Would You Have Been #BraveLikeMary?

Dear Christian Sisters,

We left off with Mary asking the angel Gabriel how she would conceive while being a virgin.

When Dr. Bill Creasy teaches on this passage, he chuckles and says that Gabriel blushes as he answers Mary:

The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”
Luke 1:35

Trusting God’s Plan

If I were Mary, I would think that this is all still very puzzling. But then I think about how puzzling God’s plans seem to me every day.

I mean, He has used women like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba to accomplish His plan, so certainly His plans will be accomplished.

I just need to trust that God can do anything (Ephesians 3:20).

Confirming God’s Promises

And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Luke 1:36-37

All the relatives knew that Elizabeth was barren, so Mary would understand how miraculous it is that Elizabeth is now pregnant! So through the angel Gabriel telling Mary about Elizabeth, God gives Mary a way to confirm His promises.

Mary takes all this in. She will get pregnant if she says, “yes.” The angel confirmed that.

Considering Societal Consequences of Saying “Yes” to God

But if Mary gets pregnant before she’s married, Jewish Law says that she should be stoned to death.

“If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.”
Deuteronomy 22:23-24

Mary must have reasoned that the Lord would not have her stoned otherwise the Messiah would not be born.

But would people believe her when she claimed to be pregnant with the Messiah? What would her parents say? What would her betrothed Joseph say?

She had a decision to make. Will she say, “Yes”?

Dr. Creasy says that all the angels were holding their breath in anticipation.

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her.
Luke 1:38

And all the angels sighed in relief and high fived each other! Mary was the first person to say, “Yes” to Jesus.

Would You Have Said, “Yes”?

Would you have said, “yes”?

Perhaps you would be excited to carry the Messiah. I’m sure Mary was!

What Would Your Parents Say?

But think about what you know about the rest of the story. Do we ever hear anything about Mary’s parents?

No, we don’t. Mary doesn’t say anything about her parents’ reaction to her news. Perhaps rather than telling how negatively her parents responded, she chose to honor her mother and her father by saying nothing.

What Would Your Fiancé Say?

Think about what you know about Joseph’s reaction. He was going to divorce her quietly, so evidently he didn’t believe her, either.

Mary’s parents don’t believe her. Her fiancé doesn’t believe her. And we find out 30-some years later that the people who lived in Nazareth didn’t believe her, either.

What Would Society Say?

In John 8, after He saves the adulterous woman from stoning, Jesus continues to have a conversation with non-believers. In that conversation, they said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God” (verse 41 ESV), which is their way of accusing Mary of fornication.

What Would You say?

So, again, I ask you what you would have done? You’re in your teens. You’re a virgin. You would be facing a society that stones women to death for being pregnant out of wedlock. The Lord asked you to give birth to the Messiah. Would you have said, “yes”?

Would you have been #bravelikeMary?

In Christ,

Cheryl

The Lord Wants to Talk with Us #BraveLikeMary Series

And coming in, he said to her, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” But she was very perplexed at this statement, and kept pondering what kind of salutation this was. 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 bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.” Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:28-34

Mary’s question is not one of doubt, like Zacharias’ doubt in verse 18. This is a young woman, a virgin, trying understand how she was going to get pregnant.

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”

Isaiah 7:14

Certainly Mary knew the prophesy.

Certainly all the Jews were talking about the prophesy because they would have figured out, based on Daniel 9:24-27, that the Messiah would soon be born.

Certainly all the young women were talking about who would be the chosen virgin and wondering how a virgin would conceive.

Mary doesn’t understanding how this is going to happen, so she asks. This passage gives me peace that it’s okay to ask God how He’s going to accomplish His promises.

The Lord wants to have a conversation with us. He wants us to ask—because He loves us.

In Christ,

Cheryl

Take Heart—God Has a Plan

Dear Christian Sisters,

After everyone at the temple saw that Zacharias couldn’t speak, Zacharias and Elizabeth went home. Luke says:

After these days, Elizabeth his wife became pregnant…
Luke 1:24a

Can you imagine Elizabeth and Zacharias’ excitement? Not only were they finally pregnant, Zacharias now knew what the angel said was true! Confirmation!

…and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked withfavor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”
Luke 1:24b-25

I find it sad that we think of not being able to have children as a disgrace.

If you are unable to have children, my love pours out for you. I am praying for you as I write.

Know that even if the Lord has not given you the ability to bear children, you can have spiritual children.

Isaiah 54:1-4 says:

“Woman, be happy! You have not had any children, but you should be very happy.

“Yes, the woman who is alone will have more children than the woman with a husband.” This is what the Lord says.

“Make your tent bigger. Open your doors wide. Don’t think small! Make your tent large and strong, because you will grow in all directions. Your children will take over many nations and live in the cities that were destroyed.

“Don’t be afraid! You will not be disappointed. People will not say bad things against you. You will not be embarrassed. When you were young, you felt shame. But you will forget that shame now. You will not remember the shame you felt when you lost your husband.”

Take heart. God has a plan.

In Christ,

Cheryl

Zacharias’ Inconvenience Brought God Glory! (#BraveLikeMary Series)

The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.
Luke 1:21-23

Dear Christian Sisters,

If Zacharias had had a voice when he came out of the temple, would the crowd have believed him when he told of the angel?

Would Zacharias had even told them?

So, no cell phone, no texting, and no computer for Zacharias. The only thing he could do was write–and paper and pen were not readily available back then. This would have made his work and his ability to purchase needs for his home difficult to do.

Isn’t the story is so much more powerful because Zacharias could not speak?

Even though Zacharias was inconvenienced by his inability to speak, God got the greater glory!

In Christ,

Cheryl

Take Heart in God’s Plan (#BraveLikeMary Series)

The angel answered and said to him (Zacharias), “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
Luke 1:19-20

Dear Christian Sisters,

God had a plan, and He wasn’t going to let Zacharias’ unbelief stop His plan.

God has a plan for your life. Are you believing it?

Before I believed in Christ, I imagined myself as public speaker. Once I had a relationship with Christ, I thought I might want to be a Christian speaker, but I didn’t know what I would talk about.

Well, I knew that I could speak about schizophrenia and abortion, but I did not want to speak on either of those topics!

While on my first short-term mission trip a year ago, the Lord made it clear that I needed to speak about abortion. I didn’t want to. I was miserable for about 6 weeks until I submitted and said, “Yes, Lord.”

God sent me with Julie Mad-Bondo, Founder of A Mother’s Cry, to speak in Uganda. He set everything in motion. The travel part of that trip is one huge God story that you can read on my post titled, “God’s Perfect Plan or Sometimes God Just Likes to Show Off.”

I’m going to Uganda again December 26-January 6. Will you support me with your prayer and donations?

Trust me. It’s better to submit to God’s plan for your life than resist it. He works everything out for your good.

Not sure what His plan is for your life? Ask Him. He loves to bring Himself glory through your life. And once you submit, you’ll enjoy His plan.

In Christ,

Cheryl

Doubting Zacharias (#BraveLikeMary Series)

Dear Christian Sisters,

I know we haven’t gotten to Mary, yet, or how brave she was. But there’s still lots to learn in the story of John the Baptist’s birth.

We Say Chance—He Says “For Such a Time As This”

Now it happened that while he (Zacharias) was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
Luke 1:8-9

There was a whole process for deciding when priests were to serve at the temple, hence “the appointed order of his division.” Then Zacharias was chosen by lot to enter the temple to burn incense.

From a human perspective, Zacharias was chosen by chance.

From God’s perspective, Zacharias was chosen for such a time as this. (“For such a time as this” is from Esther 4:14.)

Being chosen to burn incense was a big deal! A once in a lifetime opportunity!

Do you think that Zacharias told anyone? Of course he did! He told all his friends and relatives.

And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.
Luke 1:10

Considering the honor this was for Zacharias, the multitude would’ve been his family and friends, including Elizabeth, who were all celebrating the honor with him.

What do you think was Zacharias’ first prayer request?

Don’t Be Afraid of Angels

And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias…”
Luke 1:11-13a

When people are visited by angels, as recorded in the Bible, they are afraid. How do we know? Because the angel says, “Do not be afraid” as the angel Gabriel says here.

But are they afraid because angels are scary looking?
or
because angels are big?
or
because angels bring God’s glory with them?

Answered Prayer

…”for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”
Luke 1:13b-14

Zacharias asked and God answered!

Nazirite Vow—No Wine or Liquor

“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.”
Luke 1:15

No wine or liquor? This may seem strange to us. Some Christians don’t drink wine or liquor, some only drink wine, and some drink both wine and liquor.

The Bible does not say do not drink.
The Bible does say not to get drunk.
You can read more about this on the GotQuestions website.

Why didn’t John the Baptist have wine or liquor? Because he was a Nazirite from birth.

Being a Nazirite is not the same thing as being from Nazareth. Jesus is from Nazareth, but He never took the Nazirite vow.

Any Jew could take the Nazirite vow, which included not drinking or cutting his or her hair, for a time in order to dedicate him- or herself to the Lord. During the time of the Nazirite vow, the person is holy to the Lord. You can read about taking the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6:1-21.

There were three people who were Nazirites from birth, as recorded in the Bible: Sampson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.

Preparing Others for the Lord

“And he (John the Baptist) will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Luke 1:16-17

Perhaps there was someone in your life who prepared you for the Lord. Or perhaps you are preparing others for the Lord.

Who prepared you? Thank them!

Who are you preparing? Your children may be the most obvious answer, but remember that everyone you meet, even while going to the grocery store, may be someone you are preparing for the Lord. (Read my blog post about being a missionary to McDonald’s.)

Doubting Zacharias

Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.”
Luke 1:18

Not only did God answer Zacharias’ prayer, but He answered big!

Ephesians 3:20 says that God is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works within us.

Zacharias was granted his request. The angel promised to give him what he asked for—and more!

Zacharias is in the temple. Zacharias is serving the Lord. Zacharias is praying. And yet he is surprised and doubting that his prayer will be answered because he asked for something that seems impossible.

That was me. I was a doubting Zacharias.

What I want, more than anything, is that not only would both my sister and my brother be completely healed of schizophrenia but that they would accept Christ’s sacrificial gift of love.

From a human perspective, schizophrenia cannot be healed.

  • Medicine doesn’t heal schizophrenia.
  • Counseling doesn’t heal schizophrenia.
  • Natural health doesn’t heal schizophrenia.

I didn’t ask God to heal my siblings until recently.

Many years ago, I did ask God to let me know if my brother was okay because no one had seen him for weeks (this was the first time that he was homeless). God answered in a matter of hours. He answered so quickly that I couldn’t help but ask myself why I asked so small.

Now I ask big! And I am believing that God will answer my prayer and answer big. Why not? I’ve got nothing to lose.

Heart check!

Are You a Doubting Zacharias?

Are you a doubting Zacharias?

Are you doubting that the Lord will answer your prayer because it seems impossible?

Or perhaps even though you have an impossible request, you haven’t even asked because you can’t imagine that God would give it to you.

What is your impossible request? Are you trusting that the Lord will answer your request?

Your request may not be big like healing my siblings of schizophrenia. Maybe your request is about your career. I have requests like that, too.

I’ve drafted a book and have several others in my head. Oh how I would love for these books to be so moving to readers that they become best sellers so that I can pour more money into my favorite ministries!

What’s Your Impossible Prayer Request?

So, what is your impossible request? Are you ready to trust the Lord to answer and answer big?

Now might be a good time to ask God if you are being a doubting Zacharias.
Now might be a good time to ask God for forgiveness for being a doubting Zacharias.
Now might be a good time to ask God for that impossible request in complete faith that He will grant your request and answer big.

What do you have to lose?

Try this prayer:

Lord, my Rock, my Salvation, You can do anything—far more than I can ever imagine or guess or request in my wildest dream.

I’m sorry for being a doubting Zacharias.

Thank You for answering my little prayers. Now I’m coming before You in humbleness to ask big.

Lord, carry out Your purpose and do super abundantly far over and above all that I dare ask or think—infinitely beyond my highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams in the name of Jesus so that You are glorified.

Amen.

In Christ,

Cheryl

An Introduction to Luke (#BraveLikeMary Series)

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:1-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Dear Christian Sisters,

One of the reasons that I love the books of Luke and Acts is that I imagine that Luke (who wrote both books) was an investigative reporter.

Dr. Luke, Investigative Reporter

Luke is a doctor whom Paul likely sought out for his eye problems. (Why do I think Paul had problems with his eyes? I’ll tell you—after you finish reading this introduction to the book of Luke!)

Paul likely shared the gospel with Luke, since he shared the gospel with everyone he met. Luke then began traveling with Paul, taking care of him, and recording everything that happened.

You can tell that Luke entered the story at Acts 16:9 because he switches from 3rd person in verse 8 to 1st person in verse 10. (Read Acts 16:8-10 for yourself. Note “they” in verse 8 and “we” in verse 10.)

Although Luke wasn’t an eyewitness to Jesus life, we know from Luke 1:1-4 (quoted above) that he interviewed eyewitnesses and wrote down their stories.

The Christmas Story in Matthew

The story of Jesus’ birth is told in two of the gospels: Matthew and Luke. The story as told in the book of Matthew is pretty short and seems to be told from the perspective of Joseph. How did Matthew hear the story? Good question!

We don’t read anything about Joseph after Jesus was 12 years old, so Matthew probably did not have the opportunity to ask Joseph. However, given that Matthew lived near Nazareth, he likely knew the rumors.

My guess is that he asked Jesus, Mary, and Mary’s other children to confirm the rumors. (BTW, I have not researched this question. This is my own guess as to how Matthew found out the details of Jesus’ birth.)

The Christmas Story in Luke

The Christmas story as told in the book of Luke is longer and seems to be told from the perspective of Mary. [Women tell longer, more detailed stories, don’t they? :-)] I imagine that Luke met Mary, mother of Jesus, while traveling with Paul, interviewed her, and then wrote her story in what we call chapters 1 and 2.

So, I like to think of the birth of Jesus as recorded in Luke as Mary’s story.

I find Mary to be very brave, certainly more brave than me. Join me daily for insights into the Christmas story and Mary’s bravery as we read the scriptures together.

Evidence that Paul Had Eye Problems

Are you still curious about Paul’s eyes? Well, here are verses that support the idea that Paul had eye problems.

The Road to Damascus

At Paul’s conversion, famously referred to as “The Road to Damascus” because he was traveling to the city of Damascus when it happened, Paul was struck blind in his encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:8). He was blind for 3 days and then something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see (Acts 9:9, 17-18).

Paul Writes to the Galatians

At the end of his letter to the Galatians, Paul says, “See what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand” (Galatians 6:11). This is one of the few letters that he penned himself rather than dictating to someone else who served as his secretary. Presumably, he wrote large letters so that he could see what he was writing.

Earlier in Galatians, Pauls says that the Galatians did not despise or loathe his bodily condition (Galatians 4:14), which indicates that his physical challenge was easily visible, so perhaps his eyes did not look normal.

I Have Eye Problems, Too!

Ha! I can relate to that! I was born with my left eye closed. I’ve had four surgeries to open it up. As a result, it doesn’t like to close. My right eye acts normally. The result? I wink at everyone!

God works everything out for good, though. Russ thought I was flirting with him and asked me out on a date!

Paul Can’t See the High Priest

One final thought on Paul having had eye problems. In Acts 23, Paul is defending himself against the Jewish council and speaks harshly to the high priest (Acts 23:1-5), whom he should have recognized since the high priest gave him letters to take to Damascus (Acts 9:2).

But all of my conjecture about Paul’s eyesight is just interesting trivia to spark conversation while enjoying your coffee.

I look forward to you joining me again as we continue to read the Christmas story in the gospels of Luke and Matthew while gleaning insights into just how brave Mary was.

In Christ,

Cheryl