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Posts tagged ‘Joseph’

Lamed Hey: In the Footsteps of Our Forefathers.


 

The 'Patriarchs Route' just south of Jerusalem
The ‘Patriarchs Route’ just south of Jerusalem (Yehoshua Halevi / Golden Images)

Growing up in New Jersey, my youth was filled with visits to important places associated with George Washington; where he fought, slept, and ate, and places associated with Thomas Edison and his many inventions. I even grew up next to a house whose sub-basement was a stop on the Underground Railroad. These bits of history as far back as 1775 are vividly etched in my mind still today.

Living in Israel, I have been exposed to a new set of landmarks, some obvious ones going back thousands of years including the Western Wall and remains of Jerusalem’s ancient Temples, the burial places of our patriarchs and matriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Leah, Rebecca and Rachel, Joseph and others. These are frequented on typical tourist itineraries, but there are many more off the beaten path, literally and figuratively.

These sites are landmarks in the thousands of years of Jewish history, underscoring our ancient, and modern, connection to the Land.

One example is a path through the mountains near my home south of Jerusalem called Derech HaAvot – the “Patriarchs Route.” More than just a catchy name, this winding dirt path is literally one of the ways that people walked south from Jerusalem to the desert, to Israel’s southern coast, and residential and commercial areas of the day, thousands of years ago. Did Abraham and Sarah and their children and grandchildren walk these very routes, maybe while going down to or returning from Egypt? There’s no archeological evidence of that (yet) but it’s intuitive that they did, as this was one of the highways of their day.

There’s something awesome and humbling knowing that these very hills, with their hot dry weather, beautiful landscapes, and magnificent sunsets, are the same today as when they lived, connecting us deeply to the Land, and our history. Of course, the most famous Book documents this all, I just have the privilege to live and raise my family here.

As much as biblical events happened all around us, there’s a vast amount of modern historical connection we have to the Land as well. A few years ago, we went with friends to visit one of Jerusalem’s lesser-known but no less interesting historical spots, the Museum of the Underground Prisoners. This is where the British used to incarcerate Jews who were accused of many crimes including being part of the resistance to the British Mandate and British policies limiting the number of Jewish immigrants, including refugees and Holocaust survivors who were able to reach the shores of our homeland.

Growing up here at that time, my father used to tell me about his friends’ older siblings who were arrested and sent to places like this, or exiled to Cyprus, for “crimes” as serious as posting flyers against the British. Back in the Underground Prison, one of our friends we were with, whose family goes back generations in Jerusalem, was raised both with academic lessons and personal family stories of this era. While exploring the museum’s exhibit that recounted the experiences of the prisoners, she came across a small Book of Psalms with a sign next to it that it had belonged to her uncle who had been imprisoned there. This little book was a link in the chain of Jewish life and experiences in Israel before 1948 that made the visit very personal to us all, and especially to her children who were fascinated to see a piece of modern history that documented their family’s ties to our national history. OK, it’s not the same as finding the knife that Abraham would have used to sacrifice Isaac, but it is meaningful all the same.

Every other year for the past several years, most recently this week, one or more of my kids joined thousands of Israeli teens commemorating the anniversary, an annual re-enactment of a famous hike, that of the legendary Lamed Hey. The kids experience for a night the mission, terrain, and weather, of an historic event in modern times, and our unbreakable bond to the Land. Lamed Hey are the Hebrew letters that represent the number 35 for the Thirty-Five soldiers who set out on an all-night mission to bring aid to the Gush Etzion region during Israel’s War of Independence.

On January 15, 1948, the Thirty-Five set out by foot carrying heavy backpacks loaded with first-aid supplies, plasma, weapons, and ammunition for the embattled Jewish Gush Etzion communities. They were forced to proceed slowly up the Judean Mountains’ rocky terrain. They departed before midnight, more than 15 miles away. Other than braving a cold Judean Mountain winter night, they first had to bypass a British police station unnoticed, and continue through hostile Arab territory.

The Thirty-Five walked throughout the night. Near dawn they approached Zurif, the last Arab village before Gush Etzion, four miles away. The unit was detected and shots were fired at them. They were deep in enemy territory without any means to call for outside help. As soon as the battle began, the commander realized that they would not be able to break through to Gush Etzion. They quickly split into two and, with one group covering the other, they climbed to the top of what is now known as “Battle Hill,” a strategic defensive location. The Thirty-Five bravely defended themselves against the fierce attacks of hundreds of Arabs from neighboring villages. Toward evening on Jan. 16, the supply of ammunition which the Thirty-Five carried began to run out. The battle ended with the death of the last of the Thirty-Five who, having used all their ammunition, died with rocks in their hands. After the battle, many of the bodies were mutilated by the Arabs beyond recognition.

We are connected to this Land, biblically, historically, and in modern times in more ways than can be recounted. We have paid a heavy price to return and restore Jewish sovereignty to the Land that God gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and their descendants, including me and my family.

It is with no small measure of joy and privilege that I raise my children here, 10-15 minutes from Jerusalem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron, Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem, and “Battle Hill” to where each of my four eldest children retraced the footsteps of modern forefathers, recalling their bravery, and our timeless connection to this, our Land, in the footsteps of our modern and biblical forefathers.

Source: STANDING WITH ISRAEL.

JONATHAN FELDSTEIN

Jonathan Feldstein is the director of Heart to Heart, a unique virtual blood donation program to bless Israel and save lives in Israel. Born and educated in the U.S., Feldstein emigrated to Israel in 2004. He is married and the father of six. Throughout his life and career, he has been blessed by the calling to fellowship with Christian supporters of Israel and shares experiences of living as an Orthodox Jew in Israel. He writes a column for Charisma’s Standing With Israel. You can contact Jonathan atfirstpersonisrael@gmail.com.

Hold On to Your Promise From God.


 

woman reading bible

“You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call Him Jesus. 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…” (Lk. 1:31-32).

Mary was given a wonderful promise from God. At first, it seemed to be fulfilled fairly quickly. She conceived and birthed a son before she and Joseph consummated their marriage.

We love it when that happens, don’t we? God speaks and then, Boom!,here’s the proof.

But that wasn’t the whole promise. Mary was told her son would be the long-awaited Messiah. Yet what she held in her arms was an infant.

The promise didn’t look like she expected.

So what’s the next step? She had a promise. She had an angelic visitation. She had confirmation from shepherds, the anointed man Simeonand the prophetess Anna.

But she was still holding a baby.

What do you do when the word you’ve been given doesn’t play out like you think it will? It was 30 years before Mary saw her Son step into the destiny spoken to her. She had to have more than the initial euphoria of the spiritual experience to carry her through those decades.

“All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often” (Lk. 2:18-19).

The Greek word used for “kept” means Mary preserved these things to keep them from perishing; keeping them in mind lest they be forgotten. And the word used for “thought about them” means she was conversing with herself about them, bringing them together in her mind.

And 12 years later, when she had to go back to bring her Son home from the Temple, she still “treasured all these things in her heart” (v.52).

Mary kept the promise alive inside of her. She deliberately, purposefully rehearsed and remembered what had been said.

As the years passed, rather than let go, she chose to hold tightly to what she’d been told.

Do you have unfulfilled promises in your life? Learn from Mary. Take time, as you head towards a new year, to dust off those promises. Remember them, think about them. Refuse to be discouraged or distracted. Remind yourself of the faithfulness of the One who gave them, and let this be the refrain of your heart this year:

Blessed is she who believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!”(Lk. 1:45).

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.

KAREN RAMSEY

Karen Ramsey is a special education teacher in Kansas City and a contributing blogger to A Modern Voice.

Living a new reality….


By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“You will keep in perfect peace all who trust in you, all whose thoughts are fixed on you! Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.”
-Isaiah 26:3-4

If you have the love of God in your heart, the affections and the attentions of other people just don’t matter as much, nor does the distress, the lack of meaning, or the worry. If God is protecting you, if God is on your side, if you’re living in God’s reality, those things still affect you but they lose their edge. If you truly know the love of God, you’re given strength to live in an imperfect world, a world that may hate you for no good reason, a world that gossips about you, a family that dislikes you, friends or co-workers that are always on your heels. You can abide with all these circumstances because there is this love that gives you strength.

You can be like Jesus. You can sit on a boat and take a nap in a storm if you really have that peace. You don’t have to worry about tomorrow. You live in a new reality.

And that reality was with Mary and Joseph in that stable. It was with those shepherds who followed angels to our Savior’s manger. That reality encourages you to become like the Magi, saying to yourself, “I will search and search and search for years. I will cross thousands of miles. I will take everything I have, and I will give it up if I can just see Jesus. If I can just kneel before him, I will gladly give away all of these things that the earth says are valuable, and I will not rest until I’m able to lay them before his throne.”

Peace is available today at Christmas, for Jesus came to be our Prince of Peace.

Prayer: Dear Lord, even this Christmastime when there is little peace in the people surrounding me, little peace being reported in the news, little peace in the workplace, I will find my peace in you. Amen.

Devotion: How do you find peace amidst a disquieting world?

The Stigma of Jesus’ Virgin Birth.


Mary and Jesus

The discussion I had with the late Yasser Arafat during my first visit with him in Ramallah in 2002 was almost entirely theological. I stressed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that He died on the cross for our sins. Arafat reached for his Quran to show me something he thought would impress me. Pointing to a certain passage (as if I could read Arabic), he said, “Did you know that the only woman mentioned in the Quran is the Virgin Mary?”

“Well, how interesting, Rais [Arabic for president],” I replied, “it sounds as if the Quran is proving that Jesus had no earthly father and therefore must be the Son of God.”

Do you believe that Jesus of Nazareth was born of a virgin and had no earthly father? Muslims do. In fact, one of the most successful evangelistic approaches when talking to Muslims is to focus on the virgin birth of Jesus. They are committed to the Quran, which teaches this truth.

And yet Muslims say they do not believe Jesus is the Son of God. Noting the contradiction in their beliefs, you can lovingly point out to them that if Jesus had no earthly father, it can mean only one thing—that God Himself is His father, and Jesus is therefore God’s Son.

The virgin birth of Jesus is one of the clearest teachings in the New Testament. The accounts in Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38 are unambiguous and leave no doubt that Jesus of Nazareth had no earthly father but was born of Mary, who had never known a man.

Why is this fact significant? Primarily because it is in the Bible. But there are other reasons for exploring the truth of the virgin birth.

First, it shows the stigma, or offense, Christians must bear in upholding this truth. The word stigma is a Greek word. It refers to a mark or tattoo on the body, often used on a runaway slave in the ancient world so he would be easily identified. Paul used the word to show he was unashamed of being a slave of Jesus: “I bear in my body the marks [stigmata] of the Lord Jesus” (Gal. 6:17, NKJV).

The stigma of the virgin birth is made clear in the New Testament. Consider what an offense it was for Joseph to accept Mary after she disclosed to him that she was pregnant. It was a horrible moment for him—and for her.

Why should he believe her when she assured him that she had been faithful to him, knowing he had never slept with her? They were engaged, but “before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 1:18). Joseph’s immediate reaction was to break their engagement quietly.

To have remained engaged would have demanded that he bear a stigma of incalculable proportions. Being pregnant out of wedlock is no big deal today. But in Joseph and Mary’s day, having sex before marriage was possibly the worst thing a couple could do. Everyone would assume this is what Joseph and Mary had done. The couple knew they hadn’t, but who would believe them? And why should Joseph believe Mary?

This is the reason God graciously stepped in on Mary’s behalf. “An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit’” (Matt.1:20). That was news to Joseph, but it made sense in the light of what Mary had claimed. It meant she had certainly not been unfaithful to him.

But it also meant that he had a major decision to make—namely, whether to leave her entirely and let her bear the stigma of being a single parent, or to stay with her and be seen for the rest of his life as the man who got Mary pregnant out wedlock. If he stayed with her, they would bear the offense together. They alone would know the truth and would be able to comfort each other in this sublime knowledge—that it was a miracle of God.

Could they tell anyone? No. For one thing, nobody would believe them. But also they would not tell because they had to be willing to suffer for the glory of God.

This unseemly situation meant the loss of their reputations, a stigma for which they suffered the rest of their lives. They would never outgrow it.

As a matter of fact, more than 30 years later, people were still talking about it. As long as Jesus was performing miracles and feeding thousands with the loaves and fishes, the people appeared to be willing to overlook the rumor that He had been born an illegitimate child.

But the moment Jesus said things such as, “‘I am the bread which came down from heaven,’” they resorted to the gossip of the day: “‘Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?’” (John 6:41-42). This comment shows that the followers of Jesus probably suspected Jesus was illegitimate but let their suspicions surface only when His message became a stigma too.

In any case, Joseph made the hardest decision of his life. When he woke up from the dream, he “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son” (Matt.1:24-25). Joseph determined to live with his decision and became the unsung hero of the Christmas story.

An Untold Mystery 

There is another reason the virgin birth of Jesus is relevant; it shows the importance of being able to keep God’s secrets. Consider this comment by Luke: “But Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). There is reason to believe that Mary never told the miracle of Jesus’ birth until years after He had died and ascended to heaven. At that point she apparently broke her silence and told Luke what had happened.

In the very first chapter of his Gospel, Luke records the occasion when the angel Gabriel came to Mary unexpectedly and said, “‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you’” (Luke 1:28). Mary was puzzled by the angel’s greeting, but the angel said to her, “‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus’” (v. 31).

Mary questioned the angel: “‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ [The NIV translates the last part of Mary’s question, “since 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’” (vv. 34-35).

Imagine having an experience with God like this and keeping quiet about it for many years! Yes, she did stay during her pregnancy with her cousin Elizabeth, who discerned Mary’s condition by the Holy Spirit (see Luke 1:39-45). But there is no indication that anybody else knew, not even the disciples of Jesus.

Mary must have been tempted to reveal this extraordinary secret a thousand times, but she didn’t. Why? First, she would have been doing so largely to clear her own name. She chose instead to bear the stigma. Second, it might have been like casting a pearl before swine (see Matt. 7:6). The enemies of Jesus would not have believed her, and the news could have been counterproductive. So Mary did not tell it until she revealed it to Luke before she died.

There’s a good possibility that the followers of Jesus were willing to follow Him not knowing what Mary knew and very possibly assuming that Jesus really was an illegitimate child, as implied in John 6:42. What would have been their thinking in following Jesus if indeed they believed He was born out of wedlock?

Peter could answer: “‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. Also we have come to believe and know that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (John 6:68-69). And yet it must have been a sweet consolation to their souls to have the word spread among the church many years later that Mary was in fact a virgin when Jesus was born, showing that He was truly the Son of God.

The virgin birth of Jesus reveals our helplessness in the face of God’s commands and our need for His power to fulfill them. When Gabriel appeared to Mary and told her what God wanted, she had a significant question: “How can I have a child since I am a virgin?” (see Luke 1:34).

“‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you,’” the angel replied, and added, “‘For with God nothing will be impossible’” (vv. 35,37).

An Essential Truth 

The virgin birth lays the foundation for the most essential truth of all—that Jesus was and is the God-man; He was man as though He were not God, and God as though He were not man. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father” the apostle John tells us (John 1:1,14, emphasis added).

Only God could have performed the miracle of His Son’s conception. He caused the Word to enter the womb of Mary and become a seed. At that moment, the Word became flesh. Even as an embryo, He was fully human as well as fully God. The God-man lived in Mary’s womb for nine months and then was born.

God chose a virgin from the tribe of Judah living in Nazareth to be the mother of our Lord. She had the genealogical credentials to qualify, being in the line of David. God chose a virgin to prove that only He could have been Jesus’ father.

The virgin birth of Jesus further demonstrates that salvation is ultimately the work of God. It was His idea alone and was brought about solely by His initiative. God had promised that the seed of the woman would ultimately destroy the serpent’s head (see Gen. 3:15).

The virgin birth of Christ shows that salvation can never come through human effort; it must be by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit. In His perfect timing “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5). The purpose of Jesus’ coming was for Him to save His people from their sins (see Matt. 1:21). He was born to die.

If God had made Jesus a complete human being in heaven and then sent Him to earth without any human parent, it would have been impossible for Him to be human as we are. If, on the other hand, God had brought Jesus into the world with two human parents, both a father and a mother, it would have been impossible for Him to be fully God.

Besides the supernatural component of God’s sending His Son to earth, there was a natural one that was essential for Jesus to be born: Mary had to agree to God’s plan! She might have said “No,” or perhaps, “Let me think about it.” I fancy that all heaven waited with baited breath for Mary’s consent.

That consent came immediately. “‘Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word,’” was her reply to the angel (Luke 1:38). In that moment the eternal Word left His glory with the Father and the Spirit and became flesh, to be the God-man forever and ever. It was the greatest moment in heaven and earth since creation.

Do you believe in the virgin birth? Will you accept the stigma of being a follower of Jesus, especially in this day of pluralism when His words, “‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me’” (John 14:6) are a tremendous offense?

Will you bear this stigma? Joseph did. Mary did. Let us follow in their steps and be willing to let our vindication come long after we are gone, in order to prove to the world that Jesus, born of a woman, was indeed the Son of God.

Source: CHARISMA NEWS.

R.T. Kendall was the pastor of Westminster Chapel in London for 25 years. He is well-known internationally as a speaker and teacher and is the author of more than 50 books.


IS CHRISTMAS BAD?

Tired of people bashing “Christ’s-mass”? Go to christmas.charismamag.com to find out the rich meanings behind the symbols of the season.

“This Is Serious”.


So it was, when the angels had gone away from them into heaven, that the shepherds said to one another, “Let us now go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has come to pass, which the Lord has made known to us.”
Luke 2:15

Recommended Reading
Luke 1:26-38 ( http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%201:26-38&version=NKJV )

If a stranger announced that you were the winner of a giant sweepstakes, would you believe him? It is doubtful. But if the Publishers Clearance House team arrived at your home with an official van, balloons, video cameras, and a huge check, would your reaction be different? Yes, it would — but why? Because when important things happen, there is a need for verification, authenticity, and believability.

Listen to Today’s Radio Message ( http://www.davidjeremiah.org/site/radio.aspx?tid=email_listenedevo )

Now think about the first Christmas. If a friend told Mary she would give birth to the Messiah … if a stranger told Joseph that Mary was pregnant by the Holy Spirit … if one of the shepherds said to the others, “I think the Messiah was just born in Bethlehem” … if Joseph woke Mary up in the middle of the night and said, “I think we need to go to Egypt” — how believable would any of these scenarios seem? Not very! Instead, in all four instances (and throughout biblical history) God sent angels to declare the message, “This is serious.”

Thank God for “ministering spirits” this Christmas.

Read-Thru-the-Bible
Hebrews 11-13

By David Jeremiah.

Joseph: Showers in the Desert.


Walk with Christ
What type of pain are you willing to endure for Christ? (Lightstock)

I’ve noticed in my life that even during the long, hard years, God was always there. I see the same thing in Joseph’s story. And I believe it will be true for you as well.

The Lord will encourage you in big and little ways—a kind word at work that cheers you up, a special time in prayer or reading your Bible, a friend who asks you to lunch with no agenda, warm times with your family. In those special moments, you will sense His goodness or will be reminded that He hasn’t forgotten you. These times may feel too brief. But they’re real—like a cloud bursting open in the desert that makes flowers bloom in the least likely places.

Think of it like this: When God sends you on a mission, He will also send His favor. Look at the strong connection between God’s favor to Joseph and the mystery-shrouded mission God sent him on:

  • “The Lord was with Joseph so that he prospered” (Gen. 39:2, NIV).
  • “When … the Lord gave him success in everything he did, Joseph found favor” (vv. 3-4).
  • “The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor” (v. 21).
  • “The warden paid no attention to anything under Joseph’s care, because the Lord was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did” (v. 23).
  • “It was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you” (Gen. 45:5).
  • “God sent me ahead of you” (v. 7).
  • “It was not you who sent me here, but God” (v. 8).

The simple truth is that we can endure almost any amount of pain if we believe it has a purpose.

Chuck Colson told a story in Kingdoms in Conflict about some prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp. Every day they were forced to fill wheelbarrows with sand and push them from one end of the prison yard to the other, then empty them. The next day they put the sand back in the wheelbarrows, pushed them back to where they started the day before, and emptied them again.

This went on day after day. The prisoners started going crazy. One man collapsed and began to sob uncontrollably. Another man ran into the electric fence and was electrocuted. Why? It was because there was no purpose in his ordeal. It was a form of torture.

You may be enduring something right now that makes no sense to you. It feels like torture. But God has given us the story of Joseph to show us that He never deals with us like those guards in the concentration camp. God always has a higher purpose, a greater good for our lives. And in the midst of even the toughest circumstances, He is at work, not just in the circumstances themselves, but in us—shaping us as His sons to be more usable and beautiful for Him.

The preceding is an excerpt from Patrick Morley’s book How God Makes Men, Multnomah, 2013.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ NEW MAN.

You Don’t Need an Angelic Visitation to Respond to God’s Call.


Mary and Joseph in a manger
(© Studio-Annika iStockPhoto.com)

“Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:19-21

We’re given just a little glimpse of Mary and Joseph before Jesus was born. They lived in the hill country of Galilee. Joseph was a religious man. Mary gives every evidence of having a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, even though she was a teenager. The Bible teaches that God was so pleased with her that He chose her to be the mother of Jesus. Mary and Joseph weren’t married, and yet Mary became pregnant.

I’ve often put myself in Joseph’s place—imagined his thoughts, his aspirations about the girl to whom he was engaged. But Joseph decided to break the engagement privately.

While he was thinking about these things, God’s angel appeared to him in a dream to give Joseph an explanation of the situation. All Joseph’s suspicions were put away. He accepted what God had said through the angel, and he was immediately married to Mary.

Both Joseph and Mary followed the call and plan of God, and through their obedience the way was prepared for Christ to come and bless us.

Are you seeking to follow God’s call on your life? Are you actively responding to Him? Tell us on ourFacebook page.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.

BILLY GRAHAM

When Your Prophetic Journey Meets With Spiritual Warfare.


woman worshipping
(http://www.stockfreeimages.com)

From her encounter with Gabriel to her experience at Pentecost, Mary’s journey parallels that of any woman who pursues God’s promises for her life.

Mary knelt in the shadow of the cross, weeping in anguish as her first-born Son hung above her, naked and bloody. The ominous roar of thunder was crowded out by His agonizing cry, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?”

She looked up through her tears. “Why,” she cried out in the deafening silence of her thoughts, “why didn’t You defend Yourself? I saw the raw power of God move through You. At Your word, demons fled, blind eyes were opened, lepers were cleansed. Why didn’t You command the angels to save You?

“You were going to be king of the Jews. It was prophesied; I didn’t make it up. The angel Gabriel visited me, and everything happened as he said. It wasn’t supposed to end like this.”

Most of us remember Mary as the 15-year-old girl who rode off on a donkey to facilitate the Christmas story. But her life was so much more. It was a tapestry of mysteries that unraveled gradually across the seasons of her years, bringing her ultimately to this scene at the foot of the cross.

Mary, you see, was on a prophetic journey. And so are you.

On the day of the crucifixion, Mary’s Son was not all that was dying; so were every belief and prophetic promise she’d clung to for 33 years. Perhaps you, too, have had your life turned upside down. You’ve seen your dreams die. The future looks bleak and empty. You need to understand that your prophetic walk with God is a cyclical journey. Like Mary, you will have seasons of prophetic revelation; seasons ofspiritual warfare and wilderness wandering; seasons of ordinary, “ho-hum” life; seasons of effective ministry. All these ultimately lead to the cross and to the death of all things you hold dear.

But the cross is never the end.

Radical Visitation “One night the angel Gabriel came to me. Me–a simple Jewish girl living in poverty in the little town of Nazareth. What did I have to offer anyone, especially almighty God?

“His voice filled the room. ‘Greetings, you who are highly favored among women. The Lord is with you.’ He told me not to fear and that I would give birth to the Messiah. I cried out,’Yes, Lord, let it be unto me according to Your word.'”

Mary was a sovereign vessel chosen to be the mother of Jesus. Yet the Bible doesn’t indicate that she moved in miracles. She simply possessed a heart of devotion and childlike faith. She said, “Yes Lord, let it be done unto me,” and it changed her life forever. That’s why we can all be like Mary.

The Holy Spirit overshadowed her, and the new life that was birthed in her womb ushered in the Messianic Age. Do you cry out, “Lord, I want to be like Mary–radically overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, impregnated with your purpose”? Do you want to usher in revival?

Then know that there is a price behind the anointing. There is a stigma. Birthing the things of the Spirit is messy, and revival is controversial. Are you willing to be a humble vessel giving birth to God’s purpose in an untidy stable, or will you say, “There’s no room in the inn”?

Spiritual Warfare “In the middle of the night Joseph shook me violently. He was terrified, crying, ranting about Herod’s wanting Jesus dead. He said we had to leave town–right away. He grabbed Jesus and was out the door before I could understand what was happening. We left everything behind that night, no explanations, no goodbyes. Life as we’d known it was over.”

Satan always goes after a move of God in its infancy, when it’s most vulnerable. King Herod diabolically ordered the slaughter of baby boys. But God gave Joseph and Mary divine strategies to protect their son, telling Joseph in a dream to flee with his family to Egypt.

Are you under attack from the enemy? The greater your call and destiny, the greater the spiritual warfare you will face. The enemy wants to abort your prophetic promises. When the stirrings of revival begin to be birthed in you and around you, challenging the status quo, the demonic realm is aroused. Don’t be afraid; God will be faithful to deliver you out of the enemy’s hand.

The Wilderness “Why didn’t God remove Herod in-stead of us? It hurt so much to leave everyone behind. I kept thinking, If only my family and friends could see Jesus grow up.

“And why Egypt? Why did God send us to the land that represents bondage for our people? Are we going to die here or in the wilderness, like our forefathers?”

Maybe you’ve had incredible, dramatic encounters with God. You’ve had multiple prophetic words recorded on tape and transcribed into notebooks. You’re sure that any minute now your prophetic promises will come to pass.

Mary also received prophetic words: Her Son would be king of the Jews. So why were they banished and suffering in an uncomfortable and foreign land? Mary didn’t realize that the prophetic timetable for the fulfillment of Jesus’ destiny would be a grueling 30 years long. You, too, will spend time in the wilderness; you will experience seasons of barrenness. Are you willing to wait on the Lord’s timing?

An Ordinary Life “Finally, after several years in Egypt, God spoke to Joseph again in a dream. Herod was dead. This time it was I who grabbed Jesus and ran out the door with Joseph trailing behind. We couldn’t get home fast enough.

“Things eventually settled down, but mothering Jesus was always a challenge. Once, when He was 12 years old, and we were returning in a large group from the festival in Jerusalem, I realized He wasn’t with the other children. We frantically returned to the city to look for Him. Finally, we found Him in the temple. You know what He said? He said I should have known He was there! Oy vey! I wanted to ground Him until He was 21!”

Do you feel as if you’re on a shelf, living an ordinary life? Are you changing diapers, cooking dinner and dealing with the neighbors while crying out in your heart: Lord, have you forgotten me? Why don’t people recognize my gifting? Don’t they realize I had a radical visitation back in 1990?

Mary had 30 years of obscurity to develop a hidden testimony–a secret history with God. You, too, have an appointed time to build family, community and greater intimacy with Jesus. In the midst of that time you may feel like crying out, What’s taking so long? By the time my destiny comes, I’ll be pursuing it in a wheel chair! But seasons of preparation are important. These are the times when God works patience, radical passion and deep devotion into your life.

Finally, Ministry Begins “When I was 45 years old, life changed dramatically for Jesus and me. He started bringing home a ragtag bunch of fishermen to dinner. Then, at a wedding, He changed water into wine. From then on He moved in amazing signs and wonders, and a huge crowd followed Him everywhere. The excitement grew daily as Jesus walked among the people, bringing revival. But I still don’t understand what He meant when He said, ‘Who is my mother?'”

Mary had to relinquish control of her life and Jesus’ life in the midst of an outpouring of the Spirit. In your life and ministry, you also have to let go–of your plans, your expectations, your ways. Just as Jesus had to leave His home and follow the Father, you also have to relinquish control of your life and follow the Father, even if it takes you to the cross.

And it will.

The Dark Night “Why God, why? Why have You forsaken Him? Why have You forsaken me? He was supposed to deliver us. He was our salvation, and now He’s gone. If you really love us, why have You allowed this to happen?”

Jesus was in the prime of His life. The countryside was in the midst of a tremendous revival. But now He was dying on the cross–and so was Mary. Overcome by feelings of abandonment and betrayal, she was in the middle of a crisis of faith.

When Jesus chose to go to the cross, Mary was compelled to go there, too. The truth is, the cross is always being worked in our lives–sometimes through the choices of others. Your daughter has an abortion; your son abuses drugs; your husband files for divorce. You never intended to go to that cross, but there you are.

You want to believe the Lord will rescue you at the last moment, but often His plan is to crucify you. Everything dies at the cross: relationships, ministries, agendas, reputations, finances. It’s painful, but it’s necessary. If you cry out to be part of the bride of Christ, then you must be–you will be–identified with the sufferings of the Bridegroom.

Resurrection “He’s alive! I thought I’d cried all my tears on Golgotha, but when our eyes met, it was like a flood. As I ran into His open arms, He scooped me up and spun me around in joyous laughter.

“The times we shared after the resurrection were the most precious of my life. They made it easier to release Him–again. As I watched Him ascend, I prayed again, ‘Lord, let it be unto me according to Your word, for the rest of my life.'”

Out of great death comes great life. Mary’s prophetic promises had been limited by her worldview. In her mind’s eye she had seen Jesus as king over the little nation of Israel for the span of His lifetime. In reality, He was King of kings and Lord of lords for all people and all time.

At the cross, God crucifies our limited view concerning the fulfillment of our prophetic destiny and resurrects it to His eternal view. The Lord revives our broken dreams–when they come to pass, they rarely look as we thought they would.

Source: CHARISMA MAGAZINE/ SPIRITLED WOMAN.

Our Annual Christmas IQ Quiz.


How well do you know the Christmas story?

Most of us know the general outline because we’ve heard or sung it or watched it being enacted in the Christmas programs that most churches offer during December. We know about the shepherds, the angels, the “Wise Men,” the star, the innkeeper, the long journey of Mary and Joseph, the baby in the manger, and we know about the gold, frankincense and myrrh. But how much of what we know is tradition and how much comes from the Bible?

For the last several years David Langerfeld, Associate Pastor of Harrisburg Baptist Church in Tupelo, has given a Christmas IQ Test to his Sunday School class. I should warn you that this is a tough quiz. When I took it, I missed several questions. Try taking it first without checking the Bible to see how well you know the real Christmas story.

For extra fun, make copies of this quiz for your Sunday School class or small group and see how much everyone knows about the Christmas story.

Click here to read the answers (along with a few additional comments from me).

1. Joseph was originally from… (Luke 2:3)
A. Bethlehem
B. Nazareth
C. Hebron
D. Jerusalem
E. None of the above

2. What does the Bible say that the Innkeeper said to Mary and Joseph? (Luke 2:7)
A. “There is no room in the inn.”
B. “I have a stable you can use.”
C. “Come back later and I should have some vacancies.”
D. Both A and B
E. None of the above

3. A manger is a…
A. Stable for domestic animals
B. Wooden hay storage bin
C. Feeding trough
D. Barn

4. Which animals does the Bible say were present at Jesus’ birth?
A. Cows, sheep, goats
B. Cows, Donkeys, goats
C. Sheep and goats only
D. Miscellaneous barnyard animals
E. None of the above

5. Who saw the star in the east?
A. Shepherds
B. Mary and Joseph
C. Three Kings
D. Both A and C
E. None of the above

6. According to the Bible, how did Mary and Joseph get to Bethlehem?
A. Camel
B. Donkey
C. Walked
D. Joseph walked, Mary rode a donkey
E. Horse-drawn chariot
F. Who knows?

7. How many angels spoke to the shepherds? (Luke 2:10)
A. One
B. Three
C. Multitude
D. None of the above

8. What did the angels say/sing? (Luke 2:14)
A. “Glory to God in the highest, etc.”
B. “Alleluia”
C. “Unto us a child is born, Unto us a son is given”
D. “Joy the world, the Lord is come”
E. “Glory to the newborn King”

9. What is a heavenly host?
A. The angel at the gate of heaven
B. The angel who serves refreshments in heaven
C. An angel choir
D. An angel army
E. None of the above

10. There was snow that first Christmas…
A. Only in Bethlehem
B. All over Israel
C. Nowhere in Israel
D. Somewhere in Israel

11. What is Frankincense?
A. A precious metal
B. A precious fabric
C. A precious perfume
D. None of the above

12. In Matthew, what does “wise men” or “Magi” refer to?
A. Men of the educated class
B. Eastern Kings
C. Men who studied the stars
D. Sages

13. What is Myrrh?
A. Middle Eastern Money
B. A drink
C. An easily shaped metal
D. A spice used for burying people
E. None of the above

14. How many wise men came to see Jesus?
A. 3
B. 6
C. 9
D. 12
E. We don’t know.

15. Where did the wise men find Jesus? (Matthew 2:11)
A. In a manger
B. In a stable
C. In Nazareth
D. In Saudi Arabia
E. In a house
F. None of the above

16. When the wise men found Jesus he was… (Matthew 2:11)
A. A babe wrapped in swaddling clothes
B. A young child
C. A boy in the temple
D. A grown man

17. The “star in the east” that the wise men followed… (Matthew 2:9)
A. Stayed in the same place their entire journey
B. Disappeared and reappeared
C. Moved ahead of them and stopped over the place where Jesus was
D. Was just a mirage
E. None of the above

18. The wise men stopped in Jerusalem… (Matthew 2:2)
A. To inform Herod about Jesus
B. To find out where Jesus was
C. To ask about the star
D. To buy presents
E. None of the above

19. Where do we find the Christmas story?
A. Matthew
B. Mark
C. Luke
D. John
E. All of the above
F. Only A and B
G. Only A and C
H. Only A, B, and C

20. When Joseph found Mary was pregnant, what happened?
A. They got married
B. Joseph wanted to break the engagement
C. Mary left town for three months
D. A and B
E. B and C

21. Who told (made) Mary and Joseph go to Bethlehem? (Luke 2:1-5)
A. The angel chorus
B. Mary’s mother
C. Herod
D. The shepherds
E. Caesar Augustus

Dr. Ray Pritchard

Author, Speaker, President of Keep Believing Ministries

Don’t forget to check the online answer page to see how well you did. Your comments are always welcome.

You can reach the author at ray@keepbelieving.com. Click here to sign up for the free email sermon.

The power of positive words…


By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits.”
-Proverbs 18:21

In Luke, we read how the angel appears to Mary telling her that she’s going to become the mother of the coming Messiah. Probably 15 years old or so, Mary’s just recently become engaged to Joseph. They have not consummated their relationship, and yet the angel says that she’s going to be pregnant before they’re married. To Mary, this should come as very bad news.

Think about the repercussions socially for Mary, an unwed, teenage virgin. Joseph is going to think that she has cheated on him and she will become an outcast to her community. The outcome could be life threatening because, in those days, to have a child out of wedlock meant that you and your child were probably going to sit on the street and beg.

This is terrible, terrible, terrible news for Mary socially. However, because the news comes from God through an angel, she somehow knows that it’s not terrible news. Something great is going to happen.

And how does Mary respond? Does she respond with doubt? No, she says, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be as you have said.” She receives God’s blessing, speaks her own positive words of blessing over it, and then she begins to sing.

Remember, there’s power in our every word.

Prayer: Dear Lord, thank you so much for the example of Mary, who had such deep and abiding faith in you that she was willing to embrace a life change that almost anyone else would have rejected. I pray that I will be as open to your every blessing as was Mary was on that very important day. Amen.

Reflection: Have you ever experienced a radical life change that you could have faced with fear but instead, because of your faith in God, faced positively?

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