Friday, December 28, 2012

"be it unto me"—part two

a place to ponder

What do we do when our Lord speaks directly to us through His word?  How do we respond to the precious promises, the tender rebukes, the commands, the songs of love?  In the story of Christ’s birth, the Shepherds “made known abroad” (Luke 2:17) all that they had seen and heard—the angel’s message and God’s wonder displayed!  These men could not help but tell the world!  Their Savior was born—God had kept His word.  In utter excitement and joy they shouted the good news to anyone who would listen.  Their response was both needful and glorifying to God.  When God reveals His truth, and gives us the gifts of insight and blessing—when He opens our eyes to see His glory—it is most fitting to declare it to others!  It is meant to be shared. 

But…

The Scripture tells us Mary did quite the opposite!  She hid her special revelation, and the events that followed, in her very being—securely tucked away that she might consider fully what they meant— “…But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19).  The word but gives a direct contrast to the previous mention of the shepherd’s reaction!  Mary did not make known the saying, Mary pondered the saying! 

Mary was not keeping it a secret—selfishly or thoughtlessly—but was keeping it treasured. There is a difference.  Not constraining the good news but keeping record of how that it was affecting her personally! She placed a high value on what God was doing in and through and for her—the sense of amazement and wonder drove her to quiet worship.  She recognized every tiny detail—the Almighty in every element. 

Pondering is to intimately recount all that the Lord has said, all that He has promised, all that He has fulfilled, all that is to come!  The kind of conversation you can only have between two people! 

Before you seek to teach, write, declare—before you shout the good news, talk of the revealed truth, share the incredible manifestations with anyone who will listen—seek to do as Mary did.  Seek to find intimate fellowship with the One who showed you such wonder in the first place!  Quietly.  Seek to ponder all that He is doing in and through and for you! 

Mary’s life is a pattern of humility!  Don’t put away her example with your pretty holiday décor!  Allow it to effect each and every day of your life.  

There is a place to ponder. 

1.  We must hide it in our hearts first—make it personal!  We do this by meditating even on truth that was revealed to others in Scripture.  Teach it to yourself before you teach it to your children or anyone else for that matter.  Own every promise, every rebuke, and every command that the Lord reveals to you in His word.  Spend time praying back God’s word to Him in praise for what He is doing in your own heart before you use the same Scripture in intercession and supplication with others in mind! 

This is a discipline that I easily overlook!  In my desire to share what God has shown me (or done for me through a miracle) with others I can unintentionally miss its incredible impact on my own life by not taking the time to ponder what has taken place.  Yes, others do need to hear—and I am commanded to declare it (Psalm 64:9)—“but,” as Luke 2:19 starts, but first, and even last, I must “keep all these things” and consider them in my own heart!  

2.  Gaining a confidence in the truth comes from pondering what God has shown to you to be true (Psalm 1:2-3)—mulling over what you read in your daily quiet time throughout the day, rehearsing what was preached on a Sunday morning, meditating on a lesson you studied to teach to others.  "I remember the days of old; I meditate on all thy works; I muse on the works of thy hands" (Psalm 143:5). Turning those revelations into prayers or into songs—journaling them on paper or just on the tablet of your heart—will secure them in your mind!  "Meditate upon these things; give thyself wholly to them; that thy profiting may appear to all" (1 Timothy 4:15).

3.  Pondering brings peace!  Psalm 119 states that “great peace” and a confidence that “nothing shall offend” is the reward given to those who “love [God’s] law.”  To love something is to spend time with it.  It is to become like it.  Isaiah gives a beautiful promise of peace to those who ponder—"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee." Pondering provides the believer with an increase in trust!  A wonderful revolving reward—pondering produces peace, which produces truth, which produces pondering...you get the picture! 

Mary shows us such wisdom in choosing to ponder and not grow anxious. "[Wisdom's] ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace" (Proverbs 3:17). Just consider, even for a brief moment, all that Mary could have been doing with her heart and mind.  Being visited by an angel is, well, amazing… right?!  Who wouldn’t immediately bow in worship and ponder the glorious thing that had taken place?  If that is what you are thinking you obviously have forgotten the several key (and might I add disturbing) elements that were thrown in the mix?  A private revelation.  A virgin.  A fiancé.  A pregnancy.  A reputation.  What would her friends think?  What would her family think?  And then there are all the prophecies—“His visage was so marred, more than any man” (Isaiah 52:14); “He was woundedbruised for our iniquities…with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53 :5); “and they shall look upon [him] whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn” (Zechariah 12:10).  Even Simeon’s own prophetic word to Mary is full of deep sorrow no matter the declaration of joy it contained: “Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also, that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:35). 

Mary would carry a heavy burden for her entire life (a private pain)—how easily she could have become preoccupied with her own situation and engage her heart and mind in serious worry and fear. 

The Incarnation—the promise kept—and a young woman who was chosen to carry, birth, raise, and love the Son of God!  The Son who would die a cruel death for the sins of the whole world!  How important it would be for Mary to ponder and not give in to a hopeless feeling of doubt or reckless emotion.   

The point: pondering doesn’t always come as a natural response—it is a choice that must be made!  That is why Mary’s attitude of acceptance is such a vital part of this lesson! 

Mary not only carried the “Prince of Peace” in her very womb, she allowed him admittance into her own heart, mind, will, and emotions!

4.  Fresh excitement is given to those who ponder.  "For thou, Lord, has made me glad through thy work: I will triumph in the works of thy hands...O Lord, how great are thy works!  And thy thoughts are very deep...I shall be annointed with fresh oil" (Psalm 92:4,510). The word of God is quick and powerful—it is sharp—it is lively.  And when we take the time to meditate on its power and promise we are happy, content, and full of life!  We are not easily dismayed—when troubles arise or sorrow takes us from behind, the Holy Spirit can cheer, comfort, and guide us with the truth we have set before our eyes.  "Consider how I love thy precepts: quicken me, O Lord, according to thy lovingkindness" (Psalm 119:159).  

It is not an easy life we are promised, but a Shepherd to show us the way through the difficult journey! And we will be able to encourage others better if we allow the word of God to daily encourage our own heart! 

Let us, like Mary, choose to tuck every little truth inside our heart—every experience, every joy, every painand treasure what God is doing, even the hard things He is allowing.  

Enjoy the rewards that such an act of worship will bring!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

"be it unto me"—part one

an attitude of acceptance

I am taking time this season to revisit the story of Christ’s birth, and the glory which surrounds it, in order that I might please Him better—that I might learn afresh and practice anew that which would honor our Redeemer most!  There are a couple of wonderful phrases that are used in the gospels to describe Mary, the mother of Jesus.  They captured my attention years ago and the Lord is using them to teach me once again the importance of my attitude and the power of meditation on His word!

Mary was human, no matter how divine you, or any other religion, try to make her.  She was born in sin and she would have died in sin, if it had not been for the Savior.  She was not “better” than any other woman although she is recorded to have been “highly favored” by God.  She was an ordinary girl given an extra-ordinary task.  But, she accepted it.  Fully.  Humbly.  In Holy reverence to her Lord.  This truth is so important if we are to gain any lessons from her life.  

Mary has been given a place of honor in the Scriptures and we do wrong to make her sinless or dismiss her all together.   We must speak well of this godly woman and glean from her most godly example!  She has a lot to teach.

Mary was a chosen vessel.  Chosen.  She did not apply for the position after figuring that her specific spiritual gifts would lend her capable for the job.  And we have no record that she desired to fulfill this role of prophecy personally.  All we know is that this young lady was taken completely unaware by an angel named Gabriel—bearing an incredible message—and that his decree would change the course of Mary’s life in the most dramatic ways—forever.  Effective immediately! 

As I consider yet again what my reaction would have been to such a message I come up lacking.  My humanness pushes forward all the time!  The flesh is ever seeking to be satisfied and coddled in every way.  Manipulation can have a bad habit of needling its way into any action I might take—making it fit according to my own likes and dislikes. 

Mary didn’t seem bogged down with her fleshiness!  She obviously had already been allowing the Lord to teach her what it means to say no to self.  Mary did not respond in a submissive way because she herself had been conceived immaculate, but because she chose to respond in a submissive way!  That is such a huge lesson!  She, on purpose, possessed an attitude of acceptance—I can choose to do the same. 

Mary was not naïve, nor was she too young to understand the statement that she would bear a child.  This was proven by her one (and only) question: “How can this be?”  But neither was she in rebellion to the answer.  Yikes!  I might have pushed for more details—“exactly what does overshadow mean?”  She submitted herself to what God decreed and accepted fully the possibility of a miracle.  What about all the other “natural” questions one might have continued asking, like, “Are you going to let anyone else in on this news?”, “Can I think about it and get back to you?”, “Could I get married first?”

Without any knowledge of what her fiancé might do, her family might say, or she might feel, Mary quickly uttered those incredible words, “Be it unto me, according to thy word” (Luke 1:38)—complete and full acceptance, no matter the cost. 

The angel might have been a complete surprise and his message unfathomable…but the idea that God would speak—to her—was not!  Indeed, Mary was expecting it, as would any servant whose soul duty was to her master!  Mary’s quick and beautiful response gives us a clue as to where her eyes were fixed and where her faith was buried.  “Behold…as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the LORD our God” (Psalm 123:2).  The secret to an attitude of acceptance lies in where we place our eyes. 

Do we gaze at our Savior as if He might have something to say to us—something that has not yet crossed our minds?  Once He speaks, do we focus our eyes on our own ability to “work it out” and how we might stay in the safety of our own comfort zone?  For Mary, her gaze was definitely set on God—alone.  Yes, I do believe Mary very likely shed the tears of many emotions and had intense times of prayer alone with her Maker—but they were not the product of unbelief.  Any pain or fear that might have been present did not dictate her attitude in any way!  That is the point the Holy Spirit seems to be driving home to my own heart.  The fact that she was at His beck and call was already established in her mind!  As her Lord, He would provide all that was needed.  What was there to question or resist?

Her faith is astounding.  She rests in full confidence of God’s word.  “Be it unto me”—not according to any probability or possibility—but according to whatever God says, even if it does not make sense.  God’s word was that powerful and that precious to her. 
 
We find Mary a woman of action, not resignation!  (Heavy sigh! “Okay, if I must!” Followed by another heavy sigh!)  God never calls us to resignation but determined motion!  Even the word rest is active—if it is commanded by the Almighty.  Mary was not ashamed of her growing belly.  Trust and obedience gives confidence to every step we are called to take.  Leaving to visit her cousin Elizabeth, marrying Joseph, travelling to Bethlehem—these were all events that were open to spectators!  She was eager to do that which she must—and in doing so, fulfill the prophecies!  How tempting it is to “blend in,” or look inconspicuous, when we are called to do just the opposite!  

Mary’s first act of obedience (submitted will) required continually walking in that obedience throughout her entire life.  

Our attitude is vital as we walk out our own Christian experience.  God comes to us daily with command, duty to perform, action for us to accept...and desires to find us in the same frame of reference as He found Mary—"behold the handmaid of the Lord" (Luke 1:38).   We must, on purpose, possess such humility.  Remember that Mary did not have previous knowledge she was "highly favored."  God observes and takes note of those servants who are willing to be used of Him. It will require saying no to self—hard anytime of year—but especially during the holiday season.  It will require submission.  It will require complete obedience.  But those requirements are easier to fulfill when we see ourselves as who we really are.  Placing our eyes squarely on the Master each and every morning, "as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress" and expecting the Lord to speak—even the unfathomable!