Mary: A Fresh Look at the Familiar Christmas Message, Part 3
This devotional was written by Karen Pulley and is printed in Calvary Chapel Magazine with permission. It is taken from her message delivered at Calvary Chapel Hudson Valley’s Women’s Christmas Brunch in 2018. To read Parts 1 and 2, click here. Karen is the wife of Lloyd Pulley, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ.
When you say, Yes, Lord, you are never disappointed. It is when we say No to God that we experience disappointment. Mary said Yes to God, and boy, it wasn’t easy. I want to look at the life of Mary. I pray, Lord, freshen the familiar. I know we can think, “I’ve read the story about Mary,” but I am hoping that you are going to see something in here that maybe you have never seen before.
Mary was pure. Of course, God is going to find somebody pure. You know what? Our purity comes from the Lord. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). What is not pure in your life? What is not good? What is not holy? The enemy tells us, “Oh, a holy life is such a boring life.”
Everybody seems to be so into health food, and we should eat healthy. I do get that. But I wish people would realize holiness just means wholeness; sin pulls you apart piece by piece. Look at our young kids being pulled apart piece by piece. Holiness is happiness and wholeness. If we could just live our lives like that. “I don’t want that in my mind. I don’t want to hear that. I don’t want to see that.” Live a pure life.
When you get your coffee in the morning, you grab the cleanest cup. Can God grab you anytime? Can God use you? Or “No, she is full of herself. I can’t really use her.” He will clean you out because He wants to use you. The blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin. I love that. Mary was pure. Oh, how we need another revival.
God was Mary’s priority, so she was God’s first choice. God was priority in her life, so God said, “You are the one in Israel that I am going to pick.” She was wholly available. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). I love the little jar with the rice and the walnut. If you try to put the rice in first, which represents all the things you have to do—all your time and ideas—and then try to put the walnut in, which is God’s part, it will not fit. But if you put the walnut in first, you put God first, and then put the rice in, it’s a perfect fit. So when you put God first, He will help you do everything you need to do. Put Him first and He will so bless your life.
Mary was filled with power. She was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Do you have a “before and after” story? I always think of Peter before and Peter after. Before, Peter was afraid of his own shadow. After, Peter preached to 3,000 people. Wow. How you need the power of the Holy Spirit!
I think how the earth was without form and void, just blackness on the earth. When the Holy Spirit came upon the earth, however, look at the beauty (Genesis 1:2)! You know, your life [without Christ] is without form and void, dark—no purpose, no power.
So, I just want to challenge you. Whether your life is dry, or maybe you are not having an effect on your children (I think being a mom is probably one of the hardest things), or perhaps you work at a job and in a horrible place, you be that woman that when you walk in, [you are] someone of substance, somebody of weightiness!
There are women in my life that when they walk into a room, Jesus comes in. They called missionary Amy Carmichael “The Jesus Walking Woman.” Kay Smith, our pastor’s wife, was like that. When she walked into a room, I can’t explain it, she was so humble; she was not like “Here, I am.” You could just tell she had been in the presence of the Lord, just that fragrance. You can always smell those people who work in a cookie factory: “Oooh, you smell like cookies.” When I used to come back from my horseback riding, I would say, “Oh, I was with the horse today. Yes, I smell like hay.” By spending time with the Lord, you are going to smell like Christ. Mary was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Mary was a woman of performance. “Blessed is she that believed, for there will be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord” (Luke 1:45, KJV). Oh, I love that. Mary knew nothing was too hard for the Lord. I will cry out to God Most High, to God who performs all things for me (Psalm 57:2). She believed in God. God will perform what He is going to perform.
Mary presented herself. Mary said, “Lord, here I am.” She presented herself (Luke 1:38). We hate the thought of dying to ourselves, don’t we? It just goes against our nature. But you know what? Don’t we love flowers? Don’t we love fruit? Well, they were a seed that had to go into the ground and die, where it was dark, cold, and lonely. As they died, it brought forth fruit. We might say, “Lord, I don’t want to die to myself.” Well, [then], you’ll just have a little seed. No one decorates with seeds, right? No, we love flowers. We love fruit. So, when you say, “Lord, I am dying to myself,” you are going to see a harvest of beauty. Consider the difference between Eve and Mary. Eve basically said No to God. Mary said Yes.
Mary was a woman whose passion was God. She kept that fire burning for the Lord. Let God keep your fire burning. In The Pilgrim’s Progress, there was such a great little illustration of a fire, but then there was a man pouring water on the fire. Instead of it going out, however, it grew brighter. Evangelist said, “Let me show you what’s happening behind the scenes.” It showed a man with a little oil can, representing the Holy Spirit, pouring oil on the fire. And just as Satan is always trying to douse your fire, the Holy Spirit, the Lord, will keep pouring oil on your fire. An unattended fire will soon become a pile of ashes. We don’t want that. Mary kept her heart for the Lord.
Mary was a woman of praise. Mary magnified the Lord (Luke 1:46). He gave her beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness (Isaiah 61:3). Oh, I love that. Praise will keep you above the mundane. Praise will keep you above the storms. You know, life can be mundane and stormy, but praise will keep you above it. You can either look at God as nowhere or slide the “w” over: God is now here. How cool is that?
Now here’s the part that is hard. Mary was definitely a woman of pain—pierced and perplexed. Mary, whose name means sorrow or bitterness, had much pain along the way. Wow, but she did count the cost. Amy Carmichael said, “Do you not have any wounds or scars? Then maybe you couldn’t have really followed very far.”
Now there stood by the cross of Jesus His mother (John 19:25a). “Yes, a sword shall pierce through your own soul also” (Luke 2:35). Wow. Can you even imagine her at the cross? Can you imagine her pain? She probably wanted to give Him a drink of water. “Can I just help Him?” She stood there and she didn’t want Him to feel bad for her. In the Greek, John 19:25 reads, “She stood with strong composure.” Have you ever been somewhere and didn’t want them to see you cry? That’s how it said she stood there: “I don’t want Jesus to see me. I don’t want to cause Him more pain.” Can you imagine her sorrow seeing Jesus on the cross?
But you know what? God makes no mistakes. We might think at this point all we see is right now. Why is Jesus on the cross? Why is this happening? Why did I ever say yes? I am sure that was going through her mind. What was I thinking? But here is a great comfort: God often uses people greatly after they have been broken the most. If you’ve suffered greatly, you’re going to have a ministry. Sorrow? He will turn your sorrow into a song, your mess into a message, and your test into a testimony. How great is that! Broken hearts minister to broken hearts.
He is so wise. We can trust what He does. He makes no mistakes. Know He is doing an eternal purpose. He is doing something eternal. Keep eternity in mind. So Mary rejoiced.
Mary was a woman of prayer. Satan trembles when he sees the weakest Christian on his knees. After the resurrection, we see Mary in the upper room praying with everybody (Acts 1:14). The church’s prayers are the lifeblood of the church. When we look at what is happening in the world, we don’t want to watch the news for the rest of our lives! Someone said, however, “Things are not falling apart, they are falling into place.” It might look like evil is prevailing, but God is in control. Let’s just pray, pray, pray.
We don’t preach ourselves but Christ crucified. Did you know, ladies, that you and I can be like Mary today? You can bring forth Jesus wherever you go! How great is that? He is going to send you to places, and through your obedience, you can either bring forth yourself or you can bring forth Christ. Paul said, “I don’t preach myself, but Christ crucified” (1 Corinthians 1:23). But we have this treasure in earthen vessels (or clay pots, cracked pots), that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us (2 Corinthians 4:7). We always carry about in our body the dying of the Lord (2 Corinthians 4:10). Remember, the more you die, the more the fruit, the flower, and the fragrance is going to come forth. So you are like Mary. We can spell “JOY” from the first letters of the words: “Just Our Yieldedness.”
Copies of Karen’s book, Mary—A Fresh Look at the Familiar: A Christmas Message, may be obtained at CC Old Bridge, NJ, ccob.org, for a suggested donation of $5.
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
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