Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet Child of Mine

This is my prep for leading Bible Study tomorrow - our week study was focused on Mary, The Mother of Jesus. It is a complete gift from God because I had no idea where to go, start, begin, etc. when I sat down at the computer this morning. I hope it blesses you because The Lord blessed me with it - it is His Creation, I'm just humbled He used my Hands!

Mary, the Mother of Jesus, has long been a point of division between Catholics and Protestants. Regardless of your chosen religious affiliation, from this study, we see a woman whose life mirrors our own but in so many ways we can learn from. There are aspects of Mary’s walk with Her Son, Lord & Savior that, if we recognize and emulate, can draw us closer to The One she was chosen to bear, rear and serve.

Our study summarizes Mary’s life into 4 aspects: His Promises, The Places He leads, His Purposes & His Power. However, there is another analogy to make – mapping Mary’s life to the famous verse in 1 Corinthians 13, the “Love is…” chapter. 1 Corinthians 13:13 states: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (NIV).

There is no doubt she found favor with The Almighty. She could have been favored because:
• She had the family genes
• She was about to be married into the right family
• She knew The Scriptures & kept The Law
• She was of child-bearing age

All of these things could be good reasons to choose her – but as we see, Our Father doesn’t work that way. Jesus stated later, from Matthew 8:10 of the Centurion whose servant He healed “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith…”
It was Mary’s faith that sealed the deal. She built on that faith her whole life and we see at first, she accepts The Angel’s words, literally, as gospel-without a bat of an eye – as sometimes only the young can do.

Her faith was tested later, surely many times over: When she & Joseph had to leave for Egypt; when they searched for Him 3 days and found Him at the Temple; when He made His only 2 visits home to Nazareth after starting His ministry; when He turned the concept of family upside down in Capernaum; at The Cross when He didn’t save Himself.

However, there are shining moments of faith she can stand on as well: Her song of praise at Elizabeth’s house; Simeon’s prophecy; at the wedding in Cana; taking John as her son at The Cross; at The Tomb; Pentecost Sunday.

Hope is another essential part of Mary’s walk. The Biblical definition of hope is a firm assurance regarding things that are unclear and unknown. By its very nature, hope stresses two things: (a) futurity, and (b) invisibility. It deals with things we can’t see or haven’t received or both ( She pondered much in her heart – turning it over and over, meditating on The Words from Heaven she was given over the course of her life – no doubt reviving her faith and renewing her love for The Father and His (and Her) Son.

Those moments of Hope include: Elizabeth’s confirmation of Gabriel’s words; Joseph’s dreams; the shepherds’ worship; Simeon & Anna’s praise; the visit from the Wisemen; Jesus’ words when they found Him in The Temple; His words at the wedding in Cana; His provision of a Kinsman-Redeemer in John at The Cross; Her sons coming to belief in Christ; Pentecost.

The final aspect to map to Paul’s passage is love. Mary had much love. And as Paul says, the greatest of these is love. Jesus states it so clearly in Matthew 22:37-39:”Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.” That was the reason she was so blessed. Her faith gave her favor, her hope kept her going but her love was what blessed her.

She knew how to love as a wife and certainly as a mother. Mary knew and loved The Lord. She was blessed with a loving, devoted husband & many children. She no doubt had to learn the second part of The Greatest Commandment – love your neighbor as yourself – throughout her life like the rest of us. She loved her other children enough to go along with them to “lay hold of Him” and even thought maybe it was the right thing to do for Jesus. Sometimes love can blind us to God’s Will & Plan. But in the end, she loved her sons enough to bring them back to Christ. She certainly loved Jesus enough and learned to love Him not just as her son but as Her Lord & Savior. She watched Him die and she watched Him rise again.

What a transformation love can make - That is why it is the greatest! The power of love cannot be matched by anything else – as 1 Peter 4:8 says: “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sin.” John 3:16 tells us “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only begotten Son, that whoever believe in Him shall not perish but have everlasting Life.” There are many ways to love and Mary learned many of them just being near Jesus. She saw Him work miracles and she knew He was a miracle. She carried God’s great love for the world in her womb and watched Him grow into the Man who would redeem all those who choose to believe in Him.

Mary’s life is a great example of walking with The Lord. Lots of highs, lots of lows but in the end, Jesus was all that mattered (and still matters). She was focused on Him and He gave her the faith, hope and love to endure. All of these are gifts from The Father through The Son by The Holy Spirit. We should seek and ask for these gifts because they will sustain us till the end - which really is just a new beginning. If we do that – we can have a life as full and wondrous as Mary’s. Learn from her – focus on Jesus and the rest will work itself out – always for the best because He does nothing less.

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