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Archive for Mary

Dec
10

The Mystery of Christmas:: 4

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When I was a kid, my mother went through a phase where she was “into” jig saw puzzles. She would purchase a puzzle and spread the pieces face up on the table. Then, she would prop the box up across the workspace which displayed the picture that the puzzle was to make. Working those puzzles was hard, but at least there was a picture that let us know what the finished product would look like. We eventually finished every one. For a grade school boy, there was a sense of satisfaction that came when I got to put the last piece in place.

When God’s announcement came to Mary via the angel Gabriel, she, without doubt, must have felt a bit overwhelmed. So many questions that were unanswered. So many details that were not outlined. So many missing pieces to the puzzle. And no box propped up on the other side of the workspace, so to speak.

It’s at this point that Mary is at her finest. Her response to the angelic proclamation was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38, NLT). Wow. What an example! Mary demonstrates humility, obedience, and faith.

What would your life look like if you adopted that kind of attitude toward God’s will for your life?

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Dec
09

The Mystery of Christmas:: 3

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When God speaks, He expects us to believe his word even though we may not fully understand all of the implications of His word. Mary’s story continues like this, “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever, his Kingdom will never end. Mary asked the angel, ‘How can this happen? I am a virgin.’” (Luke 1:31-34, NLT)

Clearly, Mary doesn’t get it. 2,000 years later, we don’t get it. God has no problem expecting us to affirm things by faith that we don’t fully comprehend. The Bible is full of those instances. Think about the creation account in Genesis. The Bible affirms that God created all things, but doesn’t bother to tell us how he did it. What about the trinity? For centuries the church fathers have tried to adequately explain and illustrate how the trinity works. But honestly, the Bible doesn’t spell that out either. God just expects you to believe it. Speaking of Mary, the same is true of the virginal conception. We accept this truth, but don’t have the details as to how that whole thing really went down.

Which bring me to the next thought. Understanding is not the object of our faith, God is the object of our faith. Reading on in the narrative, the Bible states that, “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. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s now in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.’” (Luke 1:35-37, NLT)

If you base your responses to God based on things like understanding, comprehension, and security in the outcome, you’ll not see the power of God in your life. God expects you to affirm things he will never bother to understand. So the question at the end of the day is “Do I believe God?” “Do I trust God?” As long as we make understanding the condition of our obedience we will not get very far in our faith journeys, and our faith journeys will be based on the limited possibility of self rather than the limitless impossibilities of God.

Categories : Advent, Christmas, Luke, Mary
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Dec
08

The Mystery of Christmas:: 2

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God’s word always precedes his movement, and when God speaks, we don’t need to be afraid. Consider this—“Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. ‘Don’t be afraid, Mary,’ the angel told her, ‘for you have found favor with God!’” (Luke 1:29-30, NLT)

“Don’t be afraid.”

Fear is a tricky problem for us because fear establishes the limits of our lives. For example, if you’re afraid of heights, you’ll stay low. If you’re afraid of water, you’ll stay dry. If you’re afraid of failure, you’ll never take risks. So what was the root of Mary’s fear? Was it the appearance of an angel? Or was her concern more about the angel’s message from God?

I believe one of the reasons we don’t listen for God’s voice is because we’re afraid he’ll tell us to do something radical that pushes us beyond the boundaries of our security and comfort.

The reason we’re afraid to hear from God is that deep down inside our souls we are conflicted about what Jesus is really like. On one hand we have the domesticated Jesus of the American Dream. American Jesus calls us to get a good education, marry a good spouse, and work hard to build a career. American Jesus calls us to advance in our careers and to conduct our lives ethically and morally. Have kids. Go to parent-teacher conferences. Coach soccer. Put money in the 401K. Look forward to retirement when you can spend your remaining years in health and recreation. American Jesus also calls us to go to church “regularly” and volunteer when time permits. And, of course, give some money to charitable organizations. We’re not really afraid to hear from American Jesus because American Jesus is simply a projection of ourselves.

Biblical Jesus, on the other hand, is another story. He’s the one that makes us nervous. Biblical Jesus says things like…

“If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)

“If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it.” (Luke 9:24)

“Follow me now. Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead.” (Matthew 8:22)

“Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.” (Matthew 9:62)

“Look, I am sending you out as sheep among wolves.” (Matthew 10:16)

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple.” (Luke 14:26)

“So you cannot become my disciple without giving up everything you own.” (Luke 14:33)

“If you want to be perfect, go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

Mary taught us that when God speaks he may ask for hard things. At the same time, Mary inspires us to not be afraid of God’s requests. Obedience can be difficult and costly. But not as difficult or costly as disobedience, or worse, total indifference.

Categories : Advent, Christmas, Luke, Mary
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