Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rejoice In ALL Things

This month Pastor Frank has been doing a series at church titled "Rejoice-Life With Attitude". This past weekend he was speaking about rejoicing in ALL things, so he did things a little differently than the usual weekend services. He did a live interview during each of the services with Joy Ross, a very good friend of mine, who has had to make a choice to do just that. Joy grew up vision impaired, but a little over a year ago she lost what little sight she did have. She shares in this video what that journey has been like, and how she CHOSE to pull herself out of depression and despair and begin to live a life filled with joy.

This interview is both moving and inspiring. I encourage you to take a few minutes and watch it.

Dec 13 Message from City Bible Church on Vimeo.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Mary, A Woman of Courageous Faith

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin's name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you."

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name 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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end."

"How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?"

The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God."

"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her.

Luke 1:26-38 (NIV)

Can you even imagine what that moment must have been like for Mary? Here she was, this young peasant woman, being approached by an angel. She must have been wondering what on earth was about to happen in her life that the Lord felt she needed an angel to walk her through it. The angel, sensing that, was quick to quiet those fears and reassure her that she had found favor with God.

And then he went on to tell her that although she was a virgin, was going to give birth to the Son of God. The SON OF GOD! Seriously, can you imagine???

The fact that God chose Mary tells us what a remarkable person she was. We can see by her response why God chose her. Even though she was stunned, and probably a little self-conscious to have such a conversation with an angel, when she asked the question, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?", it wasn't the message from God she was questioning. She was just wondering how on earth this was going to happen, since she was a virgin?

I am always impressed and challenged by Mary's response to this news. "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered. "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. She didn't try to convince the angel why this would be a bad idea. Rumors would be circulating once the news became public. Her reputation was going to be ruined. She would be ridiculed. She could even be stoned for getting pregnant while engaged to someone else. And yet, her response was one of total willingness to do whatever God called her to do.

She would tell about the visit from the angel, but who in their right mind would believe such a story? Her parents? Joseph? Her in-laws? The Rabbi? It wouldn't matter to Mary if no one believed her. That would not stop her from believing. She was willing to take whatever came her way as a result of believing God. Even if it cost her everything, including the man she loved, she would be obedient. What a courageous faith she had.

I wish I could say that I have always responded just like Mary did. But, the truth is, there have been times have tried to reason with God before I obeyed Him. But as I've gotten older, I realize that everything God does in my life is good. And I've learned that obeying Him immediately and completely is always the best choice to make. I pray to have a heart like Mary's. A heart that never questions God's plans for my life, a heart that immediately and completely obeys His every call.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Imperfect People ~ God's Perfect Plan

Ah, December. What a wonderful time of year.

I’m one of those people that likes to celebrate Thanksgiving. And then move on to Christmas. I know a lot of people who put up their tree before Thanksgiving. But, just so you know, I am not one of them. You will never see my Christmas decorations up until the smell of that fabulous turkey no longer lingers in my home. Not that either is right or wrong, it’s just my tradition.

Once that turkey smell is gone, however, I kick into high gear for the next week. For me, the week following Thanksgiving is always busy with getting the church decorated, which is a great way to work off all of those yummy garlic mashed potatoes from the week before. Between all the moving of heavy buckets containing tree parts, moving huge wreaths out of storage and hoisting them to the top of a 12 foot ladder to hang them above doorways, not to mention all the walking involved, etc. etc., I feel that I have succeeded in working off the extra Thanksgiving calories I consumed.

Once all of that is done, I then move to decorating my home. Yesterday the tree went up and today I will hang garlands and put out all the other miscellaneous decor I have collected over 29 plus years of marriage.

But before I get back to the busyness, I pause. I just need to sit and spend a few moments with Jesus, reflecting on the amazing story of how and why he came to earth. Each December I am drawn to reread the gospels as they tell the story of the life of Jesus and the humbling story of His birth.

If you’ve read the gospels you know that Matthew’s account starts with the genealogy of Christ. I used to just skim over this part quickly without really absorbing the importance of it all. Now I realize that it is there as evidence for us to know that God uses imperfect people to produce even the most amazing of miracles. A few stood out to me this morning as I read.

First there was Abraham, who we know as a man of faith. But he also lied. He sent his wife into Pharoah’s arms, putting the promise of his future into jeopardy.

And then we have David, whom scripture tells us, was a man after God’s own heart. But he definitely got sidetracked when he committed adultery with Bathsheba. Not only that, he committed murder so he could take her as his own.

Rahab was a harlot.

Ruth was a foreigner who was grafted into the family tree, even though foreign marriages were forbidden by Jewish law.

Bathsheba, the adultress who married David, was Solomon’s mother.

Sometimes it’s hard for me to wrap my mind around the fact that God used so many imperfect people to bring forth His perfect plan ~ the birth of His own Son. But, this shows us that God’s purposes are not stopped by our humanity, no matter how weak and imperfect we are; no matter how far we have strayed. He is continually at work in us and through us, and a good deal of the time he works in spite of us. It is evidence of His Grace.

Thank you, God, for the grace you have poured down through the generations, reaching me. Your grace is so amazing that it leads me to turn from my own sinful, selfish ways and look to you and our will for my life. Help me go through this Christmas season with my heart focused on the true meaning of it all, Jesus.

My prayer is that each one of you would find the grace of God evident in your life as we spend this month celebrating the birth of His Son, Jesus.

Matthew 1:16 ~ Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary. Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah. (NLT)