Gabriel: “I Stand in the Presence of God”

The darkest 400 years of Israel’s history have just passed.  God had not spoken to His people during that time, and we do not have any written records of the Holy Spirit descending or filling any one person in Israel.

Luke is the New Testament evangelist that gives us the most detailed account of the miraculous events that broke this 400 year silence.

The appearance of the angel Gabriel during Zechariah’s service in the Temple is the first in a series of supernatural events heralding the birth of Christ.  Zechariah’s shock and disbelief is evidence that he personally has not encountered such an event before, and the same goes for his colleagues, given the long inter-testamental silence.

This was the beginning of the most amazing work that God has ever performed on earth up to that point.

These are the first words from God through Gabriel, words that broke the spiritual darkness surrounding the land: “Do not be afraid…” (Luke 1:13).  And it is a fitting message given the awesome display of the work of the Holy Spirit that is about to begin in Israel.

But for me the most intriguing part of Luke 1 is the way the angel identifies himself and his job…

Imagine having a casual conversation with someone you met for the first time.  Their name and occupation is usually one of the first things we address in an attempt to find some common ground with them.

Zechariah finally gets to that point in the conversation with Gabriel… a point of shock… a point of awe.  Gabriel introduces himself and his occupation: “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God” (Luke 1:19).

My dear reader, you and I cannot comprehend what this means.  There is no common ground here between a mortal man who has not yet been glorified, and Gabriel whose job is to literally stand in the presence of God and to serve God as His messenger.

Reading the account of this magnificent event and absorbing the stunning statement “I stand in the presence of God” is revealing and humbling at the same time.  Knowing what we know about God from Scripture, how can someone assert such a claim?   The only explanation is that Gabriel is an angel of indescribable holiness, faithfulness and responsibility.  To be able to serve God face-to-face in His presence is unbearable and unfathomable for the human mind while here on earth.

But the children of God saved through the precious blood of Jesus should get used to this concept rather quickly.  The Bible speaks of our glorification in the presence of God.  Peter tells us in 1 Peter 5:10

“And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Just like Gabriel, we will spend an eternal lifetime standing in the presence of God.  Only then will we find common ground in conversation with Gabriel and the hosts of heaven.

Spiritual Warfare Behind the Shooting of Children


Throughout the history of the universe, evil has manifested a dark form of violence specifically toward children. Not only did the Canaanite nations demand the blood of babies, but the Bible shows where at points of redemptive crisis, the powers of evil have lashed out at children. Pharaoh saw God’s blessing of Israelite children as a curse and demanded they be snuffed out by the power of his armed thugs. And, of course, the Christmas narrative we read together this time of year is overshadowed by an act of horrific mass murder of children. King Herod, seeing his throne threatened, demands the slaughter of innocent children.

Jesus was not born into a gauzy, sentimental winter wonderland of sweetly-singing angels and cute reindeer nuzzling one another at the side of his manger. He was born into a war-zone. And at the very rumor of his coming, Herod vowed to see him dead, right along with thousands of his brothers. History in Bethlehem, as before and as now, is riddled with the bodies of murdered children.


“The course of this world,” we’re told, is driven along by “the prince of the power of the air” (Eph. 2:2). And behind all of that is a bloody skirmish. Satan is, Jesus tells us, a “murderer from the beginning” because he hates life itself. And he hates the life of children, particularly, because they picture something true about Jesus of Nazareth.

Jesus showed his disciple John that behind the particulars of history there’s another, darker, story going on. Jesus showed the picture of a woman giving birth to a child, with a dragon crouching before her to devour the baby (Rev. 12:4). When the woman and her child escaped, the dragon “became furious with the woman and went out to make war on the rest of her offspring” (Rev. 12:17), and has done so ever since.

Satan hates children because he hates Jesus. When evil destroys “the least of these” (Matt. 25:40, 45), the most vulnerable among us, it destroys a picture of Jesus himself, of the child delivered by the woman who crushes the head of our reptilian overlord (Gen. 3:15). The demonic powers know that the human race is saved, and they’re vanquished, by a child born of woman (Gal. 4:4; 1 Tim. 2:15). And so they hate the children who bear his nature.

Violence against children is also peculiarly satanic because it destroys the very picture of newness of life and dependent trust that characterizes life in the kingdom of God (Matt. 18:4). Children are a blessing, and that enrages the horrifying nature of those who seek only to kill and to destroy (Jn. 10:10).

The satanic powers want the kingdoms of the universe, and a child uproots their reign.

[There are no] easy answers to the grieving parents and communities in Connecticut. We don’t fully understand the mystery of iniquity. We don’t know why God didn’t stop this from happening. But we do know what this act is: it’s satanic, and we should say so.

Let’s grieve for the innocent. Let’s demand justice for the guilty. And let’s rage against the Reptile behind it all.

As we do so, let’s remember that Bethlehem was an act of war. Let’s remember that the One born there is a prince of peace who will crush the skull of the ancient murderer of Eden. Let’s pray for the Second Coming of Mary’s son.

~ from “Moore to the Point” by Russel D. Moore ~ “School Shootings and Spiritual Warfare” 

The Virgin Birth: Without it Christianity Cannot Stand

“The answer to that question would explain history for me.” – Atheist Larry King on his show’s 25th anniversary (June 5, 2010), on whether Jesus was born of a virgin.

The Washington Post is stirring things up on this theme by asking the question “Did Isaiah really predict the Virgin birth?”

It may be shocking to some of us who hold to the inerrancy and infallibility of Scripture that there are some Christians who may not believe that Jesus was born of a virgin Mary.

To add fuel to this controversy there have been translations of the Bible which omit the word “virgin” from the Isaiah 7:14 prophecy. Examples:

“Look, the young woman is with child and shall bear a son, and shall name him Immanuel.” NRSV

“Look this young woman is about to conceive and will give birth to a son. You, young woman will name him Immanuel.” NET

The word in question here is the Hebrew word “almâ” which should be translated “virgin.” Strong’s dictionary which translates and annotates every word in the Bible (even provides detailed translation notes) gives the following commentary on “almâ:”

“There is no instance where it can be proved that this word designates a young woman who is not a virgin.”

Therefore, because of the paramount importance of the virgin birth, the word “virgin” absolutely belongs in Isaiah 7:14.

Without the virgin birth, Christians do not have a living faith; in fact, they do not have any faith at all. Why? Comparative religion scholar John Weldon gives us the answer:

“If Jesus Christ was not virgin born, then by definition he was produced by normal human procreation. If so, this makes him a normal human being just like every other person. The implications of this for all of Christology and biblical theology are devastating. If Christ was not virgin born, then he was not sinless, but a sinner like all other humans. If he were a sinner, he would require salvation from sin. If he was a sinner, he could not be God incarnate. If he was not God incarnate, he could not be the atoning Savior for sin. If he was not the atoning Savior for sin, we are still in our sins and the whole edifice of Christian theology crumbles. If we are still our sins, we are without hope.”

This is not only about the inerrancy of the Bible. This is about reducing and trying to fit God into human terms and human experience. The minute we are successful at boxing God into human parameters, that god is no longer the great “I am” revealed in the Bible.

This is why theologically liberal “Christians” must first of all come to the cross and receive the gift of faith for their salvation, and then they must use their faith to believe that Jesus was indeed conceived by the Holy Spirit in a supernatural way and born by virgin birth.

In the Wake of Sandy: Is God Still Love?

In the case of people who do not know God, natural disasters present one of the most difficult barriers to believing in the Triune God revealed in the Bible.  If God is all-loving and all-good as described in the Bible, how can He allow such destruction as hurricane Sandy to ravage His creation and the people He loves?

How can a just, compassionate, loving, and caring God who died for His creation allow this level of pain and death?

Atheists and agnostics who ask these questions have not come to know the truth about our God, and truth about the fall of His creation.  They do not understand that God’s attributes cannot be separated, that His love is rooted in His justice, and His compassion streams out of His love.

The atheist loves to mock the believer with accusations that Christians worship a sadistic God who ordains atrocities and natural disasters.  He points to the unfairness of life, the death of innocent babies, the sorry state of humanity, and ultimately he blames a God in whom he doesn’t even believe!  All this without a single observation of the wickedness that exists in his own soul!

The Bible unveils the unfair reality of our world as a direct result of Satan’s action and the disobedience of man.  As a result evil prospers, and natural and biological calamities plague us.  Paul elucidated the fallen state of creation in this passage:

Romans 8: 20 “For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Then Paul proceeds to explain that the “whole creation has been groaning” as a result of man’s disobedience and fall into sin.  So what right does an ungodly man have to question the unfairness of the universe?  What right does he have to question God’s love?

The truth is that the single most unfair event that has ever taken place on this planet was not hurricane Sandy and the death and destruction it left behind.  It wasn’t the tsunami which killed hundreds of thousands.   It wasn’t even the dreaded Holocaust in which 6 million Jews were murdered because they were Jewish.

The single most tragic and unfair event that ever happened, the greatest crime and sin ever committed, but also the greatest act of love ever performed, was the torture and murder of a perfect, sinless and holy Man two thousands years ago on a cross outside of Jerusalem.  That Man was God Himself.  His name was Jesus.  Transcending the result of man’s fall, and the suffering that creation endures because of it, God showed his perfect love to us in redemption.

 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”