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Our Advent series this year has been called “People Will Talk,” but we have one more person to learn from who says nothing. We have none of her words inside quotation marks, and yet Luke was inspired by the Holy Spirit to share her story with us. Her wordless message speaks volumes, if we’re willing to listen.
Anna, like Simeon, was one of the “Quiet in the Land.” Luke describes her as “very old.” The Greek phrase can either mean that she was a widow for 84 years after seven years of marriage, or simply that she was 84 years old. In either case, we don’t see her sitting withdrawn and inactive because of her old age, but we see her taking the initiative. She is the one who comes up to Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.
Luke also calls her a “prophetess.” Not someone bitter about her widowhood, but someone who truthfully and lovingly spoke God’s Words. Throughout the Bible, we see that a prophet or prophetess is less foretelling the future than they are forth-telling the promises of God. Of course the “-ess” at then end of “prophet” reminds us that Anna is a woman. As a woman she was excluded from certain parts of the temple, but instead of picketing or making a scene Luke says she spends her time worshipping, fasting, praying, and waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promised Messiah.
I imagine that her mere presence must have changed the atmosphere wherever she went!
I’m not sure if Charles Dickens had Anna in mind when he wrote A Christmas Carol, but the way the Ghost of Christmas Present added his blessing to busy people is what I imagine Anna’s role being in the temple—
“But soon the steeples called good people all, to church and chapel, and away they came, flocking through the streets in their best clothes, and with their gayest faces. And at the same time there emerged from scores of bye-streets, lanes, and nameless turnings, innumerable people, carrying their dinners to the bakers’ shops. The sight of these poor revelers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker’s doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humor was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was! God love it, so it was!”
Both Anna in the New Testament and Hannah in the Old Testament mean graceful. Or as I like to remember that word: someone full of grace. When she approaches Joseph, Mary, and Jesus, Luke says she “gave thanks.” This comes from a unique Greek word in the New Testament. The root word is usually translated confession, which means saying the same words as others. But the prefix Luke adds means “in place of.” This means that Anna was speaking thankful words in place of the other words being spoken around her.
Anna spoke counter-culturally. Instead of being a cultural thermometer, she was serving as a thermostat to change the culture around her. This is the same kind of lifestyle that Jesus calls us to live. And it’s a lifestyle that Paul sums up in one succinct verse: “Let your gentleness [or we could say ‘grace-fullness’] be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5).
After Ebenezer Scrooge’s encounter with the three spirits, his life was transformed—
“Scrooge was better than his word. He did it all, and infinitely more.… He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.
“Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms. His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.
“…And it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us! And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God bless Us, Every One!”
As Christians, may both our actions and our reactions be so grace-filled, and may our gentleness be so evident to everyone all year long, and may we live so counter-culturally that people cannot help but see that we are grace-filled by the Spirit of Jesus Christ!
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I’ve always appreciated A.W. Tozer’s prophetic voice. By that I mean, his unabashed call for Christians to live up to the Christlike standard given to us in the Scriptures. But in Voice Of A Prophet, Tozer hits a little closer to home for me (and for all of us who are in ministry positions) as he specifically calls on pastors to live up to the prophetic standard given to us in the Bible.
Sometimes people misunderstand the title “prophet” to be one who foretells future events. At times, that is the function of a prophet, but primarily the prophet is more of a forthteller than a foreteller. The prophet is called upon to boldly proclaim God’s truth and tell forth where godly people are falling short. Prophets are God’s messengers to God’s people, usually sent to reawaken His people to truths that they have forgotten or strayed from.
Tozer calls modern-day pastors and preachers—those he calls “the sons of the prophets”—to look to the prophetic fathers of the Scripture. He calls us to live up to the God-fearing standard of the prophets like Elijah, Isaiah, John the Baptist, and Jesus. He forthtells how too many have succumbed to the voice of culture instead of adhering to the voice of their Lord, and how they have traded “Thus saith the Lord” for “Thus saith me.”
The opening chapter of Voice Of A Prophet reprints a prayer that Tozer wrote out when he was ordained in 1920. Part of that prayer for himself should remain a prayer for all who are called by God to be pastors today: “Let me stand before the great or minister to the poor and lowly; that choice is not mine, and I would not influence it if I could. I am Thy servant to do Thy will, and that will is sweeter to me than position or riches or fame and I choose it above all things on earth or in heaven.”
Voice Of A Prophet is an important read for those in pastoral ministry. FAIR WARNING: You will be challenged and convicted by Tozer’s timeless words! But if you will heed those words, God will be pleased to bless your efforts. I would also recommend this book to anyone who would like to know how they can better support and pray for their pastor, as I think they will find valuable insights in this book.
A mark of a godly leader is one who leads with God’s moral authority.
Samuel had always been a public person: accessible and visible to all. Now he calls all Israel together to challenge them to point out where he may have taken a bribe or used his position to his own advantage. All Israel was silent on this—no one could speak a word against him (v. 4). This gave him the moral authority to speak a hard word to the people.
Samuel reminds Israel that God is sovereign:
God appoints leaders
God overrules evil plans
God fulfills all His purposes
Samuel had to “confront [them] with evidence” (v. 7) that they had not acted like those things were true about God. A prophet frequently has to say, “Here is God’s standard, and here is where you are falling short of His standard.” But a shepherd’s voice quickly adds, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you. And I will teach you the way that is good and right” (v. 23).
This prophet-shepherd is attested to by God Himself. God will sometimes thunder His thunder (vv. 17-18), but God will always make sure that none of His servant’s words fall to the ground (3:19). This moral authority is gained by both fearing God and delighting in Him.
Fear of God brings the prophet’s voice forward. Delighting in God brings the shepherd’s voice forward. God’s effective leader needs both voices to lead with moral authority.
This is part 47 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.
This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.
Jesus Gives His Bride Good Gifts
Our Lord Jesus Christ has nothing that He does not give to His church. He gave Himself for us and He continues, still, to give Himself to us. He receives the gifts, but He only acts as the conduit through which the grace of God flows to us. It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell, and of His fullness have we all received. …
These gifts, given in the form of men, are given for men [Ephesians 4:8-13]. Churches do not exist for preachers, but preachers for churches. … My brothers and sisters in the church, we who are your pastors are your servants for Christ’s sake. Our rule is not that of lordship, but of love. …
See how wonderful, then, was that ascension of our Lord in which He scattered down mercies so rich and appropriate among the sons of men! From His glorious elevation above all heavens He sends forth pastors, preachers, and evangelists, through whom the Holy Spirit works mightily in those who believe. By them He gathers the redeemed together and builds them up as a church to His glory!
To bring His Bride into the fullness of her radiance, Jesus gave gifts to the Church in the form of people—apostles, pastors, evangelists, teachers, and servants that will help build up the Church and bring her into full maturity.
Don’t ever downplay the important role that you, dear Christian, play in His Bride. YOU are a gift from Jesus and a gift to His Bride!
Have you ever had someone walk into your life—even if it was just for a moment—and say something you needed to hear? You might not have liked what they had to say, but it was definitely something you needed to hear.
My hunch is that those timely messengers were not necessarily “experts” in the area in which they talked to you. They may have been a doctor talking about a medical need, or it may have been a friend talking about some health issues. Most of the time our valuable messengers are just everyday people.
God loves using “everyday people”!
You don’t have to be a trained pastor to minister to people.
You don’t have to be a trained theologian to tell people what you believe about God.
You don’t have to be a trained counselor to encourage someone.
You just have to be who God created you to be. And you have to be available. Like Amos.
Amos was simply taking care of his farm and his herds when God called him to deliver a timely message to His people.
Amos introduces himself as just one of the shepherdsof Tekoa (1:1) and tells another priest that he was simply minding his own business when God said, “Go, prophesy to My people” (7:10-15).
Amos’ name means burden-bearer—he had a burden for his kinsmen. He saw their sin and knew what defiance of God would mean for them. This burden made him available to hear God’s voice say, “Go.”
“But I’m not a trained prophet,” Amos could have said. “You are telling me to ‘prophesy’ but all I really know is farming and shepherding.”
God said, “Say what you know.”
What did Amos know?
Amos knew God’s voice—In this short book, 43 times(!) Amos uses phrases like says the Lord, declares the Lord, or hear the word of the Lord.
Amos knew his business—This book is filled with language about sheep and shepherds, farmers and farm equipment, gardens and vineyards.
Amos knew God had told him “Go and speak” so Amos had boldness.
You can put your name in all three of those places that say Amos. You can know God’s voice through the Bible, you know your “business” (whether it’s parenting, or coaching, or your own profession), and you can hear God saying, “Go, tell people about Me.”
God wants to use you for His glory. He just needs your availability. Will you be open to being that person?
Oswald Chambers gives us some unparalleled insights into the Book of Jeremiah. This is a must-read for serious students of the Bible. Check out my full book review of Notes On Jeremiah by clicking here.
“Very few of us understand why clouds of darkness come. It is God trying to get us into line with the prophets and apostles. It is the Holy Spirit seeking to bring us into the place of vicarious intercession, and we nearly always misunderstand it and say, ‘I must have sinned,’ or ‘I must get out of this, I have got the blues.’”
“We do not need a new Gospel; what we need is the old truth re-stated to hit the things that are wrong today.”
“Few of us realize the power God has given us to grip on the threshold of the mind as in a vice the things that ought not to be there.”
“The Cross of Jesus Christ is not a martyrdom, it does not procure salvation; it is the only salvation.”
“Beware of ever saying to yourself, ‘God’s law is not exactly binding to me, I am under grace.’ To be under grace should mean that we can fulfill the law of God gracefully.”
“Prosperity that does not spring from a godly motive is the external sign of having forsaken God.”
“We cannot answer God’s call collectively (John 6:68-70). Never get disturbed out of hearing God’s voice by saying other people have not heard it.”
“Human nature hates God’s message that there is a bad tendency inside that has to be plucked out, and unless it is it will damn us.”
“Jesus Christ’s salvation is the destruction of the sinner in the man, not of the man.”
“The measure of my misery when I turn from God is proportioned to my knowledge of Him when I walked with Him.”
“Our Lord Jesus Christ and the Old Testament prophets are inseparable from one another, for in the Person and the teaching of our Lord all that the prophets taught is in part fulfilled, and will be completely fulfilled.”
Oswald Chambers always gives me unique perspectives on passages of Scripture—even ones that I thought I already knew quite well. He does this again as he dives deep into one of the major prophets in his book Notes On Jeremiah.
These Notes are really his lecture notes from his classes at the Bible Training Institute. Once again, these classes were cut short by the outbreak of The Great War (what we now call World War I), so we only have his brilliant insights through Jeremiah chapter 29.
Chambers himself noted, “The conception of these studies is that man must look higher for the source of life and salvation than the experience of life. … Jesus Christ is the only One Who can throw light on the prophecies of Isaiah, and He is the only One Who throws any kind of light on the acute suffering and amazing misery of this prophet [Jeremiah].”
Indeed, many of Chambers’ lectures start with “the experience of life” that most of us have had (or are having at present), and then he tries to take us both higher and deeper. Using Jeremiah’s prophesies like a searchlight, Chambers shows how these Old Testament words find their ultimate relevance and fulfillment in the dazzling Advent of Jesus Christ.
Jeremiah was prophesying in the darkest days of Judah, just before the city was overthrown by the Babylonians. In the face of this darkness, Jeremiah shines out a light of Ultimate Hope. This is a valuable resource for Christians today who are living in sin-darkened days.
If you are looking for a great companion resource for your Bible reading time in Jeremiah, please add Notes On Jeremiah to your library.
The prophets were holy men, not mechanisms; they were “moved by the Holy Ghost” [2 Peter 1:21] to say what they did. Each prophet had a distinct characteristic of his own, they were not all “moved” in the same way. We are not meant to be “channels only,” we are infinitely more responsible than “channels.” …
Jeremiah continually warned the people that if they did not repent and come up to God’s standard for them, He would blight all that they possessed, including Jerusalem and the Temple. That was what enraged them against Jeremiah. They said he used his prophetic right to tell an untruth; for, they argued, God would never destroy His own holy city or the Temple in which He was worshiped (26:11). Any position before God based on a foundation other than living in the light of God and depending upon Him, is doomed to destruction.
From Notes On Jeremiah
God’s Word is still as viable and applicable to us today as it was in the days that Jeremiah and the other prophets spoke, and in the days the New Testament authors penned their words.
J.C. Ryle issued this warning to us, “Let us beware of despising the Old Testament under any pretense whatever. Let us never listen to those who bid us throw it aside as an obsolete, antiquated, useless book. The religion of the Old Testament is the embryo of Christianity. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the bud. The New Testament is the Gospel in full flower. The Old Testament is the Gospel in the blade. The New Testament is the Gospel in full ear.”
God’s Word IS speaking to us today. The question is—are you and I willing to obey what God says to us, or are we more interested in making arguments about its relevance?
This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.
[These are notes from Oswald Chambers’ lecture on Jeremiah 23.]
If the preaching of a servant of God does not make me brace myself up and watch my feet and my ways, one of two things is the reason—either the preacher is unreal, or I hate being better. At sometime or other all of us have had a detestation of being better. The rage produced by being faced with a life which in reality is better than our own, awakens either a desire to be like it, or else hatred without cause against that life. “They hated Me without a cause,” said Jesus. …
God makes His Word living by speaking it to you. There is a feeling of deep settled peace when the Holy Ghost brings a word, full of light and illumination, you know better than you can express, “The Lord said that to me.” …
The Bible student must be careful to distinguish between the speculations of his own heart and the Word of God. … Be simple and obedient, and the Word of God will open to you as naturally as breathing. …
In reading God’s Word be careful of being guided by affinities instead of by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes us face facts for which we have no affinity. …
Never ridicule the way in which people say God guides them; all you know is that God does not guide you like that, but never ridicule.
From Notes On Jeremiah
In this chapter of Jeremiah, God is contrasting true and false prophets. In order for us to distinguish the true from the false today, we must be students of God’s Word ourselves. Don’t get God’s Word solely from a man’s or woman’s preaching (although that does have its place), but be a student of the Word for yourself.
God wants to speak to you through His Word. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the biblical authors wants to illuminate that Word to your specific life and situation. Get into the Word and let the Word get into you.