Advent Week 3 ~ V for Vessel

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Entering week 3 using the word “Advent” as an acrostic for a series of devotionals, my prayer for each reader is for God to fashion you as well, into a willing vessel for His glory.

The seaside park blossoms with booths and tents showcasing the richly diverse talents of artisans and craftspeople. My favourites are the potter’s works; earthenware, stoneware, ceramics and porcelain made for beauty as well as functionality. I like to carefully handle the pieces that interest me, feeling where the potter pressed his thumb into the wet clay on a mug handle, or used her hands to narrow the neck of a vase formed on a potter’s wheel. Simply put, they make vessels, hollow containers for holding something but it is obvious that their creations are so much more.

In the nativity story, Mary, the mother of Jesus, became a human vessel to receive the Spirit of God. In His infinite, mysterious wisdom God chose this poor peasant girl to carry His beloved Son in her womb. She asked the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34 NIV) It is a question pondered by many since. The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

What qualities did God look for in a human vessel for His Son? Did He lovingly hold His creation, Mary, in His hands, turning her this way and that, looking into her soul for those certain attributes only He knew would suit His purpose? What set her apart from all other young women of her time who could have borne the Son of God? I cannot fathom the answer to these questions but I can rest in the certainty that He chose the perfect vessel.

God chose a vessel, first of all, who was pure. In order for His Son to be born a sinless man, He could not be conceived in sin, but would be born of a virgin. As Isaiah prophesied centuries before, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel, God with us.” (Isa. 7:14b)

Mary was highly favored by God, according to the angel, so the purity He required in the mother of His holy Son was not only physical but spiritual. In her simple faith Mary exhibited qualities which pleased God, such as trust, faithfulness, humility and obedience. All these traits are evident in the telling of Mary’s story in the first chapter of Luke. Most noticeable is her unerring faith and willingness to believe that what the Lord had said to her would be accomplished. “ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’” (Luke 1:38)

Not only was she a willing vessel to carry the Son of God, she also would have realized that judgement and condemnation would come with her role. Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph but they were not yet man and wife, so her pregnancy would bring with it shame and reproach from those who knew her. No one would believe in her purity, except Joseph, who had it revealed to him by an angel of the Lord. She graciously accepted the damage to her reputation for the singular privilege of bearing God’s Son.

A vessel is open at the top to receive the contents intended for it. I picture Mary’s spiritual posture as open, receptive to whatever her Lord would pour into her willing heart. I have much to learn from the mother of my Savior by her servant attitude and humility. The treasure of God’s Spirit is contained in this body of mine, this earthen vessel, so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from me. (2 Cor. 4:7) My supreme privilege is to be poured out for Him.

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Beautiful Disruptions

IMG_0529One day on a beach walk with a good friend, I told her about an e-mail I received that morning from a man I did not know. It seems I knew his brother and sister-in-law a long time ago. I watched the waves beat their way to shore, scuffed the sand with my shoe.

“He asked if it would be alright if we wrote to each other.” When I glanced at my friend, she was smiling. She said, “I have such a strong sense that from this day out, things for you will change for the better. God is up to something.”

My heart gave a hopeful little leap, then settled back to the cautious beat of one familiar with pain, disappointment and struggle. For several years all I had known was the war zone of a messy divorce and a life-threatening illness. Hope was hard to come by. But now when I look back I recognize that moment on the beach as one of God’s beautiful disruptions. Sometime later I married the man who e-mailed me and moved on to a whole new life full of love, joy and fulfillment.

Webster’s dictionary defines disruption as causing something to be unable to continue in the normal way: interrupting the usual progress or activity of something. A disruption is at first stressful because it throws things into disorder, putting us off the course we were used to. But God has a way of disrupting lives that opens up possibilities never imagined, even if at the time the disruption is unwelcome.

The scriptures are full of beautifully disrupted stories where God suddenly steps in to redirect the current path of someone He wants to use to fulfill His purposes. In Exodus 3, Moses has spent many years tending his father-in-law’s flock on the far side of the desert. God captures Moses’ attention when He speaks from a burning bush. He sends Moses on a mission back to Egypt to free the Israelites from slavery. As a country herdsman spending days on end with only sheep for company, Moses’ life is beautifully disrupted when he becomes God’s chosen instrument to lead His people to freedom.

As a lowly shepherd boy on the hills around Bethlehem, David was unlikely to be chosen for any significant role. But God changed David’s life by sending His prophet, Samuel, to anoint him as the future king of Israel. God’s beautiful disruption caused David to become a mighty king, a “man after God’s own heart” (Acts 13:22 NIV) and a forefather of Jesus, the Messiah.

In the most glorious disruption of all, a Jewish peasant girl is visited by an angel announcing she is to give birth to the Son of God. “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Through the power of the Holy Spirit, she becomes the mother of Jesus, God in human flesh, whose life, death and resurrection provides salvation for all who believe in Him.

Sometimes God reveals Himself to me in subtle ways. To be honest, I would prefer He direct me slowly and gently. But when I think of the mountaintops of my spiritual walk, it is the beautiful disruptions that stand out. Those times when God breaks suddenly into my mundane life speak of a love so great He would do the extraordinary to capture my attention. Such beautiful disruptions cause me to exclaim, only God.
Only God could orchestrate so many details to fulfill His purposes.
Only God interrupts by making me breathless with His beauty and majesty.
Only God beautifully disrupted time by stepping down from eternity to live among us.

©Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Enlightenment

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On this fourth Advent Sunday, using the word “Advent” as an acrostic, the letter is E for “Enlightenment”.

 

When I was tucked into bed as a child, I insisted my bedroom door be left open a precise amount; not too much or the hall light kept me awake, but just enough for a little comforting glow to shine in. Like most children, I was a bit afraid of the dark. Things which were familiar in the light became strange in the dark.

As a biblical metaphor for sin, darkness accurately represents aspects of a life lived outside of relationship with God. Darkness makes it difficult to find direction. It is a place of confusion where wrong seems right and up is down. Things are hidden in darkness; wrong and evil things. Death, the final darkness, severs every cherished bond.

How very like God to preface our coming salvation with a picture of light breaking into spiritual darkness. “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isa. 9:2 NIV) This light would not just disperse the darkness; it would come in the form of a Person. When Isaiah foretold this light, he continued with a description of the long hoped for Messiah coming as a child born unto us, a son given. (Isa. 9:6) A Light was destined to break into the dark lives of sinful men, and it would appear as God in human flesh.

Not only was the promised Messiah portended as a light, His birth was pinpointed by a light. Wise men from far away saw an unusual star in the eastern night sky, which they understood to be a sign of a coming Jewish king. Informed by prophecy, they traveled to Bethlehem, where the light of this rare star shone over the place where the child was. “When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.” (Matt. 2:10) Why? Because they understood the significance of the light and who it shone upon.

When the Light arrived as a human child, grew and became a man, He described Himself using the same figure of speech. “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) Such a grand claim can be irrefutably verified when our life is given over to Christ, for then we are delivered from the darkness of sin, given guidance to walk in this world well, and pointed to a new purpose. The light which came into the world now can shine from within us. “For God, who said, ‘Let light shine out of darkness,’ made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” (2 Cor. 4:6)

Light of lights! All gloom dispelling,
Thou didst come to make thy dwelling
Here within our world of sight.
Lord, in pity and in power,
Thou didst in our darkest hour
Rend the clouds and show thy light.
~ St. Thomas Aquinas ~

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Vessel

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In this third week of devotionals using the word Advent as an acrostic, the letter is V, for “vessel”.

 

 

 

The seaside park blossoms with booths and tents showcasing the richly diverse talents of artisans and craftspeople. My favorites are the potter’s works; earthenware, stoneware, ceramics and porcelain made for beauty as well as functionality. I like to carefully handle the pieces that interest me, feeling where the potter pressed his thumb into the wet clay on a mug handle, or used her hands to narrow the neck of a vase formed on a potter’s wheel. Simply put, they make vessels, hollow containers for holding something, but it is obvious that their creations are so much more.

In the nativity story, Mary, the mother of Jesus, became a human vessel to receive the Spirit of God. In His infinite, mysterious wisdom God chose this poor peasant girl to carry His beloved Son in her womb. She asked the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34 NIV) It is a question pondered by many since. The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

What qualities did God look for in a human vessel for His Son? Did He lovingly hold His creation, Mary, in His hands, turning her this way and that, looking into her soul for those certain attributes only He knew would suit His purpose? What set her apart from all other young women of her time who could have borne the Son of God? I cannot fathom the answer to these questions but I can rest in the certainty that He chose the perfect vessel.

God chose a vessel, first of all, who was pure. In order for His Son to be born a sinless man, He could not be conceived in sin, but would be born of a virgin. As Isaiah prophesied centuries before, “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel, God with us.” (Isa. 7:14b)

Mary was highly favored by God, according to the angel, so the purity He required in the mother of His holy Son was not only physical but spiritual. In her simple faith Mary exhibited qualities which pleased God, such as trust, faithfulness, humility and obedience. All these traits are evident in the telling of Mary’s story in the first chapter of Luke. Most noticeable is her unerring faith and willingness to believe that what the Lord had said to her would be accomplished. “ ‘I am the Lord’s servant,’ Mary answered. ‘May it be to me as you have said.’” (Luke 1:38)

Not only was she a willing vessel to carry the Son of God, she also would have realized that judgement and condemnation would come with her role. Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph but they were not yet man and wife, so her pregnancy would bring with it shame and reproach from those who knew her. No one would believe in her purity, except Joseph, who had it revealed to him by an angel of the Lord. She graciously accepted the damage to her reputation for the singular privilege of bearing God’s Son.

A vessel is open at the top to receive the contents intended for it. I picture Mary’s spiritual posture as open, receptive to whatever her Lord would pour in to her willing heart. I have much to learn from the mother of my Savior by her servant attitude and humility. The treasure of God’s Spirit is contained in this body of mine, this earthen vessel, so that the transcendent character of this power will be clearly seen as coming from God and not from me. (2 Cor. 4:7) My supreme privilege is to be poured out for Him.

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Dwell

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I am using the word “Advent” as an acrostic for a series of posts for each week the season is celebrated. This second week the letter is D.

 

The night is cold, the stars bright in the sky as I leave the city behind to make my way home. The inhospitable darkness beyond the car headlights makes me eager to get there. When I round the corner I see the lights of my house twinkling golden through the trees. Breathing slows, shoulders relax as I close the door behind me and step into the warmth. This is more than just a house; it is my dwelling, the place where my life is lived in the everyday of waking and sleeping, dreams and decisions, loving and learning.

That night long ago, when Mary and Joseph were far from their home, God came to earth to live. He wanted so much to be with us, to dwell with us, that He came as a baby, in the same way we did. The mystery of the incarnation, God dwelling in a human body, broke into history when eternity invaded time. With the frail cry of a newly birthed baby, hope came to dwell.

There is something about the word dwell that evokes so much more than just habitation. When someone dwells somewhere they live fully in that place, to such an extent it becomes part of who they are. To dwell somewhere involves making it a home, putting a personal stamp on it, investing emotional energy into settling there.

God demonstrated His desire to identify with His creatures when He sent His Son to dwell with us. He could have spoken to us through angels or from the clouds of heaven, but He chose instead to live as one of us. Jesus knew what it meant to have intimate conversation with friends over a meal, to rest His tired body in a bed at night, to see His mother waiting to welcome Him.

“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. We have seen His glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIV)

Those many long years ago He came to dwell as a man. Now He can be invited to dwell again as God’s Spirit within our hearts. Jesus said, “Anyone who loves Me will obey My teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (John 14:23) To think that my small human heart is “a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” (Eph. 2:22)

Anyone’s heart can be a dwelling for Him. He came first to earth as a baby in a borrowed manger bed; now He wants to come as a permanent dweller in your heart. The rooms don’t have to be spotless or the meals perfect. Just open the door in a warm welcome and He will move in.

Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the newborn King!”

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content

Anticipation

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The Advent season begins today, as does my gift to you, dear readers, using the word “Advent” as an acrostic for a series of posts for each week it is celebrated. Enjoy this blessed season!

 

 

Remember waiting by the window, looking for that special someone to come up the walk? Recall the wide-eyed wonder of a child waiting for daddy to come home? The expectancy of a hope to be fulfilled carries with it a sweet impatience, a tingling of nerves and slowing of time which hold their own pleasure.

There is an expectancy of hope resonating throughout time. Can you hear it? A whisper, a murmur, a hum of anticipation beginning in a garden, rippling in a flood, rustling across a desert, then gaining volume in the voices of prophets.

Someone is coming!

Someone promised by God, a Messiah, anointed for a specific purpose, to preach good news to the poor, proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed and proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor. (Luke 4:18-19 NIV)

Waiting for the Messiah was a centuries-long occupation for the Israelites. Their anticipation of who he would be and what he would do for them was grounded in the temporal. The New Testament Israelites particularly looked for his coming with desperate expectation, as they groaned under oppressive Roman rule.

So even with well-known prophecies of a virgin giving birth to Emmanuel, God with us, in the nondescript town of Bethlehem, they still looked for a Messiah who would arrive on the scene with great fanfare, ready to throw off the yoke of Roman domination.

If only their horizons could have stretched to what He really came to do — enrich the spiritually bankrupt, free those locked into sin, open the eyes of hearts blinded by lies; and bring liberation to souls tied up in guilty knots. His is a kingdom of the spirit, and in coming to earth for a time as a man, He taught us to anticipate the much vaster reality of eternity in heaven with Him.

Quite often what we anticipate with eagerness ends up disappointing, leaving us with unmet expectations. But with the arrival of Jesus Christ the Messiah, realization far outdistances expectation. There have been many men who have led oppressed countries to freedom, or brought enlightenment to their people trapped in ignorance, but only One in history who could liberate souls.

Could any finite human mind anticipate God coming to earth? — the great I AM growing inside a virgin‘s womb? — the Creator of the universe wrapped in the flesh of a helpless infant? The concept is beyond our scope to understand, but not beyond God’s ability.

Advent is a season of anticipation, looking forward to celebrating the wonder of God arriving on earth, a gift for all mankind. It is also a time to contemplate what you are anticipating spiritually in your growth towards the Messiah. I encourage you to share some of your contemplations with me.

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love Him, but God has revealed it to us by His Spirit.” – 1 Corinthians 2:9-10

Missing the Messiah

IMG_0286Mary and Joseph recognized the exceptional child they were given to raise because His identity was revealed to them by angels.

Elizabeth and her unborn son recognized Him when His pregnant mother spoke words of greeting.

Shepherds recognized Him by a glorious announcement made by a host of heavenly angels appearing in their lowly fields.

Magi from afar recognized His star in the east, guiding their way to His birthplace in Bethlehem, as the prophecy foretold.

At Jerusalem’s temple Simeon and Anna recognized Him as a baby distinct from many brought for consecration, through revelation by the Holy Spirit.

So why do so many not recognize Him today, not even on the holiday which celebrates His birth? God’s greatest gift to all people gets lost in obscurity amidst the glitter and tinsel now cluttering up Christmas. Not only do people fail to recognize Christ for who He is; Emmanuel, God with us, they fail to recognize His very existence.

This is not just a contemporary failure. Missing the Messiah began long before His birth and continued during His earthly life. Not long before His death Jesus wept over Jerusalem because He knew the destruction it would soon suffer. “Your enemies will smash you into rubble and not leave one stone standing on another, and they will cut your children down too because you did not recognize the day when God’s Anointed One visited you.” (Luke 19:44 The Voice)

Even though moments earlier a whole crowd of followers spread their cloaks on the road before Jesus and shouted praises for the miracles they had seen, they did not truly recognize it was God riding on a colt in their midst. Because of their rejection of Him, their eyes were blinded. Because they would not see Him as its source, they could not receive the peace He offered.

I confess, I’ve not recognized the Messiah more often than I care to admit. I miss Him when the world lures me aside with its siren call. I miss Him when I recognize only myself and my own desires. And I miss Him when I neglect precious time alone to commune with Him, not recognizing how much He wants to speak to me.

So this Christmas my desirous prayer is that I would more fully recognize the wonder of God’s sojourn to this humble earth. I will never comprehend what it took for Almighty God to become a man, but I will forever praise Him that He did. It was a supreme act of love, a visitation which changed the course of history and thus, the direction of my own life. He can change the direction of many lives, if only He is recognized for who is, King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

© Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus 2014. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Valerie Ronald and scriptordeus with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.