal period was just as legally binding as the marriage itself, and it appeared that Mary had committed adultery.

Joseph could not believe such a bizarre story of how Mary supposedly conceived. He had the legal right to have her stoned to death in the town square before the religious leaders and the people. However, he was a just and righteous man, and he was in love with Mary. Although Joseph was hurting, he did not want to expose Mary’s shame or see her go through public humiliation and a brutal execution. So he had it in his mind to divorce her quietly (Matthew 1:18-25).

While Joseph thought on these matters, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21 NIV).

The Lord defended Mary’s purity.

All of this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 7:14 NKJV): “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” (which translated means God with us).

Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him. He took Mary as his wife, but had no intimate relations with her until she had given birth to her firstborn son (Matthew 1:24-25). Mary was not a virgin her entire lifetime.

After Jesus was born, Joseph and Mary had children together, for the Bible records that Jesus had younger brothers and sisters (Mark 6:3). Jesus was the eldest child because it was He who determined who was going to take care of His widowed mother Mary after He ascended to Heaven. He chose John the Apostle (His cousin), rather than one of His siblings, to take care of Mary for the rest of her life (John 19:26-27).

The Lord was faithful to fulfill what He said to Mary. Just as God promised, spoken through Gabriel, she was overshadowed with the Holy Spirit and conceived a son—being a virgin. For with God all things are possible (Luke 18:27).

Joseph is depicted as a man of honor and character, a man who obeyed the voice of the Lord. What a great man that God chose to be Mary’s husband and Jesus’ adoptive father!