Advent…Unbelief or Belief, Your choice

Scripture tells us that Zachariah was a godly man, followed the law and was blameless. He was a man of faith and lived his life devoted to serving God. What happened next surprised me, but when I think of my own faithlessness and doubts it shouldn’t. Zechariah let doubt and unbelief take hold of his thoughts and mind and here is the result. Luke 1:18-22 from The Message translation.

18 Zachariah said to the angel, “Do you expect me to believe this? I’m an old man and my wife is an old woman.” 19-20 But the angel said, “I am Gabriel, the sentinel of God, sent especially to bring you this glad news. But because you won’t believe me, you’ll be unable to say a word until the day of your son’s birth. Every word I’ve spoken to you will come true on time—God’s time.”

21-22 Meanwhile, the congregation waiting for Zachariah was getting restless, wondering what was keeping him so long in the sanctuary. When he came out and couldn’t speak, they knew he had seen a vision. He continued speechless and had to use sign language with the people.

Zachariah heard the message from Gabriel about the son that would be born to he and Elizabeth, and he did not believe God capable of making that happen. He let the fact that he and Elizabeth were old be greater in his mind than the resources and power of God. Gabriel saw and heard his unbelief. Unbelief is sin and sin has consequences before Almighty God. Gabriel did not strike him dead but touched him in a way that Zachariah would know beyond a doubt that God was in control and He is not to be doubted. Later in our story Mary questions Gabriel, but her questions do not come from unbelief or doubt in God’s ability to make it happen like Zachariah. God is okay with questions but not with unbelief. So, Zachariah’s ‘punishment’ would be his inability to speak, since the words of doubt came out of his mouth, until the baby was born. My guess is that immediately Zachariah knew his error in judgement and went from doubt to faith in a heartbeat. Now he had to live with the consequences of his unbelief until the birth of his son.

The crowds were waiting outside the temple for the priest to come out from offering prayers and they immediately knew something had happened to Zachariah. His gesturing showed he could not speak but probably there was a look on his face that revealed his wonder at the encounter with an angelic being as they concluded he had seen a vision from heaven. What outward signs are evident in your countenance that you have been with God after a time of prayer? Does your prayer time give you peace and hope? Do you allow this peace to be expressed towards others?

This real life story of godly Zachariah speaks to my heart as I see my own doubts and fears lived out by him. I am reminded of the scene from Mark 9:23-24 where Jesus helps a mute, demon possessed child brought by his father after the disciples had failed to cure him. He came seeking Jesus’ help and wondered if He could cure him. “What do you mean, ‘If I can’?” Jesus asked. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” 24 The father instantly cried out, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!”

I am so with the father of this child as I too pray for Jesus to help my unbelief. Prayer changes things and helps us to solidify our faith as God speaks to our hearts and minds and reassures us of who He is. When you find yourself overcome with doubt, be like this father, pray for Jesus to help you overcome your unbelief. He will answer as you seek to know and trust in Him.

Linda

Advent Teaches about Attitude

Mary’s story has so much to teach us I wanted to spend another day looking at the scripture of the Angel Gabriel’s visit to Mary and her response. Here is our scripture passage, Luke 1: 26-38 , in the Amplified translation. 26 Now in the sixth month [of Elizabeth’s pregnancy] the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, a descendant of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And coming to her, the angel said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was greatly perplexed at what he said, and kept carefully considering what kind of greeting this was. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 Listen carefully: you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and eminent and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob (Israel) forever, and of His kingdom there shall be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin and have no intimacy with any man?” 35 Then the angel replied to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you [like a cloud]; for that reason the holy (pure, sinless) Child shall be called the Son of God. 36 And listen, even your relative Elizabeth has also conceived a son in her old age; and she who was called barren is now in her sixth month. 37 For with God nothing [is or ever] shall be impossible.” 38 Then Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.” And the angel left her.

Mary was perplexed at the greeting from Gabriel and wondered what God could possibly mean. Isn’t that just like you and me? We are led by God to do something and constantly ask why or why me? What did I do to deserve this? Did I make a mistake or maybe God did by choosing me? All Mary’s questions were answered as the angel explained fully about this child. Gabriel said her conception would be supernatural and that the child would be called the Son of God. Now that is an answer that requires faith to even at attempt to understand it. How much like our own lives and God’s answers to our prayers. We cannot see the forest for the trees, so to speak, when God shows us an answer that seems impossible. I love Mary’s response as God knew that she was a servant at heart. Do you see yourself as a servant of God? Are you willing to do whatever He asks of you? At my age, even knowing the Lord for a long time, I often hesitate. Mary at probably 15, had tremendous faith in God and was willing to serve the Lord without question. What a wonderful heart and attitude she had.

May we not lose the wonder at what God can do in us and through us, and May our hearts be as open and willing as hers.
Linda

Advent Reminds us of the Opportunities Brought by Faith

Luke 1:26-38 records the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary, their conversation and Mary’s response to the news. Like Zachariah, Mary’s first reaction was fear and confusion at seeing a heavenly being and his message. However, her questions were more about how could this could happen not disbelief that it was possible. The words seem similar but the angel knew the intent of her heart and saw a question of doubt not a question of faith.

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 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[d] will be called holy—the Son of God. 36 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. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 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.

I love this passage and see new things each time I study it. God knew Mary by name. Isn’t that amazing? The God of the universe knew this young, unmarried woman and had a special place and purpose for her and her alone. The same could be said for you and me. I am assured here that God knows my name and has a plan and purpose for my life too. Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” is a promise I claim in my life.

Gabriel, the angel, said Mary had found favor with God, and that God was with her. Mary did nothing to earn this favor. Mary believed in God and was the right woman at the right time, like Queen Esther, for the tasks to be accomplished. Esther 4:14 “If you keep quiet at a time like this, deliverance and relief for the Jews will arise from some other place, but you and your relatives will die. Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for just such a time as this?” Mary believed in God, had grown up hearing the stories of the Israelites, Moses and their escape from Egypt. Of the years in exile in Babylon and people like Daniel, his rescue by God from the Lion’s Den, the rebuilding of the walls and temple in Jerusalem by Nehemiah, of Jonah and his being swallowed by a big fish then going to Nineveh to preach as God asked. She knew God was capable of great things and did not question His power and might, only her circumstances of being an unmarried pure virgin. Remember faith pleases God and she had it! Even though she had questions she clung to her faith and listened with an open heart and mind. She knew in her heart that all things are possible with God. Like Mary all we have is faith in Jesus as we can count on no works to save us. Ephesian 2:8 “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God.” Receiving His gift of salvation is a matter of heart, just as it was for Mary.

Let the wonder of this encounter motivate you to walk by faith not sight today and look for new opportunities to serve Him.

Linda

I don’t get it? Why this way God?

I have been pondering today’s scripture for several days.  Luke 1:34-38 continues the encounter of Gabriel and Mary.  She begins with a question and listens as the angel explains how and why Mary will become pregnant.  Amazingly Mary states her unwavering obedience to God before Gabriel leaves her.

And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”   35 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. 36 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. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 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.

Where is God in this encounter?  God is the Sovereign force behind the events happening right then.  He is All-Powerful, Omnipotent God who can make the impossible God-is-incomprehensible-1happen.  But, the attribute that has stuck in my mind is Incomprehensible.  Not in our wildest human plans would we have come up with a miraculous birth by a lowly young Jewish maiden to save all mankind.  We cannot understand God’s thoughts, plans or ways with our finite minds.  His ways are always righteous and good for all people.  His ways and plans bless us and glorify Him.  Here are a few verses that speak to the incomprehensibility of God:

Job 5:9 “He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed, miracles that cannot be counted.”     

 Isaiah 40:28  “Do you not know? Have you not heard?   The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”     

Isaiah 55:8 ““For my thoughts are not your thoughts,  neither are your ways my ways,”  declares the Lord.”     

Romans 11:33  “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable his judgments,  and his paths beyond tracing out!

faith_does_not_make_things_300x300How big is your God?  Mary knew God could do great and impossible things in the world and in her life.  She experienced the incomprehensibility of God in her life and accepted it on faith.   Can you do that too?  When you face hard to deal with questions or situations in life, can you trust in Jesus anyway?  Walking with Jesus is a life long journey of learning and discovery as no one can plumb the depths of God’s Word or fully know His character.   He wants to teach us to love and trust Him realizing He is incomprehensible and His ways are not our ways. 

Linda                                                                                                                 

 

 

Mary and Me too, God knows our NAMES!

Gabriel next appeared to Mary,  the young virgin betrothed to Joseph, and told her she was going to be the mother of the Son of God.  Mary was fearful and concerned about what this would mean for her future.  The angel calmed her fears and pointed her to God.  Luke 1:26-33

In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, 27 to a virgin pledged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

29 Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. 30 But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary; you have found favor with God. 31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. 32 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, 33 and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end.”

There is so much to see about God in this portion of the Christmas Story.  God is all powerful and can do all things, Omnipotent.  God has a plan for the redemption of mankind and has had it since the beginning of time and He is using a young girl to move god-is-personal (1)His plan forward, Sovereign, Eternal.  But today, I see a personal God.  The angel told Mary not to fear and called her by name.  God knew her personally.  She was not just some girl but one God had specifically chosen for the task of being the mother of Jesus, His Son.  God is a person who knows us, desires a relationship with us and communicates with us.  Here He spoke to Mary by name through the angel Gabriel, but He also speaks to us today through His Word and in prayer.

knows my nameJesus assured us in John 10:3-4 “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice.”   Jesus as our good shepherd knows each one who believes in Him by name.  We are also assured that as believers we can and will recognize Him when He speaks or calls to us.  

Mary as a young girl knew this too and trusted her future to God.  God knows you personally; He knows your name.   Call out to Him today with assurance that He will answer because He knows you and knows exactly what you need even before you ask.  Be greatly encouraged, the God of the universe knows you by name.

Linda