One Incredible Story!

The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”  Luke 1:27-33

Today, I heard a Christmas devotional by Alistair Begg, of Truth for Life, wherein he talked about Mary’s reaction to the news that she would bear the Son of God.

Troubling news.

News that would change the world, and rocked Mary’s existence!

Pastor Begg’s teaching included talk about four phases of processing that Mary went through as she tried to comprehend and respond to the message given her by the angel of God concerning Jesus’s conception and birth.  Her reaction in each phase is telling.

Phase 1:  What Will Be.  The angel explains to young Mary that she will conceive and give birth to the Messiah, even though she is yet a virgin.  This news that the Messiah’s time has come sets heaven ablaze with joy, but for Mary, who is just now hearing about the actual time of his appearing, there is only confusion.

Phase 2: How Will This Be?  Here, Mary resembles me a little bit, but just a little bit, as I have never come to the end of my questioning things.  At least not yet.  Mary, for her part, can’t fathom how what the angel has said could possibly happen, to her or any other woman.  She questions how a virgin might give birth?  Not that she might, but how she might.  It’s a valid question to ask, don’t you think?  We should never be afraid to God for clarity when we have valid questions about his will for us. Never!

Phase 3: Let It Be!  After the shock of being visited by an angel wears off, Mary remembers what was foretold about the Jewish Messiah. This angel has provided her with proof of God moving in power among her people. A supernatural occurrence within her own family convinces Mary she needs to believe God.   What is the proof the angel provides? Just this:  Mary’s aunt, Elizabeth, though old, is with child.  Reality sinks in.  This is enough evidence to give Mary a toe-hold on the fantastic.  Slowly, but surely, she begins to understand.

Phase 4: And Can It Be?!  Mary grapples with her belief in what God has foretold, still incredulous that she, Mary, has been chosen among all Jewish women throughout the ages to be the one girl who would give birth to the savior—Her Savior!  It’s mind blowing and hard to explain, but she believes what she has been told and is blessed because of that belief.

This Christmas, if you’re having trouble finding enough reality in the Christmas story to gain your own toe-hold on the fantastic, why not spend a little time in Luke’s gospel.  There, you will encounter a divine plan for a miraculous birth. Keep an open mind as you read the story. Ask questions of the God who has knocked on our door. When that same compelling evidence that Mary discovered is discovered by you, open the door and let the Savior in.  Accept that evidence, and look for the place where your life might intersect with His will this Christmas. You’ll never be sorry you did. I promise!

Pastor Begg provided me with a different perspective on the Christmas story today, and a clearer insight into the working mind of a faithful but confused woman.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading what amounts to my take-away from this important story.  I also hope that this Christmas is that Christmas when you become alive in Christ and surrendered to his incredible plan for your life.  It’s one amazing journey, I can tell you that.

I’m hoping to see you on the path to Jesus sometime soon.  Until then, be a blessing, even as you are blessed!

What part of the Christmas story do you like best?  Do you think Mary was able to sleep that night, after her angelic visit? 

 

 

 

What is your story saying about you?

God came to us because God wanted to join us on the road, to listen to our story, and to help us realize that we are not walking in circles but moving toward the house of peace and joy.  –Thomas Merton

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be happy! Let the sea and everything in it shout for joy!  Psalm 96:11

Sometimes I wonder if we appreciate how hard it is for God to hear our stories?

I know there have been times in my life when my story has been full of grumbling and complaining, and consequently reflected poorly on God.  I’m sure people have listened to me in those seasons of discontent and wondered: Is she a Christian?

She has no joy.

She has no sparkle.

She has no contentment whatsoever, it seems.

They were right.  In those moments when I endlessly complained about my lot in life, I am sure I did no credit to the cause of Christ.  Oh, that I could grab those words out of eternity, reel them back in and lock them in a dark cave, never to be seen again. I regret the times I’ve allowed the world to think God failed me.  He never did!

Our stories tell others all about us: what we think, what we believe, and what is mere bravado.

I’m relieved to know that I serve a God of infinite mercy.  A God who listens while I complain and loves me anyway.  A king who has the power to turn me into dust for the wrong I do, but doesn’t.  A Savior who never tires of propping me up, helping me out, and straightening the path before me.

Jesus Christ and God the Father deserve all my respect, my gratitude, and my love, but sometimes what they get from me is loose change. Left overs.  Dissatisfaction, and doubt.

Shame on me.  I feel I should be farther along by now.

The Good News:  Jesus came for folks like me.  Jesus came for the grumblers, the malcontents, the murderers, and the miscreants.  He came for the downcast, the disadvantaged, the disillusioned and the dismayed.  He came to rescue the perishing, and I was certainly one of those.

Praise God that we serve endless Mercy and Grace today.  God never gave up on me, and He never will—you either.  In Jesus, we have the best of the best, of the BEST—a kind and loving, powerful and merciful Messiah!  How can we not love Him?!

Hallelujah, Jesus Saves!  Hallelujah, we are His!!

Monday Devotional Moment

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 I find the great thing in this world is not so much where we stand, as in what direction we are moving.  To reach the port of heaven, we must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it—but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor.  –Oliver Wendell Holmes

Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. Proverbs 16:3

I have to say that I most esteem those individuals who are constantly, consciously, and deliberately moving toward God.  I’m drawn to these forward-acting types, especially as the roads they trek are anything but smooth, even, or rock-free.  I track their progress as they maneuver through peaks and valleys along the way, and I gain inspiration from watching them cut their way through the briers and the bramble.  Some have it easy in this life, or so it seems, but not them.

Those I admire have a steeper climb to make, and because of that I imagine they are made of sterner stuff than I.  To me, they seem rugged, determined, and most likely to make it to the place God has called them, even if they arrive bloody, bruised, and spent.  What amazes me is that they never stop.

They never quit.

They never accept defeat. Ever!

Those adventuring with God must never lie at anchor!

Some questions for reflection today:   

Can we confidently say we’re pressing on with the Holy Spirit, taking risks and making new discoveries with God daily?

Are we doing the best we can do, or have we chosen to simply “get by” in life?

Are we feeling good about us (God and us)?

Is there peace resting in our souls, or are we still finding it hard to be content with what we have?

Did we wake up this morning asking Papa God, “Where now?”  If not, why not?

This week, let’s pray for a heart of discovery and one of courage.  God has great things for His Church to accomplish in this age.  Let’s be quick to do our part.

Together with God, we can do what we could never do alone! 

But, I want…

Blessed are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God.    Psalm 146:5

Patience is a part of humility, tempering “I want” with a willingness to wait.  –For Today

Are you one of those people who wants it done yesterday?  Do you move up and down the line of cashiers at the supermarket, looking for the one line that has less people in it?  Maybe you are that guy or gal who’s constantly fiddling with their pen top, or jiggling their leg in a meeting.  Do you have a patience problem?  Me, too.

Character defects can cling to Christians like burdocks to a bull!

Praise God–He’s got a solution to our patience problem, and it’s found in Him. Our God doesn’t struggle with character defects, did you know that? He’s not hurried, unhappy, hidden, or hopeless, and when we are in direct conscious and daily contact with Him we won’t feel the need to be either.  We can tamp down our temptation to “want what we want, and want it now!” through prayer, meditation, and reading God’s Word, daily.  Right there, in the pages of His Good Book, we find tons of techniques for calming anxious hearts and finding contentment, no matter our circumstances.

This Christmas, if you’re suffering from a lack of hope or the need to hurry through to get to the “good stuff” quicker, consider God’s reason for this season.  We celebrate Christmas because recognizing the awesome gift God gave to us in the form of his beloved Son, Jesus, is what Christmas is all about.  All about!

Today, let’s thank God for the chance to remember the real reason for why we celebrate.  It’s all about Jesus!

Hallelujah, what a Savior!!!

Christian Game Theory

But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.  2 Peter 3:8-9

If you want to win the victory over sin and temptation you have to play the long game of God.

Let me say that again: If you want to WIN the VICTORY over sin and temptation you have to play the LONG GAME with God!

God’s long game theory involves patience and promise keeping, and advantage giving, and endurance unto salvation.  All things I’m not really good at-but I’m willing to learn. How will I learn?  You guessed it, through trial and error, temptation and testing, falling and getting up again, and leaning in to God so close that I can feel his breath on the side of my neck as he speaks eternal truth into my waiting ear.

What does He say?

Just this:  that His thoughts are not my thoughts, and my ways are not his ways, and his days are not running according to my watch.  His promises are not dependent on my faithfulness, and his desire is for all to come to the knowledge of salvation. He wants the gospel to be carried to all the earth, and for me to understand that sometimes winning over sinful souls takes time, and that I should never lose hope in that work, because I can know that He never does, and that His efforts go on and on, and on throughout generations. In the end, all will bow the knee to Jesus, and all will acknowledge the truth that some so long held back from owning within themselves, that God is good, that He is the source of our salvation, and that He has always been worthy of our praise.

Today, let’s praise God that his thoughts are not our thoughts, and our ways are not his ways, because folks, His ways always succeed! Ours, not so much.  Let’s also thank God that he shares his thoughts with us through His Word. Even on those days when we don’t fully understand what’s going on, we can be sure that God’s Word is faithful, honest, and true.

Hallelujah, what a Savior!!!

 

Idols in our lives

..since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And weboast in the hope of the glory of God.  Romans 5:1-2

What are you boasting about today?

Your intellect?  Your skills? Your talents?  Your connections?
Are you bragging about your wealth?  Your position in life?  The home you own, the car you drive, or the boat you bought last week?  Are you proud if your ability to cook a mean meal, and trim a tremendous table?
I ask these questions, because I am beginning to realize for myself how easily false idols slip into our every day existence.

It’s shocking how easily idols make their way into our lives!

The definition I use for a false idol is: that person, place, or thing that we run to on a regular basis for comfort, love, affection, or affirmation, that is NOT God.

I’ve found one of the best ways to identify false idols in my life is to ask myself this question, “What do I think is boast-worthy today, and/or what do I find brings me the most comfort when I’m distressed?”  If the answer to that question is something other than God, I might have a problem and an area of my life that needs closer inspection and exposure to God’s truth about idols, as revealed in Scripture.

Today, let’s ask God to revel to us anything that we may be substituting for Him when seeking to sooth ourselves.

Looking into our honest place, we can admit–THIS, this is the thing I too often run to for my comfort, instead of God.
Remember: …if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.  (1 John 1:9)  Sounds like a pretty good deal to me!

Forgive me while I mourn

Today I’m mourning the Shingles!

They are a plague on my guy. As of today, we are entering week four with the eye pain, the nerve pain, the itching, the swelling, and the weeping plague. It’s no fun!

This morning, mister was being driven crazy by itchy patches of skin cells that are trying to heal irritated nerve paths existing below them.  He has torn open the flesh and made his head bleed.  As a result of his shingles outbreak, mister is tired all the time. He sleeps a lot because he can’t concentrate on anything other than the pain and maybe a cup of hot tea and a titch of conversation.  He can’t stay outside long enough to do anything of substance, and he loves the outdoors.  Neither can he tolerate bright light of any kind. Even sunlight on his skin hurts.

It’s hard to see him like this.

Him-who always has energy to spare.

Him-who is always laughing and joking with others.

Him-who lives life large all the time, and chases joy, and often catches it.

Him-who loves riding his Harley but hasn’t been on it in weeks!

Him-who loves his family and takes care of his friends. We are taking care of him now.

Him-who misses church and wishes he could go, and needs to be encouraged about now.

Him-who gives and gives expecting nothing but love in return, and sometimes not even that!

It’s hard as a wife to see your husband suffer. 

It’s hard to see him lose his drive, his ambition, his strength, and his zest for life. It’s so hard–and listen, I am fully aware that I don’t have the hardest gig in town right now.

I don’t have the shingles.

I’m not home bound.

I’m don’t have a mate that is facing…

CANCER

BIPOLAR DISEASE

DIMENTIA

ALZHEIMERS

DEPRESSION

…or any of a bazillion other debilitating, deadly, and hurtful diseases.

My husband has the shingles, but they will pass. One day they will be gone. The itching will stop, as the progression of blisters dissipate and the swollen skin recedes back to its normally functioning shape and size.  The shingles will move on (we hope!).  Some of these other diseases won’t!

Wives, not me, will be dealing with their mates “thorn in the flesh” far longer than I will be dealing with shingles—THIS I KNOW—and it gives me a new appreciation for the struggles those other women face every day, and the burdens they lovingly bear on strong and courageous shoulders.

Scripture tells us God will allow nothing to enter our grace zone that has not first passed by Him.  When the hard of life bears down on us, some days testing our last reserve of strength, He will fill us up again.  Miraculously, He will bring more hope, more courage, more determination, and a renewed and greater ability to put one foot in front of the other and soldier on, victoriously.

Yes, I say victoriously, because if trials and temptations build our faith and make us greater instruments of grace in this world, then “Wow, watch out, world,” because I know some pretty fierce and awesome Daughters of Eve out there that are becoming spiritual giants at an alarming rate.

Be afraid, Shadows of Darkness and evil in this world. Be very afraid!!!

Through tough times and sisterhood, God is building a mighty army of metaphorical skirts that are going to explode on our nation in just a little while, and when they do, Satan and his hoards are in deep, deep trouble.

I believe in the power of God to move through dedicated womanhood.  I know their strength. I’ve seen their power.  I wouldn’t want to come up against even one of them in a dark alley, by myself, when working in opposition to them.

Together, they can only grow stronger—a force that will not be put down.

Today, I salute my sisters in the battle against discouragement and depression. Together we will win the victory over death and disease.  Together, we can do anything.

Together with Jesus, we’re getting better and better, and better!!!!

Friendship

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I’m blessed!

I’m one of those gals that’s surrounded by family who are friends and friends who are trusted allies. I have the most wonderful supporters in my life, which means I don’t need to reach far to find someone who is willing to stand by me in my darkest hours. Neither do I have to search for someone willing to cheer me on in my brighter times.  I have a confidential ear whenever I need one, and I have prayer partners that willingly lift any concern I carry to them to Jesus, mixing my prayers with theirs, freely.  My friends are a vast store of wealth for me, and an answer to prayer that I sometimes find it hard to believe is mine.  How did I get so lucky?

Pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up!

Not everyone is as lucky as me. Not everyone has so many trusted friends. Not everyone can pick up the phone at midnight, text someone at 3am, or show up at someone else’s door, distressed and not knowing where to turn to find a sympathetic ear, and be handed a warm cup of Joe and a smile. I think I understand how rare a thing that is, and I wish others had it too.

Today, especially as the holidays approach, let’s pray for those who are without meaningful relationships.  Pray for those living without a confidant. Pray for those who are far away from family, and pray for those without a tribe.  Pray that God would meet their needs by bringing them into relationships with others who can be to them Jesus with skin on.  God created His church so that we might never be alone again.  Today, let’s remember the lonely–remember and pray!

Together, we get better!!!

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. Proverbs 17:17

Two are better than one,
because they have a good return for their labor:
 If either of them falls down,
one can help the other up.
But pity anyone who falls
and has no one to help them up.  Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

 

It’s not their way…

Silent while others speak,

they plan before they act.

They sit back, collect data, and draw conclusions while others run in circles.

They are composed of:

Introverts

Intellectuals

Faithful Servants

Makers of dreams!

The farmers, and housewives, and engineers, who spend more time analyzing than spouting rhetoric.

The Students

The Song Writers

The Poets

The flyers, the fishermen, and the fringe.

They are deliberate.

They are humble.

They do not destroy, neither do they pillage.

Their strategy is the long game and the fair fight.

You’ll likely never see them wave a flag in protest or carry a placard at rallies.

It’s not their way.

They are the contemplative ones, the shy guys, the “thinkers” and those who are shaking the foundations of heaven with their prayers.

They don’t have to rub your face in anything, and they won’t burn your building down, for their strength comes through quiet meditation on God’s Word and His promise that this world will never be without a Leader.

The Silent Majority doesn’t trade in trends or tracking fashions.

They are forever solidly planted on the Rock of Ages, relying on Him and all His wisdom (no matter what avenue it travels down), to prevail, birth peace, and forever take control.

The Silent Majority does its work out of the spotlight’s glare,

quietly, for it is unaccustomed to accolades.

Why are they so silent?

Because boasting and bragging, and ripping and tearing, and destroying and digging yourself an even bigger hole with your ramblings doesn’t fit their MO.

They are silent giants of faith who aren’t afraid to pray!

I applaud their rational way of contributing to our world.

Long live the Silent Majority!!!