Mary: Blessed Among Women (Part Two)

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Mary, mother of Jesus, instantly, humbly and joyfully submitted to God’s will without doubt or question.  She could hardly have had a more godly response to the announcement of Jesus’ birth.  Mary’s response to the angel’s unexpected news revealed  her true character.  It demonstrated that she was a young woman of mature faith and one who was a worshipper of the true God.

In the second part of this blog on Mary, I’m going to focus on her song that is often called ‘The Magnificat’, the first word in the Latin translation of this passage.  Mary’s song has often been used as the basis for choral music and hymns.  Like Hannah , the mother of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:1-10), Mary glorified God in song for what he was going to do for the world through her.  In both songs, God is pictured as a champion of the poor, the oppressed, and the despised.

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Mary understood that Christ’s birth fulfilled God’s promise to Abraham to be merciful to God’s people forever (Genesis 22:16-18).  She was not surprised when her special son announced that he was the Messiah.  She had known Jesus’ mission before his birth.

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To put the song in context, after receiving this news from the angel, Mary filled with joy and bubbling over with praise, went to visit Elizabeth.  There is nothing in God’s word to suggest that Mary was fleeing the shame of her premature pregnancy.  Perhaps Elizabeth was a kindred spirit with whom Mary could share her heart.  The angel had informed Mary about Elizabeth’s pregnancy.  We might assume then, that it completely natural for her to visit a close relative who was both a strong believer and also expecting her first son by a miraculous birth, also announced by an angel (Luke 1: 13-19).  Both women had been blessed by God in a supernatural way.  I can imagine the excitement as these two women gathered together to share their news and rejoice together in God’s goodness to them both! Oh, to be a fly on the wall!

Apparently the Holy Spirit told Elizabeth that Mary’s child was the Messiah because Elizabeth called Mary “the mother of my Lord” as she greeted her.  I’m sure that during Mary’s journey to Elizabeth she must have been wondering if the events of the last few days were real.  Elizabeth’s greeting must have strengthened her faith as she confirmed what the angel had told her.  Mary’s pregnancy may have seemed impossible, but her wise relative believe in the Lord’s faithfulness and rejoiced with Mary in her blessed condition.

41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42 In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43 But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45 Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!” 

Luke 1: 41 – 45

Mary responds to this prophetic message with one of her own.  ‘Magnificat’  is Latin for the first word of Mary’s outpouring of praise. Her song expresses unspeakable joy and it reminds me of the Psalms.  It is a song filled with hope of the Messiah to come.  Mary’s song not only echoes two of Hannah’s prayers but also shows a knowledge of the law, psalms and the prophets.

I believe that we can learn a lot from the example of Mary.  God is the only one that she magnified.  She praises the glory and majesty of God whilst acknowledging her own lowliness.  She took no credit for anything good on her self.  When Mary said “From now on all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48) she was not being proud but rather recognising and accepting the gift that God had given her. She praised the Lord for his attributes, naming some of the chief ones specifically, including His power,  his mercy, and his holiness.  She confesses God as the one who has done great things for her.  Her song is all about God’s greatness.  Mary worshipped God from her heart.  She was in awe of God’s grace towards her.  She seems overwhelmed that God would do this for her.  It was customary in Jewish prayers to recite God’s past faithfulness to His people.  Mary followed that convention in her song in an abbreviated form.  This can be seen in how she recalls how God had helped Israel, in fulfillment of all His promises. How amazing it must have felt that her child would be a living fulfillment of God’s promises. No wonder her heart overflowed with such praise!!

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  • Mary was willing to be available to God
  • She knew and applied Old Testament scriptures and this poured out in her worship of God
  • She gave God all the praise and glory  for all that He had done for her and acknowledged her own lowliness as a humble servant
  • At the risk of going off on a slight tangent, thinking about Mary being young in age but yet spiritually mature in her relationship  with God got me thinking about:
    • Where are we on the path of our journey with God?  Are we still taking baby steps or are we growing in maturity in our relationship with God?  To a certain extent our age is irrelevant in this regard.  Are we getting a good diet of God’s word in our day to day lives?  Are we committing scripture to memory so that we are equipped to deal with life, especially the challenges!  God’s word is a lamp to our feet and a light to our path.  We can also use it to build others up and to encourage.
    • How do we as a church, the body of Christ, respond to our young people?  Do we just see them as immature Christians?  This might not be the case.  Do we see them as having something to offer or teach the church?  Are we encouraging them to be fully involved in the body of Christ or do we still separate them from church life much of the time? Let’s be passionate about developing positive relationships with our youth and encouraging them to play an active role in the body.There is a difference between being young in age and young in faith.  Look at Mary’s example …… she may have been young in age but she demonstrated spiritually maturity and look at how God used her!
  • Like Mary, let’s remember God for all that He is, for his goodness to us and his grace poured out through Jesus’ death on the cross.  Let’s be people who pour out our hearts in worship for all that God has done, is doing and will do in the future!
  • Let’s be willing and available to be used by God and let’s remember where our good gifts come from and use them for His glory!

God bless,

Ali x

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Woman, who art thou? Mary: Blessed Among Women (Part One)

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Welcome to the sixth blog in my series called “Woman, who art thou?” which explores key women in the Bible and how their examples are relevant to us today.  In this blog, I’m going to be exploring the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and in particular, her visit from the Angel Gabriel and her response.  I write with a little reticence but only because I want to make sure that I do her justice, being that she is the mother of our  Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The blog will be in three parts.  The second blog will focus more on the Magnificat – Mary’s response of worship.  The third blog will focus on Mary’s relationship with her son.

So, who was Mary?  Mary was a first century  BC Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth. She was young – probably a teenager, poor and female.  It was quite normal for girls of that culture to be promised in marriage while they were still as young as thirteen years of age.  Marriages were ordinarily arranged by the bridegroom or his parents through the girl’s father.  To be honest, she had all the characteristics that, to the people of her day, would make her unusable by God for any major task.  But yet God chose Mary for one of the most important acts of obedience He has ever demanded of anyone.  Centuries earlier, God had promised David that David’s kingdom would last forever (2 Samuel 7:16).  This promise was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus, a direct descendent of David, whose kingdom will never end.

Motherhood is a privilege, a painful one, but a privilege nonetheless.  Mary, at a young age, had the unique privilege of being mother to our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.  This is why she is seen as being blessed among women. She had found favour with God.  Mary herself, in the ‘Magnificat’, testified that all generations would regard her as profoundly blessed by God.

“….for he has been mindful of the humble 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: 48-49

Was she being proud? No, she was recognizing and accepting the gift God had given her. Mary was showing complete humility and glorifying God in song for what God was going to do for the world through her.

Until the visitation of the Angel Gabriel, Mary’s life was quite ordinary.  She had recently become engaged to a carpenter, Joseph, and was anticipating married life.  She had no clue that her life was about to change in such a dramatic way.  This was not the first time that the angel had appeared. Gabriel had visited Zechariah, as well as Mary and even the prophet Daniel, some 500 years earlier.  Each time, he brought important messages from God.

I would imagine that, once Mary had got over the shock of being in the presence of an angel (if that is even possible!), when Gabriel greeted her she might have been puzzled as to what was coming next (Luke 1:29).  What did this heavenly being want with her?! Maybe she felt like she had won the grand prize in a contest that she had not even entered.  It’s no wonder she was puzzled and frightened.  What came next was the news that almost every women in Israel hoped to hear – that her child would be the Messiah.  God’s promised Saviour and the fulfillment of scripture.  God’s announcement of a child to be born, throughout scripture, was met with various responses:

  • Abraham’s wife laughed (Genesis 18:9-15)
  • Zechariah doubted (Luke 1:18)
  • By contrast, Mary submitted, she believed the angels words and agreed to bare the child, even under humanly impossible circumstances.
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Mind Blowing!!

What really stands out to me about Mary is that she does not doubt what the angel tells her, not even for a second!  She does not refuse to believe it or laugh it off as an impossible task.  Rather she asked how pregnancy would be possible because she was still a virgin.  Gabriel told her that her baby would be God’s son.

“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

“…The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” Luke 1: 35

His blessing on Mary, the honour of being the mother of the Messiah, would cause her much pain and come at a high cost to her personally: with her story about being made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, she risked being considered crazy; her peers would ridicule her; her fiance would come close to leaving her; her son would be rejected and murdered. But through her son would come the world’s only hope, and this is why Mary has been praised by countless generations as the young girl who ‘found favour with God’.  Mary’s submission was part of God’s plan to bring about our salvation. I’m quite in awe of her willing obedience to God, something I can only aspire to!

“I am the Lord’s servant….May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38)

When Mary said that, she didn’t know about the tremendous opportunity she would have.  She only knew that God was asking her to serve him, and she willingly obeyed.

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  • Mary may have been young in age but I have a feeling  that she is mature in her faith and relationship with God.  Initially, when the angel appeared to her, she may have been afraid BUT she listens to what he has to say from God and accepts it
  • At no point does Mary doubt that what the angel has told her will come to pass – “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1: 38).  If anything she is curious as to HOW it will happen but she does not doubt that it WILL happen
  • Mary willingly submits to the will of God and is obedient despite the potential risks to her personally, socially, culturally etc.  She doesn’t ask “Why me?” or say “I cannot do this!”.  She basically says “Okay God, let it be, let’s do this!”
  • Mary, being young, poor and a woman, may have appeared insignificant to others in society but she definitely was not insignificant to God.  God chose her for a task that would require an extreme amount of obedience.  Don’t ever feel that your ability, experience, or education makes you an unlikely candidate for God’s service.  Mary’s story shows us that this isn’t the case where God is concerned.
  • Don’t limit God’s choices.  He can use you if you trust Him!
  • If sorrow or sadness weighs you down and dims your hope, think of Mary and wait patiently for God to finish working out His plan.
  • “May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1: 38) – When Mary said this, she didn’t really know about the tremendous opportunity she would have.  She only knew that God was asking her to serve Him and she willingly obeyed.  Don’t wait to see the bottom line before offering your life to God.  Let’s offer ourselves willingly, even when the outcome seems disastrous.  God has a plan for our lives and knows the bigger picture – we just have to trust in Him 🙂  I’m sure God waits to hear a similar response from us.
  • God’s best servants  are often ordinary people who make themselves available to him
  • God’s plans involve extraordinary events in ordinary people’s lives
  • A person’s character is revealed by his or her response to the unexpected

Be blessed!

Ali x

Don’t Lose Your Head, Lift It Up Instead

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Do you ever let an issue play on your mind?  Do you waste your time and your energy thinking it over and over…….and then over and over again? Do you ever find it hard to let things go?  You want to let it go, of course you do, but for some reason that nagging thought or issue will just not shift  no matter how hard you try to forget about it?  It’s stuck in your head like chewing gum on your shoe!

I’ve experienced this very recently.   I don’t really need to share the intimate details of the situation but needless to say the whole situation had left me feeling frustrated, angry and as though an injustice had been done.

Apart from this isolated incident, life is good.  I’ve married my best friend this year, back in April (Yes, I know….yawn…..I’ve mentioned this a trillion times in previous blogs….old news!) and in the last week or so I have found out, after a rigorous assessment process in London a few weeks back, that I have been accepted to train as a Probation Service Officer, working with offenders.  This is a new chapter for me, a change in career direction and an exciting opportunity.   I am extremely thankful for this new opportunity and very grateful to my family and friends (you know who you are) for helping me to believe that I could do it to start with.  Without the encouragement of one certain friend I may not have even finished filling in the application form!

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I digress…..so…. yes… life is good….so I had no real reason to be on a downer but this situation that I was dealing with really took hold of my mind and had stolen my joy at a time when I really should have been feeling VERY JOYFUL INDEED! Four years of staring at the blank canvas that was my career were over! Hallelujah! Praise God for a door that opened! However, because of this issue I  was like a cooking pot ready to boil over.

Generally, I am a happy-go-lucky kind of a girl but I just couldn’t keep my cool! To a certain extent, I could argue my case and give you all-sorts of reasons as to why my feelings were justified (I may even have been in the right). However, regardless of this,  I felt like my joy had been stolen and I didn’t like that at all.  I did not want to feel the way I was feeling.  It did not sit well with me one little bit.

Over the course of a few days I felt that God was telling me that I shouldn’t be wasting my time and energy focusing on this issue because it was not producing anything good. The days went by and still I was in the same mental mess.  I had prayed about the situation.  I had talked it over with Dan, my husband.  Nothing was really changing and it was increasing my frustration and anger.

Then on the Sunday morning, Dan was driving us to church and still I sat in the car festering, thoughts whizzing round in my head.  I wanted to worship my awesome God, I had so much to be thankful for…….but how could I? I just was not in the right frame of mind. Perhaps you’ve experienced that before too?  In my own experience I find it hard to worship God when my mind and my heart are not right with God. I’m not the sort of person to just ‘go through the motions’. Then God answered my question with a song:

“Lift up your head(s) to the coming King, Bow before Him and adore Him sing, To His majesty, let your praises be, pure and holy giving glory to the King of Kings….”

There was my answer!  To shift my thinking, I needed to lift my head!   I needed to look up  and take my gaze off of the situation that was troubling me. I needed to thank God for His goodness and blessings regardless.  I needed to come clean before God and ask for His forgiveness.  I needed to lift my head up (and my hands), sing praises and worship Him who is most worthy of praise!  Once I did that things began to change.  Dan and I came home from church and prayed asking God to flood the ‘situation’ with His amazing love and peace.  The feelings of anger and frustration began to disperse and the thoughts were no longer squatting in my head. They had been evicted! I can genuinely say that I have not focused on that issue in the same way since! 🙂 Thank you God!

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I think Snoopy has the right idea, don’t you?? 🙂

When we lift our heads up we take the focus away from ourselves and the issue that we face and we set our eyes upon God – after all, it’s not about us but rather all about God.  I don’t believe we can blame every issue we face on the Devil! We, in our human nature, are more than capable of sabotaging ourselves!  I’ve done it on numerous occasions but thankfully God is with me and helps to sort out the mess I get myself in! I believe we need a heart of repentance, one that is willing to bow before God in adoration and give Him the glory that He deserves.

“It’s all about You, Jesus..And all this is for You…For Your glory and Your fame….It’s not about me…As if you should do things my way….You alone are God and I surrender to Your ways….” Jesus, Lover Of My Soul (It’s all about you) by Kari Jobe

“I’m coming back to the heart of worship…And it’s all about You…It’s all about you, Jesus….I’m sorry, Lord, for the thing I’ve made it…When it’s all about you….It’s all about You, Jesus” The Heart Of Worship by Michael W Smith

When we lift our heads up we can surrender the issue to God and allow His Holy Spirit to help us and strengthen us. Nothing is impossible for God!

“Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” 1 Peter 5:7 NIV

“Now to Him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen” Ephesians 3:20 NIV

“And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth.  The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him or knows him, But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.”  John 14:16 NIV

The Holy Spirit is a gift from God. A gift given so that God would be with and within his followers after Christ returned to heaven. The “power” that believers receive from the Holy Spirit includes courage, boldness, confidence, insight, ability, and authority.  If you believe in Jesus Christ, you can experience the power of the Holy Spirit in your life.  We need the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives to fulfil the important work that God has chosen for us to do.  We need God’s timing and power to be truly effective.

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Or Prince of course!
Now I know the quote above is probably secular in its intention.  I believe, however, that there is some wisdom in it to an extent.

1 Peter 2:9-10 says “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.  Once you were not a people, but now you are a people of God; once you have not received mercy, but now you have received mercy”

In Old Testament times, people did not approach God directly.  The priest acted as intermediary between God and sinful human beings.  With Christ’s victory on the cross, that pattern changed!  Now we can come directly into God’s presence without fear, and we are given the responsibility of bringing others to him (see 2 Corinthians 5:18-21).  When we are united with Christ as members of his body, we join in his priestly work of reconciling God and man.  We belong to God, we have been adopted into His family, we are sons and daughters of the most high God.  I believe we need to accept that wholeheartedly and live our lives in the assurance, power and authority that comes with being a son or daughter in Christ!

So when we face the “issues”, we can tackle them head on  – with courage, confidence, boldness, insight, ability, authority and power that we receive through the Holy Spirit – God’s gift to us! Don’t allow your head to drop in despair and your crown to fall off – lift up your head to the King of Kings, don’t lose it! Straighten that crown and remember which royal family you belong to! Amen x

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Keeper Of My Heart

I mentioned in a previous blog that God often speaks to me through music.  Songs can randomly pop into my head and not go away until I’ve taken notice of them.  Sometimes I believe they appear to remind of something important about God, a promise or a truth. Sometimes I believe God has something more specific to say.  There have been a few occasions where Dan and I have been talking about something important and a song has spoken into that issue.

Towards the end of last week I had a song whizzing around in my head.  To start with it was literally the first few lines of the chorus, “I life my eyes, I lift my eyes up, Maker of the heavens….”. It was one of those occasions where you find yourself singing it but you cannot, for the life of you, remember the rest of the song or who wrote it.  I couldn’t rest then until I found out what song the lyrics came from and who wrote it!

Thank goodness for Google! How did we cope before that?! After a bit of digging around on the internet, I found the song ‘Keeper of My Heart’ by Kari Jobe.  It’s on the ‘Majestic’ album released in 2013.


‘Keeper Of My Heart’ by Kari Jobe ❤

I looked at the lyrics of the song and discovered that the song is based on Psalm 121. Other parts of the song I believe link nicely to Psalm 139.

From the beginning of our existence, before we even took our first breath God knew us and loved us.  He knew us intimately, “our inner most being”.  God  had a plan for our lives before we were born.  Our lives were designed to have purpose, they are not pointless and they are not a mistake! Our wonderful creative God planned for you, yes YOU, to be here (and ME!).  What creativity!  “He has approached even the small details with excellence” (Psalm 139:14 MSG) . God was involved right from the beginning.  He has an eye for detail! He doesn’t make a mistake! We are all so different and unique even down to our individual fingerprints – no one on this earth is just like you or me! Wow! Thank you God!

Sometimes we don’t let people get to know us completely because we are afraid they will discover something about us that they won’t like.  But God knows everything about us, even down to the number of hairs on our heads, and he still loves us and accepts us.  God is with us through every situation, in every trial – protecting, loving, guiding.  He knows and loves us completely.

Psalm 139:13-16 (The Voice) says:

For You shaped me, inside and out.
    You knitted me together in my mother’s womb long before I took my first breath.
14 I will offer You my grateful heart, for I am Your unique creation, filled with wonder and awe.
    You have approached even the smallest details with excellence;
    Your works are wonderful;
I carry this knowledge deep within my soul.
15     You see all things; nothing about me was hidden from You
As I took shape in secret,
    carefully crafted in the heart of the earth before I was born from its womb.
16 You see all things;
    You saw me growing, changing in my mother’s womb;
Every detail of my life was already written in Your book;
    You established the length of my life before I ever tasted the sweetness of it. (MSG)

God is omnipresent – he is present everywhere.  So we can never be lost to his Holy Spirit.  This is great news right?  If we know and love God, we can never be far away from God’s comforting presence, no matter what we do or where we go. He is with us in the depths – in our trials and most desperate of times when it feels like we are lost and alone – He is with us!

“Where can I go from your Spirit? Where can I flee from your presence?  If I go up to the heavens you are there; if I make my bed in the depths you are there.” (Psalm 139:7-8) NIV

Psalm 121 gives assurance and hope in God’s protection day and night.  He not only made the hills but heaven and earth as well.  We should never trust a lesser power than God himself.  But not only is he omnipotent, he also watches over us.  Nothing diverts him or deters him – “He who watches over you will not slumber nor sleep”.  We are safe.  We never outgrow our need for God’s untiring watch over our lives.

“The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand.  The sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”

‭‭Psalm‬ ‭121:5-8 ‭NIV‬‬

“I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall.  I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.  Yet this I call to mind and therefore have hope:  Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed. for his compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.” 

Lamentations 3: 19-24 (NIV)

God never gives up on us! God will willingly help when we ask him.  God’s steadfast love and mercy are greater than any sin, and he promises forgiveness.  Trusting in God’s faithfulness day by day makes us confident in his great promises for the future.  God is our portion – not like ‘portions’ on earth that can be empty and perishable but instead an all-sufficient and durable portion.  We can depend on God.  Our hope is in Him.

I’ll be completely honest with you – these are lessons that I am still learning on a daily basis.  I’ve been a woman of faith for a long time and I have to constantly remember that God is enough for me.  All we need is in Him.  we can depend on Him.  We do not need to go it alone.  God created us for a purpose.  His almighty hand is on our lives.  He is our source of strength.  He loves us and is always with us!

Be encouraged….. 🙂

  • You are meant to be here you are not a mistake – God has a purpose for your life- God got creative when he made you and had an eye for detail!
  • God is with you all the time offering protection, love and guidance
  • God’s mercy is limitless
  • He is all we need – our portion

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Bless you x