Monday, December 15, 2014

Fear Not: For You Have Found Favor with God



One year.

For one year, we wait.

Will Joseph remain faithful?

Will I?

It would be so easy to fall.

If only I could know God is pleased with me.

Who is this?

He walks into the room.

“Rejoice, highly favored one.

The Lord is with you.

Blessed are you among women.”

How could he say this to me?

Highly favored?

“Fear not, Mary.”

And he says it again . . .

“For you have found favor with God.”

God’s favor poured out on me?

This angel tells me I will have a son.

Not by Joseph.

Or any other man.

He will be the Son of God.

This impossible thing will happen.

I will give birth to the Messiah.

Because He poured out His grace.

On me.

Even me.





Every person who has ever received grace falls under one category: We’re all sinners in need of grace.

Mary knew she was like everybody else.

A sinner.

In need of God’s favor.

But an angel was sent to tell her that she had found favor with God.

He had chosen to pour out His grace, even on her.

In Christ, you and I are also “highly favored.”

The ones who fall into the category of every person who needs grace.

We’re sinners who have found grace in the eyes of the Lord.


The message of Christmas is . . .

FEAR NOT.

Do not be afraid.

For you have found favor with God.


Related Post:

Monday, December 8, 2014

Fear Not: For Your Prayer is Heard



No wonder this is called “The Holy Place.”

I'm breathless.

Hushed.

I’ve only heard of the beauty and sacredness of this place.

I don’t deserve to be here.

A priest. But I quake to be this close to His Majesty.

I’ve prayed to Him.

For many years, I’ve prayed.

He is holy. Good. Just.

But has He heard my prayers?

Elisabeth is barren.

We wanted a family.

We prayed.

And stopped praying.

Did He even hear?

Suddenly, a brightness next to the altar!

No one warned me of this.

An angel?

“Fear not, Zacharias.

For your prayer is heard.”

He tells me my wife will bear a son, even in her old age.

The Messiah is coming.

And our son will point the way to Him.

We prayed.

He heard.

Years later, He gave something better than what we asked.





Zacharias and Elisabeth’s prayers had been heard.  
Their first prayer for a son.
And every prayer after that.

And when they stopped praying, their prayers weren’t forgotten.

Instead, God gave them something they never prayed for. Their son would be the promised forerunner. He would point the way to the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

For years, God didn’t answer their prayer, because He had a purpose far deeper and more meaningful than the particular thing they were praying for.

God always has a bigger picture in mind than our prayers.

He hears every one.

We can trust the exact way He's choosing to answer.


The message of Christmas is . . .

FEAR NOT.

Do not be afraid.

For your prayer is heard.


Click here to listen to The Fear Nots of Christmas.



Monday, December 1, 2014

How to Stay Thankful All Year Long



Thanksgiving Day is behind us.

Refrigerators are full.



Family came and went.

A nephew happily taller than his aunt



A day of thanksgiving suddenly turns into a season of giving.

And we still struggle to stay thankful all year long.

Jerry Bridges gives this secret:

 “[God] doesn’t owe me anything, and what He has given me was given by His grace alone.” (from Transforming Grace)


How do we stay thankful all year long?

By remembering who we are.

Undeserving.

Yet full.


"What do you have that you have not received? . . . 
Every one of us is given grace." (1 Cor. 4:7; Eph. 4:7)



Monday, November 24, 2014

An Alternative to Counting Gifts



“Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually,
that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name.” (Hebrews 13:15)


Thanksgiving rolls around, and we suddenly remember to count our blessings. The rest of the year, we easily miss out on the joy of offering the "sacrifice of praise to God continually."

That's why many like to keep lists all year round. A gratitude journal. A way of counting blessings one-by-one.

But what if we were grateful for more than what God gives?



What if we focused this year on giving thanks to the One who gives?

What if we gave thanks to His name?

·         T – Trustworthy
Lord, Thank You for Your unfailing faithfulness. Thank You that in a world full of deception, seemingly overruled by the father of lies, You reign in our lives as a God completely worthy of our trust. Thank You that we can lean fully on You, and, in leaning, we will never be ashamed, never crushed, never left helpless. Thank You that we can accept every gift You give, because You are trustworthy. . .

·         H – Holy
Lord, Thank You for Your separateness. Your holy Being. Your love and gifts that come from an untainted, unadulterated, pure heart of holiness for creatures who are far from holy . . .

·         A – All-Knowing
Lord, Thank You that nothing is a mystery to You. When we need, You know. When we ache, You know. When we rejoice, You know. You know our needs, because You are a Father always in tune to our needs. You know our aches, because we’re Your own. You know our joys, because You are the One who knowingly gives them precisely with each of us in mind . . .

·         N – Near
Lord, Thank You that You are a God at hand, and not a God afar off. You draw even nearer, when we draw near to You. You are by our side, never absent, the God who promised You would never leave us or forsake us. It is never difficult for You to give. It takes only a slight motion of Your hand nearby . . .

·         K – Kind
Lord, Thank You that Your kindness surrounds every act of love, every motion our way, every gift withheld and given. Thank you that You’ve promised that Your kindness will never cease. Thank You that nothing comes our way apart from that channel of kindness . . .

·         S – Sufficient
Lord, Thank You for the knowledge that if we were never given a dime, a worldly joy, a longed-for dream, we would have enough in You. You are all we need, yet You give more. Thank You that behind your loving gifts, we can rest content in Your sufficient Person, Your sufficient grace, Your arms wrapped around us in trustworthy, holy, all-knowing, near, kind, sufficient giftedness.


May your Thanksgiving be filled with thankfulness to the One who gives!

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” (James 1:17)


Monday, November 17, 2014

3 Keys to Safeguarding Joy



 “What has robbed you of the most joy?” an elderly man was once asked.

"The things that have never happened," he replied.


Why are children often happier than adults?

My dear friend Rebecca's #3 and #4


Why do babies smile so easily?

Her #6

When does joy get robbed and adults laugh less and only children make us smile?

When we concern ourselves with the things that may never happen.

When we worry more and trust less.

When people loom big.

And God becomes small.

When we’ve seen too much pain and childhood happiness turns into joyless scars.

Maybe these three keys to safeguarding joy were written by a child.

·         Fret Not.  He loves you.
“I have loved you with an everlasting love.” (Jeremiah 31:3)

·         Faint Not. He holds you.
“You have hedged me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me.”
(Psalm 139:5)

·         Fear Not. He keeps you.
“The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade at your right hand.” (Psalm 121:5)


Children know they are small, so they trust.

Our joy begins to fade when we forget that.

Joy is always within easy grasp.

And just as easily snatched away.

Never fret, never give up, and never give in to fear.

We are loved, held, and kept by a God bigger than we are.