Luke 1:39-45 – What Do You Believe In?

Read Luke 1:39-45

There is so much going on in this short passage. We are told that it was only a “few days” after receiving the message from the angel that Mary left to visit her relative, Elizabeth. I’m sure Mary was very excited to see Elizabeth and share “girl talk” about what was happening in their lives.

In Luke, we don’t see the interaction between Mary and Joseph, but could it be that she left quickly after telling him she was pregnant. Joseph’s anguish and deliberation takes place in the book of Matthew.

Mary didn’t have to say a word, as the Holy Spirit filled Elizabeth with the knowledge of what was happening to Mary. Even the son in her womb leaped for joy!

Mary no doubt left behind a questioning fiancé and surrounded herself with family. With Elizabeth, an older woman, pregnant in her final trimester, Mary was probably a very good companion and helper. Mary was also able to process the reality of what was happening to her. I can’t even imagine being the mother of  God’s son, can you?

Is Mary alone in her blessedness? While she is the only one that will  ever carry the Son of God, we can all receive God’s blessing. Elizabeth said, “You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” Now I realize the context here is huge, but for us it can also speak volumes.

As we prepare our hearts for the Christmas season, and more importantly for the second coming, all we need to do is believe. Believe that God will do what he has said. There are so many promises in the Bible. We need to believe them. Even without seeing first, especially without seeing them. We will then have a faith that will set us apart.

Jesus told us he is going to return. We need to believe that with our whole heart. We need to feel the anticipation each and every day. We should be living our lives as if he were coming today.

What does that look like for you? Do you want to tidy your house and have some cookies in the oven? Do you want to walk away from an unhealthy relationship and rely on God’s perfect will for your life? Do you want to devote more time each day to building your relationship with God?

How can you change things up in your life to be more obedient to God, to be ready? What lies are filling your head and keeping you from believing God’s word to be true?

Let’s pray. Lord I come to you today yearning to be closer to you. Help me to shut out all the ugliness of the world so I can truly focus on you and your goodness. May your peace and mercy wash over me and give me a new sense of joy. As we celebrate your incarnation, may we stay truly expectant on your second coming. Lord, I want my heart to be ready. I want to help bring others to a faith and belief in you as well. Give me the words to say and the wisdom to know when to speak. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 11:12-25 – Glad I’m Not a Fig

Read Mark 11:12-25

Well, the scene I was expecting in yesterday’s reading happened today. I didn’t read ahead! Sometimes we look ahead to see what’s coming and that can ruin the story for us. Have you ever read the last chapter in a book to see how it ends? Here, it doesn’t matter, we know how it ends. When all is said and done – Jesus is VICTORIOUS!

The money changer story had to be there as it was a pivotal point. The Mark tells us the Pharisees ‘began’ to plan Jesus’ death. They were seriously afraid, most likely threatened, because people were following Jesus and their authority was being questioned. Have you ever been in a place where your authority was questioned? How did that feel?

The story about the fig tree has always amazed me. It seems like it can only be conceptual and not actual. It is probably both, I just need to open my mind. I certainly wouldn’t want to have God’s condemnation on me and my bearing fruit.

Personally, I feel I am just now coming “into season.” All those years up to now have been my planting and watering years. I have been growing steadily, from a seedling to a young tree.

Having planted a bit of an orchard when we lived in Wisconsin, I know that the fruit doesn’t show up for several years after planting. Even then, there is care required to make sure the branches are pruned and ready for the fruit to arrive. As I look back on my life, I have been pruned well, felt pain often, and now I am ready to bloom.

Having moved away from our orchard before the years of plenty, I was always curious about how ‘our’ fruit turned out. We visited our old neighborhood recently. There was fruit everywhere. One of the trees had grown so big the branches were literally falling over and laying on the ground. It was sad. Clearly, that poor tree had not been pruned, and so much of the fruit laid rotting on the ground.

So let that be a lesson to us, pruning is helpful. Our struggles and pain can be just what we need to prune us and ready us for what God has planned for us.

Jesus used this example as a teachable moment for his disciples as well. The poor fig tree was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Jesus believed that his words would not be empty and that God would move. No one will ever eat of that tree’s fruit again. He spoke it, believed it, and it came to pass.

God’s hand is mighty. We need to believe in it 100%. He will act. Our part is to forgive others so that we can be set free. When we are harboring negative emotions, we are not truly cleansed and open for the work God has for us. We cannot fully trust in his provision or plan. What are you holding on to? Who do you need to forgive?

Let’s pray. Lord, forgive me for my lack of focus and the stronghold my emotions have had on me this week. You have given me such a beautiful purpose, but my humanity has gotten in the way. Help me to let go of the hurts of the past and truly forgive those who have hurt me. Help me love on those around me as they deserve. My pity party is over! Thank you that you are already pulling back the curtain and letting the light back in. These dark days are over because of what did and how much you love me. You have given me a job to do. Thank you for the opportunity to shine once again for you and make you proud of me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Mark 9:1-13 – See the Light

Read Mark 9:1-13

The story of the transfiguration was always a hard one to describe to little children. If I’m being totally honest, it is probably hard for us adults to grasp as well. Suffice it to say that God is mighty, and when he wants to make a statement, it will be a beautiful, unbelievable sight.

Here’s a beautiful song, Transfiguration, from Hillsong. Listen here. Let the beauty of the lyrics of praise wash over you.

We have a second declaration from God himself. The first one happened at Jesus’ baptism where God proclaimed his Son. This time the message is reserved for the inner circle of Jesus’ tribe of followers. I love how God puts it right out there, “This is my dearly loved Son. Listen to him.” Listen to him! Of course. Up to now the disciples have been a little “lost” and certainly they have been missing a lot. It’s not every day you’re in the company of God. The message speaks to us, too. Are we listening to Jesus or the world?

I’m sure we have those times of being hard headed. It would take a sledge hammer to break into the walls we’ve built up or to clear away the debris we carry around. Imagine having one-on-one time with Jesus like this. Imagine experiencing something so wonderful you can’t even describe it, and then are told not to even try.

Have you been perplexed in your faith, perhaps surprised or confused by what you are reading or experiencing? Think of these disciples in their understanding, or lack thereof, of what being “raised from the dead” could actually mean. They were struggling to sort out what they were seeing. It was so different from the life they had known up to this point.

So many questions, yet they had the benefit of having an audience with Jesus. It seems my list gets longer and longer of things I’d like to ask Jesus when I meet him face to face. Then I realize that when the time comes and I do get those answers, the need for the answers will no longer exist. I’ll be with Jesus! My understanding will be made full. I won’t be able to tell everyone the answers they are all waiting for. It won’t matter. Eternal life with Jesus is the ultimate reward and no question could keep me from desiring that for my future. I hope you have that homing beacon burning bright in you, too, to want eternity with Jesus. No matter what!

Faith. It’s what we need to sustain us. It’s what we need to draw us closer to our Creator. It is the fuel we need for each day to make it through the challenges and distractions. We haven’t had the mountain top experience with bright lights and visitors from heaven to help our faith along. God is cultivating that in us without any intervention by us. We are right with God because of what Jesus did, and that should be our focus and our fuel.

Let’s pray. Lord you are mighty beyond description. Your ways are perfect. When you speak, I bow down in reverence. Help me to hear your voice above all the noise and distractions of this world. Thank you for becoming man to identify with our earthly struggle. I want to be planted securely in your will and ask for your leading. Shed your light on me so that I may burn bright for you, fueled by an unstoppable faith. As I look around, help me to see those who are waiting to hear from you but don’t know how to listen. Help clear my cluttered head so my eyes will be fixed on you alone. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Philippians 1:27-30 – Citizens of Heaven

Read Philippians 1:27-30

Today’s reading struck a chord with me. Just as Paul is in the midst of his captivity and struggle, so to are people around the world. As I write this (and I realize you may be reading it now in real time or reading it in the future), our world is being pummeled with natural disasters, including hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes. It sounds like end times in some ways, but frightening indeed for those in the midst of these storms.

Paul is telling us here to live as citizens of heaven while we are here on earth. What does this mean? Paul is using the analogy of citizenship to speak to the people of Philippi. There was a sense of being devoted to the country, the ruling nation, think of it as patriotism. Paul wanted them/us to think in terms of being devoted to your country, your citizenship, but then realize it is temporary. We are really meant for heaven, earth is where we gather in community with a colony of other believers.

We are called to build that colony with the destiny in mind. Heaven. We are to stand together with one purpose. Strengthen the colony and bring others into it. Share the news of Jesus and his forgiveness. People need to know they have a great inheritance. We can’t keep that for ourselves when it is meant for many.

There is power in numbers, so we need to stick together when struggles and challenges come. The evil one will bring tests, and we need to be strong to stand against them. Paul calls it a privilege to suffer on account of Christ. It is certainly a privilege and honor to call him Lord. I sometimes have a hard time with calling the other a privilege. But with all believers together, we are strong and eager support each other.

So for all of the horrible things people are experiencing these days, we pray peace. We know God is at work through his people to bring some good out of all of the bad. Some have suggested these disasters are our consequence for evil in the world – hatred, greed, lack of unity, etc. I will not enter into that debate. What I will say is — how we respond in these times of struggle and chaos is a reflection of who we are in Christ.

How are you responding to the crises we see around the world? Do you feel immune and separate yourself? Do you earnestly pray and seek God’s guidance for how you can help?

We all need to stand together in God’s army.

Let’s pray. Father God, the enemy is sending disaster to weaken your people. I thank you that you have them in your hands. Bring them peace and assurance. Things of this earth are temporary, but destiny with you in heaven is our great reward. Help me not to forget that. Help me to focus on the good you have done and your mighty power alive inside me. My energy is feeling depleted. Lord, renew me. In Jesus’ name. Amen.



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