Pastor's Blog

Advent in Luke: Elizabeth's Peace

What does it take for you to feel at peace? If you’re a budding megalomaniac the answer is simple: “All people everywhere all the time obeying me.”  Anything less and you might feel twitchy.

Most people have thresholds for feeling at peace. A safe and healthy family. A secure and fulfilling job. A network of affirming friendships. Different people draw their line at different places.

Elizabeth was an old woman who lived with more a sense of resignation than peace. By the time the angel breaks into her husband’s routine, Elizabeth had long ago accepted her lot in life.

Her husband was a genuinely good man but he had already topped out as a priest. Like many before him, Zechariah would live his priestly life and then fade from memory. No testimonies. Just a country priest who did his best, God bless him.

And if they didn’t remember Zechariah, they certainly wouldn’t remember his barren wife. Sad, really, for the both of them. Good people who just seem to destined for obscurity. Not even a single child, male or female, to bear witness to their existence.

In her day the “blame” of childlessness lay at her feet. There must be something wrong with her. Either she is poorly made or wrongly behaved. Either way Elizabeth, bears the burden. Sad to be forgotten before you pass away. And childless, too.

But things changed. God chose lowly, obscure Zechariah and Elizabeth as trumpets to herald a new day.

I wonder did her “frown creases” change into “smile creases” during those months of seclusion? Did the etched wrinkles of worry and fatigue smooth out … just a little … while behind closed doors she kept adjusting her old clothes to fit her new body?

“Blessed is she who believed there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her by the Lord.” (Lk. 1.45) Elizabeth said that Mary and it certainly applies, first, to Mary.

But it also applies to Elizabeth. How many years of silent prayers and quiet service? Who knows? But fundamental to her “righteousness before God” (Lk. 1.6) was belief God is God and His Word is true. At first her priest for a husband did not believe God’s word to him.

But Elizabeth did. And she was at peace.


Posted by Tim Alexander with

What are Spiritual Gifts?

“Do you use all of your phone?”  This is a modern question.

Modern phones are mini-computers, cameras, and communication/presentation devices. They are stunning in their complexity and potential. Most people know they could do much more with their phone and live (not a little) intimidated by the device in their hands. This happens when they see others use their phones to (seemingly) master the universe. “Is there some mystery for productivity I need to master? Some setting I need to find? If I just mastered that … life would be better!”

I wonder: How many Christians are intimidated by the Holy Spirit in the lives of others? Perhaps they look at others who live with perpetual joy and ask, “Am I supposed to live that way?” Or perhaps they compare themselves to those who live with calm spiritual confidence, unflappable and steadfast. And they are genuine! They would be easier to dismiss if they weren’t authentic.  But they are. Somehow they seem to walk side-by-side with the Holy Spirit. “What do they know of the Holy Spirit that I don’t? How are they accessing the Holy Spirit in ways that I can’t?”

I have good news. The Holy Spirit is not a smart phone with hidden features in the settings, just waiting to be discovered and fully utilized. The Holy Spirit is not a utility or some kind of additional feature for my Christian life.

He is, as the song says, “God in three Persons, blessed trinity.” The Holy Spirit is God-the Spirit. He indwells me as a person saved by the blood of Jesus and now living towards God. He indwells the local church, empowering us with gifts so that we may exalt Jesus in the world. Both as a church and as individuals, the Holy Spirit causes us to be changed into the likeness of Jesus.

That’s what the Holy Spirit does: He changes us to be like Jesus.

I don’t figure out how to “use all” of the Holy Spirit. It’s kind’a the other way around. Over a lifetime, the Holy Spirit indwells me so thoroughly … He uses all of me.

There are texts in the New Testament which comment on "spiritual gifts." (Rm. 12; 1 Co. 12; Ep. 4; 1 Pt. 4) You follow a path to confusion by chasing after particular "gifts" yet ignoring both the Giver and the Giver's purpose.

All spiritual gifts are given to glorify Jesus in some way, either directly or indirectly. Gifts of proclamation, teaching, communication and worship focus directly upon Jesus, exalting Him before the watching world. Gifts of endurance, perseverance, faithfulness, service and leadership transform lives into the image of Jesus and thus glorify Jesus indirectly: Jesus gains glory through changed lives. Either way, directly or indirectly, the Holy Spirit reveals and glorifies Jesus in the world: "He will glorify Me, for He will take what is Mine and declare it to you." (John 16.14)

Do not be troubled because ... supposedly ... you have yet to fully experience the Holy Spirit in your life. The Holy Spirit is not at your beck and call. His presence in your life is not some kind of subscription plan. You need not worry about investing more  enthusiasm in order to gain greater access to 'higher levels' of His indwelling. 

It's not how much you get out of the Holy Spirit. Over your lifetime, beginning every morning, how much of your life does the Holy Spirit get from you? 


Posted by Tim Alexander with