Saturday, August 31, 2013

I am afraid I can't do it

In 2012 Jeff Goins published a book titled "You are a Writer." In it he encourages people to accept who they are. If you write, then you are a writer. No extra requirements, no publications necessary. He keeps it simple and calls us for what we are. This book was a huge hit. In my circles on the internet everyone, including myself, read the book and made declaration statements out in the public. I did the same, and had a blog post or two and even a Facebook status stating that I was a writer.

But why did it take the book for us to get to that point? Better yet, why did it take me nearly a year later before I admitted it out loud. To a stranger, yes, but it took me a year to answer the question, "What do you do?" with the answer, "I'm a writer."

We put qualifications on things, don't we? We worry about judgments and disagreements. We think we maybe are putting airs on. But here's the thing, God made each of us in a certain way, and we need to let go of the fear that we can't do it. If God has called me to write, then I am a writer. If He has called you to sing, sing out loud. Whatever He has called you to, do it and accept that is who He made you to be.

And accept who He says you are. I know we have heard a lot of other things in this world and culture, but where are you going to place your faith? We are a new creation, not condemned, righteous, free, redeemed, and so much more. Those are what God says, so shouldn't we be like Mary and accept what our Master says about us? Who are we to doubt Him?

Mary neither doubted the calling, who she was, or who it was from. I can't say I have been as accepting, but then maybe I can blame it on the fact an angel didn't visit me with a directive. Actually, scratch that. My heart knows the truth and I know who speaks to my heart.

Don't be afraid you can't do whatever it is you are called to. Don't be afraid you aren't who He says you are. Believe God when He calls you to something, and let Him work out the details. You just do it.

The Fear God is Wrong

Luke 1:30
But the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary,
you have found favor with God.”

I loved digging into this story. The scripture is clear on what the Angel was telling her not to be afraid about, “Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.” I wondered as well, because it didn’t seem extraordinary to me, but it was. The Angel’s greeting was one similar to the way great men of the Old Testament had been greeted. Think back on Gideon. The angel said to him, “Mighty warrior, the Lord is with you.” This is a story Mary knew well, and I can imagine her heart race when similar words were used with her.

The angel also told her she was “highly favored.” Do you think she thought back on her life then? What had she done to deserve such a greeting from someone? Who was she to be addressed in such a way? We may not know anything about Mary’s past prior to this point, but after doing a little digging I learned that we have something in common with Mary: we are also highly favored.

In the original Greek “highly favored” is charitoo, and the definition is “to give graciously, to show acts of kindness by freely giving.”. This word is used only two times in the New Testament; once here, and the second time in Ephesians 1:6. It says, “to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.” Charitoo here is translated as “freely given.” The grace bestowed upon Mary was not due to any actions she had taken before. God freely gave his favor to her, and He does the same with us. It is not anything you do which requires the response of His grace, but rather he simply gives it.

When Mary asks how what the angel says is to be done, there is a difference between her question and Zechariah’s from last week. Mary is asking in acceptance but curiosity, where Zechariah asked out of astonishment and unbelief. Mary is familiar with the prophecies, but she is curious how it is to happen. The angel answers her in a mysterious way, but then examples her cousin Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, who is also with child. “Nothing is impossible for God.”

I think Mary’s response here is something to be noted. When God calls us to something we can fear about the specifics and whether we are able. We can fear if we are worthy or if we can handle it. But when we do our focus and belief is not where it should be. God will take care of the details; we simply need to move forward in faith. Regardless of the hardships she knew she would face, even though she was unsure of the way she was greeted originally, at this point Mary accepts it all. She accepts that her God has called her highly favored, therefore she is. She accepts the calling God has put on her life, even though she can’t fully explain it. She accepts.

Question 1: Do you have a hard time accepting that you are “highly favored” by God? What is keeping you from believing this truth? When will you believe God and His word on the matter?

Question 2: Has God called you to do something you are unclear of? Can you accept that God will work the details out if you just do what is in front of you to do? Are you ready to accept what He has given you regardless of the rest?

Dear Father
We so often doubt our worth
Even when you call us highly favored
We so often doubt your calling
Even when you take care of it all
Help us be more like Mary
Help us to accept your word on the matter

Friday, August 30, 2013

Mary's Fear

We usually picture her in her room, don’t we? We imagine her with the light of the angel cast on her face and the dark of the night through the window. Or maybe we envision her in the middle of her daily activities, looking up from the floor she was sweeping much like a Cinderella character. But she wasn’t a character in someone’s fictional story. She was a real girl, betrothed to be married, and an angel went to her.

“Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

There is no mistaking where her trouble came from. This greeting was unusual. She did not know this man, and his words were exalted terms. She was an ordinary girl, so she wondered what he could mean. She sat and waited, surely he would say more. She was sure he knew these words needed to be explained.

“Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.”

She was stunned as she heard the words the angel said. She was favored. She felt so ordinary, so normal. Why should she be chosen? Why would she become the mother of the Son of the Most High? She had heard the prophecies., but how would this happen if she were to remain a virgin. She was curious, interested and so she asked.

“The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most high will overshadow you… For nothing is impossible with God.”

Mary responded out of acceptance and faith in the God above, “I am the Lord’s servant. May it be to me as you have said.”

Luke 1:30

But the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God." (NIV)
And the angel said to her, Do not be afraid, Mary for you have found grace (free, spontaneous, absolute favor and loving kindness) with God. (Amplified)
But the angel assured her, “Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you" (The Message)

highly favored - charitoo - to give graciously, to show acts of kindness by freely giving
favor - charis - grace, the state of kindness and favor towards someone, often with a focus on a benefit given to the object
Greetings - chairo - to rejoice, be glad, delighted
wondered - dialogizomai - to think, wonder about; to talk, discuss, argue

Reformation Bible Study
 - Mary was humbled and puzzled that the angel should say she was 'favored.'

Matthew Henry's Commentary
 - Had she been a proud ambitious young woman, that aimed high, and flattered herself with the expectation of great things in the world, she would have been pleased at his saying, would have been puffed up with it.
 - Those that have found favor with God should not give way to disquieting fears
 - "How shall this be" - not the language of her distrust but of a desire to be further instructed

Dr. Bucher from Our Redeemer Lutheran Church
 - "The Lord is with you" -> "The Lord is on your side."
 - It was Gabriel's greeting that confused Mary. Why? Likely because he greeted her in such exalted terms, similar to the way great men of the OT had been greeted.

John Gill's Commentary
 - it was not usual for the Jews for a man to use any salutation to a woman
 - calls her by name, signifying that she was well known to him

Jamieson - Fausset - Brown
 - her questioning takes the fact for granted

David Guzik
 - all these things are true of the believer in Jesus (1) we are highly favored (Eph 1:6) (2) the Lord is with us (Matt 28:20) and (3) we are blessed (Eph 1:3)
 - the fact that Mary is troubled at his saying shows her humility
 - her question was asked in wonder-filled faith
 - "Behold, the maidservant of the Lord" - Mary first responds by agreeing with what Gabriel has said about her. She is the maidservant of the Lord, and it isn't her position to debate with her master, but to accept what he says.