Friday, December 24, 2010

Mary, the Mother of Jesus

By Bethany Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Luke 1:30-32, “But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High’”. (NIV)

Devotion:I wonder what exactly Mary was thinking at this moment? To become pregnant is amazing, but to become pregnant by the Holy Spirit – now how is that for a Christmas present? The bible tells us “For you [Lord] created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13, NIV). God had it all worked out in His plan. He would send His son, Jesus, to walk the Earth, teach His word, spread the Gospel, be baptized with water, save others through baptism of the Holy Spirit, and then ultimately die on the cross to save us from our sins.

And, his mother was to be Mary.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not putting more emphasis on Mary than Jesus. But, I am recognizing how she must have felt. I am a mother. I know God entrusted Clint and I to care for our children and teach them about Him.

Now, imagine your child WAS Him.

We don’t know much about Jesus’ birth beyond what little there is to say in the gospels. Luke records that “Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. (2:4-7, NIV) He goes on to say in verses 14-19 “When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.”

Mary knew He was special and although she couldn’t guess as to what was to become of her son, Jesus, she did manage to hold these moments near and dear to her heart. I can see Mary as Jesus turns into a toddler, then into a boy, and ultimately a young man – treasuring these little details of Jesus in her heart. Instead of worrying, she trusted. Instead of scolding, she took pride. Instead of being angry, she rejoiced.

I know with all the hoopla of Christmas, sometimes we get distracted with the small stuff. But, this year especially, Mary has been weighing on my mind. Let us try to remember Mary this year at Christmas. Let’s rejoice with Mary, in the delight of her Son, Jesus. Let us proclaim to the world with Mary that Jesus was here – that because of Jesus, we now could live with the Holy Spirit within us. Let us delight in little baby Jesus born in a manger (Luke 2:7). Let us learn from the Boy Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:41-52). And let us mourn with Mary as she watches her Son die on the cross (Mark 15:37). But – let us rejoice with Mary to proclaim, “He is Risen, He is Risen…” (Mark 16:5).

And He was named Jesus.

What a mighty God you are, Lord. How do we ever say thank you? May we all be blessed this Christmas by baby Jesus.

Applications: Celebrate Jesus with your family this week and enjoy the holiday blessings each and every one of us have. Merry Christmas!

Power Verses:

Luke 2:8-14, “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.” (NIV)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Trust and Obey

By Lisa Lashbrook

This Week’s Verse: Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding.” (NIV)

Devotion: There is an old hymn Trust and Obey that I’ve sang over the years. It’s a hymn most of us know and can sing along so easily.

As I look at our grandson, Gram, with his big brown eyes looking up at me, I know he trusts in me with everything I do. He trusts that I will feed him, change his diapers, play with him and continue to make him laugh with peek-a-boo. He has a total TRUST in me that is a safe trust, a caring trust and non-disappointing trust.

When did we learn NOT to trust? Was there an incident in your life that has caused you not to trust people, friends, your children, your spouse, or your boss? Has some fear of things or life experiences caused you to doubt others?

I know when the trust between my parents and me was broken. In high school, some classmates stopped by our house close to Halloween. They wanted some eggs to throw at cars. Trying to be the cool friend, of course I wanted to assist. I didn’t think any harm would come from it, so I gave them some eggs out of an egg carton in the refrigerator.

Well, the boys threw the eggs at a car right outside of MY house. The car stopped and called the cops. I was in total denial to my parents that I had anything to do with it. They had total trust in me to believe what I said to them. Up to this point, they had no reason to doubt me. The cops left and I thought I was cleared of being caught!

The next morning, my Mom went to refrigerator to get more eggs for breakfast. She noticed there were a few eggs missing. Upstairs she came! You know the rest of the story - lets just say the trust was broken.

I knew from that point on my Mom would wonder with a slight suspicion of what I was doing or where I was going. Could I really be trusted? I didn’t like that feeling of her doubting me. I had to rebuild that trust again.

The greatest example in the bible for me of trust is Abraham in Genesis 22: 1-5 in the offering of Isaac. First of all, Abraham is strictly obedient by getting up early. Second, Abraham trusts in God his Father; vs. 5 says “we will worship”. He was praising God during this storm! WOW! Also, in the midst of this offering and trial, Abraham was putting his trust in God for whatever the future held. This demonstrates to me that my relationship with God has to be so close to have that complete trust! Just like Gram has with me.

Father, help us to find our trust in you again. We want to put our trust in the Lord with all our heart; and not depend on our own understanding. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Applications: Review these 3 areas in your life:

1. Do you have a need to control and can’t trust others?

2. Are you ruled by fear and anxiety causing you not to trust?

3. Do you feel disconnected to friends or family?

~Remember, it is the shepherd’s responsibility to lead the sheep home. The shepherd knows where to find you; you are not lost. The sheep know the shepherds voice and follow him. Put your trust back in the Lord and so you will obey and follow his voice home!

Power Verses:

Proverbs 22:19, “I am teaching you today—yes, you—so you will trust in the Lord” (NIV)

Proverbs 31:11, “Her husband can trust her, and she will greatly enrich his life.” (NIV)

Isaiah 26:14, “Trust in the Lord always, for the Lord God is the eternal Rock.” (NIV)

Friday, December 10, 2010

Praise God!

By Charity Pence

This Week’s Verse: John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” (NIV)

Ever wanted to throw your hands in the air and give up? If you are like me, the answer is yes. We all have those moments in our lives, moments when we are knocked down before we have had a chance to get back up again. It is times like that when it is easy to lose sight of the Truth. Psalm 35:18 tells us that the Lord delivers us from all of our afflictions. Though the trials we go through may at times be too much for us, they are never too much for God. Psalm 18:6 promises God hears us when we cry out to Him in distress. How often do you cry out to Him? Do you trust Him to hear you? I have learned firsthand that God does hear me. My prayers are not always answered the way I expect. Sometimes the answer to my prayers is the opposite of what I asked for. God has taught me, though, that if I trust Him entirely, He will provide. This lesson was not something I learned quickly. It has taken me many years and many trials to realize that God has my best interests at heart and will make provisions accordingly. And through everything, I have learned another important lesson.

Lifting our hands in praise is difficult to do when everything around us is falling apart. And yet, the Bible tells us we are to praise God always. We are not meant to praise God only when things are good. So when I find myself lying flat on the ground from yet another hit, I praise God. I praise Him because He has always given me the strength to get back up. I praise Him because I know He is with me. I praise Him because no matter how hard this life can be, it will not always be this way.

We sang a song in church recently. “When I call Your name, Lord You reply, You bring Your kingdom and stand by my side.” As I sang these words, I pictured myself standing, surrounded by God and His army. It was an awesome reminder that as long as I trust God, He will fight my battles for me.

Dear Heavenly Father, life is so hard sometimes and it would be easy to give up, to stop trusting in You. Thank You for the lessons You have taught me. Continue to be with us all, Lord, please. Give us the strength to lift our hands in praise when we are too weak to even stand. You indeed are Lord and I will put my trust in You. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Applications: Do not let yourself be overwhelmed by the trials you must face. God will not leave our side; He has already won our battle.

Power Verses:

I Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always.” (NIV)

Psalm 50:15, “And call upon me in the day of trouble: I will deliver thee, and thou shalt glorify me.” (KJV)

I Peter 3:13, “And who is he that will harm you, if you be followers of that which is good?” (KJV)

Friday, December 3, 2010

Distress: Do Prayers Matter?

By Melissa Milbourn

This Week’s Verse: 1 Kings 8:49, “then hear their prayers and their petition from heaven where you live, and uphold their cause.” (NLT)

Devotion: Recently, while going through a season of distress, a friend reached out to me. This friend is not in my day-to-day life, so she really had no way of knowing what I was dealing with, or going through each day...but God did.

She reached out saying that God had put me on her heart and that she was praying for me, and is praying for me. This happened about a month or two ago, and God has not changed my circumstances. But what has changed is ME. Through her prayers, God has changed me, and because of that, I am able to handle the situation I'm in much better. I can see and feel the difference, because of her prayers.

In 2 Corinthians 1, Paul is talking about a season of distress and what helped him through, and here is what he says:

"8-11We don't want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn't think we were going to make it. We felt like we'd been sent to death row that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he's the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he'll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. YOU AND YOUR PRAYERS ARE PART OF THE RESCUE OPERATION—I don't want you in the dark about that either. I can see your faces even now, lifted in praise for God's deliverance of us, a rescue in which your prayers played such a crucial part."

Maybe you've been praying for yourself, or someone else, and you feel as if your prayers don't matter. Be reminded today, that God hears your prayers, and your prayers make difference. Your prayers are part of the rescue operation. Keep praying!

Dear Father, if a woman reading this needs prayer, I lift her up to you now. Just as you placed my friend in my life to pray for me, I lift these women up to you. Lord, please help us to remain women of faith as You continue being our light, our love, and our encourager. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Application: Is God placing someone on your heart? Maybe it is because you are to pray for her. In some circumstances, the Lord will want you to tell her you are praying for her. In others, he might want you to remain silent. Whatever the case, pray for your Christian girlfriends! We all could use some encouragement from time to time!

Power Verses:

Daniel 2:21, “He changes times and seasons; he deposes kings and raises up others. 
He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning.” (NIV)

James 5:16-18, “Make this your common practice: Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you can live together whole and healed. The prayer of a person living right with God is something powerful to be reckoned with. Elijah, for instance, human just like us, prayed hard that it wouldn't rain, and it didn't—not a drop for three and a half years. Then he prayed that it would rain, and it did. The showers came and everything started growing again.” (MSG)

Genesis 35:3, “Then let us arise and go up to Bethel; and I will make an altar there to God, who answered me in the day of my distress and has been with me in the way which I have gone.” (NKJV)