Monday, December 12, 2011

What's Keeping You?

Here are my notes from yesterday's worship at Crossroads, copied directly from a "Word" document and pasted here.  The songs (titles in quotes below), the "Welcome and church family time" and the scripture readings were led by others.  Other aspects of worship were not written out ahead of time and the message entitled "Use Your Voice" was not delivered exactly as written here.  A link to the audio is available at the Crossroads worship page (  Just scroll down to the sermon player. THANK YOU so much to the tech team for uploading the audio so quickly!

"O Come, All Ye Faithful"
Welcome! and Church Family time
Time for Children – giving thanks before something has actually happened…
Offering with "Breath of Heaven" sung by Ann Benson
"For the Lord is Good"
"Here I am to Worship"
Luke 1:57-80
We’ve been reading through the first chapter of Luke each week since Thanksgiving, and now we’ve arrived at the section that comes just before we hear about Jesus’ birth.  You’ll remember that one of the main characters, Zechariah, hadn’t been able to say a word ever since he’d heard that his wife Elizabeth was pregnant. We pick up their story nine months later.
You'll notice there are some parts in bold to read aloud.
57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. 58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her.
59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. 60 But his mother said,
  He is to be called John.”
61 They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.”
62 Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him.
63 He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.”
And all of them were amazed.
64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God.
65 Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea.
66 All who heard them pondered them and said,
“What then will this child become?”
 For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
67 Then his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke this prophecy:
68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has looked favorably on his people and redeemed them.
69 He has raised up a mighty savior for us in the house of his servant David, 70 as he spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets from of old,
71 that we would be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us.
72 Thus he has shown the mercy promised to our ancestors, and has remembered his holy covenant, 73 the oath that he swore to our ancestor Abraham,
74 that we, being rescued from the hands of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people by the forgiveness of their sins.
78 By the tender mercy of our God, the dawn from on high will break upon us, 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
80 The child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day he appeared publicly to Israel.

Use Your Voice
Silent night… sleep in heavenly peace.
Christmas isn’t actually all that silent.
Angels singing
Shepherds chattering, questioning, praising, giving glory to God.
And the run-up to Christmas—major songs of victory and justice, and loud shouts of joy!
When Zechariah could speak, he did!  And so did Mary—we shared her song in church last week.  Mary and Elizabeth were the first human beings to know and tell the good news of Jesus Christ!
Mary’s song and Zechariah’s—both of them are filled with truth that first came out of the Old Testament! 
Both Mary and Zechariah knew the scriptures!  Mary was truly an extraordinary woman… and Zechariah… well… he was a religious professional so he should have known.
It took Zechariah longer to believe, didn’t it?  It wasn’t until the child was actually born that he could use his voice.  Unbelief kept him quiet as a mouse.
Still, we sing that song, Silent Night… and it’s a nice song… but it’s good to know that it doesn’t really do a very good job of telling the truth about what happened around Christmas.  The song Silent Night was simply written because someone’s organ didn’t work.
Normally, neither Christmas nor the people of God are to be quiet – except when you are listening for God’s voice, except when you are listening…
Listening to God speak through His Written Word…
Listening to the Father speak to us through His Son…
Listening to the guidance and direction and correction God gives…
What does it say in John 10?  Comparing us to sheep, Jesus says, “I know my own and my own know me… and then, in verse 16… “they shall hear my voice…” and verse 27… “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. “
So we listen for God’s voice… we listen for God’s promises… we listen for his purpose in our lives… we follow… we don’t stay stubborn… we know who gives us life, we know who loves us and who can raise us from the dead someday…
And then, having heard, we speak.
Like Mary we heard from last week… from Luke 1:46 and following…
“My soul glorifies the Lord
47     and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
48  for he has been mindful
of the humble state of his servant.
From now on all generations will call me blessed,
49     for the Mighty One has done great things for me—
holy is his name.
50  His mercy extends to those who fear him,
from generation to generation.
And like Zechariah when he finally believed.  Luke 1:68
68  “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel,
because he has come and has redeemed his people.
69  He has raised up a horn
of salvation for us
in the house of his servant David
70  (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago),
71  salvation from our enemies
and from the hand of all who hate us—
72  to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant,
73     the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
74  to rescue us from the hand of our enemies,
and to enable us to serve him without fear
75     in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.
Once we hear from God, we speak.  We use our voice.
That’s the lesson for today from Zechariah!  It was unbelief that kept him quiet. 
What’s keeping you?
Sometimes, like with Zechariah, silence is a curse.
When Zechariah didn’t believe that his wife Elizabeth was going to have a son, the angel decreed that Zechariah would not be able to speak until God’s promise came true.
And when the promise finally did come true, Zechariah burst into song!
So how do we use our voices?
To praise God (for his covenant promises, for signs of his kingdom)
To prophesy! (speak God’s word)
Here are a few verses of encouragement:
Isaiah 40:9 - Get you up to a high mountain when you have good news!  Lift up your voice with a shout!  Lift it up, do not be afraid!  Speak to your neighbors, speak to your family members, say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!”
And Jeremiah… Jeremiah 20:9… here it’s not good news… God is speaking judgment and Jeremiah says “if I say, ‘I will not mention him or speak any more in his name,’ his word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot.” 
In Numbers 11 we have Moses speaking wishing that ALL God’s people would be filled with the Holy Spirit and speak God’s word!  “I wish that all the LORD’s people were prophets and that the LORD would put his Spirit on them!” That’s Numbers 11:28.
And that wish was godly… it was a wish that had come from God…  One of the most important ways to know if someone is truly hearing and speaking God’s Word is to wait and see… to see if what has been said actually is true in real life…
Moses said that God would set his people free from Egyptian slavery.  He said that he had been sent by God to set them free.  But when God did set them free, bringing them through the Red Sea and leading them through the wilderness toward the promised land… then the people began to recognize that this Moses was truly able to hear God and speak His Word.
And that’s one of the tests of someone who speaks in God’s name today. 
As Moses said in Deuteronomy 18: 21 You may say to yourselves, “How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the Lord?” 22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the Lord does not take place or come true, that is a message the Lord has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously. Do not be afraid of him.
We know Moses was a true prophet because what he said came true… remember that he wished that all God’s people would be prophets and that God would pour his Holy Spirit on all of them!
That came true when the Holy Spirit came down on all of Jesus followers at Pentecost… from Acts 2[as the prophet Joel had said:] “ I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. 18 Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy... 21 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved!

One of the signs of God’s work in our lives is when he brings us to the point where we actually use the voice God has given us!  When we use our voice to praise God… and when we use our voice to speak God’s word… 

That’s what the word “prophesy” means.

The word “prophesy” means nothing more or less than using our voice to speak what God has first spoken to us.
And it’s not just for the pastor!
For example, here’s a section from First Corinthians 14
It’s a Word from God given to the church in the city of Corinth… First Corinthians 14:
29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.
The vision of the church that God gives us is of many speakers, many proclaiming the Word of God
In the church that the Lord was speaking to in First Corinthians 14 there were lots of people speaking… everyone was excited about what God was doing! 
In that particular circumstance, needed to calm people down… reminding them that they could decide themselves when to speak what the Holy Spirit was saying to them… God’s plan was that only two or three people should speak and the others should listen and consider carefully what was said. 
For us, this is a great encouragement to go ahead and USE YOUR VOICE!
It’s really not your job to sort everything out.  If you suspect that God may want to speak through you, go ahead and speak!  But know that the rest of us will need to listen and discern what you’ve said…
We’ll need to compare it to what God has said in his Word.  Not just in one verse but in the whole of scripture.
And yes, we will notice if you seem to have a particular gift for using the voice of God…
If you never publicly witness to what God is doing in your life, if you never speak in praise of God or in telling the good news of Jesus… then we might give what you say extra scrutiny… extra prayer…
So the Lord’s encouragement to us… beginning with Mary last week, singing her heart out to God, and today with Zechariah, who finally believed when he saw his son being born… better late than never!!! 
…The Lord’s encouragement to you is to USE YOUR VOICE!
Don’t need to worry too much about being correct.  The Lord will use the rest of us to help us sort it out.
This all applies, by the way, to what I say…
When I speak, weigh it carefully.  And especially compare it to the Word of God, especially to the center of God’s Word… to the Word that is born in Bethlehem and dies for sinners on the cross, for you and for me…
Pray over this… God is calling all of us who believe and trust in Jesus to use our voices often.  Too often, like Zechariah, we are muzzled by fear and unbelief.
When you are too quiet… when you never speak God’s Word, then it’s time to pray for faith… for courage… for boldness…
Yes, there are times, when it’s best to be quiet… it’s good to think before you speak.  That’s why the Bible says to wait if anger is getting control of you. 
But the normal thing, is to speak the truth… to speak the truth in love.
One of the things that the Holy Spirit did when He first came upon the disciples was to make them speak!
So don’t think just being quiet is the best thing.
We can sing “silent night” at Christmas… that’s fine… but, honestly, let’s not take that too much to heart.
I really don’t think this is supposed to be a silent time.
God’s desire is for his people to speak. 
And to sing.

"Hosanna, Praise is Rising"
PRAYER – pray for those who are muzzled by fear and unbelief… pray that God would loosen their tongues to praise God, to pray, to prophesy [speak God’s word]… pray for boldness and humility… pray for discernment, for wisdom, for patience, for kindness as we speak to one another… pray that we God’s Word would be known among us, that we would desire to know God’s Word… pray for the lost, that they would be saved and that God would use our witness to save many!  Pray for voices of anger to be quiet… pray that we would not just use our voices to grumble and complain… bind any spirit of murmuring and dissension…  pray for respect and the ability to listen to each other and especially to God as he maybe speaking to us through others…  pray for an increase in faith and faith active in love and speaking the truth in love… pray for the Holy Spirit’s inspiration…
Lord’s Prayer…
Revelation 1
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, 6 and has made us to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father—to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.
7    Look, he is coming with the clouds,
and every eye will see him,
even those who pierced him;
and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him.
So shall it be! Amen.
"Soon and Very Soon”


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