Friday, December 2, 2016

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          One Christmas Eve, when I was about five years old, I woke up after everyone else was fast asleep in bed.  I slipped out from beneath my covers, and headed to the bathroom.  In the fog of sleepiness, I had forgotten that it was Christmas Eve.  However, upon leaving the bathroom, the colorful lights of the Christmas tree caught my eye and lured me into the living room.  Loving surprises, it was not usually a part of my nature to go snooping, especially not at Christmas time.  However, for some reason, I slipped into the living room.  I wondered, “Had Santa arrived while I was fast asleep?”  The room was dark except for the colorful bubbling lights on the Christmas tree.  It was just the kind of scene that could set any little girl’s imagination dancing to the sound of Christmas songs that played in her head. 
          The first thing that caught my eye was an amazing life sized baby doll propped up snuggly against the wall.  Her head was adorned with beautiful auburn red hair, and her eyes were a beautiful blue, like the color of the sky.  I was so enthralled; it was hard to pull my eyes away from her round little face.  Suddenly, I was overwhelmed with a feeling of guilt, sensing that seeing Christmas before Christmas morning just might ruin everything.  I pulled my gaze away from all that lay under the tree, and directed my little feet back to bed.  Climbing under the covers, I snuggled up next to the warm body of my big sister, and once again soon fell fast asleep.
          Christmas morning finally came and the family gathered around the tree.  Filled with excitement, you could hear explosions of gratitude and happiness as we uttered “oo’s” and “ahh’s” with the opening of each special gift.  The one gift that didn’t need to be opened was my baby doll.  Finally, with a glad heart and no amount of guilt, I was free to pick her up and wrap her in my arms.  I just couldn’t get over the auburn-red hair and her wide blue eyes that would blink open and shut as she was moved back and forth.  At the time, I’m sure that I must have thought that she was my most prized and valued gift.  I had no idea of the real treasure that laid in store for me! 
          I can’t tell you that I even remember what else I may have been given, with the exception of one rectangular shaped gift, which turned out to be a hard backed blue book.  At first, I’m not sure if the gift really made much of an impression upon me.  I may have even set it aside and not paid much attention to it for the time being.  However, over the coming days and years, it took a place in my heart that would overshadow and outlast the baby doll and all other gifts.  Little did I know that it would be used as an instrument to draw me closer to “The One”, Jesus, who would “melt me and mold me” into His image, and change my life completely.   The words, “Bible Stories,” were embossed on the front of the cover, and the inside was filled with stories and colorful scenes of people and places.  They drew my attention, stirring my mind and heart with a desire to get to know all about them.  Who were they, and how did they live their lives?
          I don’t remember who took the time to read the stories to me, but I do remember reading them myself as I grew a little older.  The book began by telling about God and how He was the one who created the world and everything in it.  There were stories about Adam and Eve and how God had created them in His own image, to have a special relationship with Him.  It told of how they first walked and talked with God in the Garden of Eden. They were given dominion over all things with the exception of one; they were not to eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  Unfortunately, they fell for the lies of Satan, rebelled against God, opening themselves to the knowledge of evil; thus, the door of the power of sin in the world was opened.  Yes, from the very beginning, man has been granted the God given gift of free will.  God never intended to program man so that he would automatically believe in Him, but rather with a will of his own, to either choose to follow God, or to choose to reject Him and go his own way without God.  God has always loved man, but man does not always love God.  Love can not be forced; it is a personal choice.
          I learned about the lives of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and how they believed in the one true God.  There were the stories about Moses and how he led the Israelites, God’s chosen people, through the Red Sea and set them free from bondage in Egypt.  There were the miraculous stories of the shepherd David who slew the giant, Goliath, not by might or power, but in the name of the Lord.  Then to there were the three Jewish boys who were thrown into the fire, and Daniel who was thrown into the lions den, and yet all were saved by the One True God.   I learned of Joseph, and his robe of many colors, who was sold into slavery and taken to Egypt, and yet he was eventually given a top position of authority over the finances on Egypt.  He later saved his entire family from the famine in the country.  My little book told the real story of Christmas, not about Santa Clause, but how God’s only Son was born of the virgin Mary, and the three wise men who came to worship Him, bringing gold, frankincense, and myrrh to honor Him.  I loved the scene where Jesus said to His followers, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, for of such is the Kingdom of God.”  I envisioned myself as being one of the children which were gathered around Him, and oh how I longed to be allowed to crawl up on His lap to be nestled in His loving arms. 
          The book was filled with the stories of how He gathered His disciples, and the many miracles He performed, from the turning of water into wine, raising Lazarus from the dead, to the healing of the leper, giving site to the blind, delivering the wild man who was filled with demons and restoring him to a right mind, and oh so many more come to my mind.  The scenes of the Last Supper, Jesus praying in the Garden before Judas betrayed Him, and the picture of Jesus hanging on the Cross between the two criminals were all planted in my memory.  The story about how Jesus died on the Cross to pay for our sins was both sad, but also mysteriously filled with happiness at the same time. 
          The stories conveyed how the disciples hid in fear and even denied knowing Jesus after He was taken into custody to be tried under the darkness of the night.  Yet, after He arose from the dead, appeared to them, and ascended into Heaven, they waited in the Upper Room together, as He had told them to do, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.  No longer did they live in fear, but went about spreading the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, even at the peril of loosing their own lives.  John was the only disciple that lived out his natural life.  All the others lost their lives in some horrible manner because of their faith and refusal to stop spreading the truth that salvation is found through faith in Jesus Christ, and no other.  On and on the stories went to finally culminate in the story of how every believer will live one day with God, in the new Heaven and new earth, for all eternity, where the lion will lay down with the lamb, and we will have glorified bodies to live in a world with God, once and for all, set free from sin and death, as He had intended all along.  Yes, it is the Greatest Story ever told!      
          I can not claim that my family was of the type where we were daily taught of the Lord, but thankfully, I can say that there were inserted into our lives all along the way, opportunities to be taught of Him, that the Holy Spirit may begin His work in our lives.  Grace was always said at the dinner table; we were taken to church on Sunday mornings, vacation bible school, and revivals that always presented the choice of Heaven or Hell, and that Jesus was the way to avoid Hell and be saved now and for all eternity.  I consider all of these as blessings, instruments of God used to draw me unto Himself.  God calls to all, using diverse ways to reach each heart, but not every heart will choose to hear His voice and invite Him in.  I can’t explain it.  I just know that the point of decision will occur in the life of each person. 
          One of my favorite pictures in the book was of Jesus standing outside the door of a home.  I have a copy of that picture hung on a wall in my home today.  If you look closely, you will see there is no door knob on the outside of the door.  The door is to represent your heart, and Jesus is always waiting just outside, waiting for you and me to make the decision to open the door of our heart, to invite Him to come in to be our Savior and Lord.  Jesus will never force His way into anyone’s heart, but enter only where and when He is wanted, by invitation.  God has given us the gift of free will for a purpose.  It is His desire that every person will want to have a personal relationship with Him, but He will let us choose to exclude Him and go our own way, if that is the desire of our heart.
          The scriptures implore all parents to teach their children from the word of God.  To be led of the Lord, one must not just know about Jesus, but that each of us might know Him personally.  The greatest blessing in life is to know the Lord, that He may direct our path throughout our journey of life from now and into eternity.  My little blue book, through pictorial and verbal images, was used as an instrument to draw me closer to God at a very young age.  It was not because I was so special, but because God is so special.  His love is so great towards us, and it is His desire to have that mutually loving relationship with each of us.
          As a young girl, I remember spending moments of my alone time by contemplating upon what it must be like for family members who had already died, before I ever got to know them.  In my mind, I always assumed that everyone knew Jesus and death meant that you went to live with Jesus. The fact that anyone would not choose to believe in Him was just unthinkable.  For the longest time, I assumed that everyone believed in God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  That was just “normal” to me.  I would daydream about what they might be doing with Him in Heaven.  How happy they must be, walking and talking with God, being filled with such happiness, love, and joy.  How absolutely wonderful it must be just to be in His presence. 
          The pictures in my book always seemed to convey Him with love pouring out through His eyes, and having a voice so filled with love, gentleness, and kindness that no one could resist the desire to be with Him.  How could anyone not love such a One as this?  As the scriptures said, even the sound of His voice stirred up from within the hearer such a “burning within their hearts”?  The Holy Spirit, sent to indwell each believer, does that very same thing.  He stirs up such a yearning in our hearts, always increasing that desire to know the reality of His nearness, and experience that same burning in our hearts that was experienced in the hearts of those who walked and talked with Him, while He was with them on earth.  His nearness is not a trick of the imagination, but the reality of the power of His Holy Spirit around and in us.
          Somewhere along the way, during one of our many moves, as we followed our Daddy from job to job, my little blue book was lost.  Yet it has continued to exist in my head and in my heart.  Its pictures and stories were used to plant seeds of faith within my soul.  They were used by the Holy Spirit to cause the word of God to take root and come alive within me.  This journey of life was never meant to be a solo experience of depending upon one’s self.  Instead, the journey is meant for the purpose of getting to know the One who has made us that we might love Him and give unto Him all glory and honor.  When He is invited to live within our hearts as Savior and Lord, what joy floods into our soul!  The joy of praising and serving the Lord our God has no comparison.  Each day, even in the midst of trials and tribulation, can be better than the day before as we learn more and more to submit our will to His.  As we do, He promises to make us more and more into His image that we may experience the fellowship and personal relationship with Him.  This was what He had planned all along, not just for now, but for all eternity.  Who can fathom the depth of such a great love as this poured out towards us?
          God reaches out to everyone no matter where you are, who you are, what you’ve done, or how old you may be.  His instruments of love are many.  For me, one of those instruments was a simple little blue book.  It could have been placed on a book shelf to never accomplish a thing.   Instead of collecting dust, I thank God that it was used of the Lord to plant the seeds that would take root and give me the gift of life in the spirit, through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  The seeds of faith that it planted in my heart, through the power of the Holy Spirit, were and are more precious than all the silver and gold in the world. 
          It is His desire that every heart may be pricked and turned to Him.  He will gladly give unto you a new heart, not of stone but of flesh.  As He calls unto you, don’t harden your heart towards Him.  Don’t choose to attempt to go through this journey of life alone, without the indwelling Holy Spirit to lead and guide you into all truth.  Willingly open the door of your heart.  Let Him come in and begin that good work in you that He has planned all along.  Be reconciled unto a right relationship with God the Father, that you too may receive all the blessings that He has stored up for you through faith in Jesus Christ His Son.  Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. (John 14:6)
          My little blue book was such a blessing in my life, for it was used by God to plant the seeds of faith, and helped to give me a hungering and thirsting for God and His word, the Holy Bible.  The Bible is not merely a book written by men as some may think.  It is the only book that reveals God and His truth.  It is the only book that was breathed out by God as the power of the Holy Spirit moved upon men, causing them to act as scribes to write down all that He wanted us to know that we may come to know Him. 
          Every time we spend time in His word, He gives us the opportunity to walk and talk with Him personally, just as Adam and Eve did in the Garden of Eden, before sin entered the world.  As we spend time in His word, meditating upon it, we gain another opportunity for Him to write His word on the tablet of our heart.  His word is like no other, for it is spirit.   He causes it to come alive within us that it may accomplish its transforming work within us, making us more and more like Him, and less like our old carnal nature.  It’s a life long process.  Just as it takes time, experience, and learning to grow from a child into an adult, it also takes a process of growing up in the Lord Jesus Christ, which He continues until we see Him face to face when He gives us our glorified bodies.  Our finite minds can not possibly grasp all that is incorporated in that transforming act; however, we can grasp and understand that what He has promised, He shall do, for God can not lie.
          Though my little blue book was lost, what it taught me was not lost, but stored within my heart and mind.  Thankfully, Jesus continues to speak through his word to everyone who seeks Him.  Draw near to Him and let Him be your Savior, Lord, and dearest and nearest Friend.  All who seek the Lord in faith shall find Him.  Draw near to Him, and He shall draw near to you.  He is more precious than silver and gold.  There is nothing that we could desire that could ever be compared to Him.  As you seek Him, may His word come alive in you through the power of the Holy Spirit.  O taste and see that the Lord is good!  Trust in the Lord and He will direct your path.  “To God be the Glory!”  “Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice!”

Prv. 22:6
“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”
Deut. 11: 18-21
“Therefore shall ye lay up these words in your heart and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes.  And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt write them upon the door posts of thine house, and upon thy gates: that your days may be multiplied, and the days of your children, …”
Prv. 4: 20 – 22
“My son, attend to my words; incline thine ear unto my sayings.  Let them not depart from thine eyes; keep them in the midst of thine heart.  For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.”
Prv. 3: 5-7
“Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.  In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.  Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the Lord, and depart from evil.”


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