Mary, Highly Favored

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The angel Gabriel said to Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28). Hundreds of years had passed since an angel appeared on earth (with Daniel in the lion’s den). I cannot imagine what Mary must have felt when she saw an angel (with clothes so gleaming white and a supernatural countenance). His message must have shattered her dreams of marrying the love of her life, but Gabriel explained everything so Mary understood. Then he encouraged Joseph not to hesitate to take her as his wife.

Mary was not really named “Mary” but “Miriam,” after the older sister of Moses. In Egyptian her name meant “love,” and Miriam’s calling in life was to protect the life of her baby brother as he floated down the Nile River so one day he could grow up to deliver the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt.

In Hebrew the name “Miriam” meant bitterness and rebellion. Mary’s calling in life was to usher in the life of the Messiah, who would save the world from sin, death and Satan. Both meanings find fulfillment in John 3:16: “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” Yes, God loved the world, but many people did not accept His love.

Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.” His light shines into the darkness of our world to expose the fear, anxiety, anger, malice, corruption and all other kinds of rebellion against a loving Father. He did not come into the world to condemn the world but to save it with His mercy and forgiveness.


Miriam was called to protect Moses who would rescue the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt. Mary was called to bear the life of Jesus who would save the world from sin. As people who have been redeemed from sin, death and Satan, we are called to follow Jesus in reaching a cold, dark world with His love. Will you let God be born in you? Will you let His love flow through you to those who desperately need it? Begin by reading His word and spending time with Him in prayer. He is always available, and He will partner with you as you make yourself available to serve Him.


Thank you, Holy Lord, for Jesus. Help us to be more like Him–more loving, more caring, more forgiving. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Mystery in the Star of David

Illustration in stained glass style with an abstract six-pointed blue star on a blue background

The star of David has two triangles, one interlocking with the other. It is the foundation of the Jewish and Christian faith.

When Israel was rescued from slavery, Moses commanded the Hebrew people to sacrifice a lamb and put the blood on the door posts–above and on the right and left sides. Consider each mark a point in a triangle that points upward, and that it represents man reaching up to God for redemption, to be saved from the Angel of Death (Passover is described in Exodus 12).

As Jesus was crucified, there were three points where His blood spilled, one at His right hand, one at His left hand and one at His feet. Consider each mark a point in a triangle that points downward, and that it represents God reaching down to men to give them the redemption they hunger for, the forgiveness of their sins and eternal life with Him. He is the Lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world.


For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, so that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). Beloveds, let the beauty of God’s message of salvation penetrate your hearts that you may recognize His presence in your lives and experience His amazing love.


O Lord God Almighty, send your Spirit to shine into the darkness of this world and expose lies and deception, to bring about justice, to show compassion and mercy and forgiveness to those who desperately need it and may not even know it. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Fire from Heaven?

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“Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?” (Luke 9:54). A Samaritan village rejected Jesus because He was headed for Jerusalem. It was James’ and John’s idea to call fire down from heaven. They were known as “Sons of Thunder” for their quick temper.

Do you have anger problems? I have dealt with this issue many years of my life. I regret that my children might remember me for my yelling, screaming and throwing things. If it were not for Jesus’ continual pursuit of me, I would still be stuck in my anger. Today I am thankful for His forgiveness and a life of peace and love and hope. It is so good I want to share it with you. Nothing is worth losing your peace over. Instead of being angry with people who mistreat or misunderstand you, you can love them, pray for them and show them respect and compassion as Jesus would.

God loved the world so much He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him (John 3:16-17).

Some places in the Bible were so evil that God destroyed them, but He spared this Samaritan village. Later when Peter and John placed their hands on believers in Samaria and prayed for them to receive the Holy Spirit, they accepted it (Acts 8:17).


We don’t know God’s plan, but He makes Himself clear to us as we seek Him with all our hearts. Can you imagine what John must have thought when the Samaritans rejoiced at receiving the Holy Spirit? If he would have followed his first instincts and destroyed the village for initially rejecting Jesus, these Samaritans would have died in their sin.


Thank you, Lord, for your grace and mercy. Thank you for your amazing love and your higher purposes for this world. Teach us your ways, O Lord. Show us the right paths to follow. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Two Trees

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God created the heavens and the earth. He made Adam from the dust of the ground and Eve from Adam’s rib. Then He put them in the beautiful Garden of Eden. He provided for all their needs and they had a wonderful relationship with each other. God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:16).

Satan lied to Eve and said they would not die, but that their eyes would be opened and they would be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:5). Eve ate and took the delicious fruit to Adam and he ate. They died spiritually, and they were afraid of God. This is known as the fall of man for it is in this event that we inherited our sin nature. We all have a choice to love God with all our hearts, souls, minds and bodies, or to love ourselves–making selfish choices for our own pleasure and profit. God knew we would choose for ourselves, which would separate us from Him. Yet, He chose to love us anyway.

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He loved us so much that He gave His only Son to die on a cross for the forgiveness of our sin. The cross was made from a tree. Jesus endured terrible persecution, ridicule and a slow horrible death. The good news of Easter is that Jesus did not stay dead. He rose from the grave to give us eternal life with God. “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).


The live tree brought death–spiritual death, but the dead tree brought life. God’s original intent was to be our everything. Because of our selfish pride we choose to be in control. We want to be like God. Although this disappoints God, He loves us and has provided a way to meet our deepest need, the need to know Him. When we accept what Jesus did on the cross in a personal way, we bear fruit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control (Galatians 5:22-23). We experience new mercies and blessings every day from the love of God.


Thank you, Father God, for Jesus. Help us to live according to the plan you have for us. Send your Spirit on us to fulfill our lives and give us hope. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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I visited a friend who had lost her loved one. She gave me a tour of her sweet little apartment. She came to shelving unit and tenderly picked up a figurine. I said, “She’s beautiful.” My friend said she prayed to her every day. I was shocked at first. Finally I said, “Becky, she has eyes that cannot see you, ears that cannot hear you when you need help, and a mouth that cannot speak comfort or encouragement to you. She cannot help you in times of trouble.” “Yes, but I can see her and touch her,” Becky said. My heart broke.

In ancient times as well as today, people have prayed to hand made objects, but that is only one kind of idolatry. Did you know that anyone or anything that takes first place (God’s place) in your life is an idol? It could be a hobby, a sport, a career, success, health, wealth or relationships. We long for fulfillment and meaning in life. This is the way God made us, but He wants to be what matters in our lives. He stands at the door of our hearts waiting for us to receive Him, but He will never force Himself on us.


God made each of us unique and special. He knows all about us whether we know Him or not. Does that make you uncomfortable? Though nothing is hidden from God, He sees us with grace vision. He loved us so much that He gave His only son, so that whoever believes in Him will not die but have eternal life (John 3:16). Because of Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to take away our sins, God the Father only sees us in our Robe of Righteousness. He does not see our shame and guilt. “I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me in garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness” (Isaiah 61:10).


Heavenly Father, thank you for Jesus and the sacrifice He made for our forgiveness. Thank you that because He did this, you do not see our shame or guilt. Help us to live for you in light of our salvation. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Jailhouse Redemption

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Paul and Silas were going to the place of prayer by a river in Philippi when a slave girl began to follow them. She had a spirit to predict the future and, day after day, she followed Paul and the others saying, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who are telling you the way to be saved” (Acts 16:17). Paul grew so troubled that he turned around and said to the spirit, “In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her,” and it did. When the owners of the slave girl realized they had lost their way to make money, they dragged Paul and Silas to the authorities and said they had advocated unlawful customs for the Romans in the city.

Paul and Silas were stripped, beaten and thrown in jail. The jailer put them in the center cell and locked their feet in stocks. At midnight Paul and Silas were singing and praying while the other prisoners listened. A violent earthquake rocked the jail and opened the cell doors. The jailer drew his sword and was about to kill himself when Paul cried out, “Don’t do that! We are all here.”

The jailer called for lights and fell at the feet of Paul and Silas. “What must I do to be saved?” he asked. “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved–you and your household,” they said (Acts 16:31). The jailer washed their wounds and fed them. Paul and Silas baptized the jailer and his family.


Do you believe God can use evil for good? That’s what He did in Philippi. Paul became so troubled by the rantings of the slave girl following them, that he turned and delivered her from the spirit of fortune telling. You might wonder what’s so bad about what she did, but she was paid to lead people to trust her stories. God, however, wants us to believe Him and trust Him instead of people. He even uses sin in our lives for good. When we meet a person who is going through something we have, we can witness to them that we have experienced their pain and how God showed His love to us and helped us.


Thank you, Father God, for Jesus. When we are tempted to look to another person or power besides You, help us to refocus on Jesus and His sacrifice to save us from our sin and give us eternal, abundant life with You. In Jesus’ name, Amen.


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Have you worried that you committed the unforgivable sin? If so, be encouraged that you did not. The person who is not forgiven is someone who doesn’t care. Jesus came to earth to seek and save the lost, and His ministry here lasted only three years. In those three years people came to Him from Judea, Jerusalem, Idumea, and the regions across the Jordan and around Tyre and Sidon. He taught with authority, healed the sick and cast out demons. His family thought He was out of His mind. The teachers of the law said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul! By the prince of demons he is driving out demons” (Mark 3:22). Friends, this is the unforgivable sin–to deny the power of the Holy Spirit and to credit such miracles to Satan.

Jesus said, “How can Satan drive out Satan? If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand . . . And if Satan opposes himself and is divided, he cannot stand; his end has come” (Mark 3:23-26). You and I know that Satan is alive and well. He works in our hearts to tempt us to sin against God, even reject Him. Jesus said, “All the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven. But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of eternal sin” (Mark 3:28-29).


To blaspheme the Holy Spirit, you would have to deny God–not believe in Him, not trust Him, not love Him. My friend Pastor Rich Sherman said, “The heart of the problem is a problem of the heart.” The person who denies God has a serious heart condition.


Father God, thank you for Jesus. He came to make a way for us, even sacrifice His life on the cross for our sins. Help us to live in light of our salvation. Help us to be more like Jesus. In His great name, Amen.


After spending the night on the Mount of Olives, Jesus returned to the temple courts where He had been the day before. People gathered around Him, and He sat down to teach them when the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. Their intent was to trap Jesus so they could accuse Him. “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. Moses’ law said we should stone her. What do you say?” 

Jesus bent down to write on the ground with His finger. The men continued to question Him. He stood and said, “He who is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” Then Jesus stooped to write in the dirt again. The accusers began to go away, the older ones first, until only the woman was left with Jesus. He stood and asked, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?”

“No one, sir,” she said.

“Then neither do I,” said Jesus. “Go and leave your life of sin” (John 8:1-11 my paraphrase).


Moses’ law commanded that both parties to adultery should be stoned. The Pharisees disregarded the law by arresting the woman without the man. If Jesus said the woman should not be stoned, they would accuse him of violating the law. If He urged them to stone her, they would report Him to the Romans because they could not carry out Jewish executions. Jesus caused each man to reflect on his own life. When no one could be found without sin, Jesus forgave the woman and commanded her to end her lifestyle of sin.


Thank you, Lord, for this example of your great mercy and forgiveness. Thank you, too, for forgiving us, and help us to live in light of the new and eternal life you gave us. In Jesus’ name, Amen

No Condemnation

Woman at the well

Jesus, tired from a journey through Judea to Galilee, rested at Jacob’s well near the town of Sychar. It was noon when a Samaritan woman came to draw water. Jesus asked her for a drink. This seemed strange to her because He was a Jew and Jews didn’t associate with Samaritans. “How can you ask me for a drink?” she asked.

Jesus surprised her. “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.” She asked Him where would He get this living water. “Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself along with his sons and animals.” Then Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. It will become a spring in them and well up into eternal life” (John 4:1-14).

Can you imagine this woman’s head spinning from all Jesus said? She was ready for the living water that would quench her thirst forever. He told her to go get her husband, and she said she didn’t have a husband. Jesus confronted her. “It’s true you do not have a husband, but you’ve had five husbands and the man you have now is not your husband.” I’m quite sure the woman wanted to flee, but she stayed to ask questions about God and worship. Then she went to town and told the people she met a man that knew all about her. “Could He be the Christ?” she asked.


Although Jesus knew about this woman’s past and her bad reputation, He showed her love and respect instead of condemnation. In response to His love, she witnessed about Him in town, and brought people to meet Him. As a result, many in Sychar believed and invited Him to stay with them a couple days. This is good news even for us today. I have often related to the the woman at the well. The truth is, we have all been that woman, standing in the presence of God in the need of salvation. Be encouraged for, “There is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). Believe in Jesus and accept His amazing love as did the woman at the well. Today is the day of salvation.


Thank you Lord, for Jesus, for His amazing, life-changing love. I pray for those reading this story for the first time, that you send your Spirit on them and help them to believe you, trust you and follow you into eternity. In Jesus’ name, Amen.