El Dorado News

October 21, 2018
El Dorado News Times

From the pulpit, 11-25-17

This article was published November 25, 2017 at 5:00 a.m.

Ancient Words —

Christmas Miracles, John the Baptist

God would have it no other way. The miraculous event of sending his Son from heaven to earth for the redemption of man should be accompanied with marvel and mysteries and miracles. Christmas, whether in pretense or in truth, has come again in 2017 and for 2017 years the world continues to celebrate the season of joy – many for reasons they know and others for reasons unknown.

But, God be praised! The very spelling of Christmas begins with Christ! The very saying of “Christmas” begins with Christ!! It is a miracle in many ways that Christmas exists today with so much anti-Christian sentiment spewed at times by both the liberal and conservative media circus.

Thankfully, church assemblies celebrate Christ’s resurrection every Sunday and wisely so through the course of the year. Thankfully, the last weeks of every year are reserved to celebrate Christ’s birth, and wisely so as well. Resurrection has its meaning first because of birth, then because of death. The birth of Jesus should be miraculous enough with the young virgin Mary being found with child as announced by the angel, Gabriel. But God chose to surround this blessed and holy event with at least 26 other miracles — each one pointing to the coming Immanuel, an event unlike any other to take place in our world.

Luke gives us the account of the birth of John the Baptist; a miracle indeed considering Zechariah and Elizabeth were barren and beyond child-bearing years. Gabriel returns to earth’s scene after more than 1,000 years of absence as he announces the plan to the unbelieving father. Struck speechless for unbelief, Zechariah endures nine months with a muted mouth only to have it opened when he writes “His name is John,” to the crowded family room assembled around the newborn made in the likeness and spirit of Elijah, the famous prophet renowned.

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Malachi had penned 400 years earlier, words from God that foretold the purpose for Elizabeth’s child. “See, I (God) will send my messenger (John), who will prepare the way for me … See, I (God) will send you the prophet Elijah (John) before that great and dreadful day of the Lord comes. He (John) will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I (God) will come and strike the land with a curse.” (Malachi 3:1, 4:5-6).

Zechariah is excited! As a priest filled with new faith and with the Holy Spirit, he breaks out in a song of prophecy in Luke 1 (Luke 1:68-80) “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel; for he hath visited and redeemed his people, And hath raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David.”

“As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began – that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us – to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant. The oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear – in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life. And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

And the child (John) grew, and waxed strong in Spirit, and was in the deserts until the day of his shewing unto Israel.

John is a miracle from God and Zechariah knows it. Zechariah is a miracle from God as he, now filled with God’s Spirit, bursts out in song with a voice that had been muted for nine months. Elizabeth is a miracle from God as Mary in her first month comes to Elizabeth in her sixth month and Elizabeth’s baby leaps in the womb upon hearing Mary’s greeting – and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit and said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord said to her will be accomplished.” (Luke 1:39-45).

(Scott Johnson is pastor at East Faulkner Church of Christ and author of the BRG Bible).

• • •

Sparks From The Gospel Anvil

Ezekiel 33:1-9

We live in a day and time in which many people say they hear the truth, but they don’t listen. They say they have feelings, but they are not burdened for others. Is there one burning heart that is reading this small article that knows that there is a real devil and all the forces of wickedness and evil are against them and others that speak the truth.

Oh, that the Lord would shake up this county from center to circumference for the souls of those that are lost. Those that are more worried about satisfaction than sanctification, being right than in being righteous, more worried about our government than in God. Are we really fulfilling the will of God and not concerned about pleasing men? Did you know that God will not hold us guiltless, if we have the answer to our world’s problem today and we keep it to ourselves.

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God’s Word in this passage says He will hold us accountable! When are we going to rise-up like the early Christians and face the wicked that is going on in the world today? This nonsense which we see, that condones our inefficient inactivity. It is because of the apostasy of the day that needs God’s holy fire to show the ungodliness it hides. We, as witnesses, cuddle around the Lord’s table as though it were the last coal of God’s altar, and warm our hands, thinking that will appease the wrath of the indignant Christ when He charges us with the unmet, unchallenged, untaught generation of heathen now beginning their Thanksgiving shopping.

It makes my spiritual man have righteous anger when I think of the Holy Spirit we profess and the utter impotency of our action. The Lord Jesus Christ said to His early disciples and us as well, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you and you will be my witnesses” ( reference Acts 1:8a).

Jesus didn’t call us to fulfill our desires or in pleasing our physical wants, but He said we are His witnesses and as a witness we are to tell others of who Jesus is and how He delivered us from darkness to His marvelous light.

So many believers stray away from the gospel truth and make it difficult to believe or even understand. God again is not interested in pleasing us, but in us pleasing Him. I think the Apostle Paul said it best when he said, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, Who loved me, and gave Himself for me.” (reference Galatians 2:20).

It is this statement and it should be the believers’ attitude that will bring hope to a hopeless world and comfort to a chaotic world. It is the responsibility of each witness to search the Holy Scriptures and find the all-important ,“Thus saith the Lord” and share it with the world around them. I think Service’s “Law of the Yukon” has some words that are applicable to the life to which I know God calls.

“Send not your foolish and feeble, send me your strong and your sane, strong for the red rage of battle, sane. For I harry them sore: send me men girt for the combat, men who are grit to the core, swift as the panther in triumph, fierce as the bear in defeat, sired of a bulldog parent, steeled in the furnace heat. And I wait for the men who will win me – and I will not be won in a day. And I will not be won by weaklings, subtle, suave and mild, but by men with the hearts of Vikings, and the simple faith of a child – desperate, strong and resistless, unthrottled by fear or defeat. Them will I gild with my treasure, them will I glut with my meat.” (reference: Service’s “Law of the Yukon”).

(Lieutenant Charles Smith is commanding officer of the Salvation Army of El Dorado).

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