Spirit-Filled Dads 

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Last week I mentioned that there are numerous people who only appear in the Bible once. They come on the scene—many of them nameless to us—to play their part and then we never hear about them again. 

But we still hear from them because their lives are still teaching us. 

Remember that each of you is God’s gift to the world IF you are using God’s gift in you to glorify God in the world. We meet one of those gifts in the Book of Luke that can teach us Dads some valuable lessons. 

There are several “one-timers” listed by Luke in the Advent story. Luke was a first-rate historian, researching his subject and talking to eyewitnesses to the events. Some of these one-timers have a few details Luke shared with us: 

  • Zechariah and Elizabeth—we know their family lineage (priestly), Zechariah’s role in the temple, and the fact that Elizabeth was barren 
  • Shepherds—we know where they came from (the fields surrounding Bethlehem) and their occupation. 
  • Anna—we know her tribe (Asher), her father (Phanuel), and role (prophetess), and that she had been married and is now widowed. 

But all Luke can say of Simeon is, “There was a man called Simeon…” (Luke 2:25-35). 

Although, even that short introduction is packed with meaning. 

Simeon in Greek means harkening while Simeon in Hebrew means heard. So he was both one who heard God and one who was heard by God. This speaks to me of an intimacy of relationship. Simeon didn’t view his conversation with God as a monologue but as a dialogue. I think that far too often we view our Bible reading time as God simply speaking to us, and our prayer time as us speaking to God. But both of these activities should be a two-way dialogue.

A.W. Tozer has a great definition of a godly leader that I believe accurately portrays Simeon: “A true and safe leader is likely to be one who has no desire to lead but is forced into a position of leadership by the inward pressure of the Holy Spirit and the press of the external situation.” 

I think this means that a safe, godly leader is one who sees what is happening in a Christ-less culture, who then cries out in pain to God, and then who hears the Holy Spirit telling him how to live a holy life in that Christ-less culture.

We could call this external pressure grief over unrighteousness. Simeon so stood out in his culture that Luke calls him “righteous.” This is one whose way of thinking, feeling, and acting is wholly conformed to the will of God. 

He also calls Simeon “devout.” This is a compound Greek word that only Luke uses in the New Testament which means to catch good things and make them your own. Simeon took hold of the things of God, made them his own, and then observed them carefully.

Finally, Luke tells us that Simeon was “waiting for the consolation.” He was living expectantly to see God’s Word come to its fulfillment. He could do all of this because the Holy Spirit was upon him and the Holy Spirit had revealed truth to him. 

That phrase “revealed to him by the Holy Spirit” again speaks to the intimate relationship Simeon had with God. 

Simeon knew that what God promises, He fulfills. He knew the consolation God had promised through Isaiah (Isaiah 40:1-2), and then Simeon saw its fulfillment in Jesus the Christ—

“Sovereign Lord, as You have promised, You may now dismiss Your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

In today’s darkening, Christ-less culture, godly men like Simeon are needed again. 

Dads, do you feel the external pressure of today’s culture? If so, I pray that you will also feel the inward strengthening of the Holy Spirit drawing you into a more intimate relationship with Himself.

God gives His Word to men that will wait expectantly and pray fervently for its fulfillment. God is looking for men—for Dads—that will not cave in to cultural pressure. 

Guys, let the Holy Spirit’s inward pressure strengthen you to stand strong. As you see the external downward spiral away from God, don’t collapse, don’t complain, but hear God’s Word and remain a righteous and devout man for your family and your community. 

In our series We Are: Pentecostal, we talked much more in-depth about how the Holy Spirit wants to help us. You can check out all of those messages by clicking here.

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Graceful Christians

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

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! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in this Advent series, you can find the full list of messages by clicking here. 

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The End Of Our Struggle

Listen to the podcast of this post by clicking on the player below, and you can also subscribe on AppleSpotify, or Audible. 

Christmas time finds me sampling a whole lot of delicious treats, and I’m not complaining at all! But I’m a pretty simple guy, so one of my favorite treats is just plain old peanut butter. I love it! Sometimes I stick my spoon right in the jar and eat a big spoonful. 

But then there’s the age-old problem: How do you get peanut butter off the roof of your mouth? You can use your tongue or try blowing on it. Or you can use your finger! 

But then there’s another problem: How do you get peanut butter off your finger? Blow it? Shake it? Or eat it! 

Hmm, now I seem to be back to the original problem: How do you get peanut butter off the roof of your mouth? 

Maybe you’ve tried to solve one problem, only to create another problem. And then when you solve that problem you find yourself right back where you started! Round and round it goes! 

The Israelites were facing much the same situation. They sinned, God punished them through King Nebuchadnezzar, they tried to rebel, they were taken into captivity, and then they were finally allowed to return to Jerusalem after 70 years. But they still weren’t in charge of their own fate. First it was the Babylonians calling the shots, then the Medians, then the Persians, and then the Romans. Luke begins the birth story of Jesus with the words “in the days of Caesar Augustus” (Luke 2:1). 

The Israelites were waiting for God to restore their Promised Land to them. Some people believed a miraculous champion was going to come on the scene (much like Samson of old), and some thought a new anointed king from King David’s line would appear and rally an army to himself. 

We can understand this because of one of the prophecies from Isaiah 9 that talks about a warrior and God’s zeal. 

That word “warrior” got people pumped up! As did the promise that “the zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this”! For many, this was their proof that God wanted His people to rule this Promised Land for themselves 

We’ve been going through a series called People Will Talk, and these voices of a miraculous champion or a new king from David’s line were loud voices to be sure. But interestingly, the Bible doesn’t record much of what these loud voices were saying. 

Also among the people of this time there was another group that were called “the Quiet in the Land.” These were people who didn’t talk very much, but instead they clung to the promise spoken by God Himself of the Messiah. One of these quiet ones was a man named Simeon.

He was called “righteous and devout” and someone “waiting for the consolation of Israel.” Which meant he carefully attended to the prophecies of Scripture. The Amplified Bible says that Simeon “lived in prayerful expectancy [of] the Lord’s Christ. 

I left out an important part of that prophecy in Isaiah 9—something that I think the loud ones overlooked or downplayed too. In between those words about “warrior” and “God’s zeal” we read this: “For to us a Child is born, to us a Son is given. The government will be upon His shoulders. And He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). 

What does the “Prince of Peace” have to do with a warrior? Quite simply, when Jesus the Messiah came, the struggle was over. Jesus was the Warrior King who defeated the enemy of sin that kept us out of God’s presence. 

The loud Israelites believed God wanted His people to rule their Promised Land for themselves. But God wanted a people exclusively for Himself. ALL people—Jews and Gentiles alike—regardless of where or when they lived! 

Jesus is the way into God’s presence. He told us, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). 

You can try to solve your own problems, but only Jesus can bring the ultimate salvation. In the Christmas carol Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus, check out the lyrics of the second stanza:

Born Thy people to deliver, 
Born a child and yet a King, 
Born to reign in us for ever, 
Now Thy gracious kingdom bring. 
By Thine own eternal Spirit, 
Rule in all our hearts alone; 
By Thine all sufficient merit, 
Raise us to Thy glorious throne.

A relationship with Jesus means there is no more struggle of trying to solve our own problems, or figure out how things are supposed to work, or pushing down one problem only to have another one pop up. We come to the One and Only One who can raise us to His glorious throne forever and ever! 

Advent is a celebration of the end of our struggle because Jesus has made the way for us to have peace with God. 

And that means a very Merry Christmas indeed! 

If you’ve missed any of the messages in our Advent series People Will Talk, you can find links to all of them by clicking here. 

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Reacting To Injustice

When Shechem…saw Dinah, he took her and he raped her (Genesis 34). 

There is no doubt that what Shechem did to Diana was abhorrent. The text is full of reminders:

  • an outrageous thing
  • a thing that should not be done 
  • Dinah had been defiled
  • their sister had been defiled 
  • he treated our sister like a prostitute 

Shechem never admits to his wrongdoing. We don’t even know if he told his father Hamor what he had done. Dinah was being kept in the city away from her family, so she didn’t tell her father Jacob. Somehow, however, Jacob found out and his response is curious: he did nothing about it (v. 5). Even as Shechem and Hamor address Jacob’s family, it’s Diana’s brothers who reply deceitfully, so either Jacob has left the meeting or he is still sitting there silently. 

Levi and Simeon have the same mother as Dinah. Their reaction to their sister’s defilement is extreme—they kill every male in Shechem’s hometown! 

Since Shechem hadn’t even mentioned his crime to his father, it’s possible that the rape of Dinah has been kept a secret from the rest of the citizens of his city. Perhaps if the other city leaders had found out, Shechem alone would have been punished, instead of the whole city being wiped out. 

Jacob’s silence and inaction to this injustice prompted an overreaction by his sons. 

When a leader’s response is inappropriate to injustice, the followers’ response is likely to become even more so. Injustices must be dealt with in a God-honoring way: quickly and appropriately. 

A mark of a godly leader is his appropriate and timely reaction to injustices.

This is part 50 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here. 

Now What Will You Do With Christmas?

Now that Christmas is over, are you thinking to yourself, “Finally! I can get back to my normal routine”?

For some people, the past weeks have been a hectic whirlwind of activity, and the days leading up to Christmas seem like a blur. So now what?

I guess it depends on your attitude about the season. Was it just a regular, it-comes-every-year Christmas for you? Or was it an exciting CHRISTmas: the time to reflect on the birth of Christ? For those in the second category, we cannot—we dare not!—go back to a “normal” routine.

For those that encountered Jesus on (or near) the day of His birth in Bethlehem, look how they responded:

The Shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen.

Simeon took the baby Jesus in his arms and praised God.

Anna broke into an anthem of praise to God, and talked about the child to all who were waiting expectantly for the freeing of Jerusalem.

The Magi were overjoyed, and they bowed down and worshiped Him.

My prayer for myself—and for you, too—is that our encounter with Jesus this Christmas was so real, that we will continue to glorify God, and worship Him with overflowing joy, for the rest of the year. Let’s not just get through Christmas, but let’s make sure the reality of CHRISTmas continues to resonate throughout the year.

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