Praying the Benedictus 7

Praying the Benedictus 7

Luke 1: 74-75 “to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.”

Zechariah realises that the strength of the Messiah is for the redeeming of God’s people and the saving of their lives from their enemies. But we are not just saved and set free we are enabled to live without fear and for that to be seen in what we do and who we are (in holiness and righteousness).

Can you imagine this?

To be Christians who do not fear the enemy or what the enemy can do to us, can you imagine?

In all that we do and who we are … No Fear. Can you imagine this for a moment?

Christians unable to worry because of the presence of the Lord.

Not fearing not getting. Not fearing not being a certain person.

Isolation would flee because we would not be afraid of being rejected and hurt again.

Arrogance would die because we would not be afraid of serving someone else and being second.

Insecurity would vanish because we would not be afraid of losing what we have.

Can you imagine?

Christians unable to worry because of the presence of the Lord.

Love not hate. Pure not destructive words. Servant-leadership not spiritual abuse. Encouraging what is not exaggerating what isn’t. Can you imagine?

Church members would be kind, not easily angered or offended.

Church leaders would be gracious and lead with hearts of love and a big embrace to all.

Preachers would preach love and not to settle some scores.

Christians unable to worry because of the presence of the Lord.

Wives would love their husbands.

Husbands would lay their lives down for their wives.

We would rejoice with those who rejoice and not feel threatened that a church round the corner seems to be doing better than our church. Neither would we go and join it.

Leaders would unite in towns and cities for the good of the people and the Gospel.

Christians unable to worry because of the presence of the Lord.

Children would want to walk in the ancient paths of their parents and parents would make it easy to do so by modernising those paths.

No one would be shunned and left out.

All would be invited to the party.

Christians unable to worry because of the presence of the Lord.

Can you imagine? I can.

Prayer

Dear Holy and Righteous God

I do not want to serve you with fear of not being who I can be and doing what I can do.

I welcome your presence into my life today so that this kind of selfish fear can leave me.

Forgive me for my responses, reactions, decisions, thoughts and actions that have come about simply because I was fearing.

I commit to change.

I reach out to those nearest to me and to the strangers that I will meet with love, humility and grace.

When they are with me I want them to experience faith not fear.

I imagine a different world.

Fill me with your presence so that I can live without fear.

Amen

Praying the Benedictus 6

Praying the Benedictus 6

Luke 1:72-73 “to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham:”

Zechariah is looking at what is happening in the present and realising that it is a continuation of what God has done in the past. He has shown mercy, literally, ‘God has done mercy’. God has acted in the past and now, the birth of his son and the arrival of the Messiah is the culmination of all that God has done and the promise to the founding father, Abraham. This is not the start of the story but this is the highest point of God’s story so far. But without the past there would be no present.

If we link back our lives to Abraham as Zechariah does and with our relationship with Jesus who God in His mercy sent for us, then we can see:

  1. We have a promise of friendship with God.            “And the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,’ and he was called God’s friend. James 2:23
  2. We have an instruction that our lives are for others and to influence many.                                                Matt 28:19“I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. Genesis 12:3 and “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” Matt 28:19.
  3. We will see God do things that are impossible for man.                                                                        Abraham’s name means ‘father of a multitude’ and he held a promise of Genesis 22:17 “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore.” And yet he and Sarah were old and childless (just like Zechariah and Elizabeth had been!)

This Christmas time let us thank God that in His mercy we get to be part of His story.

 

Prayer

Dear Merciful God

Today I am part of your story.

I am your friend. I choose to walk into my today as your friend.

I live for you and I live for others.

What looks hopeless isn’t hopeless to you.

You are my promise keeper.

You do the impossible.

Amen

 

 

Praying the Benedictus 5

Praying the Benedictus 5

Luke 1:71 “salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us”

Who were the enemies that Zechariah sings about?

For the Jews at the time it was definitely pagan Rome who had come and encamped on their holy ground. They were most definitely the enemy who hated Gods people. That is who they needed saving from.

Today?

Well that depends where you are living.

My friends in Pakistan have enemies that hate with a passion. My friends in northern Nigeria and in Myanmar and Nepal have enemies that are obviously public ones.

Who is your enemy?

1 John 3:8 “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.”

Hebrews 2: 14 “he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil”

You may be waking to your world where the enemy of your life is full on and in your face. It can be draining to walk through the day serving Jesus with an enemy pressing in on you.

Here is the good news! Jesus is your Saviour from the power of every enemy and your rescue from the hand of those who hate you and have you in their grip!

 

Prayer

Dear Saviour

Save me from my enemy.

Save me from the work that goes on behind my back.

Save me from that which has encamped on my life.

Save me from the pagan influence that is trying to seduce me.

I am safe in your hands.

I am safe by your blood.

I am safe in your freedom

Amen

Praying the Benedictus 4

Praying the Benedictus 4

Luke 1:70 “… as he said through his holy prophets of long ago.”

Zechariah could see that the coming of Jesus had been told of hundreds of years before. For example:

Isaiah 7:14 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son …”

9:6 “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given …”

Micah 5:2 “But you Bethlehem … out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel.”

Later, we see how Jesus knew that his destiny was also spoken of by the prophets:

Luke 18;31 “We are going up to Jerusalem and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.” What kind of things had been written? For example:

Isaiah 53: 5 “But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities …”

Isn’t this amazing?! Slow it down and think about it.

We can all be part of the bigger picture. The bigger picture is the story of God.

Today is happening for you and it is a result of someone in the past speaking well over your life, bringing hope into you, declaring destiny over you, “you were meant to be”, “you will go on to be” etc. There may not have been some prophetic office it may simply have been your mother who interceded or a Sunday school teacher who taught you. But you are here doing what you are doing because of someone in the past. It had already been spoken of long ago.

But there is more.

Today, when you give to a beggar, pick up a child, pray for the sick, encourage the downhearted, open doors for those who cannot, get your hands dirty for the gospel, think! You do all this and you never know how far that person will travel. You have the opportunity to speak life and destiny, to prophetically invest into their life. One day they will look back and say “all this happened because of that person.”

 

Dear God of my destiny

Thank you for raising people in my past who have greatly influenced me.

Thank you for …  (name the names).

But here I am today wanting to be used by you as much as they were.

So here is my life, my hands, my feet, my mouth. Use me.

The person I speak to, the ones that I help today could become the mighty men and women of God tomorrow. So please use me.

I choose to live for others. That others can go further than I have been so far.

For the glory of your story

Amen

Praying the Benedictus 3

Praying the Benedictus 3

Luke 1: 69 “He has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David”

A cursory look through the Psalms will reveal how the word ‘horn’ is symbolic for our strength.

Zechariah’s burst of praise is for Jesus who has the power and the ability to save. He can do. He can save. He can accomplish. He has power to save. Salvation is not gained or earned, it is found in the strength of Jesus.

The Jews believed that the Messiah would bring back the good days of King David. They would hold to the prophecy of Jeremiah in 23:5-6:

“The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteous Saviour.

And how would that happen?

Jesus came into this world at a highly vulnerable moment when the first Christmases was tinged with atrocities such as Herod’s  slaughter of the innocent baby boys under 2yrs in order to find and kill Jesus. He left this world going through the vulgarity of the torture of the cross. By doing so He showed that He had the strength to survive such suffering.

The horn of salvation, that is Jesus, exists in pain and suffering. What is he doing? He is delivering us and bringing us out of the hell of that pain. This is His kingship and similar to the infamous King David He is leading people forward in a life of strength. He does this not by law, but by grace. Continued grace. Grace that is not exhaustive. A grace that has no limitations.

When you know this truth then you will never ever ask, where is God? He exists in suffering to strengthen and to save those in pain.

Today you may be weakened by forces within and vulnerable by forces outside but Jesus is the strength of salvation. Jesus is there with you with the power to bring you through.

 

Prayer

Jesus my Saviour.

Here I am in my weakened humanity and targeted by my spiritual enemies.

And here you are, with me.

You are strong where I am weak.

Thank you for your grace.

In grace lead me through this and lead me in power.

Amen

Praying the Benedictus 2

Praying the Benedictus 2

Luke1:68 ““Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited us and accomplished redemption for His people.” (NASB)

Out of the overflow of Zechariah’s heart flows a Holy Spirit inspired understanding of Jesus.

He has visited us! Mary the teenage relative carrying in her womb the Messiah had left them. He has visited us! The reaction from his son, John, in Elizabeth’s womb had been a Holy Spirit explosion! He has visited us! Seeing ahead, Zechariah realises that this was not a child that had come, this was God who had not only visited but had come to redeem His people. When Jesus would begin his public ministry nearly 30 years later it would become very clear to those impacted by that visit. In Luke 7:16 (after the son of widow of Nain was raised to life) “Fear gripped them all, and they began glorifying God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and, “God has visited His people!”

John would describe the visit as the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (1:14). Moses built a tent for God to dwell in (it was called a tent of dwelling) but when Jesus visited He was the tent.

John goes on to say, “… we saw His glory …”

The glory is the visible presence of God.

Moses saw the glory and so did Isaiah. Isaiah was a man disappointed, feeling a failure over the king’s demise and disillusionment had set in. John (12:41) says a visitor came and it was the glory of Jesus. The glory of Jesus rescued and recommissioned that prophet.

John in exile and receiving his Revelation at a time of tremendous persecution sees the glory of Jesus in a vision (15:8) and the heavenly temple is filled with a cloud of glory.

What am I saying?

The visitor was indeed the glory of God, Jesus, the visible presence of God. He came to pay the price for the buying back of our lives to God.

Here is your solution:

  1. To those disappointed because they have lost their purpose for life. To those feeling a failure because they have not been able to do what they wanted to achieve. To those who are without vision and hope. To those slandered and abused. To those inside and outside the Church. To those in the pew and behind the pulpit … He has visited us!
  2. The one thing you need to focus on is the glory, the visible presence of God in your life. You need the visitor. You need His dwelling. You need Jesus shining through again. Welcome the visitor again. Put away your goals and welcome the glory. Turn your attention from strategy and welcome the Saviour. Your victory is in the visitor.

 

Prayer

Dear Lord and God of my life

You visited us and you will visit again.

Between those visits you promised to live in me.

I am called to be the visible presence of God in my world.

I need you.

I need your glory in me.

Come.

Come to this sinner, this disillusioned child of yours and rescue me again and again.

Re-appoint me, envision me and shine through my life.

This is all I need.

Amen

 

 

 

 

 

Praying the Benedictus 1

Praying the Benedictus 1

Luke 1: 67 “His father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied

As Mary’s song is called the Magnificat because of the opening word in Latin, ‘Magnifies’, so Zechariah’s song is known as Benedictus for the same reason with the opening word Blessed or Praise.

The Holy Spirit has come upon and powerfully overshadowed Mary (v35); Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (v41) and her baby, John, was also filled with the Holy Spirit (v15) and now his father, Zechariah is again filled with the Holy Spirit!

There is no story without the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t appear in the nativity scenes and yet the powerful presence of God is central to the beginning of the most amazing story.

So let us get into this Benedictus of Zechariah.

How do we see the Holy Spirit in him? It is through the prophetic words that come tumbling out of his heart.

When we are hosting the presence of the Lord in our lives then it is seen in what comes out of our mouths.

  • Not pain but praise!

He could have sung about how tough it had been for him, being muted by Gabriel and possibly unable to hear as well for 9 months. He could have sung about how much of a disgrace he and Elizabeth had suffered through her barren years. He could have turned on those who prior to the birth of John had turned away from them. This is our time to get even could have been his mantra. But there is nothing of that, there is just praise. People who carry the Holy Spirit in their lives speak less frequently about themselves and more about someone else.

  • Not John but Jesus!

If we don’t talk about ourselves the temptation is to talk about our children or our things that we have earned or bought or celebrated. But it is still me.

We wouldn’t have blamed Zechariah to sing about John, after all it is the greatest miracle that ever happened to him. He may have got a book tour out of it, “Buy my book, buy my book, it is about my John”. Some will get their reward on earth and if they do then they should enjoy it because it ends on earth. Some will get it in heaven for eternity.

But Zechariah doesn’t sing about John, but Jesus! When the Holy Spirit flows from the heart of a person then He speaks of Jesus, He elevates Jesus, He glorifies Jesus (John 16:14).

I have been trying to practice (get better) at hosting the presence of the Lord, trying to make the ‘moment’ of His presence last longer in my life, in my waking hours, in my conversations, decisions and actions. I can only get better! But I am thankful for His grace. The other day I came away disappointed with myself because I had a meeting with someone and we talked at length about leadership, strategy, my denomination but I realised I had an emptiness in my heart after that meeting and it was because I hadn’t talked about Jesus. The Holy Spirit likes to talk about Jesus! I am finding that meetings without Jesus are beginning to bore me. Meetings about how people have offended or how great we have become are meetings I don’t want to be in anymore. Let’s talk about Jesus and what He is doing. For as the Apostle John would say in his Revelation, “For it is the Spirit of prophecy who bears testimony to Jesus.” (19:10)

 

Prayer

Dear Lord and God of my life

Fill me again and again with your Holy Spirit.

Grace me with the ability to host your presence in my life.

I praise you for everything you have brought me through. In the presence of my enemies I will praise you. In the presence of the ignorant and misunderstanding I will praise you.

I praise you for everything you have provided and blessed me with. It is pure grace. But if you had given me nothing then I would still have had everything because you have given me a relationship with Jesus.

Thank you Jesus.

Today, I commit to thinking thoughts of you, to speak of you longer than I did yesterday.

Consume my whole life Jesus.

Amen

The power of silence

The power of silence

Luke 1: 62-66 “Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbours were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.”

For 9 months Zechariah had not been able to speak, since Gabriel had silenced him and may have even made him deaf because the people had to make signs to communicate to him.

Imagine with me, God placing you into a silent world for 9 months.

It is easy to just see this silence as a punishment from Gabriel to Zechariah for his questioning unbelief. But I think it is so much more than that.

Imagine with me 9 months of no noise, of another world, probably one where he is aware it is just him and God now. A season where there was time to meditate on who God is and what He has done. Realising that God is a covenant keeping God. Imagine God filling the silence with His presence. Imagine God filling his unbelief with faith. Imagine the intimate moments of prayer and worship of his heart towards God. This was a productive silence and I know that because of what would come out of his mouth as soon as his voice came back and his ears were opened. Out of Zechariah came the name of his son, which was given to him by Gabriel and then an amazing song of praise.

The verse in Isaiah 30:15 was certainly true for Zechariah, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength, but you would have none of it.”

So many of us are in the last few words of that verse, we ‘have none of it.’

We are approaching now this fun-filled, loud, festive noise of songs, cheers and anything but silence!! Activity has increased, our minds are flooded with ‘to do’ lists, we have been shopping, planning, discussing, creating and at the same time we are getting more and more fraught, anxious and restless.

“We are going to have a quiet Christmas this year” Yes right!

But it doesn’t change. We will then go into a new year and we will be doing the same. Our lives are filled with anything but silence. And for us Pentecostals well, silence can appear a dangerous thing, so we fill the gap with a song, a superlative or a story anything but silence!

Maybe someone needs to hear today that they are facing a huge decision, a game-changer for their life, they don’t know what to do but a decision will have to be made and yet the one decision that is of utmost importance is to be silent. For in the trust of silence there is strength.

Maybe the silence of Zechariah is not a punishment but an invitation. It certainly can be for you and me today. There are things God can only do in the silence. Enter it today.

 

 

Watch out!

Watch out!

Luke 1: 59-61 “On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah, but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.” They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”

 

This was more than a Jewish ritual. This for Zechariah and Elizabeth was them saying we want our son to start right, we want him under the ancient covenant of Abraham. They knew that in time he would have to understand the circumcision of the heart but now this is a symbol of what is to come when their son truly walked with God in full knowledge. The ceremony was also an opportunity to name the child revealing the story of the parents and the faithfulness of God to them.

  1. Watch for those who assume control.

Zechariah cannot speak so others assumed they would step up and initiate control. They no doubt did it out of right motives but they were not in line with the will of God. Who is controlling you? Prevent whatever it is taking you away from what God has promised and ordered.

  1. Watch for those who presume from what is the norm.

For a son to be named after his father was a proud moment and one that was seen as the culturally normal thing to happen. Not to do so would have caused eyebrows to be raised as to why. When Elizabeth objects she is dismissed because for them her suggestion was not acceptable. They were steeped in beliefs, disciplines and practices going back generations. They were locked in. “Elizabeth you cannot name him John, there is no one in your family with that name.” People can become offended when they presume through cultural eyes. I heard recently of how a group of orthodox Christians left a church because the Pastor was not baptising the ladies in white robes. Yes, here in the UK, 2018!

  1. Watch for those who are not in alignment with you or what God has said to you.

John’s name means “Yahweh is gracious” and Zechariah’s name means “Yahweh remembers”. Not a massive difference and does it matter? Yes if God had said to call their son John! Good, praiseworthy and ‘it makes sense’ isn’t necessarily obedience. Elizabeth protected her son’s identity.

 

Be careful of good, well intentioned people, they can be worse than your enemies if you do not stick to what God has said to you. Watch out!

Let others rejoice with you.

Let others rejoice with you.

Luke 1: 58 “Her neighbours and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy”.

People will get to know. Word will get out. The news will spread like a fire. It will tell of what God has done for you.

People never thought it would happen. Those who saw the breakthrough coming doubted you would survive the pressure and cost of that breakthrough. But you survived and you certainly broke through.

Be ready to permit others to share your joy. Don’t stop them even though they were not originally your supporters. They were not there at the beginning when you were desperately praying for healing and your miracle. But they will be there at the end when there is something to see. Some people only turn up when the miracle has come. They are not there for the work. But permit them to share your joy nonetheless.