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Posts tagged ‘Mary’

Respond to Your Call to Influence.


 

group of women
(http://www.stockfreeimages.com)

The church has not always recognized the spiritual gifts of women. But God has fashioned them to be key players in His kingdom.

Let’s imagine for a moment what the world would be like without women. All the wonderful traits women are capable of providing with exuberance—gentleness, nurture, care, refined beauty—would be missing.

Men possess these same qualities but in smaller supply; women, on the other hand, overflow with them. Without women the world would look like an army base where everything’s painted white or gray and designed for efficiency at the expense of beauty. An awful sense of incompleteness would permeate the planet.

Women have many qualities unique to their gender, one of the grandest being the ability to host life. This privilege to shelter another life at such an intimate level has been granted exclusively to Eve and her daughters.

Women can nurture their newborns through the most intimate interaction between a female adult and a child: breastfeeding. The image of a baby being nursed by a loving mother is a picture of total dependency, perfect care and the most sublime transfer of nurture from one being to another.

Women are also the ones who predominantly shape the character of their children during their crucial early years. They plant tender gestures in the inner layer of a child’s malleable soul and watch as, like the seeds in a flowerbed, the spiritual seeds sprout, spreading beauty over the adult landscape in the form of noble deeds.

When were the seeds planted? During the nurturing years when a child spends most of his time with a woman: his mother!

Jesus’ First Teacher
It was a woman, young Mary, who first heard beating within her the heart of God Incarnate when she was pregnant with Jesus. It was her hands that first touched Jesus’ body and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes.

Think for a moment what this reflects: God Almighty, Creator and Preserver of the universe, took the form of a baby and became dependent on the care of one of His creatures. When God experienced human flesh, with all its limitations, who was there to meet His needs? A woman.

Jesus’ mother, Mary, was His first teacher and also later His first disciple. No other human knew Jesus as intimately as Mary did.

Ponder for a moment the scene at Calvary. While most of Jesus’ frightened disciples hid at a distance, Mary and a group of faithful women gathered at the foot of the cross. Despite the pain and suffering Jesus endured, His last earthly concern was for a woman—His mother.

He could not forget that she had taken care of Him when His earthly life began. And now, as His life was about to end, Jesus lovingly turned her over to the care of His beloved disciple (see John 19:26-27).

Women’s Hall of Fame
Throughout the Bible are inspiring testimonies of other brave and brilliant women who were not mere privates in God’s army but key players who were given pivotal assignments at strategic points and in crucial times.

Moses’ mother challenged the pharaoh’s genocidal decree when she preserved the life of the one who would eventually lead millions of Hebrews to freedom (see Ex. 2).

Rahab held the keys to the taking of Jericho. By turning them in the right direction she assured the fall of the fortress city (see Josh. 2).

Hannah cried out to God for Samuel to be born, and he went on to become the greatest prophet and judge Israel ever knew (see 1 Sam. 1).

Deborah was an illustrious judge and a proven prophetess who delivered Israel from the mighty chariots of Jabin, the oppressing king of Canaan. Another woman, Jael, helped to bring total destruction to Jabin and his leading general, Sisera (see Judges 4-5).

Esther courageously risked her life to save her nation, God’s people, when they were in danger of being exterminated.

Sarah was called “mother of nations” by God Himself (see Gen. 17:16) and is listed among the heroes of the faith in Hebrews 11.

Priscilla and her husband, Aquila, instructed and guided Apollos, who had been preaching less-than-perfect theology (see Acts 18: 24-26). The fact that in most tranlations, Priscilla is listed first in this passage signifies the prominence of her role.

On the shoulders of these women—and countless more down through the ages—rested the fate of cities, tribes and nations.

Pillars of the Early Church
One of the main reasons Christianity spread so rapidly in the early years is because its message restored honor and self-worth to half the world’s population: women. Romans had such a low view of women that some men engaged in sex with other men. Jewish rabbis completely silenced women inside the synagogue, and pagans used them as temple prostitutes.

However, early church leaders dignified women by teaching that in Christ “there is neither male nor female” and we “are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28, NKJV). Women were also given positions of honor and leadership.

Priscilla, for instance, was part of the team that founded the church in Ephesus—site of the greatest power encounter recorded in the book of Acts. She was there, inside the crux of God’s power, when God dethroned Artemis and brought down the demonic socioeconomic structure that had controlled Ephesus.

Throughout the epistles women are unapologetically exalted as pillars of the faith. Paul identified two women as the headwaters of Timothy’s faith: his mother and his grandmother (see 2 Tim. 1:5). In Romans, a letter intended for wide circulation and public reading, Paul praised several women as people of faith and proven ministry (see Rom. 16:1-15).

The first European convert was a woman, Lydia, and hers was the first household to be baptized (see Acts 16:14-15). She was very assertive in her interaction with the apostles: “She begged us, saying, ‘If you have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come to my house and stay.’ So she persuaded us” (v. 15).

Three centuries later, the driving force behind Constantine’s conversion and the subsequent Christianization of the Roman Empire was another woman, Helena, the emperor’s mother.

Extraordinary Sensitivity
Women have an extraordinary sensitivity to spiritual things. I am not saying that they are more godly than men, but I believe they are definitely more spiritual. This is why Jesus was able to reveal two of the most powerful truths in the gospels to women.

He told Martha that He is the resurrection and the life (see John 11:25-27). To the Samaritan woman Jesus explained that He is the living water (see John 4:7-15). These women were in a state of confusion when Jesus found them, but both were able to hear, understand and believe these profound truths.

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.

Duck Dynasty Merchandise Flying Off Shelves.


Image: Duck Dynasty Merchandise Flying Off Shelves

By Melissa Clyne

While there has been a widespread media backlash over anti-gay remarks made by “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson, it doesn’t look like demand for the hit A&E show’s merchandise is waning.

“Most people who are buying the brand, they are like-minded to Phil anyway,” Hans Wilz of Great Ideas LLC, told USA Today. Wilz’s company helped create Duck Dynasty-scented candles that are sold across the country. “That demographic is not offended by what he said.”

Cracker Barrel initially pulled the show’s products from shelves only to return them days later following a barrage of emails, tweets and phone calls from Duck Dynasty fans threatening to boycott the 625-store chain. Upon resuming sales, Cracker Barrel issuedthe following statement, Forbes reports.

“When we made the decision to remove and evaluate certain Duck Dynasty items, we offended many of our loyal customers. Our intent was to avoid offending, but that’s just what we’ve done.

“You told us we made a mistake. And, you weren’t shy about it. You wrote, you called and you took to social media to express your thoughts and feelings. You flat out told us we were wrong.

“We listened.

“Today, we are putting all our Duck Dynasty products back in our stores.
And, we apologize for offending you.

“We respect all individuals right to express their beliefs. We certainly did not mean to have anyone think different.”

Walmart, the world’s largest retailer, has not commented on its future with the show, even as T-shirts bearing Robertson’s image, bobbleheads of the family and scads of other merchandise soar in sales.

Forbes reports that Duck Dynasty merchandise, which includes a Catnapper camouflage recliner for $899.95 and a 400-page book of devotional prose that goes for $16.99, will bring in some $400 million in 2013.

This despite Robertson’s inflammatory comments to GQ magazine that lumped homosexuality in as a sin tantamount to bestiality. The network suspended him but fans have voiced their support in droves, taking to Twitter to defend the show’s lead character.

“You can tell that they are Christians and they live it out. praise God,” tweeted one fan from Elverson, Pa.

Robertson, members of his West Monroe, La. family, and fans across the country are not backing down from his remarks.

“I love all men and women. I am a lover of humanity, not a hater. … I have been immoral, drunk, high,” Robertson said. “I ran with the wicked people for 28 years and I have run with the Jesus people since and the contrast is astounding.”

Related Stories:

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Mukasey on NSA Report: Changes Will Hurt Ability to Monitor Threats.


Image: Mukasey on NSA Report: Changes Will Hurt Ability to Monitor Threats

By Melissa Clyne

Former U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey says the recommended changes to National Security Agency surveillance programs by a presidential commission are unnecessary and will only hinder the NSA’s ability to protect the nation.

The five-member panel made up of intelligence and legal experts appointed by President Barack Obama recommended last week that massive phone and internet records collected by the NSA should be held by a private consortium or with the companies from which the information was acquired. If the NSA felt compelled to access the data, it would be required to obtain a court order.

“In other words, if investigators want to check a telephone number they should be required to scurry around to each individual provider — AT&T, Verizon etc. — to run the check, possibly against data bases that are inconsistently arranged, with consequent loss of time and efficiency,” Mukasey writes in op-ed piece for The Wall Street Journal.

Calling it “an experiment,” that could seriously damage an important program designed to target terrorist communications and activities, he says there is simply no justification for it because the panel found no violations of privacy rights during its review.

“The panel’s investigation of the National Security Agency found — as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court found before them — that the occasional unintentional violations of guidelines were stopped once they were detected,” he writes.

Mukasey also mocks critics of the NSA’s collection of phone and Internet communications who contend the agency could use the information to profile individuals or  or gather sensitive personal information.

“No evidence suggests that any such thing has been proposed or done, and indeed the 22 people at NSA who have access to the data are forbidden to use metadata in any fashion other than to run it against suspect telephone numbers,” he says.

Mukasey also takes issue with the recommendation that U.S. intelligence operations should not target non-U.S. persons outside of the United States based solely on their political or religious views. He says that could in some cases prevent the targeting of groups and individuals who declare as a “religious obligation to kill Americans.”

The president has yet to sign off on any of the recommendations contained in the commission’s report.

Related Stories:

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Peace amidst difficulties…


By Pastor Bobby Schuller

“And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.” 
-Luke 1:14

I remember two years ago when we had our second baby, when my wife Hannah went into labor, we arrived at the hospital to find that all the beds were occupied. So, they put Hannah in a bed in the hall, in full labor, with nurses scurrying around. We felt uncomfortable, angry, frustrated. We wanted to be in a private, clean, nice room to give birth to our baby.

I think about how uncomfortable that was – a very scary and painful experience. Then I imagine what it was like for Mary, in labor, no room at the inn. There’s nowhere for her to have this baby, which, especially in those days, was a very dangerous situation. And the best they could come up with was a stable out back.

There, Mary gives birth on a bed of straw. And Jesus is laid in a manger, a feeding trough, where the horses and cows eat. To make it ready for the baby, they had to clear away all of the dirt to make it as clean as possible for the newborn. There’s Mary with all of her injuries from having just given birth to a baby, and yet do you feel, when you read that story, any of the aggravation and anger I experienced when Hannah was giving birth? You don’t see that. You see this peace. You see peace in the midst of a very difficult situation.

Prayer: Father, when I read the Christmas story, every part of it is filled with your peace. No matter what the difficulty or challenge, your peace filled every heart that came close to the Savior. May my heart come close and find your peace in Jesus. Amen.

Devotion: What can rob your peace…and restore your peace…at Christmastime?

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