“In love, He predestined us for adoption.”
Eph 1:4-5 NIV
We all have a need to belong to be part of a family. One pastor writes: “I know couples with hearts of love who yearn to focus it on some little one, but no little one arrives. When these couples find children to adopt, they don’t tell the children they’d better measure up to expectation if they want to stay in the family. There’s no such thing as three strikes—then back to the agency. No, they accept them with open arms and joy-filled hearts because they love them. They take them into their homes forever, give them the family name, and make them legal heirs.” Long before we even knew we needed God, He predestined us to adoption as sons [and daughters] by Jesus Christ” (NKJV). Earthly parents get divorced, go separate ways, and start new families. But not God; you never have to worry about your standing and relationship with Him. Regardless of race, color, creed, or background, when you repent and accept Christ as your Savior, your adoption becomes binding and permanent. You’re part of His family. And to prove it, “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16 NKJV). Do you realize what that means? You never again have to walk around feeling intimidated and fearful, or live under a cloud of condemnation, because you are a child of God and a “fellow [heir] with Christ” (v. 17 NAS). The word “heir” means you can claim every blessing and benefit Christ purchased for you at the cross. Every single one without exception.
“Elizabeth’s child leaped within her.”
Lk 1:41 NLT
Here’s an interesting chapter in the Christmas story—one that teaches us about “spirit friends.” The Bible says: “A few days later Mary hurried to the hill country of Judea…She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth. At the sound of Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth’s child leaped within her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth…exclaimed to Mary, “God has blessed you above all women, and your child is blessed…Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then went back to her own home” (vv. 39-42, 56 NLT). Besides being cousins, Mary and Elizabeth were “spirit friends.” They didn’t just connect socially, they connected spiritually at a deeper level. That’s why Mary “hurried” to see Elizabeth, and why she spent three months with her. It’s also why Elizabeth confirmed the miraculous purposes of God that were being fulfilled in Mary’s life and commended her for her obedience. When God introduces you to someone who has been touched by His Spirit and carries within them a vision that’s conceived by the Holy Spirit, reach out to them, treasures them, and build a relationship with them. The connection between these two women didn’t take place because they were part of the same family. The truth is, sometimes our families are the first to criticize us and the last to understand us. Notice, when Mary greeted Elizabeth, the unborn child within her leaped in her womb. How do you recognize a “spirit friend?” When they speak, something within you will resonate. That’s because you are both filled with the same Holy Spirit and empowered to do God’s will.
“How can this happen?”
Lk 1:34 NLT
The Bible says, “Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you” (vv. 34-35 NLT). Has God been telling you things He wants to do through you, but you’re looking at yourself and thinking, “How can this happen?” You’re saying, “I don’t have the training, the resources, the skill, or the connections. And I certainly don’t have the strength to accomplish it alone.” If you’re wondering how God will bring it all to pass, remember that He will accomplish it! No one else will get the credit. How will it happen? The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (v. 35 NLT). The Holy Spirit can impregnate you with a vision, inspire you with creative ideas, introduce you to the right people, and empower you to do the job. God had a unique plan for Mary, and He has one for you too. You aren’t privileged to see the future and you don’t knoll that God has in store for you—but He has a plan. After the angel spoke to Mary, notice what she said: “Be it unto me according to thy word” (v. 38). Not according to your social status, or your job resume, or your finances, or what you deserve. No, “Be it unto me according to thy word!” Was that easy to say or believe? No, she was taking an extreme risk. To be pregnant and unmarried brought dire consequences in those days. Yet she gave herself willingly to God—and the results were miraculous. And God can do the same for you.
“We have different gifts, according to the grace given us.”
Ro 12:6 NIV
Insecure people often say yes, when in reality they’d like to say no. But people who succeed at being themselves don’t let others control them. They see themselves as God sees them; therefore they’re led by His Word instead of the fear of rejection. You can invest so much effort into trying to keep everybody happy that you end up losing yourself. Question: Do you feel like you can’t be everything everybody wants you to be? Do you want to say no, but the fear of displeasing others makes you keep acquiescing? And in the meantime, the pressure is building inside you and you’re thinking, “I can’t do this anymore?” Don’t get angry with those who keep making more and more demands on you. You are responsible for ordering your own life. The buck stops with you! That requires a clear sense of your own worth, your calling, your direction, your goals, and your priorities. One Christian author writes: “For years I lived under the pressure of everybody’s expectations. I thought, “What if I let them down?” I thought they were pressuring me when in reality it was my own fears and insecurities weighing me down. “But,” you say, “don’t you care what others think?” What others think isn’t my problem, unless I make it my problem. Pleasing God and being what He wants is my first concern. If I try to be anybody else I’ll forfeit His blessing, because God can’t bless an imitation.” The solution is to work on becoming secure in who you are in Christ, and everything else will begin to fall into place.
“Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins.”
Pr 10:12 NKJV
When you hold on to resentment it feels like there’s a war going on inside you. You’re in a battle with yourself, as well as others. And the more you fight, the more ground you lose. Arguing just drains you of energy and leaves you more hurt and angry. You’re in a no-win situation. You struggle with who’s right and who’s wrong. You spend so much time trying to out-do, out-shout, and out-maneuver others that you lose your peace and joy. End the conflict now! Refuse to live this way another day. Don’t allow someone's actions to determine your reactions. “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1Pe 5:8 NIV). Don’t become Satan’s next meal. Let the love and peace of God fill your mind so much that it overflows to others—including those who have upset you. Stop and think: Do you really want to be like the person who hurt you? What would Jesus do? You know! He’d turn the other cheek (See Mt 5:39). “But,” you ask, “what about the wrong done to me?” What about it? It’s not for you to impose judgment. There’s only one qualified judge; let Him handle it (See Jas 4:12). Ask God to help you to release your anger, turn the other cheek, and forgive the one who has done you wrong. Pray this simple prayer: “Lord, I’m angry. Help me to let it go. I choose to be merciful. Thank You for giving me the grace to forgive the person who hurt me and to follow You. In Jesus’ name: Amen.”