Favored by God

Trust is a gift from you, God.  Zechariah and Mary both received unbelievable messages from the angel Gabriel about giving birth by a miraculous act of God.  Both received the fulfilled blessing that had been promised to them. But only Mary trusted the promise. Zechariah doubted the promise and suffered the personal consequences for it.  

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah,of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. 7 But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.
Luke 1:5-7

Your word says that Zechariah and his wife were both righteous before you and “walked blamelessly in all the commandments”. Yet, because of his doubting, he was silenced.  This silencing kept him from sharing in the blessing that he had been given, but it didn’t stop the blessing.

So often I’m ready to doubt your promises, God.  I get so used to calling them promises that I forget that they really are promises and you are faithful to fulfill them!  Help me to trust you, God. Help me not to doubt the blessings that you are sending to me. I think Zechariah doubted because Elizabeth was barren.  Instead of remembering that you fulfilled your promise to bring a child to a barren woman with Abraham and Sarah, he was stuck in the current circumstance of Elizabeth’s inability to conceive.  

By no means should he have been putting his faith in Elizabeth’s body!  But instead he should have trusted in your power! He was a man who knew you!  And yet his fear and the sorrow of his current circumstances kept him from trusting You.  He was well versed in the knowledge of your faithfulness and yet the familiarity of his personal troubles kept him from fully trusting in the message that he had been given.

And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”
Luke 1:28

How favored indeed was Mary!  Her childlike faith and trust in Your message were evident in her from the start.  Her circumstances were simple and humble. She was favored by God, because she didn’t put her trust in her humble circumstances.  Sure, she questioned Gabriel when he said she was favored, but when he told her what that favor was going to give her, she recognized her place as Your servant.  If you wanted to call her “favored” that was good enough for her. So she trusted you.

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”
Luke 1:38

Lord, I am highly favored by you.  I know this because of what you have done for me.  You gave me your Son as a ransom for my life. And you gave me your Spirit as a deposit of your promises to be fulfilled in me.  Lord, let me trust you. Let me walk in the favor you have pronounced on me. Let me know Your promises are true and walk in that truth instead of the turmoil of my corrupted circumstances.  

Oh, Jesus!  My love! Help me trust You so that I can share with the world the blessings You provide instead of being silenced by the doubt in my own heart.

The Resurrection!

Jesus, thank you for revealing yourself to the World through your resurrection!  You truly are alive just as you said you would be! I’m so thankful for your life, Lord!  I know that it means I have life. You have utterly defeated the world, sin and death. They no longer have power.  All authority has been given to You! And you have used that authority to empower us with Your Spirit and give us authority as well.  We share in your rulership! How wonderful!

We are so broken, so foolish, so full of failure and yet you still chose to become like us, in the form of a man, with all the human flaws and failings at peak potential in your own body, but you overcame it all.  Your resurrection proves it! The tomb is empty because you are alive.

Lord, thank you for teaching us all about who you are through the scriptures.  Thank you that you walk with us and patiently show us the revelation of your identity through the prophets of the old testament so that we can fully consume and understand who you are and what you have done for us.  It is incredible, God.

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Luke 24:25-27

I worship you, Jesus!  I worship you and love you for what you have done!

 

The Glory of the Lord

Beloved, how wonderful You are!  How great are your works! I continue to marvel at your incredible mercy and love, especially as we labor through trials.  Through it all you have revealed your glory!

“And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
or the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Isaiah 40:5

I’m still in awe of what you have been doing and how you have revealed the mystery of your love and grace through this hardship we’ve been under.  It’s hard to even imagine that amidst my grief and suffering, your love was actually being revealed! It is undeniable! Everyone who saw it experienced your love.

Not only did I recieve your comfort, encouragement and peace, you expressed those profound gifts to everyone I came in contact with.  And all I can say is wow. The strength and endurance you gave never ceases.

Days later, still in turmoil, still in the midst of suffering, your power continues to manifest in me and around me and through me.  And through it all my faith has grown stronger and more solid. That is who you are, God. You are everlasting. You are powerful. You give strength to the weary and you multiply it!

28 Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
   the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He does not faint or grow weary;
   his understanding is unsearchable.
29 He gives power to the faint,
   and to him who has no might he increases strength.
30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
   and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
   they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
   they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:28-31

Thank you, God, for strengthening me, for teaching me your abundant love, and for enduring with me when I felt so tossed by the waves.  With a word you spoke my world into stillness and peace. And with all my words I want to praise you!

 

God is Faithful

“Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain?”
Psalm 2:1

 

God, I just don’t get it.  Why are people so stubborn?  Why do they insist on following false gods and false pleasure and false life that leads to death?  Why do I do these things? Why am I so disobedient?

15 I don’t really understand myself, for I want to do what is right, but I don’t do it. Instead, I do what I hate.
16 But if I know that what I am doing is wrong, this shows that I agree that the law is good.
17 So I am not the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
18 And I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. I want to do what is right, but I can’t.
19 I want to do what is good, but I don’t. I don’t want to do what is wrong, but I do it anyway.
20 But if I do what I don’t want to do, I am not really the one doing wrong; it is sin living in me that does it.
21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong.
22 I love God’s law with all my heart.
23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me.
24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?
25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin.
Romans 7:15-25

I know the answers, God.  Just like Paul knew the answers.  So, yet again I give it to you. I’ll try to trust you and be thankful for your grace.  I will praise you because your love is bigger than mine. Your forgiveness is bigger than mine.  You forgive me even though I struggle to forgive myself. I want to find rest and peace in it, God.  In your grace, I want to find rest. Help me, God. Help my disbelief. Help me to find rest and peace.  Help me obey you. Help me know that following you brings life.

So why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain?  Because we can’t seem to help ourselves, no matter how hard we try. So, thank you that your love is bigger and your mercy is bigger, and your forgiveness is bigger, and your heart is bigger, and your life is bigger.  Thank you.  Thank you that your love endures forever and that your faithfulness is true.

“if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.”
2 Timothy 2:13

Not by Power, Not by Might, but by the Spirit!

Lord, you are so pleased to reveal your wisdom to your children!  What an honor and privilege to have the mind of God imparted within me to know your heart and your plans for me!  So often I struggle and stumble around, blind to your wisdom, deaf to your voice.  You hold my hand and yet I still stray, wobbling around from side to side, straying this way and that.  I trip over rubble and cry and you kiss away my tears and bandage my bruised and bloodied knees.  And your thoughts remain within me.   In the book of James you show me why I’m always stumbling and falling away from you.  I get doubtful.  I lose faith.

5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.

James 1:5-6

So, God, I’m asking for wisdom.  I’m asking for faith.  I’m asking you to remove the blinders that I’ve put over my own eyes.  Remove the deafening roar of worldly longings and fears.  Let me receive the generous and loving gift of your ample wisdom, freely offered.  Let me take that wisdom with us much freedom as you offer it!  I’m tired of trusting myself!  No matter how smart I think I am, my wisdom is pure folly without the importation of Your thoughts and heart!  I want to trust you!  I don’t want to lean on my own ideas.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5-6

I want to walk with confidence along a straight path, with my fingers interlaced with yours, and my head held high with the pride that comes from standing with you in the righteousness you have made me.  I want to walk in laughter, listening to your voice and seeing all the beautiful sites you have laid out before us.  It’s not just a straight path, it’s a beautiful path.  So, God, I’m asking you to renew my mind.  Take away my focus on the world and the death that it brings to everything, and focus my whole being on You and the life that you offer!

9 But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the heart of man imagined,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—

10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 11 For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual.

14 The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. 15 The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. 16 “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ.

1 Corinthians 2:9-13

Thank you, God, that all this has been made possible to understand and digest because of your Spirit in me.  Only your Spirit knows your heart.  And you have given me your Spirit so that I can freely know the deepest thoughts you have about me and about the world around me.  I can see what you intended with eyes that are no longer blinded by sin.  I can see the incorruptible!  I can see life as you always intended and hoped.  

By this we know that we abide in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.

1 John 4:13

It’s so crazy to me God!  You’ve given me eyes to see the world as you see it!  To see the life you intended in all things.  Satan is such a liar!  He convinced Adam and Eve, the stewards of your creation, that they would be like you by receiving the “knowledge of good and evil”.  But evil is not from you and its only job is to bring death and pain!  To know you is to be brought back to the Garden in the Spirit, where we can walk with you and talk with you about the wisdom and beauty and light of all the things you have made.  All good things.  All life giving things.  I no longer need to be ruled by the knowledge of evil.  It will only bring death.  While you are the bringer of life.  

Thank you for being the Life Bringer, the Life Creator, the Light of the World,  and thank you for being my friend.  I love you, God.  I love you so much!

 

White as Snow

Dear Father,  My heart is aching.  As I read your Word I see the deep longing in your heart to see all people, all nations, be brought into the sheltering love of your presence and forgiveness.  I think of Jesus as he rode into Jerusalem and how he wept for the people.  He said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing.” (Mtt 23:37)  You are so desperate for all the people to know you and find peace and rest and love in your arms, but people stubbornly seek after their own gain.  And no matter how rich they become, no matter how much pleasure they find, no matter how many friends they have, no matter how much fame they have achieved, they are lost.  None of these things will last!  Over and over again you have said it, and called people to put their hope in the only thing that will last:  YOU!  

God, you are merciful and kind and full of love.  It is your hope and desire that all would find you and choose to stand with you, but I thank you that your love is so gracious that you would never force anyone to love you.  You won’t enslave people.  You won’t subjugate people.  You bring life and love and peace.  You bring freedom from oppression and forgiveness from our sins.  You bring restoration.  

You say in your Word that if we turn to you, wash off the things that have seduced us and tormented us with lust and greed and cruel intentions, and simply allow you to robe us with your love and forgiveness then we will be together, filled with love and peace, and free of the bondage of all the things in life that have brought us into bondage.  

Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean;
    remove the evil of your deeds from before my eyes;
cease to do evil,
17     learn to do good;
seek justice,
    correct oppression;
bring justice to the fatherless,
    plead the widow’s cause.

Isaiah 1:16-17

When we come to you, God, when we throw off evil deeds and pick up the cause of your heart, and when we submit to you and accept the free gift of forgiveness that you have offered from the beginning of time: that you would pay the price for our evil deeds and save us from the consequences of our own actions, only then will we find you and walk with you and reason with you.  We will have forgiveness and find unity with you.  Otherwise we will only find destruction.

18 “Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord:
though your sins are like scarlet,
    they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red like crimson,
    they shall become like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
    you shall eat the good of the land;
20 but if you refuse and rebel,
    you shall be eaten by the sword;
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

Isaiah 1:18-20

 

So, thank you God that you have offered me forgiveness and freedom.  Thank you that in you I am complete and can find joy even in the midst of darkness. You are light and in you there is no darkness. (1 John 1:5) 

I choose light.  I choose you.

His Promises are True

Romans 8:31-39 (NLT)

31 What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us? 32 Since he did not spare even his own Son but gave him up for us all, won’t he also give us everything else?33 Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself. 34 Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.

35 Can anything ever separate us from Christ’s love? Does it mean he no longer loves us if we have trouble or calamity, or are persecuted, or hungry, or destitute, or in danger, or threatened with death? 36 (As the Scriptures say, “For your sake we are killed every day; we are being slaughtered like sheep.) 37 No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us.

38 And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. 39 No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

 

Father, thank you for the gift of life you have given us.  Thank you that the promises you gave to Abraham remain and that I am a part of your family and part of the inheritance that you promised mankind from the beginning.  You made us to be your friends, to be your children, to walk with you and commune with you.  It was always your plan to protect us, to love us, and to be in union with us.  I’m sorry that I haven’t always believed that.  I’m sorry for the lies of the enemy that I have allowed to take root in my heart.  Lord, I am so grateful that you forgive me regardless of my failings.  Thank you that your promise to Abraham is still true today, and that your promise will continue for eternity.  Nothing can separate us from the love of God that is found in Christ Jesus.

Lord, as I read through the end of Genesis (Genesis 42-50) and watched again how you continued to bless Joseph through many trials and great suffering, I am comforted.  You really do work all things for good for those who love you.  And through the suffering and condemnation and betrayal of the one man, Joseph, you saved a whole family, as well as saving the promise you gave to Abraham.  That’s what you do, God.  You save.  Through Joseph you proclaim what you would do for all people through Jesus.  Though we sin against you, though we were your enemies, you gave Jesus to die for us.  He suffered so we wouldn’t have to.  Just like Joseph suffered.  His brothers were guilty, but Joseph trusted you, even when it hurt.

I want to trust you more, Jesus.  I want to trust you when it hurts.  I want to know and feel the truth of your promises everyday and every moment.  With every breath, Lord, let me breathe in your truth, your love, and your salvation, so that I can stand strong against the schemes of the enemy.  I am yours God.  I am yours through the fire and trial of this sinful world.  Please use me to save others by living a life that would recognize the fully glorified risen Christ that is alive and active within me.  Salvation is by you alone.  Shine through me, Jesus!  Shine your light and love through every pore of my body that your people, chosen from the beginning through Adam, can be reconciled to you, just as Jacob’s sons were reconciled to you through Joseph.

Like Joseph, let me always point to your promise.  Let me always recognize your power at work in me!  I don’t want to ever give myself credit for the power that you have provided.  Without you, I’d miss out on all that you planned from the beginning for me.  I don’t want to miss any of that, God.  I want to shine.

So, by the name of the Lord Jesus, by his power, and by his might I proclaim the truth of the living Christ over me and any who would believe it and accept it:  That Jesus came as a man; that he lived a perfect life even made “a little lower than the angels”; that he suffered and died the death every sinner deserves though he never deserved it; that he rose from the dead as proof of his promise to me that he is God and that he has power over sin and death; that his restored life is a promise of restored life in me; and finally that he placed his Spirit in me as a sealed promise reminder that my life is his, with all the benefits that such a thing provides.  What the enemy intends to harm me, God will use for good.  

The battle is won.  The victory of Christ is secured!  I am dead now to sin because of Jesus’ defeat of all sin on the cross of calvary.  And my life is new, made new by the surety of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  He proved his power.  He proved his victory.  I will hold onto that victory and draw my peace from that promise.  That promise sealed by God himself.  I am his and he is mine.  We are inseparable.  

Lord, show the world the unending and relentless love of Christ through me!  Amen.