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

Believing God’s Plan (#BraveLikeMary Series)

The angel answered and said to him (Zacharias), “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their proper time.”
Luke 1:19-20

Dear Christian Sisters,

God had a plan, and He wasn’t going to let Zacharias’ unbelief stop His plan.

God has a plan for your life. Are you believing it?

Before I believed in Christ, I imagined myself as a public speaker. Once I had a relationship with Christ, I thought I might want to be a Christian speaker, but I didn’t know what I would talk about.

Well, I knew that I could speak about schizophrenia and abortion, but I did not want to speak on either of those topics!

Then while on my first short-term mission trip a year ago, the Lord made it clear that I needed to speak about abortion. I didn’t want to. I was miserable for about 6 weeks until I submitted and said, “Yes, Lord.”

God sent me with Julie Mad-Bondo, Founder of Julie’s Heart Cry, to speak in Uganda. He set everything in motion. The travel part of that trip is one huge God story that you can read on my post titled, “God’s Perfect Plan or Sometimes God Just Likes to Show Off.”

Trust me. It’s better to submit to God’s plan for your life than resist it. He works everything out for your good.

Not sure what His plan is for your life? Ask Him. He loves to bring Himself glory through your life. And once you submit, I’m sure you’ll enjoy His plan.

In Christ,

Cheryl

Doubting Zacharias (#BraveLikeMary Series)

Dear Christian Sisters,

I know we haven’t gotten to Mary, yet, or how brave she was. But there’s still lots to learn in the story of the birth of John the Baptist.

We Say Chance—He Says “For Such a Time As This”

Now it happened that while he (Zacharias) was performing his priestly service before God in the appointed order of his division, according to the custom of the priestly office, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense.
Luke 1:8-9

We as well as Zacharias might think that he was chosen by chance to perform the priestly duties that day, but God likes to do things on purpose.

There was a whole process for deciding when priests were to serve at the temple, hence “the appointed order of his division.” Then Zacharias was chosen by lot to enter the temple to burn incense. Today we would say that they “rolled the dice.”

From a human perspective, Zacharias was chosen by chance.

From God’s perspective, Zacharias was chosen for such a time as this. (“For such a time as this” is from Esther 4:14.)

Being chosen to burn incense was a big deal! A once in a lifetime opportunity!

Do you think that Zacharias told anyone? Of course he did! He told all his friends and relatives.

And the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside at the hour of the incense offering.
Luke 1:10

Considering the honor this was for Zacharias, the multitude would’ve included his family and friends, including Elizabeth, who were all celebrating the honor with him.

What do you think was Zacharias’ first prayer request?

Don’t Be Afraid of Angels

And an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. Zacharias was troubled when he saw the angel, and fear gripped him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias…”
Luke 1:11-13a

When people are visited by angels, as recorded in the Bible, they are afraid. How do we know? Because the angel says, “Do not be afraid” as the angel Gabriel says here.

But are they afraid because angels are scary looking?
or
because angels are big?
or
because angels bring God’s glory with them?

Answered Prayer

…”for your petition has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will give him the name John. You will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.”
Luke 1:13b-14

Zacharias asked and God answered!

Nazirite Vow—No Wine or Liquor

“For he will be great in the sight of the Lord; and he will drink no wine or liquor, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb.”
Luke 1:15

No wine or liquor? This may seem strange to us. Some Christians don’t drink wine or liquor, some only drink wine, and some drink both wine and liquor.

The Bible does not say do not drink.
The Bible does say not to get drunk.
You can read more about this on the GotQuestions website.

Why didn’t John the Baptist have wine or liquor? Because he was a Nazirite from birth.

Being a Nazirite is not the same thing as being from Nazareth. Jesus is from Nazareth, but He never took the Nazirite vow.

Any Jew could take the Nazirite vow, which included not drinking nor cutting his or her hair, for a time in order to dedicate him- or herself to the Lord. During the time of the Nazirite vow, the person is holy to the Lord. You can read about taking the Nazirite vow in Numbers 6:1-21.

There were three people who were Nazirites from birth, as recorded in the Bible: Sampson, Samuel, and John the Baptist.

Preparing Others for the Lord

“And he (John the Baptist) will turn many of the sons of Israel back to the Lord their God. It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers back to the children, and the disobedient to the attitude of the righteous, so as to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Luke 1:16-17

Perhaps there was someone in your life who prepared you for the Lord. Or perhaps you are preparing others for the Lord.

Who prepared you? Thank them!

Who are you preparing? Your children (if you are a parent) may be the most obvious answer, but remember that everyone you meet, even while going to the grocery store, may be someone you are preparing for the Lord. (Read my blog post about being a missionary to McDonald’s.)

Doubting Zacharias

Zacharias said to the angel, “How will I know this for certain? For I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years.”
Luke 1:18

Not only did God answer Zacharias’ prayer, but He answered big!

Ephesians 3:20 says that God is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think according to the power that works within us.

Zacharias was granted his request. The angel promised to give him what he asked for—and more!

Zacharias is in the temple. Zacharias is serving the Lord. Zacharias is praying. And yet he is surprised and doubting that his prayer will be answered because he asked for something that seems impossible.

That was me. I was a doubting Zacharias.

What I want, more than anything, is that not only would both my sister and my brother be completely healed of schizophrenia but that they would accept Christ’s sacrificial gift of love.

From a human perspective, schizophrenia cannot be healed.

  • Medicine doesn’t heal schizophrenia.
  • Counseling doesn’t heal schizophrenia.
  • Natural health doesn’t heal schizophrenia.

But I didn’t ask God to heal my siblings until recently.

Many years ago, I did ask God to let me know if my brother was okay because no one had seen him for weeks (this was the first time that he was homeless). God answered in a matter of hours. He answered so quickly that I couldn’t help but ask myself why I asked so small.

Now I ask big! And I am believing that God will answer my prayer and answer big. Why not? I’ve got nothing to lose.

Heart check!

Are You a Doubting Zacharias?

Are you a doubting Zacharias?

Are you doubting that the Lord will answer your prayer because it seems impossible?

Or perhaps even though you have an impossible request, you haven’t even asked because you can’t imagine that God would give it to you.

What is your impossible request? Are you trusting that the Lord will answer your request?

Your request may not be big like healing my siblings of schizophrenia. Maybe your request is about your career. I have requests like that, too.

My first book will be launched in January, and I have several others in my head. Oh how I would love for these books to be so moving to readers that they become best sellers and my readers more like Christ.

What’s Your Impossible Prayer Request?

So, what is your impossible request? Are you ready to trust the Lord to answer and answer big?

Now might be a good time to ask God if you are being a doubting Zacharias.
Now might be a good time to ask God for forgiveness for being a doubting Zacharias. “Lord Jesus, take away my unbelief!” (Mark 9:23-24)
Now might be a good time to ask God for that impossible request in complete faith that He will grant your request and answer big.

What do you have to lose?

Try this prayer:

Lord, my Rock, my Salvation, You can do anything—far more than I can ever imagine or guess or request in my wildest dream (Ephesians 3:20-21).

I’m sorry for being a doubting Zacharias.

Thank You for answering my little prayers. Now I’m coming before You in humbleness to ask big.

Lord, carry out Your purpose and do super abundantly far over and above all that I dare ask or think—infinitely beyond my highest prayers, desires, thoughts, hopes, or dreams in the name of Jesus so that You are glorified.

Amen.

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

Introduction to Luke (#BraveLikeMary Series)

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.

‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:1-4‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Dear Christian Sisters,

One of the reasons that I love the books of Luke and Acts is that I imagine that Luke (who wrote both books) was an investigative reporter.

Dr. Luke, Investigative Reporter

Luke is a doctor whom Paul likely sought out for his eye problems. (Why do I think Paul had problems with his eyes? I’ll tell you—after you finish reading this introduction to the book of Luke!)

Paul likely shared the gospel with Luke, since he shared the gospel with everyone he met. Luke then began traveling with Paul, taking care of him, and recording everything that happened.

You can tell that Luke entered the story at Acts 16:9 because he switches from 3rd person in verse 8 to 1st person in verse 10. (Read Acts 16:8-10 for yourself. Note “they” in verse 8 and “we” in verse 10.)

Although Luke wasn’t an eyewitness to Jesus life, we know from Luke 1:1-4 (quoted above) that he interviewed eyewitnesses and wrote down their stories.

The Christmas Story in Matthew

The story of Jesus’ birth is told in two of the gospels: Matthew and Luke. The story as told in the book of Matthew is pretty short and seems to be told from the perspective of Joseph. How did Matthew hear the story? Good question!

We don’t read anything about Joseph after Jesus was 12 years old, so Matthew probably did not have the opportunity to ask Joseph. However, given that Matthew lived near Nazareth, he likely knew the rumors.

My guess is that he asked Jesus, Mary, and Mary’s other children to confirm the rumors. (BTW, I have not researched this question. This is my own guess as to how Matthew found out the details of Jesus’ birth.)

The Christmas Story in Luke

The Christmas story as told in the book of Luke is longer and seems to be told from the perspective of Mary. [Women tell longer, more detailed stories, don’t they? :-)] I imagine that Luke met Mary, mother of Jesus, while traveling with Paul, interviewed her, and then wrote her story in what we call chapters 1 and 2.

So, I like to think of the birth of Jesus as recorded in Luke as Mary’s story.

I find Mary to be very brave, certainly more brave than me. Join me daily for insights into the Christmas story and Mary’s bravery as we read the scriptures together.

Evidence that Paul Had Eye Problems

Are you still curious about Paul’s eyes? Well, here are verses that support the idea that Paul had eye problems.

The Road to Damascus

At Paul’s conversion, famously referred to as “The Road to Damascus” because he was traveling to the city of Damascus when it happened, Paul was struck blind in his encounter with Jesus (Acts 9:8). He was blind for 3 days and then something like scales fell from his eyes and he could see (Acts 9:9, 17-18).

Paul Writes to the Galatians

At the end of his letter to the Galatians, Paul says, “See what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand” (Galatians 6:11). This is one of the few letters that he penned himself rather than dictating to someone else who served as his secretary. Presumably, he wrote large letters so that he could see what he was writing.

Earlier in Galatians, Pauls says that the Galatians did not despise or loathe his bodily condition (Galatians 4:14), which indicates that his physical challenge was easily visible, so perhaps his eyes did not look normal.

I Have Eye Problems, Too!

Ha! I can relate to that! I was born with my left eye closed. I’ve had four surgeries to open it up. As a result, it doesn’t like to close. My right eye acts normally. The result? I wink at everyone!

God works everything out for good, though. Russ thought I was flirting with him and asked me out on a date!

Paul Can’t See the High Priest

One final thought on Paul having had eye problems. In Acts 23, Paul is defending himself against the Jewish council and speaks harshly to the high priest (Acts 23:1-5), whom he should have recognized since the high priest gave him letters to take to Damascus (Acts 9:2).

But all of my conjecture about Paul’s eyesight is just interesting trivia to spark conversation while enjoying your coffee.

I look forward to you joining me again as we continue to read the Christmas story in the gospels of Luke and Matthew while gleaning insights into just how brave Mary was.

In Christ,

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

John the Baptist is Just 6 Months Older Than Jesus (#BraveLikeMary Series)

Dear Christian Sisters,

As we have seen, Elizabeth’s story of giving birth to John the Baptist is intertwined with Mary’s story of giving birth to Jesus.

And behold, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month.

And Mary stayed with her about three months, and then returned to her home.

Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son.

‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:36, 56-57‬ ‭NASB‬‬

John the Baptist is just 6 months older than Jesus. Mary and Elizabeth are relatives, so John the Baptist and Jesus grew up as cousins, cousins who lived 4 days away from each other.

But Elizabeth and Zacharias lived closer to Jerusalem (Luke 1:39-40) than Mary and Joseph did. So when Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover (Luke 2:41)—and likely Pentecost (50 days after Passover) and Tabernacles (in the fall), since these are the pilgrimage festivals—where do you think they stayed?

John the Baptist and Jesus must have played together during the pilgrimage festivals until Elizabeth and Zacharias died.

Now we don’t know whether Elizabeth and Zacharias died before or after 12-year-old Jesus stayed behind at the temple (Luke 2:41-52), but I would guess before since Mary and Joseph seem to be traveling home in a caravan (Luke 2:44) rather than traveling to Elizabeth and Zacharias’ home.

Think ahead to what you know about John the Baptist’s story. At what point do you think John realized that he knew Jesus when they were children?

As you think about all the things not recorded in the Bible, enjoy the story of John’s birth:

Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her; and they were rejoicing with her.

And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answered and said, “No indeed; but he shall be called John.”

And they said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.” And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called.

They thought that because Zacharias couldn’t talk, he also couldn’t hear!

And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, “His name is John.” And they were all astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God.

Fear came on all those living around them; and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea. All who heard them kept them in mind, saying, “What then will this child turn out to be?” For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

And his father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying:

“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel,
For He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people,
And has raised up a horn of salvation for us In the house of David His servant—
As He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from of old—
Salvation FROM OUR ENEMIES,
And FROM THE HAND OF ALL WHO HATE US (Psalm 106:10);
To show mercy toward our fathers,
And to remember His holy covenant,
The oath which He swore to Abraham our father,
To grant us that we, being rescued from the hand of our enemies,
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all our days.
“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS (Malachi 3:1);
To give to His people the knowledge of salvation
By the forgiveness of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
With which the Sunrise from on high will visit us,
TO SHINE UPON THOSE WHO SIT IN DARKNESS AND THE SHADOW OF DEATH (Isaiah 9:2),
To guide our feet into the way of peace” (Isaiah 59:8).

And the child continued to grow and to become strong in spirit, and he lived in the deserts until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

‭‭Luke‬ ‭1:57-80‬ ‭NASB‬‬

In Christ,

Cheryl

Elizabeth Confirms God’s Promise (#BraveLikeMary)

Dear Christian Sisters,

Mary told her parents that she was pregnant out of wedlock. Today, we would call this a crisis pregnancy. Mary also told Joseph that she was pregnant:

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.
Matthew 1:18 ESV

Then Mary went to see Elizabeth–for the angel mentioned Elizabeth for a reason.

In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
Luke 1:39-45 ESV

Wow! Mary hears confirmation right as she enters the door.

Filled with gratefulness, Mary says:

And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant. For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed; for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation. He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his offspring forever.”
Luke 1:46-55 ESV

May we respond in gratefulness, too, when the Lord confirms His plans for our lives.

In Christ,

Cheryl

PS: Tomorrow, we’ll consider Elizabeth’s role in Mary’s life.

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