Our story of Elizabeth and Zechariah continues in Luke 1:11-25. Zechariah was serving in the temple and the angel Gabriel appeared to him and told him about his coming son, John. But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for 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 before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel 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 parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”
Zechariah’s reaction to the angel had been fear but to his message – it was doubt. Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.” Gabriel was not pleased and sentenced Zechariah to silence as he awaited the birth of his son because of his unbelief. The angel said to him, “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 appointed time.” Zechariah reacted in unbelief instead of remembering the miracles God has performed in the past with godly women like Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, and Sarah, the mother of Isaac.
Let’s look at Elizabeth’s reaction to the news. “The Lord has done this for me,” she said. “In these days he has shown his favor and taken away my disgrace among the people.” Luke 1:25 Elizabeth responds with grace and thanksgiving to the favor God showed her.
What about you? Do you respond with unbelief when God works a miracle in your life like Zechariah? Or do you respond with grace by giving thanks and praise to God like Elizabeth? We know from this story that God desires faith not doubt. James 1:6 “But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.” Zechariah’s disbelief left him literally speechless for months. God desires that we be strong, grounded in Him and filled with faith, not wavering in unbelief. Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:25 how it really is, “ Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Will you step out in faith this Christmas and respond to Him with grace and thanksgiving in your heart for what He has done in sending Jesus or will you doubt? The choice is yours and it has eternal results. Unbelief will result in eternal separation from God, not just 9 months of silence. Turn to Him in faith today and be like Elizabeth responding in praise with thanksgiving and grace. God wants to bless us through our faith- be open and responsive to Him today this first Sunday of Advent.
This year I want to focus on the characters, people, in the Advent story. God chose them to show us characteristics of our own character that He wishes to develop in our lives. Prior to Jesus’ birth, his earthly cousin’s birth was foretold. He was the man who came to be known as John the Baptist. His parents were elderly and were of the priestly line. “When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron.” Luke 1:5 They had no children as Elizabeth was barren. Luke 1:6 describes them, “ Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations.” God chose godly righteous people to be John’s parents. God wanted John to have training in the Law of Moses and grow with respect and love for Him. Zachariah and Elizabeth carefully obeyed God’s laws and sought to please Him in all they did. God knew they would train young John in the same way. Being righteous means to be in right standing with God, virtuous.
What about you? Would God choose you for a special project because he needed someone who was righteous? How do we become righteous? Jesus told the crowds in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6:33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Jesus told us to seek His righteousness first. Romans 3:22 tells us “This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” Through faith in Jesus is how we obtain right standing (righteousness) before God. The method of righteousness that Zachariah and Elizabeth used to attain righteousness was by keeping the Law. That way no longer applies to us as Christ provided a better way thought faith in His death and resurrection. Philippians 3:9 “and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith—” Do you have righteousness that comes through faith in Christ? God wanted to use righteous Zachariah and Elizabeth. We must have saving faith the brings God’s righteousness to us, then God will use us for His purposes and our good. Know Jesus today- it is a good way to start the season, wearing His righteousness. Show others the righteousness of Christ in all you do. That is the project He has for each one of us.
Today is the official beginning of the Advent season. Is this day special to you? I have several reasons for loving this day. First, my daughter arrived from Korea on this day many years ago. I instantly became a mother and sought to bond with this child I had so desperately wanted. I had loved her before I met her, loved the idea of her, but having her with me in the flesh was amazing and so fulfilling while scary and fun all at the same time. Second, as I opened my self to writing for the Lord this day launches me into thinking daily about Jesus’ arrival, his sacrifice, the beauty, majesty and miracle of His arrival and how His arrival has changed the world. Advent is so much more to me now and I count the days until Christmas with greater expectation. I pray these blogs will help draw you closer to Him this season.
Jesus was speaking to a crowd and saw the weariness in their hearts. He wanted to encourage and reassure them that He could satisfy their needs and give them rest for their souls. Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (NLT) Jesus is calling us today to come to Him, find strength, comfort, inspiration, direction, purpose and a pathway to righteousness. He wants to teach us through His Word and walk beside us to lighten our burdens. Will you join me in drawing nearer to the Lord Jesus this Advent Season and seek to see that He is calling us to that place of rest too? He bids us COME to Him. He desires us to Come to Him this season. Are you willing?
Psalm 145: 1-10 gives a beautiful word picture of our Thanks to God.
A psalm of praise of David.
1 I will exalt you, my God and King,
and praise your name forever and ever.
2 I will praise you every day;
yes, I will praise you forever.
3 Great is the Lord! He is most worthy of praise!
No one can measure his greatness.
4 Let each generation tell its children of your mighty acts;
let them proclaim your power.
5 I will meditate on your majestic, glorious splendor
and your wonderful miracles.
6 Your awe-inspiring deeds will be on every tongue;
I will proclaim your greatness.
7 Everyone will share the story of your wonderful goodness;
they will sing with joy about your righteousness.
8 The Lord is merciful and compassionate,
slow to get angry and filled with unfailing love.
9 The Lord is good to everyone.
He showers compassion on all his creation.
10 All of your works will thank you, Lord,
and your faithful followers will praise you. (NLT)
This will be my last post in this Thanksgiving Series. It has brought me greater appreciation for Jesus and what He did and does for me and leads me towards greater thankfulness. This poster sums up our continual need to be thankful regardless of our circumstances. I hope this sentiment is now a part of you after spending these weeks talking about thankfulness. Our hearts need to be set on thankfulness.
Advent begins December 1 and I will be blogging about the people involved in the Christmas Story of our Lord Jesus’ arrival on earth and how they each exhibited godly character that God would like to see in each of us. I believe it will be an uplifting perspective on Christ’s arrival. See you Friday December 1.
What causes you to be thankful? There are lots of sites, things and people that bring a smile to my face but what gives you the most gratitude in your heart? God’s Word gives us the ultimate reason to give thanks in Colossians 2:6-7 “Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.” Paul was teaching the Colossians that the freedom they have in Christ will cause them to be grounded and not easily swayed by the world. They will be able to live full lives because God lives within them and empowers them to live for Him. By faith in Jesus they can walk with Him daily. Paul reminded them and us that the result of an empowered and indwelt life would be thankfulness. Having Christ with you 24/7, guiding, protecting, building you up, and loving you would result in great thanksgiving.
Is that true of you? Do you live with thankfulness in your heart because of what Jesus did and continues to do in and through your life? Ask yourself-am I abounding in thankfulness? Abounding means having thanks in great quantity, being rich in thankfulness, being filled, teeming with thanks. If you are struggling to abound in thanks think on a few of the things Christ did and is doing for you: He provided the way for my salvation from God’s wrath through His death on the cross, calls me a member of His family, gave me eternal life, is accessible to me 24/7, will never leave me nor forsake me, gave me citizenship in heaven, intercedes for me before the Father, gave me His Holy Spirit to indwell me, and He promises a life that is full, abundant and rich in love. Take a minute today to thank Him for being the reason for your abundant and abounding thankfulness. He is worthy.
A lesson and truth I received from the scripture we studies this month on cultivating a habit of thankfulness in our lives was this: Thankfulness has a powerful affect on me and all those around me.
How have you seen this to be true this season of thanksgiving? Is your mindset towards thanks contagious? “How we thank God for you! Because of you we have great joy as we enter God’s presence.” 1 Thessalonians 1:9 Paul felt that the thanks he had for his fellow believers, for their faith and love for God, caused him to rejoice. He saw God working in their lives and this brought joy and thankfulness to his own worship. I would call that contagious thanks. Have you ever been thankful for someone or something and it caused you to give thanks to God? As we live our lives, we need to look for those things that God gives us that create ‘contagious thanks’ within our hearts. As we give thanks to Him in these situations, God will faithfully create in us a thanks that will be contagious and will result in our being in a constant state of thankfulness and joy. Paul left the Thessalonians with these words in 5:16-18 “ Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”
Develop that attitude of gratitude and watch it grow in your own life and then watch it rub off into the lives of those around you.
Blessings on this Thanksgiving Day to you and yours! We have much to be thankful for personally, as a family and as a nation. Thanks be to God for His provision and love as we gather around our tables. May we offer Him praise and honor from our lips.
Psalm 7:17 “I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness;
I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High.”
Psalm 100:4-5 “Enter his gates with thanksgiving
and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name. For the Lord is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations.”
David was thankful for the very character of God. He praised Him for his righteousness, sovereignty, goodness, love, eternity, and faithfulness.
I am thankful that God is good and that He intends good for me. In all situations I can depend upon His goodness and know that He alone can work all things for His good and mine. Nahum 1:7 “The Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him,” and Romans 8:28 “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”
What about you? What attribute of God’s character do you hold most dear? Are you thankful that He never changes and is not whimsical or fickle about who He loves and when? Are you thankful that He is accessible 24/7 in prayer and He can and does always hear you? Spend a few minutes today thinking about God’s character and how your life would be different if God was not who He is.
Thanks be to our immutable, accessible, holy, redeeming, protecting, all-knowing, loving, faithful and righteous God. Praise and thank Him today!
Yesterday in Sunday School I was asked to have each child write a letter expressing what they are thankful for. I am thankful for…… Sometimes on Thanksgiving we will go around the table and say what we are most thankful for that year. Here are a few of mine for this year: I have loved this year’s blogs as I have been able to express my love and devotion to God leading up to Lent, my growth in understanding of what He has given me through my identity in Christ and my inheritance and now expressions of thanksgiving all month long. I will end the year with Advent blogs focusing on His Grace and Mercy in sending Jesus to save us from our sins. I am blessed with family, friends, ministry, purpose and Hope in Jesus.
What about you? How would you fill in the blank- I am thankful for_______. David was described as a man after God’s own heart. He had a great sense of love and appreciation for all that God had done for him. He was a simple shepherd boy, Mighty in faith, that God used to lead the nation of Israel. Here is his proclamation: 1 Chronicles 16:8-9
Give thanks to the Lord and proclaim his greatness.
Let the whole world know what he has done.
9 Sing to him; yes, sing his praises.
Tell everyone about his wonderful deeds.
David knew what God had done for him and praised Him for His gracious provision.
Will you follow his lead and proclaim the wonders that God has done for you this year all this week?
Praising Him who blesses me beyond measure,