Devotional

What Did Mary Know?

…the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph…The virgin’s name was Mary…. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son and shall call His name JESUS.” The Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.”  (Luke 1:26, 27, 30, 31, 38.)

“Mary, Did You Know” is a beautiful song originally by Mark Lowry (lyrics) and Buddy Greene (melody).  The song asks Mary, the mother of Jesus, if she knew her Baby Boy would walk on water, calm the storm, heal, save people, and one day rule the nations. It got me wondering, what did Mary know based on Scripture? What did she probably know about the Lord before she made her decision to obey what the angel Gabriel told her?

image by FSJ-FSP on Pixabay


 Historians think Mary was a young girl, probably around fourteen years old. Over 2,000 years ago women usually were not educated, so she probably didn’t study the Torah with a rabbi or prophets.  Her spiritual education was learned at the synagogue or at home.

Mary knew that God knew her, a girl from Nazareth. The angel called her by name and told her she had found favor with God.

Mary knew what the angel told her about the conception of her Baby, and that He would be holy.  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born is to be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:34-35) Just imagine being told you were going to raise the Son of God! What an overwhelming task.  

Mary knew part of this Holy One’s future. “He will be great, and will be called the son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of his father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.” (Luke 1:32, 33)

Did Mary know her Son would someday hang on a cross? Did she know He would be resurrected? I doubt it. The spiritual leaders of the day didn’t recognize that the Messiah would come as a humble servant and save them from their sins through His death and resurrection. They were looking for a political rescue from the Romans.

Mary’s words in Luke 1:46-55 tell us that she knew that God was her Savior. She knew the Lord was mighty; He scattered the proud and put down the mighty from their thrones. He exalted the lowly. “He has filled the hungry with good things.” Perhaps she knew the Lord provided from her own poor childhood experiences. Mary knew the Lord had come to Israel’s deliverance in the past, and would in the future, for she said “He has helped His servant Israel, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed forever.”

Mary also knew her culture. She must have feared the gossip. How would she tell Joseph and family and friends that this Baby was conceived through the Holy Spirit? No one would believe her. She and Joseph would be judged as sinners, having conceived a child outside of marriage. Worse yet, Joseph knew the baby would not be his; he could have her stoned for immorality!

Yet Mary chose to submit to God. “Let it be to me according to your word.”

Mary trusted the Lord enough to overcome the fears and the shame her obedience would cost her. She rejoices! “Henceforth all generations will call me blessed.”

* * *

What do we know of the Lord, and does it lead to our obedience to Him? Do we willingly submit to God’s will and to what He asks us to do? Do we find favor with God? Do we rejoice? Are we following Jesus and becoming more like Him? What has God asked you to do?

Dear Lord, thank you for the best gift ever, my Savior, Jesus Christ. No gift is greater. Please forgive me for those times I do not obey. Please help me become more like You. Amen.

Devotional

Happy Thanksgiving! Reflections on Gratitude

by Kathryn Hughes and special guest Marcy James

Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good. His love endures forever. Psalm 136:1

Thanksgiving Day is the one day of the year that we deliberately try to express our thankfulness to others and to God who provides all things and shows His great love towards us. How wonderful it would be if we all were thankful to God and to others all of the time.

Thanksgiving is the act of giving thanks. It is grateful acknowledgment of benefits or favors, especially to God. It shows an attitude of gratitude. Thanksgiving is also part of Christian maturity.

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  (Colossians 2:6, 7 NIV)

My friend Marcy James overflows with thankfulness. She is one of the most grateful people I’ve ever met. She expresses her gratitude for even the smallest thing one does for her or says to her. She shares her thankfulness to God as well as to others. I asked her to write her thoughts on gratitude:

“Right now there’s someone happy who has much less than you.”  Those words were on a poster at my daughter’s first school.  It’s a simple statement about gratitude that gave me pause and had me thinking about what “much less” is.  I’ve seen “much less” in China when a man with no legs used as his wheel chair one of those boards with casters mechanics use to slide under cars.  He propelled himself with his hands against the frigid winter road.  It’s not hard to see those with “much more” who somehow have it hard, but in a different way.  That might beg the question, “What is the source of happiness?”  But maybe the bigger question is, “Why are ‘much less’ and ‘much more’ not really a factor?”  I think the unmentioned factor is Christianity.  The love of God, the promise of salvation in Christ, the very loyal support of the Body of Christ all put this world in perspective.  The Word of God sharpens our focus on how to navigate our own trials and tribulations and still have the Fruits of the Spirit, which include joy and peace.  Vacation Bible School often speaks of God sightings, and the most moving God sightings to me have been kindness and compassion in others towards others.  The youngest of children can point them out.  Anytime someone of any age does something helpful, says something helpful, it’s a God sighting sent to you and the only possible response is thankfulness to that person and to God above and to pass that blessing on. 

I want to become more like my friend Marcy. I confess that I too often take things for granted. Unwritten thank you notes sit near my desk, as I substitute a quick verbal thank you for a gift or for an act of kindness from others. I thank God regularly for my food, but how often do I thank Him for the air I breathe, or for the sunrise I saw on my way to work? I’m learning to be more grateful.

Giving thanks to God is shown and taught throughout Scripture. Psalm 100 shows that thankfulness is more than words. Note the attitude and actions in the Psalm. (Underlines are mine.) May we be thankful and show our gratitude first to God, and then to others.

Make a joyful shout to the LORD, all you lands!

Serve the LORD with gladness;
Come before His presence with singing.

Know that the LORD, He is God;
It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves;

We are His people and the sheep of His pasture.

Enter into His gates with thanksgiving,
And into His courts with praise.
Be thankful to Him,
and bless His name.

For the LORD is good;
His mercy is everlasting,
And His truth endures to all generations.

Anytime someone of any age does something helpful, says something helpful, it’s a God sighting sent to you and the only possible response is thankfulness to that person and to God above and to pass that blessing on. ” ~ Marcy James

Dear Gracious Heavenly Father, thank you for being You. Thank you for Your faithfulness, for being my provider, and for Your unconditional love which You showed through the death and resurrection of Your Son, Jesus Christ, to rescue me from the punishment for my sins. Thank you for Your care for me. In Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Thanksgiving Fall photo by Hudsoncrafted on Pixabay

Devotional

The Lord Keeps His Promises

When Storm Clouds Gather series, devotional # 8

Then God said to Noah and his sons, “I solemnly promise you and your children and the animals you have brought with you…that I will never again send another flood to destroy the earth. And I seal this promise with this sign: I have placed My rainbow in the clouds as a sign of My promise until the end of time, to you and to all the earth.” (Genesis 9:8-13 LB)

Noah and his family went through a terrible storm, the flooding of the whole earth. They lost not only their home, but friends and neighbors. It must have been reassuring to know God promised not to destroy everything with another flood, and to see His bow as a sign of that promise when storm clouds gathered. They experienced how the Lord carried them safely through the storm. They saw God’s power and His redemption in their lives.

I have seen God’s power and redemption in my own life. My health is good. I’m cancer free. Relationships that were once tumultuous are now calm and loving. My husband is employed after periods of job losses. It encourages me to know that the Lord keeps His promises, for He is faithful and trustworthy. When storm clouds gather, it helps me to look back at how the Lord has carried me through to the other side. Reading His love letter to us reassures me as I read His promises in Scripture.

Image by Navallo on Pixabay

Below are some of God’s promises that mean a lot to me. I hope they bring you joy and peace.

  • Promises of forgiveness
    • I write to you, little children, for your sins are forgiven you for His name’s sake. (I John 2:12)
    • Psalm 103 is full of King David’s praise for who the Lord is and His forgiveness.  
  • Assurance of Salvation
    • For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.  John 3:16 (RSV)
    • Romans 10:8-13   If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For man believes in his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. Verses 9-10
  • God will finish His work in me and in loved ones
    • Philippians 1:6; I Thessalonians 5:23-24
  • God’s Holy Spirit lives in me 
    • John 14:15-18
  • The Lord will never leave me.
    • Matthew 28:20; Hebrews 13:5
  • He will guide me:
    • He has good plans for me that will give me a future and a hope.  Jeremiah 29:11
    • God will give me wisdom when I ask without doubting. James 1:2-8
    • The Lord will teach and lead me. Psalm 25
    • The Holy Spirit will guide me in all truth.  John 16:12-15
  • The Lord loves and cares for me. 
    • Psalm 23; I John 4:19; Ephesians 5:25; Psalm 139
  • My ultimate future- I will spend eternity with Jesus Christ.
    • I Thessalonians 4:13-18; John 14:1-3, 6
  • God is faithful to keep His promises
    • Hebrews 10:23; Numbers 23:19

What are some of God’s promises that are meaningful to you? May we not just read them, but absorb God’s promises into our lives and cling to them. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10:23 (NKJV)

Dear Lord, I give You thanks for your many promises. I praise You for Your faithfulness. Amen.

Devotional

“Prepare for Storms: Eliminate Leaks”

When Storm Clouds Gather  series devotional #3

By Kathryn Hughes

…clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for “God is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.      (I Peter 5:5-7 NASB)

Leaks in our spiritual life are dangerous. Just as a leak in a boat can cause it to sink, leaks in our spiritual life will cause us damage. A leak may be sin in our life. It can be pride, or anything else that keeps us from following God wholeheartedly. One of my struggles is handling things on my own instead of giving them to God. I’ll make plans without even consulting Him, and then try to make my plans succeed. For instance, I realized part way in my planning of this devotional series that I was planning out what to say before asking the Lord what He wanted me to share. After I stopped to ask Him what to write, He sent me back to my Bible and computer-+.  Me, handle something better than God? That’s my foolish pride.

The Apostle Peter learned his lesson about pride. Jesus told His disciples on the night He was betrayed that they would all be made to stumble because of Him, but Peter was adamant that even if all the others stumbled, he would not. Even after Jesus told Peter he would deny Jesus three times, Peter said, “If I have to die with You, I will not deny You!” (Mark 14:27-31 NKJV) Peter was relying on himself. To his great sorrow, he learned that his pride and confidence were not enough.

Sometimes the leak in our boat may be fear, or a lack of faith. Matthew 14:22-33 describes Jesus walking across the water through the wave-tossed sea. The disciples saw Him from the boat and were afraid, but Jesus told them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” At that, Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus told him to come, and Peter did. He walked on the water. What faith!

But Peter’s faith sprung a leak; seeing the wind, he became frightened and began to sink. Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus cared for Peter. He caught him by the hand and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

I can almost hear Jesus say the same thing to me. Can you? Why do we doubt? Why do we have little faith, when we have such a faithful God? Why do we allow sin to get in the way of our relationship with Him?

May we learn the lessons that Peter learned and shares with us. Humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.  

Let’s plug our leaks before we sink. Let’s humble ourselves and really look at who we are and Who God is. May we carefully examine our motives, thoughts, and pride, and then confess our sin to the Lord. What fears and leaks in our faith need to be brought before Jesus? Let’s cast them on Jesus, for He cares for us.

Dear Lord Jesus, I confess my sin of pride. Please forgive me for doing things my way. Help me trust You and to hold on to faith when the waves are high. In Jesus’ powerful name, I pray. Amen.

Lighthouse in the storm image by mollyroselee from Pixabay https://pixabay.com/users/mollyroselee-9214707/

Boat in storm Photo by Myriam Zilles on Pixabay https://pixabay.com/users/myriams-fotos-1627417/

Devotional

“Don’t Worry – The Gift of Peace”

When Storm Clouds Gather devotional series #2

By Kathryn Hughes

“Therefore, do not worry, saying, “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we drink?” or “What shall we wear?”…For your Heavenly Father knows that you need these things. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you. (Matthew 6:31, 32b, 33 NKJV)

“In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, what circumstances will I face when school resumes on campus?” That’s a question I’ve asked myself a lot lately. I love teaching gardening and library, and as a teacher’s aide I’m also on the playground. However, the concern of bringing home illness stifles my usual excitement for a new school year.

My Heavenly Father knows my anxieties. Even better, He knows what I need (Matthew 6:25-34). He knows my future down to the smallest detail.

So why do I allow myself to fret? I can’t change my circumstances. But I can change my focus from my situation to focus on God, His salvation, His character, His love for me, and His promises. I must choose to do so, for fear is all too consuming of my energy and peace.

Worry is also disobedience, for Jesus Christ said, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life…” (Matthew 6:25 emphasis mine) Worry is not trusting God; it is in effect saying we know better than God, or that we don’t believe He can handle our problems. He doesn’t want us stressed or anxious. He wants to give us peace. Jesus tells us, I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid. (John 14:27 NLT)

Photo by Ralph W. lambrecht on Pexels.com

It’s time I replaced my apprehensions with something better. Maybe you need to get out of the anxious whirlwind, too. Jesus gives us the antidote. Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.

Let’s seek God in prayer. Let’s confess our sins, and give that worry list to Jesus. One method is to write down those areas where we have been disobedient to God’s instructions or we are sinking in those negative attitudes. Then, after bringing them to God for forgiveness, cross them out by writing “paid in full” repeatedly until the offense is no longer visible.

We can replace negative thoughts and attitudes with peaceful ones. We can write down verses that address what makes us fearful, or what we are struggling with that keeps us from resting in His peace. A concordance helps in finding verses that relate to a specific topic or word or phrase.  Find a verse that encourages your heart to focus more on God and then place that card in a prominent spot where you will see it.  Read it, over and over, until His truth starts to replace the worry, behavior, attitude, or fear with His calm, resting peace

Shall we worry? No. Our Heavenly Father cares for us.

Dear Heavenly Father, Please forgive me. I have piled the cares of this world onto my back instead of trusting You to care for me. I confess this is sin. Your Son, Jesus, died to save me, so You certainly will not turn Your back on me. Please help me to seek You first, to look for Your kingdom and righteousness. Thank You for Your deep love for me. Amen.

Lighthouse in the storm image by mollyroselee from Pixabay