And Mary Kept All These Things In Her Heart…

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By Jaime Luce

What’s in a word?  I know that normally we say what’s in a name but today I wanted to mull over what’s in a word.  The word that seemed to keep jumping off the pages and onto my eyeballs was “Marvel”.  We even have a comic strip of super hero’s called “Marvel comics”.  Why do we put together the superpower or supernatural with Marvel?  Is it a clue to the depths of our feelings and hopes, or maybe even our faith?  I would venture to say it is.  This should prove to be a thoughtful journey. We begin this journey in Luke chapter 2.

The scene begins with Mary and Joseph traveling for the census where Mary goes into labor and gives birth to Jesus in a stall full of animals.  Just nine months earlier in Luke 1 we see that Mary was visited by the angel Gabriel to tell her she was highly favored and that she was chosen to carry the Son of God who would save His people from their sins.  She showed great faith in declaring “Behold the maidservant of the Lord!  Let it be to me according to your word”.  And we know she really did believe by faith what the angel said because when Mary went to see her cousin Elizabeth who was pregnant with John the Baptist, Elizabeth exclaimed to Mary “Blessed is she who believed, for the fulfullment of those things which were told her from the Lord.”  So we know Mary was full of faith and I think it would be safe to say that she was hanging on every word spoken to her by the angel.  I know I would!  I mean this could ruin her reputation.  Her future will forever be altered and not because she chose it initially.  She was chosen and had to face what she believed about God in her innermost being.  We will see later how this was one of the purposes of Christs coming.  But first let’s look at the Shepherds.

In v.8 the scene shifts from Mary, Joseph and Jesus to the Shepherds in the fields just doing their jobs.  The verse says that the shepherds were living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.  Then an Angel appears standing before them glowing!  They were terrified and the Angel tells them not to be afraid because he has good news that will bring great joy.  He then tells them about Jesus’ birth and where to find them.   The shepherds are so astonished they immediately set out to see for themselves.  Then there in the manger they see Jesus just as the angel had said.  So they did what anyone else would do.  They began to tell everyone what had happened to them and what they saw.  V. 18 tells us that all those who heard it “Marveled” at those things that were told to them. It is probably a good place to explain what to Marvel means.  It’s very simple.  It’s to wonder, to be amazed, to be astonished, to admire.  The story of Jesus’ remarkeable birth and all it’s surrounding components should cause us to Marvel! To ponder and think about it and its implications for our lives.  We should be amazed at His love for us that the “Darling of Heaven” would leave His kingdom and come die for us.  And that’s just the beginning!

Fast forward to V. 25 to the day that Mary and Joseph go to the temple to present Jesus to the Lord, as was the custom according to the law of Moses.  There at the temple was a man named Simeon whom the Bible says was a just and devout man and on whom was the Holy Spirit. So now we know he was quite a man!  That day the Holy Spirit directed Simeon to go to the temple.  When Simeon saw Jesus he said “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You  have prepared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” Then there it is again. V.33 And Joseph and His mother “marveled” at those things which were spoken of Him.  I kind of struggled to understand that they marveled at this since they had first both been appeared to by Angels.  Mary to her face and Joseph in a dream.  Then the shepherds come and tell them that angels appeared to them to tell them about Jesus and what He would do.  This is where I really began to think about this word Marvel.  I mean doesn’t it seem like if you have a supernatural experience like that, that you would begin to let it sink in?  It’s as if they were hearing it for the first time, both times.  But wait, it gets better.

Simeon blesses them but then says this to Mary, “Behold this child is destined for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign which will be spoken against”(yes, a sword will pierce through your own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”  Now we’re getting to it.  That word thoughts means to reason, to question and consider.   It’s deliberation of turning thoughts over in the mind; reckoning by mental questions, opinions, designs, and disputes. The “Word Wealth” in my bible says this: Deliberating with himself, settling accounts, and suspicious because of his state of indecision.  Through one’s acceptance or rejection of Christ, the real thoughts of one’s heart toward himself and toward God become clear.

I hope you’re still tracking with me here.  When we are confronted with Jesus and all His glory this will happen:  We will begin deliberating in our minds, asking questions and having suspicions.  This happens because we are faced with our true thoughts towards God and ourselves.  Maybe Mary kept marveling because she somehow couldn’t believe that something so wonderful could come from her and it wasn’t necessarily her doubting in God but in herself and her calling, or the doubt that she really was highly favored.  We are forced to see what we really believe about Him and Us!  Simeon said this is one of the reasons for His coming; So that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.  How can we believe what God has said to us or about us until we know what we even think about God. Throughout Jesus’ ministry we saw over and over how the Pharisees, Scribes and Saducees thoughts toward God were challenged by Jesus himself.  He told them they didn’t even know Him, that they were of their father the devil!  Whoa, that’s pretty strong stuff.  Our thoughts should not be gained by other peoples opinions and beliefs or the traditions of men but from our own experience and study of His Word.  Don’t get me wrong.  I’m sure even when you have heard from Him, and maybe even supernaturally, that word will be challenged.  Think of Mary.  She had no doubt that the angel Gabriel visited her and told her what and how this all would happen yet I’m sure she was thinking this can’t be right as she goes into labor and there is no place for her to give birth except in the barn with the animals.  She was alone and had no other women there to help her.  Or even years later as Jesus is hanging on a cross!  What did she believe then?  You must realize that if God says it, even when it’s challenged, it will surely come to pass as He said.  So let’s go back to the text.

While they were at the temple a prophetess named Anna prophesied of His redemption.  So in one day they receive two confirmations of who He is.  Then the text jumps ahead to when Jesus is twelve years old.  His family has traveled to Jeruselem for the feast per their custom.  When the feast is ended and they have begun to journey home Mary and Joseph realize that Jesus isn’t with them.  They travel back looking for Him and find Him in the temple where it says in V.46 “Now so it was that after three days they found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them and asking questions.  And all who heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.  So when they saw Him, they were amazed…”

Time has passed since their visitations with Angels and of prophecy’s about who He was and what He would do.  Maybe is was time to encourage themselves in their faith about the promises of God.  Maybe they got so used to just living life and raising children that they forgot what was promised about Jesus and His purpose.  I’m not sure why it was so surprising and amazing that Jesus would be in the temple and discussing the things of God after what they were told about His life.  But this I do know.  When we see Jesus at work His nature causes us to question, as it should. When we see Him moving in us or in others we should Marvel and see if we still hold firm to His promises and plans for our lives.

What are our thoughts towards God and Ourselves?  This leads me to one last gem here that struck me.  Let’s not forget our Savior came as a baby.  A baby!  A baby that needs to be raised and trained.  If Jesus needed prophecy’s and confirmations of who He was and what He would become then so do we and so do our children. As we raise our children we must ask the Lord His thoughts and plans for our lives and those of our children so that we can train them up in the way they should go. Jesus was in the temple and our children should be also.  We should be taking them to the house of God to teach them and train them how to hear from the one who knows their purpose.  A place where they can ask questions and listen and learn what thoughts to think towards God and toward themselves.  The world will tell them they are someone else.  They need, no, we all need to know what He says about us.  You may be a Mary, called to be a mother or you may be a Simeon, full of the Holy Spirit and serving at the church.  You may be an Anna, a prophetess to the people of God.  Whatever He has called you to, I challenge you to Marvel. Marvel at His greatness and power.  Marvel at His love for you no matter what you’ve done or where you’ve come from.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 says this “Thus says the Lord: Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, let not the mighty man glory in his might, nor let the rich man glory in his riches; but let him who glories glory in this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord, exercising lovingkindness, judgement, and righteousness in the earth.  For in these I delight, says the Lord.”

Don’t let the worlds feeble attempts of greatness cause you to marvel.  Marvel at Him, at the one who created it all from nothing and let Him show off His superpowers on your behalf! Jesus is my Superhero and no one else compares!

Jesus Is Passing By

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By Jaime Luce

Is your storm raging?  Are the winds against you?  Have you been in this contrary position to the point of exhaustion?  I have been in this place many times.  That place where though you have seen God move on your behalf and maybe even seen the miraculous, here you are again in the midst of another storm.  Today while getting my morning Starbucks as per my routine, I flipped through my Facebook while waiting for my drink.  I came across the story of a woman who had been through one storm after another to the point of exhaustion and wanting to quit.  Complaining to her father, he puts three pots of water on the stove to boil.  Into the three pots he placed potatoes, eggs, and coffee beans.  Exasperated by the watching and not understanding the daughter complains “what are you doing?”.  Finally the father speaks and asks “what do you see?”.  She says, “Potatoes, eggs, and coffee”.  This isn’t helping and the father explains that all three of these items were put into the same situation but resulted in very different outcomes.  The potatoes, though they went in hard, were changed and came out soft and unable to stand up to the heat.  The eggs, though going in fragile, came out hard on the inside.  The coffee, however, remained unchanged.  Rather than the boiling water changing the coffee bean, the coffee bean used its circumstance to make use of the boiling water, creating something new and useful, coffee.  Then the father asked his daughter, “which one are you?”.  Then as I sat down to have a time of devotions I read the story in Mark 6. Which leads me to today’s muse.

Mark 6 has several different stories to tell but what I found is a deeper thread running through all of them beginning in chapter 5.  Many times we read the stories of Jesus healing people and teaching the disciples but we don’t pay attention to what Jesus was dealing with Himself.  This chapter immediately follows the account of Jesus healing the woman with the issue of blood and the raising of Jairus’ daughter back to life. Which on a side note has a beautiful picture of Jesus speaking to Jairus. When Jairus hears the words that his daughter is dead Jesus immediately tells him “Do not be afraid, only believe.”  He spoke hope as quickly as the words of death were spoken.  He always has compassion and speaks life to us in our moment of panic.  Okay, side bar finished.  Back to the topic at hand.  After all this happened we see that Jesus went to His own country.  This is so sad to me because He grew up there and no one believed in Him.  They questioned who He was, who taught Him, and how He had done what people said He could do.  His response to this is in Mark 6:4  Where Jesus says, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own country, among his own relatives, and in his own house.”  Can you imagine how He was feeling?  The ones He wanted to minister to most were the same ones He could do the least for, even in His own house.  This can be such a lonely and discouraging feeling when your loved ones do not believe in you.  For most this would lead to all kinds of dysfunction. Thankfully our Teacher always shows us what to do.

Then Jesus who continually cares about the Father’s mission and not Himself began to train the disciples to go out into the ministry on their own.  He gave them power over unclean spirits and told them how to be received and how to be rejected.  These things He knew from personal experience as we just saw.  Once they came back they shared of all they had done, all who were healed, and all they taught.  Then we see while they were doing the ministry, and doing it for the first time alone, they get the news of John the Baptists murder by beheading demanding them to stop to bury John’s body.  All the disciples were dealing with great grief.  You know the feeling.  When you work and work to take care of everyone and in the midst of all your giving you get hard news.  Another storm.  Sometimes things just seem to come wave after wave, crashing over you. We know they were feeling overwhelmed because Jesus says in Mark 6:31, “Come aside by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”  Jesus and the disciples were longing for time to recover. Another side bar, remember that your Pastors and leaders too, get overwhelmed and need a break.  Be good to them.  Pray for them.  Encourage them as they are always giving and find it hard to take time to rest and be refreshed.  Side bar closed.

At this point in the story I am desperately hoping that Jesus gets some time alone.  But the crowds of people who always followed them saw where they were going and ran ahead of them so that when Jesus and the disciples got there a great multitude was there waiting for them.  I mean come on, they need a break!  But look at v. 34.  “And Jesus, when He came out, saw a great multitude and was moved with compassion for them, because they were like sheep not having a shepherd.” So He began to teach them many things.  This went on until way in the night.  No one had eaten or had brought food to eat.  Jesus tells the disciples “You feed them”. The disciples not understanding what He meant, questioned Jesus’ words knowing it was impossible.  We are just like them.  We don’t walk in the knowledge that Jesus is the miracle worker to do the impossible and if He asks us to do something, there is a way and He will perform it.  We remain in our pattern of natural thinking.  Jesus on the other hand knew what He was going to do.  He was going to do what He always does.  He tells us to bring Him what we have, that’s all.  Just bring what you have no matter how insignificant.  He will take it as He did, bless it, and then ask you to share it.  He even shows them how to share it.  And in doing this the multitude is blessed and their need is met.

We as humans make ministry too complicated.  Just take what you have and give it to The Lord.  Let Him bless it and then share it as He gives you direction.  It’s that simple.  Jesus said in Matthew 10:8 “freely you have received so freely give”.  Our problem is the same as the disciples had. We bounce right back into natural thinking even after witnessing the power of God, without remaining firm in the knowledge of God’s provision.  Then Jesus told the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side so He could send the multitude away. Following Jesus’ instruction they are immediately forced to deal with another storm in the natural.

The scripture tells us that Jesus was longing for time to pray alone and be refreshed, yet He can see His disciples straining at rowing.  They were struggling to go where they were told to go because the wind was against them.  Let that sink in.  Do you ever feel like “God I’m doing what you told me to do and yet the wind is against me.  I’m struggling to get to the other side like you told me”. Well first can I tell you, me too. We all struggle with the same thing.  The enemy loves to bring confusion to your mind about the very thing that the Lord has commanded you to do. You think you know what the Lord wants you to do but accomplishing it isn’t easy. It seems like maybe we heard wrong because surely if we heard Him correctly this would be easy, right? I really questioned the Lord reading this, this morning and asked Him to show me what I’m missing. In V. 48 it says, “Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them.  Now about the fourth watch (which by the way is 3-6am, so they were straining all night and not making progress) of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by.” WHAT?  HE WOULD HAVE PASSED THEM BY?  How could He do that?  Why would He do that?  The one who always has compassion was going to just walk right past them.

Oh my goodness folks.  When He showed this to me I got it.  Jesus was walking without strain on the same waves that the disciples were straining against due to the wind.  The Teacher was again teaching a lesson.  Why do we strain when we know we have heard His instruction? He had just multiplied the food from nothing with no effort of theirs other than to assess what they had and give it to Him.  Yes, there was wind and yes, there were waves which made it difficult and even a struggle to row, yet Jesus was walking on the waves with ease.  They thought He was a ghost and cried out in fear.  So Jesus of course says, “Be of good cheer!  It is I; do not be afraid” and got in their boat.  Here is where we pay attention to what Jesus said.  His first words were “be of good cheer”.  This is our clue when we face opposition.  You see there are different kinds of storms.  The kind that can drown you and take your life if you let it. Then there are the storms that can’t really harm you yet can still cause you a lot of struggle and strain.  This was exactly that type of storm.  The wind pushed against them making it difficult to gain ground. The kind of winds that can wear you out.  And remember they were already tired to begin with.  They had ministered all day and into the night.  That is usually when these kinds of storms come.  You know those kinds of struggles.  The ones that feel as though everything is pushing against you and are not for you.  When there is nothing propelling you forward or giving you the lift you need.  But Jesus told them what the answer was.  “BE OF GOOD CHEER, IT IS I; DO NOT BE AFRAID.”  Do you see it?  The first thing they needed to do was have joy.  Be of good cheer.  Be happy!  God has given the direction. So regardless if it is easy or not we should have joy because in 1 Thessalonians 5:24  we know, “The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.” That’s something to be joyful about.  Remember how Joshua and the children of Israel were instructed by God on how to enter the promised land and take Jericho?  They marched around for 6 days and then on the 7th day and the 7th time around they were to blow the trumpet and let out a great shout.  Why do you think they were to do that?  Well first when you lift up your voice in victory it gives you strength.  It’s the “I can do it!” in our spirits.  That’s why the scripture tells us that the joy of the Lord is our strength.  Jesus stands up in you and you feel the strength and the victory.  You may ask where does the joy come from?  It’s the understanding that we already have the victory.  The knowledge that you don’t have to strain for it.  Jesus said it and that settles it.  It’s what He said to Jairus.  “Do not be afraid, only believe!”  You must walk the walk or fight the fight with joy.  Paul called it the good fight of faith.  Not every storm is bad.  Sometimes they are lessons in victory.

Then, to shout with victory confuses the enemy.  He isn’t sure what’s happening.  The thing he sent for you to struggle against is making you joyful?  How can that be?  A cheerful spirit is a win, win! You go from strength to strength (Psalm 84.7) and from glory to glory. (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)

Then Jesus tells them “It is I”.  We must remember you never have to fear Jesus or anything He calls you to do. “It is I”.  He is there accomplishing something in you and for you.  All we have to do is call out to Him and He will immediately join us.  He told them “Do not be afraid”.  We always seem to need reminding that there is no need for fear when you have His joy and know it’s Him and He’s with you.  But the disciples did not understand this.   Mark, the author, tells us why they didn’t get it in V. 52 telling us they had not understood about the loaves, because their hearts were hardened.  This means that though He had just performed a great miracle from nothing more than what they had and fed over 5,000 hungry men let alone women and children, the disciples did not have the confidence that Jesus’ provision was enough to cross the wind and waves.  They weren’t able to apply the knowledge of His provision in any circumstance.  Their hearts were hard, like the analogy of the egg in boiling water, they were hard on the inside because of their storms.

Jesus just may pass on by if you don’t invite Him to travel with you.  He was passing by because He was going where He told them to go.  He didn’t even need a boat to get there.  Just like He didn’t need a bunch a food to feed people.  His provision is always enough.  It’s enough even when the wind in against you.  And just like the disciples, once His joy is with you the wind will cease.  You will realize that a storm isn’t a storm if you have His joy.  A storm isn’t a storm when you invite Him on your journey of obedience.  A storm isn’t a storm when the Creator leads the way.

I know you may be facing some very real challenges and the wind is against you, but today ask the One who made the wind and waves to step into your boat and receive His joy.  He is always trustworthy.  The scripture says in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful.”  Let Jesus speak to you before you panic as He did for Jairus.  He has shown us that no matter what is going on He always has compassion on us.  You may be in the boiling water of life.  Which one are you?   The potato, the egg or the coffee bean?  Jesus is passing by.  Don’t miss your opportunity to remain firm ,standing in confidence in your spirit, and change the elements outside of you and let His joy give you victory.

Can you hear me now?

By Jaime Luce

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Are we really listening?  I have seen this quote several times lately and I even shared it on Facebook myself.  It’s a truth that’s worth paying attention to.  It is said that communication is at the heart of most of our relational problems.  Many times we think that the person we have the conflict with just isn’t listening to us.  I mean really have you ever said “You’re not listening to me.”  Or we feel misunderstood.  We say “You don’t understand”.  I think we are all right because we are usually not really listening.  And here is the kicker.  God is saying the same thing to us.  “You don’t understand” and the reason you don’t understand is that ” You’re not listening to me”.

We do have a hearing problem.  It’s so funny how for the most part we think it’s always the other person.  So hang on.  Don’t tune me out now.  This is what I mean.  It really is exactly what the quote says.  So here is another quote for you.listening

You know when we are being formed in our mothers womb we develop our ears before our eyes.  God is so wise.  This is why scripture tells us that the just live by faith and not sight.  Justice is truth with right actions.  This we do because we know it is right regardless of what it may look like on the outside.  And how do we know what the truth is?  By the only source of truth, the Word of God.  You shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32).  And how do we gain the trust or faith in that word?  Well the scripture tells us that Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.  So what it’s saying is that even though we read the words with our eyes it is our spirit who hears it.  It’s the hearing that affects us from the inside out.  Our sight affects us from the outside in.  If we live from the outside in we will always be shaken by the storms around us but if we live from the inside out we won’t be moved by the surrounding storms.

I’ve also heard it said to think about what you are thinking about which is a right thing to do.  But I submit to you to think about what you are listening to?  If faith comes by hearing we must be diligent about what we hear.  Hearing God was an inherent gift given to us at creation.  God came and walked and talked with Adam and Eve everyday.  This was not only what we were able to do but what we did regularly.  It isn’t some spooky thing to think we can speak to and hear from our creator.  You wouldn’t think it strange for a father to talk to his children and yet so many do.  We have been tricked out of our relationship with the most awesome powerful holy God who happens to be our Papa.  Every little boy likes to have that “my dad is bigger than your dad” or “my dad is stronger than your dad” verbal contest.  Our daddy put that in us.  He wants us to know he’s the biggest, strongest and most awesome there is and then to rely on that knowledge.

So this then brings us to a crossroads of sorts.  Because not only can we hear from HIM but He expects us to listen!  Imagine that.  A parent expecting his child to not just hear but listen and act accordingly.  And this isn’t because He’s mean or a tyrant with a big ego wanting his way but because He’s a good father and he wants to teach us how to grow and be secure in who we are as His children.  The problem is we rely on our eyes and not our ears.  When He speaks He expects us to listen.  To think you can’t hear is a lie.  How can we ever grow up into strength if we can’t hear who we are, where we are to go and what we are to do?  We must receive the truth that we can hear.  Mark 4:24-25 says “Then He said to them, “Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear more will be given.  For whoever has, to him more will be given;  but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.”   This is such a great promise!  If I listen He will talk to me even more.  I can choose how much I hear from him.  But by the same token if I don’t listen He will quit speaking.  Isn’t that how it is with each other?   After a while if the person you keep talking to just doesn’t listen then you quit speaking. We no longer waste our time.    Which brings us back to our quotes.  We must become people who listen in order to learn and grow and not those who mearly listen in order to reply.  When we only want to reply we show just how proud we are in thinking we already know it all and don’t need to be taught.  We must humble ourselves and listen to our father.  Then the great benefit is His promise that faith will rise in us because faith cometh by hearing.  His words are available to us everyday.

If you aren’t reading His words or praying and conversing with Him you really can’t hold Him responsible when you feel confused and don’t know what to do.  We must grow in our faith knowing He has made the way for us to hear Him and know Him.  The faith that comes is not a faith in faith which is nothing more than positive thinking but the knowledge that He will do what He has promised.  It is that truth that allows us to walk by faith and not by sight.  Sight without hearing can be very deceiving.  It’s like those videos that depending on the music in the background can fool you on what you are watching.  If I see a shark in the water with circus music in the background I exect silly clown activity with bumbling around and running into things but if I hear the Jaws song I expect someone to die! We need our ears open and paying attention.  We need to listen with the intent to hear and learn.  Let’s be good stewards of the ears we have been given.  They affect our very spirit.

Today you can rest in the knowledge that you have a good dad who wants to walk and talk with you.  He will give you the guidance and strength for whatever journey you find yourself on.  Don’t choose to walk alone or in fear.  And for goodness sake don’t go listening to all the wrong things.  On this journey pack your bible and take heed to what you hear.  I promise He will speak.