THE MAGNIFICAT

Luke 1:45 – Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what has been spoken to her by the Lord.

One of the great declarations ever and one of the clearest prophetic words given came through the mother of our Lord. It is called the “Magnificat.” As you read Mary’s glorious pronouncement let the Holy Spirit minister to you from every word she spoke. 

Mary said, “My soul exalts the Lord, and my spirit has rejoiced in God my Savior. He has had regard for the humble state of His bond slave; for behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me; and holy is His name. His mercy is upon generation after generation toward those who fear Him. He has done mighty deeds with His arm; He has scattered those who were proud in thoughts of their heart. He has brought down rulers from their thrones, and has exalted those who were humble. He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed. He has given help to Israel His servant, in remembrance of His mercy, as He spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever” (Luke 1:46-55). 

As we walk through this Christmas season remembering the birth of our Savior, exalt the Lord with your soul, and rejoice in your spirit in God your Savior just as Mary did. The Lord has regarded each one who has put their trust in Him. Trusting Him takes humility on our part, a humility that recognizes that He chose us to be His servant.

Mary prophesies that God’s mercy will be upon each succeeding generation toward those who fear Him. She declares what the Lord has accomplished in this great act. He scattered those who were proud, He has brought down rulers from their thrones, He exalted the humble, and He filled the hungry with good things, and gave help to Israel, remembering His mercy.

Mary had the right focus. She was pregnant with the Child. She did not focus on her pregnancy, but rather, she looked ahead by faith to the purpose of God.  As we celebrate Christ’s birth, let us remember His commands, primarily love one another as He loved us and to take the Gospel to the nations declaring the great things our God has done for us.

Father, I thank You for the Magnificat that came from Mary’s heart and mouth. Fill me with the Holy Spirit that I might magnify Your name and Your deeds before this generation. I thank You for Your mercy upon all those who fear Your name. Help me, Father, to point some toward You during this Christmas season that they too mighty glorify You.  

FOUND WITH CHILD BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

Matthew 1:18 – Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows. When His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit.

People from previous ages had looked forward to this moment in time, when the woman’s seed mentioned in Genesis 3:15 would bring forth a Savior. From that time in the garden until this special generation, known as “Messiah’s Day,” there had been “enmity” between the seed of the woman and the serpent. In a very short period of time, this was all about to change. A man was about to be born who would fulfill God’s word given in Genesis 3 regarding, “crushing the head of the serpent.”  

The Holy Spirit waited during the first creation for the Word of God so that He might bring order from the chaos of the elements. The Spirit was now moving again as the fullness of time had come. “When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-6).

The fullness of time had come as the Holy Spirit moved upon Mary and created the Holy Child Jesus in her womb. God’s means of salvation was being brought to birth. It is amazing to think about that glorious time. The world continued on as normal. Nobody in the Roman government knew what was about to happen. Some prophetic people in Israel knew the time was near for Messiah to be revealed.

Mary, holding in her heart what had been told her by an angel, went to be with her cousin Elizabeth, who also was with child. The baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaped when Mary and the Holy One within her entered the room. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and “cried out with a loud voice” and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And how has it happened to me that the mother of my Lord would come to me?” (Luke 1:42-44). She knew by the Spirit that Mary was carrying the Messiah in her womb.

In our time, as the world goes on its way, the Lord is at work among His people, as well as in the midst of the nations. The Lord transcends time and space and works among us by His Holy Spirit. It is important for us to wait upon Him with listening ears so we, like Mary and Elizabeth, are in a place for the Lord to call us and use us for His eternal purpose. We too, carry something holy inside us. God gave us the promise of His Spirit for simply obeying the Gospel. Every believer is called to represent the Holy One of heaven.

Jesus’ birth is more than an event to celebrate. It is the only answer for mankind and his lost condition. As Mary went to share with Elizabeth, let us be ready to give others the reason for the hope that lies within us. We serve the living God who dwelt among us as the babe in his mother’s womb.

Father, I thank You for sending Jesus. I thank You for having a prepared vessel in Mary who was obedient to Your word saying, “Behold the bond-slave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). I ask You to create in me that degree of a submissive heart.

COVERING A MULTITUDE OF SINS

James 5:19 – He who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

I believe this to be one of the most profound Scriptures in the Bible. There is nothing more valuable than a soul. We know this because God gave His absolute best to redeem the souls of men. Once we have received redemption, the Lord makes us part of the solution to sin by enabling us to help other sinners become aware of God’s wonderful love. When one embraces the truth of God’s word, they begin to have an eternal perspective.

According to our verse, straying from the truth happens within the body of Christ. Persecution can tempt a large number of people to stray. There is always the enticement of the flesh. The influence of others can draw us away from our first love. It is important that we cover one-another’s backs. This is one reason why it is so important to be part of a small group. In the small group setting, we can share our challenges, temptations, and even our faults through confession.

James encourages those reading his letter that whoever turns a sinner from the “error” of his way saves a soul from death and will cover a “multitude of sins.” Let us never forget, Jesus came to save sinners. He did the work of redemption, but has chosen us to share His redemptive grace. I love the old hymn titled “I Love to Tell the Story.” Christmas time is such a great occasion to share with others the story of Jesus’ love. It is important for us to be reminded how many around us are perishing. As a believer, the power of God is in us to be used to turn the lost around. We have gotten away from that kind of thinking and speaking because of our sophisticated world. The Gospel is that simple: Christ came to save sinners.

The sin nature is singular, but it is multiplied in the sinful practices it produces. When the blood of Christ is applied, it becomes like a flood, washing away everything in its path. Thank God for His cleansing power given through the blood of Christ! James chose to end his letter to the churches with this thought of turning a sinner from the error of his way. It is a good thought for us to think about as we wind down the year and prepare for the next. As we remember the gift of God, let us be mindful to share His gift with others.

Father, I thank You for saving my soul. I thank You for making me whole and giving me Your salvation so rich and free. Fill me with the Holy Spirit to share with others Your great love that turns sinners from the error of their ways.

HEALING AND FORGIVENESS THROUGH CHURCH ELDERS

James 5:14-15 – Is anyone among you sick? Then he must call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him.

The Holy Spirit has anointed elders for the body of Christ. True elders carry many responsibilities regarding the care of God’s people. The early church ordained a number of men in each city who gave shepherding oversight to the Lord’s flock. James writes, the sick one “must call for the elders.” This calling for the elders does not seem to be optional.  By the same token, the elders have a responsibility to pray over the individual. This seems to have been an ordinance in the New Testament church. The Holy Spirit has been restoring the healing ministry to the church for some time. Many local churches make it a practice to pray for the sick. In those churches where eldership is practiced, the elders lay hands on the sick and anoint with oil.

The anointing with oil is a very old custom which was practiced and adapted in the New Testament churches as they developed in the first century. Oil is seen throughout the Scriptures as a representation of the Holy Spirit. The elders are to pray the “prayer of faith.” Only prayer offered in faith has authority to bring results. To pray in faith means praying according to the instruction of Scripture. Note the strong assurance that their prayer “will restore the one who is sick.” James goes on to say, “the Lord will raise him up.” There is not only the promise of restoration, but forgiveness as well.

Based on James’ instruction and the promise given, we should confess our sins to one another. Sin should be minimal in the life of any believer. The practice of sin is a sure sign that one has not been born again. Open confession of sin provides a twofold benefit. First, there is to be accountability within the community of the believers. Second, it gives a chance of conviction in the hearts of others. Both of these benefits provide an atmosphere for healing, physically and spiritually.

Whether one is an elder in the Lord’s church or an individual seeking simply to obey and serve their Lord, “the effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much” (James 5:16b). As God’s people, let us pursue righteousness, confess sin, and be faithful in prayer.

Father, I thank You for Your provisions outlined in the Book of James. Fill me with the Holy Spirit that I might walk in righteousness fulfilling Your will. If there is any sin in my life, cause me to become aware and willing to confess openly. Renew me in the ministry of prayer along with Your people who are called to intercede on behalf of the lost and the hurting.  

BE PATIENT UNTIL THE COMING OF OUR LORD

James 5:7 – Be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord.

In the month of December, believers turn their attention toward celebrating the birth of the Savior. What a tremendous time of the year, as we remember all that the Lord has done for His people. James, in the fifth chapter of his letter, addresses the misuse of riches in verses 1-6. In the 7th verse James exhorts God’s people to be patient until the coming of the Lord. What James is addressing is relevant today.

There is a misery coming on those that are rich who do not regard our Lord and Savior. James makes a sobering statement when he says, “You and your silver have rusted; and the rust will be a witness against you and will consume your flesh like fire. It is in the last days that you have stored up your treasure!” (James 5:3). Gold and silver don’t rust, so obviously the statement is an exaggeration to make a very important point. We now know that for that generation, the last days referred to the destruction of the Temple, the city of Jerusalem, and the Jewish society as a whole. Men were putting their confidence in “riches,” but those riches were about to perish.

The application is vital for our generation as well. We do not know precisely when the Lord will return, but it is evident we are closer than when we first believed. The culture we have known is on shaky ground. The world economic picture is changing and will continue to change as we approach the end of all things. The exhortation of James to be “patient” is a worthy thing to meditate upon. “Do not complain, brethren, against one another, so that you yourselves may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (James 5:9). In all we do, let the return of Christ be fully central in our minds. Judge your actions as believers, knowing that one day all our actions will be judged by Christ.

The return of Christ is the great filter for our motivations. Our faith is evaluated, not only on trusting Christ in His first coming, but on our confidence in His return. His first coming through His death on the cross provides us with the gift of salvation through repentance and trusting in His shed blood. Our patience toward His return helps us walk in righteousness before God and towards others.

Those who have preceded us, namely the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord, are examples to us of suffering and patience. There are many throughout the world walking in that kind of endurance. Consider Job and his endurance. Also consider the outcome of Job’s endurance. The Lord was merciful and compassionate toward Job. He will also be merciful and compassionate toward us as we endure through difficult times, waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ who has His reward with Him.

Father, strengthen my patience by helping me be continually focused on the coming of the Lord. Help me to not trust in riches that will parish, but in the true riches of Christ. During this Christmas month, help me, through the power of the Holy Spirit, to bear witness, both of Your first coming as the Babe of Bethlehem, but also the Judge who will return to judge the hearts of all. I pray that I might be faithful in difficult times.

DON’T BE A PROCRASTINATOR

Proverbs 15:19 – The way of the lazy is as a hedge of thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway.

My father taught my brothers and me, “Don’t put off till tomorrow, what you can do today because tomorrow never comes, it is always today.” Delay in one’s responsibilities will cause a pileup of things to be done which will have a strong effect on your ability to think clearly. Procrastination causes great pressures in an individual’s life such as pressures in relationships, pressure regarding scheduling responsibilities, and pressure in one’s own emotional make-up.  

Planning is vital for our spirituality. “Commit your works to the Lord and your plans will be established” (Proverbs 16:3). Planning begins with a life committed to God’s eternal purpose. Our time belongs to the Lord. We must learn not to be careless about how we use our time. As you plan your day, do it with the Lord. Ask the Father to be in charge of your plans. When you write down the things you need to accomplish, ask the Holy Spirit for His guidance. This is a sure way for your plans to be established. It is also good to ask for “divine appointments.” As we plan those natural appointments, know that the Lord may have some divine appoints He has prepared for you.

Planning is vital to our emotional well-being. When our mind is filled with confusion, it produces emotional stress that can affect every other area of our life. God’s will is for our emotions to be in a state of peace and rest. It is in that rest we find our greatest productivity. The Holy Spirit has been given to lead us into the rest of God.

Planning is vital to our physical health. Spiritual and emotional inconsistency is at the root of many physical problems. “A joyful heart makes a cheerful face, but when the heart is sad, the spirit is broken” (Proverbs) 15:13. God made man a triune being after His own image. “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 5:23-24).

Planning is vital to any relationship. Procrastination can be very difficult on relational health. It puts others in a difficult position as their scheduling is affected by another’s procrastination. Procrastination is selfish because it neglects to take into consideration this effect on other people’s time. The Holy Spirit is our helper. He is present to help us overcome procrastination.

Father, I commit my ways to You. I ask for the Holy Spirit to lead me in my busy schedule. Help me not to procrastinate, but be responsible regarding the things I need to accomplish in my daily life. Show me what my priorities are and what is not important. I claim the peace of God for my whole spirit, soul, and body that I might be a witness of godly order in a busy world.