Malankara World Journal Childhood of Jesus
Volume 5 No. 256 January 3, 2015
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
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This Sunday in Church
This Week's Features
Luke tells us that Jesus grew up. He increased in the important areas of spirit, wisdom and grace. I believe that the Lord Jesus became more and more aware in his human mind, just who he was and where He came from. I have entitled this message, Growing Up, because that's exactly what Jesus was doing in the passage before us this morning. His growing up is a reminder that's something every Christian should be doing no matter how long we have been in the faith. Philippians 3:12-14 ...
Mary demonstrates a life of faith and obedience. She vividly illustrates the reflective life and what it means to go forth in faithfulness when one's heart is breaking and has no idea what lies ahead. Like Mary, we would do well to treasure up all these things. We sometimes treasure old hurts and slights and take them out and study them, looking for new reasons to resent someone. We are known to treasure seductive memories and from time to time pull them out in secret and savor their forbidden pleasures all over again. Some will unearth the memory of ancient sins which did great damage at the time and which the Lord has forgiven. We pull them out in secret and mull over them, to our detriment. ...
11. Power Goals
Christmas and New Year's season is a very busy time for all of us. It is also a very busy time for the church. Unfortunately, with several important events/feasts occurring at a short period, many of them are not given the importance they deserve. Here is a list of events starting at Christmas: December 25 - Yeldho/Christmas
December 26 - Glorification of St. Mary
December 27 - Martyrdom of Infants
January 1 - Circumcision of the Lord
January 6 - Denho/Baptism of the Lord
January 7 - Martyrdom of John the Baptist
January 8 - Martyrdom of Stephen and December 28 - 1st Sunday after Yeldo
January 1 - New Year's Day
January 5 - 2nd Sunday after Yeldo To cover these events, Malankara World Journal will publish 2 extra editions - a special edition for New Years Day and a special edition for Denho - in addition to the regular weekly editions. This edition of the Journal will highlight the early childhood of Jesus. The next edition (to be released on January 5) will cover Denho, a very important feast of the church and will cover the sacrament of Baptism. This Sunday is also the 11th anniversary of the Consecration of Theethose Thirumeni, the Archbishop and Patriarchal Vicar of the Malankara Archdiocese of the Syriac Orthodox Church in North America. Last year we had published a souvenir edition to celebrate His Eminence's tenth anniversary of consecration. We wish His Eminence all the Best. On last Saturday (December 27, 2014), Theethose Thirumeni ordained Deacon Martin Vadakedathu as Fr. Martin Vadakedathu. We offer our congratulations to Martin achen and his family. On January 4, 2015, Theethose thirumeni will ordain Dn. Renjan Mathew Vengacheril as a priest at St. Ignatius Church, Dallas, TX. Dr. Renjan is a prolific writer and has contributed to Malankara World in the past. We offer our best wishes to Dr. Renjan on this important turning point in his life. We wish all of our readers and family a very Happy New Year. A special thanks to our advisory board members. Dr. Jacob Mathew
11th Anniversary of Consecration - Sunday, January 4, 2015
We salute the Patron of Malankara World. To learn more about thirumeni, please read the Souvenir Supplement of Malankara World Journal published last year on the tenth anniversary of the consecration of Thirumeni.
Volume 4 No 188: January 4, 2014
The photo above shows Thirumeni in reflection/meditation during a sacrament. We see photos of Thirumeni in official vestments all the time. We want to publish something different.
Photo by Dr. Jacob Mathew, Malankara World.
This Sunday in Church
This Week's Features
by Kay Arthur
I Have to Be About My Father's Affairs - Luke 2:49Have you ever had to release loved ones to the Lord's call on their lives - to work that would take them far from you and lead them down hard, dangerous paths? Countless books are filled with stories of people who left everything to serve God - people like Hudson Taylor, Andrew Murray, C. T. Studd, Isobel Kuhn, D. L. Moody, Madame Guyon, Calvin, Luther… I could go on and on. These models of faith have nurtured my soul through the years, inspiring me to be faithful. Their willingness to leave family and friends, to suffer hardship, endure scorn and rejection, separate from loved ones for long periods of time, and face the possibility of imprisonment and death have strengthened me to take up my cross and follow the Lord's path of service. But sending a loved one away with our blessing is another matter. It cuts against our natural instincts, doesn't it? Especially children! We want them with us, in the security of a single home. We want to see them, be with them, grow up and grow old with them and their children. It's our nature to shelter and protect them. Yet there comes a time, as in Mary and Joseph's lives, when we must let our loved ones go to do their Father's affairs. When Simeon stood in the temple and took the eight-day-old Jesus from Mary's arms, he told her, " 'Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed - and a sword will pierce even your own soul…' " (Luke 2:34,35). The early years of Jesus' life would be all the time she had to prepare for this pain. Twelve years after Simeon spoke this prophecy, Mary, Joseph, and their family made their annual trip to Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. When returning, they assumed Jesus was somewhere among their fellow travelers. He was twelve and able to take care of Himself among friends and family, so they hadn't worried about Him. But after a full day of travel, Mary discovered that He was missing. If you're a parent, you understand this, don't you? Your child has gone to play, to spend the day with people you trust, but when you go to pick him up, he's not there. Your heart sinks. You look, you call, you ask, but to no avail - no one has seen him. Fear grips your heart. Where is he? You try to think about where he was last. You struggle not to panic; maybe you do. Mary and Joseph knew Jesus was not in the caravan. He had to be somewhere between where they were now and where they had last seen Him in Jerusalem. Each step back to the city must have brought agony, self-recriminations; possibly even strong words between Mary and Joseph about why the other hadn't checked on their son earlier. We don't know. Jerusalem was a long day's journey back - too long for anxious parents. After they arrived, they couldn't find their son in the city. Where should they look? Whom should they ask? It took three days to locate Him "in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking them questions." Mary was every bit the distressed mother when she said, " 'Son, why have You treated us this way? Behold, Your father and I have been anxiously looking for You.' " As a mother, I'm impressed by her restraint! Jesus had been missing for nearly five days! His reply is astonishing: " ‘Why is it that you were looking for Me? Did You not know that I had to be in My Father's house?' " In order, the Greek text reads, "in the of My Father." Because the word "the" is neuter plural ("the things"), the New American Standard gives a literal translation - "in the things of My Father" - in its margin. But the "things" are not difficult to determine from the context - Jesus knew He had to be about His Father's business, affairs, work, will, plan. Did Mary and Joseph forget that first and foremost Jesus belonged to God, that He was truly God's Son, not theirs? This often happens to parents, doesn't it? We give birth, then pour out our lives, nurturing, feeding, clothing, disciplining, and educating our children. Somewhere along the line, we forget that it was God who gave them to us - He chose the exact sperm and egg to unite; He knit them together in the womb; He numbered their days; He created them for His pleasure primarily, not ours. Could Mary hold on to Jesus? No! God would give her only another eighteen years. He would return to Nazareth with His parents and be known as "the carpenter's son." He would submit to them and grow in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and with man in their care. But when He was thirty, He would leave and begin His public ministry. His Father's business would bring Him rejection, pain, scorn, false accusations, plots and attempts against His life, betrayal of a close disciple, denial by those closest to Him, separation from His heavenly Father for a time, and finally death - a death, according to the prophet Isaiah, greater than any man has ever suffered before or since. This is what the Father had for Him, and the Son of God would accept it all - willingly and for our sakes. What was Jesus doing for the five days He was separated from His parents? Even though He was God in the flesh, He was listening to and asking questions of the great teachers in the temple. What humility! What an example for us! How many of us have rushed into ministry before being prepared, because we did not humbly sit at the feet of teachers? How many of us have not taken the time to formulate and ask questions that would increase our knowledge and understanding? Have you ever considered that although Jesus was God and fully understood His mission, He did not rush into ministry? Instead, He waited for His Father to move. When God did move, Jesus was ready; He was prepared; He understood the purpose of life - that each of us is born for God's pleasure. We are here to do His will - whatever it is, wherever it takes us, no matter the cost. Mary "treasured all these things in her heart" (Luke 2:51), and when the time came, she and Joseph let their son go. Although we hear no more about Joseph, we know Mary participated in her son's ministry. She wasn't cut off from His spiritual life. And neither are we, Beloved, when we are physically separated from our loved ones. Even if they are "absent in body," they are "present in spirit" (1 Corinthians 5:3). Yes, Mary's soul was pierced through as with a sword when she watched evil men jeer and crucify her son. But she also witnessed His resurrection. Think hard, Beloved, when a sword has pierced your heart; think beyond the present to the hope that is yours in Jesus now and to the joy that will be yours in the final resurrection! If "the affairs of your Father" are the primary purpose of your life, joy will indeed be yours. Source: Precepts For Life
Gospel: Luke 2:40-52 There is nothing more adorable than a baby.
There is nothing more tragic than a baby who never grows up, who remains forever a baby, forever a child. There is nothing more exciting than a person being born into the family of God, which is, becoming a "born-again Christian", a child of God.
There is nothing more disappointing than a born-again Christian that does grow and mature in the Christian life. 2 Peter 3:18
Vs. 40 – Luke tells us that Jesus grew up. He increased in the important areas of spirit, wisdom and grace. I believe that the Lord Jesus became more and more aware in his human mind, just who he was and where He came from. I have entitled this message, Growing Up, because that's exactly what Jesus was doing in the passage before us this morning. His growing up is a reminder that's something every Christian should be doing no matter how long we have been in the faith. Philippians 3:12-14 Let's see how Jesus grew up, and try to follow His example. HE PURSUED HIS FATHER Vs. 41 – Originally there were three feasts in Jerusalem that the men were required to attend during the course of a year. They were Pentecost, the feast of the Tabernacles, and the Passover. By the time Jesus came, many Jews attended just one of the three festivals in a year. It was Joseph and Mary's custom to come to the Passover.
Joseph and Mary were a good example of setting a Godly example in the home.
Whatever example you set, your children will likely follow. Proverbs 22:6 - Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.
To "train up a child" you as a parent must set the example. Vs. 42 – At twelve or thirteen years old a Jewish boy was embarking on manhood. Probably at thirteen, or perhaps as early as 12, a boy was admitted into the synagogue as an adult. At this age the child was considered to be a "son of the commandment" Vs. 43-44 – How could this have happened?
It was really quite simple.
The family would have traveling with other families.
This was for safety in numbers as the group traveled through some dangerous areas.
A time and place was set for the group to leave. Usually the women and children traveled ahead of the men.
Mary could have considered Jesus to be with Joseph.
Joseph could have thought that Jesus was with Mary.
Or, perhaps they thought that Jesus was with the neighborhood children.
Please bear in mind that Jesus was sinless.
He was never irresponsible.
The parents had no reason to think that Jesus was not in the group. Vs. 45 – The parents of course, would have been frantic and returned to Jerusalem to see if they could find their son! Vs. 46 – You can imagine the parents' relief when they found the Lord Jesus. You can also imagine their consternation that he hadn't headed for home when he was supposed to. Jesus was found in God's house the temple.
He was sitting among the learned teachers of His day, and "soaking it in". He was both listening to the teaching and asking insightful questions. Vs. 48 – Was Jesus wrong? Mary seemed to think so, because Jesus had inconvenience them. But the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus was sinless, so this couldn't have been wrong. Vs. 49 – Jesus speaks to his mother about two very important topics – identity and priorities. As to identity, at age 12 Jesus knew who he was.
He knew that He was the Son of God.
Therefore, Jesus realized that He had to be obedient to His heavenly Father ever more than He was to be obedient to his earthly parents. That leads to his priorities.
I think that Jesus was basically asking his parents why they had so much trouble finding him.
Jesus said, "Didn't you know I had to be about my Father's business. Jesus knew that it was time for Him to learn and grow.
So, he was in his father's house doing just that.
All through His life, Jesus was about His Father's business.
Whether He was spending time alone with His Father in prayer, or teaching, or healing, or training the disciples, or confronting His enemies, he was always about His Father's business. Hebrews 10:7,
John 4:34 In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus, yielded His own personal will to God, saying, "Nevertheless, not my will, but thine be done". The phrase to be about my father's business can also mean to be about my father's house.
Jesus was the Son so He was concerned about being in, worshipping in, and learning in, His Father's House. The Jews of Jesus day would not have referred to God as their Father. The Old Testament did not emphasize that truth, because it really wasn't true on a personal basis until Jesus came. Jesus could indeed call God "Father".
And Jesus taught us to call Him, Father, as well.
On what basis can you and I call God, "Father"? We can call God "Father" when we place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as our Savior, as the one who died for our sins to give us eternal life. When we trust Jesus as our Savior, believing in Him as the only way of salvation, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life, we are "born again" and born into the Family of God. John 1:12-13, So, at the point of salvation God becomes our "Father" in an intimate way. Romans 8:15-16 If we are God's children, shouldn't be "about our Father's House"?
Our Father's house is where God dwells.
Our Father's house today is very easy to find.
Our Father's house is where God dwells.
God dwells inside of us. We are God's house.
We are God's temple. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 Jesus says, I must be about my Father's business.
As we already saw, to do the will of God was the most important priority of Jesus' life. The priority of Jesus is His Father's house, His Father's business. It is a must that He do what the Father wants Him to do! Just think of what you and I will be saying if we follow Jesus' example and say "I must be about my Father's business." When things are a must, they get done!
With God's help, let's make the right things a must in our lives.
I need to learn to say, you need to learn to say, "I MUST!" Vs. 50 – Notice that his parents didn't understand.
And guess what? Not everyone is going to understand when you start making sacrifices to do God's will.
We have to decide. Are we going to please God or please man? Jesus grew. HE PURSUED HIS FATHER
HE PRACTICED SUBMISSION The incident in the temple was over.
They went home. Vs. 51 – Notice what hadn't changed.
Jesus continued to do what He was told. When it came to specific issues concerning God, He obeyed God. That's why He had stayed at the temple.
When it came to living in the home His Heavenly Father had given Him, Jesus was submissive. He did as He was told. Jesus submitted to God first.
But He also submitted to those who were in authority over Him. There is a lesson here, being submissive to God, being totally yielded to Him is important. Romans 1:21 But as we are submissive to God we will also be submissive to those who God wants us to be submissive to. 1. We are to be submissive to our parents when under their authority. Colossians 3:20 2. Wives are to be submissive to husbands. Colossians 3:18-19 3. Churches are to be submissive to their leaders. Hebrews 13:17 4. Everyone is to be submissive to each other. Ephesians 5:21 Remember, Jesus was superior to Mary and Joseph, but He submitted to them because He submitted to God first.
Not everyone you will be asked to submit to will be as good or as capable as you.
But God will want you to submit to them because you are submissive to Him. Jesus was growing up.
HE PURSUED HIS FATHER
HE PRACTICED SUBMISSION
HE PROCEEDED TO MATURE Luke 2:52 - And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man. Now we see that there was a normal process of development for our Lord. He grew in four areas that everyone of us should grow in. HE GREW INTELLECTUALLY - wisdom
HE GREW PHYSICALLY - stature
HE GREW SPIRITUALLY - favor with God
HE GREW SOCIALLY - favor with man And we too, should grow in these areas:
· Intellectually - Continuing to accrue the right kind of wisdom.
The right kind of wisdom has the fear of God at the center of it.
Proverbs 9:10 - The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding. Proverbs 15:33 - The fear of the Lord is the instruction of wisdom; and before honour is humility.
· Physically - Taking care of our bodies.
· Spiritually - Continuing to grow in grace and knowledge.
Philippians 3:10 - That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death;
· Socially - Making friends and being a good testimony.
Romans 15:7 - Wherefore receive ye one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Matthew 5:16 - Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. Jesus grew up. HE PURSUED HIS FATHER
HE PRACTICED SUBMISSION
HE PROCEEDED TO MATURE Will you do the same? source: www.sermonseeds.org
by Robert B. Kruschwitz, Baylor UniversityThe mystery of God's incarnation in the child Jesus is a memorable theme in the Gospel of Luke. Why is it important that Jesus "grew and became strong, filled with wisdom" through the influence of his human family? Prayer Scripture Reading: Luke 2:39-52 Responsive Reading (1) Within the Father's house
the Son has found his home;
and to his temple suddenly
the Lord of Life has come.
The doctors of the law
gaze on the wondrous child,
and marvel at his gracious words
of wisdom undefiled. Lord, visit then our souls,
and teach us by your grace
each dim revealing of yourself
with loving awe to trace;
till we behold your face,
and know, as we are known,
you, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,
co-equal Three in One. Reflection Luke records two stories about Jesus' childhood: his presentation in the temple as a newborn (2:22-39) and his visit to the temple for Passover when he was twelve years old (2:41-52). The latter is depicted in "Jesus Among the Doctors," a colorful manuscript illumination from circa 1400-10. The temple location and other details emphasize that Mary and Joseph faithfully raised their son according to Jewish law. They took him to be circumcised as "required by the law of the Lord" (2:21, 39) and traveled each year as a family to the Passover festival (2:41). On his twelfth Passover visit, Jesus stays behind for three days, "sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions" (2:46). As he shares the ideas and questions stirring in his heart and surely nurtured by his parents' care, the gathered teachers "were amazed at his understanding and his answers" to their replies. When his anxious parents finally find him, Jesus says: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" After all, they had faithfully brought Jesus to the temple for years! "Despite his enjoyment of what he was doing and the fact that neither Mary nor Joseph understands him, Jesus obediently follows them. From this point, Mary's role in the story takes a different tone," Hornik notes. "While continuing as the loving mother who will guide her son, she must accept not only the sometimes painful separation as he matures, but also the deep mystery of the earthly role given him by his Father." In his human family, Jesus grew physically, intellectually, and spiritually in ways that please God and humans (2:40, 52). By carefully choosing words that echo 1 Samuel 2:26 ("Now the boy Samuel was growing in stature and in favor both with the LORD and with men"), Luke relates the loving sacrifices of Mary and Joseph to those of Hannah and Elkanah, who selflessly dedicated their child Samuel to God's service in the temple. These stories are the last time the gospels mention Joseph. "We must assume, as the many writers of various legends and apocryphal stories throughout the later centuries did," Hornik writes, "that [Jesus] was taught by his father Joseph the skills and wisdom learned from his own life as a carpenter." Indeed the people of Nazareth associated Jesus with his father: "Is not this Joseph's son?" and "Is not this the carpenter's son?" they wondered when Jesus spoke with prophetic wisdom in their synagogue (Luke 4:22 and Matthew 13:55). Gerrit van Honthorst's Childhood of Christ, imagines the young Jesus assisting his carpenter father as he works into the night (Children, p. 36). The candle he holds to light the piece of wood on which Joseph is working has religious iconographic significance, reminding us that Jesus is the light of the world. Study Questions 1. How is Jesus depicted as both a teacher and a pupil in Jesus Among the Doctors? What insights into Luke 2:41-51 do you gain from this manuscript illumination? 2. Compare and contrast Luke 2:40 and 2:52. How do these verses guide our interpretation of Jesus' visit to the temple? 3. What might children enjoy in Childhood of Jesus and in Jesus Among the Doctors? 4. According to "O Master Workman of the Race," how does the carpenter of Nazareth inspire and guide our lives? Hymn: "O Master Workman of the Race" O Master Workman of the race, O Man of Galilee,
who with the eyes of early youth eternal things did see,
we thank you for your boyhood faith
that shone your whole life through;
"Did you not know it is my work, my Father's work to do?" O carpenter of Nazareth, builder of life divine,
who fashions us to God's own law, yourself the fair design,
build us a tower of Christ-like height,
that we the land may view,
and see, like you, our noblest work, our Father's work to do. O Lord, who does the vision send and gives to each the task,
and with the task sufficient strength,
show us your will, we ask;
give us a conscience bold and good, give us a purpose true,
that it may be our highest joy our Father's work to do. Jay T. Stocking (1912), alt. Reference: (1) "Within the Father's House," vv. 1, 2, 5, & 7, James R. Woodford (1863), alt. About The Author: Robert B. Kruschwitz, the author of this study guide, directs 'The Center for Christian Ethics' at Baylor University. He serves as General Editor of Christian Reflection. © 2003 The Center for Christian Ethics, Baylor University
by Dr. Joe McKeever
"But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart." (Luke 2:19)We have become a generation of non-thinkers. We enter the house and flip on computers and television. We slide into our cars and hit the switch for radios and CD-players. We go for walks with earbuds streaming nonstop chatter and music. In our bedrooms, we set dials to certain music or talk programs to lull us to sleep and others to wake us up. In doing so, we deprive ourselves of a vital aspect of life, a major component of the Christian faith in particular. We fail to meditate on the things of God. From the beginning, God has intended that His people would be reflective, would read His word and give thought to what they found there, would wake up in the middle of the night and lie there in thought on divine matters.
"I remember your Name in the night, O Lord…." (Psalm 119:55).Now, the Lord has left certain treasures lying on the surface, perhaps to entice the children to come over and search deeper. But the best treasures-the mother lode of His riches-are rarely left exposed in full view, but await the diligent workman underneath the surface, yielding their wealth only to those willing to dig and study, to wait and think, to obey and pray and dig a little deeper. Mary got it so right. Little wonder all generations since have held her in such high esteem, even if some may have overdone the matter. Mary demonstrates a life of faith and obedience. She vividly illustrates the reflective life and what it means to go forth in faithfulness when one's heart is breaking and has no idea what lies ahead. - Like Mary, we would do well to treasure up all these things. We sometimes treasure old hurts and slights and take them out and study them, looking for new reasons to resent someone. We are known to treasure seductive memories and from time to time pull them out in secret and savor their forbidden pleasures all over again. Some will unearth the memory of ancient sins which did great damage at the time and which the Lord has forgiven. We pull them out in secret and mull over them, to our detriment. We are such sinners. - Like Mary, we would do well to ponder these matters. In his aptly titled "Eat This Book," Eugene Peterson says the word "meditate" from Psalm 1 ("on that law doth he meditate day and night") suggests what a dog can do with a large bone. He gnaws on it, buries it, comes back later, uncovers it and chews on it more. He reburies it, and continues to return to work on that bone until one day it is no more. Where exactly is that bone now? Inside the dog. It has become a part of him. In the same way, God wills that His word would become part of us. In the wonderful Christmas story, here are treasures which cry out for God's people to read and love, to retain in our minds and hearts, and from time to time take out and reflect upon. To gnaw on, if you will. GABRIEL: How the Lord's angel operated. With old Zacharias in Luke 1:20-21, Gabriel shows himself to be rather short of patience when he strikes the questioning father-to-be with silence for an entire 9-month period until his son is born. We want to say, "Hey, ease up! He had a right to ask his question!" In Luke 1:35-37, Gabriel is unusually patient and understanding with Mary, the maiden of Nazareth, when she asks basically the same question - "How can this be?". What's going on here? If Gabriel were human - and he is not, do not miss that - we might say he's a lot like us. Truthfully, I'm prone to be a lot more patient and sympathetic with a sweet young lady than to a crotchety old geezer (someone like myself). Is it something that basic (so shallow, so simple)? or does Gabriel see that behind Zacharias' question is unbelief while faith stands guard behind Mary's question? We are not given answers, but this is well worth thinking about. In the process, we might learn something about ourselves. MARY: How the handmaiden of the Lord believed. The Lord hand-picked this young lady. How good is that? Now, there is a beauty contest worth the winning! (Beauty of a different type, to be sure, but beauty nonetheless. What the Apostle Peter called "the hidden person of the heart" in I Peter 3:4.) - The angel called Mary "favored." Anyone chosen by the Father to serve Him is honored and should respond respectfully, gratefully, and promptly. After a few exchanges, Mary gets her response right: "Behold, the handmaiden (bondslave) of the Lord." (Luke 1:38). - She had faith but she also had questions. There is nothing wrong with questions, and may we say, nothing wrong with honest doubt. After all, it's not as though immaculate conceptions and virgin births took place every day. - She was strong into contemplating. "She was greatly troubled at this statement and kept pondering what kind of salutation this might be." (1:29) Why was she troubled? Put yourself in her shoes and I think you can figure this one out! She asked questions, she was respectful, she thought about what she had been told, and finally she submitted to the Lord. Good pattern for all of us. ELIZABETH: What did she know and what did it mean to her? That line which faithful Catholics have recited for centuries and which fills the air space between here and Heaven every day and night was first voiced by Elizabeth, the cousin of Mary: "Blessed among women are you, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!" I'm no Catholic, but gladly add my tiny voice to all the others as we bless God, praise this precious lady, and worship the Son. You have to wonder, however, how much of the big picture did Elizabeth know? When the baby moved within her womb, Scripture says she was "filled with the Holy Spirit" and uttered this blessing. Then she asked, "How is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?" (1:43) She seems to have known a good bit. Perhaps later she remembered little or none of this, and went through the same stages of wondering, questioning, doubting, and believing as so many other relatives of our Lord. Bear in mind, however: Luke got this story from somebody. In 1:2 he makes no secret of having done his research and received these accounts from "eyewitnesses and servants of the word." So, conceivably (bad pun), his source was either Elizabeth or Mary herself. (I'm betting Mary. After all, she alone could have been his "primary source" for the Gabriel account.) ZACHARIAS: The new papa speaks! That dad was one proud fellow. No one received a cigar from Zacharias that day, but what he handed out was far better. - A long pent-up burst of praise. To be silent for nearly a year, and then allowed to speak, what would his first words be? (When the USA was sending the first manned mission to the moon, there was endless speculation on the first words to be uttered on that "other world." The choice was left to astronaut Neil Armstrong, the man who would speak them. Millions across the world heard him say, "That's one small step for a man; one giant leap for mankind.") - Zacharias blesses God-and for what? For "visiting us," for keeping His promises, for accomplishing what He set out to do after so long a period of silence from Heaven, and for this child in his arms who would be "a prophet of the Most High" ( 1:76). While we are pondering, we are left to wonder how Zacharias felt when later his son John chose not to follow the usual career path-whatever that was-but became something of a hermit with odd ways, strange appearance, and unusual diet. Was he still as proud of his son as at the beginning? Or was he embarrassed at the jokes made at John's expense? Was he even still living? JOSEPH: The role model for every husband, father, and disciple ever since. If Mary was-by her own admission-the "handmaiden of the Lord," Joseph was nothing less. Such a faithful man, so courageous, so obedient. God chooses his men well, doesn't He? Joseph has no speaking parts in Scripture. This and the silence concerning him during the three-year ministry of Jesus leads us to believe he was off the scene (no longer living), but that's strictly a guess. Suppose he was still alive, still at work in Nazareth's shop, paying the bills while Mary followed the Son and His entourage from place to place. Could he have done this and we not heard a thing? Surely Luke would have recorded something. Or would he? Think about that. Well, this will get you started. There is so much more here. Choose any one sentence from the songs of Mary or Zacharias or any verse at all from chapter 2 of Luke and you can spend the day there, reflecting on its riches. What we must not do is let the enemy pull the little scam which goes like this: "Why are you wasting time on this story? You have read it a hundred times! You know it. Go do something more productive." He's lying, of course, as usual. It's what he does best. The enemy will say anything to keep us from discovering the wealth in God's word and the joy of making these discoveries which add so much depth and height to our Christian experience. Don't let him. Give the Lord your attention today. Shut off the distractions and turn your thoughts toward Him.
by Pete BriscoeSometimes, I think we would be better off if we just shut the news off completely. Bad news sells, and we buy it by the truckload. And the price we pay? If we don't keep things in a biblical perspective, it will cost us our hope. When Jesus left the earth the first time, He knew the generations of disciples to follow would have plenty of bad news to deal with. His advice?
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me... And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am." -John 14:1, 3The promise of the second coming of Christ means that we have the opportunity to live lives of hope in the grace of God, no matter how bad things get. Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God's love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us. - Romans 5:1-5 That's a powerful passage. It would be wise to be quiet right now, and just let those words of God speak for themselves. Savor those words, phrase by phrase, and let this living message massage your heart! Jesus is coming back, and therefore, we can live with unbridled hope-that's the ultimate hope. And because the world is going south, His physical return is really the only hope left for the physical world. May that be where we place our hope today. Jesus, I place my hope in You today. Let the bad news come and go. By faith, I stand in Your grace, excited about Your glory, embracing Your love which has filled my heart through Your Spirit. I look forward to Your physical return and I thank You for the presence of Your Spirit in my spirit right now. Amen. Source: Experiencing LIFE Today
by Laura Jeanne AllenMy grandparents were married for over half a century. From the time they met each other they played their own special game. The goal of their game was to write the word "shmily" in a surprise place for the other to find. They took turns leaving "shmily" around the house, and as soon as one of them discovered it, it was his or her turn to hide it once more. They dragged "shmily" with their fingers through the sugar and flour containers to await whoever was preparing the next meal. They smeared it in the dew on the windows overlooking the patio where my grandma always fed us warm, homemade pudding with blue food coloring. "Shmily" was written in the steam on the bathroom mirror, where it would reappear after every hot shower. At one point, my grandmother even unrolled an entire roll of toilet paper to leave "shmily" on the very last sheet. There was no end to the places "shmily" popped up. Little notes with a hastily scribbled "shmily" were found on dashboards and car seats or taped to steering wheels. The notes were stuffed inside shoes and left under pillows. "Shmily" was written in the dust upon the mantel and traced in the ashes of the fireplace. This mysterious word was as much a part of my grandparents' house as the furniture. It took me a long time before I fully appreciated my grandparents' game. Skepticism has kept me from believing in true love - one that is pure and enduring. However, I never doubted my grandparents' relationship. They had love down pat. It was more than their flirtatious little games; it was a way of life. Their relationship was based on a devotion and passionate affection that not everyone experiences. Grandma and Grandpa held hands every chance they could. They stole kisses as they bumped into each other in their tiny kitchen. They finished each other's sentences and shared the daily crossword puzzle and word jumble. My grandma whispered to me about how cute my grandpa was, how handsome an old man he had grown to be. She claimed that she really knew "how to pick 'em." Before every meal they bowed their heads and gave thanks, marveling at their blessings: a wonderful family, good fortune, and each other. But there was a dark cloud in my grandparents' life: My grandmother had breast cancer. The disease had first appeared ten years earlier. As always, Grandpa was with her every step of the way. He comforted her in their yellow room, painted that way so that she could always be surrounded by sunshine, even when she was too sick to go outside. Now the cancer was again attacking her body. With the help of a cane and my grandfather's steady hand, she went to church with him every Sunday. But my grandmother grew steadily weaker until, finally, she could not leave the house anymore. For a while, Grandpa would go to church alone, praying to God to watch over his wife. Then one day, what we all dreaded finally happened. Grandma was gone. "Shmily" It was scrawled in yellow on the pink ribbons of my grandmother's funeral bouquet. As the crowd thinned and the last mourners turned to leave, my aunts, uncles, cousins, and other family members came forward and gathered around Grandma one last time. Grandpa stepped up to my grandmother's casket and, taking a shaky breath, began to sing to her. Through his tears and grief, the song came, a deep and throaty lullaby. Shaking with my own sorrow, I will never forget that moment. For I knew that, although I couldn't begin to fathom the depth of their love, I had been privileged to witness its unmatched beauty. S‐h‐m‐i‐l‐y: See How Much I Love You. Thank you, Grandma and Grandpa, for letting me see.
Looking ahead… Is there any doubt that this tender couple knew the joy that springs from true love? That they understood the meaning of intimacy and commitment in marriage? Through a simple message sent in simple ways - traced in a flour container or on the bathroom mirror - this husband and wife continually expressed their love to each other for over fifty years. And when the time came for "Grandpa" to face the world alone, through his tears he sang his bride a lullaby that told her one last time, "See how much I love you!" So many couples today reach the end of their days without ever experiencing such genuine love - the kind that includes stealing kisses, finishing each other's sentences, and holding hands whenever possible. They sincerely desire a deep, intimate love, but they assume it will just "happen" somewhere along the way. When it doesn't, disillusionment and even divorce follow. We'll talk this week about true love - what it means and how you can achieve it in marriage. I'll close tonight's reading with this question: What does true love mean to you? - James C. Dobson From Night Light For Couples, by Dr. James & Shirley Dobson
Copyright © 2000 by James Dobson, Inc. All rights reserved.
"SHMILY" by Laura Jeanne Allen. © 1997. Used by permission of the author.
by Christina SkyttAt the age of 30, my life looked to others like "the picture of success" - an enviable career, lots of friends, and a great marriage. But on the inside I was hurting badly. What I wanted more than anything else was to have a baby and the question why I couldn't became existential. Was I not supposed to be a mom? What did life have in mind for me, if not motherhood? Was it my relationship that was failing? For the first time in my adult life, I had no control of my situation. No matter how hard I tried, I could not influence the outcome. I was doing "everything" and investigating all possible solutions through doctors, homeopaths, blood tests, temperatures, psychics, adoption, and eventually IVF (In Vitro Fertilization). But all I got out of it was a horrible roller coaster ride of hormones, hopes, and grief. My mind was overwhelmed with frustration and sadness, as my body rejected one egg after another. I was too embarrassed to talk about it and I never shared how I really felt. I was happy for my friends when they had babies... but at the same time, I was crying my eyes out. On top of this, I was in a job where I was working 60-100 hours per week, travelling 80% of my time, being so exhausted when I came home that there was no energy left. My emotional life was a mess, strained to its limit. Now, I was brought up in a demanding family... and all my life I had been driven by other people's high expectations. I started school one year early, and was sent away to boarding school in England at the tender age of 12. The decision, of course, was not mine - and I was totally homesick, crying myself to sleep each night. By the time my parents visited at mid-term, I had made up my mind to go home, and was waiting for them with my bags already packed. But my father ruled that I was to stay. The last thing he said was, "If you accomplish this, you will be able to accomplish anything in life." So I stayed. I attended high school in the United States, and after graduating, I was accepted as the youngest student to the Stockholm School of Economics - where the highest grades are required. Once again, I was doing everything that was expected of me. But were these my goals or somebody else's? Was it just the fact that, in my family, "everybody" had gone to that very same school, and many of my friends wanted to go there? I was living a life without listening to my own voice or setting my own goals. I kept on doing everything that was expected of me and I did it without any type of reflection on what I REALLY wanted. On one of my business trips, I met with a colleague and told him my story. He gave me a book on personal development and, for the first time, I started to reflect on my situation and my life. That was my turning point. I started asking myself questions like:
"Is this the life I have chosen, or has it been chosen for me?"...I finally realized that I had to take ACTIVE RESPONSIBILITY for my life. For the first time, I set goals that were truly my own, not influenced by others. They were big. They were bold. And they were even scary. But they were mine, and they gave me a feeling of power I had never felt before, from just setting goals. So I called them my POWER Goals. Since I started applying Power Goals to my life, I've become truly fulfilled. The first Power Goal resulted in the birth of my daughter, Alexandra - and like magic, I now have four wonderful children. Because of my second Power Goal, I am now remarried and in a true and loving relationship. My third Power Goal resulted in me leaving the corporate world, starting my own business, and now having full freedom of time, money, and location. After my own experience, I started sharing the concept with others - using their successes and feedback to fine-tune my system. That allowed me to write, 'Power Goals: 9 clear steps to achieve life-changing goals.' So if you too have ever had thoughts like these:
· I need to find some balance between work and the rest of my life.
· The spark has gone out of my career - I feel like I'm meant to be doing something else.
· I have so many big ideas, but I don't have a road-map on how to get there.
· Am I working towards my own goals, or someone else's? ... then maybe you need to experience the life-changing magic of making your own POWER GOALS. About Christina Skytt To learn more about Christina and get a copy of her book 'Power Goals', please go to: www.powergoalsacademy.com Bob Proctor, who wrote the book's foreword said, "This book will change your life in ways you never thought possible."
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