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Questioning Gabriel


The Gospel of Luke begins with two monumental appointments
between time and eternity. A messenger of the Lord appears
first to an aging man in the midst of his priestly duties, and later
to a young, peasant girl in the midst of anticipating the life ahead
of her. In each visit, like a gust of wind that turns an umbrella
inside out, the message delivered was the sort of news that moves
the lives of all who go near it, let alone the worlds of those who heard
it first. Both visits incite fear. Both invoke questions. But in the inter -
change of the eternal and the temporal, though the promises of God
are similarly moving, we find two very different human responses.


The Second Advent
Betsy Childs

Advent is a strange season, strange because it invites us to look forward
to something that has already happened. The word "advent" literally means
"coming." Advent is a time of waiting, waiting for the birth of a child
who was born two thousand years ago.

Is this a flaw in the whole concept of the Advent season? Not at all. In
Advent, we don't simply look back and pretend that we are waiting,
imagining what it would have been like to wait for the Messiah prior to
the Incarnation. We are also meant to truly and sincerely look forward to
Christ's second coming.

I've told this story before, but I think it bears repeating. Some time
ago I was participating in a Bible study at a drop-in center for homeless
men. We had sung a few praise choruses, and after the last one a man
timidly raised his hand and said, "I need to get one thing straight; is
Jesus coming back or something?" I've never had a greater privilege than
imparting this "news" to him, stammering in surprise, " a matter
of fact he is!"

That may be the closest I'll ever come to feeling like the angel who
appeared to the shepherd of Bethlehem, bringing good tidings of great joy.
For this man whose life had been a story of abandonment, addiction, sin,
and shame, the news that Jesus was coming again to make a new heavens and
a new earth was tidings of the very best kind.

The last words of Jesus recorded in our Bibles (in the very next to last
verse of the book of Revelation) are a promise and a warning: "I am coming
soon!" Because we have this promise as our hope, when we sing, "O come, O
come, Emmanuel," we are not simply engaging in a role-playing exercise.
It may help us to imagine what it felt like to be Zechariah or one of the
other priests whose fathers and their father's fathers had been praying
for the Messiah for as long as they could remember. But their waiting is
more like ours than it is different, with one great exception: Christ has
already come once. This gives us the very best grounds for believing that
the prophecies of his second coming will be fulfilled.

This Advent, I hope that you will pray and long for the return of Christ.
When you sing these haunting words, let them be your own:

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Rejoice! Rejoice!
Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel.

Betsy Childs is associate writer at Ravi Zacharias International
Ministries in Atlanta, Georgia.

Ravi Zacharias International Ministries (RZIM)
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"To a group of aspiring high school graduates anxiously waiting to flip
their tassels to the other side of their caps, Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft,
offered the following words of mood-dampening wisdom: "Life is
not divided into semesters. You don't get summers off and very few
employers are interested in helping you find yourself. Do that on your
own time."

His less than cheery list of life's rules, which began notably with, "Life
is not fair; get used to it," offered a plethora of hard-hitting advice
and a few other stabs of reality. Gates concluded his list with a final
shot of truth for the proud graduating class: "Television is not real
life," he said, "In real life people have to actually leave the coffee
shop and go to work."

Lest we have visions of depressed teenagers walking across the stage to
receive their diplomas that night, we should recall that most likely none
of them heard a word of the speech anyway. Or if, in between hoping the
20 bobby pins holding their cap in place were not causing permanent scalp
damage and visualizing the crowd's gasp as they tripped on the hem of
their robe and tumbled into the front row, they did manage to hear a
phrase or two, they surely don't remember it now.

It is once again the season of wisdom-filled addresses, Hallmark homilies,
and energetic advice giving to people who are not hearing a word of it.
Graduation is the occasion, and we are too excited to listen, even if it
is Bill Gates.

To be fair, it is not only beaming graduates that exhibit attention
difficulties in the midst of life's pomp and circumstance. The only part
of the minister's sermon at my wedding that I remember is when he turned
to my almost-husband and me and said, "This is the part of the ceremony
when I offer you some marital wisdom that you don't hear and won't

Events like graduation come only so often, and often after much work.
Like weddings, they usher in times of change and anticipation and call us
to attention to life in new ways. No one blames a graduate for not
remembering the commencement address or a bride for forgetting the advice
given to her as she anticipates "I do." When they fail to hear "The 10
Most Important Lessons in Life" or "3 Vital Steps to Marriage in the Real
World" we know they have not failed to see all that is important in life,
or all that lies before him in the real world. The opposite is usually
true—their minds are abounding with all that they see.

But a graduate that receives the day and his future with disinterest, a
bride that looks indifferently at the commitment before her and the days
ahead of her, is much harder to understand.

We are prone to these times of assessing life—birthdays and baptisms,
weddings and graduations; all seem to require careful attention. And we
recognize that to be wholly unconcerned with these moments in life is to
be something less than life-like. We gaze at the years ahead and look at
the years behind and sense the need to say something profound, to speak
into what is gone and what is coming. We see the need to find wisdom in
these eventful moments, to see a hope and a future. And it is often such
occasions that remind us that those who have found wisdom are particularly

Unlike much of the commencement advice that is spoken and forgotten, the
wisdom of God's Word is wisdom that will not fade, nor speak into our
lives passively. It is wisdom worth returning to, speaking hope into the
future, bringing meaning into days both marked with excitement and scarred
with pain. In times of my own restless wandering, it was often specific
psalms and proverbs that kept returning to my mind, calling me to see the
foolishness of much of the world's advice and back to wisdom itself,
calling me to see with my eyes and ears the very One who made them.

As the proverb imparts, "Eyes that see and ears that hear, the Lord made
them both" (20:12). In the season of many events and the many seasons of
life, may it be his enduring wisdom we seek. As we congratulate jittery
brides and excited graduates with words of wisdom, let us remember that
the One who made those overwhelmed ears, the One who made our
wisdom-seeking eyes, longs that they would be stirred by his presence.
Jill Carattini
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* * * Four Important Things To KNOW: #1) For ALL (Americans, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhist, Asians, Presbyterians, Europeans, Baptist, Brazilians, Mormons, Methodist, French, etc.) have sinned & fall short of the glory of God. #2) For the wages of above (see #1) are DEATH (Hell, eternal separation from God, & damnation) but the Gift (free & at no charge to you) of God (Creator, Jehovah, & Trinity) is Eternal Life (Heaven) through (in union with) Jesus Christ (God, Lord, 2nd Person of The Trinity, Messiah, Prince of Peace & Savior of the World). #3) For God so greatly loved & dearly prized the world (Americans, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Hindus, Buddhist, Asians, Presbyterians, Europeans, Baptist, Brazilians, Mormons, Methodist, French, etc.) that He even gave up His only begotten (unique) Son, that whosoever (anyone, anywhere, anytime - while still living) believes (trust in, relies on, clings to, depends completely on) Him shall have eternal (everlasting) life (heaven). #4) Jesus said: "I am THE WAY, THE TRUTH, & THE LIFE. No one (male/female - American, Muslim, Jew, Catholic, Hindu, Buddhist, Asian, Presbyterian, European, Baptist, Brazilian, Mormons, Methodist, French, etc. ) comes (arrives) to the Father (with GOD in Heaven) EXCEPT BY (through) ME (no other name). *** This wonderful loving GOD gives you the choice - - - (Rev. 3:20) {Please note that church membership, baptism, doing good things, etc. are not requirements for becoming a Christian - however they are great afterwards!!!} *** Jesus said, "Wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction (Hell, damnation, eternal punishment), and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life (Heaven, eternal happiness, forever with God), and only a few find it.

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But these are written so that you may
believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the
Son of God, and that by believing in
Him you will have life. Jn 20:31

Seek the Lord while He may be found;
call on Him while He is near. Let the
wicked forsake his way and the evil
man his thoughts. Let him turn to the
Lord, and He will have mercy on him,
and to our God, for He will freely
pardon. "For My thoughts are not
your thoughts, neither are your ways
My ways," declares the Lord. "As the
heavens are higher than the earth, so
are My ways higher than your ways
and My thoughts than your thoughts.
As the rain and the snow come down
from heaven, and do not return to it
without watering the earth and making
it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed
for the sower and bread for the eater,
so is My word that goes out from My
mouth: It will not return to Me empty,
but will accomplish what I desire and
achieve the purpose for which I sent it.
You will go out in joy and be led forth
in peace; the mountains and hills will
burst into song before you, and all the
trees of the field will clap their hands.
Instead of the thornbush will grow the
pine tree, and instead of briers the myrtle
will grow. This will be for the Lord's
renown, for an everlasting sign, which
will not be destroyed." Is 55

O Lord, you have searched me and you
know me. You know when I sit and when
I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar.
You discern my going out and my lying
down; you are familiar with all my ways.
Before a word is on my tongue you know
it completely, O Lord. You hem me in -
behind and before; you have laid your
hand upon me. Such knowledge is too
wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain.

Where can I go from your Spirit? Where
can I flee from your presence? If I go up
to the heavens, you are there; if I make
my bed in the depths, you are there.

If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.

If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide
me and the light become night around
me," even the darkness will not be dark
to you; the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you. For you
created my inmost being; you knit me
together in my mother's womb. I praise
you because I am fearfully and wonderfully
made; your works are wonderful, I know
that full well. My frame was not hidden
from you when I was made in the secret
place. When I was woven together in the
depths of the earth, your eyes saw my
unformed body. All the days ordained
for me were written in your book before
one of them came to be.

How precious to me are your thoughts,
O God! How vast is the sum of them!
Were I to count them, they would
outnumber the grains of sand. When
I awake, I am still with you. Search me,
O God, and know my heart; test me
and know my anxious thoughts. See
if there is any offensive way in me,
and lead me in the way everlasting.
Ps 139

But indeed for this purpose I have raised you up,
that I may show My power in you, and that My
Name may be declared in all the earth. Ex 9:16

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of Glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small:
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
- - Isaac Watts

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