Setting + Props: Barn and Manger

by Carolyn Hope

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 room for them in the inn. (Luke 2:4-7)

The setting of Jesus’ birth was indeed unusual – but it was easy to find. If Joseph and Mary had been able to stay in an inn, the shepherds would have had quite the challenge finding Jesus. As it was, there was no question when they did find him that he was the one the angel had spoken of. What many would call a misfortune was, in fact, a unique identifier, a sign to the world.

It’s interesting that a manger was the Messiah’s first bed. That manger was crafted by a carpenter so the animals could be fed. Someone made that manger, but I bet they never knew it would be used for such a holy purpose. I like to picture Father God peering into earth as a person fashioned the pieces together of that particular manger and saying, ‘Ah, yes. That’s it! That’s where My Son will lie. It’s perfect!’

There will come circumstances that are perhaps lower than your expectations or hopes. There will be times where it feels like you’re barely making it by. Even in such instances, God will work all things for your good and for His glory.

The work you do for God’s Kingdom, whether big or small, significant or mundane, is important. God sees the labor of your hands and the purity of your heart. He is greatly pleased when you serve Him in the small things. Be faithful, dear one, and be encouraged. What you do for Jesus won’t be overlooked or forgotten. It will in fact be used for greater purposes than you could ever dream of.

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Stretching Seasons

by Carolyn Hope

I do not say that I have already won the race or have already reached perfection. But I am pressing on, striving to lay hold of the prize for which also Christ has laid hold of me. Brethren, I do not imagine that I have yet laid hold of it. But this one thing I do—forgetting everything which is past and stretching forward to what lies in front of me, with my eyes fixed on the goal I push on to secure the prize of God’s heavenward call in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12-14)

When you’re in a stretching season, God is doing just that: stretching you. He’s pushing and pulling you into more than you thought you could be. This will often be shown by getting an unexpected promotion, or taking on more ministry and/or work than before. You’ll suddenly find yourself in a position you don’t feel qualified for, or a role you’ve never had experience playing. These seasons often feel somewhat chaotic and stressful as you struggle to balance everything and still find time to be refreshed.

Stretching seasons will remind you that you’re not perfect, and you have in no way “arrived” at full maturity in Christ. You’ll be forced to choose if you will depend solely on yourself (and most likely fail in the process of doing so), or if you will rely on Jesus to sustain you in the areas you don’t have a full handle on. Times of stretching are uncomfortable and even painful, but they teach you to trust the Lord and let Him guide you.

I want to remind you today that stretching seasons are for a purpose. That purpose is not to break you. Think about a rubber band; before it has been stretched out, it can hold some things, but after it’s been stretched again and again, it is able to hold far more. When God stretches you, it is because He wants to give you more to carry. He has something greater for you to do, and in order to accomplish that vision, He will stretch you in different ways to prepare you for what’s coming.

Don’t be discouraged if you feel stretched beyond your limits. Holy Spirit is with you, and He will cover you and supply you with all you need. Hold onto hope. There’s more waiting for you.

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Still Seasons

by Carolyn Hope

So do not throw away this confident trust in the Lord. Remember the great reward it brings you! Patient endurance is what you need now, so that you will continue to do God’s will. Then you will receive all that he has promised. (Hebrews 10:35-36)

There are seasons in life where everything seems to be still. It feels like you’re not moving forward or going anywhere. From all appearances, nothing is happening. You may even feel stuck.

These times can be very frustrating, especially when you want to use your gifts and talents where you are. Often times in still seasons, however, your days will seem mundane and perhaps even meaningless.

If you’re in a season of stillness, hang in there. Don’t give up. Be patient. Whether or not you can see it, God is moving in your life. He hasn’t forgotten about you. Let Him develop you in character during this time. Let Him move deeply in your heart. This season will not be wasted.

Sometimes, the most beautiful revelations and the most intimate works are produced by still seasons. Don’t underestimate this time. God has a purpose for it, a purpose that is good and hopeful.

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