See how well you know that Nativity Story with this quick test. I used it on our HSM Lifegroup tonight and no one made 100%, not even the adults. How well will you do?
We had a fun time tonight at our HSM Lifegroup as I told the Nativity Story with a sweet twist. There are several stories like this on the internet, but I had to write my own to match the types of candy I had. The idea is that as the story is told, someone passes out the candy as it is mentioned (I put the candy names in all caps to make it easier). I was worried this would be too “young” for my high schoolers… nope. They ate it up! 😉
Here’s the story:
The REISEN for the Season
Long ago, there lived a sweet couple named Joseph and Mary who were betrothed or engaged to be married. They were full of BLISS as they planned for their wedding. Joseph worked hard building a house for Mary. Mary dreamed of one day holding a baby boy in her arms or maybe a baby girl, a BABY RUTH named after one of her ancestors. But one day a visit from an angel changed everything. Mary would conceive by the Holy Spirit and give birth to a son named Jesus. He would be a LIFESAVER to the world! When Joseph found out, he was beTWIXted a rock and a hard place, but the same angel told Joseph to marry Mary anyway and that his PAYDAY was surely to come. Soon Mary and Joseph could hear the SNICKERS of the townspeople. But what did those AIRHEADS know? Mary and Joseph trusted God anyway.
Nine months later, some SMARTIES in the East called wise men were studying the MILKYWAY, when all of a sudden a STARBURST forth. They knew that a king of the Jews was born and they would need to travel to worship this newborn king. Meanwhile, in a field in Bethlehem, some JOLLY RANCHERS were watching over their flock when all of a sudden an angel appeared bringing news of great JOY to all the people! A savior is born! The Jolly Ranchers went immediately to see the baby but it would take awhile for the Smarties to get there with all their gifts. Mary took it all in and TREASURED all these things in her heart as she smothered her baby with KISSES.
Pretty soon it was back to just Joseph, Mary and little Jesus, the THREE MUSKETEERS. Life would continue, Mary and Joseph would have other kids, and Jesus would grow up. One day He would be baptized in the Jordan River and the Holy Spirit would descend on Him in the form of a DOVE with His Father declaring that He is well pleased. Soon, a 100 GRAND and more would be saved through faith in HIM! Nothing could be sweeter than that!
I like things in order. I always have. My parents tell me that when I was a child I would organize the utensil drawer for fun. It’s true. Not much has changed in 40 years either.
Naturally this trait would follow into my Bible studies that I have done over the years. As a child I learned various stories from the Bible, but had no idea they were connected in any way except that God was there in all of them. As I began studying, I started seeing the connection. It was all about one big family, starting with Adam and continuing on through descendants like Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David and Jesus.
My father-in-law gave me a great gift a few years ago, The Timechart of Biblical History. This book opens up into one long timeline, complete with maps and lists. Yes, this speaks my love language!
I’ve put together a few documents of my own over the years too. These have greatly helped me in understanding the flow of Scripture. I can understand the details of a particular life better when I know the larger picture. Here’s an example: Take the life of Abraham. God called him to leave everything behind to go to a place unknown. Later he called him to sacrifice his own son. Abraham was obedient in both. That took great faith. Where did he learn such faith? Why did God single him out among all others? That’s when I saw something in the genealogy timeline. So many times when reading the genealogies in scripture I would just skim through them. But one day I stopped and tried to chart it all out (this was long before the internet was handy). Thankfully someone else thinks like me and posted their chart on the internet recently. Generations from Noah to Isaac
On that chart, compare Noah and Shem with Abraham. What do you see? I see that Noah was still alive when Abraham was born and that Shem continued to live even after Abraham died. So then I starting asking God some questions: Did they live close to each other? I know about the division after the Tower of Babel, but did Abraham remain in the group with Noah and Shem? Did Abraham hear first hand accounts of the flood? Did You tell Noah and Shem that Abraham was special and set-apart? I wanted to know everything.
That’s how my fascination with genealogy and timelines started. Here are more of the charts I’ve used that will hopefully get you excited about Scripture in a whole new way:
If you have tools and certain websites that you like to use to enhance your study of Scripture, please let me know.
The 7th commandment says in Exodus 20:14 “You shall not commit adultery.” For some of you, reading that verse hurt because you’ve already crashed and burned on it. Others of you may not even realize how close you may have come. Jesus took it a step further in Matthew 5:27-28 when He said, “You have heard it said ‘You shall not commit adultery’, but I say to you, whoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery already with her in his heart.”
Jesus knows where adultery begins. It’s the same place murder begins (or any sin for that matter)…in the heart. I want to take you through the “7 Myths About Affairs” and then the “12 Step Affair Process”. I’ll be open about my own experiences with this subject.
7 Myths about Extramarital Affairs:
1. Everybody is doing it.
Read 2 Timothy 2:22. You may want to focus on “flee” and “along with those.” Flee” means to run away from something. It’s not a casual walking away. If you don’t flee, you will have time to talk yourself into staying. May I suggest you be careful with what you watch on TV or what you read? Most shows and books today don’t see this as sin. If your favorite shows or books portray sex in an ungodly way, it’s time to let them go. I know it’s hard to do. I’ve been there. “Along with those” shows us that there are others pursuing righteousness. You’re in good company. Not everybody is doing it. There are many who are pursuing godly lives.
2. It will be good for our relationship.
Read Proverbs 6:26, 32. This goes for pornography too. I know. I’ve been there too. We had this issue early in our marriage. I’m so thankful God has redeemed that for us. Many men have this struggle and it begins early, sometimes even as a child. It’s very difficult to break this habit, especially since it is available at the click of a button. I prayed that God would take this struggle away from my husband and I am thankful that he was faithful. But just a few summers ago, Satan tried to tempt me with it. Yes, me. We were staying at a hotel during our family vacation. My girls had a pull out couch to sleep on. When I pulled it out the first night, I saw some “not so appropriate” magazines under it. It took me a minute to realize what I was seeing. Thankfully my girls didn’t see them. I got a trash bag and went to throw the magazines away outside our room. (Yes we got clean sheets and a nice discount.) But, while I was walking down the hall to throw the magazines away, Satan stepped in, “Go ahead and take a look. There’s some stuff in there that will help you to please your husband more.” Help me? It’s just like Satan to throw in a little truth with his big fat lie. I’m sure the magazines would have plenty of “tips” but this is not the way I needed to get educated. I immediately got mad and started fighting back with scripture – out loud so Satan could hear me! “I will set no worthless thing before my eyes . . . a perverse heart shall depart from me; I will know no evil” Psalm 101:3-4. I said it over and over as I walked down the hall. It worked. Please hear me, you don’t need “extras” to enhance your sex life. You need the One Who created it.
3. If you truly love your spouse, there’s no way you could be involved with someone else.
Read 1 Corinthians 10:12. Pride comes before the fall. It can happen to anyone! Both of my parents had affairs, so I determined that it would never happen to me. I was too smart for that. I would love my husband and never do anything stupid to mess up our marriage. See, I thought I had the power. Wrong! We are nothing without Jesus! Listed out for you below is the 12 Step Affair Process. More than 15 years ago I almost made it to #6 in a friendship with someone of the opposite sex and didn’t even realize it. I thought I was still “safe.” My husband was not comfortable with the friendship. He didn’t have a good feeling about it. I thought he was just being paranoid. He showed me a sheet that had the 12 step process on it (he had just gone to a conference on this). I really didn’t know what to say so I said nothing. The next day, the friend asked to meet me at a more private location to talk. That was step 6. My spirit quickened. Thank God my eyes were opened to what was really happening. It was time for me to jump off this ladder. If you see yourself anywhere on this ladder, even if it is #1, FLEE! That’s been my goal ever since. Do whatever you have to do to get out of the situation. Satan has a well-thought out plan and he is very patient to see it through. Don’t give him the opportunity.
4. It’s my spouse’s responsibility.
Read 1 Corinthians 7:3,5. You are responsible for you. You can’t solely blame your spouse if you’re not satisfied. You have to communicate. First communicate with God about it. Then go to your spouse. If your spouse doesn’t respond, stick closer than ever to God. He alone can fill the longings of your heart.
5. The other person is sexier than my spouse.
Read Proverbs 5:15, 18. This verse was directed to men, but we get the point. You better “drink from your own cistern”. “Sexy” is a state of mind. If you don’t see your spouse as sexy, PRAY TO. Let God show you what sexy is. The world has us all messed up on that one!
6. Pretending not to know is healthier.
Read James 5:16. Pretending anything is not good. Satan loves things that are kept in the dark. There is healing in The Light. Get things out in the open. Go see a christian counselor.
7. The marriage is over.
Read Luke 1:37. There are many couples who have chosen to restore their marriage after an affair. It’s not easy. There’s a lot of work to do and a lot of feelings to sort through. Nothing is impossible with God. No word of His will ever fail.
Next is the 12 Step Affair Process. Try to visualize each step as a step on a ladder. The higher the climb, the harder the fall. (Of course Jesus says to stay away from the first step.)
The 12 Step Affair Process
1. Readiness – Selfishness is present in the marriage – Needs are not being met
2. Alertness – A growing awareness of a particular person – Begin wondering if so-and so will like this shirt
3. Innocent Meeting – Compliments are frequent – “Innocent” flirtation occurs – this person “appears to be everywhere”
4. Intentional Meeting – May exchange numbers/emails and other info
5. Public Lingering – Growing interest in each other – walking/driving to certain spots hoping they’re there
6. Private Lingering – There is an excitement in seeing each other – Invitations to places and events begin to take place
7. Purposeful Isolation – Plan alone time for “legitimate” purposes – Communication with spouse decreases / work hours increases
8. Pleasurable Isolation – Relationship takes a youthful aroma – Mental comparisons with spouse take place
9. Affectionate Embracing – Secret longings for each other become intense – Spouse can’t do anything right
10. Passionate Embracing – It’s okay, because spouse no longer makes them feel this way – It’s okay, because I really care about this person
11. Surrender – The spouse is suspecting everything by now – Decisions are being made – stay with spouse or leave
12. Acceptance – The spouse almost always knows by this time -Mutual choice to split – one from guilt, one from anger
Stay off the ladder! The higher the climb, the harder the fall!
“The early bird…catches the worm”
“An apple a day…keeps the doctor away”
“Always a bridesmaid…never a bride”
“Do as I say…not as I do”
“Here today…gone tomorrow”
“Money doesn’t grow on… trees”
“Bloom where you are… planted.” Anyone heard of that sweet little cliché? What does it mean? It means give your best no matter your situation.
God has created each and every one of us for a specific purpose.
John 15:8 has that purpose. It says “By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”
Today we’ll look at a woman from the Bible who did a great job of blooming where she was planted. We’ll see her in three different “pots” or situations…the foreign pot, the beauty school pot, and the palace pot. She bore much fruit and glorified her Father no matter where she seemed to be planted. Her name is Esther, Queen of Persia.
The Foreign Pot
Read Esther 2:5-7
Esther was a Jewish girl living in a foreign land with an older male cousin as her guardian. When this is the situation you’re placed in you can either a) get bitter, rebellious, and depressed; or b) do your best and trust God. Verse 20 tells us that Esther always did what Mordecai asked of her. She was obedient to his leadership when she was under his care. That’s blooming. By honoring Mordecai, she honored her parents and God. Sometimes blooming isn’t in doing but in submitting. That could apply to a spouse, a boss, a pastor…God, anyone in authority.
During this time there was another queen. Her name was Vashti. King Xerxes was very wealthy and held a long party to display his wealth. One day he decided to display one of his greatest treasures, his queen. When Queen Vashti got the word to appear before the king, she refused. Needless to say this got her royal position removed. Now it was time to find a new queen. Ah, the Miss Persia Pageant.
The Beauty School Pot
Read Esther 2:2-4, 8.
Esther just got replanted into a new pot. She had become close with Mordecai and now she was being shipped off to beauty school to be one among hundreds going for the crown. Only maybe it wasn’t the crown she wanted. A good Jewish girl always had hopes of marrying a good Jewish boy and giving him a son one day. That dream was now over. Now, she would either be Queen of Persia (a scary thing for a young Jewish girl) or just part of the harem of the king. Again, she has two choices: a) bitterness, rebellion, depression; or b) do your best and trust God. We see in v.9 what she did.
Read Esther 2:9.
Esther is blooming again. She had a character quality about her that no one else had. No one knew Esther was a Jew, but Hegai caught notice of her character and rewarded her for it. Never underestimate the power of your actions and attitudes. People are watching.
In 2006, God moved our family from our hometown in Bossier City, Louisiana to Corpus Christi, Texas. I was really nervous about moving so far away, but I knew without doubt that it was God’s plan. Whenever anyone would ask how I felt about the situation I would say, “Well, I’m nervous but I know that this is God’s plan and He will take care of all the details. I trust Him.” It wasn’t but a few days later that I overheard someone ask my daughter the same question. I wondered how she would answer so I decided to eaves-drop a little more. She said, “Well, I’m nervous but I know that this is God’s plan and He will take care of all the details. I trust Him.”
My jaw dropped! It was in that moment that God opened my eyes to the influence I had over my children. What if I had been angry? Bitter? Mad at my husband for not getting another job in our hometown instead? I thanked God in that moment for His leadership in my life. Without God guiding me, I would be a mess in guiding my girls.
Back to Esther…
They couldn’t put their finger on it, but something was different about her. Do people say that about you? When you are at different places (ballpark, gym, supermarket, etc.) can people see a difference in you? Can they see the fruit of the spirit? Galatians 5:22-23 says the Fruit of the Spirit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”. Esther had these qualities. She learned them from the first foreign pot she was planted in. This is what she learned by submitting to Mordecai. They served her well in this beauty school pot. Let’s see how long Esther was in beauty school.
Read Esther 2:12-15
She was there for at least a year. Esther learned to cherish wise council. She listened to Hegai’s advice. When she went to the king (the third pot), she took with her all she learned from Mordecai (first pot) and Hegai (second pot).
How did it turn out?
The Palace Pot
Read Esther 2:17.
Now Esther is Queen of Persia. For several years this pot seems to go undisturbed. Esther is adjusting nicely to palace life…until Haman (like vice president) devises a plan to kill all the Jews. Remember, no one knows that Esther is a Jew. In chapter 4 Esther gets word of Haman’s plot and she and Mordecai have a little discussion over it.
Read Esther 4:5-14
Esther has made it to the big time. She’s now Mrs. High and Mighty, Queen of Persia. Mordecai is just a commoner, a regular Jew. Things were going smoothly until Cousin Mordecai came delivering the news. Esther at this point is contemplating the gravity of her situation. If she goes to the king unannounced, she could be killed. How is Esther going to respond now? Will she turn her back on her people now that she is royalty? Or will she use that position for the purpose it was given?
Are you ready to handle awesome responsibilities given from God? So often we want the glory but not the responsibility.
Read Esther 4:15-17.
She decided to do her best and trust God. What an amazing influence!
The story turns out well. Esther obtains favor from the king and after a couple of banquets she tells the king that she is Jewish and her people are in danger. There’s a lot more to the story so I suggest reading on your own. Bottom line: Esther bloomed at every stage in her life, and it eventually led to the saving of her people.
She bloomed in a foreign home in a foreign land.
She bloomed when taken away from the only family she had.
She bloomed in a new high and royal position.
Each pot led her to the next.
Jeremiah 29:11 says “I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you not to harm you. Plans to give you a hope and a future.”
Three years after we moved to Corpus Christi, God called us back home to Bossier City. Honestly, I was a bit confused. I was just getting familiar with the Corpus Christi pot. I was really putting my roots down. This pot had a great church, great schools, great friends, and a great ballet studio for my girls. It had an amazing grocery store! To top it all off…this pot was sitting by the OCEAN! Surely God wasn’t calling us to leave. Oh but He was. He was clear that “the cloud was moving” (Exodus reference). Would I protest and demand to stay? Or would I trust Him and pick up our family again for another move? If there is one thing I have learned over these years, it is that when God moves, you better move too.
We have been back in our hometown now for almost four years. In those four years we have seen God do amazing things in our church and in our families. I’m so glad for the adventure in trusting Him. He is faithful. He is true.
God has your pots all ready and laid out for you. It’s up to you how you will grow in them.
I received the greatest gift on my birthday last week. My 5 year old nephew recited “The Lord’s Prayer” for me. It was so precious, especially since he was a preemie baby and has special needs. He said the prayer twice for me and I noticed something interesting about the prayer…he left the same phrase out both times. I’ll write it out like he said it. See if you can figure out what he left out:
“Our Father, who art in Heaven, hallowed by Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our trespasses. Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom and the glory and power forever. Amen.”
Did you catch it? I really chuckled when I heard him leave this part out…especially the second time. I don’t blame him at all, it’s a part I would love to leave out too.
“As we forgive those who trespass against us”
Yep, that part’s a doozy! Jesus knew it would be. He told a parable about this very issue:
The Parable of the Unmerciful Servant
21 Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
22 Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.
23 “Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand bags of gold was brought to him. 25 Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.
26 “At this the servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ 27 The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.
28 “But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred silver coins. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.
29 “His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay it back.’
30 “But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. 31 When the other servants saw what had happened, they were outraged and went and told their master everything that had happened.
32 “Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. 33 Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ 34 In anger his master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.
35 “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”
Oh Lord, help us to forgive those who trespass against us.