Mary Said Yes!

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

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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.

The Word Became Flesh

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. – John 1:14, NIV

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God, the Son and the Word who was with the Father in the beginning became flesh.  He came into the world as a newborn Babe to live among men.  He was raised in a Jewish home to Jewish parents in the town of Nazareth.  He became a carpenter like Joseph before going into ministry.  As Man, Jesus experienced the things we experience such as hunger and thirst, tiredness and grief.  He was tempted like us but He didn’t sin.  He prayed daily to the Father.  He had friends and He socialized with different sorts of people, some of whom were treated as outcasts.

The glory John saw was the transfiguration of Jesus when He took Peter, James and him up to the high mountain where He communed with Moses and Elijah.  They were not to mention anything to anyone until He was raised from the dead (Matthew 17:1-3, 9).   Peter later wrote, “For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’  And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain.” (2 Peter 1:17, 18).

Jesus came from the Father to bring grace and truth into the world which was steeped in sin and darkness.  His grace was shown in his healing of diseases, the casting out of unclean spirits and in his interaction with tax collectors, sinners, the woman caught in adultery and the Samaritan woman.  He shared moral and religious truth through parables and the Sermon on the Mount.  He taught people how to live in relation to God and to people.  Jesus placed God’s truth which was found in His Word above the traditions of men and the lies of Satan.

As you celebrate this Christmas season, reflect on the amazing reality that Jesus, by Whom all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, set aside His majesty and glory and came in the form of man to tabernacle among the people (Colossians 1:16; Philippians 2:7).

Thank You, Lord Jesus for becoming like us, so that in the flesh You could save us.

The Unlikely Spy

There were other reasons, too. Seventy-five percent of Jews survived in France. And so many non-Jews risked their lives to save ours. Wasn’t that our duty to defend our country too? It was our duty, absolutely – Marthe Cohn

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Image from The Portland Press Herald

Born a French Jew in Metz, France on 13 April 1920, Marthe Hoffnung never once imagined that she would one day become a spy in Nazi Germany.  She was one of seven children of an Orthodox Jewish.  They lived near the German border in France when Hitler rose to power. As the Nazi occupation expanded, her sister was sent to Auschwitz while her family fled to the south of France.

In the year 1944 after France was liberated, Marthe  enlisted and became a member of the Intelligence Service of the French 1st Army.  Following 14 unsuccessful attempts to cross the front in Alsace, she crossed the border into Germany near Schaffhausen in Switzerland.  She assumed the identity of a German nurse because of her Aryan appearance (blond hair, blue eyes and fair skin) and her ability to speak and read German fluently and claimed that she was searching for her missing fiancée. She provided critical information for the Allied commanders.

For her bravery, Marthe was awarded the Croix de Guerre and Médaille Militaire.  At the age of 80, she received France’s highest military honor, the Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur (Legion of Honour).  Her children didn’t know that this woman faced death daily to defeat the Nazi Empire.  Under extraordinary circumstances, this ordinary woman became the heroine for her country.  She helped to defeat the enemies of freedom.

After the war Marthe returned to France and pursued a career as a nurse.  In1956, while studying in Geneva, she met an American medical student, Major L. Cohn, who was a friend’s roommate.  Within three years, they got married and settled down in the United States. They worked together for years, he as an anesthesiologist and she as a nurse before they retired.

In 2002, Marthe co-authored with Wendy Holden a book about her experiences entitled, Behind Enemy Lines: the True Story of a French Jewish Spy in Nazi Germany.  She is now 99 years old and is currently living with her husband husband in Palos Verdes, California.  She continues to tell her story because “human beings have very short memories and it’s extremely important to remind them of what happened.”  In particular, the extermination of 6 million Jews by Nazi Germany during the Holocaust.

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Today, on Remembrance Day, Notes to Women wishes to acknowledge and salute this brave woman who risked her life to help to put an end to an evil regime. She did her duty.

Let us remember all of the brave men and women who risked their lives for our freedom.

Sources: The Portland Press Herald; Wikipedia; TCU Place; Maine Public

Redeemed

And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Mark 15:34

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When Jesus was on the cross, He was mocked.  Those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, save Yourself, and come down from the cross!”  The religious leaders joined in the ridicule as well, saying, He saved others; Himself He cannot save. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.”  It must have been painful for Jesus to hear them say those things.  These were the same people of whom Jesus asked of God, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

They had no idea of what was really at stake.  They were mocking Jesus about not saving Himself not realizing that wasn’t His purpose at all.  As He pointed out at the time of His arrest, if He wanted to spare Himself the agony of the Cross, “…do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels?  How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” (Matthew 26:53, 54). 

Had Jesus come down from the cross to save Himself, we would all be lost and eternally separated from God.  Love for the Father and us kept Jesus on that cross.  He was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world.  He was the Savior of the world.  God sent Him to die in our stead so that we could have everlasting life.  John 3:16 puts it so beautifully, For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” When God sent Jesus into the world, it wasn’t to condemn the world but to save it through Him (Verse 17, NKJV).  The cross is our salvation and evidence of God’s incredible love for us. 

As much as it pains me to see Jesus hanging from the cross whenever I watch a biblical movie about His life, it reminds me of what Jesus said to Nicodemus.  And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up,that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” (Verses 14 & 15). 

Sin separates us from God.  When Jesus was on the cross, bearing our sins, He was separated from the Father.  That was why He cried out, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mark 15:34).  Jesus became the Sin-bearer and it was that sin that the Father condemned.  Jesus was forsaken for our sake so that we would be forgiven for our sins once we accept His atoning work on the cross.

How terrible it is to be separated from our heavenly Father.  This sobering thought should motivate us not to live any longer like other people in the world do but to live as Jesus did–in loving obedience to the Father.  He was obedient even on to death.

Jesus laid down His life for us to show His love.  How can we return this love?  We do so by obeying Him and having faith in Him.  Today and everyday, let us live our lives for the One who willingly went to and stayed on that cross so that He could redeem us to God by His blood (Revelation 5:9).  Our redemption came a great cost (1 peter 1:18-19).

Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb;
Redeemed thro’ His infinite mercy,
His child, and forever, I am – Hymn #338

God Rejoices

Zephaniah 3

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Photo by NastyaSensei Sens on Pexels.com

God is such a wonderful and amazing God.  He warns people (the Israelites), gives them time to reflect then repent, judges them when they don’t repent and then restores them.  We don’t deserve His mercy but God is a God of love.  He regathers, redeems and restores the remnant.  Their response is to rejoice in their Redeemer.

My favorite verses are:  Zion, let not your hands be weak.  The Lord your God in your midst, The Mighty One, will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing.” 

Imagine God Almighty rejoicing over you with gladness and singing! 

Source:  Bible Gateway

Only God Can Restore Us

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Hosea 14

The people are exhorted to return to the Lord, ask Him to take away their iniquity, to receive them and in return they will offer the sacrifices of their lips such as praise, thanksgiving and confession.  They will acknowledge and confess that no nation can save them and that no longer will they say that their idols, the works of their hands, are their gods.

They will acknowledge and confess that the Lord is their God and that only He could save them.  And in response to this, God will heal their backsliding and love them freely.  He will turn His anger away.  They will no longer have anything to do with idols.

Verse 8:  I am like a green cypress tree; Your fruit is found in Me is similar to what Jesus said in John 15:4:  Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.  Our fruit is found in God.  Unless we abide in Him and He in us, we can do nothing and any effort to do our own will, not seeking Him, trusting in ourselves or in others, our efforts will be in vain and fruitless.

God is the only One who can restore us when we go astray.  Nothing or no one can save us.  Only in God, can we find mercy and deliverance.