Friday, August 26, 2011

Women Walking Upright Bible Study

Women Walking Upright

Mary: Blessed Among Women

Mary was the chosen mother by God to deliver the Messiah to a fallen and broken world. She was a close relative to Elizabeth, the mother of John the Baptist. Luke 1:36 The exact nature of their relation is never mentioned.

She was engaged to Joseph, a carpenter and a righteous man, at the time that she became pregnant with our Lord and Savior.

Her betrothal to Joseph was a legal engagement known as kiddushin. This engagement could only be broken by a divorce Matt 1:19

Of the women we have studied so far, Mary is the first that was not in a place in life where she was yearning to be a mother; she wasn’t even married yet. Each previous woman desired greatly to give birth to a child and each woman hoped that she would be the one in which the promised Messiah would be delivered through; yet this privilege was given to Mary.

This privilege was something that caused much disarray in Mary’s life. Scripture clearly states that she was still a virgin at the time that she became with child. Luke 1:27

Mary was visited by an angel and her life was forever changed. She was told that God had chosen her to carry the Redeemer, yet she had never laid with a man. The outcome of this this pregnancy would cause a great scandal in town. Luke 1:28-35

Although Mary had undoubtedly never been touched by a man, the world would think otherwise. It is impossible to just “become” pregnant without knowing a man intimately.

Even Joseph upon hearing the news thought the worst of Mary. Imagine his heartache at hearing his beloved fiancée was pregnant and he knew that he could not be the father.

Scripture tells us that he loved Mary so much that he did not want to make a deal out of the situation and cause her any humiliation. He wanted to quietly divorce her; but the angel visited him as well Matt 1:20-21

Mary without question submitted to the will of the Father regardless of what the world would do to her. She knew the scandal that had just been brought upon her; but without hesitation stepped into the role that God was calling her to.

There’s no scripture evidence that she ever complained or brooded over her troubles; she unconditionally loved God and happily did as He called her to do.

After becoming pregnant Mary left to stay with her cousin Elizabeth; not out of shame for her situation but to rejoice with a close relative whom herself was embarking on a miraculous birth—one foretold by an angel. Elizabeth had had trouble conceiving and Mary would most likely have wanted to share her joyous time with someone embarking on the same path. They were both about to give birth to miraculous sons; one who would do a great work in the other Son’s name.

Elizabeth’s reaction confirmed in Mary’s heart everything that the angel had foretold. Luke 1:41-45.There is no mention that Mary sent word that she would be visiting Elizabeth or about her circumstances, yet she knew nonetheless.

Mary’s response to her pregnancy is known as Mary’s Magnificat (Latin for Mary’s first outpouring of praise). It is truly a hymn about the incarnation. It is undoubtedly a praise of joy and an outpouring of love and as we studied last month is similar to Hannah’s praise in regard to Samuel’s birth.

It is filled with messianic hope, scriptural language, and refers to the Abrahmaic covenant.

It is fair to say that Mary had an understanding of the Word of God being that it is so similar to the praise that Hannah gave; of which Mary had a true understanding of.

God is the only one that Mary magnified. She praised and glorified God while making mention of her complete unworthiness—this is absolutely necessary for each of us.

She praised Him for His attributes; His goodness and His power.

It is a praise that is deep and from the heart. She had to have been just consumed by love for He who chose her. She confessed her sinful state and knew the mercy and grace that He was pouring upon her lowly head. She knew firsthand that she was being saved from her sinful life. Mary understood that she was not chosen to be the mother of the Messiah for anything she had done well in her life. She accepted her fleshly existence and owned it. Mary was not chosen by God because she was somehow a better woman than any other. It was His grace bestowed upon her; the same grace He freely gives to any that accept Him.

It is baffling to think that Mary is exalted to a higher place than Jesus by so many.

The Catholic religion exalts Mary to such a high place that they believe one must actually pray to her as a mediator before God and it is she that grants forgiveness. Catholic dogma teaches that she was taken bodily to heaven where she was crowned “Queen of Heaven”. She has become a mediator or intercessory. People pray directly to her and never acknowledge her Son whom was given by the Almighty Father.

It is Mary’s Son, not Mary herself, that is the fountain of grace. This worldly idea of Mary is contrary to Scripture and is actually rebuked by Christ Himself. During one occasion during His ministry a woman in a crowd raised her voice and yelled, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which You nursed.” Jesus replied, “On the contrary, blessed is he who hears the word of God, and observes it.” Luke 11:27-28

There are even people that claim that she remained a virgin, which again is contrary to Scripture Matt 13:55. Matt 1:25 sheds light on the subject stating that Joseph only withheld being with his wife until her firstborn entered the world.

Once Mary gave birth to Jesus, Scripture speeds through much of Jesus’ life. Mary is only depicted in 3 scenes.

The first was at the wedding in Cana when Jesus performed His first miracle, turning water into wine. John 2:3

The second, when Jesus was being sought after so strongly to perform miracles that He didn’t even have time to eat or drink. Mark 3:20

And finally, at His crucifixion. She had to have had an inclination that this day would one day come. Jesus spoke many times of His impending death.

As Mary watched her eldest Son die, strangers screamed profanities at Him, ridiculing Him and accusing Him of crimes He never committed. If anyone knew the sinless life He had lived it was the mother who had witnessed His life.

Mary had spent her life nurturing this man, loving this man, not only as her Savior, the Messiah, but as her beloved Son; whom she carried within her womb. No one other than God Himself could have loved Him more than she. The grief she must have faced had to have been heart wrenchingly painful! She had to stoically stand by as her firstborn Son hung on a cross to die like a common sinner. A man that knew no sin allowed our sins to be heaped upon His head; and she had to watch as the promise was fulfilled.

She exhibited superior grace and courage during those trying moments. The only support she could give her beloved Son was to stand at His side as He took His last breath. She could not assist Him in His work; He was bearing the sins of the world. But, she stood as a mother caring for her child.

Mary was the best mother she could be to Jesus, aiding him when she could; but most often it was He who aided her. Most notably was right after His death and resurrection. Jesus spotted Mary standing with a group of people including the beloved disciple John. Jesus acknowledged His relationship with this woman whom had cared for Him throughout His entire life on earth. John 19:26-27 describes Jesus’s last interaction with His mother, setting up care for her for the longevity of her life. His last earthly act was to ensure that His mother would be cared for.

Mary was Jesus’s earthly mother, and He her eternal Lord. She understood their relationship and embraced it.

She bowed to His heavenly authority.

Mary never claimed to be or pretended to be anything but a lowly maidservant used by God to deliver His people. She accepted this role and willingly stepped onto the path He laid out for her.

God equipped her for the task He had called her to; she was not called because she was equipped in any way. When we take note of this we allow Him to equip us for any work He has for us.

Of all the women in the Bible she is absolutely used in the most extraordinary way because of her unique role as mother to the Redeemer. But, she was not extraordinary because of anything of her own doing; she was extraordinary because He used her in an extraordinary way for an extraordinary work. Mary humbled herself and was granted grace because of her humility.

Friday, August 19, 2011

More Precious than Gold

This summer my children attended VBS at our church. I was sick at the time and was unable to attend as well. I was very sad at the time; laying on the couch ill. But, one day after VBS was over they brought home these beautiful picture frames. I have had them on my mantle since then. Every day I stare at these photos and each day I hear the Scripture in my head:

More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.

Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward.

Who can discern his errors? Declare me innocent from hidden faults.

Keep back your servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me! Then I shall be blameless, and innocent of great transgression.

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer.

Psalm 19:10-14

Every day I stare at these pictures that captured my children’s expressions, attitudes almost perfectly. I felt the need to write something on the love I feel when I look at these pictures.

I see Jordon, this precious boy who God handed me at the prefect time in my life. I was already a mother when he entered our lives, yet became a mother to him as well. Look at that grin, that people pleasing grin. He wants love, affection, understanding and fun. He is whimsical, funny, loving and a handful! There are times when caring for him weighs heavily on my heart. Will he grow up to truly love God? Will he grow up to be a godly man in an ungodly world? But God’s promises remind me that if I keep His commands, love Him myself, my children will stay with Him. Nothing will pluck them from His hand because we are not simply teaching them “a way” we are teaching them “the way”. This brings joy to my anxious heart. This little boy is a blessing in my life because he continuously, every day, helps me reside in the Spirit. I have felt God working in our life so abundantly and so richly where he is concerned and I think this is just what God wanted when He placed this amazing child in our life; to keep us constantly in His loving grasp. By dwelling in His faithful hands, I am able to open up a piece of my heart that was closed off because I felt like I had not “bonded” with Him correctly. I felt like I somehow was less of a mother to him because I did not carry him in my womb. I understand now that I am a mother to him because that is what God has called me to be. He has called me to love this child with His unending love and as I look into his beautiful blue eyes I see the radiance of Christ Jesus Himself. When he asks if he can pray because he is scared, or when he says “I can’t wait to go to church, it is my favorite place”, I know that I am not failing in my instruction. I know that this world cannot take him over because He is a child of God.

Then there is Jaxson, the original doodle bug. He is my first born. Loving him brought me to my knees, understanding that I am unworthy of this precious child and desperately need our Lord and Savior to be a mother of His kingdom. We wanted him so badly that we took our lives into our fleshy hands and stepped into the role only God should have. And yet, He forgave me and blessed me more abundantly than I could ever have hoped for. Jax is a light, bright and shining forth in this dark world. His smile radiates God’s love and reminds me each day that God’s promises are true, He is faithful. I look at this little boy who simply adores me, whether I deserve it or not. And at most times, I am completely unworthy of it. But the amazing part-- he loves me, cherishes his time with me and yearns to spend more with me. Isn’t this the relationship we should have with Christ and that He hopes to have with us? He loves us even when we are unworthy, yearns to spend time with us even when we are “too busy”. His love abounds in ways that we can only hope to pass on to our children; and yet it is my child that teaches me this. It is my child that exhibits the love of the Redeemer so immensely that my heart leaps with joyous excitement. This little boy who loves Christian music and Larry Boy movies teaches me how to love as the Savior would have me love; for that I will forever be grateful to He who is my Sustainer.

And then there’s Hayley Peyton, the fiery red head that believes the sun rises and sets with her crystal blue eyes. She is mean, honoree, loud, proud and in charge. She speaks her mind whether anyone wants to hear it; she likes things her way and to her satisfaction. When she stares at you it seems like she can see right through you because she just stares with this empty glare. Yet at the same time, she’s a cuddler, loves kisses and hugs, Barbie’s and babies and playing with her brothers. But what she loves most of all is her Daddy. He is her favorite person in her 2 year old world and has no problem telling anyone. When we sit down to eat, she bows her head in prayer, to the Lord Almighty. When you ask her who loves her most and where that person is she points to heaven. When she lies down in bed at night she instantly clasps her hands in prayer. As mean as she can be, as often as it feels like she is exhibiting selfish attributes, at such a young age she still loves God. She understands that He is important and is willing to give Him her time. I wonder often, is this my teaching or simply the love of God inside of her? I tend to think it’s a little of both. She would not be able to respond if it was not for Christ inside of her, but she would not know who He is at all at this tender age if she did not see something in her life that resembled His love. My little princess is growing into a princess of the Kingdom.

Of course I cannot forget about Lily Grace, she simply was not at VBS to have her picture taken. At 11 months old she is happy, sweet, loving and a helpless baby. J She smiles more than any of my other children did, she laughs and plays independently for hours. She is just a tiny little thin, but, with the strength of the Father, I know she will grow up to love Him just as the others are.

Yes, I think these children are most certainly more precious than gold and I think our Lord and Savior’s road is richer than any gold this world has. He is sweeter than honeycombs, and as I meditate on His truths I know that one day I will be found blameless in His sight. This thought fills me with a peace that can only come from His gracious hands.

Thank you Father, for these children that are more precious than gold; not because they are any more special than others, but because YOU ARE MORE PRECIOUS than ALL OTHERS.


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Discipling Children

My Heritage, My Children

“Train up a child in the way he should go. And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Proverbs 22:6

The season I am currently in in my life is raising children. This is no easy task with 4 under the age of 8, 3 of which are under the age of 4. There is no single day that I go to bed thinking, “Wow, I actually got that right”. Instead, I do what most parents do as they lay in bed, drifting off to that longed for sleepy wonder—I ask, “How did I fail so miserably today, Lord”?

Failure may be a strong word. I am in no means a failure with my children. But, I am a failure as a human. We all are. Every day I wake with the intention of following Christ to the very best of my ability and every day I realize with a lump in my throat that my very best simply isn’t the best at all.

Only His way is best, only His way yields good results. I must simply train my children in the way they should go and lay them in His hands; for they are truly His children.

I have a hard time putting this into practice sometimes. Take for example the day that the 2 year wrote on every single wall in the house; and of course not with pencil but with marker. Or how about the other day when I found my missing package of gum behind the dresser in the boy’s room, with chewed up gum and wrappers all over the floor; only to find out the 7 year old had stolen the gum and chewed every piece and spit it behind the dresser. Really? Who does that?

I’ll tell you who, we do; sinners. I have an even harder time remembering that they are simply human, just as I am. They make mistakes, and they need proper instruction. So, how do we properly instruct our children in the way they should go? Do I half-heartedly say, “Oh, kids will be kids, no big deal”? Or, “how cute is that, she was drawing a mural on the wall”? Um, no, that is the earthly way.

I shall have no part in this earthly world. I shall take myself out of this world and place myself where Christ calls me; as a godly mother rearing my children in admonition to Him. How do I do this, 2 ways: consistent biblical instruction and discipline. They go hand in hand. Nothing we do can come from what we ‘feel” is best or what we “saw on TV” or even what someone “told” us is the way to do it.

God gives us a handbook on life, it’s called the Bible. The bible explicitly tells us what we can and cannot do, what we should abstain from and gives us the tools to raise our children, properly.

So what do I do when my children misbehave or disobey in a deliberate act, well that’s simple; I discipline. Does that discipline always mean a spanking? Absolutely not! But, there are times that call for this kind of action. I look around at the world we live in now, the one in which the government says we cannot spank our children and all I see is evil continuing to spread. I see a world that is so out of control; teenagers pregnant, youth in prisons, parents giving up their responsibility to the “daycare”.

My children, I hope, will love and honor us. I hope, they will see that the way we raised them was contrary to their friends, to what the world may say is right. But, in God’s us, in His law, His word is right, always.

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.” Ephesians 6:4

This is what I hope to do. Instill truth in them. Instill love from the only holy and powerful God. I hope to stand before Him one day and hear him say, “well done true and faithful servant” and I hope that my children hear this as well.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bearing Good Fruit

Bearing Good Fruit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

Galatians 5:22 & 23

This verse has been hard for me. The concept of “bearing fruit” was so foreign and confusing to me. I didn’t have any idea what it meant to have fruit. I mean, how could I bear fruit? I am not a tree. I am a human.

I read a book 2 years ago about the fruits and my eyes were opened to the depths of the fruits we can bear. I’ve found myself many times in the last 2 years searching for patience, for joy. I’ve often longed for goodness, self-control. I have become angry at myself so many times when I just wasn’t producing what I believed was “good fruit”.

I remembered the book I read by Elizabeth George, remembered the verse in Galatians and I’ve steadfastly been in prayer to try and understand what I was doing wrong. I prayed so often for these fruits; questioned myself when I wasn’t bearing them. Then He spoke to me.

These are fruits produced only IN Him. The next 2 verses in the chapter read:

“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” Gal. 5:24 & 25

We can only bear these fruits when we are living in Him. These fruits are only produced when the Spirit produces them in us. I’ve struggled to practice this. Although I’ve known this for a long time, frustration still crept in and distorted my mind so often. I’ve struggled immensely with putting my faith in the Spirit and not in myself. Day after day I am a mother, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister; and day after day I long to demonstrate the fruits in my life.

I beat myself up when I don’t show patience, joy, long suffering. I cry when I don’t love, have peace, self-control. And why?

How could I ever demonstrate these fruits in my own flesh? Our flesh wars against Him, they cannot go hand in hand. We cannot serve 2 masters. One must die for the other to take control.

Should I be frustrated with myself? Sure! We should absolutely acknowledge that we are incapable of following Him on our own?

But, should I give up? NEVER! Never should we allow our flesh to run our life and never should we allow ourselves to push Him out. When we are residing within Jesus Christ we can bear all of these fruits. And when we fail, which we will do often, we should continue steadfastly in prayer.

“Do not fret or have any anxiety about anything, but in every circumstance and in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, continue to make your wants known to God.” Philippians 4:6

I am so thankful to our God for delivering me from this world, allowing me to enter into an intimate and personal relationship with Him. He reveals Himself to me each and every day and I stand in complete awe of Him at every moment.

My desire is to crucify this flesh; with its passions and desires. I long to live by His Spirit, walking in His will. This desire is one that I must put into action every single second. Every single second I am a human and every single second I must die. If I don’t, He will never live inside me.