Take Heart—God Has a Plan

Dear Christian Sisters,

After everyone at the temple saw that Zacharias couldn’t speak, Zacharias and Elizabeth went home. Luke says:

After these days, Elizabeth his wife became pregnant…
Luke 1:24a

Can you imagine Elizabeth and Zacharias’ excitement? Not only were they finally pregnant, Zacharias now knew what the angel said was true!

…and she kept herself in seclusion for five months, saying, “This is the way the Lord has dealt with me in the days when He looked with favor upon me, to take away my disgrace among men.”
Luke 1:24b-25

I find it sad that we think of not being able to have children as a disgrace.

If you are unable to have children, my love pours out for you. I am praying for you as I write.

Know that even if the Lord has not given you the ability to bear children, you can have spiritual children.

Isaiah 54:1-4 says:

“Woman, be happy! You have not had any children, but you should be very happy.

“Yes, the woman who is alone will have more children than the woman with a husband.” This is what the Lord says.

“Make your tent bigger. Open your doors wide. Don’t think small! Make your tent large and strong, because you will grow in all directions. Your children will take over many nations and live in the cities that were destroyed.

“Don’t be afraid! You will not be disappointed. People will not say bad things against you. You will not be embarrassed. When you were young, you felt shame. But you will forget that shame now. You will not remember the shame you felt when you lost your husband.”

Take heart. God has a plan.

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

Worshipping thru Life’s Challenges

Dear Christian Sisters,

How do you handle life’s challenges?

If you’ve read my testimony (see the links on the “About” page), then you know that both of my siblings have schizophrenia. The first time schizophrenia affected my life, I turned away from God and made bad, life-changing decisions, including abortion.

The second time schizophrenia affected my life, I pressed into God and learned how not to worry.

Thirteen years later—one-and-a-half years ago—my brother disappeared from his apartment in the Twin Cities. My mom and I live on the east cost. My dad lives in Minnesota. But we were on the phone together, heartbroken.

I wasn’t worried. Honestly, I wasn’t. I remember taking an inventory of my feelings because I can still today be detached. I was heartbroken. Just heartbroken. I guess I truly did learn not to worry.

“And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?”
Matthew‬ ‭6:27‬ ‭NASB‬‬

We searched. We followed paper trails. We contacted people. But we couldn’t find my brother.

What could I do but praise God?

This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Psalms‬ ‭118:24‬ ‭ESV‬‬

Through Him then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name.
Hebrews‬ ‭13:15‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I praised God by singing the “Doxology”:

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!
Praise Him, all creatures here below!
Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts!
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!
Amen.

I remembered the “Doxology” from my church upbringing. Singing it brought me peace. I made it my go-to praise song.

I was still crying. I would sing while crying.

Then I remembered “The Lord’s Prayer” in song. My dad used to sing it. He really likes a version with an African beat, but I like Malotte’s, which is what I remember him singing when I was young.

I found a phenom, Jackie Evancho, on YouTube who sings “The Lord’s Prayer’ beautifully and pretty much in my range. I listened to it over and over. And when no one else was in the car, I sang along with her.

While crying.

Can you guess what I felt?

I felt peace! Peace that passes all understanding.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NASB‬‬

I was still sad. I was still heartbroken. But I trusted that the Lord was watching over my brother.

In the last year-and-a-half, the Lord has called me into His plan for my life. It was if the Lord said, “Okay, good. You understand how to respond to life’s difficulties. Now, pick up your cross and follow me.”

God sent me to Uganda on a short-term mission trip. While there, He convicted me that I needed to change the conversation about abortion.

In the last year, He has sent me to speak on abortion and sex outside of marriage both here and in Uganda.

Then He gave me the name of His new ministry: MybodyMyworship and told me what it’s to look like. (Find @MybodyMyworship on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.)

I learned to obey Him in this last year-and-a-half. I learned to worship him in all circumstances.

Honestly, I am on fire for the Lord. I’m so on fire for the Lord that I am annoying to my friends. They are going through difficulties, real and big difficulties. My encouragement? Sing a praise song.

But guess what? Life is still difficult at my house, too.

So, I have to take my own advice and sing a praise song. Sometimes I turn on Christian radio in every room of the house to shower my house with praise.

And the atmosphere changes.

Then three weeks ago, something amazing happened. I got a phone call from a psychiatric hospital that is an hour away from me here on the east coast. My brother is there!

My brother left the Twin Cities on his own accord and ended up one hour away from me.

God.

God did that. Only God could do that.

Things are not perfect. It’s not like my brother is suddenly healed of schizophrenia. But he has a roof over his head, he has clothes, and he has food for the time being.

Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!

I continue to pray for my brother’s complete healing. I praise God as we wait to see if my brother will make good decisions or become homeless again.

I praise God because it’s good for my soul.

What’s your go-to praise song?

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

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

Would You Have Been #BraveLikeMary?

Dear Christian Sisters,

We left off with Mary asking the angel Gabriel how she would conceive while being a virgin.

When Dr. Bill Creasy teaches on this passage, he chuckles and says that Gabriel blushes as he answers Mary:

The angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”
Luke 1:35

Trusting God’s Plan

If I were Mary, I would think that this is all still very puzzling. But then I think about how puzzling God’s plans seem to me every day.

I mean, He has used women like Tamar, Rahab, Ruth, and Bathsheba to accomplish His plan, so certainly His plans will be accomplished.

I just need to trust that God can do anything (Ephesians 3:20).

Confirming God’s Promises

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. For nothing will be impossible with God.”
Luke 1:36-37

All the relatives knew that Elizabeth was barren, so Mary would understand how miraculous it is that Elizabeth is now pregnant! So through the angel Gabriel telling Mary about Elizabeth, God gives Mary a way to confirm His promises.

Mary takes all this in. She will get pregnant if she says, “yes.” The angel confirmed that.

Considering Societal Consequences of Saying “Yes” to God

But if Mary gets pregnant before she’s married, Jewish Law says that she should be stoned to death.

“If there is a girl who is a virgin engaged to a man, and another man finds her in the city and lies with her, then you shall bring them both out to the gate of that city and you shall stone them to death; the girl, because she did not cry out in the city, and the man, because he has violated his neighbor’s wife. Thus you shall purge the evil from among you.”
Deuteronomy 22:23-24

Mary must have reasoned that the Lord would not have her stoned otherwise the Messiah would not be born.

But would people believe her when she claimed to be pregnant with the Messiah? What would her parents say? What would her betrothed Joseph say?

She had a decision to make. Will she say, “Yes”?

Dr. Creasy says that all the angels were holding their breath in anticipation.

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

And all the angels sighed in relief and high fived each other! Mary was the first person to say, “Yes” to Jesus.

Would You Have Said, “Yes”?

Would you have said, “yes”?

Perhaps you would be excited to carry the Messiah. I’m sure Mary was!

What Would Your Parents Say?

But think about what you know about the rest of the story. Do we ever hear anything about Mary’s parents?

No, we don’t. Mary doesn’t say anything about her parents’ reaction to her news. Perhaps rather than telling how negatively her parents responded, she chose to honor her mother and her father by saying nothing.

What Would Your Fiancé Say?

Think about what you know about Joseph’s reaction. He was going to divorce her quietly, so evidently he didn’t believe her, either.

Mary’s parents don’t believe her. Her fiancé doesn’t believe her. And we find out 30-some years later that the people who lived in Nazareth didn’t believe her, either.

What Would Society Say?

In John 8, after He saves the adulterous woman from stoning, Jesus continues to have a conversation with non-believers. In that conversation, they said to him, “We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father—even God” (verse 41 ESV), which is their way of accusing Mary of fornication.

What Would You say?

So, again, I ask you what you would have done? You’re in your teens. You’re a virgin. You would be facing a society that stones women to death for being pregnant out of wedlock. The Lord asked you to give birth to the Messiah. Would you have said, “yes”?

Would you have been #bravelikeMary?

In Christ,

Cheryl