Sunday, December 8, 2013

Mary Miracle

Mary Miracle

Shared in Communion – 2013 12 08

Luke 1:26-38 – “And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her.”

Jewish tradition tells us that young women who were consecrated to the Lord had dreams of being the one chosen by God to bring Messiah to the earth. I know you’ve heard this story many times. But today allow your mind to see it a little differently.

On this particular March 20, year 0 B.C., a young lady, probably still a teenager, has an encounter that changed her forever. It was Tuesday, so most likely there were chores to be done. Perhaps it was while beating clothes down on the river bank, or walking to or from the town square, or even sweating over the pot of stew that would be the meal for the day, Mary encountered the Lord. I cannot help but think that she was startled.

However, from the passage we see that the concern she had was not with the man, but with the words he spoke; she was “troubled with his saying”. Then something came to mind, perhaps a teaching she had heard at the synagogue, or something her priest-uncle Zacharias, Elizabeth’s husband, had said during one of her visits to their home. Isaiah 7:14 – “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

Could this be? What about Joseph? What will mom and dad say? REALLY? Has salvation come to our people? Am I going to be the mother of the Messiah?

The Lord, through Gabriel, assured Mary, “Do not fear. You have favor with God. You will conceive and bare a son, the Son of the Highest. He shall be great.”

Mary’s response here is so vital, and this is where we miss it when an encounter with the Lord comes to us. She did not ask WHY, or IF, but HOW!!!

You know the rest of this story. What about your story? Are you in a posture to have an encounter with God? He is still looking for willing vessels to accomplish His plans and purpose in the earth. Too old? What about Moses, Abraham, Elizabeth? Too poor? What about Gideon, Esther? Too young? What about David, Mary, Samuel?

If you will look, I think you will find a common thread in all of these “champions” of God. They were not surprised by an opportunity. All they needed was the “how”.

Colossians 3:1-2 – “If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.”

So, what is the Lord saying to you? When He does, and He will, are you willing to say, “Be it unto me according to Thy word?”

Sunday, September 22, 2013


I hate to be wrong. I am very quick to challenge any implication that I am wrong. I will research diligently to prove my point. I learned that this behavior is one aspect of my Control Temperament: Choleric. Choleric people tend to be right. That’s one reason some people do not like them. People grow weary a know-it-all.

This is relatively new information for me. My wife, Martha, is a certified pastoral counselor, with a degree to prove it! She has tried to help me over the years to understand that, just because I know the answer, not everyone wants to hear it. I am just the opposite. If someone knows the answer to my question I want to hear it. I love to learn. I love discovery, but I also love shared knowledge.

I mentioned a little about me to give you some background for this post. I have recently had an epiphany. It has not come easily, but I’m glad that I learned it now, at 54, rather than finding out at 75. I have come to realize that I don’t know everything. Specifically, I don’t even know as much as I thought I knew about my God, and His Kingdom.

I’ve been on a journey for at least 3 years of looking at everything I believe with new eyes. My friend, Ed Chinn, has just published a book called “New Eyes for a New World.” I recommend it. It will help you think in new ways. Another book that I read recently is by Matthew B. Redmond, called “The God of the Mundane”, another that I highly recommend. These, along with several others, have challenged me to look at everything a second time. Go back and find out WHY you believe what you do, not just debunk everything that is not in agreement with WHAT you believe.

The latest milestone on this journey came yesterday. After reading a recommended blog entry by Rachel Held Evans ( I replied with this:

Interesting times in the Body right now. I'm beginning to feel like a man without a ‘country’. I'm beginning to get a glimpse of what the Lord was saying to the angel at Laodicea. I have numbered myself with them, but I'm trying to break free.”

After writing that in a rather off-the-cuff manner, mainly because I liked the self-righteous sound of it, I started looking deeper into Laodicea. I found something interesting, and convicting.

When you look at the Greek, in which I am not a scholar, I found that 2 words were used to form Laodicea. The first is laos which simply means “people.” The second word is dike (pronounced dee’-kay) which means “right, or just.”

One could draw from this definition that the people there were self-righteous. They justified their position, behavior, or beliefs concerning spiritual matters. The Lord spoke to them and said, "Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing'; and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked; I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.” (Revelation 4:17-18 NKJV)

One of the greatest problems with deception is the fact that you are deceived. You cannot see the deception because you believe you are right. It has taken 3 years, and counting, but I believe the walls of my stubbornness are beginning to crack, allowing the amazing light of God’s glory and truth to invade my world in ways I have not experienced in a long time.

Just so you know, I’m not talking about “sin”, necessarily. I never have walked away from the Lord, or pursued other gods. I have simply allowed the light (little “l”) of my wisdom and knowledge to be enough for me, instead of letting the Light (big “l”) show me how to live my life.

I’m not speaking as one that has arrived, simply as one who is in pursuit of the One whom I love, and that loves me.

One final thought about Laodicea. According to scripture there was an epistle written by Paul to the Laodiceans. He mentions it in Colossians 4:16: “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea.”

Wouldn’t you love to have read what Paul wrote to these folks? I know I sure would.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

“The Character and Nature of God”

This was presented during communion on Sunday, September 15, 2013.

Three blind men encountered an elephant. Each of them touched the elephant in a different place. They each then describe what they imagine the elephant to be. “It is like a wall”, the first man replied, having touched the elephant on its side. “It is not like a wall at all, but instead like a rope”, said the second after felling of the elephant’s tail. “The elephant is much like a tree, tall and slender”, said the last, having encountered one of the elephant’s legs.

They have a heated debate that does not come to physical violence. But the conflict is never resolved.

An ancient poem about this incident summarizes it like this:

And so these men of Hindustan
Disputed loud and long,
Each in his own opinion
Exceeding stiff and strong,
Though each was partly in the right
And all were in the wrong.

So oft in theologic wars,
The disputants, I ween,
Rail on in utter ignorance
Of what each other mean,
And prate about an Elephant
Not one of them has seen.

Does this sound anything like debates at church? Consider just two opinions of the character and nature of God. Both come from well-known theologians.

Here’s the first:
“The bow of God’s wrath is bent, and the arrow made ready on the string, and justice bends the arrow at your heart, and strains the bow, and it is nothing but the mere pleasure of God, and that of an angry God, without any promise or obligation at all, that keeps the arrow one moment from being made drunk with your blood.”

This is an except from one of the most famous sermons in American history; that of Jonathan Edwards’, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” Edwards depicts God as full of wrath, bound by law of abstract justice. We have failed; we deserve to suffer. God is angry.

You wouldn’t expect this God to say, “I have really been looking forward to seeing you face to face. It is so wonderful to have you here with us.”

In contrast, one of the early Church heroes named Athanasius penned these thoughts about God.

“The God of all is good and supremely noble by nature. Therefore he is the lover of humanity. As, then, the creatures whom He had created were in fact perishing, and such noble works were on the road to ruin, what then was God, being Good, to do? Was He to let corruption and death have their way with them? In that cast, what was the use of having made them in the beginning? It was impossible, therefore, that God should leave man to be carried off by corruption, because it would be unfitting and unworthy of Himself.”

This is how William Paul Young, author of “The Shack”, sums up man’s attempt to describe God.

“The problem is that many folks try to grasp some sense of who God is by taking the best version of themselves, projecting that to the nth degree, factoring in all the goodness they can perceive, which often isn’t much, and then call that God. And while it may seem like a noble effort, the truth is that it falls pitifully short of who he really is. He is not merely the best version of you that you can think of. He is far more than that, above and beyond all that you can ask or think.”

Have you ever held a fine diamond in your fingers and turned while light was shining on it? I believe this is a good example of what “looking at God” is like. With every move of polished surfaces, of facets, you see a new color or reflection that wasn’t there before. In mathematics you learn that the intersection of n-dimensional objects is an (n-1)-dimensional object. A good example of this is our world. It has three dimensions that we can see, but there is another dimension that we cannot see: time. At any given instant we can only see the 3 dimensions around us. As soon as it arrives it vanishes to give way to the next instant in time, never to be seen or experienced again.

I believe that is one reason scripture records the description of the love of God using 4 dimensions: breadth, width, height, and depth. We encounter His love in one instant and imagine that He is like that. We encounter His grace in another instant and imagine that He is like that. We may encounter His justice in yet another instant and, again, imagine that He that is all there is to Him.

The reality is He is all of that and more! He is everlasting to everlasting. He is past finding out. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He is altogether lovely. He is a raging fire, a booming thunder, and yet a still small voice. He is a cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. He is the first and the last, the beginning and the ending. He is righteous; He is holy. He is truth!

And yet He has chosen to come and commune with us when we agree to meet with Him. He is here.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Sleep - a poem


It is night that brings most dread
Body tired, day is spent
All the possibilities
That will never see daylight again

If this is all there is
Why do I even want to wake
The daily frustration of hours wasted
Now just haunting memories

If this is all there is
There is no need for morning
It only comes to mock my
Hope of more to come

But there is more … much more
Today was just a taste
Bitter or sweet
It is only a lesson learned

The hope of something more
Causes the sun to rise
To introduce the day
That could bring more to my world

There is more, because of THAT day
When all that was lost
Died once for all
To bring life forevermore

So now each day has promise
That Life will be found
Where before there was dread
Now joy

Night still comes
So morning can bring anticipation
Of finding that
Which is seeking after me

So sleep …

© 2013 Kurios Books. Written by Dudley Harris (September 6, 2013)

Monday, August 12, 2013

Turning ...

I remembered a song from years ago by Randy Stonehill titled "Turning Thirty". That was a tah-dah moment for him I guess. I've had a few tah-dah days in the past few years. When I turned 45 (I think) I began to contemplate how old my father was when he died. I was only nine and, to me, my father was old. As it turned out, my father was about 42 when he died. I suddenly realized how young he really was. I began to imagine how my children would have been affected if I had died at 42. How would things have turned out for them. What about Martha?

Then, even more recently, I began to contemplate how old my mother was when I started college. I was the last of the kids at home. When I moved onto Samford's campus my mom moved "home" to Hanceville, AL, to live in the Little House my father built when they were first married. I was 18 at that time and I thought my mom was old. I imagined her moving to the mountain to spend her last few years on earth. She was 52. I see now why she re-married. She was still a young woman with a lot of life in front of her.

I just turned 54 today. It's amazing to think how different age looks when you are looking forward, and then backward. My parents were both "old" when they hit the milestones mentioned previously. Now I see how "young" they really were.

I don't feel old. It's not until I look in the mirror that I realize I am aging. On the inside it seems like just yesterday that I was running with my friends at West Birmingham Christian School; Rusty, Jeff, Joey, and Jimmy. It seems like just a few years ago I spent night after night talking with my friend, Ed, until 5 am, knowing I had to get up at 6 am to go to school or work.

I still remember the lyric and melody to all of the songs I sang with Windborne, traveling with some of the greatest guys you could ever imagine; David M., Kevin, Rick, David S., Larry, Bobby, Barry, and a host of others I can't remember at the moment.

If it weren't for the many pictures I have of my children showing their progression in age I would not believe that they are now grown; each of them beautiful individuals, pursuing life with abandon. I find myself positioned in the bleachers cheering them on, hoping they find everything that they want out of life.

It seems like just a few short years ago that I married my precious wife, Martha. We celebrate 34 years of marriage next month. It has been a great ride so far, and I'm looking forward to more!

Then today, I had another tah-dah moment. Out of nowhere I had an epiphany of one aspect of my life that, until now, I had never realized. All of my life I have had music as a hobby. When I was in college I sang with Windborne. When I started my career in computers I served as a part-time music guy everywhere I've been: East Side, Word of Life, Paulding, and Agape. In 1997, my dream of one day being in full-time vocational ministry became a reality. My "hobby" was now my job!

I just realized this today, at 54. I have been doing for 15 years what I dreamed of doing for most of my life, and had never really given it much thought. This may not seem like a big deal to you, but it hit me like a ton of bricks.

So, what's next? Now that I'm doing what I love, what else can I do as a hobby? I'm going to start kicking the tires on a few things and see what the Lord my have for me in addition to what I'm doing. I'm excited to see what might develop.

Regardless of your age, never stop dreaming! You will always be "turning ..." but that doesn't mean it's over. Consider it a page, not the back cover. Write on each page as much as possible. Write small or write large, but fill each page with everything that will fit on it. Once you "turn" you can't go back. This is not a call for regret, but a call to redeem the time.

I'm just glad I'm still "turning ..."