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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Wednesday, The first week of Advent

I heard a preacher the other night on TV talk about not being afraid to fail and it caused me to recall a conversation I recently had with our youngest daughter.  She was expressing her thoughts of how her mother and I did a lot of things in life that most people would never had tried to do for fear of failure.  I learned early on in our married life to, as some folks would say, “put your money where your mouth is!”  In the Christian world that would be better described as “putting feet to your faith.”
My wife and I decided as a young married couple that we were going to trust Papa God and His Word and when led of the Holy Spirit, would step out and do what we felt He was leading us to do - no matter what our relatives or anyone else said about it!  And it is a course of action that we have not reneged on throughout our 45 year relationship.  It began with the purchase of a 1977 pacific blue Datsun 280Z and recently led us to purchase the home of our dreams some 3000 miles away from where it all began back in September of 1970!
Did everything always work out as planned?  The simple answer to that question is NO!  But it has never stopped us from trying again… after we learned all we could from those few failures and vowed to not make those same mistakes!  Our tendency to get up, brush ourselves off and then go on has been visibly frustrating to some folks close to us, but as I stated, has not stopped us from believing and acting on the truth of God’s Word.  The bottom line is that we have never let the fear of failure influence our final decision to trust the Lord.
The same could be said about the young teenage girl that the angel Gabriel appeared to with some startling news in that little village in the Jewish province of Galilee a few thousand years ago.  Mary had a decision to make.  She could have gone with her natural understanding, the accompanying concern of what the people would say, and the doubts of her ability to do the task that was being thrust upon her or… to trust in the God she knew from the depths of her heart and submit in faith to His will.  I am so glad that she decided to discard the fears that must have been assailing her from all sides and put some feet to her faith.
As you read today’s Advent reading think about what you will do when the Lord calls you to do something that seems completely out of the natural realm of possibility in your life…

The Teenage Years

Wednesday, the first week of Advent

Today’s Reading:  Isaiah 7:14 / Luke 1:26-38

Today’s society tends to look at the teenage years as a time to fear.  To many it is looked upon as “The Rebellious Years,” or as a time of experimentation.  It is the one phase of the child rearing years that many parents dread and pray that they have the endurance to make it through with their kids.  As one who has had the honor of working closely with and ministering to youth in the local church throughout my life, as well as actively participating in the upbringing of our own four kids, I look at those experiencing life as a 12 to 18 year old with a different set of glasses!
I see these youth as older kids who suddenly find themselves in an in-between time where they are no longer children, but yet not quite adults.  Their bodies are changing, and they are beginning to have the capabilities to think about and comprehend the world and everything they have ever known with a whole new set of comprehensive and abstract tools.  Then on top of everything else, their emotions seem to be on a rollercoaster ride as they are going through this physical, mental, spiritual and emotional upheaval!  With everything happening in them, it is no surprise for me to see some of our youth dressed in black from head to toe, with hair in multicolored shades of red or blue, with a new vocabulary that seems to only include about half a dozen words, or with body piercing and/or tattoos in a wide array of locations on their bodies!
Yes, they are experimenting and testing the waters of life.  Yes, they are looking to find out who they really are and what they really believe and yes, they are testing those around them, those they love and befriend to find out just how really loved and accepted they are to them.  In my experience, I have come to realize that our youth are a product of the environment that they have been raised in, and underneath it all, that they are looking for the same securities that we adults seek in our lives.
In our story today, we see the angel Gabriel coming on the scene again as he appears to a young teenage girl with a message that could turn her world upside down!  It is interesting for me to see that there is no record of her physical features or dress.  The only description that is given is that she was “a virgin” who was “highly favored.” (Luke 1:26-28)  Have you ever thought about Mary’s appearance?  What if she wore a nose ring like Rachel the revered wife of Isaac who was one of the Patriarchs of her Jewish faith?  (See Genesis 24:22)  It would seem that God only looked upon the qualities of her heart and not on the sight of how she dressed, her hair style or the jewelry she might have worn.
What we do see as our story unfolds though, is that this young girl, who was most likely between the ages of 12–15, knew the scriptures, knew the faithfulness of her God, and was very confident and yet humble to accept and pursue whatever responsibility was given to her from Him.  When Gabriel appeared to her she was not overtaken with fear as we saw with her uncle’s experience six months previous to this event.  I believe that the reaction that caused her to be “startled by what the angel said” and her question “How can this be?” (Luke 1:29 & 34) was simply the inquisitive request of an innocent young girl wanting to know how it would happen.  She did not ask for a sign and never doubted that it was from God, or that she could handle the calling!  Her reply to the angel’s explanation was a straight forward affirmation of: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word…”  (Luke 1:38 KJV)
Nowhere do we find any recorded thoughts of “Can I do this?  Am I good enough or able to accomplish this task?  What if I fail?” or “What will my family, friends and relatives think?” and maybe most importantly, “What will my husband to be think?”  I am positive that Mary’s home environment perfectly prepared her for this all important role in God’s plan for our salvation.  She never flinched, but jumped whole heartedly into this sudden and totally unexpected turn in her life!
Once again, how would you respond to such a dramatic turn of events in your life?  Would you have the same simple confidence, zeal and freedom to let go and let God as this young teenage girl exemplified?  This short story has many things for us to consider this Christmas season.  For instance, how we look at others and how we look at ourselves.  It implores us to examine the depth of our unyielding trust in our heavenly Father, and maybe even the difference between how God looks at teenagers compared to how we view them.  This could be an advantageous time to grab a sheet of blank paper and begin to jot down some personal notes as thoughts on these questions arise within you.  It might just be the beginnings of a whole new way you look at life’s assignments, at other people and at yourself as well!
Have a Super day!  Stay in tune to His Word, and keep asking yourself… “What am I expecting today?”

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