Do you see the Lord’s promises…

C. H. Spurgeon, "The Prince of Preachers&...

C. H. Spurgeon, “The Prince of Preachers” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Do you see the Lord’s promises have many fulfillments? They are waiting now to pour their treasures into the lap of those who pray. God is willing to repeat the biographies of His saints in us. He is waiting to be gracious and to load us with His benefits (Ps 68:19 KJV). Does this not lift prayer up to a high level?” ~ Charles Spurgeon, Spurgeon on Prayer and Spiritual Warfare

The Christmas Plan

I love plans.

I love making plans. I love working out the details of a plan. I love it when the goal of the plans comes to fruition.

Anybody else with me?

We humans love making plans, don’t we?

We plan our career path. We plan our marriages. We plan our weddings. We even plan what age we want to get married and start having a family. We plan a weight loss regiment. We set goals and do whatever we can to pursue our dreams.

Mary, mother of Jesus, had plans. She was going to marry Joseph. That was all to that plan! More than likely the plan formed through an agreement between Joseph and her father, but Mary agreed to it.

The Annunciation by Eustache Le Sueur, an exam...

The Annunciation by Eustache Le Sueur, an example of 17th century Marian art. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At some point after the engagement announcements and engagement party, the angel Gabriel appears before Mary and discloses God’s plan for her: “You are to bear and give birth to God’s Son, the Savior of the World.”

Talk about stunned. I mean, I would be. Stunned. Dumbfounded. Unsure, “You sure you got the right Mary, Gabe, because there’s a lot of Marys around here.”

Talk about having a monkey wrench thrown into your plans too. Think about it. Here Mary is planning a wedding and now an angel tells her she’s going to conceive a son before she’s even had time to do the deed that leads to fruit-bearing. What would her parents say? Forget the parents. What would Joseph say? Would he still marry her? Would she get stoned to death for appearing to have been unfaithful to her husband-to-be? Would she get run out of town?

Her fears about Joseph are relieved when an angel (probably Gabriel again; he likes making announcements and showing up in people’s dreams 😉 ) appears to Joseph and assures him that Mary is not crazy or lying. Joseph decides to go on with the wedding plans.

Just around the time Mary was to give birth, a census went out from Emperor Augustus. Everyone in the Roman Empire must return to the town of their ancestors for the census which meant Joseph must return to Bethlehem with a very pregnant Mary.

The Bible doesn’t say it, but it is likely Mary rode on a donkey during their travel. The journey would’ve been 4 days to a week to get from Nazareth to Bethlehem, about an 80 mile journey. 80 miles of walking? Give the woman a donkey!

Mary gives birth to her first-born son while in Bethlehem in what we would probably call a barn because the town did not have a vacant hotel room. None. Zilch. Zero. A barn. Of all places. A place where animals are. Smelly, dirty animals. They lay the new baby in a manger or what we would call a trough. The feeding place for animals. Smelly, dirty animals. Did I mention that already?

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (13...

The Flight into Egypt by Giotto di Bondone (1304-06, Scrovegni Chapel, Padua). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A few months later an angel appears to Joseph and tells him to take Mary and the child to Egypt because King Herod, the Crazy, wants to kill the child. He fears losing his throne to this new King. So Joseph and Mary slip out of Bethlehem and trek to Egypt with the Son of God. Let’s not even talk about how long of a walk that would be!

The birth of Christ is one of the most amazing stories in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. What blows my mind the most is the faith of Mary.

Like most teenage girls, she probably built her house in her mind from the moment she agreed to marry Joseph. She probably thought of every stick of furniture and the position for it in the house. She might’ve imagined how many children she and Joseph would raise. Maybe even began making a list of baby names she liked.

She had plans.

Until Gabriel showed up with his baby announcement.

Mary’s response to the news,

“I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” Luke 1:38

Surrender.

Mary surrendered her plans for God’s miraculous plan. With all the obstacles she faced getting to the day of labor, she probably surrendered more than once. Her trust in the Lord is quite evident in her words and in her obedience.

What does it take to surrender?

Trust.

The Word tells us, “Without faith it is impossible to please God.” Hebrews 11:6 To receive from God, to be obedient to what He says, to surrender to His plans requires a deep trust in Him and I think Mary possessed exactly that to be entrusted with such a responsibility as carrying and raising the Son of God. It is probably the reason why God chose her.

Don’t you want to trust that deeply? I do. I want to believe God. Not just believe in God, but believe Him. Believe what He says. Believe what He says and act like it. Act on it.

This Christmas as I ponder the story of the birth of my Savior through a young girl who had her own plans, I think of her response to the angel and her willingness to surrender even though she had no idea how things would all work out. I think of my plans. Would I allow God to interrupt them? I pray for this kind of faith. I pray for the followers of Christ to surrender and trust with full abandon to the plans the Father imagined for His people. I thank Him for the example of Mary’s trust in Him to do the miraculous.

As we surrender to His plans, may we see the miraculous burst forth in our lives.

Merry Christmas, ya’ll!! Praise God for this wonderful gift, Jesus Christ! Emmanuel!!

Praise the Lord, the God of Israel, because He has visited and redeemed His people. Luke 1:49 NLT

Wanted

A heart being used as a symbol of love. Photo ...

A heart being used as a symbol of love. Photo modified by author using Photoshop. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

One of the worst feelings in the world is not feeling loved. Once your dating partner decides to put a halt to all your relationship dreams and all your left with is a haunting suspicion that you’re not wanted. You’re no longer enough for this person to carry on a relationship with you so it’s on to greener pastures for him or her.

Unwanted.

Undesirable.

I experienced these unsavory feelings at a young age before I even began to think of dating. These feelings are not only regulated to the world of dating, but also the world of school children everywhere.

Who hasn’t experienced rejection at some point in their life? Some of us experience it much earlier than others.

As a child of 6, I began the first grade with anticipation and high hopes of beginning new friendships and reconnecting with the old ones I started in kindergarten.

You could say 1st grade didn’t start out as planned. First the friend I made in kindergarten rejected me for no reason. And if that wasn’t bad enough, a group of girls began to mercilessly harass me to the point where I no longer liked going out to recess. In fact, I developed a fear of the recess bell.

The bullying lasted the whole year and left a great wound in my heart.

“You’re not wanted,” hissed the enemy into my ear. “Nobody wants you for a friend. Nobody likes you. You’re worthless that’s why no one wants you.”

This time of my life I was not a believer yet, but the enemy knew he had to get his licks in while I was young, and plant some bad seeds into my heart and my mind.

The first grade hell I went through affected me even into adulthood. It took a few broken dating relationships for me to begin listening to the Father voice speak Truth to my heart and heal the wounds

Can you relate to my story?

Have you been wounded by rejection? It doesn’t have to come from a dating partner to hurt deeply. Maybe the wound came from your peers, people you thought were your friends. Or maybe it came from your parents. Maybe you messed up so badly they no longer want to speak to you.

Please hear the message God spoke to me in the days where I felt abandoned and rejected:

“I want you. I made you because I wanted you.”

We wait so long to hear these words coming from the one we love. The one we long for but whose love seems out of reach.

I’ve been there. I’ve pined away for the love of a man who couldn’t love me, and at the same time these words from God chased after me.

“I want you! Come to me!”

This message is all over Scripture.

Don’t believe me?

“The Lord did not set his heart on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other nations, for you were the smallest of all nations! Rather, it was simply that the Lord loves you…” Deuteronomy 7:7-8

I hear the follow-up question coming. “Why does God loves us?”

The answer might not sound flattering, but it has everything to do with who God is and nothing to do with who we are. Matthew Henry puts it this way,

“He loved you because He would love you.

Looking at the verse again in Deuteronomy, you realize the message was specifically written for the nation of Israel after they were delivered from Egypt. Israel was a small nation compared to the great nation of Egypt and the other nations around them. Israel was a stiff-necked, rebellious nation. No sooner had they left Egypt and enter the wilderness then they decided to worship a golden calf rather than the God that just delivered them. Nothing in them to merit God’s favor.

If we are honest, there is nothing in us to merit God’s favor either. There is nothing we can even do to merit it. But love us He does! Want us He does!

While that takes away any entitlement we might be tempted to feel, this truth points to the greatness of who God is.

There might not be anybody else in the world that wants you, but there is a God in heaven who does. He is the One that created you. He knows you inside and out. The good, the bad, the ugly. He knows you by name. He even knows such miniscule details about you such as how many hairs are on your head (Matthew 10:30). Your tears are even counted and kept by Him in His bottle (Psalm 56:8).

Are you wanted?

Absolutely! And by the only One that really matters.

The only thing left for you to do is to believe it.