Luke 1:1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught
This chapter’s recent history as part of the Christmas celebration gave me pause as I began.The familiarity of these beautiful Christmas passages can make it easy to overlook other details.I read the chapter several times before something caught my eye.The angel brings up the Holy Spirit when he introduces Mary to what God has in mind for her but the Holy Spirit “filling” John, Elizabeth and Zechariah is a big truth that got lost for me in the familiar.
*15… he [John the Baptist] will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.
*41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. *67 His [John’s] father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied
It makes so much sense now that I’ve noticed that truth.The main characters of this unlikely mystery were given the verification of one Spirit to another. The Holy Spirit was a work of God in the flesh for them that knit them together in unique kind of baptism of spiritual recognition.
This is truth for us today too.Living a life of faith is still a mystery of God that only becomes recognizable to the eye or mind when the Holy Spirit verifies itself in the flesh, one to another.
A New Year is one of those times when I just need God to tell me:
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix you attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” [Romans 12:1-2 MSG]
II Corinthians 11:21-23 Since you admire the egomaniacs of the pulpit so much (remember, this is your old friend, the fool, talking), let me try my hand at it. Do they brag of being Hebrews, Israelites, the pure race of Abraham? I’m their match. Are they servants of Christ? I can go them one better. (I can’t believe I’m saying these things. It’s crazy to talk this way! But I started, and I’m going to finish.)[MSG]
The familiar Christmas song Do You Hear What I Hear came to mind when I read Paul’s challenge to the Corinthians.He felt foolish having to justify his credibility to them after his perseverance in teaching them the truth of the Gospel.He felt frustration over their attraction to what they saw and heard from those “egomaniacs in the pulpit.”Paul’s own plea to the Corinthians could have been these very words…
Do you see what I see?
Do you hear what I hear?
Do you know what I know?
God has used the Apostle’s frustration and the lyrics of this contemporary  Christmas song as a reminder of the servants who’ve been part of God’s preparation for me.They persevered week after week in their own preparation to teach me the reality of living a life of faith only to discover how easily I could be distracted from what they were trying to help me see, hear, know and remember. I know they’ve all walked the same path as that Apostle, faithful and sometimes frustrated.
My Christmas gift to those servants this year is that they be remembered.Only a couple will receive a note in the mail but there are others who’s names I’ve long forgotten and lost touch with.Their gift will be given with the unique delivery system only God can provide.I promise you I will remember to thank them all for being an “old friend” foolish enough to believe this gift would ever come:
I see what you see –
I hear what you hear – I know what you know – Listen to what I say!
The Advent has come!
“The Child, the Child sleeping in the night
He will bring us goodness and light.”
I’m diverting from II Corinthians because at the moment you’re reading this I’m on the high seas for a 3-day cruise but thanks to WordPress I can schedule this story and at the appointed time [I hope] it will be told.
Thank you Lord for the image of “your” new life, your Son, lying in a Cradle of circumstances. This time of preparation shows us how important this annual pilgrimage is to our celebration of that birth and that Cradle. It was your own preparation for us that made Advent a celebration at all and Jesus your special gift of access for us.
We all enter the Kingdom of God through that same Cradle: another “new” life born in the midst of a broken world. The Cradle still contains the memory of God’s preparation. It still holds the promise of what new life can become through the stories of wise men, shepherds and angels, even in a still-broken world.That Cradle is the shelter of God’s provision for us when there doesn’t seem to be room for us anywhere else. This annual journey shows us one more time where we’ve come from, where we’re going and how we’re going to get there.There will be emotional and physical joy and hardship involved in that journey but…
• We have wise men today that have found their special path to that Cradle to offer their treasure and then share their story with us so we can follow and find our way too.
• We have shepherds today who despite their own fears rise and boldly share your Story.
• We have angels in our lives who sing your praises and share your promises of renewal, restoration and grace that prepare us to recognize and receive your gift of forever…again this year.
II Corinthians 7:13b In addition to our own encouragement, we were especially delighted to see how happy Titus was, because his spirit has been refreshed by all of you. 14 I had boasted to him about you, and you have not embarrassed me. But just as everything we said to you was true, so our boasting about you to Titus has proved to be true as well. 15 And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling. 16 I am glad I can have complete confidence in you.
Paul’s phrase about Titus, “… His spirit has been refreshed” has become this part of my Advent journey.Long ago the Sovereign God first chose to create new life from dust and a rib…and here’s the key to remember: God was there with those new people, when their spirits were refreshed he shared that intimacy in his own Spirit.When that relationship was ruined he could justly have chosen to end the poison of sin right then and there, but for the second time he chose life for them.
They would live with the consequences of that poison – their own brokenness and separation from God, but they were not abandoned.The people he loved had been caught in an unnatural separation but God would continue to offer to refresh their spirits through the instruction and opportunity of the law and prophets until…“The Advent.”
Jesus Christ, Son of God was born!For a third, and final, time “The Advent” is God’s choice for new life. This time his choice is an eternal one for us; a relationship that will save, restore and refresh our spirit with his Spirit for the rest of time.Paul’s words describe the refreshed spirit of Titus but they read like God’s own words of encouragement for our choice this Advent journey.“And his affection for you is all the greater when he remembers that you were all obedient, receiving him with fear and trembling.”
II Corinthians 7: 5 For when we came into Macedonia, we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within. 6 But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us by the coming of Titus, 7 and not only by his coming but also by the comfort you had given him. He told us about your longing for me, your deep sorrow, your ardent concern for me, so that my joy was greater than ever.
Today is the first Sunday of Advent, 2018.I have often used a list of Advent readings and explored this season through the eyes of those Scriptures other people chose.This year I’ve made the choice to look for Christmas preparation with my own eyes as I continue exercising my mind in II Corinthians and see where my heart takes me.Today it begins with Paul’s words “we had no rest, but we were harassed at every turn—conflicts on the outside, fears within.But God, who comforts the downcast, comforted us…”That reality has made the Bible an enduring treasure that still comforts us in our response to the realities of life and provides transformation along with information.Experience has shown me every part of the Bible supports the choice God made on our behalf long ago: the birth of Jesus.Faith in God’s choice changes our choices.
Advent reminds us transformation came in a “small” package to provide a lifetime of therapeutic doses of comfort [grace] that will fill the gaps left by wrong choices and ultimately overcome the accumulation of fatigue, stress, conflict or fear, so our “joy” will be “greater than ever.”That’s my choice for this Advent season.
I hope it will be yours too. Read whatever Scripture you pick with your eyes, your mind, your heart AND your experience.Let’s take God at his Word that Christ is his choice made on our behalf for our transformation and choose to find our Christmas joy in His choice
II Corinthians 6: 14 Do not be [KJV adds unequally here] yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? 15 What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? 16 What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: 17 Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” 18 And, “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.”
We know from our most reliable examples, Jesus and Paul, these verses mean something more than turning your back on unbelievers.These two men were real evangelists. That makes this Scripture passage thought provoking.The word comparisons are easy.We know righteousness and wickedness have nothing in common, nor do light and darkness or Christ and idols.“Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord.”What is this separation that protects righteousness, fellowship and harmony so it’s clearly the antidote to wickedness, darkness and idols? What is the concern about being “yoked” together?
The idea of a yoke sounds helpful.My definition of a yoke is a device that enables two separate animals to pull together to purposely lighten the weight of a load and accomplish a specific task. If you look at my definition as a believer coming along side an unbeliever to “yoke” up with them to deal with a load of sin and accomplish the specific task of salvation it might seem to be a reasonable definition of evangelism.But…
What if Paul’s warning is for us to recognize the reality that being “yoked” is only a forced restraint of the fundamental incompatibility of purpose and task for the unbeliever.The Lord’s reality is that righteousness, fellowship and harmony come from the unyoked evangelist who has the courage and the strength to lead that unbeliever “As God has said: Therefore, “Come out from them and be separate.”