Friday, July 13, 2012

Lessons from Luke - In the Barren

I'm still in chapter 1.  :)  Today I was down in verses 53-56 and God spoke big time to this heart.  But I'm still soaking in that and in no way ready to share it.  Today, I'm posting my notes from Luke 1: 5-13.  It was neat to go back over these notes this morning after God knocked the breath out of me in verses 53-56.  It was as if I connected two puzzle pieces. He is so good like that. So without any more are my notes and thoughts from verses 5-13.

In the Barren
Luke 1: 5-13

Zechariah and Elizabeth had a holy reputation. People respected them. In fact, in this portion of Luke we learn that Zechariah, a priest, had just been chosen for a once in a lifetime opportunity to enter the temple and burn incense on behalf of his people. As he is in the temple burning the incense God sends an angel. An angel whose first words were, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayer has been heard…..”

This angel goes on to explain that Elizabeth, (Barren and as verse 7 reminds us, was advanced in years) is going to have a son. We know that this son is John the Baptist, the one who would prepare the way for Jesus.

As I sat with these few verses that are full application, verses 6 and 7 seemed to be highlighted in holy yellow.

And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years.

B.A.R.R.E.N. Childless. In a culture that placed value on the ability to have children, this righteous, blameless woman was barren.

Here we find a couple who had most likely been married for years. (end of verse 6 says they were advanced in years) A couple who Luke describes as righteous before God, walking blamelessly in ALL those commandments and statues, and yet they wore the label barren. Whether spoken or unspoken I am quite sure there were people who questioned. Questioned what great “sin” they had committed to be this dreaded “B” word.

We do the exact same thing today. We see people who are in a barren place. Could be financial, physical….just people going through hard stuff and we “assume” that because they don’t have success as we see success, that they have messed up life in some way. Sometimes, hard times do come as consequences to poor choices or sin. Sin has consequences. But sometimes…..

Sometimes, God had different plans. Zechariah and Elizabeth were careful to obey God. They loved Him.

Their reputation preceded them in a way that Luke describes as blameless. God took two people who loved Him.

Served Him.

Obeyed Him, and in His sovereignty, kept them from having children.

Yes. I said it. God allowed them to wear the label barren. Why?

Simply because He knew He could trust them to wear the label WHILE seeking Him.  There was greater glory at stake.

Now, in their “advanced years”, God was going to do something so incredible He had to send an angel to prepare Zechariah. At just the right time, God was going to give them a new label. They were to become parents.

The barren would give life. And not just any life. A life of a child, a son. A son with a holy agenda.

Each of us is wearing or has worn a label such as “barren”. Often times, they are labels we would rather not think about much less talk about! But God has been so tender to point out to me that it is in my barren places that HE has made himself known.

Those are the places where I can say “But God.”

In your life, could it be in THAT barren area, the one you would rather forget about and definitely NOT talk about, that is an area God has entrusted TO you? Perhaps He has trusted you to wear that label so that at just the right time He can showcase His glory.

It is in the barren times and places, the times when “I” have nothing that I realize God is more than enough.

It is in the barren times and places I am taught that His grace is sufficient!

It is in the barren that I hear Him say “Do Not Be Afraid.”.

It is in the barren that I have come to expect Him to speak to my heart.

It is in the barren that I experience the strong arm of God in my life. 

It is in the barren that God strengthens my faith. I can pray "I believe, but help my unbelief" and He does!

Is the barren hard? Yes. But God….

God’s thoughts are not my thoughts. His ways so much higher than mine. His words… His words do not return empty.

They accomplish HIS purpose. And He is faithful to complete the good work He begins in each of us.

So today, I thank Him. I thank Him for the barren area because I know that it has purpose.

There is reason in the barren. And when I am seeking Him and living for Him...

There is beauty in the barren.

There is glory in the barren.

Thank you God, for bringing beauty from the barren.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Lessons From Luke - With Certainty

This summer, I am soaking in Luke.  Line by line. Verse by verse. Little by little. :) It has been almost a month and I am still in chapter 1.  These "Lessons from Luke" are part of my journal and what God is showing me.  I will say this:

He has amazed me at the way similar themes have been "dropped in my lap" during this time.  What are you studying this summer? 

Luke 1:1-4

that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
Luke 1:4

This was the reason Luke gave for writing this gospel.

Luke 1:3 tells us that it was important to Luke to give an “orderly account” of what he had seen and “followed closely”. Why? So that we could be certain of what had taken place. Seems like the logical answer, right?

Reading these four verses brought more to my journal page than I anticipated. I was faced right off the bat with this question: Do I know, and believe, WITH CERTAINTY what God’s word says to me?

Knowing God’s word and believing God’s word are two different things. I have been taught truth my entire life and this summer, God has asked me if I really believe it…WITH CERTAINTY.

Luke 1:1 tells us that many had taken on the task of compiling a narrative of the “things that have been accomplished among us” I did a little research on the word accomplished. The Greek word used here is plerophoreo and part of the definition is: To be fully established as true. As I read on into the explanation, I discovered one of the derivatives meant: FULL CONVICTION. That, my friend is where God stopped me.

While God wants us to know and believe His word WITH CERTAINTY, He wants us to apply it to our lives and live it out with: FULL CONVICTION.

I believe that THIS is what God is calling me to. I feel that now, than ever before we do not have time for the same old casual, lukewarm Christianity that we have allowed to become the “norm”.

Living with certainty and in full conviction means change. It means we are going to look a little different, sound a little different, dare I say stick out a little more? Hear me please: NOT in a pious or, well…..pharasitical (that is Stephanie for holier than thou) attitude. NO. The world has seen enough of that.

We must KNOW and BELIEVE God’s word to us and live it out each day in sincere devotion with KINDNESS. We must live with certainty and full confidence that the principles we find in His word are applicable to today.  We must be gentle and willing to take a stand when asked to.  

My daughters need to see me be confident enough in God’s word to say “NO. That is wrong and that is not acceptable because it does not line up with God’s word.”

All year He has been showing me how important a pure heart and mind are. This time in Luke 1 has just confirmed what God started way back in January.

My theme verses for 2012 are found in 2 Timothy 2: 20-21:

Now in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver but also of wood and clay, some for honorable use, some for dishonorable. Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.

My prayer for my family is that God would get us over ourselves and make our desire for Him so strong, that we cannot do anything but live with certainty and full confidence that His word is truth and life.