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Sunday, November 24, 2013

A Message From Heaven

Last week’s post challenged us to offer up to God both thanksgiving and praise as we begin preparing our hearts for Thanksgiving. Again this week let us focus on the same tandem actions of “thanksgiving and praise” as we recall all of God’s gracious benefits in our lives.
In addition, if you are like me, as soon as the Thanksgiving leftovers have been eaten I begin to prepare for Christmas. Today begins my five week series of Christmas messages. This week I will begin this Christmas season by considering the message Mary received from heaven.

“The angel went to her and said,
“Greetings, you who are highly favored!
The Lord is with you.”
Luke 1:28 NIV

 When God calls to us from heaven it is important! We hear God’s message through his Word, the Holy Spirit, or a messenger. Often God’s message will encourage us, rebuke us, or teach us new truth. Other times the message from heaven contains a job assignment. Regardless, when God singles us out, speaks to us, or gives us a job to do it is because we, like Mary, have found favor with him. The angel reminded Mary that the Lord was with her just as the Lord is “with us” and he recognizes those who are “with him” and he calls us by name. God knows the ones who are “with him” are available to serve. Our association with the Lord Jesus Christ singles us out. Those who do not know him are not favored or ear marked to do his holy work. The question is not if we are highly favored by God but are we willing to be used by God?
When we hear our own personal, private message from heaven our first response may be that we, like Mary, are greatly troubled. We may even be afraid. Most likely our mind will be full of questions. The request from heaven may take us totally by surprise and our initial response may see the request as unnatural and impossible.  If you read Luke 1:26-34 you will see that all of these things went through the mind of Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Mary’s number one question was, “How can this be?” The angel’s answer to Mary is the same answer that will be given to us. “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you”(vs.35). An amazing power from God himself will come upon us and overshadow all of our concerns! When we bow before God in humble submission to his will for our life, God is pleased. I don’t think it is one bit out of line to imagine him smiling at our obedience.
When God calls to us from heaven and we possess even the smallest measure of doubt, God graciously brings additional confirmation to our heart. God sees when our knees are still shaking and he knows if we are entertaining the thought that perhaps we misunderstood him. God knows when we are about to resist his call and enter into battle armed with our excuses. When we hesitate or doubt that we have indeed heard from heaven we can expect, more likely than not, that we will hear additional confirmations from other believers. God graciously meets our needs even when what we need is confirmation of his will for our job assignment.
Mary was no different, she too needed confirmation. After the angel left her she prepared for a trip to the hill country to visit her relative, Elizabeth, who was soon to be the mother of John the Baptist. Elizabeth had her own job assignment. She was to give birth in her old age to a baby to be named John, who would prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus Christ. God’s gracious confirmation came to Mary the moment Elizabeth laid eyes on her. “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” Luke 1:41-42 Elizabeth even called Mary the mother of her Lord.
After this encounter joy descended on Mary like early morning dew glistening in the sunlight. It was the joy of knowing without a doubt that God had entrusted her with a very special holy assignment. Mary’s response was, “My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me – holy is his name.” Luke 1: 46-49 NIV
When we are on the same page as God our response will be the same as Mary’s. Nothing in this life brings us more joy than knowing we are being used by God for his glory. Mary found favor with God because she was available. We who are available must also be obedient when God calls us from heaven to do his holy work. We must live with our ears tuned upward so we don’t miss any of God’s heavenly messages.
God has all kinds of jobs. You and I are his voice and his hands and feet. As followers of Jesus Christ, we have been equipped to do his good works. God may give us a major assignment that will be seen by all those around us, but I have come to believe that he has far more simple, quiet, behind the scene jobs than he has major assignments. Pay careful attention when God calls you to step up and be a mother or a father, a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, an aunt or an uncle, a grandparent, a friend, an encourager, a prayer warrior, a giver, or one who dips and gives a cup of cold water, sends a note, or delivers a casserole to a friend in need. All of us are to stand ready to give an account of the hope that lies within us. If you walk with our Savior you will have many jobs to do. Do not be afraid for he is with you! Remember above all that you are favored by him and that is precisely why he is calling you. Take note that he has been mindful of your humble state and has still chosen you to be his servant. Like Mary, rejoice because this is how the Father is doing great things for you! Of course, in this process others benefit as well and when we obey, God is glorified.
The Christmas season is busy. There are so many things to do. At times it seems that the “ings” get the best of us. Decorating, shopping, wrapping, baking, cooking, writing cards, entertaining, party going, and maintaining! Here are some words of caution for me and for you. We must make time for Jesus so that the season does not sweep us away. We must make sure that we leave our schedule open ended so that when we receive a message from heaven we will remember that we are favored of God. He needs us especially during this busy season. We must obey his call to do his holy work even when we are afraid that time will not permit or that God is making an impossible request. We must remember that Jesus is Immanuel, God with us!

  1. What do you think about the fact that you are highly favored by God?
  2. Do you question what you can do that would be of any holy significance? 
  3. What do you think about minor jobs being just as important as major jobs?
  4. Do you find joy in knowing that God wants to do great things for you and he accomplishes these things through trusting you with his work?
  5. When a certain thought repeatedly enters your mind do you recognize that those repeated thoughts are spelling out a job assignment that is coming to you straight from heaven through the Holy Spirit?
  6. Do you understand that the Holy Spirit is confirming that yes indeed; God has a special assignment for you?
Dear God,
I am a bit taken back today to realize that because I have found favor with you this automatically marks me as available for job assignments. I admit that during this busy time of year my heart goes out to others, but frankly God, my schedule is so hectic I’m not sure I can get to this until January. Father, forgive me when I have these thoughts. God, you are the busiest person in the universe, yet still you have time to meet with me, minister to my needs, and one day over 2,000 years ago you took time to send your precious son into our world. I thank you Jesus that you are never too busy for me. During my quiet time, change my thinking and my priorities so that I can be used by you this Christmas season.
In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.