Sunday, May 27, 2012

Daily Devotional Sunday 27th May

“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” John 3:17 NIV
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Morning and Evening by Charles Spurgeon

Morning

"So Mephibosheth dwelt in Jerusalem: for he did eat continually at the king's table; and was lame on both his feet."
2 Samuel 9:13
Mephibosheth was no great ornament to a royal table, yet he had a continual place at David's board, because the king could see in his face the features of the beloved Jonathan. Like Mephibosheth, we may cry unto the King of Glory, "What is thy servant, that thou shouldst look upon such a dead dog as I am?" but still the Lord indulges us with most familiar intercourse with himself, because he sees in our countenances the remembrance of his dearly-beloved Jesus. The Lord's people are dear for another's sake. Such is the love which the Father bears to his only begotten, that for his sake he raises his lowly brethren from poverty and banishment, to courtly companionship, noble rank, and royal provision. Their deformity shall not rob them of their privileges. Lameness is no bar to sonship; the cripple is as much the heir as if he could run like Asahel. Our right does not limp, though our might may. A king's table is a noble hiding-place for lame legs, and at the gospel feast we learn to glory in infirmities, because the power of Christ resteth upon us. Yet grievous disability may mar the persons of the best-loved saints. Here is one feasted by David, and yet so lame in both his feet that he could not go up with the king when he fled from the city, and was therefore maligned and injured by his servant Ziba. Saints whose faith is weak, and whose knowledge is slender, are great losers; they are exposed to many enemies, and cannot follow the king whithersoever he goeth. This disease frequently arises from falls. Bad nursing in their spiritual infancy often causes converts to fall into a despondency from which they never recover, and sin in other cases brings broken bones. Lord, help the lame to leap like an hart, and satisfy all thy people with the bread of thy table!

Evening

"What is thy servant, that thou shouldest look upon such a dead dog as I am?"
2 Samuel 9:8
If Mephibosheth was thus humbled by David's kindness, what shall we be in the presence of our gracious Lord? The more grace we have, the less we shall think of ourselves, for grace, like light, reveals our impurity. Eminent saints have scarcely known to what to compare themselves, their sense of unworthiness has been so clear and keen. "I am," says holy Rutherford, "a dry and withered branch, a piece of dead carcass, dry bones, and not able to step over a straw." In another place he writes, "Except as to open outbreakings, I want nothing of what Judas and Cain had." The meanest objects in nature appear to the humbled mind to have a preference above itself, because they have never contracted sin: a dog may be greedy, fierce, or filthy, but it has no conscience to violate, no Holy Spirit to resist. A dog may be a worthless animal, and yet by a little kindness it is soon won to love its master, and is faithful unto death; but we forget the goodness of the Lord, and follow not at his call. The term "dead dog" is the most expressive of all terms of contempt, but it is none too strong to express the self- abhorrence of instructed believers. They do not affect mock modesty, they mean what they say, they have weighed themselves in the balances of the sanctuary, and found out the vanity of their nature. At best, we are but clay, animated dust, mere walking hillocks; but viewed as sinners, we are monsters indeed. Let it be published in heaven as a wonder, that the Lord Jesus should set his heart's love upon such as we are. Dust and ashes though we be, we must and will "magnify the exceeding greatness of his grace." Could not his heart find rest in heaven? Must he needs come to these tents of Kedar for a spouse, and choose a bride upon whom the sun had looked? O heavens and earth, break forth into a song, and give all glory to our sweet Lord Jesus.

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Today's reading: 1 Chronicles 28-29, John 9:24-41 (NIV)

View today's reading on Bible Gateway 
David’s Plans for the Temple
    1 David summoned all the officials of Israel to assemble at Jerusalem: the officers over the tribes, the commanders of the divisions in the service of the king, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of all the property and livestock belonging to the king and his sons, together with the palace officials, the warriors and all the brave fighting men.
   2 King David rose to his feet and said: “Listen to me, my fellow Israelites, my people. I had it in my heart to build a house as a place of rest for the ark of the covenant of the LORD, for the footstool of our God, and I made plans to build it.3 But God said to me, ‘You are not to build a house for my Name, because you are a warrior and have shed blood.’
   4 “Yet the LORD, the God of Israel, chose me from my whole family to be king over Israel forever. He chose Judah as leader, and from the tribe of Judah he chose my family, and from my father’s sons he was pleased to make me king over all Israel. 5Of all my sons—and the LORD has given me many—he has chosen my son Solomon to sit on the throne of the kingdom of the LORD over Israel. 6 He said to me: ‘Solomon your son is the one who will build my house and my courts, for I have chosen him to be my son, and I will be his father. 7 I will establish his kingdom forever if he is unswerving in carrying out my commands and laws, as is being done at this time.’
   8 “So now I charge you in the sight of all Israel and of the assembly of the LORD, and in the hearing of our God: Be careful to follow all the commands of the LORD your God, that you may possess this good land and pass it on as an inheritance to your descendants forever.
   9 “And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the LORD searches every heart and understands every desire and every thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever. 10 Consider now, for the LORD has chosen you to build a house as the sanctuary. Be strong and do the work.”
   11 Then David gave his son Solomon the plans for the portico of the temple, its buildings, its storerooms, its upper parts, its inner rooms and the place of atonement. 12 He gave him the plans of all that the Spirit had put in his mind for the courts of the temple of the LORD and all the surrounding rooms, for the treasuries of the temple of God and for the treasuries for the dedicated things. 13 He gave him instructions for the divisions of the priests and Levites, and for all the work of serving in the temple of the LORD, as well as for all the articles to be used in its service. 14 He designated the weight of gold for all the gold articles to be used in various kinds of service, and the weight of silver for all the silver articles to be used in various kinds of service: 15 the weight of gold for the gold lampstands and their lamps, with the weight for each lampstand and its lamps; and the weight of silver for each silver lampstand and its lamps, according to the use of each lampstand; 16 the weight of gold for each table for consecrated bread; the weight of silver for the silver tables; 17 the weight of pure gold for the forks, sprinkling bowls and pitchers; the weight of gold for each gold dish; the weight of silver for each silver dish; 18 and the weight of the refined gold for the altar of incense. He also gave him the plan for the chariot, that is, the cherubim of gold that spread their wings and overshadow the ark of the covenant of the LORD.
   19 “All this,” David said, “I have in writing as a result of the LORD’s hand on me, and he enabled me to understand all the details of the plan.”
   20 David also said to Solomon his son, “Be strong and courageous, and do the work. Do not be afraid or discouraged, for the LORD God, my God, is with you. He will not fail you or forsake you until all the work for the service of the temple of the LORD is finished. 21 The divisions of the priests and Levites are ready for all the work on the temple of God, and every willing person skilled in any craft will help you in all the work. The officials and all the people will obey your every command.”

1 Chronicles 29

Gifts for Building the Temple
    1 Then King David said to the whole assembly: “My son Solomon, the one whom God has chosen, is young and inexperienced. The task is great, because this palatial structure is not for man but for the LORD God. 2 With all my resources I have provided for the temple of my God—gold for the gold work, silver for the silver, bronze for the bronze, iron for the iron and wood for the wood, as well as onyx for the settings, turquoise, stones of various colors, and all kinds of fine stone and marble—all of these in large quantities. 3 Besides, in my devotion to the temple of my God I now give my personal treasures of gold and silver for the temple of my God, over and above everything I have provided for this holy temple: 4 three thousand talents of gold (gold of Ophir) and seven thousand talents of refined silver, for the overlaying of the walls of the buildings, 5 for the gold work and the silver work, and for all the work to be done by the craftsmen. Now, who is willing to consecrate themselves to the LORD today?”
   6 Then the leaders of families, the officers of the tribes of Israel, the commanders of thousands and commanders of hundreds, and the officials in charge of the king’s work gave willingly. 7 They gave toward the work on the temple of God five thousand talents and ten thousand darics of gold, ten thousand talents of silver, eighteen thousand talents of bronze and a hundred thousand talents of iron. 8 Anyone who had precious stones gave them to the treasury of the temple of the LORD in the custody of Jehiel the Gershonite. 9 The people rejoiced at the willing response of their leaders, for they had given freely and wholeheartedly to the LORD. David the king also rejoiced greatly.
David’s Prayer
    10 David praised the LORD in the presence of the whole assembly, saying,
   “Praise be to you, LORD, 
   the God of our father Israel, 
   from everlasting to everlasting. 
11 Yours, LORD, is the greatness and the power 
   and the glory and the majesty and the splendor, 
   for everything in heaven and earth is yours. 
Yours, LORD, is the kingdom; 
   you are exalted as head over all. 
12 Wealth and honor come from you; 
   you are the ruler of all things. 
In your hands are strength and power 
   to exalt and give strength to all. 
13 Now, our God, we give you thanks, 
   and praise your glorious name.
   14 “But who am I, and who are my people, that we should be able to give as generously as this? Everything comes from you, and we have given you only what comes from your hand.15 We are foreigners and strangers in your sight, as were all our ancestors. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope.16 LORD our God, all this abundance that we have provided for building you a temple for your Holy Name comes from your hand, and all of it belongs to you. 17 I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity. All these things I have given willingly and with honest intent. And now I have seen with joy how willingly your people who are here have given to you. 18 LORD, the God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac and Israel, keep these desires and thoughts in the hearts of your people forever, and keep their hearts loyal to you. 19 And give my son Solomon the wholehearted devotion to keep your commands, statutes and decrees and to do everything to build the palatial structure for which I have provided.”
   20 Then David said to the whole assembly, “Praise the LORD your God.” So they all praised the LORD, the God of their fathers; they bowed down, prostrating themselves before the LORD and the king.
Solomon Acknowledged as King
    21 The next day they made sacrifices to the LORD and presented burnt offerings to him: a thousand bulls, a thousand rams and a thousand male lambs, together with their drink offerings, and other sacrifices in abundance for all Israel. 22They ate and drank with great joy in the presence of the LORD that day.
   Then they acknowledged Solomon son of David as king a second time, anointing him before the LORD to be ruler and Zadok to be priest. 23 So Solomon sat on the throne of the LORD as king in place of his father David. He prospered and all Israel obeyed him. 24 All the officers and warriors, as well as all of King David’s sons, pledged their submission to King Solomon.
   25 The LORD highly exalted Solomon in the sight of all Israel and bestowed on him royal splendor such as no king over Israel ever had before.
The Death of David
    26 David son of Jesse was king over all Israel. 27 He ruled over Israel forty years—seven in Hebron and thirty-three in Jerusalem. 28 He died at a good old age, having enjoyed long life, wealth and honor. His son Solomon succeeded him as king.
   29 As for the events of King David’s reign, from beginning to end, they are written in the records of Samuel the seer, the records of Nathan the prophet and the records of Gad the seer,30 together with the details of his reign and power, and the circumstances that surrounded him and Israel and the kingdoms of all the other lands.

John 9

   24 A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”
   25 He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”
   26 Then they asked him, “What did he do to you? How did he open your eyes?”
   27 He answered, “I have told you already and you did not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you want to become his disciples too?”
   28 Then they hurled insults at him and said, “You are this fellow’s disciple! We are disciples of Moses! 29 We know that God spoke to Moses, but as for this fellow, we don’t even know where he comes from.”
   30 The man answered, “Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. 31 We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly person who does his will. 32 Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. 33 If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.”
   34 To this they replied, “You were steeped in sin at birth; how dare you lecture us!” And they threw him out.
Spiritual Blindness
    35 Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”
   36 “Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”
   37 Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”
   38 Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.
   39 Jesus said, “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”
   40 Some Pharisees who were with him heard him say this and asked, “What? Are we blind too?”
   41 Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin; but now that you claim you can see, your guilt remains.

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The stony heart removed

‘I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.’ Ezekiel 36:26
Suggested Further Reading: Proverbs 30:7–9
Men who have lost their stony hearts are afraid of sin, evenbefore sin they are afraid of it. The very shadow of evil across their path frightens them. The temptation is enough for them, they flee from it as from a serpent; they would not dally and toil with it, lest they should be betrayed. Their conscience is alarmed even at the approach of evil, and away they fly; and in sin , for even tender hearts do sin, they are uneasy. As well might a man seek to obtain quiet rest on a pillow stuffed with thorns, as the tender conscience get any peace while a man is sinning. And then, after sin —here comes the pinch—the heart of flesh bleeds as though it were wounded to its very core. It hates and loathes and detests itself that ever it should have gone astray. Ah, stony heart, you can think of sin with pleasure, you can live in sin and not care about it; and after sin you can roll the sweet morsel under your tongue and say, ‘Who is my master? I care for none; my conscience does not accuse me.’ But not so the tender broken heart. Before sin, and in sin, and after sin, it smarts and cries out to God. So also in duty as well as in sin, the new heart is tender. Hard hearts care nothing for God’s commandment; hearts of flesh wish to be obedient to every statute. ‘Only let me know my Master’s will and I will do it.’ The hearts of flesh when they feel that the commandment has been omitted, or that the command has been broken, mourn and lament before God. Oh! there are some hearts of flesh that cannot forgive themselves, if they have been lax in prayer, if they have not enjoyed the Sabbath day, if they feel that they have not given their hearts to God’s praise as they should.
For meditation: The tender heart before sin (Genesis 39:7–12), in sin ( Romans 7:14–25) and after sin (Psalm 51:1–5). God will not despise a broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17). Spurgeon asks, ‘Have you, dear friends, such a heart of flesh as this?’
Sermon no. 456
27 May (Preached 25 May 1862)

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The eternal name

“His name shall endure for ever.” Psalm 72:17
Suggested Further Reading: Luke 23:32-43
Do you see yonder thief hanging upon the cross? Behold the fiends at the foot thereof, with open mouths; charming themselves with the sweet thought, that another soul shall give them meat in hell. Behold the death-bird, fluttering his wings over the poor wretch’s head; vengeance passes by and stamps him for her own; deep on his breast is written “a condemned sinner;” on his brow is the clammy sweat, expressed from him by agony and death. Look in his heart: it is filthy with the crust of years of sin; the smoke of lust is hanging within, in black festoons of darkness; his whole heart is hell condensed. Now, look at him. He is dying. One foot seems to be in hell; the other hangs tottering in life—only kept by a nail. There is a power in Jesus’ eye. That thief looks: he whispers, “Lord, remember me.” Turn your eye again there. Do you see that thief? Where is the clammy sweat? It is there. Where is that horrid anguish? Is it not there? Positively there is a smile upon his lips. The fiends of hell where are they? There are none; but a bright seraph is present, with his wings outspread, and his hands ready to snatch that soul, now a precious jewel, and bear it aloft to the palace of the great King. Look within his heart: it is white with purity. Look at his breast: it is not written “condemned,” but “justified.” Look in the book of life: his name is engraved there. Look on Jesus’ heart: there on one of the precious stones he bears that poor thief’s name. Yes, once more, look! Do you see that bright one amid the glorified, clearer than the sun, and fair as the moon? That is the thief! That is the power of Jesus; and that power shall endure for ever.
For meditation: Jesus has the power to save to the uttermost all who seek God through him (Hebrews 7:25); have you been “crucified with Christ” (Galatians 2:20)?
Sermon no. 27 
27 May (1855)

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Portable Praise

Making a joyful noise to the Lord sounds good and right, doesn't it? It's a no-brainer-so much so that it's easy not to engage our brains all that actively over a praise passage. We're inspired and uplifted when we read such words. Our gait may even be livelier and our gaze focused higher for a while afterward.
The trouble is, our days are often characterized by an operative word other than praise. Despite our best intentions, that word too easily morphs into busyness. Author Cynthia Heald reflects on this issue:
One day when I was reading Oswald Chamber's My Utmost for His Highest, I was struck by his insight about a rather obscure and easily overlooked verse in Genesis: "[From there he (Abram) went on toward the hills east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. There he built an altar to the LORD.]" Chambers writes, "Bethel is the symbol of communion with God; Ai is the symbol of the world. Abraham pitched his tent between the two. The measure of the worth of our public activity for God is the private profound communion we have with him. Rush is wrong every time; there is always plenty of time to worship God. Quiet days with God may be a snare. We have to pitch our tents where we shall always have quiet times with God, however noisy our times with the world may be."
As I meditated on these thoughts, I concluded that I needed a tent! Since my journey usually takes me into Ai (the world) or to Bethel (which literally means "house of God"), I realized that I needed to pitch my tent (spend time with God) between the world and my times in church. Because I was in church only once or twice a week, I knew that if I wanted to keep my hand in God's, I needed to spend time alone with him, one-on-one, every day. In order to do this, I found a "tent" and put my "altar" in it. My tent is a cloth bag in which I have placed my altar: my Bible, a journal, and a devotional book. I usually include a Bible study book or a current book that I am reading. A tent can be a cloth bag, a backpack, or a briefcase-anything that is portable and can be taken with you whenever you leave your home.
My tent stays near my chair in my study, and it's ready to be pitched early in the morning. But if circumstances keep me from spending time with the Lord at the beginning of the day, I pick up my tent and take it with me when I leave the house. (In fact, I take it with me even if I already have had time with the Lord.) Then throughout the day, I look for pockets of time when I can pitch my tent-unplanned times of waiting or having a few extra minutes before a commitment. I can set up my tent in an airport, a doctor's waiting room, a coffee shop, a library, a park ... I have found that I am much more consistent in spending time with the Lord because I always have my tent with me.

Think About It

  • How much time would it take for you to benefit from a meditation on Psalm 98:4-9?
  • What difference would it make if you were to reflect on these words several times during the course of a single day or week?
  • In terms of your worship tent, does the "stow and go" method sound like a possible aid for you as you steward your God-given mandate (and privilege) to praise?

Pray About It

Lord, let me rejoice before you! Let me praise you and worship you!
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COURAGE FROM JESUS

I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. John 15:5
Yesterday we read the testimony of Kefa Sampangi in Uganda when he was threatened with death by Idi Amin’s goon squad. The story continues:
“Father in heaven,” I prayed, “you who have forgiven men in the past, forgive these men also. Do not let them perish in their sins but bring them into yourself.”
It was a simple prayer, prayed in deep fear. But God looked beyond my fears and when I lifted my head, the men standing in front of me were not the same men who had followed me into the vestry. Something had changed in their faces.
It was the tall one who spoke first. His voice was bold but there was no contempt in his words, “You have helped us,” he said, “and we will help you. We will speak to the rest of our company and they will leave you alone. Do not fear for your life. It is in our hands and you will be protected.”
I was too astonished to reply. The tall one only motioned for the others to leave. He himself stepped to the doorway and then he turned to speak one last time. “I saw widows and orphans in your congregation,” he said. “I saw them singing and giving praise. Why are they happy when death is so near?”
It was still difficult to speak but I answered him. “Because they are loved by God. He has given them life, and will give life to those they loved, because they died in Him.”
His question seemed strange to me, but he did not stay to explain. He only shook his head in perplexity and walked out the door. I stared at the open door of the vestry for several moments and then sat down on a nearby straw mat chair. My knees were no longer strong and I could feel my whole body tremble. I could not think clearly. Less than ten minutes before, I had considered myself a dead man. Even though I was surrounded by 7,000 people there was no human being to whom I could appeal. I could not ask the elders to pray, I could not appeal to the mercy of the Nubian killers. My mouth had frozen and I had no clever words to speak. In that moment, with death so near, it was not my sermon that gave me courage, or an idea from Scripture. It was Jesus Christ, the living Lord.[1]
RESPONSE: Today I will walk in the power of the living Lord and not in my own strength or courage.
PRAYER: Lord, help me realize that You are my sufficiency. Without You, I can do nothing.
1. F. Kefa Sempangi, A Distant Grief, Glendale, CA: G/L Publications, 1979, pp.120-121.
Standing Strong Through The Storm (SSTS)
A daily devotional message by SSTS author Paul Estabrooks

© 2011 Open Doors International. Used by permission

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The Purpose of the Parables

Matthew 13:12-17 "Truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it." ( v. 17).
Our study today will examine the purpose of parables. Jesus tells us in Matthew 15:12-15 that He speaks in parables to hide the secrets of the kingdom from some and reveal them to others (Matt. 13:12-15 ). This does not mean His parables are full of esoteric information that only a select few can grasp with their minds. Christ's enemies often understand exactly what His parables mean (see 21:33-46); the problem is their refusal to trust His teaching about Himself and God's kingdom. The difficulty the Pharisees have is moral and thus volitional, not intellectual. They choose not to believe our Savior's words. Those who take up their cross gain more access to kingdom truth; those who reject Him lose whatever insight they had (13:12). Matthew Henry says parables make the things of God "more plain and easy" to those willing to be taught, and "at the same time more difficult and obscure to those who [are] willfully ignorant."
A person's final response to the parables reveals whether or not he is elect. Today's passage assumes that God chooses to save only part of sinful humanity; the rest He leaves to harden themselves in their sin (Rom. 9:1-18 ). As Dr. R.C. Sproul has taught on many occasions, God does not create unbelief and is not culpable when sinners do not respond to the parables with saving faith. Yet this hardening is not outside the scope of our Creator's sovereign plan. He sends Jesus to speak in parables so that the rebellious will rage against Him more fiercely and manifest the justness of their condemnation (Matt. 13:13-15;Rom. 9:19-24 ). The Almighty decrees that those whom His grace passes over will hate His Son. And those whom His grace passes over do choose to hate His Son without coercion. We are always free to do what we want, but apart from God's grace we do not want to love Jesus. John Calvin writes that the Lord opens a man's ears "and that no man obtains or accomplishes this by his own industry."
We would be amiss to emphasize the parables' hardening purpose over the gratitude Jesus encourages in the elect. Our focus is not to be on why God has not chosen some. Instead, we must be thankful that He has made us, who are no more deserving than the reprobate, to see the kingdom ( Matt. 13:16-17).

Coram deo: Living before the face of God

We should marvel at God's grace every time we recall that we have trusted Christ alone for our salvation. Before the Lord quickened us, we were dead in sin and had no desire at all to know or serve Him. But by His Spirit our Creator overcame this stubbornness and changed our hearts, enabling us to believe the Gospel. Take time today to thank God for His matchless grace and remember that your deeds contribute nothing to your salvation.
For further study:
The Bible in a year:
For the weekend:
INTO the WORD daily Bible studies from TableTalk Magazine, Matthew Studies. Copyright © 2008 by Ligonier Ministries.
Subscribe to Tabletalk magazine and receive daily Bible studies & in depth articles from world class scholars for only $23 per per year! That's only $1.92 per month. And you can try it out for three months absolutely free! Bringing the best in biblical scholarship together with down-to-earth writing, Tabletalk helps you understand the Bible and apply it to daily living. 

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Having and Raising Good Kids

"Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John."
Luke 1:13
The Second World War was thundering to a close when the young soldier stepped onto the troop carrier that would carry him from the United States to Europe. Halfway across the Atlantic, word arrived that an armistice had been signed. The war with Germany was over.
Of course, the ship could not turn around; there were clean-up operations to be done in Europe. So the ship kept going, and the young man did his duty.
After his tour was over, the soldier married his sweetheart back home. It took some time to find work, but they finally found employment at a farm. Growing a family was more important to them, though, than raising crops. Unfortunately, after years of trying, they learned they were not likely to have children.
They prayed that God would trump the doctor's word. Against human odds, a healthy baby girl was born in the fifth year of their marriage. A baby boy followed, then three more girls and another boy.
The couple had a good life on the farm, but none of their six children followed them into the family business. Instead, the four daughters became teachers in Christian schools. One son wed a doctor, and together they have been active in cross-cultural mission efforts; the other son became a pastor and Bible teacher.
To this day the postwar couple shrugs when asked how it all came about. "We just begged God to give us kids," they say. "Then we learned to pray for our children every day."
I know. I'm their eldest son. And I'm only now beginning to realize how much my parents were like the infertile couple Elizabeth and Zechariah, who one day felt ecstasy as well as fear when God actually answered their prayers for a child. They could only vow to do their best and ask for God's help.
There is no magic formula for having kids, let alone having them turn out well. Many couples remain childless after years of agonizing prayer. And even miracle children, bathed in spiritual significance, carry with them no guarantees of piety. The old priest Zechariah and his wife celebrated the day of John's birth. But what did they think when their son lived like a wild man in the desert, provoking the wrath of Jewish leaders and priests with his scathing sermons and unorthodox baptisms? Were they alive when their son was imprisoned, then beheaded?
Should we stop asking for children because they bring pain into our lives? No. This story and others remind us that we live in a broken world in which we depend on one another for encouragement when the waiting is long or when children don't turn out the way we had hoped. With the help of others, and with God's encouragement and strength, we can have hope.
Wayne Brouwer

Let's Talk

  • How do Christian couples spiritually prepare to have children? What are some requests we make of God? What happens when the waiting is long-where do we go for help?
  • In what formal way do we declare that our children belong to God? How will these ceremonies be carried out? What part will our parents and friends play in them?
  • What plans are we making to educate our children in the ways of the Lord? Who, besides us, is responsible for their ongoing instruction?
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