Written by Kathryn Kirscher - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Artist: Natalie Ziemba
Mary, mother of Jesus.
Sometimes I’m just not sure what my attitude toward her should be. As I wrestled with this recently, my question to the Lord was, “How do You view her?” His response pointed me to the annunciation—the angel’s pronouncement to Mary that she would be Jesus’ mother. As I studied the angel’s declarations, I found myself wanting to emulate Mary. She’s an inspiring example!
I don’t recall ever hearing Mary held up as a model for patiently holding on to God’s unfulfilled promises. But look at her life! As a teenager, she encounters an angel who gives her the incredible news that she’ll have a baby who will be God’s son. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end,” is the angel’s promise. But did she ever see these promises for her son fulfilled? No! Year after year, decade after decade, Mary never saw Jesus on David’s throne, reigning as promised. In fact, her son’s life—and death—unfolded quite differently than the picture painted by this pronouncement.
And did she ever receive the honor she must have been expecting as the mother of the king? After all, the angel told Mary that the Lord was with her and even called her “highly favored one”! Mary’s hope for admiration is evident in her Magnificat, which includes the line, “From now on all generations will call me blessed.”
But the only person in the Bible recorded to have called Mary blessed is Elizabeth: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!” Oh, and there was also the unnamed woman crying out from the crowd around Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But even if Mary was present to hear these words of esteem, her moment of glory was quickly squelched by Jesus Himself: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” No, no honor for Mary. It’s more likely that, because of the unique circumstances of Jesus’ conception, scorn was heaped upon her instead. Everyone around her would have assumed that she’d been promiscuous. So here’s another expectation that was never fulfilled in her lifetime.
There’s no Biblical record of how Mary felt about all this, but we do know that she held on, treasuring all these things, pondering them in her heart. Mary was Jesus’ mother and His disciple. She kept following Jesus all the way to the cross and beyond. Mary’s steadiness and tenacity—even when God’s promises went unfulfilled for decades—provide an example I want to emulate.
Here’s another thing I admire about Mary: she’s a type of firstfruits of what it means to belong to Jesus and be filled with His Holy Spirit. Look at what happens during the angelic announcement that Mary would be the mother of God’s Son. The angel calls Mary “highly favored” and tells her that Holy Spirit would “come upon” her. The Greek words for “highly favored” and “come upon” both point to our identity and destiny as sons and daughters of the Most High. And Mary was the first one to experience God’s touch in this way.
Let’s look at the word for “highly favored”: charitoō / χαριτόω. It means “to grace” or “indue with special honor.” This word is used only one other time in the entire New Testament:
In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.
Some of the other translations express it like this:
· “To the praise of the glory of his grace, which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved” ASV
· “The glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved” KJV
· “The celebration of his lavish gift-giving by the hand of his beloved Son” The Message
· “He greatly endeared us and highly favored us in Christ.” The Mirror Translation
· “The glory of His grace, with which He favored us in the Beloved” NASB
· “His glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” NIV
· “That glorious generosity of his which has made us welcome in the everlasting love he bears towards the Son” Phillips
First Mary, and now you and I get to experience this lavish outpouring of God’s glorious grace and favor.
So how did that grace “come upon” Mary? Eperchomai / ἐπέρχομαι includes the ideas of arriving, occurring, impending, and even attacking. It’s a vivid, active word that implies an unforeseen action with unexpected results. Among other places, eperchomai / ἐπέρχομαι is used in Luke to describe the strong man being “overcome” by someone stronger who divides his goods. It’s also used to describe the end times, with men fainting with fear and expectation of what’s “coming upon” them. James described the miseries that would “come upon” the rich when they see their wealth corrupted and standing as a witness against them. Who wants any of those things to “come upon” them?!
But eperchomai / ἐπέρχομαι is also included in Jesus’ final words to His disciples, just before He ascends to heaven: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Mary was the first one to experience the Holy Spirit coming upon her. Then she was among the disciples when the Spirit’s “mighty rushing wind” fell at Pentecost. And now this infilling is part of our rich inheritance as followers of Christ.
Prayer: Thank you, God, for Mary’s example of faithful tenacity when promises aren’t being fulfilled, and her receptivity to Your lavish, gracious Holy Spirit. Please strengthen me as I seek to walk in Mary’s footsteps.
~ Kathryn Kircher, writer, https://sojournerkathryn.wordpress.com/
~ Natalie Ziemba, artist, https://www.nataliekzart.com/
 Luke 1:32-33
 Luke 1:28 KJV
 Luke 1:48
 Luke 1:42
 Luke 11:27
 Luke 2:19
 John 19:26
 Acts 1:14
 Luke 1:28
 Luke 1:35
 The Greek definitions and references are based on Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible by James Strong, published by Abingdon Press (1890).
 Ephesians 1:5-6
 Luke 11:22
 Luke 21:26
 James 5:1
 Acts 1:8
 Acts 2:1-4
Poem and artwork by Rhonda Logan-Bailey - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
The pressing is releasing the pouring.
The receiving is transforming,
removing illusions of opposition.
The shift is shifting.
Feeling becomes seeing which is heard.
Hearing becomes that which is seen.
The wisdom to understand is quickened.
Divergences are converging;
Leveling up, stepping in, merging,
as we become aware of our innate qualities.
What has held us back is broken.
The breakthrough is followed through,
and paths created are widened by wisdom.
Division is relinquished in exchange for unity.
The journey is renewed through love.
Forgiveness is ageless and must be
walked out together.
The prodigals are returning and must be welcomed.
The elderly and the frail still need to
push and inspire,
and must be included.
The middle know when to push and
when to pull,
and must be heard.
The youth shall be protected as they
pull and inspire,
because of wisdom,
and must be nurtured.
Unity is achieved through the altruistic love of God.
None can be left out, for their contributions are worthy and necessary.
Listen to and nurture each other…
"Feed my sheep.”
Written by Fr. Dale Minor - Reclaim Ministry - Rutland, OH
“Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain. You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5: 7-8)
The climate in Israel is quite different from that we experience in the midwestern portion of the United States. There, rains are virtually non-existent during the summer months, May through October. But rain, the early rain begins in late October, is usually fairly consistent through November and December and then is sporadic through the primary growing season culminating with the harvest in April. The rains that occur during the fall provide the moisture necessary to germinate the seed and the spring, or the latter rains, are those necessary to complete the growth and for ripening of the crops. Failure for either of these rains to occur are devastating to the crops and to the livelihoods of all in the region.
Few would claim that we are in the best of times in our country. Rather, there is a general spirit of doom looming over us. Economic pressures, social upheavals, fear from inside and out, mistrust of leadership, pandemics, terrorist acts, and environmental changes threaten our lives and livelihoods. These amount to a dry season akin to that of the arid summers of Israel. For sure, the problems we face will not be resolved within a few months. A couple months of rain are not going to suddenly make all things right. This because the dry spell we are in is a spiritual drought rather than meteorological.
In the passage from James, he speaks of the necessity that we wait upon the Lord and believe His promise to return, likening it to the seasons of the earth. Indeed, many are watching and listening to the signs and believe that the time of His return in imminent. Others, cling to Jesus’ statements that we will not know the day or the hour, but that He will come when we are busily going about our daily living. (Mt. 24: 36-44) Others dismiss such concerns altogether believing that mankind will either blow up the world in a nuclear conflagration or totally destroy the climate making earth unable to continue to sustain life.
But for those who believe the word of God, and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ; that He is life, and He is truth, we have accepted as fact that there is an approaching end to this world followed by eternal life in heaven, the new heaven and new earth. And if we believe this, then we must also believe that we are not given to know in advance the day nor the hour of His return. However, one thing we do know, that day is closer today than it was yesterday; and the Lord calls us to prepare ourselves as if He was coming tomorrow.
It may appear to us that we have entered that spiritual dry season which will only culminate with His return. Yet the world has faced many such droughts in its history. Either way, the call is the same, be prepared. Return to the Lord; beg his forgiveness for failing to fully trust Him. Strive for holiness in your life, and wait patiently for Him. The latter rains testify to the spiritual blessings promised to all who believe in God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
“Sing praise to the Lord, you saints of His, and give thanks at the remembrance of His holy name. For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” (PS 30:4-5)
Yes, “weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” The latter rains are coming.
Written and photo by Cathy Schrock - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Recently, my sister and I drove to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for a conference on multicultural worship. We had a great time meandering through Ohio on our way there, taking most of the day to arrive at our destination. When we arrived and began unpacking the car, I saw the front right tire and was astonished: it was completely tread-bare. I turned to my sister and said, “There must have been angels carrying us the whole way.”
Have you experienced something similar? Think of a time when something inexplicable happened to prevent you from experiencing harm or injury. Since we live in a temporal realm, it is often difficult to wrap our heads around the reality of the spiritual realm that surrounds us and all that takes place there. We can’t see it with our human eyes; the old adage applies: Out of sight, out of mind.
That spiritual realm is very real, perhaps even more real than this temporal realm. In it abide angels, beings who do the bidding of Father God, minister to those who will inherit salvation, and protect those who follow Jesus. Even Satan is aware of this realm. Remember when Satan tempted Jesus in the desert? He quoted Psalm 91:11, 12: “For He will order His angels to protect You wherever You go. They will hold You up with their hands so You won’t even hurt your foot on a stone” (New Living Translation). As we follow the biblical narrative, we see that the angels did just that. There were numerous attempts made on Jesus’ life, but all of them were thwarted in supernatural ways. (Read John 7:28-30, 40-44, 8:19-20, 57-58; 10:31-39 for more details.)
It is the same for you and me who follow Jesus and call Him our Savior and Lord. The passage in Psalms that Satan quoted goes on to say, “The LORD says, ‘I will rescue those who love Me. I will protect those who trust in my Name. When they call on Me, I will answer; I will be with them in trouble. I will rescue them and honor them. I will reward them with a long life and give them my salvation’ “ Psalm 91:14-16, New Living Translation.
Ask yourself: Am I living under this umbrella of protection? If you love the Lord Jesus and follow Him, the answer is yes. What a marvelous place to be!
Father, You have devised a plan in which I am invincible until You call me home. Thank You that as long as I keep saying “Yes” to You and walking in Your ways, I am walking under Your umbrella. Show me how to live fully in the spiritual reality all around me, to recognize it every day, and give You praise for all the ways in which You rescue and uphold me.
Isaiah 40:11, 46:4; Psalm 91
Angels by Amy Grant: https://youtu.be/3OMDxdkb_Po
Written by Janet Mueller - Heartland Church - Fort Wayne, IN
Artist: Natalie K. Ziemba
Time was tight that day. Earlier in the week, I had dropped my phone, shattering the screen. My husband wanted to drop it off at the Apple store on the other side of town for repair. I hesitantly agreed with his plan even though I wondered if it was wise.
I had prepped for a medical procedure scheduled for early that afternoon at the hospital, and it was vital that I arrive on time. He assured me we would be done with plenty of time to get to the hospital. The plan was for him to run quickly into the store while I waited in the car.
Five minutes….ten minutes…twenty minutes passed, and I started getting antsy. Thirty minutes, and he still had not come back. Now I was steaming. Where was he? If we didn’t arrive in thirty minutes, my appointment would surely be cancelled, and I would have to reschedule and then go through the prep again.
As each minute ticked by, I got more and more ticked off. There was no way to call him, as he had my phone! I had no other choice but to stomp the few blocks over to the store, grab him, and leave.
“What is taking so long?!” I huffed as I stormed into the store. The technician was filling out a lengthy repair job form. “Come on, we need to go NOW!” I demanded. My frustration level was through the roof, and I didn’t care if the technician heard it.
“It will only take a few more minutes,” he reassured me.
I explained our predicament. My appointment was in twenty minutes; the drive would take thirty. Even if we left right then, I would be late — and could be turned away. Fuming, I restrained myself and allowed the tech to finish the form, and we quickly exited the store.
“I KNEW this was a bad idea, trying to fit this into our schedule this morning!” I complained as I slammed the car door. Using my husband’s phone, I called the hospital and relayed the message that I was running late and asked if I could still get the procedure done.
“I think so,” came the reply.
At that moment, we came to a set of railroad tracks, and the crossing arms came down. “Oh, perfect!” I sarcastically howled, “Another delay. How long is THIS going to take?!” Out of my mouth flew a torrent of indignant words, “If you hadn’t insisted we go to the Apple store first…” I started.
In the midst of my fury, a quiet thought trickled into my mind. “Invite Me into this.”
“Oh, shoot!” I recalled I had been on a journey of intentionally inviting Jesus into my messes, and here He was, knocking again, asking me to bring Him into this moment. Everything within me wanted to continue my tirade, but I stopped mid-sentence and turned my frustration upwards into a brief prayer. Lowering my voice, I prayed, “Jesus, I give You this situation and invite You into it.”
“Amen,” my husband chimed in.
It was a long train. As the cars lumbered past, I could feel my blood pressure lowering and my breathing slowing down. With every passing freight car, I released
By the time we arrived at the hospital, I was thirty-five minutes late. Apologizing and explaining my delay, I inquired if it were possible for me to still be seen. The receptionist responded, “The patient after you had mistakenly arrived an hour early, and we began to prep her for her procedure ahead of you. So, basically, we exchanged appointment times, and all is well.”
Astounded, I laughed and blurted out, “That’s amazing!” Then I pondered, “How much energy and vexation I could have saved myself had I trusted and invited Jesus into this delay earlier?”
Prayer: Father, You are Lord of the clock and the calendar. When we relinquish them to You, the crossing arms of the railroad and the ticking arms of the clock move in sync. Our times are in Your hands. Underneath are Your everlasting arms.
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight” Proverbs 3:5,6 NASB.