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Archive for December, 2012

Entertaining Angels

Luke 1:39-44

At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea,  where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth.  When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!  But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy.” (NIV)

Benny ran an old fashion gas station in Ponca City, OK.  While all the other stations were building convenient stores with self-serve gas pumps, Ben kept his old building with two pumps.  Ben had the business.

Ben pumped the gas, visited with his customers, knew their children and pets by name.  He’d always ask about them.  If you forgot your wallet, he’d say, “Pay me later.”  He never kept records of your unpaid purchases.

Ben was an Elder.  When he retired he became our Parish Visitor.  He visited each of our 51 shut-ins once a week.  Ben would visit for five minutes, pray the Lord’s Prayer, then leave.  In contrast I visited our shut-ins 4 times a year, stayed for an hour, and served communion.

When children would visit their shut-in parents, they always heard about Benny’s visits.  “He’s always here visiting,” would be the report.  Never a mention of my long, thought-filled, but less frequent visits.

Benny was their angel, always there, always visiting.  When he visited eyes sparkled, cheeks glistened, and hearts leapt for joy.

I love email and voice mail – its fast, convenient, and unobtrusive.  But I must be honest I love a personal hand-written note, even the two sentence ones, and an unplanned drop-in personal visit, far more.  When I am blessed with these, my heart leaps for joy.

In Hebrews 13:1-2, we are instructed, “Keep on loving each other … do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it.” (NIV)

It’s Christmas.  Trees and homes are decorated with angels.  They are all so beautiful, but they do not move hearts.

Become a visiting angel and watch the hearts of the lonely (and yours) leap for joy.

Prayer:  Dear Lord, I am rushing today and I am short on time. Help me to slow down, to fret less, and to become a visiting angel today.  Help me learn that leaping hearts mean more than checking off items from my “To Do” List.  Amen.

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May It Be as God has Said

Luke 1:38

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May it be to me as you have said.” Then the angel left her. (NIV)

The most difficult skill for many children to learn is how to ride a bike.

As I pushed my three year old son down the street on his bike without training wheels, he screamed, “Don’t let go!”  He was convinced that if I let go he would be mangled forever!

Of course, I screamed back, louder than him, “Keep pedaling and you’ll be fine!”

I’m certain neither of my boys remember this wonderful experience.  Thankfully, they eventually did what I asked.  They are still here, living proof that my words were true!

For God, there is not a sweeter sentence than Mary’s 9 words to Gabriel, “May it be to me as you have said.”

Imagine what a wonderful world it would be if, when God said, “Love your neighbor as yourself!  There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends!” everyone simply responded, “May it be to me as you have said.”

Imagine what a wonderful world it would be if, when God said, “whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me!” everyone simply responded, “May it be to me as you have said.”

Imagine what a wonderful world it would be if, when God said, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.  Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.  Live in harmony with one another.   If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.” everyone simply responded, “May it be to me as you have said.”

I now know what God wants from me for Christmas – “May it be to me as you have said.”

Prayer:  Dear Lord, give me the faith to say “May it be to me as you have said.” whenever you ask me to be your servant in your world.  Amen.

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Nothing Is Impossible with God

Luke 1:34-37

 

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” 

 

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. 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. For nothing is impossible with God.” 

 

Believers are always under-estimating God!

  • Sarah laughed when God said she would have a child in her old age;
  • Moses knew he could not free the people much less speak a coherent sentence;
  • Jonah was convinced that the people of Nineveh would not repent.

 

Most Christians

  • Have never tried to move a mountain by faith for fear of failing; 
  • Won’t act until they have faith the size of a watermelon, when all they need is faith the size of a mustard-seed;
  • Have never anointed and prayed for the sick because is feels too much like magic.

 

We convince ourselves that God is not able, that God is weak, and that God does not know what He is doing because we are not able, we are weak, and we are clueless.

 

We expect no more from God than we do ourselves.

 

We are constantly asking God, “How will this be, since I am ….”

 

As long as we are the subject, we will fail.

 

God calls us to dispense with faith in ourselves and have faith in Him!

 

As a pastor, I often hear parishioners say to me “I can’t” as they excuse themselves from serving Him.  

 

One of these days I am going to let it fly and say, “You are darn right you can’t!   But I am not asking YOU to do it!  I am simply asking if you will let GOD use you to do what He wants through you!”

 

Next time when God, or the church, or the Pastor, or a neighbor, or a friend, or a stranger, or an enemy asks you to do something, instead of saying, “I can’t” why not say, “I will, if you will pray with me that the Holy Spirit will come over me –  nothing is impossible with God!  

 

Prayer: Mighty God, forgive for all the times I have said I can’t” do you when all you wanted me to say is, “use me Lord!” Amen.

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The Great One

Luke 1:31-33

 

“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  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, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

 

 

Give him the name of Jesus.  The name means “God saves!”

 

Our country is looking for a Savior these days.  

 

Can our President save us from the problems which beset us?

 

Presidential candidates win the elections by telling us that he would save us by doing things differently than the current President, whom we elected years ago to save us from the problems which beset us then.  

 

We hope for the change they promise to bring, and then, hope that the change they brought will be changed by another.  Every 8 years we are thankful that our Presidents do not reign forever and that their kingdoms will come to an end.

 

God’s people begged Samuel to beg God to give them a King so they could be like all the other nations.  Samuel protested.  God said, “Give ’em what they want!  They’ll come begging for relief!”

 

They had one great king!  King David built the nation strong, but he was besot with his own sins.  

 

Gabriel did not tell Mary that Jesus would be like David.  He simple told her that the Lord would give Jesus the throne of David.  David ruled over God’s people.  He led them into a time of plenty (green pastures) and security (so it was safe to eat at table in the presence of enemies).

 

Mary’s son was destined to be he Shepherd of God’s people, leading them into green pastures, still waters, and right paths.  

 

However, Mary’s baby would do something David could not do.  He would save them from their sins.

 

Mary’s baby – Shepherd and Savior.  

 

He will be great!!!!!!!!!!!

 

We need Him now more than we need a great President.

 

Follow Him, not them.

 

Prayer:  Gracious God, I need your Shepherd Savior.  We need Him.  May He come again, soon.  Amen.

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Favored by God

Luke 1:26-30 

 

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 

 

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”  Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 

 

But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.

 

 

When I was ordained as a Minister, I was scared to death.  Halfway through the Ordination Service, I became overwhelmed by the immensity of the task before me.  I realized that I was not qualified for the task for which God had chosen me.  If I had been able, I would crawled under the pews to the back of the sanctuary and ran away.

 

For Gabriel to tell Mary not to be afraid while at the same time telling her that she had found favor with God seems contradictory to me.  

 

I am still awe struck that God places upon me the responsibility to preach the truth of His Word.  Every Sunday before heading to the Sanctuary to preach I pray a simple prayer:  “Lord, I am not worthy to preach your Word, please speak and work through me today.”  Thankfully, God does His work quite well.  

 

I understand Mary’s anxiety.  

 

My soul has always been troubled whenever the Lord has favored me into a situation to be His shepherd and His servant.  I tell friends that as a Pastor, I am an over-promoted sheep.

 

It is the promise of two New Testament scriptures which sustain me through those times when God calls me to do His work.  

 

In Matthew 28:20 Jesus tells us to serve Him and promises, “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

 

In Hebrews 4:16, God tells us that as we serve Him we can “approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

 

God has always kept these two promises when he has favored me into His service.  He will do the same for you.  Do not be afraid!

 

Prayer:  Father in Heaven forgive me when I am overwhelmed and tremble in fear when you favor me into your service.  Help me to yield to your presence and power working through me.  Amen.

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Speechless

Luke 1:18-23

 

Zacharias asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” 

 

The angel answered, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.  And now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this happens, because you did not believe my words, which will come true at their proper time.” 

 

Meanwhile, the people were waiting for Zacharias and wondering why he stayed so long in the temple.  When he came out, he could not speak to them. They realized he had seen a vision in the temple, for he kept making signs to them but remained unable to speak. (NIV)

 

 

Periodically someone will text, call, or email me with unbelievable news about an engagement, multiple births, a sports victory, a special deal, etc.  I often find myself saying, “Get-out!  You’re kidding!  I don’t believe it!  I won’t believe it until I see it!  I heard that before!”

 

Frequently I learn my friend was telling the truth, as I would expect, but … … …! You never know when someone is pulling your leg.

 

On one hand it would be easy to criticize Zacharias for not believing Gabriel when he told him that he and Elizabeth, in their Medicare years, were going to give birth to a son.  Much less, that this son would be such an important servant of the Lord, that he would be a prophet to prepare the way for the Messiah.

 

I would have been so shocked, I would have been too speechless to argue with Gabriel.

 

Zacharias wanted to believe Gabriel, but he found the message too inconceivable, so he asked for a sign.  The sign was speechlessness for 9+ months.  

 

Here was a man who had just been given incredible personal and universal news that God was preparing to do something wonderful for the world and God left him speechless.  It would kill me to be unable to tell the world what God was doing.  

 

But, when Zacharias exited the Temple after a long time in prayer and when he was speechless, the people waiting for him knew something happened inside.  The people were buzzing with excitement and anticipation.  

 

We know God has plans to redeem the world when Jesus returns.  We just don’t know when.  

 

Like Zacharias, let us worship and pray while we wait.  Maybe God will leave you speechless one day when you leave His holy presence and Good News will abound.

 

Prayer:  Faithful Father, Zacharias went to do his duty even when he had lost all hope for a child.  Then you in your marvelous grace spoke to him, fulfilled his dreams, and ours.  You left him speechless.  Lord, may I be so faithful in my prayer and worship that one day you will leave me speechless and full of Good News.  Amen.

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A Servant of the Lord

Luke 1:15-17

 

He will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth.  Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God.  And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord. (NIV)

 

 

Parents have dreams for their children long before they are born.

 

I never asked my parents what their dreams were for me.  I was a good student, but not a great scholar.  I have made enough, but not millions.  I had 15 minutes of fame which made them proud, but I also did things which caused them shame.  

 

My wife and I have two boys.  We were the typical suburban parents with high expectations for our kids.  It could not have been easy for them all these years.  But I must tell you what I tell everyone, “We have been blessed with two wonderful boys!”  

 

God tells Zacharias that his son will:

  • Be great in God’s sight;
  • Be filled with the Holy Spirit;
  • Will bring God’s people back to Him;
  • Turn the hearts of fathers to their children;
  • Make ready a people for the Lord.

What a blessing!

 

When I told my parents I planned to go into ministry they ….!  It was not part of their dream for me.  After officiating at my grandmother’s funeral my Dad paid me the greatest compliment he could saying, “Now I know why you are in ministry!”

 

He let go of his dream for me for His dream for me!

 

God our heavenly Father dreams that all his children become a servant of the Lord!  

 

Servants come in a sundry shapes and sizes, serve in various vocations, and enjoy eclectic economic blessings.  Some live to a ripe old age.  Others die young in the midst of their service.

 

God wants you to be his servant – to be filled with His Spirit, to bring His people to Him, to have a heart for His children.  

 

This could be your gift to the Lord this Christmas – letting God work through you to be a blessing to His people.

 

Prayer:  Lord, make me your servant.  Let me be to you as Jesus was for me.  This Christmas I will give myself to you as a living sacrifice.  May you be pleased with my service.  Amen

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