Our Advent journey continues with Mary’s answer from the heavenly angel. He had surprised her, soothed her fears and told her she would give birth to a son whom she would name Jesus. She asked the angel how this was even possible as she was a virgin and had known no man. Here is the angel’s unexpected answer from Luke 1:35-38.
And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Talk about a miracle birth! Wow! Imagine Mary’s surprise at those words, “the Holy Spirit of God will come upon you.” She was to bear the Son of God. In her wildest dreams she would not have conceived the idea that she could bear the Messiah. It was the impossible. It was the unthinkable! But God, said it would be so and she knew that would it would be true because God keeps His promises. She knew how God had kept his promises to her people by bringing them out of Egypt, giving them the land of Israel, bringing them back from Babylon and keeping them for generation to generation as a people who called Him Lord. If she was doubting at all, the angel added in the fact of Elizabeth’s pregnancy which would be considered a miracle at her age and something only God could make happen. His final words brought hope to Mary and definitely to me, “with God nothing is impossible.”
What was Mary’s response to the unexpected news? Mary answered in faith. She did not question the angel but accepted his miraculous news by faith, trusting God to work out the details. “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” What would you have said? Do you have that kind of trusting faith in God and His plans for your life? Perhaps Mary recalled Jeremiah 29:11 and claimed it for just a time as this, “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.” She trusted her future to the Lord and looked forward with expectation knowing He was going to do great things for her good and His glory. Can you have that same attitude this Advent season? Can you look forward to the way God can and will use you to bless others and show His love? Claim Jeremiah 29:11 in your own life and look expectantly for the ways God will use you for your good and His glory each day.
Psalm 28:7-8 is part of a psalm where David cries to the Lord for help as his enemies seem to be assailing him. He has been contending with people who are two faced and deceitful. He knows they do not know the Lord but thankfully David knows that God is his strength and defender. Here his words:
“The Lord is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving. The Lord gives his people strength. He is a safe fortress for his anointed king.”
Could this be our song as well? Do you know God as your shield, strength and safe place? Do you trust Him with all your heart? David was convinced. He had walked with God from a young age and seen how God was always with him as his perfect shepherd. God had kept him safe from the lion and the bear. God had been with him though the fight with Goliath, kept him ahead of pursuing King Saul and given him prosperity and victory as Israel’s King. David knew and trusted his Lord and called upon Him for strength and protection.
If God is your strength, shield and safe fortress, then you have much to be thankful for, just as David did. May your cries of thanksgiving and praise reach to the heavens today. May you extol God Almighty and put your trust in Him!
And the journey continues….2 Kings, again. I love this book of history as God has so much to teach us within its chapters. Chapter 6 relates the story of what happened to Elisha when the king of Arman came after him. The king was at war with Israel and told his officers where they were going to camp. Elisha was forewarned by God and warned the king of Israel. The king of Aram was enraged and thought he had a traitor in the midst of his army. When the soldier told him it wasn’t them but the prophet Elisha who was relaying even the words spoken in his bedroom to Israel’s king, the king of Aram sent horses and chariots to come and kill Elisha. Elisha’s servant saw the army coming and ran to tell Elisha in fear. Here is Elisha’s response and what happened.
2 Kings 6:15-23. “When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked. 16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”17And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.
18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.
Elisha was aware of God’s protective presence that was unseen by the servant until God opened his eyes. So it is with us. God has given us His angels to protect us even though we are totally unaware. Psalm 91:11 “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;” God is always with us and will never leave us nor forsake us! 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.” If you are in a difficult situation, pray and ask God to open your heart and eyes to feel and see His protection. Always remember that God is with you 24/7!
The last part of this story shows God’s mercy and compassion. The soldiers were struck with blindness, lead to the foreign city, their eyes opened and then treated with kindness and mercy just as if they were captives. The end result was the king of Aram stopped raiding and attacking Israel and God’s people were protected. James reminds us of this truth in James 2:12-13 that mercy triumphs over judgement. “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment. This is how we are to treat one another, erring on the side of mercy and allowing God to be glorified through our merciful actions and attitudes.
There is one other incident from 2 Kings that I recall often as I feel it totally applies to our lives today. King Hezekiah was a good king and followed the Lord. He was attacked by Sennecherib the king of Assyria who was threatening to invade Jerusalem. Hezekiah knew their army was not strong enough to repel the attack. Sennecherib sent an envoy with a letter demanding their surrender and in it he mocked the God of Israel. Here is what Hezekiah did. 2 Kings 19:14-19
“Hezekiah received the letter from the messengers and read it. Then he went up to the temple of the Lord and spread it out before the Lord. 15 And Hezekiah prayed to the Lord: “Lord, the God of Israel, enthroned between the cherubim, you alone are God over all the kingdoms of the earth. You have made heaven and earth. 16 Give ear, Lord, and hear; open your eyes, Lord, and see; listen to the words Sennacherib has sent to ridicule the living God. 17 “It is true, Lord, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands. 18 They have thrown their gods into the fire and destroyed them, for they were not gods but only wood and stone, fashioned by human hands. 19 Now, Lord our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that you alone, Lord, are God.”
God replied through the prophet Isaiah and foretold the coming destruction of Assyria. God also sent encouragement to Hezekiah and said the would be saved. 2 Kings 19:32-36 “Therefore this is what the Lord says concerning the king of Assyria: ‘He will not enter this city or shoot an arrow here. He will not come before it with shield or build a siege ramp against it. 33 By the way that he came he will return; he will not enter this city, declares the Lord. 34 I will defend this city and save it, for my sake and for the sake of David my servant.’”
35 That night the angel of the Lord went out and put to death a hundred and eighty-five thousand in the Assyrian camp. When the people got up the next morning—there were all the dead bodies! 36 So Sennacherib king of Assyria broke camp and withdrew. He returned to Nineveh and stayed there.
Why this story resonates so much with me is because Hezekiah was at the ‘end of his rope’ and laid his problem before Almighty God. He knew by faith that God was greater and that no other god was more powerful. God spared the faithful Israelites and the Assyrians left in defeat without a shot being heard. When I feel I’m at the end of my rope, I remember this story and practice laying my burdens before Him. I claim His promise in 1 Peter 5:6-7 “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”
Both of these stories show how amazing our God is and how He will fight for us if we look for His presence, and humble ourselves before Him. May the all seeing God who can victoriously fight any battle be with you today.
It would seem that the gospel’s are silent on the whereabouts of Jesus on this day of Holy Week. Perhaps he remained in Bethany with Mary, Martha and Lazarus, taking a needed day of rest. Tomorrow will be a trying day with the Last Supper, Gethsemane, His arrest, beating and trials by night leading to crucifixion on Friday. Jesus knew what was coming and how his human body would need strength for tomorrow so He rested. Even though He was God, He felt all the pain and fatigue of a man when He was within His earthly body. So He needed rest today.
What do you need today? Here are a couple of scriptures for you to mediate on to encourage and strengthen you. David knew his need for the Lord and relied upon Him each day.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me. 8 The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. Psalm 138:7-8a
3 Trust in the Lord, and do good; dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness. 4 Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. 6 He will bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday. Psalm 37:3-6
Jesus knew the Psalms of King David and perhaps He drew strength and comfort from these words too. He knew God had a purpose for him to complete and that He needed to trust His heavenly Father and rest in Him. Let David’s words bring you peace and rest today as you walk trusting in Jesus..
Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can call upon Him for strength and rest in His ability to give me all that I need.
Yesterday as I mediated or ruminated on Colossians 1:15-17 there were several phrases that really stuck in my mind. Colossians 1:16b-17 ” all things have been created through him and for him. 17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” This says all things were created by Jesus as He was there at the moment of their creation; He is creator God. All the heavens and the earth were created for Him, to bring Him glory. Our purpose in serving Him is to abide in Him, reflect His character in ours and bring Him glory. Psalm 148: 5-6 puts it this way: Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created. 6 And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.
The other phrase that has given me pause is that “and in him all things hold together.” What does this mean to you? Do you think of yourself as the one that holds your family or workplace or church or group you belong to together? As a fallible human it is not possible to have that kind of responsibility and see it through to completion. However, Paul was telling the Colossians that Jesus does it all. He can handle all things, complete all things and work all situations for our good and His glory. One of my favorite scriptures that I claim and cling to is 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.” As believers we can trust in our Sovereign God to know how things can and will work together. How what seems to us a mistake can be used by God to refine, teach and grow us to be more like Jesus.
As you think about how Jesus holds all things together here are a few verses proclaiming His Sovereignty in all things. 1 Chronicles 29:12 “Both riches and honor come from you, and you rule over all. In your hand are power and might, and in your hand it is to make great and to give strength to all. 2 Chronicles 29:6 ” “O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” Acts 17:26 “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,”
Is Jesus the preeminent one in your life? Is He the one you are trusting to hold all things together? Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead, I can rely on Sovereign Jesus to hold all things together for me in my life. I love Isaiah 49: 16and claim His promise in my life, “Behold, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.”We are precious to Him and He is holding us in His hands day by day. He goes before us and surrounds us with His perfect will and timing. Trust Him to keep your life glued together as you walk with Him.
Two heart verses spoke to me this morning. Knowing our hearts are deceitful and driven by original sin, God promises to do a work in our hearts that is amazing. Proverbs 3:5-6is a well quoted verse that speaks of God’s power to lead and guide if we will trust and acknowledge Him in our lives. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. 6 Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.” God is the one with the transforming power in our lives if we will seek to know and trust Him.
My second verse is found in Psalm 34:17-18, The Lord hears his people when they call to him for help. He rescues them from all their troubles. 18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted; he rescues those whose spirits are crushed. David wrote these words during a very difficult time in his life. He knew God. He knew God would hear his cries for help. David knew God would and could rescue him. He knew from experience that God was near to him when his heart was broken and his spirit crushed. David knew God and had experienced His love and care during times of great need.
God knows our hearts and sees what we need even before we ask for help. God knows our desire for guidance and He alone has the power to mend our broken hearts and crushed spirit. Seek Him like David did and lay your sorrows, hurts and needs before Him. He promises that those who seek Him will find Him. Moses told the children of Israel just before they entered the Promised Land, “But from there you will seek the Lord your God and you will find him, if you search after him with all your heart and with all your soul.” Deuteronomy 4:29 God promises to be found if we seek with an open heart. Seek Him today and tell Him about your broken heart, your crushed spirit or your desire to be guided by Him. God can and will answer your prayers, just as He promised.
Seeking His comfort and clinging to His promise as I walk with Him daily,
Our story of the coming of John the Baptist, the fore-runner of Jesus, continues as Zechariah listened to the message from the angel Gabriel about his future son Elizabeth would bear and his mind filled with doubt. Unlike Mary who we will see marveled at the words of the angel and accepted the impossible as possible with God. Zechariah seemed to doubt the ability of God to make this birth of a son in his old age possible. He was not asking the how it would work but can it succeed. He wanted assurances in addition to the word of this heavenly being. Gabriel’s response was swift and decisive -silence until John was born.
Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news. 20 And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their appointed time.” 21 Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zechariah and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple. 22 When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak.”Luke 1:18-22
How do you respond to God? Do you doubt God’s ability to change a situation, heal a relationship, cure a disease or affliction or to see you though a difficult time? Zechariah knew God, knew the story of Abraham and Sarah and the birth of their promised child in their old age. He knew the stories of the impossible happenings like Jonah and the big fish, Daniel in the Lion’s den, Nehemiah and the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem, Hezekiah and Gideon’s success against greater enemies, and yet Zechariah doubted the ability of God to give him a son in his old age. He doubted the character of his Sovereign God who was Almighty, Omniscient and the Provider of all things. It is not wrong to ask God for a sign like Gideon (Judges 6:17) and Hezekiah (2Kings20:8) did. It is not wrong to question or react with surprise or even laughter at the thought of an impossible situation like Mary (Luke 1:34) or Abraham (Genesis 18). However, it is wrong to think God is incapable of doing what He is promising. Remember scripture said Zechariah had great faith and walked with God. He did not disbelieve in the existence of God, but in His ability to do as He promised. Zechariah paid for his unbelief with silence. We will see that even this is not wasted effort as God uses Zechariah’s silence to testify and bring glory to Himself.
I am reminded of Hebrews 11:1 and 6 “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.” “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.”Faith pleases God. Faith means trusting God in the most difficult or unlikely situations to work everything for my good and His glory. Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” Cling to these promises as you strive to see that “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27
As you seek to trust in Sovereign God here are 2 verses that I claim and cling to: Psalm 37:5 “Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this” and Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”Hold fast to Sovereign God as He knows what He is doing and will always guide you in the correct way so Trust in Him.
How do you know things will turn out okay in the end? When the world seems to be falling apart around you and circumstances seem overly dark, where is your hope and peace? Jesus knew his disciples finally had faith in Him as the Son of God, but He also knew hard times were coming that would challenge their new faith and cause them to doubt and succumb to worry. He spoke these words in the Upper Room where the Last Supper was held and His arrest and death were imminent. John 16:33 “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble.But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
God knows about the pandemic, the economic troubles, our election conflicts, power struggles in our government, sickness, death and our own individual problems. As Jesus pointed out, In this world you will have trouble. That is guaranteed by the nature of our sin-filled world. However, He promises us HOPE and PEACE! Jesus says He is greater than anything we can or will face as He has overcome the world. He will be the victor and we will be with Him in victory by holding fast to our faith and trusting in Him. Jesus said that ‘in me’ you will find the peace you need to sustain you now and in hard times to come.
I find this verse encouraging as it tells me I do not need to worry about the temporal things of life as God is sovereign and He will overcome all. The peace I have in Jesus creates in me a great sense of thankfulness and hope as I face each day and look into the future.
May you know His peace today and give Him thanks and praise!
Psalm 91:1-2 are special verses that remind me of who God is, what He can do and my friend Bob. Bob lived at the Veteran’s Home in Yountville and I met him when I was leading a Bible Study using my book Promises for Dynamic Living. He was in his late 90’s at the time and his eyesight was failing, therefore he could not longer read his Bible. Bob possessed an uplifted spirit that brought heart and wisdom to our discussions. He told us that when he was in his 80’s he decided that he needed to memorize scripture and proceeded to put countless verses to memory. With failing eyes, he could still quote verse after verse as he had them locked into his heart and mind. One of his favorites was Psalm 91:1-2. He said that when he flew bombers during WWII he clung to this verse and claimed it. He drew strength from the words of David and applied them to his own life.
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 This I declare about the Lord: He alone is my refuge, my place of safety; he is my God, and I trust him.
Are you finding rest in God Almighty? Do you live in the shelter of His presence? When we rest in God, we allow Him to take charge of our thoughts and mind so that we are not worried, stressed or depressed about the world around us. Our confidence is in Sovereign God. When we find shelter in Him, we are surrounded by His love and care. We are protected from the world for all eternity by the power of His might and our faith in Him. These truths are what led David to say that God was his refuge and his safe place in spite of all the turmoil he was facing at the time. That is what my friend Bob knew as he flew those bomber planes.
What about you? Is God your refuge and safe place? Do you trust Him to give you what you need- shelter, refuge, safety? Do you see yourself, like David and Bob, living in the shelter of His shadow? If you do, let your heart and mind sing out with praise for Almighty God today. Thank Him for His love, protection, safe harbor and rest. He alone is God and mighty to be praised!
Bob passed into glory last year at the age of 99. He is greatly missed at the Veteran’s Home and by me.
The Bible is full of scriptures about peace. God wants us to know His peace, live in peace and experience peace on a daily basis. Today’s verses come from Isaiah 26:3-4. As you read and meditate on the words from Isaiah, may they lead you towards greater thankfulness as you consider His peace.
3 You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you. 4 Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord God is an everlasting rock.
Prayer: Lord, I desire your peace in my life. May my trust in you grow daily so that my mind is steadfastly focused on you. I know you can and will keep me in a state of peace that will cover my mind, body and soul as I trust in you more and more. Lord, you are my rock and refuge. You are eternal and will keep me as your own for eternity. I know Lord that you love me and are a promise keeper. Bring your peace into my life today as I focus upon you and walk trusting in you. Thank you Lord Jesus. Amen.
Have a blessed day filled with His peace and a thankful heart.