Nothing is Impossible

During this Christmas season, I get so excited about the Bethlehem scene in Luke 2—the angel, the manger, the shepherds, Mary, Joseph, the wise men, AND sweet baby Jesus’s birth.

This year I am so pumped also about the chapter before—Luke 1. I see a story of struggle and God’s miracle. The kind of story I love. The kind of story I live and can relate to.

Three of my favorite verses are found throughout this Luke 1 chapter. I never realized how much was in that chapter foretelling John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ birth.

Zechariah was a priest, and his wife Elizabeth had not been able to get pregnant. An angel appeared to Zechariah and told him not to be afraid (if I saw an angel I’d be afraid also), and that his prayer had been heard. I love that.

The angel told him he would have a son, name him John.

“He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.” –Luke 1:14, 15.

Zechariah doubted the angel, asking:

“How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” –Luke 1:18.

Ouch. How many times do I doubt God’s promises, God’s goodness, God’s faithfulness? My “soul holes” of doubt speak louder than my faith.

Because Zechariah doubted, he was struck silent for her whole pregnancy. People in the temple could tell he had seen a vision. He made signs with his hands but could not speak.

His sweet wife Elizabeth became pregnant and remained in seclusion for five months. Her response was,

“The Lord has done this for me.” Luke 1:25.

Amen. What profound gratitude.

Six months into Elizabeth’s pregnancy, the angel Gabriel visits Elizabeth’s young relative Mary in a little town of Nazareth. The angel Gabriel told Mary she would give birth to a son named Jesus.

“He will be great and will be called Son of the most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David…His Kingdom will never end.” Luke 1:32, 33b.

Mary asked the angel how it would happen since she was a virgin. The angel’s response is so encouraging.

“Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God.”  Luke 1:36, 37.

AMEN! Mary’s response is one of my favorite in the entire Bible.

“’I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.’ Then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38.

Can you imagine being 13 or 14 years old, as Mary was, and having the kind of Spirit-filled faith to be that obedient?

Then Mary went to visit Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s voice, the baby inside of her leaped, and Elizabeth was filled with the holy Spirit. Elizabeth encouraged Mary, saying in a LOUD voice:

“Blessed are you among women and blessed is the child you will bear!….” –Luke 1:42.

Elizabeth declared another one of my favorite verses:

“Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” –Luke 1:45.

Friend, what can we learn from this passage so full of miracles and wisdom?

1) God hears our prayers. The angel affirmed Zechariah first by saying his prayer had been heard. Every prayer is heard, no matter how short the prayers are and how desperately we cry out to God.

2)Whatever in our life seems “barren,” God provides life in that barren spot. Nothing is impossible with God. For me it’s my singleness. God fills my “barren spot” and heart’s desire for a husband. You may have a “barren” relationship or a yearning for a child. God fills that soul hole, even on days that are hard, especially at Christmas.

3) May we always give God the praise. Like Elizabeth who had prayed for years to be pregnant, “The Lord has done this for me.” All comes from Him.

4) May we have the humility and faith like Mary to be totally obedient. Not only did she say she was the Lord’s servant. She declared her total surrender. “May it be to me as you have said.”

Oh, I pray so for me and you also. Total surrender.

It was for Mary. It will be for us also if we surrender our will. May Thy will, not my will, be done.

Merry Christmas, friend.

Reflect:

–What seems “barren” in your life? What seems impossible? Please comment.

–What prayers do you want God to hear? Keep praying. He hears them all.

Renew:

“And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for He has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me—holy is His name.” –Luke 1: 46-49.

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The Thanks-Living Challenge

I love Thanksgiving.  I am grateful for President Abraham Lincoln’s leadership and unifying vision.  In 1863 during the Civil War,  set aside the fourth Thursday of November as a holiday, proclaiming “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.”

On this Thanksgiving Day, a new Truth from a familiar verse jumped out during my quiet time.

“While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying “Take and eat; this is my body.’” –Matthew 26:26.

From the first Lord’s Supper to today’s Lord’s Supper, the same sentiment is expressed in each sacrament. Jesus took the bread, gave thanks, broke it, and gave it away.

1) Jesus took and gave thanks. 2) Jesus broke it and gave it away.

1. May we give thanks for everything we are given, for every person, every circumstance in our life. May we have an attitude of gratitude. It’s hard to grumble when you’re grateful. So often I/we complain over what we don’t have instead of thanking God for the many blessings we do have. I am guilty of this. Forgive me.

2. Jesus broke the bread before He gave it away. Although Jesus could, He does not use anything or anyone unless the item or person is broken.

The bread was/is broken, not whole.

The wine came/comes from smushed, fermented grapes.

Even His own body had to be broken on the cross to save all of us from our sins.

He broke Himself in order to give Himself away. May it be so of us as we live each day giving thanks. Thanks-LIVING.

Jesus only uses us when we are broken and available to Him. Recently I have felt so weak and inadequate. His power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:10). Oh friend, I am desperately dependent on Him, and it’s so liberating.

God is a promise-keeping, miracle-working God. He wants us to rely on Him as we live each day with gratitude.

Thanks and Brokenness. Jesus both focused on gratitude and brokenness in life and in the sacrament of communion.

As we celebrate our national holiday of Thanksgiving, let’s use Jesus’ example to take and give thanks.  Will you take on the challenge with me to turn this Thanksgiving into Thanks-LIVING? Not just one day of the year, but every day.

Happy Thanks-Living, dear friend.

Reflect:

  • How will you transform Thanksgiving into Thanks-Living?
  • For what, for whom are you thankful?

Renew:

  • “Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy; let them sing before the Lord, for He comes to judge the earth.” –Psalm 98:7-9.
  • “Enter his gates with Thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.” –Psalm 100:4.
  • “He must become greater; I must become less.” –John 3:30
  • “He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness…for when I am weak, then I am strong.” –2 Corinthians 12:9a-10b.

Recharge:  

  • Let’s start a new Gratitude Journal this week and  list at least three blessings daily. It could be a warm house, your health, laughter, cozy coats and boots.
  • Please let me know of some of your many blessings.

Resource:

 

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Finding Faith in the Fog

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  –Hebrews 11:1 NIV

Reality snapped me to attention. Just two hours before, I had left an encouraging Christian conference, full of hope, full of the love of Jesus, full of direction for my life, full of courage to get it done. So I thought.

The upbeat praise and worship music streamed from the car speakers into my heart as I loudly sang the words. Suddenly my singing stopped.

My fingers white-knuckled the steering wheel as I drove through the North Carolina mountains, cautious. The dense fog rolled in quickly, shielding the landscape like a thick blanket held from a clothesline. I had driven this familiar stretch of road a hundred times before. I knew it by heart. My heart doubted tonight, though.

My eyes strained to see past the hood of the car. I could barely see the white lines outlining the two-lane road.

“Lord, I am scared. Please guide me. You are the same God on the sunny, clear, mountaintop days, when I can see for miles, as You are right now. I see nothing. Please show me the way. I am doubting everything I know to be true.”

As my car inched along, I reflected back on the uplifting conference where I had just been for the last three days. God called me there to clearly trust Him, to serve Him, to write and speak for Him. I knew that full well, just as I know my name.

But minutes later, I was already doubting God. I was so scared. I kept driving.

“Lord, help me. Lord, help me. Help me drive scared. Lord, help me.”

About an hour later, I exited off the twisting, mountainous road and into the driveway of my destination. I exhaled. I don’t know that I had fully exhaled since I hit the fog.

My hands still shook as I reached in the dark for my car door handle. I breathed in that mountain air and made my way to the front door. Once inside the house, I fell to my knees in thanksgiving for the miracle God had just brought me through. It was only then that I realized I had just lived a message. The foggier nights result in deeper faith.

Since then, I have definitely hit other “patches of fog” in my faith journey. Usually the doubt comes soon after a deeply meaningful time when I feel God’s presence and feel clear about God’s purpose.

“Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.” –Hebrews 11:1 NIV

Hebrews 11 is often referred to as the Bible’s “Hall of Faith.” I love reading all the different examples of extraordinary faith, from Abel and Abraham to Rahab the prostitute. Each “Hall of Faith Honoree” demonstrated faith in the “foggy night” of life.

God is with you, whatever circumstances you find yourself in today, whether you just had an uplifting, mountaintop God experience or the foggiest night of your life. Know the same God in the sunny, clear day is the same God in the foggy night.  May we be encouraged to find and strengthen our faith in the fog and in the SON.

Lord Jesus, You are my Rock and my Redeemer. Thank you for the sweet times when I can feel Your presence so easily and know Your purpose for me. Forgive me for doubting You in the foggy times. Thank you for testing my faith and refining me. Please help guide me every breath to fulfill the purpose you have called me to do. Help me do it, even when I’m scared of the fog. I am Yours. You are mine. In Jesus’ Name, by the Power of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Renew:

–Isaiah 7:11, “Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights” (NIV).

–Matthew 15:28, “Then Jesus answered, ‘Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted’” (NIV)

Reflect:

–What foggy night circumstances have you experienced lately?

–When have you felt God’s presence clearly, like a mountaintop experience?

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