Sunday, October 31, 2010

Mary, Chosen by God

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”

35 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.

Luke 1:26-38, English Standard Version

Mary, Chosen by God

I am sure it seemed like just another ordinary day to Mary; little did she know that her life was about to change forever! The angel, Gabriel appeared to her with this message.

“Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”

What kind of a greeting was that? Gabriel's comment troubled her, but then he continued, "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”

Now that would be a rather startling message, would it not? Who was this man that he would say such things to her? Do you think she realized that this was an angel of God? Mary responded in surprise, "How can that be; I am a virgin?"

And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God."

Gabriel went on to explain that her relative, Elizabeth, was pregnant, explaining that nothing is impossible for God. Think of how amazed she must have been, as understanding dawned upon her. How did Mary respond to this unbelievable proclamation?

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”

We are so familiar with this story, that we often do not take the time to ponder what this might have been like for her. Just think, from before time began, God had ordained that Mary would be the mother of Jesus, the Savior of the world! Look how calmly she replied. All doubt and fear was gone; we only see her gentle submission.

How aware are we of God's leading us through this life? How do we respond to the circumstances He brings our way? Oh that we would have the faith and acceptance that we see in Mary.

God Bless You,
Linda

Saturday, October 30, 2010

New Testament Bible Characters

New Testament Bible Characters

Please join me as we begin a new series called New Testament Bible Characters. The focus will be on the people themselves, as well as the events that took place in their lives, and how they responded to those events. We will discover that these people were just like us with all of their weaknesses and shortcomings. Yet, God included them in His story of the life of Christ and the New Testament churches that were established. Even so, God uses us, weak though we may be, to confound the wise. How amazing is that.

God Bless You,
Linda

Zechariah and Elizabeth

5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, [1] of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

8 Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, 9 according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. 11 And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14 And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.”

Luke 1:5-17, English Standard Version

(The entire narration of this story continues on to verse 57 of Luke 1.)

Zechariah and Elizabeth

When the time came for God to send His only Son to this earth to be born of a woman, God chose a man, John the Baptist, to be the forerunner of Christ's birth, to proclaim the coming of the Lord. As the world blindly continued on, God was unveiling the greatest miracle of all to provide salvation for that same sleeping world.

Elizabeth and Zechariah, the chosen parents of this forerunner, were a Godly couple, righteous before God. Zechariah, serving as a priest, was chosen to burn incense in the temple of the Lord. While there, an angel of the Lord appeared to him with startling news; Elizabeth, his wife, though late in years, was to give birth to a son, whom he should name John. His son, John, would be used by the Lord to turn the hearts of the people toward righteousness, preparing them for the coming of the Lord.

Though Zechariah was a Godly man, he still doubted in his heart that such a thing would even be possible for Elizabeth. Because of his doubt, the angel made Zechariah mute; he would not speak another word until after his son was born.

When Zechariah came out of the temple, not being able to speak, the people realized that he had seen a vision from God.

What of Elizabeth? We are not told much about Elizabeth; it seemed as though she received her husband's news joyfully with no doubt in her mind as to its possibility.

God fulfilled the words of the angel, and Elizabeth became pregnant. We are told that in her sixth month, Mary came to visit her; when Mary entered the house, Elizabeth's baby jumped for joy in her womb.

41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Luke 1:41-45

As both women continue with their pregnancies, God is right there with them, continuing to reveal Himself through His angel.

Elizabeth's child was born first; in obedience to the commands of the angel, Elizabeth named him John. The people were amazed; at his circumcision they were ready to name him Zechariah after his father. They made signs to Zechariah asking him what to name the baby. Zechariah wrote on a tablet, "His name is John." Immediately Zechariah's speech returned to him and he ministered to the people.

In many ways we have become like the world at the time of Christ's birth: asleep. We speak of God, acknowledge that He exists, and continue to live dwelling upon our misery and hopelessness. Like Elizabeth, we must go forth as women (and men) of faith. This very God who sent His Son to this earth in such a miraculous way to purchase a people for Himself walks right beside us day by day. Pray that God would open your eyes to see the presence of Christ, who will never leave you nor forsake you.

As Elizabeth and Zechariah, walk in peace and confidence knowing that Christ is walking through the same valleys as you are, sustaining you every step of the way.

God Bless You,
Linda

Friday, October 29, 2010

Man's All

13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:

Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.
14 For God will bring every work into judgment,
Including every secret thing,
Whether good or evil.
(Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, New King James Version)

Man's All

Ecclesiastes 12:13 has been a theme verse for my life for over 40 years. I like the rendition of this verse in the King James Version.

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.

If you were going to sum up your whole duty (or your all) in this life, what would you say? What makes you uniquely different? What is your purpose in this life? Without thinking, I am sure we would include all of the things that are most important to us.

How about parenting? I am the only mother my children have, and it has literally consumed my life for almost 40 years. My first child was born in 1972, and my last child was born in 1993. I cannot truly define myself without including my husband and my children.

How about money? Oh, I know, money is not supposed to be everything, but how much of an importance do we place in its worth in our lives? Does the want or desire of great riches consume us? Do we think we would be most happy if we won the lottery?

What about the attitude of others toward you? How important is it to you that everyone likes you, or looks up to you? How willing are you to compromise your beliefs so that you will be liked by the world?

As you know, the list could go on and on. Is it important to be a good parent? Of course! Is it important that we provide financially for our families. Yes! Is it good for us to live peaceably with all men? Again, yes!

What is the real issue, then? What is at the root of our actions? What undergirds all that we think, say and do? Solomon states it quite simply,

Fear God and keep His commandments,
For this is man’s all.

It always comes back to our heart attitude, does it not? If we fear God and keep his commandments, we will not let the things of this world consume us so that our walk with the Lord is compromised.

Take some time to ponder that today! What is at the root of everything you think, say, and do? What is your all?

God Bless You,
Linda

Join me tomorrow as we begin a new series of devotions on Bible Characters from the New Testament. I am really looking forward to this study, as we ponder the lives of real people, and consider why God included their story in His Holy Word.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Words of Truth!

9 And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs. 10 The Preacher sought to find acceptable words; and what was written was upright—words of truth. 11 The words of the wise are like goads, and the words of scholars are like well-driven nails, given by one Shepherd. 12 And further, my son, be admonished by these. Of making many books there is no end, and much study is wearisome to the flesh.
(Ecclesiastes 12:9-12, New King James Version)

Words of Truth!

The stage set by the earlier section of Ecclesiastes 12 creates a discouraging or somber tone, yet that is not the message that should be gained from reading the book of Ecclesiastes. Did Solomon end his ministry on this discouraging note? No! Look at verse 9.

And moreover, because the Preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yes, he pondered and sought out and set in order many proverbs.

Who are the Solomons of this day? Have you ever thought that it might be you? We are to look to our pastors and Christian leaders for help and encouragement in studying God's Word and in declaring that Word to those in our own corner of the world. In the end, however, each of us is an open "Bible" to those with whom we come in contact each day.

In our daily lives, do we seek to find acceptable words: words of truth? Do we even think about our conversations with other people in such a way? Often, I am afraid that we Christians are so busy trying to "fit in" with the world, that we forget that we have each been called by God to represent Him to a wicked and sinful generation.

You do not have to be a Biblical scholar to express words of truth. Yes, we should all be busy reading and studying God's Word, but often a simple word of encouragement will have a great impact on both believers and non-believers alike.

As you know, I have taken a short vacation from writing devotions. My world had simply become overcome by discouraging times. Each day I have prayed for strength to continue writing, but the words did not seem to come. If you will look at the comments under the entry entitled, "Vacation," you will note that I received two very encouraging notes. I want to thank you for writing to me; God used your words to encourage me and help me to continue writing.

Words of Truth! In Proverbs, Solomon calls them "Apples of Gold, in Pictures of Silver." (KJV)

May God bless us and continue to use us to spread His Word to a lost and dying generation.

God Bless You,
Linda

PS Thank you, again, "g" and "anonymous" for writing.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Remember Your Creator!

1 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, “ I have no pleasure in them”: 2 While the sun and the light, The moon and the stars, Are not darkened, And the clouds do not return after the rain; 3 In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, And the strong men bow down; When the grinders cease because they are few, And those that look through the windows grow dim; 4 When the doors are shut in the streets, And the sound of grinding is low; When one rises up at the sound of a bird, And all the daughters of music are brought low. 5 Also they are afraid of height, And of terrors in the way; When the almond tree blossoms, The grasshopper is a burden, And desire fails. For man goes to his eternal home, And the mourners go about the streets. 6 Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well. 7 Then the dust will return to the earth as it was, And the spirit will return to God who gave it. 8 “ Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “ All is vanity.”
(
Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, New King James Version)

Remember Your Creator!


1 Remember now your Creator in the days of your youth, Before the difficult days come, And the years draw near when you say, “ I have no pleasure in them”:

A few years ago (well maybe more than just a few!) these words would have seemed foreign to me. As one who has always enjoyed a great love of living, and a good measure of health, it seemed as though days such as this would never come.

As I have grown older, it is true that there seem to be fewer and fewer "sunny" days. (As a matter of fact, I know that many, unfortunately, see days such as this even in their youth.) I read the words from Ecclesiastes 12 and feel a great empathy and a greater understanding of those described in verses 3 and 4.

3 In the day when the keepers of the house tremble, And the strong men bow down; When the grinders cease because they are few, And those that look through the windows grow dim; 4 When the doors are shut in the streets, And the sound of grinding is low; When one rises up at the sound of a bird, And all the daughters of music are brought low.

What are we to do when we see these days fast approaching, or even upon us now? Are we, as Christians to live our lives in great despair? No! As Christians, we know that this world is not our real home. We also understand that God allows many evils to come upon us so that we may be strengthened in our faith. How does Solomon tell us to respond to these days? As he encouraged us in verse 1, so he again asserts to us in verse 6, Remember your Creator!

Remember your Creator before the silver cord is loosed, Or the golden bowl is broken, Or the pitcher shattered at the fountain, Or the wheel broken at the well.

As a matter of fact, he encourages us to remember our Creator before these days come! Why? Solomon reminds us that in this earth, all is vanity, or emptiness! Only in Christ is there true fulfillment and hope for the future.

So, this day I encourage you to remember your Creator. He, alone, is eternal; He will never forsake us, but will bring us safely into His kingdom for all eternity when our days on this earth are done.

Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

God Bless You,
Linda

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Vacation

Just wanted to let you know that I am taking what I hope is just a short vacation. We have had three family emergencies in the last week and a half involving my daughter, my husband, and now my father-in-law. My daughter is doing well, my husband is not doing very well, and my father-in-law has another surgery tomorrow with not a very good prognosis.

In the mean time, please avail yourselves of the devotions in my archives (there are over 1000 now), and also feel free to visit my web-site, Devotional Reflections from the Bible.

In Christ,
Linda

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Ways of Your Heart

9 Rejoice, O young man, in your youth,
And let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth;
Walk in the ways of your heart,
And in the sight of your eyes;
But know that for all these
God will bring you into judgment.
10 Therefore remove sorrow from your heart,
And put away evil from your flesh,
For childhood and youth are vanity.
(Ecclesiastes 11:9-10, New King James Version)

Ways of Your Heart

In Ecclesiastes 11, verse 9, we are told, "Walk in the ways of your heart, and in the sight of your eyes." He is especially speaking of the youth. In thinking of the youth of this world, what would you say are the ways of their hearts and the sight of their eyes? Are the youth of this day concerned about pleasing God? However, Solomon immediately gives this warning to the youth (and to us who are not in our youth as well).

But know that for all these
God will bring you into judgment.

What a good reminder that we must always consider that man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. In our desire to please God, we must remember that it is not just our actions that God sees, but rather He sees the true thoughts and intents of our hearts.

As adults, do we still have the heart of our youth? As we have matured in Christ, have we seen a change in our hearts? Or, are our hearts filled with sorrow? As adults, we must put away the sorrow of our hearts by putting away evil from our flesh. If we continue to walk in the foolishness of the youth, we will continue to reap sorrow in our hearts.

I encourage you, this day, to take some time to examine your true heart before the Lord. If you do not like what you see, take some time to plead with the Lord to make your heart pure before Him. It is Christ, and not man, who we must please!

God Bless You,
Linda

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Thank-you!

Thank you to all of you who have been patient during my days of "absence." God sent a few days of darkness to our family, but as always, His goodness has taken us through, and we praise Him for it.

God Bless You,
Linda

Remember the Darkness

7 Truly the light is sweet,
And it is pleasant for the eyes to behold the sun;
8 But if a man lives many years
And rejoices in them all,
Yet let him remember the days of darkness,
For they will be many.
All that is coming is vanity.
(Ecclesiastes 11:7-8, New King James Version)

Remember the Darkness

Why would Solomon give us the advice, remember the darkness? Would it not be much more pleasant for us to remember the good things in life, and not the bad?

We love the sunshine, especially after days of clouds and rain. As a matter of fact, the first sun-shiny day is so glorious after a long spell of rain. Do we feel the same way about the sunshine after days or weeks of sunny days?

Now let us think about our cloudy days. As Christians, what do we notice about our days of adversity and the effects they have on our spiritual lives? It is one thing to say that I trust in the Lord, but it is far different when our days become filled with pain and/or grief to say that I trust in the Lord. Cloudy days, therefore, build our trust in God; as we see Him faithfully take us through the bad times, we know we can trust Him to do it again.

I really think that is what Solomon is thinking in these verses.

Yet let him remember the days of darkness,
For they will be many.

Our relationship to Christ should grow and mature throughout our life so that we will not fear the days of darkness to come. Yes, there are many days of darkness in a lifetime, but nothing is ever out of the reach of God's help. How do we learn that? We learn that through the days of darkness.

Will it always be this way throughout eternity? Of course not! As Christians we know that the better days are coming when we will live with Christ forever. Do you think we will appreciate heaven more because of the days we lived in this life?

It is an interesting thought.

God Bless You,
Linda