Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Baby Changes Everything

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid,Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”
34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called[b] the Son of God. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. 37 For no word from God will ever fail.”
38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.Mary Visits Elizabeth39 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, 40 where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”Mary’s Song46 And Mary said:“My soul glorifies the Lord47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,48 for he has been mindful    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—    holy is his name.50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,    from generation to generation.51 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.52 He has brought down rulers from their thrones    but has lifted up the humble.53 He has filled the hungry with good things    but has sent the rich away empty.54 He has helped his servant Israel,    remembering to be merciful55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,    just as he promised our ancestors.”56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.
Luke 1
Mary has always stuck out to me as I reflect on the Christmas story, and this year more than ever as we're expecting our own baby boy. As I read Mary's response to the news that she will bear the son of God, I'm amazed. As her whole world, her entire plan for her life, is turned upside down, she doesn't respond with anger or fear. Rather, she responds with total surrender and praise.
Lord, teach me to be like Mary. When things don't go my way, teach me to respond with gratitude and praise. When the unexpected comes, teach me to be ever trusting of Your plan. You are in control, and I'm not. And I won't have it any other way.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Omniscient

"'Yet there are some of you who do not believe.' For Jesus had known from the beginning which of them did not believe and who would betray Him. He went on to say, 'This is why I told you that no one can come to Me unless the Father has enabled them.'
From this time many of His disciples turned back and no longer followed Him.
'You do not want to leave too, do you?' Jesus asked the Twelve.
Simon Peter answered Him, 'Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that You are the Holy One of God'
Then Jesus replied, 'Have I not chosen you, the Twelve? Yet one of you is a devil! (He meant Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, who, though one of the Twelve, was later to betray Him.)"
John 6:64-71

After miraculously feeding over 5,000 people with a young boy's lunch, Jesus declared that He alone is the Bread of Life, that it is only through Him that people can be sustained eternally. He offered gruesome imagery of eating His flesh and drinking His blood in order to live eternally. In response, many turned from Him; this man didn't fit their cultural norms or ideas of the Messiah. Even one in His innermost circle would betray Him.

Astonishingly, Jesus knew all of this. He wasn't surprised when Judas betrayed Him. He wasn't surprised when followers who yelled "Hosanna!" on  Sunday would yell, "Crucify Him!" on Friday. He knew who would reject Him, beat Him, kill Him. Yet despite this knowledge, Jesus still draws them in. He continues to share the truth of the Father with them, continues to heal and provide the miraculous, continues to share His very self with them, continues to love with abandon.

And so He does today. My God knows my heart. He knows the ugliness and beauty. He knows when I will turn from Him to do my own will. He knows how I will fail Him. He knows my sins that put Him on the cross. And yet! And yet, He still loves me. He still draws near to me, speaking the Father's love, truth, and justice into my life. Despite knowing my failures, selfishness, and hardheartedness, my Jesus draws close. He loves me still, loves me enough to die a brutal death.

What love is this?

Monday, March 14, 2016

The Law of Tradition

The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem gathered around Jesus and saw some of his disciples eating food with hands that were defiled, that is, unwashed. (The Pharisees and all the Jews do not eat unless they give their hands a ceremonial washing, holding to the tradition of the elders. When they come from the marketplace they do not eat unless they wash. And they observe many other traditions, such as the washing of cups, pitchers and kettles.[a])
So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?”
He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written:
“‘These people honor me with their lips,
    but their hearts are far from me.
They worship me in vain;
    their teachings are merely human rules.’[b]
You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”
And he continued, “You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe[c] your own traditions! 10 For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’[d] and, ‘Anyone who curses their father or mother is to be put to death.’[e] 11 But you say that if anyone declares that what might have been used to help their father or mother is Corban (that is, devoted to God)— 12 then you no longer let them do anything for their father or mother. 13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.”


In what ways have we replaced God's laws with man's traditions today?

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Grace

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. He agreed to pay them a denarius[a] for the day and sent them into his vineyard.
“About nine in the morning he went out and saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. He told them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went.
“He went out again about noon and about three in the afternoon and did the same thing. About five in the afternoon he went out and found still others standing around. He asked them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day long doing nothing?’
“‘Because no one has hired us,’ they answered.
“He said to them, ‘You also go and work in my vineyard.’
“When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the workers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last ones hired and going on to the first.’
“The workers who were hired about five in the afternoon came and each received a denarius. 10 So when those came who were hired first, they expected to receive more. But each one of them also received a denarius. 11 When they received it, they began to grumble against the landowner. 12 ‘These who were hired last worked only one hour,’ they said, ‘and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the work and the heat of the day.’
13 “But he answered one of them, ‘I am not being unfair to you, friend.Didn’t you agree to work for a denarius? 14 Take your pay and go. I want to give the one who was hired last the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my own money? Or are you envious because I am generous?’
16 “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
Matthew 20

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Ezekiel

Over the past several weeks, I've painstakingly been making my way through the book of Ezekiel. I grew tired, discouraged, and frustrated as time and time again I read of God's judgment over a disobedient people. As I read the final chapters a few days ago, it hit me: perhaps God has grown tired, discouraged, and frustrated of our constant sin. Perhaps He's grown tired, discouraged, and frustrated with instructing us time and time again only to have us walk away from Him. Perhaps the emotions I was experiences while reading accurately reflect those God was experiencing as Ezekiel was writing.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Seasons



This morning as I chatted with a dear friend across the ocean, we dreamed together. We shared hopes for the coming months and distant years. We wondered at the plans God has for us. We looked beyond this current season and onto those to come.


I'm a dreamer and a planner. I love making sure every little detail is taken care of. I'm goal driven, pushing myself to accomplish whatever I put my mind to, refusing to give up regardless of obstacles. What I'm not is patient. I don't like to wait. I have my plan and my goal, and I want it now.

But God's plans aren't our plans. His thoughts and ways are higher than our own. Amidst our conversation, I felt convicted. In my dreaming and hoping, I lost sight of now. In my discontent, I brushed off the now of only being a season as a prepare for greater things.

Yet God has purpose for the now. While this is but a season of my life, it's important. God has reason for the seemingly mundane tasks just as He does for the grand dreams that He's placed on my heart. So I'm fighting to let go of my striving for what's next and instead be still. Be still and listen to God's heart for the here and now. Be still and seek His will in this moment. Be still and be content were He has me. Be still and trust Him. Be still and know Him.