“The Girl’s Response” ( Luke 1: 46 – 49, NEB ) by Carley Evans

“And Mary says, ‘Tell out, my soul, the greatness of the Lord, rejoice, rejoice, my spirit in God my saviour; so tenderly has He looked upon His servant, humble as she is. For, from this day forth, all generations will count me blessed, so wonderfully has He dealt with me, the Lord, the Mighty One.’ ”


Mary recognizes the greatness of her God. She knows His tenderness; that He deals with her wonderfully. She claims Him as her saviour; and calls herself His servant. She displays humility even as she knows “all generations will count [her] blessed.” She rejoices from her very core.


In a word, Mary worships her God, who now dwells within her.

“Freedom From Our Minority” ( Galatians 4: 4-5, NEB ) by Carley Evans

Paul writes of a minor being under the guardianship or tutelage of a trustee “until the date fixed by his father.” (Galatians 4:2) Until that date, “the heir” “is no better off than a slave, even though the whole estate is his.” (Galatians 4:1)


Then Paul announces, “And so it was with us.” (Galatians 4:3) Paul says that like the minor heir, we were under the control of “the elemental spirits of the universe” until “God sent His own Son” “to purchase freedom” for us. (Galatians 4:4, 5) God’s Son, Jesus is “born of a woman, born under the law” so that He is able to set us free from “our minority” “in order that we might attain the status as sons.” (Galatians 4:4,5) We are set free from the law of sin and death, having “put on Christ as a garment.” (Galatians 3:27)


If we are sons clothed in Christ, says Paul, “then [we are] also by God’s own act [heirs].” (Galatians 4:7)


“Now that [God] acknowledges [us] — how can [we] turn back to the mean and beggarly spirits of the elements? Why do [we] propose to enter into their service all over again?” asks Paul. (Galatians 4:9,10)


Paul continues, “You who are so anxious to be under law, will you not listen to what the Law says?” (Galatians 4:21) He goes on to discuss in great detail the difference between the two sons of Abraham, “one by his slave and the other by his free-born wife.” (Galatians 4:22-23) We are of “the heavenly Jerusalem” which is “the free woman; she is our mother.” (Galatians 4: 26) We are “children of God‘s promise.” (Galatians 4:28) “Christ sets us free, to be free men. Stand firm, then, and refuse to be tied to the yoke of slavery again.” (Galatians 5:1)

“Bring Them To Jesus” (Matthew 14:17-20, NEB) by Carley Evans

‎” ‘All we have here’, they say, ‘is five loaves and two fishes.’ ‘Let Me have them’, He replies. So He tells the people to sit down on the grass; then, taking the five loaves and the two fishes, He looks up to heaven, says the blessing, breaks the loaves, and gives them to the disciples; and the disciples give them to the people.”


Jesus tells His disciples not to send the hungry people away; instead He commands them to feed the five thousand men not to mention their women and children who are scattered along the hillside. Jesus tells the men “to sit down on the grass.” He says, “Take a seat, relax. We’re going to make sure you all have something to eat, and even more than you need.” Can’t you just see the smile in Jesus’ eyes as He says this to the crowd?


The disciples are incredulous. “We’ve only got this little bit of food. This is not even enough for us! And you want to share it with all these people? No way, Lord.” Can’t you just hear the whine, the anxiety in their voices as they say this to Jesus? What He is asking of them is just too much!

Jesus’ response is: “Bring them to Me.” He tells the disciples to give over what they have to Him. “I’ll take care of the hard part,” He says.


Then He prays over the five loaves, breaks them into pieces, gives the pieces of bread to His disciples who scrounge about for enough baskets to hold all the bread Jesus continues to hand back to them.


The little we give to Jesus comes back to us in ever abundant amounts. Not only do we gain what we need, we gain more than we need. [And for leaders, that which they give to Jesus He asks them to give back to those they shepherd. And everyone will have more than enough!]

“Apart From Jesus” ( John 15: 5, NEB ) by Carley Evans

Jesus says, “I Am the vine, and you are the branches. He who dwells in Me, as I dwell in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.”


Jesus confirms for us that without Him, apart from Him we have no power, no ability, no hope. We can literally do nothing — nothing for ourselves, nothing for others, and certainly nothing for Jesus. Without Jesus, we wither. Withered branches do not bear fruit. They “are heaped together, thrown on the fire, and burnt.” (John 15:6) In one sense, withered branches are destroyed not because they are “bad,” but because they are worthless.


When attached to the vine, branches produce fruit. “This is My Father’s glory,” says Jesus, “that you may bear fruit in plenty and be My disciples.” (John 15:8)


Jesus tells us we also gain His own joy, a complete joy. We also, as we remain attached to Him, are capable of loving one another. Jesus shows us the greatest love — the love that allows Jesus to lay down His life for us. Jesus tells us, “You did not choose Me; I chose you.” (John 15:16)

“Who Is My Neighbor?” ( Luke 10: 29, NIV ) by Carley Evans

“But he wants to justify himself, so he asks Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”


Jesus replies with the story of the Jewish man who “falls into the hands of robbers. They strip him of his clothes, beat him and go away, leaving him half dead.” (Luke 10:30) So, this man lies naked along the side of a road. “A priest happens to be going down the same road, and when he sees the man, he passes by on the other side.” Apparently, this priest not only goes on his way, but he deliberately avoids the man likely by crossing to the other side so he will not have to look at the man who is half dead. A Levite comes along, and also makes a concerted effort to ignore and avoid the half dead man.


But, a Samaritan – a hated enemy of the Jew — upon sighting the bleeding, dying man takes pity on him. He goes to him, bandages his wounds after “pouring on oil and wine. Then he puts the man on his own donkey, takes him to an inn and takes care of him.” (Luke 10:34) He pays the innkeeper “two silver coins” to “look after him.” (Luke 10:35) He also promises to repay any extra expenses when he returns. He has no intention of going on his way without a planned return to check up on the injured man.


It’s likely the innkeeper is surprised to find a Samaritan helping a Jew. And imagine the bewilderment the Jewish man will feel when he finally recovers, perhaps even encountering the Samaritan upon his return to the inn.


Today, the event Jesus describes might be akin to a Muslim who stops to help a Christian. This Christian is bleeding to death from being mugged and stabbed in a city alley. A pastor might pass by, crossing to the other side of the street. A judge might avoid the bleeding man. But, a Muslim stops to help. He bandages the man, carries him to his own car, takes him to a local emergency room where he guarantees payment to the intake personnel at the front desk.


Seeking to justify ourselves, we may say that the Muslim is not our neighbor, but our enemy. Jesus contradicts us.

“Death Defying Feat” ( John 11: 25, NEB ) by Carley Evans

“Jesus says, ‘ I Am the resurrection and I Am life. If a man has faith in Me, even though he die, he shall come to life; and no one who is alive and has faith shall ever die.’ “


Here Jesus does seem to be saying that with a proper amount of faith, one need not die. And of course, since Jesus says that faith as small as a mustard seed can accomplish the placement of a mountain into the sea, it does seem possible to forestall or perhaps completely eliminate death.


Nevertheless, in this context, we find Jesus comforting Martha, who has just lost her brother Lazarus to the grave. Martha has confirmed to her Lord that she knows He can ask anything of God the Father and it will be done. She also acknowledges that Lazarus will rise “at the resurrection on the last day.” (John 11:24) Jesus tells her that she need not wait. Lazarus will rise from the dead now. Jesus confirms His power over death; that the grave is incapable of holding those who belong to Christ.


Mary, the sister of Martha, also acknowledges that if Jesus had been present, Lazarus would never have died.

Seeing Mary’s sadness, Jesus weeps for her, for Martha, for Lazarus and I do believe for Himself — for He has lost a good friend and brother.


Jesus commands that the stone be removed; then He prays. “Did I not tell you that if you have faith you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40) He commands Lazarus to “Come forth.” (John 11:43) Lazarus obeys, walking out of his grave.


Jesus commands, “Loose him; let him go.” (John 11:44) Death releases its captive.

“Safe Passage” ( John 10 : 7 – 10, NEB ) by Carley Evans

“So Jesus speaks again: ‘In truth, in very truth I tell you, I Am the door of the sheepfold. The sheep paid no heed to any who came before Me, for these were all thieves and robbers. I Am the door; anyone who comes into the fold through Me shall be safe. He shall go in and out and shall find pasturage. The thief comes only to steal, to kill, to destroy; I have come that men may have life, and may have it in all its fullness.’ ”


Jesus speaks of the thief climbing over the wall to enter the sheepfold in another way. The thief enters the sheepfold in order “to steal, to kill, to destroy” the sheep — sheep which do not belong to him. The thief is not the door into the fold. He is the one who must climb into the fold in an unorthodox way. He is actually most likely the “wolf in sheep’s clothing,” trying to fool his neighbors into believing he is one of them.


Jesus says His sheep do not pay attention to others, but only to Him. His sheep hear His voice, and follow Him into a safe pasture. There, in safety, Jesus’ sheep have the fullness of life.


This life is possible because Jesus is the door to it. The sheep are able to “go in and out” without fear of getting lost. Once a sheep has located the door, who is Jesus Christ, the pasture is easy to find. The world is no longer a dark place for the light shines through the door. Safe passage is guaranteed.

“Wandering In The Dark?” ( John 8 : 12, NEB ) by Carley Evans

“Once again Jesus addresses the people: ‘ I AM the Light of the world. No follower of Mine shall wander in the dark; he shall have the Light of Life.”


Notice John emphasizes that Jesus speaks “once again”.  Jesus continually tells the people the same truths: the world is wrapped in darkness, and He is the only light source.


As a matter of fact, when a person who is blindfolded or in a dense fog is directed to walk in a straight line from point A to point B, the person will start out relatively straight but gradually begin to turn until he is walking in complete circles, eventually winding up where he began, at point A. All the while, the person will strongly believe he is walking in a straight line. Only after the blindfold is removed will he realize that he had no sense of direction and was literally wandering in the dark, wandering in circles — going absolutely nowhere.


Take off the blindfold, remove the dense fog and the person is able to walk in a relatively straight line. Now the same amount of effort is put forth by the person whether he is blindfolded or able to see. In both conditions, the person is moving forward. The difference in the outcomes is the difference between the conditions of darkness and Light.


So, when we are “followers” of Jesus Christ, we walk in a straight line not due to our forward motion or our own efforts, but because we have the Light source needed to arrive at our destination.

“God’s Purpose Will Not Fail” ( John 1: 1 – 3, NEB ) by Carley Evans

John tells us: “When all things began, the Word already was. The Word dwelt with God, and what God was, the Word was. The Word, then, was with God at the beginning, and through Him all things came to be; no single thing was created without Him.”


Paul reiterates that “it is in Christ that the complete being of the Godhead dwells embodied.” (Colossians 2:9)

Therefore, since Christ is God, “our release is secured and our sins are forgiven through the shedding of His blood.” (Ephesians 1:7) “In Christ indeed we have been given our share in the heritage, as was decreed in His design whose purpose is everywhere at work.” (Ephesians 1:11)


We need not worry. “We are citizens of heaven, and from heaven we expect our deliverer to come, the Lord Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 3:20) “The Lord is near; have no anxiety.” (Philippians 4:6)


“Of one thing I am certain,” writes Paul, “the One who started the good work in you will bring it to completion by the Day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6)

“No Place For Human Pride” ( 1 Corinthians 1: 30, NEB ) by Carley Evans

“There is no place for human pride in the presence of God.” (1 Corinthians 1: 30)


When Jesus heals a demon-possessed man of his blindness and deafness, the Pharisees say, “It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons.” (Matthew 12:24, NIV) Jesus tells them, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters. And so I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven.” (Matthew 12:30-31, NIV)


In His hometown, Jesus offends His neighbors — people who’ve known Him all His life. Jesus says, “Only in his hometown and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” (Matthew 13:57, NIV)


The Pharisees complain against Jesus’ disciples, accusing them of not washing their hands before eating. Jesus replies, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3, NIV) He reminds the Pharisees that they avoid financially supporting their own mothers and fathers via setting aside money as a gift to God. “Thus,” says Jesus, “you nullify the Word of God for the sake of your tradition.” (Matthew 15:6, NIV)


The Pharisees and Sadducees ask Jesus to “show them a sign from heaven.” Jesus tells them, “you know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given except the sign of Jonah.” (Matthew 16:1,3-4, NIV)


Human pride is reflected in each of these encounters. The Pharisees are awash with self-righteousness and self-aggrandizement. Jesus says, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who does not receive the kingdom of God like a little child never enters it.” (Mark 10:14-15, NIV)


In the presence of Jesus, there is no place for human pride.