Life in Focus

Where following Jesus and Every Day Life Intersect


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The Road Ahead- No Other Gods Session 7

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The green, rolling hills seemed to be calling my name. After weeks of cold, wet weather, I couldn’t wait to enjoy the sunshine that had finally arrived between storms. Reaching for my phone, I texted a friend: “How about taking a hike?”

Although a walk in the hills meant cutting into the time I’d carved out to tackle some projects at home, I knew being outside was just what I needed. A few hours on the trail would make me more energized and productive than a day of sitting alone in front of a computer screen.

Imagine my delight when I returned home later and discovered Psalm 121 included in Session 7 of Kelly Minter’s No Other Gods:

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from?

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip–he who watches over you will not slumber;

indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you— the Lord is your shade at your right hand;

the sun will not harm you by day,  nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;

the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

I love the imagery in this passage and how easily the path described in it parallels our faith journey with Jesus. It is one of the fifteen Psalms known as the “Songs of Ascents” (Psalms 120 through 134). The Israelites would have sung these words as the made their pilgrimages to the Three Great Feasts described in Exodus 23:14-19. Most likely, they would have envisioned themselves ascending the fifteen steps at the temple in Jerusalem (one Psalm for each step). Three times a year faithful Israelites would have journeyed over treacherous paths from far-reaching villages to worship God at the feasts. As they traveled, they passed the time singing laments and praises. The majesty of God’s creation reminded them of his power and sovereignty and spurred them on as they traveled through arduous terrain.

Over the course of studying No Other Gods, we’ve been on a challenging journey too as we’ve identified and relinquished idols. What we must keep in mind, however, is that the journey will continue long after we’ve closed our workbooks and moved on to a new study. The path of spiritual growth doesn’t have a stopping point. We won’t arrive at a destination on this side of heaven. While this thought may make you weary, take heart and consider the observations made in Psalm 121.

-We are not alone on the journey, ever. Our help comes from God. However, relying on him involves lifting our eyes up to see him and to recognize the ways he is working in and around us. Looking down or being self-focused will only hinder our growth.

-We must continually remind ourselves about God’s character and capabilities. Having direct access to the Maker of Heaven and Earth is not something to take for granted.

-We must reassure ourselves that God is never asleep at the switch. He’s never caught off guard by something unexpected, even when we are. He is always vigilant and aware, whether we are or not.

-God shelters us and watches over us. He’s with us on the journey and always has something to teach us through the different processes that unfold in our lives.

-God will never leave us. He was with us in the past, is with us in the present and will be with us in the future.

Remembering these things helps me to take a deep breath and stop trying to figure out life on my own. As much as I like things to be neat, orderly and in their places, I’m learning to trust God while things are still in process and end results aren’t clear. I’m remembering to look to him when I’m fearful or confused or anxious instead of rushing to find comfort or reassurance from an idol. I don’t know what’s on the road ahead, but I do know God is with me every step of the way.

Bebo Norman’s song “I Will Lift My Eyes” is a more contemporary version of a Psalm of Ascent. Click on the link to and make it your prayer as you listen.

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Bad Year, Good God

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I’ve heard people joke that 2016 is a year they’d like to forget. Daily headlines remind us our nation and our world have seen more than their fair share of ugly circumstances: tragic accidents, natural disasters, terrorist attacks, disturbing racism and political upheaval. Our nation is deeply divided, confused and disillusioned. Our world is in turmoil. People are losing sleep and shedding tears as they agonize over the variety of complex issues that have plagued us this year.

And yet, in the midst of all of these ugly and awful things, I am thankful. Not because of them, but in spite of them. As we prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving this week, I am thankful that my hope isn’t in human leaders, or manmade institutions. My hope isn’t in people, prosperity or earthly peace. I’m thankful because my hope is in the living God, who is sovereign over all things. I’m thankful because my ultimate citizenship is not in this world, but with God in heaven.

One of my favorite passages of Scripture seems especially fitting this week as I reflect on my thankfulness for God and his sovereignty. Below I’ve included excerpts from Isaiah 40 that cause me to feel thankful, hopeful and reassured, no matter what is going on in our nation and world:

Isaiah 40:21-25

“Do you not know? Have you not heard? Has it not been told you from the beginning? Have you not understood since the earth was founded? He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in. He brings princes to naught and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing. No sooner are they planted, no sooner are they sown, no sooner do they take root in the ground, than he blows on them and they wither, and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff. ‘To whom will you compare me? Or who is my equal?’ says the Holy One.”

Thankfulness Point #1: People who seem important or influential in this world may make a positive or negative impact for a time, but they will ultimately blow away like chaff in the wind. No earthly leader, no matter how wise or respected could ever compare to God. Likewise, no earthly leader, no matter how corrupt or questionable, could ever thwart God’s plans.

 Isaiah 40:26

“Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens: Who created all these? He who brings out the starry host one by one and calls forth each of them by name. Because of his great power and mighty strength, not one of them is missing.”

Thankfulness Point #2: God knows the stars by name and calls them out one by one. He also knows the number of hairs on my head and the head of every other person who has ever lived. (Luke 12:7) Nothing escapes his gaze. I am deeply thankful that the God of great power and mighty strength knows and cares about me personally.

 Isaiah 40:27-28

“Why do you complain, Jacob? Why do you say, Israel, ‘My way is hidden from the Lord; my cause is disregarded by my God’? Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”

Thankfulness Point #3: Even when we don’t understand what God is allowing in this world, we know he is trustworthy. His understanding is beyond anything our miniscule minds could comprehend. We can be thankful even when God’s ways and purposes are hidden from us. He is everlasting and sees world events from a vantage point that has a much larger scope than anything we can see.

 Isaiah 40:29-31

“He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Thankfulness Point #4: God renews our strength. No matter how weary and beaten down we become, we can always find refuge in him. His strength is available and accessible to us whenever we seek it. Not only does he renew and restore us, he enables us to soar like eagles so we can rise above even the most distressing situations.

Final Thought

No matter how ugly or distressing the events in the world are, we never have reason to despair. We can put trust and hope in the living God. He is our rock and refuge. Anything else we’re thankful for builds on that one truth. God is God and we are not. And that’s something we can celebrate at Thanksgiving and all year long.

For further reassurance on God’s sovereignty, click on the link and enjoy Natalie Grant’s song “King of the World.” Make it your prayer this Thanksgiving season.

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Choosing to Be Different– No Other Gods Session 1

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(First in a series of posts inspired by Kelly Minter’s Bible Study entitled No Other Gods: Confronting Our Modern-Day Idols, Lifeway Press 2012)

 Holding the cup, I shifted it from one hand to the other and tried to blend in with the crowd. I only recognized a few faces at the party since it was one of my first weeks in college. Surrounding me were many under-aged revelers happily drinking from their red cups and re-filling them from the large keg of beer in the corner. Trying to find my place in a new world, I was struggling with how to be social while maintaining my integrity. I wanted to be a light to my peers but I also wanted to fit in. I’d been wrestling with how to navigate being a part of a sorority and attending social events without dishonoring God or compromising my morals.  Finding an answer had not been easy.

Later, I called a friend who was a strong believer at another large, public university. We had similar convictions and I wondered how she navigated the party scene in the Greek system. We both wanted to fit in, make friends and be social, but we also knew the culture could easily lure us to bad choices that would lead us to a whole host of sins.

I told her about the party and how I’d accepted the cup offered to me, but hadn’t really drunk from it. She sympathized with my dilemma, but didn’t mince words, “Well, how does anyone know you’re different if you do that? You’ve just got to tell people you don’t drink.” I was surprised and convicted by her words. I’d called expecting her to tell me it was okay to blend in at the party as long as I didn’t get drunk. She explained, “If you stand out as different, someone may ask you why. That’s a great chance to share your faith and be a light in a dark place. Who knows what kind of encouragement you might give to someone who really needs it?” I’d been so focused on wanting to fit in that I hadn’t considered the impact I could have by being different.

In the weeks that followed, I began attending parties with a changed perspective. I enjoyed socializing and gained the confidence to say: “No, thanks, I don’t drink,” when someone held out a red cup to me. Some dismissed me, but others were intrigued and wanted to know why. As the weeks unfolded, people stopped pressuring me to drink. They accepted and even respected my stance. In time, I discovered there were others in the Greek system that loved Jesus and chose not to participate in the drunken revelry so prevalent in that culture. Their choice to stand out as different encouraged and emboldened me. Eventually, we banded together and, with the support of a campus ministry, launched quarterly outreach events and weekly Bible studies for the Greek system.

Our choice to honor God and not just blend in with the culture of sororities and fraternities opened the door for him to use us in powerful ways among our peers. We integrated ourselves into the system without embracing the aspects of it that would draw us away from God. We were in the world, but not of the world—choosing to set ourselves apart so that God could use us to impact and influence those around us.

I’ve thought of that season in my life many times in the years since. The story isn’t really about underage drinking; it’s meant to show what happens when we broaden our perspective about how we engage others. In each season of life, we have the opportunity to influence our culture for Christ or to be influenced by it

There is a story about God’s chosen people, the Israelites, that illustrates this in a different way:

“They rejected his decrees and the covenant he had made with their ancestors and the statutes he had warned them to keep. They followed worthless idols and themselves became worthless. They imitated the nations around them although the Lord had ordered them, ‘Do not do as they do.’” (2 Kings 17:5, NIV)

Contrary to my opening story, the Israelites did not remain set apart from the sinful choices of the people around them. Instead of remaining true to the God of their ancestors, they imitated other nations that didn’t follow God or value his laws.  It is a sobering reminder that if we are not intentionally seeking to influence the culture around us, then it is influencing us. There is no neutral zone.

When we mindlessly plunge in and embrace the worldviews surrounding us, we open ourselves up to many attitudes and choices that lead us further away from God. We begin to value worthless and hollow things more than the things of God. We look for satisfaction in cheap, imitation idols instead of the one, true God. The further down this road we go, the harder it is to backtrack because we start to adapt our lives to worldly perspectives instead of God’s Word. It’s so much easier to float along with the current of popular culture than it is to swim against it.

Take some time this week to think and pray about this concept. Are you seeking ways to influence others for God’s kingdom or inadvertently allowing the people around you to influence you? Be honest with God and invite him to change your perspective where it’s needed.

It may take a while to disentangle from the worldly things that have captured your time and attention, but it is never too late to change course. By God’s grace, every day is a new opportunity to realign with him and to turn your back on things that have no lasting value.

Jeremy Camp’s “Christ in Me” is an inspiring song about recognizing the hollow ways of the world and choosing to change your perspective. Make it your prayer today.

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The Sword of the Spirit- The Armor of God Week 7

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To say I was going through a rough patch would be an understatement. One of my boys was a toddler and the other was in pre-school and although life at home was good, some hard situations outside our household were weighing heavily upon me. Looking back, I see that there was an element of spiritual attack I hadn’t even considered.

I remember one morning in that season I awoke feeling especially burdened with dark thoughts and anguished emotions. Sitting at the breakfast table flanked by one son in a high chair and the other chattering beside me, something triggered a flood of tears. The lump in my throat couldn’t hold back the sobs as I pushed my chair back and abruptly left the kitchen. Throwing myself face down on my bed, I wasn’t even sure why I was crying, but the tears wouldn’t cease.

A tap on my shoulder a few minutes later gently reminded me I had little people to tend to and forced me to gather my emotions. Wiping tears away, I tried to regain my composure as I looked up to find my older son standing in front of me. He held out his Beginners Bible and with wisdom that defied his tender age simply said, “Here Mom, read this. It’ll make you feel better.” I’m still not sure how he knew to bring me a Bible, but I’d been following his advice since long before he was born.

I’ll never forget the first time the words of Scripture jumped off the page, making me feel like a passage had been written just for me. I was a freshman in college, struggling to find true friends and to live by God’s standards. It was not the easiest time in life to decide to follow after Jesus whole-heartedly. The many worldly temptations of college had wooed away the one friend from home I’d depended on for spiritual support. Trying to shine a light for Jesus in the dark was not easy. I felt utterly alone, but undaunted in my desire to pursue Christ without compromise. And then one morning I stumbled across this passage:

In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.” (1 Peter 1:6-7, NIV)

Armed with this verse in the face of deep discouragement, I sensed God telling me not to lose my perspective. The trials I was facing were temporary, but if I persevered through them, my faith would prove genuine, which was eternal. Eventually, God also brought me friends who were godly, encouraging, and just plain fun.

Since that time, many more verses have felt especially relevant and personal in different seasons of my life. So much so, that I could make a time line of events in my life with corresponding Scriptures that spoke directly to me with words of wisdom, comfort, and direction. God’s Word has provided truth and light when I’ve been deceived by lies or have lost my way. It’s given me encouragement in times of trouble and hope when I’m tempted to despair.  I guess that makes sense considering Paul lists it as the final piece in the armor of God when he says, “take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”  (Ephesians 10:17, NIV)

The Bible has been my greatest weapon to fend off attacks of the evil one throughout my adult life. And because it is the spoken Word of God, it is always fresh, relevant and personal. “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”  (Hebrews 4:12, NIV).  Scripture is so much more than just words on a page.  When we engage it and apply it to our lives, it changes us.  It changes our attitudes, our desires, our relationships and the things we value.   It is a guide for every aspect of daily living.  It is our solid foundation and the plumb line that keeps us aligned with God’s will.

I’ve begun to notice a clear difference between the lives of people who are actively engaging God’s Word and people who simply embrace the Christian lifestyle and its values.  People who study the Bible consistently and apply what they’ve learned have a passion and a sense of purpose in what they do.  They serve others out of gratitude to God, not as an obligation.  They grapple with hard truths and have teachable spirits.  They are hungry to know more about God and how He’s calling them to live.  They don’t follow rules and checklists–they abide with Jesus and let the Holy Spirit guide them.  Their lives are not safe and predictable.  They trust God when things get messy and complicated.  They have too much integrity to worry about whether or not they are “showing well” or impressing the “right” people. They are profoundly aware that they are sinners only saved by Gods’ grace.  Their resulting gratitude causes them to give their lives for God’s Kingdom purposes.

Putting on the armor of God daily means putting into practice what we say we believe. And when we do that, the enemy doesn’t stand a chance.

I can think of no better song to include than Third Day’s “Your Words.” Click on the link to enjoy a musical reminder of the value of God’s Word:

Priscilla Shirer, The Armor of God, Lifeway Press, 2015.


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Infinitely Large, Intimately Small

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Stepping out onto the sunlit terrace, it took a moment to realize the intricacy of the vast wall before me. A sea of green in countless shades fluttered in the bay breeze. Moving closer to the Living Wall at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, I marveled at the thirty-foot high, 4400 square foot expanse in front of me. It was impossible to count the number of different plants that were growing out of tiny fist-sized outcroppings in the concrete wall. The more I looked, the more amazed I became. Stepping closer, I began snapping close-up photos to capture the stunning array of shapes, sizes and shades of green.

Eventually, my friends and I moved on to enjoy man-made works of art inside, but I couldn’t stop thinking about that wall and God’s infinite creativity even in the simplest things. He had a whole world to build yet he chose to make leaves in more colors and shapes than I could count. That’s pretty awe-inspiring and more than a little humbling.

The God of the universe sees the big picture and cares about the smallest detail simultaneously. He can be attentive and engaged with every person that calls upon him. We never have to wait our turn, take a number or be placed on “hold.” We can pray about anything and everything, trusting that he listens and cares because we matter to him.

 “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31, NIV)

Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed, I overlook God’s attentiveness. I try to work things out on my own strength and wisdom and I end up anxious, exhausted and no less burdened than I was before. I forget the invitation Jesus extends to us:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:27-29, NIV)

When I accept this offer, I find peace even in the midst of the challenges I’m facing.  The best part is that God is strong enough to carry my burdens, yours and everyone else’s simultaneously. Not only that, he loves it when we ask him. And he does all of this while he holds the world together, without overlooking a single detail.

It’s hard to comprehend that God is infinitely big and infinitesimally small. The Living Wall exemplifies this paradox so beautifully. From a distance it’s just a massive expanse of green, but the closer you get, the more you realize its subtle nuances and minute details. The more you look at it, the more beautiful and complex it becomes.

Jason Gray’s latest song “Sparrows” reminds me to appreciate our God that is exponentially larger than we can comprehend. At the same time, he is intimately involved with the smallest details in our lives and in the wide world all around us. Click on the link to enjoy the song and be encouraged today.

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God is Greater- What Love Is Week 4

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Remember learning math in elementary school? Teachers would use all sorts of visual and tangible things to help us understand the different concepts. One I’ll never forget was learning the symbols for “greater than” and “less than.” Although the symbols were simple, it was hard for the kids in my class to remember which side of the “<” and “>” symbols represented the larger and smaller numbers. So my teacher cleverly told us to imagine a hungry alligator eating the number. Of course, his open mouth would face the greater number so that he had more to eat. I thought about that visual recently as I read 1 John. It’s reassuring to know that God is greater than some of the most powerful influences we face every day.

 God is Greater than Our Hearts

We often hear the phrase “follow your heart,” but if we heed this advice, the results aren’t always positive. In Scripture, the heart is used to represent thoughts, reasoning, understanding, will, judgment, affections, love, hatred, fear, joy, sorrow and anger. As a result, the heart can often lead us to make decisions based on our feelings instead of on truth. Sometimes it leads us down the right path, but sometimes it doesn’t. The prophet Jeremiah describes the heart’s fickle nature this way: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9, NIV)

Our hearts can deceive us when we let them influence our faith too much. They can cause us to be too harsh or too lenient in our views of others and ourselves. If we’re feeling disconnected from God, this might cause us to doubt his love for us. And if we get stuck in a rut of sin, we might feel like we no longer deserve God’s love. Thankfully, “If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything.” (1 John 3:20, NIV) Our salvation is not based on our feelings about God, but upon the grace, love and mercy he showed to us by sending Jesus to die for our sins on the cross. If you’ve accepted Christ as your savior, that is a truth you can believe, whether your feelings agree with it or not.

God is Greater than The Evil One

John’s letter also emphasizes that Christians are spiritually stronger than spirits of evil. He says, You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.” (1 John 4:3-4, NIV)  The “one” John refers to here is Satan, the prince of this world.

The evil one loves to distract believers with difficulties to prevent them from advancing the kingdom of God on earth. He wants to deceive us into believing we are powerless to fight his schemes. Sometimes he lulls us into apathy or self-absorption. Regardless of the methods he uses, his aim is the same: to take our eyes off of God and to make us forget that we have already claimed victory over him because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

So the next time you’re facing discouragement, distress or any other negative situation, stop and pray.   Thank God that he is greater than the enemy and claim the Lord’s power over whatever difficulty you are facing.

God is Greater than the World

It doesn’t take much to realize that living for Jesus means living contrary to the majority of the world. Christ followers spend their days swimming against the tide of popular opinion and worldly philosophies. And just like physical exercise makes our bodies stronger, this “spiritual exercise” makes our faith stronger. It can also make us a little weary sometimes.

Although the world often sees following God’s commands as impossible, Scripture makes it clear that obeying God is within our grasp:

“Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves the father loves his child as well. This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands. In fact, this is love for God: to keep his commands. And his commands are not burdensome, for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. (1 John 5:1-5, NIV)

We are victorious whenever we choose to reject the world’s influence on our thoughts and actions and follow God’s ways instead. This happens when we seek his direction for major life decisions instead of following worldly wisdom. It also occurs through daily decisions about the way we spend money and time, the company we keep, the pleasures we pursue and the ways we treat others. There is no need to feel burdened by these decisions. Doing things God’s way frees us up to grow closer to him and to discover more of the abundant life he has for us.

Claiming God’s Greatness

Maybe you need a reminder right now that God has overcome these areas in your life. Are your emotions influencing your thoughts more than the truth found in the Bible? Be encouraged that God is greater than your heart. Is Satan toying with you by causing you to believe lies or to wallow in self-pity? Be empowered knowing that God has overcome the evil one. Are the hollow philosophies and sinful choices of our culture wearing you down or lulling you into complacency? Be energized knowing that through Christ, you have overcome the world.

There are two great songs based on these truths that always encourage me. Click on the link to hear “Greater is He” by Blanca and “Greater” by Mercy Me.

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When God Reassures- Women of the Word Part 1b

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There’s no doubt that Mary, the mother of Jesus, inspires us. I’m astounded by the trust she showed when God interrupted her life with the news that she would bear the Messiah. In spite of this, sometimes the Christmas story is so familiar that we don’t remember Mary and Joseph were actual people, not just characters in the nativity scene. We forget they didn’t know how their story would unfold—they had to trust God to reveal things in His timing.

Nine months after the angel Gabriel told Mary she would bear God’s son, she and Joseph traveled eighty miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem to register for a census. The Bible remains factual in its description of the events, leaving us to guess what emotions they must have been feeling.

“So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them. “ (Luke 2:4-7, NIV)

I remember being nervous when I went into labor, especially the first time. My nesting instinct was powerful as I prepared our home for the arrival of our son. Yet unlike me, Mary didn’t have the luxury of putting life in order to calm her fears. She was too busy looking for a warm, dry place to lie down and deliver her firstborn. Despite her faith and trust in God, I think she must have had doubts and fears to overcome, just like the rest of us.

What might she have been feeling about the conditions surrounding Jesus’ birth? Was she afraid? Probably. Was she confused about being in such a desperate situation? Possibly.  Was she thinking about the symbolism of the Savior being born in humble circumstances to show that God was accessible to all people? Doubtful.

We don’t know what Mary and Joseph did after Jesus’ birth, but I imagine her huddled near the manger as her newborn slept. She must have been exhausted and in pain from the journey to Bethlehem and the grueling labor and delivery (without the benefit of pain medication or modern medicine). The smell of the animals probably hung in the air as she tried to nestle into the rough straw to rest. Was this how she pictured giving birth to the King of Kings when Gabriel announced her pregnancy nine months earlier?

The story shifts at this point to a different scene outside of Bethlehem. Shepherds were keeping watch over their flocks when a brilliant light suddenly penetrated the darkness. Their hearts pounded as an angel appeared  proclaiming the birth of the long-awaited Savior.

 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.’ When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.’

 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2:13-18, NIV)

I wonder if the shepherds’ visit showed God’s tenderness toward a young mother at a fragile moment. In that dark, cold place, their arrival brought the reassurance Mary needed most.  It affirmed God was still sovereign and that even these unusual circumstances were part of His perfect plan. When the shepherds left, “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” (Luke 2:19, NIV)

No doubt, they’d told Mary and Joseph about the angels that appeared to them. Did hearing this remind Mary of her own visit with an angel a few months earlier? Did she remember Gabriel’s assurances that God favored her and that she had no reason to fear? Would those words and the reminder of the shepherds’ visit sustain her through difficulties she would face in the months and years ahead? I think so.

I believe God is still in the business of providing tangible encouragement today.  He regularly reassures me when my faith and confidence waver, often using a combination of circumstances, people, songs  and Scriptures.

How has God reassured you in the midst of disheartening moments? Do you need his comfort today? Seek Him and He’ll supply exactly what you need in the midst of difficulties in your life.

Click on the link to hear “Who Comes this Night” sung by James Taylor and written by Dave Grusin and Sally Stevens. It made me weepy as I imagined the scene from Mary’s perspective. What hope and encouragement it must have brought her!

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