“Don’t be Afraid, Mary”

Luke 1:30-31, 34-35

30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus.

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 

Matthew 1:18-21

18 This is how Jesus the Messiah was born. His mother, Mary, was engaged to be married to Joseph. But before the marriage took place, while she was still a virgin, she became pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. 19 Joseph, her fiancé, was a good man and did not want to disgrace her publicly, so he decided to break the engagement quietly.

20 As he considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream. “Joseph, son of David,” the angel said, “do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. For the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit. 21 And she will have a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

An angel did not appear to me while I was engaged, but I have heard the Holy Spirit speak a few promises about our lives together since our marriage took place. Unfortunately, I haven’t always exercised patience and self-control in waiting for that information to be communicated to my husband!

I wonder if Mary had a conversation with Joseph after she heard God’s promise from Gabriel:IMG_1067.JPG

“Joseph, I’m pregnant!”

(silence)

“The Holy Spirit did it.”

“What the what?!?”

“I’m going to give birth to the Son of God.”

“Um…what?!?”

“Joseph- its true! An angel told me…don’t you believe me?”

“Mary, that’s impossible.”

I wonder if Mary felt abandoned and afraid for her future. I wonder if Joseph felt angry and afraid of the scandal. Regardless, being a good man, Joseph broke the engagement quickly and went home. Then, an angel appeared to him in a dream and confirmed the same promise Mary heard – with a few more details. He was to take her as his wife, and name the child she carried, Jesus.

  • Mary heard from God.
  • Joseph heard from God.
  • They obeyed.
  • God fulfilled His promise.

Why don’t I realize that God will do the same for me?

I am afraid.

I don’t trust God, I trust in my current circumstances.

I don’t believe God, I believe the lie of the enemy that says; “it’s impossible.”

I don’t fear God, I fear my husband not hearing and obeying (how self-righteous am I?)

But….. I don’t have to be afraid!

  • I can choose to surrender my soul (mind, will & emotions) to my Father in Heaven.
  • I can choose to trust Him.
  • I can choose to fear Him alone.
  • I can choose to believe in Him.
  • I can choose to declare; “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

And that obedience will give birth to the miraculous:

  • I will know that HE loves me.
  • I will know that HE is trustworthy.
  • I will know that HE is faithful.
  • I will know that HE will cause all things to work together for good.
  • I will know that HE will fulfill His promises for our marriage.
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I Want to See!

Mark 10:46-52

46 Then they reached Jericho, and as Jesus and his disciples left town, a large crowd followed him. A blind beggar named Bartimaeus (son of Timaeus) was sitting beside the road. 47 When Bartimaeus heard that Jesus of Nazareth was nearby, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

48 “Be quiet!” many of the people yelled at him.

But he only shouted louder, “Son of David, have mercy on me!”

49 When Jesus heard him, he stopped and said, “Tell him to come here.”

So they called the blind man. “Cheer up,” they said. “Come on, he’s calling you!” 50 Bartimaeus threw aside his coat, jumped up, and came to Jesus.

51 “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked.

“My Rabbi,” the blind man said, “I want to see!”

52 And Jesus said to him, “Go, for your faith has healed you.” Instantly the man could see, and he followed Jesus down the road.

In my short journey as a follower of Jesus I have been blind many, many times. Not physically like Bartimaeus, but spiritually and emotionally.

IMG_0602When life is hard and I find myself sitting alone beside the road of Jericho in total darkness, my mind begins to wander;

“should I lie down and wallow in my disability?

should I beg others to take care of me?

should I just sit and wait?”

Feeling helpless and angry, I begin to hear others say that Jesus is nearby. In an instant, hope springs forth and I begin to shout. The enemy attacks, convincing a few to tell me to be quiet. Knowing that HE is greater (1 John 4:4), I fight back and begin shouting even louder: “Son of David, have mercy on me!” The Lord hears my cry and sends another disciple to encourage me to go to Him. As the noise and distractions of life are silenced, I finally hear that still small voice whisper, “come….”

Desperate to see, I throw aside my coat of shame, jump up and go. He asks, “what do you want me to do for you?” Humbled, I bow before the King of kings and Lord of lords, crying out “I want to SEE! I want Your light to penetrate the dark places of my soul. I want to confess, repent and be set free!” The miraculous occurs; the Spirit of God brings Truth and I can see. I can SEE. I CAN SEE!

Once again, He tells me to to “go” (Matthew 28:19), for my faith in Him has brought healing to my soul. I will not be silent. I must get up. I must follow Him. I must tell others about the One who heals!

Matthew 15:30

30 A vast crowd brought to him people who were lame, blind, crippled, those who couldn’t speak, and many others. They laid them before Jesus, and he healed them all.

Wait Patiently

Romans 8:18-26

18 Yet what we suffer now is nothing compared to the glory he will reveal to us later. 19 For all creation is waiting eagerly for that future day when God will reveal who his children really are. 20 Against its will, all creation was subjected to God’s curse. But with eager hope, 21 the creation looks forward to the day when it will join God’s children in glorious freedom from death and decay. 22 For we know that all creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. 23 And we believers also groan, even though we have the Holy Spirit within us as a foretaste of future glory, for we long for our bodies to be released from sin and suffering. We, too, wait with eager hope for the day when God will give us our full rights as his adopted children,[a] including the new bodies he has promised us. 24 We were given this hope when we were saved. (If we already have something, we don’t need to hope[b] for it. 25 But if we look forward to something we don’t yet have, we must wait patiently and confidently.) 26 And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness…..

This weekend, while traveling the friendly skies with my husband and another couple, we had the opportunity to depend on the Holy Spirit to help us wait……..patiently.

IMG_5283On our first flight out, we were forced to sit on the plane for an additional 75 minutes after being pushed back to the gate to fix a mechanical issue before take off (I won’t bother to mention the screaming kids that were banging their feet against peoples seats & slamming the window shade up and down while their mom continued to yell at them to “stop it” and their dad sat catatonic across the aisle). As a result, the delay caused us to miss our connecting flight. After deplaning, we were told the next (& only) available flight would depart 5 hours later. After much discussion between my husband and the ticket agent, we were booked on another airline and finally arrived at our destination…4 hours later than expected.

En route to the airport two days later for our return flight, we received a voicemail from the airline informing us that our departure had been delayed. Another message, pushing the departure time back even further prompted a phone call to the airline to discuss our options. There were very few. We came to the conclusion that our best option was to proceed to the airport to talk to a ticket agent……and wait patiently for the next available flight out. Multiple conversations with multiple agents and several flight delays later, the flight was cancelled. We then made arrangements with another airline for a flight home the following day.

Early the next morning, we arrived back at the airport to check in. The airline had NO RECORD of our reservations. IMG_5286(Seriously, people, I am not making this stuff up!!!!) More waiting. More patience. More negotiating with ticket agents. With boarding passes finally in hand, we scurried through security and raced to the gate. The flight was delayed. Then delayed again…and again. More waiting. More patience. More negotiating with ticket agents. Eventually, we arrived home safely- almost 24 hours later than scheduled.

There are many scheduled departures and arrivals in my life, my marriage, my parenting and my ministry that I continue to wait eagerly for.

Will I trust that His promises will be fulfilled?

Will I trust that He knows the days, times and locations of all my flights?

Will I trust Him to pack my bags with everything I need once I arrive?

Will I trust Him to give me the tickets at the exact moment they are required to board the plane?

Will I trust Him to send the right travel companions with me for the journey?

Only if I surrender everything to the will of the Father and depend on the Holy Spirit to help me wait……..patiently.

Psalm 37:7

Be still in the presence of the Lord,
 and wait patiently for him to act…..

Knowing Christ

Philippians 3:1-10

Whatever happens, my dear brothers and sisters,[a] rejoice in the Lord. I never get tired of telling you these things, and I do it to safeguard your faith.

Watch out for those dogs, those people who do evil, those mutilators who say you must be circumcised to be saved. For we who worship by the Spirit of God[b] are the ones who are truly circumcised. We rely on what Christ Jesus has done for us. We put no confidence in human effort, though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more!

I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault.

I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ.[c] For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. 10 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead. I want to suffer with him, sharing in his death.

I was a member of the Pharisees who demanded the strictest obedience to the law- of myself. Although my actions seemed honorable, I tried to obey His commandments…. my hearts motivation was completely wrong. Essentially, what I was really doing was attempting to manipulate God into believing that I loved Him, so He would bless me. I was a Christian in name only, for my will had absolutely no intention of being crucified with Christ.

I, like Paul, once thought obeying the law was valuable. But when I began to encounter God in a supernatural way, I realized that everything- everything I had attempted to do, in my own strength, was absolute garbage. Love. God’s love is the key to knowing Christ.

IMG_4382My love for Christ began to blossom when I started to regularly read God’s Word, worship Him in Spirit and in Truth, and communicate with Him any time, any place, about any thing. One aspect of my prayer life that has absolutely revolutionized my relationship with Jesus is simply this: I ask Him, “Lord…I need you…please show me where you are….” (Remember, God is omnipresent, so He is always with us- whether we realize it or not). When I can see him (by the Spirit), my heart is overwhelmed with love for the One who gave His life for me. If I’m angry, frustrated, burdened, worried, scared, hurt, feeling lonely, betrayed, inadequate, unloved….I can run to Him, and He will gather me up in His arms each and every time. As I stay with Him, He’ll whisper words of love, identity and purpose to me. Sometimes He’ll even rebuke me- but it is always, always for my good. In His arms I am free to forgive and be forgiven. In His embrace I find shelter from the storms of life and promises for tomorrow. In the shadow of His wings, I fear Him alone.

Then, a miraculous exchange occurs: He tells me how to love Him

John 14:15

15 “If you love me, obey[a] my commandments.

and my heart melts, wanting nothing else than to surrender my will to His. And in that moment, I become righteous through faith in the One who loved me so much, that He surrendered His will to the Father to give His life for me.

Your Will, Not Mine

Luke 11:5-13

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.[a]

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “You fathers—if your children ask[b] for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Jesus taught His disciples the importance of being persistent in prayer so that they could obtain what they needed. Often times, when this disciple doesn’t get the answer I want, I respond like a self-centered child by throwing a hissy fit…and then I just stop talking to God altogether. Of course, that never brings about the desired result of getting my own way, all it does is separate me from the One who holds the keys to what I need to receive, find, or be opened to in the Spirit.

IMG_4382There are three items on my prayer list right now that I’ve been asking the Lord about for years. YEARS. One, in particular, He has remained silent on……I’m continuing to ask Him about it, but recently, my prayers have shifted from me stomping my foot, demanding an answer (right NOW!!!), to me demanding my will to submit to His. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, my focus has miraculously become less about the prayer that I want answered and more about the One who answers my prayers. Jesus modeled this most humbly, as he faced impending death on a cross:

Matthew 26:39

39 He went on a little farther and bowed with his face to the ground, praying, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.”

On another prayer request, I’ve received an answer in the form of a promise. Since then, I’ve continued asking Him to confirm what I believe I heard through His Word- and others. As my doubt has begun to evaporate, transforming into faith the size of a mustard seed, I keep knocking, declaring “may Your Kingdom come, may Your will be done!”

Matthew 6:9-10

Pray like this: Our Father in heaven,
 may your name be kept holy.

10 May your Kingdom come soon.
 May your will be done on earth,
 as it is in heaven.

My final request has become a daily act of obedience. God, in His infinite wisdom continues to give me the manna I need to survive –just for the day. Realizing that He made me to be a planner, He knows that what I need (before He answers), is to know how to trust and follow His plan for my life. Just as with the other two requests, He is teaching me to submit my wants, my will to Him, so that I can learn how to love Him with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. After all, that is what my prayers should be about- His will, His purposes, His Kingdom, His power, His glory….not mine.

I Urge You

1 Corinthians 4:14-16

14 I am not writing these things to shame you, but to warn you as my beloved children. 15 For even if you had ten thousand others to teach you about Christ, you have only one spiritual father. For I became your father in Christ Jesus when I preached the Good News to you. 16 So I urge you to imitate me.

This passage, taken from a letter that Paul penned to the church in Corinth, appears to be written by a pompous and proud leader.

It isn’t.

Paul, who was the church founder, was writing to his beloved children to warn them of the evil that was operating in their midst. These “infant” Christians were still very susceptible to living by the flesh, instead of living in the Spirit. As a result, they were indulging in all kinds of sin; greed, cheating, sexual sin and worshipping idols, just to name a few. In order to continue training them in the way that they should go, Paul, who was their spiritual father- their mentor, urged these new believers to imitate him- as he imitated Christ. He was, as any loving parent would do, imploring his children to obey God so that they could enjoy a long life!

Proverbs 22:6

Train up a child [a]in the way he should go,
Even when he is old he will not depart from it.

Ephesians 6:2-3

“Honor your father and mother”—which is the first commandment with a promise— “so that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

This parent-child relationship that was established in the early church doesn’t just apply to the Corinthians. It applies to today’s church in England, Africa, China, America….the world. It is critical that every part of the Body of Christ (whether we are “infants,” “teenagers” or “adults”) has a spiritual father or mother to disciple us. Without a mentor to teach, encourage, and yes, lovingly rebuke us at times, we, like foolish children are prone to disobey our Father in Heaven. Left to ourselves, we can easily become consumed by the evil in our midst, and succumb to the desires of our flesh. As a result, we (sometimes unknowingly), choose for ourselves a rod of punishment.

1 Corinthians 4:18-21

18 Some of you have become arrogant, thinking I will not visit you again. 19 But I will come—and soon—if the Lord lets me, and then I’ll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God’s power. 20 For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. 21 Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?

“Some people talk a lot about faith, but that’s all it is- talk. They may know all the right words to say, but their lives don’t reflect God’s power. Paul says that the Kingdom of God is to be lived, not discussed.”

-Life Application Study Bible

With love and a gentle spirit, I want to urge to find a spiritual father or mother. The mentor you choose should imitate Christ and live a life that produces good fruit (Galatians 5:22-23). They should be a man or woman whose heart is submitted to obeying the Lord. They should be a person who is willing to humble him/herself, confess and repent for their sins not only to God, but also to others.

James 5:16

16 Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results.

IMG_2963

And, they should be a person who is willing to invest their time, talent and treasure into training you to become a fully devoted follower of Jesus (NOTE: this person may or may not be your Pastor, Sunday School Teacher or Small Group Leader. In the past, I naively expected leaders in the church to provide the training I needed, but I quickly realized that their role was that of an apostle, prophet or teacher- not a mentor).

“Paul told the Corinthians to imitate him- to follow his example. He was able to make this statement because he walked close to God, spent time in God’s Word and in prayer, and was aware of God’s presence at all times. God was Paul’s example; therefore, Paul’s life could be an example to other Christians. Paul wasn’t expecting others to imitate everything he did, but they should imitate those aspects of his beliefs and conduct that were modeling Christ’s way of living.”

-Life Application Study Bible