Mary: Portrait of a Woman Used by God

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Mary: Portrait of a Woman Used by God

From Nancy Leigh DeMoss

One of my favorite biblical role models is Mary of Nazareth. In her life I have found a wealth of wisdom for my own walk with God. Her story illustrates many of the characteristics of the kind of woman God uses to fulfill His redemptive purposes in our world.

An Ordinary Woman

There was nothing particularly unusual about Mary. She was not from a wealthy or illustrious family. When the angel appeared to this young teenage girl, she was engaged to be married and was undoubtedly doing what engaged girls do—dreaming of being married to Joseph, of the home they would live in, of the family they would have. I don’t believe she was expecting her life to be used in any extraordinary way.

The significance of Mary’s life was not based on any of the things our world values so highly—background, physical beauty, intelligence, education, natural gifts, and abilities. It was Mary’s relationship to Jesus that gave her life significance. “The Lord is with you,” the angel told her (Luke 1:28, NIV). That is what made all the difference in this young woman’s life. And it is what makes all the difference in our lives.

An Undeserving Woman

God did not choose this young woman because she was worthy of the honor of being the mother of the Savior. The angel said to Mary, “Greetings, you who are highly favored!” (v. 28, emphasis added). That phrase could be translated, “You who are graciously accepted.” If any of us is to be accepted by God, it will be because of grace—not because of anything we have done.

It’s all because of grace. Over and over again in Scripture, we see that God chooses people who are undeserving. God didn’t look down from heaven and say, “I see a woman who has something to offer Me; I think I’ll use her.” Mary did not deserve to be used by God; to the contrary, she marveled at God’s grace in choosing her.

The moment we cease to see ourselves as undeserving instruments, chances are we will cease to be useful in the hand of God.

A Spirit-filled Woman

We, too, must be filled with the Spirit if we are to fulfill the purpose for which God has chosen us. When the angel said to Mary, “You’re going to have a child,” Mary responded, “How can this be? I’ve never been intimate with a man!” God had chosen her for a task that was humanly impossible.

The task for which God has chosen you and me is no less impossible. We can share the Gospel of Christ with our lost friends, but we cannot give them repentance and faith. You can provide a climate that is conducive to the spiritual growth of your children, but you can’t make them have a heart for God. We are totally dependent on Him to produce any fruit of eternal value.

In response to Mary’s expression of weakness and inadequacy, the angel promised her God’s strength and adequacy: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (v. 35).

Don’t ever forget that you cannot do what God has called you to do. You cannot parent that child, love that husband, care for that elderly parent, submit to that boss, teach that Sunday school class, or lead that small-group Bible study.

God specializes in the impossible so that when the victory is won and the task is complete, we cannot take any credit. Others know we didn’t do it, and we know we didn’t do it. We must always remember that we can only live the Christian life and serve God through the power of His Holy Spirit. As soon as we think we can handle it on our own, we become useless to Him. We have to be willing to get out of the way, let God take over, and let Him overshadow us.

An Available Woman

Equipped with the promises of God, Mary’s response was simply, “I am the Lord’s servant…. May it be to me as you have said” (v. 38). In other words, “Lord, I’m available. You are my master; I am Your servant. I’m willing to be used however You choose. My body is Yours; my womb is Yours; my life is Yours.”

In that act of surrender, Mary offered herself to God as a living sacrifice. She was willing to be used by God for His purposes—willing to endure the loss of reputation that was certain to follow when people realized she was with child, willing to endure the ridicule and even the possible stoning permitted by the Mosaic law, willing to go through nine months of increasing discomfort and sleeplessness, willing to endure the labor pains of giving birth to the Child. Mary was willing to give up her own plans and agenda so that she might link arms with God in fulfilling His agenda.

A Praising Woman

When God puts challenging circumstances in our lives, we either worship or we whine. I’m ashamed to say I’ve done more than my share of whining—even about ministry. “Oh, Lord, I’m tired of traveling. Do I have to go there? This is so hard! Why do I have to deal with that person?” I am reminded of the children of Israel in the wilderness who murmured incessantly. “If only God had just let us die in the wilderness,” they whined. One day God finally said, in essence, “You want to die in the wilderness? Okay, you’ll die in the wilderness!” (see Num. 14:2, 28–30). Be careful what you say when you murmur—God may take you up on it.

But when Mary’s world was turned topsy-turvy, when she was faced with a drastic change in plans, she responded in worship and praise. “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (vv. 46–47). So begins her Magnificat—one of the greatest hymns of praise ever lifted up to heaven. She worshiped God for His wonderful acts, for His mercy, and for choosing her to be a part of His great redemptive plan.

A Woman of the Word

Her prayer in Luke 1:46–55 includes at least a dozen quotations from the Old Testament Scriptures. In those days women did not have a formal education; Mary was probably illiterate. But she had listened to the reading of the Word and had hidden it in her heart. Her life and her prayers were filled with Scripture.

One of our greatest needs as women is to become women of the Word so that our prayers, our responses, and our words are saturated with God’s way of thinking. The world does not need to hear our opinions. When friends approach us for advice about dealing with their children, their boss, their finances, their fears, their depression, or other issues, they don’t need to hear what we think. We should be able to take them to the Word and say, “I don’t have the answers you need, but I know Someone who does. Here’s what God’s Word has to say about this situation.”

A Wounded Woman

Eight days after Jesus was born, Mary and Joseph took the infant to the temple (Luke 2:21–35). Simeon, who had been waiting for the appearance of the Messiah, took the Christ-Child in his arms and blessed Him. Simeon spoke of how the Child would be a sign that would be spoken against—foreshadowing the cross and the suffering He would undergo. Then Simeon looked at Mary and spoke words that she would not fully understand until she stood beneath the cross of her Son 33 years later. On that day she surely remembered Simeon’s words, “A sword will pierce your own soul too” (v. 35).

There at Calvary I believe that sword pierced Mary’s soul in more than one sense. First, as a mother she was losing her Son. She was giving up His life. Even as He laid down His life, she gave up her Son for the salvation and the redemption of the world.

Mothers, have you laid down your children for the sake of Christ and His kingdom? How sad it is on occasion to see Christian parents stand in the way of their children laying down their lives for the sake of Christ. And what a joy to see parents who gladly release their children to the will of God.

Another wound pierced Mary’s heart—this one even more deeply than the first. You see, she understood that her Son was dying not only for the sins of the world, but for her sins. Even before He was born, she had recognized Him as “God my Savior” (Luke 1:47, emphasis added). As good as she was, Mary was not good enough to get to heaven on her own. As is true with each of us, she had to place her faith in the crucified Son of God, who died in her place. As she stood beneath that cross, perhaps she recalled the words of the prophet Isaiah: “He was pierced for [my] transgressions, he was crushed for [my] iniquities… and by his wounds [I am] healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:5–6).

Mary was a wounded woman–wounded not only by her suffering, but by her sin. As she gazed upon her crucified Son, she realized that He was taking her wounds upon Himself. And as she believed, she was healed—cleansed of her sin. Three days later when she learned that He had conquered death and was alive, knowing she had been made whole by His death, she joined the other disciples in taking the Good News of His atonement to a wounded, sinful world, that they, too, might know His healing salvation.

For more than 2,000 years her life has provided a portrait of godliness for women who, like Mary, long to be used of God. This Christmas, will you allow God to use your life as a portrait of faith, hope, love and dedication to the reason for our season, our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ? We pray you will. God bless you!

Gratitude Allows Us to Stay Present in God’s Presence

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“In everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:18

We’ve arrived at the best time of the year – the Thanksgiving/Christmas season. I just love being with family and friends… enjoying great food, great fellowship, and great football (Go Crimson Tide of Alabama!)
 
As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we tend to focus on our blessings and giving thanks for God’s goodness. While that is certainly a good thing, it is not the best thing. The best thing is to turn Thanksgiving into Thanks-living. Regardless of the day or the situation, God wants us to be thankful. Why is that? 
 
1.  Thanks-living lets God know you have confidence in Him, no matter how deep the problems or how dire the circumstances. Thanks is faith turned inside out.              
 
2.  Thanks-living changes your countenance and disposition. Instead of being down and discouraged, spreading gloom and despair everywhere you go, you begin to radiate the joy of the Lord. The best witnesses for Christ are those who are facing life’s trials with a song of thanksgiving on their lips. 
 
3.  Thanks-living opens the door for God to work. God hates it when we grumble and gripe, but He loves it when we praise and give thanks. As we begin to live a life of thankfulness to God, He begins to work, even through the toughest trials and tests of faith. Paul and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison… and they sang a hymn of praise to the Lord. And when they finished singing, the Lord sent a jailhouse rock, and the prison doors were opened. You mark it down: God does miracles on our behalf when we choose to thank Him and praise Him, even in the deepest, darkest pit.
 
Let me challenge you as I challenge myself.  Discipline yourself to give thanks in everything.  Thank Him for the mountains … and thank Him for the valleys.  He is worthy of all your thanks and praise. 
 
A Prayer You May Need to Pray
 
Father God, I hate to say it, but I have been guilty of grumbling and griping about all my problems and trials. I have failed to be as thankful as I really should be and to remember that You are at work in my life, even through all the troubles. Please forgive me, God. I want to be a person who keeps my eyes on You and praises You, no matter what may come my way. So, thank You God for these blessings (name them) and these challenges (name them). I know You are in control of all things. I know You love me and work all things together for my good. I choose to trust You, Lord. Teach me to be a “praiser” who always finds the good… and not a complainer who always finds the bad. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Two New Books to Be Published Soon!

 

Dear Friends,
We are excited to announce the publication of two new books I’ve recently completed. One focuses on our personal connection to God in Christ and the other is a more scholarly, academic work about theology and psychology today in counseling situations.

Let me take a moment to thank you all, from the heart, for your continued prayer support as my prayer partners! Without your prayers, I simply could not do what God is leading me to do.

With the holidays approaching, please stay tuned for special devotional posts to help you enjoy to the fullest the reason for the season: JESUS. 

May God continue to bless you and keep you always!

David Crews
November 8, 2018

When Autumn Leaves Begin to Fall

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When autumn leaves begin to fall
I think of Him most of all
Colors bursting with the sun
Rays shine down on everyone.

There is a leafy autumn smell
I walk on softness where they fell
Floating gently to the ground
Touching down without a sound.

Animal are scurrying to and fro
Instinctively the creatures know
The leaves scattered everywhere
Beautifies a place once bare.

Rising up to the bluest sky
A tree looks down, creaks a sigh
Nestled in her hollowed place
Life will wait through winter’s race.

When the tress at last have shed
Sturdy branches though not dead
Beneath the earth roots hold tight
Tall and stately through the night.

When autumn leaves begin to fall
The Father orchestrates it all
Blooms in waiting seem to say
He is coming back someday.

Again dressed in a formal gown
Branches filled and hanging down
See the miracle of God once more
Birds leap from her branch to soar.

Here I stand in wonder of this
A soft wind blows to me a kiss
My spirit tells my mind to hush
Peace abounds in Christ for us.

The seasons change, come and go
But this is what I truly know
When autumn leaves begin to fall
I think of Him most of all.

Written by Kathleen Higham, 2011

Changed Forever: The Florida Panhandle in the Wake of Hurricane Michael

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(Associated Press: Mexico Beach, Florida)

(Update: Friday, October 12, 2018)
As many of you know, I was born and raised in Panama City, Florida–with many friends and family still there. However, the scene there now is more a “war zone.” It’s much worst than most people realize or even see on the limited news coverage. I’ve been in constant communication (counseling & prayer) with many in the Panhandle who have lost homes and businesses from Hurricane Michael. It’s beyond heartbreaking.

Imagine coming back, from fleeing this monster hurricane, only to discover the worst shock of your entire life; finding your home and-or-both business totally destroyed like a bomb had exploded it into complete rubble?

In Panama City

The devastation inflicted by Hurricane Michael came into sharp focus Thursday with rows upon rows of homes found smashed to pieces, and rescue crews struggling to enter stricken areas in hopes of accounting for hundreds of people who may have stayed behind.

Gov. Rick Scott said the Panhandle awoke to “unimaginable destruction.”

“So many lives have been changed forever. So many families have lost everything,” he said.

The full extent of Michael’s fury was only slowly becoming clear, with some of the hardest-hit areas difficult to reach with roads blocked by debris or water. An 80-mile (130-kilometer) stretch of Interstate 10, the main east-west route, was closed.

Video from a drone revealed some of the worst damage in Mexico Beach, where the hurricane crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 mph (250 kph) winds and a storm surge of 9 feet (2.7 meters). Many meteorologists claim we had wind gusts close to 185 mph. Certainly, it was hurricane of catastrophic proportions never encountered in the history of Northwest Florida.

Entire blocks of homes near the beach were obliterated, leaving concrete slabs in the sand. Rows and rows of other homes were rendered piles of splintered lumber. Entire roofs were torn away in the town of about 1,000 people, now a scene of utter devastation.

State officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of Michael. More than 375,000 people up and down the Gulf Coast were ordered or urged to clear out as Michael closed in. But emergency authorities lamented that many ignored the warnings.

National Guard troops made their way into the ground-zero town and found 20 survivors Wednesday night, and more rescue crews arrived Thursday. But the fate of many residents was unknown.

Mishelle McPherson and her ex-husband searched for the elderly mother of a friend. The woman lived in a small cinderblock house about 150 yards (meters) from the Gulf and thought she would be OK. The home was found smashed, with no sign of the woman.

“Do you think her body would be here? Do you think it would have floated away?” McPherson asked.

Linda Marquardt, 67, rode out the storm with her husband at their home in Mexico Beach. When the house filled with storm surge water, they fled upstairs. “All of my furniture was floating,” she said. “”A river just started coming down the road. It was awful, and now there’s just nothing left.”

As thousands of National Guard troops, law enforcement officers and medical teams spread out, the governor pleaded with people in the devastated areas to stay away because of hazards such as fallen trees and power lines.

“I know you just want to go home. You want to check on things and begin the recovery process,” Scott said. But “we have to make sure things are safe.”

More than 900,000 homes and businesses in Florida, Alabama, Georgia and the Carolinas were without power.

The Coast Guard said it rescued at least 27 people before and after the hurricane’s landfall, mostly from coastal homes. Nine people had to be rescued by helicopter from a bathroom of a home in hard-hit Panama City after their roof collapsed, Petty Officer 3rd Class Ronald Hodges said.

In Panama City, many homes were still standing, but no property was left undamaged. Downed power lines and twisted street signs lay all around. Roofs had been peeled off. Aluminum siding was shredded and homes were split by fallen trees. Hundreds of cars had broken windows. Pine trees were stripped and snapped off about 20 feet (7 meters) high.

In neighboring Panama City Beach, Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford reported widespread looting of homes and businesses. He imposed a curfew and asked for 50 members of the National Guard for protection.

The hurricane also damaged hospitals and nursing homes in the Panama City area, and officials worked to evacuate hundreds of patients. The damage at Bay Medical Sacred Heart Hospital included blown-out windows and a cracked exterior wall though no patients were hurt.

The state mental hospital in Chattahoochee, which has a section for the criminally insane, was cut off by land, and food and supplies were being flown in, authorities said. All phone communication was cut off to the complex of nearly 1,000 residents and more than 300 staff, leaving emergency radios as their only link out.

A man outside Tallahassee, Florida, was killed by a falling tree, and an 11-year-old girl in Georgia died when the winds picked up a carport and dropped it on her home. One of the carport’s legs punctured the roof and hit her in the head. A driver in North Carolina was killed when a tree fell on his car.

Former Hurricane Michael was a post-tropical cyclone and had sped out over the open Atlantic early Friday, but there will be nothing quick about Florida’s recovery from the devastation it left behind. The storm has also brought heavy rains and flash flooding to hurricane-weary parts of North and South Carolina and Virginia.

High winds, downed trees and power lines, streets inundated by rising waters and multiple rescues of motorists from waterlogged cars played out in spots around Virginia and neighboring North Carolina.

One of Michael’s survivors said his city “looks like an atomic bomb” hit it. Some of the worst damage was in Mexico Beach, Florida, where the hurricane crashed ashore Wednesday as a Category 4 monster with 155 mph winds and a storm surge of 9 feet.

Michael was the one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to make landfall on the U.S. mainland. The storm has been blamed for at least six deaths. Florida officials said 285 people in Mexico Beach had defied a mandatory evacuation order ahead of the storm.

As of late Thursday night, some 1.5 million homes and businesses in the Southeast had no electricity.

One-time Category 4 Hurricane Michael was a post-tropical cyclone moving across the Atlantic early Friday, the National Hurricane Center said. But people in the Florida Panhandle were only beginning to deal with the destruction in its wake.

Michael is Not Done Yet

The National Hurricane Center said early Friday Michael was getting stronger as it was transitioning into a post-tropical storm. It still had damaging winds and was generating “life-threatening flash flooding … over portions of North Carolina and the southern mid-Atlantic” states, the center said.

Updated Power Outage Numbers

There are over 1.5 million without power in six states as of 10 p.m. Thursday, officials said.

A breakdown by state of the power outages. All numbers are approximate:

326,691 customers without power in Florida
37,966 customers without power in Alabama
133,333 customers without power in Georgia
92,000 customers without power in South Carolina
731,596 customers without power in North Carolina
271,487 customers without power in Virginia

Some Floridians return to find homes destroyed

Deirdre Hawthorne and her family rode out the storm with more than 200 other people in a shelter, CBS News correspondent Nikki Battiste reports. On her way home, she said she was filled with “dread.” She has called Bristol, Florida, home for the last 18 years.

CBS News was with her when she saw her house for the first time. Somehow it was still standing beneath a twisted knot of fallen trees. Her daughter Amanda had to find another way into the house.

Amanda said she was “devastated, scared, happy.”

A tree happened to fall the other way, narrowly missing their home. But not everyone was so lucky.

Concluding Thoughts

Fortunately, our family was spared by the mercy of God, but many were not. Please continue praying for all the relief efforts going on now by many Christian organizations and also road clearing and construction crews in this massive cleanup going on right now.

The worst hurricane on historical record has just left it’s scar on the beautiful NW Florida tourist Panhandle. It will be a long time before things will ever be “back to normal,” if ever.

See my updated post on Facebook today for (CBS) aerial coverage of Panama City and Mexico Beaches extensive damage from Hurricane Michael.

Thanks again friends for all your prayers,

David Crews