Your Prayer Has Been Heard

Zack and gabeA Meditation of Luke 1:5-25.

Have you ever longed for something? Ached so bad that you could feel it in your bones? Cried out to God and begged? Perhaps in the midst of it all doubted God and thought he was cruel at worst or just uncaring at best? You prayed and Heaven were silent. No, not just silent… This deafening quietness makes it seem like Heaven doesn’t  care.

There once was a righteous man who was married to a righteous woman. They kept the Law. They loved God. They worshiped Him! But they had no children. They would have counted children a blessing. They asked God for this blessing, to be able to have kids. They petitioned Heaven, but they heard no reply.

Enter in for a moment to their life: As life goes on, so does everyone else. Nieces, nephews and even cousins are born. You watch as friends give birth and celebrate with joy the arrival of their sons and daughters. Some families seem especially fruitful and as they pass by there is a silent exchange. No one says anything out loud, they don’t use their mouths to speak, but they don’t have to. You read it in their look. The silent words of pity as they stroll through with so many blessings and your house has none.

You cry out to God. “Bless me! I know I don’t deserve a little one but you are a God who blesses! Our home would be a fine home for a child. We would fine parents. You who have opened wombs before, open this one!”

And you pray that prayer through your twenties, your thirties, your forties and on until you feel a little silly praying like that anymore because you know your body is too old. There marriage act itself would be a miracle these days, how shall their be a child now?

But their is one story in the history of your people where such a miraculous birth took place and so their is hope. This petition has become so well rehearsed and that perhaps you ask Heaven for a child each day as you go through your daily prayers. Or perhaps you ask with a hint of belief that the God who worked in Abraham and Sarah will work in you to produce a child as well. Either way, you still pray.

So then one day you are in the very act of worshiping God and there at the alter of incense is an angel. It’s a scary thing to be in the presence of an angel. When they appear they usually pick people up off the ground and tell them not to be afraid. This he does, then he says, “Your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you will call his name John.”

When Elizabeth is with child she says it like this, “Thus the Lord has done for me in the days when He looked on me, to take away my reproach among people.”

These are amazing words because they allow us to see the unfolding drama in the stories of Zechariah and Elizabeth. While they were receiving the blessing of a child they were also receiving something more…more than they had asked. They were invited into the drama of redemption. The longing of their hearts and the absent roll of parenthood in their life wasn’t placed their by God’s cruelty… Just the opposite. It was a blessing. They would be parents of the prophet of God who would make ready the way for the Messiah.

The story of the birth of John reminds us that we are not the author of our lives. Our lives are given to us by our Creator. While we like to think we are the main characters in the story, we just play a supporting role. Even John himself would just be support for the real lead, Jesus. When asked about Jesus’ ministry John would say, “He must increase, I must decrease.”

But now we have to look at our lives through the story of John’s birth. Do we live lives of humble submission to God? Do we live in the greater awareness of His Kingdom? Do we see that our community, family, workplace, and perhaps even our bareness or fruitfulness is not ultimately ours alone but can all be used by God in bigger ways than we have ever thought or imagined? Or have we been busy with our lives trying to rip the pen from the authors hand and rewrite the script?

(Lk. 24:27) why was the Bible written

Is the Bible about how to live or about the one who lived for you? Is it about a list of rules to obey or about the only one who was ever perfectly obedient to God? Is it a guide book on how to live in a fallen world or a news cast containing the good news that Jesus has come to save us from our sins?

You see that’s what is at stake here! How will you view the scriptures? Is it about what God has done or what you must do!

Don’t you see? It is about what God has done! The gospel, the good news of the kingdom of Heaven, is about what Christ has done for us. He has taken our sin. He has born our transgressions. He has suffered the wrath of God in our place and he has risen from the grave.

Now we must hear. We must understand. We cannot miss the message. We simply turn to Him. We look to Him who bore our iniquity and shame. We must embrace Him. We must surrender. We must turn to trust in Him. We must walk in Grace.

Father,

Thank you for saving me. Thank you that I am counted righteous by the work of Christ. Thank you that your Bible is the message of what you have done for me in Christ. I will live in your grace.

Heads up to those of you following along.

I’ll be back Monday in another book of the Bible. I’ll be taking a slightly different approach. I’ll read each day until something strikes me. I may read only a few verses from the previous day or I may read a few chapters. Each post will be around 150 to 300 word meditation with a brief prayer. I’ll also post references to 3 passages of scripture that I’m praying through that day. I read one passage in the morning, one at noon, and one in the evening. I’ll post the references. Feel free to look them up and pray along.

If you haven’t caught on yet I do not post devotional thoughts on Sundays or Thursdays. I’m still in the word, but I choose to reflect on the Sunday message my pastor preaches and the Wednesday night message that I deliver.

“he was looking for the kingdom of God” (Lk. 23:51)

Have you ever been desperate to see God move?  Have you ever looked around and realized that apart from God doing something, it’s hopeless? Have you ever hoped beyond hope that God would move in a significant way in your lifetime?

Joseph did.  He was looking for the kingdom of God.  Then one day on the worst day in history Joseph did something that put him right in the middle of seeing the kingdom of God come together.

You see He put the body of Jesus in his tomb.  When it looked like all was lost he did the right thing.  He provided a burial for the peasant that everyone had thought was the Messiah.  He gave his tomb to Jesus.

Even on a terrible day, Joseph was prepared to be busy doing something.  He was going to take care of the body of this peasant and put him in his own tomb.  Joseph was a man of action.

I guess that looking really involves doing.  Looking for the kingdom of God isn’t sitting on the sidelines hoping to see a miracle or something.  That was what Herod was doing and he wasn’t looking for the kingdom of God.  He just wanted a show.

Joseph was looking and as he was looking he was doing.  His action put him in the middle of the kingdom of God.

Father,

I am seeking to follow you today.  I don’t want to be a spectator.  help me to do even small and menial tasks as unto you today.  Thank you for my salvation that was accomplished on the cross.  Use me to tell others about you today.

By Your Endurance You Will Gain Your Lives.(LK 21:19)

Be patient.  Sometimes patience is really hard to grasp.  I like the word “endurance” used here.  Endurance is the key to gaining your life.  Endurance or patience is the key because it holds on to the promise that Christ will do all that He said He would do.  Endurance is faith when the chips are down and the persecution is hot.  Endurance is holding on with the knowledge that Christ is returning and all will be as it should be.  Endurance is facing war, famine, persecution, and tragedy knowing that even in the face of grief… It is not finished.

Those who are not patient will lose their lives.  They will play their hand on the here and now looking for benefits, though they only be temporary.  They will spend their time, their talents, and their money on the immediate.  When something doesn’t pan out they will keep looking.  They give up easy on the right way and pursue dead ends because initially they look like they will pay off with big returns.

“Hold on,” He says. “Hold on, it will be a bumpy ride. Many things will happen, but they won’t be the end.  It will take a while.  My timing is not your timing.”

I guess that is really the key.  His timing is perfect, mine is comfortable.  I like knowing how things will work out.  I would like to know how the next ten years of my life will go.  The truth is I may not have 10 years to spend.  I should trust Christ now.  Even when it looks like the world is against me, I should trust Him and know that His timing is perfect.  You see patience is the ultimate statement that life isn’t all about me.

Father,

Thank you for your Word that is truth.  I continue to be amazed at how you speak to me through your Word.  Today I am waiting on you.  I am working in your Timing.

“Whose Likeness and Inscription Does it Have?” (Lk. 20:24)

“Render to Ceasar the things that are Ceasar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Lk. 20:25).  Do you see the real value of these statements?  Jesus is talking about more than taxes.  He is talking about more than government.  Jesus is talking about you!  You see… you were made in the image of God!  Whose likeness and inscription are written on you?… God’s!

Think about it.  You are made in the image of God.  I think God looks at you like I look at my children.  While I love them and value them for who they are, I also see a little bit of me in them.  When God looks at you He sees you as different than the animals.  He sees His image in you!

Yet somehow we have also marred His image in us.  We have rebelled against Him.  We have each turned to our own way.  We have worshiped things that we were not made to worship.  We have made ourselves out to be gods rather than beings created in the image of God.

Yet now here Christ.  The ultimate image of God because He is God now says, “Give back to God the things that are His.”  And we stand stained, corrupted, and defiled.  Would God even want us back?  We have taken his image and spoiled it in our rebellion.  Can we even be restored?… The answer is Yes!  For Jesus Himself was headed to the cross for our sake.  The ultimate image of God, the word of God, taking on our sin, suffering God’s wrath, clothing us in His righteousness, rising from the dead and now standing at the right hand of the father interceding on our behalf.  So then he says, “Give to God the things that are God’s.”

Father,

I am reminded again today that I am twice yours.  Once by creation in Adam and second by redemption in Christ.  I have nothing to offer you, other than what you have created me to do.  Today I give you glory and seek to live my life in such a way as to point all other to you.  Thank you for the glorious good news of the gospel, that you still take rebels and turn them into worshipers.

because “They Supposed That The Kingdom of God Was to Appear Immediately” (Lk. 19:11)

He had just proclaimed in Zacchaeus’ house that he had come to “seek and save that which was lost.”  To their minds they couldn’t fathom what would be more lost than the city of Jerusalem under Roman rule.  Some had already sought to make Him the king by force.  But they didn’t understand the full magnitude of what Jesus had come to do.  They were looking to be saved from Rome, never did they imagine that He had come to save them from an even greater enemy.

I wonder if sometimes we might ever underestimate what Jesus is really up to in our lives? We have plans and ideas about how things should play out.  We have taken the liberty and written out all the plays that God should make.  We even take the time to find the verses that support our theories.  Yet in the midst of it we forget one thing: He is God and we are not. We don’t see the big picture.  We don’t have full knowledge of how things will play out. We don’t understand the full ramification of our own actions, how then could we fully fathom the mind of God.

They would have stopped Easter from ever happening in order to have a temporal king. They would have been free from Rome, but dead in their sins.  They would have national hero, but the world would be lost forever.

How many times along the road to the cross would he have been stopped if he listened to those around Him?  Have you ever Praised God that He didn’t listen to our foolish plans or ideas? His are always better, even if their is a bit of pain in the mix.  Have you ever thought that God provides for us exactly what we need in Jesus Christ, and this is often more than we have the foresight to want?

Father,

I thank you today for your patience with me.  Like those around Jesus at this time, I often try to fit you into my understanding of things.  I have ideas on how things should play out, but I am reminded today that your ways are greater and your plans are better.  I am following you today.

 

“Will He Find Faith on the Earth?” (Lk. 18:8)

Why don’t we ask God for more?  Why do we give up on our prayers?  Is it because we doubt Him?

You see as much as we try and make faith an action that we take, it has it’s root in the confidence that God has already or will act on our behalf.  Faith at it’s core is believing God.  Faith is taking God at His Word.  Faith is trusting God.

We can try and make faith about us, but it really isn’t.  Faith is not something you conger up.  You don’t psych yourself out about faith.  You see if you have faith or not, God is still God.  If you have faith or not, God is still good.  If you have faith or not, God has acted on our behalf in Jesus Christ.  If you have faith or not, God will bring all things to a conclusion in Jesus Christ.

So our faith, or should I say lack there of, doesn’t really have a bearing on the matter.  What does matter is that God has acted.  God has moved.  God is good.  God is just.  Our right response to who God is and what he has done is called faith.

So when we pray, we should have faith that God will do whatever He said He will do.  (And we should also be careful not to put words in His mouth.)  So if we know about injustice in the world and we know that God hates all injustice, then we should pray that He will bring justice to the world and we should pray knowing that God will bring justice to the world.  We should also note that when His justice comes it may look different than what I might have pictured in my head.  You see God is God and by definition He doesn’t seek my approval on anything.

Father,

I ask that today I would simply trust you.  Where I am weak I ask that you would increase my faith.  Renew my mind and transform the way I think.  I want all my confidence in you and not in my own flesh.