Saturday, December 31, 2022

Three, Two, One! Happy New Year!

Photo by Shamli071 2011
                                                          This New Year’s Eve, many will be gathered in person, or around their screens, to watch the ball drop in Times Square or elsewhere as the host counts down “Three! Two! One!” coordinated with the stroke of midnight, fireworks lighting up the sky, and the plummeting ball designating the start of 2023, a brand new year!

It is a blessing that God gives us “reset buttons” like these – the start of a new year, month, or day; the anniversary of our birth, marriage, or second birth (John 3:3-8) when we got saved by trusting in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). These fresh starts remind us of His mercies, which are new every morning (Lamentations 3:22-23), and His forgiveness of our sins, if we sincerely ask Him to forgive (1 John 1:9).

But 3-2-1 can also signify the start of a race, with three counts until the starter’s pistol. Just as the crouched sprinter leaps into action, may we be ready to charge forth and run with determination and patience the race God has set before us (1 Corinthians 9:24; Hebrews 12:1), once He gives the clear signal.

Or consider a momentous event, like a space launch. Years of preparation, design, planning, and expense culminating in a single burst of power, opening new frontiers for exploration and discovery. When we hear that countdown to blastoff, we realize that in that instant, the world is propelled to new horizons. Similarly, the urging we hear as the Holy Spirit moves in our hearts may mean that our years of faithful service are about to open a new door as He invites us to cross the threshold into a new field of ministry (Galatians 4:6).

Celebrities giving interviews or performing on television or radio are also informed of minutes, then seconds, then 3-2-1 before the broadcast goes live. They may have already been there for hours in wardrobe and makeup, which may seem to them like “hurry up and wait.” But they must wait for their cue to begin their message if they wish to reach viewers and listeners around the world.

Timing is key on air and in life, and we must remember to wait on the Lord (Psalm 27:14; 33:20; 37:7-9; 34), and His perfect timing, before we speak or act on His behalf. With the Lord, one day may seem as a thousand years, or vice versa (2 Peter 3:8), but that is beyond our understanding (Job 42:3; Psalm 139:6). All we need to do is to be instant in season, out of season (2 Timothy 4:2), and to respond to and obey His call when He gives clear direction.

Sometimes it seems that the passing of time slows to glacial speed – like when we’re at the dentist, and he cheerfully announces that the humongous needle he’s holding will enter our jaw on the backward count of three. Yet other times, particularly when we’re caught up in something we’re passionate about, time races along at breakneck speed. Except for the very young, we’ve all experienced how each passing year seems to race by more quickly the older we get.

Perhaps that’s because we become more aware that a life is but a vapor, vanishing before our eyes like the breath escaping our nose on a wintry day (James 4:14). One day our life on earth will end (Hebrews 9:27), and it is unlikely that we will know that only seconds remain.

Lately I find myself longing for time to advance to the point when time will be no more – when God’s children shall without warning or countdown hear the trumpet call (Matthew 24:31). In a twinkling of an eye – faster than we could imagine – we shall be transformed into our glorified bodies (1 Corinthians 15:52) and be transported to Heaven, where we shall forever be with the Lord and our loved ones in Him!

Could 2023 be the year of the Rapture? No man knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36; 25:13), but all the signs are in place. We know for certain that Christ will return as King of Kings and Lord of Lords (Revelation 17:14; 19:16), and that the Rapture is one day closer today than it was yesterday. Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

© 2022 Laurie Collett

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Mary’s Journey – Challenges of Early Motherhood


From the beginning of time, God had carefully ordered the steps of Mary’s journey with His perfect foreknowledge culminating in the birth of His Son, the promised Messiah, in a lowly Bethlehem manger (Luke 2:7).

Yet for Mary, that was not her mission accomplished, but only the start of her journey as a mother raising the Son of God (Luke 1:32). That would have been an incredible challenge for anyone, particularly for a young, unlearned virgin from a humble family. But Mary was willing to submit herself fully to God’s plan, knowing that He would see her through (Luke 1:38)

Once the taxation in Bethlehem was completed (Luke 2:1-5), the overcrowded town began to clear out, and one of Joseph’s relatives apparently offered them accommodation in a house there (Matthew 2:8-11). No doubt Mary appreciated that respite as she recovered from childbirth, nursed her Infant, and adjusted to early motherhood.

How long they remained in the house was unclear – it was probably at least a month and may even have approached two years. But when Jesus was 40 days old, after the prescribed time of purification following the birth of a male child, Mary and Joseph traveled to Jerusalem. As ordered in the law of Moses, they presented Jesus, their Firstborn, at the temple (Luke 2:22-24,27).

From Bethlehem to Jerusalem was about 12 miles round trip. But Mary was a young, first-time, sleep-deprived mother and must have been weary from this hike or donkey ride, as it was not that long after journeying 80 miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem while pregnant. Her obedience was rewarded by yet another confirmation from God, and another piece of the puzzle she was fitting together about the destiny of her Son.

God had promised Simeon, an old, faithful worshipper, that he would not die before seeing the Christ Who would deliver His people. Every day he went to the temple looking for Him, and when Jesus appeared, he realized Who He was and took Him in his arms (Luke 2:25-28).

We can only imagine the emotions swirling through Mary’s heart as this stranger took her precious Child from her – fear, pride, hope and dread? Simeon affirmed that now he had seen his salvation, as Jesus was the promised Saviour. Then he warned her of the sword that would pierce Him, and her soul also (Luke 2:29-35). Did Mary know that only by His death, as the perfect, holy Sacrifice, could Jesus pay our sin debt in full to reconcile us to His Holy Father? (2 Corinthians 5:15-19; Hebrews 9:26-28)

Once they had completed their pilgrimage to the temple in Jerusalem, Mary may have longed to return home to Nazareth and try to reconnect with her family and repair the discord surrounding her unplanned pregnancy. But another confirmation awaited her in Bethlehem -- the wise men followed the star to the house where they found the young Child and bowed down before Him (Matthew 2:9-11).

The shepherds had worshipped Jesus in a large, open space, whereas the wise men adored Him in the privacy of a chamber. Did Mary understand the significance of their gifts – gold fit for a King, frankincense reflecting His role as great High Priest, and myrrh, used to anoint a body for burial?

Shortly thereafter, the angel warned Joseph in a dream to flee to Egypt with Jesus and His mother (v. 13-14). King Herod, infuriated by the news that the wise men had sought the future King of Israel born in Bethlehem (Matthew 2:1-8), ordered the slaughter of all male infants two years of age or younger in that city (v. 16). He hoped to assassinate the One Who threatened his rule, failing to realize that his earthly power was no match for God’s infinite might.

So it was back on the donkey for Mary, not to return to her hometown, but to seek refuge in a foreign country more than 200 miles away. What a horrifying specter must have haunted their thoughts as they fled from Bethlehem, knowing that cruel Herod would stop at nothing to kill Jesus. Did Mary understand the irony of the Messiah, Who would deliver His people, having to flee to Egypt where His people had been enslaved for so long? (Exodus 3:7-10) Did she know this fulfilled the prophecy that the Son of God would be called out of Egypt? (Matthew 2:15)

Each day that passed in Egypt Mary must have wondered if perhaps tomorrow they could go home. But Joseph, as the spiritual head of the household (Ephesians 5:23), set a good example for her in waiting on the Lord (Psalm 27:14) until He gives clear direction to move. The family stayed in Egypt until the angel appeared to Joseph for the third time, with the news that they could now safely return to Israel, thanks to Herod’s death (Matthew 2:19-21).

Their journey took another turn, unexpected for them, but planned by God. Joseph wanted to settle in Judaea, but he learned that Herod’s relative was ruling there. God warned him, again in a dream, not to go there. So he headed to Nazareth, thus fulfilling the prophecy that the Messiah would be called “the Nazarene” (Matthew 2:22-23).

Once back in Nazareth, Mary may not have traveled great distances. But surely her spiritual journey continued to bring her closer to her Lord, Who now was growing in stature, wisdom, and favor with God and with man (Luke 2:40,52).

We do know that there were annual excursions to Jerusalem, about 75 miles from Nazareth, to celebrate the Passover feast (Luke 2:41). The Bible records one of these in more detail, when Jesus was 12 years old (Luke 2:42-51). After a full day of journeying toward home, Mary’s heart sank as she and Joseph realized that Jesus was not with the traveling party (v. 43-44).

As they raced back to Jerusalem (v. 45), she must have been overwhelmed by the fear that He was lost! What irony, as He was the Good Shepherd Who had come to seek and save the lost! (Luke 19:10)

Just as all the great men and women of the faith had their momentary lapses, so did Mary. She scolded her Lord for causing His parents such distress (v. 48). Yet she must have been proud to learn that He had stayed behind to discuss Scripture with the priests (v. 46-47), and ashamed that she had rebuked Him. He reminded her sternly that He must do His Father’s business (v. 49). Although she did not understand at first (v.50), did she later realize (v. 51) the full implications of this?

Like Mary, each of us faces a unique journey, navigated by God, from the moment we are saved by placing our faith in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way to Heaven (John 14:6). Often there are twists and turns, and we can’t see around the bend or realize that the setbacks are necessary to reach our final destination. God does not offer a clear view or provide all the answers immediately, but He reveals to us what we need as we need to know it.

Praise God that His Word is a light to our path (Psalm 119:105), and that His strength is made perfect in our weakness! (2 Corinthians 12:9) May we run with patience the race that is set before us! (Hebrews 12:1)

© 2014 Laurie Collett

Reposted from the archives

Saturday, December 17, 2022

Legend of the Candy Cane

Photo by Mikereichold 2008

Familiar Christmas decorations and their colors may open the door for Christians to talk to unsaved people about Christ, as their symbolism reminds us of different aspects of Christ’s life and God’s plan of salvation. Legend has it that in the 18th century, a candy maker in Europe designed the candy cane to serve as a witness to his Christian faith and to incorporate several symbols for the birth, ministry and death of Jesus.

In the candy maker’s home country at that time, Christian oppression made it illegal to make public displays of Christianity or even to own a Bible or cross, let alone a manger scene. He prayed that God would show him how he could share the true story of Christmas with local children by offering them a unique and meaningful treat.

This confection would be a stick of candy, white to symbolize the Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:35) and the sinless purity of Jesus (I John 1:7), and hard to symbolize the solid Rock, the Foundation of the Church (2 Samuel 22:3,47; Psalm 18:2,46;62:2,6, etc. Matthew 16:18). It was flavored with peppermint, an herb of the same family as hyssop, which was used for temple sacrifices and purification (Psalm 51:7; Exodus 12:22; etc; Hebrews 9:19) and offered to Jesus as He suffered on the cross (John 19:29).

The candy cane is shaped like a "J" for the name of Jesus (Luke 1:31, Matthew 1:21), and like the staff of the Good, Great and Chief Shepherd Who gave His life for His sheep (John 10:11,15; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). who would hear His voice and follow him (Psalm 23:1, John 10:27-30, Isaiah 40:11). Two canes together touching at both ends forms the shape of a heart, symbolizing God’s love for us (1 John 4:8; Zephaniah 3:17). 

A large red stripe on the candy cane denotes the blood shed by Christ on the cross (Romans 3:25; Colossians 1:20) for the remission of our sins (Matthew 26:28), by which we are saved to eternal life (Revelation 1:5, John 3:16, Luke 22:20), and three small stripes symbolizing the whipping Jesus received, by which we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).

White at Christmas time reminds us of angel robes (Matthew 28:3) and wings and of snowflakes falling, as pristine as Christ is pure and completely without sin (Psalm 51:7). The glorified body of Christ was clothed in shining robes “white as snow” when He appeared to Daniel as the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9), to the inner circle of apostles at His transfiguration (Mark 9:3), and to John at His revelation (Revelation 1:14).

The nativity scene would be incomplete without white sheep led by shepherds, emphasizing the importance of our following the Good Shepherd and depending on Him for all we do (Psalm 23). The purity of white reminds us that Jesus is the lily of the valleys (Song of Solomon 2:1), and that the Holy Spirit took on the appearance of a dove as Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:16).

Red symbolizes each drop of precious blood Jesus shed for us on Calvary’s cross (Matthew 26:28), which washes us clean so that when God sees us, He sees not our sin, but the perfect sacrifice of His blameless Son (Hebrews 9: 11-13; John 1:7).

When we see a red stop sign or traffic light, it warns us of danger. “Red” means stop – - our sinful ways, our wicked thoughts, our worldly lifestyle (1 Peter 4:1). And yet, red also symbolizes fire or passion. God wants us to be on fire for Him, as He is a consuming fire (Hebrews 12:29; Revelation 19:12), our hearts burning with His Word (Jeremiah 20:9; Luke 24:32) and our lives burning brightly with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:3).

As we enjoy a candy cane, may this iconic symbol remind us of Lord Jesus Christ, God Himself, Who came in the flesh (John 1:14) to save us by paying our sin debt in full as He died on the cross, was buried, and rose again the third day, proving His Deity! May we lead others to invite Him into their heart by trusting in this Gospel (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), so that they too can have eternal life!

Merry Christmas to all, and all blessings for 2023 and until He comes again! May you experience the love, joy and peace that comes only from knowing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior!

© 2019 Laurie Collett

Reposted from the archives


Saturday, December 10, 2022

Colors of Christmas: White, Silver, Gold and Brown


Photo by Daniel Dimitrov 2011

As we were decorating our Christmas tree this season, we followed our usual tradition of my husband setting up the tree and lights while I put out the Nativity scenes, stockings, and other décor that we have inherited and collected over the years.

Three of our Nativity scenes are white porcelain; one is made of olive wood from Bethlehem; and two are in natural hues. While our tree is decorated in many colors, with accents of red globe ornaments, the silver and gold ornaments and figurines add a special sparkle. It reminded me that in addition to the traditional Christmas colors of red and green, with red symbolizing the shed blood of Christ and green the everlasting life He offers, white, silver, gold and brown also have a special meaning. I thought it might therefore be appropriate to repost the following:                                  

Even when the world’s focus is on commercialism and overspending, the colors of Christmas surround us in this season, reminding us of His free gift of salvation. As we saw previously, red and green symbolize His precious blood, shed so that all who place their faith in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only way to Heaven (John 14:6) will have eternal life!

The other colors of Christmas – snowy white, glittering gold and silver, and even humble brown all add to the rich symbolism of holiday décor. Even though this symbolism is probably far from the minds of most merchants, we can be blessed by the meaning and use it to witness to others.

White at Christmas time reminds us of angel robes (Matthew 28:3) and wings and of snowflakes falling, as pristine as Christ is pure and completely without sin (Psalm 51:7). The glorified body of Christ was clothed in shining robes “white as snow” when He appeared to Daniel as the Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9), to the inner circle of apostles at His transfiguration (Mark 9:3), and to John at His revelation (Revelation 1:14).

The Nativity scene would be incomplete without white sheep led by shepherds, emphasizing the importance of our following the Good Shepherd and depending on Him for all we do (Psalm 23). The purity of white reminds us that Jesus is the Lily of the Valleys (Song of Solomon 2:1) and the Lamb of God (John 1:29), and that the Holy Spirit took on the appearance of a dove as Jesus was baptized (Matthew.3:16).

White combines with red in the candy cane, a familiar motif at Christmas time. Legend has it that a candy maker designed this confection to serve as a witness to his Christian faith and to incorporate several symbols for the birth, ministry and death of Jesus. The stick of candy was white to symbolize the Virgin Birth (Isaiah 7:14; Luke 1:35)) and the sinless nature of Jesus, and hard to symbolize the solid Rock, the Foundation of the Church (2 Samuel 22:3,47; Psalm 18:2,46;62:2,6, etc. Matthew 16:18).

The candy cane is in the form of a "J" to represent the Name of Jesus, as well as the staff of the Good, Great and Chief Shepherd Who gave His life for the sheep (John 10:11,15; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). It has a large red stripe for the blood shed by Christ on the cross (Romans 3:25; Colossians 1:20), and three small stripes to show the stripes of the whipping Jesus received, by which we are healed (Isaiah 53:5; 1 Peter 2:24).

Silver and white both remind us of the Star of Bethlehem that showed the wise men where to find the Child Jesus (Matthew 2:9), and Jesus Himself is described as the Morning Star (Revelation 22:16). Silver bells remind us to praise our King with joyful noise (Exodus 39:26), yet silver also foretells Jesus’ crucifixion and death, for Judas betrayed Christ for 30 pieces of silver (Matthew 26:15).

Silver also reminds us that God sometimes allows us to go through trials and tribulations, just as silver is purified in the refiner’s fire (Malachi 3:3). We should therefore be grateful for trials and tribulations that are like the refiner’s fire because they shape our character, drive away our sins, and make us more like Christ (Philippians 4:11-14).

Gold, the most precious metal, was one of the gifts the wise men brought Jesus (Matthew 2:11). It reminds us that we should bring our very best gifts to the King, whether in terms of our time, talents, money or possessions. In Christmas decorations, the instruments played by the angels are usually gold, reminding us that we should praise Him in all that we do (Psalm 100:4, etc.; Colossians 3:23).

When we face Jesus at the judgment seat of Christ, only those works we did for Him for the right motives will last through the fire of judgment, like silver, gold, and jewels. The rest will burn up like hay, wood and stubble and we will suffer loss. But those good works we did for Him alone will last through the fire and we will have crowns to lay at Jesus’ feet (I Corinthians: 3:10-15). And in Heaven, the streets are paved with gold (Revelation 21:21), symbolizing the unimaginable splendor of this special place Jesus Christ has prepared for His children! (John 14:2).

Brown is not usually a color we think of as being a Christmas color, but we see it in the lowly manger where Christ was born (Luke 2:7), and in the donkey that, according to tradition, carried Mary to Bethlehem, and later carried Jesus to Jerusalem where He would die (John 12:14-15). We also see it in the stable animals that attended His birth, and in the robes of the shepherds (Luke 2:7-8).

Brown is a color of humility, reminding us that Jesus came to earth not as a mighty King, but as a meek Servant, and that we should follow His example (John 13:4-17). It reminds us of the wooden cross He carried up Calvary’s hill, where He was crucified and died for all our sins, only to rise triumphantly, conquering death and sin that all who trust Him would have eternal life (1 Corinthians 1:18; Galatians 6:14; Hebrews 12:2).

It is unusual to see the cross in Christmas décor (although I am thrilled that my husband added one to our outdoor nativity)!  But Christmas floral arrangements and greenery often feature the brown pinecone, which looks dead and yet carries the seeds of new life. What a beautiful reminder to die daily to our sins so that we can live in the new life of the Spirit, and that Christ has conquered death so that His followers can live forever! (1 Corinthians 15:31; 35-57; 2 Corinthians 5:17)

© 2013 Laurie Collett

Reposted and edited from the archives

Saturday, December 3, 2022

Giving Birth


I dreamed that I have just given birth to a baby girl. I feel fine, not tired or sore as would be normal after labor and delivery, as if someone else did all the work.

I haven’t seen her yet, but the nurses assure me that she is beautiful and perfect, and they show me pictures. One is a photo of a beautiful young woman, with soft, blonde wavy hair framing her face like a halo, wearing light makeup that looks very natural and enhances her symmetrical features. The other is a pencil sketch, with a map or diagram across her forehead showing different facets of her personality and where they reside in her brain.

I’m surprised by the pictures, as she appears full grown rather than newborn, and I long to see her right away. My husband and son are in the room and I call out to them, “Let’s go see her – everybody wash your hands!”

But the nurses say they are still working on her, and she’s not ready for us to see her yet.

When I awoke from the dream, it was with a sense of longing to see this new creation that was part of me. I realized that the girl in the dream represented the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17; Galatians 6:15) that I am in Christ, now that I am born again (John 3:3-8) by trusting in His death, burial and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-4) as the only Way (John 14:6) to Heaven.

The Bible speaks of the newly saved Christian as a babe in Christ (1 Corinthians 3:1), first needing the spiritual nourishment of the sincere milk of the Word (Hebrews 5:13; 1 Peter 2:2), or its simple yet perfect truths of salvation through faith by God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9). Just as we do not and cannot work for our salvation, for all our own righteousness is as filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6), I experienced no labor in the dream, and hence no fatigue, for Jesus Christ Himself accomplished all the work (Isaiah 64:6) needed for my spiritual rebirth. He paid the price in full for my sin debt through His shed blood on the cross (Romans 3:25).

At the moment we accept Him as our Lord and Savior, we are not only born again (John 3:3-8), but justified through His righteousness, which is credited to our account (Romans 4:25; Romans 5:16-18). When God the Father looks at us from that moment on, He no longer sees our sins, but only the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ. All our sins are debited to His account, and His perfect standing and inheritance of eternal life in Heaven are credited to our account (Romans 8:17).

This is known as positional justification. Were we to die moments after being saved, we would immediately go to Heaven, like the thief who accepted Christ in his dying moments on the cross, even though there was no time for him to be baptized, attend church, read Scripture, or do any good works in the Name of Jesus (Luke 23:42-43).

A newborn is not expected to remain in the nursery for long, but to grow and mature into an adult, each with their own personality, attributes, and responsibilities. After we are born again, we are to mature in our Christian walk, being fed with more challenging portions of “meat” from God’s Word (1 Corinthians 3:2; Hebrews 5:12) and becoming more like Christ each day (1 Corinthians 1:30).

This process of progressive sanctification was symbolized in my dream by the “newborn” pictures actually resembling a young adult, with a beautiful face and “brain map” indicating a complex personality, both of which God Himself fashioned since before the beginning of time (Psalm 139:14-16).

In the dream, I shared my desire to see this new creation with my family and wanted them to see her too, but I also wanted us all to wash our hands first, symbolizing the spiritual cleansing that takes place through the washing of the water of God’s Word (Ephesians 5:26).

Sadly, we were not yet allowed to see her, reflecting that the ultimate expression of God’s new creation in each believer will be our glorified body that He gives us at the Rapture (1 Corinthians 15:42-58). At that time, we will experience eternal glorification. We will know Him and one another perfectly, as we ourselves are now known by Him. We will live forever in our glorified body that will never age, sin, die, or experience illness, sorrow, or pain.

But in the meantime, full understanding of Jesus Christ, of Heaven and of what we will be like eternally eludes our grasp, for we still see as through a glass, darkly (1 Corinthians 13:12).

In Bible times when the apostle Paul penned these words, glass was not clear, flat and free of impurities as window glass is today, but was cloudy, wavy and distorted. You might be able to tell that someone was passing by your window, but you wouldn’t be able to recognize or describe them. Such is our present view of the glories of Heaven that await us, and of our eternal companions, the saints in light!

The dream reminded me of how I long for the Rapture, for Christ to come again, and for my aging body to be transformed into a glorified body, to live forever with Him and my loved ones in Him in the abundant joy and perfect peace of Heaven. But no man knows the day or hour when that will occur (Mark 13:32), and we can rest assured that God’s timing is always perfect.

Meanwhile, once we are born again, may we continue in our Christian walk to become more like the Lord Jesus Christ until that glorious day when we see Him face to face!

© 2022 Laurie Collett