From Pastor Johnny

The Prophet Angel of Christmas Day 2

Sometimes challenging messages come to us in a difficult circumstance (Luke 1:11-12)

11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.

 We may look at the entire story of Zacharias and Elisabeth and think how cool it is, but at this moment Zacharias was terrified. In that moment that the angel appeared, this man did not know what was about to take place. Fear saturated him in that moment. Just because your circumstance is at a crisis point, does not mean God does not have a Word for you right now. Don’t think that, because the situation has gotten worse, that God’s Word to you is farther away. It might actually be closer than you think.

In 1Kings 17, Elijah the great prophet was traveling to a town called Zarephath. In this town there was a widow, who had a little boy she was raising. In that day it had not rained in a very long time. The drought was so bad that the widow had almost nothing left to feed her and her little boy. In fact, she explains later in the story that, when Elijah shows up in her town, she is getting sticks to make a fire that will bake a small cake of bread that will feed her and her son one last meal. Things are so bad that she explains to Elijah that it will be their last meal before they starve to death.

So, it is no small thing then that Elijah asks this woman to get him some water and something to eat. The widow is disturbed and appalled, but she cannot refuse a man of God. What she does not know that, in the darkest moments of her life, God is about to do one of the greatest works she’s ever known. As she obeys the request of Elijah, and God,  unlimited oil and flour are provided until the drought ends and rain returns.

If we can learn anything from the appearance of Gabriel in Scripture, it is that sometimes God’s life changing messages appear in our most difficult circumstances.

 Sometimes these messages arrive with difficult content (1:13-17)

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

 When we read God’s Word, and He gives us direction, the content of that message is not always easy. When we pray and seek God, and He prompts us and directs us by the Holy Spirit, the content is sometimes difficult. This past week I was reading through Matthew 16. In that chapter, we have Jesus speaking to his main 12 disciples. In the beginning of the chapter, he asks them who they think He is. They answer with great success.

Later in the chapter He begins explaining to them a far more difficult set of information. He begins explaining his betrayal, arrest, and death. This is  rather difficult for them to hear. So much so, that Peter tries to get Jesus to stop talking about this death. Jesus rebukes Peter for his efforts. As difficult as the content was in the message that Jesus shared with his disciples, it was necessary.

 Sometimes the messages arrive through difficult concepts (5.18-20)

18 And Zacharias said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is well advanced in years.”19 And the angel answered and said to him, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. 20 But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.”

 Zacharias would head out of the temple and be unable to explain what just happened to him. The way ahead for him would seem awfully uncertain and difficult to describe. The concept of naming his son John (when no one in the family was named John) and trying to explain why he could no longer talk was extremely difficult.

Just because a spiritual concept is difficult for you, will you quit trying to understand it? What if God has some great victory or spiritual progress for you, but you must spend the time and effort in His Word and with His church to fully understand it? Sometimes the difficult concepts are necessary for real progress.

The Prophet Angel of Christmas Day 1

Luke 1.11-20

            Have you ever received a message you did not want to hear, but it was one you needed to hear?

 Maybe it was a message from your doctor like, “Your blood pressure is way too high, and you need to lost weight.”

Maybe it was a message from your accountant who said, “You are showing an awful lot of spending on frivolous things, and you really need to have more money in savings.”

Oftentimes, messages to us that are the most crucial can be the most difficult to hear. God’s messages He brings to us are sometimes startling and difficult to understand.

            In Luke 1.11-20, a temple priest named Zacharias received just such news from the angel Gabriel. Ultimately, the news would be fantastic, but initially it was disturbing, confusing, and hard to understand. Since the end of the book of Malachi in the end of the Old Testament, there had been a 400 year gap of revelation from God. God’s people were beginning to think He had forgotten them. Additionally, Zacharias and Elisabeth desperately wanted a child, but had long since thought about it. They were old and well beyond child bearing years. As Zacharias served in the temple, Gabriel appeared, and what happened next is a great lesson on thoughts to consider in receiving challenging news.

            Before considering the conversation with Gabriel and Zacharias, let’s consider four important notes about angels in the Bible:

  1. They are messengers created by God. A biblical angel (Old Testament Hebrew mal’āḵ; New Testament Greek. angelos) is, by derivation and function, a messenger of God,
  2. Created slightly higher than that of man. Psalm 8.4-5: “What is man that You are mindful of him,And the son of man that You visit him? For You have made him a little lower than the angels, And You have crowned him with glory and honor.”
  3. Man is slightly higher than angels in salvation:

1Peter 1.12   “To them it was revealed that, not to themselves, but to us they were ministering the things which now have been reported to you through those who have preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven—things which angels desire to look into.

NOTE:            Knowing that angels and humans are distinct creations means that human beings will never become angels on this earth or after this earth. At no point have the Scriptures ever taught this concept.

  1. FIRST ANGEL MENTION: 3.24     So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.

Portrait of Personal Ministry Day 2

It is a Ministry of Observation: 9.33

There he found a certain man named Aeneas, who had been bedridden eight years and was paralyzed.

 Peter did not go to Lydda because he knew of the man who needed help, but he went to Lydda and discovered the opportunity to help this man. As Peter went about his daily activities, he maintained an open observation for opportunities for ministry. Peter found opportunities for ministry because he looked for them in everyday places.

When you leave your church campus, does your awareness of the opportunity for ministry leave with you? Begin asking God right now to help you be aware of ministry opportunities all around you as you go about your day.

It is a Ministry of Exaltation: 9.34

And Peter said to him, “Aeneas, Jesus the Christ heals you. Arise and make your bed.” Then he arose immediately. 

  • The Dead Sea is dead, because there are multiple inlets pouring water in but none pouring water out. The intake with no outflow produce deadness.

 It is a Ministry of Salvation: 9.35, 42

So all who dwelt at Lydda and Sharon saw him and turned to the Lord. And it became known throughout all Joppa, and many believed on the Lord. So it was that he stayed many days in Joppa with Simon, a tanner.

  • Where are you involved so that the end game is seeing lost people be saved? Ultimately, the end game of all ministries in the local church is to glorify God, advance the Kingdom, and lead the lost to salvation. Whether the ministry is benevolence, small groups, hospitality, praise team, kids ministry, youth ministry, senior adults, or community outreach, the end game is always to see people saved and Christ glorified.

God’s work through Peter reveals to us a portrait of a personal ministry. The Body of Christ is a beautiful organism. It is made up of many different people, with many different abilities, many different personalities, and different backgrounds.  All these different people, serving in our individual areas of ministry, make one – like a puzzle or giant machine. 

 In Witnesses of a Third Way: A Fresh Look at Evangelism, Robert Neff's chapter includes this story about visiting a church service:  "It was one of those mornings when the tenor didn't get out of bed on the right side. ... As I listened to his faltering voice, I looked around.  People were pulling out hymnals to locate the hymn being sung by the soloist.

 "By the second verse, the congregation had joined the soloist in the hymn.  And by the third verse, the tenor was beginning to find the range.  And by the fourth verse, it was beautiful.  And on the fifth verse the congregation was absolutely silent, and the tenor sang the most beautiful solo of his life.  That is life in the body of Christ, enabling one another to sing the tune Christ has given us."

 

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