Unchangeable, Promise Keeping God

And the journey continues….Ezra. Ezra is a history book about the Jewish people’s amazing return to Jerusalem from Babylon. Due to their evil idolatrous ways and forsaking of the worship of the one true God, they were carted away to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. Jerusalem was destroyed along with the temple. The precious gold bowls and articles of worship were carried away too. Their exile, which was warned about by a multitude of prophets, was accomplished by the Persian army and many of the Jewish citizens were deported to Babylon. All the prophets had foretold their exile and also their return. No date was given in earlier prophesy’s to their return but God promised to bring them back. As the time for exile approached, God sent a message to the people through Jeremiah that they would be exiled for 70 years and then be brought home to Jerusalem. The events in Ezra tell us how God used a pagan king to accomplish this feat and see to His people’s return 70 years after their deportation.

Daniel, one of the exiled Jews, spoke of how God uses all in His world to accomplish His will in his prayer. Daniel 2:21 He changes times and seasons;
    he deposes kings and raises up others.
He gives wisdom to the wise
    and knowledge to the discerning.
Daniel knew that God controlled who was in power and determined the future of His people.

The book of Ezra opens 70 years later. Ezra is a Jewish official, a scribe and a priest in the service of King Cyrus of Persia. The regime has changed and Cyrus had a revelation from God and his heart was moved towards the Jewish people living in his realm. Ezra 1:1-4  “In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, the Lord fulfilled the prophecy he had given through Jeremiah. He stirred the heart of Cyrus to put this proclamation in writing and to send it throughout his kingdom:

“This is what King Cyrus of Persia says:

“The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. He has appointed me to build him a Temple at Jerusalem, which is in Judah. Any of you who are his people may go to Jerusalem in Judah to rebuild this Temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, who lives in Jerusalem. And may your God be with you! Wherever this Jewish remnant is found, let their neighbors contribute toward their expenses by giving them silver and gold, supplies for the journey, and livestock, as well as a voluntary offering for the Temple of God in Jerusalem.”

There are several amazing things about this occurrence. Their return was foretold by Jeremiah before their exile in Jeremiah 25:11-12 and 29:10. Here is 29:10 “This is what the Lord says: “You will be in Babylon for seventy years. But then I will come and do for you all the good things I have promised, and I will bring you home again.” God was very specific on the number of years they would be in exile (70) and that when they returned they would have provisions. Cyrus ordered fellow Jews remaining in Babylon to support them and their efforts to rebuild the temple. He, a pagan king, was used by God in a mighty and miraculous way aid in the return of God’s people. They did return and began rebuilding the city, walls and temple. Ezra stayed, led in the instruction of the people in God’s ways so that they did not sin continue to sin against God. He had to return to Cyrus’ court and Nehemiah was led to go and continue this restoration.

What lessons can we take from this story? Foremost, God keeps His promises. God said they would go, they did. God said they would return, they did. The events were orchestrated by God and not by the Jews who were in exile. God knew the correct time for their return and who was going to be in power. God knew Cyrus would listen to His message and act upon it. One would never have thought that the golden bowls, etc. that were taken as plunder and placed in the Babylonian temple by King Nebuchadnezzar were there for safekeeping. Only God could take away, preserve and then return them to where He wanted them to be. That same God is the God we know today. Hebrews 13:8 tells us “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” He is our unchanging all powerful God who watches over all of us. This account gives me hope and assurance that God is who He says He is and will do what He says He will do, always and forever. It also assures me that God is Sovereign over nations, those in power and events happening in our world. When things look bleak, I need to always remember that God is indeed in control and walk trusting Him for my safekeeping. I know God keeps His promises!

Be encouraged by God today.

Linda

Promises From Isaiah Always Give Hope

And the journey continues….. Isaiah. Isaiah is considered a major prophet due to the fact that the book is lengthy with 66 chapters. The first 35 chapters are marked with prophesy after prophesy about the coming judgement due to the Israelites not staying faithful in worship of the one true God. Isaiah uniquely refers to God as the Holy One of Israel. The middle section of Isaiah, chapters 36-39 are an interlude with specifics about Judah’s present day problems with the Assyrians and the growing Babylonian Empire. King Hezekiah prays for guidance as he spread the letter from attacking Sennacherib before the Lord. God answered by saving Judah and later extended the life of Hezekiah by 15 years from an illness that had him at death’s door. The final chapters 40-66 are some of the most beautiful and comforting in the Bible. Isaiah prophesizes about God’s love, protection and restoration for the nation that He alone will provide during their coming exile in Babylon and promises they will return to the land He has given them. When they returned from 70 years of exile from their homeland, they did not stray to the worship of other gods and their man made idols. They worshiped the one true God, the Holy One of Israel.

My favorite verses are found in Chapter 49. Several of the verses in this chapter have given me great encouragement and strength. I want to share them with you. God promises restoration in verse 8-9a “This is what the Lord says:

“In the time of my favor I will answer you,
    and in the day of salvation I will help you;
I will keep you and will make you
    to be a covenant for the people,
to restore the land
    and to reassign its desolate inheritances,
to say to the captives, ‘Come out,’
    and to those in darkness, ‘Be free!’
Whenever God says, I will, He is making a promise to Israel and to you and me. God keeps His promises always. Here we see and feel God’s love and commitment to those who believe in Him. He will make things happen in His time and in His way. His ultimate way of freedom is in Christ as He freed us from the bondage of sin and restored our relationship with Him.

Isaiah 49:15-16 speaks of God never forgetting me and knowing who I am, and what I need is ever before Him. “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me.
This is a precious image of the depth of God’s love towards me. I know He goes before me and is always with me. He knows exactly who I am and has me engraved in the palm of His hand.

Isaiah 49: 23 “Kings will be your foster fathers,
    and their queens your nursing mothers.
They will bow down before you with their faces to the ground;
    they will lick the dust at your feet.
Then you will know that I am the Lord;
    those who hope in me will not be disappointed.
When I see things happening in my life that are beyond my control and frighten me, I can take comfort in knowing- God has this. He will be victorious and trusting in Him will never lead to disappointment.

Isaiah 49: 25 But this is what the Lord says:

“Yes, captives will be taken from warriors,
    and plunder retrieved from the fierce;

I will contend with those who contend with you,
    and your children I will save.
God acknowledges that many times things will look overwhelming or bleak in my life, but I need to remember that He will fight for me and that He will save me and those that will come after me. God promises there will always be a remnant of those who believe in Him.

One last favorite from Isaiah 55:11. I claimed this verse when I wrote and published my first book. I cling to God’s promise each time I give out God’s Word whether it is in a book, blog or when speaking. “so is my word that goes out from my mouth:
    It will not return to me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire
    and achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
We can be assured that putting forth God’s Word will not return empty or void. His Word has meaning and eternal value and He guarantees it will not come back empty but will always accomplish that which He desires. I claim and stand on this promise because- God says it and His will cannot be thwarted! Job 42:2 “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

I pray that these precious verses of promise speak to you today. May you believe that God loves you, that your faith in Him will not bring disappointment, that you will lean into Him trusting in His protection and supreme ability to fight your battles and that you will continue to speak out for Jesus knowing His words and truth will not return empty.

Linda

Working with God, No Fear!

And the journey continues….. to the small book of Haggai in the Old Testament. Haggai was a prophet God sent to encourage and motivate the returning exiles to Jerusalem. The king in Babylon, King Cyrus, had released Jewish captives to return and rebuild the temple which was destroyed when Nebuchadnezzar and his Babylonian army had ransacked Jerusalem and carried many Jews to captivity in Babylon. The work to rebuild and restore the temple met with opposition and ground to a halt. When Darius the Great became king of Persia he renewed the efforts and at this time Haggai and Zechariah began to preach and encourage, motivate and pressure the Jews to get going with the restoration.

I am drawn to Haggai 2:4-5 “But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord, ‘and work. For I am with you,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘This is what I covenanted with you when you came out of Egypt. And my Spirit remains among you. Do not fear.

Haggai is delivering a message of hope and courage from the Lord Almighty (El Shaddai, the All Sufficient One) that we too can take heed of and apply to our lives.

Here are some lessons and truths we can take away from this passage: 1. God promises to be with them, me and you, and He will never leave us or forsake us. That is a repeated promise throughout the Bible. I memorized Deuteronomy 31:6 and say it to remind myself of God’s presence with me at all times. 2. God is unchanging and eternal. What God promised and did when He delivered the children of Israel from the hands of Pharaoh in Egypt, He can and does still promise to for us as He sustains and helps us. 3. Fear does not come from God. His Holy Spirit is with us and will dispel our fears if we turn and focus upon Him. 4. I am to put my mind to the tasks God has given me and not waste time with fearful living. 5. God desires that I be strong and rely upon Him for my strength.

Haggai repeats over and over in this little book that God is God Almighty, the All-Sufficient One , who can be relied upon to carry us to victory. Where are you living in fear today? Haggai would say- get up, walk with God and trust Him to bring whatever you are afraid to face to completion. We need to remember His promises and move forward claiming His strength, courage, and hope as God will never leave you nor forsake you. God is Almighty!

Linda

Summer Wanderings… in God’s Word

As I was praying about what direction to go with my blogs this summer, I was led to share with you my favorite passages from throughout the Bible. Each week I will seek to blog on one Old Testament and One New Testament passage. I am excited to glimpse lessons and truths from the whole council of God. He uses all His Holy Scriptures to speak to us so we can live full, fruitful and glorifying lives as we walk with Him.

This week I was studying in the book of Ruth. Calamity surely befell this young widow and her mother-in-law Naomi as they lost their husbands. Naomi seeks to send Ruth back to her family, but Ruth clings to Naomi and speaks from her heart. Ruth 1:16-17 “ But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. 17 Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” This pagan young woman saw love and faith in Naomi in spite of her circumstances and chose to cling to her and her God.

They return to Bethlehem where Naomi’s husband’s family lived and they owned land. Ruth was devoted to Naomi and went daily to glean in the field to provide their food. Boaz, a relative, sees her devotion, work ethic, and love for her mother-in-law even though she is considered a foreigner in their land and would be looked down upon. He treats her with kindness and Naomi instructs Ruth to approach Boaz and seek his aid in redeeming their life and their land. Through a series of events, Boaz cleverly presents the buying of the land to a closer relative but tells him thoughtfully that purchasing the land that belonged to Naomi’s husband would entail marrying Ruth, the foreign girl from Moab so that her husband’s line could continue. The closer relative refuses as it would put his own inheritance in jeopardy, so Boaz ‘redeems’ the land and marries Ruth. Boaz is the ‘kinsman’ redeemer which is a beautiful pictured of Christ.

Ruth and Boaz marry and have a son they name Obed. Naomi is uplifted and renewed by this new grandson to love and cherish. Ruth is cared for by a kind loving husband. Boaz is rewarded for his love and kindness by a loving wife and family even though he is older. God shows favor upon Ruth, Boaz and Naomi as Obed becomes the father of Jesse and Jesse the father of King David who are in the line of Jesus the coming Messiah.

What do we take away from this lovely story? I see God’s providential care of Ruth and Naomi who loved Him. There was no luck involved in their circumstances as God knew what they needed and provided for them in a miraculous way. I also see God’s Sovereignty over horrible things that happened to them in Moab, the death of her sons and husband, yet bringing good from all those hard times. Two promises come to mind as I ponder this story. Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good,  a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him, “ Naomi and Ruth loved and trusted God and He worked the circumstances of their lives for their good as He cared for them. Romans 8:28 “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Really hard things happened to Ruth and Naomi and God turned the circumstances so that they were mightily blessed and provided for. Ruth, the pagan girl from Moab, finds God, His people and has her life redeemed. God is indeed good.

Where do you see God’s hand of care and love in your life? Is He moving and changing things so that you can see Him more clearly? He drew Ruth and Naomi closer to Him. How is God doing that for you? Has something difficult happened to you in the past that you can see where God brought good out of tragedy? Many times we will not see why the hard things in life happen to us, but one day we will see how God has woven our lives with the dark and light threads of life into a beautiful tapestry. Until then, we need to trust Him and cling to His precious promises with hope and reassurance that He is sovereign and loves us beyond measure.

Linda

Take some time this week and read the story of Ruth. It is only 4 short chapters and will surely bring you hope and blessing.

God is Impartial, A Message for All!

Paul concludes his argument about putting on the new life in Christ in Colossians 3:9-11. His powerful words are as freeing to us today as they were to the first century Christians in Colossae. “Don’t lie to each other, for you have stripped off your old sinful nature and all its wicked deeds. 10 Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him. 11 In this new life, it doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or a Gentile, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbaric, uncivilized, slave, or free. Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” These people lived in a society where people were separated race, religion, gender and social status. They were used to being put down, overlooked, cast out and neglected. Paul’s message was one of acceptance for all as those things do not matter or count in God’s kingdom. Jesus died for all!

Believers in Jesus could find freedom in God’s kingdom that was eternal and it promised equality for all. God is impartial. He sees no race, color, gender or status. God is only separated from us by our sin which knows no color or creed. All are called His children who believe in Jesus the Son. Romans 8:16-17 “For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory. But if we are to share his glory, we must also share his suffering.” He even names all Gentiles in Ephesians 3:6 “And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus.

Additionally, Jesus called us His friends. John15:13-15 “There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. 14 You are my friends if you do what I command. 15 I no longer call you slaves, because a master doesn’t confide in his slaves. Now you are my friends, since I have told you everything the Father told me.” We are precious to Jesus and God the Father. We are called friend, sons, and heirs. We have an inheritance through faith in Jesus.

Paul’s last line in verse 11 is “Christ is all that matters, and he lives in all of us.” Jesus is all that matters. Faith in Him is the only way to a relationship with God as He imputes His righteousness to us and makes us clean before Almighty God. I love the fact that God is impartial and loves and accepts all of us. We are all sinners redeemed by the Son for a relationship with Him. Here are a few verses to meditate upon about the Impartiality of God. He is impartial and desires that we be and act with impartiality, too. He desires for us to love all people as Jesus did.

Deuteronomy 10:17 “For the Lord your God is the God of gods and Lord of lords. He is the great God, the mighty and awesome God, who shows no partiality and cannot be bribed.”

Acts 10:34-35 “I see very clearly that God shows no favoritism. 35 In every nation he accepts those who fear him and do what is right.”

Romans 2:11 “For God shows no partiality.”

1 Peter 1:17 “And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time here as “temporary residents.”

As you meditate on the sufficiency of Christ and the impartiality of God, let these verses resonate within you and cause you to seek to live with a loving and impartial attitude towards all men. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can seek to love others wholeheartedly and impartially.

Linda

Advent Shows Light and Salvation for All!

Just like after John’s birth to Elizabeth and Zechariah, Mary and Joseph had a naming and circumcision ceremony on the eighth day. They named him Jesus as that was the name the angel gave them even before His birth. Luke 1:31 and Matthew 1:21 Then the Jewish law required the couple to wait 40 days before presenting their child in the temple for dedication to the Lord. On Jesus’ dedication day God prepared yet another confirmation for Mary and Joseph that their child was from God. Here is their encounter with Simeon and his words about Jesus.

Luke 2:25-35 “ At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him 26 and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, 28 Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying,

29 “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace,
    as you have promised.
30 I have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared for all people.
32 He is a light to reveal God to the nations,
    and he is the glory of your people Israel!”

33 Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. 35 As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”

Wow! What confirmation from this godly man that Jesus was going to provide salvation for all people and bring light into the world. Bringing salvationTitus 2:11 “For the grace of God has been revealed, bringing salvation to all people.” and Hebrews 5:9 “In this way, God qualified him as a perfect High Priest, and he became the source of eternal salvation for all those who obey him.” Bringing lightJohn 8:12 “Jesus said to them, “I am the light of the world. If you follow me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” and 2 Corinthians 4:6 “For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made this light shine in our hearts so we could know the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ.” Simeon also blessed them and spoke words for them to treasure in preparation for the future that God has planned for their child. Saving the world and giving light to all was not going to be an easy pathway as He would face opposition and many hearts would be effected, even theirs.

What encouragement do you find in this story of Jesus’ dedication? It confirms to me that God is Sovereign and Omniscient. He knows all that will happen and had a plan to redeem mankind. It shows God is Merciful, Gracious and Compassionate as He sent His Son to bring light into a dark world and provide salvation for all. God is loving and keeps His promises just as He kept his word to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Savior. He also prepared Mary and Joseph for the coming life their son would lead, one that would to be filled with godly purpose. God knows each of us as He did Simeon, Joseph and Mary. He knows what we need and His timing is perfect. Reflect today on how God’s timing has been perfect in your life. How has God fulfilled his promise in Romans 8:28 to you? “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. I can attest to God’s hand in my life even in the darkest times. Even those tough times produced growth and experiences that God has used many times over to help others, to build my faith and produce results I had never envisioned or dreamed possible. God is indeed Sovereign and can and will use all things for my good and His glory as I walk with Him.

Linda

Advent Brings Service without Fear

Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit as he delivered prophesies concerning the coming Messiah and his own newly arrived son. Even today, his words bring hope and reassurance in Jesus and God’s plan of salvation. Luke 1:68-75

“Praise the Lord, the God of Israel,
    because he has visited and redeemed his people.
69 He has sent us a mighty Savior
    from the royal line of his servant David,
70 just as he promised
    through his holy prophets long ago.
71 Now we will be saved from our enemies
    and from all who hate us.
72 He has been merciful to our ancestors
    by remembering his sacred covenant—
73 the covenant he swore with an oath
    to our ancestor Abraham.
74 We have been rescued from our enemies
    so we can serve God without fear,
75 in holiness and righteousness

    for as long as we live.

I love that he begins with the fact that Jesus was coming to redeem his people. Anyone who believes in Jesus belongs to Him and are His family, His people! Ephesians 1:5 “God decided in advance to adopt us into his own family by bringing us to himself through Jesus Christ. This is what he wanted to do, and it gave him great pleasure.” Zechariah reminds us that Jesus, Messiah, was prophesied to be from the line of David and would be our Savior. John 7:24 “For the Scriptures clearly state that the Messiah will be born of the royal line of David, in Bethlehem, the village where King David was born.” In verses 71 and 74 Zechariah states that by sending this messiah God will save the people and rescue them from their enemies. He took this to be literally enemies, like Rome, but since he said the rescue enables us to serve God without fear, we can take this to mean all kinds of rescuing. This rescuing is from sin, oppression, and bondage both physically through eternal salvation and spiritually with freedom from the bondage of sin into which we were born. Lastly he reminds us that any freedom we receive from the Savior will be eternal in nature and allow us to serve God, filled by His righteousness and holiness.

What an encouraging message for us today. We can claim the hope and eternal salvation that Jesus offers and know that though Him we can serve God covered in His righteousness. Philippians 1:11 “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God.” and 1 Peter 1:13 “So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.”

Jesus brings hope to the world!

Linda

Advent, A Time of Grace Realized

The birth of a child brings happiness, joy and wonder to every parent. The arrival of Elizabeth’s baby was no exception and perhaps was an even greater joy to them and those around them as they had waited a long time for a child. I can identify with this as we were married for 14 years before the arrival of our Elizabeth and it was pure joy! Jewish customs prevailed and the child was not named until he was circumsized on the eighth day, as that recognized his officially belonging to the family of God. It was a day of great family celebration and scripture gives us a glimpse into this special day.

Luke 1: 57-66 “ When it was time for Elizabeth’s baby to be born, she gave birth to a son. 58 And when her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had been very merciful to her, everyone rejoiced with her. 59 When the baby was eight days old, they all came for the circumcision ceremony. They wanted to name him Zechariah, after his father. 60 But Elizabeth said, “No! His name is John!” 61 “What?” they exclaimed. “There is no one in all your family by that name.” 62 So they used gestures to ask the baby’s father what he wanted to name him. 63 He motioned for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s surprise he wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Instantly Zechariah could speak again, and he began praising God. 65 Awe fell upon the whole neighborhood, and the news of what had happened spread throughout the Judean hills. 66 Everyone who heard about it reflected on these events and asked, “What will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was surely upon him in a special way.

Can you even imagine being there when Zechariah spoke after 9 months of silence? What a surprise! But God is faithful to His Word, and just as the child was named, Zechariah’s time of silence ended. Awe or reverence for the Lord was used to describe the effect this had on the people there and the surrounding area. Other translations word it this way, “And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea.” The awe or fear was due to their amazement over what the Lord had done in their midst. They had seen first hand the power of God to provide this child in old age and to mute Zechariah for 9 + months. When was the last time you experience the hand of God in your own life or in someone near to you? Did it leave you in awe of our Sovereign God? Perhaps it was due to the birth of a child, healing of an illness, release from a threatening situation, resolving of a difficult circumstance or an answer to a specific prayer. What effect did it have on you? Were you joyous, like Zechariah and Elizabeth, or filled with wonder like the neighbors or did you try to discount it? Our response to God’s mercy and grace in our lives is crucial. In 1 Corinthians 1:4 Paul puts it this way, “I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus,” Because of Jesus, our response should be one of thanks for His grace, His unmerited favor, towards us.

Let thanks be on your lips as you look for His Grace in your life today.

Linda

Advent, A Time to Proclaim the Promises of God

Within the Christmas story there are 4 hymns of praise we will encounter. Today’s is Mary’s in Luke 1:46-55 and is known as the Magnificat because the opening word in Latin, when translated, was Magnificat which showed Mary’s desire to magnify God in her life. The other hymns of praise we will soon come to are from Zechariah, the Shepherds and a devout Jew named Simeon. Mary’s is one of the most beautify in scripture and is similar to the song sung in praise by Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10 when the Lord blessed her in her barrenness with a long awaited son.

Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord,
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
    For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
    and holy is his name.
50 And his mercy is for those who fear him
    from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
    he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
    and exalted those of humble estate;
53 he has filled the hungry with good things,
    and the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped his servant Israel,
    in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
    to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”

Mary’s desire was to magnify God in her life and rejoice in all He had done for her. She knew that she would be a blessing to others as she became the mother of our Lord, and also what a privilege it was to be chosen by God to carry His Son. What is your attitude towards God and the things He has called you to do? Are you thankful? Do you rejoice at the opportunity like Mary? Her attitude is sobering as it is so selfless and humble. She was not proud or arrogant at having been given this ‘job’ by God but considered it a privilege to serve her Lord.

Mary also knew scripture and the blessing God promised to Israel. Genesis 12:2-3 “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” God promised repeatedly that all the world would be blessed though the descendants of Abraham. Jesus is that great blessing to the world, and Mary realized the fulfillment of this promise in the child she carried. She knew without a doubt that she was part of God’s plan of blessing for the world. What confidence do you have in the promises of God? Do you claim and cling to certain promises for your life? Here are a few of mine: Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” A Promise to me that God has plans for my good filled with hope. Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” A Promise that God is good and loves me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 “But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.” A Promise of sufficient grace to face anything in life with Him. Deuteronomy 31:6 “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” A Promise to always be with me.

God was real to Mary and He is to me. Know His promises and claim them in your life. Be bold and experience the faithfulness and love of God for yourself.

Linda

Need a study of God’s promises? Fill your New Year with promises to stand upon. My devotional book Promises for Dynamic Living gives 70 promises to meditate upon and claim as a believer. It is for personal study or can be used by a group. It is available at CertaPublishing.com or from Amazon.com.

Advent Brings Wonderment at the Kindness of God

Luke 1:23-25 tells of mute Zechariah going home and barren aged Elizabeth becoming pregnant just as God had said. “When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”

Here are a couple of personal connections with these verses: Elizabeth remained in seclusion for 5 month and she had an amazing attitude towards God. It is not known why she kept her pregnancy a secret. It could have been because of her advanced age, the possibility of a miscarriage or perhaps it was time for her to adjust to this miracle happening to her. Elizabeth’s attitude proclaims a wonderment at God’s work in her. Since barrenness was consider a disgrace in their society, her heart overflowed with love and gratitude towards God for lifting this ‘curse’ from her.

How quickly do you to proclaim wonderment at God’s work in your life? I find it takes me a bit of time to process what has happened and to see God’s hand in my life. I can truly identify with Elizabeth and her process time. Like Elizabeth, I waited years for a child and God provided my sweet Elizabeth from a far away country. It took time to process that the adoption was really going to go through, that my child of promise was really coming and that I was going to be a mother. Once I realized it was really happening, I was filled with wonder at God’s answer to my long awaited prayer. I’m sure that Elizabeth had similar thoughts and concerns about her ability to be a mom and to raise her child as God wanted. I’m sure she never doubted her ability to love this new life within her! Her expressions of love and wonder at God choosing her to be a mother and the lifting of her disgrace was cause for her exclamation in scripture, “How kind the Lord is!” I totally get her words as that is exactly how I felt. I felt touched and so loved by God that He kindly sent Elizabeth to me. I also identified with her ‘lifting of disgrace’ for not having children. I know it was much more intensified in her day but I was constantly asked, “When are you going to have children?” I wanted children, so the words stung and stayed with me. Somehow, it is expected that once married you will have children, but as in Elizabeth and my case God had a plan for us to see the wonderment of God in our lives. God’s timing was not our timing, but His will was accomplished. John was born to Elizabeth and Zachariah and Elizabeth was brought home to us. “How kind God was!” to bring Elizabeth into our home! It was and is cause for rejoicing at the power and might of God.

May you see God’s hand in your life today and exclaim along with us, “How kind God is!”

Linda