Weekend Walk: 12/17/2011–Christmas devotional and memory verse

Mary.

She’s been on my mind this week as I wrap presents, plan to see The Nutcracker, listen to Christmas tunes, bake cookies and prepare fruit trays for class Christmas parties. She’s all wrapped up in the middle of this Christmas story.

I’ve been thinking about her even more when I complain to God about what He’s doing in my life (or sometimes not doing), or when I prepare my end-of-the-year prayer list for God and realize how much it’s beginning to sound like a Dear Santa letter.

Mary received the greatest blessing from God without asking or seeking, just by walking in obedience and purity of heart in her everyday life.

Mary’s on my mind because the angel called her, “you who are highly favored!” and told her, “The Lord is with you” (Luke 1:28, NIV 1984).

So often, I feel thoroughly humbled and honored that God gave me the care of my three precious daughters. Imagine how Mary felt to be asked to mother the Messiah.

She had found favor with God.  Isn’t that what we desire?  Not the accolades or rewards.  Certainly God isn’t looking for another Savior’s mom.  We do, however, long to please God and to bring Him joy.  I want Him to peer into the deepest parts of my heart and rejoice in what He finds there, just as He did with a teenage girl named Mary long ago.

I love Mary’s sweet innocence as she stood amazed that she would miraculously be with child.  Yet, the angel assured her, “nothing is impossible with God” and that was enough for her to believe (Luke 1:37).

If God wanted to stir up miraculous and impossible events in my life, I’d question and wonder, doubt, try hard to believe, believe for a moment, then feel incredulous again.  It’d be a see-saw of faith and doubt.

But Mary believed the promise.  “Nothing is impossible with God.”  I want to believe that God can do the impossible this year.

Then there’s Mary’s submission to all that God wanted to do in her life.  What the angel was asking wasn’t easy.  We think of the honor of being mother to the Promised Messiah, and yet it was entangled with pregnancy, labor, loss of a girlish figure, potential conflict with her betrothed, and societal shame.

It was messy and hard and disruptive.

Sometimes that’s what God asks us to do, skip out on the easy and step up to the difficult.  Mary was willing .Am I?  Are you?

My memory verse for this week shows her heart:

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her (Luke 1:38)

I’ll be praying this week for a Mary heart in preparation for Christmas and for a new year.

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Weekend Walk: 12/10/2011

Hiding the Word:

My husband and I were singing our favorite Christmas song the other night at a pastor dinner: Babe in the Straw.

James sang, “Who is this child asleep in a manger?  . . . On this holy night, have you come to redeem us, Little Child in the Straw?”

And I sang in response: “Who is this Babe, Prince of the Universe?  . . . The prophets did say, You would come to redeem us.  Babe in the Straw, save us all.”

Do you marvel at God’s incredible design?  He saved us all–you, me, the entirety of mankind–by entering the world as a baby.

Isaiah tells us that the “people walking in darkness have seen a great light” and that the Messiah will have “shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor” (Isaiah 9:2, 4).

The Babe in the straw was unmistakable light in the pitch-black dark of the world.  The Child in the manger freed His captive people and extended that grace to anyone who believed in Him.

All because He wasn’t just a sweet bundle of babyness, wrapped up in cloths and blinking His tiny eyes at His mama.

He was God in the flesh.

Isaiah also wrote my Christmas memory verse for this week:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given,
   and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
   Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6)

Did Christ cut through the darkness for you?  Did He snap off the chains and shackles that had you bound?

Have you seen Him at work in your life as a Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father and Prince of Peace?

This is my verse for meditation and memorization this week.  I hope you’ll join me!

You can also enjoy a little bit of Christmas music today!  Click here for a link to Babe in the Straw or you can click on the video below from the blog.

Weekend Rerun:

Doing A New Thing
Originally Published 03/21/2011

Last week, I ate out at a restaurant with friends, something I do very infrequently.  Since I don’t go out often, I like to minimize my risk by ordering the same thing off the menu each time.  I love what I get.  I enjoy it every time.  If I change things up and order something different, I could hate it and my very special and rare dinner out would be ruined.

But, not wanting to miss out on something potentially new and exciting, I read through the entire menu and considered taking the huge life risk of ordering something — gasp!!! — different.  I asked the friends I was with what they were getting, thinking I may be inspired.

Then the waiter stared at me expectantly, pencil poised over paper, and asked me what I would like—and I ordered the “same old, same old” and enjoyed every bite of my dinner.

Then, on Sunday I got my hair cut.  There is something truly tempting about that moment when the hairdresser asks you, “Now, what are we going to do today?”  A little tiny part of me wants to say—color it, cut it, curl it, straighten it, layer it, angle it—whatever.  Make it new and fabulous!

But, I’m me.  So, I asked her just to trim the layers that were already there and generally clean up the haircut I already had.

I’m a creature of habit because habit brings me comfort.   Words like “new” and “improved” and “change” are anathema to me.  I prefer “traditional,” “classic” and “time-tested.”

Knowing this about me, imagine my struggle this year as I felt God’s clear and persistent nudging to quit my job—the same job I’ve had for 6-1/2 years.  I haven’t even just been doing the same kind of work that long, it’s been for the same company, working some of the same accounts, on the same computer program.

It was habit and comfort.  It was known and safe.  It was my “normal.”  And God said it was time to leave the old and do something new.  After months of stressing, praying and debating with God, I finally obeyed, and although I’m shaken up at the loss of my comfortable “known,” I am beginning to feel excited anticipation about walking with God into a new place.

In Scripture, God said, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.  See, I am doing a new thing!  Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?  I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NIV).

If we want to walk in intimacy with God, sometimes we have to leave the past in order to experience the “new thing” He’s doing.

Israel had to leave slavery in Egypt in order to journey to the Promised Land.

Jonah had to leave a successful career as a prophet to Israel in order to begin a nationwide revival in Nineveh.

The disciples had to leave their careers and families in order to follow Jesus when He gave them a simple command, “Come, follow me.”

When Jesus called the disciples, the 12 were quick to obey.  They hopped out of their fishing boats and put aside tax collecting paperwork in order to pursue a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to minister with and learn from our Savior in the flesh.

Israel and Jonah were a bit more reluctant about leaving the past for something new.  Israel whined and complained about it for 40 years.  Jonah hightailed it out of town in the opposite direction of his call.

Yet, God was unmistakably and miraculously at work, despite their fears and even disobedience.  The verse in Isaiah tells us “Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”  We will perceive God at work.  When He moves, His hand in our life will be unmistakable.  That’s what is so exciting!  All we have to do is obey His lead.  His job is to show up in all of His glory and power.

God may be calling you to something entirely different than me.  You may need to work part-time, work full-time, follow a new career, stay at home with your kids, have a baby, start a ministry, stop a ministry, read the Bible in a new way, start going to church, change your schedule around, stop watching television, change what music you listen to, begin a quiet time every day, initiate a friendship, separate from a friend who is a bad influence on you, eat better, begin exercising, move to another state . . .

No matter what God is calling you to, join Him!  Pack your bags and head out of Egypt.  Put aside the ministry you know so you can answer a new call.  Abandon your fishing nets in order to follow Christ.

You may see only wilderness or desert ahead of you, but don’t let that dissuade you.  God promises to make “a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.”

******************************************************************************************************************

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King

Weekend Walk: 12/03/2011

Hiding the Word

My second Christmas memory verse for the season is one of my favorites.  When she talks with her cousin, Mary, for the first time about their pregnancies and the babies that they carry, Elizabeth exclaims:

  Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”
Luke 1:45

Scripture tells us in Luke 1:41 that the moment Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby she was carrying jumped in her womb and she “was filled with the Holy Spirit.”

That’s a powerful moment.  I think we overlook too often the fact that we Christians have the Spirit within us all the time, everywhere we go.  But, people before Christ’s resurrection and ascension did not.  Until that point, the Spirit fell upon particular people at certain times only for specific purposes.

So, imagine Elizabeth going about her daily business and then BAM, the rush of the Holy Spirit coursed through her being.  She can’t help but give God praise.  It just pours out of her in an instant.

Part of what she exclaims in this spontaneous worship and prophetic recognition that Mary was carrying the Messiah is the declaration that Mary was blessed because she believed the promises of God.

And so are we.  How blessed we are when we believe that God will fulfill His promises to us.

This is my verse for meditation and memorization this week.  I hope you’ll join me or choose one of your own!

Weekend Rerun

For Your Name’s Sake
Originally Published 03/04/2011

This morning, I filled my minivan up with gas and about choked on my bottled water when I saw the little rolling numbers climbing higher and higher.  I started imagining the what-if’s of our future like not being able to afford food for my children and my husband having to sleep at his office because we couldn’t afford the gas for him to commute.  Within a few seconds, I had my family out on the street with one pair of clothes each and no food.

So, I took one look at my total gas bill and marched inside the store and bought myself a caramel cream doughnut with chocolate frosting and a double chocolate milk.   I almost bought two doughnuts, but a little Holy Spirit self-control kicked in—thank goodness.

Many of the storms in our lives are simply the result of living in this sinful, messed up, broken world.  We can’t blame God for the crises we face.  It’s not God’s fault my gas bill each month is about half my mortgage.  Sometimes the storms we face are because we’ve sinned or have chosen to disobey God and now we’re facing the consequences.  Other times, Satan is at work, trying to discourage and defeat us with trial after trial.

Regardless of whether our difficulties are God-caused or God-allowed, we can trust that He’s always at work for our benefit and for His glory.

In the case of the disciples in Mark 6:45-52, just because they were in a storm, didn’t mean they were out of God’s will or that they had sinned.   It says, “Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida” (verse 45, NIV).  He intended for them to be out on that sea, facing the wind and waves.  Clearly, this particular storm served a purpose in their lives–two of the same purposes that God often has for our life storms.   He uses them to prepare us for our future and to show His glory.

Lessons for the Future

When the disciples faced their first storm on the sea in Mark 4:35-41, Jesus was in the boat with them the whole time, sleeping on a cushion in the stern.  At any time during the storm, they could reach over and wake Him up and that’s what they finally did.  The disciples exhausted their own resources and acknowledged that the storm was too much for them, so they “woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?'” (Mark 4:35-41).

But, this second storm in Mark 6:45-52 was different.  Jesus wasn’t physically in the boat with them.  He had stayed on the other shore and went off by Himself to pray.  So, when the storm got too much for the disciples this time, they couldn’t just do what they did before.   In this storm, they were physically alone.

Jesus uses this second storm to teach them that just because He wasn’t physically in the boat, doesn’t mean He was unaware of what they were facing or unable to save them.  This was a vital lesson for their future!  Every day brought them one step closer to the cross, to His resurrection and His ascension—to a time when they would have to live out everyday life without Jesus talking, walking and eating with them.  Without this lesson in this boat in the storm on the sea, the disciples wouldn’t have survived a single trial after Jesus left them.  They wouldn’t know how to withstand a storm without Jesus physically in their boat.

God doesn’t waste the experiences in our lives–the storms, the trials, the bad days, the annoyances, the interruptions.  All of it.  He can be at work in our lives, teaching us and growing our faith, transforming us to be more like Christ, comforting us so we can later comfort others, as long as we yield those moments to Him and willingly receive the lessons.

For His Glory

Not only can God use our every experience to teach and prepare us for the future, but He is also intentional about being glorified in our every circumstance.

In the case of the disciples, when Jesus walked across the water in the middle of the night and climbed into the boat with them, the storm ceased.  As you can imagine, the disciples “were completely amazed.”  I’d be amazed, too!  In the companion passage in Matthew 14:33, it says, “Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.'”

When God gives us too much to handle, it’s not so we feel defeated or broken or ashamed.  It’s not to humble us or make us fall.  God gives us too much so that we give everything to Him. Then, when He carries the burdens that force us to the ground, He is glorified.  People stand in amazement and see God in us and at work in our lives.  There is no question of whether “Heather did this amazing thing”—No, it can only be God.

That means that instead of praying for the miracles I think I need, I can tell God my problems and simply pray for Him to be glorified in every situation.  That’s not natural for an in-control, planning person like myself.  I am so tempted to pray for specific miracles when I go through tough times and tell the God of the Universe exactly how He can provide for my need.

Praise God that He shows me enough grace not to give me what I ask for!

I’ve slowly learned not to pray for the miracle I think I need, but to pray for God’s glory instead.  When David was surrounded by enemies and running for his life, he so often prayed for God to rescue him or save him for God’s glory and for the honor of God’s name.  In Psalm 31:3, he prayed, “For You are my rock and my fortress; Therefore, for Your name’s sake, Lead me and guide me.”

Whatever you are facing, you can trust God to know the perfect way to provide for you and to rescue you.  Give your problems to Him and ask Him, “Lord, be glorified in this situation.  Be amazing.  Be awesome.  For Your name’s sake, take me through this storm.  For the glory of Your name, rescue me.  Whatever brings You glory, Lord, that’s what I ask for.”

Today, I saw this kind of faith in a prayer from another family.  I don’t personally know the little girl, Kate McCrae, who is fighting metastatic brain cancer for the second time in her young life.  But, her story has touched my heart.  I pray for her all the time and I follow her family’s updates and prayer requests.  At the end of her post today, Kate’s mom wrote, “We continue to pray that Kate would be healed of this disease, and that Jesus would be glorified through our heartbreak.

What an example of faith for us.  Not many of us will face a crisis in this life as big as this family is facing and yet this hurting mom is willing to place everything in God’s hands and just ask that He be glorified.

Is my daily life too much for me to handle?  All the time.  Is Kate’s cancer too much for her family to handle?  It’s too much for any of us on this earth.  But absolutely nothing is too much for God, and so we hoist the burdens that are too heavy for our shoulders onto His back and let Him carry them and us as well—and then we give Him all the glory.

Please join me in praying for Kate McCrae as she begins radiation treatments for her cancer.  You can follow this link to learn more about her story.

********************************************************************************************************

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for www.myfrienddebbie.com and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2011 Heather King