Love Feast

Rick and I are blessed to be part of Full Throttle Biker Church. Our church body shares a “love feast” one Sunday each month. This is based on the New Testament practice of meeting together to share a meal, hear the Word preached, take the Lord’s Supper together, and fellowship with each other.

I read an article recently in “Today in the Word,” a publication of Moody Global Ministries titledFeeding Our Faiththat talks about how Jesus often spoke about food and used it in His teaching and parables. Food is also part of the Lord’s prayer. 

This collage shows photos of various love feasts we’ve enjoyed—the “befores” of the various dishes set out in the church kitchen, as well as the “afters” of our church family enjoying the fellowship while dining . Each month is a different food theme and March’s theme, which we’ll share tomorrow, is what our pastor calls a no-brainer: Irish of course! 

Please enjoy the great article below by Paul Nyquist.

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Feeding Our Faith

By Paul Nyquist

From Today in the Word

We all have favorite foods that remind us of home. I grew up in Nebraska, so mine is a delectable portion of beef grilled to perfection. But I don’t just love the food itself. I have warm memories of ordinary meals eaten with friends and family. At many of our churches, potlucks are a highly anticipated event. Tables groan under the weight of covered casserole dishes and gelatin salads as the church family gathers to eat, laugh, and fellowship.

Perhaps that positive emotional connection is why meals became a part of early church gatherings. Together, believers could “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps. 34:8). The practice of Christians meeting together to share a meal traces back to the earliest days of the church. Believers called these gatherings “love feasts” as they shared a meal in homes followed by teaching, singing, and the Lord’s Supper.

Read the rest here.

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7 Commandments of a Great Marriage

Since I started writing the Marriage Triangle column for The Relevant Christian Magazine (TRC), I’ve come across many wonderful articles about how to have a great marriage. I’ll be sharing those here every so often, and will add each article to my Marriage Triangle tab here.

This first one is a wonderful article about marriage by Ron Edmondson, who is a contributing blog writer for the BibleStudyTools site. My favorite line from his article: 

Marriage is not a 50/50 deal. It’s a 100/100 deal—each willing to surrender all to the other person.

If you are married and want the best marriage possible—in other words, the kind of marriage God calls us to have—please read Ron Edmondson’s article.

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7 Commandments of a Great Marriage

by Ron Edmondson

I have an advanced degree in counseling and hundreds of hours experience working with couples. I’ve taught marriage retreats for years. I wouldn’t say I’m an “expert” in marriage—because I’m married—and my wife reads my blog. That would be a stretch. Actually, I know more to do than I have the practice of doing. (Isn’t that true for most of us?)

But I’ve learned a few things. I’ve observed things that work and things that don’t.

I think there are some necessary ingredients for a healthy marriage. That’s the point of this post.

Want a healthier marriage?

Read the rest here.

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Sing to the Lord

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Sing to the Lord,
for he has done glorious things;
let this be known to all the world.
Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion,
for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.
—Isaiah 12:5-6

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God’s Immense Love

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But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
while we were still sinners,
Christ died for us.
—Romans 5:5

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Happy Valentine’s Day!

I first published this here on February 14, 2014. And here it is again because I believe it is so appropriate for this day that’s all about love.

The other day I got to thinking about Valentine’s Day and how it’s supposed to be all about love. 1 John 4:19 immediately came to mind, and I knew this was to be my message about  love … God’s immense love … for us.

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The Dimensions of God’s Love

We love because he first loved us. —1 John 4:19

We have all been told how much God loves us. That fact is unquestionable, especially as we look around and see the evidence of His love in all of His creation. God’s love for us can be described as multi-dimensional, so let’s look at the different ways God loves us—the Breadth, Depth, Height and Length of His love—by examining the universe He created.

Breadth

When a man and a woman get married, they usually exchange wedding bands. If you look closely at a wedding band, you cannot see where it begins or where it ends. This circle of metal is therefore used as a symbol of unending love between husband and wife. In the same way, a circle represents eternity.

That is how I think of God’s all-encompassing love for us. I visualize the circle that His arms form to surround the earth. This thought both amazes and comforts me. I am amazed because it shows how big God is. I can’t imagine any human who can “hug” the whole world. And I am also comforted because I enjoy being hugged. But the true illustration of the breadth of God’s love is found in Scripture:

ByGrace…because of his great love for us,
God, who is rich in mercy,
made us alive with Christ
even when we were dead in transgressions—
it is by faith [we] have been saved.
—Ephesians 2:4-5

He loved us “even when we were dead in transgressions.” What a truly astonishing thing!

Eternity is a difficult concept for us to understand, but God has it all under control. He loves us so much that He can’t stand the thought of being apart from us, so He has provided us with a way to spend eternity with Him:

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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

The breadth of God’s love for us is that huge. He made sure that we have a way to be with Him forever—in other words, for eternity. Trying to figure out what eternity could be like is the same as trying to count all the stars in the sky. It is impossible!

I like to imagine what it will be like to spend the rest of eternity with God, but I’m sure my limited picture of heaven falls far short of the truth. All I know for sure is that:

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“…to all who received him,
to those who believed in his name,
he gave the right to become children of God.
—John 1:12

Depth

The Grand Canyon ranges in height from 9,000 feet at the North Rim all the way down to 2,400 feet at the Colorado River. Those of us here in the Southwest know that there are no easy ways to get to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. In fact, portions of the Colorado River are barely visible from above because of the depth of the canyon. Now that’s what I call deep, but it is still measurable.

We read in Romans that:

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…God demonstrates his own love for us in this:
While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we now have been justified by his blood,
how much more shall we be saved
from God’s wrath through him!
For if, when we were God’s enemies,
we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son,
how much more, having been reconciled,
shall we be saved through his life!
—Romans 5:8-10

The love God has for us is so deep that it is immeasurable. It is impossible for me to imagine something that cannot be measured. Everything that surrounds us can somehow be measured, whether by weight or volume. But not God’s love. It is bottomless and keeps going on and on to infinity. Even though we don’t deserve any of it, He loves us that much anyway.

We hear a lot these days about “unconditional love.” The truth is that the only true, unconditional love we will ever receive is from God, Who loves us with a pure love found nowhere else. How better to explain God’s love for us in spite of all our sins and shortcomings? The fact that God loves me in spite of myself is the ultimate proof of the depth of His love.

Height

Have you read about those who have succeeded in climbing Mount Everest? This 29,035-foot mountain range is the highest in the world and the most difficult to climb. There are many people who attempt this climb more than once in the hopes of finally being able to complete the challenge of making it to the summit.

I cannot imagine being at a point 29,035 feet above sea level. That is so high that one’s breathing becomes quite labored and therefore requires extra oxygen. But that is still not as high as the heavens. In Ephesians, Paul gives us a taste of what it will be like when we’re in heaven:

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And God raised us up with Christ
and seated us with him
in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus.
—Ephesians 2:6

There is no way we could ever understand the height of such “heavenly realms.”

I love knowing that those of us who have accepted Jesus Christ as our Savior and Lord will be up in heaven with God forever, seated with Him and serving Him in all His honor and glory. Even though we’ll be higher than we’ve ever been, we will not suffer the usual effects of high altitude such as headaches, nosebleeds or labored breathing. God has made sure of that. I believe that heaven will be the most comfortable place ever!

Col3-1-4

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ,
set your hearts on things above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Set your minds on things above,
not on earthly things.
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.
—Colossians 3:1-3

Length

It is estimated that right now the universe is at least 46 billion light years in radius. My puny human mind cannot comprehend such a measurement. Look up at the billions of stars in the night sky and then try to understand the lengths to which God will go for us. He could have designed just an adequate place for us to live, but did He? No. He chose to give us a wonderful universe filled with beautiful planets and stars. It stretches on and on, just like His immense love for us.

The daytime sky and the night sky are the same, yet very different. During the day we cannot see the stars because of the light of the sun. At night, the stars and moon illuminate the dark sky. When we are in heaven, things will be greatly changed.

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There will be no more night.
They will not need the light of a lamp
or the light of the sun,
for the Lord God will give them light.
And they will reign for ever and ever.
—Revelation 22:5

No more night? Really? What will that be like? And imagine not needing a lamp to read a book.

Being part of such an exciting eternity with God requires only this:

  • recognize that we are sinners and be truly sorry for our sins
  • believe in Jesus Christ as God’s Son and our Savior
  • acknowledge that He died on the cross at Calvary and that His death paid the penalty for our sins
  • and trust that He rose from the dead on our behalf so that we might live forever with Him—and all because of the length of God’s love for us.

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Paul related this aspect to Timothy:

But for that very reason
I was shown mercy so that
in me, the worst of sinners,
Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience
as an example for those
who would believe on him and receive eternal life.
—1 Timothy 1:16

His “unlimited patience.” How I love those words! They remind me that even though I so often lose patience with the things and people in my life—and myself—God never loses patience with me. His patience is eternal!

Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible,
the only God,
be honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.
—1 Timothy 1:17

Beloved, on yet another Valentine’s Day I am so glad we have a God Who shows His immense love for us in so many ways, in spite of our sinful selves! How amazing is that?

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The Story of Joy and Sorrow

Reblogged from Lynn Mosher: Encouraging the Heart-Uplifting the Soul.

This wonderful post from my bloggy friend, Lynn Mosher, goes along with my JOY and FAITH themes this year. Lynn has a special way of making a story come alive, and I know you’ll appreciate this as much as I do.

Thank you, Lynn, for allowing me to share this with my readers.

The Story of Joy and Sorrow

Photo credit: Lynn Mosher

Photo credit: Lynn Mosher

Once upon a time, twin sisters, Joy and Sorrow, lived in the same house with their Father, whose name was Comfort.

Joy skipped along her way enjoying every moment, savoring the sights and sounds of her everyday life, as her heart overflowed with praise and thanksgiving to her Father.

Sorrow, on the other hand, was somewhat defiant, rebelling against her Father, grumbling because of the pain in her life.

Nevertheless, they both experienced the same trials and heartaches, and yet, they each went about their day singing a different tune.

Read the rest here.

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The Marriage Triangle

The Marriage Triangle

by Anna Popescu


Does the title of this column seem a bit risqué? Well, it could be but read on to find out what it’s really all about.

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Marriage is a very strong yet fragile bond. That makes it somewhat of a paradox. I’m guessing all husbands and wives enter into marriage with the intent of staying true to their vows, but eventually real life breaks in. What started out as a strong union can begin to unravel, and that’s when it becomes fragile.

Many couples manage to stay married for many years. Barbara and George H. W. Bush recently celebrated 70 years together. It is obvious that their marriage has stayed strong in spite of the inevitable rough patches we all go through.How did they—and how do countless other couples—stay true to their vows?

I have been married twice. My first marriage lasted 23 years and I have two very wonderful children from that marriage. The marriage ended because my ex-husband no longer wanted me in his life. However, in retrospect, that was not really why we divorced. We had a long history of reacting badly to each other.

Let me explain. When one of us had an issue with the other, we did try to talk it out but more often ended up yelling at each other. That kept us at an impasse, and all those impasses accumulated into one big boatload. Oh, we gave the appearance that all was well with us as a couple, but the reality in our home was something else altogether.

I had given my life and my heart to Jesus Christ about 10 years after we were married, but I allowed myself to backslide for many years for reasons best left unsaid here. The huge turning point in my life happened after I was divorced. Almost 18 years after being saved, I finally returned to the Lord, rededicated my life to Jesus Christ, made my public testimony and was baptized. This changed everything for me, and I vowed that I would always live for Jesus.

Wedding photo w-Kathy&AlanA few years after that, I met Rick, and we were married in a special covenant ceremony at the home of a very dear friend. Those are my children, Alan and Kathy, in this photo taken at our wedding. We recently celebrated our 16th wedding anniversary and are still going strong in spite of some circumstances we never would have predicted. You can read the story of how we met online here.

Here are some excerpts about covenants and the covenant marriage ceremony at preceptaustin.org1, one of my favorite sites:

♥ Covenant as defined by the Scriptures is a solemn and binding relationship which is meant to last a life time.

♥ In ancient times, covenant was the most solemn and binding agreement into which two parties could enter.

♥ In the Covenant of Marriage remember the following truths…

  1. Two lives become one. In covenant, you become identified with the other individual, and there is a supernatural commingling of two lives.
  2. There is a sign to remember which serves as a witness and a memorial. When you enter a covenant with your beloved, the sign is usually a ring which serves as a constant reminder (memorial) of the solemn and binding marriage covenant.
  3. There is a change in name. As the wife takes on her husband’s name, this change symbolizes the supernatural identity and oneness God intended for the partners who had entered the marriage covenant.
  4. There is a meal shared. Biblical covenants were often commemorated with a “covenant meal.” [Husbands and wives] will celebrate your new covenant relationship by feeding each other wedding cake which is a picture that you are now sharing a common life, that two lives have become one.
  5. There is a friend who will stick closer than a brother. Friend is a covenant term and is beautifully seen in God’s covenant with Abraham. “… and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,” and he was called the friend of God” (James 2:23).
  6. There are witnesses to testify. In the Old Testament, the solemnity of a “cutting covenant” was often witnessed by setting up a memorial or sign. “So now come, let us make a covenant, you and I, and let it be a witness between you and me.” Then Jacob took a stone and set it up as a pillar” (Genesis 31:44-45).
  7. There is a covenant partner to defend. Webster’s definition of the verb to defend = to protect a person from harm or danger. To keep safe from attack. To cover. To shield. To safeguard. To shelter. To support someone in the face of an onslaught of criticism (how often do we criticize our covenant partner rather than lovingly defending them from criticism?).

We’ll explore each of these items in more detail in the future.

One of the things that Rick and I talked about during our courtship is crucial to our commitment to stay married no matter what. Rick had never been married before and would say, “I am only going to be married once.” Since I had previously been married, I would reply, “I am only going to be married once more.”

So Rick and I started out with the right foundation, but still butted heads from time to time as all married couples do. We would fall back on the illustration of the orange given to us by our premarital counseling pastor. If you take an orange and rip it in half with your hands (versus cutting it), you have two pieces with very jagged edges. That orange can only fit back together one way—by fitting those uneven edges together exactly. That’s the way the husband and wife work together within a marriage. The strengths of one may be the weaknesses of the other, but fitted together—in other words, by working together—they can solve a problem or complete a task that one of them may not have been able to do alone.

Rick and I love the example of the orange, and have remembered that image many times. We have a great marriage but we are no different than countless other married couples. We still sometimes struggle with some silly, sometimes stupid, ridiculous things that can build up to cause a heated discussion or argument. The single greatest thing we have learned is that to have the best marriage possible, we need to remember that we are each at the bottom corners of a very special triangle in which Jesus is at the top. We call this The Marriage Triangle.

It is very easy to get into a fiery argument by focusing on our own selves and our own agenda. We’ve all done this. We get so involved in what we’re trying to communicate to our spouse (maybe very loudly?) that we forget what brought us together in the first place.

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The triangle image above is a great way to show that husbands and wives are to keep their eyes focused on Jesus rather than just on each other. What happens because of that is the more time we each spend focusing on Jesus and His will and plan for both of us, the better and closer our relationship with Jesus will become. And the closer we walk with Jesus, the closer we get to each other.

Rick and I know this to be true in our marriage, and are absolutely thankful for this truth. It has also helped defuse many an argument when we stop to consider that Jesus is watching and listening to every single word that pours out of our angry, frustrated mouths. And even when we forget to look up to Jesus, it is only because we have become closer to Him that we still remember—most times—to stop and take a break. There is a lot of praying and thinking that goes on during that break, and we always come back together by asking forgiveness for speaking so carelessly. After that we are able to calmly continue the discussion until we’ve figured things out.

Beloved, God wants us to live in a harmonious marriage. He created marriage to be a man and a woman. He knows everything, so He also realizes that the inevitable problems will arise. However, He has provided us with ways to help our marriages become stronger in spite of the hurdles or difficulties.

That’s what this column will be all about, and I’m looking forward to writing about the ways in which God can help all of our marriages become even better!

“The first secret to loving others is to immerse yourself in a love relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—and abide there.” —Anne Graham Lotz

1 PreceptAustin.org: The Covenant of Marriage

 

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JOY for Your Unfailing Love

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When I rededicated my life to Jesus and was baptized back in 1995, I was still a baby Christian. I spent lots of time reading my Bible, but to help memorize Scripture verses, my wonderful friend Donna gave me several audio tapes containing songs set to actual Bible verses. Oh, did I ever love singing along to these songs, and to this day when I read certain Bible passages, the songs I learned back then immediately start playing in my head.

I was researching passages about JOY recently, and my eyes zeroed in on Psalm 90, verse 14:

Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, 
that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 

I suddenly remembered a song I had memorized from one of those tapes, so I did some online research and actually found it on youtube:

Granted, the entire song is comprised of only the words of this Scripture verse, but that is exactly what helped me memorize it so well.

I found those audio tapes today (yes, I still have them!) and since I also still own a cassette player, I am going to start playing these again to refresh my memory. Call me a dinosaur for holding on to these old things, but why should I buy the CD or MP3 version of these if I already have them in an older format that still works perfectly?

Beloved, how about you? Have you ever used music to help memorize Bible verses?  Share your experiences with us below.

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JOY and FAITH

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For the past few weeks, I have been pondering the word JOY. Such a small word for such a huge and amazing emotion.

How can I describe JOY?

How can we feel any JOY at all while in those valley places?

And why do we feel JOY in the first place?

Stay tuned, beloved!

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So the natural progression—in my mind at least—led me to next think about the word FAITH. Hebrews 11:1 (above) was given to me years ago during a particularly stressful time in my life when God showed me that FAITH in Him can carry me through any situation.

FaithBraceletsCollage--AMPI have always tried to live by that kind of faith, and this Christmas I received two special bracelets from my Rick that were faith themed. As you can see in this photo, one of them says “Keep the Faith.” The other reads “Faith Hope Love.” They look really nice worn together, and are serving to remind me that my FAITH is found only in the Person and finished work of Jesus Christ at Calvary.

…..

Jesus spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said,
“Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You,
even as You gave Him authority over all flesh,
that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.
This is eternal life, that they may know You,
the only true God,
and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
I glorified You on the earth,
having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.
Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself,
with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”
—John 17:1-5

This year I hope you’ll join me in exploring JOY and FAITH, especially as it pertains to each of us individually. I don’t think this subject can ever be exhausted because God fills us up with unending amounts of JOY and FAITH. It’s up to us to grab hold of both of those and never let go!

Heavenly Father, we need You more than we can ever imagine. We so need Your JOY and Your FAITH. JOY that You think of us as the apple of Your eye. JOY in and through every single circumstance in our lives. FAITH in the mercy and saving grace of Your Son, Jesus Christ. FAITH that we can always count on You—and only You—to see us through those inevitable valleys in our lives. Oh, Abba Father, we are so utterly thankful for how much You lavish Your JOY and FAITH upon us!

…..

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Mary Treasured All These Things

Please enjoy this special Christmas devotional by Pat Knight.

Thank you, Pat, for blessing us with this wonderful rendition of Mary’s viewpoint in being the one to give birth to our Savior, Jesus Christ, and watch Him as He grew up.

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

Mary was an ordinary person who accomplished the extraordinary. As a young teenager, a mere twelve to fourteen years of age, Mary possessed a quiet faith, one that conveyed submission, humility, and inner strength of character. The angel assured her, Do not be afraid. 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” (Luke 2:32).

Mary was initially overwhelmed and perplexed by the announcement, but she asked only one question of the angel Gabriel: “How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 2:34). Once Gabriel responded that the Holy Spirit would overcome her to create her pregnancy, Mary replied, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be done to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38). Her next response was to compose and sing a song of praise and glory to God, rejoicing in His mercy lavished upon her. Mary’s song ends with conviction that God will be true to all of His promises. She felt honored that she had been chosen to participate in a miracle that would fulfill God’s promise made centuries ago to bring the prophesied Savior to the world.

Mary didn’t attempt to live in the future, avoiding futile “what if” questions. She relied upon her Lord to meet all of her needs on a daily basis. Whenever she was reminded of a new aspect of Jesus’ future predicted by a prophet or an angel, Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19). God recognized Mary’s superlative heart value. He chose her as the mother of Jesus by examining her heart and found it overflowing with goodness. To hold the Son of God in her arms, to cuddle Him, to nurture and instruct Him, must have been a tremendous privilege and responsibility, not so different from the devotion and love all mothers feel toward their children. However, a sense of wonder must have constantly permeated Mary’s emotions.

As Jesus matured, He gradually developed an awareness of His unique relationship to God. He was also perfectly obedient to His earthly parents. Mary and Joseph must have yearned for their firstborn to experience every aspect of life, but Jesus was unable to fall in love, have a family, or experience any permanent status on earth. Jesus the Christ, was God in the flesh. He was focused on the work with eternal consequences He must perform during his brief time on earth.

Jesus’ parents had no forewarning that their adult son would walk on water, cure the blind, or heal the lame. But they believed unreservedly in His mission. At a wedding where the wine supply was exhausted much to early in the celebrations, Mary asked Jesus to help in some way to prevent embarrassment to the bridegroom. Then she instructed the servants, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2:5). Though Jesus had never performed a miracle up to that point, Mary trusted His abilities and judgment explicitly. She was likely as surprised as the servants that Jesus converted gallons of plain water into elegant wine.

Jesus was born on earth not to constantly perform fantastic miracles, as needed as they were, but to bring redemption of sin to the multitudes. Soon the prediction the prophet Simon uttered when Jesus was still an infant, was proving true; that Mary as well as Jesus would suffer deep anguish in the future. When Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, storm clouds of opposition and rejection gathered over His life. Mary must have felt personally attacked when she viewed mob hatred escalating toward her son. Jesus was the subject of intolerance and shame, scorn and disbelief. Mary paid a tremendous price to bring the Savior into the world; she paid an exorbitant price to stand beneath the cross, witnessing the torment of Jesus during his heinous crucifixion. Mary’s heart must have completely shattered, spilling forth all the treasures she’d pondered over the past thirty-three years of her son’s life.

As He hung from the cross, Jesus assigned His beloved disciple, John, to care for His mother for the rest of her life. Then Mary retreated into seclusion with Jesus’ committed followers, where they hid from the Roman authorities, praying for protection and guidance. Three days later, news arrived that Jesus had risen from the dead. How Mary rejoiced! Her son, the Son of God, was alive! Thanksgiving filled the air.

Are we willing to cling to our beliefs as Mary did, even when the rising tide of public opposition threatens to chip away at our spiritual commitment like granite eroding from the constant battering of surging tides? Just as the plans for the incarnation of our Savior were flawlessly choreographed in heaven, God loves us so much that His purposes for each of our lives are also perfect. As we celebrate the birth of our Savior this Christmas season, let us follow Mary’s example, learning to treasure all the Words of God and ponder them in our hearts.

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Please enjoy this beautiful rendition of “Mary, Did You Know?” by Pentatonix.

If for any reason you are unable to view the video, please CLICK HERE for the lyrics.

 

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