He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. - Colossians 1:15-16

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Bridegroom




Just as the bride waits and longs for
The Bridegroom’s soon return
So my soul longs for You oh Lord
 
Surely, You’ll return any day now
You’ve been gone nearly 2,000 years
Preparing a place for me
 
With each passing day, I long to be in Your presence
Not to escape the un-pleasantries of life
But to behold You in Your glory
 
Thank You for all You’ve given me this side of heaven
For entrusting me to care for Your people and creation
But this place is not my home
 
My prayers for salvation for those who don’t know You
Grow more intense with each passing day
That they might be spared the pain and judgment to come

Oh Lord, when You come to take me to home
May I be found faithful to the end
Looking up…waiting for Your soon return
 
 
Susan Bunts Wachtel
December 30, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tyranny Eve - Urgent Call to Prayer

          Do you want the government running your health care?  Do you want our government telling you what treatment you can and can't have?  Do you want to foot the bill for everyone else?  Do you want to be paying for abortions?  Do you want the government telling you that your aging parent, ill spouse or disabled child doesn't qualify for treatment under their plan?  It's time to be praying that God will intervene and stop this bill from passing.  That He will raise up a few courageous men and women to stand in the gap and say no.    

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bebe & Cece Winans - Jingle Bells

Broken and Contrite Heart



Oh God
May I come to You
Not with a prideful, haughty spirit
But a broken and contrite heart

Humbled
Knowing that Jesus’ blood was shed
Not only for my sin
But all who will receive Him

When I see those engaged in sin
May I not condemn them
But be broken over that which breaks Your heart
May I be moved to pray fervently and unceasingly

For the unbeliever
Who has no knowledge of God
May I be ready to share
Salvation is found in no other name than Christ Jesus

For those who say they believe
But their lives are no different from unbelievers
May I point them back to Your word
You alone are able to judge their thoughts and intentions

When I see Christ followers, following at a distance
May I encourage them to partake in the joy and peace
That comes from abiding and remaining in Christ
To receive His strength and not be conformed to this world

May I be mindful it is by grace alone, through faith alone,
I stand forgiven at the cross
It is through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit within me
That I can abide, remain and am sanctified daily

Susan Bunts Wachtel
December 23, 2009


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mary Did You Know

Blessed Is She Who Believed



Now Mary arose in those days and went into the hill country with haste, to a city of Judah, and entered the house of Zacharias and greeted Elizabeth.  And it happened, when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, that the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.  Then she spoke out with a loud voice and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb!  But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?  For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.  Blessed is she who believed, for there will be a fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” – Luke 1:39-45
 
Mary had just received the news from the angel Gabriel that she, a virgin, would conceive and give birth to a Son.  Not just any son, but the Son of Highest, the Son of God and she was to call Him Jesus.  Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua…Jehovah is salvation.  Jesus would be given the throne of His father David and of His kingdom there would be no end.
 
Mary was a young Hebrew girl, about 13 years old, unmarried and a virgin.  Never before in the history of the world had a virgin given birth.  Never before was God incarnated as a Man.  Who would believe her?  Who would believe her that an angel, sent forth from the presence of God, had come with news that she would give birth to Israel’s long awaited Messiah?  God had been silent for 400 years and now He had sent a messenger to tell Mary the Good News.  She was…an ordinary Jewish girl, in a poor town called Nazareth.  There was nothing noteworthy or deserving about Mary.  Would her parents believe her?  What would her fiancĂ© Joseph say…would he believe her or put her away? 
 
Mary arose with haste to go to the one home whose occupants would believe her good news.  The angel Gabriel told Mary that her relative Elizabeth, in her old age and barren, was now pregnant.  For with God nothing is impossible. 
 
Mary quickly went to the home of Zacharias and Elizabeth in Judea.  It was a journey of about 75 miles and it would have taken her several days.  The Bible doesn’t tell us exactly when Mary became pregnant.  However, we know the Holy Spirit came upon her and overshadowed her.  Some time from when Gabriel told Mary the good news to when she arrived at Zacharias and Elizabeth’s home, Mary conceived.
 
Gabriel had prophesied that even in his mother’s womb John would be filled with the Holy Spirit.  That he was sent by God to prepare the way of the Lord.  In scripture, we are told that when Mary greeted Elizabeth the babe in Elizabeth’s womb leaped.  The Greek word means leap for joy, it’s akin to skipping.  This child was sent by God to prepare the way of the Lord.  Even while in his mother’s womb, he heralded the coming Savior.  He did so without words, a fetus filled with the Holy Spirit…he leaped with joy at the Messiah’s coming.   
 
At that time, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and she began to loudly proclaim that Mary was blessed as was the fruit of her womb.  Have you ever experienced something that was so exciting that you wanted to shout it from the roof top?  A joy and excitement that couldn’t be contained? 
 
Elizabeth recognized that Mary was pregnant with the Lord.  Not just any lord…but her Lord and God.  She asked why it had been granted to her that the mother of her Lord would come to her.  Was she aware of her own sinfulness and unworthiness of being in the Lord’s presence?  Elizabeth was humbled, as we all should be when we come into the presence of the Lord.
 
How gracious of God to confirm the angel’s prophesy.  Elizabeth pronounced Mary blessed because she had believed God.  She assured her that the things the Lord told her would be fulfilled. 
 
How could Mary know with any certainty that indeed she would give birth to the long awaited Messiah?  She was pregnant such a short time and it would be a while before that would be evident. 
 
She could have confidence because God was true to His word.  Through the angel Gabriel, God told Mary of Elizabeth’s miraculous conception…and she found it had come to pass.  Elizabeth and Zacharias had also received a word from the Lord, through the angel Gabriel…just as Mary did.  The baby within Elizabeth’s womb leaped and at that time Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit as she spoke words that confirmed the angel’s message. 
 
Mary stayed three months with Elizabeth and Zacharias.  She returned home before John’s birth.  What were those three months like?  Despite the fact that Zacharias was not able to speak, Elizabeth and Mary had to have communicated to Zacharias the good news that Mary would be the mother of the Messiah.  Did they pour over the scriptures that foretold of Israel’s Messiah?  Did they go over and over everything that Gabriel had told them?  Were they filled with wonder and amazement at all that God was doing through them? 
 
Those three month must have been instrumental in building up and reinforcing Mary’s faith, for soon she would return home to face her parents and her fiancĂ© Joseph with the news that she, a virgin, would give birth to the Messiah.  Soon her pregnancy could not be hid…what would the neighbors say? 
 
There many stories and myths throughout various cultures of a virgin birth.   How can we be certain that what’s recorded in Luke’s Gospel is true? 
 
Luke wrote his Gospel after carefully compiling eyewitness accounts.  Did Luke talk to Mary herself to find out about Jesus' conception?  Mary would have been able to relay what had happened to Zacharias and Elizabeth…she had spent three months with them. 
 
We can know with certainty, that Luke’s account is not just another myth or legend because of what would happen 33 years later.  Not only Jesus' death on the cross, but his resurrection three days later.  Jesus' resurrection was witnessed by hundreds of people during the 40 days that Jesus remained before ascending to heaven.  Many eyewitnesses suffered persecution and were killed because of what they knew was true. 
 
Have you believed John’s silent but joyful proclamation that Jesus is Israel’s long awaited Messiah?  If not…why not read Luke’s eyewitness accounts of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and decide for yourself if you will believe God?

Monday, December 14, 2009

Starting Over




Like most writers, I find it encouraging to read comments and feedback.  That’s why I originally installed Haloscan on Susan’s Blog. 

Before long…it became the bane of my blogging existence!  For quite a while now, Haloscan has been acting up.  It’s up and down.  But now…it’s finally out of here!!!

For months now…I’ve played around and tried to figure out how to remove Haloscan as the comment tracker for my blog.  I did many searches to see if there were any clear and easy to follow instructions to remove the code.  While I found many references on a Google search for Haloscan…instructions to remove it were not in abundance.  What was plentiful was the negative feedback from many users.

Well...today I got an email from the folks at Haloscan informing me that if I wanted to keep their service I would have to pay even more than before.  Basic was not too much per year…but the premium service was too pricey…especially considering that the system was down, more often than up.

It seems to me that if company wants to keep your business they should provide excellent service so that you will want to stay.  Instead, because of their ongoing technical difficulties…Haloscan was driving people away.

Bottom line…all the old comments are gone.  Easy come, easy go.  Oh well…but I downloaded them in case I want to read them again.  So if you’ve left comments in the past…much obliged.  If you leave them in the future...the Blogger system should work swimmingly.

Hasta la vista Haloscan!




Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Hard Thing



It’s harder to forgive
Than to hold on to a hurt

It’s harder to pray
Than to whine and complain

It’s harder to bring everything by prayer and petition to God
Than to go to a friend and gossip or lament

It’s harder to give thanks in difficult circumstances or in pain
Than it is to grumble and complain

It’s harder to restrain my mouth and just plain shut up
Than it is to freely speak my mind

It’s not just harder
It’s impossible to take back a word spoken in anger

It’s harder to be disciplined and make time to study God’s word
Than it is to waste time on worthless things

It’s harder to make time for family and friends
Than to let my time be driven by pressing but inconsequential things

It’s harder to take every thought captive
Than it is to let my imagination and thoughts go wild

It’s hard to do what is right before God
When I’m feeding my mind and heart with the things of this world

Oh Lord, may I choose to do the hard thing
Not by might, but by Your Spirit

May I remember when I am weak
Then I am strong in Christ


By Susan Bunts Wachtel
December 2, 2009

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Christmas Reflections...The Virgin Birth




Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”   And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.   Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God nothing will be impossible.”  Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. - Luke 1:34-38

Only through the virgin birth…do you have a Messiah, a Savior.  If Jesus was merely the product of human conception…He was merely a sinful man. 

For unbelievers, the virgin birth is a hurdle…something that is too hard to believe.  For liberal Christians…it’s an area that they have willingly compromised for they don’t believe in the inerrancy of scripture. 

From before His conception and birth…God prophesied that Jesus was the Son of God.  Born of a woman, but conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit.  In the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures we see prophesies of the virgin born Messiah. 

     And I will put enmity
     Between you and the woman,
     And between your seed and her Seed;
     He shall bruise your head,
     And you shall bruise His heel.” – Genesis 3:15


Women do not have a seed.  A virgin cannot give birth unless God miraculously intervenes.  God has only done this once in human history.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.  Isaiah 7:14
 
The Jews knew from scripture that the Messiah would come from the line of David. 

“And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you.  Your throne shall be established forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:12-16

The fact that Jesus claimed to be from the line of David wasn’t in dispute.  In Jesus day the records still existed that could trace back His lineage back to King David.  It was because Jesus claimed to be God that the Jewish religious leaders wanted to kill Him.

Now it was the Feast of Dedication in Jerusalem, and it was winter.  And Jesus walked in the temple, in Solomon’s porch.  Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, “How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.”  Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.  But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you.  My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.  My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”  Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him.  Jesus answered them, “Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?”  The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.”  – John 10:22-30

It’s amazing and beyond our comprehension to think that a virgin will give birth.  Women do not have a seed.  Virgins do not have babies.  Unless God miraculously intervenes a virgin cannot give birth.  Even Mary was amazed at what the angel told her.  Mary response confirms that she is a virgin.  “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” – Luke 1: 34

There have been other miraculous conceptions in the Bible.  Starting with Abraham and Sarah.  Like Zacharias and Elizabeth, their bodies were as good as dead.  Unless God preformed a miracle, they would not have had a child.  Samuel’s birth to Hannah was a miracle.  Unless God had opened her womb she would have remained childless.

But Jesus conception is the only one that was both miraculous and divine.  Jesus was born of a women, by the power of the Highest.  Jesus is the Son of God and Son of Man.  Only the sinless Son of God could pay the price for our sin. 

Mary was a humble willing servant.  Unlike Zacharias, Mary did not doubt the angel Gabriel’s good news.  Perhaps her question was filled with wonder and amazement.  Wonder at how God would accomplish this miraculous work and amazement that God saw fit to choose her.
 
We can learn something from Mary’s response.  After the angel confirmed that she would become pregnant when the Holy Spirit came upon her and overshadowed her, she responded with willing obedient belief. 

Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. – Luke 1:38


Mary didn’t quake with fear.  She didn’t take into account the inconvenience that would result as she would soon be pregnant, and not yet wed.  She didn’t worry about what family and friends might say and that she might face rejection by the one to whom she was betrothed.  Mary believed God. 

Oh the goodness of the Lord.  The angel Gabriel shared that not only would Mary bear a Son…but that her relative Elizabeth was pregnant despite her advanced age and barrenness.  Someone to whom she could go and share the wonder of what God was doing.  Someone who would believe her and encourage her faith. 
 
Can you imagine Mary’s thoughts when the angel departed?  Did it seem like a dream?  Was her heart beating fast?  Was her face flushed with excitement?  When did the Holy Spirit come upon her and overshadow her?  Was her heart bursting with joy, wonder and amazement?

How do I react when God wants to use me?  Am I a willing servant?  Or do I count the cost to me personally?  Do I remember God is sovereign in all things?  Do I trust Him to go before me and work out all the details?  Do I truly believe that nothing is impossible with God? 

Have I received Jesus Christ, the Son of God as my Lord and Savior?  Is it His birth I celebrate this Christmas?
 



Sometimes It Rains in Southern California



 



No matter what the song says, sometimes it does rain in southern California. 








While the rain necessitated us bringing in most of the bird feeders yesterday, when there was break in the rain, I couldn't resist going outdoors.  The Phoebe's chirp proved irresistible.  Despite the cold and a few drops of rain...I took out some meal worms for her and was able to snap a few photos.  Captured the Phoebe eating her delectable treat and the Towhees that have made our backyard their home.


 



 




Tastes Too Good To Be Healthy



It didn’t take long for this breakfast food to quickly become our favorite. 

I had heard from several people how good the Chilled Swiss Oatmeal was from Corner Bakery.  It took me a couple of times of sampling it before I ventured out to make my own version.  Oh my goodness is it yummy!  Its chock full of healthy grain, fruit and yogurt.  Honestly...it tastes too good to be healthy!  But indeed it is.  So now at least two or three times a week…I’ll make a batch that will last a couple of days…so Chris and I can have a healthy nutritious breakfast.

One of my favorite places to shop is Trader Joe’s.  It’s there that I get a number of the ingredients.  Their prices are great and the products that I use in the Chilled Swiss Oatmeal make it just right.

If you like Oatmeal and fruit…give it a try.  Where possible I don’t measure when I cook…I just kind of throw in what seems right and tastes good.  What I list below is what I make for two people that will last two days.  Adjust it accordingly. 

Tastes Too Good to be Healthy…Chilled Swiss Oatmeal

  • Oatmeal…make a batch for two people (2 cups of water and 1 cup of Oatmeal)
After it’s done add:
  • ½ a package of the Trader Joe’s Dried Fruit Golden Berry Blend (golden raisins, cherries and blueberries)
  • ¼ package of the Trader Joe’s Raw Sliced Almonds
  • Honey…Trader Joe’s Clover Honey…or whatever your favorite honey is
  • Mix it all up and put it in the refrigerator to chill for about an hour

Once the mixture is chilled add:
  • Trader Joe’s Organic Vanilla Yogurt…about a ¼ or 1/3 of the large container…it tastes so fresh and clean
  • 2 apples, diced…use your favorite...what we like are the Pink Lady Apples or the Honey Crisps
  • 2 dozen (or more) seedless red grapes
  • 1 or 2 bananas slides and diced
  • Mix it all up and put it in the fridge to chill and let the flavors meld

I usually make it the night before and both Chris and I partake the next day.  I make enough to last for a couple of days.  After that…we are ready for a new batch.  Don’t make more than what you will use in a couple of days.

It’s very good and very healthy...and with all the different ingredients you are giving your taste buds and treat. 

Give it a try and enjoy…but I warn you…it’s very addicting.  You may find yourself staying up a little later than normal because you want to make sure that you have your favorite breakfast food in the morning.


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Christmas Reflections...Redemption…God’s Divine Plan




“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.  He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”  Then Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.”

How does one begin to fully comprehend all that the angel Gabriel prophesied about what God would do through Mary and the birth of Jesus Christ?  Even though this is the essence of Christmas, the very reason we celebrate the birth of Christ, it’s more than a little daunting.  

When the angel tells Mary about the Son that she will bear starting with His name Jesus and through each of His titles, we learn about who He is and the work that He came to do to fulfill the Father’s plan.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.” – Luke 1:31

A virgin will bring forth a Son.  Mary herself confirms that she was a virgin when she asks, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?”  This Son is not the seed of sinful man, but instead He is the Son of God.  He was born of a virgin and thus did not have our sin nature.

Jesus is the Greek form of Joshua, meaning “Jehovah is salvation”.  Even His name tells of the work that Jesus came down to earth to do.  He was sent by God the Father, to save His people from their sin.  How would He accomplish that salvation?  How does a holy, righteous and just God forgive sinful man?  He does it by sending His only begotten Son, the sinless Lamb of God, to die in our place so that His righteousness can be applied to our account…and our sin debt will be paid in full. 

Sinful man cannot save himself.  He may die and even be cast into hell for eternity, but that will never pay his sin debt in full.  Man will never be declared righteous based on his works.

It was only when the blood of Christ is applied to our sin debt that we are washed white as snow.  Have you received Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross to cover your sins?  Have you been clothed by the righteousness of Christ? 

“Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved." – Acts 4:12

When Gabriel tells us that Jesus will be great, he’s not referring to what He will do, but instead it speaks about who He is.  He is grace, truth, mercy, holy, righteous, sovereign, omniscient and omnipotent.  These adjectives are more than just a description about what Jesus is like or what He does…they are the very essence of who He is.   He is great in power, authority and majesty…He is preeminent over all.

Son of the Highest speaks of Jesus divine nature.  He is Son of the Most High God.  Jehovah was called, El Elyon…the Most High God.  This speaks of God’s sovereignty, majesty and His highest preeminence over all.  Jesus tells us that He is one with the Father, if we have seen Him, we have seen the Father. 

“….and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David.  And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”  - Luke 1:32 (b)-33

When Gabriel prophesied that God will give Jesus the throne of His father David, he speaks of the fulfillment of God’s promise to David that One will come who will reign on his throne forever.  That His kingdom will never end tells about Jesus eternal sovereign reign over Israel and His kingdom. 

“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.” – 2 Samuel 7:12-13

How does the Son of God who will lay down His life and pay the penalty for our sin reign forever?  How can someone who is dead reign?  He can only do that if He is resurrected from the dead.  Resurrection that gives evidence that God the Father accepted Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. 

What are you celebrating this Christmas?  Are parties and family gatherings a part of your Christmas season?  Are your days filled with shopping, decorating and baking?  Do you make Christmas magical for your children with Santa?

More importantly…do you celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God come in the flesh…the very reason we have a holiday called Christmas?  If not…why not receive the best gift ever…the gift of Jesus, the Son of God, wrapped in the flesh of a newborn Babe.


Friday, December 04, 2009

Christmas Reflections..Chosen and Blessed



“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”  But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” – Luke 1:26-30
 
It had been six months since God had broken his 400 years of silence.  Just six months before, God had sent Gabriel to tell Zacharias and Elizabeth about the miraculous birth of their son John…the forerunner of Christ sent to prepare the way of the Lord. 
 
Now in the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, Gabriel appeared before Mary to bring her a divine message from God. 
 
Gabriel greeted Mary and said, “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!”   What was Mary’s reaction?  She was fearful and troubled at what the angel had said.  Why was Mary troubled? 
 
What kind of woman does God choose to bear the Son of God?  Mary must have been very young, a teenager at best.  Maybe 13 or 14 years of age.  The Bible doesn’t tell us anything about Mary other than her name and that she was a virgin, betrothed to a man named Joseph.  Unlike Zacharias and Elizabeth, Mary was not commended as being upright and blameless before the Lord. She was a young Jewish girl in a small town called Nazareth.  
 
Was Mary troubled because she knew she was undeserving of God’s favor and grace?  Nowhere in the Bible does it tell us that Mary was sinless.  In fact, Mary needed a Savior every bit as much as we do.  Mary was not favored or shown grace by God because of who she was.  She was shown grace by God, because He chose to do so. 
 
Mary knew that she was a sinner before holy God.  In Luke 1:46, Mary rejoiced in God her Savior and extolled His mercy.  Only a sinner needs a merciful Savior.  But Mary was also a true believer. 
 
Mary was highly favored because God chose to use her as His instrument, through which the Savior of the world would be born.  She was blessed among women because of what God would do through her…not because of who she was or what she deserved.
 
Likewise…God has shown us grace and mercy, not because we deserve it.  He doesn’t choose us because of who we are or what we have to offer.  But in His sovereignty, God chooses to save us from our sins.  We are not saved because we are better than our brother or neighbor or friend.   In fact the Bible tells us that He chooses the weak and foolish things of this world. 
 
What about you…have you recognized your need for Jesus the merciful Savior?  This Christmas, do you celebrate because you received the gift of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary?  Why not choose Him today and have your name recorded in the Lamb’s Book of Life? 
 
 

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Christmas Reflections..God’s Faithfulness in the Midst of Unbelief



Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.   And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.  And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth.  For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.  And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God.  He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”

And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time. – Luke 1:11-20


Zacharias may have thought that it was by lot that he was chosen to go before the Lord and burn incense in the temple.  But instead Zacharias had a divine appointment with God.

Zacharias and Elizabeth had prayed for many years to have a child, yet God was silent.  Perhaps now their prayers were more out of habit, rather than out of belief that God could still give them the desire of their heart.  God may have been silent, but He had indeed heard their prayers. 

Now, at the appointed time, God would answer their prayer and give them a son.  A son who would be great in the sight of the Lord.  One who would be filled with the Holy Spirit from before birth.  Their child would have the privilege of preparing the way for the Lord.

When the angel Gabriel appeared to announced what God would do, Zacharias was filled with fear.  He questioned how it would be accomplished.  Did Zacharias have his eyes on circumstances and human limitations?

God is not glorified, nor pleased, with our unbelief.  Unbelief is what kept the Israelites wandering in the desert for 40 years.  Zacharias' unbelief resulted in him being struck mute and silent until after the fulfillment of God’s prophesy about John’s birth.  Thankfully, God’s miraculous work was not contingent on Zacharias' belief. 

As Zacharias emerged from the temple, he beckoned to the people so that he could tell them about the angel’s glad tidings.  But Zacharias was speechless…and would remain mute for the next 9 months.  Can you imagine hearing the best news of your life and not being able to share it? 

When Zacharias returned home, God was faithful and answered their prayer.  He brought forth a child from a barren couple well advanced in years.  God can do the impossible with that which is weak, frail and even as good as dead.

As I read about Zacharias and Elizabeth, I’m reminded that I am called to persevere in faith, continue to trust God and know that He is able to accomplish much more than I ask or imagine.  When I pray, am I willing to wait upon the Lord and trust His perfect timing?  Do I view my problems from my vantage point or do I look at them from God’s perspective, knowing that nothing is too hard for God?

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Christmas Reflections..Faithful Obedience



There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah. His wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.  But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and they were both well advanced in years. – Luke 1:5-7

When I read about Zacharias and Elizabeth in Luke 1, I’m mindful that it had been 400 years since the Lord had last spoke to Israel.  400 years of silence.  Think about it.  Have you ever experienced a time of silence in a relationship?  It’s hard, isn’t it?  Nowhere more so than when that silence involves God. 

For Zacharias and Elizabeth there were untold years of silence when God did not answer their prayer, yet they remained faithful.  God tells us that they were upright and blameless in His sight.  They went about their daily lives faithfully serving the Lord and obeying all His commandments and regulations. 

Even though the Lord was silent, they didn’t use that as an excuse to go off and live according to their own will or take things into their own hands.  They didn’t become slack or lazy in doing what God had commanded.  Their obedience and faithful service was not contingent on God blessing them or answering their prayers for a child. 

In their culture, a couple that remained childless would likely bring judgmental speculation by others.  Speculation that perhaps God had not given them a child because of hidden sin in their life.  I think that Zacharias and Elizabeth’s commitment to walk upright and blameless before the Lord brought a measure of peace.  Peace with God…a peace that passes all understanding.  Peace that remained, no matter what others thought.

Instead of focusing on what they didn’t have, instead of listening to what others said about them, Zacharias and Elizabeth, kept their focus on God.  They trusted that God was good…that He is exactly who He revealed Himself to be in His word.  They believed that God was worthy of worship, praise and adoration because of who He is, not because of how He answered their prayers.  Nor was it based on what He did for them. 

I’m challenged by the faithful obedience of Zacharias and Elizabeth.  Do I remain faithful and obedient to do what God commands even when He is silent?  Am I willing to serve Him, bless Him and praise Him when God, by His perfect will and plan, chooses to withhold something that have I prayed for?  Do I continue to pray, watch and wait expectantly for what God will do?