Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Magnificat Challenge

Magnificat Challenge:
Why not take some time to memorize Mary's Song, the Magnificat, in Luke 1:46-56? As you memorize, meditate on all of the qualities of God that Mary mentions in this passage. Notice, too, that Mary focuses her  praise and her attention on God and what He was doing for her. We tend to focus on Mary and what she was thinking and going through at that time in her life. Mary's focus was Godward.

Mary was a great woman of faith. All generations have called her blessed, just as she prophesied in her song. At her young age - some say that she may have been as young as 13 years old - God revealed Himself to her in a spectacular way. Even though she was probably illiterate, she knew about God, and she knew God. That does not mean that Mary was a perfect woman, as some teach. She was also a sinner who rejoiced in God, her Savior. However, in spite of the fact that she shared in the same fallen nature as all mankind, God showed Himself to be correct in the choice He made of a mother for His Son. She is a wonderful example of faith for all believers. She was also a woman of great integrity.

Women in our society and in our time have a very different kind of life than the one Mary lived. It is now common for women to get a formal education even beyond the high school level. Many now go to university, when in times past, women were denied such opportunities. I am not against women going to university, though I believe that a college education is way over priced and over rated. Notice, though, that the most blessed of all women who have ever lived did not have any formal education.

Notice that I did not say she was uneducated. Obviously Mary had a deep knowledge of what was  most important. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, and she feared God.

Proverbs 1:7

English Standard Version (ESV)
The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.

If a Christian woman does not fear the Lord, then all the education in the world will not give her true knowledge. Besides, if in the pursuit of knowledge on a college campus, a woman forgets who she is and what she was made for, then her time and her money have been wasted.  As women, we were created for a purpose.  If we forget that, and just serve the purposes of a secular society, we are in danger of losing ourselves.

Imagine what would have happened if Mary had told God that she was not interested in being the mother of His Son. What if Mary had thought that raising children was not enough of a challenge for women? What if she had decided that motherhood was not for her, and that she wanted to do something greater with her life, even thought God was calling her to be a special mother?

I know that not all women are called to get married, or even to have children of their own.  One of my spiritual mothers was a single woman who believed she was called by God to teach.  I wrote about Miss Harrison awhile back.  

So, God used this wise, yet uneducated young woman, as the mother of our Lord.  In that way she blessed all of us. In a day such as ours that downplays the child-bearing role, and gives a woman effective ways to avoid or curtail pregnancy, where would Mary have fit in? She would not have been elected to public office. She would not have been the CEO of a corporation. She would not have gotten into college, let alone grad school. She would not have been any of the things that post-modern women aspire to. She might be called a baby machine or trailer trash if she were alive today.

So, I think that it would be good for every Christian to memorize this short passage of Scripture. Her wisdom, knowledge of God, faith expressed in simple trust of the One she already knew so well, and her integrity speak to all of us. Take some time to meditate on the lessons learned from Mary's example, too.

I am not saying that a woman should not  get a formal education.  I am not saying that only mothers can be used of God. I am just pointing out that the woman most blessed by God did not have any of the opportunities that we women have in our day, yet she was greatly used by God.  I also think that we Christian women need to make sure that our values are informed by Scripture and the fear of the Lord.

Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Luke 1
Mary’s Song of Praise: The Magnificat (English Standard Version)
46And Mary said,
"My soul magnifies the Lord,
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48for he has looked on the humble estate of his servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call me blessed;
49for he who is mighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
50And his mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
51 He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts;
52 he has brought down the mighty from their thrones
and exalted those of humble estate;
53he has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
54He has helped his servant Israel,
in remembrance of his mercy,
55 as he spoke to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his offspring forever."
56And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home.

The organ at St. Mary's church, Rochester, NY.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thou Who Wast Rich -

I heard this Christmas hymn online on WKSU Holiday Classical.  Lately, I have been blogging about the heretical, charlatan Word of Faith teachings.  The "little god" doctrine of these teachers enables them to, without  a twinge of conscience it seems, take money even from poor people in order to live the lives of the rich and powerful.  It is shameful what they do.

Compare their lives of luxury to the life of Our Lord, Jesus Christ.  He really is God in flesh, but think about how He entered this world, and how He lived during the time of His humiliation.  What a difference!  Read the Gospels, and see for yourselves.

Listen to this hymn and think about the words.  It is based on part of 2 Corinthians 8:9, "For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, ..."

Notice that he did not start out poor and then make Himself rich by coming to earth. He is the Creator of everything, so everything is His by right.  However, He set all of that aside for our sake. He is the example of giving, not the example of how to make yourself rich at others' expense.  

There are wealthy people who spend great amounts of their fortunes helping those less fortunate.  They are rich, but they give so that others might also be cared for. There are many good charities that depend on the generosity of people, even wealthy ones.  It is best, though, to give to local charities or through your local church.  It is easier that way to see how people actually live and easier to track how the money is actually being used.  Do NOT send your money to the people on TV!  That goes for the Hollywood benefit productions, too, as well as the Red Cross, maybe.

It is not especially godly to be poor, or ungodly to be rich, but there are some obvious examples of people making themselves rich off the preaching of the Gospel, or off of other forms of charity work.

Anyway, here is the wonderful hymn Thou Who Wast Rich.:

Thou who was rich beyone all splendor
all for love’s sake becamest poor;
thrones for a manger didst surrender,
sapphire pave courts for stable floor.
Thou who wast rich beyond all splendor, 
all for love’s sake becamest poor.

Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love’s sake becamest man;
stooping so low, but sinners raising,
heav’nward by thine eternal plan.
Thou who art God beyond all praising,
all for love’s sake becamest man.

Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.
Emmanuel, within us dwelling,
make us what thou wouldst have us be.
Thou who art love beyond all telling,
Savior and King, we worship thee.

Frank Houghton, 1894 - 1972

Here is an article that gives more background for the writing of this hymn.  It was written in 1934 in China. 

Here is the context of the 2 Corinthians 2:9 text.  Notice that the offering being taken was for needy Christians.  They were not being encouraged to give to wealthy preachers so that those preachers could become more wealthy and live like kings and queens.  They were not being coerced into giving by some stranger. It was probably the first organized Christian relief effort, and many in the church responded generously. It was a one time offering to help the Christians in need.  

They were not encouraged to give what they did not have, either, but to be as generous as they were able.  It was a freewill offering as well, much like the freewill offerings of the Old Testament, it seems to me.  The wealth they would receive in exchange seems to be spiritual wealth, not particularly material.  

Our values are totally messed up when we think that giving to wealthy con-men and women on TV will somehow bring us material wealth as well.  That is definitely not Biblical teaching!   I can't imagine that any religion teaches  it's okay to do that kind of thing.   

2 Corinthians 8

English Standard Version (ESV)

Encouragement to Give Generously

We want you to know, brothers, about the grace of God that has been given among the churches of Macedonia, for in a severe test of affliction, their abundance of joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. For they gave according to their means, as I can testify, and beyond their means, of their own accord, begging us earnestly for the favor of taking part in the relief of the saints— and this, not as we expected, but they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us. Accordingly, we urged Titus that as he had started, so he should complete among you this act of grace. But as you excel in everything—in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in all earnestness, and in our love for you[c]see that you excel in this act of grace also.
I say this not as a command, but to prove by the earnestness of others that your love also is genuine. For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. 10 And in this matter I give my judgment: this benefits you, who a year ago started not only to do this work but also to desire to do it. 11 So now finish doing it as well, so that your readiness in desiring it may be matched by your completing it out of what you have. 12 For if the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have. 13 For I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness 14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness. 15 As it is written, “Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack.”