Mary sets a subtle yet striking example in her devotion to prayer. As a matter of fact, her prayers are the bookends of her story: in Luke 1, she pours out a prayer of thanksgiving for God choosing her and sending Jesus to be her Messiah, and in Acts 1, she joins the other believers in praying for the Holy Spirit to come, and ultimately, for revival to come.
Prayer is so easy to talk about - but often hard to actually do. I think most of us would say we believe that God answers prayer, but how many of us actually pray like we believe it? I love this quote by E. M. Bounds: "What the church needs today is not more machinery or better, not new organizations or more and novel methods, but men whom the Holy Ghost can use -- men of prayer, men mighty in prayer. The Holy Ghost does not flow through methods, but through men. He does not come on machinery, but on men. He does not anoint plans, but men, men of prayer."
Our families need our prayers. Our churches need our prayers. Our neighborhoods need our prayers. Our country needs our prayers. Let's be determined to be the ones who cry out to God to intervene, to send His Holy Spirit, and to bring revival - and let's ask Him to start with us.
Faithfulness is a lost art in our culture of instant gratification. The same desires that make us impatient to get what we want when we want it cause us to give up on people when we find ourselves facing friction, conflict, and an inevitable struggle.
But what would happen if we, like Mary, determined to be faithful, to be devoted, through thick and thin, through good and bad? Much like the vows we make when we enter into a marriage covenant, God calls us to a deep and committed to relationship with Him. And while His faithfulness is never-ending, ours is fickle. That is why we must make great effort to be devoted to Christ not just when life is good and following Him is easy, but when life is overwhelming and giving up is easy.
"Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him." -James 1:12
In Luke 2, verses 19 and 51, we see that in the midst of the many responsibilities of being a wife and mother, Mary took time to contemplate what was happening in her life and to meditate on what God had done.
Being reflective is one of the hardest thing for a woman in the 21st century for one simple reason: it takes time. Life is crazy, and there are demands on us all of the time. When we finally do have a few minutes to ourselves, our default is to play a game on our phones, watch a TV show, or do some other mindless activity just to "de-stress."
But when we don't take the time to reflect on our lives, on what God is doing and how He is working in our lives we can miss out on so much! When we reflect on God's goodness through the blessings in our lives, we find joy. When we meditate on His sovereignty through the stresses of the day (or week, or month), we find peace and comfort. When we remember the ways He's answered our prayers, we find hope and encouragement. And through all of it, we grow.
God is always at work around us. Let's make sure we don't miss it - let's take the time to reflect on what's going on around so that we can be encouraged and strengthened and grow closer to God through the process.
Luke 1:46-55 records for us Mary's beautiful prayer of thanksgiving to God. In it, she referenced Old Testament scriptures and stories more than a dozen times! This is striking when you consider that Mary was uneducated and likely illiterate. She was not able to read the Scriptures for herself - rather, she listened. And it's obvious that she listened intently, hiding the words of Scripture in her heart.
If we want to be godly women who can be used God, we must never underestimate the value of God's Word in our lives. Not only do the Scriptures convict us, encourage us, and direct us - they also equip us to pour into the lives of those around us. The more we know the Word of God, the more we can share the word of God.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
(Hebrews 12:1-3 NIV)
I find myself continually affected by the incredibly obvious truth in this passage. There's certainly quite a lot of truth in the passage, but what most continues to convict and excite me is the simplest line -- "let us throw off everything that hinders."
Interesting, is it not, that sin is addressed separately? That there are things that hinder us, which we must lay aside, that aren't even sin? Though, depending on how we treat the things that hinder us, they can quickly become sin through idolatry.
It's a simple question of priority.
If my priority, if my goal, is to not just finish the race, but to win the race, why would I hesitate to make whatever adjustments necessary to do so?
Some things must be sacrificed for the greater goal of victory.
In the grand scheme of things, is there really anything worth holding on to? I think not.
How wonderful to be able to have the freedom to run to Jesus completely unhindered!
The consequence of all these things would be to block the work of God in your heart and in your home and in your church. You cannot afford to do it. Time is too short. Judgment is too certain. Eternity is too long. God is too wonderful, and Christ is too beautiful, and Heaven is too glorious for us to allow anything in our lives to hold us back from winning the race of life.
-A. W. Tozer
I’m not one to keep a diary or journal. I’ve found that it’s too easy for me to slip in to negativity, so I avoid writing regularly unless it’s in a very disciplined format. For example, writing about what God is speaking to me about through my blog. I also have a 5-year Q&A a day journal that’s been a lot of fun to use.
I don’t remember a lot of the details, but I do remember that 2014 had a lot of ups and downs, as tends to happen in life. But as I flipped through this notebook, all I saw were the highlights; and all I remembered was the closeness I had with the Lord during that time; the answers to prayer I was receiving; the joy and the peace I felt. It was my gratitude notebook.
We know the word agape and we know it means sacrificial, but we don’t really connect
the dots beyond that. Sure, it costs. But I think I tend to assume that when it’s agape,
I’ll win in the end. And by win, I mean be loved in return.
I’m discovering that’s not true.
At least, not in the way I tend to want.
The trend is surrender. I’ve noticed it has become more and more popular — in books, sermons, and songs. It started with people like David Platt and Kyle Idleman, and has thrived quite nicely to this very day. You not only can be challenged to complete, daily surrender to Christ when you pick up a book at the Christian bookstore, but you can be challenged by lyrics of surrender on the radio or quotes on surrender on Facebook. It’s everywhere.
You see, surrender has become fashionable.
And yet, not.
In a word: passionate.
About Jesus, church, ministry, music, reading, family, friends, and sometimes even
iced skinny soy mochas.