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.

Windward

2007_0922MB0161They appear on the horizon, giants of the windswept prairie harvesting energy in their steel wings. Wind generators standing in tall rows along a golden ridge stretch into the distance, their mighty blades revolving to catch the unseen power of the wind. No doubt there is much written about the technology and science of wind turbines but the romantic in me simply enjoys the beauty of immense blades swirling in an adagio dance against the blue sky.

A grouping of wind turbines is called a wind farm, erected to harvest the power of the wind. Prevailing winds blowing over areas of open land turn the turbines connected to a generator, which converts the kinetic wind energy into electrical power. A dry explanation for a force evoking awe when I stand beneath those sweeping blades and hear the deep, resonant swoosh of their passing.

I wonder, when the force of God’s Spirit moves through me, what does it produce? Is divine energy being channeled through my limbs, my mind, my heart, for the benefit of others? I am small and weak without much strength to my own credit, like a windmill on a windless day. But when the Holy Spirit of God empowers, He moves me to be an effective witness for Jesus Christ, according to His purposes. His empowerment is not for my own benefit, but for the purpose of reaching others with the truth of the gospel.

Just before His ascension, Jesus told His disciples, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8 NIV) Reading through the book of Acts, the power of the Holy Spirit is clearly evident in the lives and ministries of the early disciples of Christ.

It is easy to be impressed by the spectacle of enormous rotors revolving by the power of the wind and forget the energy they produce feeds into a greater power grid. There is a complex system delivering the kinetic energy produced by wind turbines into the utility grid distributing electricity for our use. A stand-alone wind turbine may produce a small amount of power for domestic use but wind farms provide bulk power to a system beneficial to all.

The purpose behind the Holy Spirit’s power being made available to mankind was not to be a spectacle or to perform miracles for miracles’ sake. His power was given for the express purpose of enabling believers to be more effective witnesses. As conduits of the Spirit’s power, believers perform the vital function of pointing others to the source of the power, Jesus Christ.

The power of the Holy Spirit is manifested in the fruit seen in our lives; “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22) When the world wonders how a marriage lasts for 50 years, or why a business person puts honesty before profit, or a young man or woman chooses a life of purity, the Holy Spirit is displaying His power. Then those who witness this power, ask the all important question, “Why?” And once again the wind of the Spirit moves a heart upward.

© 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.

 

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.

A Drop of Love

My most vivid encounter with God lasted only a few moments, yet impacted my life like no other before or after. If I ever doubted God’s singular eye upon me, His omniscient attention to every detail about me, this moment wiped them all away.

Admitted to the hospital for some minor surgery, I remember actually anticipating a few days of escape from my emotionally stressful life. Caught in a roller coaster marriage to a volatile, spiritually abusive man, doing my best  to mother three young children and dealing with fatiguing health issues, I longed for rest. A hospital stay was hardly the ideal vacation, but the prospect of a few days in bed seemed like paradise.

I remember breathing a hasty prayer before succumbing to anaesthetic-induced sleep. Then God woke me up with an awareness of His love for me. That sounds so simple, such a given, but it does not come close to capturing the all-encompassing intensity of how loved by God I knew myself to be. I did not want to return to full consciousness, to leave what I knew even then was a foretaste of heaven.

A nurse shook me and called my name to rouse me, but I fought to stay in that place of complete love deep within where my soul resided with God. Of course, I couldn’t. The real world of bright light, noise and pain could not be avoided. I opened my eyes and responded to the nurse, but my spirit danced on the verge of its natural home, trailing glorious love like streamers floating to the earth.

I am not one to pursue signs, wonders and visions. I see myself as a believer in Jesus Christ, based on the rock-solid truth of His Word. I recognize I am made up of body, soul and spirit and capable of a myriad of emotions, as my Creator has designed me but emotions do not rule my faith. Neither do I seek out artificially induced emotional experiences, as could be credited to the anaesthetic drugs.

But I know what I know, and now I know what God’s love feels like. He gave me these few moments as a glimpse of what is to come, I am sure of it. A crack appeared in the floor of heaven to seep out a miniscule drop of His great love for me. I could not have handled any more than that, but He knew at that particularly difficult time, a drop of His love would go a long ways. In fact, it has lasted throughout my life, impacting my relationships, faith and hope for the future in a deep and lasting way.

When my marriage finally died in a chaos of rejection and betrayal, His love valued me.
When cancer brought me face to face with my own mortality, His love carried me.
When all I knew was pain and loneliness, His love soothed me.

Knowing His love for me is replicated many million times over for all those He has fashioned, stimulates me to be a conduit for this miraculous drop of love. I cannot love well on my own. Only the indwelling Spirit of God, through Christ, can disperse this love like a drop of ink in water, to saturate all who encounter it. In God’s economy, a little goes a long way.

“I realize that everything I know is only part of the big picture. But one day, when Jesus arrives, we will see clearly, face-to-face. In that day, I will fully know just as I have been wholly known by God. But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterize our lives. The greatest of these is love.” – 1 Corinthians 13:12-13  The Voice