Search for what God wants you to have

Search for what God wants you to have

Luke 2:8-20

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

v16 in the Amplified it says ‘by searching found’

The shepherds searched for Jesus.

Are you still a pilgrim?

Do you still pant like a deer for the water?

The shepherds were willing and they were persistent.

Be willing

This might seem strange to you, but God does want you to have good times and good experiences.

He wants you to run a good race, Galatians 5:7

He wants you to do good works, Ephesians 2:10

He has good gifts for you James 1:17

He is good 1 Peter 2:3

He wants you to have good health 3 John 2

But it is not all one way. He wants you to be willing to have what He wants to give you. He wants your partnership.

Mary had a visit by the angel, but she had to be willing, “May it be to me as you have said.”

The shepherds weren’t presented with Jesus nor were they picked up and dumped into the manger scene.

God won’t force you to have good things for your life. He won’t deliver them without your full participation and He won’t drag you into them either.

Be persistent

What could stop you? It could be distraction, discouragement and disappointment.

Don’t think they ran into Bethlehem with an A-Z map and all they had to do was find Manger Street.

May be they tried every cowshed in Bethlehem before they found the one with a baby in it, for that is the meaning of the word ‘search’.

What has tried to stop you this week?

What is it going to take for you to seek God until you find Him?

Speed up!

Speed up!

The shepherds got to the right place because they were able to keep in step with the moment.

Luke 2:8-20

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

The Amplified says ‘they went with haste’ and the Message ‘they left, running’. There are times when going slow and taking your time is not an option. We must:

Take our opportunities

The shepherds were never commanded to go, they were given the opportunity. What if they had put off today what they could do today?

We need to learn to be as obedient to the opportunity as the command.

– Take the opportunity to give

Proverbs 3:28 Do not say to your neighbour, “Come back later; I’ll give it tomorrow”– when you now have it with you.

– Take the opportunity to encourage

Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

– Take the opportunity to respond to God

Hebrews 3:7 So, as the Holy Spirit says: “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.

Know our priorities

The angel of the Lord suddenly reorganised their priorities.

The sheep were their priority and it still was but now they knew what was the most important priority.

Some people would have said ‘right let’s take all the sheep with us to Bethlehem, because we have got to keep working!’

What do you need to stop doing so that you can become more effective? What do you have to delegate?

Use the momentum of the moment

Whether it be a ‘great company of the heavenly host’ or a ‘star in the east’, ‘a burning bush experience’ or a ‘light from heaven on the Damascus Road’. For you, maybe it is a challenge from someone you trust. Maybe it is an experience of God’s presence as you listened to that worship cd.

In every ‘God-moment’ there is a momentum that needs to be used there and then.

May our prayer be that in 2019 we can realign our lives and respond to the moments God graciously gives us to get to where he wants us, with speed!

Nearby is not nearly enough

Nearby is not nearly enough

Luke 2:8-20

“And there were shepherds living out in the fields near by, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.”

These shepherds did not know (until they were told) how near they were to the place God had for them.

There are people waking today saying, “I was just so close. I was nearly there, but I missed out!” There can be no greater frustration, no greater regret than being so close, so near to all God has for you and knowing it.

As we approach the end of this year I want to ask, what did it take for these shepherds to move from nearby to a place where they would be envied for generations? This is what I will be focusing on the next few days.

More importantly what is it going to take for us to get to where we could be in God?

What good is nearby?

Nearby is for commentators, for people who know the theory, who can talk a good talk, but nearby is not ‘there’.

Nearby can be caring for sacrificial animals which all point to a coming Messiah and yet isn’t close enough to be with the Lamb who had been born.

What good is nearby?

What good is it for a Church to be doing well? What does ‘doing well’ mean? Is it numbers? Finances? Ministries? Buildings filled at events? It is possible to ‘do well’ and not have seen Christ the Lord. These are never arrival points. These are signs of the Spirit, we are nearby, but there is still some distance between us and the presence of Christ the Lord.

Let’s make nearby our enemy. Nearby is not nearly enough.

He came

He came

Luke 2:1-7

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to his own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

At a time when world leaders were flexing their muscles, Jesus came.

At a time of Empires and World powers such as Syria, Jesus came.

At a time when people were being forced to comply to rules of control, Jesus came.

At a time of mass movements of people, Jesus came.

At a time of personal, hidden and difficult life-stories, Jesus came and was the centre of one of them.

It could have been 2018. It could still be!

The world is noisy and God quietly moves in.

The world is distracted and God slips in unnoticed.

There is nothing that can stop Him.

No walls that He can’t break down or mountains He can’t take down.

To come to us.

Unto us a child is born.

The wilderness years

Luke 1:80

“And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel.”

The wilderness years are not where you are destined for but where you grow to move into your destiny.

The wilderness years are hidden years where the public don’t see you nor know you are there.

The wilderness years can be lived in, you can find a way to dwell there.

The wilderness years are the time when nothing much grows, except you.

The wilderness years don’t shrink you but enlarge you.

The wilderness years don’t weaken you but strengthen you.

The wilderness years will come to an end, they are temporary.

The wilderness years are essential.

The wilderness years are for people like Joseph, Moses, Elijah, David, Job and Paul.

So if you are in a wilderness you will know you are not the first to be there and not the last.

Praying the Benedictus 12

Praying the Benedictus 12

Luke 1: 79 “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, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven …

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

The reason Jesus was born was because God wanted to guide us into the place of peace.

It is a peace that cost Jesus His life.

It is a peace because sins are forgiven.

It is a peace of knowing there is no separation from God.

It is a peace that comes from our friendship with God.

It is a peace that can never be taken away once it has been given.

It is an eternal peace.

Today we do not wake up in darkness and under death’s shadow.

That is not us.

But we align ourselves with what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 4:6

“For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, ‘made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of God’s glory displayed in the face of Christ.”

It is never over for us because of the eternal light which will always shine through our lives.

We face trouble but the light is shining through our troubles.

We approach the darkness of people’s lives and the light brightens their perspectives.

Death does its best to cast its fear but the shadows flee because of the light.

This is our peace and it is our message.

This is our song and our Benedictus.

Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel.

 

Prayer

My eternal Peace

I Praise the God of Israel and the God of my heart who has come and changed my life.

You have given me what the world only offers to give but never delivers.

You have given me peace.

No matter how dark it becomes your light shines strong and bright.

Let the light of Christ be seen in my face today.

I cast the shadows away as your light shines from within.

You are the light of the world and the light of my world for all eternity.

And this is my eternal Benedictus.

Amen

Praying the Benedictus 11

Praying the Benedictus 11

Luke 1: 78

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, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven

Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.

So said Isaiah (60:1-2) and Zechariah perhaps influenced by him pours out a song about Jesus and his son, John.

He sees Jesus as the light, the rising sun, the glory coming to us.

How was He sent? How did He come?

In mercy. We understand what this means because Mary also sang of it when she describes how God has remembered to be merciful, v54.

When you are merciful you act. But the action isn’t to win an argument, to prove you are right and the other is wrong. The action is to lose at first in order to give the person the opportunity to gain. The action looks weak and open to abuse. It is why it doesn’t come naturally to us. The Church that is merciful has to work hard at this. It is much easier to judge. But it isn’t just that God comes in mercy, but He comes with tender mercy.

We automatically think of that being gentle mercy. That’s certainly needed. But it is more than that. The word is splanchna.

The word actually means the intestines, the guts, the bowels of an animal. Figuratively it means Jesus has come to forgive sins with the deepest emotions of the mercy of God. These emotions are not like the violent passion of the Greek poets but the base for the most kind and compassionate affection for the other.

Can you imagine if every Christian stopped hitting people with a Bible of Judgment and instead lived a Bible of tender mercy? We lay our lives down for the ‘sinner’ because we absolutely and passionately love them. In order for that to happen we have to get to know them. We have to be their friend. We have to live with them, be with them. This is what Jesus did when he was incarnated into our world. It is what we get to do also, today.

 

Prayer

God of tender mercy

You are the rising sun of my life

Let your glory fall on me.

Let tender mercy be seen in me.

I choose to lay my life down for another, even for someone who doesn’t know you.

Birth in me a deep tenderness for others so that it becomes the motivation for all that I do especially in terms of acts of mercy.

Thank you for your tender mercy given to me.

Even though I don’t deserve it.

Thank you

Amen

Praying the Benedictus 10

Praying the Benedictus 10

Luke 1:77 “… to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins …”

Zechariah knows what the role of his son will be. It is to prepare the people for Jesus by letting them know of the coming salvation through forgiveness.

His message would be: “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

John 1:29.

I’m writing this devotion as I listen to songs from Lauren Daigle. She is an American singer who is a follower of Jesus. Sections of the church publicly denounced her for appearing on ‘The Ellen Show’ (who is apparently gay) and for not being stronger in her stance against homosexuality. Then she was heavily criticised for a blouse she was wearing being accused for not being modest enough. As I listen to her songs whilst writing my devotional thoughts and as I pray I am so thankful that it is Jesus who forgives sins and not the Church because left to the self-righteous no one would be forgiven!

Jesus is the Old Testament sacrificial lamb which had to be without blemish or defect.

I am not that lamb neither have I found any other human being coming anywhere close to it.

What’s your thoughts on John the Baptist? I asked that of a friend recently and her opinion was that of mine, severe, strong, loud, making his stance against sin. But what if we are wrong? What if John was loving, gentle, kind and his call was enthusiastic but pro-people not against them?

What was John’s message and what should our message be?

In love we find a way to tell people that:

1. Only Jesus is perfect. So stop trying to be so.

2. Only Jesus could pay the price. Penance never produces forgiveness.

3. Only Jesus cancels the debt we owe God, Colossians 2:14. But we don’t need to police that or stand as a jury on whether that debt has indeed been cancelled.

4. Only Jesus removes the sin from God’s sight, John 1:29. But we don’t need to tell them which sins He wants to remove, He can do that.

5. Only Jesus saves us from a lost eternity, Matt 1:21. But we don’t need to dangle people over hell.

Can we communicate that without severity? Yes we can.

We need to find a way to give people the knowledge of what is theirs in Jesus. Instead of telling people what is wrong with them, we need to pave the way for them to experience forgiveness.

Praying the Benedictus 9

Praying the Benedictus 9

Luke 1:76 ““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.”

We need the prophetic voice.

Zechariah knows that Jesus is the prominent One, more important than John his son. He also knows that his son is called to a specific role. It is a role that you and I are also called into.

To be a prophet of the Most High.

After 400 years of no prophetic ministry, no voice from God, here comes the prophet!

We will discover as we continue to read Luke, that John was in the wilderness, he stayed near the river Jordan because he needed the water for baptism and he preached forgiveness (3:2-3)

This is what we need today. We need a rise of the prophets of the Most High.

In my own denomination here in the UK I believe I will again see and I am prayerfully pursuing a release of apostolic and prophetic ministries. The church needs such leaders but also the world does. But before there is a rush to claim such titles, even if that was possible, let me explain what I believe:

Apostles are people who specialise in sacrifice and the surrender of their lives (ie they get martyred!) We need such leadership.

Prophets are people who specialise in being content to live in very difficult circumstances (ie they live in wildernesses!)

I have a Church in the north of England. It has its own building and it is centred in a wonderful opportunity of an estate of houses but it has had massive decline in numbers and has only 4 lovely people left. For 9 years they have prayed for a leader but to no avail because it is a wilderness, it has nothing to offer, except to a prophet. God send the prophets!

I have a Church in the midlands of the UK. It too has struggled massively and is down to 15 people and a dog. It is situated in an amazing market town but the congregation is ageing. If they don’t get a leader, they will struggle further. I cannot get anyone to help because it is a wilderness, it has nothing to offer, except to a prophet.

God send the prophets!

1. We need the prophetic voice in the wildernesses of life from leaders who are not afraid of living in such dry places.

2. We also need the elevation of water baptism. It is not an option. It is not for the end of the discipleship programme and it is not for consideration for years on end based on whether the person feels they are ready yet. Get them converted and get them baptised on the same day if possible!

Some baptism tanks have dry rot they haven’t been used for that long. In 2019 we need more baptisms!

3. We also need more messages of forgiveness. People are ill today because of the years of being imprisoned to guilt and hurt. There is a reason people become addicts. There is a reason people become traumatised. Jesus forgives sin. He releases prison doors. He transforms lives. A leader recently said he had been taught he couldn’t expect a transforming service every time he met with his church. Why not? If Jesus is there and if the prophetic voice is there. Let’s call it out. Change. Change. Change. Because Jesus is coming soon!

Praying the Benedictus 8

Praying the Benedictus 8

Luke 1: 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”

Zechariah now turns his attention to his own son, John. He came second to Jesus in his song and Zechariah is clear on what his role would be in life.

The prominent One is Jesus

John was an answer to prayer, he was a miracle child for sure, but he was not the prominent One.

You may think you are important, you may have many reasons to be so, but there is One who is more important.

Putin, Trump, Merkel, Modi, Jinping, Netanyahu, none of these!

It is Jesus.

He is Almighty One (Rev 1:8); Alpha and Omega (Rev. 22:13); Advocate (1 John 2:1); Author and Perfecter of our faith (Heb. 12:2) and Authority (Matt. 28:18).

Are you understanding? It is Jesus.

He is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) and the Bridegroom (Matt. 9:15)

He is the Chief Cornerstone (Ps. 118:22)

He is the Deliverer (1 Thess.1:10)

He is the Faithful and True (Rev.19:11)

He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:1) and the Great High Priest (Heb. 4:14)

Who is most important? It is Jesus.

He is the Head of the Church (Eph. 1:22) and the Holy Servant (Acts 4:29-30)

He is the I Am (John 8:58); Immanuel (Is. 7:14) and the Indescribable Gift (2 Cor. 9:15)

He is the Judge (Acts 10:42)

He is the King of Kings (Rev. 17:14)

Who is the most prominent one? It is Jesus.

He is the Lamb of God (John 1:29); Light of the World (John 8:12); Lion of the Tribe of Judah (Rev. 5:5); Lord of All (Phil. 2:9-11) and the Loved Son of God (Matt. 3:17)

He is the Mediator (1 Tim. 2:5); Messiah (John 1:41) and the Mighty One (Is. 60:16)

He is the One Who Sets Free (John 8:36) and Our Hope (1 Tim. 1:1)

He is Peace (Eph. 2:14) and Prophet (Mark 6:4)

He is the Redeemer (Job 19:25); Risen Lord (1 Cor. 15:3-4) and the Rock (1 Cor. 10:4).

He is the Sacrifice for Our Sins (1 John 4:10); Saviour (Luke 2:11); Son of Man (Luke 19:10); Son of the Most High (Luke 1:32) and the Supreme Creator over All (1 Cor. 1:16-17).

He is the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25).

He is The Door (John 10:9); The Way (John 14:6); The Word  (John 1:1); The True Vine (John 15:1) and the Truth (John 8:32);

He is the Victorious One (Rev. 3:21)

Have you got it yet? It is Jesus.

He is the Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6)!!!

So the world doesn’t revolve around you nor does it revolve around your hero or bully. Jesus is the centre of it all.

 

Prayer

Centre of the Universe,

Be the centre of my life, my ways and my words.

Be the prominent One.

Take over.

All in all.

I surrender, move over, give way and lay my life down to you so that people can see you in me.

I understand now.

There is no other way.

It is you and you alone Jesus.

Amen