“Dear friend, I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit. Some of the traveling teachers recently returned and made me very happy by telling me about your faithfulness and that you are living according to the truth. I could have no greater joy than to hear that my children are following the truth.” 3 John 1:2-4, NLT
False teachers had infiltrated the churches for which John had responsibility. Some were even denying that Jesus had truly come in a real body (2 John 1:7)—a denial of the heart of the Christian faith. But not everyone had been deceived, and John commends the chosen lady and her children (1:1) for “living according to the truth” (1:4).
Living according to the truth is about holding firm to the Jesus revealed in the four Gospels and in the teaching of the apostles, which is based upon his life, death, and resurrection. It was this apostolic teaching that the first Christians devoted themselves to (Acts 2:42) and that we too should seek out —by reading the Bible on our own, participating in small groups where it can be discussed and applied, and listening eagerly to sermons in worship services.
But living according to the truth isn’t just about what we know; it is also about how we act. We may know many Bible doctrines and be able to quote many Bible verses; but if we aren’t actively seeking to live it out, then we are like the man who built his house on sand rather than on rock (Matthew 7:24-27) or someone who looked in the mirror, only to forget what they looked like ( James 1:22-25). Living according to the truth means both knowing it and demonstrating it in our actions.
Nebuchadnezzar or Nebuchadrezzar (king of Babylon)
by Mark D. Taylor, Chairman / CEO, Tyndale House Ministries
Nebuchadnezzar II was king of Babylon for 43 years—from 605
to 562 b.c. He is mentioned in
many ancient Babylonian documents, and he played a pivotal role in the fall of
the Kingdom of Judah. As described in 2 Kings 24:1—25:26, Nebuchadnezzar
invaded Judah three times. The first invasion was in 605 b.c., the first year of his reign. The
second was in 597 b.c., in the
eighth year of his reign. Finally, he invaded again in 588-586 b.c., when he destroyed Jerusalem and
the Temple of the Lord.
The story of Nebuchadnezzar’s impact on the Kingdom of Judah
is told in five Old Testament books—2 Kings, 2 Chronicles, Jeremiah, Ezekiel,
and Daniel. His actual name is found 91 times in the Hebrew (or Aramaic) text,
but it is spelled two different ways—Nebuchadnezzar (with an “n”) and
Nebuchadrezzar (with an “r”). The translators of the King James Version (KJV),
Revised Standard Version (RSV), and New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) chose
to follow the different Hebrew spellings as they transliterated the name into
English. Most English translations, including the NLT, use the more common
spelling—Nebuchadnezzar—throughout the text to allay potential confusion on the
part of readers. The NLT also provides a textual note for each chapter in which
the Hebrew spelling Nebuchadrezzar (with an “r”) is transliterated as
Nebuchadnezzar (with an “n”).
This is just one example among many, many ways the NLT translators have worked to make the English text as clear as possible for our readers.
by Dr. Barry C. Black, Chaplain of the United States Senate
The One Year Pray for America Bible provides springboards for prayer that enable you to pray more effectively. It gives a different prayer prompt each day, encouraging us to pray for our government and make petitions on behalf of our leaders and fellow citizens for security, forgiveness, mercy, justice, humility, and wisdom. Prayer enables us to make our voices heard in heaven regarding America’s needs.
Prayer helped to make America a beacon of freedom. At the
birth of this nation, people sought God’s help in making the dream of Liberty a
reality. At the 1787 Constitutional Convention, when the participants had reached
an impasse, Benjamin Franklin suggested that they pray, and they eventually
did. Those prayers aided in our nation’s birth.
One of the first acts of the new American legislative branch
in 1789 was to establish a chaplaincy. A key responsibility of this chaplaincy
was to begin each legislative session with an invocation. Prayer has continued almost
uninterrupted since that time, because seeking God’s assistance for a person,
nation, or world is laudable. The Bible reminds us, “Godliness makes a nation
great, but sin is a disgrace to any people” (Proverbs 14:34). Humanity can
cooperate with Divinity in making a nation great.
If our nation started with prayer, perhaps we should also
sustain it with the same. We should get back to praying because, after all, God
is sovereign over all nations. Job 12:23-24 says this about God: “He builds up
nations, and he destroys them. He expands nations, and he abandons them. He strips
kings of understanding and leaves them wandering in a pathless wasteland.”
These verses make it clear that humanity will not have the ultimate word in
what happens to nations; God will.
Getting Back to
Praying for Our Nation
We should get back to praying for our government because God
has ordained government to establish order in society. The apostle Paul puts it
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all
authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed
there by God. So anyone who rebels against authority is rebelling against what God
has instituted, and they will be punished. For the authorities do not strike
fear in people who are doing right, but in those who are doing wrong. Would you
like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will
honor you. The authorities are God’s servants, sent for your good. But if you
are doing wrong, of course you should be afraid, for they have the power to
punish you. They are God’s servants, sent for the very purpose of punishing
those who do what is wrong. So you must submit to them, not only to avoid
punishment, but also to keep a clear conscience.
Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government
workers need to be paid. They are serving God in what they do. Give to everyone
what you owe them: Pay your taxes and government fees to those who collect
them, and give respect and honor to those who are in authority. (Romans 13:1-7)
God ordained government for our good. Paul instructs us that
government officials deserve our prayers, finances, honor, and respect.
We should get back to praying for our government because God
commands us to pray for it. We find these words in 1 Timothy 2:1-4, “I urge
you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on
their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are
in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and
dignity. This is good and pleases God our Savior, who wants everyone to be
saved and to understand the truth.”
We should get back to praying for our government because
life should not be divided into sacred and secular. God has sovereignty over
all our lives because in him we live, move, breathe, and function (Acts 17:28).
According to Proverbs 21:1, even the king’s heart is in God’s hands; the sovereign
God guides the king’s heart as he desires. Our lives are sustained by a
powerful divine providence, and the sacred permeates every part of our
existence, including government.
We should get back to praying for our government because
people of faith have a role in influencing public life and policy. We must give
to Caesar what belongs to him (Matthew 22:21), fostering morality in government
and holding authorities accountable. The Bible challenges us to be salt and
light to our world (Matthew 5:13-16). This means refusing to be missing in
action when it comes to governmental affairs. Esther, Nehemiah, and Daniel are
just three examples of how believers should relate to government constructively.
We should get back to praying for our government because the
ends sought by the government should be morally acceptable. In short, when Caesar’s
dictates collide with God’s commands, we must obey God instead of Caesar (Acts 5:29).
When the Babylonian king demanded that Daniel and his friends eat inappropriate
food, Daniel negotiated an acceptable alternative that satisfied this demand
(Daniel 1:5-16). When, however, the same king insisted these young men bow and
worship an idol or be executed in a fiery furnace, the young men chose to risk
death rather than compromise their faith (Daniel 3:1-18). Therefore, we must
cooperate with government whenever it does not violate our allegiance to God
and resist it when it does. Part of our cooperation entails praying.
We should get back to praying for our government because we
are urged to pray for others. In Jesus’ model prayer for his disciples (Matthew
the pronouns are plural. It does not say “My Father” but “Our Father.” We are
not told to pray “give me today the food I need,” but “give us today the food
we need.” Jesus does not admonish us to pray “don’t let me yield to temptation,
but rescue me from the evil one,” but “don’t let us yield to temptation, but
rescue us from the evil one.” Although some may find it difficult to believe
that the effectiveness of prayer goes beyond the private and interior life of
the intercessor, the Bible urges us to pray for others (James 5:16).
We should get back to praying for our government because
intercessory prayer is an affirmation of faith in the God who desires to serve
humanity. God says in Ezekiel 33:11: “As surely as I live, says the Sovereign
Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of wicked people. I only want them to
turn from their wicked ways so they can live. Turn! Turn from your wickedness, O
people of Israel! Why should you die?” In his book on prayer, Eric Hayman
observed, “The power of our intercession is not our isolated pressure on a God
remote from us. It is the action of His Spirit in and through our little souls,
self-offered to the purpose of His will. So our intercession depends on our
keeping open both to the perfect will of God and also the need and suffering of
the world.”* Perhaps this is why Elton Trueblood speaks of the church as a
“fellowship of the concerned.”†
We should get back to praying for our government because God
blesses nations that acknowledge him. Psalm 33:12 states: “What joy for the nation
whose God is the Lord, whose people he has chosen as his inheritance.” God
shows special favor to those who respect his sovereignty. He protects these
nations, surrounding them with the shield of his love (Psalm 5:12).
How We Should Pray
So, how should we pray for our government? First, we should pray for our government’s needs. One Greek word that can be translated as “supplication”in 1 Timothy 2:1 is deēsis, which is a word that suggests that God expects us to ask him to meet our government’s needs. God has promised to supply all our needs out of his celestial bounty (Philippians 4:19). He invites us to cry out to him when we are confronted with trouble (Psalm 50:15).When our government is overwhelmed by moral, financial, and even safety concerns, we should intercede for its needs. We have an example of praying for the needs of the government in James 5:16-18. These verses remind us that Elijah prayed and asked God to stop the rain from falling. Elijah was concerned because the government under King Ahab had endorsed the worship of Baal. The government seemed certain that it was Baal who sent the rain and produced a bountiful harvest, not the God of Israel. Elijah was concerned about governmental deviation from God’s law. He wanted the sovereign God of Israel to assert himself, and God answered his prayer,which was prompted by this need.
Second, we should pray with total dependence on God. Another Greek word in 1 Timothy 2:1 that can be translated as “prayer” is proseuchē. This word suggests that we should seek God as the sole provider of our government’s success. This dependence on God’s power is implied in Psalm 127:1: “Unless the Lord builds a house, the work of the builders is wasted. Unless the Lord protects a city, guarding it with sentries will do no good.” The notion of total dependence upon God is also captured in the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai: “You must not have any other god but me” (Exodus 20:3). God desires to be our sole provider.
Third, we should pray confidently, knowing that we have complete access to God. The Greek word enteuxis in 1 Timothy 2:1 can be translated as “petition.” In this word, we can see an admonition to come boldly before God’s throne of grace to receive help in the time of need (see also Hebrews 4:16). We hear this same sentiment in 1 Peter 2:9, which describes believers as royal priests. A priest is someone who has access to both God and the people and is a bridge between God and the people. When we pray for our government, we should intercede with an awareness of our complete access to God in heaven.
Finally, we should pray with thanksgiving. The final Greek word in 1 Timothy 2:1 that shows us how to pray is eucharistia, which can be translated“thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving adds perfume to our petitions ascending to God’s throne. Philippians 4:6 says: “Pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” Everything includes our prayers for our government. Believers are also encouraged to give thanks in every circumstance (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Continual thanksgiving is God’swill for our lives.
The Difference Prayer
Imagine the difference our prayers would make if we asked
specifically for God to deal with the needs of our nation. What would happen if
we prayed for a stronger economy, or more harmonious race relations, or greater
civility among our political leaders, or better cooperation between our
branches of government? Specificity matters. God is waiting for us to be
specific about our needs.
Imagine what would happen if we sought God as our first
option—not the fourth or fifth. It would be wonderful to avoid the mistakes of
the disciples in a storm at sea. They first attempted to save themselves; they
waited before awakening Jesus (Mark 4:35-41). Our prayers for government can be
energized by understanding that God is the sole source of our strength and
Imagine what would happen if we took frequent advantage of
the complete access God has given us to his throne because of our status as
royal priests. It can take months to meet with a government leader, but God has
provided us with continuous access to his presence, mercy, grace, and might.
Imagine what would happen if Thanksgiving came every day instead of once a year. How much more effective our prayers would be if we decided with the psalmist to praise the Lord at all times, with his praises constantly on our lips (Psalm 34:1). Perhaps then we would know experientially the truth of Psalm 22:22-31, which envisions a holy God who is continually praised by his people. The greatest days of our nation are linked to the holiness of its citizens. By God’s grace, let’s get back to prayer. The One Year Pray for America Bibleis a great starting point.
* Eric Hayman, Prayer and the Christian Life (London:
Student Christian MovementPress, 1948), 122-123.
† Elton Trueblood, Alternative to Futility (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1948), 58.
The Transformational Simplicity of the Whole Bible in One Year
What are some first impressions of the Bible? It’s a big
book. It seems overwhelming. It’s filled with people and places that seem
different than us and our surroundings. If we take a closer look and actually
get into its pages, we discover it’s extremely personal, and the people and
places actually look a lot more familiar to us than they did at first glance.
But what about the overwhelming part? It can be hard to know where to begin or
how everything is connected.
The One Year Bibleis a great resource to help us engage with the Bible in a manageable way. It takes the entire Bible and breaks it down into daily readings. It sounds so simple, and yet it’s transformational. From seekers to life-long believers, The One Year Biblehas helped people understand God’s story and what it means to each of us.
Dishy was not a Christian when he started reading the Bible.
He questioned its validity and wondered why people would believe it’s true.
“I have spent much of my life wondering whether any of
Christianity’s teachings were true or just wishful thinking, and perhaps also a
good sales job perpetuated by ancient people with an agenda. But it’s quite
easy to have an uneducated opinion about something you vaguely know about but haven’t
actually read! So, I decided to start putting forth an effort to read the
actual Bible, the whole thing, from beginning to end. I hoped that this
exercise would put the issue to rest in my life and I would be able to decide
once and for all what I thought about Christianity,” he said.
“I really like the read-it-in-one-year concept with
scheduled daily passages. It is helpful to refer to a study Bible to
occasionally get more background and explanation. This One Year Bible encourages me to keep up with it. Since the passages
aren’t very long each day, I think Surely
I can read this for 10 or 15 minutes. So, whoever thought of the concept
had a really great idea.”
Is this still a good Bible for people who have been reading
it most of their lives? Hank thinks so. He is a lifelong Christian and has read
the Bible every day for almost 30 years.
“I love the Bible. It’s such a joy to read it, and I just
want everyone to have that joy and understand what it can give you,” said Hank.
He started with his family.
“For 19 years I read a One Year Bible, and each year I dedicated it to a family member. The notes in the margin were personal, such as ‘This is my prayer for you.’ I’ve underlined, circled, and highlighted many passages, letting them know what inspires me. It is my legacy to them,” said Hank.
Through these Bibles Hank has inspired a love for God’s Word
in others. Sharing his struggles, joys, failures, and triumphs as he moves
closer to God has been a comfort and a catalyst for his family members to grow
deeper in their understanding of God through his Word.
“When I give it to them and they read it, they always come back saying, ‘I didn’t know you were going through that’ or ‘when you wrote this it helped me to better understand what I was facing.’ The Bible gives me joy whenever I read it, and I get joy by sharing it with others. The more you get into it, the more your joy will grow,” said Hank.
The Profound Meaning of Jesus as The Word
“In the beginning the Word already existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. He existed in the beginning with God. God created everything through him, and nothing was created except through him. The Word gave life to everything that was created, and his life brought light to everyone. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness can never extinguish it.” John 1:1-5, NLT
John raises the curtain on his Gospel with a stunning description of Jesus Christ as “the Word” (Greek logos, 1:1). Both Greek and Jewish listeners in the first century would immediately recognize the profound meaning of this title. Greeks would have thought of the seminal forces that sustain the universe. Jewish minds would have thought back to God creating the world with his word (Gen 1:3-28). In Jesus’ day, the word of God took on creative personal attributes (Ps 33:6, 9).
Jews viewed God’s word as personifying divine wisdom. Through Wisdom, God extended himself into the cosmos, creating the world (Prov 8:22-31). In John’s drama, Jesus shares the same essence as God; the Son existed before time, and he was the agent of all creation. John anchors the divinity of Jesus in this ancient Jewish concept of Wisdom. The divine Wisdom that has existed from before time with God can now be known in Jesus Christ. In perhaps the most outrageous verse penned by an apostle, John writes that this Logos, this Wisdom, became flesh and lived among us as a human (1:14).
What God is, the Logos is. The Logos is Jesus Christ.
One Year Pray for America Bible Reading From December 12th
Lord, thank you that Jesus stands and knocks. I pray that those who lead our government would throw the door wide open to welcome him. Dine with us, Jesus. Let us enjoy with you the blessings you’ve given us. Amen.
Prayer Prompt from the One Year Pray for America Bible
The Sovereign Lord showed me a vision. I saw him preparing to send a vast swarm of locusts over the land. This was after the king’s share had been harvested from the fields and as the main crop was coming up. 2In my vision the locusts ate every green plant in sight. Then I said, “O Sovereign Lord, please forgive us or we will not survive, for Israel* is so small.”
3So the Lord relented from this plan. “I will not do it,” he said.
4Then the Sovereign Lord showed me another vision. I saw him preparing to punish his people with a great fire. The fire had burned up the depths of the sea and was devouring the entire land. 5Then I said, “O Sovereign Lord, please stop or we will not survive, for Israel is so small.”
6Then the Lord relented from this plan, too. “I will not do that either,” said the Sovereign Lord.
7Then he showed me another vision. I saw the Lord standing beside a wall that had been built using a plumb line. He was using a plumb line to see if it was still straight. 8And the Lord said to me, “Amos, what do you see?”
I answered, “A plumb line.”
And the Lord replied, “I will test my people with this plumb line. I will no longer ignore all their sins. 9The pagan shrines of your ancestors* will be ruined, and the temples of Israel will be destroyed; I will bring the dynasty of King Jeroboam to a sudden end.”
10Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent a message to Jeroboam, king of Israel: “Amos is hatching a plot against you right here on your very doorstep! What he is saying is intolerable. 11He is saying, ‘Jeroboam will soon be killed, and the people of Israel will be sent away into exile.’”
12Then Amaziah sent orders to Amos: “Get out of here, you prophet! Go on back to the land of Judah, and earn your living by prophesying there! 13Don’t bother us with your prophecies here in Bethel. This is the king’s sanctuary and the national place of worship!”
14But Amos replied, “I’m not a professional prophet, and I was never trained to be one.* I’m just a shepherd, and I take care of sycamore-fig trees. 15But the Lord called me away from my flock and told me, ‘Go and prophesy to my people in Israel.’ 16Now then, listen to this message from the Lord:
“You say, ‘Don’t prophesy against Israel. Stop preaching against my people.*’ 17But this is what the Lord says: ‘Your wife will become a prostitute in this city, and your sons and daughters will be killed. Your land will be divided up, and you yourself will die in a foreign land. And the people of Israel will certainly become captives in exile, far from their homeland.’”
Chapter 8: 1Then the Sovereign Lord showed me another vision. In it I saw a basket filled with ripe fruit. 2“What do you see, Amos?” he asked.
I replied, “A basket full of ripe fruit.”
Then the Lord said, “Like this fruit, Israel is ripe for punishment! I will not delay their punishment again. 3In that day the singing in the temple will turn to wailing. Dead bodies will be scattered everywhere. They will be carried out of the city in silence. I, the Sovereign Lord, have spoken!”
4Listen to this, you who rob the poor and trample down the needy! 5You can’t wait for the Sabbath day to be over and the religious festivals to end so you can get back to cheating the helpless. You measure out grain with dishonest measures and cheat the buyer with dishonest scales.* 6And you mix the grain you sell with chaff swept from the floor. Then you enslave poor people for one piece of silver or a pair of sandals. 7Now the Lord has sworn this oath by his own name, the Pride of Israel*: “I will never forget the wicked things you have done! 8The earth will tremble for your deeds, and everyone will mourn. The ground will rise like the Nile River at floodtime; it will heave up, then sink again. 9“In that day,” says the Sovereign Lord, “I will make the sun go down at noon and darken the earth while it is still day. 10I will turn your celebrations into times of mourning and your singing into weeping. You will wear funeral clothes and shave your heads to show your sorrow— as if your only son had died. How very bitter that day will be! 11“The time is surely coming,” says the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine on the land— not a famine of bread or water but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12People will stagger from sea to sea and wander from border to border* searching for the word of the Lord, but they will not find it. 13Beautiful girls and strong young men will grow faint in that day, thirsting for the Lord’s word. 14And those who swear by the shameful idols of Samaria— who take oaths in the name of the god of Dan and make vows in the name of the god of Beersheba*— they will all fall down, never to rise again.”
Chapter 9:1Then I saw a vision of the Lord standing beside the altar. He said,
“Strike the tops of the Temple columns, so that the foundation will shake. Bring down the roof on the heads of the people below. I will kill with the sword those who survive. No one will escape! 2“Even if they dig down to the place of the dead,* I will reach down and pull them up. Even if they climb up into the heavens, I will bring them down. 3Even if they hide at the very top of Mount Carmel, I will search them out and capture them. Even if they hide at the bottom of the ocean, I will send the sea serpent after them to bite them. 4Even if their enemies drive them into exile, I will command the sword to kill them there. I am determined to bring disaster upon them and not to help them.” 5The Lord, the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, touches the land and it melts, and all its people mourn. The ground rises like the Nile River at floodtime, and then it sinks again. 6The Lord’s home reaches up to the heavens, while its foundation is on the earth. He draws up water from the oceans and pours it down as rain on the land. The Lord is his name! 7“Are you Israelites more important to me than the Ethiopians?*” asks the Lord. “I brought Israel out of Egypt, but I also brought the Philistines from Crete* and led the Arameans out of Kir. 8“I, the Sovereign Lord, am watching this sinful nation of Israel. I will destroy it from the face of the earth. But I will never completely destroy the family of Israel,*” says the Lord. 9“For I will give the command and will shake Israel along with the other nations as grain is shaken in a sieve, yet not one true kernel will be lost. 10But all the sinners will die by the sword— all those who say, ‘Nothing bad will happen to us.’
11“In that day I will restore the fallen house* of David. I will repair its damaged walls. From the ruins I will rebuild it and restore its former glory. 12And Israel will possess what is left of Edom and all the nations I have called to be mine.*” The Lord has spoken, and he will do these things. 13“The time will come,” says the Lord, “when the grain and grapes will grow faster than they can be harvested. Then the terraced vineyards on the hills of Israel will drip with sweet wine! 14I will bring my exiled people of Israel back from distant lands, and they will rebuild their ruined cities and live in them again. They will plant vineyards and gardens; they will eat their crops and drink their wine. 15I will firmly plant them there in their own land. They will never again be uprooted from the land I have given them,” says the Lord your God.
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Philadelphia.This is the message from the one who is holy and true, the one who has the key of David. What he opens, no one can close; and what he closes, no one can open:*
8“I know all the things you do, and I have opened a door for you that no one can close. You have little strength, yet you obeyed my word and did not deny me. 9Look, I will force those who belong to Satan’s synagogue—those liars who say they are Jews but are not—to come and bow down at your feet. They will acknowledge that you are the ones I love.
10“Because you have obeyed my command to persevere, I will protect you from the great time of testing that will come upon the whole world to test those who belong to this world. 11I am coming soon.* Hold on to what you have, so that no one will take away your crown. 12All who are victorious will become pillars in the Temple of my God, and they will never have to leave it. And I will write on them the name of my God, and they will be citizens in the city of my God—the new Jerusalem that comes down from heaven from my God. And I will also write on them my new name.
13“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches.
Lord, my heart is not proud; my eyes are not haughty. I don’t concern myself with matters too great or too awesome for me to grasp. 2Instead, I have calmed and quieted myself, like a weaned child who no longer cries for its mother’s milk. Yes, like a weaned child is my soul within me. 3O Israel, put your hope in the Lord— now and always.
Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.
Was Mary, Jesus’ Mother, Ever Afraid?
We often think of Mary, Jesus’ mother, as the beautiful young woman who the angel visited to share of the coming of Christ. And that the Messiah would come into the world through her. We know Mary sang out in praise to God, but that wasn’t the end of her story. Read more about Mary’s story from the Life Application Study Bible
Motherhood is a painful privilege. Young Mary of Nazareth had the unique privilege of being mother to the very Son of God. Yet most of the pains and pleasures Mary experienced in motherhood can be understood by mothers everywhere. Mary was the only human present at Jesus’ birth who also witnessed his death. She saw him arrive as her baby son, and she watched him die as her Savior.
Until Gabriel’s unexpected visit, Mary’s life was quite satisfactory. She had recently become engaged to a carpenter, Joseph, and was anticipating married life. But her life was about to change forever.
Angels don’t make appointments before visiting. Feeling as if she were being congratulated for winning the grand prize in a contest she had never entered, Mary found the angel’s greeting puzzling and his presence frightening. What she heard next was the news almost every woman in Israel hoped to hear—that her child would be the Messiah, God’s promised Savior. Mary did not doubt the message; instead, she asked how pregnancy would be possible. Gabriel told her the baby would be God’s Son. Her answer was the one God waits in vain to hear from so many people: “I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true” (Luke 1:38). Her later song of joy shows us how well she knew God, for her thoughts were filled with his words from the Old Testament.
When Jesus was eight days old, Mary and Joseph took him to the Temple to be dedicated to God. There they were met by two devout people, Simeon and Anna, who recognized the child as the Messiah and praised God. Simeon directed some words to Mary that must have come to her mind many times in the years that followed: “A sword will pierce your very soul” (Luke 2:35). A big part of her painful privilege of motherhood would be to see her son rejected and crucified by the people he had come to save.
We can imagine that even if she had known all she would suffer as Jesus’ mother, Mary would still have given the same response. Are you, like Mary, available to be used by God?
When the Fears Don’t Go Away
“The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “’Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’” Matthew 8:25, NLT
“Although the disciples had witnessed many miracles, they panicked in this storm. As experienced sailors, they knew its danger; what they did not know was that Jesus could control the forces of nature. We often encounter storms in our lives where we feel God can’t or won’t work. When we truly understand who God is, however, we will realize that he controls both the storms of nature and the storms of the troubled heart. Jesus’ power that calmed this storm can also help us deal with the problems we face. And he is with us. Jesus is willing to help if we only ask him. We should never discount his power even in terrible trials.”
Reflection from Evie, Bible Team Marketing Coordinator
It was the third e-mail in a month from our daughter’s middle school. “Violence has been threatened against the school, but we are handling the situation and the person who initiated the threat is not on campus.” That was basically all we got. We spoke to Els about the situation and she didn’t seem overly concerned. In what is unfortunately our reality we moved on thinking it was “just” a social media prank. We prayed with her, told her to pay attention to her surroundings, and to share with her teachers and us if anything didn’t feel right or she was scared.
But at dinner the next night Els said, “My friend was shaking she was so scared. She was on the bus when she heard a boy say, ‘Don’t come to school during 5th–7th period today because I’m going to shoot up the school.’”
As any self-proclaimed protective momma bear would, I ran
around the table hugging her as a million thoughts consumed me. How can we
homeschool her? What is wrong with that school? Wait until the principal gets
an earful from me! Who is that kid? I am talking to his parents! But in the
midst of my chaotic thoughts her sweet voice broke through. “It’s okay, Mom.
God knows what’s going on. It’s going to be okay.”
Taking extra time to tuck her into bed that night, I glanced
around her room. There were porgs, cuddly droids, and strange looking animals
from a galaxy far, far away spilling from her bed to the floor. The half-read
giant encyclopedias filled with information about strange looking creatures
with even weirder names were hastily placed on surfaces throughout her room. She
was just a kid. She shouldn’t have to worry about her safety. I took comfort in
knowing that in just a few days we would be able to get away to Disney World. She
needed an escape—I needed an escape—from the fears of violence at school. And
the chance to be immersed in a Stars Wars land—I couldn’t wait to see her face!
The day arrived to visit Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. It was still dark when we boarded a bus from our resort to head to the park. Els seemed quiet, and we thought she was just tired from such an early morning. As we made our way toward the immersive land she started walking slower and then stopped. “Mom, I don’t want to go!”
“What? You love Star Wars. You are going. You’ll love it!”
“No. Kylo Ren is there. I’m not going.”
Our brave, mellow preteen broke down sobbing. She panicked. We
couldn’t get her to move. She just sobbed saying, “I’m scared. I’m too scared.”
I had never seen her so upset and honestly didn’t know what to do. She was
paralyzed with fear.
With a lot of convincing and some bribing about blue milk we finally got her to move. As we walked into this totally immersive experience, I prayed that Kylo would stay in his own galaxy far, far away and we wouldn’t lose Els’ trust. She was shaking from fear when we noticed one of the characters working on a ship.
We started talking to him and I explained how our daughter was very scared of the First Order (the bad guys). I asked if he had any tips for avoiding them while we visited his planet (I totally bought into the whole immersive thing). He said, “Oh yes! I’m finishing here. Let me grab my tools and I’ll take you to the Falcon.” He jumped over the low wall and encouraged us to follow him. “Hi, I’m Immanuel. Don’t worry, I know all the best hiding places. I will get you there safely,” he said smiling at Els. He guided us through the entire extremely detailed and beautiful imaginary world. As he ran ahead to check that everything was safe and then signaled for us to follow, I watched Els’ fears fade. Her eyes began to sparkle as fear lost its grip and enjoyment and excitement grew.
When we neared the Millennium Falcon, with his reassurance that we were safe, our hero left us extremely thankful. (Sorry Han Solo—Immanuel is now my favorite Star Wars character!) My mom in all her wisdom turned to Els and said, “Do you know what Immanuel means? It means God with us. What you were afraid of never went away. Your fears were always around you, but you could get through it because Immanuel was with us. If we are walking with God, it doesn’t matter what’s going on around us. We can be confident knowing he is with us.”
When I think about those weeks and my mom’s words, I am
taken to the boat where Jesus and the disciples are traveling across the lake.
While Jesus naps, a storm hits and the disciples are paralyzed with fear.
“The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, ‘Lord, save
us! We’re going to drown!’ Jesus responded, ‘Why are you afraid? You have so
little faith!’ Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly
there was a great calm. The disciples were amazed. ‘Who is this man?’ they
asked. ‘Even the winds and waves obey him!’” Matthew 8:25-27, NLT.
It wasn’t like the disciples hadn’t seen Jesus perform
miracles before that moment. They had seen him heal numerous people, including
Peter’s mother-in-law. They had heard his powerful teaching, and they were
still afraid. Many of them were seasoned fishermen who had been in loads of
storms, and yet it was at this moment that they panicked. It was a fear they
knew and understood. So much of what they were hearing from Jesus they couldn’t
fully understand, but this . . . this they knew.
What they didn’t fully understand yet was the power of
Immanuel. They knew to run to Jesus to be saved, but that deeper trust of being
confident in his presence was still being formed in them.
So what about my life? The things I’m afraid of won’t disappear. My stomach still churns each time I see an e-mail pop up from Els’ school. Els is still afraid of Kylo Ren. But when we learn to bask in the understanding of Immanuel, when we know that he has the power and compassion to walk with us through the unknown and the known fears, we can go forward with confidence. We can experience an overwhelming peace knowing he can bring calm to any storm.