Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Touching Base - Part 225

Jamie Stinson
15 Dec13

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Where does your first interruption with God find you… in 15 words or less describe your first interruption from God.

BIG IDEA: ”A divine interruption postures us for a faith eruption.”

The last book of the Old Testament is Malachi. At the close of that book, God… goes silent… God says nothing. There are no more prophets... there are no scriptures written by God… just 400 years of silent nights…God had simply quit speaking.

Two probable reasons why the Lord God instituted this kind of ‘famine’:
• Amos 2:11-12 says that God’s people commanded His prophets “not to prophecy”
• Zechariah 7:11-12 says that the hearts of God’s people became as hard as flint and they would not listen.

Israel stopped listening, so God stopped interrupting them.


‘the angel went to her’... after 400 years of silence…in the fullness of God’s appointed time…an angel just showed up in an otherwise everyday experience to an ordinary Jewish girl… which leads us to the first characteristic of an interrupted life.

You fill in your own blanks…:________years ago, I was ______________and God unexpectedly interrupted my life when ________________________.

The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favoured! The Lord is with you.”

The phrase ‘greetings you who are highly favoured’ simply meant that Mary had been given much grace or "unmerited favour" from God.

There is a slogan that I’ve seen that says “Jesus loves you, but I’m His favorite.” Do you struggle thinking of yourself as ‘favoured?’ It’s one thing to be humble, but we have to be careful that we don’t wade too deeply into the waters of “undeserved grace.”


Notice the connection between his favour and his presence. In the next sentence Gabriel says, “Greetings you are highly favored…The Lord is with you.” So often the two concepts go hand-in-hand and that leads us to another characteristic of these interruptions.

Throughout the Bible, this phrase "the Lord is with you" was not applied to people in ordinary situations in life, but the term was used to address people who were given unique vocations that would impact all of Israel.

Mary would have been familiar with:
• God appearing to Jacob and confirming him as the covenant leader when He said, "Behold, I am with you and will keep you wherever you go" (Gen. 28:15).
• God calling Moses at the burning bush to lead His people out of Egypt, He said, "I will be with you" (Ex. 3:12).
• Joshua leading the people into battle in the Promised Land when God said, "I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you" (Josh. 1:5).
• The story of when an angel called Gideon to defend the people from a foreign invasion, he greeted Gideon saying, "The Lord is with you" (Judg. 6:12).
• The story of David when God put him at the head of an everlasting kingdom, God reminded David of His faithfulness to him, saying, "I have been with you wherever you went" (2 Sam. 7:9)
• And maybe she was even familiar with the story of when God called Jeremiah to be a prophet to the nations, He said, "Be not afraid of them, for I am with you to deliver you" (Jer. 1:8).

No doubt that Mary knew, when the words "The Lord is with you" are spoken…she was thinking about these great men, for it is a signal that someone is being called to a great mission that will be difficult and demanding. And the future of Israel will be dependent on how well that person plays his part.

As one commentator explained, "In all these texts, the destiny of Israel is at stake. The person to whom the words are addressed is summoned by God to a high vocation, and entrusted with a momentous mission, and . . . the religious history of Israel (and therefore of the world) depended, at that moment, on his response to the call." (J. McHugh, The Mother of Jesus in the New Testament. London: Darton, Longman & Todd, 1975, p. 49.)

Can you think of an interruption in your life when you felt the weight of the words “I will be with you”?


Mary is not the first to be troubled by God’s words….I’m sure many of us can relate! Have you ever been troubled by God’s words and what He has asked you to do?

Gabriel assures her that she has found favor with God. What does it mean for Mary to "find favor with God"?

"To find favor" can describe a higher ranking person bestowing kindness and favor upon an inferior and putting him in an important role of leadership.

• Joseph was a slave under Potiphar in Egypt, Genesis tells us that Joseph "found favour" in Potiphar’s sight, and was put in charge of all Potiphar’s household (Gen. 39:4–6).
• Noah was the first person in the Bible to be described this way. In the midst of a corrupt world, Noah was the one man who "found favour" with God and, as a result, was protected from the flood and established as the head of the renewed human family (Gen. 6:8).
• Abraham "found favour" with God and became the instrument God would use to bring blessing to the whole world (Gen. 18:2–3).
• Moses also "found favour" with God as the covenant mediator who helped to reconcile the sinful people with the Lord at Mount Sinai (Ex. 33:12–17).

These are just a few examples of how the one who finds favor with God is specifically chosen by the Lord for a particular mission in His saving plan.

We don’t have to do what Mary did in order to feel troubled by what God is asking us to do. Maybe you’ve had conversations with God that went something like this:

Really? You want me to move… THERE?
I have to forgive… THAT PERSON?
You want me to give… THAT much?
You want me to… LEAD that?
You want me to start… WHAT?

What’s been a troubling question that God interrupted your life with?


Then Gabriel goes on to say…You will conceive and give birth to a son ... Sometimes we sign up for what we believe God is calling us to and sometimes like Mary, we are drafted.

Have you ever felted drafted by God? He really didn’t give you an option? Or can you relate more to being a draft dodger? Explain.

I’m sure Mary thought she was in over her head. Let’s look at what Gabriel actually said to Mary about her child:

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.
(Luke 1:32–33)

The words in 2 Samuel 7 would have been very familiar to many Jews in the first century, for they echo one of the most important Old Testament passages related to the Davidic Kingdom.

I will make for you a great name . . . When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. . . . And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established forever.
(2 Sam. 7:9, 12–14, 16)

Notice the many striking parallels between what was promised to David in this verse and what Gabriel says about Mary’s child in Luke 1.

Sometimes when God interrupts your life, and calls you to a big assignment…you can feel like He is putting you in over your head…And again don’t interpret your deep end through Mary’s deep end assignment…. you don’t have to be giving birth to a Messiah to feel this way.
Do you have an experience that seemed like a ‘deep end’ move that God called you


“How can this be?” We know that she was not unwilling to be an instrument (1:38) but she was honestly perplexed about how it was all going to be accomplished. Gabriel explained the Holy Spirit would make this happen and the holiness of the Christ child is declared. He reveals to her that the Word was indeed becoming flesh (John 1:1-5,14)

The angel Gabriel stated a great theological truth that “no word from God can ever fail”, a statement that is often mentioned in the Bible. See Genesis 18:14, Isaiah 40:26-29, Jeremiah 32:17, 27; Matthew 19:26, Mark 14:36

God is sovereign, the Creator of ‘heaven and earth, the sea, and everything in them (Acts 14:15)
And he is in charge of the world and everything in it (Psalm 24:1-2, 89:11, Acts 4:24)
God is able to make the barren woman conceive (Gen 18:14; 1 Sam 1-19-20)

Mary’s question was the how question, maybe your question is… “When…?”, “Why…?”, “Where…?”
Talk about this in your group.


Mary responds with a willing heart.

Scott McKnight in his book, “The Real Mary” elaborates on what Mary instantaneously knew from once she spoke those words…

He proposes that Mary instantly knew that:

• Villagers would taunt and ostracize her son
• Jesus would hear the accusation that he was an illegitimate child and he would be prohibited from special assemblies (Deuteronomy 23:2)
• Joseph’s reputation as an observant Jew would be called into question
• Joseph was legally required to divorce her
• Joseph could leave her stranded with a son without a father.

She must have wondered if there was an easier way. But because she trusted God…and she said yes to this divine interruption… she was postured for a faith eruption.

Surrender and obedience to the interruptions God places in our paths always costs… but the faith-erupting results are always worth it. It’s not always easy… but it’s always worth it.

Mary just couldn't have known… she began the journey by becoming the mother of Jesus… and had to stumble her way to becoming a follower of Jesus. Her interpretation of what Jesus came to do was so unlike the Davidic kingdom that Israel was hoping for. She never anticipated the kind of Messiah Jesus would become.

Would you say your life is postured for a divine interruption?
Why or why not?

If interested in joining or starting a small group contact bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Touching Base, Part 224

Eric Prost
08 Dec13

(You can find a recording of this sermon here.)

This Touching Base is a useful tool for small group discussion, personal reflection or in a one-on-one conversation. We believe that if the Sunday teaching is discussed outside of the morning services, it will be an opportunity to go deeper and build healthy community because God's Word needs to be discussed in community.

Good theology takes the original context of a Biblical text into consideration. This TB tells the Christmas Story in some of its original 1st-century BC context.

Imagine standing on an island in the sky, 1300 feet up with steep cliffs on every side. On your elevated island is a palace with Roman baths, a swimming pool, and other luxuries. Because it is so high and so remote, it is secure, with only three narrow winding paths making their way up to you. You are on the inside of the strong gates at which the paths end.

You might reasonably look around at the view of the Dead Sea and your kingdom with satisfaction and a sense of security. You commissioned this fortress as well as other ones around Judaea; you built a city by the sea – Caesarea Maritima – that became a major port, itself a feat of ancient engineering, along with many other public works.

You played your hand well with the conquering Romans. You and your family were first loyal to Pompey the Great, then Julius Caesar, then Marc Anthony, then the Emperor Augustus, all the while avoiding the wiles of Cleopatra. You killed off rivals (hence the need for the strong fortresses). And you are wealthy.

You are a client-king of the Romans but, nevertheless, King of the Jews.

Does this sound familiar? A man on a high mountain viewing the kingdoms of the world? Read Matthew 4:1-11. There, Jesus is in a showdown with the devil.

Our fortress in the sky is Masada, south of Jerusalem. You are Herod the Great surveying your kingdom. You have managed to hang onto power through successive Roman leaders, all of them powerful, and all commanding legions of well-trained Roman soldiers. Your family rose from obscurity, but your father allied himself with Pompey the Great, who actually stormed Jerusalem and (sacrilegiously) entered the Holy of Holies. During these early struggles you were sent away for safekeeping to another part of the country. Julius Caesar then threatened Pompey, who fled to Egypt and was summarily stabbed to death upon arrival. To keep you safe, your father again sent you away from the threats.

Brilliantly, your father helped Julius Caesar, putting Caesar in his debt and hanging onto power in Judaea when it was otherwise likely that the new strongman would punish your father for his past loyalty to the enemy. You were awarded Roman citizenship and later made governor of Galilee. Then, when Caesar was murdered in Rome, you allied yourself with Marc Antony. With his support, you travelled to Rome and were confirmed King of the Jews by the Roman Senate when you were 33-years-old. With Roman military support you stormed Jerusalem yourself to realize your title. When Antony faded and the first emperor, Augustus, rose up, you in turn gained his favour, remaining king and consolidating power in Roman Judaea.

During this reign you rebuilt the temple, the grandest since Solomon’s. It is from the pinnacle of this building that Satan himself took Jesus to suggest he jump off to see if angels would rescue him. You built cities and public works to the benefit of your people, and managed food supplies during lean times. Being somewhat paranoid, you built strongholds throughout your realm where you would be safe, and had many informers reporting to you. You also executed two of your sons, one of your wives, and the High Priest.

And then, in the year you likely died, you ordered that the babies of Bethlehem be killed because another rival was among them. And so the lives of Herod and Jesus converge at Christmas.

What glorifies God more – contrasting Him with Satan or contrasting Him with us? I think the latter, since we are multi-dimensional beings, rich in contradictions, steeped in sin, and beings who know a whole lot more about ourselves (from scripture and from experience) than we do about Satan.

Herod was not a one-dimensional evil king, but a multi-faceted human leader. We can understand his actions, his pursuit of power, wealth, fame, security, and a dynasty. His motives and behaviour are only too familiar to fellow human beings.

What are inexplicable to us are the actions of Jesus.

His journey is parallel but reversed. Rather than going from obscurity to kingship, Jesus, “who, being in the form of God,” then “made Himself of no reputation” (Philippians 2:6-7). He, too, was then sent by his Father to Egypt for safekeeping for greater things and later was, by the Roman procurator of Judea, confirmed King of the Jews at 33-years-old. A storming of the capital with soldiers did not follow his getting that title, though. It was first displayed above his head on a cross.

In Romans 2, Paul writes about God's righteousness and how this means that God has put us in a right relationship with him. God, in effect, says to us, “Are we okay?”, meaning, “is our relationship alright, are we on speaking terms, is the relationship stable?” The answer, of course, is no – until Jesus. Herod, throughout his career, also asked each rival Roman general/leader, “Are we okay?, hoping that they would overlook his past loyalties and keep him on as a client-king of Judaea. He managed this. And we can understand his tactics because we are similar and would have likely governed the same way. Jesus, rather than saying to the powerful of the world, “Are we okay?”, asked that of humans – rhetorically – and lost the kingship of Judaea to gain the world.

May we prepare our hearts for Christmas during this second week of Advent.

Eric Prost
If interested in joining or starting a small group contact bethelcommunitygroups@gmail.com