Monday, December 16, 2013

Mary, You Did Know

I love the popular Christmas song, Mary, Did You Know by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene, sung first by Hayley Westenra and since by others. The song speaks to my "mother-heart," that place in me that cherishes my children beyond human comprehension. That whole process of carrying them in my own body for nine months (ok 10 with one of my sons!), feeling them kick, watching them grow as my belly stretched out, the birth process (intense) and then nursing, gives moms something we ourselves cannot even comprehend. Many times, we are told that Mary "pondered things in her heart." I can relate.

Did Mary know? As she saw her pregnancy progress, did she comprehend the magnitude of the life growing inside her? Did she realize the full and eternal implications of that life? Did she know? The song asks.

The Scriptures tell us: Mary did know. Luke 1:46-56 tell us what Mary knew.

Mary knew the Lord. Verse 46 tell us she said, "My soul doth magnify the Lord." She knew His Lordship. She knew Who He was and she magnified Him with her soul. Her soul was lifted up to Him. She knew exactly Who she was magnifying. She magnified Him because He lifted her up to Himself.

Verse 47 tells us she knew she needed a Savior. She said, "My spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior." This is a clear acknowledgement of her own recognition for the need of salvation. She knew the coming Messiah was coming to deliver even her. She knew He was a personal Savior and she shows us that by using the pronoun "my."

She recognized her own low estate. She recognized that she was just an average Jewish girl to whom the world paid no attention, but she also recognized her position in Christ as she knew she could now count herself among the known. She went from an unknown girl to highly blessed woman and she knew it was He Who made her that way. She claimed that all, not just some, but all generations would call her blessed. Indeed. This shows us that Mary knew her theology. She may have been a humble Jewish girl, but that didn't stop her from knowing God's Word and proclaiming it.

In verse 49, she recognized His great Name and His holiness, while at the same announcing His personal relationship with her. "He has done great things to me." The use of that personal pronoun is not a small thing. It's personal; Mary knew it.

In verse 50, Mary talked about His mercy that was shown from generation to generation. She saw how He fulfilled His mercy toward man and brought them a Savior, as yet not born when she proclaimed this. She knew her conception was the fulfillment of the mercy that generations had looked forward to.

She shows her political prowess in verses 51 - 53 by realizing that the proud have been scattered and the mighty have been put down from their seats. This is a massive recognition. She did not say "they will be," she claimed "they have been!" This is huge. She knew He had already come...and was already growing within her and she knew the fulfillment of mercy this represented. Mary was very theologically strong. Realizing what she knew is literally breathtaking!

In verses 54 - 56, she acknowledges His mercy toward Israel and the fulfillment of that mercy. She spoke of the fathers of the faith and specifically of Abraham.

Indeed, Mary knew Messiah had come. Indeed, Mary knew the full implications of the Child she carried.

As you look at Mary in Scripture, you don't see a shy, withdrawn Jewish girl/woman with little to say. You see a bold woman who is not afraid to speak out, to stand up to naysayers and proclaim her own need for the Savior she carried in her womb.

Indeed. Mary knew. Sing the song with great understanding and turn that question on yourself.
Do you know Who He really is?

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 13, 2013

They Heard He was Coming

They heard He was coming.

Picture it: Just outside Jericho, circa 33 A.D. Two men, blind beggars in the streets, are spending yet another day hoping for help and begging for mercy in their lives. There were no schools for the blind. There were no seeing-eye dogs. Blind men became beggars in that day and were likely not very nice looking or clean. They had it rough.

Then they heard He was coming.

Upon learning He was coming, these two blind men got out of character. They spoke up. Loudly. Repeatedly. Annoyingly. Whereas they had been off to the side, unseen, unheard, unnoticed before, that all changed because they heard He was coming.

When they yelled for Him, they recognized Who He was.....they called Him "Lord" and "Son of David." They knew His Lordship; His Kingship. They knew. And they were not about to be hushed.

And the multitude warned them that they should be quiet.

"Be quiet! Hold your peace!"

And they responded.

Yes, they responded........they got louder! All the more, they cried, "Have mercy on us, Oh, Lord, Son of David!" More loudly than before.

And this time, they got a different response. The crowd was quiet.

Jesus stopped in His tracks.
He stood still.
He called them to Himself.
He asked them what they wanted.

They addressed Him as Lord.
They said they wanted their sight.

Jesus had compassion on them.
He touched their eyes.
They received their sight immediately.
They followed Him.

All because they heard He was coming.

This post is based on observations from Matthew 20:29-34

Have you heard?
He's coming!
He will stop in His tracks - for you.


Friday, December 6, 2013

Those Deacon's Wives!

As a pastor's wife for over 30 years, I've worked with a good number of deacon's wives in the churches we've served in. I want to tell you about four of them that stand out in my mind. These four women have had a huge impact on my life and they will never be forgotten. They strengthened my walk with Christ, ministered in honesty and genuineness to my children and walk with God sincerely.

First, there's Helen. Helen was the first deacon's wife I worked with in our very first church. She and I didn't always see eye-to-eye when it came to my kids, but that didn't stop a friendship from forging ahead. We were only in that church for three years, but I am in touch with Helen to this day. She and I write often, she and her husband have traveled to visit us at our various ministries, and we visit them if and when we are close enough. Helen has been there for me, not only as a ministering saint, but as a friend. If I would pick up the phone right now and call her, Helen would be there and it's such a joy to have her in my life.

Secondly, there's Mary Lou. Mary Lou and I served together for over 18 years and our relationship grew with the years. She helped me through some dark hours, stayed with us during ministry ups and downs and mostly, she ministered greatly to my kids. When her husband died just a few years ago, my kids were sad at that news and we all expressed our sorrow to her and told her what a great impact he'd had on our lives. Mary Lou is able to cut right through things and get to the core of an issue, making her ministry an invaluable asset in our lives. To this day, Mary Lou and I are in touch and my kids still ask about her. They have such fond memories of her being in their lives.

Third and fourth are two deacon's wives who served together with us for five years. Consepcion and Hermelinda were steady, humble women who love the Lord Jesus Christ and serve Him with all they have. They prayed with me, supported us in times of great trial and held us up in prayer like I've never experienced before. When we were being oppressed in ministry, these two women organized a prayer meeting for us. This was not a typical prayer meeting. They gathered a good number of women together, met outside our home at 5:30 AM at a firepit we had on the far side of our yard, built a fire to warm themselves, then they walked all around our property several times, praying for us while we slept. These are remarkable women of God, who continue to serve Him wholeheartedly and with whom we are still in touch. They have been very instrumental in the planting of four Hispanic churches, too!

These four women of God stand out, not only to me, but to my kids. That's something I can't thank them enough for. When we see people having such a positive impact on our kids, it's far greater than if it's just us they impact.

Praise be for Godly women.
Thank you, ladies, for the impact you had on me, my kids and our ministries over the years. Your rewards are eternal.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

All You Need Is......

It's a simple command to husbands. Ephesians 5:25, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church and gave himself for it."

Just how is a man to love his wife as Christ has also loved the church? What does that mean on a day to day basis?

How Christ loves the church:

1. He gave himself for her. He didn't just give up a football game or stay up late to listen to her. He gave everything. He gave all. The pain. The discomfort. The humiliation. The indecency of it all. It was not taken from Him, He gave it. All. (John 3:16; Romans 5:8; I Thess 5:9&10)

2. He is her Rock. He is all about her. He placed her on His rock foundation, never to be shaken.  (Matthew 16:18)

3. He is the Chief Cornerstone, providing stability to her. (Ephesians 2:20; I Peter 2:6&7)

3. He is an Anchor, holding her as the tempest of life blows hard upon her. Anchors are not visible, but people know when you're anchored because you're unmovable. (Hebrews 6:19)

4. He gives her freedom. Besides the Lord's Supper and baptism, there are no other ordinances. Each independent local church is free to grow in the way she sees fit. A husband who loves his wife as Christ also loved the church gives her freedom to grow, he does not give her restrictions which hinder her growth. She can choose her methods of growth, just like a church can choose how many deacons, how many elders, what time their services are, etc. Freedom = choice.

5. He causes her to flourish. He does not require her to see to his success. He sees to her success! That's how Christ loved the church. She is not a means to his end goals. He gave all so that she could succeed, then he guaranteed that she would. And, He paves the way for her to succeed at every turn. That's quite a different picture than the one our western culture has drawn.

6. He adds to her, not to himself. As the gospel message goes out, He brings more and more into the church, increasing her abundance with every addition. (Acts 2:47)

7. He empowers her. Even the gates of Hell cannot stand against her, that's how powerful she is. (Matthew 16:18)

I'll stop there. When husbands love their wives like Christ loved the church and gave Himself for it, the patriarchal system that is destroying the church from the inside out will not stand a chance. Women will be able to use their gifts and serve their Lord without abuse and hindrance. And everyone will be better off.