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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Making Every Moment Matter

For many of us, the sacred and holy seem out of reach. We survive, scraping and fighting to make ends meet, and we give God what we can. We look at great missionaries and people of faith but feel that a life like that is out of our reach. How can I worry about making a difference in the world when I can't even pay my bills? How can I make someone else's life better when I've made a wreck of my own? How can I change the world when I can't even crawl out of this pit I'm stuck in? How can I help a suffering world when I'm so broken myself? How can I be a great person of faith with vision and value when I spend everyday begging for the strength and guidance to face what's already in my life? Why was it so much easier for the people in the Bible?

This is the feeling we are often left with. We are so helpless and clueless that a holy life of faith is beyond our comprehension, let alone our reach. I believe this is largely do to the way we have romanticized our view of people of faith. Take Mary, the mother of Jesus, for example. We can all agree that she was a great woman of faith. But was Mary all that different from us?
We often talk about how blessed Mary was, but don't forget the other side of the coin. She was a real person in an extreme situation. 

Here is a young woman, engaged to be married, who is not out there searching for a way to change the world. Little did Mary know that her world was about to be shaken.

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” (Luke 1:26-28).
So an angel appears to you and tells you that you're highly favored by God, what would you expect him to give you? Mary has no clue what to expect or even how to take this.
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him 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 Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:29-33).
Sometimes what God sees as a blessing may be what we feel is the last thing we need. Mary is engaged and God "blesses" her with an unplanned pregnancy!! This is great news to get before your wedding, especially when it can get you killed. You see, in those days, if your fiancé slept with someone else, you could have her publicly disgraced and even stoned to death. And we're not talking about a deadly prescription drug cocktail, we're talking about having rocks thrown at you until you stop twitching. So, who can blame Mary if her head is spinning at this point?
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”
The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come on 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. Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be unable to conceive is in her sixth month. For no word from God will ever fail." (Luke 1:34-37). 
How would you react to this news? Who wants to explain this one to their fiancĂ©? Oh this? Um, okay, it's not what it looks like, Joseph... I mean it is... but not like you think. God got me pregnant. No, really! I waited for you, I'm still a virgin, really! I know nothing like this has ever happened, but it happened to me. 
And what about Joseph? How would you react in his shoes? He could throw up his hands and say, "I didn't do it! That's not mine, take me on Maury, Springer, or Montel Williams to prove it, do what you gotta do, but that's not my baby!" He could have got upset and had her killed, but that's not the kind of man he was. 
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. 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. (Matt. 1:18-19).
You can't really blame Joseph for not wanting to go through with the marriage, considering the situation. But he was a good man and he cared about Mary and he didn't want to make things any worse on her than they would be already. Things are tough enough for a single mom dealing with a broken engagement and an unplanned pregnancy. But God wasn't done.

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. 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.” (Matt. 1:20-22).
What would you do? Would you roll over and go back to sleep and assume it was a crazy dream? Would the fear of the trials ahead keep you from going through with the marriage? Would you say, "He didn't say I had to marry her, he just said I didn't have to be afraid to."

These were two people who were real people with emotions and struggles of their own. They did not seek out mission work or form a plan to end world hunger, they were just trying to live. That is not what it takes to be people of faith. What made Mary and Joseph such great examples of faith was the way they met the challenges that they met each day.

Mary's reply was one that showed that she was devoted to God.
“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.” Then the angel left her. (Luke 1:38).

Wow! What if we faced the trials of each moment with this same attitude? What if I answered each challenge with "I am the Lord's servant?" What if instead of drawing close to God when we gather for worship or when I plan some great deed to do for God, I drew close to God in each moment? What blessings could I find hidden in my trial?

It's not only about my attitude, but also about what I choose to do now that I have taken a new point of view. Look at Joseph's response.

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus. (Matt. 1:24-25).

Joseph got up and bravely faced what God put in front of him. He did not run, he did not ask God to take it away, he did not ask God to choose someone else, or to wait until a better time, he did what God desired.

What if, instead of making big plans, resolutions, and goal for what we will do for God eventually, we did what God is asking of us this moment?

The holy, the sacred, and the divine is not out of our reach, it is continually presented to us by God if we can see it. My life and service to God is not about what will happen eventually, but about what is happening right now. Each breath, each moment is an opportunity to experience God more and bring glory to His name.

Stop wasting time on who you believe you can one day become and focus on who God is giving you the power to be in this moment. He has told you, O man, what is good.  And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. (Micah 6:8).

Stop walking alone, trying to find on your own the most noble path that you think God will approve of. Stop bowing out because you believe you couldn't walk the path even if you found it. Start walking with God! Make each step worship, make each thought praise, make each word glory to God, and make each moment matter.