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Mother of Jesus: How Well Do We Really Know Mary?

Do we really know Mary? Yes, she is the mother of Jesus, the Messiah, but she is also called favored, and righteous. She sets the example of being a revolutionary, living full of God’s power, and being a world changer!



“Mary, did you know…?” Picture me rolling my eyes.

CAUTION: It’s possible that I’m about to ruin for you one of the most popular and beloved modern-day Christmas songs of all time. The song is soothing, melodic (thanks to Buddy Greene), and asks a seemingly pertinent question. What I’m wondering, however, is how intimately acquainted the songwriter, Mark Lowry, was with Mary’s story.

Do we really know Mary? Yes, she is the mother of Jesus but she is also called favored, and righteous. She sets the example of being a revolutionary. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #Advent #Christmas #Jesus #GodsCalling #revolutionary #righteousness #Mary

Mary: Favored

Did HE know that God sent the mighty messenger-angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God (Luke 1:19), to a lowly peasant girl? Did Lowry realize that Gabriel, whose name means ‘God is great,’ was the same messenger who caused Daniel to fall on his face in terror (Daniel 8:17), and struck Zechariah dumb for questioning his message to him concerning John’s birth, (Luke 1:18-22)?

Yet, Mary, (while frightened when heralded by this magnificent angel,) was first confused that he called her favored. She was well-acquainted with her standing in Jewish society – she was poor, young, and an unmarried woman.

Favored? That word had never been used in reference to her before.

Mary: Righteous

Of course, there was the matter of becoming pregnant while remaining a virgin; Mary wondered how. Scot McKnight, author of The Real Mary, states that surely Mary was surprised at all of these happenings, but the “biggest surprise was that she consented to God’s plan.” Today, we have trouble grasping what she was agreeing to as an engaged Jewish girl. Her saying “Let it be to me according to your word,” would have ripped her world apart. Even today, imagine telling your fiancé that an angel told you God had impregnated you…and keeping a straight face!

Not only was she offering her reputation to be ruined and exposing herself to public humiliation, but her engagement to Joseph would most certainly have been reneged. Ultimately, she knew the Torah stated that she could face stoning (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Life as Mary knew it would never be the same.

Most Protestants have cast Mary as the silent, docile, blue-clad mother of Jesus at Christmas. For the other eleven months of the year, we don’t have much to do with her because she was just some sweet girl God allowed to be the holy incubator for Jesus, right? Definitely, wrong; God isn’t in the business of giving anyone grunt work, (pardon the pun). And do we truly believe the Lord God would have chosen a random, small-town teen to be the mother of His pure and only Son?

In the NKJV, Gabriel calls her “highly favored one” and “blessed among women.” There is absolutely nothing random about those words. Because Mary was righteous, God chose to use her. Her faith in God gave her the courage to consent to His plan despite the suffering she would endure.

Mary: Revolutionary

Through the years, many of us have read or sung Mary’s Magnificat in a choir setting. Her Magnificat is found in Luke 1:47-55. Immediately after her cousin Elizabeth, saw her, she began praising God for what He had done in Mary! (And believe me, Mary hadn’t texted or emailed her beforehand). Afterward, Mary offered soaring praise to God her Savior. However, in occupied Israel, verses 52-54 could have been construed as sedition. Imagine, meek and mild Mary – a revolutionary!

Would it shock you to know that a level of concern remains in the modern world toward Mary’s song in places where dictators fear an uprising among their repressed people? In fact, in the 1980s, the Guatemalan government “banned any public reciting of Mary’s Magnificat because it was deemed politically subversive,” (McKnight). Isn’t that astonishing?

I believe we need a paradigm shift concerning our views of Mary.

Mary was gentle, but also brave… bold…

and apparently a revolutionary!

The Magnificat

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.

Luke 1:47-55, ESV

How dare she utter such provocative words: He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate. Herod had murdered for less under his bloody reign. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. Reckless utterances! The rich were the rulers, the powerful. With a word or nod, they could end her life.

Mary: Full of His Power

You know that sick feeling you have for a friend when she opens her mouth and spews out something at the absolute worst moment? Imagine she was stopped for speeding. You were with her. Instead of being contrite, she was belligerent. And you wish you could have slapped your hand over her mouth and said, “Woman! For the love of all that is holy, stop talking!”

That’s how someone listening to Mary might have felt… only more so. Her people were powerless, had been powerless, didn’t know the meaning of having power. While they obeyed the Torah, they quaked before the evil of which Herod was capable.

But she knew a greater Power. Mary knew the mighty One of Israel and believed He had come to set them free. She could not remain silent! Her faith in the Father emboldened her to follow Him onto a path that promised darkness and pain, but also mercy and deliverance. Mary stepped out into the inky unknown, resting in the palm of His hand.

Does this sound like the wallflower girl whom so many mistakenly picture Mary mother of Jesus to be? I think not. Truthfully, I doubt if Joseph’s mother would have approved of Mary. She might not have been quiet or meek enough…but as Lynne Hybels titled her book in 2005, Nice Girls Don’t Change the World.

What about you… Are you a revolutionary Mary? Would you like to be?

Do we really know Mary? Yes, she is the mother of Jesus but she is also called favored, and righteous. She sets the example of being a revolutionary. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional | Christian Nonprofit #devotional #scripture #Advent #Christmas #Jesus #GodsCalling #revolutionary #righteousness #Mary

striving, hope, joy, righteousness, peace, glory, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry, nonprofit

Striving: Focusing on God’s Glory to Share His Love

Striving to show others the love of God is not what was ever intended by our Creator. We often fall short. Focusing on Him alone is the only way to align our hearts and share His love.



Flowers.

I would have never guessed that flowers would be the last straw. You know, the straw that broke the camel’s back?

I might have expected it to be the dress; or maybe even the food, but certainly not the flowers.

In striving to show others God's love, we often fall short. Focusing on Him alone is the only way to align our hearts and share His love. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #hope #righteousness #striving #joy #peace

Striving for the Wedding

Our wedding was quickly approaching. My fiancé and I had been working diligently at planning a simple, yet elegant wedding. It had been really well! There were some stressful moments, sure, but generally, it was pretty easy and enjoyable.

Until it wasn’t…

With a cart full of flowers and one attempt after the other to keep this expense as small as possible, the reality finally set in. Flowers are simply a large cost, regardless of my greatest efforts.

And that’s when things started spiraling.

God’s Love, Not Ours

From Day 1 of our engagement, my fiancé and I have been set on using this special day to display God’s love story more than our own. 

2 Corinthians 5:14-15 has been a bedrock verse for us in this season of life. Constantly serving as a reminder that it is Christ’s love that compels us and not our own. 

For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

2 Corinthians 5:14-15, NIV

That doesn’t mean the hype of wedding planning hasn’t crowded my thoughts though. Over the last several weeks, from reserving venues to deciding on our bridal party; from wedding dress shopping to premarital counseling, the wedding has been at the forefront of my thoughts.

Understandable as this may be, when I found myself crying over a $20 purchase of ugly flowers that didn’t match my vision but fit the budget, I realized that some things had gotten out of line.

Approaching God’s Word

Sometimes we read passages like 2 Corinthians 5 with the right idea, but still just slightly off from its original meaning. God’s Word is perfect, flawless, and infallible, but that doesn’t mean its readers are. Which is why it is so important we approach the Word of God wisely and with diligent devotion to understanding it correctly.

Thank God for His grace in this though, because we don’t always do this well. 

I realized that I was focusing so much on the ‘no longer living for myself’ part that I missed the ‘living for Him’ part. I’ve been so preoccupied with trying to be selfless with my time and money in the fine details; trying to make it a day that displays Christ more than myself that I neglected the condition of my heart in doing so.

Living for Him

Romans 14:17 tells us that ‘the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval.’

When we consider the context of this passage, Paul is encouraging the believers in Rome to discern religion from relationship. It does not matter if someone eats food that is clean or unclean according to the Law. With Christ seated at the right hand of God the Father in absolute victory over sin and death, it is no longer about following the written code. However, about growing in righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. And, thus, serving Christ with such a heart.

We could have the greatest, most pure motives, yet if our hearts are not resting in the Holy Spirit and in the grace of Jesus Christ, then regardless of what we do or how well we do it, we’ll be missing the point.

We could have the greatest, most pure motives, yet if our hearts are not resting in the Holy Spirit and in the grace of Jesus Christ, then regardless of what we do or how well we do it, we’ll be missing the point. Click To Tweet

Striving To Do What’s Been Done

I don’t believe that God gets angry or disappointed with us when we get distracted like this. I truly believe He delights in our efforts and our diligence to glorify Him rather than ourselves. However, I believe it saddens Him when we strive so hard to do what He has already done.

Christ is glorious. That’s a fact and it will never change. He doesn’t need us to make Him glorious. He simply is. Yet He invites us to join in the blessing of sharing that with others. But when we attempt to do this in our own strength, we stray from what truly pleases the Lord.

His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of the warrior; the Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love.

Psalm 147:10-11, NIV

The greatest attempts at pointing others to Christ or at seeking to glorify Him rather than ourselves, if done without an appropriate fear of the Lord and hope in His unfailing love, remains empty.

So as our desire may be to use our wedding day as a display of God’s greater love story more than our own, by God’s grace He gently reminded me, through tears and a weary heart, that I need to first see Him. See Him as glorious and worthy before effectively displaying that to others.

Proverbs 4:23 tells us plainly that we are to ‘guard our hearts, for everything we do flows from it.’ If our hearts are not resting and focusing on the glory of Christ and His unfathomable love for us, then any attempt on our part to display that to others will be tainted and ineffective.

A Place of Hope

Is there something that you have been trying so hard to do right, but feel like you’re still running in circles?

Do you feel no matter how great your efforts to honor and glorify God are, you still come up short and exhausted?

Sister, this is not how it is supposed to be. Looking at the glory of God through the grace of Jesus and pointing others to it was never intended to exhaust us. It was meant to rejuvenate, refresh, and fill us to the brim (Matthew 11:28-30, Psalm 19:7-9).

Take a moment today and evaluate your heart. Are your attempts coming from a place of hope or striving? Righteousness or regret? Peace or panic? Joy or duty?

God loves it when you desire to serve Him (John 12:26), but He delights even more in a heart that is aligned with His; in a heart that finds righteousness, peace and joy in Him alone.

In striving to show others God's love, we often fall short. Focusing on Him alone is the only way to align our hearts and share His love. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #hope #righteousness #striving #joy #peace

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Belief, casual Christianity, cheap, grace, righteousness, superficial, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Casual: Standing Firm in Righteousness as Believers

A movement of superficial Christianity has seeped into our current culture. We have all played a part in allowing this casual posture of following Christ.



For the majority of my adult life, we’ve attended churches that offered solid, Biblical preaching. However, honestly, the primary drawing card for two of those churches was the worship music. The church of my early to mid-adult life offered cutting edge praise and worship, gifted musicians and singers, all which created excitement and joy.

In later years, another church we attended boasted music leaders who wrote many of the worship songs. They recorded several CD’s. Again, theologically sound preaching, but…let’s just say that when the music died, (for various reasons,) a number of people left the fellowship.

A movement of superficial Christianity has seeped into our current culture. We have all played a part in allowing this casual posture of following Christ. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #cheap #grace #belief #righteousness #superficial

Renounced

This summer the Christian world has learned of two more Christian stars who have publicly left the fold of faith. They haven’t had a moral lapse; each renounced his faith. One of them had written beautiful, moving worship music.

My heart is deeply saddened for them and all whose lives were shattered by their pronouncement…

Is God winnowing His flock? Has judgment begun in His house? (I Peter 4:17) I believe so.

Recently, Gary and I attended a church in another state. Being unfamiliar with the music, I initially observed the folks coming and going, for coffee or whatever. For a worship time, it was busy, yet somehow low-energy and heavy, too. I felt bad for the guy leading.

The words casual Christians flashed into my mind, and Matthew 15:8:

This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me;

Matthew 15:8, ESV

Immediately, I was convicted because what was I doing? Not praising God or praying, but gazing around at other people who were not singing! God, forgive me.

Casual

Today we like to dress casual, live casual, attend a casual church, be casual. But when I look at the definitions of casual, I’m struck by how dissonant it is with the call of Christ upon our lives…

  1. Without definite or serious intention
  2. Irregular or occasional
  3. Indifferent to what is happening; apathetic
  4. Shallow or superficial

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Philippians 2:3, ESV

By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.

I John 3:16, ESV

Quite a difference – from all-about-me to considering others first.

State of the ‘Church’

Three years ago, Barna Research published a paper entitled “The State of the Church.” The ground we have lost is sobering. While 35% of Americans profess to be born-again, only 23% believe the Bible is accurate and had read it within the previous week. Additionally, a mere 7% attested to the following and were described by Barna as Evangelicals:

…their faith is very important in their life today; believing they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; believing that Satan exists; believing that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; asserting that the Bible is accurate in all that it teaches; believing that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today. Being classified as an evangelical is not dependent upon church attendance or the denominational affiliation of the church attended. Respondents were not asked to describe themselves as “evangelical.”

www.barna.com/research/state-church-2016/

Casting Blame

I’ve been wondering how and when this casual mentality was translated into the Christian life. It’s easy for my generation to cast blame or aspersions on the younger generations, on the culture, but the Church is one body. Every believer has had a part in the shallow and superficial, apathetic malaise that has slowly poisoned the Body of Christ. Our attitude has no resemblance to the message of Christ.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

Luke 9:23, ESV
»«

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10:38, ESV

Does this sound harsh to you? Foreign?

Cheap

Dietrich Bonhoeffer decried the church of his day as selling God’s grace too cheaply. Perhaps that is what we have done as well…and few are interested, anymore.

Cheap grace means grace sold on the market like cheapjacks’ wares. The sacraments, the forgiveness of sin, and the consolations of religion are thrown away at cut prices. Grace is represented as the Church’s inexhaustible treasury, from which she showers blessings with generous hands, without asking questions or fixing limits. Grace without price; grace without cost! The essence of grace, we suppose, is that the account has been paid in advance; and, because it has been paid, everything can be had for nothing. Since the cost was infinite, the possibilities of using and spending it are infinite. What would grace be if it were not cheap?…Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.

The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Stand Firm in Righteousness

Oh precious one, let us not settle or peddle cheap grace, for it cost Jesus everything. He is the treasure hidden in the field and the pearl of great price. Who brings such joy that we are willing to sell all that we own to have Him.

Or are we?

No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. ‘Make level paths for your feet,’ so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed. Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God…

Hebrews 12:11-15, NIV

May we be mighty in spirit, women of righteousness, aspiring never to sell our Lord or His costly grace for mere earthly conveniences or pleasures.

Amen.

May we be mighty in spirit, women of righteousness, aspiring never to sell our Lord or His costly grace for mere earthly conveniences or pleasures. Click To Tweet

A movement of superficial Christianity has seeped into our current culture. We have all played a part in allowing this casual posture of following Christ. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #cheap #grace #belief #righteousness #superficial

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Anger, angry, forgiveness, righteousness, oceans, grace, freedom, broken, sin, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Angry: Silencing Anger through God’s Redemptive Love

Acting on our angry feelings is dangerous and invites a stronghold of sin to take root in our lives. But we can break through with God’s redemptive love.



Be angry and do not sin;

Ephesians 4:26, ESV

I’ve been desperately grasping for a reprieve from anger… grasping for peace amongst the storm of rage. Just when I think I’ve pulled it all together, something happens that creates a massive eruption of spew from my mouth.

Acting on our angry feelings is dangerous and invites a stronghold of sin to take root in our lives. But we can silence this through God's redemptive love. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #anger #angry #righteousanger #sin #grace #freedom

Righteously Angry

Dear friends, never take revenge. Leave that to the righteous anger of God.

Romans 12:19, NLT

I keep hearing about righteous anger, but I often wonder if I even have the ability to embody it. Is it possible for a human to have purely righteous anger? Are we able to knock over tables in righteousness…

Matthew 21:12-16, lays out the prime example used when we speak about Jesus’ anger. –I’ll have to be honest, there are times when I think it would be nice to tip some tables over in rage.– However, I would like to challenge our minds to think about the depth of His anger; think about how His anger differs from ours.

Jesus was perfect and blameless. Sinless. He had the ability to show care and bring restoration even in this heated moment. It grieved His heart to see the perversion that had become the Temple of the Lord, for the sake of His faithful.

But those who saw Jesus act and heard His words of conviction, praised Him. Children sang ‘Hosanna’! He overturned perversion and restored the innocent. This is not often the result of human anger.

Human Anger

I can’t account a time when acting on my anger brought about healing. In fact, I tend to lace my fury with the lie that it’s part of my healing process–Well, not if someone else has to heal because of it.

My heart aches. I can’t explain the pain and brokenness my false righteous indignation has caused. I can’t tell you how many messes I’ve had to clean up because I acted out my firey insides. Or how many times I’ve had to ask for forgiveness. Especially from my Savior.

We don’t get a pass on sinful anger just because we call it righteous. If you have to say it’s righteous, it probably isn’t. If you have to account for your actions during bouts of anger, you’ve probably been acting selfishly and, ultimately, sinfully.

Always the Ocean

A lot of life reminds me of the ocean. A lot of my relationship with God reminds me of the ocean. Always with the ocean. This time, thinking of anger… it’s captivating and extremely dangerous.

I know the curative therapy that is the sea; breathing in the salty air, diving into the warm water, letting the waves bring you back to shore. Its majesty lets you know you cannot tame it.

Oh, how small we are.

But that’s how enticing anger is. The eruptions like waves; believing in the false therapy following. Breathing in and out, in and out… Yeah, that’s not working. Diving into the heat of the moment. Its waves pulling you further from shore, with no hope of taming the rage.

Oh, how small I’ve become.

Take a Breath

Because I am still in this season, because I’m not on the other side of this lesson, I feel I should share what God is speaking. In trying to derive advice from The Ultimate Authority, a series of questions ran through my mind. I believe these will allow us to take a breath, evaluate our anger, and have to repent of sin less often.

Am I angry at what makes God angry… did this make filthy, what God made pure?

Am I being honest about my anger? Do I need to repent of these actions?

Do I have the ability to be angry and love at the same time? Is my anger meant to restore or tear apart?

Am I allowing the Holy Spirit to control my anger or am I harming those around me?

Freedom from Anger

Yes, these questions may help bring rational thought to a fueled moment, but how do we feel anger and not sin? How do we handle seasons of anger and break free from its bondage? As I said, I’m still in the thick of it, but these are my daily practices and convictions…

Self-control: Proverbs 16:32

Face to the floor prayer.

Take every thought captive: 2 Corinthians 10:5

Fasting.

Give NO opportunity to the devil: Ephesians 4:27

Biblical meditation.

Do good: Romans 12:19-21

Love God and keep His commands: John 14:15

God’s Peace

In these moments of helplessness, moments where rage takes over, I am reminded of how much I need the redemptive power of my Father. How much I need the freedom given through His blood.

Through His blood, we can repent of our unrighteous, sinful anger. We can be made whole, we can heal through His grace, not our rage.

His grace silences our haughty words. Silences our temper. It covers us and gives us the ability to approach His throne with the things that have broken our hearts. It allows God to speak:

That ocean you love so dearly, its majesty, its nature, its constant rhythm is my love for you. I am the ocean, unwavering, unstoppable, overwhelming, raging. The battle between the ocean and the shore, that’s my battle for you. For your freedom. That peace you feel, that’s my gift to you. No longer will you be a slave to this crashing bitterness. You are delivered. You are redeemed.

Through His blood, we can repent of our unrighteous, sinful anger. We can be made whole, we can heal through His grace, not our rage. Click To Tweet

Acting on our angry feelings is dangerous and invites a stronghold of sin to take root in our lives. But we can silence this through God's redemptive love. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #anger #angry #righteousanger #sin #grace #freedom

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glory, God’s character, important, righteousness, significance, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Significance: Finding True Meaning from the God Who Created You

The search for significance is nearly as old as time. In this quest, the lines can become blurred and the goal of becoming Christ-like may morph into making ourselves like the Most High. The shift is subtle and may begin with good intentions. What do you do when you realize you’ve been going at it all wrong?



From childhood I have been comforted by the power and security of the Lord, specifically, that spoken of in the Psalms. Reading, “The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (Psalm 145:8, ESV) has been a precious assurance of the goodness and nearness of God to me.

The search for significance is nearly as old as time. The lines can blur and the goal of becoming Christ-like morphs into making ourselves more important. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #glory #GodsCharacter #important #significant

Learned Significance

This past spring I took a systematic theology class. Part of the requirements directed me to read Psalm 145 and Isaiah 40 four times a week for several weeks. On the first day, I smiled at Isaiah 40:1 where I had written “store up comfort” next to it. It references a devotion from Streams in the Desert (January 11) which talks about the costliness and necessity of suffering. It is not for the purpose of our own comfort, but that we may learn how to comfort others.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Corinthians 1:3-4, ESV

Significance Questioned

However, as I read aloud from Isaiah 40 I came to a halt at the end of verse 17.

All the nations are as nothing before Him, they are accounted by Him as less than nothing and emptiness.

Isaiah 40:17, ESV

It struck me: “they” signifies me. Suddenly my sense of significance was challenged. My thoughts raced to verses that speak of my value to God, but even those did not hold the same soothing power as they once had in my mind. For instance, when I thought of Psalm 139:14, I realized I had not previously focused on key parts of that verse:

I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are Your works; my soul knows it very well.

Psalm 139:14 , ESV

Praise belongs to God and His works are wonderful. Being created is glorious, but it is only glorious because of the powerful Creator. What I had known since birth was that God is great. I grew up in a Christian home with two parents who loved each other and taught me the Word. That was grace. I became a Christian when I was young—also grace, and I married a follower of Jesus. More grace. To be more specific, it was all undeserved grace. I thought of another familiar verse:

Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who has made us, and we are His.

Psalm 100:3, ESV

Significance Misled

The version I learned growing up says “It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;” (NASB). Cringing, my eyes were opened to the fact that I had been viewing myself in an us-versus-them category. I had placed so much significance on my decision to choose God that it was completely unbalanced.

After all, Jesus said in John 15:16: “You did not choose Me, but I chose you.” Could it be that all this time I had read Scripture from a vantage point of deservedness? For years I had been content with saying I am a child of God; relishing His protection, blessings, and by His grace, learning to take joy in my suffering. My understanding of the grace I had received turned out to be laced with entitlement. Gross.

Seemed Pointlessness

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Ephesians 2:8-9, ESV

I had somehow bypassed this exhortation Paul sent to the church at Ephesus so, when I read through passages like Isaiah 40, it hadn’t previously occurred to me that I needed to read it addressed to myself. God used the class to boldly expose my creatureliness to me in such a way that I was unable to turn away.

By the end of it, reading through Psalm 145 and Isaiah 40 proved to be an anchor while hearing and reading about God’s sovereignty, human freedom, God’s attributes, and His purposes. Initially, I thought, how can the nations be “less than nothing and emptiness” (Isaiah 40:17), yet “He gives power to the faint” (verse 29)? For days I wrestled with the seeming pointlessness of it all. Humankind appeared to be like the “Whos in Who-ville” floating on a speck.

Goodness Evidenced

Nonetheless, I knew of God’s total and infinite goodness…at least to me. To name a few evidences, I had experienced God’s goodness in the restoration of my marriage, in the death and new life of my son, and in the extraordinary rescue of my daughter. In the depths of the aforementioned situations, I had little to no control beyond prayer. They taught me to rely on God and to be able to say with conviction, “This is the Lord’s doing; it is marvelous in our eyes” (Psalm 118:23).

I also felt a measure of invincibility, which is not completely untrue as a child of God when viewed correctly, for nothing can pluck me from God’s hand (John 10:28). Unfortunately, I took too much credit and my view of God’s supremacy was skewed.

Blind Contentedness

Until recently, I turned a blind eye when it came to understanding God’s very real and very present wrath towards evil because I could not explain it. Like so many others, I was satisfied to focus on God’s nearness and grace to me and just nod my head like a robot at His transcendence.

That is to say, I didn’t care to search for understanding (for what might I find?!), so I quickly placed any questions in the “God has a plan because He’s God” category. I politely closed that door and ran back to my significance blanket. After all, God is great, right?! But I was at a standstill. I knew more now, and I now knew better, but I didn’t like it because I couldn’t wrap my head around it.

God’s Sovereignty

The Lord is good to all, and His mercy is over all that He has made.

Psalm 145:9, ESV

This verse, in particular, did not line up in my mind with God bringing “princes to nothing,” and that He makes “the rulers of the earth as emptiness” (Isaiah 40:23), and “all the wicked He will destroy” (Psalm 145:20). My soul had never been so perplexed! I asked God, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You care for him” (Psalm 8:4)?

I discovered a spirit of pride in myself I thought had been extinguished. I’d resigned to seeking answers about God’s authority because I was afraid it may threaten my personal significance. Instead, I dwelt on being chosen and loved, but was blind to my fearful unbelief. True worship is not offering praise from a spirit of resignation and superiority. Alternatively, praising God for who He is and what He has done is glorifying when it is done in truth.

True Significance

Yes; God is infinite and we are finite. God has need of nothing. He is not lonely. He does not need praise or love from us, whereas we do need His love and we are very much alone without Him. But the reality of God’s autonomy (or lack of need) does not mean we are unimportant and meaningless. One of the books I read helped me grasp this: The answer to my nothingness lies in the comparison, not in the value and significance God has placed on creation.

We are in fact very meaningful because God has created us and He has determined that we would be meaningful to Him. That is the final definition of genuine significance.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, by Wayne Grudem

I journaled this toward the end of my class: You absolutely matter to God because He chose for you to be meaningful to Him. But you are not the point. You are not the center; God is. So then, your significance lies in the fact that He determined to make you and to delight in you; and for that to honor Himself.

You and I have the privilege to meditate on the glorious splendor of God’s majesty and His wondrous works every single day (Psalm 145:5). To Him, there is no comparison. God is the only One who can promise to save the ones who love Him (Psalm 145:20). He numbers and names the stars (Isaiah 40:26; Psalm 147:4). The Lord is good to all, yet He is also righteous in all His ways (Psalm 145:9, 17). So, let us say with John:

He must increase, but I must decrease.

John 3:30, ESV
You are not the center; God is. So then, your significance lies in the fact that He determined to make you and to delight in you; and for that to honor Himself. Click To Tweet

The search for significance is nearly as old as time. The lines can blur and the goal of becoming Christ-like morphs into making ourselves more important. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #glory #GodsCharacter #important #significant

unsplash-logoIvan Di
God’s call, God’s love, righteousness, communication, Oh Lord Help Us, Christian, women, mentor, ministry

Abandon: Answering God’s Call to Surrender Our Lives

God would call us a thousand times if He has to. May we not ignore His call and surrender our lives to live for Him with reckless abandon.



A few weeks ago, while driving to the beach with our oldest granddaughter, we drove Gary, my husband a bit mad with blasting chick music. Since she and her sister were young, the three of us have jammed to the likes of Adele, Sara Bareilles, and of course, Taylor Swift. I even remember dancing around my family room holding their baby brother a few times… He’s now eleven!

Nevertheless, Gary surreptitiously turned down our tunes with his steering wheel control, (he needed earplugs, I suppose,) but when I noticed, I cranked it back up so that Anna and I could belt it out, singing with abandon to our old favorites.

We didn’t care who might be watching in passing cars or how we sounded, (although she is an accomplished musician who performs publicly). The two of us were just, well, jamming our hearts out.

God will call us a thousand times if He has to. May we not ignore His call and surrender our lives to live for Him with reckless abandon. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #communication #surrender #righteousness #Godscall

Hello…

One of the all-time favorite songs that my daughter and granddaughters have joked around with, in the past few years is Hello, by Adele. It’s so melancholy that we naturally feel the need to overdramatize it when we mock-sing it.

Hello, it’s me
I was wondering if after all these years
You’d like to meet, to go over
Everything

They say that time’s supposed to heal ya
But I ain’t done much healing

Hello, can you hear me?
I’m in California dreaming about who we used to be
When we were younger and free
I’ve forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet

[Pre-Chorus 1]
There’s such a difference between us
And a million miles

[Chorus]
Hello from the other side
I must’ve called a thousand times to tell you
I’m sorry, for everything that I’ve done
But when I call you never seem to be home

Adele, “Hello”

I know this has happened to you…

Earworm

Since our trip, this song WILL NOT LEAVE MY MIND!!! I can be vacuuming, applying makeup, planting flowers and what wafts through my head? “I must have called a thousand times…

Oh, my sweet Lord! How can I rid myself of this song, which I used to enjoy, but has now become a pesky irritant?! My addled brain has gotten stuck in a groove that just might cause permanent damage!

Finally, recalling that God has a record of speaking in various and, to us, unusual ways, (Numbers 22:28, through a donkey; Exodus 3, through a burning bush) I finally stopped fighting the words in this song and began to listen. What in all that is righteous and good are You trying to say to me, Jesus?! Because, slow as I am to hear, SURELY You are speaking through this song.

I must have called a thousand times

Those words played a loop in my head. Often, I ask God to speak to me about specific situations or decisions that need to be made. At times, I find myself pleading for direction. The truth is, He is speaking all the time. If there is a problem with communication, it’s on my end.

Are You Home?

Statistics reveal a lack of communication is one of the top complaints in couples seeking marriage counseling.

God has the same issue with us… He calls; we don’t answer…or pretend we didn’t hear: “Was that God or the devil?

As Adele said in her song, “When I call you never seem to be home.

I wonder if we don’t “meet (with God) to go over everything,” (Adele, verse 1), because unconsciously we fear He may require something of us which we aren’t willing to give. Or, perhaps He may want to tear down that invisible wall we erected around a deep wound, inflicted years ago.

Even the thought of God asking us to take these actions is too painful to contemplate, so we don’t answer His call…or abandon our will to the Father. We settle for His gifts and working for Him.

Abandon

In Mark 10:28, ESV, Peter proclaimed boldly:

“See, we have left everything and followed you.”

As a young man, Oswald Chambers wrote:

Our Lord replies in effect, that abandonment is for Himself, and not for what the disciples themselves will get from it. Beware of an abandonment which has the commercial spirit in it…Abandonment is not for anything at all. We have got so commercialized that we only go to God for something from Him, and not for Himself. It is like saying, “No, Lord, I don’t want You, I want myself; but I want myself clean and filled with the Holy Spirit; I want to be put in Your showroom and be able to say – ‘This is what God has done for me.’” …Abandonment never produces the consciousness of my own effort, because the whole life is taken up with the One to Whom we abandon.

My Utmost for His Highest

Oh Beloved, in moments of total honesty, stripped bare of our false piety and bangles of good works, can we truly accuse our Father of wanting to harm us? How can we entertain the notion that we can’t trust His goodness when He loved us enough to hold nothing back from us, not even His only Son?

Missed Call

Many years ago, Gary and one of our sons went to Russia on a two-week mission trip. We were never apart for that long, so I did not want to miss the one phone call he was going to make while they were gone. The other two kids and I were getting out of the car from church when we heard Gary leaving a message on the answering machine, (I told you it was years ago).

I was frantic to get in the door to catch him but was too late. Needless to say, I was very disappointed and cried. My oldest child thought I was being a bit dramatic, but I didn’t care. This was my Beloved. I loved and missed him; I needed to hear his voice. (He called again later.)

Apple of His Eye

Multiply that a gazillion trillion times and that is how the Father loves us. We are His Beloved, the apple of His eye.

For this is what the Lord Almighty says: “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you – for whoever touches you touches the apple of my eye…

Zechariah 2:8, NIV
»«

Keep me as the apple of Your eye; hide me under the shadow of Your wings, From the wicked who oppress me, from the deadly enemies who surround me.

Psalm 17:8-9, NKJV

I pray we won’t miss the times the Lover of our souls calls us to abandon our lives to Him in a fresh way. May we not expect Him to ‘call a thousand times,’ although He will. May we run to Him like a gazelle each time He whispers our name, and joyfully obey whatever He asks.

Do we not meet with God because we fear He will ask something of us? Or maybe He wants to tear down the walls we’ve built around pain? His call is for us to abandon our will for the Father’s. Click To Tweet

God will call us a thousand times if He has to. May we not ignore His call and surrender our lives to live for Him with reckless abandon. Women of Faith | Spiritual Growth | Scripture Study | Christian Mentoring | Daily Devotional #devotional #scripture #communication #surrender #righteousness #Godscall

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt
clothed, spiritual, salvation

Adorn: Abandoning the Old and Clothing Ourselves With Salvation

Worldly garments look completely different than spiritual garments. Clothing ourselves in sin hinders our ability to adorn salvation daily.



Clothes. Such a necessity. But why, oh why, do they have to produce laundry? I absolutely loathe laundry. It is one of those chores that we will never see come to completion. Unless you’re a family of nudists (not judging, but kind of). I really have tried the one “load of laundry a day” tip. Y’all, this is not realistic.

My boys are so very blessed with loads of clothes (pun intended). They have clothes for each season. Clothes for school, for playing, for sleeping. Church clothes, Christmas clothes, sports clothes. Seriously, I’m really contemplating becoming a minimalist. But, no matter how many clothes they have, my boys still have their favorites. The ones they will wear whenever they are clean (sometimes even dirty). Special clothes that wear out, tear, have stains. Even still, these items are chosen over shiny new ones.

Have I hit the point yet? This is moving toward matters of the heart…

Adorn: Dirty Clothes

We do this, don’t we? We all have “items” we put on day in and day out. For me, I’m constantly trying to change out of perfectionism, negativity, and insecurity. The list goes on but these are my comfortable clothes. These are the 8-year-old yoga pants I do chores in because they have bleach stains all over. They fit perfectly, and I NEED something to clean in, right?!

Because I’m a mere mortal, it is not in my nature to habitually clothe myself with supernatural adornments. It does feel good to put on freshly laundered clothes. But, why is this such a difficult process in our own spirits? When sin creeps in and goes unaddressed, we become more and more comfortable wearing it. The elastic starts breaking in, so to speak (I think I’ve pushed this analogy as far as I should).

Worldly garments look completely different than spiritual garments. Clothing ourselves in sin hinders our ability to adorn salvation daily.

Adorn: Daily Clothes

Sneaky sin is not what our Heavenly Father wishes for us. He has created the most beautiful spiritual ornaments. However, spiritual clothes are more difficult for us “put on”. In the midst of anger, how easy is it to be compassionate? When depression overwhelms, it’s difficult to be joyful. Anxiety makes us feel a need to act quickly, instead of being patient and trusting in the Lord.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

Colossians 3:12, NIV

It takes daily submission and acceptance of this truth; we are His chosen. In every worldly situation and circumstance, we are to stand out. We are set apart and should not be wearing the same yoga pants as everyone else. These are not to be worn for our own glory, but for everyone to witness God’s glory. For all to see the precious gift of salvation through Christ Jesus.

Sing to the Lord, all the earth; proclaim his salvation day after day.

1 Cronicles 16:23, NIV
Worldly garments look completely different than spiritual garments. Clothing ourselves in sin hinders our ability to adorn salvation daily.

Adorn: Salvation Clothes

Most of us can remember the moment we accepted Jesus as our savior. It took me longer to understand what truly happens when we leave our sinful nature behind and accept the forgiveness and mercy of God. When we adorn our clothes of salvation, we are adorning ourselves in all that God has offered. Rest, protection, righteousness, joy, forgiveness, gratefulness, comfort, love.

I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

Isaiah 61:10, NIV

In our salvation, it takes more than just washing our dirty clothes, we must learn to completely abandon them. Every. Single. Day. Salvation is the only piece of clothing I want or need to put on. For in salvation all else rests. It is humbling to know I can approach the throne of God in my ugly yoga pants, because He prepared a way for me to ditch them. In Him, I am made new. My old clothes don’t fit anymore.


If you have found this inspiring, share the encouragement…

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Worldly garments look completely different than spiritual garments. Clothing ourselves in sin hinders our ability to adorn salvation daily.

Tammy Strot


I was tired, worn out, and dirty, but God…

This is the newest item in the Oh Lord Help Us Shop. It serves as a reminder that we are no longer who we were. The story has changed.

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Mary, revolutionary, world changer, favored, blessed

Mary: Known as Favored and Righteous, but a Revolutionary?

Do we really know Mary? Yes, she is the mother of the Messiah, but she is also called favored, and righteous. She sets the example of being a revolutionary, living full of God’s power, and being a world changer!



“Mary, did you know…?” Are you freakin’ kidding me?!

CAUTION: It’s possible that I’m about to ruin for you one of the most popular and beloved modern-day Christmas songs of all time. The song is soothing, melodic (thanks to Buddy Greene), and asks a seemingly pertinent question. What I’m wondering, however, is how intimately acquainted the songwriter, Mark Lowry, was with Mary’s story.

Mary: Favored

Did HE know that God sent the mighty messenger-angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God (Luke 1:19), to a lowly peasant girl?  Did Lowry realize that Gabriel, whose name means ‘God is great,’ was the same messenger who caused Daniel to fall on his face in terror (Daniel 8:17), and struck Zechariah dumb for questioning his message to him concerning John’s birth (Luke 1:18-22)?

Yet, Mary (while frightened when heralded by this magnificent angel) was first confused that he called her favored.  She knew her standing in Jewish society – she was poor, and she was an unmarried woman.

Favored? That word had never been used in reference to her before.

Mary: Righteous

Of course, there was the matter of becoming pregnant while remaining a virgin; Mary wondered how. Scot McKnight, author of The Real Mary, states that surely Mary was surprised at all of these happenings, but the “biggest surprise was that she consented to God’s plan.” Today we have trouble grasping what she was agreeing to as an engaged Jewish girl. Her saying “Let it be to me according to your word,” would have ripped her world apart. I mean, even today, imagine telling your fiancé that an angel told you God had impregnated you…and keeping a straight face!

Not only was she offering her reputation to be ruined and exposing herself to public humiliation, but her engagement to Joseph would most certainly be reneged. Ultimately, she knew the Torah stated that she could face stoning (Deuteronomy 22:23-24). Life as Mary knew it would never be the same.

Most Protestants have cast Mary as the silent, compliant, blue-clad mother of Jesus at Christmas. For the other eleven months of the year we don’t have much to do with her because, well, she was just some sweet girl God allowed to be the holy incubator for Jesus, right? Uh, wrong; God isn’t in the business of giving anyone grunt work, (pardon the pun). And do we truly believe the Lord God would have chosen a random small-town teen to be the mother of His only Son?

In the NKJV, Gabriel calls her “highly favored one” and “blessed among women;” there is nothing random about those words. Mary was chosen because she was righteous. Her faith in God gave her the courage to consent to His plan despite the suffering she would endure.

Mary is called favored, and righteous. She sets the example of being a revolutionary, living full of God's power, and being a world changer!

Mary: Revolutionary

Through the years, many of us have had the pleasure of singing or hearing sung Mary’s Magnificat in a choir setting.  It is in Luke 1:47-55, immediately after her cousin Elizabeth saw her and began praising God for what He had done in Mary! (And believe me, she hadn’t texted or emailed her beforehand). Her words offer soaring praise to God her Savior; but the latter verses, 52-54, could have been construed as sedition in occupied Israel.  What? Meek and mild Mary, a seditionist?

Would it shock you to know that a level of concern remains in the modern world toward Mary’s song in places where dictators fear an uprising among their repressed people? In fact, in the 1980’s, the Guatemalan government “banned any public reciting of Mary’s Magnificat because it was deemed politically subversive,” (McKnight).  Are you kidding me?!

I believe we need a paradigm shift concerning our views of Mary.

Mary was brave… bold… and apparently a revolutionary!

The Magnificat

My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever.

Luke 1:47-55, ESV

How dare she utter such provocative words: He has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate. Many had been murdered for less under Herod’s bloody reign. He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. Whoa. The rich were the rulers, the powerful, the ones who, with a word, could end her life.

Mary is called favored, and righteous. She sets the example of being a revolutionary, living full of God's power, and being a world changer!

Mary: Full of His Power

You know that sick feeling you have for a friend when she opens her mouth and spews out something at the absolute worst moment? Imagine she was stopped for speeding and you were with her. Instead of being contrite, she was belligerent. And you wish you could have slapped your hand over her mouth and said, “Woman! For the love of all that is holy, shut your mouth!”

That’s how anyone listening to Mary might have felt… only more so. Her people were powerless, had been powerless, didn’t know the meaning of having power. While they followed the Torah, they quaked before the evil Herod was capable of.

But she knew a greater Power. Mary knew the mighty One of Israel and believed He had come to set them free. She could not remain silent! Her faith in the Father emboldened her to follow Him onto a path that promised darkness and pain, but also mercy and deliverance. She stepped out into the inky unknown resting in the palm of His hand.

Does this sound like the wallflower girl whom so many mistakenly picture Mary to be? I think not. Truthfully, I doubt if Joseph’s mother would have approved of Mary. She might not have been quiet or meek enough…but as Lynne Hybels titled her book in 2005, Nice Girls Don’t Change the World.

What about you?

Are you a Mary? Would you like to be?


If you have interest in the books mentioned, please consider purchasing them through these affiliate links. A small portion will go to help support this ministry at no extra cost to you:

The Real Mary

Because of Bethlehem: Love Is Born, Hope Is Here

Nice Girls Don’t Change the World


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Mary is called favored, and righteous. She sets the example of being a revolutionary, living full of God's power, and being a world changer!

 

Tim Mossholder