Are you using God instead of getting to know God?

Sometimes, I find it hard to read the Gospels. I grew up hearing and reading all the stories of Jesus. They feel so familiar. I scim over the passages because I’ve heard them over and over again. I don’t see anything new, so I keep going to something else.

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Photo credit Julie Anna Johnson, WoW2013

I find, in recent years, I lean towards reading other passages of Scripture like the letters, proverbs and psalms. I asked myself this question. “Why do I have such a hard time reading the Gospels?”Here’s what came back to me:

Often, I’m reading Scripture to see what I can get out of it for myself.

As a “good” Christian disciple, I study the Bible looking for what’s going to help me be more Christ-like.  What can I apply to my life? What’s going to make me feel joy and live in peace? That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? The Bible is our guide, our road map, our instruction manual. We are supposed to be learning, absorbing, digesting the Word of God and living it out! I do. I love it!

When it comes to the Gospels, however, the focus is solely on Jesus. Yes, so much truth and teaching can be harvested and gathered for me to apply to my life. I’m not diminishing that at all. They show us who Jesus is, how he lived, his example for us to follow.

But sometimes, I need to simply read the Bible just to get to know Jesus- that’s it!

So, that makes me ask another question, “In other areas of Christian life, how much of what we do is for God, or is it for us?”

Music…do you listen to that Christian music because it makes you feel good or is it bringing you into God’s presence?

Church….do you go to church to see what you can get out of it or what the service can do for you? Or, do you prepare yourself for what you can give at church?

Bible studies, volunteering, attending classes, events, communion…do you do all those activities because of what it can do for you or how it makes you feel?

In ministry, are you studying, praying, searching for only what you can use in your sermon or your class? Do you consume Christian material only so you can have something to output?

If we’re not careful, those of us who live in a Christianized culture can fall into the rut of doing these good and right activities because that’s what is expected of us as “good Christians”. We can do these things out of obligation or “that’s just what we do” mentality. We might even be selfishly thinking ‘What’s in it for me?’ We can get too focused on what we’re doing and forget about Who or Why we’re do it. Sounds a bit like the religious Pharisees, doesn’t it? ouch.

I’m guilty of this……I’ll read an article and reference it for a blog post. I’ll hear something on the radio and think ‘I’ll use that in my Wed class’. I’ll hear somebody say something and I’ll think ‘that will be good for the next worship service’.

Godsake

Of course, all these activities, disciplines, and pursuits are what we’re supposed to be doing. Of course, we need these disciplines to keep us going in the right direction. We’re always going to be human, and we need these tangibles to help us develop a relationship with God. I’m not suggesting we throw out our studies, music, or activities. No! We need to do these things….yes God grows us and develops us. And YES, we are supposed to seek Him for what to say and do in life and in ministry. He uses all of these practices to communicate in us and through us. But be careful not to fall into the rut of using these things solely for your benefit.

Here’s what I’m doing. I’ve started reading the Gospels again with Mark. I’m reading slowly, asking questions, and noticing details. What was Jesus feeling? How did he react?

So ask yourself: am I doing this to draw closer to God or to make me look or feel more “Christian”? Am I consuming this material only to have something to output to others? Am I spending time with God just for God’s sake?..Am I getting to know Jesus?…not what I can get out of Him but simply to know Him.

Here’s a study guide to help you ask questions as you read the Gospels with a fresh set of eyes. Click on this study guide:  Class notes

I’m looking forward to getting to know Jesus better. Hope you are too!

~Amy

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The Use of Free Will in the Easter Story…. a guest post by Kathleen Cline

 

Freewill is hard to grasp, because many would like to blame life and eternity on God’s choices not our own. As you look at Judas and his choices there has to be some part of you that says, “Why?” Today, we have to trust by faith that the stories we read in the Bible are accurate and true. Although we can hear and feel the Holy Spirit, Judas was literally walking and talking with Jesus, the Son of God. He was watching all the miracles first hand.  For some bizarre reason Judas chose evil over God. The oddest thing to me is that Judas chose to feel remorse but not repent.

Judas: the hard-hearted apostate

Judas chose to follow Jesus: Jesus summoned His twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every kind of disease and every kind of sickness. Now the names of the twelve apostles are these: 4 Judas Iscariot the one who betrayed Him. Matthew 10: 1-2a and 4

Judas chose to steal from Jesus: Mary then took a pound of very costly perfume of pure nard, and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. But Judas Iscariot, one of His disciples, who was intending to betray Him, said, Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people? Now he said this, not because he was concerned about the poor but because he was a thief, and as he had the money box, he used to pilfer what was put into it. John 12: 3-6

Judas chose to plot against Jesus: The chief priests and the scribes were seeking how they might put Him to death; for they were afraid of the people. And Satan entered into Judas who was called Iscariot, belonging to the number of the twelve. And he went away and discussed with the chief priests and officers how he might betray Him to them. They were glad and agreed to give him money. So he consented and began seeking a good opportunity to betray Him to them apart from the crowd. Luke 22: 2-6

Judas chose to betray Jesus: While He was still speaking, behold Judas one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a large crowd with swords and clubs, who came from the chief priests and elders of the people. Now he who was betraying Him gave them a sign, saying “Whomever I kiss, He is the one; seize Him.” Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. Matthew 26: 47-49

Judas chose to feel remorse but not repentance: Then when Judas, who had betrayed Him, saw that He had been condemned, he felt remorse and returned the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” But they said, “What is that to us? See to that yourself!” and he threw the pieces of silver into the temple sanctuary and departed and he went away and hanged himself. Matthew 27: 3-5

Before you get your self stirred up about Judas’ declaration with the chief priest, let me put it in terms you will understand. It would be like all of us robbing a bank. Afterwards, while you are watching the news, you realized, “Man I can spend the rest of my life in jail.” So, you come back to the ones that did the crime with you and confess how wrong you were. If Judas wanted to repent, he could have gone out in the crowd or to the court and confessed his crime. Like many in this world, Judas chose to do enough to make himself feel better about the situation without actually taking responsibility for his crime. The suicide was not repentance but one more act of “me.”

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I had a friend that was dying from a terminal illness. Unfortunately, death was eluding her and she was suffering for years. She came to me to confess that she wanted to commit suicide. Being a converted Protestant from Catholic, she wanted to find a verse that allowed her to commit this act. As she searched the Bible looking for her answer, she fell upon the story of Judas. Here was her proclamation: “If Judas would have waited just three more days, he would have found complete forgiveness.” That conclusion helped her to continue to wait on God to bless her with death.

Jesus the Savior of the world

Jesus chose Judas to follow Him: As a result of this many of His disciples withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore. So Jesus said to the twelve, “You do not want to go away also do you?” Simon Peter answered Him, “Lord to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. “We have believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.” Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve and yet on of you is a devil?” Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot for he one of the twelve was going to betray Him. John 6: 66-71

Jesus chose to stay on task: Therefore Jesus said, (to Judas) “Let her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of My burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have Me.” John 12:7-8

Jesus chose to wash Judas’ feet: Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. So He came to Simon Peter. He said to Him, “Lord, do You wash my feet?” Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me.” Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head.” 10 Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you.” 11 For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.” John 13: 5-11

Jesus chose to be betrayed: Immediately Judas went to Jesus and said, “Hail, Rabbit!” and kissed Him. And Jesus said to him, “Friend do what you have come for.” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and seized Him. Matthew 26: 49-50

Jesus chose to forgive: But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them: for they do not know what they are doing.” Luke 23: 34

 I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep. John 10:11

As we continue to look at the death of Jesus, we can see the choices made by the thieves on the cross.  This is the best view of someone that wants Jesus to forgive versus someone that just wants Jesus to remove him from his circumstances.

38 Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”39 One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” 40 But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” 43 And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” Luke 23: 38-43

You can see the first thief did not claim Jesus as God or ask to be forgiven in any form. Instead you see him question Jesus’ status and demanding to be saved out of his circumstances. The same hard-heart that put him on the cross was going to take him to his eternal death. The second thief immediately defended Jesus as God. After his declaration, he then confessed his guilt and claimed his sentence as just. His hard-heart became humbled and out of his humility he requested Jesus to remember him.

Pride keeps people in a hard-hearted state meaning they are incapable of being moved by any emotion other than selfish interest. Pride makes some people defend Judas as attempting to repent by giving back the coins. Pride makes some people accuse God of being cruel and unloving for not allowing multiple ways to get to heaven. Pride keeps one from understanding that choices are given to all but with those choices comes consequences.

19 People are judged by this fact: I am the Light from God that has come into the world. But men did not want light. They wanted darkness because they were doing evil things. 20 Everyone who does evil hates the light. He will not come to the light because it will show all the evil things he has done. 21 But he who follows the true way comes to the light. Then the light will show that the things he has done were done through God.” John 3:19-21 International Children’s Bible (ICB)

Lazy summer days are the best!
colorful sunset at the sea shore

Four people made choices in this Easter lesson. Two chose evil and two chose God. Look hard at the verses in John 3 and understand why these people choose the way they did. Look hard at your choices and understand why you are making the choices you are making.

  1. Judas chose to use Jesus till that choice held no more value. Even when Judas felt a little guilt, he did the bare minimum to attempt to make him self-feel good. Then when that did not work, Judas chose a selfish end.
  2. The first thief remained unremorseful till the bitter end. Even when he saw his fellow thief receive forgiveness from Jesus, he did not relinquish from his hard-hearted path.
  3. Jesus chose to have Judas as one of His followers knowing full well Judas’ heart desires. Every opportunity was given to Judas to follow another path. Even when Judas’ betrayal of Jesus was in full motion; Jesus chose to wash Judas’ feet and allowed him to continue with the twelve till the end. Jesus chose to forgive.
  4. The second thief chose a humble approach to Jesus. The thief did not request that Jesus save him from the cross but instead, acknowledged that he deserved his ending because he was guilty. What he did request from Jesus was that Jesus would remember him when Jesus came into His kingdom.

As you look at all those choices made during this world-changing event, you now have to make some choices for yourself. You can fill your thoughts with things you can do or you can just choose God. My recommendation would be to start with a humble heart.

~Kathleen

Kathleen has a brand new book “Finding the Way: Proclaiming Jesus as Truth”. Check out the promo here!

 

Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, Try This……

I’ve quit making New Year’s resolutions. I bet you have too.

I love getting a fresh start at the turn of the calendar. I’m a planner and a list-maker, so starting a new year helps me to get back on track and remember my priorities. But I don’t make resolutions.

In the past few  years, my purpose and motivation have been sharpened by choosing a special word for the year which has become popular in the blogging world. That one word helps guide my choices and keeps me going on the goals I want to accomplish. This year, I think my word is focus. But actually, I’m not real sure if I’m supposed to give more focus on a few areas or if I’m to focus more intently on everything I do. There are lots of things I’m passionate about and I don’t want to give up any of them…so I’m not real sure about focus.

So how about something really new?? But the thing is…it’s not new…it’s very old and familiar. Instead of resolutions that I may or may not sustain….instead of trying to sum up my priorities in one guiding word….how about New Year’s Scripture Revolutions!!!

Let’s use Bible verses to help guide how we should be acting as Christians and guiding our actions and priorities. Let’s use these verses to shape our thinking and how we treat our families, coworkers and church members.

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Photo credit Julie Anna Johnson, WoW2013

No matter your church affiliation or worship preference, use these verses to motivate you be more like Christ towards not just the people you like but also the people you don’t like! Whoa! Now, that’s not a resolution but revolution!!

Here’s a printable to help you get started. Read, memorize, and meditate on them. I challenge you when you wear them out to search the Bible to find more. I guarantee you won’t run out of wisdom and truth to give your life purpose throughout the entire year!

Do you have a great verse to share that can help guide us in more Christ-like living? Share it in the comments or share it on Facebook! If I get more verses, I’ll make another printable to share!!

 

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Friday Finds

Don’t you just love finding neat websites and blogs on the web??

I do!!

And, when I do, I think everybody needs to see this!.  Bloggers have great stuff to share like Bible studies, planners, study guides, ministry tips, and printable. Most of it is for free if you sign up for their newsletter or to receive their blog. Seeing all this downloadable stuff makes me want to dream up and write some stuff of my own to share with you.

Alas….there are only so many hours in a day, and I usually run out of time or energy before I can write or post anything of the sort. However, what I DO want to start is sharing the stuff I find here with you.

So….let’s begin Friday Finds where I share a great find on the internet related to discipleship, women’s ministry, Bible studies, personal growth, etc, etc….

On Monday, I shared my desire to pursue wisdom in 2016 and one of the ways I hope to achieve wisdom is to read the entire Bible in one year. Ever since I began reading a Proverbs a day, reading the Bible has been like eating a most satisfying meal. Moreover, I’ve never read the entire Bible, so here I go!!

This brings me to your first Friday FindsShe Reads Truth.

I found She Reads Truth from another wonderful blogger Teri Lynne Underwood, and this site has TONS of reading plans and guides for reading books of the Bible, topics, seasons, etc. I found the read the Bible in a year plan, printed it out, and was ready to go.

The plan has me reading 2-3 OT chapters and 1 NT chapter a day. Then, on Sunday I read a couple of Psalms. I break up the reading doing the OT in the mornings and the NT at my lunch break. On the weekends, I try to get it done in one setting. I’m gonna try my best to stay caught up and not get behind. If I do get behind, I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I’ll just pick up on the plan in the calendar.

So far, I am loving it! During lunch, I turn on some instrumental music and read while I eat. I look forward to each day having a spiritual meal with my physical meal on my way to a wisdom-filled year!

While I would love to explore the other reading plans on She Reads Truth, this Bible in a year plan is going to be plenty for me to handle. But I know you could find a plan that speaks to you, or at least, you can check out the daily verse or passage for the day.

I really hope you try it out. I really hope you like it. I would LOVE to hear how you use it for yourself!! Let me know how it goes!!

~Amy

 

The Bread of Life

Do you know what it’s like to be starving all the time?

I bet you are starving right now, and you don’t even know it!

I’m not talking about physical food- we usually have plenty of that. I’m talking about spiritual food.

Most of us walk around day in and day out starving spiritually. Oh, you may go to church once or twice a week or month, hear a sermon, or read an exert from a devotional, but the rest of the time you are not feeding your spirit adequately. And when you do feed your spirit, its with junk food….tv, movies, social media, etc etc etc….Not everybody, but a lot of us!

Have you ever eaten a diet of not real food like french fries, hamburgers, and processed food? And then changed your diet to healthy protein, fruits and veggies? And then you went back to the fake food? What happened? You ate stuff- you put stuff in your body….but it didn’t nourish you! You weren’t satisfied. So you went back to the real food (hopefully).

That’s what it’s like when we read the Bible- The Bread of Life.

Photo credit Julie Anna Johnson, WoW2013
Photo credit Julie Anna Johnson, WoW2013

I love the Bible!! I remember when I began to read my Bible as an adult, and the verses jumped out at me. The words became life to me.  Still, I’ve struggled often with reading my Bible regularly. When I did read it, I could feel the truth seeping into my spirit like a gentle rain soaking dry ground. Sadly, I would let too much time pass before I was starving again.

Sometimes, I would study the Bible for a certain topic, to teach a class, or prepare a talk. It would feel so good to study like buttering warm bread straight from the oven, the words would melt in my mouth. But life was so busy, I would usually study when I needed the Bible for a specific purpose. Still, the nourishment was not often enough. (During this time, I’m specifically talking about when I was caring for young children. If you are in a season of caring for small children, read when you can and give yourself some grace. He understands.)

In the past couple of years, I’m trying to get more regular with my spiritual diet (because the kids are older) and with the help of websites and apps, I would have a bible reading plan on my desktop at work. When I had a minute, I would read a passage or two. Sometimes I would even try to read and re-read the same passage all day. The nourishment trickled in like bite-sized gummi bear vitamins:)

Last fall for my 40th birthday, my husband bought me a new, leather-bound Bible. I haven’t had a new Bible in several years, and it was just what I wanted. I have to tell you since I’ve had my new Bible, it has felt so good to turn the pages and read the words straight from the crisp, thin, silver-edged pages. Again when I read the words, it’s like truth seeping into my spirit. I feel satiated and satisfied when I read it.

Hear me….. listening to sermons and doing studies from our favorite authors and getting devotional doses of the Word..all of that is Awesome!! I’m not knocking any of it. All of those “meals” are excellent ways to get nourished. We need a variety to keep from getting in a rut. Oh! but feasting on the simple, yet satisfying Word of God! There’s nothing better!!

When was the last time you had a good meal? When was the last time you feasted on the Bread of Life?

Oh, sweet friend…..Taste……. and see that the Lord is good!

~Amy

From His Birth to His Resurrection: Mary Magdalene

Finally, here is the last installment of the Women of the Way series on Biblical women from Christ’s birth to His resurrection. We discussed Mary here and Mary and Martha here. Of course, we can’t finish a discussion of these awesome women without including Mary Magdalene.

There’s probably no other woman in the bible who’s been more controversial or misrepresented than Mary Magdalene. Throughout history she has been presented in art as a prostitute. I remember growing up thinking much of the same. Even in recent literature and pop culture, Mary has been supposedly “married” or “in love” with Jesus (which I find personally upsetting). Back at our first Women of the Way Bible study in 2012, one of our presenters, Jessi Higganbotham presented an interesting perspective that caused me to look at our Mary in a different light.

Take a look at all the verses in the Gospels in which you find Mary, and you’ll see she was very present in His ministry, at the cross, and at His resurrection.

In Luke 8:1-3, she was listed with other women who was delivered from demons and consequently contributed financially to His ministry. One of the things I learned from Jessi was this verse indicated in order for her to contribute financially to His ministry she had to be a women of means. A prostitute was the lowest of the low, and “working” was the only way women could earn a living if they didn’t have a family or husbands to take care of them. I don’t claim to be an expert on this idea but it really does makes sense. Research it out and see what you find!

If you keep looking for Mary Mag in other verses, you’ll find her standing at the foot of the cross (John 19:25), and she saw where He was laid in a tomb (Mark 15:47). Throughout His ministry and even at His death, she remained faithful to Him. When others were falling away trying to save their own hides, she (along with some other women) never left Him.

Upon further examination of the Scriptures,  Mark 16:1 tells us that Mary Magdalene with other women went to buy spices to anoint Jesus’ body in the tomb. They had to go on Saturday evening after the Sabbath had ended to make the purchase. I found this verse fascinating and had never thought about it before. Those women had likely been awake for a couple of days, had witnessed the brutal and heart-wrenching death of Jesus, and in the misted of their grief….they went out and bought spices! I mean, where were the disciples? They were hiding out in the upper room trying to keep from being seen by any Roman soldiers and hoping they wouldn’t be crucified for their association with Jesus! But the women took care of the details, like women usually do….. And, Mary remained right there with them!

Finally, in Mark 16:2 she was at the tomb early on Sunday morning and in Mark 16:9 was the first to see Jesus alive. But in John 20:11-18 we read Mary’s most well known interaction with Jesus. She saw Jesus and in her despair mistook Him for the gardener. She leaped at His feet, not even fully comprehending what was happening before her, and He said not to touch Him just yet. Jesus sent her on to tell the others….and Peter.

Appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene after re...
Appearance of Jesus to Mary Magdalene after resurrection, Alexander Ivanov, 1835 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

No matter how tough the circumstances, no matter how hard things got, Mary Magdalene never left Jesus. Mary remained faithful even when the world around her seemed the most hopeless.

Can you imagine it? She followed His ministry, supported Him, endured seeing Him on the cross, and even in His death wanted to continue to serve Him. But then Sunday morning arriving to find that tomb empty and the body was nowhere to be found!!! What would you have done? I probably would have given up in utter despair.

“Well, that’s it. It’s over. The Romans won!”

But at that moment, she heard her name….Mary….Mary………and there He was!!!!!!!

Through it all, Mary Magdalene remained faithful and as a result, became the first person to announce the Good News….The Lord is risen!!!!

What about you? Have you been serving Jesus and doing everything you know to live for Him, yet you find yourself in a place where it feels like He has left you? Do you ever feel like “where have they taken my Lord”?

If you ever feel like grief and despair may overtake you, think of Mary Magdalene who remained faithful even in the darkest of times. And expect Jesus to lovingly call your name as you forever cling to Him!

~Amy

From His Birth to Resurrection: Mary and Martha

Has there ever been a woman in your life in which you had conflict, contentions or just rubbed you the wrong way? Never, right?? Suuuure…………

Continuing with the Women in the Life of Christ series, this question makes me think of the well-known Bible sister-duo: Mary and Martha. We love those gals, don’t we? Mary and Martha’s journey is so classic and life applicable to our own journeys. We’ve heard so many stories and sermons, and how many of us have contemplated our “martha-ness” or “mary-ness”?

I invite you, however, to look with fresh eyes at our sister-friends and see if we can glean something new from them. As I read the three familiar passages of Mary and Martha, I see something I have never seen before, and it intrigues and inspires me. Please bear with me as I build my case.

We all know the first scriptural encounter with Mary and Martha in Luke 10:38-42. http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Luke%2010:38-42&version=NLT We find Martha working in the kitchen and preparing the meal. And, Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus, soaking up His every word. Don’t you kind of get the feeling that this tension has been between Mary and Martha for a while? We hear the resentment in Martha’s voice and maybe secretly cheer her on to hope that Jesus will finally give her the satisfaction that is likely overdue. Instead, Jesus says Mary has chosen the better thing.

Fast forward a bit to the tomb of Lazarus- http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john%2011:%2017-44&version=NLT and we find Mary and Martha grieving their brother’s death. When Jesus finally arrives, both of the women express their faith knowing that Jesus could have healed their brother. But they also express their frustration by saying “but Lord, if you had only been here….”.

English: Jesus at the house of Mary and Martha
English: Jesus at the house of Mary and Martha (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesus knows the sisters believe in Him that He can heal. They were fully confident that Jesus could have healed their brother. But in this moment, Jesus asks “Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” Jesus was saying “I know your faith is big enough to believe for healing, but is your faith big enough to believe me for resurrection from the dead?”

Among the many reasons Jesus raised Lazarus that day, I believe Jesus was stretching the faith of Mary and Martha. I’d say, their faith was certainly bigger and firmer from that day on.

 

 

Finally, we see Mary and Martha hosting another dinner in Jesus’ honor- http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=John%2012:1-3&version=NLT.

What does it say that Martha is doing? She is still serving. What does it say Mary is doing? She is anointing Jesus’ feet with the jar of oil. Ok, what has changed? It looks as if things are the same for the sisters. But look a little deeper. What is missing from this scene? I don’t see any reference or hint of any resentment or contention between Mary and Martha. I see them operating in their giftings out of their relationship with Christ.

Something happened between that first dinner and the second dinner. Somehow their faith was stretched and their relationship with Jesus blossomed. Martha, especially, went from serving because she had to, to serving out of her overflow with Him. Mary continues sitting at His feet, but her worship becomes even more extravagent. They aren’t resenting each other because they are serving out of their love for Him. Instead of pulling against each other like at the first dinner, their ministries were complimenting each other.

How many times have you done something because you had to? How many times have you fulfilled your ministry because you were supposed? How many times have you looked across the room and wondered “why isn’t she pulling her weight?”

When we operate in our giftings out of our overflowing love for Christ, our service becomes a joy, our ministry compliments each other, and Christ is exalted. When we live like this, there is unity in the Body of Christ.

How is the Resurrection and the Life stretching your faith? How have you learned to operate in your gifts?

~Amy

Women of the Way: His Birth to the Resurrection

One of the ideals of Women of the Way is to study the women in the Bible in order for us to learn and understand what made them special and apply those Godly traits to our own lives. So….I am beginning a series on women in the life of Christ from His birth to the Resurrection! This series was actually the theme of our first Women of the Way Bible study in 2012, and it was such a delight to be a part of that study.

Can you imagine being a woman living during the time of the Messiah? To hear His teaching with your own ears or actually see the love in His eyes? What do these women teach us about being followers of Christ? I mean, some of them literally followed Him in his earthly ministry.

How about this….can you imagine giving birth to the Son of God??

We all know the extraordinay tale of Christ’s birth, so what better place to begin this series than with the first woman to come in contact with The Word made flesh?….Mary

Now, every woman who’s given birth or adopted or found a baby under a cabbage leaf has a story to tell. We love to recount those precious memories forever branded in our hearts and minds. One of my glorious memories was in Sept 2004. I was in Asheville, SC attending an Autism training with my wonderful friend, Donna.  The afternoon finally came to hear the results of the pregnancy test, and with Donna and I set free from our training, we headed off to the Biltmore for some fun. By the time we got back to the hotel that night, my phone had several messages because I had ignored them all afternoon fearing the news of yet a still empty womb. I finally locked myself in the bathroom and listened to the messages. My poor husband had been calling all afternoon and finally left the results on voice mail saying that the test was positive and we had made a baby! Sitting in the bathroom of the Hampton Inn crying, I called him and we finally got to hear each other’s voices and rejoiced over such a miracle. It was a moment I will never forget!

As great as my story is, nothing can compare to the story of Mary and her Divine Announcement. In Luke 1, we read this familiar story that never gets old in hearing it again and again:

26 In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, 27 to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. 28 Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you”

29 Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. 30 “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David.33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”

Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin ...
Gabriel making the Annunciation to the Virgin Mary. Painting by El Greco, 1575 (Museo del Prado, Madrid). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month.37 For nothing is impossible with God.”

38 Mary responded, “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.” And then the angel left her.

Do you ever get the feeling Mary was saying…”Uh….’scuse me….. I didn’t sign up for this!”?

When we examine the statements of Gabriel vs the responses of Mary, we see her progression and get an idea of why she was so highly favored. Mary began being confused and disturbed, then she asked How can this be? And finally, we see her resolved- I am the Lord’s servant. She felt overwhelmed, she asked questions, she couldn’t even comprehend how this was physically going to happen. Yet, her final answer, her resolve, was Surrender.

God, I don’t know what you are doing, I didn’t ask for this, I don’t understand how you are going to work this out, but………….I surrender.

What is it that God has unexpectedly brought into your life? What are you facing that makes you feel confused and scared and asking how and saying  “Uh….’scuse me….. I didn’t sign up for this!”?

Forgive me for being frank, but if God can bring life to a virgin womb, then He can surely handle your situation too. Your surrender doesn’t mean that you give in or quit praying or stop asking for answers. It just means you are willing to let God be God.

Here’s an awesome thought: the same Holy Spirit that conceived the Son of God is living inside you!!! So the next time you are asking how can this be? Remember, The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you!…..for nothing is impossible with God!!!!

~Amy