Madison Church

A Pathway to Deeper Faith and Obedience

December 12, 2023 Stephen Feith
Madison Church
A Pathway to Deeper Faith and Obedience
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

What if you could discover hidden truths buried within familiar biblical narratives that would awaken faithfulness and obedience in your Christian walk? In our latest conversation, we peel back layers in the stories of Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Mary from the book of Luke, revealing valuable lessons about faith and obedience regardless of our understanding or circumstances. We explore the incredible joy Zechariah and Elizabeth experienced after welcoming parenthood after a long wait, reminding us that with God, no waiting season is ever in vain.

We also venture into the extraordinary encounter between Elizabeth and Mary, both carrying miracles in their wombs. The exchange between these women is brimming with divine revelations; from Elizabeth's spirit-filled prophetic greeting to Mary's hymn of praise, their stories exemplify courageous faith and obedience beyond societal norms. It's a reminder of God's favor on those who society might disregard, emphasizing the importance of aligning with God's will over societal expectations.

Finally, we dive into the heart of our Christian journey - faithfulness and obedience. Drawing from our personal experiences, we share practical guidance on fostering these virtues through daily practices such as prayer and Bible reading. We examine Elizabeth and Mary's active obedience which led them to align their lives with God's guidance, demonstrating that the Christian faith isn't just about believing but also actively following Jesus in every decision. Let's journey together in understanding that faith is trusting God's plan, even in the face of uncertainty, and the power of obedience in our faith walk.

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Speaker 1:

Awesome. Well, welcome to Madison Church Online. I'm Stephen Feith. Leif, pastor, we want to extend an invitation to you to join us in person soon. Our Sunday gatherings are so much more than just the talk. It's about community and connecting with others and prayer and singing and taking communion. So we want to invite you out sometime soon. Today marks the fourth part of our Advent series. Can you believe this? We've been in this, the fourth part. We are still in Luke, chapter one. When I told you we're going to go word by word and line by line through Luke, I was not exaggerating at all. So we're over 90 minutes now of content and we're just now getting into some of the verses in the 50s here. And so we're doing it. And what I hope you've seen so far is that when we slow down and we do this process of reading it word by word, we get so much more out of the text than when we just read a chapter at a time or a couple chapters at a time. When we slow it down, we see that, wow, luke was very careful in how he crafted his story. For example, so far, luke has introduced us to an elderly couple named Zechariah and Elizabeth. They long their whole life to have a child, and I know that some of you watching or listening online, some of you in the room you've dealt with infertility. You know what it's like to want a baby so bad and not be able to get pregnant. Or you deal with miscarriages, and I wanted to acknowledge that a few weeks ago I think I did, but definitely to acknowledge it Now. You can relate to the pain that Elizabeth and Zechariah had. Now skip a few decades, because they're not in their prime anymore. They're not in their 20s and 30s. They've given up on this dream. Think about it If they're in their 60s, they have given up on the dream of having kids, probably 20 years or more. Okay, for some of you that's like half of your life. For some of you that's most of your life. They've given up on the dream around that time, over 20 or so years, when all of a sudden, an angel of the Lord appears to Zechariah and says Zech got great news for you Elizabeth is going to get pregnant. And he doesn't believe it at all. Zechariah, he's probably like you in a lot of ways. When you hear something that's just so unbelievable, he's like there's no way that this can happen. There's no way that my wife, now in her 60s, is going to get pregnant. Maybe Zechariah I mean like, honestly, one of the things I was thinking of, maybe Zechariah in his 60s, was like no, please, I'm an old man. I wanted to be a dad 30, 40 years ago. I don't want to be a dad now that I'm 60. I was thinking that too. Maybe that was Zechariah's thought. But from that story we learn and Elizabeth does get pregnant. But from that story we learn that there are no wasted seasons of waiting with God. You might find yourself now in a waiting season. It might be weeks, it might be months For some of you. You might be like Zechariah and Elizabeth, and you have indeed waited decades for something to happen. And what we learned, and we're assured through Zechariah and Elizabeth, is that there are no wasted waiting seasons with God. And then, after he introduces us to Zechariah and Elizabeth, luke then turns our attention and it's almost like a different episode of a Netflix series. He's okay. Now, on this episode, we're going to go over and we're going to talk about Mary, and Mary's quite different than Elizabeth. See, mary is very young. Mary is early teens, maybe 11, 12, 13 or 14. She's betrothed to a man named Joseph, when that same angel who comes and gives Zechariah the news that Elizabeth is going to get pregnant, gabriel, comes to Mary and says you're going to get pregnant. Now, a lot of you are now all of a sudden praying that the angel Gabriel never visits you because he seems to have just one message to give right and so. But Gabriel comes and he visits Mary and he says Mary, you're going to get pregnant. And she says how can this be? It's not disbelief, she's just pragmatically wondering. She's. You know, I don't know how sex education was 2000 years ago, but she understood enough to say well, I'm a virgin and, from what I know, that has to happen right. And they just say no, no, no, no, no, the Holy Spirit is going to fill you, is going to fill you and you are going to become pregnant with God's son. And Mary says oh, okay, that makes sense, but she goes along with it, she accepts her divine calling and she says I will bear the Son of God, the savior of the world. From Mary's story we learn that having faith does not mean having all the answers. Mary certainly didn't have all the answers. Mary didn't even have the very basic answers of how reproduction works. She asked the angel how is this going to happen? And he says well, god's going to make it happen, right? So how is this gonna right? But Mary has the face. She's, okay, I'll take your word for it. God can do anything. And so she shows us that having faith doesn't mean having all the answers. And some of you are in a season where you don't have all the answers. I know that some of you, because I know you personally, I know that some of you, you'll never have enough answers. You're always asking you just what's, what's the plan, god? What's the step by step? What's the next hundred miles? Where are we heading to? And but we learned from her story that having faith, it means that we don't always have to have the answers. And in today's part of the story. So now we've got episode one, Zachariah and Elizabeth. Episode two, mary. Now we're moving into like an episode three. We're turning the chapter in which his two characters, his two main ladies, are going to meet each other. And it might seem like a very ordinary experience these two getting together, but for Luke, this is actually a profound and significant encounter. It's so much more than these two women who shouldn't be pregnant and who are pregnant now meeting. This is the first time that John the Baptist meets Jesus Christ In Luke's story. This is the first time that the one who will prepare the way for the Lord and the Lord meet, and Luke is very intentional about that. We're going to Luke 1.39 if you want to follow along in your own Bibles, otherwise the words will be on the screen. And as we get further into the pages of Luke's Gospel and we start to unpack the meeting of these two remarkable people, continue to connect with them. Remember Luke right from the onset. After he establishes that you can trust what he has recorded, luke goes out and he's trying to get your heart into it. So, for those of you who find yourself just living in disappointment, living in the waiting season, luke doesn't just want you to say yes, I know what that is like to be disappointed. He wants you to feel it. What is it like to be disappointed? And the heartache and the grief and the disbelief and the anger toward God. God, why aren't you doing something? And when we think of Mary, he wants you to connect with her and be amazed. Wow, look at her faith. Luke is very intentionally and Sarah, I thought did a great job teaching on Mary last week, but Luke wants you to think very, very, very highly of Mary. Luke has gone out of his way to say look, I introduced you to a priest last week who is in the holiest of holies and he disbelieved. Now look at this girl who we wouldn't allow to be a priest, or the Jewish people wouldn't. Luke is a Gentile, so this isn't like his thing. They wouldn't even let her be a priest. Look at her faith. He wants you to connect with that. And, picking up where Sarah left off last week, a few days later Mary hurried to the Hill Country of Judea, to the town where Zechariah lived. Remember, zechariah can't speak, he's kind of just being a little, he's a little time out, as it were. She entered the house and greeted Elizabeth and at the sound of Mary's greeting, elizabeth's child leaped within her and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. Elizabeth gave a glad cry and exclaimed to Mary God has blessed you, above all women, and your child is blessed. Why am I so honored that the mother of my Lord should visit me? When I heard your greeting, the baby in my womb jumped for joy. You are blessed because you believed that the Lord would do what he said. So not only has Luke introduced like, okay, elizabeth and Mary have met, now John and Jesus have met, you can kind of see Luke's also using this as kind of this recap of all of the things might happen. You might say we're on Luke, we're only on verse 39. There's not time, we don't need to recap yet, but that's what Luke does. There's so much rehashing of what has already happened and you might notice right from the beginning, mary leaves and she goes to visit Elizabeth. We're told that's about 80 to 100 miles that she would have done on foot, in a caravan. She would not have walked by herself, that just wouldn't have been safe, she would have been killed or worse. And so she travels with caravan, goes to visit and it's intriguing though this week I didn't know this I made an assumption. I've had an assumption about this. I assumed God told her to go visit Elizabeth. I assumed that the angel had. We read in this passage that after the angel visits Mary, hightails it out town to go see Elizabeth. And I looked through Matthew and I looked through Mark and I looked through John this week and then I went and asked chat GPT, just in case I couldn't pick up on it, I said why did Mary go? Who told her to go? No one, she just did it. She just left and went to see Elizabeth. I mean, certainly it's exciting, right, she's a family member. I don't think we're told what kind of family member she is, but her old, 60 year old family member is pregnant. So if anything, there's a little bit of like a Ripley's believe it or not effect, right? Hey, is this old biddy really pregnant? Let's go see. But I don't think that's really why Mary went. I don't think that's why Mary went. I think, just pragmatically speaking and this is me speculating, so don't do too much with this but I think Mary might've been seeking out companionship to the only person in the history of the planet Earth, the only other woman in all of creation who could relate to Mary. Mary has just been told you're gonna get pregnant and it's gonna be by God. And even though Mary goes along with it, you gotta imagine from a very human perspective all of the anxiety that would've come with it. And she thinks where and who can I be with, who I will find comfort in and companionship and friendship, and somebody who understands. Well, wait a second, I was just told that I have a family member who shouldn't get pregnant, who is also gonna get pregnant. We can be companions together and we get a very human side of Mary, this young woman, a glimpse into her potential need, as you and I have the need for understanding. She's seeking out who can understand me. She was seeking out support and comfort and a shared experience that none of us in the room would be able to really relate to her with. And then we read upon Mary greeting Elizabeth, which would've been custom, you see, because Mary was younger and so Mary would've greeted Elizabeth first. We're told that Elizabeth is actually filled with the Holy Spirit and if you are following along in your Bibles and I mentioned in week one, I love it when you're following your own Bibles with a pen so you can write things down or circle things. One of the things that I would tell you to do right now in these first four or five chapters is circle every time somebody is filled with the Holy Spirit, because we're gonna get to the end of chapter three and spoiler every character that we have talked about so far will be filled with the Holy Spirit by the end of chapter three. And for those of you who are like, okay, that seems normal, remember that this is years and years and years, decades before Acts two. So God's Spirit is filling people before this Acts two moment. What's that mean? Well, we'll talk about it in five years when we get to Acts. Okay, but underline every time you see Holy Spirit fill someone. Elizabeth felt something so extraordinary in the presence of Mary that her baby leaped. And this was no extraordinary or yeah, extraordinary or common fetal movement. It was no ordinary common fetal movement. Yeah, babies kick when they hear the sound of their own voices. This was not it where we read that the baby leapt, like literally jumped, like pushed its two feet against the wall of her stomach and then shot out. And then Elizabeth is followed up with a prophecy about Mary's baby she was filled with the Holy Spirit in the presence of Jesus, even though Jesus wasn't born yet. Just by being in the presence of Jesus as the unborn baby, elizabeth was filled. And recall that the angel Gabriel had already foretold Zechariah that John himself would be filled with the Holy Spirit while in Elizabeth's womb. So for some of you who were like, well, john's gonna be born and we're not gonna read that he's filled with the Holy Spirit. In chapter three you're, or chapter two, you're right, but we were already told in chapter one that by this time, what we are reading John's already been filled with the Holy Spirit and now, by the evidence of prophesying, elizabeth has been filled with the Spirit herself. Elizabeth has mentioned in that society and that culture was clearly superior to Mary. She was in the family line of Aaron, moses's brother. I mean in terms of like a lineage and a heritage that you're proud of. Aaron's pretty good, that's great. That's Moses's kind of family there. That's great. She was also the wife of a high priest, zechariah, and she was older than the two women. Despite all of that, what's Elizabeth do? Elizabeth places herself in the servant's role. She gives honor to Mary, her guest. Elizabeth verbalizes you are the mother of my Lord. This is such a profound and easy to miss cultural moment that highlights something Luke has already told us about Elizabeth, and that is her profound humility. But what I love about this passage is that she retained her humility. It's kind of easy to be humble when you're in a season of waiting and disappointment and you've tried everything and no matter what you do, you fail or it's not enough, or there's no success. It's easy to be humble then, because you're kind of forced to be humble then. But now Elizabeth is pregnant, it would be easy for her to be arrogant, to be prideful. Look what God is doing in me and through me, and it should be all about me, after all. Like this is amazing, and the only thing that would be more impressive than Elizabeth getting impressive is standing at the front door. Be real. Easy to feel prideful. It may be bitter jealousy about Mary, but Elizabeth retains her humility. She chooses to remain humble and she continues to do so here. It's after Elizabeth greets Mary and kind of exalts her a little bit that Mary goes into her hymn and she says oh, how my soul praises the Lord, how my spirit rejoices in God, my savior, for he took notice of his lowly servant girl. And from now on, from now on, the tide has changed. All generations will call me blessed, for the mighty one is holy and he has done great things for me. He shows mercy from generation to generation to all who fear him. His mighty arm has done tremendous things. He has scattered the proud and haughty ones. He has brought down princes from their thrones and exalted the humble. He has filled the hungry with good things and sent the rich away with empty hands. He has helped his servant, israel, and remember to be merciful, for he made this promise to our ancestors, to Abraham and his children forever. It's at this moment, I mean. Mary had faith. She believes in the angel Gabriel. We know that, but it's almost as though reality is starting to set in. It's reality set in as she meets Elizabeth, and Elizabeth being filled with the spirit and prophesying over her. Mary says, oh, this is real. And Mary's response is worship. Mary's response is to glorify God. Mary's response is to recount all of the good things God has done, not just here but in history. God never stopped working. God always was working, and now he has chosen me and the divine attention was granted to Mary. She describes herself as a lowly servant girl, but she said I'm a lowly servant girl who God has blessed, and now my name will transcend generations and time. People will know me not just as a lowly servant girl, but as a blessed one. God can do anything. God can do extraordinary things and historically we had proof of that. He toppled princes and their thrones. He raised up nations and he cast aside nations. He's raised people from the dead. And in this moment, mary is just in awe that that God, that the God who has done whatever he wants and can do whatever he wants, has chosen her to be the mother of his child, the Messiah that her people have been waiting for. Mary's received everything from God. God didn't know her anything and she's received everything. Her testimony becomes a beacon of God's care and it's a reminder that God sees worth in those who we overlook. God chooses Mary, a young woman, 12, 13, 14 years old, someone we never would have heard of unless God chose her and Mary's courageous faithfulness, marked by the sacrifice of her reputation and potential future security. Remember, virginity was like a badge of honor, and if she got pregnant, not only would Joseph not want to marry her, but who else would want to marry her? Which meant the implication of that she'd have to live with her mom and dad for the rest of their lives or until they died, and then maybe they could sell her off to slavery or there's someone else who would take her. But certainly this step of faith that she took damaged her reputation because she would be showing at some point and then that society who was gonna believe even then that God made her pregnant. Mary chose obedience to God's will over societal expectations, which I think is something that a lot of us struggle with. But she is our example. She is our example of faithfulness, just like Elizabeth is our example of what humility looks like. Mary shows us what faithfulness looks like. Now we talk about it and how do we make it practical? Okay, so Elizabeth is humble, we should be humble, and Mary's faithful, and we should be faithful. How do we do this? And I have a few practical suggestions and how you can cultivate humility or faithfulness in your own life. Perhaps, like Elizabeth and as we talked about a couple weeks ago, you're earnestly waiting for God to do something. And guess what? It didn't change in the last two weeks. You heard the talk two weeks ago. You were pumped up. Yes, I'm dealing with disappointment, but God never wastes a waiting season and that was like probably good for like until the rest of the day, and then you went to bed and maybe for some of you was like good for the next couple of days. But you're like man, I really thought God would have done something by now and he still hasn't right. Perhaps, if we're in that season, we gotta continue to show, we show humility, but then what happens when God does show up and I do believe God does eventually show up for you? You're in this waiting season, and so now is a good time to remind you, to encourage you and to challenge you that when God knows and God's not yet become a yes you remain humble, Because it's so easy, once that prayer gets answered, to get arrogant or prideful or, at the very least, less humble than your day ago. Because God's done it. Humility is not about diminishing your worth, though I wanna just state that from the onset. Humility isn't about diminishing your worth or your significance. Instead, it's a deliberate choice to redirect your focus away from self-centered thoughts and embrace the openness of God and to others. What is God saying to you? What are other people saying to you? Just because God did it doesn't mean that you know everything or have everything. Now Doesn't mean that the journey is over. Cs Lewis provides a profound insight into the humility, a quote I'm sure many of you have heard. True humility is not thinking less of yourself, it is thinking of yourself less. Let that sit in for a moment. We'll leave that on the screen for ya. True humility is not thinking less of yourself. It is thinking of yourself less. And if you desire, this morning, to cultivate humility in your life, you need to seek out feedback. You need to be hungry for feedback, you need to almost be addicted to receiving feedback, because other people perceive aspects of our circumstances and situations that we don't see. We become blind, we become so focused in and yes, no one knows your troubles like you, but other people have great perceptions of our troubles. Feedback is valuable even when the other person's delivery is poor, is off base and it's unfair. The key here, when it comes to feedback, is that even when you're not in the mood to receive it, you receive it. The best feedback that I've usually gotten comes from unexpected sources. It's unexpected people. It's people that I didn't think would have wisdom into my situation. It's people that I didn't think would have anything to offer me and they say something and it's challenging and it's earth shattering to me In a practical way that if you're like, okay, okay, I got to be open to feedback, I got to be open to feedback, we got to actually put it into practice. It's got to go beyond like I got to do this. A practical way to get valuable feedback from others is a ministry that we offer right here at Madison Church, and it's through our small groups. Because what we do through our small groups is we take a whole bunch of you and we put you in close quarters for like an hour and a half and two hours, for like once a week, for like three months. It's in those scenarios in which we're talking and listening to one another, with people that maybe we're not friends with outside of this place. They have different jobs than us and different family structures than us, and it's those insights that are so valuable to our life. And in January we're kicking off new groups and I want you to remember that our small groups at Madison Church, they're not just a program. Not just a program. They really are a ministry, a ministry for genuine connection, a ministry for genuine growth in your life and a practical step toward embracing humility. Now, bonus to the extroverts in the room if you're an extrovert, raise your hand. You guys love this, right? Yeah, come on. Yeah, a bonus to the extroverts like me. You're like. I want to remain humble. I've been dealing with disappointment. I'm in a waiting season. I need feedback in my life. I'm going to join a small group and I'm going to hear from other people's feedback. Okay. Well, that means you got to shut up. You go to a small group and you're like sitting around the table and you're like I have so much to say because you're an extrovert like me. I get it right. You're an extrovert like you, have so much to say, you have so much to teach everyone else, and they're going to get your feedback. I know that's for sure. Okay, and they know that for sure. They got you pegged already. Okay, the introverts have lots of time together their thoughts while you're talking. If you're an extrovert, think about this If there's 10 people in your group and you're meeting for 90 minutes, the amount of time to hear from everyone equally gives you like less than eight minutes to speak over that whole time, and a lot of your small groups you watch a video, so that cuts into your 90 minutes. So you got to keep going even lower. And so what I'm saying is, if you want to get this feedback and you're in a group, my encouragement to you is to listen, not twice as much as you talk, but however many people there are in the group. So if there's eight, you got to listen eight times more than you talk, or 10 times more than you talk, or you find a real small group with not a lot of people signed up and then that gives you a little bit more time to talk, but then you go back to that idea you're probably not getting all the feedback you want. So I was really happy this week I got together with our small group facilitators those who led the Alpha course and the Hangout course and I lead the parenting course and we got together and what we did was feedback recurrent theme. We got together because I wanted to hear their feedback. How did your groups go? What was good, what wasn't good, what do we need to fix? By January? I got like three weeks to figure it out, but we can figure it out together. And one of the things that kind of generated from our conversation was a curiosity between like, well, what do we average on Sunday morning for adults and then what do we average for people who show up to small groups for adults. I thought that's great because we always say small groups are more than just a ministry, so that's something we should count. And we said I think before we said you know, around 50% would probably be good, like if half the people who show up on Sunday are in a group. That's great, and I ran the numbers a little bit more closely yesterday and it turns out that toward the end of our groups we were over 60%. So that means like six out of 10 people who show up here on a Sunday are also involved in a small group community, and that, to me, is just significant. It is so important that that continues to happen, and so the small groups. They are starting to get live on the website. So if you're curious about joining a small group, you want humility, you want feedback in your life, check those out sometime. Just scroll about halfway down. In the seasons of waiting, disappointment and uncertainty, will you choose to think of yourself less and open your heart to the transformative power of God's guidance and the wisdom of others? Remember it's not a diminishing act. I'm not asking you to really beat yourself up or think that you're a lousy human, but really is about going from here to there and becoming better. Now maybe you're not like Elizabeth Humility is not the problem, you're not waiting but maybe you're like Mary and you find yourself at a juncture in which God is urging you to step up and to undertake something that feels like it's going to shake the very core of your foundation. If I say yes to God, I don't have a bunch of answers that I have right now. If I say yes to God, maybe I move into the wilderness, the unknown. Maybe I'm walking on water and I've never done that before. If I step out, maybe like Mary, then I've got to carry this weight of the decision where everyone can see me and society says no, but God is saying yes. And you've found yourself at this intersection. Congratulations. God is speaking to you. The challenge for you is will you choose faithfulness? You see, faithfulness isn't just running out the clock. Don't confuse faithfulness with perseverance. Sometimes you got to wait and sometimes you got to hang in there and be strong, but faithfulness is not that. Faithfulness is a choice to trust in the character of God, whose ways are beyond our understanding. Faithfulness is not passive waiting. It's active. It's an intentional choice to trust in the character of God. Oswald Chambers paints a powerful picture of faith. He says that faith is a deliberate confidence in the character of God, whose ways you may not understand at the time. You see, faithfulness is not about having all of the answers and knowing what's going to happen next, but it's about confidently embracing the one who does, and so if you're at that intersection, you got to choose faithfulness. Do it Now. I've discovered a profound way in my own life to develop faithfulness is by setting aside time every day to connect with God, and sometimes that's prolonged prayer, other times it's reading and meditating on a passage. A lot of times I journal, but it's the intentional practice in my own life that I've worked this into my schedule Because I have found and if you're like me, it's not just going to happen Wishes don't make great goals. We got to do it, we got to write it down and we got to get it. Deliberate choices foster confidence in the character of God. I stole something from my doctor that I use as a pastor now when I meet with people, and I figured out what she was doing when a therapist, I was saying, started doing it to me too. They would ask the same exact questions every time I visited. You know, after, how are you doing? What's new? This weather? Right, that's the Wisconsin thing. How are the Packers doing it? Get all that out of the way, and then they would move into some really what I felt were very dumb questions. They would say how's your diet? How often are you going out to eat at restaurants versus cooking at home? Like alright, I don't know, like two, three, four, depends on the week, man, they'd be like how much caffeine are you drinking? I'm like I don't know, like half a pot of coffee, and then their eyes bug out for a second and they're like how fast. And I was, like you know, like in the morning and before I switched alcohol in the afternoon, and they asked about my sleep patterns, what time you go to bed at night? Oh, you know, sometimes 10, sometimes 11, sometimes nine. And meanwhile, while I'm telling all of this, they're writing all of this down. And then they had me fill out like this quick 10 page or not 10 page, 10 questions, very short, 10 questions about my anxiety. Then they'd check, check, check, check, check. And then what I found out, like after getting with this therapist a few times, was that all this information he was collecting ended up being a very nice, pretty graph that showed that when I ate well and didn't go out to eat a lot, and that when I slept well and I wasn't staying up too late, that when I drank less alcohol and I drank less caffeine, there was a correlation between me being healthier and happier and having less anxiety. I was like, well, dang, that's not why I was paying you. Like I thought my issues were deeper than that. And he says they're not. He says let's start with that stuff first, then we can get to the deep stuff. And so then I thought this is great, because I meet with people then and they tell me I'm spiritually stagnant, I'm not growing, and so then I thought, well, my doctors and therapists have this really cool thing. So then I ask how often do you pray? How often do you read the Bible? You connected to a small group. When was the last time you joined us at a gathering? And like the new Christians are like, it's the light bulb, the new Christians, the new fathers. You're right, that makes so much sense. I'm following Jesus, but I'm not doing the things that followers of Jesus do. I need to get better. It's the older Christians, some of you who have been followers of Jesus. Yes, you need to look up here. Okay, I can tell when you're ignoring me, even when you're smiling and looking at me, and I'll be like mm-hmm. Yeah, yeah, I've been. I haven't been reading the Bible. Yeah, I can for like two years. Don't act like it's been this week. It's been like two years I haven't been praying as much. Yeah, that's been the trend the last decade, hasn't it? No, and I'm not trying to pick on anyone or beat it, but it's the older Christians. They're like there's got to be something more profound than that, and in doing so, you're just like me when you're seeing the therapist and you're like there has to be something more profound than me not sleeping well. There has to be something more profound than me drinking too much caffeine and alcohol. There has to be something going on that's not related to me exercising, because I know for certain me exercising is not the answer to any of the problems in my life, but we do that spiritually, and so I want to encourage you as you evaluate yourself and you're like how do I develop faithfulness in my life? It's got to be more than Sunday morning. This is great. This can be a catalyst to the rest of the week. For you, this can be a profound hour, but if the only time you're expecting to hear from God in this hour, then you're going to miss God when he shows up on Thursday morning or Tuesday afternoon or Saturday at three in the afternoon, because the only time you're going to know God is in this place and I promise you he's not just in this place. Integrate your faith with your daily life. Your soul needs spiritual nourishment every day, not just on Sundays, and if your faith practices are confined to a once a week routine, you're going to miss God other times and I want to throw this out reading the Bible and praying and journaling they are not obligations, they're transformative habits that mold your heart, strengthen your faith and makes you more in tuned to the presence of God in your everyday life. Luke concludes this passage of Mary and Elizabeth meeting. Luke 156,. Mary stayed with Elizabeth about three months and then went back to her own town. If you remember, we started with, elizabeth was six months pregnant. So you can do the math six plus three is nine. We can guess what happened. Mary is there for the birth of John, is there for all the kind of the ritual stuff, and then Mary leaves and she goes back home. Luke, as he sets up for the next episode, has to get Mary out of the picture. I mean, she probably really did, went home, but in his narrative he's setting this up, because what we're going to talk about next is, finally, the birth of John the Baptist, this long awaited promise. There's a common thread weaving through the stories of Elizabeth and Mary and Luke's gospel, and that is obedience. Both women chose obedience in their distinct seasons of waiting and uncertainty, and it wasn't merely a nod to a set of beliefs. It was an active and intentional commitment to follow the path that God has called them to. They didn't just say yep, I agree with that. I can check the list, the statement of faith, I can sign my name there. It was so much more than that. God was calling them forward and we, as followers of Jesus today in Madison, wisconsin, must maintain the central idea in our own lives. The Christian faith is not about believing the right things. It's about an active invitation to follow Jesus with every choice we make. It's about doing. Obedience is the intentional choice to align our steps with God's guidance, to surrender our will to his will. God will do what he said he will do, will we?

Meeting of Mary and Elizabeth
Elizabeth and Mary
Choosing Faithfulness in Uncertain Times
The Power of Obedience in Faith