Praying Like Mary Prayed

Mary’s prayer–a “shouting” prayer

                           Comments on Luke 1:39-56

This is the first time John the Baptist “testified” of Jesus—in his mom’s womb! Talking about doing your job! He did it from before birth until his death and his witness still speaks to us today!

Maybe Mary worried how Elisabeth would respond. After all, she was not fully married and the neighborhood gossips were probably keeping the air hot.

This moment gives birth to one of the powerful prayers of the Bible. Mary’s response to John and Elisabeth’s testimony:

Luke 1:46 (NLT)

Mary responded,

“Oh, how my soul praises the Lord.

How my spirit rejoices in God my Savior!

This is a shouting prayer. Mary begins by rejoicing. Our generation is so used to “diet joy” that we don’t always know how to rejoice in the Lord, which is the real thing. This is a joy that goes beyond a big promotion, winning the Super Bowl, or drug-induced joy.

Real human joy that comes from your spouse, your children and the good things of life are just a candle in the sunshine compared to this.

This is a joy that the Holy Spirit gives, one of the fruits of His living in us.

For he took notice of his lowly servant girl,

and from now on all generations will call me blessed.

Mary rejoices in what God’s work means to her. It’s not selfish to ask for yourself or rejoice in God for yourself. Jump in the water! Swim. Enjoy! I’m not sure that people were calling her “blessed” at that moment and from a human point of view it must have been extremely difficult.

But God provided a believing husband and Mary had the truth of God’s promise living in her womb. She believed and she rejoiced in some things that she hadn’t seen yet. Yet, she knew them in her heart.

The special thing about Mary wasn’t her physical beauty, but it was an incredible faith that accepted God’s promise and His calling to her. She was willing to hurt to get the blessing.

And she had a heart that pondered. She thought and meditated, mixing God into the recipe of her life and what was happening to her. Luke 2: 19, NLT says, “…but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.”

For the Mighty One is holy,

and he has done great things for me.

He shows mercy from generation to generation

to all who fear him.

God’s goodness isn’t limited to certain BIG faith people in the Bible. His mercy touches all generations of those who fear Him.

His mighty arm has done tremendous things!

He has scattered the proud and haughty ones.

He has brought down princes from their thrones

and exalted the humble.

The big shots rig the system to favor themselves but when God fulfilled His Key Promise, he chose a humble peasant, someone hungry. From a human standpoint Mary must have felt herself poor and despised by “great” people. Yet, God chose her!

If we’re hungry for God and hungry to be used He will visit us. If we’re rich and have need of nothing, we’ll leave God’s presence empty-handed. Am I hungry or full as far as my relationship with God is concerned?

He has filled the hungry with good things

and sent the rich away with empty hands.

He has helped his servant Israel

and remembered to be merciful.

Mary sees this blessing for all Israel, not only herself. She grasps the significance of this baby in her womb and she’s amazed because she knows personally how miraculous His conception was.

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For he made this promise to our ancestors,

to Abraham and his children forever.”

She knows that this is the Big One, the big promise of God. (Genesis 12 and also chapter 17). Finally. I’m sure even Mary didn’t understand at this time how world-shaking the promise was and how it would mean salvation for billions. But she had faith and God used her. She rejoiced in what she knew. You and I need to learn how to enter into the joy of His promise.

“Lord Jesus, I shout for joy because You’ve saved me and forgiven me from sin. You are faithful. My life has meaning because I’m in your plan until I come home to You. Help me to be a channel for your faithfulness and healing to others. I trust You Lord.”

Photo by Courtney Kammers on Unsplash

Winks From Heaven

God makes Himself known to us in a lot of ways—His Word, His creation, and His Spirit. Sometimes, though, God winks at us from heaven to let us know He’s there and that he loves us.

*Helen Roseveare served as a missionary in the Congo and other African countries in the 1950’s and 1960’s. She tells the story of one of these “winks from God.”

At the time she was working in a hospital/orphanage in Central Africa. One night, she and her team struggled to save a woman experiencing a very difficult childbirth. The mom died, though, leaving her premature baby and a crying two-year old, heartbroken at the loss of her mom.

The hospital was fairly primitive and there was no incubator for the newborn and no electricity to operate it if there had been one. Even though they were on the equator, the nights were chilly and it was indispensable that they keep the baby warm.

One of the midwives in training ran to fill a hot-water bottle while another stoked up the fire.

Then disaster struck. Rubber perishes easily in these climates and the hot-water bottle burst! It was their last one.

There was nothing for it. They had to keep the baby warm or it could die.

Noon, the next day, Helen was having devotions with some of the orphan children. She mentioned that they needed to pray for the new baby and for her two-year old sister who was so sad at the loss of her mom.

During prayer time, a ten year old named Ruth prayed a scary prayer (scary for the missionary). “Please God send us a water bottle,” she said. “It will be no good tomorrow, God, the baby will be dead; so please send it this afternoon. And while you are at it,” the audacious child added, “would you please send a  dolly for the little girl so that she will know You really love her?”

Helen didn’t know how to respond. She knew that God could answer that prayer but frankly she didn’t believe He would.

One Package In Four Years

Later that afternoon as she instructed student nurses, a messenger came and said that a car was at her house. By the time she reached home the car was gone but there was a 22-pound package on the veranda. She had been in Africa nearly four years and had never received a parcel from home, but this one was from her old Sunday School class.

She called for the orphanage children and 30 or 40 of them waited in anticipation as she opened the box. There she found knitted jerseys for the kids, bandages for the lepers, good things to eat and then as she dug deeper she felt something made of rubber!

A new hot-water bottle!

“I had not asked God to send it; I had not truly believed that He could,” Helen said.

Ruth was in the front row of children. She rushed forward, crying out, “If God has sent the bottle, He must have sent the dolly, too!”

As she dug around in the box, sure enough there was a doll. Ruth asked permission to go with Helen to give the doll to the little girl so that the infant would know that God loved her.

That parcel had been on the way for five months and “just happened to arrive” the afternoon that a little African girl had prayed specifically that the hot-water bottle and the dolly would arrive, “this afternoon.”

A wink from God

We’re eager for God to get on with it, accomplish all His promises. He keeps His Word and He will response in His time.

His time …

So many things are goofed up if you get them too soon. Apples must ripen, baby chicks must mature in the egg, ideas must find their time in history. God’s promise is true. He waits for the right time to bring the fulfillment. “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son…” (Galatians 4:4, NKJV) “You say, ‘I choose the appointed time; it is I who judge with equity.’” (Ps. 75:2 NIV)

But sometimes, while we are waiting God gives us a little wink and says, “I’ve got this.”

These “winks” encourage us in tough times and give us joy in normal times. We may not see the completion of God’s promise.

Sometimes the fulfillment of that promise spans several lifetimes, and we exit the stage. Our kids and our grandkids see it. Honestly, if you don’t have some promises from God that will be accomplished after you’re gone, you desires may be too small. And even if we don’t see it, God gives us moments of encouragement.

Have you ever had a wink from heaven?

*Taken from the book, “Kingdom Triangle by J.P. Moreland

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Hmmm … 

Cartoonist Bill Watterson of Calvin and Hobbs fame said, “Many of Calvin’s struggles are metaphors for my own. I suspect that most of us get old without growing up, and inside every adult (sometimes not very far inside) is a bratty kid who wants everything his own way.”

Smile

“You know what the wolves call the sheep who strays away from the flock? Lunch!”Bayless Conley

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When Does a Thought Become Sin?

To me whether or not a thought becomes sin depends on how you treat it. If you act like a bad thought is a nasty bug which flies into your mouth, it doesn’t have time to become sin.

But, if you treat it like chewing gum, you’re getting pretty close to iniquity.

The word says, “”May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.” (Ps. 19:14, NLT)

Thoughts and Meditations

Thoughts and meditations aren’t exactly the same thing. Meditations are thoughts that we chew on. It’s like a cow chewing its cud.

Some thoughts seize us and we have to wrestle them. But when we welcome them, enjoy imagining them, and turn them over and over in our thoughts, they become sin. An angry thought can tempt us as much as an erotic thought. It feels so good to know how unjust people are to us. And self-pity? Oh, honey. Those are the juiciest thoughts! They glide in like big buzzards to roost in our head. You’d better throw a rock into that tree and chase them off.

You decide what to meditate on!

We must be intentional about what we think about. When we listen to music on the radio we choose the station. Some thoughts are so powerfully attractive that we have to wrestle to change the channel.

When a tempting image flashes in an advertisement on Internet we intentionally click away and put our mind on something else. When the image is gone usually the temptation goes, too. The problem is that some thoughts are like a gnat which harasses us. They keep coming back. We have to slap it or spray it with bug spray.

Resist the devil.

“So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7 NLT) Fight by replacing the thought.

When these thoughts fly in one ear, I often say, “That’s not my thought. I don’t claim it.” I don’t think that these thoughts are mine until I claim them. The devil and his army attack us with all kinds of untrue and impure thoughts. I’ve found that often I don’t even have to resist the thought. If I don’t claim it, it just flies out the other ear and goes elsewhere looking for a victim.

Sometimes (not always) wrestling makes it worse and the best course of action is to ignore it.

Fight it with spiritual weapons (2 Cor. 10:3-5)

If I feel I’ve sinned with a thought I just simply say, “Lord, sorry. Forgive me.” And I go on. (1 John 1:8-2:1) A trick of the devil is to try to get me focused constantly on fighting wrong thoughts.

In your morning devotions, take a scripture and every time an unworthy thought knocks on the door of your hard head, just replace it with God’s Word. Purposely think about what it good. Purposely think about what is good in others, even if you’re mad enough to spit fire.

Neal Anderson says, “…renew your mind with the truth and replace any lies you may be believing.” (Anderson, Neil T.. The Bondage Breaker®. Harvest House Publishers)

Horrible Personal Experience

One of the most horrible experiences of my life began innocently when I was 14. It was one of those evenings in youth service when I suspect the leader hadn’t prepared anything, so she was reading Bible questions from a book.

“What is the only unpardonable sin?”

“Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit,” someone answered.

That kicked off an awful mental attack. I was afraid I was going to commit blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and be lost eternally. Curse words would come into my mind against the Spirit and I would fight to expel them. And I didn’t even use that kind of language!

I hated to go to bed at night because the attacks intensified when when my mind wasn’t occupied. And if I woke up in the night …

There were a lot of things going on in my life and it wasn’t just that Youth Service at fault but I lived through a couple of the nastiest months of all my life. I still don’t like to think about it and I seldom talk of it.

I finally quit worrying about it. “If that what it is, I’ve already done it, so it’s no use worrying about it now,” I reasoned. And when I stopped fretting about it, the problem went away. Go figure.

I wish I had known the Word well enough to fight back. I wish I hadn’t been too shy to ask a mature Christian adult about it and get prayer.

We have to win these battles. And God has enough grace to give us His victory in this desperate combat that takes place between our ears.

He is faithful and He won’t give up on us.

“Lord, I feel especially that I need to pray for some Coffee Stainers reading this. They are about to give up because the devil has tortured their thoughts. We rise up today and say, ‘That’s enough! Be free in the Name of Jesus. Satan, you have no place in these lives and we refuse your authority in all parts of our life, especially our thoughts. Lord Jesus, thank you for the victory and we consciously replace these thoughts with praise, worship and thanksgiving. Thank you Lord for healing.”


Hmmm …

“Humor, on the other hand, helps your brain function in a healthy way. In reacting to humor, both sides of the brain are activated simultaneously. When you tell a joke, the left side—the part responsible for thinking—starts firing. When you “get” a joke and start laughing, your right side becomes active. Research indicates that people tend to be more creative when they see something as funny. Other studies suggest that laughter helps increase the flexibility and creativity of thinking. Humor even has been used to help strengthen the immune system.” H. Norman Wright


This Will Help You Grow

How To Hurt With Someone “…Part of you hurts. That’s called compassion. The root of this word, from what I’ve read, means “(com) together, (passus) to suffer, to feel pity.”

We enter other people’s suffering to help them carry it.” CLICK to read

My Church Hurt My Family “…My teens were disillusioned with church members who were not acting like Christ. Their argument for not attending church was along the lines of the old bumper sticker. “How can I soar with the eagles when I work with a bunch of turkeys”. Or, in more theological terms, how can we grow spiritually by associating with Christians who don’t model Christ. CLICK to read

Walking Dead Men “…the best soldier is one who is already dead–in his mind he accepts the fact of his death–so he worries about carrying out orders during the battle and not about preserving his own life. A walking, running, dead man if you will.” CLICK to read the story

Does Stupidity Run In the Family?

Several years ago, I was speaking at a series of meetings in a French city. One of the nights as I walked towards the entry of the building where the meetings were held I met a young man.

“Could I talk with you pastor?” he asked.

We stepped to aside and he told me his story. It seems he had reconnected with an “old flame” on Facebook. This stirred forgotten feelings and he was torn between faithfulness to his wife and throwing more wood on this old fire.

“Do you have children?” They had a baby.

I’m usually easygoing and I try to be compassionate with those who come to talk about their problems. But, I’ll confess to a bit of irritation. I wanted to ask the young man, “Does stupidity run in your family? Did your mother rock you too close to the wall?” I restrained myself, but he wasn’t happy with my response anyway.

I think the two relationships that most accurately mirror our relationship with God should be Father/child and husband/wife. And he was contemplating throwing mud on both of these divine pictures.

God wants our word, our promises, to be rock solid because His promises are rock solid. Our Father can’t lie, can’t violate His promises. His word is sacred to Him and our promises should be sacred to us.

You know the worst of it? My young friend certainly isn’t the only one tempted to break our promises. We all have. I’ve never had any Facebook girlfriends (I emphasize this point in case Phyllis is reading this. And it’s true, too), but how many times have I been tempted to be unfaithful to God and to others who trust me?

An Extreme Example

I was a bit shocked when I saw that God punished Saul’s family because he hadn’t honored a promise that was made to the Gibeonites hundreds of years before. These weren’t even his people but descendants of people that Israel conquered when they entered the Promised Land.

Joshua had made a covenant with these people and the Lord expected his people to carry through with what they had promised. God zealously honors his promises, and he expects us to honor our promises.

Those who have the heart of God are also promise keepers.

When my dad died, a leader in his church who had known him for years said, if you look in the dictionary under the word “faithful,” your dad’s picture is there.

God is faithful to his promise to save us, to keep us, to fill us with his Spirit, to help us, to be with us, to never leave us, to be on our side. The Spirit of God expresses himself in our lives by the fruit of faithfulness. “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives … faithfulness …” (Gal. 5:22, NLT)

We are faithful to our marriage promise, faithful to the body of believers in which God has placed us, faithful to God himself. God is faithful and the more we are filled with his Spirit the more we will be like him.

Father Abraham

Perhaps the greatest example of faithfulness in the Bible is the alliance between God and Abraham. God promised Abraham a son by his wife Sarah. Yet 24 years passed and no son. Then at 99 years of age God renewed that promise. And the faithful God did what he said he would do. Abraham held a squalling little one in his arms.

Perhaps 17 years later, God tested Abraham’s faithfulness. He asked for that son. Did Abraham love the gift of God more than he loved God? Was he unfaithful to his first love? Abraham was willing to offer Isaac, believing that the faithful God would keep his promise by raising him from the ashes of sacrifice. In his heart the deed was done, even though God stopped him from killing Isaac.

The old man’s obedient faithfulness was an expression of God’s faithfulness reflected in the heart of Abraham. God looked into Abraham’s heart and saw his own image. When God looks into your heart, what does he see?

How does God‘s faithfulness develop in your heart?

–Walk with God and don’t quit. All of us fall down, but the faithful man asks forgiveness and gets up–over and over and over again. It’s not that our faithfulness never fails. It’s that faithfulness never quits.

–Look constantly each day, into the face of Jesus. Listen: “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:17, 18, NIV)

That Glory changes us. The world sees his glory when it looks at us. But there is a bonus. That word “contemplate” in the text can also be translated “reflect.” God’s glory changes the one who reflects it. Keep looking at Jesus. If you fall get up. Ask forgiveness. Look to Jesus, look to Jesus, look to Jesus.

–Faithfullness chooses God‘s best. Choose what you feel is God’s will, even when it isn’t in accord with your will. Jesus prayer, “not my will but yours be done,” must be the constant prayer of our heart. It may seem hard but there is a reward for faithfulness. When you stand before Him and hear, “Well done, good and FAITHFUL servant,” you’ll have all eternity to celebrate the fact that you chose to be faithful to Him and to your promises.

Until then we’re waiting for our faithful Lord to return, “Then I saw Heaven open wide—and oh! a white horse and its Rider. The Rider, named Faithful and True …” (Revelation 19:11, The Message). He will be faithful to keep that promise, too.

In what area are you tempted to be unfaithful? Take it to the Lord Jesus. He will help you.

Hmmm…

“Emmitt Smith still holds the record for rushing attempts and total rushing yards (in the National Football League). In 4,409 times he was handed the ball and carried it he gained 18,355 yards. That’s almost 10.5 miles…4.16 yards at a time. Certainly, some runs were much longer and many even shorter, but it took him 4,409 attempts. That means one thing…he spent a lot of time getting up off the ground after someone knocked him down.” Roger Lewis


Kicking the Ghost Out of My Attic

My sons are in their forties but if you ask them, they are almost convinced they heard a ghost, or something, in our attic when they were teenagers.

We lived in a big, old house in Petange, Luxembourg at the time. The house belonged to the Waxweiler family and the mama of the family couldn’t live by herself anymore, so her children decided to rent the house.

We were the first people other than Waxweilers to live on that corner in the last 300 years or so. I liked the house, but I’ll admit that it made some weird noises in the night. I’m not sure that all the Waxweiler ancestors liked the fact that we lived there.

One night when we were out late and the boys were already in bed in separate rooms, they both heard something in the attic that scared them. If you see Stephen or Charles, ask them about it. They still remember.

I’ll admit that there were some nights when we first moved in that I would lie awake and hear strange things.

There was a lot going on in my life at the time. We were trying to readjust to Luxembourg after having been away for a year of fundraising. We wanted to start a church in a city that had no evangelical church and the bottom had dropped out of the value of the dollar, which seriously impacted our finances.

On top of that I had read some books by Frank Peretti that talked about demonic attacks and spiritual warfare. Those creaks and strange noises in the night, combined with everything else, convinced me that I was under spiritual attack. I certainly felt fear, not just from house creaks but from unseen enemies.

We Made It

Flash forward thirty years. We made it. I’m still alive (though a bit worse for wear). Those boys weren’t eaten by ghosts and they have kids of their own. We started a church in that city and we didn’t go bankrupt.

And I haven’t read any novels that prominently feature demons in quite a while.

You know the nice thing about getting older? You get to see the end of a lot of stories and you’re often pleasantly surprised. I don’t know why we’re amazed because that was what we prayed and worked for.

The thing I also noticed is that fright doesn’t stop. Different things scare you at different stages of life and you have to deal with fear by faith. Ghosts still make noises in the attic, even when you’re no longer a teenager. I expect they still hooting when you are 100.

So, deal with it.

Someone told a story about Martin Luther (whether true or not, who knows? It’s a good story, though).

The old reformer suddenly came awake in the night, aware of a presence in his bedroom. He turned over and saw the devil.

“Oh, it’s you,” he said, and went back to sleep.

Here are some principles for dealing with fear at any age.

–Don’t just lie there. Fight back! “So humble yourselves before God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7, NLT)

–Get filled with His Spirit so you will be filled with His love. “Such love has no fear, because perfect love expels all fear.” (1 John 4:18, NLT + Romans 8:15)

–Pray. Seek the Lord. “I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4, NIV)

–Seize all the weapons God has given you to expel fear. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline.” (2 Timothy 1:7, NLT)

–Repeat this truth to yourself, over and over, “So we can say with confidence, “The Lord is my helper, so I will have no fear. What can mere people do to me?” (Hebrews 13:6, NLT)

–Get full of positive fear, the fear of God. “But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love. (Psalm 33:18, NLT)

Ghosts can be noisy but they should never steal the joy that God gives us. When they start their racket, you start your racket—praise God from your toenails to the top of your hair.

That scares the ghosts!


Hmmm …

Craig Groeschel says, “the pathway to your greatest potential is often straight through your greatest fear.”