Supporting Actress: Mary

by Carolyn Hope

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33)

And Mary said: “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. His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation.” (Luke 1:46-50)

Mary was an ordinary girl who found herself in an unexplainable position. One day she was engaged to be married and the next day she was told she would be the mother of the long-awaited Messiah.

When Gabriel came as the mouthpiece to a divine message, he did not ask Mary to be the mother of God’s son; he decreed it as though it would be. “You WILL be with child … He WILL be great … his kingdom WILL never end.” Just as certain and sure God was of Jesus’ future greatness and kingdom, He was certain and sure that Mary would be his mother. It’s almost like Mary didn’t even have an option. There was no, ‘If you don’t want to do this, I can find someone else.’ Gabriel didn’t say, ‘Are you okay with this?’ God didn’t seek Mary’s approval of His plan; He simply decreed and declared what would be. Mary could have said no, but that was very clearly not what the Lord planned or desired. He wanted Mary, and He was so convinced that He didn’t even speak of the situation as though it was optional.

Mary believed this message and submitted to the dangerous call. Thus began her plight … or so we often think.

Mary said that all generations to come would call her blessed. While much of the church honors and respects Mary, we often view her predicament as a burden, not a blessing. We treat her pregnancy as a task, and not a gift. She seemed to believe that it was an honor and a joy to be the chosen mother of the Christ. We tend to focus on the negatives. ‘There was risk involved. She could have been killed. She was scarred with supposed scandal for the rest of her life. She almost lost Joseph.’ We forget all the joys and blessings that came with this divine and beautifully orchestrated call. Mary had a miraculous pregnancy and birth! She had a perfect son (I feel bad for Jesus’ siblings), who came to save all of humanity. Every parent has at least some bias toward their children, but with Jesus, no bias would be too much. His destiny, his call, his purpose was greater than any other human has ever known. Mary got to see what God looked like in human flesh. She was the first voice Jesus heard, the first to feed him, the first to be intimately close with him. She watched her God, her Lord and King, grow up in her own home. How special. How incredible. How beautiful.

Sometimes we view Gabriel’s visit to Mary as the great interruption; her life was flipped upside down (and maybe even ruined) from that point forward. Actually, it was probably one of the greatest days of her life! That was the day that she was chosen for something greater than herself. That was the day that God brought his dream for her and turned it into a reality.

I wonder if Mary had always felt different. If she had sensed that she was made for more than a normal life. Then one day here comes an angel, and suddenly all the strange longings in her heart made sense. What if, instead of totally freaked out and stressed and afraid, Mary was excited to give birth to Jesus? What if instead of being something to put up with, Mary’s call brought her exuberant happiness? What if this was everything she was waiting for? Yes, there was risk. Yes, there was danger. Yes, she could have lost everything. But think of all she gained! Think of all the blessings bestowed on her!

God has a call on your life, and it’s not meant to be a heavy burden that crushes your heart. No, it won’t be easy. Yes, there will be trials and danger. Don’t let that deter you. Far greater than the reality of the risk involved in your destiny is the reality of joy and peace. The life God has for you is the best that could ever be. When you follow after Him with all your heart, you will walk into the fullness of His goodness and mercy.

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Unfailing Grace

by Carolyn Hope

For I am the least of the apostles and do not even deserve to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace to me was not without effect. No, I worked harder than all of them—yet not I, but the grace of God that was with me. (1 Corinthians 15:9-10)

“By the grace of God I am what I am.” This is such a powerful statement, especially when you consider that it came from Paul. The man who had once been such a strong antagonist against the church became one of its greatest apostles. Only the grace of God can cause such a total transformation.

What is grace, though?

Many times, we look at grace like an eraser. We think its sole purpose is to remove our sin. If you look at the original Hebrew, however, you’ll find that grace means a gift or favor. Grace then, is God’s gift to us and favor toward us. We cannot earn or deserve grace, but God freely gives it to us anyway. The full purpose of grace isn’t simply to take the trash out of our lives so we don’t stink anymore – it’s actually to impart into our lives to make us new and right.

Grace is an empowerment to live the way God calls you to live. The beauty of His grace is that it is sufficient (2 Cor. 12:9). It is always more than enough. God’s grace is a source of power inside you that will never run out or die. This power is what pushes you to become better and more than you’ve ever been before. Live gracefully (full of grace) today. You have what it takes.

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Live to Give: 7 Principles for True Prosperity

By: Wayne Myers

Oh, the glorious joy of living for others! The untold blessings that come from those who walk in the footsteps of Jesus—who came to Earth not to get, but to give (Mark 10:45). Once you embrace this lifestyle, you will never have to pinch pennies again, or squeeze a dollar bill so tight that it brings tears to George Washington’s eyes. Of course, not all of your relatives or friends will understand your giving. Some may offer to pay the psychiatric fees to prove that you’re crazy. Your life will either draw people to you, or they will avoid you like a plague. But once you practice a life of living for others, and seek every opportunity to bless them, you will never even think of living only for self. He that lives to give will never live to lack any good thing, and when you give because you can’t help it, because His love is flowing, you will receive because you can’t stop it.

HandHeart2God’s richest gifts are not perishable things, but opportunities. Life offers us many opportunities to bless others; it may be only a tear, a prayer, an embrace, a letter, or an offering. The late Leonard Ravenhill said, “The opportunity of a lifetime must be seized during the lifetime of the opportunity.” God led us into this blessed way of living more than six decades ago, and what a glorious adventure it has been! As I have taught this lifestyle from the Amazon, across Africa, from South America to Asia, as well as throughout the western world, I have seen individuals and congregations go from “barely enough” to have an abundance to share with others.

The late Tommy Tyson said, “The provision of God is deposited all along the road of obedience.” So very true as well! Oh, the contagious joy of living with an open hand, inspired by a grateful heart, and don’t forget, God can put nothing in the hand that never opens to give.

Although a life of giving includes much more than money, such as being a good steward of our time and resources, it does include money! More is said about money in the Bible than faith, love, Heaven, and hell combined. It is mentioned more than 2,085 times in the Scripture. What we do with our money is what we are doing with our lives. Money makes a beautiful servant, but a terrible master. Jesus said, “No man can serve both God and mammon” (Matthew 6:24). Either we master our temporal possessions, or they will master us.

Many are the blessings that a host of God’s dear children are missing for not practicing this principle. Giving is not a chore, but a blessing. It is not losing, but gaining. It is not how little we can give and be accepted, but how much the Holy Spirit inspires us to invest in His Kingdom. There are seven truths that I have taught around the world that have blessed thousands and released millions of dollars to build God’s Kingdom.

 

1. WE ARE STEWARDS AND NOT OWNERS (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2).HandMoney
All the silver and gold belongs to the Lord (Haggai 2:8). When we give to God, we are only returning to Him what is already His (1 Chronicles 29:11, 14, 16). We don’t give tithes; we bring tithes (Malachi 3:8-12). If we don’t tithe, God accuses us of stealing His money. You would be in a state of shock if a robber, after stealing your money, asked you to pray for God to bless and multiply what he has stolen from you. However, if you are not tithing, and still asking God to prosper you, it’s just as illogical as the robber’s prayer request. My, My! If your Christian neighbor is not tithing, be careful. If he is brave enough to rob God, he would be capable of stealing your car, also.

 

2. START YOUR LIFESTYLE OF GIVING WITH WHAT YOU HAVE (Acts 3:6).
Peter gave the lame man what he had—faith for his healing. “Little is much if God is in it, and much is naught, if selfishly sought.” Only in God’s arithmetic is two plus two more than four. In fact, God’s math really only uses one of our mathematical systems—multiplication.

 

3. GIVE FROM A GRATEFUL HEART (Luke 7:36-50).
A sinful woman bathed the feet of Jesus with her tears, wiped them with her hair, kissed them, and perfumed them … she was grateful. Gratitude is almost a lost art, even among Christians. The Word tells us God loves a cheerful giver.

 

4. GIVE FROM RIGHT MOTIVES (Colossians 3:17).
“Whatever you do in word or deed, do it all in His Name and for His glory.” Any gift or service done with the wrong motives, regardless of how successful it may appear in the eyes of man, erases any reward from God … He won’t give His glory to anyone.

 

HandHeart5. GIVE GENEROUSLY WITH JOY (2 Corinthians 9:7).
God loves a cheerful giver, but as the late Judson Cornwall said, “God will receive from a grouch.” Once a father gave his young son a quarter and a dollar with the instructions that the quarter was for candy and the dollar was for Sunday school. When the child returned home, he brought a large sack of candy. His surprised father asked him where he got so much candy for a quarter. The son replied the candy had cost him a dollar. His father asked why he had done the opposite of what he was told to do. His son replied that he only wanted to obey the Scriptures … the great Apostle Paul said, “God loves a cheerful giver.” Since he could only give the quarter with cheer, he chose to give it, instead of the dollar.

 

6. GIVE IN FAITH (Luke 6:38).
Expect God to do two things with your gift. 1) That it will meet the intended need for which it was given, and 2) That the gift (the seed) would produce a bountiful harvest in return, not to waste, but to sow again.
Many years ago, I was ministering among the Otomi Indians north of Mexico City at a congregation located high in the mountains. That Sunday morning, I ministered on stewardship and became aware that many were not tithing. So I announced that at 2:30 that afternoon we would dedicate the back tithes and first fruits. One brother asked me to wait until 3:00 for the dedication. When I asked him why, he said it would take him 3 hours to return home, catch the goat he wanted to give, and return. So I postponed the dedication at his request.
He arrived at the appointed time, carrying a little goat that felt no call to the ministry—he was crying at every step. That day, I dedicated 46 chickens and turkeys, nine goats and pigs, beans, corn, and cash. It was a time of great rejoicing among these dear Indian people.
Ten years later, I returned to minister at that church. I asked, “On my first visit, how many goats did the man have who delayed the dedication?” The pastor replied, “Six.” I asked him, “How many does he own now?” The pastor said, “He has goats all over the mountainside.” Hallelujah! That is my God in action.

 

HandPicture

7. GIVE BY CREATIVE FAITH WHAT YOU DON’T HAVE (Mark 11:23, 24).

Paul taught in 2 Corinthians 8:12 that God accepts what we have, not what we don’t have. Jesus said in Mark that our faith can produce tomorrow, what our eyes don’t see today. I have seen millions of dollars given to God’s Kingdom through obedient faith—by giving what we have, and creative faith—by promising what we don’t have to go around the world.

 

Dare we spend more on gifts for our families and friends than we give to the Christ and His Eternal Kingdom? I know of no better investment than to share in the worldwide ministry of Christ For The Nations. You may choose to bless an orphanage, print more literature, roof a church, or give a scholarship to an international student who is praying to attend CFNI.

As you pray, God will direct you because when we bless others, we bless Him. In Matthew 25, Jesus said to those on his right hand, “I was hungry and you gave Me to eat, thirsty and you gave Me to drink, naked and you clothed Me, sick and in prison and you visited Me.” They replied, “We don’t remember doing those things to You,” and He answered, “In as much as you do it to the least of these, you have done it to Me.”

I repeat the emphasis; there is no greater joy than to “LIVE TO GIVE.” Life becomes a little bit of Heaven on Earth, as we follow in the footsteps of Jesus, Who came to serve and to give.

There is no better time than the present to reassess our priorities and to rededicate our lives and our possessions. We must focus on the One Who came to this Earth, lived, died, and rose again to show us that life is more than living, and death is more than dying. May you be blessed as you open your hearts and hands to bless others in His Name for His Glory!

Originally published in Christ For The Nations Magazine on December 2001
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