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Archive for December, 2012

Promises Fulfilled

Luke 1:67-80

 

“His father Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied: 

 

‘Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, 

because he has come and has redeemed his people. 

He has raised up a horn of salvation for us 

in the house of his servant David 

(as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), 

salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; 

to show mercy to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, 

the oath he swore to our father Abraham: 

to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and 

to enable us to serve him without fear 

in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. 

 

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; 

for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, 

to give his people the knowledge of salvation 

through the forgiveness of their sins, 

because of the tender mercy of our God, 

by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven 

to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, 

to guide our feet into the path of peace.’ 

 

And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel. 

 

I love music.  Too often I hear the melody and pick-up the beat, only to miss the message of the lyrics.  Quite often, I do not listen to the lyrics.

 

Years ago when we remodeled the sanctuary of the church I was serving, we put in the latest multi-media technology in order to project the words of hymns, songs, and scripture onto a screen for the congregation to sing and read.  

 

Two things happened when we did this.  First, the congregation sang better.  Second, the congregation paid closer attention to the lyrics of what we sang and to the words of scripture as it was read.

 

Also, God began to speak to me through music in ways which I never anticipated.  It has become a tremendous blessing for me.  I use to sing and not pay attention. Now I sing and hear God speaking to me.

 

Many people read poetry this way, they skim it mindlessly and miss its meaning.

 

Do you remember any of the words you read from Zacharias’ song above?  Or, did you fly through it reading it as a simple song of praise from a Dad about his boy.

 

Zacharias’ song speaks of redemption, salvation, fulfillment, forgiveness of sin, mercy, light, and life.  He summarizes the work of God completed in the coming of Jesus.

 

His song has lyrics worth knowing.

 

Did you hear God speaking through his song or did you simple see words without meaning?

 

Zacharias’ song is worthy of your attention.

 

Prayer: Today, I ask you to pray through Zacharias’ song, stopping to thank God for what He has done for you through Jesus.

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Good Gossip and Appropriate Questions

Luke 1:65-66

 “The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, ‘What then is this child going to be?’ For the Lord’s hand was with him.”  (NIV)

 A very good friend who always has accurate sources told me that her neighbor who is a secretary  in an office which is next door to the FBI that  …… and the story spreads.

We love breaking news.  We love being able to tell others news they have not heard.

Facebook and Twitter provide the capability to spread gossip and news at break neck speed.  I am amazed at some of the news which people send me.

Back in biblical days, the news could spread just as quickly, especially when people saw the hand of God at work. 

For nine months Zacharias was silent, now he spoke to confirm the naming of his son, John, instead of Zacharias, Jr.  

Why had God struck Zacharias mute?

Why was his son not being named after his father?

Why was the boy named John, which means, Jehovah is a gracious giver?

Elizabeth and Zacharias and their medicare baby, a gift from God. Something was happening!  God was at work!  

Everyone wanted to know what happened and what it meant!  The people in biblical days saw the world as the Lord’s place.  They knew and believed that God had a hand in what happened in the here and now.  

The secular and profane may well be the sacred and profound!

We have become so cynical and insensitive in our world that we not only miss God’s work, we fail to look for it and to wonder about it. 

Look around you today.  You can see the hand of God at work.  He has a Word for you!  

Take time to be still and know that He is Lord!

Prayer:  Lord, I have too much to do to today.  Slow me down.  Give me eyes and ears to see and to hear You in the world around me so that I may see the work of your holy hands and be filled with the glory of holy wonder.  Amen

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SPECIAL NOTE:

Today on my other WordPress Blog, Reclamation 316,

I have posted my preaching notes for today’s sermon Reflections on 2 Tragedies,

which will be about the two tragedies affecting our community this week,

the REACT Helicopter Crash and the Tragedy in Connecticut. 

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Released for Praise and Witness

Luke 1:57-64

When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.  Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy. 

On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zacharias, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” 

They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.” 

Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child.  He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”  Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God.  (NIV)

Talking with Robert on the telephone always drove me crazy.  You’d ask him a question and there would be this incredibly long silence.  So long, you’d cave in to the temptation to ask him, if he was still there.  His response was, “I’m thinking!”

His silence was always a test for me.

If Zacharias and Elizabeth were the typical couple, I am sure that there were times when Elizabeth wished he’d speak up.  Likewise, I am certain that Zacharias enjoyed being the clam.

He couldn’t speak and she couldn’t get a word out of him.  I can only imagine the 9 months of silence was torturous for both.

It was not until Zacharias was obedient to God’s Word “name him John” that he was able to talk again.

I wonder what the world would sound like if only people who were obedient to God’s Word would be able to speak aloud.  The sounds of silence would change our world and hopeful reform our disobedience.

But when Zacharias was able to speak, he praised God in word and song.  When his son John (the Baptist) spoke as God’s servant during his ministry he bore witness to the greatest news every heard.

Some people heard his words, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” and prepared their hearts for God’s coming.

They were blessed.

What have you said today?  What have you heard?

Prayer: May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. Amen. (Psalm 19:14)

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Spiritual Friendship

Luke 1:56

 

Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home. (NIV)

 

My Mom use to say, “Guest like fish stink after 3 days!”  

 

I wonder what Mary smelled like after spending 3 months with her pregnant older cousin?

 

I bet she came up smelling like roses!

 

Through out my ministry I have always been in a covenant group with other Christian friends.  These groups have met regularly for fellowship, bible study, conversation, and prayer. 

 

In each group we have formed spiritual friendships which hold us together as we go through our daily grind with its ups and downs.  I have been through some tough times, my spiritual friends were there every step of the way.  God has blessed me through them

 

Spiritual friendships – everyone one of us needs them – brothers and sisters who love the Lord and love us – brothers and sisters who will comfort us when afflicted and afflict us with God’s Word when we become comfortable in our sin.

 

Elizabeth had Mary, Mary had Elizabeth.  Both were gifts from God for each other.  

 

Elizabeth had someone to talked to since her husband Zacharias had been muted by God.  Mary was blessed by the counsel of the older and wiser Elizabeth.

 

Spiritual friendships are built intentionally.  Mary went off to Elizabeth’s, traveling over hill and dale to be with her.  She stayed more than 3 days and God blessed her.

 

Prayer:  Lord, I know I will run into someone today who needs a friend to listen, to pray, to counsel, to support, and to encourage with your love and Word.  Stop me in my tracks is I am tempted to run rather than to linger.  Amen.

 

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Blessings Go Beyond You

Luke 1:50-55

“His mercy extends to those who fear him, from generation to generation. 

He has performed mighty deeds with his arm; 

He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. 

He has brought down rulers from their thrones; 

He has lifted up the humble. 

He has filled the hungry with good things 

He has sent the rich away empty. 

He has helped his servant Israel, remembering to be merciful to Abraham and his descendants forever, even as he said to our fathers.”   (NIV)

God did a great thing for Mary, but He did a more wonderful thing for all of us.

This is how God works!

He blesses us in order to become a blessing to others through us.

Anyone who has ever read Genesis 12:3, knows this.

God believes in the trickle down effect.

God blesses those who pass on blessings they receive, rather than those who clutch their blessings.

There are two types of prayers in the world.  Those who pray for themselves and those who pray for others.  The happiest ones are the ones who are always praying God’s blessings for others.

Mary thanked God for what she did … for the world … giving mercy, doing mighty deeds, lifting up the downcast, filling hungers, and remembering His merciful promises.

Christmas can be either a season for getting or giving.

While we nurture the getting in children with stories of Santa’s sleigh ride, we find boorish those who think only about what they can get,

Mary was blessed because God knew she was willing to be a servant, that one day she’d have to give up her child for the salvation of the world.  She did!

Her giving spirit became the source of eternal blessing for you and me.

No wonder we call her, “Blessed.”

Prayer: Lord God, please give me the spirit of giving and sharing so that I may become a vessel for your blessing of the world.  Amen.

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The Power of Praise

Luke 1:46-49

 

“Mary said, ‘My soul glorifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant. From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me, holy is his name.’”  (NIV) 

 

 

Dr. David Crawford spent his Sundays serving as a guest preacher in churches everywhere.  He was a gifted preacher.  I wish I could preach as well as him.

 

David had a particular habit for which he was best known.  He would sing as loud as he could.  In congregations large and small with brash organs and quiet pianos, you could hear David’s voice singing above everyone else.

 

However, David could not keep pitch or make melody.  He was always off key and either a note ahead or behind.  When people suggested that he sing a little quieter, he sang louder.  

 

While David was a rotten singer, he was a fantastic praiser.

 

David said, “I come to worship to praise God, not to sing for you!  I am so filled with joy and gratitude each time I come into the presence of my Lord that I can do nothing other than praise him loudly!”

 

Churches always invited him back to preach, despite his disruptive singing.

 

Mary was moved to praise not because she had been chosen, but because God had chosen to send His one and only Son to save us from our sins.  For centuries God’s people had waited for God’s chosen One, the Messiah, to come.  God was finally sending the Savior.  Mary’s was moved to joy, so she praised Him.

 

When I remember the reason for our praise – rejoicing in our salvation – and when I remember my friend David and his unabashed spirit of praise, I must confess my puzzlement when Christians do not sing loudly in worship.  

 

If you are praising God, your singing ability does not matter.  

 

In worship praise Him loudly, you’ll be making heavenly music!

 

Prayer: Lord of my salvation and joy,  help me to become so conscious of what you have done for us and so unconscious of my voice that in worship I will praise you loudly and make heavenly music even if I cannot sing.  Amen

 

 

   

 

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The Blessing of Belief

Luke 1:45

“Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment 

of those things which were told her from the Lord.””  

(NKJV)

Consumer confidence is in the tank!  The stock market can’t get out of its funk!  People are hesitant to spend, even if they have the funds!

The current phase of economic doubt is causing a downward spiral that is affecting all of us.  Someone said that the best solution was for everyone to spend their money to bolster the economy and reverse the downturn.

The doubters scoffed and are holding sway.

Doubt never blesses!  Being in limbo wondering if something is true, is never fun.  Lack of trust, confidence, or faith is never a positive.

Mary was blessed because she believed God would keep His Word and fulfill His promises.  In Isaiah 55:11, God promises, “My word … will accomplish what I desire.”  Mary knew this!

This is faith!  Not mere belief in God, but belief that He will keep His Word, fulfill His promises!

In Luke 1:45 the Greek word for fulfillment, tĕlĕiōsis, is the key word in the text.  Mary had confidence in God, in Gabriel’s message.  She knew she could trust the promise, that she could act on the promise.

In Hebrews 11:1 we are taught, “Faith is being … certain of what we do not see.”

All of us are men and women of faith!

Without faith we would not be able to function.  If I did not have faith in the brakes on my car, I would not use the accelerator.

This issue of faith is not whether we have faith, but in what/whom have we placed our faith!

Mary’s faith is in God’s Word, His promises, His power, His love, His ability.  She was blessed because of her faith.

Her faith gave her the ability to sing her Magnificat of Praise to God.  Most of the miserable people I see lack faith.

Prayer:  Faithful Lord,  forgive me when I wallow in the misery of doubt, of half-hearted faith.  Please give the gift of faith in You and Your Word, so I can sing as Mary sings in Luke 1:46-55.  Amen.

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