Devotional 55: A Blessing and Message for Mary

Luke 2:34-35

34 Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against 35 (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”

Imagine that someone held your baby and told you all they were destined for, and that it was as calamitous as turning a nation on its head?

What would you do as a young mother or father? What would you say?

Simeon’s message was directed at Mary, so it was already prophesied that Joseph would not be there when the Roman soldier who pierced Jesus’ side fulfilled it on Calvary.

She received a lot of messages during these times, from the greeting of the angel until now, and she thought about their meanings. We only have a few snippets of them interacting, and even one where she took the siblings and went looking for Jesus because they began to think He was unstable.

We wonder from 2017 years later: ‘But how can you be told all these things regarding your child, deliver Him as a virgin, and come to doubt that they were true?’

She was just a young girl, and not one who moved in the circles of prophecies and divine things and thunderous, ponderous teachings. No wonder the angel told her not to fear!

And having been told she’d conceive the child, she gathered up her courage, knowing G-d would sustain her through the stigma of being pregnant and unwed. “Let it be done to me as you have said.”

And the destiny of this child had not only a national impact, but a global one. Indeed, an eternal one. In the carol ‘Mary, Did You Know?’ there is a line that says: “The Child that you delivered/ will soon deliver you.”

Yet she protected Him, poured out her life into Him, soothed Him, tended His cuts and bruises, pushed Him, set examples for Him, taught Him…

And watched Him die.

I’m sure on that day, she felt more than one sword in her pierce her.

And yet she saw it through, having done all she could.

To the mothers out there who are holding on, and ministering to your children every day, in acts both great and small, from teaching them how to hold a spoon to standing at their college graduation to the birth of your first grandchild, know that you are doing a noble work in obscurity, a grand thing no one notices, a divine calling no one else heard but you.

But the Father, Son and Holy Spirit see you, and your child is destined, and you, handmaiden of the Lord, have been selected to pour into them as Mary did to hers, trials and all, swords and sundry.

Today, Mother, may your children rise and call you blessed.

Therefore I pray:

Father in Heaven,

We thank you for our mothers, for the many sacrifices they’ve, for their teaching, for their willingness to give their all for all their children, for their intimate guidance in knowing their child like no one else.

Even for their discipline, when no one else would rein in misbehavior.

 It is a ministry like no other, so much so that You’ve called them, and not man, to do it.

I’ll not pretend I understand the withholding of children from those who deeply desire them, and the granting of them to the cold and callous, for You, O Lord, are sovereign in these things.

Rather, I pray You would change hearts and open eyes, and protect the gentle souls of Your little ones in harsh circumstances, and console and guide those who desire to be blessed with them. I pray You grant their desire.

To those who’ve lost a child, you are no less a mother today than you were then. You’ve carried the pain of your sword awhile, and G-d sees your tears, even the ones you keep inside.

Mourn, and be comforted that you will see them again in their innocence, and they will be restored to you.

I pray you continue in grace, faithfulness, strength, patience, integrity, kindness, honor, and virtue, and that your legacy be inherited in double portion through those you leave behind, that the harvest may grow.

Thank you, mom, for giving, caring, and loving us through it all.

And releasing us to that which we are divinely destined.

Amen

 

 

 

Devotional 50: He Put Them All Outside

Mark 5:36-43

36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, He said to the ruler of the synagogue, “Do not be afraid; only believe.” 37 And He permitted no one to follow Him except Peter, James, and John the brother of James. 38 Then He came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and saw a tumult and those who wept and wailed loudly.39 When He came in, He said to them, “Why make this commotion and weep? The child is not dead, but sleeping.”

40 And they ridiculed Him. But when He had put them all outside, He took the father and the mother of the child, and those who were with Him, and entered where the child was lying. 41 Then He took the child by the hand, and said to her, “Talitha, cumi,” which is translated,“Little girl, I say to you, arise.” 42 Immediately the girl arose and walked, for she was twelve years of age. And they were overcome with great amazement. 43 But He commanded them strictly that no one should know it, and said that something should be given her to eat.

I love the story of redemption through the cross, because it means that Jesus is resurrected, and that means those who believe in Him will be resurrected too, spotless and blameless before the Father.

Personally, I think the Resurrection doesn’t get enough attention. We have the hope of eternal life, and life means we must be raised. The power of the grave is broken, to the point where even the sea will give up its dead.

We read in the Word that Jesus could work no miracles where there was no faith, yet we’re told if our faith is the size of mustard seed, it can provide the spark.

In some ways this story parallels that of Lazarus: Jesus was ministering elsewhere when the death occurs, and He visits once he’s done ministering to the crowd. What’s different is that the closer Jesus gets, the thinner the crowd, until only His inner circle and the child’s parents remain as witnesses, whereas the raising of Lazarus was more public.

The way Mark puts this is almost humorous in verse 40: And they ridiculed Him. But when He put them all outside…” The juxtaposition is jarring, and there was probably nothing humorous about it, but Christ does not surrender His authority any more than the Father shares His glory. They left.

Jesus had no time for the faithless clamoring of useless mourning.

How bold they were to mock Him, knowing who He was, ‘knowing’ the child was dead.

But we’re not unlike them at times, even professing faith. We ‘know’ things that Jesus doesn’t about ourselves, our lives, our plans, our families…we are not as quick to submit to His authority in all aspects of our lives.

We ‘know’ it’s too late to start over, or the marriage is ending, or the delinquent child is never going to get it together….

We must begin to do with our own faithless behaviors what Jesus did to the doubters at the door: Put them all outside, and say to the things of G-d, “I say to you, arise.”

And like the little girl our Lord raised, we must feed those things in us of G-d that provides us with perseverance, and shut out that which distract us, taunt us, mock and abuse us by assailing us with the words and deeds of long ago. Give yourself something to eat.

Put them all outside, brothers and sisters, and as Jesus told Jairus: “Do not be afraid, only believe.”

Therefore I pray

Lord Jesus, help me to put outside all of the thoughts or feelings that are not tied into Your power to redeem me from sin.

Help me not to hear those who say “Don’t trouble the Teacher any longer,” so that I am not caught up in the noise of faithless fatalism.

Increase my peace in times of turmoil, my faith in the midst of trials, and my understanding in times of confusion.

Let me feel the presence of the Spirit as I enjoy the blessing of restoration.

Let me hold fast to the hope of being raised into eternal life in the Kingdom of G-d, to the cloud of witnesses after the Great Shout: ‘Come forth!’

I would not be among the faithless of the outer darkness who reject the Gospel because they ‘know’ there is no G-d. You say that in that time, as here, there will be weeping, for the killing of the soul is true death, and not merely sleep.

I would not be snatched from Your hand, even when I stray, so I ask Your forgiveness when I stood silent among those who ridiculed You.

I ask these things in faith, believing I’ve received, and for all my Brothers and Sisters who believe in You across the nations of the world.

Amen

Devotional 42: Do Whatever He Tells You

John 2:1-10

Water Turned to Wine

On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Now both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. And when they ran out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.

Now there were set there six waterpots of stone, according to the manner of purification of the Jews, containing twenty or thirty gallons apiece. Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. And He said to them, “Draw some out now, and take it to the master of the feast.” And they took it. When the master of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom. 10 And he said to him, “Every man at the beginning sets out the good wine, and when the guests have well drunk, then the inferior. You have kept the good wine until now!”

There are two ways to think of obedience:

One is to obey out of love, much the way a child does who wants to please their parents, or a student to please their teacher.

Jesus was constrained to obedience in this way, not only in doing the Father’s will, but in honoring His earthly parents as well.

The other way is how we more often think of it: as being under threat, something we must comply with in order to avoid harsh consequences, which are heavier to bear.

Yet with the story of Jesus we are told He was obedient to the Father’s command to come to us ‘…because He loved us first.’ (John 4:19); and that He was ‘obedient even to death on a cross.’ (Philippians 2:8)

But here, as Mary makes her ‘request’ Jesus portentously says to her:

“My hour has not yet come.”

Yet if a mother knows her child, how much more does the one whom all generations call blessed?

By now, Mary has observed Him with people, and surely the event of Him as a boy sitting among the learned rabbis remained a strong memory.

By now, she’s seen His heart of compassion, and yet while His mission is the salvation of the world, the judgment of all nations, and reconciling the hearts of the sinful to the heart of G-d through establishing an eternal Kingdom, His mother is feeling compassion for such a simple thing as running out of wine at a wedding feast.

The beauty of this story lies in the fact that we’re not told why they ran out:

Were there drunkards?

Was there not enough money?

Was this a mistake regarding the number of guests attending?

We are left to figure this out, but this is no mystery to Mary, nor is there uncertainty on her part about what He will do; though she has no way to know the specifics her faith in her Son is such that she considers the matter settled:

His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.

Indeed, she walks away in faith and doesn’t address Him again.

We are told this is Jesus’ first miracle. How then did she know He was able to do anything?

How could Emmanuel, G-d with us, not?

It doesn’t matter why you come to Jesus; it only matters that You come, but if you do,

Be ready to obey whatever He says to you.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus

I thank You for interceding in the small, finite details of my earthly life.

I thank You for granting me peace past earthly understanding.

I thank You for the people I’ve loved, and the family You’ve redeemed to the Father who no longer dwell here on earth with me.

I thank You for taking my deserved condemnation on Yourself, that I may be in the presence of my Creator’s glory for all eternity as spotless, blameless, and guiltless by the power of Your blood.

I thank You for imparting the Holy Spirit to me, that the truth my be revealed to scaly eyes and a heart of stone softened by the harsh, loving words of the King of Heaven.

Help me also in this: that I lay up treasure in Heaven even as I walk the extra mile in the hot sun, or endure the chill of the evening as I give my coat also, or ignore the offense of personal assault as the pain of life’s slaps and punches mark my cheeks.

In this, I would obey in love and reverent fear of the Lord my G-d, and ask it in Your Name.

Amen.

 

Christmas Child

CHRISTMAS CHILD

“For there is born unto you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Luke 2:11

Children are born of their mothers, into their families, not to groups of people. Christ, already being begotten of God, in order to redeem us had to be, in a sense, born again Himself through the body of Mary, thereby becoming in His earthly body like the people he came to redeem.

Unlike Adam, made fully formed as a man, Jesus went through a cycle of growth:

He understood what it was to be under parental authority, to learn at the feet of the rabbis (and later amazed them). He knew what it was to work, play, and interact with siblings who think you’re strange;

He understood temptation, hunger, thirst, scorching heat and freezing cold when He was in the desert, so much so that at the end of his testing the angels came to tend Him.

He understood grief, weeping at the death of Lazarus.

He understood frustration, trying to get the Pharisees to open their eyes. He understood obedience in the face of fear in the Gethsemane Gardens.

He understood what it is to die.

But this night, He is a baby, sleeping in his mother’s arms, under His earthly father’s protection, given to us by the Father of all, and we celebrate His delivery not only to Mary, but to us, and for us.

“The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”). Matthew 1:23

“For unto us, a child is born. Unto us, a Son is given.” Isaiah 9:6

May His Holy Presence be newly born in your homes and among your families this Christmas. Amen.

Devotional 25: He is Out of His Mind

Mark 3:20-21 Then the multitude came together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread. 21 But when His own people heard about this, they went out to lay hold of Him, for they said, “He is out of His mind.”

How can it be that the family of the Messiah missed the fact that He was among them?

How could it be that His mother, who pondered the sayings of Simeon, Anna, and the Wise Men in her heart on the things concerning her Son, go after Him with His siblings, believing Him to be mentally unsound?

He is unlike anything we’ve ever known, and yet He is the most accessible to the most lowly man.

“If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father.” You’ve seen the heart of G-d toward mankind, that we be reconciled to Him through the spilled Blood of the Son, and come to Him through the risen spotlessness and glory of His resurrection, fastened in body, mind, and spirit to Him for eternity, as He was fastened to the cross for our mortality.

The cares of the day press down on us, however, and thoughts of Him fade as we go through the traffic and mayhem of daily life, suffering slings and arrows that assault our psyche when we would be holy, when our minds are in silent prayer, when we take a moment to sigh our thanks in an empty room, and request strength for the remainder of what lies ahead.

There are those who think us stupid to proclaim Him our Lord and Savior on the basis of faith alone, believing in the Promise of One long departed, yet alive and glorified. “The foolishness of the cross,” as the Apostle Paul says. Are we willing to be out of our worldly minds, and have them stayed on the One who came to save, or do we risk denial on earth to please man, and be cast into the outer darkness?

“I would that you were hot or cold.” Indeed, He’ll be more involved with you when you’re out of the will of God, then He will if you walk between earthly and heavenly realms of influence. He can convert sinners through the Spirit, but a double-minded person is wind-tossed, rudderless, without roots, and unstable.

Feed the spirit-man, for you cannot save the fleshly one; he is out of his mind.

That’s why He came to us.

Therefore I pray:

Lord Jesus, there are times I too, thought this message foolish, its standards untenable, its sacrifice of self too great a price to pay, and I turned, and backslid, and became a profane vessel unfit for service, unwashed within.

There are times I said that if your love is steadfast and eternal, I could indulge my fleshly desires, and it would be all right in the end.

There are times I said that the problem was with You, and not within me.

I, like Your family, like Mary herself, forgot who You were, and where You came from, and why. I was bent on backsliding, because it felt good, and eased my loneliness, and assuaged my pain in ways that I appealed to You to do, but You did not, for reasons I couldn’t understand.

So I went away and looked on the outer darkness waiting to receive me, and said it was good, and it was well with my soul.

Lord, forgive me. 

It’s I who am foolish, not the message of the cross.

It is my standards that are untenable, for they lead me to perdition.

It is the sacrifice of filthy rags of self- righteousness that is too great a price to pay.

And looking on the outer darkness, I am a blind sheep, unconcerned with Your worry as You leave the ninety-nine to come rescue a fool and bring him home, in love and grace and mercy.

Help me always to hear your voice when the void whispers prettily, and smells of jasmine and honey and clean earth, but holds the horrors of eternal separation from Your glory in unquenchable, agonizing fire that tortures my damned soul with no respite, and mocks the hope I once had as it burns the tears of sorrow away, and singes the cries of my hopeless, helpless heart on my tongue, and burns the praise from my throat.

Goad me along the narrow road to the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and I will not kick against them.

Amen.

 

 

Devotional 11: Job 2:9 Curse God and Die

Devotional 11: Curse God and Die

 

So Satan went out from the presence of the Lord, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes.

Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!”

10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

 

   Job was the target of Satan’s attack to get him to do that which his wife told him to do, but Job, though he endured the attack, would not do it.

But consider the words of his wife; they are so often dismissed, and she’s preached as one who added to his burden, in before his three friends came and began rebuking him.

As Chuck Swindoll once preached on this, I had to agree: she too, lost her children, and her position among the women of Israel.

She too, became a target of Satan’s destruction of their lives.

Job did not suffer alone, though he suffered the brunt of it.

Their enemies probably spoke of them in laughter, to see Job brought low, and the women of Israel who were jealous of his wife doubtless ridiculed her to her face.

We are not told much, because Job and his integrity are the focus of the book, but we shouldn’t be so quick to see the wife as a nag or a burden.

I’ve also heard it preached that Job called his wife foolish, but he did not; he said she speaks as one of the foolish.

He doesn’t strike me as the kind of man who’d marry a foolish woman, given that in his absence she had to deal with the daily matters of issues that accompanied his wealth, as well as raise their many children, and keep track of it all.

While it may be true she didn’t have Job’s integrity, can we truly blame for her falling into despair? She couldn’t lay eyes on her suffering husband, all of their children had been taken in a single stroke, and all of their wealth in the same manner.

Who, not having Job’s integrity, wouldn’t have a broken spirit? We have the book’s outcome and the gift of historical hindsight, but in the moment, in her position, ask yourself honestly, might you have said the same?

In a crucial time, when they should have been pulling together, he sat outside scraping himself, and left her to grieve alone, and he could have ministered to her and soothed her heart as best he could.

Had Job cursed God and died, she would have soon followed, having no hope.

But he actually did something better, because he had the integrity that he did: he strengthened her faith.

As she saw him endure day after day, he probably set an example before her, just as Abraham believed the promise of God when Sarah laughed.

If the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the believing husband, then Job’s most extreme testament of faith, “Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him,” had to make a profound impact on her, and imparted to her a stronger and higher faith in the Lord.

As the Father returned a double portion Job, he returned one to her as well, because Job, as her husband, was her covering, just as he had to pray for his friends in order to keep God’s chastising hand from them for rebuking their friend in his hour of need .

Therefore I pray:

Lord, when I fall, impart to me Your declaration of faith in me, and Your wisdom to guide me through the trial.

   Restore me to You by the Power of holy, refining fire, and purge my impurities.

   Make of me your best example, in all things, at all times.

   By the Power of the Name of my King and Savior, Jesus Christ, I ask it, knowing full well what You may do; I only ask that You be with me in it, and let me not lose sight of You, not lose the sense of Your presence, that I may know that You are there, for I don’t have Job’s integrity, and my faith is as the tide, strong at times, weak at others.

   Lord, I don’t ask for a double portion, I only ask that You not let me die, before I’ve completed the assignment You’ve called me to do, old and full of days.

   Amen.