At the end of the year we look with eagerness to the new year. We look expectantly to all that God has for us. Yet we reflect back about our past and then anxiety creeps in. You see our past can haunt us because of mistakes and sins. God is the God of the present and the future. God can take the past and use it for our good. You see God allows the memory of the past to help form and shape us in the future. It depends on us. If we try to run from the past, God can not use it. But if we allow God to show us how the past can be used to change us, He will.
Rom. 8:29 God knew what he was doing from the very beginning. He decided from the outset to shape the lives of those who love him along the same lines as the life of his Son… 30 After God made that decision of what his children should be like, he followed it up by calling people by name. After he called them by name, he set them on a solid basis with himself.
Therefore we can be assured that:
Rom 8: 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
In the old Testament we read:
Is. 52:7 How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of the messenger bringing good news, Breaking the news that all’s well, proclaiming good times, announcing salvation, telling Zion, “Your God reigns!”
My hope is that you reflect back upon how beautiful it was when someone shared with you the good news, announcing the Salvation that God brings. The joy you experienced when you received this news and made the commitment that God would reign in your life.
My hope is that for 2017 you will seek to be that messenger, making a commitment to be God’s messenger in sharing the good news with someone this coming year. That you will be filled with awe as to who God is and what He has done in your life and as you look on others you too will long for them to have and experience what you now have. That they too will desire to make that commitment to allow God to reign in their life. My hope is that you will be assured of God’s commitment to you.
Ro. 8:30 And then, after getting them established, he stayed with them to the end, gloriously completing what he had begun.
You are not alone, God is walking with you in 2017!
The Birth of Christ
Caesar Augustus ordered a census, a numbering of people for tax purpose. Joseph was of the house of David, so he was required to go to Bethlehem to register. Mary was about ready to deliver so he decided to take Mary along. Being 9 months along meant extra time and care was needed to travel. But having Mary go to Bethlehem was God’s plan. It was God’s plan that the baby be born in Bethlehem. Look what the Prophet Micah wrote:
“Micah 5:2 But you, O Bethlehem … a small village … Yet a ruler of Israel will come from you, one whose origins are from the distant past.”
Joseph acquired a donkey for Mary to travel on and off they went. When they arrived all the boarding rooms were filled up. There was no rooms available, no guest room so “no room in the Inn”. Everyone could see Mary was pregnant and about ready to give birth. Jewish culture was very hospitable, especially for pregnant women so they faced a dilemma. They did not have a boarding room, but they offered what they did have, space in area where they kept their animals, a stable. But this too was part of God’s plan.
The trip to Bethlehem was helpful in inducing birth for that very night, Mary delivered a healthy baby boy just as the Angel had said. We do not have any record that anyone came to be of help to this family. We do not have any record that anyone from the town came out visit them or to congratulate them. No one but the Shepherds who were out watching their sheep. The Shepherds whom the Angel had shared with and declared that the birth of this baby was a God thing and this was something worth while for them to go and see, something for them to go and be a witness of.
Luke 2:15 When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlehem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”
Luke 2:16 They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. 17 After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. 18 All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished,
They “hurried off”, they “left running” as fast as they could to see this child. After visiting with the family, Mary and Joseph and seeing this beautiful baby, they went and shared this information with everyone they could, everyone they saw. As people listened, they were astonished, they were wowed. God was on the move.
After 8 days, Joseph and Mary named this gift of God, this child, Jesus just as the Angel had told them..
God has called us to come, to come and see. God has called us to come and follow Him. God has called us to abandon ourselves and follow Him to come learn from Him. God has called us to make Him 1st, our 1st priority in life, to obey His commands and worship Him and Him alone. God has called us to be His witnesses, to share with everyone we meet our testimony of what we know about God, what we know to be true.
My hope and prayer for you this Christmas is that you will allow God to inter in your heart, to inter in your life and to begin transforming you. My hope is that you will be like the Shepherds, filled with that same with excitement and enthusiasm in wanting to meet with Jesus. My hope is that Journey Church will not be just place of a religious activity for you, but a place to where you love to come and meet with Jesus, a place that you “hurry off to”, a place that you “come running to”, come running to with excitement and enthusiasm to spend time with Jesus, to spend time with your brothers and sisters in the Lord in fellowship, in prayer, in sharing and learning and in worship of God.
Luke 1:41 “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit”
At the sound of Mary’s voice, the baby John the Baptist now only six months in his development, six months after being conceived, understood and knew what was transpiring, knew Mary was now carrying the baby Jesus who would be born to her in 9 more months. This six month old baby actually jumped in the womb at the sound, hearing Mary.
As I look out over our city, our nation I an deeply grieved with the lack of excitement we have toward the things of God. For many in our city, in our nation, Church has become a Religion, a religious activity, it is something people go do. They go to fulfill an obligation. They go to Church, because they have always gone to Church. It is just part of their routine, part of the family tradition.
My hope and prayer for you this Christmas season is that God will capture your heart. That you will be genuinely excited at the opportunity to hear God’s word being spoken. You will be genuinely excited at the opportunity to read God’s word daily. That you will be genuinely excited at the opportunity sit and talk, read, listen and study with others about the Greatness of God. You will be genuinely excited at the opportunity learn more about God and how you can be more like God.
Many times when we are told about something extraordinary, that God is wanting to do something extraordinary that will involve us, we will often react in one of two ways.
One way many react is like Zechariah, “No way”, I don’t believe this could happen”, “Wait, if you are telling me that this is going to happen then give me proof, prove that this will occur”.
Luke 1:18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.”
The other way we may react is to react like Mary, “really”, “me”, “ I am stunned”, “Lord, it seems impossible, but I trust you, but I have one request, can you share with me how, how will this come about for I look at my circumstances and do not understand how, how what you say will happen”.
Luke 1:34 Mary asked the angel, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.”
Zechariah is saying give me proof. I do not believe it, so show me a sign so I can believe. So God did and struck him so he could not speak. A mute, so Zechariah could spend the next 9 months contemplating the things of God and what God had spoken to him about.
Mary responding totally opposite. Mary, “I believe, I just do not understand how and as I look at my situation, I have not done anything that would enable this to come true, enable what you tell me, so Lord am I do something and if so what”.
I do have to admit, there are times I react like Zechariah. I know I did this for much of my life when I first came to know God. I resisted and challenged God. I would say “I am not smart enough to go to Seminary, or you do not know me God” I have tempered over time, and now I stand back and just smile when God asks me to do something I do not feel I can for I know God is God and He will use me in some incredible ways, beyond what I can ever imagine.
How are You!
Are you ready to be used of God?
How Shall I know?
Luke 1:8 One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. 9 As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense… Luke 1:11 While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. 12 Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. 13 But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. 14 You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, 15 for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. 16 And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. 17 He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” Luke 1:18 Zechariah said to the angel, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” … Luke 1:23 When Zechariah’s week of service in the Temple was over, he returned home. 24 Soon afterward his wife, Elizabeth, became pregnant and went into seclusion for five months. 25 “How kind the Lord is!” she exclaimed. “He has taken away my disgrace of having no children.”
Zachariah and his wife were both past the age for people to have children. He was chosen to serve to enter the Holy of Holies, to present the offering of incense before the Lord for the forgiveness of sin. A rope was tied around his ankle so if by change he was struck down by the hand of the Lord for doing something incorrectly, they could pull the rope, dragging him out of the temple, recovering his body. An Angel of the Lord appeared before Him and spoke about the things to come, i.e. he and his wife were going to have a child. Zachariah recognized this was an Angel of the Lord. We can safely assume that Zachariah has never had an Angel appear before him and talked with him. We can safely assume that no record exists of any Angel appeared before any priest while serving in the Holy of Holies.
I find it humorous that Zachariah is seeing a miracle happen before his very eyes, he is not dead, a Angel of the Lord is speaking to him in the Holy of Holies yet Zachariah doubts that God can do as He so promised. I wonder if I like Zachariah doubt God? How about you? Do you look at your own abilities and make the determination what God can and can not do? Look at the prayer of the Apostle Paul and what he believed about God.
Eph. 3:20 Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think. 21 Glory to him in the church and in Christ Jesus through all generations forever and ever! Amen.
God can do more than you or I could ever think.
Do you believe it?