Archive for year: 2015
I hope you’re having an amazing Christmas today celebrating our Savior’s birth.
To think that the King of kings
chose to leave the perfection of a grandiose kingdom
and invade our sinful world with love
and a plan for redemption is mind-boggling.
I’m still thinking about Mary and want to pass on some lessons
I’m learning that I hope will challenge you today:
• Mary allowed God to make good things from her mistakes.
Twelve years after Christ was born, Mary lost Him!
She and Joseph thought Jesus was somewhere in the caravan of family and friends they were traveling with, but she soon discovered He was missing. Yet Jesus was exactly where He was supposed to be—at the temple. Mary maintained a teachable spirit and learned more about her Son from this incident.
Will you, too, have a teachable spirit?
I’m guessing this has to be one of the most important things to God. Obedience and a teachable spirit.
• Mary pondered things and kept them in her heart.
What’s inside YOUR heart?
Will you determine to make time to ponder some stuff this Christmas?
Instead of doing all the talking, consider being quiet for a while.
Think about Christ’s birth and all that it means.
Be willing to ponder some things as Mary did.
Learn to become comfortable with silence.
Start a journal.
Memorize some Scripture.
Learn to truly meditate on God’s holy Word this Christmas.
God’s best servants are often plain people who are available to Him. Mary was available. Are you?
God’s plans involve extraordinary events in ordinary people.
This Christmas, will you let Him use you in a way He’s never used you before?
Give God a merry Christmas by asking Him to help you celebrate a Mary Christmas.
And if you’re wondering what to give the King of kings on His birthday . . . the very best gift is always yourself.
As mentioned last week, I’m trying to have a MARY Christmas this
year. In thinking about her life, I want to pass on what I’m learning
and hopefully challenge YOU to establish a Mary Christmas as well.
• Mary trusted in the midst of discomfort. In Bethlehem, Joseph and
Mary soon discovered the inns were filled with other travelers who
had reached the destination much earlier. Mary was reduced to
giving birth to her first child in a cold, dark, damp cave.
No medical staff.
No medicine or sterile environment.
Just a frightened young girl, her frightened husband
and a few noisy animals.
When we don’t understand to begin with,
and when our situation becomes uncomfortable on TOP of that,
we often tend to question whether we heard God correctly,
or maybe we question God Himself.
Mary simply continued to trust.
If YOU can learn to trust in the midst of hardship and discomfort,
God will bless you by teaching you things you couldn’t have learned otherwise.
God doesn’t always reveal His plans right away.
Often, when it sees as though everything is going wrong,
He is quietly working behind the scenes.
Can you trust Him when you can’t see what’s ahead?
Ask God to deepen your faith this Christmas.
Imagine the letdown after traveling for 70 miles in the condition
Mary was in, only to find out there were no more rooms available
and she’d have to give birth to her first child in a cave.
Do you really want to have a MARY Christmas this year?
Then we have to realize when we do God’s will, we’re not
guaranteed a comfortable life. We’re promised only that even our
discomfort has meaning in God’s plan.
We like to think that Mary was comfortable, because most of the
popular Christmas scenes picture her kneeling serenely by a manger
with a baby who’s glowing.
Chances are good that the King of kings was crying and
uncomfortable Himself. Stables were often crude caves with feeding
troughs (mangers) carved into rock walls.
Though Christmas cards picture a clean atmosphere with happy
animals in the background, the truth was that Jesus was born in an
extremely unsterile and filthy environment.
This certainly wasn’t the atmosphere the Jews expected as the
birthplace of the Messiah. They thought their promised Messiah
would be born into royalty.
But Mary didn’t limit God by her expectations, and neither should
we. God is at work wherever He’s needed in our sin-darkened and
That night, the world’s greatest birth announcement took place.
The greatest event in history had just happened:
The Messiah had been born!
For ages the Jews had waited for this, and when it finally happened,
the announcement came to some humble shepherds.
They were terrified, but their fear soon turned to joy.
First they ran to see the baby, and then they spread the word.
Jesus Christ is YOUR Messiah,
Do you look forward to meeting Him in prayer and in His Word each day?
Is your relationship so special that you can’t help sharing this joy
with your friends and co-workers?
How do you see Jesus?
Do you still picture Him as a baby in a manger,
or is He your absolute Lord?
Let’s not underestimate Christ. Let Him grow up in your life!
One of the best ways to do this is by exercising a mature faith in His
plan—even in the midst of an uncomfortable situation.
Jesus may not meet the specific expectations you have for your life.
He may want to move you beyond your own dreams.
Again: can you trust Him?
Give God your human expectations and ask Him to replace them
with His dreams, plans and vision for your life.
They may not be more comfortable, but they will always be better!
This year I’ve decided to have a MARY Christmas.
I’ve been thinking about her recently . . . and here are some things
I’m learning that I want to challenge you with, OK?
• Mary trusted God for the impossible.
When the angel announced she’d deliver the Messiah, she didn’t understand it. It seemed ridiculous, but her response was,
“I believe. It is as you say.”
This Christmas will you, too, trust God for the impossible?
Is He calling you to do something that seems ridiculous?
Even though you don’t understand and can’t see what’s ahead,
you have the opportunity—like Mary—to respond in simple faith:
“I believe. It is as You say.”
• Mary was obedient.
Her obedience to God required her to risk disaster.
In her culture, an unmarried pregnant woman was shunned. And unless the father of the child agreed to marry her, she’d probably remain unmarried for life.
If her own father rejected her, she could be forced into begging or prostitution in order to earn her living.
And with her story about the Holy Spirit impregnating her, she risked being labeled crazy as well. It must have seemed as though everything was against her.
But in spite of the risks, Mary responded in obedience: “I am willing.”
In spite of the possible costs, will you be obedient this Christmas? Will you ask God to help you overlook the risks and simply say yes to His holy will?
When Mary said, “I am willing,” she didn’t know about the tremendous blessing she’d receive. She only knew that God was asking her to serve Him, and she willingly obeyed.
Will you react the same way? Don’t wait to see the bottom line before obeying God. Offer yourself as a wiling servant—even when the results of doing so look disastrous.
• Mary allowed herself to be accountable.
She made herself accountable to her spiritually wise and older cousin, Elizabeth.
I can imagine these two women praying and rejoicing together in their godly obedience. Make it a point to share your deepest questions, needs, requests and victories with another Christian who’s solid enough to ask appropriate questions and who’s willing to pray with you.
• Mary never lost faith that God was in control.
When Caesar Augustus, the Roman emperor, decreed that a census must be taken throughout the nation, it meant that Joseph and a pregnant Mary would have to make the 70-mile trip from Nazareth to Bethlehem.
Mary knew the trip wouldn’t be easy, and she could’ve easily begun questioning God’s plans. But she trusted that God was in complete control.
Can you trust that God controls ALL of history—even when you don’t understand it?
Because of the degree of Caesar Augustus, Jesus was born in the very town prophesied for His birth (Micah 5:2), even though His parents didn’t live there. God was quietly working behind the scenes, even though Mary and Joseph couldn’t see His hand.
Like Mary, I want to trust, obey, be accountable and remain faithful.
How about you?
“Is your life full of difficulties and temptations? Then be happy, for when the way is rough, your patience has a chance to grow. So let it grow, and don’t try to squirm out of your problems. For when your patience is finally in full bloom, then you will be ready for anything, strong in character, full and complete” James 1:2-4 The Living Bible).
Last summer—right after she came home from experiencing the spiritual high of church camp—Denise experienced the sudden loss of her 47-year-old brother, Davie.
“He was an alcoholic,” she says. “I prayed and prayed for years and never saw him get saved. “He had been drinking and climbed onto a large lawn mower and started to drive. It soon tipped over into a fifteen-foot ditch and crushed him.”
Denise was brokenhearted over the fact that she didn’t know where her brother would spend eternity.
“I hoped and hoped that he had prayed before he died. I know if he had simply called on the name of Jesus, that Jesus would have saved his soul. But I just didn’t know.”
Denise knelt at the place where Davie died, and she cried out to God. “I didn’t know how I’d continue to live with the loss of my brother and with not knowing where he was spending eternity,” she says.
While praying, Denise heard God’s voice. “Do you trust Me, Denise? Do you love Me?”
“I answered, ‘Yes, Lord. I love You with all my heart. And I do trust You.”
“I’m the only One who knows where your brother is. Leave it with Me. Trust Me.”
Denise was able to leave the issue with God right there. “He gave me His indescribable peace,” she says, “and He restored my confidence in Him. I’ve been at peace over my brother ever since that moment. And I have more confidence in God today than I ever have before. I know my Redeemer lives, and He is trustworthy!”
Just three years earlier, Denise’s mom died. “She was my best friend,” Denise says. “She had an aneurism that eventually took her life seven months later.”
After the death of her mom, both of Denise’s grandparents passed away, her dog died, and then Davie was gone. To add to the grief, two of Denise’s siblings are in jail.
“I lost weight, lost my joy, lost my sense of humor, lost friends, lost a sense of reality, lost my self-worth . . . maybe it was because the grief hit me so fast and so hard that I just didn’t know how to handle it all. I pulled back from people and became distant.”
But God didn’t leave Denise in that dark spot. Through it all, He made His presence known. “Even when I felt I had hit rock bottom, I felt Him,” she says. “I know God was with me. And He was building back my confidence in Him.”
During the darkest moments in our lives, if we have a relationship with Christ, we can still cling to the fact that we have heaven waiting for us!
“There’s a lot I don’t understand,” Denise says. “But there’s one thing I know for sure. The same Jesus who saved me and forgave my sins when I was eight years old, and the same Jesus who has set me apart for His glory, is the same Jesus who has never left me and who has always loved me.
“He has been intimately near to me through every painful moment of the unexpected. He is speaking, teaching, and patiently helping me laugh and love again.”
Excerpted from Susie’s latest book:
40 Days to Complete God Confidence: Stories that illustrate the liberating words of assurance from 1 John 5:13-15
If you’d like to purchase this book for yourself—or as a Christmas gift—it sells for $8, but you can actually get it cheaper directly from Susie.
She sells it for $5 (plus $2 shipping. ) This is cheaper than anywhere else you can get it.
Make your check to: Susie Shellenberger Ministries, and send it to Susie at: 3128 N. Timber Avenue, Bethany, OK 73008
Check this out:
“When the council saw the boldness of Peter and John,
and could see that they were obviously uneducated,
non-professionals, they were amazed and realized what
being with Jesus had done for them.” (The Living Bible)
Last week we chatted about Peter and John healing the lame man who was sitting on the steps of the Temple.
After being healed, he jumped up!
He ran around the Temple courtyards.
He began shouting and praising God.
Can you imagine?
Muscles, tissues, ligaments, sinews that had never worked before—
now suddenly in motion.
All this commotion drifted to the Sanhedrin Council.
When THEY heard about it, they were furious!
OK. Who’s the Sanhedrin Council?
Sort of a “religious supreme court” in biblical days.
They were furious, because they’d told Peter and John—
and the rest of the disciples—not to talk about Jesus anymore.
This Christianity thing is never going to get off the ground.
We demand your silence!”
They were used to intimidating the disciples.
They knew the disciples were a
group of men.
Where were they when their LORD was crucified?
They were scared.
They ran for their lives.
(Except for John—who stayed with Jesus’ mother during the crucifixion.)
So the Sanhedrin Council is thinking,
Bring them in again, and we’ll lower the boom.
How should it go down this time?
Should we shackle them first?
Maybe we’ll starve them a few days before confronting them.
Should we bring out the cat-of-nine-tails?
How should we deal with them this time?
But this time . . .
when Peter and John stood before the Council,
they didn’t nervously shift their weight from foot to foot.
Their eyes locked intently into the eyes of the Council.
And when they spoke, it was with such determination,
This time, their words were articulate.
Filled with power.
They stood with boldness.
There was such a DIFFERENCE in Peter and John
that the Council began arguing between themselves:
“Hey, these aren’t the same two guys we’ve hauled in before.”
“Of course they are! Look at their teeth—they’re still crooked.”
“No, I’m telling you, these are different guys!”
“Nah, they’re the same two. Notice the dirt underneath their fingernails?”
“They’re not the same!”
“Of course they are. They’re uneducated. They’re non-professionals.”
They WERE the same two men . . . but they WEREN’T the same.
That’s because the Holy Spirit had transformed them!
The Holy Spirit had taken a rag-tag gang of fearful disciples
and had transformed them into a godly band of flaming evangelists!
That’s the difference the Holy Spirit makes in our lives.
God is not into recovery; He’s into complete restoration.
He wants to sanctify us wholly to live holy lives.
Yes, Peter and John had been with Jesus.
And the difference in their lives was so astonishing that even the Sanhedrin Council noticed.
But it wasn’t simply being with Jesus that made the difference.
It was the Holy Spirit’s power being released in every area of their lives.
It was the fact that Peter and John had completely yielded to the authority of Christ. They had “died to themselves” and were genuinely living in the power of the Holy Spirit.
That same mighty power—
the power that healed a lame man
and caused the blind to see . . .
The same mighty power that set the stars in the sky
and placed the entire universe in order—
The same mighty power that raised a dead man to life . . .
is YOURS to live in every single day of your life!
You may be a Christian.
But are you living in this kind of power?
It’s a fascinating account.
Peter and John are on their way to the temple to praise God and to worship.
They see a lame man sitting near the temple steps begging for money.
That’s the only way handicapped people could earn a living in Bible days; they held out a tin cup.
When he saw both Peter and John approaching, he got excited thinking, Great! There are two men. I’ll get double the amount.
But Peter gave the classic response (that you’ve probably had memorized since Vacation Bible School days): “Silver and gold have I none, but what I have, give I thee.”
In other words, “We don’t have any money. But we have something much greater! We know the Creator of the universe. We’re on a first-name basis with Him. His name is Jesus Christ. He was crucified, but He conquered death and is alive right now. He has the power to forgive sins and grant you eternity in heaven with Him. Would you like to receive salvation?”
YES! The man excitedly accepted the apostle’s invitation to pray. And then—to the man’s surprise—Peter and John . . . in the authority of God Himself . . . healed the man.
Scripture tells us that he went leaping and screaming praises to God! He ran all around the temple courtyard.
We would, too!
Imagine: Muscles, limbs, ligaments, which had never worked before—now in fluid motion!
He could walk.
He was completely healed.
I love it.
But here’s what amazes me:
Jesus passed that man several times.
How often did Jesus go to the temple?
The man had been there for years.
Year after year, his loved ones had carried him to the temple steps.
This was his spot.
Jesus walked right by him.
Jesus healed so many during His time on earth.
Why not this man?
Could it be . . . that Jesus simply wanted Peter and John’s participation?
Could it be that Jesus was saving this miracle for these two disciples?
Perhaps to strengthen their faith?
Maybe to remind them—after He had ascended into heaven—that His authority and power really DOES inhabit His disciples?
Jesus knows all.
He knew the exact time, moment, date . . . that Peter and John would approach this man.
He granted them the authority and power
exactly when they needed it.
I’m learning more and more that Jesus wants US to participate in what HE does!
He wants to USE us.
Sure, He could simply do each miracle with the blink of His eye,
But could it be . . . that He’s saving some things for us?
We are His disciples.
We have His authority.
We live within His power.
Are we using it?
Are you participating in all that God wants to do through you?