Tag Archives: Mary

Today’s Scripture – June 10, 2017

Luke 1:46-55 (NIV) And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
but has sent the rich away empty.
He has helped his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
to Abraham and his descendants forever,
even as he said to our fathers.”

If a person only read the first four verses of Mary’s inspired poem, they might come to the conclusion that Mary’s focus was all on herself. But the fact is, it was her recognition of the miracle that God was including her in that inspired the whole chain of thought. When someone sees the miracles that God is doing in their own lives for what they are, they can suddenly see beyond that to other ways and other places that God has worked and is currently working.

In Mary’s case, she recognized fully that she wasn’t anyone special that God should have chosen her. Instead, His selection of her to bear His Son was an act of grace, enabled by her wholehearted devotion to Him. In this one act, God had pulled her of the obscurity in which 99.99% of the people in the world live and die, and had given her a key role to play in His redemptive plan.

But in the midst of this realization, she also realized that God had always worked His plan of redemption through the lives, not of the rich and powerful, but of the non-descript and ordinary who had given their hearts to Him. Often He raised these devoted people from obscurity to high position, like Joseph the son of Israel and King David. But at the time that His call was placed on their lives, they were just normal people living out normal lives.

Mary could see that, through both her own pregnancy and that of Elizabeth, God was remembering and fulfilling the promises He had made to His people to restore them and to bless them. The two of them were not only living in the times of fulfillment, they, as humble and unassuming as they were, had been given key roles to play in that fulfillment.

Even today God is at work in the world setting people free. And even today He tends to work,  not through the rich and powerful, whose lives are often full of thier own agendas, but through the lowly and meek, the nobodys, who are humble and completely devoted to Him. Through them, God is currently changing the shape of people’s lives around the world, transforming not only their own personal futures, but actively transforming whole societies through their lives.

Father, Your ways are so different than ours, but Your ways result in transformation, while ours are so much less powerful and effective in making the positive changes we want to see. Help me, as one of Your people, to yield myself entirely to You, to never seek out the world’s approval, but only Yours; to never follow the world’s path to success, but to be willing and open to whatever You call on me to be and to do. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 9, 2017

Luke 1:39-45 (NIV) At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”

While Mary sorted all of this out, she decided that she would make the journey to the hill country of Judea near Jerusalem to see Elizabeth, and to witness for herself what God was doing. This was no lack of faith on her part, but a simple desire to see for herself the miracle that Gabriel had told her about. And Mary hoped to find in Elizabeth, as one who had experienced God’s power in her own body to do something impossible, someone with whom she could openly discuss her own experience.

As soon as Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the baby jumped in her womb, and she was filled with the Holy Spirit, instantly seeing things that were invisible to other eyes, able to understand things that were hidden, and given clear words to speak God’s truth boldly.

For example, Elizabeth knew that Mary was pregnant, and that the baby she was even then carrying was the Lord, the promised Messiah. Because of that, Mary, as the one whom God had selected for this role, was truly the most blessed woman who had ever lived. And she also knew that there had been a moment when Mary had had to trust in God’s word, and to say agree to His plan for her life. She knew that when that moment had come, Mary had trusted and agreed.

Elizabeth was surprised at Mary’s unexpected arrival, but she was glad that she had come for the same reasons that Mary had decided to make the trip. Here now was a woman who could relate to what she herself was experiencing; a woman with whom she could compare notes and with whom she could talk about things that no one else would really understand.

Father, by putting the urge in Mary’s heart to take the long journey south, You provided support and encouragement for both women during critical phases of their supernatural pregnancies. For Elizabeth, that support and encouragement came at the end of her pregnancy, when there would be fear that something might still go wrong. For Mary, it came at the beginning, when she most needed assurance that she had chosen the right path, in spite of the complications that she knew lay in front of her. Such great love and compassion You have for Your people! Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 8, 2017

Luke 1:34-38 (NIV) “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.

Some point to a similarity between Mary’s question of Gabriel and that of Zechariah (1:18). They then try to explain the disparate treatment that the two of them received. But the questions are not actually that similar. Zechariah wanted proof, some sign that would overpower his doubts that God could accomplish what He was promising to do, while Mary was simply asking about the “how”: How was God going to accomplish this pregnancy, since she was a virgin.

That was a reasonable question. In the history of the world it had always taken the union of a man and a woman to produce another human being. Even in miraculous births like Isaac, Samson, Samuel, and even John, the miracle was that God enable the natural methods of conception to work for those who were sterile, past the age of child bearing, or both. Mary was expecting Gabriel to tell her that either she needed to move her marriage to Joseph up – awkward and suspicious-looking to the rest of the village, or that the Messiah would be conceived later, after the marriage took place. The latter seemed less likely based on the urgency and immediacy of the angel’s announcement.

But there was a third option that no one would ever have considered. God was doing a completely new thing. The child to be born, Jesus, the Messiah, would be a real human being, hence the need for a human mother. But He would also be fully divine. Therefore, Mary’s pregnancy would be initiated supernaturally, through the power of the Holy Spirit, not by the uniting of sperm and egg.

Even though Mary said nothing at first, Gabriel knew that her mind had been thrown into confusion by this whole scenario. It seemed to impossible, even for God to do (and it had never been done that way before!). So he laid out the evidence of Elizabeth’s miraculously enabled pregnancy, something that no one would have believed possible at her advanced age. For Mary, this was like a Bible story come to life and, even though Elizabeth’s pregnancy had not been initiated like her own would be, it settled in her heart an assurance that it really could be done as Gabriel was promising.

As said before, Mary was a righteous devout young woman, completely devoted to God. As such, she would never consider saying no to something that was so clearly His will for her. Even though she knew that this whole thing would undoubtedly cause complications for her, even in her relationship with Joseph, she trusted that God would protect her, and the He would be able to make everything work out right.

So she said yes. And, at that moment, Gabriel vanished, and the work was done in her body. The reality of the Messiah had begun!

Father, it is much easier to trust and believe Your promises, and even Your callings on our lives, when we can see or reason out how You could make it happen. It’s harder to trust when Your promise or calling seems impossible to our finite minds, when the way ahead seems dark. Help me to take Mary as my model in those times – to be someone who cannot ever imagine saying no to Your will, so who simply says yes, trusting You implicitly to work out all of the details and to provide every necessary thing on the way. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 7, 2017

Luke 1:26-33 (NIV) 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.”

Luke is always quite precise about his dates. He can be, because he researched carefully everything that he included in his gospel. Six months after Elizabeth conceived John, Gabriel appeared again, this time to Mary to announce the conception of Jesus.

Luke is careful to point out that Mary was both a virgin and engaged, which would make the guarding of her virginity even more vital, since her wedding night was approaching, and there would be strong negative consequences if Joseph did not find her to be a virgin.

Joseph was a descendant of King David, as well as being a completely righteous man (Matthew 1:19). Mary herself was a devout and righteous young woman and, just like God had chosen Zechariah and Elizabeth to be the parents of John, He chose Mary to give birth to Jesus, and Joseph to be His earthly father, tasked with guiding Him, teaching Him, and protecting Him.

Gabriel’s greeting, which made Mary wonder what exactly was going on, was actually very straight forward. Mary was indeed highly favored, because she had been chosen to be the instrument through which the Son of God would come into the world. And as such, God really was with her, present in her life and in the events that would soon take place in a unique and unprecedented way.

The description of the child that Mary would bear left no doubt as to who He would be. Even His name, Jesus, or Yehoshua in Aramaic, meaning “the Lord is the Savior,” painted a clear picture of what He would accomplish (outlined even more clearly in Matthew 1:21: “You are to give Him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.”) The child would also be called the Son of the Most High, which clearly identified His divine origins. He would rule over God’s people, His rule being symbolized by David’s throne, even though Jesus’ kingdom would ultimately extend over the whole world, something that neither David nor any of his successors ever imagined. And finally, Jesus would not be the beginning of a dynasty; He Himself would reign over God’s people forever.

All of these element combined to form a very clear picture in Mary’s mind: the baby that she was going to give birth to was going to be the long-awaited Messiah! People had been waiting for Him for centuries, and the time had finally come. And she was going to be His mother!

Father, the way You do things is amazing. You continually work the plan You have designed until every single element falls into place. You choose exactly the right people to be the key players in Your plan based on their hearts, not on the externals. And those You choose, You bless with Your presence. I praise You today for who You are, and for what You are doing, even now! Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 23, 2016

Matthew 2:13-15 (NIV)

When they had gone, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. “Get up,” he said, “take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt. Stay there until I tell you, for Herod is going to search for the child to kill him.”

So he got up, took the child and his mother during the night and left for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. And so was fulfilled what the Lord had said through the prophet: “Out of Egypt I called my son.” 

Jesus, although God in the flesh, was completely helpless at this point in His life.  Later He would be able to silence His enemies, walk right out of hostile crowds, and know exactly where He should and shouldn’t be at any given moment.  But for now, He was a mere child who had no idea that death would soon be pursuing Him.

Jesus’ parents, Joseph and Mary, had been in the habit of hearing and obeying God’s voice for many years.  So it was a simple thing for God to send His messenger to speak to Joseph and give Him instructions that would save both them and the child.

As was their habit, they heard clearly and obeyed immediately, even in something as radical as pulling up stakes and leaving the country.  They knew God’s voice, so they didn’t argue or ask for clarification or signs that would validate the message.  They simply got up in the middle of the night and headed to Egypt, trusting that God would provide everything that they would need, and that He would give them additional instructions whenever it was appropriate.

Of course, God had known that this journey would be necessary long before the earth had been created.  He had even inspired Hosea to write it down as a prophecy.  But Joseph and Mary didn’t require God to tell them everything that He had planned before they were willing to participate in what He was doing.  They were humble and obedient in everything, and they were willing to rely on God to tell them what they needed to know when they needed to know it.  They were exactly the kind of people that God chooses to do extraordinary things!

Father, I don’t ask for great things.  I ask that You help me to be simply humble and obedient like Joseph and Mary, so that You can easily use Me to work Your plan.  Help my trust in You to be so thorough and complete, and my relationship with You so strong, that I know Your voice well, and obey immediately whenever You speak.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – June 2, 2015

John 2:1-5 (NIV):  On the third day a wedding took place at Cana in Galilee. Jesus’ mother was there, and Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine was gone, Jesus’ mother said to him, “They have no more wine.” “Dear woman, why do you involve me?” Jesus replied. “My time has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”

Many questions have been asked about the wedding at Cana, and many conjectures put forth.  But the details, as much as people crave them, are not important. As is true everywhere in the gospels, Jesus, His words, and His actions are the vital things.  In this case, the wedding merely serves as the scene, the backdrop for His first sign – the place where He pulled the curtain back just a bit so that His glory could be revealed to His disciples.

Up to this time, Jesus had not performed any miracles or done any large-scale public preaching.  He had left His home in Nazareth at the direction of the Father, aware that the time had come for Him to start down the path that had been laid out for Him.  He was baptized by John in precise obedience to God’s will, and the Holy Spirit had descended on Him and remained (cf. Matthew 3:13-17).  He was then led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where He successfully withstood the testing of the enemy (Matthew 4:1-11).  Then He came back to the Jordan for a few days, where He gathered His first few disciples from among those who had been prepared by John.  Now He was at a wedding, waiting for the Father’s go-ahead to start preaching, teaching, and doing the miracles that would attest to the reality of God’s kingdom.

When Mary, His mother, came to inform Him that the wine for the wedding had run out, she clearly expected Him to do something about it.  She had always known that He would one day begin the work that she had been told about at the time of His conception.  And then one day He had told her that the time had come, and had left.  Then, a couple months later, He had come to the wedding with a little band of followers.  In Her eyes, He had begun.

Jesus knew that the time for Him to “go public” was still on the near horizon.  But He heard in His mother’s instructions to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you,” the Father’s guidance to fill this need in order to build the faith of those few that He had chosen to follow Him.  And so He began a small “private” ministry before His “public” ministry officially started.

Father, even Jesus had to stay flexible and responsive to Your instructions.  I know that it is really easy for me to get so fixated on the big goals that You have pointed me to that I can miss the opportunities that You want to help me to see and respond to along the way.  Help me, Lord, to keep an open ear to Your voice, and an open eye to the margins of my way, just like Jesus did, so that I can respond to your slightest leading, and reveal Your glory along my way.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 27, 2015

Mark 14:3-9 (NIV):  While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head. Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. ”Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me. The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. She did what she could. She poured perfume on my body beforehand to prepare for my burial. I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

On this night, a simple act of devotion quickly turned into an occasion for conflict and a clash of worldviews.  The disciples still had no idea what was coming – that in just a couple of days their Lord and Master would be hanging dead on a cross, so badly beaten that He was barely recognizable.  All they knew was that things seemed to be going pretty smoothly.  Jesus had been hailed as a conquering hero just a few days ago, and he had handily won every debate with the Pharisees, the teachers of the law, and even the chief priests.  As they saw it, things were looking up!

They were at the home of Simon the Leper in Bethany having dinner when Mary, the sister of Lazarus walked in (cf. John 12:1-8).  She was carrying a very expensive alabaster jar of pure nard, a distillation from the root of the spikenard plant, but nobody paid much attention to her.  That was until she walked over to where Jesus was reclining at the table, pulled out the jar, and broke the wax seal.  The strong aroma of the perfume immediately filled the room, drawing the attention of everyone.  She then poured the precious perfume on Jesus’ head, and on His feet, wiping his feet with her hair (John 12:3), and act of staggering devotion and honor.

It was a precious moment, one that could have served as an immediate object lesson to everyone gathered in the room.  But a clash of worldviews erupted almost immediately.  Judas (John 12:4) focused on the cost of the perfume – 300 denarii, or a year’s wages for a common laborer – protested that instead of just being poured out on Jesus, the perfume could have done so much more if it had been sold, and the money given to the poor.  And others joined him in his opinion.

But Jesus quickly put a stop to the discussion by His terse, “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her?”  Mary knew how much the perfume was worth, how precious it was.  In fact, that was precisely the reason that she had chosen to use it as she had.  She owed Jesus so much.  Just a short time ago He had restored her brother, Lazarus, to life after he had been dead for four days!  She was so profoundly grateful that nothing was too precious for Jesus; nothing was too costly.  Every drop poured out on Him was a song of thanks to the one who had saved her brother and changed her life.

But in all of this Jesus saw a deeper meaning, one that even Mary was not consciously aware of.  Jesus knew that in just a couple of days’ time, as the sun was setting on the upcoming Friday, His cold, lifeless body would be being taken hurriedly down from the cross, and quickly placed in a borrowed tomb, all done hastily so as not to extend past sundown, when the Sabbath would begin. Even though Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus would quickly pack some spices among the wrappings, there would be no time to properly wash and anoint His body, showing proper respect for the dead.  So Jesus accepted this sacrificial outpouring of love, devotion, and fragrant oil as the anointing of His body prior to His burial.

Father, Jesus told His disciples that those who wanted to follow Him should first count the cost, and make sure that they were willing to pay it:  “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:33 NIV)  Mary understood that.  She had committed her whole life to Jesus, and everything that she had, she was willing to lay at his feet, regardless of the cost, regardless of the value.  Lord, help us to remember how much we have received from You:  blessing upon blessing, Your love, Your presence, and most of all, salvation and eternal life paid for by the precious blood of Jesus.  Lord, if that doesn’t make our hearts as generous toward You as Mary’s was toward Jesus, we are in bad shape!  Thank You, Father, again, and again, and again for all You have done for us.  Amen!

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