Thursday, December 23, 2010

Breath of Heaven

I’ve been thinking a lot about Mary. Mary, mother of Jesus. Mary, a young girl who found favor with God. Mary, a girl who gave her all to serve her Lord. I’ve been wondering if we could be like her.

She had to be living an ordinary life. At home with her parents. Betrothed, ready to begin married life. Friends she laughed with. Her own dreams and goals in front of her. All centered around her love for God. And then the angel came. The angel telling her that she would be with child by the Holy Spirit. She would carry Jesus. Her only question came from her confusion. “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Once the angel explained God’s plan, her response was one of total submission. “I am the Lord’s servant.”

In that one answer, Mary gave up everything…

Her relationships: How many friends left her? What was her parents’ response? We know Joseph’s immediate response; he wanted to divorce her. Mary had no promise that God would explain things to her betrothed.

Her reputation: What must she have been treated like? She couldn’t hide her situation for long. I’m sure the people in town must have talked. Is this one of the reasons she ran to Elizabeth and Zechariah?

Her body: Morning sickness. Fatigue. Uncontrollable emotions. Her growing belly. Giving birth. Even physically she gave her all.

Her heart: Her firstborn, yet not her own. She carried him for nine months. She was given the gift of being his earthly mother. She cradled him the moment he was born. She raised him as her own. Yet he was not hers. He had a purpose; to die for our sins. He came for all. What must her love for him have been like? Her son. Her Savior.

Why? Why did Mary give everything up so willingly? Did she count all the costs first? Or did she simply say ‘yes’ because she wanted to follow God and his plan for her. Did she truly know what would come? Did she ever doubt her decision?

I look to her words in Luke. Words spoken while she was at Elizabeth’s house. She glorifies God. She sings of all he’s done for those who serve him. It’s almost as if she’s reminding herself that God is in control. She’s focusing on God and his attributes. She’s drawing near to him and his promises, his goodness. She’s speaking his truths to her heart and meditating on them. It could not have been an easy path, this path that God chose for her, and to walk it her eyes stay focused on him; not the world around her.

I love the Christmas song, “Breath of Heaven”. It’s sung from Mary’s point of view. She’s asking for God’s spirit, the ‘Breath of Heaven’ to hold her. To be near her. She questions if she should have been the one chosen for this job. Yet, even in her doubts, she offers all she is and cries out for the very Breath of God to touch her. What an intimate picture. To feel someone’s breath, that gentlest of physical touches, you must be intimately close with them. This is what Mary longs for as she walks this path. It is what she seeks. She doesn’t back away when it is hard, she draws only nearer to her Lord.

What path has God chosen for you? Are you the only one saved in your family? Is your spouse not walking with God? Maybe you're going through an illness that is taking all you have. Have you been called into the mission field? Into the ministry? Perhaps you’re the only one at your work who’s a Christian, or you’re one of the only people at your school who follows God. Whatever it is, God so desperately wants to be seen through you. Are you struggling with walking the path your on? Are you asking if you even want to? Or why?

Yes, ‘why’? (It’s a normal question). Why did Mary give up everything to follow God’s path for her? Why should we? It’s so very hard sometimes. We open ourselves to ridicule. We pray, and –at times - it feels like nothing changes. We love those around us, yet they hurt us. At times we have to give up our comfort zone. Our homes. Our relationships. Our bodies. Why?

Because, just like Mary, we want to bring Jesus to a hurting world. Messiah. Savior. We carry him with us. If we say no to God’s plan, if we count the cost to ourselves as too high, then who will bring him? In light of eternity, can we give too much?

Mary did not think so. And look, look at how God walked with her. He defended her to Joseph, giving her a husband to walk along beside her on this path. He protected her. Her gave her a friend in Elizabeth, a woman who could walk through the pregnancy with her and all the unknown changes she was experiencing. And, as she gave birth in that stable, he gave her a picture of heaven. The star, the angels and the shepherds; heaven and earth, praising her son – Savior to a lost world; our greatest gift. It was a glimpse of what God had used her to do and Mary took it, treasuring and pondering it in her heart. After all she gave, God gave this back to her, and he had to be smiling when he did it.

God has a plan for you. A path already mapped out. It will take drawing near to God, his very Breath, to accomplish. There will be moments that are hard. But there will also be moments to treasure. Moments where God smiles down on you.

Are you ready to give your all and follow? To bring Jesus into a lost world who so desperately needs him? His gift may have been birthed by a virgin on Christmas two thousand years ago, but it was meant for all, for every day. Will you carry that gift? Will you give it? Will you be like Mary? Let her song, “Breath of Heaven”, become your song. Because the gift she birthed, the gift God gave, it was meant to be re-gifted:)

Friday, December 17, 2010

What's in a Name?

I think back on how long it took us to pick out names for our children. How hard it was to settle on one name that we both could agree on. Everyone knows the importance of a name; so did God. He wanted His son to be called Jesus (Matthew 1:21). But it was not the only name given to Him…no, not just one name could be given to call the One who would deliver us all. To the One who would meet all our needs. This Christmas, amidst all your searching for the perfect gift, turn to Him who already was and always will be our one true Perfect Gift. He will supply all your needs. He is:

ALPHA and OMEGA (Revelation 22:13)

Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9)

Wonderful Counselor (Isaiah 9:6)

Redeemer (Isaiah 41:14)

Refiner (Malachi 3:2)

Almighty (Revelations 1:8)

The Mighty God (Isaiah 9:6)

Jehovah Nissi – the Lord is my Banner (Exodus 17:15)

Our Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4)

Our Refuge (Isaiah 25:14)

The Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20)

Jehovah Jirah - The Lord Provides (Genesis 22:14)

The Everlasting Father (Isaiah 9:6)

Jehovah Shalom - The Lord is Peace (Judges 6:24)

Lamb of God (John 1:29)

Good Shepherd (John 10:11)

Bright and Morning Star (Revelation 22:16)

Messiah (Mark 8:29)

Holy One (Mark 1:24)

Light of the World (John 8:12)

Bread of Life (John 6:35)

Dayspring (Luke 1:78)

Jehovah Rapha – The Lord your Healer (Exodus 15:26)

Anointed One (Psalm 2:2)

Jehovah Shammah - The Lord is there (Ezekiel 48:3)

The Word (Revelation 19:13 and John 1:1)

Servant (Matthew 12:18)

King (Zechariah 9:9)

Friend (Matthew 11:19)

Advocate (1 John 2:1)

Bridegroom (Matthew 9:15)

The Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

Immanuel –God with us (Matthew 1:23 and Isaiah 7:14)

Truth (John 14:6)

The Way (John 14:6)

I Am (John 8:58)

Lamb of God (John 1:29)

Savior (John 4:42)

The Christ (Matthew 1:16)

The Beginning and The End (Revelations 21:6)

Unspeakable Gift (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Jesus (Matthew 1:21)

“Thanks be to God for His Unspeakable Gift” (2 Corinthians 9:15)

Thank you Lord for the birth of your Son. You truly are "The Reason for this season" and the only Gift we'll ever need.

Monday, December 6, 2010


“Don’t let them change you.”

My friend and I were talking – okay, honestly, I was ranting. I was upset and hurt by someone and she asked what I wanted to do about it. All I could reply was, “I need to pray about it. I know I can’t change them or what they’ve done, but I’m angry, so I just need to pray about it.” She nodded at me in agreement, “No, you can’t change them. But don’t let them change you, either.”

Her words stuck to me. They were cautionary. And aren’t they true? Too often we focus on the person who’s offended us. Hoping if we pray hard enough, they’ll change. Or better yet, they’ll realize what they’ve done to hurt us and come to grovel at our feet. Ohhhh, wouldn’t that feel good? Wouldn’t that be just the key to release our anger and allow us to bestow our forgiveness upon them? The problem is, that may never actually happen, and we need to be okay with it.

Here’s the reason: Other people’s poor judgments and hurtful actions do not build a platform for our sin ~ no matter how much we want to believe otherwise. We are not justified in holding to our anger or exacting revenge. Just try to stand before God and use this rationalization: “But, God, they did (insert offensive action here) first. So surely I can (insert vengeful response here).” He’ll listen and simply remind us that, “Yes, I told you, you can get angry, but I also said not to sin in your anger, and don't hang on to it.” (That answer was a paraphrase of Ephesians 4:26, go ahead, look it up, it’s there and we’re supposed to abide by it.) We are responsible for our actions, no matter where they stem from or how justified they seem to us while doing them.

See, as much as we may want to, we’re not allowed to get snarky. We’re not allowed to wish bad things on another, or rejoice when they “get theirs”. That’s taking matters into our own hands. That’s looking for revenge. That’s allowing them power over us, and…that’s allowing them to change us. The only person who should be changing us is God. And if He’s doing the changing, here’s what we’ll see: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, self-control…slow to anger, quick to forgive, abounding in love… love….love.

Don’t you see? Anger is only harmful to us. It robs us of our ability to see love, accept love, and give love. It is a draining emotion that takes too much from us and is not worthy of space in our hearts. Forgiveness, on the other hand, is God’s gift to us. He freed us with it, so who are we to bind ourselves again? He paid the ultimate price to cloak us in His forgiveness, making us righteous. Once we’ve experienced that, how on earth can we not extend forgiveness to others?

All right, I do need to put in a side note here. Forgiveness is not reconciliation. In church this week, this point was brought home again for me. Forgiveness is vertical, it’s between you and God. It must happen; for our hearts to be right, we must forgive. However, that doesn’t mean there will be a restoration to the relationship with the person who offended you. Some relationships are unhealthy. Some offenders don’t desire to make the necessary changes in their lives. Some don’t even see they need to. In those cases, the reconciliation between you and that person cannot happen. And that’s all right, as long as you’ve forgiven them.

Yes, forgiveness can be hard. And some days you’re not going to feel like forgiving. Do it anyway. Pray. Pray, pray, pray. Remember what God has done for you. Ask Him to show you the person you’re angry with through His eyes. Pray some more. Because sometimes it takes awhile to talk yourself into a new emotion. Just keep giving it to Him and trust that He will take care of it. Our job is only to forgive, His is to exact payment for the wrong done. And He will, whether you ever see it or not. Trust Him. Forgive. Walk away from your anger.

Don’t let them change you. Let God.