Tag: mary

Chosen?

Chosen?

Luke 7:36-50

Did you know that Christ or Messiah means anointed one? Yes? Well did you know that ironically, unlike Levitical priests, Jesus was not anointed? However, just because He didn’t participate in a ceremony in which oil was poured over Him, like David did before he became King, Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit, the oil of gladness (Psalm 45:6-7) and was chosen.

I don’t feel that my life has had a clear purpose. I have done things I have enjoyed, I have helped others where I could and pushed on doors that seemed to be opening in front of me to see where they led, but I haven’t ever felt that I had one main purpose in life that I should be preparing for. I don’t know what I have been anointed/ chosen for. Maybe that’s because I am still in the training phase of God’s plan for me, and will be given my mission when I am done, or maybe I have missed that anointing along the way in the busyness of life.

In the start of this passage from Luke 7:36-50, Jesus is visiting Simon, a Pharisee. I don’t know if Simon hadn’t had people over before (unlikely) or if he was just a bad host, but he had not greeted Jesus with a kiss or washed His feet, as was the custom at the time. The woman who entered the house afterwards was not to know this, yet she took it upon herself to kiss Jesus’ feet and wash them, not only with water and soap, but with her tears, her hair and an aromatic perfume!

There is some confusion about who the woman is that washes, kisses and pours perfume over Jesus’ feet. Some believe her to be a prostitute in the area, as in Luke’s account, she is described as a ‘sinful woman’, but in Matthew’s version of events, this woman is identified as Mary Magdalene who’s brother, Lazarus, is raised from the dead. Many people presume this woman to be a prostitute due to the wording used in Luke’s writing but ‘sinful’ is very unspecific. I am sinful, you are sinful, we all are sinful. Acknowledging that we don’t know, I am going to imagine in this instance that she is Mary Magdalene. Not because I want it to be her but she isn’t a one off ‘perfume pourer’. Later in the gospel, Mary is identified as the one of first people to see Jesus alive after His resurrection, and that is because she and some other women had taken spices and perfume to the grave. Although her name is not mentioned, it is quite possible that she was also involved in helping prepare Jesus’ body after His death. This process involved using various spices, oils and perfume to preserve the body.

I started out by explaining that though Jesus was chosen and anointed with the Holy Spirit, He was never officially anointed (i.e. with oil like a Priest) physically with oil, perfume or other substances. Looking at what we have read and found out in the last few paragraphs, I can see I was wrong. Jesus was anointed with a substance like a Priest, it just wasn’t done in a formal way by a recognised figure. Instead, it was carried out at the time Jesus was doing miracles and other parts of God’s work and at the moment He started the process of becoming more God like, the moment of His death on the cross.

With this in mind, I can recall a couple of occasions which people have spoken things over me which at the time sounded ridiculous, but that now, make total sense. I had been anointed by a Mary character but because it wasn’t God directly, I didn’t pay much notice.

Are there times in your life that you didn’t feel chosen or anointed at the time, but with the understanding that not all of us are formally anointed into a role or position, now you can see where God used others to anoint you into His plan? Take a short time to reflect on this properly. You never know what you might have missed that could take your life in a totally new, God planned, direction!

The Reason for the Season

The Reason for the Season

We know the Christmas story so well as a result of the Christmas films and Nativity plays we watch but there is so much we don’t know. Despite it being one of the most important stories we have, only two of the 4 gospel writers include Jesus’ birth in their books, Luke and Matthew. As we can see here, even then, neither of them go into a lot of detail about the birth itself:

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.’Luke 2:1-7

’18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 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. 20 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. 21 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.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.’Matthew 1:18-25

Behind all the magic of the Christmas story is a historical event that really happened to a young couple, shamed by society for an unbelievable virgin pregnancy, who travelled for miles by donkey whilst heavily pregnant, slept in a stable and gave birth to the Son of God there with the threat of a jealous King trying to kill their special baby boy. Whilst we get caught up in the beautiful, fun, incredible aspects of the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph balanced that with all the real, difficult parts of this time in their lives. It is likely Luke didn’t bother including these details because the people of the time would have understood the background context, or maybe because those details distract from the point of the story. That is, the birth of Jesus, God in human form, born to a young girl who lived a normal life with her fiance, a humble carpenter, who took her to Bethlehem, as was required, to be counted in the census, where Mary gives birth and puts her baby in a manger.

This is the reason for the story so why add any frills? Anything beyond these facts is unnecessary distraction to it. Jesus is the reason for the season and let us always remember that. We can enjoy all the decorations, food, presents and other festivities that come in December but let us make sure never to forget what, or rather, who, it’s all about – Jesus.

Surprise!

Surprise!

We have moved from one surprise in chapter 1 verses 5-25 (the angel appears to Zechariah) to the angel Gabriel appearing to Mary.

When Gabriel appeared to Zechariah, they told him not to be afraid and in this section of the chapter, Gabriel repeats this to Mary. I guess even then if an angel were to suddenly appear in front of you, it would make you jump and run away so this was a necessary phrase for the angel to use.

Just like Gabriel did when announcing the arrival of John to his parents, they went on to say all the great things Jesus would do when He was born – ‘He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the throne of King David, His ancestor. He will rule over the people of Jacob forever and His Kingdom will have no end!’.

Then, the angel goes on to explain that this will happen because the Holy Spirit will come down and the power of God will cover her and make the baby holy – the Son of God.

In a recent session in our house group, we looked at the story of Moses by the burning bush in which Moses tells God he can’t go to the Pharoah and talk to him about God and ask him to let God’s people go because he wasn’t able or confident enough. When the angel Gabriel comes to Mary, she reacts in a similar way, telling them that she is a virgin, therefore, there is no way she could have a baby, but unlike Moses, she is convinced and accepts what is to happen in and with her. ‘I am the servant of the Lord. let this happen to me as you say!’ What an amazing to response to an event that would have sounded completely impossible to Mary, and one that she knew would spread as gossip throughout the area and bring shame on her and her fiance, Joseph.

In the film, Aladdin, there is a scene in which Aladdin falls off a balcony and then appears again stood on a magic carpet. Aladdin reaches out his hand to Jasmine to invite her onto the magic carpet and as he does so, he asks her, “do you trust me?” to which she says “yes” and climbs aboard the carpet with him and they fly off into the distance.
(clip here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eitDnP0_83k) .
Gabriel tells Mary about some of things Jesus will be and do in His life and announces Elizabeth’s surprise pregnancy, ending their speech by telling Mary that God can do anything! This is the God version of ‘Look what I can do, do you trust me?’ and Mary responds “yes”.

I wonder how we would react today to an event like this? An angel, an impossible situation and a prophesy from God. Have you ever experienced something that made you doubt your experience but knew full well despite that, it was real and God was in it? If so, we would love to hear all about it in the comments below!

Enough.

Enough.

Can you remember a moment in time or a particular event in which you loved yourself? Maybe it was when you were wearing something special or winning a sporting event at school? I can remember a couple of occasions like this and in those moments, no one could have said anything to make me feel bad about myself. I felt confident. I loved myself. 

We all struggle with self esteem at times but despite the never ending day in, day out bullying at school, my self esteem/self love has never been as low as it has been once I got ill. What I used to lack in friends, I made up for by spending time with family. What I lacked in money to buy the latest gadgets, I made up in creative, imaginary games. What I lacked in sporting ability I made up for in hard work in classes, even though I wasn’t the most academic either. 

Now I can’t make up anything. My body decides what it looks like, how hard it will work, physically and mentally, how much time I spend with friends and ultimately, what I achieve. I can’t balance out the things I don’t like about me with things I do so easily because I can’t do or be what I want. 

You might know that YouBelong was shortlisted as a finalist for the Premier Digital Awards. When I found out, I was in shock! For days I couldn’t process the information. ‘Why would anyone want to read what I’m writing, let alone recognise it with an award?’ Then I saw past winners and was blown away by how amazing there projects, websites, social media, apps and podcasts were and the shock quickly changed to imposter syndrome. I believed it because I read it, but I didn’t think I deserved it. 

I am writing this post because I know so many of us in the chronic illness/ disabled community have felt this way at least once in our life as a result of our situations. I am happy to have been seeing more posts about productivity not equalling worth going round as when we can’t work or keep a household, it’s easy to wonder what is the point? What’s our purpose?

We are taught to love our neighbour as ourself but how can we do that when we don’t love our selves. A lack of self esteem is the result of a lack of self love.  So what can we do? There are a few ways to look at this. For years I have just blocked out and tried to ignore what the people around me are doing so as I can’t be upset by comparing my lack of achievements and life goals with theirs but that can only work doe so long, especially when I use social media on a daily basis. 

Instead, I need to look at where I am getting my self esteem from. Rather than looking for it in a place I won’t find it or just blocking it out, I have decided to find it in other places – like the Bible. God tells us that He made us and that He loves us just as we are. Not just when we are running youth groups, leading services or saving lives but just the way we are. Maybe you are reading this from your bed on a bad flare up day and you can’t even get up to to get dressed or get yourself a drink. God loves you and still sees you as amazing. It’s nice to have compliments about the way we look or what we have done but it surely can’t get better than our creator telling us we are beautiful and great just as we are. ‘Doing’ nothing. 

Mary and Martha are a great example of this. One of them rushed about to get everything sorted and ready so as she could please Jesus and feel she’s done a good job. The other sat and just listened yet Jesus praised that behaviour. 

When we fix our eyes on Jesus, there is nothing we can do to make God love us less but there’s also nothing to make God love us more. Whether you are asleep all day or out on the streets feeding the poor, God loves you – you just need to work on loving you too.

Knowing that YouBelong is being recognised for something is something I can be proud of as it is not where my worth comes from, that is in who I am as a child of God. If I do this, I won’t become big headed or find myself in the midst of Imposter Syndrome again because my worth is not in what I have or have not done.

Is there some areas of your life you need to work on in terms of self worth? Perhaps your self worth is in your 9-5 job, your creativity, time doing deeds for others (never a bad thing but not where your self worth should come from) or the way you look? Write these down to remind yourself these are not the place to find your worth because if something happens to your job, your ability to create or your physical being, you will lose your worth. You are a child of God = loved and worthy.