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
We live in a culture that is all about making a name for yourself. We're constantly bombarded with messages from both secular and Christian sources that tell us to be all that we can be, to leave our mark on the world, and to stand out. I, myself, struggle with the desire for recognition and the temptation to not do something if I don't think it'll be appreciated or noticed. But the truth is that Scripture actually calls us to live quiet, humble lives that draw attention not to us, but to Christ.
Mary was a humble woman, content to live her life behind the scenes and make much of Christ. Instead of making a name for ourselves, let's be determined to make Christ's name known - and in the process we'll earn eternal rewards instead of the temporary ones that recognition in this world offers.
Anyone here struggle with control? I know I do! Another amazing thing about Mary is that she was a trusting woman. She trusted God not only to work in her own life, but also in the lives of those around her. Even after Joseph decided to divorce her, Mary trusted God and waited for Him to intervene rather than taking matters into her own hands, becoming manipulative, obsessive, or controlling. Rather than trying to force those around us to believe God, we must each surrender and trust God to work. If God said it, He will do it! His way, in His timing. Let's have the faith to wait.
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.
I marvel at this aspect of Mary's life, because I so easily give into the temptation to WHINE instead of WORSHIP. And when I consider what makes me whiny, it’s always something so insignificant, especially when compared with what Mary was facing. For me it could be I overslept my alarm, or maybe I was overcharged and have to call the internet company. Sometimes I’m just tired and I don’t feel being nice to someone, yet God has pushed them right in front of me to interact with. And I whine.
Mary faced incredible difficulties – difficulties with her family, with Joseph, with the culture around them. She faced physical difficulties of carrying a child and the childbirth to come – without medication! And she would face many more than she did not even know yet. And she worshiped.
Instead of focusing on our inconvenience, or on our fear, or on our exhaustion, let’s choose to focus on God – let’s choose gratitude for His wonderful acts, His mercy, and for choosing us to be part of His plan to reach those around us.
Hello There! So sorry for my long absence... much of my summer has been spent wedding planning! Cameron and I were married on September 29th in a beautiful ceremony surrounded by our closest family and friends. We are so thankful! But I'll be sharing more about that later.
For now, I'm super excited to be launching a brand new video devotional series! For the next month, I'll be posting videos every Tuesday and Thursday where we'll dig deep into the life of Mary of Nazareth, an ordinary woman used by an extraordinary God! This series is based off the booklet by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth titled "A Portrait of a Woman Used by God."
Here's today's video:
I think it's easy for us to get comfortable in life.
Comfort zones can be danger zones, though. When we get comfortable, we tend to become self-centered. We take things and people for granted. We stop giving. We start taking. We become proud. And God's not a fan of our stagnation, and He tends to only let us stay comfortable for so long before He begins to create some friction in our lives. Gently, at first, and then with increasingly more force as we stubbornly hold on to what we believe we need and have a right to - whether that's a certain emotional state of being, a particular relationship, an orderly set of circumstances, or even a way of thought and belief that is comfortable to us.
Our response to these disruptions reveals our heart. The right response is surrender to what God doing, trusting Him, and being obedient even in the hard things. When we surrender, we grow. We change. We become strengthened emotionally, relationally, and spiritually.
But often we respond negatively, with anger, resentment, and a stubborn refusal to change. That's when things tend to get bad, because God often has to use pain to motivate us to change, as most of refuse to budge until the pain of staying the way we are is greater than the pain of change.
Jonah is an example of someone who had a very clear comfort zone in life, and when God began to challenge him, he responded in anger. His desperation to maintain control over his life and choices made him emotionally unstable and ultimately estranged from God.
I'm excited to share this study on Jonah with you. it's one of my favorite lessons to teach. And yes, I know, I'm breaking the cardinal rule of blogging by publishing an article that's over 1,300 words - but I felt like it would be worth it.
I recommend you pull your Bible out and follow along. For the sake of time and space, I'll only be including key verses as we go through. Start with reading the book (it's just 4 chapters) to familiarize yourself with the story.
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
In a word: passionate.