Unwed Shame

Luke 2: 4 – 5

And Joseph also went up from Galilee from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register, along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child.

Mary, the mother of Jesus; venerated, adored and even prayed to, alas was an unwed, pregnant woman.

The Christmas story of Jesus’ birth is such a heartwarming tale. I love to read it every year and try to imagine the glory of the Lord shining over the shepherds. What was it like to see the angelic and heavenly host singing praises to God. Wow! Just Wow! It is epic and I want to be translated back to that lonely field and witness the glory of the Lord. As I read, again, the glorious account of the arrival of Messiah, I am struck by the reality Mary, Joseph and others had to live in order to bring this miracle into the earth. I am humbled and whisper softly, “Thank you Father for these obedient servants.” I do not pray to Mary, but I sure am grateful and praise the Father that she hearkened to His voice and His will.

Consider for a moment, people all over this globe have heard the story of the Virgin Mary. She has been depicted in art probably more than any other person in history save Jesus himself. The truth is, though, she was an unwed mother. Now how does that truth play in your neighborhood? What do you think the neighbors said over 2000 years ago? Do you think everyone rushed to her side when her pregnancy was revealed? How celebrated do you think she was then? Think of all of her neighbors. I bet she had one of those judgmental, gossipy old crones living just down the street from her family’s home. Can you for a moment imagine what her parents endured? And bless Joseph, he hung in there with her but at first he wanted to put her quietly away. How familiar does that sound?

There is not going to be another virgin birth but what these matriarchal heroes endured for the glory of the coming king, gives me pause. What would I have said about Mary if I lived down the street from her when her pregnancy was exposed? As much as I do not wish to admit it, I can tell you that I would have judged her. I would probably have thought less kindly towards her and Joseph. I certainly would have assumed I knew how they came to be in that unfortunate circumstance.

I am condemned; not they. They obeyed God at great personal cost. The result of their obedience and shame is my own salvation. I must consider my judgmental attitudes and repent. Who is it today that I judge? Are they not also the beloved of God? Is God’s heart grieved when I judge and criticize His child? “Oh Lord, my God, save me from myself! Help me, help us all to have tender hearts towards all your children, especially, Father, those who appear far from you for we can never know their hearts or circumstances but we do know that you love them as much as you love precious Jesus. No matter how damaged and broken we are, regardless of how far we have wandered from the path, your heart is for us. Help us all to remember the pregnant, unmarried mother of the savior of the world when next we think harsh, judgmental words about one of your own.”

No minister and no ministry is perfect; I least of all. Nonetheless, I wish to echo Jesus’ beckoning statement, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28). Do you know someone who feels shunned or branded as an outcast? Is there someone in your life who feels they have been let down by the church? Jesus took all judgment onto himself so that the grace of God could come on us. Let those people know that God loves them and so do we. In the famous words of Tiny Tim, “God bless us everyone.” And Scrooge, that means you too.

The Battle Is Won

Isaiah 54: 4

Fear not for you will not be put to shame; neither feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced.

This week you are receiving many of my favorite scriptures. I haven’t used many of them for the Word of the Day and even those I have used I haven’t written about in a long time. But this is like a walk down memory lane for me because several of this week’s verses come from Isaiah. Not only is the book of Isaiah my favorite Old Testament book but it is also the book that got me through a time of intense spiritual warfare. These verses helped me to stand when there were attacks from every quarter. If you are having one of those periods in your life, let me encourage you. Have no fear, nor feel ashamed or humiliated. Your Dad is going to make it right. The truth will be seen. Those people who are lying about you – they are the ones who will be put to shame. Believe me, I know. I have been there. The good news is that I have been “through” it. I didn’t pitch a tent and stay there. God doesn’t expect you to set up camp in the valley of the shadow of death either. He has strong weapons of warfare and mighty warriors. He intends for you to win.

I just love Old Isaiah and when I get to heaven I am going to tell him how much I appreciated his book. He had a revelation of warfare. He knew then that the devil was going to get in our faces. He also knew, however, that God had foreseen it too and prepared armies and weapons of His own. There is no battle that you can’t win. Think about it, this was even before Jesus came and won the victory for us. You see, Dad never left His kids out in the cold. He always had plans for our protection and our welfare.

So if you are under the gun right now do not fear. There are scores of angels, legions even, at your beck and call. You have the power of God in the person of the Holy Spirit. And you have the victory medal from Jesus’ campaign. Do not fear! Do not take the trouble into your heart. Your Father will stand for you. Just hang out in the Lord’s presence until the battle is won.

Healthy Appetites

Philippians 3:19     (God’s Word)

In the end they will be destroyed. Their own emotions are their god, and they take pride in the shameful things they do. Their minds are set on worldly things.

Many Bible versions read that instead of their emotions, their appetites are their god. It really ends up being the same thing though doesn’t it? In other words, the god that we really serve is our desires. We lust after different things. For some of us it is stuff. This is quite common. People just always want more things, bigger things and better things. They buy all the new gadgets. Let us make a clear distinction. Having stuff is not the problem. Having our minds set on stuff instead of God is the issue. And we find it easy to fool ourselves at times. We say our hearts are set on God when in reality we spend more time thinking of the “things” we want than we do thinking of the Kingdom of God. 

Other people lust after success or fame. Their heart is set on being a god in themselves. They want notoriety. Other people set their passion on their jobs or hobbies. No matter what we set our attention on, if it is not God then it is an idol. Ultimately this misplaced devotion leads to destruction. Our minds are supposed to be set on the things above rather than the things of this world. Even if you work for God full time, if your ministry occupies more space in your mind and heart then it will end in destruction. There is only room for one god in our lives.

The part of this verse that really struck me is how we brag in our shamefulness. Perhaps we are so deceived that we do not realize that we are lifting up false gods with our voices. We brag about being busy which is a false idol. We brag about what we own and our station in life and God says that this is all taking glory in shameful things. We are proud of the things we should be ashamed about. I am really trying to perceive this from God’s perspective. How do we sound to Him?

God wants to bless each of us with all the material things and well as all of the non-material desires of our hearts. He wants to give us favor with all people. When our hearts are fixed on Him rather than whatever we may lust after, then He gets to be our Father and provider. We keep our eyes fixed on Him with great expectation of what He will do but we are not to run after those things in our own strength. We are to pursue Him with our strength and leave the rest to Him. He is our source and our minds are to be set on Him rather than on earthly things. Whatever is on your mind the most is what you worship. Make sure it is God.