Tag Archives: Mary

A Peacemaker’s Advent: the Angels

But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard.  Luke 1:13a

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

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  Luke 2:10

I have never seen an angel, but apparently, it is a frightening thing.  We know this because, every time an angel appears in the Christmas story, the first words he says are, “Do not be afraid…”.

Now, I am no angel.  But, as a peacemaker, I do know what it feels like for people to be frightened of me.  It is actually a fairly common response, especially in church conflicts.  When I am called in by a congregation or Christian organization to begin my work as a peacemaker, and I begin having my one-on-one meetings with the players, it is always interesting to me how frightened they seem to be to talk to me.  Maybe it is because they know I am a lawyer?  Or maybe it because they have misunderstood my role in the process?  Or maybe it is their fear of being held accountable?  I honestly do not know.

But I do know that, for peacemakers, it means we have one task that is first and foremost in every conflict…we must be a non-anxious presence.  We must develop an ability to disarm the players, reassure them that they are safe, and guarantee a process which they can trust.  We apparently share that task with the angels.  Everything about our demeanor and our words must send a clear message: “be not afraid”.

I’m glancing at some of the long strings of comments we see today on …

A Peacemaker’s Advent: Mary and Joseph

Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.  But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”… When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife.  Matthew 1:19-21, 23

 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail.”  “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her.  Luke 1:35-38

The Christmas story is filled with contrasts between those who rearranged their very lives in order to make room for the birth of the Messiah and those who either opposed His birth or were completely indifferent to it.  Mary and Joseph had their lives changed forever.  Their obedience and their ability to embrace a seemingly impossible circumstance set them apart.  Even more, it was their willingness to set aside their own pretty good plans in order to be obedient to God which makes them perfect …

True Worshipers and their Scoffers

Tuesday Re-mix:

Some of those present were saying indignantly to one another, “Why this waste of perfume? It could have been sold for more than a year’s wages and the money given to the poor.” And they rebuked her harshly. “Leave her alone,” said Jesus. “Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing to me.  Mark 14:4-6

Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”  John 4:23-24

You and I can take solace in the fact that we would never do what “some of those present” did to poor Mary of Bethany in Mark 14.  You and I are way, way too spiritual to ever do such a thing!  Truly, all Mary was doing was loving Jesus with extravagance…pouring her very heart out with every ounce of perfume which left that container.  She was oblivious to the awkwardness or to the social or political “incorrectness” of her actions…her heart was 100% for Jesus in that moment.  That, my friends, was the very picture of “true worship”.

So, to scoff or to rebuke her for it…well, wow, that is just embarrassing.  I’m just glad you and I would never do that.

There are actually a few other places I can think of in the Bible where people scoffed at or made fun of someone’s worship of God.  None of those stories ended well for those scoffers.  It seems that  God really does frown on such scoffers.  Worship, after all, is not for their benefit at all; rather, it is aimed only at God.  What business is it of others …

Knowing the Word Become Flesh

My people are being destroyed because they don’t know me.  Hosea 4:6 (NLT)

 I want to know Christ and experience the mighty power that raised him from the dead.  Philippians 3:10a (NLT)

I have often said that the church today is getting itself into trouble when we are more concerned with knowing about Christ than with actually knowing Him.  I think I first came to that conclusion while studying Philippians and Paul’s comment quoted above (Philippians 3:10).  Apparently, this concern went back a ways before Paul.  Hosea warned the people about it as well.

When I was in High School (back in the days of old), I knew a set of twins.  Their names were Mike and Chris, and they went to a rival High School.  I only knew them because I had played against them in basketball.  They were as identical as any two twins I have ever seen.  It was uncanny…a little creepy even.  If you didn’t know them, it was impossible to tell them apart.  I knew people who knew them, and I would ask them how they tell them apart.  They would try to give me hints about their hair or their mouth or a certain behavior, but none of those hints really helped.  The truth was, those friends couldn’t really tell me how they tell them apart.  More times than not, when asked how, those friends would just say, “I don’t know…I just can, because I know them.”

That, it seems to me, is the difference between knowing God and knowing about God.  I have, upon occasion, listened to teachers teaching about God or Jesus or the Bible and heard lots of great information from them but could not help but ask myself whether they really know God.  There just was no familiarity in their …

Merry Christmas, Gabriel…Uh, Could I See Some ID?

Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Luke 1:18a

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” Luke 1:34

Studying Luke 1 last week and this week. Last week was Zechariah. This week is Mary. But the one constant character in both lessons is Gabriel, the angel. The other element common to both stories is the reactions to Gabriel. Both Mary and Zechariah asked the same question: “But, how?” But Gabriel’s response to that reaction was very different in each story.

Let’s not play word games here, and let’s not split hairs over how their reactions are actually different. If you were writing the story yourself and wanted their reactions to read the same way, you couldn’t write it any differently than Luke did. Their reactions to Gabriel were remarkably similar. Both of them asked the same question, showing the same concern for whether Gabriel really had all his facts straight. We can engage in all kinds of speculation about their respective hearts (i.e., perhaps Mary’s question was truly one of wonder, while Zechariah’s was one of doubt, etc.), but that is just speculation on our part. We cannot judge a person’s heart. No, in order to explain Gabriel’s very different response to each of them and their respective questions, we need not engage in questions of the heart. We can find a much easier critical distinction between Zechariah and Mary: Zechariah was a priest.

Zechariah was a Spiritual leader among God’s people and was doing a Spiritual thing in the most Spiritual of all places when Gabriel appeared. What kind of sad commentary is it that, upon entering the place where God abides, doing a thing God …

Languages of Worship (The Biblical Illustration)

Tuesday Re-mix – This is a popular post from last year, updated and resubmitted for your consideration and comments.

The LORD appeared to Abram and said, “To your offspring I will give this land.” So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him. Genesis 12:7

David, wearing a linen ephod, danced before the LORD with all his might… II Samuel 6:14

Then Mary took about a pint of pure nard, an expensive perfume; she poured it on Jesus’ feet and wiped his feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume. John 12:3

I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death… Philippians 3:10

My first post on this topic (and by this title) was  here.  Think of it as an introduction.

If you have ever had to plan a corporate or “gathered” worship experience for a diverse group of people, you know how challenging it can be.  This person prefers hymns, that person prefers choruses.  This person loves  Power Point, that person hates it, and so on and so forth.  And it is those differences in preferences which have contributed to what we call the “worship wars” troubling so many of our churches today.

I believe those differences can be sorted out into two categories.  Some of them have to do with cultural upbringing.  In that respect, the preferences are learned languages which we have developed over time.  I grew up singing hymns so I have developed a love for them, a preference.  Others did not grow up with them and find them to be difficult to understand.  They prefer a more “user friendly” chorus.  This category of preferences is very …