Thursday, December 12, 2019


Nativity Scenes did NOT originate from the Bible, where the original Christmas story resides. It was the humble Francis of Assisi who, while living in Greccio Italy at the time (1223 AD), decided to bring the most beautiful account in Creation to the average person.

In those days, the Birth of the Lord Jesus Christ was only celebrated by Mass in Latin, which only the church hierarchy could understand. An obviously inspired Francis went around Greccio borrowing animals and obtaining free donations of hay. He then created a manger scene, out of the Bible passages of Mary giving birth to Lord Jesus in Bethlehem, in a stable, since there was no room in any Inn, in that small town of about 500 in Bethlehem.

After he set up the first Nativity Scene with LIVE animals and wax-figured Mary, Joseph and Jesus, Francis began telling the story of the Great Birth from the Bible and preached sermons on it. It was the first time the people understood how the Savior was born and why He came. From historical accounts, many came to Faith that night. Hymns were song and Psalms read out loud as Francis of Assisi wept openly in rejoicing.

Many in Italy heard about this first Nativity Scene of all time, and it spread like wildfire. The first Nativities were almost all live, with live animals, since farming and agrarian economies still existed in the Middle Ages.  Today, around the world, each culture has its own unique rich take on the Birth of the Christ child in the manger. Nativity sets abound around the world, in so many uniquely exquisite forms, it makes the heart smile with gladness.

Each year, the local Franciscan order puts on a "Nativity Scene Festival"  and invites the entire populace to orderly submit their own favorite Nativity Scene, regardless of where in the world it was obtained! Protestants and Catholics and Christ followers of all ages and backgrounds contribute well-crafted and simply marvelous pieces from just about every corner of the world!! Many from all over, bring in their sets, acquired either through their own personal travels or even estate auctions, and share with thousands over a three day period at the Franciscan center, from all walks of life. It is one of the most beautiful events of the local Springfield, Illinois Christmas season.
(Here is the site of this annual event:

These are just a small sample of those 131 Nativity sets from around God's Creation.

From Puerto Rico

Add caption

Nativity Scene made from olive wood, directly from Bethlehem in the Holy Land

Chinese Nativity Scene

Italian Renaissance piece

Authentic Native American Nativity Scene

Created from a South African Gourd

And of course - a Charlie Brown Christmas (USA)


The Szopka (Nativity) From Krakow, Poland

Sunday, December 8, 2019


Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted. 
(Matthew 5:4)
Jesus taught these Beatitudes across the region of Judea as countless numbers heard something new, fresh and divine, which if they had taken it to heart, could have immediate yet eternal impact on their lives.

I have heard it said that Jesus' Beatitudes are meant to reorient our thinking into "having the attitude of.....(fill in the blank)...or "be of this attitude".... That is certainly a great interpretation, or way of looking at the Lord's teachings, as we will discover while digging into the riches of His Word.

In the second Beatitude, we see the Savior proclaim the following "Blessed are those who mourn. for they shall be comforted".

What positive, warm and healing truth from the Creator of the World! BUT, hold on, there is there always is, with King Jesus! If we examine the original language closer, we find another gold mine (with more to follow in the other Beatitudes).

Here we have mourning and comforting. We are all acquainted with the mourning, grieving and sadness that comes with losing a loved one. The older we get, we face the stark and sad fact that our grandparents, parents and other loved ones pass on from this earth, into eternity. Even if our loved ones are solid, born-again Christians, we still grieve and mourn their passing. The loss is actually our loss, as our believing loved ones have just happened to have gone ahead to their eternal reward with Christ. This is the "mourning" with which we are most familiar.

However, the word "mourn" in the Bible, (pentheĆ³ in the original Greek) means more than just grieve at the death of a loved one! It means to lament and feel a measure of guilt, over a sin, shortcoming or transgression against the Lord that is so strong, sadness and guilt takes possession of our spirit.

How a person processes this guilt over loss of a relationship, person, or something important to them, is indicative of the maturity or strength of their walk with Christ. In 2 Corinthians 7:10-11 we read the following:

"Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation without regret, but worldly sorrow brings death. Consider what this godly sorrow has produced in you: what earnestness, what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what alarm, what longing, what zeal, what vindication!"

This is it right there! When we are pressed down, overwhelmed and feel defeated by life, or by something someone has done to us...or most likely, by the thing we have done to ourselves, being sorrowful about it is perfectly legitimate!

In this case, this sorrow should lead us to confess and repent of our sins to God. Then, we apologize and attempt to make it right (if possible, if not -move on, God sees the heart). What an example of "Godly mourning" over shortcomings! 

The Lord does not leave us there, though, after we have exhibited the sort of sorrow of which He speaks in this second Beatitude! Look at the next step towards the healing process which began with  Godly Sorrow". The Good News Translation (GNT) paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 7:11 explains it in a terrific way here "
See what God did with this sadness of yours: how earnest it has made you, how eager to prove your innocence! Such indignation, such alarm, such feelings, such devotion, such readiness to punish wrongdoing! You have shown yourselves to be without fault in the whole matter".

What a mighty, loving compassionate God! He accepts us the way we are, when we do the simplest things, in all sincerity, to show we mourn, in sadness and grief over wrongs. THEN, because we have shown all these things described in 2 Corinthians 7:11, He comforts us.

This is an even greater mystery which shows itself where the word "comforted" in Matthew 5:4 originates! The root word is literally derived from the word "Paraklete" - the Holy Spirit! What the Lord offers "those who mourn" in Beatitude 2, is not just a little soothing "ointment" but He summons us up to the Throne Room, where we find hope, encouragement, exhortation all underline with the power and might of God. It is the kind of comfort which is direct from the Courts of the King and can stand the test of time.

The blessings of being comforted by the Holy Spirit, Who communicates directly to the Father, should be enough for us to live a simple, repentant and honest lifestyle. This is the teaching of the 2nd Beatitude. Take it to heart, because those whom the Spirit of the Lord blesses and comforts, stay constantly before Him, if we remain daily in His Will. Amen.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019


When the Son of God - JESUS - walked the earth, He thundered radical thought and Truth wherever He went. His ministry may have lasted only three (3) years, but He has impacted not only the last 2000 years since, but the Eternal Destination (heaven or hell) of both believers and unbelievers.

The Beatitudes are some of the most popular of Words, which He repeated across Judea, Samaria and wherever He taught. The Book of John reports this "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they *were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself *would not contain the books that *would be written.(John 21:25).

The Gospels and thus, the entire Bible, contains only a portion of 

The Beatitudes
1. When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on the mountain; and after He sat down, His disciples came to Him. 2 He opened His mouth and began to teach them, saying,

3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4 “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5 “Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth.

6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7 “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9 “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

10 “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

11 “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

At first glance, "POOR IN SPIRIT" does NOT sound like very exciting or what you and I would expect a Christian to be. After all, Jesus promised us "life abundantly". The Lord says in Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB) " For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope". (Some other translations say "plans to prosper you"). 

The statement "poor in spirit" is a head-scratcher until we find out what Jesus really means! To sum it up in two words, "poor in spirit" equals a very real "spiritual poverty".

This spiritual poverty is one which EVERY true follower of Jesus Christ should recognize in the inner person. One who is truly converted and knows where he or she came from, then was bought into the Eternal Realm by the Spirit of Jesus, experiences riches untold which eye cannot see, nor ear cannot hear. When our spiritual eyes are open at Salvation, we recognize the same which spurred the former slave trader John Newton to write Amazing Grace.

It is our spiritual poverty which causes us to realize who truly worthless we were, and may still be.
It is our spiritual poverty which causes us to sing about the Savior Who “saved a wretch like me”.
It is our spiritual poverty which does or SHOULD drive us to our knees, daily or as much as possible in gratitude.
It is our spiritual poverty which says like John the Baptist (John 3:30) – I must decrease that He might increase.

This is the “poor” of which the Lord speaketh. The temporal conditions on earth, in this life, mean nothing. A financially poor man will go to the same eternal separation from God as a rich or middle class person, who rejects Jesus Christ.

But the rich, middle-class or poor individual who accepts Jesus Christ as Lord of all in his/her life and internally humbles daily, is destined for the Kingdom of Heaven. The Kingdom is obviously visible when we pass from this Life. But in essence, when we are saved, we are immediately transferred into the Eternal Kingdom immediately, even while struggling with life, here on earth!

The Kingdom of Heaven for the Christian who is alive today is the sudden knowledge of the  Holy in our lives. We instinctively know Who saved us, while absolutely becoming aware of the change in our lives. Our Salvation is positional and we, immediately, become seated in the Heavenlies with God our Father, from Eternity Past to Eternity Future.

Jesus Himself, gave a tiny glimpse of what the Kingdom looks like, in essence, in this passage. Let us then meditate on it, and pray for more and more revelation as we continue to grow in Godly wisdom:
Matthew 13:31-52 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
31 He presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 and this is smaller than all other seeds, but when it is full grown, it is larger than the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”

33 He spoke another parable to them, “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three  pecks of flour until it was all leavened.”

34 All these things Jesus spoke to the crowds in parables, and He did not speak to them without a parable. 35 This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet:  “I will open My mouth in parables;
I will utter things hidden since the foundation of the world.”

The Tares Explained
36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.” 37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels. 

40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age. 41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. 43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Hidden Treasure
44 “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in the field, which a man found and hid again; and from joy over it he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

A Costly Pearl
45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant seeking fine pearls, 46 and upon finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

A Dragnet
47 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a dragnet cast into the sea, and gathering fish of every kind; 48 and when it was filled, they drew it up on the beach; and they sat down and gathered the good fish into containers, but the bad they threw away. 49 So it will be at the end of the age; the angels will come forth and take out the wicked from among the righteous, 50 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

51 “Have you understood all these things?” They *said to Him, “Yes.” 52 And Jesus said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like a head of a household, who brings out of his treasure things new and old.”