Mary Said Yes!

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word” – Luke 1:38

mary_2

When the angel, Gabriel appeared to a young virgin named, Mary, in the town of Nazareth and told her that she would have a Son, she found the news astonishing seeing that she had never been with a man.  Yet, after he explained how this miraculous conception would happen, she believed him and her response was Yes.  She called herself the maidservant of the Lord.  In other words, she was going to do what the Lord asked of her.

She even sang a song, glorifying God, her Savior, rejoicing that He regarded her, his humble servant.  For saying yes to His plan, she would be called blessed by all generations.  She declared that, “…He who is mighty has done great things for me, And holy is His name” (Luke 1:46-49, NKJV).

Saying yes to God isn’t always easy.  It could cause problems.  For Mary a lot was at stake.  After she was betrothed to Joseph and just before they got married, she was found with Child by the Holy Spirit.   Joseph had no way of knowing how she got pregnant.  All he knew was that she was and that was a huge problem.  He loved Mary but he couldn’t go through with the wedding.  He had to divorce her quietly and he had to do it quietly because according to Jewish law, a betrothal was the same as a valid marriage.  So, although they weren’t formally married, Joseph was still considered Mary’s husband by betrothal.  A public divorce would have alerted the community to the fact that Joseph wasn’t the father of Mary’s child and she would have been stoned to death for adultery (Deuteronomy 21:22, 23).  

Poor Joseph.  His reaction to Mary’s pregnancy was understandable.  As far as he was concerned she had been unfaithful to him.  Mary must have tried really hard to explain how she got pregnant but it must have sounded too fantastic to Joseph.  While he was agonizing over what he had to do, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20, 21, NKJV). 

Joseph woke up from the dream.  What a relief.  All his troubles were gone.  He joyfully did what the angel commanded him.   He married Mary but didn’t consummate their marriage until after she had given birth to her firstborn Son Whom he named, Jesus.

Sometimes saying yes to God’s plan for your life might bring trouble, opposition or conflict into your life but God is in control.  He knows exactly what He is doing.  All you have to do is to trust and obey Him as Mary did.  She put God first and He blessed her and us with the Savior of the world.  Sometimes a situation may turn out to be completely different from how it appears.  Initially, Joseph saw Mary’s pregnancy as a betrayal but once it was explained to him, it became a blessing.  In his charge was the Christ Child.

This Christmas, be thankful that Mary said yes to God’s plan despite the risks.  She trusted in the God for Whom nothing was impossible.  Celebrate Joseph’s obedience too because once he learned the truth about Mary’s pregnancy, he didn’t hesitate do what the Lord commanded him through His angel and as a result he was there to witness God’s greatest miracle–the birth of His Son, Jesus.     

The Set Time

But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law,  to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship – Galatians 4:4, 5, NIV

Young pregnant Mary praying leaning on manger on Christmas Eve

God’s timing is always perfect.  At the set or appointed time, He sent His Son, Jesus, born of Mary of Nazareth, to redeem us.

Jesus was under the law because of His mother, Mary, who like the rest of us, was conceived in sin.  Just as Jesus had to be in the flesh in order to deal with the sin  in the flesh, He had to be under the law in order to redeem us who are under the law because of Adam and Eve.

The good news is that “for what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh:  That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” (Romans 8:3, 4).  The law cannot save us.  It can only condemn us.  It identifies the sin in our lives but cannot save us from it.  The law points to the One who can.

Jesus made it possible for us to satisfy the requirements of the law which had condemned us of sin by giving us the Holy Spirit.  When walk after the Holy Spirit, we become children of God, living in obedience to His law.  This means we are no longer under it’s penalty which is death.  At the set time, God sent Jesus to redeem us from the penalty of the law.

And the good news is that not only did Jesus redeem us from the penalty of the law but He made it possible for those who walk by the Spirit to become children of God and adopted into the Family, making us heirs and co-heirs with Him.    

Thank You, Father, for sending Your beloved Son, Jesus into the world at just the right time to redeem us.

Called

Ah, Lord GOD!  Behold, I cannot speak, for I am a youth – Jeremiah 1:6

smiling-young-man-with-crossed-arms-outdoors_1140-255 (1)
Image by Freepik

When God called me to be a pastor, I was scared.  I felt that at 26, I was too young to be lead the congregation of a megachurch here in Birmingham, Alabama but while I was praying about it, the Holy Spirit brought the calling of prophet Jeremiah to my mind.

He was young too when God called to be a prophet which is a tremendous responsibility and the youth protested because he didn’t feel qualified because of his age.  But God quickly addressed his concerns with these words, “Do not say, ‘I am a youth,’ For you shall go to all to whom I send you, And whatever I command you, you shall speak.  I think what probably cinched it for Jeremiah when the Lord told him him not to be afraid of the people and promised to be with him to deliver him.

I realized that I wasn’t in this alone.  God called me and he was going to be with me just as He was with Jeremiah.  All I had to do was to do whatever He commanded.  I stepped out in faith and showed up at the church I was to pastor and the rest, as they say is history.  I just celebrated my tenth anniversary as pastor and I’m still going strong, thanks to God who not only called me to serve Him but qualified me to do it to His glory.

My experience has taught me that we are never too young of too old to be used by God.  He will equip us for the work He calls us to do and He will be with us every step of the way.  We have nothing to fear or worry about because He promises to be with us.  Like Jeremiah, we don’t have to worry about what to say.  God will give us the words.  He will put the words in our mouths when the time comes for us to teach, share the Gospel or in my case, to preach.  Just trust and obey Him and He will do the rest.

The above is a story of fiction but it was inspired by David Platt, who at the age of 26, was hired to lead the congregation of The Church at Brook Hills, a megachurch in Birmingham, Alabama. He was the youngest megachurch pastor in America at the time.  Like the prophet, Jeremiah, he is a testimony that age isn’t a factor when it comes to serving God.

Source:  Bible Gateway

Coping As Best As We Can

pexels-photo-1510149
Photo by Dương Nhân

It has been over a month since we lost our dear son.  There are times when I feel fine and there are other times when I break down and sob uncontrollably because the pain is so deep.  It’s deep, deep down and it hurts.  The void he has left in our lives is like a huge chasm which can never be filled.

I know that we are not going through our sorrow alone.  God is right there with us, in the midst of the storm, the darkness and His presence gives us great comfort.  The psalmist says that “Weeping may last through the night but joy comes in the morning.”  We are still weeping and I suspect that we will be for a very long time but we know that the joy we are promised will come.  Right now, we are coping as best as we can with God’s help.

Parents, please spend quality time with your kids every day.  Don’t let anything prevent you from doing that.  What we learned from our son’s death is that life is fragile.  People are here today and gone tomorrow.  Never once when we woke up that day, did we ever imagine that before six that evening our son would be dead.  He was only eleven years old.  We always believed that he would outlive us.  We never thought that we would end up burying him.

Don’t take your loved ones for granted.  We have today.  We are not guaranteed tomorrow.  Make sure you hug your children and tell them you love them daily.  And if you’re Christians, teach them about God as early as possible.  In a Mother’s Day card, my son thanked me for teaching him about God.  Teach them that they have a Heavenly Father who loves them and a Savior who gave His precious life for them.  And tell them that they have a Comforter who is the Holy Spirit.

Make sure that you say, “I love you” to your loved one every opportunity you get because you never know when it will be the last time you do so.

The Unknown God

Greece&Turkey1
Photo:  Joe Walsh Tours

“Men of Athens, I perceive that in all things you are very religious;  for as I was passing through and considering the objects of your worship, I even found an altar with this inscription:  TO THE UNKNOWN GOD…” – Acts 17:22, 23

One of my favorite sermons of the apostle Paul’s was the one he made at the Areopagus.  When he was in Athens and he saw the idols, he was provoked.  He wasted no time talking to the people, both Jews and Gentiles about Jesus and His resurrection.  That got the attention of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers and they were curious about what he was talking about.  Some called him a “babbler” while others perceived that he was preaching about foreign gods.  So, they took him to the Areopagus and asked him, “what this new doctrine is of which you speak?  For you are bringing some strange things to our ears. Therefore we want to know what these things mean.”  That’s how they spent their time–standing around and telling about or listening to new things.

This was a perfect opportunity for Paul to talk to them about the true God whom they called, “the unknown God”.  So, he stood in their midst and with the guidance of the Holy Spirit whom Jesus said would “teach you in that very hour what you ought to say” (Luke 12:12).  Paul starts out by acknowledging that the people were very religious and that he was considering the objects of their worship.  He mentioned the altar with the inscription:  TO THE UNKNOWN GOD.  He then proceeded to tell them about the God whom they were worshipping in ignorance.

God who made the world and all that is in it, being Lord of both Heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by human hands, nor is he ministered to by human hands, as though he had need of anything—seeing that he is the one who gives to all men life and breath and everything else.” 

Unlike the other gods, we shouldn’t imagine God as being like gold, silver, or stone, or is an image carved by humans using their own imagination and skill. Idols cannot see, hear, talk or move.  They have to be taken up and carried around.  Why would anyone worship gods made by people when they could worship the true, living God? 

Paul informed his audience that “God tolerated man’s past ignorance about these things, but now he commands everyone to put away idols and worship only him.  For he has set a day for justly judging the world by the man he has appointed, and has pointed him out by bringing him back to life again” (Acts 17:22:31). 

When he mentioned the resurrection, some of the people laughed but others wanted to hear more.  A few, however, joined him and became believers, among them was Dionysius, a member of the court of Areopagus and a woman named Damaris

When it comes to sharing our faith with others, we will encounter the skeptics and opposition but we will also find those who will believe and accept the message.  What Paul did that day was worth the ones who wanted to hear more and the few who believed.  God will present us with opportunities to tell others about Him.  We just have to be open and willing like Paul.

Sources:  Bible Gateway; Blue Letter Bible

Dating

You may wonder if the Bible says anything about dating.  It doesn’t directly, but there are guidelines that can apply to your situation.

The first thing you do is pray about it.  God knows best and He knows people.  He will know right off the bat who would be a good match for you and whom you should avoid like the plague.

If you are a Christian, you should date one.  The Bible tells us not to team up with those who are unbelievers (2 Corinthians 6:14, TLB).  It is important to know that it is not enough that the person is a Christian.  Not everyone who says he or she is a Christian is one.  They may be in name only but not in practice.  Paul warns us about this, “you are not to associate with anyone who claims to be a Christian yet indulges in sexual sin, or is greedy, or worships idols, or is abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Don’t even eat with such people” (1 Corinthians 5:11).  And that is why when you pray about a potential mate ask God for one who loves Him.  You want a godly mate.   Believe it or not, you want someone who would put God before you.  You want someone who loves God more than you.

Don’t let anyone pressure you into doing what you don’t want to do.  The Bible tells us to “run from anything that stimulates youthful lust.  Follow anything that makes you want to do right. Pursue faith and love and peace, and enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts” (2 Timothy 2:22).

Dating should not include a sexual relationship.  “But our bodies were not made for sexual immorality. They were made for the Lord, and the Lord cares about our bodies.  Run away from sexual sin! No other sin so clearly affects the body as this one does. For sexual immorality is a sin against your own body.  Or don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, for God bought you with a high price. So you must honour God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:13, 18-20).  Don’t do something you will later regret.

Date someone who has a positive attitude, encourages you and is supportive.  Make sure you both want the same things.  I have heard of horror stories about couples who get married and never discussed having children.  The woman learns too late that her new husband does not want to be a father.  If your relationship is serious and you know that this is the person you want to marry, put everything out on the table.  You definitely don’t want any surprises after you are married.

Take things slowly—let the relationship progress slowly.  Get to know one another.  Take your time.  There is no rush.  Successful relationships take time and effort.  They need to be cultivated.  Don’t allow your relationship to consume so much of your time that you exclude others.  Don’t think only about your own affairs, but be interested in others, too, and what they are doing (Philippians 2:4).

Dating is fun if it is done responsibly and with God’s blessing.  God wants us to enjoy healthy and loving relationships.  God has someone for you.  Just as He matched Adam up with Eve who was suitable for him, He will do the same for you.  Just be patient and wait on Him.

Finish the Race

“And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there,  except that in town after town the Holy Spirit assures me that imprisonment and suffering are waiting for me.  But I don’t place any value on my life, if only I can finish my race and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace” – Acts 20:22-24, ISV

womanbible-1000x667

Sharing the Gospel is no easy task.  It is with beset with hostility, resentment, persecution, opposition and in some cases leads to imprisonment or even death.  This is how it was in the apostle Paul’s time.  He testified,  I served the Lord with all humility, with tears, and with trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I never shrank from telling you anything that would help you nor from teaching you publicly and from house to house. I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance to God and faith in our Lord Jesus” (Acts 20:19-21, ISV)He was beaten, imprisoned, in danger of his life at the hands of those who wanted to stop him from doing the work Jesus had called him to do. 

Yet, Paul persevered.  He didn’t allow the actions of others or fear to impede him.  He was in a race and he was determined to finish it even if it cost him his life.  He was  true soldier.  He was in a war that will continue to rage until Jesus returns.  It is a spiritual war and as he pointed out we are not fighting against flesh and blood, but against rulers, authorities, cosmic powers in the darkness around us, and evil spiritual forces in the heavenly realm” (Ephesians 6:12, ISV).  These were the forces which were working against him at every turn of his ministry but through it all, he had the assurance that the Lord was with him. 

When he was in Corinth, the Lord spoke to him in a vision, saying, “Do not be afraid, but speak, and do not keep silent;  for I am with you, and no one will attack you to hurt you; for I have many people in this city.”  Paul was encouraged and he remained in Corinth for a year and a half, teaching the Word of God (Acts 18:9, 10, NKJV).

We have the same assurances as Paul did.  We are not alone in our ministry to share the Gospel.  The Lord is with us every step of the way.  We cannot be afraid to do the Lord’s work.  Instead, like the psalmist, we can boldly say, The LORD is on my side; I will not fear.  What can man do to me? (Psalm 118:6, NKJV).  So, no matter what the enemy throws at us, we are to speak and not keep silent.  The salvation of so many is at stake.  We, like Paul, must finish the race.