“Mary Don’t You Know”

The Gospel Of Luke, 1:26-38 KJV:

(26) And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth.  (27) To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.  (28) And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women. (29) And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.  (30) And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favour with God.  (31) And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.  (32) He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of his father David:  (33) And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.  (34) Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?  (35) And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (36) And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.  (37) For with God nothing shall be impossible.  (38)  And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.

Angels don’t make a practice of appearing to people in the middle of nowhere.  So when Dr. Luke starts out his narrative, a short story about an angel appearing–both to Zechariah and ALSO to Mary, we know something special is about to occur–something that has never happened in the history of the world.

Seemingly out of the blue, God was about to announce His eternal plans in specific detail to one young and seemingly insignificant young girl, living in an insignificant small village of Nazareth.

Now the background of this narrative might seem small and unimportant in the big picture of things–where Mary was living and who she was engaged to.  But the engagement was all important, as it connected her to the GREATER PROMISE made long ago by the prophet Jeremiah 23:5:

“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch (Sprout), and He will reign as King and do wisely and will execute justice and righteousness in the land”  (Amplified Bible).

Even though Mary was a seemingly miniscule young girl living in a small out of the way village, God was going to use her womb to turn the whole world upside down.

images (1)Gabriel said “HAIL” – ‘Greetings’ to you who are highly favoured!  The LORD is with you.”

Here was a young girl, between the ages of 12 to 17 years old, recently engaged to a man she barely knew, planning with her mother no doubt, the future wedding. What to wear, how many guests to invite, food for the reception, a future place to reside….

Let’s just imagine that afternoon, Mary’s mother might have asked her to go to the well to fetch a bucket of water; so the dishes from the previous meals would be clean.  Afterall, Joseph was dropping by for supper that night, and they wanted everything presentable; to leave a good impression on the groom to be.

With bucket (vessel) in hand, Mary walks outside in the brightness of the sun, and there appeared a handsome, dark-haired young man, standing between her and the well. Surely she was troubled by the stranger’s words and wondering what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her (v. 30),  “FEAR NOT, MARY; for you have found favour with God.”

First of all, notice Mary’s initial reaction to the angel’s greetings.  She was “TROUBLED” and “CAST IN HER MIND”…( I call it “meditating” on the spoken words).  A practice we should all take part in when the WORD is spoken.  Meditate on what is spoken for us, to us, and over us.

The angel had literally told this young girl, that she was about to be the recipient of an undeserved GIFT of God.  What kind of gift would it be?  Why was the angel appearing to HER, a simple and sinful servant of the Lord?  Something BIG was about to happen–but she didn’t know what.

So Gabriel went on…“You will conceive…and bring forth a son”

The whole concept of GIVING BIRTH is a Miracle in and of itself.  If you have ever seen pictures of how a sperm and an egg unite, quickly forming into eyes, ears, legs, and a whole human body, it is a miraculous thing.  It is what we call “PREGNANCY”.

But here, Gabriel was telling Mary–a VIRGIN–that she was going to have a son.

That right there would be enough to absolutely put any woman, much less a young girl, into shock!

But Gabriel wasn’t done!

Today, when a woman becomes pregnant, one of the fun things to do is to measure how BIG the child is.  With fertility pills, the idea of giving birth to twins, multiple births, has jumped in number to six or seven rather than just two.  I would think that most mothers who find out they are having more than one child might be overwhelmed at such a thought.

But this news of Gabriel was far beyond that.  “You are to give him the name JESUS.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.”

Imagine if you can, what Gabriel was telling Mary here in the passage.  You are going to give birth to not just a ten pound son–to twins or triplets–but the Son of the Most High–God Himself.

GOD was going to be put into her womb–and start growing there.  How would God, who fills the universe, be able to fit into Mary’s womb?

Gabriel wasn’t done.

Mary wouldn’t even get to pick His name, because His name was already picked out–JESUS.  This is the Greek transliteration of the Old Testament name JOSHUA–which is a shortened form of two Hebrew words meaning–“the Lord saves”.  The son that she would have–GOD–would be the Savior of the world–long foretold!

What would this Savior end up doing?  

“The Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; His kingdom will never end.”

Many women over the course of history have given birth to kings.  Some of them have had the pleasure of seeing their sons be crowned.  Others have had the sorrow of seeing them dethroned.  Mary’s Son, however, is to reign forever.  His kingdom would never end.

MARY never asked the question “Why me?”

As a descendent of Jacob, she knew why.  She had read of the CURSE that mankind had been under from the fall of Adam and Eve.  She knew from the religious rites and regulations of sacrificing sheep and the Passover–that a Savior had to come to SAVE them from their sins.

God had promised Abraham “through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed (Genesis 22:18).

BY FAITH, Mary knew WHY this had to happen–what she didn’t know was the question “How”?

“How will this be Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

This wasn’t a question of DOUBT–but a question of mechanics.  Mary was about to experience the FACT that God doesn’t always do things NATURALLY!  He does them SPIRITUALLY–BY HIS WORD!

Throughout the first chapter of Genesis, we read over and over again…God SAID…God SAW…(Genesis 1:3-4; 6-7; 9-12; 14-15, 18; 20-21; 24-25; 26; 29-31).

So the question arises, how important are WORDS–presented by Luke’s narrative on Mary’s CONCEPTION?

I remember when I was a child, my mother telling me repeated times, “Sticks and stones will break your bones, but names will never hurt you.”  As well-meaning as mom was–she wanted me to get over my “hurt feelings”–it was a lie!  Names did hurt, because I allowed the spoken word of others (the bullying), to manifest in my spirit.

WORDS are “things” that can take on substance every time they are spoken.  Words eventually produce tangible “things,” good or bad (Proverbs 18:20-21). 

In 1 Samuel 3:17, when Eli referred to God’s spoken words, he used the word “THING”:

[16] Then Eli called Samuel and said, “Samuel, my son.  And he answered, “Here am I.”  [17] And he said, “What is the THING that the Lord hath said unto thee? I pray thee hide it not from me; God do so to thee, and more also; if thou hide any THING from me of all THINGS that he said unto thee.”  [“Thing (s) capitalized for emphasis only]

smalloneWORD SEEDS were the KEYS to the virgin birth of Jesus Christ found in Luke 1:26-31.

The angel Gabriel presented God’s Word to Mary, but only she had the authority to bring that WORD from God to pass.

When Mary gave VOICE to the WORD, a “thing” was released.

Applying this important KEY to our lives today, words of prayer, WORDS spoken–WORD SEED first, then CONCEPTION takes place as soon as we give VOICE to a thing.

In Luke 1:45, we read “blessed (happy to be envied) is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of the THINGS that were spoken to her from the Lord”  (Amplified bible).

The angel told Mary that her CONCEPTION would be supernatural and referred to the baby Jesus as a “HOLY THING” (Lk. 1:35).  The VIRGIN BIRTH occurred when the Holy Spirit intervened to carry out the WORDS that Mary spoke.

Mary’s cousin Elisabeth’s pregnancy, after being BARREN, was evidence that ALL THINGS are possible with God (vs. 36-37).  What an encouragement this must have been to this young girl, and what an encouragement it is us today: ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE!!!

conception_pregnancy_hormones_s8_2When Mary verbally accepted the spoken WORD of God and spoke into her life, she became pregnant (vs. 38):  Then Mary said, Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be done to me according to what you have said. And the angel left her.”  (AMP)

Mary agreed (internalized) the WORD-SEED of God and spoke–(‘planted’) it over her life–then the THING she spoke materialized (manifested) in the natural world.

Mary BELIEVED God, so she RECEIVED the fulfillment of the “thing” for what she believed (v. 45).

When we believe God and speak HIS WORD over our lives, we can receive the “things” that we speak.

God never intended the BIRTH OF JESUS to be a surprise to anyone.

He predicted it would happen in Isaiah.  He predicted it would happen in Micah.  He sent His messenger Gabriel, to SPEAK “things” to Mary on what was to happen.

Now you may have heard the Christmas story many times by now–but don’t let the wonderful old story stop enlightening your FAITH through the holidays.  GOD became MAN through a virgin–to live and die for each one of us.  What a WONDERFUL GIFT Christmas is!!!

 


CREDITS:

Photos:  Google Image; MedicineNet.com

Sermon Notes used for this blog:  Creflo Dollar Ministries on Luke 1:26-38.

Commentary:  MARY: Believing the Impossible @ Keep Believing Ministries.

Bible Translations:  King James Version and the Amplified Bible.

 

 

The Challenge Preaching and Teaching to All Who Are Listening!

1 Corinthians 3:1-3 NIV Bible:

[1]  Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly–mere infants in Christ.  [2] I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it.  Indeed, you are still not ready.  [3] You are still worldly.  For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?  Are you not acting like mere men?

FIRST of all, I’m not a Pastor.  But a preacher, a teacher…that I am.  Now that I cleared that up, I can proceed with some principles.  Principles I’ve discovered over 40 years of teaching… which might just help in your sharing of the gospel to all!.

Preaching and Teaching to the Immature and the Spiritual Giants…

Every week, pastors all over the world are asked to do something that is almost impossible:  Preach and teach a message to a group of people which includes…

—  Teenagers to seniors.

—  Men and women.

—  Mature disciples and not-yet-believers.

—  The faithful and the skeptical.

—  Regular attenders and first time guests.

—  Singles, married, divorced and “it’s complicated.”

—  Those who need comfort and those who need a swift kick in the…!

No wonder the pastoral burnout rate is so high!

As a Christian Blogger, I’ve been teaching through writing, as THE WORD DETECTIVE for 44 months with mixed results.  It’s still tough, but I’ve become steadily better at it in time.  But mostly by trial and error.  While I don’t claim to have mastered the art of writing down all my thoughts, I have discovered a few simple principles that may help in your particular giftings.

"Babes" and "Giants"
“Babes” and “Giants”

“Babes in Christ”–Who are they?

“I had to feed you with milk and not with solid food because you couldn’t digest [“stomach”] anything stronger.  And even now you still have to be fed milk”  (1 Corinthians 3:2 TLB).  {I added the word “stomach” in brackets for emphasis}

“Babes in Christ” are Christians who aren’t sufficiently advanced to the teachings of the Word of God.  They are still majoring in the simple and easy truths of the Bible; they see Him as a God of Love but can’t picture Him as a God of wrath and judgement.

So, they RESIST any kind of “strong” or “hard” preaching/teaching against sin.  It doesn’t fit in their elementary theology box.

Could there be sadder words spoken by a Preacher to his congregation?

The Apostle Paul was addressing the Corinthian Church here–a church that was enriched with much knowledge and many spiritual gifts.  Yet in spite of their many BLESSINGS, they remained as “babes in Christ”–couldn’t “handle” the matters of doctrine. so they fill in the blanks with unsound reasoning and began making up their own DOCTRINE!  I’m sure they thought that they were “Spiritual Giants” in their thinking.  But were they not “babes in Christ” and didn’t know it?

Stay Fixed on THE WORD
Stay Fixed on THE WORD

PRINCIPLE NUMBER ONE:  Start and Stay with Scripture.

This is  KEY when teaching or preaching.  Don’t just use a verse or two–a jumping off point to say what you want to say.  STUDY IT and STICK WITH IT throughout the entire message.  Sure, we need to use personal stories, current events and common experiences in our communication, verbally or our writings.  BUT, as I have found, going down a “spiritual rabbit holes” can lead you in the direction of wrong intentions.

When I first started blogging, my oldest daughter sent me a message via Email:

“DAD, I enjoyed reading your story about Jesus in the Bible. Just a suggestion, you might use more personal stories to get your point across. LOVE YOU DADDY, Karen.”

Too many, well-meaning pastors and Christian writers are basing their messages, not on a passage from God’s Word, but on the title of the latest movie, a news headline, or the latest “a funny thing happened to me” story.

Forget Your Bible?
Forget Your Bible?

When in doubt of what to say, or teach is…“the TRUTH of God’s Word always, and I mean “always” speaks to everyone.”

PRINCIPLE TWO:  Learning Something New.

One of the best ways I’ve found in reading and using Scripture  is to MEDITATE on the passage I’ve chosen until I discover something I’ve never seen before.  Reading the words before me until they begin to speak to me.  And, if I don’t feel I’m ready…read it again until it does speak!

Second, I’ve learned over time, the things that I teach orally, preach or write might likely be deep enough for the “mature believer” as well.

I love reading the comments left on my published blogs;  “Thanks, Mel!  I never saw it in that way before!”  To which I reply, “Me either!”

There are few things more invigorating to a church member, as hearing from their pastor who keeps learning and sharing new depths in God’s Word.  And by the way, tell your pastor, encourage your pastor, in acknowledging the truth presented.

PRINCIPLE THREE:  Using the Simplest Language Possible.

After studying and prayer each morning, I go through my notes and edit my rough draft with a Roget’s Thesaurus next to the computer.  I try to replace all the multisyllabic theological terms into everyday terminology.  The same words I would use in casual conversation at the local coffee shop.  I feel it is my responsibility to help my readers, or the Bible Study attendees, to understand biblical concepts and doctrine in such a way, that they can take with them and live them out.

It’s not easy…

Sometimes it’s hard to explain deep concepts in simple language with all the commentaries, books available,  etc., but I’m learning in the process. If I can’t explain it in simple terms, I probably don’t understand it as well as I think I do.  So I study some more until I have a better grasp of God’s Word and can explain it simply [you might disagree].

PRINCIPLE FOUR:  Leave the Results in God’s Hands.

Although frustrated at times, I have certainly learned over the years…you can’t speak with your lips or write weekly blogs, that everyone will get something different from the same message or topic given.  Only God’s WORD can do that.  So I do what I can do, and leave the rest in God’s hands.

I can’t reach the sorrowing widower, the struggling single parent, the alcoholic dad, the skeptical seeker at the same time.  But the Holy Spirit working through God’s Word in speech or in writing can.

The Holy spirit steps in and does something we could never do.  He speaks to each person so specifically, that I hope and pray they leave the pages I write, leave knowing, “That MESSAGE was just for me.”

“Babes in Christ” and “Spiritual Giants” are listening…

HEBREWS 5:12-14 AMP:

[12]  “For even though by this time you ought to be teaching others, you actually need someone to teach you over again the very first principles of God’s Word.  You have come to need milk, not solid food.”

[13]  “For everyone who continues to feed on milk is obviously inexperienced and unskilled in the doctrine of righteousness (of conformity to the divine will in purpose, thought, and action), for he is a mere infant [not able to talk yet]!”

[14]  “But solid food is for full-grown men, for those whose senses and mental faculties are trained by practice to discriminate and distinguish between what is morally good and noble and what is evil and contrary either to divine or human law.”

Who are the “someones” and the “everyone’s” in your life?

I wanted to leave you with a question rather than an answer.  And if you don’t know the answer, that’s okay.  Should you know the answers?

I have only presented a brief summation of God’s Principles and presenting the TRUTH to Pastors, teachers, preachers, and bloggers (writers).

“If indeed God permits, we will [now] proceed [to advance teaching].  For it is impossible [to restore and bring again to repentance] those who have been once for all enlightened, who have consciously tasted the heavenly gift and have become sharers of the Holy Spirit.  And have felt how good THE WORD OF GOD is and the mighty powers of the age and world to come”  (Hebrews 6:3-5 AMP).

 

Photo Credits:

Photo Pin

Credits: 

Signs of Spiritual Immaturity – “Babes in Christ” and “Spiritual Giants” by Connie Giordano – Walking in Faith.

 

 

 

 

Practicing MORE of Jesus– HABITS!

Meditating on the WORD

THE HABIT of MEDITATION/PSALMS

We know Jesus spent His time first on;  “prayer and solitude“.  Secondly on “worship“. Thirdly on “prayer and confession“.  The fourth habit I discovered this week, is the habit of spending time with God; hanging out with God so-to-speak, in meditation.

There is a practice of Jesus’ life, a definite in-between-the-lines kind of practice in the Gospels of Luke and Matthew; both have Jesus saying something while hanging on the cross.  First, Matthew tells the story this way:

“And about the ninth hour (three o’clock) Jesus cried with a loud voice, Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani–that is, My God, My God, why have You abandoned Me?”  (Matthew 27:46–Amplified Bible).

And Luke tells the story this way:

And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!  And with these words, He expired”  (Luke 23:46).

Do you know that Jesus is quoting something here as He is hanging on the cross?  What is Jesus quoting?  He is quoting the Psalms.  In Matthew it is Psalm 22:1 and in Luke it is Psalm 31:6.  Keep in mind here, that Jesus didn’t exactly have a pocket Bible on hand with a handy concordance listing helpful Psalms while hanging on the cross at Calvary.  No, He would have had these psalms memorized.  It meant a significant time “hanging out” with God; meditating on the Psalms.

When it came to game time, Jesus is in the worst situation He’s faced.  The practice of meditation formed certain habits in Him that were coming out naturally.  Those habits come out as “muscle memory” on the cross.  He prays lines of the psalms because that’s what he spent time on while “hanging out” with His heavenly Father meditating upon.

The first Psalm offers a wonderful piece of wisdom in meditation:  “HOW BLESSED is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,  Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  And he will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,  which yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither; and whatever he does, he prospers”  (Psalms 1:1-3–NAS Bible).

To paraphrase the verses, “Those who meditate on the law or words of the Lord, day and night, are blessed; or happy, or fortunate.  They prosper like a tree planted by a stream.  They bear fruit in their life that is godly and their strength doesn’t wither.”  This may not always look like how we expect things to happen, but God sustains those who meditate on God’s words.

So what is meditation exactly?  Popularizations of Eastern religions might say, “the emptying of the mind”.  That’s not what Christian meditation is about.  Christian meditation is “rotating God’s word and God’s creation around in your mind and looking at it from every possible angle; chewing on it, savoring it like a gobstopper from Willie Wonka till it speaks to you.”  The rhema Word!

A “simple picture” of an autumn leaf

Let’s practice meditation on something very simple in the above picture of an autumn leaf found on the ground.  While out walking the dog this afternoon, I couldn’t help noticed all of the leaves that had fallen over the past several days.  I stopped and picked up a leaf very similar to the one in the above photo shot.  What questions did I have about it?  What did I notice?  In the above photo, notice things about the picture and ask yourselves questions about it.

Here’s some things I noticed about the leaf found on the ground today:

.  What kind of leaf is it?

.  How many points does it have?

.  What color red is this?

.  How many veins does it have?

.  Is it all one color or are there variations?

.  What are the small splotches on it?  Some are dark and some are gray. Is it mold or something else?

.  What does it look like on the other side?

.  Where did I find the leaf?  Under a tree?  On a sidewalk?

.  Are there other similar leaves around the one I found?

.  What kind of tree did they fall from?

This little exercise in meditation could go on and on.  God’s words and God’s creation are big enough and deep enough to meditate on the rest of our lives.  Every time we go back we also have new experiences that we bring with us, to help us see new and different things.

Jesus spent time meditating on God’s words.  Find some time to do so your self.

“PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT”

When I was 12 years old, everyone my age in the neighborhood was practicing on their rented accordions.  And of course, I needed to be like everyone else– or so I thought.  After my folks explained that accordion lessons were out of the question, my dad did know someone, who knew someone, who gave guitar lessons–at a reasonable price.  So I began STEEL GUITAR lessons.  The guitar laid across my lap and was plugged into a small amplifier that had a scorched mark on the back of the AMP.  Every day, my grandmother would call to me while I was playing catch in the front yard, “Mel, you better come in the house and practice your guitar.”  The lessons lasted for about a year anda half before I decided, being Les Paul was never going to happen– without PRACTICE anyway!

I didn’t want to practice on my guitar because of my parents reminding me to practice; I had to choose for myself to practice.  It is not any different in practicing more of Jesus’ habits.  You have to choose to choose!

The New Roget’s Thesaurus in Dictionary Form list PRACTICE, v. “train in, train for, become seasoned, drill, exercise, do again, repeat, rehearse (repetition); be in the habit, be addicted, follow.”  It’s a CHOICE!

THE HABIT OF LISTENING

The fifth habit of learning and practicing is LISTENING–sometimes hard to master but practicing can bring a new revelation about yourself.  May we practice these HABITS not just by our own power and strength but by the power of God working in us; Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

“People will rarely remember your advice but they will remember you listened“– by Cara Lawrence.  Jesus was and IS the consummate listener.  Imagine all those prayers He continues to listen to from people all around the world.  Everyday all day and night.

In February 1964, I met my wife-to-be and we went on our first date together.  After a movie at a Drive-in theater, we went to a restaurant by the name of Uncle Suzies’; it later became our regular hang-out.  I told her how impressed I was with her on the “first date”.  She replied, “Really, how so?”  “You are a good listener. You gave me exclusive attention by looking at me while I rambled on about my screwed-up life, never looking around to see if you knew someone else in the room.”  Her reply to the compliment was, “That’s just who I am I guess. Thank you.”  Her practice of listening came out naturally in who she was.  Both of us were not born again believers when we met; it wasn’t happenstance either.  Thank You Jesus!

Making the other person your focus takes practice for some of us–alright, most of us.  Begin by looking directly into the person’s eyes as you begin to talk to them.  Don’t be looking around at other people.  Forget your cell phone or the remote for that moment.  Listen for what is not said.

The last HABIT (there’s a lot more to find in God’s Word)that needs practicing, in my opinion and Jesus’ too is LOVE  (1 John 4:8): “He who does not love has not become acquainted with God, for God is love.”

LOVING AS A HABIT

Love is something you choose to do!  Love is not a feeling; it’s not a song either.  Do you remember the song by the Carpenters, “Close to You”?  Have you ever considered the lyrics?

“Why do birds suddenly appear,

Every time you are near?”

You have to ask yourself, “Do I really want to be near somebody who causes birds to appear suddenly?”  Didn’t Alfred Hitchcock do a horror movie about this?

Jesus’ LOVE is, a no matter what you’ve done, no matter where you’ve been, a no matter who you are kind of love.  He wasn’t afraid or embarrassed to express His love to someone.  He simply said, looking into their eyes, “I LOVE YOU!”

If practicing MORE of Jesus’ habits isn’t your thing right now, let me give you some wise advice and counsel.  Why is it wise?  Because someone gave it to me once!  My attitudes began to change because I chose to practice.  Do you need a new attitude?

“Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you]”  (Romans 12:2–Amplified Bible).

This isn’t a one time occurrence that happens when you are born again.  It has to be repeated.  When Practicing MORE of Jesus–HABITS!, becomes your choice, not someone else s will for your life, a new attitude will surface in a natural sort of way–as Jesus did while in this world.  Practice does make practicing the HABITS of JesusPERFECT!  Being MORE like Him!