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.
“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
http://susieshellenberger.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/40DaysCGC.jpg1000713Susie Shellenbergerhttp://susieshellenberger.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/susielogo-300x93.pngSusie Shellenberger2015-11-12 14:58:192015-11-12 15:06:29Embracing Hope When Life Hurts
“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,
such confidence. 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?
http://susieshellenberger.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/p-and-j-before-san.jpg400330Susie Shellenbergerhttp://susieshellenberger.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/susielogo-300x93.pngSusie Shellenberger2015-11-05 15:56:382015-11-05 19:10:43What a Difference! (Acts 4:13)