June 2021

Today we are going to look at arguably the most famous mom that ever walked the earth, and certainly the most important–Mary the mother of Jesus. Specifically we are going to look at the faith of Mary, the faith journey of Mary, and the Yes of Mary. This is a mother’s day sermon but it’s really a sermon about faith.

All of us at one time or another, or maybe many times have struggled with our faith. We have doubts, we have fears, we wonder what God is doing or if He’s even doing anything at all. We question, we worry, we even wonder if we are good enough to serve God. We wonder if we can trust everything in the Bible. Unquestionable, unwavering faith 100% of the time is not what most of us have, let’s face it! I’d love to say I never struggle in that area, but I think our overactive minds, our life circumstances, distractions, many things get in our way and get in our heads, and I think we kind of weave in and out of that solid rock faith that never doubts or questions or worries or fears.

Ironically we think of Mary, the mother of Jesus, as having the ultimate faith, right? The highest level of faith, afterall, God chose her to be Jesus’ mother! But I think as we look at her story today, we are going to see that she wasn’t overly different from us! Her circumstances might be radically different, but her faith journey included all the struggles and reactions that our faith journeys do!

We don’t usually think of reading the Christmas story outside of December, it seems a little out of place when the spring flowers have popped up and the leaves are on the trees. I think the story of Jesus’ birth and Mary being the mother of Jesus is so familiar to us–we call it the Christmas story–it’s so familiar to us that we maybe don’t give it much thought in terms of the powerful story of faith that it is.

Let’s look at Luke 1:26-38 NLT 

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,[d] favored woman! The Lord is with you![e]” 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[f] forever; his Kingdom will never end!” 34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” 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 the word of God will never fail.[g]” (Some versions say 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.

Mary was a teenager, a peasant girl, when the angel Gabriel appeared to her. That in itself had to be a little unsettling! An angel shows up! And I’m not sure what rattled her more–the presence of the angel or what Gabriel said–he called her a favored woman and told her that the Lord was with her! A teenage peasant girl would not see herself as a favored person. This didn’t fit her understanding of who she was. And it certainly wouldn’t have fit other people’s understanding of who she was. “Greetings favored one” would have been reserved for kings or priests, someone with a robe or a crown, not a teenage peasant girl.

So her natural response is confusion! This is how her faith journey began–she was confused and disturbed. It started with confusion.

Immediately when God told her you’re blessed and I’m going to do something in your life, her immediate reaction was she was confused. Confused because she didn’t understand what her role was about to become. Confused because she didn’t really understand how God saw her. Confused because this moment in time was completely unpredictable and unexpected.

Part of the reason we get confused in our faith is because when God pushes us in our faith, when He calls us to do something, it is most often something above and beyond how we see our role. It might be above and beyond how other people see our role. It doesn’t quite fit our picture of ourselves or our comfort level.

And I think it’s important to understand that this was never Mary’s plan for her life, it wasn’t even on her radar. But God’s plan was so much bigger than that. So when God begins to give His bigger and better dream, oftentimes the first reaction we have is confusion. “That’s not what I was thinking. That’s a little bit off of the direction that I was going.” It’s almost like we need that period of time to wrestle with it.

 Fear is the second part of her faith journey. She goes from confusion to fear. And I wonder if the fear was–I don’t know what you’re about to tell me, I don’t know if I can live up to this, I don’t know if I’m qualified or if I even want to.

And Gabriel speaks this–which is really God’s message to Mary being delivered through Gabriel– “Do not be afraid, Mary. You have found favor with God.” Do not be afraid.

Did you know that there are 365 verses in the Bible addressing fear–telling us not to fear? That’s one for every day of the year! 365 verses that say “Don’t be afraid, fear not!” So I think it’s fair to say that God understands that fear is our common reaction. He knew this would be something that we would all deal with from time to time. He expects it, He understands it, He doesn’t expect us to be without fear. He knows in our humanness this is what we deal with. Here is God’s reassurance–I know you’re afraid, but you don’t need to be.

And Gabriel goes on to tell her the plan–that she will give birth to a son and that He will be a King!

And this takes us to the next part of her faith journey–questions.

How do we get from fear to commitment? Questions. If you want to get from fear to faith, you need to ask questions.

And she asks a very legitimate question! How can this happen? I am a virgin, I am not married.

It is literally impossible. There are many things in this world that we say are impossible. It’s impossible for me to get out of debt. It’s impossible for me to pass this test. It’s impossible for me to save my marriage. It’s impossible for me to recover from this diagnosis. We actually use the word impossible quite a bit. But in reality most of the things that we say are impossible, more often than not are “unlikely” or “improbable” based on our circumstances, based on what we’ve seen happen before. I think that often, maybe not always, but often the things we feel are impossible maybe really aren’t impossible, maybe just not overly likely to happen.

But in Mary’s situation, this actually was literally impossible. There’s no earthly way this can happen.

And as Gabriel explains to her what will happen, he finishes it with “The Word of God will never fail.” And I like some of the other versions that say “Nothing is impossible with God.”

And this is how God works, isn’t it? The world as we know it says this can’t happen, and God says “Just watch!” Nothing is impossible with God! If God spoke it, it will not fail! The Word of God will never fail!

Mary asked a question, and God spoke. And the answer gives me hope! It should give us all hope! Nothing is impossible with God!

Mary hears the promise she’s going to have a baby and she says I am not qualified. “How can this happen?” She’s not in the right position in life to do this. Isn’t this our typical response when God challenges our faith, challenges us to do something new? The first thing we always think is I’m not qualified.

God comes to Moses and says I want you to speak to the people. Moses says “I’m not qualified. I’m not very good at speaking.”

God comes to Jeremiah and says I want you to be a prophet. Jeremiah says, “Not qualified. I’m too young.”

It’s immediately where we go to–I’m not qualified! If you have ever felt like this, you are in great company!

You know what God loves to do? He loves to take people who are absolutely not qualified to do this and use them to do exactly that. Because it shows his greatness. It shows his grace. It shows his power. I heard this expression years ago and it has stayed with me ever since:

“God doesn’t call the qualified, He qualifies the called.” He’s not looking for the perfect skill level, He is looking for willing hearts. And when the heart is willing, able to accept God’s call, able to accept the challenges that God puts in our path to grow our faith and to be used by Him for what He wants to accomplish–He gives us the qualifications. He gives us everything we need to complete the task!

Mary went from confusion to fear to questions to commitment.

Let’s look at her response one more time, verse 38–”I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.”

Now in all honesty, if I had to guess, Mary didn’t say that with 100 percent confidence, without any more questions, without any more fear. Her whole world, everything she has known, all of her plans, have completely been turned upside down in one unexpected instant. The confusion and fear and questions aren’t going to all disappear that fast! But she had a willing heart and she trusted God, and she said “Yes, Ok, I’m in, I’m committing to this.” And I don’t even think that means she never had any doubts or second thoughts. I would have, I’m sure of it! But she said Yes God, I’ll do it. And the message here for us is–it’s ok to have confusion and fear and questions, and if we wait for those to go away, we will never commit to things God is calling us to do. It’s ok to say yes to God even in the midst of confusion or fear or questions. He’s not rattled by it, He doesn’t say–Hey I’m gonna need you to stop asking questions before you can serve Me or before you can follow Me. He will never say that! He says bring your confusion and questions, I have answers. Bring your fears, I have peace. Bring your doubts about your qualifications–I am giving you everything you need!

Philippians 4:19 says: And my God shall supply all your needs according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.

He’s got it covered!

There are two really amazing things in Mary’s response–She knew her entire life was going to change and she didn’t really fully understand the extent of that. And the people around her weren’t going to understand it either. She certainly must have thought about what people would think. But she immediately put her faith in God and said I am the Lord’s servant.

And the other really amazing this here is that the God of the universe was waiting on a Yes from a teenage girl. Her faith played a part in this. God knew she was going to say yes, and He knew how He was going to work in her life. And interestingly she didn’t argue the plan, did she?

She said, “May everything you’ve said about me come true.” In other words, Thy will be done.

I think our natural tendency is to say, “Thy will be changed.” Can’t we tweak this a little? I’m not sure I totally like all parts of this. And we try to impose our own plans into God’s will. God, I’m interested in this but I’m not totally comfortable here, I’d prefer this.

Even with unknowns and what was certainly the most unexpected, unpredictable thing that had ever happened or been said to Mary, she’s able to say Thy will be done. May it all come true. She could have said, “Hey can we wait a few years until after I’m married?” or “Let me talk to Joseph before I commit to this.” She could have said that but she didn’t, she said, May everything you’ve said about me come true. Thy will be done, God.

We’re going to start bringing this home with a couple verses.

Psalm 37:5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act.” Trust in Him and He will act!

Psalm 138:8–The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me.

And this is where our faith really begins to grow because it’s in the letting go of our plans that we give God the freedom to carry out His plans for us.

Mary had to let go of her plans, didn’t she? Learning that she was going to be the mother of the Son of God had to have been a game changer! This wasn’t in her plans, it wasn’t on her radar! She didn’t hold onto her own plans, she let them go because God’s called her to something more. Even with confusion, fear, and questions she understood that when God calls, Yes is the best answer!

When we keep our own plans in the mix and we try to keep control, faith gets pushed out. Mary was all in with God’s will! This is the kind of faith that I want to have–one that says, I’m a little confused here, I’m a little fearful, I have questions, but Thy will be done. I’m all in.

Mary’s faith allowed the Saviour of the world to be born! Mary’s yes changed the world.

What is God calling you to today? What is He asking you to say yes to? What do you feel like He’s been speaking to you about? And for all of us it’s maybe something different. Maybe He’s calling you to serve in a particular ministry. Maybe He’s calling you to reach out to people and invite them to church. Maybe He’s calling you to put your faith in Him for the first time. Maybe, just maybe, He’s calling you away from something to embrace true faith. What’s He calling you to do?

He has a purpose for each of us just like He did for Mary. And our Yes might just be what changes our life or someone else’s life around us.

What has God been calling you to do? Will you say yes today?

OVERCOMING DISCOURAGEMENT

May 12, 2021                              

Peter was also disappointed because his concept of serving God was all about his work, his performance and ability. Peter declared to Jesus before His crucifixion, “I will be with you, Jesus to the end even if I have to die.” Peter did not know his own weaknesses or understand his own frailties. He did not recognize that in his own strength he could not follow and serve Jesus. God is not looking to create heroes; Jesus is the only hero. God is looking to build character in our lives.

  1. Many times disappointment and discouragement come because we have been trying to live this Christian life with our ability and our talent that we possess; always trying to do everything right. We attempt doing things in our own strength, trying to be mighty and strong, thinking, “I can do this”; but you cannot. (Psalm 30:10-11) Sometimes God will allow closed doors so that we will look at ourselves to see where we are.
    • (John 21:3) Jesus found Peter and the disciples fishing. They had fished all night and caught nothing – no fruit from their labor. They were fishing before He called them to follow Hm and even back then, their choice to fish was not producing much fruit for them. What makes us think if we go back to the previous thing that we did that we will start producing a better yield now? They did the same thing and got the same results. You leave the church, go to your old habits – alcohol, drugs or worse and you will certainly not do better and you might even lose your life. (Matthew 3:8,10)
    • We tend to blame everyone else for our problems but the truth is that we take our problems with us whether to church or to the bar because we are the problem (James 1:23-24) People leave the church and walk away saying, “I do not need the church” I can have a relationship with God myself.” Not realizing that you cannot have a relationship with God without being involved with the corporate Body of Christ.
  2. What has God made available to you to help you handle and overcome disappointment? You cannot serve God in your own strength; you cannot be all God made you to be without the Holy Spirit – be strong in the Lord and in His power. (Ephesians 6:10 AMP) Now God wants to let us know that He is developing character inside us and we need to stop choosing our stopping at the wrong door because God has something better, a higher level for us if we do not give up. (Psalm 55:1-2, 22).
    • So the disciples went fishing and maybe you are on the brink of going back to former things as well. You stopped attending group; you no longer are involved with the things of God and find yourself slowly backing away because things did not go the way you expected.
    • When discouragement sets in it does not just stay at the same level. It continues to affect your thinking and the way you see things and eventually it will lead you out the door. (James 1:12-15) You may say, “I am all right with just God and me.” But the truth is that each of us needs accountability, and people in our lives cause things to be exposed so that eventually we must look at ourselves.
    • Remember, God knows exactly where you are. You may have believed for a job that did not happen. Maybe you were praying for someone to become your spouse and they married someone else. God still has a plan. (Isaiah 55:8-9) The word “thoughts” in this verse is talking about plans and ways, direction and journey. God’s plans and ways are most times completely different from what we want.
  3. We need to come to the point where we adjust our thinking and re-align ourselves to Gods ways and direction. We want to receive the destiny God has for us but it will take humility – He is God and we are not.
    • It takes a heart that really wants to serve God. Sometimes when we become a Christian we think – “now, things will get a lot better. I gave my life to Jesus and things should be all better – this is part of the faulty expectation.”
    • Realistically, this is not the case. Jesus said that we will suffer persecution and just like Jesus was rejected; likewise the world will reject us. (Matthey 5:10-12) The wonderful thing is that we can run to the cross and have God deliver and heal us.
    • In this season have you experienced discouragement because you expected a different outcome? What can you do right now to access God’s solution? The devil tries to build a case against God in your heart through discouragement and you must hold fast and let nothing come between God and you. We must not allow the enemy to steal our confidence, enthusiasm and hope. (Hebrews 10:32, 35-36) Purpose in your mind that discouragement will not make you quit, let it make you strong in the Lord and the power of His might!

Disappointment and discouragement have affected so many people in this season and has become a major reason why people stop going to church. The enemy wants you to lose confidence – to lose confidence that God is real. We get disappointed because we are looking from a faulty expectation and then we try to make it happen in our own strength. Ask God for His plan in your situation and be strong in Lord and the power of His might; then walk it out with Him. Continue believing, declaring and make up your stand – do not quit, it will come to pass. (Habakkuk 2:2-3)

Overcoming by the Blood of the Lamb and the Word of our Testimony

Ephesians 1:7 Through the blood of Jesus I am redeemed out of the hand of the devil. Through the blood of Jesus all my sins are forgiven. The blood of Jesus Christ God’s son continually cleanses me from all sin.

John 1:7 Through the blood of Jesus I am justified, made righteous, just as if I never sinned.

Romans 5:9 Through the blood of Jesus I am sanctified, made holy, set apart to God.

1 Corinthians 6:19 -20 My body is a temple for the Holy Spirit redeemed, cleansed, sanctified, by the blood of Jesus. Therefore, Satan has no place in me and not power over me through the blood of Jesus. I renounce him, loose myself from him and command him to leave me in the name of Jesus! Amen.

God’s Song

Wishing to encourage her young son’s progress on the piano, a mother took her boy to a Paderewski concert. After they were seated, the mother spotted a friend in the audience and walked down the aisle to greet her. Seizing the opportunity to explore the wonders of the concert hall, the little boy rose and eventually explored his way through a door marked “NO ADMITTANCE.”

When the house lights dimmed and the concert was about to begin, the mother returned to her seat and discovered that the child was missing.

Suddenly, the curtains parted and spotlights focused on the impressive Steinway on stage. In horror, the mother saw her little boy was sitting at the keyboard, innocently picking out “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” At that moment, the great piano master made his entrance, quickly moved to the piano, and whispered in the boy’s ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”

Then, leaning over, Paderewski reached down with his left hand and began filling in a bass part. Soon, his right arm reached around to the other side of the child and he added a running obligato. Together, the old master and the young novice transformed a frightening situation into a wonderfully creative experience. The audience was so mesmerized that they couldn’t recall what else the great master played – only the classic “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.”

That’s the way it is with God. What we can accomplish on our own is hardly noteworthy. We try our best, but the results aren’t exactly graceful flowing music. However, with the hand of the Master, our life’s work truly can be beautiful. Next time you set out to accomplish great feats, listen carefully. You can hear the voice of the Master, whispering in your ear, “Don’t quit. Keep playing.”

Feel His loving arms around you. Know that His strong hands are there helping you turn your feeble attempts into true masterpieces. God doesn’t call the equipped; He equips the called, and He’ll always be there to love and guide you on to great things.

God With Us

The man whispered, “God, speak to me”
And a meadowlark sang.
But, the man did not hear.

So the man yelled, “God, speak to me”
And the thunder rolled across the sky.
But, the man did not listen. The man looked around and said,

“God let me see you.”
And a star shined brightly.
But the man did not see.

And, the man shouted, “God show me a miracle.”
And, a life was born.
But, the man did not notice.

So, the man cried out in despair, “Touch me God, and let me know you are here.”
Whereupon, God reached down and touched the man.
But, the man brushed the butterfly away and walked on.

I found this to be a great reminder that God is always around us in the little and simple things that we take for granted even in our electronic age, so I would like to add one more:

The man cried, “God, I need your help!”
And an e-mail arrived reaching out with good news and encouragement.
But, the man deleted it and continued crying…

Don’t miss out on a blessing because it isn’t packaged the way that you expect.