Impossible!

“And Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I have no husband?”‘ And the angel said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you;  therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God.  And behold your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son’;  and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren.  For with God nothing will  be impossible.'” Luke 1:34-37

Mary and Elizabeth were in impossible situations.  Mary, unmarried and bearing a child she couldn’t explain — who would believe this was God’s Son?  Elizabeth, barren for years and now old.  The angel tells Mary with God, all things are possible, and she trusts him.

See the source image

“Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord;  let it be to me according to your word.”  Luke 1:38

Most of us, when confronted with what seems to be an impossible difficulty, such as illness, job loss, divorce, etc.. pray for God to simply remove the problem.  “Take it away, Lord!”  we cry.  ” Fix it! I simply can’t go through this suffering!”  Mary didn’t do that.  She was content for God’s will to be done in her life.  God did do the impossible, but in the process Mary was probably often despised, puzzled, hurt and unsettled.  God didn’t take away her pain, but He always provided a way through it, and He used if for good.

This is a part of the Christmas story we all need to remember.  Our faith won’t make life easier.  The Bible tells us we will endure trials and troubles;  but God can and will do the impossible.  He’ll guide us and  stay with us and eventually work all those problems into a beautiful tapestry that reflects His will.  Are you willing to trust Him as Mary did?

Why Are You Joyful?

“…there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a savior, who is Christ the Lord.'” Luke 2:8-12

Our sermon at the Christmas service last night was called, “Something to Celebrate.”  When we’re filled with joy, we want to celebrate, but what inspires this joyful spirit?

Some are joyful in anticipation of giving or getting the perfect gift.  What is it your heart desire?  The latest electronic gadget?  Clothing with the most popular designer label? Or maybe that special gift is something very practical, something needed but out of reach financially.  I remember the year our younger daughter gave her sister her old car when she purchased a new one.  This was a generous gift of the heart, that helped the rest of the family out tremendously.

Some are joyful at the prospect of getting together with friends and family, maybe some folks they rarely see during the year.  Yesterday my daughter, granddaughter, two of my siblings and two nephews spent some time visiting with my mother, who has dementia and Parkensen’s.  The joy in her eyes was apparent as she smiled at us.

Others are filled with joy in following the many traditions of their family, church, or community.  Singing particular carols, attending the candlelight service, baking fruitcakes and cookies, decorating the tree:  all these things bring joyful memories to mind.

If we’re honest quite a few of us are joyful when the visiting is done, the decorations are put away, the presents unwrapped, the cookies baked and eaten, and we can go back to “normal” life and get some rest.

Amidst all the Christmas trappings, the glitter and the glitz, the generosity and the greed, the hospitality and the stress, we need to take time to remember the true source of our joy.

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”  John 3:16

Now that’s cause for joy in every season!

 

 

The First Fruit

“And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him (Jesus) to the test, saying ‘Teacher what shall I do to inherit eternal life?’ He said to him, ‘What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?’  And he answered, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.’  And he said to him, ‘You have answered correctly;  do this, and you will live.”  Luke 10:25-28

I know we already had a whole month on the topic of love (February), but I still felt that love should be the first virtue I chose to discuss as one of the fruits of the spirit.  Why?  Well, it does come first in the list in Galatians;  and in the verses above Jesus affirms that  love is the overriding principle in the Law.  In the 13th Chapter of  1 Corinthians, the apostle, Paul, tells us that love is the greatest spiritual gift, and without it all our good deeds are meaningless.  And in the third chapter of Colossians we find another listing of Christian virtues after which Paul tells us:

“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”  Colossians 3:14

So it seems pretty obvious.  If we truly love, the other qualities will fall naturally into place.  When we genuinely love someone we are joyful and we can live peacefully with them.  Patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and gentleness characterize loving relationships.  Love leads us to control the impulses that cause  hurt and misunderstanding.

So if you want to cultivate the fruit of the spirit love first.  Err on the side of love.  Let love inform your actions.

And remember God loves you and so do I!

 

 

Church History

“And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.  And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved.”  Acts 2: 46-47

I recently finished writing and editing a Bible study on the book of Acts for our denomination’s national women’s group (click on WMF on our header to learn more about them).  If you want to learn more about the early history of the Church, Acts is the place to start.

Acts is an accurate historical record;  even hostile critics have been unable to disprove the detailed political, geographical and cultural information given by Luke as he describes the spread of the Christianity.

It’s exciting reading.  The book includes not only history but travelogues, inspiring sermons and speeches, miracles and even a shipwreck. It falls into a literary genre common to the time:  a record of the great deeds of certain people or cities.  In Acts you will learn about more than 100 people who along with many others in the early church “turned the world upside down.”(Acts 17:6).

I encourage you to read through Acts this month as we think about the church.  What can we learn from the early followers of Christ?  How did they respond to and resolve the problems they encountered?  The daily lives of Christians and basic principles of ministry are set out in Acts and are still relevant to us today.

Let us know what you learn from these original believers.  We want to hear from you.

Why we should Forgive

“By this we are sure that we are in him.  Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.” 1 John 2:5-6

In addition to this verse, the Bible tells us to “clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14) and to “fix …our eyes on Jesus”(Hebrews 12:12).  All of these phrases boil down to the same meaning …imitate Christ, he is our model.  We are to watch Him, to follow His example, to become one with Him.

So, think about Jesus and all the people he forgave:

He forgave the paralytic whose friends lowered him through the roof to be healed (Mark 2:5)

He forgave two tax collectors, Zaccheus (Luke 19:1-10) and Matthew (also called Levi) who became one of the twelve disciples (Luke 5:27-32)

He forgave the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11) and the sinful woman who anointed His feet (Luke 7:36-48).

He forgave Peter after he denied Him three times, and He even forgave those who crucified Him.

He forgave things that seemed unforgivable:  sinful behavior, betrayal, selfishness, greed, even murder.  If I want to become like Christ, shouldn’t I be willing to forgive:

the cashier at the store who was rude and abrupt?

my friend who forgot to call when she said she would?

the fellow church member who criticized me?

the neighbor who complains about everything I do?

Often the things I don’t want to forgive are truly petty.  Instead of feeling empathy for the people who offend me, I go over and over my own feelings of hurt and anger.  That’s turning in on yourself, the definition of sin, and it isn’t pleasing to God.

If I truly want to walk as He walked, I must forgive as he forgave.