Sunday, December 24, 2017

A Mothers Pain, A Father's Love

Then Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary His mother, “Behold, this Child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against (yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” – Luke 2:34-35

I recently read a mother of a man my age reminding her son to bundle up when he was flying home from a hot climate and to land in bitter cold.  It warmed my heart because I could relate to her feeling of love for her child.  The heart of a mother is always with her child.  Whether they are close or far away, we are always caring, loving, and worrying about our children. My own kids laugh because when they leave the house I always say “be careful”…as if they would be completely reckless if I didn’t utter those words! But that’s part of the caring for them. Sometimes, even when they’re in their 20’s, you can’t quite let go of their little hands in your heart.

Mary was no different.  This young girl who gave birth to Jesus had already endured such pain to this point in the story of His birth.  She’d no doubt been shamed by those that knew of her pregnancy.  She’d had to leave her family to travel with Joseph, her fiancĂ©.  Riding a donkey as tradition says, or walking (the scripture doesn’t say which) on her trip to Bethlehem at full pregnancy could not have been a comfortable one.  And having a child in a filthy barn full of animals without even a midwife was surely not how she imagined to give birth to the Son of God!  Yet, this was the plan for her life, and she accepted it. 

But can you imagine how she must have felt hearing Simeon in the temple express to her what she already knew! He told her that her child was the Christ!  Oh how she must have glowed, filled with love that only a mother can feel when she looks at her child. 

But then to hear Simeon tell her that “yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul ALSO”, must have taken the breath from her.  After all, the angel that announced her pregnancy had said she was blessed among women, favored by God, the mother of the “Son of the Highest”, and God was going to place Him on the throne of David. There was no mention of swords!

Moms, for a moment imagine yourself in her shoes.  You have your baby in your arms, now about 40 days old, full of innocence.  You go to the temple, a place to connect with God.  Then a total stranger, yet one that is renowned as a prophet, tells you that your son will be pierced with a sword – and your own soul too?  What would you do?  I believe I’d take my child and go into hiding, protecting him throughout all his days from such a fate.  A mother will do anything to protect her child, including give her own life. 

From His very birth, the love for Christ separated people.  It separated Mary from her family as her love for him was greater than her shame.  It separated Joseph from his hometown of Bethlehem when in his love for Christ, they fled to Egypt to prevent Him from being killed by Herod.  It separated the disciples that followed and loved Jesus from the rioting crowd that wanted Christ crucified.  And even today, it separates families, nations, and continues to create war. 

The good of God is at war with the evil of the world.  For Christ to be our Savior, there has to be something to be saved from. But what He is saving us from is ourselves – our own evil. 

You see, there were other mothers in the crowd at the crucifixion too.  Jesus’ sword pierced side no doubt ripped through Mary’s heart and pierced hers as well, just as the prophecy of Simeon had foretold.  But there was no sympathy from the other mothers.  Yet as strong as her love was for Jesus on that day, there was one love expressed that was even greater than that of His mother.

Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” – John 15:13

The love of Christ will always be the strongest love we can receive.  It took becoming a mother for me to realize what true love really is.  But I am convinced that the love of God is greater.  I cannot imagine the love of God, giving His son, allowing Him to leave the glory of Heaven where He was worshipped by angels, to save me from myself.  That kind of love is beyond my full understanding. 

Christmas can be a difficult time for many.  This year, rather than focusing on the stress of buying and giving, cooking and serving, coming and going, take time to rest.  Meditate on the love of the God that holds the universe in place.  He loves you enough to give His Son, to watch Him suffer and die, just so that He could love you eternally.  May that love bring your heart joy!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

As a Man Thinketh

“Seek the Lord while He may be found,
Call upon Him while He is near.
Let the wicked forsake his way,
And the unrighteous man his THOUGHTS;
Let him return to the Lord,
And He will have mercy on him;
And to our God,
For He will abundantly pardon.
“For My thoughts are not your thoughts,
Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord.” – Isaiah 55:6-8
I was listening to a book this morning called “As a Man Thinketh” by James Allen, and heard the old proverb “As a man thinketh, so is he”.  It was taken from Proverbs 23:7.  The thought behind this is that we are what we think.  All we feel, all we do, originates from our thoughts. 
Coming to this passage in Isaiah, I noticed something as only God could have planned it.  He says for an unrighteous man (those that have not received Jesus’ righteousness) should forsake his THOUGHTS. He could have said his ways, he could have said his words, he could have said he needs to change his heart.  But it is with meaning that he says THOUGHTS. 
Thoughts.  They’re what binds us to what we think we believe.  They bind us to what we feel and how we choose to live. 
If you think you are hungry, you eat.
If you think you’re unloved, you love less.
If you think you’re successful, you are.
If you think you are going nowhere, you don’t achieve anything.
If you think you’re somebody special, you react to that thought daily.
Thoughts don’t begin in the brain, but in the heart.  Your heart determines what you believe. And though you may try with all your might, you cannot change the way your heart feels on your own.  Only God can change a heart.

Ezekiel 11:19 says “Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God. But as for those whose hearts follow the desire for their detestable things and their abominations, I will recompense their deeds on their own heads,” says the Lord God.

A heart of flesh in exchange for a heart of stone.  A heart of stone is solid, unchangeable, hardened, the true description of a hard hearted person.  But a heart of flesh feels and reacts.  The heart of flesh receives a new spirit – the Holy Spirit – by which we are changed to understand God’s ways (“he will lead you into all truth”). 
In the verse 8 of Isaiah 11 God says “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways”.  The only way your thoughts can be transformed is by a transformation of your heart.  The only way your heart can be changed is through a new Spirit.  God’s thoughts are different from ours.  For Him to transform you into what He wants you to be (for your own benefit), it starts with a new Heart that accepts new thoughts.
“As a man thinketh, so is he.”  If you’re not who you want to be, you have to start with God in your heart through acceptance of Jesus’ righteousness to change who you are.