Ponder the Treasure

But Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. – (Luke 2:19, NLT)

Mary continued to think about these things, trying to understand them. – (Luke 2:19, ERV)

Mary committed these things to memory and considered them carefully. – (Luke 2:19, CEB)

Mary, too, pondered all of these events, treasuring each memory in her heart. – (Luke 2:19, VOICE)

 

The chain of events leading to and surrounding the birth of Jesus, must have been more than enough to keep Mary’s mind on constant overload. Angelic visits and prophecies, miraculous pregnancies, having to travel by donkey in the desert, arriving only to be turned away at all of the possible places to stay, giving birth in a stable, having shepherds show up… Mary was now mother to the Son of God. I imagine she vacillated back and forth between bewilderment and amazement at the role that she had been called to fill. Her faithfulness and trust in God was apparent, as she said “yes” to that which she had been called to do by God. Each of these events to treasure, were likely the things that gave her courage and strength in times of uncertainty as Jesus grew. Today, as many of us participate in candlelight services, may we ponder all of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus, and treasure them in our hearts, so that we too, will find courage and strength in times of uncertainty.

 

Joining to gather, Ponder the Treasure

In candlelight glow;

Sing of our Savior,

Arrival we know.

Born in a stable,

Such a humble birth;

Path for us to know,

The depth of our worth.

For God sent His Son,

To show love to all;

Let us each embrace,

Grace to which we’re called.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You show us how to stop in awe and wonder of all that took place surrounding the birth of Jesus through the example of Mary. Thank You that You did not call the equipped, but rather You equipped the called. Thank You that You used ordinary people to do the extraordinary to change the course of history forever; a young girl, a carpenter, some shepherds, an inn keeper with a bit of compassion – each with a role that led us to why we celebrate this most holy season. Forgive us for breezing through the day as if it is just another holiday. Teach us to stop and ponder the magnitude of what You have done for us, so that we will treasure it all in our hearts. Show us how to love those around us with a love that is tangible and worth treasuring. May many come into a lasting relationship with You, as they are introduced or reminded of Who You are and all that You have done through the glorious gift of Your Son. Be glorified O God, as we ponder and treasure the reason for the season. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. – James 5:13

 

 

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No Room for Them

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped Him in cloths and placed Him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. – (Luke 2:4-7, NIV)

 

This portion of the Christmas story seemed to strike a new chord within my heart this past week, as my pastor pointed out the scandal and outrage that would have been associated with an unwed woman expecting a child who was engaged to a man with whom she had no intimate relations. Joseph came from the house of David. His heritage was quite significant, and his family name was likely known. Everyone was expected to return to the place of their familial ties for the census, so it is quite conceivable that Joseph had numerous relatives who were also traveling to Bethlehem at the same time. Under normal circumstances, a family would have traveled and stayed together, yet Mary and Joseph made the journey alone. Their isolation leads me to believe that they were being shunned by the family, and left to their own devices to survive. Upon their arrival in Bethlehem, they were unable to find a proper place to stay. What I found intriguing is that each version of scripture that I read, says that “there was no room for them. This leads me to believe that perhaps there was room, but they were turned away because of societal standards, and left stranded and a bit desperate. Who was the inn keeper who did at last show some compassion, and at least allow the pair shelter as the time drew near for Mary to give birth? It is both incredible and admirable to think of Mary and Joseph and all that they must have gone though, just to get to the stable birth. Additionally, the thought of the two of them having to deliver the Son of God in their surroundings is overwhelming. She was quite young and he was a carpenter; nothing in their life experience had likely prepared them for what they endured, other than the very presence of God with them. May we continue to ponder with awe and wonder, the miracle of God with us, this most holy season.

 

Hard was the journey, No Room for Them

To travel alone;

This chosen couple,

So far from their home.

Upon arrival,

No room granted them;

Just a small stable,

In old Bethlehem.

The time had arrived,

For the babe be born;

Courage delivered,

Wrapped Him in cloths torn.

No isolation,

Could stand in God’s way;

Strength to them granted,

Right there in the hay.

Though they’d been alone,

It did not last long;

For angelic hosts,

Announced this with song.

The shepherds they came,

They followed the light;

In awe and wonder,

On that holy night.

The baby swaddled,

God’s very own Son;

The faith of this pair,

God’s will had been done.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You for the miracle and wonder that surrounds the story of You sending Your Son to us as a baby, in humble beginnings, to make Him approachable to all. Thank You for showing us Your faithfulness through the hearts of the people that were part of Your story, and modeled what it is to trust in You. Forgive us for forgetting the depth of Your love that sent Your Only Son to us so that we could have life in You. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would pause and ponder in wonder, the miracle and the majesty of all that You have done. Show us how to love those around us in a way that gives insight and understanding to Your goodness and grace. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we allow Your story to fill our hearts and minds this Christmas. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort. – 2 Corinthians 1:3

Simeon’s Story

A man named Simeon lived in Jerusalem. He was a good man who was devoted to God. He was waiting for the time when God would come to help Israel. The Holy Spirit was with him. The Holy Spirit told him that he would not die before he saw the Messiah from the Lord. The Spirit led Simeon to the Temple. So he was there when Mary and Joseph brought the baby Jesus to do what the Jewish law said they must do. Simeon took the baby in his arms and thanked God: “Now, Lord, You can let me, your servant, die in peace as You said. I have seen with my own eyes how You will save Your people. Now all people can see Your plan. He is a light to show Your way to the other nations. And He will bring honor to Your people Israel.” Jesus’ father and mother were amazed at what Simeon said about Him. – (Luke 2:25-33, ERV)

 

There are so many side stories interwoven within the story of the birth of Jesus. Simeon was a man whom had devoted his whole life to God, and was holding both the hope and the promise that he would not die before he had seen the Messiah with his own eyes. I imagine him to have been an older man, wise in his many years, overwhelmed with both joy and awe to behold this baby, as he recognized exactly Whom he was holding in his very own arms. Additionally, I picture Mary and Joseph, who had been visited by angels multiple times over the previous many months, full of wonder as they are now receiving further insight to the role their son will grow to fulfill. Despite the promised pain, Mary and Joseph took their parental roles seriously, and loved and lead their son, the very Son of God, according to what had been asked of them. May we pause and ponder the intricacies of God’s story, as we approach the celebration of Jesus’ birth. May the magnitude of the sacrifice made on our behalf, resonate in a fresh way as we celebrate this most holy season.

 

Told in a promise, simeons-story.jpg

His own eyes would see;

Coming Messiah,

The Holy baby.

On the chosen day,

When Jesus arrived;

Simeon beheld,

Promise realized.

Imagine the joy,

Awe and wonder too;

This promise fulfilled,

His hope proving true.

May we too behold,

The wonder and awe;

At our Savior’s birth,

That Simeon saw.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that we have the privilege of knowing some of the side stories that occurred around the birth of Jesus. Thank You for showing us the hearts that had long held the hope of seeing the Messiah, and actually saw Him with their own eyes. Thank You that though we did not witness His birth, we have the blessing of Your Holy Spirit with us, always. Forgive us for not taking time to ponder the magnitude of what began in the manger. Teach us to seek You for wisdom and insight, and reveal more and more to us as we study Your word. Show us how to love those around us so that we can make Your love tangible to all. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we celebrate the wonder of Christmas, and all that unfolded surrounding Jesus’ birth. Amen.

 

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

 

When times are good, be happy. – Ecclesiastes 7:14

It’s Not About Appearances

My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine”, but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. I am not going back on that. – (Galatians 2:20-21, MSG)

 

This is a tricky one. As one with people-pleasing tendencies, I have to check myself regularly. What is my motivation? Am I doing what I am doing to please people, or to honor God? There is nothing that we could do to make God love us more, nor impress Him. He loves us so much that He laid down His life for us, individually. The more I know and understand the depth and breadth of His love, the more I desire to love as I am loved. Each act of obedience is a setting aside of self, and simply seeking to serve He who is worthy of all that we are. Nothing He asks of us is about appearances, and all is aimed at loving Him and loving people well. May we set aside every semblance of self, and seek to serve our Savior in all that we say and do.

 

There’s nothing on earth,When My Soul Waits

That we could choose do;

To impress the Lord,

For nothing is new.

None of us are called,

To try to please men;

But rather to serve,

Honor God again.

For my very life,

Is not at all mine;

So I shall choose live,

By faith in Devine.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that we do not need to appear righteous before You or mankind, but rather it is You in us that matters. Thank You that our lives are not our own, but it is You, dwelling in us that compels us to live and to love as You designed us to do. Forgive us for allowing our egos to get in the way, where we worry about pleasing more than doing what we know we are called to do. Teach us to trust You more, so that we would live by faith in a way that honors You in all that we say and do. Show us how to love others in such a way that they too may come to know the goodness and grace that comes from a life in You alone. May many choose a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we seek to live by faith, rather than try to impress. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present

He who refreshes others will himself be refreshed. – Proverbs 11:25

Obey Without Delay

Immediate obedience is what the Lord asks of us, but so often, it takes a bit of time to either wrap our heads around what exactly it is that He is asking, or to find the faith to step out and do that which we are being called to do.

 

After the wise men were gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up! Flee to Egypt with the child and His mother,” the angel said…”because Herod is going to search for the child to kill Him.” That night Joseph left for Egypt with the child and Mary, His mother. (Matthew 2:13-14, NLT)

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt. “Get up!” the angel said. “Take the child and his mother back to the land of Israel…” So Joseph got up and returned to the land of Israel with Jesus and His mother. (Matthew 2:19-21, NLT)

Then, after being warned in a dream, he left for a region of Galilee. So the family went and lived in a town called Nazareth… (Matthew 2:22b-23a, NLT)

 

Joseph is acknowledged for his obedience to marry Mary, despite what was perceived. He listened to the angel of the Lord, and did what was right in the eyes of God. That being said, I’ve never given much thought to the steps of obedience that he carefully took after the birth of Jesus. I wonder if he had been so eternally changed by his initial visit by an angel, that he was on constant standby to hear the instructions of the Lord, as he was well aware of the significance of his role in raising the Son of God? Joseph was human and he had a free will. He did not have to obey what was asked of him, but he did – and he did so immediately. His decisions had an impact on all of history. God guided him, but Joseph chose to obey.

 

How often are we in such circumstances? Though we are not raising the Son of God, what if we are raising the next leader of a church, a city, an organization or a nation? What we do matters. Our obedience has the capacity to shape not only our lives, but the lives of those around us. We never really know the significance of our decisions, until long after they have been made. May we listen well for His voice, and choose to step out in obedience as soon as we hear what He is asking. Let the Lord be our strength, courage and light, as we move in the direction that He calls us to go.

 

When God speaks to us,

do we choose obey?Break Camp and Move Out

Does our heart move now,

or wait one more day?

What is the impact,

of obedience?

It’s not about us,

nor our convenience.

Our one decision,

could open the way;

for His light to shine,

on the darkest day.

Our obedience,

matters a great deal;

for God uses us,

to show that He’s real.

Let hearts be open,

and ears set to hear;

may we choose obey,

without pause or fear.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You have given us so many examples in Your word of those who boldly and without hesitation, obeyed that which You asked of them. Thank You too, that it is clear why it was necessary for obedience to be immediate. Thank You that You speak to our hearts, and we need simply to listen to know what we are to do and where we are to go. Forgive us for our hesitation and delay to those things that we know You are asking of us. Grow in us a faith that says “Yes and Amen” immediately, to whatever we hear You asking. Show us how to love others in a way that makes Your goodness and grace evident. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we listen to Your leading and then take steps of obedience as soon as we know what we have heard. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

The joy of the Lord is your strength. – Nehemiah 8:10

Believe to Be Victorious

Who is it that overcomes the world?  Only he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. – (1 John 5:5, NIV)

It is our faith that has won the victory against the world.  So who wins against the world?  Only those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God. – (1 John 5:5, ERV)

The “world” is anything and everything that would tempt us to live in a way that is contrary to the life that Christ is calling us to live.  We have an adversary who seeks to lead us away from the path which we are called to pursue.  It is only when we believe with our hearts and lives that Jesus is the Son of God, and live our lives accordingly, that we are able to overcome that which attempts to steer us off course.  Temptations that seek to suck us in, can be withstood, when we are armed with the truth and invested in a relationship with the Savior of our soul.  May we believe with all that we are, that Jesus is the Son of God, and live out our lives accordingly, so that we may walk victoriously, as we overcome the world.

To rise, overcome,Offered Unto You

it takes great belief;

in Jesus the Son,

our hope and relief.

No battle is won,

unless we choose cling;

to Christ our Savior,

Overcoming King.

No foe can withstand,

the power of God;

in Him we will win,

as heaven applauds.

So rise up, dear ones,

and trust in the King;

for we’ll overcome,

that’s what the truth brings.

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that if we choose to believe that Jesus is the Son of God, and place our trust in You, we are able to overcome all that would come against us.  Thank You that every victory is ours through Christ.  Forgive us for making our adversary too big, or making You too small, as You are far greater than anything that would come against us.  Teach us to trust You more, so that we would be confident in Your mercy, grace, strength and power that You provide in every situation.  Lead us  to love others as You call us to love.  May many come into a lasting relationship with You, Lord.  Be glorified O God, as we rise up and overcome the world in Your strength as You call us to keep pressing forward.  Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

Answer me, O Lord, out of the goodness of your love; in your great mercy turn to me. – Psalm 69:16

Wait to Hear

I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. – (John 5:25)

 

We had a guest speaker in church yesterday who had a great message to share. One of the things that Doug Bursch (@gcfw.org) asked, was “Does God speak to us?” There was a resounding “yes”, but he followed with a few more questions that grabbed everyone’s attention. “Do you hear Him speak?” “If not, are you waiting on Him?” “Are you investing time in His word?” We can only hear and gain life if we are invested enough to seek and listen to the truth. Our source of truth, daily, should come from the word of God, and time spent before Him in prayer. If we are gaining our insight from social media, rather than the word of God, we are not hearing from Him. The above quoted verse from John is part of words spoken by Jesus. His point was that there will be those who are dead in their sin who will come to hear His voice and find eternal life. If we are listening to Him, we are available to offer what He has to those around us. May we be fully invested in His word and waiting on Him, so that we may go forth in peace, extending the love and grace that God alone equips us to offer.

 

Let us come before,

Waiting

the time has arrived;

to wait on the Lord,

where hope’s realized.

Though waiting is hard,

it’s always worthwhile;

for God has purpose,

as we tread each mile.

He teaches our hearts,

and our faith He’ll grow;

so when times are tough,

the truth we will know.

As we’re invested,

He grants us the words;

to lift up others,

so His heart is heard.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You sent Your Son to live among us, and model what a life well-lived in You ought to be. Thank You Jesus for taking all of our sin and shame upon Yourself, so that we could have life abundant in You. Forgive us for our lack of patience in waiting on You, and teach us to trust You more, so that we will wait with perseverance, no matter how long You call us to wait. Lead us to love well, all those whom we encounter. May many come into a lasting relationship with You. Be glorified O God, as we wait on You, then go forth in obedience to whatever You ask. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

I thank and praise You, O God of my fathers: You have given me wisdom and power. – Daniel 2:23

Resolve in His Strength

The devil said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” – (Luke 4:3)

 

“Often we are tempted not through our weaknesses, but through our strengths. The devil tempted Jesus where He was strong. Jesus had power over stones, the kingdoms of the world, and even angels, and Satan wanted Him to use that power without regard to His mission. When we give in to the devil and wrongly use our strengths, we become proud and self-reliant. Trusting in our own powers, we feel little need of God. To avoid this trap, we must realize that all our strengths are God’s gift to us, and we must dedicate those strengths to His service.” – (NIV footnotes for Luke 4:3)

 

For me, this is a timely reminder. Even when we desire to do good things, if we attempt to overbook ourselves, rather than rely on His leading, we end up overextending ourselves and going in our own strength, rather than in His. Though I seem to require less sleep than most, exhaustion will catch me if I do not listen to His leading, and learn to say no when He says, “Not now.” The desires to do good and gifts to utilize that He grants us are wonderful, however, it is critical that we listen to His leading so that we do not become self-reliant nor proud. Christ extends His grace and grows in us His wisdom, so each time that we encounter opportunities, we better learn to listen to Him for clear direction. May we go forth in His strength, so that we overcome every temptation that is placed before us, and learn to clearly listen to His leading.

 

Temptations shall come,MSH35

where they don’t belong;

they hit where we’re weak,

and too, where we’re strong.

Often the greatest,

temptations of all;

are where we are strong,

pride will bring a fall.

Let us remember,

our true Source of strength;

and trust in His might,

that covers great lengths.

Every good gift,

that we have to give;

was given to us,

so others might live.

May we honor Christ,

go forth and obey;

listen well and serve,

for all of our days.

 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You sent Your Son into the world to show us how to live. Thank You Jesus, that You died in our place and defeated death, and sent Your Spirit to live in us, so that we would be strengthened and equipped to stand firm and walk in Your truth. Forgive us for our self-reliance and foolish pride, and help us to listen to Your leading as to what we should and should not do, even when the options before us are all good things. Teach us to trust You more, so that we will stand firm, no matter what comes our way. Help us to love others as You so completely care for us, and may many come to know You as their Savior and King as a result. Be glorified, O God, as we overcome temptations in Your strength today. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

For it is commendable if a man bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because he is conscious of God. – 1 Peter 2:19

The Perfect Parent

There is a fine line between granting a child room to grow, and maintaining godly expectations, so that they may be raised in the way that is right.  It is a challenge for anyone, be it with pets, progenies or pupils in a classroom, yet can you imagine what it must have been like for Mary and Joseph, raising the very Son of God?!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   In Luke, chapter two, verses 41-52, we are told the story of the time that Jesus stayed behind in the temple, without His parents’ knowledge of His whereabouts.  His absence caused fear and panic, triggering a three-day search, ending in Jesus being found, seated in the temple courts among the teachers of the time.  Though His mother’s initial reaction was basically, “Why would you do this to us?”  Her anger gave way to awe, as she recognized the remarkable found in her Son, as He sat speaking with scholarly wisdom among magnificent minds.  Jesus, being without sin, submitted to His parents and returned with them in obedience, and continued to “grow in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.”  Mary “treasured all these things in her heart.”
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                 My own progenies love the Lord.  They also love video games.  There is much room for guidance as to what is good and pleasing to God, and what is not in any way beneficial for the building of their character.  Though many things are permissible, not all things are beneficial.  At not quite twelve, both guidance and room to grow, must be given.  On my own, I am at a serious lack as to how to balance these things.  Daily, hourly really, I need His wisdom and help to show me how to lead and guide my guys in the way that is best.  Perfection does not exist in parenting, so I am so thankful for His grace that covers my shortcomings.  He is our loving Father, and remains in that role, no matter our age.  Be encouraged, for He is our perfect parenting partner, and He is willing to lead and guide us as we go, if we choose to trust in Him.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Raise up a child,Boys for post photo-10
in the way to go;
and when they’re old,
their wisdom shall show.
He is faithful,
to remain with us;
to take our hand,
and lovingly bless.
He will lead us,
and show us the way;
to guide our kids,
so in Him they’ll stay.
Trust in the Lord,
with all of our heart;
ask for His grace,
and wisdom impart.
All that we ask,
in faith and in truth;
He will answer,
He shall lead us through.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that You are the only perfect parent.  Thank You that You are available and willing to show us the way, as we lead and guide those whom we are given charge.  Thank You for trusting us with the care of Your created, and help us to take our roles seriously.  Forgive us for our frustrations or lack of fortitude to fight for that which You call us to do, and please strengthen us to hear and answer all that You are asking.  May we love well the next generation for You, and may many come to know You in a deep and meaningful way.  May lives be changed and families restored, through the grace given by the young.  Be exalted in all that we say and do.  Amen.
© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.

Misconception

MisconceptionJesus, our Savior,

He quietly came;

He cured the diseased,

and He healed the lame.

The evil spirits,

before Him fell down;

they knew His power,

sans visible crown.

Each time they’d cry out,

“You’re the Son of God!”

He’d order silence,

not wanting applaud.

People’s perception,

was He who would come;

would rule all of Rome,

false misconception.

As the Messiah,

His kingdom won’t end;

salvation for those,

whom on Him depend.

The Leader who gave,

His own life away;

so we might have life,

in glory one day.

Their expectations,

were shattered and torn;

beautiful exchange,

grace to be reborn.

(Responding to Mark 3:11-12 & NIV footnotes)

Dear Heavenly Father, thank You that Your ways are higher than our ways, and Your thoughts are higher than our own. Thank You that Your plan far exceeded the expectations of the people of the time, for if a leader had risen up and ruled Rome, it would have been temporary – yet You sending Your Son to save souls – is eternal. Thank You that Your word is alive and active, and that Your Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts as we invest time in Your word. Thank You that You continue to show us new things in Your word, even after we have read a passage many times prior. Please forgive us for any misconceptions or faulty expectations we might have of You or of ourselves before You. Teach us what is truth and what is not, and grant us the ability to hear You clearly, and hearts that are willing to obey. Lead us to love as You love, and may many come to know Your power and sweet presence, personally. Amen.

© Shannon Elizabeth Moreno and Revelations in Writing, May 2011 – present.