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Happy Mother’s Day.  Do you all know Mother’s Day had its origin in WV?  In 1907 Ana Jarvis, from Philadelphia, began a campaign to establish a national Mother’s Day. Ms. Jarvis persuaded her mother’s church in Grafton, West Virginia to celebrate Mother’s Day on the second anniversary of her mother’s death, the 2nd Sunday of May. By the next year Mother’s Day was also celebrated in Philadelphia. Ms. Jarvis and her supporters began to write to ministers, businessman, and politicians in their quest to establish a national Mother’s Day. It was successful as by 1911 Mother’s Day was celebrated in almost every state. President Woodrow Wilson, in 1914, made the official announcement proclaiming Mother’s Day as a national holiday that was to be held each year on the 2nd Sunday of May. It’s important to have a day to recognize the contribution our moms have made in our lives.  A teacher gave her class of second graders a lesson on the magnet and what it does. The next day in a written test, she included this question: “My full name has six letters. The first one is M, and I pick up things. What am I?” When the grades were all in the teacher was astounded to find that almost fifty percent had written in, “mother.” Moms do pick up things.  They pick up little ones who can’t walk.  They pick up children from the bus stop and school and dance and soccer. They pick up the slack when kids forgot to do their homework and it’s 8:30 p.m.  They pick up on signs that their kids need a hug or a talk or a trip to the mall.  They pick up dinner on their way home from work.  They pick up their kids’ friends to take them to church.  They pick up toys and laundry and backpacks.  They pick up all kinds of things that aren’t theirs to carry, but they carry them as if they were their own. Thanks, moms, for the way you pick us all up. The message this morning isn’t a Mother’s Day message per say, but the biblical character I’d like to talk about is a wonderful mother.  Turn to Luke’s first chapter where we read about a young girl, Mary, who became Jesus’ mother.  She was available for God to use. Luke 1:26-38 In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.” 29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God. 31 You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” 34 “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon 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. 36 Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month. 37 For nothing is impossible with God.” 38 “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. Romans 12:1-2 1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Silent Prayer Mary was an available and living sacrifice.  What do we know about Mary? She was a Jewess of the tribe of Judah, a descendant of David, and a virgin. She was engaged to a carpenter in Nazareth named Joseph, and apparently both of them were poor. Among the Jews at that time, engagement was almost as binding as marriage and could be broken only by divorce. In fact, the man and the woman were called “husband” and “wife” even before the marriage took place. Since Jewish girls married young, it is likely that Mary was a teenager when the angel appeared to her. People who are available for God to use believe God’s Word. The King James Version of this passage says that Mary replied to the angel, “May it be unto me according to your Word.”  Verse 45 of Luke 1 tells us that when Mary went to rejoice with her older cousin Elizabeth, Elizabeth knew Mary had embraced God’s Word and plan for her.  She said, “45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!”” What did May have to believe?  What was the Word of God for her? 35 The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon 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. Verse 37-She had to believe that nothing was impossible with God.  She had to believe the impossible was possible. When the angel spoke Mary knew what would happen, but she did not know how it would happen. Her question in Luke 1:34, “How can this be since I am a virgin,” was not an evidence of unbelief; rather, it was an expression of faith. She believed the promise, but she did not understand the performance. How could a virgin give birth to a child?  That’s a legitimate question. You see, available people ask questions rather than makes excuses. Mary could have said, “But Gabriel, I’m planning a wedding.  I’m too busy to be “overshadowed” right now.”  She could have said, “I’m probably not the best choice to mother the Messiah.  You might want to stop by Maria Schlomheimer’s house. She’s far more religious than I am.”  She might have said, “That’s not in my five year plan.”  She could have said, “I’m not ready to be a mom.”  But she didn’t say any of those things.  She knew that if God was speaking, she could trust Him to be accurate and she could accept Him at His Word.  She just needed to ask questions in order to understand how this plan would unfold. Gabriel explained that this would be a miracle, the work of the Holy Spirit of God. Joseph, her fiance’, would not be the father of the child, even though Jesus would be legally identified as the son of Joseph. She would be the mother of the Messiah, Jesus-who would save us from sin. I’m not saying she jumped for joy regarding the plan or the altering of her life forever.  I’m not saying she went and told fifty of her closest friends what God was about to do, but I’m saying that when the angel told Mary that with God all things are possible, she knew that whatever happened to her as a result of this Word from God, it would be alright.  She was submissive to whatever it entailed because she trusted the Word of God. God is looking for some people this morning who would believe that all things are possible. The heavens and the earth were created in less than a week from nothing by the voice command of God because with God, all things are possible. Because of the wickedness of humanity, God destroyed the earth through a global flood, but saved Noah and his family in an ark that floated for approximately 370 days before that family and two of every kind of animal disembarked because with God, all things are possible. Joseph who was sold into slavery and counted as dead by his family was eventually appointed by the Pharaoh to be the Czar of Egypt, second in command to the Pharaoh himself even though Joseph had to go to prison in order to get there because with God, all things are possible. Moses, who was a stutterer and slow of speech, became the negotiator for the Israelite hostage crisis when through a series of miracles Moses led the Israelites out of Egyptian slavery because with God, all things are possible. Three of God’s chosen servants Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were thrown into a fiery furnace to be put to death for their faith in God wound up walking around in that fire and came out without even a hint of smoke on their clothes because with God, all things are possible. A little shepherd boy killed a threatening giant named Goliath and wound up as King of Israel because with God all things are possible. Do you believe this morning that all things are possible with God?  In the book of Luke, we read about Peter taking Jesus at His Word in chapter five.  Peter and his buddies had been fishing all night and had caught nothing.  They were “done.”  Tomorrow would be a new day, but they were in closing up shop mode when Jesus came by.  They were washing their nets.  They would stretch them out and leave them to dry.  They were finished. Have you ever been just “done” with something, fed up and tired of trying?  Even if it means postponing the agony to the next day, you just need a break from whatever isn’t working?  Doesn’t it just grate on your nerves when a “know it all” comes on the scene and says, “Why don’t you try it this way?” or “It would be a lot simpler or if you would . . .”  When you’re at the point where you’re just “done” it’s often hard to take someone’s advice. When Jesus told the disciples to haul the equipment back out onto the sea, Peter was quick to explain that he didn’t think it would do any good.  After all, who knows more about fishing?  A fisherman or a carpenter?  It’s alright to offer our opinions to God.  Peter exercised his right to offer his opinion, but he quickly then exercised his faith.  He said, “Nevertheless, at your Word, I’ll let down the nets.”  The NIV says, “Because You say so, Jesus, I will let down the nets.”  The rest is history.  The haul of fish was spectacular.  It was miraculous.  What an amazing catch!  Though it defied common sense and was contrary to all of Peter’s experience, He was willing to believe Jesus and take Him at His Word. What would have happened if Peter had never said “nevertheless?”  You know it is possible to shut out God’s Word and to drown out His voice.  But why do that?  It only takes one word from Jesus to totally change your life for the better. But that word has to be obeyed before there is an outward demonstration of His promise. The Word of Jesus often cuts across logic, and we have to make a conscious decision as to who or what we will obey. Are we willing right now to put aside our reasonings and excuses, and say, “Nevertheless at Your word I will . . . ” ? When we take God at His Word, we are releasing Him to be all He wants to be in our life. When He says “today,” He doesn’t mean “tomorrow.” When He says, “I will provide for you,” He doesn’t mean you “Go out and beg”! He wants us to learn to trust and prove the truth of His Word! He is God! Do not doubt Him. Your miracle is on the other side of your obedience. Before Peter could become the miracle working preacher that he became, God had to see if he could be trusted to obey simple commands like, “Let down your nets.” When Peter trusted himself to an illogical word from the mouth of Jesus, he experienced a tremendous life-changing miracle that released him into a totally new life-style to the glory of God. So did Mary.  How about you? Has the Word of Jesus had that kind of impact on you? That is where the answer to your needs lay. In Matthew 17:20, Jesus says, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you. ” God chose Mary because she believed that God could do anything through a yielded vessel and God is still searching for people that He can trust with His Word.  He is still searching for people that He can deposit His Spirit into.  He is still looking for folks who are up for the excitement, thrill and adventure that come when a person will believe that God can pull off the impossible.  If God speaks it, you can do it.  Witness to that friend in a cult.  Start a Bible study in your work place or school or neighborhood.  Invest financially in the Kingdom of God.  Start a new ministry.  I Thess. 5:24, “Faithful is He who has called you and He will do it.”  You’re just a vessel.  You’re just a conduit.  God’s Word and power will flow through you to accomplish what He asks you to do and beyond that, we will receive a tremendous blessing.  Look at what Elizabeth said to Mary about the way she treated God’s Word.  Luke 1:45  “45 Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!” Available people offer their whole selves and lives to God. Motherhood is a lifetime commitment.  Once you have a child, you are a mother for the rest of your life.  Some of you who are parenting those toddlers and are looking ahead to age eighteen thinking emancipation day is on its way, it is not so.  Once a mother, always a mother.  It’s a lifetime commitment.  Hannah wrote me a Mother’s Day letter.  Down the side of the paper, she drew flowers that were connected one to another.  In her letter she said, “The flowers are connected forever just like you and me.”  It’s forever.  Even in the case of Mary who had to watch her son die, (and I know some of you have had to bury your children) you continue to nurture and hold them in your heart forever. Motherhood is an emotional commitment.  When you think of what Mary signed on for when she took God at His Word, it is astonishing.  A young unmarried girl who became pregnant risked disaster. Unless the father of the child agreed to marry her, she would probably remain unmarried for life. If her own father rejected her, she could be forced into begging or prostitution in order to earn her living. And Mary, with her story about being made pregnant by the Holy Spirit, risked being considered crazy as well.  I’m sure there were those who were never convinced that Mary hadn’t cheated on Joseph and that she had engaged in sexual sin. Still Mary said, despite the possible risks, “May it be to me as you have said.” What about the emotional turmoil she would have endured as Jesus was rejected.  I struggle when one of my kids comes home and through tears tells me that someone said they don’t like them anymore or don’t want to be friends with them anymore.  Talk about pulling on your heartstrings.  Jesus’ endured far more than childhood bullying.  He was completely rejected by those who said they would follow Him to the end.  He was tortured and humiliated.  He was killed.  His mother stood by and watched.  What an emotional mess she would have been.  How completely devastated and totally crushed.  Yet she stood there and watched and loved Him as He completed the Father’s mission. Motherhood is a physical commitment.  Not only did Mary go through the process of carrying and giving birth to Jesus, but she was there to feed him, nurture him, wash his clothes, and care for him in every way a mother cares for a child.  It’s physically demanding to be a parent.  Mary had no idea how much responsibility she was taking on, no idea how much physical energy would be invested and certainly no idea how much emotional pain she would endure when she said, “Be it unto me according to Your Word,” but because she was submitted to God, she didn’t have to have all of those answers up front. Motherhood is an intellectual commitment. I’m telling you, you have to be three steps ahead of each child you have because they will find every loop hole and think of everything you never thought of to warn them against doing.  It’s using your mind daily to ask God to give you wisdom.  You don’t want to get it wrong.  If you are a parent, parenting is the most important thing you will do as a steward of Jesus Christ.  Your mind has to be sharp.  You have to be alert.  You have to use godly wisdom in order to train your child up in the way they should go. When Mary became available to God as a result of hearing His Word, she offered herself body, mind and spirit.  Some people might want to know if they become available to God exactly what that will mean.  What will it cost?  Where will it take me?  What will it require of me?  Not Mary.  She held nothing back.  She was a Romans 12:1-2 Christian before it was even written down.  1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Here we see we are to offer our bodies to God.  Old Testament sacrifices were complete.  The entire animal was devoted to the sacrifice.  It was entirely consumed by the fire.  Romans 6:13 says we are to yield our bodies to the Lord to be used as “instruments of righteousness.” We offer our bodies as living sacrifices.  When the Jews offered a victim for sacrifice, they killed it and presented it dead.  It could never be presented again.  However, we have the pleasure of daily saying, “Use me, Lord.  In this body, use me.  I volunteer each day for your service.  Over and over, daily, I am yours.”  As God renews and sustains us each day the sacrifice continues. Just like Mary’s sacrifice, our bodies are involved.  So, too are our minds involved.  Romans 12 says we are to offer our minds to God in order to be renewed by God’s truth.  Do you know that there is a battle going on for your mind right now?  You won’t feel like doing right if you don’t think right.  There is a pattern of thinking that is not like God’s thoughts.  It is the pattern the world is following.  It’s far more than if it “feels good do it” mentality.  There is a conscience effort to assassinate you in your mind by redefining what is “acceptable.”  In the King James Version of Romans 12, it reads, “ And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” In our parenting we use that word.  We teach our kids that there are things that are acceptable for the Pratt family and things that are unacceptable.  We also teach that there are things that are acceptable for God’s people to participate in and there are things that are unacceptable.  The Bible says that our minds must be transformed to understand what is acceptable.  Only then will we offer the living sacrifices that are holy unto God. There may be people in Maine and other states writing laws to legalize homosexual marriage, but their law writing doesn’t change the truth.  Marriage was designed by God.  It is and forever will be between a man and a woman.  Truth can never be changed.  It can’t be, but there is a fierce effort to try to do so.  We have to have our head in the game, church.  If there was ever a time to make up your mind not to go with the flow, it is now. I’m urging you as a minister of the gospel to run away from anything that competes for your mind.  Video and computer games that get you focused on death, demons and destruction are part of the world’s pattern and Satan’s plan.  TV shows that transport you into a fantasy la la land where someone is shacking up with someone else’s spouse and lies and deceit are what is needed to keep the story line going are part of the world’s pattern and Satan’s plan.  Exotic women popping up in the corner of your computer screen enticing you to email and hook up just because you haven’t take the precaution of getting the right filters put on your computer are part of the world’s pattern and Satan’s plan.  “Sexting” which is sending sexually suggestive text messages to people on their cell phones are part of the world’s pattern and Satan’s plan to distract and destroy you.  Let me just tell you the truth.  Sex outside of the bounds of marriage is a cheap imitation which will leave you guilt ridden, full of shame and with the possibility of physical problems and an unwanted pregnancy. “I can’t believe she said all of that from the pulpit.”  Listen church, the world is screaming lies to our kids and to this culture.  It’s time the church stands up and speaks up in order to shut up our enemy.  Tune it out.  Turn it off.  Take it out of your house.  Open the Word and be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Mary knew the Word of God.  I know that because in Luke 1:46-56, she used at least thirty phrases that were Old Testament truths.  She could accept God’s Word when the angel spoke because she had built her life on the foundation of God’s Word. The word “mind” in Romans 12 means more than intellect.  It involves your will and your affections.  You can’t truly change externally until you change in your mind.  An external change without a change in your mind is just hypocrisy. This presenting of your body and your mind and your emotion, Romans says, is your “spiritual act of worship.” After Mary got the news from the angel, she went to her cousin, Elizabeth’s house.  Verse 46 shows us this principle about worship and sacrifice.  In verse 46, Mary burst out in worship and praise to God.   46 And Mary said: “My soul glorifies the Lord 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, 49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me– holy is his name. There is no worship without sacrifice.  Only because Mary had presented herself to God, only because she had believed in her mind and heart the truth of His Word, only because she made her body available was she able to offer true worship to God.  Because when you make yourself available to God as a living sacrifice, the way He overshadows you, the way He empowers you, the way He impregnates your life with purpose if you will, the way He moves in and through your life-it’s the most awesome experience this life offers.  There is nothing like it.  Your heart will be full of emotion and praise and thanksgiving and humility.  Your lips will have to praise Him. So what about you?  Will you make yourself available today, body, mind and spirit?  Will you take God at His Word?  If you are willing to be used by God in a new way and with new intention and a new surrender, I invite you to come as we sing.
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