October 13, 2017
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Scripture: Luke 1:62-66, Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.” Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God. All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.
Observation: So this chapter details the family feud which ensues about the name of this child. Elizabeth and Zacharias have been blessed with a child late in life and the primary issue seems to be his name! But in Israelite culture, names were very meaningful and seemed to predict a great deal about the destiny of that child. Boys especially were often named after their fathers and in doing so, it meant that child would follow in his father’s footsteps and do what his father did. By not naming the child “Little Zach,” his mother and father were essentially saying that he would not follow in his father’s footsteps and would not do what his father did. What’s particularly interesting about this passage is that Luke found it important enough to include it in his Gospel. Obviously, the naming of this very special child is a clue that he would become a very special adult. In fact, John the Baptist does end up playing a unique role in announcing the coming Messiah.
Application: From the beginning, John the Baptist was separate from his culture and world. He wasn’t named after his father but rather was given a new name. As Christians, we too are called to be set apart from culture and be new creations in Christ. Let me be clear - this doesn’t mean we are to separate from our culture – the reality is that we are called to both proclaim and live out the Good News of the Kingdom within culture. We aren’t supposed to simply hide at church or just hang out in our holy huddles. Not at all! We are called to truly live out the ways of Jesus in our neighborhoods, workplaces, school settings, and in our extracurricular activities. As we do so, we allow the love of God to pour out of us into the relationships we build with others. We are agents of the Kingdom, pointing others to King Jesus. But (and this is an important but) we are called to be set apart. We shouldn’t simply fit the mold. While we build relationships with people in all walks of our lives, we should stand out. In fact, we should live such unique, questionable lives that people actually notice and say, “What’s different about you?” Then, we have the opportunity to explain the source of our hope.
Prayer: God, help me be in the world but not of it. I don’t want to fit so easily in this culture that people don’t know that I belong to you. I want to be set apart but I also want to be an agent of your Kingdom, a living example of your grace and mercy. Help me to be a beautiful reflection of your love to those I come in contact with throughout my day. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
Romans 12:1-2 (The Message), So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.
P.S. So as you are reading this, I am in Cuba with eight other New Hope team members. Please keep us in your prayers. A big part of why we go down there is to support, encourage, equip, and resource our sister churches so that they can make more and better followers of Christ in their context. Pray that our week in Cuba will be productive and that we will be a blessing to our brothers and sisters in Christ in Buey Arriba and Nuevo Yao. Also keep our families in your prayers while we are away. Looking forward to seeing you all upon our return!