For the Mighty One Has Done Great Things for Me ( by Carley Evans )

Mary excitedly tells Elizabeth, “My soul glorifies the Lord.” (Luke 1:46, NIV) She declares, “From now on all generations will call me blessed, for the Mighty One has done great things for me — holy is His Name.” (Luke 1:47-49)

Mary glorifies God, not herself even after Elizabeth says, “Blessed is she who has believed what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished.” (Luke 1:45) And even after Elizabeth says to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear!” and asks why she is so favored “that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43)

Mary redirects Elizabeth to recognize God’s handiwork. After all, God has been mindful of Mary’s humble state, and has done great things for her. He has extended His mercy; He’s performed mighty deeds; filled the hungry with good things and remembered to be merciful forever. (Luke 1:48,49,50,51,53,54)

Elizabeth’s unborn child who will grow up to become John the Baptist leaps in her womb when he hears Mary’s greeting. At the same moment, his mother Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. And all this long before the day of Pentecost.

Thank You Heavenly Father for choosing these two women to bless beyond imagining — one to bear the Baptist who will prepare the way and the other to bear the Son of God, who is the Way. In Jesus’ Name, amen.


Clear Away the Stones ( by Carley Evans )

The Lord works in mysterious ways, right? I’m sitting here on my couch, thinking primarily — I admit — about my novella and how exciting I find writing it to be. But, I’ve also just written my morning note on Grace Partakers and I was thinking how disappointing it is not to have people flocking to read my blogs — ah, the specter of self-pity!

But, immediately I imagine John the Baptist wandering around out beyond the Jordan River, eating honey and — was it thistles? — wearing animal skins? Sometimes, old movies interfere with reality. I can’t remember.

And, I think maybe I should write about John the Baptist, but I say, “no, he did have people flocking to him, remember silly!” So, I flip through my bible and sure enough, I read:

“Go out, go out through the gates; prepare a way for the people! Build it up, build up the highway; clear away the stones! Raise a banner for the peoples. Look, the Lord proclaims to the ends of the earth, ‘Say to the Daughter Zion: Look, your salvation is coming, His reward is with Him.’ And they are called the Holy People, the Lord’s Redeemed; and you are called Cared For, A City Not Deserted.” (Isaiah 62:10-12, HCSB)

Now, I don’t know how long John wandered around out beyond the Jordan River. But, his life could not have been an easy one. From even before he was born, he knew Jesus having met Him when he was still in his mother’s womb. He grew up, I am certain, knowing exactly the kind of life he would lead, and probably the kind of treachery and death he would face. He knew his role was to decrease while Jesus’ role was to increase.

This is the role many of us — as blogging Christians — have taken: to decrease while Jesus increases. I confess my occasional — maybe frequent — and strong desire for recognition, praise, glory; then I remember Who called me to these little notes in the first place and I defer to Him, the Lord of Glory.

May God receive all the glory for He is worthy all the time.

When These Things Happen ( by Carley Evans )

Zechariah is startled by an angel of the Lord, “standing on the right of the altar of incense.” (Luke 1:11, NEB) Zechariah is in the sanctuary to offer incense while “the whole congregation is at prayer outside.” (Luke 1:11) Fear overwhelms him. But the angel says, “Your prayer is heard: your wife Elizabeth is to bear you a son, and you are to name him John. Your heart will thrill with joy and many will be glad that he is born; for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord.” (Luke 1:14-15)

Zechariah doubts. He’s an old man and his wife “is well on in years.” (Luke 1:18) Because he questions the angel, Gabriel says, “Now listen: you will lose your power of speech, and remain silent until the day when these things happen to you, because you do not believe me.” (Luke 1:19-20)

Sure enough, Zechariah emerges from the sanctuary mute. He remains unable to speak until “the time comes for Elizabeth’s child to be born, and she gives birth to a son.” (Luke 1:57-58) “When her neighbors and relatives hear what great favour the Lord shows her, they are as delighted as she is.” (Luke 1:59)

On the eighth day as they arrive to circumcise the infant, Zechariah and Elizabeth’s neighbors and relatives are going to name the boy after his father. “But [Elizabeth,] his mother speaks up and says, ‘No! he is to be called John.’ (Luke 1:60) The neighbors and relatives are bewildered as there’s no John in Zechariah’s family. However, Zechariah gestures for a writing tablet and  scribbles, “His name is John.” (Luke 1:64) “Immediately his lips and tongue are freed and he begins to speak, praising God.” (Luke 1:65)

When these things happen, says Gabriel. These things are essentially four – 1) Elizabeth is with child, 2) A son is born to her and to Zechariah, 3) Their neighbors and relatives rejoice; then “everywhere in the uplands of Judea the whole story becomes common talk. All who hear it are deeply impressed,” (Luke 1:65-66) and 4) Zechariah names his son, John.

With these things, Gabriel releases Zechariah’s power of speech: “Praise to the God of Israel! For He has turned to His people, saved them and set them free, and has raised up a deliverer of victorious power from the house of His servant David. So He promised: age after age He proclaimed by the lips of His holy prophets, that He would deliver us from our enemies, out of the hands of all who hate us; that he would deal mercifully with our fathers, calling to mind His solemn covenant. Such was the oath He swore to our father Abraham, to rescue us from enemy hands, and grant us, free from fear, to worship Him with a holy worship, with uprightness of heart, in His presence, our whole life long. And you, my child, you shall be called Prophet of the Highest, for you will be the Lord’s forerunner, to prepare His way and lead His people to salvation through knowledge of Him, by the forgiveness of their sins: for in the tender compassion of our God the morning sun from heaven will rise upon us, to shine on those who live in darkness, under the cloud of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:68-79)

Blessed If Not Offended

Herod is excited. Pilate is sending Jesus to him because Jesus is a Galilean and therefore under Herod’s jurisdiction. To make matters even easier, it happens that Herod is in Jerusalem “in those days.” (Luke 23:7, HCSB) Herod is anticipating a thrilling encounter, having heard a lot about Jesus. Above everything else, Herod wants to see a miracle!

When Jesus is brought before him, Herod asks Him many questions; but Jesus does not answer any of them. At the same time, somewhat on the sidelines, the chief priests and scribes are taunting Jesus. You can almost hear them as they spit out vehement accusations.

Eventually, Herod realizes Jesus is not going to perform a miracle. Likely frustrated and angry, Herod — in conjunction with his soldiers — treats Jesus with contempt. Herod mocks Jesus, and has Him dressed in a colorful robe. Disappointed in the proceedings, Herod sends Jesus back to Pilate.

Jesus says, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you do not believe.” (John 4:48) And the Son of God prays, “I praise You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because You hide these things from the wise and learned and reveal them to infants. Yes, because this is Your good pleasure.” (Matthew 11:25-26) Jesus speaks to the crowds about John the Baptist, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed swaying in the wind? What did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothes? Look, those who wear soft clothes are in kings’ palaces.” (Matthew 11:7-8) “If anyone is not offended by Me, he is blessed.” (Matthew 11:6)

Father God, keep us from needing to see signs and miracles in order to believe. Help us to trust the ordinary events of our days as within Your sovereign will. Help us to know the real person of Jesus Christ, crucified, resurrected, and glorified. In Jesus’ Name, amen.