December 29, 2016-God Sees the Heart, and Beauty for Ashes- 1 Samuel 16:7, 10-13, Ezekiel 36:26, Isaiah 61:3

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But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for the Lord does not see as mortals see; they look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.” 

Jesse made seven of his sons pass before Samuel, and Samuel said to Jesse, “The Lord has not chosen any of these.”   Samuel said to Jesse, “Are all your sons here?” And he said, “There remains yet the youngest, but he is keeping the sheep.” And Samuel said to Jesse, “Send and bring him; for we will not sit down until he comes here.”  He sent and brought him in. Now he was ruddy, and had beautiful eyes, and was handsome. The Lord said, “Rise and anoint him; for this is the one.”   Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the presence of his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward. Samuel then set out and went to Ramah. 1 Samuel 16:7, 10-13 (NRSV)

I find encouragement in the story of David.  He wasn’t anyone who we would consider to be a “first pick.”  He had older and stronger and more “qualified” brothers.  He was consigned to the lowly and dirty job of caring for sheep. Even David’s own father considered him an afterthought.   Yet God knew his heart, and God chose David over his seemingly better equipped brothers.

God doesn’t always choose the beautiful people, or the strong people, or the smart people.  In fact, the theme throughout Scripture is that God equips those who He chooses. He has a real sense of humor in it too, as time and time again He chooses the underdog, the meek, the weak, the poor, and the flawed through which to do His greatest work.  We discover as we study the Bible that the only real hero in the Bible is God, and that He does amazing things with and through really messed up people.

Our potential lies in what God empowers us to do, not in what the world sees in us.  Even the condition of our hearts is not impossible for God to change.

A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. Ezekiel 36:26 (NRSV)

When we are put in those wilderness places, when we fall short and we know full well we aren’t among the “beautiful people,” or we have been used by others and left hurting for a long time, it’s easy for our hearts to become hard.  Yet God has the power to take our hard hearts and give us new ones- hearts that are after His own heart, hearts that God can use for His good purpose.

Even better news is that God brings restoration and healing to the hurting.  Not only can we be put to God’s good purpose, in the process of doing His work He makes us whole.

…to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair. Isaiah 61:3 (NIV)

Beauty for ashes.  Greatness from unlikely places and from even more unlikely people.  Such is the nature of God.

 

 

December 16, 2016- Mary, Did You Know? Luke 2:15-18, Luke 9:46-49

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When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go now to Bethlehem and see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us.” So they went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger.  When they saw this, they made known what had been told them about this child; and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds told them. Luke 2:15-18 (NRSV)

I know that sometimes Protestant Christians- even Lutherans- sometimes shy away from talking too much about Mary, the young woman who God chose to be Jesus’ earthly mother.  We get uncomfortable talking about her because we don’t believe that she is equal to Jesus or that she is a deity in and of herself.  Yet we should most certainly look at Mary as a woman who was blessed by God.  We should certainly look at Mary as a role model and an example of a person who was open to God’s will and purpose for her life.

God had an infinitely important and special plan for Mary’s life even though she was not wealthy, influential, well educated or any of those things that the world puts value upon.

Is it too hard to believe that God has unique and important plans for all of us in His grand scheme of things?

One of the most interesting themes in Scripture is that we see that the only real “hero” in the Bible is God.  God has a deep sense of humor in who he chooses to do His greatest things.  David was a youngest son- a scrawny shepherd boy- but God made him the greatest King of Israel and Jesus’ greatest earthly ancestor.  Ruth stepped into the Scriptural story as a destitute widow and an outsider in her community, yet she is also in Jesus’ lineage.  Paul was a misguided Pharisee who had been behind persecuting the church and killing Christians, yet God used him for a powerful Christian witness who speaks to God’s people even today.

God uses the least likely people to accomplish His biggest purposes- the meek, the weak, and the flawed.  And that is good news.  God is in control in spite of our failings, weaknesses and missing pieces.

Mary did you know that your baby boy will one day walk on water?
Mary did you know that your baby boy will save our sons and daughters?
Did you know that your baby boy has come to make you new?
This child that you’ve delivered, will soon deliver you. – “Mary, Did You Know”- Mark Lowry

I wonder if Mary knew as she watched Jesus grow up and as she did all those things that mothers do for their children for Him, just how important this tiny child would prove to be.

Sometimes we lose sight of our own importance in God’s eyes.  Do our lives matter?  Do all the mundane and repetitive and dirty chores make a difference?  What about the people around us?  If we truly believe that God is Who He says He is, can we look at ourselves and others knowing that God is always at work in and through His people?

An argument arose among them as to which one of them was the greatest. But Jesus, aware of their inner thoughts, took a little child and put it by his side,  and said to them, “Whoever welcomes this child in my name welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me; for the least among all of you is the greatest.” Luke 9:46-49 (NRSV)