Monday, December 18, 2017

An Old Man Named Zack

Christmas. 2017. TWO THOUSAND SEVENTEEN. Twenty centuries and seventeen years. Plus a few, based on more accurate calendaring.

Think about those days leading up to the most pivotal day since the world was created. More pivotal than when the sun moved backwards in the days of Hezekiah. More jarring than the time the sun stood still for Joshua. More life-changing than when the Lord God parted the Red Sea for Moses. All of this, and more.

The year before a silenced clock in heaven began to tick once more. The second hand moved, but not in the beat of 60 seconds per minute. It clicked off more slowly. Slow, but steady.

The Father summoned Gabriel, a trusted messenger. He told him it was time for the messages he was tasked with delivering. First, was an old priest, mostly shriveled up, but still serving the Lord. No retirement for this man. Besides his wife, Elizabeth, old Zacharias didn't have anything left to live for. There were no children in his home. He and Elizabeth were never able to conceive. The dreams of children were long gone. The pallor of a childless home hid behind the face of everyone who knew them. "Hi, Zack, Hi Betty. [Poor guys; they never had a child. I wonder what they did that God wouldn't give them a son?]"

The trustworthy old priest scurried about the holy place, doing whatever it was the priests had to do in that sacred room. In his case, it was burning incense on the altar that rested just before the veil into the holy of holies--the resting place of the ark of the covenant. What irony. The incense symbolized the prayers of God's people. Yet, here stood a man whose prayer for a son had never been answered. Yet...

Inside, Zacharias is offering the incense. Outside, men and women are praying at the same time.

I wonder if his hand was steady as he approached that altar? I wonder if a prayer was on his lips as he approached this very holy altar? In his surprising fashion, as Zacharias laid the incense on the altar, Gabriel suddenly appeared, just to the right of the altar. It's a good thing Zacharias had a good heart. Those sudden appearances can jar a person's heart.

This man is now paralyzed with fear. This is not a baby-faced little creature, holding a bow and arrow, or however they portray those things. This is a messenger of God! And he stands in his stately glory.

But Gabriel is a messenger of the God Who Comforts. And he brings a message on his behalf: "Don't be afraid. Your prayer for a son has been answered. You and Elizabeth will have a son."

An old wound in the old priest's heart has been ripped open. The disappointment of the years, scarred over, toughened by years of no answer in the time he and his bride prayed together, is now exposed. The root of bitterness that stinks like rotten eggs threatens to overpower the fragrance of the incense. Zacharias asks with unfettered disbelief (and maybe anger), "HOW WILL I KNOW THIS? I AM AN OLD MAN AND MY WIFE IS ADVANCED IN YEARS (he's wise to describe her that way)." Think about it. The priest in charge of the incense that represents the prayers of God's people has now begun to pray without faith. His God was too small. His God didn't care.

I cringe when I think of these words. I have heard them more than once; they were stated differently.

We can't build this, even with God's help!

If you don't plant churches according to our model, you will fail!

This church will never grow; get used to it!

But an old man's disappointments will not hinder God. Gabriel gave him a hard case of laryngitis. It lasted at least 9 months.

Tell me, would you be willing to suffer for a span of time if it meant God unfolded a plan for you that was even greater than your dreams? Or, are you so time and earthbound that you cannot see beyond your words and your dreams?

The day that split history was about to unfold. And God used an old man and an old woman to prepare the way.

Be willing to let God use you to prepare the way for His next event.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Life Really Does Matter

Today is the annual March for Life. This annual march began over 4 decades ago, and now involves hundreds of thousands who are pro-life. They come from all walks of life, too. Many are women; but there are a number of men involved, as well. There are Catholics and Calvinists, Protestants and Pentecostals, Baptists and Baby-boomers, Millennials and Mennonites, Jesus People and Jews. This group is Black, White, Asian, Latino, Arab, European, Indian, Native American---the list is too long to describe. And they are gathered in Washington because they want to send the message that life really does matter.

I have read the trend feed on Twitter today. Some of the comments from pro-death proponents have been ridiculous. Some are beyond the pale when it comes to language and description of those who believe life really matters.

I want you to know why life matters.

Life is a gift from God. It's not yours to take away from another. It's so precious that God even wrote a commandment about it. That commandment says everything you need to know: you shall not murder. Now, to be sure, I went back and read that just this afternoon. I did not see an exception for unwanted pregnancies.

Think about the words of Jesus. He said it's the thief who wants to kill and destroy. Jesus came to give life.

Life really does matter, ladies and gentlemen. Life is good. Love it. Celebrate it. Stand up for it. Fight for it.