Unafraid: Trusting the Lord
By Lauren Burnette
“The angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.’
And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’
And the angel answered her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy--the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.’ And Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.’ And the angel departed from her.”
--Luke 1:30-38 (Read Luke 1)
Recently, I decided to read both the Gospels of Luke and John, focusing on the foundational teachings of Jesus and the Good News that they offer us today. When I started reading the first chapter of Luke, I was blown away by what God was already teaching me, and I was specifically amazed by Mary’s acceptance of Gabriel’s message from God.
It was crazy to me that Mary did not hesitate to trust God’s plan for her. The angel told her she would mother the Son of God, yet she was young, unwed and a virgin. A pregnancy would change everything; this pregnancy could hurt the view others had of her and her relationship (and upcoming marriage) with Joseph.
However, despite all of these potential negative consequences, Mary automatically proclaimed herself a servant of the Lord.
She acknowledged God’s sovereignty and goodness in her situation. This level of trust that she had in God and in His plan for her was deeper—is deeper—than any we are able to have in other people. And when I read this passage, God put a desire in my heart for a trust that deep.
The season of life I am in right now has not been easy. The medical school application process has been draining, emotionally taxing, and at times, has left me feeling completely helpless. Medical school admissions committees are currently making decisions about my future. Decisions that I have no control over will determine where I spend the next four years and whether I will have to find a new church and a new community. I am terrified and have been struggling to trust God, to remember that he knows what’s best for me, even if what’s best is not at all what I want.
It is by reading this passage in Luke that I am once again reminded that God is a part of those decisions, and God has a beautiful purpose for me regardless of the outcome. I am trying my best, yet still often failing, to follow Mary’s example: to fully trust God in all of His decisions for my life and to truly submit my life to being a servant of the Lord.
God continues to grow my trust in Him and remind me that I am able--and that He is calling me--to give Him control.
Today, I encourage you to meditate on Mary’s courage and her steadfast trust in God. In what areas of your life do you need to fully submit yourself to God and trust Him more? How can Mary’s submission to and trust in God be a model for you in your own life?
—Lauren Burnette serves on Cornerstone Leadership as member of Discipleship Team.
Acts of Obedience: Loving the Law
By Savanna Lattanzi
“Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?”
--James 4:11-12 (Read James 4)
When I became a Christian early in high school, my strategy was to play defense. I focused my energy on forming arguments which would not only validate my faith to others, but also those which would defend my opinions against other Christians. I sought out arguments to back up conclusions I had already come to before I knew the Lord. I had, and still have, a lot of pride. I didn’t yet understand that faith often means saying, “I don’t know, but I know God does”.
Because of this, I had a bad habit of judging if others around me were ‘real Christians,’ and at my worst, I even vocalized that feeling. I failed at loving Christians and non-Christians alike, and I had very little capacity for grace. Mistakes were lethal in my mind. I pondered the state of salvation of everyone around me and determined that the outlook was not good.
Luckily, the compulsive need to defend myself and effectively debate propelled me towards scripture. I surrendered more and more of my life to the Lord, knowing everything mattered less.
I asked the Lord to break my heart and make my will like His.
And when I did that, two things happened.
First, the Lord convicted me. In the midst of knowing that none of us measure up, I learned to love the law. Every day I spend time with the Lord, I feel like I understand more about His justice and goodness. I’ve become more sensitive to the evil that has emanated from the Fall and have begun to sincerely ask the Lord what I should do about it. If I’m honest, at first my flesh didn’t like a lot of things in scripture. The Bible is often countercultural, and sometimes I felt like God couldn’t possibly mean what was written. I still struggle to submit fully to the Lord in a lot of areas, but making an effort to give my feeble convictions to Him has made all the difference.
Internalizing the truth that the Lord holds me in the palm of His hand--even when I end up being wrong--has been game-changing.
Second, the Lord equipped me to love others a million times better. My heart has been softened by drawing closer to Him. He has taught me about His love for humanity, causing my compassion to grow immensely. The ability to recognize evil in the actions of others and nevertheless offer grace, frankly, is not a natural gift of mine. Chances are, it might not be yours either. Learning the ways of the Lord through scripture and prayer is the best way to start working on that.
So today, let’s take a small step together towards growth. Read the first chapter of Romans or John or Proverbs—or really anything. Pray over the scripture when you’re finished. Such simple acts of obedience will make all the difference.
—Savanna Lattanzi serves on Discipleship Team and is a Small Group Leader on Cornerstone Leadership.
By Morgan Crane
“So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts. Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, and they are full of greed. That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught about him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitudes of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
--Ephesians 4:17-24 (Read Ephesians 4)
It is a new year, a new semester, and a new day. With all of this “new” comes, for each of us, the opportunity to live a life that looks more like God than it did in the years, semesters, and even days prior.
This passage from Ephesians 4 invites us to reflect on our relationships with God and others. We must ask ourselves, to whom and to what is my heart hard? What does it mean, in my life, to unlearn the world?
What does it mean to learn God and His ever-holy attributes?
My heart is hard to a lot of people, namely my parents, and my heart is hard to the God who calls me to see them first as His children. My mom and dad are not Christians, and since I became one in high school, I’ve resented my somewhat isolated faith. I had the church, of course, and the Spirit at all times, but I always wanted my home to be a sanctuary and parents who were spiritual leaders, who would pray with and for me and seek the Lord’s wisdom in how to love and discipline me. Mom and Dad never met my expectations for godly parents, but this does not justify the disrespect and impatience I’ve shown them.
I believe that unlearning the world, in my case, means putting aside passive aggression and resentment. It means choosing to be an example of God instead of greed and entitlement. It means not responding to situations with the world’s reflexes. It means refusing the notion that my parents’ words are empty without knowledge of God. I am the closest Christian to my parents, and my relationships with them matter. My attitude toward them not only affects our relationships with each other, but each of our personal relationships with God.
Learning God and His attributes means being a vessel for God’s love and instilling a culture of prayer and sacrifice in our home.
It means valuing my parents’ experiences and illuminating how God was and is present in them. It means being willing to take on the role of humble teacher when God calls for it.
I want to hope that my parents will know the Lord and that they will be with me in paradise; I am still in the refining furnace that will make this hope possible. Tomorrow is a new day.
I hope that you, too, will dwell on this passage and ask yourself what it truly demands of you. To whom and to what is your heart hard? What does it mean, in your life, to unlearn the world? What does it mean to learn God and His ever-holy attributes?
—Morgan Crane serves on Cornerstone Leadership as member of the Cross-Cultural Ministry Team (CCM).
Cornerstone Leadership members will write a weekly devotional during Spring 2021.