You Are Blessed Because You Believed

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

You Are Blessed Because You Believed

Luke 1:26-45

 

For many, the Christmas season is a truly blessed time, it’s my favorite time of the year. We get to be with family, see our children or grandchildren and watch them open their presents. But sadly, the Christmas season is not a blessed time for everyone. This time of year has the highest incidence of suicide. I believe that everyone, in their core, want’s to be blessed. We all know people, and maybe we are that person, who will say to someone as they are leaving, “have a blessed day.” The Bible tells us that Mary was blessed, but why was she blessed.

In the first couple of chapters of Luke we read the story of the birth of Jesus. This time of year, we often focus on chapter 2, but for this let’s look at chapter 1 for a minute. The first 4 verses are Luke introducing himself and telling why and how he wrote this book, then he gets right into the story. But he doesn’t start with Mary, instead he starts with Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin.

Now, Zachariah and Elizabeth were quite old. They had been praying for a son for years, but Liz was said to be barren. Zach was a priest of the order of Abijah and we read in verse 6 that they were both righteous in God’s eyes. Zach was chosen by casting lots to burn incense in the sanctuary. You see, there is no coincidence with God, He even controls where the dice will fall. While in the sanctuary, an angel appears to Zach. The angel tells him that God has heard his prayers and that his wife was pregnant. The angel even tells him that it is a boy, they didn’t even have an ultrasound first, and that he was to name the boy John. Now, look at what the angel tells Zach about his son in verses 14-17, 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.”

So, this angel tells him that his wife is pregnant in her old age, that it will be a boy and then all these other details about his life, and what is Zach’s response? “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” Luke 1:18. So, what does the angel say next? “I am Gabriel! I stand in the very presence of God. It was he who sent me to bring you this good news! 20 But now, since you didn’t believe what I said, you will be silent and unable to speak until the child is born. For my words will certainly be fulfilled at the proper time.” Luke 1:19.

Let’s take a look at what just happened. The angel Gabriel came to Zach and let him know that he was about to receive what he had been praying about for years, and Zach didn’t believe him. So, this means that, although Zach had been praying for a son for years, he didn’t really believed that God would do it. Don’t we all do that sometimes? We ask God to provide something, all the while in the back of our minds, not believing He will do it.

We’ve all probably heard this story many times. Gabe made Zach a mute until John was born because of his disbelief.  So, now let’s look at how Mary handled the same event in her own life.

Six months later that same angel, Gabriel, appears to Mary and says, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Luke 1:27. This confused and disturbed Mary, but Gabe said to her the same thing he said to Zach, “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” and once he calms her down a little bit he says, “for you have found favor with God!31 You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Luke 1:30-33.

Notice what happens next. Mary questions this but doesn’t doubt its possibilities. So, Zach doesn’t believe that his wife can get pregnant when she is old, even though he would have undoubtedly known the story of Abraham and Sarah, While Mary believes that she can conceive, even though she is a virgin. She says, “But how can this happen? I am a virgin.” So, because she asks an intelligent question, without doubting, he answers her by saying, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So, the baby to be born will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. 36 What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she has conceived a son and is now in her sixth month. 37 For the word of God will never fail.” Luke 1:35-37. And, this is how Mary responds, “Mary responded, ‘I am the Lord’s servant. May everything you have said about me come true.’ And then the angel left her.” Luke 1:38.

Next, Mary immediately goes to visit Liz. It says that she went to Judea a few days later and this is where we see the unborn John the Baptizer leaping in his mother’s womb when they come together. Think about this, Mary had just conceived Jesus a few days earlier and John recognizes Him.

But I love what Liz says in verses 44-45, 44 When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. 45 You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said.” She said that Mary was blessed because she believed the Lord would do what He said he would do. Here’s the thing, God wants to bless us, but He won’t do it if we don’t have faith. He wants to see that we believe first, then He will bless us to overflowing. Have a blessed week.

Active Waiting

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Active Waiting
1 Corinthians 1:4-7

In my 30+ years in the business management world, I have had to go to more seminars and watch more training videos than I can count. I have seen Tony Robbins, Zig Ziglar, and even Robert Schuller. These guys talked about everything from management styles to team building, but one thing that most of them talked about was active listening. I’m sure you’ve all heard someone talk about this. Not listening passively, but really getting in there, commenting about what they are saying, responding with phrases like, “what I hear you saying is…”
Well, Paul starts out his letter to the church at Corinth by telling them to practice active waiting. Right after his usual greeting of grace and peace, Paul says this, “4 I always thank my God for you and for the gracious gifts he has given you, now that you belong to Christ Jesus. 5 Through him, God has enriched your church in every way—with all of your eloquent words and all of your knowledge. 6 This confirms that what I told you about Christ is true. 7 Now you have every spiritual gift you need as you eagerly wait for the return of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:4-7.
Notice in verse 4, he doesn’t just say that he thanks God for them, he says that he always thanks God for them. We need to be thankful for other believers, even if they don’t belong to our denomination, and we need to do this always, not just every now and then. We also need to be specific when we thank God for other believers. Paul says that he thanks God for the gifts that He has given them. Spoiler Alert…Although Paul does genuinely thank God for their spiritual gifts, he will be reprimanding them later in his letter for their misuse of those same gifts, so this is somewhat of a setup.
In verse 5 he talks about how God has enriched their church through Christ Jesus in every way, and he says God did this with their eloquent words and knowledge. So, what Paul is doing here is reminding them that all their eloquent words and knowledge come from Jesus. This is important for all of us to remember, especially those of us who are pastors, or leaders of any kind. Remember what we read in James 4:10, “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up in honor.” And, what does 2 Samuel 22:28 say? “You rescue the humble, but your eyes watch the proud and humiliate them.” Believe me, you don’t want God to humiliate you, so humble yourself before Him. This is just a couple of verses, there are dozens of verses throughout scripture that remind us that God opposes the proud.
In verse 6 Paul reminds them that all these things, their knowledge, eloquence, and spiritual gifts, are just testimonies that what he told them about Christ was true.
Now, look at what he says in verse 7. He tells them that, in Christ, they have every spiritual gift they need to await Christ’s return eagerly. We need to expect the second coming eagerly. Friends, if you haven’t noticed, it won’t belong. So, what does he mean by eagerly wait? The Greek word used here is, ἀπεκδέχομαι apekdéchomai, ap-ek-dekh’-om-ahee, and it means to expect fully. We need to fully expect the second coming of Christ in our lifetime. We need to live every day as if we knew that Jesus was coming back today.
Eagerly Waiting or Fully Expecting isn’t a passive thing. As Christ followers, we must be actively waiting and expecting the second coming. Michelle and I are doing research right now which will be coming out in an upcoming book. We are co-writing this one, and it will be called, Life as We Knew It, One Couple’s Awakening.” What we have been uncovering is a staggering amount of corruption and just pure evil in our world today. It is steeped in U.S. and world politics, in Hollywood, and in the media. Not only that, it is throughout our schools of higher learning, science, and even the general public. It is an evil world we live in, worse than the days of Sodom and Gomorrah, and all Christ followers must be awakened to it, so we know what we are up against.
We can’t just live our lives with our heads in the sand, we need to wake up and stand together. If you have been reading my blogs, you know that I talk a lot about the importance of unity within the body of Christ. The only way that we can be effective against the evil of this world is if we stand together as one body! We must put aside all our denominational differences. There is only one doctrine that should divide us, and that is salvation by God’s grace and through our life-changing faith in the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Literally, nothing else matters! So, it doesn’t matter if you are a Calvinist, an Arminian, or anything else, as long as you are straight on the issue of salvation, you are my brother or sister.
Look at the New Testament. There were no denominations, many churches were making up one body, with Christ as the head. Now, look at 2 Chronicles 7:14, “Then if my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sins and restore their land.” I’m sure most of us have read this verse and heard multiple sermons on it. But, look at that word, “wicked.” The Hebrew word that was translated as “wicked” is the word, רַע raʻ, rah, which means; bad, disagreeable, malignant, evil, and divisive. So, this verse is telling us that we believers must be humble, pray, seek God’s face, and turn from our wicked and divisive ways, if we want to see God heal our land.
We must join together as one body and actively await the coming of Christ. Let’s pray for a great revival in our land, a great awakening if you will.

Peace, Love, Faithfulness, and Grace

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Peace, Love, Faithfulness, and Grace

Ephesians 6:21-24

 

The next passage in Ephesians chapter 6 is the passage that tells us to put on all of God’s armor. I’m going to skip this one because it was the first passage I blogged on, more than a year and a half ago. If you would like to read it, the blog is titled, All of God’s Armor. Also, in case you don’t have time to go back and read it, I will be launching a new Podcast by the same title, Cathedral Made of People, that should debut in about a week, and The Armor of God will be my first topic.

So, this blog will finish up the book of Ephesians, and I want to look at Paul’s final greeting. In the first 2 verses of his final greeting Paul says, 21 To bring you up to date, Tychicus will give you a full report about what I am doing and how I am getting along. He is a beloved brother and faithful helper in the Lord’s work. 22 I have sent him to you for this very purpose—to let you know how we are doing and to encourage you.” Ephesians 6:21-22. Paul is sending this letter to the church at Ephesus with Tychicus, I call him Tych for short, and his main reason for sending him was to let this church group know how he was doing.

It is important for those of us who claim the name of Christ to keep tabs on each other, especially if it is someone we support. This is one reason I don’t understand Christians who won’t use social media. Yes, there is a lot of bad on social media, and in many ways, it was set up for evil intentions, but let’s take advantage of it. We need to join all the social media platforms and flood them with scripture, encouragement, and inspiration. Let’s take social media for Christ! Especially use memes, their algorithms can’t filter most of them out, they just show up as a picture. But, also use it to keep tabs on each other. Post how you are doing. Tweet when you have had the privilege of leading someone to the Lord. If you speak before a group live stream it, then post the video. Put up prayer requests, answered prayer, and victories. Let your “friends” and “followers” know what and how you are doing, and how they can best support you.

Nine years ago, God told me to write a book, so I did, which is now available on Amazon. While writing it I started realizing how much we need to use these platforms to get the word out. I am now working on 2 other books, I have this blog, I am on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and will be releasing a podcast in the next week or so. I spend all my spare time, and often create spare time, writing and trying to encourage others. So, join me! Sit down at your computer or relax on the couch with your smartphone and start spreading the gospel. Because, if you noticed, Paul didn’t just send Tych to tell them how he was doing, he sent him with a letter to let them know how he was doing and to instruct and encourage them.

Paul starts out verse 23 by saying, “Peace be with you, dear brothers and sisters.” So, he starts out by wishing them peace. The word peace is used 362 times in the Bible. One of the names used to describe God in the Old Testament is Jehovah Shalom, which means The Lord is Peace. I did a series of blogs on the names of God over a year ago and you can go back and read this one if you would like, the title of it was, Names of God – Jehovah Shalom. The important thing is that the meaning of this name isn’t The Lord Brings Peace, or The Lord Gives Peace, the name means The Lord IS Peace. True peace only comes from God. Jesus said in John 14:27, “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So, don’t be troubled or afraid.” The peace that we receive from Christ cannot be found in the world, it is true peace. God’s peace surpasses all human understanding, in fact, we read in Philippians 4:7, “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.” Do you see that? His peace will guard our hearts and minds. This is what we need. The peace that will protect us.

Guarding our hearts is essential in the Christian life. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, “Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” The prophet Malachi tells men twice to guard our hearts to stay loyal to our wives in Malachi 2:15 and Malachi 2:16. And, as we saw in Philippians 4:7, God’s peace will guard our hearts. In fact, in the model prayer that Christ taught His disciples he said to pray, “And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one.” Matthew 6:13. When Christ told us to pray “don’t let us yield to temptation,” He was telling us to pray that God will, “guard our hearts.”

The next thing Paul says in the second half of verse 23 is, “and may God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you love with faithfulness.” He says that God the Father and Jesus Christ will give us love with faithfulness. In the same way that God IS Peace, God IS Love. Look at 1 John 4:8 which tells us, “But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” God can give us Love because He IS Love! But not just love, he says love with faith. How did he end 1 Corinthians 13? He said, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.” 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Paul ends this letter by saying, “May God’s grace be eternally upon all who love our Lord Jesus Christ.” Ephesians 6:24. Do you remember how he began this letter? He said, “May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace.” Ephesians 1:2. Paul began and ended his letter with grace and peace. These are two things that are essential to the Christian life. We need Gods grace and the peace that surpasses all understanding as our foundation, then we will have a firm foundation to build on.

So, I say to you, may the Peace, Love, Faith, and Grace of God be with you this week, and may you serve God with all you have.

Slaves and Masters

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

Slaves & Masters

Ephesians 6:5-9

 

Slavery is a touchy subject, so let me start by saying that this verse is not condoning slavery in any way, shape, or form. Paul is simply using something that is common to them as an illustration. And, the truth is that their slavery was not slavery as we know it. In fact, the word used in this verse is the Greek word, δοῦλος doûlos, (doo’-los) which means, “bondservant.” Slaves in that day were basically indentured slaves. They owed someone a debt and had to work for that person until it was paid off. Sometimes, once that “slave” was freed, they chose to stay on with the master because he was fair and kind. At this point, the master would put the slave’s earlobe against the door post and drive a stake through it, identifying them as his doulos, or voluntary servant for life. If you look throughout the New Testament you will see where Paul, Peter, James, and Jude identified themselves as a doulos for Jesus Christ. If you’d like to know more about this term, I wrote about it in one of my earlier blogs titled, Doulos.

So, now that we have the whole master/slave thing out of the way, what exactly is Paul saying here? Like I said earlier, Paul is just using something that they can relate with to get a point across. This “slave/master” relationship can carry over to our “employee/employer” relationship. Unless you are self-employed you have, at some point, complained about your employer, and possibly even if you are self-employed. I wish I wrote full time, but I do have a day job, I manage a retirement community. I started with them about 5 years ago. This is a large company with retirement communities all over the United States and Michelle and I started working there a few years after it had been bought by an investment group. For its first 35 years, it was a family run company, but they sold it when the owner needed to retire, himself. For the first two and a half years we worked there, it was run much like the owner ran it. There were 2 management couples per community who lived on site. Then, about two and a half years ago when the government started raising minimum wages, the company had to recoup those costs, so they went to a 3-manager model, fired one fourth of their community managers, moved us all off-site, and gave the workload that had been done by 4 managers, to 3 managers. Then, they fired half of their Regional Directors and gave some of the work they used to do to us General Managers. I’d like to say that I never had a bad thought, or said a bad word about them, but I’m human. Michelle wasn’t fired but was made Office Manager at a huge reduction in pay and, coupled with the costs of living off-site, we lost one-fourth of our income, literally overnight.

So, yes, I have been guilty of talking poorly about my earthly “master”, but the one thing I did right is I made a concerted effort to keep working for them as unto God. Look at Ephesians 6:5, “Slaves, obey your earthly masters with deep respect and fear. Serve them sincerely as you would serve Christ.” He doesn’t say to obey them if they treat you right, he says to serve them as you would serve Christ. He goes on in verse 6 to say, “Try to please them all the time, not just when they are watching you. As slaves of Christ, do the will of God with all your heart.” Ouch! So, serve them like you would serve Christ whether they are watching or not. Why? Because Christ is always watching, plus it will show in your work. In today’s world, you not supposed to talk openly about Christ at work, but your boss will know if you are truly living for God and he will be watching. The pastor I grew up under, used to always say that your life may be the only Bible some people ever open. They are watching whether you know it or not.

Verse 7 tells us to, “Work with enthusiasm, as though you were working for the Lord rather than for people.” Ask yourself, “do I work enthusiastically?” “Does it look to others like I enjoy my job, or that it’s a chore?” In verse 8 he reminds us, “Remember that the Lord will reward each one of us for the good we do, whether we are slaves or free.” We will be rewarded if we don’t falter. We need to stay the course and endure to the end. Remember what Galatians 6:9 says, “So let’s not get tired of doing what is good. At just the right time we will reap a harvest of blessing if we don’t give up.”

Paul only gives one verse to the masters, he says, “Masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Don’t threaten them; remember, you both have the same Master in heaven, and he has no favorites.” Ephesians 6:9. So, for those of us who are Christian bosses, we need to be fair and not threatening. We need to remember that we serve God, not man.

Don’t forget, those of us who are in a management position, we are servants and masters. We need to work for our master the way we would want those under us to work for us. We need to remember that our masters who are riding us for results are being ridden by their masters. So, if our master isn’t a Christian, and doesn’t act like one, we need to serve him as we would Christ that much more. And, if they ever ask you why you serve with such a good attitude, “Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it.” 1 Peter 3:15. Remember, you can’t get in trouble for sharing the gospel at work if you are simply answering a question that your boss asks. Just sayin’.

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