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12/15/2009

MARY'S MIRACLE: Strategic Lessons of Faith from the First Christmas Miracle

Just over 2000 years ago a miracle, that would change world history, occurred when a young, unmarried Jewish woman—a virgin—supernaturally conceived and gave birth to a Son whom she named “Jesus” in obedience to the word delivered to her by the angel Gabriel. This first Christmas miracle set in motion all the ensuing miracles that occurred in the life and ministry of Jesus, the miracle of His resurrection, the miracle of His ascension, the miracle of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and all the miracles of God that have occurred down to the present time. In this essay I have identified 5 important lessons from Mary’s encounter with the angel (Luke 1:26-38) that are crucial for us as we believe God for miracles in our lives today.

(1) This miracle was initiated by God.

Mary was not straining in faith, prayer and spiritual warfare trying to produce this miracle. This was a God-thing. There is no question that she had positioned herself for this miracle by a life of purity before God; but there was no initiative on her part for this specific miracle. Mary merely responded in faith to God’s initiative.

The emphasis today seems to be on human initiative, i.e., what we can do to generate miracles. One only has to look at the “how to” books that crowd the shelves of any Christian bookstore—“5 Steps to This” or “3 Keys to That.” In the midst of this preoccupation with ourselves, and what we can do, it is all too easy to forget that God Himself has thoughts and plans and that He acts according to His own sovereign will.

The wise thing for us, therefore, is to seek with all our hearts to know and understand His thoughts, His plans and His will. Let’s not be so quick to make our plans and then “storm heaven” asking God to bless our plans. Instead, let’s get His plan and cooperate with His plan, for His plan is already blessed. Mary cooperated with His plan in the making of this miracle.

(2) This miracle was beyond Mary’s ability to comprehend.

How can this be, since I do not know a man, was Mary’s response to Gabriel’s announcement. Her point was that, as a single woman committed to a life of purity and godliness, there was no way this could happen. God’s promise (vision) for our lives will always far exceed our understanding and our own ability to comprehend and fulfill. God’s revealed promise and plan will cause us to also ask, “How can this be?”

I remember feeling very inadequate in regards to an “impossible” assignment from the Lord and I said to Him, “I don’t feel that I can do this.” The answer came back loud and clear, “If you could do it, you wouldn’t need Me.” I suddenly realized that God would not be asking me to do things with which I would feel comfortable in my flesh, i.e., in the natural. I realized that He would be asking me to do things that would stretch my faith and require me to lean totally on Him.

(3) This miracle would come forth through the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Highest will over shadow you, was Gabriel’s answer to Mary’s question, “How can this be?” As to how a small, insignificant group of disciples could take the gospel to all the world, Jesus said in Acts 1:8, But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you. This is also the answer for all our impossibilities. The Holy Spirit will come upon you. We must, therefore, develop a sensitivity to the Holy Spirit and yield our lives totally to Him. He has the power to turn all our impossibilities into possibilities.

When Jesus ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of God, He sent the Holy Spirit to take His place with His disciples in the world. He had promised them in John 14:18, I will not leave you comfortless, i.e., “like orphans.” The Holy Spirit is here to be everything to you and me that Jesus would be if He were here in His physical body. I can’t tell you how many times, in my own life, the Holy Spirit has provided the answer for impossible situations I have faced. He will do the same for you.

(4) The promise was like a seed with the potential power of fulfillment already inherent in that promise.

To the promise he is delivering from God, Gabriel adds the words, For with God nothing shall be impossible (NKJV). The Greek text literally reads, No rhema from God is void of power. A rhema is a particular word or promise for a specific situation. When God gives a promise, the power of fulfillment is inherent in that promise. In Scripture, God’s word is often compared with seed because a seed has within itself the potential power to produce the desired end results. For example, to have a harvest of corn you do not have to know all the science of how a seed of corn germinates and grows into a mature stalk bearing multiple ears of corn. You simply have to put the seed in the ground and look after it because the seed has the power within itself to produce the end results. The same is true of every rhema or word from God. It has within itself the power to produce the desired end results. Our part is to allow the seed to be planted in our hearts and then guard or steward that promise until we see it mature and bring forth the promised fruit or fulfillment (Luke 8:15).

(5) Mary’s faith response sealed the deal.

Let it be to me according to your word (Luke 1:38), was Mary’s response to Gabriel’s final explanation concerning how the miracle would happen. She is saying, in effect, I recognize that it is naturally impossible but, nonetheless, Let it be to me according to your word. This was the faith response for which Gabriel was looking and with it, he departed. Mary then departed to visit her cousin Elizabeth who, upon seeing her, exclaimed by the Spirit, Blessed is she who believed for there will be a fulfillment of those things that were told her from the Lord. Mary’s response is the sort of faith response we too must give to the promises of God. Let it be to me according to your word.

This reminds me of Luke 5:5 where Jesus, after using Peter’s boat from which to teach, instructed Peter to launch out in the deep and let down his nets for a catch. Peter responded that he had just fished all night without catching a single fish, Nevertheless, at Your word, I will let down the net. Peter acted on the word of Jesus and caught so many fish that his nets began to break and his boats began to sink from the weight of the fish.

Concluding Thought

In the miracle of the catch of fish, Peter was so astounded that when he came to shore he fell at the feet of Jesus and acknowledged His Lordship. I truly believe that the principles above will help us move into a place where the miracles in our lives will be so far beyond our own faith and abilities that we too will be astounded and in awe of what God does. This happened to Mary. It happened to Peter and has happened to countless others since that time, and it can happen to you and me.

12/05/2009

PRAY FOR A WORLD-WIDE DIVINE AWAKENING

“PRAY FOR A WORLD-WIDE DIVINE AWAKENING.” These were the words that I heard in the night after a time of deep, heart-felt prayer and reflection. I had awakened in the night with a deep concern in my spirit. My concern was, “I don’t want to spend the remainder of my life “spinning my wheels” doing good things that are not at the very center God’s will and my own divine destiny. Sue was fast asleep and so I quietly lifted up my heart to the Lord telling Him that I wanted to be in the center of His will, doing that which is strategic for His kingdom. I eventually fell off to sleep and later awakened with a sense of peace and buoyancy in my spirit and the words, “Pray For A World-Wide Divine Awakening” resonating in my heart.

Why We Must Have An “Awakening”

The Church and the world need to be “Awakened” because they are spiritually asleep. When someone is physically asleep, they are not aware of their surroundings. People can be nearby talking about them and even to them and they do not respond because they are asleep. Danger can lurk all around them and thieves can steal from them, but there is no response because they are asleep. The neighborhood can be burning all around them and there is no response on their part because they are asleep.

In a similar way, the world and the Church are spiritually asleep. The great realities of the eternal world such as heaven, hell, righteousness, judgment to come and God’s redeeming love in Christ are all around them but there is little or no response. They are asleep. These things have become so familiar and common that they no longer make an impression on their hearts and minds.

But when God, by His Holy Spirit, awakens the consciousness of the multitudes, suddenly these realities are pressed upon their minds with great force. Suddenly the eternal realities of heaven and hell and salvation only in Jesus become more real than even their physical concerns. This is why, during times of genuine Holy Spirit revival—Awakening—there is often much weeping and crying out to God for mercy as people are awakened to their precarious state. It is also why there is also great rejoicing as people are awakened to the wonderful salvation God has offered the human race in Jesus Christ.

Why It Must Be “World-Wide”

This Awakening will be world-wide, i.e., it will not be sectarian. No one preacher, church or group will be able to own or claim this revival. Revival has, too often, been sought for personal and selfish reasons. In his Lectures on Revival, Charles Finney tells of the many invitations he had received from churches and pastors wanting him to travel to their communities to promote revival. In many cases, however, he found their motives to be self-serving. Some wanted revival in order to raise their social status and influence. Others wanted revival to increase the numbers attending their meetings, which in turn would enable them to build new and larger buildings. Finney said, “When I came to weigh their reasons, I have sometimes found every one of them to be selfish. And God would look upon every one with abhorrence” (Hyatt, Revival Fire, 156).

Human nature has not changed and we must remember that God does not send an Awakening to advance our own religious programs and agendas. This Awakening is not coming to promote a particular preacher, ministry, church or nation, but to advance His purpose and His kingdom in the earth. This will be a “World-Wide” Awakening and all will benefit.

Why It Must Be “Divine”

This Awakening will be Divine, i.e., it will not be man-made. I am reminded of the words of R.A. Torrey (1856-1928) concerning the state of revival in his day. His words are also relevant for “revival” in our day. He said,

The most fundamental trouble with most of our present-day, so-called revivals is, that they are man-made and not God sent. They are worked up (I almost said faked up) by man’s cunningly devised machinery—not prayed down (Hyatt, Revival Fire, 114).

This means that this Awakening will spring forth apart from all the paraphernalia that has become associated with revival in our day. Our well-planned, orchestrated “revivals” will have to take a back seat as the Holy Spirit spontaneously breaks forth with the people and in the places and in the manner of His choosing. This Awakening will not be managed, manipulated and marketed. This will be a “Divine” Awakening.

Why We Must Pray

Jonathan Edwards once said that when God purposes to do a particular thing in the earth, He first sets His people to praying for the very thing He has purposed to do. I know God is getting ready to send a fresh wave of His Holy Spirit to this earth. Will you, therefore, join me in praying for a “WORLD-WIDE DIVINE AWAKENING?”