Anticipating two births – Luke 1:24, 34-35

Here in Luke 1, we get the stories leading up to the births, and even the conceptions, of both John the Baptist and his relative, Jesus Christ.  After the angel Gabriel speaks to John’s father, we read, in Luke 1:24,

After these days his wife Elizabeth conceived.

Gabriel also speaks to Mary.  When he does, he says, in Luke 1:34-35,

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.

Gabriel announced God’s plans to these interested participants before the children in question were even conceived.  This tells us something about God’s plans, and ours.  

I’m reminded of what God said to the prophet in Jeremiah 1:4-5,

Now the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,
and before you were born I consecrated you;
I appointed you a prophet to the nations.”

Jesus, John and Jeremiah all had obviously special roles to play in God’s plans for his people.  Without getting into a too-lengthy study on the subject, there is ample evidence to conclude he has specific, and therefore special, plans for each one of us.  Each human life is important and a part of God’s plan.  

The plans for each person are not special because of who we are.  These plans are special because of whose they are and whose we are as a result.  If God created us with a plan, then that is something we need to take seriously.

There is a prayer from Hilary of Poitiers (who you can read about here), in which he says,

Before I came to know you, I was nothing.  I had the misfortune not to know the meaning of life, I was without understanding of myself, I was nothing of what I am now.  It was your mercy that gave me life.  I have no doubt that you decided it would be good for me to be born, for you are good, you had no need of me and you would not have given me life if it had been to my detriment … *

Personally, I would like to live out the thoughts expressed in that prayer for the rest of my life.  Hilary does not express God’s plan or purpose for him.  He only admits that he can trust that it must be good.  God is good and deserves that kind of trust from us, his created beings.  Whatever God’s purpose and plans are for each one of us, may we fulfill them to the utmost.

*from Early Christian Prayers, edited by A. Hamman, translated by Walter Mitchell

A Prayer Prompted by Matthew 28

Heavenly Father,

You are the Source of all life and the Creator of all things. And we understand that you gave your Son to suffer death in our place so that our sins would be forgiven.

We thank you for Jesus, who died, but was always planning to rise from the dead. He is now risen, just as he said.

He has conquered the grave and the gates of hell cannot prevail against his church.

Though we may feel sinful, dirty and lost, we trust that our sins are forgiven through faith in Jesus Christ.

Though we may feel forgotten and alone, we understand that he is Immanuel, God with us, and he has promised to be with us always.

Help us to constantly keep that in mind as we wait for his soon return.

Thank you in Christ’s name,

Amen.

 

Ultimate victory – Matthew 28

The resurrection turns the ultimate defeat into the ultimate victory.  Sin, death and Satan have now been dealt with forever because the Son of God has risen from the grave.  The consequences of humanity’s fall into sin are reversed, never to take control of us again.  

Just before issuing his Great Commission to the disciples, Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”  That means the sin, death and Satan combined have approximately zero authority.  

Since this deals once and for all with our biggest problem, lesser problems also come into a proper perspective.  All of the hurts, problems and defeats that I have experienced or that I have caused are reduced to times that my team and I have fallen behind in a winning game.  It may look bad for the moment but our final victory is ultimately assured.

There is never a reason big enough to give up hope.  Christ is risen and someday we too will be resurrected into a completely new life in him.

Is this the Jesus we wanted? – Matthew 11:2-6

Now when John heard in prison about the deeds of the Christ, he sent word by his disciples and said to him, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

John the Baptist was languishing in prison.  Conditions were harsh even for him, a man unaccustomed to comfort.  Further, he was not a criminal, and he knew he didn’t belong there.  Where was that Messiah that was going to set the world right?  Jesus was certainly that very man, wasn’t he?  There was the voice from heaven and the Spirit descending like a dove.  He was a relative and John knew him well enough to believe Jesus of Nazareth was the one.  But again, here he was, locked up and no happy ending anywhere in sight.  Who can blame him for asking Jesus for some word of hope or instruction?

The doubts of a saint are vastly different from the doubts of the skeptic.  When we find we don’t have the Jesus we wanted, we need assurance, even if we are determined to believe.  It’s a question of trust.  We can trust someone during difficult times, but still acknowledge that the times are difficult.  Disappointment with God is a real thing.  Our faith may waver, but it will not fail.  Surely, as we wait, God will strengthen our heart.

The skeptic sees things differently.  Difficulties just add to his denials.  She builds a wall of doubt out of bricks inscribed with objections.  Trials are never an acceptable outcome of obedience.  Disobedience can always find its reasons.

The saint knows better.  The narrow gate and the difficult way lead to life.  The rugged cross is something to cherish and something to cling to, while awaiting to exchange it for a crown.  Is this the Jesus we wanted?  No matter, it is the real Jesus.  And he would tell us the same thing he told John: 

“The blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”

Resurrection Sunday 2019

Nabeel Qureshi 1983-2017

Nabeel Qureshi 1983 – 2017

Jesus’ death on the cross is not the end of the Christian message. The gospel is that Jesus then rose from the dead. Whereas every other life ended in death, Jesus’ death ended in life, and his resurrection is the basis of all Christian confidence.

Resurrection 2019.pdf

Resurrection 2019.mp3

Matthew 9 Verse by Verse

Matt photoChrist’s public ministry moves forward with even more miracles.  He ends with a prayer request for us, to pray for laborers that will help with the spiritual harvest.

Matthew 09.pdf

Matthew 09.mp3