TLP Inspiration: 12/15/18

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Mary’s Song

And Mary said:

“My soul glorifies the Lord
     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
 for he has been mindful
    of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
    for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
    holy is his name.
His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
 He has performed mighty deeds with his arm;
    he has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts.
 He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
 He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
 He has helped his servant Israel,
    remembering to be merciful
 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors.”

Luke 1:46-55

May this be our song; may this be our prayer.

I doubt that I need to say more.

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Mary Sees Elizabeth

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At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill his promises to her!”

Luke 1:39-45

In a scene reminiscent of 1 Samuel 1-2, Mary arrives at the home of Zechariah and Elizabeth and as the text tells us, two interesting things happen when she enters the house. First, the unborn John the Baptist leaps for joy upon hearing her voice, and then his mother Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. You will recall that the angel had told Elizabeth that her son would be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he was born, and this has been borne out; now Elizabeth herself utters a more or less prophetic message.

Elizabeth became the first human to ever proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

If nothing else, we see in this scene that Elizabeth, in spite of her joy at conceiving a child in her old age, and in spite of being joyous at the important role her son would play in redemption history, that she was fully aware that Mary was carrying the greater of the two, and that as a result, Mary was the more blessed.

What does this tell us some 2,000 years later?

It tells us that this child whose birth we are celebrating now, was no ordinary child, that he was God incarnate. It tells us that this child was/is the One who would change everything and that this change would be for all time. It tells us that in our celebrations, the birth of this child is not to be treated as an afterthought or an “oh by the way” kind of thing, for it is well and truly The Point.

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Mary has a Visitor

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Luke 1:26-38

Six months after Elizabeth became pregnant; the angel Gabriel pays a visit to Mary in Nazareth: “Greetings, you who are highly favored! The Lord is with you.”

Have you ever read legal notices in the newspaper? Years ago I read some just to see what they were all about and I couldn’t believe that so many of them began, “Greetings from the State of Nevada, you have been sued.”

“Greetings” indeed!

Mary’s reaction to the greetings Gabriel brought her was a bit similar: What kind of greetings would these be, am I in trouble?

In one sense, maybe she was in “trouble” for she was to become pregnant before she was married to Joseph, her betrothed. Yet this would be no ordinary pregnancy, for God Himself would be the Father of her child, and her conception would be from the Holy Spirit who would “come upon” her. Her son would be named Jesus, and would be known as the Son of the Most High, sitting in the throne of David forever and ever, ruling God’s people in glory; He would be the Savior of the World. In the process of telling her all of this, he also mentioned that Elizabeth had conceived in her old age and was already in her sixth month of pregnancy; Mary marveled at this. It should also be noted that she received the news a little better than poor old Zechariah, for she said: “I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered. “May your word to me be fulfilled.”  What amazing faith!

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TLP Inspiration: 12/13/18

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Armor of God

Ephesians 6:10-20

Ah yes, the famous passage on the armor of God, a passage many know by heart, a favorite sermon passage and a favorite devotional passage rich with metaphor and meaning; a wonderful passage. I thought that I’d approach it a little differently this time. Accordingly, I’ll not really comment on the metaphoric aspect, but focus on the underlying strategic circumstances that all of us face every day.

The whole armor metaphor is a way of communicating an important issue that for most of us is not easy to understand, the issue of spiritual warfare. Over the centuries, people have understood this in various ways and many legends and ballads have been the result, both in literature and other art forms. There have been times when people in superstitious cultures have gone to bizarre lengths, burning witches, so called heretics and almost anyone who incurred disfavor in high councils; history is full of such insanity. I can’t help but wonder how otherwise good people couldn’t see where the evil one was really operating, but then maybe they forgot to put on their armor!

In our day, the idea of spiritual warfare is often limited to the oddball fringe, “nuters” as our British friends might say; you might hear a lot on the subject on radio talk shows that air in the wee hours, along with spacemen and such. Oh my, how clever our adversary can be!

The truth, as Paul points out, is that we are very much involved in a spiritual war; in a sense we are on the front lines. Yet as physical beings, we can’t always see the action, even though we might discern the result. Putting on the armor of God is a series of metaphors that are telling us that we need to be centered on our relationship with Christ, who is the source of truth. In a close and vibrant relationship with Him, we are not likely to be fooled or sucked into things we have no business getting into, as well as being protected from spiritual attack. This requires maturity to understand… and maturity is attained through relationship with Him, so we must not neglect that relationship.

Spiritual discernment is something that all of us should have, but not so many actually attain. Spiritual discernment is not a matter of seeing spooks in the dark, but rather the comprehension of the source of certain things. There is also a spiritual gift of discernment which some have; a person with the spiritual gift of discernment can discern the source of a teaching or the source of a person’s personal issues. Yet, we don’t need the spiritual gift of discernment to be discerning, the gifted person may understand more and more easily, but any of us can be discerning enough to stay out of trouble.

Look at the world situation today; consider cultural trends, trends in families, homes and personal habits of people. Include values, morality and motivations. Also consider items in the news, and our various institutions…

God is at work in our midst, and so is the other guy. Ask yourself where God is working, and where the Adversary is working; can you see the difference? I’ll offer a hint, one that I mention quite often here:

Nothing in this world is quite what it appears to be at first.

This is Paul’s message in our passage, and is the reason that he concludes it with an appeal for us to be in prayer. Verses 18-20 deal with this: Pray for each other, pray for Paul, and others who spread the gospel, pray for the gospel, for many to receive it, for others to grow in their relationships, for God’s Kingdom and will to be done: Grow in your relationship with Jesus Christ.

That dear reader is the summation of the armor of God, that we grow in our relationships with Him and remain in His presence, and that is also the summation of the entire letter to the Ephesians:

Have an intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.

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Photo of the Week: December 12, 2018

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TLP Inspiration: 12/12/18

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