79 to shine on those living in darkness
    and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

Luke 1:79 (NIV)
Zachariah  finishes his prophecy by saying that John the Baptist would "shine on those living in darkness" and "guide out feet into the path of peace." Wow, that seems tame, joyful, and tranquil for the man who called the Pharisees and Sadducees a "brood of vipers" (Mathew 3:7), the man from the wilderness who ate wild honey and locusts, and the man who was always telling people to repent. His message of repentance was a light to guide our feet on the path of peace. Now, light can hurt, and the road to peace can be littered with hardship, but it is worth the journey.

Have you ever had someone turn on a bright light after you had been sleeping in a dark room? Did it startle you? After your eyes get adjusted, it is nice to have the light, but sometimes if it comes too fast it can be uncomfortable. John the Baptist may have seemed rough to some people. His message was simply, "Repent!" That is a hard message to hear when we have been in the darkness of sin for a long time, but once we see the light of the truth we are glad we did repent.

Repenting puts us on the path of peace. This path may not seem easy every step of the way. We may lose friends and give up activities we have always loved. The hardest part may be seeing where we are at when we step onto the path. We begin to see how wrong we are and how many we have hurt. Knowing where we are at can hurt us, but can also give us the desire to make the tough choices that keep us on the path to peace. Though we have to give things up, we know we cannot stay in our miserable state. We know there must be something better. When the devil attacks us on our journey, we can remember where we were and decide never to go back there. We can look toward the Jesus and remember we are striving to be like Him. Though the journey is rough in places, God has great rewards for us, including the peace that passes all understanding.

When God lights our paths with truth, let's pursue the path of peace. The light may bother us at first and the path may appear difficult, but it is the path that leads to God's rewards and God's peace. It is the path I want to be traveling.

Tomorrow's reading is Luke 1:80.

 
 
76 And  you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on  before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
77 to give his people the knowledge of salvation
through the forgiveness of their sins,
78  because of the tender mercy of our God,
by which the rising sun will  come to us from heaven


Luke
1:75-78 (NIV)

Yesterday, I did not post a blog. Like most parents in America, I  spent a little extra time holding my children. I do not know what it is like to  lose a child in a terrible act of violence, but I do know what it is like to  lose a child. On August 2, 2010, my third child died at two months of age. We  had prayed for her from the moment I knew I was pregnant. We spent time seeking  the Lord about her life. We had hopes and dreams of all that she would do. When  someone loses a child, they lose moments of bedtime stories and big bear hugs,  they lose precious time they thought they'd have, and they lose what of might have  been but never was. 

During the years Elizabeth spent barren, she and Zachariah  probably mourned the children they never had. Now, God had given them hope and  they rejoiced in their newborn son and the future God had planned for him.  Zachariah already had a vision of what John the Baptist's life would be like, as he announced in these verses. He already had dreams that he expected would come true for his son. He may not have known how much time John would spend in the  wilderness. He may not have known John would spend time in prison. He may not  have known John would be beheaded. However, Zachariah did know that John would  prepare the way for Lord. After years of longing for a child and giving up any hope, now Zachariah had a child and great hopes and dreams for his child’s future.

All of us can relate a being in some kind of “hopeless”  situation. Some circumstances seem so dark that we cannot see a possible path  out. None of can change the past. Some dreams could have faded from our lives.  We cannot bring back those who have died, but God can give us hope for tomorrow.  We can always wake up and say, “Lord, just get me through today.” When we get  through enough days, we can start to see the light of God’s hope through even the darkest of circumstances.

 Please, join me in praying for all the families who lost a loved  one in the tragic events that took place yesterday. Especially, let’s pray for  the parents whose children did not come home from school, and the children who  lost siblings and friends.

 The next reading is Luke  1:79.

 
 
74 to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
    and to enable us to serve him without fear
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Luke 1:74-75 (NIV)
In these two verses, Zachariah gives more reasons for salvation. He mentions our enemies again, but salvation is not just about protection from enemies. The last reason Zachariah gives is "to enable us to serve him (God) without fear."  Salvation sets us free to serve God without fear; whether that fear be our enemies, hunger, rejection, or anything else the devil throws at us.

In some countries, Christians really fear for their life because their enemies are so intent on stopping them from spreading the gospel. David wrote about God's faithfulness in protecting him from his enemies over and over in Psalms. The king tried to kill David, and God protected him. God will do the same for us, if we ever find ourselves in a situation where we could be killed for serving God. With God's salvation, we are protected, so we can serve God without fear.

Closer to home some of us fear not having enough money to feed our families and pay for other needs. Some people may compromise their walk with God because of that fear. We might say, "That one little lie won't hurt, and it could help me land a better job." The Bible says, "And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:19 NIV) With God's salvation, we have provision, so we can serve God without fear.

Many of us fear rejection. This one can sneak up on us. God will prompt us to tell someone the gospel, and we do not because we are afraid they will be offended and no longer talk to us. Someone asks us to do something that we don't think is right. We want to keep their friendship, so we do it. Remember, the stone that was rejected became the cornerstone (Psalm 118:22). Jesus was rejected, so we would be accepted into the family of God. With God's salvation, we are accepted, so we can serve God without fear.

Who Jesus sets free is free indeed (John 8:36). Because of Jesus we are free from our enemies and from fear. We are free from fear of enemies, fear of hunger, fear of rejection, or any other fear. With God's salvation we can serve Him without fear!

Tomorrow's reading is Luke 1:76-78.

 
 
71 salvation from our enemies
 and from the hand of all who hate us--
72 to show mercy to our ancestors
and to remember his holy covenant,
 73 the oath he swore to our father Abraham:

 Luke 1:71-73 (NIV)
We talk about the reason for  the season being Jesus.  John the  Baptist, Zechariah’s son, would prepare the way for Jesus and Jesus would offer  salvation. Through Zachariah, God gave the reasons for salvation.  Two  of the reasons for this salvation were to free us from our enemies, especially Satan, and to fulfill the covenant God made with Abraham.

 The Bible is full of stories where God protected His people from their enemies. John the Baptist was to  prepare the way for Jesus. God was sending Jesus to offer us protection from our  greatest enemy, Satan. What is the worst the devil can do to us? Kill us? Well,
if we believe that Jesus died on the cross as payment for our sins and we  confess with our mouths our need for a savior and that is Jesus is Lord, we are  protected from death. When we die we enter into our Heavenly reward. Wow, that  really takes the power away from Satan. 
 
Salvation is not only to  save us from the devil. Salvation also fulfills God’s covenant with Abraham. In  Genesis 22: 16-18 God makes a big promise to Abraham. 
16 and said, “I swear by myself, declares the Lord, that  because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only  son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your  descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.  Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their  enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations  on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me.”

 Genesis 22:16-18  (NIV)
Abraham’s descendants are to possess the cities of their enemies  and bless all nations. As co-heirs with Jesus, we are part of this promise as  well. Salvation does not only protect us from our enemies. We triumph over our  enemies and take the land. God also blesses his people enough to bless “all  nations.” Because Abraham did not withhold his son, God gave His Son to fulfill  this covenant.

 There are many aspects to salvation. Zachariah understood this,  but he had a lot of quiet time. We have explored protection from our enemies and  the covenant with Abraham being fulfilled. Jesus is the reason for the season.  Let’s remember to celebrate the reasons God sent  us.

 Tomorrow’s  reading is Luke 1:74-75.

 
 
67 His father Zechariah was filled
with the Holy Spirit and prophesied:
 68 “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come to his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the
house of his servant David
 70 (as he said through his holy prophets of long go)

 Luke 1:67-70 (NIV)
If you had been silent for nine months, what  would your first words be? Zechariah had been unable to talk through his wife’s  entire pregnancy. Yesterday, we saw that when he showed his neighbors that he  would stick with God’s plan, he was able to talk again. Now, we start to see  what he wanted say after being silent so long. He first praised and then  prophesied God’s plan.

 After being silent for nine months the first  thought on Zechariah’s lips was, “Praise be to the Lord.” We would all like to  think that would be the first words out of our mouths after a long period of  silence, but even after short periods of silence what is the first thing you
say? Are your first words when you awake in the morning, “Praise God!” What do  you say when you have been sitting silently in church listening to the pastor?  “Where are eating?” “I need to go the bathroom.” No, I am sure everyone reading  this does immediately praise God. What we say first is an indication of what we  thought about during our time of silence. Zechariah was probably thinking about how great God is. 

He obviously spent time with God, because next he told the people God’s plan. The birth of Zechariah’s son was one part God’s bigger plan to bring salvation to the world. During his silence, Zechariah had  time to sit and listen to God unfold his plan. He did not have to do this. He could have spent his time watching Elizabeth and keeping track of everything she
did wrong, so when he could talk to again he would have a long list of criticism. There are probably other things he could have done during his silence. Whatever our situation, we can decide on what to meditate. We can spend our time listening to God and meditating on His word. We then could be blessed with the honor of sharing God’s plan with others.

I pray that my thoughts line up with the word of God. I pray that those thoughts are reflected in my words. In all we do, let’s meditate on God and His word, so that the first words that come from our mouths praise Him and agree with His plans.

Tomorrow's reading is Luke 1:71-73.


 
 
 
62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like  to name the child. 63  He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he  wrote, “His name is John.” 64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set  free, and he began to speak, praising God. 65 All the neighbors  were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were  talking about all these things. 66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

 Luke 1:62-66  (NIV)
What happens when we obey God? God makes his power known. God shows He is with you. God shows you to be blessed. Though Zechariah doubted God at first, he obeyed God and saw for himself what happens when you stick to God’s plan.

 Zechariah  got his voice back after silence for his wife’s entire pregnancy. He had questioned God and doubted God’s power to miraculously cause his barren wife to  become pregnant.  He had nine months to think about God’s Word to him, nine  months to quietly consider God’s plan. Now the crowd, who had been pressuring  his wife to stray from God’s plan, asks him what he thought. He sticks with  God’s plan. Miraculously, his mouth was opened and he could talk again. The  people were amazed! God’s power was shown, and everyone knew this family had  been blessed.

Yesterday, we looked at two simple ways we are pressured to stray from God’s plan. Zechariah and Elizabeth followed God’s plan despite these pressures. God proved them to be in the right through a miraculous sign and He honored them. Because of God’s sign, everyone knew their son was blessed and destined for greatness. God will do the same for us. Our job is to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s promptings and know the Word of God, so we can know we are sticking God’s plan. If we stick with God, He will stick with us. Godly choices will be proven right.

Tomorrow's reading is Luke 1:67-69.


 

 
 
57 When it was time  for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. 58Her neighbors and relatives heard that  the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her  joy.

 59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were  going to name him after his father Zechariah, 60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No!  He is to be called John.”

 61 They said to her,“There is no one among your relatives who has that  name.”

 Luke 1: 57-61 (NIV)
Sticking to God’s plan is not always easy. I think we have  established that. It is just the dangers and fears that can cause us to stray.  Simple defaults like avoiding confrontation or relying on what seems to make  sense can take us off God’s perfect path. Elizabeth did not let either get in  the way.

 Many of us are non-confrontational and let others sway us from  the course that has been set before us. Sometimes well-meaning people try to exert control over our lives that takes us off God’s path. Elizabeth knew God’s  plan for her child. She had seen God at work in her life. She did not want to  stray from God’s plan. Even though it conflicted with those around, she asserted  God’s plan to name her baby John.

God’s plan may not make sense to everyone. Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives did not understand God’s plan, so they thought Elizabeth should do the sensible thing and name her son after his father. That is logical,  if you do not know God’s plan. John was the forerunner to Jesus. He prepared the  way for the greatest gift God has given. John means, “Jehovah  is a gracious giver” (Strong’s number G2491, www.blueletterbible.org). Knowing God’s plan, John is a logical choice. This does not mean we should make  poor choices in the name of God. It means relying on God’s wisdom over man’s  wisdom will give us the best results.

 As  we follow God’s path for our lives, let’s not let simple mistakes cause us to  stray from God’s path. Let’s stand for God’s plan, even if those close to us  disagree, and stand for God’s plan, even if it does not make sense to man.  Simply stay on God’s path.
 
Tomorrow's reading is Luke 1:57-61.
 
 
54 He has helped  his servant Israel,
remembering to be merciful
55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
just as he promised our ancestors.”

56 Mary stayed with Elizabeth for about three months and then returned home.

Luke 1:54-55 (NIV)
Do you want the kind of boldness that causes you  to obey God even in the face of death? That is the kind of boldness it takes to  do great things for God. Mary faced death with the assignment that God had  placed in her life, but she agreed. How did she build that boldness in her life?  The last lines of her song could be part of the answer. She knew history. She knew as a decedent of Abraham she had access to God’s promises.  She knew that God had promises to fulfill to His people, and we can know  God’s promises to us. We can have the boldness to obey God as  well.

 Mary knew and acknowledged what God had done in the past for her  ancestors. God always came to the aid of His people. She knew that Abraham and  his descendants had been helped many times in the past. As a descendant of  Abraham, Mary could trust that God was with her and would help her with the  difficult assignment that she faced.

 The  promise was not just for her, though. The Israelites, the heirs to the Abrahamic  covenant, had waiting a long time for a deliverer, the Messiah, a Savior. Mary’s assignment was to birth this Savior. Her assignment would result in success  because it was the promise God made to His people. 
 
Jesus came to show mercy to the entire human population. Jesus’  blood covers everyone sins, not just the sins of the Israelites. All those who  come in the name of Jesus and ask for forgiveness are shown mercy. Because of  Jesus we are all co-heirs with Jesus and can rely on God’s  promises.

 Knowing this part of history gives us a certain level of  boldness. Is that enough for every assignment God has asked of us? Mary  probably knew her history well. That knowledge could help face the difficulties  in her path.  The decedents of  Abraham who knew about God’s power had the boldness to complete their  assignments, and we need to diligently study God’s Word to build our faith.  Diligent study of God’s Word gives us the boldness we  need.



 
 
50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.

51 He has  performed mighty deeds with his arm;
he has scattered those who are proud in their  inmost thoughts.
52  He has brought down rulers from their thrones
but has lifted up the humble.
53  He has filled the hungry with good
thingsbut has sent the rich away empty.

 Luke 1:50-53  NIV
Mary’s life was changing drastically. Accusation and injustice would plague her. Danger would pursue her son through powerful people. She needed to know that God was in control of every  situation she would face. She needed to know that all she had to do was obey  God, and He would have her back. God filled her mouth with the words she needed
to hear. She knew of God’s power and spoke words of encouragement into her own life.

 She would need mercy. She was pregnant out of wedlock. Under the law she could have been punished by death. Of course, she was not in violation. She was pregnant by the Holy Spirit, but the people who would decide punishment did not know that. God knew what man did not. God knew she was in His will. She feared God, and He made sure she was
spared man’s punishment. She already knew “God extends mercy to those who fear Him.” She had the faith to fear God over  men.

 Early in Jesus life, Joseph and Mary had to flee to Egypt to escape a king, even Jesus is the King of Kings. It may have looked bad. How can they face the wrath of a king? But Mary already knew God “has brought down rulers from their thrones.” She could face being chased by a king, because she knew, if necessary, God could remove him.

 I imagine the trip to Egypt with a small child could be costly. Just having a small child is costly. I know. I have some, but Mary already knew God “has filled the hungry with good things.” How amazing is it that God sent wise men with valuable gifts for the Christ child? 

“Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word.” (Romans 10:17 NKJV) As Mary spoke these words, she heard them and her faith was increased for the situations she would face in her life. As we speak God’s word, we are building our faith. We don’t know what situations we may face. Let’s build our faith by speaking God’s word now, so we are ready
face every situation in our lives.

Tomorrow's reading is Luke 1:54-56.
 
 
46 And Mary  said:

 “My soul glorifies the Lord
47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48 for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me--
holy is his name.

 Luke 1:46-49 (NIV)
Wow! Now, the other woman starts to gab. Yesterday, we looked at how women can use their gift of gab to build others up  or tear them down. Elizabeth used her gift of gab to build Mary up. Then, Mary  takes the opportunity to use her gift of gab in another way. She praises God. Of  course, it is not just her song that praises God.  Her very life praises
God.

 She says, “He has been mindful of the humble  state of his servant.” She saw herself in a low, humble state, and she saw  herself as a servant. God had built her up through the angel and through  Elizabeth. She still saw herself as a servant, but she did recognize what God  had done in her life. She said, “From now on all generations will call me blessed.” She did not say they would call her blessed because she did great things. She said, “for the Mighty One has done great things for me.”

 At this point, she was an unwed pregnant girl.  She was going to give birth in a barn. This great Son of hers would sit in boats  with fisherman, not on thrones with princes. Considering all of this, we look  back generations later and call Mary blessed. God using this lowly servant to birth the Messiah shows His great power. Only God could have taken this servant and used her to birth a King. Mary’s life spoke more powerfully than any words could speak.

 When we praise God with both our mouths and our lives, He can truly be glorified. God has made us amazing creatures, so there are many good things we can do by striving. The great things that people will remember for generations are the things God  does through us. Let’s live out those things which He has called us to do, living lives that glorify Him. Let’s also remind others where the power to do all that is noble comes from, by glorifying God with our words.


Tomorrows reading Luke 1:50-53