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Friday, December 20, 2013

A Christmas Story

Handmaiden of the Lord

 As women of God (handmaidens of our Lord) we are all given various traits of character.  

Mary, the young handmaiden of God, was not so different from you or me.  She was full of faith, obedient, quiet in spirit, humble of heart, meditative, tender-hearted, a willing servant, loving, very devout, and truly blessed.  But Mary was still in need of a savior.

Her story is a familiar one – difficult to believe by the scoffers; full of miracles and alive to us, even more than 2000 years after it all began. What might have gone through Mary’s mind, when she discovered she was going to be pregnant and carry the Son of the Most High?  I came across a Diary the other day.  It’s possible it was hers.  Let me read you what it said. (This is, of course, pretend.)

I just happened to be sitting on the floor of my room looking out my window that day.  The sunbeams  poured in on my face as they flooded through the panes.  I had been daydreaming – you know, just thinking…about things.  That happens a lot when you’re fourteen, like me.

Earlier, I had overheard a few old ladies carrying on about me.  I probably shouldn’t have been listening but I was.

“Did you go to the betrothal yesterday?” asked one.

“Wouldn’t have missed it for the world,” said another.  “I cried a lot.”

“It was so beautiful,” added a third.

“Well,” said the first, “it’s about time Joe got himself a wife.  He’s getting up in age – needs some kids around the shop … you know?”

“But he’s too old for HER!” remarked the oldest of the group.  “She’s only fourteen and he’s nowhere near 20 … more like over 30!”

“Oh well,” I heard one finish, “You know how it is with the youngsters these days.  They’ll marry anybody just to get away from home.  Wonder if Mary can cook.”

When they saw me walk up they stopped talking.  I just smiled.
In the meantime I went back to my daydreaming. 
Betrothed!  I was actually Engaged!  I could hardly wait for the year to be over when we would have the actual wedding ceremony.  I knew it was part of tradition.  All the other girls waited.

Then you wouldn’t believe it, but I suddenly heard this loud voice behind me. 
“Greetings, you, who are highly favored.  The Lord is with you!”

I looked up and saw this huge figure of a man standing over me.  It scared me.  After all, I was just a peasant girl.  What could he want of me?

“Do not be afraid Mary,” he said.  “You have found favor with God.”

What did he mean favor with God?  Who was this man?

“You will be with child, a son will be born, and you will name him Jesus”

Oh goodness! I thought.  I’m not yet married!

He went on… “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him his father David’s throne; He will reign in Jacob’s house – His kingdom will never end.”

King David?  I knew I was his descendant (just one of many) but my son would be the prophesied Messiah of old?  I tell you, I was stunned! The man sounded insistent, though.   Was he an angel?  I had to respond.
 “Ah…how can this be?” I asked.  “I am but a virgin” (Didn’t he know I wasn’t yet married?)

Then he explained. “Dear child – the Holy Spirit will come upon you, the power of the most high will overshadow you. The holy one to be born will be the Son of God!”
My thoughts raced and pondered not too little.  Who would ever believe me?  What would Joseph say?  Most likely he would write me up a divorcement as soon as I started showing. He would leave me home with mother!  My son would be …. I didn’t dare say that word. The neighbors would shun him from the beginning, too. 
I almost started crying.  I felt sick inside.  What would I do? My son would be so ill treated.  I would be an outcast! 
I felt trapped.  I’d have to live at home forever.  What if I got stoned to death? I didn’t know what to say.
I started to weigh the situation carefully.  I decided to count the cost.  I knew what I had to do.  It wasn’t about me at all.  God had chosen me to do something special for him!  Would I be obedient to his wishes?  Even though it might cost me everything?  How much did I really love God anyway?  I knew the answer then – I would do it.  I would say yes.  I would be willing.

I finally looked up at the man-angel.  “I am the Lord’s handmaiden,” I said.  “Let it be to me according to your word.”

He smiled, and the next thing I knew, he was gone. 
At that moment I felt God’s love like never before, but even more than that.  I knew because of my decision as the Lord’s handmaiden, my God was truly pleased with me.

Was Mary so different from you or me?  She made a decision to be the Lord’s servant, a handmaiden of God; she made the heartfelt choice to do exactly what He asked of her, to do His will.  Her character traits were evident by her actions. 

It is no different for us today.  As the Lord’s handmaidens we too are to serve him from our hearts; we too are asked to choose rightly each day, to do as He asks of us, to do His will.  Sometimes that means we must leave our personal comfort zones. When we do those things which God asks of us, we too, like Mary, can feel His love for us like never before. 
Aren’t you glad when you know you are pleasing the Lord?  How are your traits of character evident in your life today? Do you count yourself as a true handmaiden of the Lord?
God bless you this Christmas season. What a blessing it is to read about Mary, the mother of our Lord, the privileged one who God chose to bless with the birth of His Son.


Saturday, December 7, 2013

WHEN WE CONSIDER HIM - Reflecting with Caree

Psalm 8
By Caree Connolly

It's not that hard to imagine what David saw when he looked out his window or took a daily walk through the country side. I think with his knowing God's heart, he was able to see past what the average person can see.
A lot like today.
When the photographers take photographs for the TV guide in your newspaper, I'm sure they see the beauty involved. When we see the picture, as believers,  we see the beauty but we also see the the Awe of God's power in creation.
I wonder if David, since they didn't have the camera technology back than, used an artist to draw just some of the wonderful things he saw: you know, like a new born animal, an opening flower, or maybe even the sunrise and sunset.
How do you respond to these when you see them?

Psalms 8 is an awesome Psalm despite being only a few verses. We can see  the Awe  in nature. And there is so much about nature and creation throughout the scripture, many in the book of Psalms itself.
  • Psalms 19:1  'The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork.'
  • Psalms 23 'He maketh me lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me besides still waters.
Psalm 29 talks of the power of water, the beasts of the field, and  of the deer. Here in Brookings, Oregon, we're sometimes annoyed by the deer when their walking across a busy road, blocking traffic or destroying yards by eating the flowers.
But we can always stop and try to remember Psalm 18:23 'He maketh my feet like the feet of deer. And sets me on my high places.'
One of my favorite Palms is 104. My Bible has it titled appropriately: 'Psalm Rehearsing Creation'. Almost all 35 verses desribe God's wonder. In every aspect. Take time to look them up. A wonderful way to reflect on the awesomeness of our Father in Heaven.
As we return to vs. 1 'Oh Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who has set thy glory above the heavens.'  In Spurgeon's 'Treasury of David, we can read that David is proclaiming Jehovah Our Lord, How excellent is your name.  That he was not just in heaven, but also Above the heavens. Greater, higher, and beyond.
In a quote by Adam Clarke, he wrote: No name is so universal, no power and influence so generally felt, as those of the savior of mankind.
In vs. 2  we read, Out of the mouth of babes and suckling infants hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
David bring up the future purpose of children and infants that will do mighty works for God.
  • Moses, who as an infant, was placed in the Nile River, and led the Israelites out of Egypt.
  • Samuel, who was given by his mother to God, became a mighty prophet of God, and was ultimately led to find
  • David, a young shepard boy at the time.
  • And we come to Jesus himself, who was born in manger, and brought us Salvation.

In vs. 3 'When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers. The moon and stars, which you ordained.
When I attended college, I took an Astronmy Lab. We spent two weekends out at Lake Sonoma on a hillside away from all the lights.  You could see the stars stretch from horizon to horizon.
Uncountable, although many scientist have tried. God knows them all though. He knows how many He knows their names. A couple of the pictures we had to take for the class, one was of a moon cycle or as we call it: Crescent moon. The other was of the stars rotating around the one star which stays stationery in the sky.
Another of God's amazing mysteries.
We know more about the galaxies and light-years than they did in David's time, I believe but the universe is still as wonderful today as it was back than.
In vs. 4 What is a man, that thou art mindful of him? Or the son of man, that thou shouldst visit him?
I had a bit of a harder time understanding this verse. But the Treasury of David by Spurgeon helped simplify. Spurgeon actually had a lot of content for just this verse, but I just used a small portion of it. I was able to glean from his commentary, that 'man' used in this verse in the Hebrew translation means infirm or miserable man. This verse is not talking about the creation of man, but of his state of sin, misery, and mortality.
And why would God even notice us, much less care for us? In my own words, we are not worthy of his mercy and love, but anyway. So much so, that he sent His only begotten son to die for our sins.
(John 3:16) His mercy is pretty astounding when it comes to us. In part,  Thomas Washbourn wrote in 1654 "Thou didst thyself abase. And put off all thy robes of majesty, taking his nature to give him thy grace.To save his life didst die; He is not worthy of the least, of all thy mercies, one's a feast."
In vs. 5 Thou has made him a little lower than the angels.
Like in the poem I just read, Jesus took off the mantle of his  humbled himself to become man. From his birth to his death on the cross.
We don't really know what he looked like as a man, but I think he might have been people didn't generally notice. His character shown through though. Like a light shining in the darkness.
The last few verses 6 & 7 tell us: You have made him to have dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, All sheep and oxen-Even the beast of the field, the birds of the air, And the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the sea.
Adam had dominion over the animals but lost that right when he sinned. Animals were converted to a more natural state after the flood, to give them more defenses against man. But we in the gospels how Jesus, can take a un-broken colt and ride it.
  • He could stop the crow of a rooster till the right time. And roosters crow whenever they feel like it.
  • He could take an fishless lake and fill up empty nets. It's a wonder that so many were blind to Jesus, (and still are)
We all can find pictures of oxen, of lambs and goats,of the geese, ducks, and turkeys -- the fish in the sea. The creatures God created just for the ocean itself are amazing and wondrous.
And finally vs. 8 of Psalms   Oh Lord our Lord, how excellent is your name in all the earth!
What a great closing verse. For how excellent is our Lord to provide this wonderful earth as our temporary home. Animals to give us beauty and comfort. And that most of all, he gave a Savior, Jesus,so that wouldn't perish. And would someday be at home with him.
When I consider the works of His hands, it makes me love God more than ever. I hope you will take time to consider the works of God's hands as well.
Why and how can man still deny the existence of God.
You have to wonder.