AND not OR

 

Often we hear the question, “Are you a Mary or a Martha?” However, scripture refers to Mary and Martha – not Mary or Martha. We are not required to live exclusively like Mary or Martha. We are given the privilege of exemplifying character traits of both women.

Mary and Martha were sisters. Although closely related, they had very different personalities. If I were to choose a scripture to describe Mary, I would quote Psalm 46:10, “Be still and know that I am God.” For Martha, I would select Mark 16:15, “Go into all the world….”

Martha was frequently looked down upon because of a conversation she had with Jesus in Luke 10. Jesus had come to the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus for a visit. Martha was frustrated because Mary exclusively spent time with Jesus while she had to prepare the whole meal by herself. In Luke 10:40, Martha asked, Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her to help me!Jesus’ responded in verses 41-42, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things. But only one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, and it will not be taken away from her.

When Jesus came to their home, each woman chose how she would honor their guest. Mary chose to sit with Jesus and listen to His wisdom. She wanted to learn everything possible from the man who was her Savior and Lord. According to Romans 11:6, we are saved by grace, not by works. She was hungry for spiritual nourishment. Martha chose to prepare a meal for Jesus and His disciples. She wanted to nourish their physical hunger.

Jesus complimented Mary for making a good choice. Today, a person with a Mary personality would desire to spend time with Jesus through praise and prayer. According to Psalm 22:3, the Lord inhabits the praises of His people. Psalm 100:2 tells us to “Serve the LORD with gladness; come into His presence with joyful songs. Verse 4 goes on to say, “Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and bless His name.

Martha’s actions concerned Jesus only because she allowed responsibility to take priority over relationship. Serving is not a bad option. An individual with Martha traits today might remember James 2:26, “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead.” Paul exhorts in I Thessalonians 5:13-14, “Now, we ask you, brothers, to respect these who work hard among you,… Hold them in highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other.

Like Mary and Martha, we have a choice. Jesus says in Revelation 3:20, “Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with Me.How will we choose to honor Jesus when we answer His knock on our heart’s door?

Will we want to spend One on one time with Him? If so, we may make our choice based upon Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.We may also validate our choice according to Jesus’ words in John 6:35. “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty.


Our other option would be to express our love for Jesus by satisfying and gratifying physical needs of others. This decision may be based upon Isaiah 58:10. If you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.We might also remember the conversation in Matthew 25:37-40. “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’”


It is good for us to begin our day sitting at Jesus’ feet and studying the Word. Then we will be ready to put feet to our faith while fulfilling our responsibilities. Works are not the reason for salvation. Works are the evidence of salvation. James 2:17 NLT points out, “So you see, faith by itself isn’t enough. Unless it produces good deeds, it is dead and useless.

We are not required to just make a one-time choice of being a Martha or a Mary. God created each of us to be a mixture of Martha and Mary. Does your character better exemplify one woman over another? God has placed within you specific gifts and talents. Embrace who God created you to be. Do not be jealous of a Mary if you are more of a Martha. Do not look down upon a Martha if you have more of a Mary personality. Some say we need to have a Mary heart in a Martha world. We each must discern what is required of us in a particular situation. Sometimes we need to strengthen our spiritual heart like Mary. Other times we need to manifest our servant heart like Martha.

Matthew 6:33 NLT is a good scripture for us to remember. “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously.Our life’s goal should be I Corinthians 16:14. “Do everything in love.

 

 

 

 

Fear Not, Mary

 

Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her,
“for you have found favor with God!
Luke 1:30

Today we continue our Advent study of Christmas characters who were told not to be afraid. May we also be encouraged to discard fear from our lives. We must remember that these are real people who had genuine encounters with God. We are not just reading fictional stories.

Let us look closely at Mary.

One of the first things I notice about the scripture of Luke 1:30 is that the angel addressed Mary by name. God knew her name! He spoke personally to her.

The Lord says in Isaiah 43:1, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine.” God addressed Isaiah with these words. He spoke similar words to Mary approximately 700 years later. Now over 2000 years later, He still speaks these words. Place your name in the blanks and hear the Lord say, “________, don’t be afraid; I have called you by name. You are mine. ________, do not be afraid.”

What was happening for Mary before she heard God calling her name?

Mary lived in Galilee and was planning her marriage to Joseph. Suddenly there was a change in plans when an angel appeared. The first thing the angel told Mary was to not be afraid. However, being told not to fear, did not mean she would not encounter fear.

The angel gave Mary a revelation as well as a warning. She was told she would conceive a baby by the Holy Spirit. It would be scary for any unwed young woman to find out she was pregnant. But there was more for Mary to learn. Things got even scarier when she found out the conception would take place by the Holy Spirit. She could not comprehend how this could happen.

Mary needed to grasp that although she was in a scary situation, God was with her. She did not need to be afraid. Something good was coming – the birth of the Son of God and Son of man. Emmanuel, God with us, would be born through her body.

Mary did not have the scripture of II Timothy 1:7, “For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” These would have been comforting Mary. The are reassuring words for us today.

Although we may be told not to fear, it is not always easy to avoid fear. Fear often leads to worry. Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

The angel informed Mary that she had found favor with God. This meant He was pleased with her. He loved her. According to gotquestions.org, those who are favored of God know that God is with them and that nothing can happen to them apart from His good purpose. Romans 8:28 says, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.” Those who receive God’s favor also have the assurance that the Lord is attentive when they walk through difficult times. According to Psalm 34:15, “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and His ears are attentive to their cry.” When we have the favor of the Lord, we rest in quiet confidence. Isaiah 30:15 NLT tells us, “In quietness and confidence is your strength.”

When Mary followed the Lord’s plan, His plans were fulfilled. Mary had been preparing for her marriage celebration to Joseph. It didn’t go exactly as she planned. However, she did not walk in fear. Mary set an example for us. We must not become fearful when everything does not go as we have planned. Let us be impregnated with Jesus and His ways. God’s plans may be different from ours. Matthew 6:34 says, “So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Overshadowed by a Shadow


I decided to go for walk as it was a beautiful sunny morning. Since it was early, all was quiet and peaceful. I had time to notice what often goes unnoticed – like my shadow. My shadow was always before me. I could not catch up with it. My shadow was not behind me because of my position in relation to the sun. I thought about shadows. I thought about the shadow of the Lord. I thought about what it means to be overshadowed by the Lord.

According to Webster’s Revised Unabridged Dictionary, overshadowed means to have a shadow over; to be surpassed; to be covered with a superior influence. A short definition is simply to be covered. I decided to search the scriptures for examples of people who were overshadowed or covered by the Lord.

MOSES

Moses was covered by God.

In Exodus 33, Moses and the Lord have a conversation about the Lord being with Moses while he led the Israelites towards the Promised land. In verse 18, Moses said, “Now show me Your glory.” The Lord responded in verses 18-20, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim My name, the Lord, in your presence.” However, God also told Moses, you cannot see My face, for no one may see Me and live.” What happened? Exodus 33:21-23 says, There is a place near Me where you may stand on a rock. When My glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with My hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove My hand and you will see My back; but My face must not be seen.” During this time, Moses was overshadowed by the Lord.

Being overshadowed by the Lord assured Moses of God’s presence. Moses needed this confirmation before he led the Israelites to the Promised Land. We, too, must be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit to become confident of the Lord’s presence. Having this assurance, we will be able to lead others to a personal relationship with Jesus. We will have the privilege of leading people into the Land of Promises. The Promised Land of the Old Testament is a picture of the Land of Promises where believers live today.

Mary

Mary was covered by God.

In Luke 1, Mary has a conversation with an angel telling her that she would conceive a baby who would be called the Son of the Most High. In verse 34 Mary asks, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” The angel responds in Luke 1:35, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

Being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit made it possible for Mary to become pregnant with new life. Today, God desires to impregnate us with His plans and purposes. When we allow the Holy Spirit to overshadow us, He reveals His divine purposes and enlarges us with the gifts necessary to give birth to His plans for our lives.

Peter, James and John

Peter, James and John were covered by God.

In Matthew 17, Jesus and these 3 men climbed a mountain. While praying, Jesus’ appearance changed and they saw Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus about His fulfillment of prophecy in the coming days. Matthew 17:24-25 says, “While He was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to Him.’’

This scriptural account is known as the Transfiguration. It involves spiritual overshadowing. First, the appearance of Jesus was transfigured, or changed. Then, the minds of these 3 men were transfigured, or transformed. Their minds were transformed and renewed with a new way of thinking. We also need a transfiguration experience to transform our way of thinking. Bill Johnson says in When Heaven Invades Earth that a renewing of the mind is needed for more miracles to occur. We need a new mind, a transfigured mind, to be able to think and expect God to move through miracles today. We must change our way of thinking. This is only possible when we are overshadowed by the Holy Spirit.

Having unpacked the experiences of these people who were overshadowed by the Lord, I desire the same privilege. I want to cry out as David did in Psalm 57:1, “Have mercy on me, my God, have mercy on me, for in You I take refuge. I will take refuge in the shadow of Your wings.” Psalm 91:4 says, “He will cover you with His feathers, and under His wings you will find refuge; His faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.”

Being overshadowed by the Lord means I am covered by the Lord. Jesus says in John 14:16-17, “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.” This is the anointing of the Holy Spirit. What a privilege for us to be overshadowed by the Lord!

I close with the words of Psalm 63:7, “Because You are my help, I sing in the shadow of Your wings.

Humility in Humanity


Humility is often a misunderstood word.

Although humility can be defined as the absence of pride, there is more involved. Doug Britton writes, “God says when you are humble, you are free from pride and arrogance. You know that in your flesh you are inadequate, yet you also know who you are in Christ.We walk humbly in the power of the Holy Spirit, not in our own strength.

Rick Warren has said, “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” God created us for a purpose. He believes that we are able to fulfill His plans.  We must not humiliate ourselves by lowering God’s expectations of us.

Proverbs 29:23 says, “Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.” Humility is a virtue. Pride is not so virtuous.

I like the promise of Psalm 149:4, “the Lord takes pleasure in His people; He will beautify the humble with salvation.”

Mary, the mother Jesus, and Jesus are two examples of strong, yet humble, individuals.

MARY
46And Mary said: “My soul exalts the Lord,
47And my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior.
48“For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave;
For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed.

52“He has brought down rulers from their thrones,
And has exalted those who were humble.
Luke 1:46-
48, 52

Mary was a humble young woman. She humbly responded to the angel’s message when she was told that she would become the Messiah’s mother. She exalts the Lord rather than herself in verse 46. In verse 48, she describes herself as God’s bondslave. Verse 52 notes a contrast between humility and pride. God chose Mary to be the mother of His Son because He knew she would responsibly fulfill this role. A woman full of pride would not have had room for Jesus in her heart.

Look again at the second part of verse 48. When Mary proclaimed she would be considered blessed, some might think she was being prideful. However, I like a comment made in the Life Application Bible. “If Mary had refused her incredible position, she would have been throwing God’s blessing back at Him. Pride is refusing to accept God’s gifts or taking credit for what God has done. Don’t deny, belittle, or ignore your gifts.This is a good admonition for us today.

Proverbs 3:34 GNT says, He (God) has no use for conceited people, but shows favor to those who are humble.” Mary found favor with God. Humility is the antithesis of pride. James 4:6 says, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.”

JESUS
6who, being in very nature God, did not consider
equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature
of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8And being found in the appearance of a man, he humbled
himself by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!
Philippians 2:6-8

These verses describe Jesus’ mindset while living on earth. He could have been prideful as the son of God. However, according to verse 6, He put aside His nature as God when He came in human likeness. Mary described herself as a bondslave. Jesus took on the nature of a bondslave in verse 7. In verse 8, He was humble and obedient when dying on the cross. Through His attitude and actions, He fulfilled God’s purpose. Mary was humbled to give birth. Jesus was humbled to die.

In Matthew 11:29, Jesus tells us, “…learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” We learn humility when we follow Jesus’ example.

In Philippians 2:3-4, Paul states, Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” If we are humble, we will not be selfish. We will compassionately care about others. Romans 12:3 says, Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought.”

Proverbs 11:2 says, “Pride leads to disgrace, but with humility comes wisdom.” Another scripture to consider is Luke 14:11, “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

Godly humility is being comfortable with who we are in Christ. When we are humble, we realize we need God’s help. I Peter 5:5 exhorts us, “All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.” Humility is a valuable virtue.

Mary and the Messy Manger

As I survey my surroundings, I am aware of Christmas stuff scattered around our home.  While listening to the news reports, I hear of turmoil throughout the world.  Wherever I turn, there is another mess.  I pick up the hand-carved figure of Mary in our nativity scene and realize there were some messy situations in her life as well.  

I wonder what thoughts went through Mary’s mind that night when Christ was born. Most likely, she expected the birth of her first child to take place in a warm, cozy room. She may have imagined herself being surrounded by family and relatives in her hometown of Nazareth. I am quite sure she did not expect her newborn’s cradle to be a feeding trough shared with a cow! After all, who would choose a messy manger in the little town of Bethlehem for the birth of a baby? The answer – God. As Heavenly Father, God chose a messy manger for the birth of His Son! Mary’s perception was interrupted by the Lord’s plans and purposes. God did not do things predictably over 2000 years ago, and He still often does not do things as we expect.

Our Heavenly Father has plans and purposes for each of us as His kids. However, His plans for Jesus, His only begotten Son, were special. (see Jeremiah 29:11 and John 3:16) Being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of Mary, Jesus came to earth not only to live but to die. He died so that we can be born again. (See John 3:3) Jesus relinquished His position beside His Heavenly Father to be born into the world’s messy manger and 33 years later to die for us. Although our lives may look like messy mangers, we are given the opportunity to die to ourselves and be born again. Then we receive the gift of eternal life. The sacred cycle of life and death occurs both physically and spiritually.

While holding the figure of Mary in my hands, I meditate upon the fact that Mary was privileged to hold God in her hands. She was the mom of Jesus. She was the first person to give God in the flesh a hug. Mary experienced a miracle firsthand!

The night of Jesus’ birth, Mary held him in her arms. In a few weeks, Jesus grasped Mary’s finger in response to her holding his little hand. I am reminded of how a person can wrap someone around their little finger. It is possible for a person to gain control over another individual and make that person do whatever one wishes. Although Christ desires to have preeminence in our lives, He allows us to make that choice. (See Colossians 3:18) I must admit that I would rather be held in the arms of Christ than for me to wrap Him around my little finger! Deuteronomy 33:27 says, “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms.”

Although the inanimate figure of Mary does not allow my hands to feel her heartbeat, another image of the closeness of Mary and the infant Jesus comes to my mind. I see Mary Mom holding Jesus close to her heart allowing him to hear her heartbeat while she is feeling the rhythm of his heart. Today Jesus wants us to hold Him close to our hearts so that He can hear our heartbeat and we can feel His. He gives each of us a new heart – a heart that is in love with Him. (See Ezekiel 36:26-27) God is love. Jesus is God. So, Jesus is love. Mary had the privilege of holding love in her arms. Now we have the privilege of holding Jesus, the love of God, in our hearts when we personally invite Him into our lives. (See I John 4:7-17)  Jesus in our hearts can help us handle the messiness of our lives.

My Reader, may you experience the love of Jesus in your heart.  Please join me in either singing or repeating the words of the first verse of the Christmas song Love Came Down at Christmas by Christina Rossetti.

Love came down at Christmas,
love all lovely, Love divine;
Love was born at Christmas;
star and angels gave the sign.

Blessings for Mom

flower-in-handMay each mother reach out to receive her blessing from the Lord.
Happy Mother’s Day! 

8606715653_3761c12e53_b

pink-flowerBlessed are you among women,
and blessed is the child you will bear!
Luke 1:42

Elizabeth spoke this blessing over Mary shortly after Mary found out that she was pregnant with the son of God. In observance of Mother’s Day this Sunday, I choose to speak this blessing upon all mothers who may read this blog. Yes, there was a special blessing placed upon Mary because she was chosen by God to be the mother of His son. However, I also want you, as a mom, to realize this blessing is for you because God chose you to be the mother of the children He has given to you.

At the same time, being blessed as a mom does not guarantee that it will be easy. Being a mother is one of the most difficult tasks a woman will ever undertake, yet it is a position for which she is probably least prepared. There is no Mothering for Dummies book available. Neither is there a mom shaped cookie cutter. A mother needs to uniquely love and nurture each of her children according to his or her personality. Having said this, I still see Mary, the mother of Jesus, as a good role model for motherhood today. Mary was blessed and all moms can be blessed while fulfilling their motherhood responsibilities. Let us look at the example Mary sets for moms.


pink-flower... she (Mary) gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger,
because there was no guest room available for them.
Luke 2:6-7

Mary cared for the physical needs of Jesus as a baby. We must care for the physical needs of our children.8606715653_3761c12e53_b

pink-flowerWhen the time came for the purification rites required
by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him
to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord.
Luke 2:22

Both Mary and Joseph took their newborn son to the temple to be dedicated as required by the Jewish Law. We, too, should assume the responsibility of dedicating our children to God. For some, this may involve infant baptism while for others it may be a dedication service.

pink-flowerAnd Jesus grew in wisdom and stature,
and in favor with God and man.
Luke 2:52

Mary provided opportunities for Jesus to grow educationally, physically, spiritually and socially. Today, we as moms still need to help our children mature in all of these areas.

pink-flower

His mother (Mary) said to the servants,
“Whatever He says to you, do it.”
John 2:5

This verse of scripture is taken from the account of Jesus’ first miracle of turning water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Mary knew it was time for Jesus to begin His public ministry and she encouraged Him to do so. I believe Mary set an example for us to encourage our children to become the men and women God created them to be. There comes a time for us to “untie the apron strings” and acknowledge our children as responsible adults.

pink-flower

Someone said to Him (Jesus), “Behold, Your mother
and Your brothers are standing outside
seeking to speak to You.”
Matthew 12:47

Although Jesus was a grown man with His own ministry, Mary continued to follow Him and care about Him. Once a mom, always a mom! Our children never outgrow their need for our prayers, love and interest in their lives.

pink-flower

But standing by the cross of Jesus were His mother
John 19:25

Probably the most difficult task for Mary as the mother of Jesus was watching Him die. I hope I do not have to full this role as a mother. However, I do not think there is a mother who would not stand by the side of a dying son or daughter.


pink-flower

When Jesus then saw His mother, and the disciple
whom He loved standing nearby, He said to His
mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then He
said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” From
that hour the disciple took her into his own
household.
John 19:26-27

While her son was dying on the cross for the sins of the world, I believe Mary was blessed. These words record how Jesus handed over the responsibility of  caring for His mother to John. Mary had successfully fulfilled her responsibility as His mother and Jesus wanted her to be cared for the remainder of her life. What a blessing to have so successfully nurtured her son that, even though He was in extreme pain, He remembered her. He loved her!

pink-flower

Her children arise and call her blessed;
her husband also, and he praises her:
Proverbs 31:28

Mothers, your role is not easy but it is fulfilling. Mary received a blessing from her son. May your children bestow upon you the blessing promised in Proverbs 31 this Mother’s Day!

Joyfully,
Cheryl
gold apple new