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Posts Tagged ‘Mary’

What’s in a Name?

December 30th, 2015

“That the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you.” 2 Thessalonians 1:12 NKJV.

Your past is forever forgiven and your future is eternal.

My thoughts and comments today ask, “what’s in a name?”

A secure sense of identity is important. Names have significance. My first name distinguishes me from others in my family. My middle name honors my Dad. My last name identifies me with generations that preceded me and will follow me. Your name identifies you, connects you to your history, and differentiates you from others. I have friends who have legally changed their names to honor their cultural heritage or to better reflect their new life in Christ. In Scripture, God considers names important. When God chose to send His Son into our world, His name was not left to whim or chance, but deliberately chosen by God.

To Nazareth, an angel was sent to the young virgin, Mary, as well as Joseph, “You shall call His name Jesus . . for He shall save His people from their sins.” Read Luke 1:26-35/Matthew 1:20-21 NKJV. Jesus’ name, “Jehovah Saves,” perfectly describes His purpose on earth. “Everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins through His name.” Acts 10:43 NIV. All who call upon the name of Jesus find forgiveness and release from the power of their sins. Jesus came with singular purpose: to do the will of His Father, to reveal the heart of God, to declare the power of the Kingdom of God on earth, and to bring redemption from sin. “God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the Name which is above every name . . and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.” Read Philippians 2:9-11 NKJV.

Gratitude and pleasant memories accompany names of family and friends dear to me. Yet there is no name more loved and gratefully recalled than the name of Jesus. What’s in a name? Everything, when it is His name. Be clear about this; “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12 NIV. See Acts 2:21 NKJV. “What this means is that those who become Christians become new persons. They are not the same anymore, for the old life is gone. A new life has begun! All this newness of life is from God, who brought us back to himself through what Christ did. And God has given us the task of reconciling people to him.” 2 Corinthians 5:17-18 NLT.

I know of no greater declaration and assurance than the unchanging nature of Jesus and His power to save. Romans 5:1-2. There is a wonderful promise of redemption and renewal in Christ, “To him who overcomes I will give him a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.” Revelation 2:17 NKJV. Awaiting you is a name that only God knows, that will perfectly describe who you have become because of His abundant grace. Your past is forever forgiven and your future is eternal. “That the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thessalonians 1:12 NIV.

Today, I pray for you to hold the name of Jesus in the highest regard and reverence.

Christian Communications

Brass Stamp

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Christmas Possibilities

December 19th, 2014

The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.” Luke 18:28 NKJV.

Christmas is when the Almighty God changed impossibilities to possibilities.

Christmas stained glass

 

My thoughts and comments this Advent are about “Christmas possibilities.”

Never confuse the difficult with the impossible. It is an error to surrender to the difficult without even trying, as it is a monumental waste of time, effort, and resources to attempt to accomplish the impossible. It is tempting to move too quickly from your estimation of the former to your assumption of the latter. In reality, you need God for both. The Christmas season is not always joyous for everyone. For some, it comes with the brittle emotions of overwhelming situations, even situations that appear impossible. Christmas is a good time to remember Jesus’ words,

The things which are impossible with men are possible with God. Luke 18:28.

No few words describe Christmas any clearer than that. Christmas is the perpetual reminder that the Almighty God changes impossibilities into possibilities. Unlike all others, our God delights in doing what others say cannot be done.

Christ is the mighty power of God and the wonderful wisdom of God. This ‘foolish’ plan of God is far wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is far stronger than the greatest of human strength. 1 Corinthians 1:24-25 NLT.

Centuries before Jesus was born, prophets foretold of Israel’s Messiah who would come; Israel waited.

Behold, a virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name ‘Immanuel, God is with us.’ Isaiah 7:14.

God chose what men knew to be impossible to explain what was unimaginable. A child born to a virgin? Impossible. A Savior who came for sinners? Incomparable. God coming into your world? Indescribable.

To her heavenly messenger, Mary asked, “How will this be since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34 NIV. The Angel’s answer was profoundly simple, “Nothing is impossible for God.” Luke 1:37 NIV. Mary knew why it could not happen; God knew why it would. With assurance from the Angel, Mary trusted every impossibility into God’s hands. Christmas would forever mean that nothing would ever be the same again for Mary. More than a sacred story or seasonal celebration, Christmas is any moment when eternity penetrates time with the promise of possibilities. Christmas changes anything that ever has been and everything that still could be.

For you as well this Christmas, the Angel’s words remain true, “Nothing is impossible with God.” That Christmas truth changed every assumption Mary had believed. Let that be true for you this Christmas. The situations that appear impossible to you – the need that exceeds your ability or resource – the obstacle that defies your efforts – the sin that seems indomitable – the failure that would steal your future – all these are well within the incomparable power of God to redeem. Christmas is when you surrender to the Almighty God your impossibilities, “Who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.” Ephesians 3:20 NIV. Christmas possibilities are without limits.

My prayer for you this Advent is to welcome Jesus into your life as Savior and Lord.

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Christmas Wonder

December 16th, 2014

“Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 NIV.

Christmas holds both the mystery of the Child and the majesty of the Christ.

This Advent, my thoughts and comments are about “Christmas wonder.”

Life presents moments that pique your curiosity until you just must know more. Some of those are coincidental; a few, but more than you might realize, are providential. I regret any time I was too busy to notice moments of divine providence. I am grateful for every time I allowed God to interrupt my plans with His opportunities. Such instances can change your course and shape your life in unexpected ways.

Christmas should be one of those times. On the first Christmas, the eternal and almighty God personally came into our world at an unexpected time (after 400 years of Heaven’s silence), to an unlikely place (to a stable, not a palace), and in an unimaginable manner (in a natural process possible only by supernatural means). The Creator became as His creation; the Eternal became subject to mortality; the Omnipotent became conventional.

Christmas holds both the mystery of the Child and the majesty of the Christ, presenting questions only God and faith can adequately answer. The Apostle Paul described the Incarnation to Timothy, his young protégé, “Without question, this is the great mystery of our faith: Christ appeared in the flesh and was shown to be righteous.” 1 Timothy 3:16 NLT. Peter simply wrote, “[We] were eyewitnesses of His majesty.” 2 Peter 1:16 NIV.

I love the Christmas story as told by Luke. Read Luke 2:1-20. Angels fill the Judean night with praise and pronouncements to humble shepherds routinely busy about their drab and daily life. Leaving their flocks, the shepherds hurried to find this One of whom the Angels sang. Of course, the shepherds told Mary and Joseph their story, as they later, “spread the word that had been told them about this child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds.” People’s “wonder” is variously translated as, “amazed, marveled, or astonished.” Christmas should arouse wonder and amazement.

Mary’s response provides my thoughts and comments today; “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Luke 2:19 NIV. What a model of spiritual life for you and me. Mary “treasured and pondered in her heart” the words and workings of God. Spiritual discovery originates in the heart, then engages the mind for understanding and the will for appropriate action. Generations earlier, Solomon gave strong counsel, “Ponder the path of your feet, and let all your ways be established.” Read Proverbs 4:21-27 NKJV.

Mary’s attitude was reverential; Mary “treasured” the Angel’s words that began her journey of obedience and trust, as she embraced the awe-filled story of the shepherds’ angelic visit and pronouncement, just as she would esteem the Wise Men’s journey from afar. She placed high value on all that God said and did and cherished it all in her heart.

Mary’s posture was wonder and worship. Mary “pondered” the Angel’s words. “Ponder” is the process of, “putting one thing with another in considering circumstances.” Mary was deliberate, reflective, and ultimately receptive. Mary’s reasoned response was, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior for He has regarded the lowly estate of His maidservant . . for He who is mighty has done great things and holy is His name.”  Read Mary’s joyous Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55.

This Advent, my prayer is that Christmas is released in your heart with fresh wonder and discovery.

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Spiritual Intimacy

November 14th, 2014

“That I may know Christ.” Philippians 3:10 NKJV.

Relational integrity is essential for spiritual intimacy.

My thoughts and comments today are about “spiritual intimacy.”

Life requires purpose and a superceding objective. Your purpose has to be consequential enough to weather the demands life will require of you and influential enough to empower you to give the effort necessary to achieve and excel. Any person is insufficiently inspired who lacks an objective worthy of the sacrifices needed. The greatest purpose is knowing Jesus Christ in a practical, personal, and intimate way. His intent is that you, “. . know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.” Read Ephesians 3:17-20 NIV.

Intellectual knowledge alone is inadequate for the personal and experiential knowledge of Christ that Paul sought. He desired a transformative experience of soul and spirit that redeems the heart (See Romans 7:15-26 NIV) and forever alters the desires and direction of one’s life. Read Acts 9:1-6. Subsequently, Paul pledged a devotion to Christ that did not exclude the most severe of mortal threats. “None of these things move me, nor do I count my life dear to myself . .” See Acts 20:22-24.

Relational integrity is essential for spiritual intimacy. Information without corresponding experience becomes intellectual, without relational integrity. As I intend, “relational integrity” describes a commitment to absolute authenticity in relating to God or others. Authenticity is the only enduring basis for real intimacy. Worse yet, intellectual information without corresponding, spiritual experience immunizes you from a real and vital relationship with God.

As a young, college student preparing for ministry, I prayed that Paul’s passion for Christ would be my passion as well. “That I may know [Christ] and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.” Philippians 3:10. This verse became, and remains today, my “life verse.” Paul’s words describe my purpose and objective. I am committed to daily experience an intimate knowledge of Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord.

Paul’s passion to “know Christ,” expressed an unparalleled intimacy, with disregard for suffering or sacrifice. The same expression is found in the Old Testament, “Adam knew Eve, his wife, and she conceived . .” (Genesis 4:1), as well as in the New Testament, describing Mary’s incredulity at the angel’s announcement, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Luke 1:30-38. The word expresses experiential knowledge that forcefully creates and releases new life. Do not be content to know about God, without experiencing Christ personally and powerfully. Anything less is inadequate.

Passionately, Paul desired an encounter with Jesus that releases God’s power and new life, in and through him. Such spiritual intimacy evidences itself in a power for life that is linked to and sourced from the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. See Ephesians 1:17-21 NIV. Nothing you encounter will ever prove His Resurrection power insufficient. In Jesus’ resurrection, God turned apparent defeat into glorious triumph.  Whatever is broken in your life can be fixed. What seems listless and lifeless can receive life abundantly.

If you desire anything more than Him, then your passion to know Him as He desires to be known is lacking. Jesus was clear, “And this is the way to have eternal life – to know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the One You have sent to earth.”  John 17:3 NLT. There is a depth of relationship that results from intimate fellowship experienced with God through Christ. Only then will you know the power that flows from His Resurrection into the very circumstances where you walk and live every day.

Today, my prayer for you is to know Jesus to the extent you could never again be the same.

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The Christmas Mystery and Miracle

December 23rd, 2013

“Great is the mystery . . God was manifest in the flesh.” 1 Timothy 3:16 NKJV.

No word from God is incredible, if no work of God is impossible.

My thoughts and comments today are about “the Christmas mystery and miracle.”

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, mysterious and miraculous in every aspect. The living, eternal God came into our world – at the most unexpected time, after four hundred silent years; to the most unlikely place, a stable in Bethlehem; in the most unlikely form, a baby. You don’t have to explain the mystery; God invites you to simply embrace the miracle. Paul described this incredible but true Christmas miracle this way, “Without controversy great is the mystery . . God was manifest in the flesh.” 1 Timothy 3:16 NKJV.

The heart and reason for Christmas is best expressed in the most familiar of Scriptures, “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16-17 NIV. Bethlehem’s cradle foreshadowed Calvary’s cross. Isaiah prophesied, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Isaiah 9:6-7 NKJV. Christmas is when the Father gave us His Son; the Cross is where Jesus gave us Himself as our Savior. See 2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NIV.

John described this history-changing moment with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made; without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life and that life was the light of men . . He was in the world, and though the world was made by Him, the world did not recognize Him . . The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” Read John 1:1-17 NIV. The “Word” that John describes so eloquently is none other than Jesus, God’s Son. The mystery is that Jesus “became flesh;” the miracle is that He “made His dwelling among us.” Accept the mystery; believe the miracle. Jesus is, “Emmanuel . . God with us!” Matthew 1:23 NIV.

Let me remind you of the already familiar story of how this came about. Read Luke 1:26-38 NLT. An angel appeared with a startling announcement to Mary, a young, devout, not yet married, Jewish girl. Understandably, she is described as, “confused and disturbed,” by the angel’s words. Those would be normative emotions. She had questions because the miracle was wrapped in a mystery.

The angel’s cryptic answer was simple, “For with God nothing is ever impossible and no word from God shall be without power or impossible of fulfillment.” Luke 1:36-37 AMP. Read again the verse above; the Amplified Bible accurately translates the Greek words used by ancient translators. Simply stated, the Angel assured Mary – and you and me – no word from God should be thought incredible to you, when no work of God is impossible to Him. Incredible, but true! See Isaiah 55:11 NIV.

Jesus is the embodiment of the Word of God and the Word of God is the faithful expression of Jesus.“Search the Scriptures . . which testify of Me.” John 5:39 NKJV. The power of God flows from the word of God, then and now. While Jesus lived among us, He spoke to nature and the wind and waves obeyed; He spoke to disease and sickness departed; He spoke to sin and forgiveness flowed; He spoke to spiritual oppression and demons fled; He spoke to death and life returned. No word from God shall be without power nor impossible of fulfillment – spoken to Mary or to you!

My prayer for you today is that you never fail to see the miracle because of a mystery.

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