A Mother’s Treasured Heart

Luke 2:19 (NIV) tells the story of how Jesus’ mother, Mary, treasured up and pondered in her heart words the Shepherds spoke about Jesus Christ. After the angel revealed to them who Christ was, they went to find this child. They found Mary and Joseph with the child and proclaimed to them and those nearby everything the angels had said about Jesus.  Verse 17 says, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child…and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. ” The scripture goes on to say about his mother, “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Surely, Mary was just as amazed as the others by what the shepherds said. She did not fully understand what these words meant about the child she had just given birth to.

However, she “treasured” and “pondered” on them, the text says. These words reflect more than just simply thinking about something. These words are used as verbs here, which denote an action Mary took. Meriam Webster defines treasure as, “to hold or keep as precious; or “to collect and store up (something of value) for future use.” Ponder means, “to think or consider especially quietly, soberly, and deeply.” Mary heard the shepherds’ words, wondered what they meant and thought deeply about them, considered them of excellent value, and quietly stored them deep inside her heart. The scripture does not tell us another angel appeared to explain all this to her. Nor does it say how Mary discussed it with her husband, Joseph, or ran to tell her friends. She didn’t even dance around the room in glee at this announcement.

On the contrary, Mary was struck by the idea she was responsible for raising an incredibly special child. The announcement was extraordinary. In her bewilderment, she made a mature decision. Quietly and wisely, Mary stored the words from the shepherds deep within her heart. Somehow, I belive Mary understood–at that moment–those words would be the arsenal she would need to draw from as Jesus, the Christ, would grow “… in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Now, things are becoming clearer for Mary.

May we follow Mary’s example with the children we’ve been gifted to love, care for, and guide. Surely, being a mother has its quirks and foibles. From our first look at our children, we don’t immediately know what will follow. Sometimes we want to know everything about our kids, or we try to craft them into what we want them to be. Instead, let’s do as Mary did and treasure the special moments we share with them and ponder in our hearts those special conversations when they are revealing themselves to us. As God did for Mary, in time, He will reveal to us our kids’ unique characteristics or abilities. Because, like Jesus, every child has a purpose when they are conceived.

Be blessed until next time…!

Worrying about Worry

No matter how dark the night, or bleak the news… No matter how difficult the trial, or long the test… No matter how unfair it seems, or how much it hurts… Just don’t worry!
Though you’re toiling the same soil, yet the fig tree has no bud… Though you’ve prayed and prayed some more, no answer is in sight… Though you’ve loved, said a kind word, but a slap returns instead… Just don’t worry!
Whether your anxiety is real or anticipated, your fear happening or imagined in your mind… Whether uncertainty has drained your spirit, blown your smile away with the wind… Even here, just don’t worry!

Why? Philippians 4:6-7

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

A worrier? Don’t worry. Make your request. Be blessed until next time! 🙂

Bearing Our Cross

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During your life’s journey, have you been able to identify a cross Our Father, God, has intended you bear? I understand you are upset, depressed, and distressed about a situation? Under your breath or aloud, you’re still cursing, screaming, and walking around in a huff over a predicament you’re in. But have you ever stopped to consider, this may be a cross Christ is asking you to bear for His glory?

Sometimes, cross-bearing is brief. An illness has landed you a stay in the hospital for surgery or treatment of some kind. For this brief period, you’re in tumultuous pain, stagnant, and unable to work to pay the bills; everything halts. Other times, it’s a similar scenario or personality type you don’t like but continuously encounter. “This again,” you think, “I hate these people!” Lastly, some crosses leave a life-long painful imprint on us, and we carry its scars every day.  No prayer, life activity, or changes we’ve made erases the memory. The Apostle Paul experienced this. It is not identified as a cross but as a thorn that he was given. “I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:7-9). Paul had scars to live with. He tells us, they were given to keep him from becoming conceited. Hmmm! Do crosses, thorns, and pain help with this human malady?

We find in Matthew 16:21-26 dialogue specifically about cross-bearing. What is it? And, who’s it for? According to this text, those who ascribe to being a Christ-follower must take and bear a cross; it’s a part of being united with Christ and sharing in His suffering. I remember having this discussion with an old friend of mine. He completely rejected this idea. Any notion of suffering was a result of negative thinking on others’ part.  When discussing various unpleasant experiences he faced, I would offer him a cross-bearing perspective to help him try to recognize possibly a lesson God was teaching him or character development He was building in him. His response was always the same, “Look, that was Jesus; I’m not Jesus.”

In our text this month, we find Peter also rejecting such negative ideas about suffering. Jesus foretells His suffering and death to his disciples. The text states, “From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”

Doesn’t Peter sound like us? During tough times and in challenging conversations, we tell our loved ones, “Stop being so negative. I rebuke that depressing spirit off you.” Peter was possibly trying to console the Lord, lift Him out of despair, or maybe change His perspective. In a sidebar conversation, I imagine Peter saying, “Come on, Lord, you’re the Messiah. You’re a great man doing all these wonderful things for people. And, we’ve been waiting for you all these years, you finally appear, and now you’re going to tell us this? Look, nothing like this is going to happen to you, especially while I’m here. Trust me!” Society tells us to stop being so negative and focus on the positive. We tell family and friends, “You’ll be fine; don’t worry about it!” Satan is usually the culprit for our negative feelings. Not always so, as we see here. Despite Peter’s well-meaning intentions, he was wrong. Jesus rebukes him. “But he (Jesus) turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” Ha! Now, how about that? Peter’s kind words are coming straight from hell, and Jesus recognized this because He knew He had to bear a cross.

I don’t think it is happening this way today in our “name it, claim it” prophetic Christian subculture. We actually are accused of and rebuked for “speaking it into existence.” Have you received one of those “just claim it” words during your Christian journey that did not happen as it was proclaimed? Unfortunately, this ideology is running rampant now. People are disheartening individuals by telling them untruths to appease them.

Jesus’ somber, troublesome news to His followers was necessary and true. The disciples would later see it happened just as He said. Jesus uses this blunder by Peter to drive home a point for them and us. “Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what shall a man give in return for his soul? 

Cross-bearing involves:

  • Conforming to Christ’s image
  • Denying yourself
  • Taking (accepting) the cross while continuously following Him
  • Losing one’s life for Christ’s life
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Conforming to Christ’s image involves sharing in His suffering too. Cross-bearing will challenge our ideals, worldviews, perspectives, dreams, hopes, and desires. It will involve taking actions, making decisions, and/or expressing views, etc. that are counterintuitive to who we are. As we take up our cross and continue to follow Christ, at some point, any ill feelings, ill will, dislike, anger, resentment, and/or grumbling, complaining, and blaming should end. It’s an exchange Christ has called us to make for Himself. We can, however, choose to reject our cross in order to gain the world.

My fellow believers, from a human perspective, our cross may be difficult, as it was for Jesus Christ. We may want to say at times, “Oh no, not this,” or pray, as Paul did, for a problem to be removed. Don’t, however, discount or not recognize your cross because of erroneous satanic teaching happening in the Church today. Understand that, while bearing a cross, sometimes: it will not be fine. It will hurt. It will be painful. It will drive you to despair. It will cause you to cry. It will involve blood, sweat, and tears.  It will baffle your mind. It will make you sad. It will anger and frustrate you. It will be tiresome. It will cost you a lot of money. It will be risky and make you feel uncomfortable. It may require you to take medication or an infusion. It may mean, let it go. It may mean changing your perspective about a race or culture of people. You may have to embrace, live among, or help those you don’t like. It may be, no, it’s not that one; it’s this one over here. It may be, forgive and stay. It may be, forgive and leave. It may be, marry this one, not that one. It may be, not this career, this one. It may be, give that up. It may be growing up poor. It may be, anoint this one for ministry, not that one. You may lose the job, the contest, the award, the beauty pageant, or the business deal. You may be overlooked, rejected repeatedly, unfriended, lied on, and cheated. However, whatever you discover is your cross, don’t despise it. Pick it up and keep “looking unto Jesus, the author, and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2 NKJV).

Happy New Year! 😊

Inspired by Ephesians 1:3-13

As a long time Christian , I recently found astounding inspiration in this passage in Ephesians I wish I had learned about sooner. I want to share it with you. The passage begins appropriately for the situation facing the biblical audience. It’s a theological statement as well as a message to encourage the saints in Ephesus. Paul opens verse 3 with a praise, which is to be “to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” He continues in verse 3 suggesting a reason for this praise—“who has blessed us…” The word “blessed” is a Greek word (eulogeō) which means “to impart a benefit to someone being blessed.” The benefits imparted are not from the physical world but are spiritual blessings proceeding from “the heavenly realm,” where God resides and where believers have a share (Snodgrass, 1996). The blessings here are not indicative of the future, but are blessings we now partake of on earth because of the work Christ did for us on the cross.

The verse opens with a greeting by its author, the Apostle Paul, “to the saints in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus” (1:1).  Ephesus was a prominent city in Rome that housed one of the Seven Wonders of the World–the divine temple entity devoted to Diana (Artemis)—whom they worship and from which they made a lot of money. People travelled great distances to worship Artemis. The goddess was responsible for Ephesus’ prominence in business and also for the city’s immorality and wickedness. Sexual promiscuity, prostitution, sorcery and other sins were running rampant. However, saints were in Ephesus, who, with Paul, were proclaiming the message of Jesus Christ, uniting in church fellowship and the teaching of God’s word. Included were new convert Gentiles and Greeks who were turning from their gods to the Lord.  As a result, believers were facing persecution, suffering, imprisonment, and involved in rioting.

Paul goes on in verses 4-13, it seems, letting us know what these imparted spiritual benefits are. These blessings have changed their life position. They are now united with God through Christ and must think and act this way, and not as they used to. These blessings are inclusive of all saints and the faithful in Christ Jesus, including converted Jews, Gentiles and Greeks who have put their faith in Christ. We will take a look at these blessings and the implications they had for the church of Ephesus as well as for believers today.

The first blessing bestowed on us by God is that“… He chose us in Him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight” (1:4).  This thought of being chosen is confirmed in John 6:44, where Jesus lets us know, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him….” God is the initiator in bringing us to Himself.  He elected us as members of His family to be holy and blameless in His sight. This is a phenomenal blessing indeed! Many times in our lives, because of our actions, personality, past mistakes, or present predicament, we do not equate ourselves as being holy. This verse encourages us that God sees us as holy and blameless in His sight.  This is based solely on our identification and faith in Christ.

The next benefit bestowed upon us is that God, in love, “predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (1:5-6).  The idea of predestination, again, has to do with the idea that God decided beforehand to bring us into the family of God. To think, the God of the universe had you in mind to specially select you as His child! This should exhilarate us with much excitement! It is important to note here, God decided this in love!  In our relationships with significant others, we express our dying love for each other. However, the God of heaven and earth first fell in love with us by deciding to bring us to Himself.  He freely delighted in and wanted to do this for us, because He is a gracious and kind God who loves to show favor.

Our next benefit also “in Him” (in Christ that is)—“we have redemption through his blood”(1:7-8).  The payment for sin required a sacrifice, which Christ paid when he shed His blood by dying on the cross. By putting our faith in His substitutionary death, He bought us back into right standing with God.  This payment also blessed us with, “the forgiveness of sins in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding”(1:7-8).  God, in his wisdom, understood that mankind could never fulfill his righteous requirements, so Christ’s death, again, stood in our place, took the penalty we deserved in order to bring us to God. When we sin, we receive forgiveness when we ask. Christ, the great High Priest, intercedes to the Father on our behalf, asking God to remember the sacrifice He made for our sins. As such, God’s gracious nature forgives us on Christ’s behalf, all because we’ve accepted Jesus as our Savior!

God has also blessed us because He, “made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put in effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment—to bring all things in heaven and earth together under one head, even Christ” (1:9-10). We are now no longer strangers, but heirs with God and joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17 NIV). As such, God has shared classified information with us, that once was hidden. As His children, we are now trustworthy to receive it. This mystery includes, I believe, God’s enlightenment about His plan of salvation which is through Christ. This plan was being worked on before the foundations of the world, since the creation and throughout the Old Testament—God bringing people to Himself in relationship. As we trusted Him, He has revealed to us that, at the proper time of fulfillment, everything on heaven and earth will come together under His rule. And everything will be back in order and under God’s authority. As believers, we understand and hope for this as we continue in our spiritual journey.

Another blessing we received is stated as,“In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of  Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, in order that we, who were the first to hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory” (1:11-12).  Believers were not just haphazardly chosen to live life aimlessly. God had a predetermined plan for our lives that He would work all things, within us and throughout lives, according to His will. This includes our good, our bad, and our ugly. God wants to show forth His glory through our life testimony. When we share it, the world will follow suit and give God praise. We cannot always fathom this in our painful earthly moments, but there is a larger picture God has in the heavenly realm which is oftentimes incomprehensible to us until God reveals it.  This too is indicative of such a great blessing we have as dwellers on earth living with a heavenly mindset–God chose us with a plan in mind! We surely are not “nothings.”

The final blessing addressed in this passage, and possibly the best of them all, states, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in Him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of His glory.”(1:13-14).  “You also were included” mentioned here could be Paul’s specific address to the Gentile believers at that time who were not originally God’s chosen people.  He is encouraging them that they are now included (Snodgrass, 1996).  I believe we can safely assume also that this blessing would include all persons throughout all ages who would come to Christ. Upon conversion, believers in Christ receive a “seal” and a “deposit”—the promised Holy Spirit. This mark identifies us as God’s possession. The Holy Spirit’s mark also serves as our down payment, so to speak, to guarantee our place in heaven. To think, God has put a stamp of approval on us to walk through the pearly gates! This is comforting to know because this puts the forces of darkness–who roam throughout the spiritual realm–on notice that we belong to God; therefore they cannot harm us. It also comforts us that our place in heaven is secured. When we die and when the “times have reached their fulfillment,” our place in heaven is guaranteed through Jesus Christ. Nothing can alter this fact.

How blessed we are, ‘eh! Paul graciously addresses the significance of this perspective. Announcing these blessings to us shows us what God had in mind in times past, what they have afforded us in our present life here on earth, and the glorious hope of our future. This reality was needed for the biblical audience in Ephesus as well as for us today. While the extent of suffering, pain and persecution for Christ is not as prevalent today as it was in Ephesus, believers today do suffer for bearing Christ’s name. This letter’s message to the Ephesians saints, I’m sure, encouraged and provided them hope in their corrupt surroundings, during imprisonments, persecutions and rioting. Believers today can gain encouragement and hope as we live our daily lives in an increasingly ungodly world.

Paul’s challenge for the believers in Ephesus was to train their mindset to think like God, according to these spiritual blessings they had received. As we fellowship together in church, visit one another’s homes, work with one another, teach, and talk with one another, let’s also remind and encourage each other with these words.

I close with Paul’s most fitting opening acknowledgement, “Praise to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us.” The Apostle Paul got his own message first. He shows us in verse 17 where he prays, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father…may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know Him better.” 

I too hope and pray that you will know that you are blessed! Embed these blessings in your hearts and minds. Speak them out of your mouth! They come with divine authority from a graceful God. They will enable you to think and act according to God’s will. They will remove doubt and fear as you face persecution and temptation. They will cause you not to shrink back. You will sense a closeness to God who loves and cares for you and will never leave you. Your assessment of yourself will change, and you will know, “I belong to God and within His family!”

Be inspired my friends, until next time!!!


“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” (3:20).


References:

Snodgrass, K. (1996). The NIV Application Commentary: Ephesians. Grand Rapids, MI.                  Zondervan.


If you have never heard about Jesus Christ or accepted Him into your heart, I invite you to do so now. The Apostle Paul told us in the Bible in I Corinthians 15:3-5, the “good news” about Jesus Christ. It says,
“For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, that He was buried, that He was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve…”
Jesus actually did this for you my friend. John 3:16-17, in the Bible says,
“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.” So, you see here my friend God sent His Son to do all this for us out of a heart of love! Everyone’s looking for love. Here is the greatest love!
God wants you to simply believe and receive this truth about His Son, Jesus Christ. He died, was buried and rose again to bring you to God. I know it sounds hard to believe, but it is true! Won’t you believe and receive Christ as your Savior right now. Simply tell Him you believe this and ask Him into your heart. We would love to hear about your decision. Let us know you did!