Thursday, February 5, 2015, 5:55 a.m. – The Lord Jesus put in mind the song “He Keeps Me Singing.” Speak, Lord, your words to my heart. I read Luke 1 (selected ESV). Disbelief A priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth, who were both upright in the sight of God, had no children and they were up there in years. One day Zechariah was chosen to go into the temple to burn incense. While he was in there he was visited by the angel Gabriel. When Zechariah saw the angel, he was immediately afraid. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I was sent to speak to you and to bring you this good news. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time.” ~ vv. 13-20 I would imagine that if any one of us was to be visited by an angel that our first response might be to be afraid. I know I startle easily by sudden noises or by someone appearing suddenly next to me when I did not hear that person approaching. The initial emotion of fear is a natural response to being taken by surprise, I believe. But then come the words of God/Jesus to us to comfort us and to calm our fears, and then we have a decision to make. We can either continue to be afraid, or we can choose to put our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. Sometimes the emotion of fear may linger, but we must go forward in faith, believing God, even if our emotions have not yet caught up. Before we know it, the feeling of fear will dissipate. I have been there many times, so I speak from experience. The angel had wonderful news for Zechariah, and yet Zechariah doubted God’s messenger. It is one thing to ask for clarification and for further understanding, or to test what we hear to make sure it is from God, and it is another thing altogether when we just flat out disbelieve God’s words to us. Sometimes we doubt because we don’t like the message, i.e. we don’t like what God is saying to us, and so we choose to disbelieve so we don’t have to do what his word says. Other times it may be that we are thinking too much with human reasoning and logic and so we lack the faith to believe God for things beyond what our finite minds can comprehend. I think Zechariah was clear that the message came from God. He didn’t question whether or not the angel was from God. Instead, what he questioned was the content of the message. So, he doubted God. He wanted proof this was true. So, how often do we read something in scripture and the Holy Spirit speaks to our hearts and yet we choose to disbelieve and so we ignore the message? We need to be people of faith who believe God even for what seems impossible by human logic and reasoning. Belief In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. ~ vv. 26-38 On a surface read, Mary’s response to the appearance of an angel before her, who came to her with a message from God, may seem to be much like the response of Zechariah, and yet they are quite different. Mary did not doubt the angel’s message to her. She believed, which is clear by her response. She just wanted to know how this was to be accomplished. She wanted to know what to expect. It may be a lot like if we were convinced the Lord Jesus was leading us to go to a specific place. Although we believe God is sending us there, we might need to know how this is to be accomplished and if there is anything we need to do in the way of preparation or in the way of stepping out in faith by beginning to take steps necessary for that to be achieved. And, God’s response back to us may be just “wait.” In both cases God had proclaimed something he was going to do, whether they believed or they disbelieved. There is a scripture that says that God will remain faithful even if we are faithless (2 Tim. 2:13). He will do what he says, even if we choose to disbelieve him. We cannot alter the plans and purposes of God by our disbelief. He will accomplish what he set out to bring about despite us. If we choose to respond in disbelief, though, he may take us through some hardship in order to humble us, purify us and to get us to put our trust in him. Yet, even if we follow him in obedience, there are no guarantees of smooth sailing. I can pretty much assure you that Mary did not have it easy. She had to have known what her faith in God might cost her. I am sure it cost her her reputation. After all, people would have assumed she had sexual relations outside of marriage. Her husband-to-be was inclined to divorce her quietly, but God convinced Joseph that this pregnancy was of God. As well, when we step out in faith, believing God, and we choose to follow him in obedience to his will for our lives, we may also be falsely accused and misunderstood, and there may be those who want to have nothing to do with us, yet we must accept that as the cost of following Jesus. We have to give our reputations over to God when he calls us, and we must be willing to go wherever he sends us and to say whatever he has for us to say and to do what he has called us to do, even if it means we will be hated and rejected in return. Oh, that we all might have such simple faith as Mary and respond to God/Jesus by saying, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” He Keeps Me Singing / Luther B. Bridgers There's within my heart a melody Jesus whispers sweet and low: Fear not, I am with thee, peace, be still, In all of life's ebb and flow. All my life was wrecked by sin and strife, Discord filled my heart with pain; Jesus swept across the broken strings, Stirred the slumbering chords again. Though sometimes he leads through waters deep, Trials fall across the way, Though sometimes the path seems rough and steep, See his footprints all the way. Feasting on the riches of his grace, Resting neath his sheltering wing, Always looking on his smiling face, That is why I shout and sing. Soon he's coming back to welcome me Far beyond the starry sky; I shall wing my flight to worlds unknown; I shall reign with him on high. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest name I know, Fills my every longing, Keeps me singing as I go.