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Monday, December 16, 2013

Luke 1:51-53 — Let’s Do This

“He has done mighty deeds with His arm;
He has scattered those who were proud in the thoughts of their heart.
“He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
“He has filled the hungry with good things;
And sent away the rich empty-handed.
“He has given help to Israel His servant,
In remembrance of His mercy,
As He spoke to our fathers,
To Abraham and his descendants forever.”
—Luke 1:51-53 NASB

Mighty deeds are often done by ordinary people. Those whom we consider heroes of the Bible were not heroes to themselves. They were ordinary people who collided with God during their walk of faith.

Let’s look at some of these heroes. Elijah was “a man with a nature like ours” (James 5:17). Moses begged God for release from his role as a “liberator.” Jacob foolishly wrestled with God. Job begged God to kill him. Jonah ran from God. Peter denied Jesus. Thomas doubted Him. All in all, these men and women of the Bible did not see themselves as the great saints that we revere.

The simple girl Mary certainly did not see herself as an almighty saint, but only a person of lowly status. God was great. Only He was mighty, exalting those who were humble.

Most of the great Bible heroes would be surprised to see how venerated they became. Perhaps none would be more surprised than Mary. How she must have trembled before God’s request of her. She was reluctant to agree to His plan. God’s will was not only hard to bear, but impossible to explain to others. But the greatness of Mary’s life is that she did what God asked. She didn’t wait until His plan was complete before she rejoiced. She did so when she yielded her life to God.

You do not have to complete all that God has for you to do in order to find your own joy. From the moment you agree to yield your life, the glory will begin to flow. You will begin to feel praise welling up in your life. You have only to praise Him to see the great possibilities of God, and they will be fully accomplished through you.

Say this prayer:

Father, I do not know why You chose me, but I thank You. I do not know how I can accomplish Your work, but You do. Forgive me for my doubts. I give myself to You. Use me for your glory. In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.


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Sunday, December 15, 2013

Luke 1:46-50 — Defeat Depression with Praise

And Mary said:

“My soul exalts the Lord,
And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.
“For the Mighty One has done great things for me;
And holy is His name.
“And His mercy is upon generation after generation
Toward those who fear Him.
Luke 1:46-50 NASB

Mary must have longed to understand her mysterious God. Her giant doubts must have terrorized her as she tried to reason how she could do all of the will of God and not be destroyed by it.

But here Mary teaches us the way to joy. When the burdens of life are too much for you, do not see it as a suffering that has come only to you. Read the Scriptures and you will see that nearly all of God’s servants have suffered from depression. Men and women throughout history have felt despair, and endured a spiritual depression that can rarely be shaken off by intention alone.

But there is a way to beat this despair and Mary shows us how. Give yourself to praise.

Mary learned there was only one way to deal with spiritual and psychological depression one sure way to forget your grief; exalt the Lord. In praising Him, we drive back the demons of self-pity.

When we fail to sing, we give darkness a place in our soul; we wallow in the defeat we are trying to escape. We cannot focus on His greatness and our depression at the same time. If we remain focused on how bad we feel, we will be unable to concentrate on the Savior. But focus on His greatness and you will find it impossible to dwell on your own painful circumstances.

Whatever Mary’s emotional state was as she began her praise, it must have reached an exalted mood by the time she finished it. So it is with praise. Let it sweep the gloom from your heart and replace it with the joy that comes from adoration.

Say this prayer:

O Father, forgive me when I allow depression to overwhelm me. Prompt me to shout joyfully to You and to come before You with joyful singing. Remind me to enter Your gates with thanksgiving, and Your courts with praise. Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! In the name of Jesus I pray, Amen.


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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Luke 1:39-42 — Be a Blessing

Now at this time Mary arose and went in a hurry to the hill country, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. And she cried out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!"
—Luke 1:39-42 NASB

How glorious of God, who is everlasting Spirit, to put Himself at risk—to make His hazardous journey into flesh. In doing so, He affirmed every person whom He touched. No idea is so essential to our hope as that which teaches that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself.

Consider Mary and Elizabeth. Both wonderful and fragile, they were the means by which God became a human being. They share a heavy secret. One was so old that she was well past childbearing age. Elizabeth’s old-age pregnancy must have been the brunt of community gossip. Then Mary came and affirmed Elizabeth in her commitment to God. No one but Mary could really understand and identify with Elizabeth because she, too, was the object of community ridicule back in Nazareth.

Each of these women had been asked to bear a heavy load, yet each helped the other with their respective assignments. Each had a special gift with which to help the other along. This gift helps in every situation. It is the gift of affirmation.

It is doubtless that Mary had struggled with her heavy assignment of bearing the Son of God. Yet she could tell her story to no one. She daily faced Isaiah’s words: “Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” (Isaiah 53:1). No one would believe she could have a child without a human father. And so she lived alone, glad to server God, but desperate for even one other person to believe her.

Then came Elizabeth’s greeting: “Blessed are you!” In the power of such a kind affirmation, Mary could live and thrive and serve God.

Are you an Elizabeth? Can you offer a kind word to those who carry a heavy burden? Can you affirm someone who is hurting? This may be the most Christlike ministry of all: to be able to say to the desperate, who are often isolated by their unbearable pain, “Blessed are you!”

Say this prayer:

Father, forgive me when I fail to be a blessing. Help me to be aware of those around me so that I may affirm, encourage and bless them. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


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Friday, December 13, 2013

Luke 1:26-38 — Thanks, But Why Me?

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God. And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
—Luke 1:26-38 NASB

Why do God's visitations unnerve us? Because He never comes to us without asking something of us. We never know what He will ask of us, but we know that we will be overwhelmed by our feelings of inadequacy. When God came to Moses, Moses said, Ask Aaron! When He came to Gideon, Gideon suggested, Let's put out the fleece. When God asks us for anything, we are prone to say, God this is a great honor, but would You mind honoring someone else? So God came to Mary of Nazareth. And of course, God was the last person she expected.

As in this passage, God generally promises us His steadfast presence before He asks of us some task that we feel is beyond us. Also, God assures us to not be afraid just before He tells something terrifying. For though He calls us to do something significant, we generally feel we cannot do it.

God's promise of grace in this passage is of special note. Mary, above all the women of Nazareth, had been singled out by God. But surely it disturbed her to be chosen out of all other possible women.

But there is no answer to this issue of grace. God said that Mary was chosen. End of discussion.

And so we should remember when God comes to us: A God big enough to make us afraid is powerful enough to accomplish all He is about to ask of us.

Say this prayer:

Father, I don't know why You chose me, but I thank You for Your grace. And I thank You for being with me as I do Your will. As You and I go together, please give me the strength and dedication I need to accomplish your will. In Jesus' name I pray, Amen.


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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Luke 1:13 — Faithful Trust

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John.
—Luke 1:13 NASB

Trust can be difficult to maintain. Trust affirms that we believe when we have no evidence to do so. Trust demonstrates that we believe that God is in charge and will do what He has promised.

Zacharias was old. He had served in the temple all of his life, giving God his all. Zacharias and Elizabeth had no children. But even then, Zacharias still hoped that God would so bless him.

Zacharias then received his answer. He would have a son and name him John. This was a child of significance. God had special plan for this child, and that made an old man very glad.

When we trust, we become partners with God. We are never through trusting. The older our trust, the greater is our confidence.

Consider the image of a leathery old man holding a newborn baby. A child of purpose held in the arms of faithful trust. What a great reminder that God honors trust.

Do you want something from God? Are you tired from asking Him? Are you losing hope, thinking that God has forgotten you? Remember Zacharias. Do not despair. Trust.

Say this prayer:

O Father, I do at times lose heart and lose hope. Please forgive me. Today I reaffirm my trust in You. You are faithful in Your promises. Help me to be faithful in my trust. Thank You, Father. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


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Wednesday, December 11, 2013

1 Kings 17:8-16 — Flour and Oil

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and stay there; behold, I have commanded a widow there to provide for you.” So he arose and went to Zarephath, and when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks; and he called to her and said, “Please get me a little water in a jar, that I may drink.” As she was going to get it, he called to her and said, “Please bring me a piece of bread in your hand.” But she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have no bread, only a handful of flour in the bowl and a little oil in the jar; and behold, I am gathering a few sticks that I may go in and prepare for me and my son, that we may eat it and die.” Then Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go, do as you have said, but make me a little bread cake from it first and bring it out to me, and afterward you may make one for yourself and for your son. For thus says the Lord God of Israel, ‘The bowl of flour shall not be exhausted, nor shall the jar of oil be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain on the face of the earth.’” So she went and did according to the word of Elijah, and she and he and her household ate for many days. The bowl of flour was not exhausted nor did the jar of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord which He spoke through Elijah.
1 Kings 17:8-16 NASB

Merriam-Webster defines stewardship as "the activity or job of protecting and being responsible for something." Who of us isn’t responsible for something? More and more these days when I think about responsibility and stewardship, I find myself thinking about the widow of Zerephath…

God had used Elijah to bring a drought in Israel in order to get the attention of King Ahab and give a wake-up call to God’s people. Survival got to be a challenge in the land. But God provided for and supported His servant Elijah through various means. One way was through a person who was struggling to survive herself – a widow in the coastal town of Zerephath.

 The fact that the woman was a widow suggests that she had no one else to rely on. What’s more, she had a son. Not only was she trying to feed herself and keep a roof over her own head. She also had to do the same for her household. Things had gotten pretty bleak for her during the drought. And in the midst of this, God commanded the woman to take care of His servant Elijah, whom God was sending her way.

Well, aside from being startled that God had communicated with her, the widow was struck with disbelief that she could handle another mouth to feed. And when Elijah showed up, she told him as much. This woman planned to take the last of her flour and her oil and make a little bread for her and her son—a last meal of sorts. After that, she fully expected that she and her son would starve to death.

But Elijah had seen what God could do, and assured the woman: If she made Elijah her first priority, the bowl of flour would not be exhausted, nor would the jar of oil be empty, until the day the LORD ended the drought by sending the rain. And that is just what happened.

Now, the stewardship application: Though I have seen God work in my own life, I confess that, at times, I still find myself wondering what the next day will bring. And I’m sure I’m not alone in that.

But if God has called us to be a part of, and a supporter of, His work through His church, making Him our first priority, then I believe God will enable us to do just that. And though, like the widow, our flour and our oil seem to be nearly gone, God will stretch them, in amazing ways, to see us through this drought until He once again sends the rains.

Say this prayer:

Father, even when I don't know how my next bill will be paid, even when I don't know where my family's next meal will come from, help me to make You my first priority. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Titus 2:11-14 — Celebrate His Coming

For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
Titus 2:11-14 NASB

Christians are are currently celebrating the season of Advent. The word comes from the Latin term "adventus," meaning "arrival." The time is marked by the four Sundays preceding Christmas, and is a season set aside to help Christians prepare.

Advent prepares us not only to commemorate Jesus' first, humble arrival in a manger, but also helps us more fully invite Christ into our present lives while anticipating His final, glorious coming. Christians of all backgrounds can benefit from preparing for Christmas through Advent. The spiritual focus offers a meaningful way to cut through the madness of the secular Christmas season as well as an opportunity to mature in our faith in Christ.

Say this prayer:

Father, as I remember the first coming of Christ, help me keep in mind the Second Coming. Help me find ways to celebrate and share the hope I have of my returning King. In Jesus name I pray, Amen.


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