Inconvenient But God Glorifying (#BraveLikeMary Series)

The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.
Luke 1:21-23

Dear Christian Sisters,

If Zacharias had had a voice when he came out of the temple, would the crowd have believed him when he told of the angel?

Would Zacharias had even told them?

So, no cell phone, no texting, and no computer for Zacharias. The only thing he could do was write–and paper and pen were not readily available back then. This would have made his work and his ability to purchase needs for his home difficult to do.

Isn’t the story is so much more powerful because Zacharias could not speak?

Even though Zacharias was inconvenienced by his inability to speak, God got the greater glory!

In Christ,

Cheryl

Perspective (#BraveLikeMary Series)

Dear Christian Sisters,

The story of Jesus’ birth actually begins with the story of John the Baptist’s birth.

John’s mother, Elizabeth, was a relative of Mary’s, so John and Jesus were cousins—not first cousins because Elizabeth and Mary were not sisters, but cousins in their larger, extended family.

Elizabeth plays an important role in Mary’s life–she was Mary’s mentor.

But before we talk about Elizabeth mentoring Mary, let’s see the story from Elizabeth’s perspective.

Introducing Zacharias and Elizabeth

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth.
Luke 1:5

So what Luke is telling us is that both Zacharias and Elizabeth were of the tribe of Levi. The Levites served the Jews as priests.

Elizabeth is Both Righteous and Barren

They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both advanced in years.
Luke 1:6-7

So, Elizabeth’s clock had been ticking for some time. She wasn’t beyond childbearing years, that is, she had not yet entered menopause, but she was getting close.

Yet, she had no children.

In the Jewish culture of the time, big families were the norm. To not have children was rare. And as you may recall from my blog post titled, “Abortion & the Bible,” Old Testament Jews valued children.

It could have been that others shamed Elizabeth for not having children, yet she walked blamelessly.

God’s Perspective

We all have our stories, and we tell our stories from our own perspectives.

“We can’t have kids” is Zacharias and Elizabeth’s story.

“When I will receive greater glory, Zacharias and Elizabeth will have a child” is God’s story.

We can look at every story in the Bible from the perspective of those who were there and from the perspective of God.

Now, our insights won’t be perfect because the culture of the time isn’t like ours today (especially here in the United States) and because it’s challenging to imagine God’s thoughts since He is so much greater than we are; however, taking time to consider other perspectives will help us to understand God.

We can also look at our own stories from our own perspective, from the perspective of others, and from the perspective of God.

It’s a whole new twist on He said/she said.

He Said / She Said

Have you ever told a story from childhood only to hear your parents or your siblings tell the story in a completely different way?

To encourage my older boy to write, we teamed up to write some he said/she said stories. We took the same event and each told the story. It was a great way for him to learn perspective!

Our favorite he said/she said story was about a trip from Minneapolis to Atlanta through Detroit, where we had a 5-hour delay. He absolutely loved that trip because he got to watch videos, explore the airport, ride the tram and the moving sidewalk, and go on a big airplane (777).

He was seven at the time of this story. My other boy was a potty training toddler. The 7 pm flight ended up being a 12 midnight flight. Can you guess what the trip was like for me?

I carried my bag, my purse, a diaper bag, and a toddler.

I took all of us to the bathroom for every diaper change.

I walked boys on the moving sidewalk and took them on the tram over and over again.

When we finally got on the airplane, the boys wouldn’t go to sleep because they were so excited that they had their very own TV.

When we got to the Atlanta airport, the two-story escalator going down to the tram was out-of-order. Thankfully it was going down, not up, but it was 3 am, and I was carrying several bags and a toddler!

What my son thought was fun, I thought was exhausting!

My Abortion Story from My Perspective or God’s Perspective

When I think of my own abortion story, I can think about it from my perspective (read “Faces of Abortions” or wait for my book, ReTested, due out in January)
OR
from my boyfriend’s perspective
OR
from my parents’ perspective
OR
from God’s perspective.

How does the story change?

She Said

When I had the abortion, I was relieved because I thought the crisis was over.

How else did I feel? Good question. I think that mostly I was angry that I got pregnant. It didn’t seem fair to me that men could have sex without consequences, but women were shamed for being pregnant out of wedlock.

I’m not saying that I was right. Feelings are not right or wrong. They just are.

He Said

I’m sure God cried when I aborted my baby. I’m also sure that God welcomed my baby girl into heaven that day.

I am also convinced that God decided to use my story to stop future abortions, to stop other women from hurting themselves through abortion.

And here I am today, redeemed by His love (read “Forgiveness“), compelled by the Lord to write this blog, and speaking in Uganda and in the U.S.

I traded my story for His story.

The United States’ Abortion History from Women’s Rights Perspective or God’s Perspective

When I think of crisis pregnancies and abortion throughout the history of the United States and the world, I can look at it from from the perspectives of women who are worried about bringing a child into this world
OR
from a women’s rights perspective
OR
from God’s perspective.

How does the story change?

She Said

Women’s reasons for aborting are varied. Here are just a few: I can’t afford to raise a child. My parents will be so disappointed with me. The baby daddy will be so mad. Children put up for adoption feel abandoned and might be abused by their adoptive parents. I have the right to choose.

Again, I am not saying that these are right. They are feelings, mostly feelings of fear.

He Said

God cries for every woman who aborts. God welcomes every aborted baby into heaven. God wants those babies and their mothers reunited.

Also, I am convinced that God is saddened by women not feeling valued by men even though we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).

As for our our country—as for all the countries that have legalized abortion—I’m sure God is angry. He founded the United States based on His commandments, yet as a country we have decided that murder is okay in some cases and not others.

How is this different than King Ahaz burning his sons in fire as sacrifices to a foreign god (2 Kings 16:3; 2 Chron 28:3, 2 Kings 16:2; 2 Chron 28:1)?

(For more on King Ahaz, read the “What God Said About the Jew Who Did Not Value Children” section of my blog post “Abortion & the Bible.”)

I look forward to reading more of Zacharias and Elizabeth’s story with you tomorrow.

In Christ,

Cheryl

Mary Pondered These Things (#BraveLikeMary Series)

Dear Christian Sisters,

Merry Christmas!

Today, we celebrate Jesus’ birthday by remembering that God the Son gave up His heavenly dwelling for about 33 years to become fully human and yet still fully God.

Through His sacrifice, Jesus knew what it was to be human:

  • to be tempted,
  • to be dishonored,
  • to be distrusted,
  • to be frustrated,
  • to be hated,
  • to be betrayed,
  • to be in great physical pain,

and

  • to be loved by His friends,
  • to be loved His siblings,
  • to be loved by His earthly father and
  • to be loved by his mother.

Today, we celebrate that we have a God who can fully empathize with us.

Let us also celebrate all that Mary and Joseph did to bring Jesus into this world.

We left off with Joseph taking Mary from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Today, that would be a 2-hour drive, but Mary and Joseph would have walked 5-7 days.

Can you imagine walking and riding a donkey for 5-7 days while 9 months pregnant?

My only consolation is that Mary and Joseph would have been traveling in a caravan for safety. Certainly there were other women in the caravan to console her.

While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. Luke 2:6

I’d be ready to give birth, too, after that trip!

And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn. Luke 2:7

Many people were traveling for the census, so it’s no surprise that there was no room for them in the inn. They would also be looking for privacy so that she could give birth.

With so many people in the inn, certainly there were women there to help Mary give birth.

After giving birth, Mary settled in for a little sleep for giving birth after such a long trip would certainly make a woman exhausted.

But people wanted to admire the baby, including some some who were unexpected.

In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened.

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.” Luke 2:8-14

We sing “Gloria in Excelsis Deo,” but the angels said it.

When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.”

So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.

When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. Luke 2:15-18

“All who heart it”… Today, this would be like all the visitors at the hospital stopping to admire baby Jesus and then a group of homeless people come in to see the baby and tell this wild story of seeing angels.

Consider this: Mary knows that she gave birth to the King of Israel. All the Jews expected a political savior. Yet instead of Jewish Priests and Hollywood stars coming by to congratulate her, homeless people show up.

Would you believe them?

But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them. Luke 2:19-20

May we spend today glorifying and praising God for all that we have heard and seen of Jesus in our lives. May we also appreciate Mary and Joseph all the more, understanding just how brave they were.

In Christ,

Cheryl

P.S. What about the wise men, you ask? Well, they didn’t arrive in Bethlehem until almost 2 years later! (Matthew 2:7, 16)

Brave Like Joseph (#BraveLikeMary Series)

Dear Christian Sisters,

In my post, What about Mary’s Parents, we considered how Mary’s parents might have reacted to her news. Today, let’s talk about Joseph.

Mary was looked upon with favor by the Lord and considered herself a bondslave of God. I would expect someone with that much integrity would tell her fiancé her news before traveling a long distance to visit Elizabeth.

Joseph must have been upset both at her news and that she left town before their wedding. We know that Mary told Joseph that she was carrying the Messiah, for Matthew says:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream.
Matthew 1:18-20a

How much of these three verses happened before Mary left for Judah?

  • Perhaps Mary told Joseph just as she was leaving.
  • Perhaps Joseph took the whole 3 months Mary was gone to consider this.
  • Perhaps, while Mary was gone, Joseph met with his rabbi to discuss what to do.
  • Perhaps Joseph thought it was best for Mary to stay in Judah so that she would be safe, protected from stoning.
  • Perhaps the angel visited Joseph while Mary was in Judah.
  • Perhaps Mary returned to Nazareth shortly after Joseph had the dream.

But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”

Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

And Joseph awoke from his sleep…
Matthew 1:20-24a

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Mary, you’re back! You wouldn’t believe the dream I just had. Well, maybe you would! I believe that you are carrying the Messiah! I will marry you. We will raise the Messiah together.”

And Joseph awoke from his sleep and did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, and took Mary as his wife, but kept her a virgin until she gave birth to a Son; and he called His name Jesus.
Matthew 1:24b-25

Then shortly after,

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This was the first registration when Quirinius was governor of Syria. And all went to be registered, each to his own town. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child.
Luke 2:1-5

And they looked at each other in shared understanding. Scripture said that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). They knew that the decree was part of God’s plan, and they went.

Lord, may our Christian men be as brave as Joseph, saying “yes” to Jesus by loving Christian women and raising our children with us for God’s glory. Amen!

In Christ,

Cheryl

Being a Bondslave of God the Father Almighty (#BraveLikeMary Series)

Dear Christian Sisters,

Before we move on to Mary’s visit to Elizabeth and Zacharias, let’s figure out what a bondslave is.

In the last blog post, Would You Have Been #BraveLikeMary, we ended with verse 38:

And Mary said, “Behold, the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:38

But what is a bondslave?

The first thing you need to know is that the word slave in the Bible does not include all the racial connotations that we Americans associate with slavery. Slaves in Jewish society were slaves because they could not afford to live otherwise. So Jews from Old Testament times and continuing through Jesus’ time would choose to be slaves for financial reasons.

Gentile slaves at the time of Jesus may have also chosen slavery for financial reasons, or they may be a race that was conquered by the Romans.

So, slaves were of many different colors, not just Africans. Most likely the percentage of slaves who were African would have been quite low.

But Mary was not a slave in society. She used this word to describe her relationship with God.

Mary used bondslave to express to the Lord God Almighty that she was not His servant because she was conquered nor because she was poor but that she was His servant by choice and that she would do whatever He wanted with humility.

Before I went to Uganda for the first time a year ago, I told the Lord in prayer that I would be His bondslave and promised that when I returned, I would make an outward sign of my commitment.

Based on Exodus 21:5-6, I pierced both of my ears with a second hole. Now, you wouldn’t know that my second piercing was showing my choice to be a bondslave, but I do!

It’s my reminder to myself that I will do whatever God wants with humility.

That doesn’t make me a Saint.

Trust me: daily I need to reach up and feel that second piercing to remind myself to listen and obey because telling all of you my story was never in my plan (see Faces of Abortion and Forgiveness and Peace that Passes All Understanding).

But I am trusting God that He is using my story to save women from the darkness of abortion and premarital sex (for sexual immorality is not like other sins, see 1 Corinthians 6:18 or all of 1 Corinthians 6:12-20).

Being the Father’s bondslave is not easy, just like Mary’s choice was not easy, but God’s plans are always better than my own.

In Christ,

Cheryl

God Can Use Anyone’s Story for His Glory

Dear Christian Sisters,

Mary, the center of the #bravelikeMary series, enters the story.

Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
Luke 1:26-27

Certainly Jewish scholars had done the math based on the book of Daniel (9:24-27) and figured out that a woman would soon become pregnant with the promised Messiah.

Young women who were descendants of David (2 Samuel 7:12-16) were all hopeful that they would be the mother of the Messiah.

But she had to be a virgin:

“Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.”
Isaiah 7:14 NKJV

As you know, many genealogies are listed in the Bible. It’s one of the reasons people find the Bible hard to read. Unless you’re a genealogist (like my mom!), you probably do not get excited about reading a list of names.

But the genealogies become more interesting when you know something about the people in them.

For example, the women listed in Matthew’s genealogy each have an interesting story. Let’s take a quick look at the women named in Jesus’ genealogy:

  • Tamar (Matthew 1:3)
  • Rahab (Matthew 1:5)
  • Ruth (Matthew 1:5)
  • Bathsheba (Matthew 1:6)

Three, maybe all four, of the women were Gentiles! Tamar was a Canaanite. Rahab was an Amorite. Ruth was a Moabite.

Bathsheba may have been a Gentile. Her first husband was a Hittite, so she may have also been a Hittite as well. Also, her name is Canaanite in origin.

I love how God includes non-Jews in His heritage. It reminds me that eternal life is not just for the Jews, but for the all the people.

Non-Jews were included in Jesus’ story to remind us that His salvation is for all people and that God can use anyone for His glory.

Indeed He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.”
Isaiah 49:6 NKJV

Then the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people.”
Luke 2:10 NKJV

Three of the women were not known for their sexual purity. Tamar, Rahab, and Bathsheba all had their children through sexual sins.

Tamar disguised herself as a prostitute in order to trick her father-in-law into giving her children. Of course this is not God glorifying for her or her father-in-law, Judah (one of Jacob’s 12 sons). (See Genesis 38.)

Rahab was the prostitute who helped the Israelites conquer Jericho. (See Joshua 2 and 6.)

Bathsheba had an affair with King David (2 Samuel 11:1-5), David killed her husband to cover up his indiscretion (2 Samuel 11:6-25), Bathsheba married David (2 Samuel 11:26-27), and she later gave birth to Solomon (2 Samuel 12:24-25), who became the next king even though he was not the oldest living son (1 Kings 2:15).

Even Ruth used her sexuality. She cozied up to Boaz while he was sleeping after he had partied the night before (Ruth 3:1-9).

What can we learn from this?

  • We learn that Gentiles are part of Jesus’ history as well as His future.
  • We learn that Jesus is not borne of perfect people.
  • We learn that even Jesus’ family had skeletons in the closet.
  • We learn that God can use anyone’s story for His glory.

In Christ,

Cheryl

P.S. If you’re wondering why Jesus’ genealogy as listed in Matthew 1 is different than Luke 3, read this article from Jews for Jesus.

Zacharias’ Inconvenience Brought God Glory! (#BraveLikeMary Series)

The people were waiting for Zacharias, and were wondering at his delay in the temple. But when he came out, he was unable to speak to them; and they realized that he had seen a vision in the temple; and he kept making signs to them, and remained mute. When the days of his priestly service were ended, he went back home.
Luke 1:21-23

Dear Christian Sisters,

If Zacharias had had a voice when he came out of the temple, would the crowd have believed him when he told of the angel?

Would Zacharias had even told them?

So, no cell phone, no texting, and no computer for Zacharias. The only thing he could do was write–and paper and pen were not readily available back then. This would have made his work and his ability to purchase needs for his home difficult to do.

Isn’t the story is so much more powerful because Zacharias could not speak?

Even though Zacharias was inconvenienced by his inability to speak, God got the greater glory!

In Christ,

Cheryl