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.

THINK ABOUT IT

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.

PRAY ABOUT IT

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.

THINK ABOUT IT

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.

PRAY ABOUT IT

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).

THINK ABOUT IT

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.

PRAY ABOUT IT

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.

He is Risen!

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After being isolated for a year during COVID, we returned to church this morning. It was wonderful. We didn’t return to these church ruins but to our own church. I was struck by the beauty even in the outer structure of this old church. I don’t know where it is, but I thought it was beautiful enough to share with you.

We celebrated the Prince of Peace in our worship service this morning. That’s good news for a sin-sick world. I prayed God would shine His light into the darkness because He promised the darkness would not overcome His light. What an amazing hope!

Our God is faithful to keep His promises, to show up every day in your life, to comfort, counsel and strengthen the weary pilgrim traveling this earth on his way to heaven. Like the mana that fed the Israelites every day in the wilderness, God’s mercies are new every morning. Great is His faithfulness!

THINK ABOUT IT

I hope you will follow the link above to the website, “To Live is Christ.” The verse for today is Lamentations 3:22-23: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Read the message. View the movie clip. Listen to the song. Be blessed.

PRAY ABOUT IT

O Lord our God, thank you for your faithfulness. Your mercies and compassions are new every morning. Teach us to respond by sharing your love with others today and forever. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Servant

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James and John asked for places at Jesus’ right and left in His kingdom (Mark 10:32-45), and why not? They were His closest friends, in the inner circle of three (Peter, James and John) of the larger group of twelve. He took them (and none of the others) with Him to Jairus’ house to give life back to his daughter. He took them on the mountain where He was transfigured. They, and none of the others, saw Jesus in His glory with Moses and Elijah. Following the Last Supper, Jesus took the twelve to the Garden of Gethsemane, but He asked Peter, James and John to go with Him a little further where He prayed. It seemed natural for them to seek positions of authority in His Kingdom.

Yet, their request came immediately after He told them of His coming suffering, death and resurrection. Why did they skip over the suffering and go to kingdom thinking? Maybe they didn’t understand why Jesus would have to suffer and were afraid to ask. They must have been shocked by Jesus’ response: “To sit at my right or left is not for me to grant,” He said. “These places belong to those for whom they have been prepared” (Mark 10:40). Then Jesus told the disciples, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Mark 10:41-43). Could Jesus have meant that being a servant would be to lead with a servant’s heart. The world needs people who govern with love, humility and compassion, but in this passage Jesus meant servant. He set the example at the Last Supper when He took off His robe and wrapped a towel around His waist to wash the disciple’s feet. He healed the sick, made the blind to see, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk. He cleansed the lepers and delivered people from demons. Even in all this, Jesus was persecuted, rejected and executed–not what we would expect of a king.

THINK ABOUT IT

Everything Jesus did was to show mercy and love to a lost and dying world. His kingdom begins with Him, His ways and His teaching. We, His followers, will do as He did–show love, compassion and mercy, help in times of trouble, forgive. Be His light in this dark world. Share the hope we have in Him. It might seem overwhelming, but He has promised to be with us always. He partners with us to accomplish all He calls us to do.

PRAY ABOUT IT

O Lord, help us to have a heart like yours, filled with love, mercy and compassion. It’s challenging in these days of isolation and distancing, but make us aware of times we can help others. Make us beacons of your light and love. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Don’t Torture Me

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The disciples woke Jesus who was sleeping on a cushion in the stern of the boat. A squall had come down on the lake and water began to fill the boat. “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and the raging waters. “Where is your faith?” He asked.

After that, they sailed to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus stepped off the boat, a demon-possessed man met him. He had not worn clothes for a long time, and he lived in the tombs. He fell at Jesus’ feet and cried, “What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don’t torture me,” for Jesus had commanded the impure spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. Jesus asked him, “What is your name?”

“Legion,” he replied because many demons had gone into Him. They begged Jesus not to send them into the Abyss but to send them into a herd of pigs. He granted them permission. When the demons entered the pigs, they rushed down the steep bank into the lake and were drowned.

The people from town came to see what happened. They found the man who had been delivered from the legion of demons dressed and in his right mind. Filled with fear, the town people asked Jesus to leave, and He did. The freed man begged to go with Him, but Jesus said, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you” (Luke 8:26-39).

THINK ABOUT IT

The demons recognized Jesus, and all they could say was, “Don’t torture us.” They didn’t want salvation; just not to be tortured. Wow! They didn’t want to go to hell, but did they think about heaven? This happened in the Gentile part of Israel, which explains why there was a herd of pigs. When the town people saw what happened, they were not happy for the man who was set free from the demons, but they were afraid of God’s judgement and asked Jesus to leave their region. The man freed from demons begged to go with Jesus, but He said, “Return home and tell what God has done for you.” His testimony is perhaps the only chance the town people had to reconsider the way they lived and repent. What about you? Are you afraid of God’s judgement because you’re not ready to change your lifestyle? You are not convinced about heaven, but you’re sure you don’t want to be tortured in hell. I want you to know God loves you so much He sent His only Son, so that if you believe, you will not die (and go to hell), but have eternal life (John 3:16). Without Jesus, Satan is free to destroy you as he did the herd of pigs. My prayer is that you will accept Jesus’ amazing love and a life of purpose and fulfillment in place of emptiness and despair.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you, Jesus, for your amazing love and your faithfulness to save us from sin, death and hell. Forgive us our sins and teach us by your Word to live for You. In your precious name, Amen.

Who is my Neighbor?

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A young lawyer came to test Jesus with this question: “What do I have to do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus, as He often did, answered with a question: “What does the law say?”

The lawyer said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself” (Luke 10:27). Jesus said he was right and that’s what he should do. Then the Bible says the young man wanted to justify himself and asked, “Who is my neighbor?” It seems to me he might have been condescending toward Jesus, but I am glad he asked the question because Jesus used the opportunity to teach a lesson.

He told this story in Luke 10:30-35 (my paraphrase): A man traveled the rough mountain road from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of bandits who stripped him of his clothes, beat him up and left him to die. A priest saw him on the side of the road and walked by on the other side. A Levite did the same thing. Were these upstanding Jews too busy or did they just not care? A Samaritan who was considered an outcast because he was half Jewish and half Samarian, saw the wounded man and took time to wash him, pour oil and wine on him and bandage his wounds. He put him on his own donkey and took him to a hotel in town where he took care of him. The next morning he gave money to the hotel owner for the sick man and said, “Take care of him. When I come back I’ll give you back any extra money you had to spend” (Luke 10:35).

“Which of these men proved he was a neighbor to the man who was attacked by the bandits?” asked Jesus.

The young lawyer said, “The one who was merciful.”

Jesus said, “Go and do the same.”

THINK ABOUT IT

Since Jesus was the only way for the young lawyer to enter into eternal life, why did He have this conversation? Because for anyone to experience eternal life, he must first love God. There is real meat in the command to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind.” When we truly love God, we will love and serve others. Does that mean it will be easy? No, but it’s what we want to do. Maybe it means we have to be flexible enough with our time to be able to help someone when the need arises. Jesus is our example. When people had needs, He didn’t walk by on the other side of the street. He took time to help hurting and sick people. He allowed interruptions along His journey to show compassion.

PRAY ABOUT IT

Thank you, Lord, for all the ways you love us. Help us to love as you do and to allow interruptions in our day so we might be compassionate like Jesus. In His great name, Amen.

Justice and Mercy

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Has anyone ever hurt you or done something wrong to you? Our first reaction might be to get even, but Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek turn to him the other also” (Matthew 5:38-39).

This seems upside down to today’s world, doesn’t it? Yet Jesus wants us to respond in love instead of reacting to situations. He does not want us to retaliate to the wrongs done to us. He said, “Pray for those who persecute you,” (Matthew 5:44). Have you tried to stay angry with someone you pray for? It’s nearly impossible.

Jesus goes on to say, “And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.” This is as hard for me as not retaliating, but Jesus doesn’t want us to be tied to our personal belongings. He is ready and willing to provide for all our needs. So if someone asks us for something, when it is possible, we should be willing to help. And if someone wants us to walk with them a mile, we should be willing to walk even further.

THINK ABOUT IT

God freely gave to us. What does He expect in return? “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).

PRAY ABOUT IT

Lord Jesus, these are hard lessons. When someone hurts us, we want to strike back. Forgive us and change our hearts that we would have a new attitude toward others. Help us to hold our things lightly so when someone needs what we have, we can offer it to them without reluctance. In your precious name we pray, Amen.