Healing for Barrenness
(Elizabeth & Zechariah)
Luke 1:5-25; 57-80

Begin by reading Luke 1:5-25
What emotions come to mind when you think of Christmas?
While we like to think of peace on earth, joy to the world, excited angels, Bethlehem where all is calm-all is bright, anticipation of gifts, Those were not necessarily the emotions of the first Christmas.
And yet the same emotions that were felt then are felt today:
There was the…Hurt of Joseph, Confusion of Mary, the indifference of the innkeeper, the Fear of the Shepherds, the Anger of Herod, the disappointment of the wisemen in Jerusalem, the Sorrow of the Women of Bethlehem.
This month we are going to look at Christmas as the Healing Seasons.
This morning we come to Christmas as a time for the Healing for Barrenness.
When I talk barrenness, I am not limiting myself to infertility. Infertility is a hurtful and lonely condition. But there are many types of barrenness.
At the first Christmas, it was a time of Barrenness
Political barrenness
• The land and people had been conquered by the Romans and they lived in political, social and spiritual bondage.
• The people were impotent to make changes. Occasionally a leader would arise and try to rebel against Rome, but they were inevitably squelched and executed.
• Their ruler, Herod the Great was barren in character. The statement, “In the days of Herod, the king of Judea” gives the time of this setting. He was called the great, not because of his morality or his leadership or his courage, but because he built many public works projects in Judea: he remodeled & expanded the temple, but he also had introduced Roman temples into the land and had built idols to Roman gods.
According to the historian Josephus, Herod the Great died about the year 4 B.C., after having reigned for 36 years.
HtG was merely a puppet, a vassal put there by the authority of Rome. He was a man of degeneracy. He could have been a spiritual leader, a model to the people, yet he was everything but that. The land was rife with immorality. He had introduced the Roman games into the life of Israel. Gentile money flooded the country, causing great economic instability and imbalance. He had encouraged a Babylonian immigration into Israel which upset the economy.
When he died, everybody within the nation breathed a sigh of relief for he was unwanted by his family and hated by his people. Thus, the term “in the days of Herod, the King of Judea” refers to one of the darkest periods in Israel’s history.
These were politically barren times in Israel, times of darkness, weariness, injustice, disease, economic desperation.

• Spiritual Barrenness
• God had not spoken through a prophet for 400 years
• Temple was a barren place. Even the priesthood was corrupt; there was much buying and selling of priestly offices.
• Religious leadership was barren
o Pharisees had sought to return godliness by legalism.
o God’s angel did not appear to the high priest, but to a country priest who was in the city for his annual week rotation of service

And yet in the face of all of this; when righteousness appeared to be a forgotten virtue, God began to work. It is well to remember that often the darkest hour is just before the dawn. In the darkest hours of the Herodian reign, we are introduced to a couple who walked against the trend of the times: a priest named Zechariah and his wife Elizabeth.
v. 6: “Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly.”
They were both walking in the same direction, for the same destination, shared the same communion. There is much we could say just here.
Let me stop and mention first of all this fact reflects a decision they once made. This is directed to single people. You are at an impressionable age. Many of you are finding your life’s partner. Make sure they are going in the same direction and enjoy the same salvation. It is disobedience but also the source of infinite heartache for a Christian to marry a non Christian.

For Zechariah & Elizabeth it was a time of Personal Barrenness. They had been unable to bear children throughout their child-bearing years. And now they were long past the age of being able to conceive.
These two unusual people were suffering. Most Jews at this time did not believe in eternal life. Immortality came through their children and heirs; it was through them that one lived on forever. So although righteous, Zachariah and Elizabeth had no children, and were thus suffering the ultimate disappointment and humiliation.
I cannot speak of the emotions of infertility
• Loss of interest in usual activities
• Depression that doesn’t lift
• Strained interpersonal relationships (with partner, family, friends and/or colleagues)
• Difficulty thinking of anything other than your infertility
• High levels of anxiety
• Diminished ability to accomplish tasks
• Difficulty with concentration
• Change in your appetite or weight or sleep patterns (increase or decrease)
• Social isolation
• Persistent feelings of pessimism, guilt, or worthlessness
• Persistent feelings of bitterness or anger
• Women may feel unfeminine and men may feel powerless and unmasculine.
• Increased use of drugs or alcohol
I am sure that most, if not all, of these were felt by Zechariah and Elizabeth. It did not mean that they were unfaithful or not cherished by God. It meant that they were human.

But perhaps the most damaging barrenness of all is seen in Zechariah’s Barrenness of vision
He had given up hope.
He is gripped with fear when the angel appears in front of him. If I were confronted with an angel, (the way that angels are described in the Bible) I would be gripped with fear as well.
“Have a child? Prove it…I am an old man and my wife is an old woman.” He lacked the vision. He lacked hope.
And while God did not blame him for his lack of fertility, he did blame him for his lack of hope; his lack of faith.
Zechariah was stricken mute until it came time for the baby to be named, eight days after the birth of John.

Barrenness is an emotion that is known to many people today. While Zechariah and Elizabeth were physically barren, (and I in no way want to minimize the unique pain of that), others feel barren emotionally as well. Giving up hope. Fear of the future. Lack of productivity,
The Wall Street Journal (3-9-07) “The Great Depression,” called America the World’s Saddest Nation
According to a recent study by the World Health Organization and Harvard Medical School, America may very well be the saddest nation in the world. Researchers found that 9.6 percent of Americans suffer from depression or bipolar disorder—the highest among 14 major nations polled. Those nations that scored better than the U.S. suffer from ongoing wars and rumors of war (Lebanon), vast unemployment (Mexico), and profound poverty (Nigeria). In his Wall Street Journal article, “The Great Depression,” Bret Stephens argues that perhaps America scores poorly as a nation because its population is generally comfortable and wealthy. Such luxuries allow that much more time for critically picking apart life situations and personal circumstances. Those who live in countries torn apart by varying social and economic issues have less time to fret over personal gain and ambition. They are simply too busy trying to survive.

READ 57-80
Intersperse: Luke wanted Theosophilus to see the power of God working in the births of these two men

SIMILARITIES
Ann. of coming of John by Gabriel
The name is given by Gabriel: John was given a name which means “God is gracious”;
DIFFERENCES
Birth to an aged & sterile woman
Zechariah responded in
incredulity
John was to prepare for the Lord,

Ann. of coming of Jesus by Gabriel
The name is given by Gabriel: Jesus was given a name which means “savior”;

Birth to a virgin

Mary responded in submission
Jesus was the Lord would reign forever.

Gabriel declared that the one to Come will come declaring an answer for barrenness
“Filled with HS” –first person to be described as filled with HS “from birth”
This baby boy would be a forerunner, preaching repentance, purifying the hearts of people, creating a desire and expectancy for the gospel of Jesus Christ which would follow.
• Turning towards God
• Family reconciliation
• God has not forgotten and will work in power
• Voice of God will again speak (reflects Malachi’s prophecy)
Mal. 4:5-6: “See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the parents to their children, and the hearts of the children to their parents; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction.”

John the Baptist came declaring an answer for Barrenness:
• God will come in his time, not ours
Why God waited 400 years after Malachi, I don’t know. Why God waited until Zech & Eliza were well beyond child-bearing years, I don’t know. Why Mother Teresa had to live out the last 40-years of her life in a spiritual desert, I don’t know. Why God allows barren times to go on and on in our lives, I don’t know. But I DO KNOW That God will come in his time and not ours.
God’s delays are not necessarily His denials. God’s, “Wait” does not necessarily imply, “No.” He may simply be saying, “Not right now.”
So, rather than letting His delays cause doubt, let them cause growth in your life. During the wait, experience to the fullest what trusting Christ really means. Look for what he is trying to expose about you and to you in the barren years.
The summer drought of 2007 allowed scientists and archaeologists in Florida to look through a window into the state’s past and uncover hidden treasures just below the surface of Lake Okeechobee.
Okeechobee is the nation’s second-largest freshwater lake wholly within the continental United States, second only to Lake Michigan. Because of the drought, the lake hit its lowest level on record. In some areas the shoreline receded more than a mile, creating areas of dry lakebed where historical artifacts have been uncovered, with some dating back 500 years or more.
Pottery shards, arrowheads, weaving tools, and pendants now lay on top of the dry ground, providing clues about the Native Americans that lived in the area hundreds of years ago. Evidence of the Florida tourism and fishing industries also lurk nearby, including a fishing trawler from 1904 that probably sank during a hurricane in 1928 and evidence of paddleboats that once ferried tourists around the area.
All these items have rested just beneath the surface of the water for many years. It took a drought to bring them out into the light of day again.
Spiritual droughts are not fun, to say the least. But the trials and moments of doubt that come during personal drought can reveal many things about us and to us.

• The power of God is the only answer for barrenness
Barrenness is seldom solved by human effort. Usually we have tried to do what we knew to do before we recognized the barrenness.
If we know what God wants us to do…we need to obey.
But if we have done all that we know God is asking us to do, we simply have rely on him and look for the fruit that he is seeking to bear or what he is trying to expose through this barrenness.

• God wants to
o Restore that which robs us of dignity.
Zechariah and Elizabeth had lost their dignity. Children were seen as a blessing from the Lord—which they are, but childlessness was seen as a curse, which I would reject as not necessarily a correct corollary.
But their dignity was gone. They had been robbed of their hope. To feel abandoned is the greatest barrenness of all.
Friday night Loretta and I watched “August Rush”, a terrific movie about a musical prodigy orphan who is seeking to find his parents. After running away from the orphanage, Evan Tyler falls in with a group of street kids in NYC that is led by Robin Williams who plays a character kind of like Fagan in Oliver Twist, who wants to use Evan’s gift to make himself rich.
One of the few times I ever saw Robin Williams play an evil character.
But when Robin Williams’ character, Wizard, feel himself losing his grip of influence on Even, he seeks to rob Evan of hope: “You are all alone. There is no one looking for you! Your parents are dead.”
To be robbed of hope robs us of dignity.
The angel promised Zachariah that he personally would have joy and gladness and that many would rejoice at the birth of his son. But not all. Eventually this baby grew to manhood and was beheaded for speaking out against the sins of the king. Nevertheless, according to the angel, many were to rejoice at the birth of John the Baptist.
Did many (or any) rejoice at your birth? If nobody rejoiced at or about your birth, then you’ve missed your inheritance. Certainly John was special, but remember what Jesus said about his cousin, John: “Among those born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist, but he who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he” (Luke 7:28). If you are in the kingdom of God then you are meant to be a greater source of blessing than John.
TALK ABOUT RESTORED DIGNITY!

o Give us the restoration of our homes.
More than anything else Zechariah & Elizabeth wanted a child.
The angel says that others will know that John is of God because he will “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children.” In other words, there will be family reconciliation. I consider that a good test of the presence of the Spirit in any age. If you want to know whether or not you are filled with the Holy Spirit, examine the emotional climate of your family.
Authentic love between family members is one sign of God’s presence. The bad news is that the real you is the person you are at home with your family. You may perform well at church and on the job, but the real test comes in how you treat the people you live with every day. That’s somewhat frightening. But when God’s Spirit is at work, the parents are reconciled to their children, according to the angel’s promise.
Reality, love, openness, and acceptance within the family structure are the proof of an authentic work of the Spirit. The angel promises that through John’s ministry there will be revival and renewal in the home.

o God wants to…give us something too good to be true.
Think of the dialogue: The angel tells Zachariah that he and Elizabeth are going to have a son. Zachariah argues that he is an old man. The angel pulls rank. He says, “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God.” In other words, “God sent me. How dare you argue with me?”
Zachariah could not believe the good news, chiefly because of his age. I love the story of the man in his nineties who went to his doctor with knee trouble. The doctor said, “At your age, what do you expect?” “I expect you to fix this knee,” was the reply; “my other knee’s the same age, and it works fine.” Our age can be a barrier, whatever age we are, and we can believe we are restricted because of it. Zachariah’s age was not a factor in his ability to carry out God’s purposes.
If an angel said to you, “Your prayer is heard,” what would it mean for you? What is the “too good to be true” news in your life? You may have given up believing God can bring it about. You may think you’re too old to start something new and exciting. Remember that people in their nineties have written plays and governed nations. Perhaps you have been praying about your loneliness. You are single and well past the age of expecting to marry. I had a wedding invitation recently from somebody well past the accepted age. It said, “Celebrate with me. I have found my true love.” And that message gladdened my heart. Whatever it is that might seem too good to be true for you, remember Zacharias.

INVITATION
A farmer once told me that a watermelon seed is able to reproduce itself two hundred thousand times. That tiny seed draws power from the earth to become a great, green watermelon. In the same sense, God can use a single life—John’s or yours, or mine—to reproduce blessings for countless others.
3. When God intervenes, His surprises are for His glory and for our ultimate good. Like Zacharias, you may pray a long time for something only to have God answer your prayers in an unusual and unexpected way. How would you react? Would you doubt His ability to do the impossible after so many years of waiting? Instead, be like Elizabeth, who accepted God’s gift graciously, even though it came later than she hoped. It may be a surprise to you, but to God, it’s just a part of His sovereign plan.

The beginning of the Old Covenant was marked by barrenness turned to fruitfulness—Abraham & Sarah. The end of the Old Covenant was, likewise, marked by barrenness turned to fruitfulness-Zechariah & Elizabeth.

Barrenness

Submitted by Hugh Poland; source: “Beneath the Water: A Window to History,” Jeffrey Kofman, ABC News (9-13-07)

Preach Like It May Their Last
By Peter Mead on Stage 8 – Message Detail
If you are preaching today, it is tempting to be caught up in your own world. Concerned about your presentation, the details of the sermon, even the peripheral details that you didn’t delegate to someone more passionate about them. But know this – today’s sermon may be the last some of those people ever hear.
The tired teenager who is gaining the freedom to not have to come to church, but has not yet gained a sense of need for church. Today may be their last. The person who’s been coming for a while, but only fits in on the outside, by dressing right, yet on the inside is wracked with doubts and is tired of pretending. Today may be their last. The couple whose marriage is seconds away from complete train wreck and can’t keep up the show any longer. Today may be their last. The guy struggling with significant temptation who feels like he’ll cave in any day, but is currently painfully unaware of the waves of guilt that will follow. Today may be his last.
Today may be the last time some people in your congregation hear you preach. It may be their last sermon, their last Sunday morning at church. We’ve all heard evangelistic messages that point out the urgency of the occasion. “You may step out of here and be hit by a bus. Do not delay!” Let’s turn that urgency on ourselves for a moment. Some of them may die before next Sunday. But there are dozens of other reasons why you may not see them again. The reasons are important, but so is this sermon. How much more direct should it be? How much more relevant? How much more real should you be? How much more urgent?
This may be their last. Preach in a way that will make this sermon count.
Studies in Luke #3
Luke 1:5-25
A Case of Uncommon Devotion

David and Jonathan, Stephen and Joshua are very lovely and very popular biblical names. Not so with Zacharias in our culture. However this was one of the most common and popular priestly names in Israel. It just simply means “God remembers,” It was a name of hope. As we mentioned last week, for four hundred years God had been silent. The continuing line of priests maintained the hope in Israel that one day Messiah would come, break through as the Sun of righteousness with healing in His wings.

Zacharias’ wife was Elisabeth her name simply means, “His oath?’ When we put the two names together we find they are very appropriate “God remembers His oath!” When did God take an oath? Psalm 89:34-37 records God’s oath: “My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah?” God swore an oath to David that one of his descendants would have an eternal reign. Christ is that descendant. “God remembers His oath!” God is ready to break through into human history after 400 years of silence.
It was when righteousness appeared to be a forgotten virtue, God began to work. It is well to remember that often the darkest hour is just before the dawn. God began to work with one man and his wife. Although Zacharias was a common name, yet this man was most uncommon. It was in the darkest hours of the Herodian reign, that we are introduced to a couple who walked against the trend of the times. “And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.”

I feel this is one of those marriages solemnized in Heaven? “Both of them were upright and devout,” They were both walking in the same direction, for the same destination, shared the same communion. For they enjoyed household salvation. There is much we could say just here.

Let me stop and mention first of all this fact reflects a decision they once made. This is directed to young people. You are at an impressionable age. Many of you are finding your life’s partner. Make sure they are going in the same direction and enjoy the same salvation. It is disobedience for a Christian to marry a non Christian.

The second thing I would like to mention reflects delight and the joy of household salvation. Some of you are Christians and your partner is not. There is a division in this respect. First be sure the Bible defends your marriage. It not only instructs us to keep on praying and living for the Lord but God says he sanctifies the unsaved partner – makes him or her a candidate for salvation.

Can I appeal to those who are the unsaved partners in a relationship. You love your wife or husband but you are not walking in the same direction. If that does not trouble you can I just remind you of the different destinations. Heaven and hell. Heaven is characterized by reunion. Hell is characterized by remorse. Heaven by happiness – hell by its horrors. Hell is all that heaven is not. Don’t you think that if you were prepared to share your life with the one you love you would think of sharing eternity with him or her. I am not advocating that there are marriages in heaven – that is another matter. But there is a heaven and there is a hell.

Thirdly, this reflects the devotion of this household. Zacharias and Elisabeth were devoted. They loved the Lord for they walked in all His commandments. They were not perfect. They sinned but repented and kept on walking with God. What a happy home.

You would think so. “But they had no children, for Elizabeth was barren, and both were well-on in years.” Although they walked with God yet shadowing the life of Zacharias and Elizabeth were the bleak clouds of sorrow and shame.

We are presented here with one of the strange anomalies of life which have challenged the righteous throughout the ages. Why is it when we walk with God that certain things happen. I wish I had all the answers.

To be childless was practically a disgrace for a Hebrew woman, and Elisabeth had no children. No parental pride swelled their hearts with joy. There was only emptiness and barrenness. Any involuntarily childless couple can understand Zacharias and Elizabeth’s silent sorrow as time slowly erased their hopes of pregnancy. To make matters worse, a social and spiritual stigma was attached to childlessness in those days. It was said by the Jewish Rabbis said that seven people were excommunicated from God and the list began, “A Jew who has no wife, or a Jew who has a wife and who has no child.” Childlessness was a valid ground for divorce.

Sufficient to say this that in spite of the darkness of the times, they walked with God. In spite of the derision of society, they walked with God. In spite of the difficulties of times, they walked with God. There was not blame accorded to God and no backsliding away from God. What a couple. They were characterized by devotion.

1. Zacharias’ Devotion as a Priest

A Priest was a minister who looked after the upkeep of the Temple. In Zacharias’ time, the priesthood bulged with more than twenty thousand members divided into twenty-four divisions, and “each division was on duty twice a year, for a week on each occasion.” During one of Zacharias’ weeks of temple duty, he, by “lot – or by chance,” was chosen to burn the incense.

To be the offering priest was an honour which some priests never received and none were permitted more than once. As the sacrificed animal burned outside, the offering priest poured incense over a live coal on the altar within the Holy Place. As the smoke arose, he prayed some set prayer for the blessing, peace, and messianic redemption of Israel.5

Zacharias had looked forward to this moment his entire life. All alone in the sacred chamber, the Holy Place, he carefully observed each step of the liturgy, while “the whole multitude of the people were in prayer outside” (v.10)

Inside, as Zacharias approached the altar. Before him rose the richly embroidered and colourful curtain of the Holy of Holies. On one side was the table of shewbread and on the other the lights burned on the golden candlestick. Waves of heat rose from the glowing embers. Impassioned prayers flowed out of his priestly soul-prayers for his people, prayers for himself. With one motion, he lifted the censer and let its contents spill over the coals, enveloping him and his petitions in a billowing, ambrosial cloud.

Suddenly, through the mist,

an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the altar of incense. (v.11)

(a) In his duties he was faithful

(b) In his doubts he was fearful

2. Zacharias’ Devotion as a Parent

He is dumb – It did not take long to offer incense but it does take time with angels! Normally when the ministering priest emerged he led the people in praise. He could not for he was stricken dumb. Unbelief is always dumb.

Zacharias was living in the backwash of his own limitations, and he couldn’t foresee the marvels that God wanted to do for him if he only believed. Using the emphatic first person in Greek, ego, Luke boldfaces Zacharias’ doubt-“For I am an old man.” But, employing the same word, ego, the angel silences the old man’s excuse . . . and his tongue.

“I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God; and I have been sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. And behold, you shall be silent and unable to speak until the day when these things take place, because you did not believe my words, which shall be fulfilled in their proper time.”

He is delighted
The son of Elisabeth and Zacharias was to be a Nazarite. One of the things the Nazarite vowed was that he would not drink strong drink or wine. He was to find his joy in the Holy Spirit and in God. That is the reason Paul, in Ephesians 5:18, says. “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Get your joy from God, not from a bottle. There are a lot of bottle-babies today. I am not speaking of crib babies but of adult babies hanging over a bar. And there are some Christians today who have to be pepped up and hepped up in order to face life. We need to recognize that the Holy Spirit of God can give us the strength to face life.

Zacharias’ Devotion as a Prophet 1:68-79
Zacharias prophecy takes the form of prose and song. It is generally known as the Benedictus

His declaration about the Saviour
His declaration about the his son
(c) His declaration about salvation.

When it comes to understanding the ways God works, Zacharias and Elizabeth’s story teaches three principles.

1. Our impossibilities are the platforms upon which God does His best work. Have you begun to lose hope that a certain family member will change his or her ways? If you’re unemployed, do you sometimes wonder whether you will ever find a job? Remember, nothing frustrates God. When the night looks the bleakest, He does His best work. It may take time, though, so we must also remember this next principle.

2. God’s delays are not necessarily His denials. God’s, “Wait” does not necessarily imply, “No.” He may simply be saying, “Not right now.” So, rather than letting His delays cause doubt, let them cause growth in your life. During the wait, experience to the fullest what trusting Christ really means.

3. When God intervenes, His surprises are for His glory and for our ultimate good. Like Zacharias, you may pray a long time for something only to have God answer your prayers in an unusual and unexpected way. How would you react? Would you doubt His ability to do the impossible after so many years of waiting? Instead, be like Elizabeth, who accepted God’s gift graciously, even though it came later than she hoped. It may be a surprise to you, but to God, it’s just a part of His sovereign plan.

SEEK A FRESH TOUCH FROM GOD

Luke 1:5-25

________________________________________
INTRODUCTION

a. During this Christmas season we have been challenged to Love our neighbors and family members and to honor the Overlooked in our culture.

b. On this Christmas Sunday, I want you to focus on your personal relationship with the Lord. As you focus there ask yourself where you need a fresh touch from the Savior.

c. We each have spiritual needs and must ask for a fresh touch. The Savior who healed the sick, gave sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf and life to the lifeless – This same Savior wants to touch your life today. Jesus did ministry close up – He touched people and today I believe He wants to touch you in a fresh way.

d. The presence of the Savior changes things.

1. Lee Strobel, in The Case for Christ writes “How can I tell you the difference God has made in my life? My daughter Allison was 5 years old when I became a follower of Jesus, and all she had known in those five years was a dad who was profane and angry. I remember I came home one night and kicked a hole in the living room wall just out of anger with life. I am ashamed to think of the times Allison hid in her room to get away from me. Five months after I gave my life to Jesus Christ, that little girl went to my wife and said, “Mommy, I want God to do for me what he’s done for Daddy.” At age 5! What was she saying? She’d never studied the archeological evidence [regarding the truth of the Bible]. All she knew was her dad used to be this way: hard to live with. But more and more her dad is becoming this way. And if that is what God does to people, then sign her up. At age 5 she gave her life to Jesus. God changed my family. He changed my world. He changed my eternity

2. In 1973 while on the staff of Campus Crusade for Christ, I had the privilege of hosting Corrie Ten Boom in So. Calif. – Her story is found in the book “The Hiding Place”

a. Corrie writes about her family and their imprisonment in a Nazi Prison camp

b. Her sister, Betsy, teaches her a spiritual truth that carried her through life. During the torture and humiliation of the prison camp Betsy would remind Corrie that, “There is no pit so deep that God is not yet deeper still.” The believer is never out of reach of God’s touch

c. Betsy and her father died in the camp – Corrie survived and told her story of faith in Jesus Christ to people all over the world

d. Years later while in Germany to tell her story to the people who tortured her and her family there was a knock on her door – she opened and there stood the man responsible for her family’s death

e. The flash of the past was halted when the man said that he had become a Christian and knew that God had forgiven him but he was asking Corrie to forgive him.

f. Corrie said it was only God’s touch that enabled her to forgive

e.

f. Jesus Christ is the most important person in history and he wants to make a difference in you – He wants to touch your life with forgiveness and purpose and peace and life.

g. Our scripture today tells of one who had an unexpected touch from God that made an incredible difference in his life.

I. ZECHARIAH IS TOUCHED BY GOD

a. Some background on Zechariah and Elizabeth is necessary.

1. This couple have served the Lord in the temple faithfully for years. They have always wanted children but could not because Elizabeth was barren.

2. In their culture children were a sign of God’s blessing, some of you are probably wondering just what kind of blessing they are, and not having children was a sign of God’s displeasure with you. Now that is not true but it was the thinking of their day.

3. There are people today who have the same mistaken thought. And that kind of thinking puts incredible pressure and strain on these couples.

4. It is true in this story and it was true with Abraham and Sarah – God has plans that are greater than theirs and will work them out in His time – Zechariah and Elizabeth were faithful and God gave to them John – the forerunner of Christ.

b. While doing his routine service in the temple an angel appeared to Zechariah and told him that his prayers had been heard and that Elizabeth would bear him a son and he was to name the son, John. Zechariah could not believe this since Elizabeth was barren and they were both up in years and beyond childbearing age.

c. As a sign to Zechariah that the Lord had spoken this and it would come true he was mad unable to speak – this condition would last until he saw the fulfillment of the promise

d. When John is born (verses 57ff) and Zechariah names him John, his mouth is opened and he begins to praise the Lord – His song is recorded in the last section of chapter one.

e. God speaks to Zechariah and because of his doubts he cannot speak until the child is born. When the Lord touches him again and restores his voice he is a changed person and cannot help but sing God’s praise.

f. God’s touch changed Zechariah and it can change you, too.

II. GOD’S TOUCH BRINGS

a. PARDON from sin and freedom from slavery to sin

1. Scripture – Old is passed away – all is become new

2. Pardon not effective unless received and accepted

3. Our sins are pardoned and we are set free from our past

4. God’s touch brings Pardon

b. PURPOSE for life

1. My generation was called the restless generation – followed by the aimless generation – and now it is a generation wanting to make a difference again

a. The whole “retro” thing is about going back to some solid things

2. This is a world where anything goes and any “truth” is as good as any other – No moral moorings –

3. Suicide # 2 killer among young – Alcohol, drug and gambling abuse on the rise

4. Looking for something to fill lives and give purpose –

Pascal – There is a God shaped vacuum…

5. God’s Touch brings Purpose

c. PEACE – St. Augustine – Our lives are restless…

1. Jesus promised Peace – not like the world gives but real peace

a. Horatio Spafford – After family died in shipwreck wrote “It is well with my soul”

b. Job could say – “Though He slay me yet will I trust Him”

2. It is a peace that guards our hearts – Phil 4:6-7

3. God’s touch brings Peace

d. POWER – for living as God intended life to be lived

1. Think of greatest display of power in world – Niagara Falls – Volcano –

2. Something man has accomplished – Man into space

1. Power generated in the engines – God placed in eagle

3. Ephesians says same power God used to raise Christ from the dead He has placed in us

a. Now that is power

III. GOD WANTS TO TOUCH YOU

a. What is it that changed Zechariah and Lee Strobel and Corrie Ten Boom – What is it that changed a young rebel into your pastor – It was the touch of God in a life and nothing else.

b. Isn’t it time you experienced His touch in your life.

c. The message of Christmas is this – It was announced by the angel,

“Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I bring you the most joyful news ever announced, and it is for everyone! [11] The Savior–yes, the Messiah, the Lord–has been born tonight in Bethlehem!” (Luke 2:10-11)

d. Many folks want some kind of sign but God has done all He can do – He gave His Son to pay the price for your sins and mine. He offers pardon, purpose, peace and power through the touch of His Son in your life – What more can He do. – You must respond by giving your life to him.

e. Bill Bright has said, “Many people experience spiritual defeat because they have never committed themselves to the Lord Jesus Christ totally and irrevocably. I have never known anyone to be used of God in any significant way, or to walk for long in the joy and excitement of the resurrection of our Lord, who has not signed over the title deed of his life to Christ.”

1. Some of you have been Christians for years and feel estranged or far from God and His touch – Today you can receive a fresh touch – What a gift to receive at Christmas.

f. Others of you need to help us help others to experience God’s touch by making this our church home and doing ministry with us here in Wheeling.

IT’S GOD’S TOUCH – RECEIVE IT TODAY AS THE CHOIR SINGS OUR INVITATION HYMN

Answering the tough ‘why?’
For those struggling to get pregnant, chemicals are just one potential cause
By Tony Davis
ARIZONA DAILY STAR
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 12.01.2007

At age 37, Tucsonan Erica Koerber knows she probably won’t get pregnant. Blame the hormones in her body — and maybe, just maybe, the chemicals in her environment.
Koerber, chief operating officer for a local defense contractor, has premature ovarian failure, a disease striking 1 in every 100 women ages 30 to 40.
She also has polycystic ovarian syndrome, which strikes one in every 10 women of childbearing age. Such women often have high levels of male hormones, frequently missed or irregular periods, or many small cysts in their nerves.
The lists of possible causes of these ailments is long. Premature ovarian failure can be caused by autoimmune disorders, genetics, thyroid dysfunction, viral infections and eating disorders, to name a few, says the American Pregnancy Association.
But increasingly, researchers around the globe are also looking at toxic chemicals, many of them commonly used at home, as potential causes of these and other ailments that make it difficult or impossible for women to get pregnant.
Before Koerber read several reports on fertility, the thought that chemicals could be causing her problems hadn’t entered her mind. She was more likely to suspect genetically engineered or chemically altered food, such as growth hormones added to chicken and cattle.
Now, she said, “My problem could be environmental. My problem could be generational. My mother and my grandmother had breast cancer, and breast cancer is endocrine-related. My problem is hormonal-based and endocrine-based.”
Difficulty in getting pregnant
It’s not clear from studies whether women’s infertility has risen or fallen over the past few decades. But a noticeable increase has occurred since the 1980s in impaired fecundity, a related problem involving physical difficulty in getting pregnant, federal statistics show.
Decreased fertility and reproductive-tract abnormalities have been documented in wildlife species including birds, fish, shellfish and mammals that have been exposed to a wide array of chemicals, including many that are commonly known as endocrine disruptors. Those are chemicals that interfere with the body’s natural hormones.
Human studies on such issues are much rarer.
Still, in 2005, a group of 40 U.S. scientists met in San Francisco and reported that some chemical exposures evidently cause problems to the human reproductive system, although toxins aren’t likely to be the only factor.
Age, heredity, lifestyle, underlying disease, nutrition and reproductive tract infections are other likely contributors.
“What proportion of infertility today is environmentally induced is a question of profound human, scientific and public policy significance,” said their report, adding that the link seems to be stronger than most people realize.
Hard to Pinpoint One Cause

Symptoms like Koerber’s are consistent with those that could be caused by endocrine disruptors, said one of those scientists, Shanna Swan, who has conducted major studies on fertility issues and endocrine disruptors.
But it usually is not possible to pin a specific cause to problems in a single person because so many potential causes exist, said Swan, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology and environmental medicine at the University of Rochester in New York.
And an official with the Tucson clinic that has treated Koerber for her infertility problems said she believes that far more serious causes of infertility exist than chemicals. They include obesity, lack of exercise, stress, smoking and sexually transmitted diseases.
“Do I think that toxins can play a role in infertility? You betcha,” said Holly Hutchison, managing partner and a geneticist for the Reproductive Health Center here.
But she said there are bigger factors: “If we had a society that could get rid of its foul habits and become healthier and less stressed overall, I think you would see a reduction.”
Koerber said she was shocked to learn a year ago of her fertility problems. She does not smoke. She has exercised as much as three hours a day and feels healthy and youthful. She tries to eat healthfully, living as a near-vegetarian relying heavily on whole grains, fruits and vegetables, mostly organic.
For many years, she had gone to annual checkups in which doctors told her she was in excellent health and was a good bet to get pregnant.
Now, after years have passed with no pregnancy, Koerber and her partner, John Lombardi, might get eggs donated, and have screened potential donors. If that doesn’t work, the couple will consider adoption.
Koerber took a 10-week mind-body fertility program with eight other infertile women this fall, in hopes of boosting her chances through stress management and relaxation techniques. She was shocked to learn that at age 37, she was the second-oldest person there and that many of the women were in their 20s.
Younger women affected
But if national statistics are any indication, the participants’ ages were no surprise. Over the past two decades, impaired fecundity — infertility’s first cousin — has risen most rapidly among women under 25, about 42 percent from 1982 to 1995, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says. That has triggered widespread concern that problems with human reproduction are growing.
But Hutchison, of Tucson’s Reproductive Health Center, said that if a trend exists toward increased child-bearing problems for women, it is fueled primarily by women waiting until they are older to conceive.
Also, she said, “Now, there is more awareness. If people are not pregnant in six months, they go see more people, they report it,” Hutchison said.
Array of studies raise questions
In the 1990s and this decade, a flood of studies raised questions about human fertility.
Early on came warnings of declining sperm counts, based on separate reviews of dozens of studies showing that sperm counts had dropped 50 percent throughout the Western world over five decades.
The studies were controversial, however, because not all the data were gathered in the same manner, leaving Stanford University to say that scientific uncertainty remains.
This year, researchers reported 1 percent annual declines in testosterone counts in men in Massachusetts, Denmark and Finland for up to 50 years.
Researchers in Denmark and Finland theorize that rising testicular-cancer rates in Western nations are also part of a broader pattern of apparently increasing male-reproductive problems.
Also this year, more than 400 scientists, health-care professionals, clinicians, community group representatives and others gathered in San Francisco for a summit on environmental challenges to fertility and reproductive health.
Organizers listed 20 compounds or classes of chemicals as having effects on animal or human reproductive problems. Effects include chromosome abnormalities, miscarriages, decreased sperm quality, fetal loss, menstrual irregularities, hormonal changes and altered sex ratios.
“The way we thought about it before is that one chemical causes one outcome,” said Tracey Woodruff, an obstetrics and gynecology professor at the University of California-San Francisco. Now, they’re reconsidering. “If you get exposed at a susceptible period, when the reproductive system is forming,” there may be more risk that numerous, related problems will result, she said.
A federal health official is sympathetic to the theory that chemicals can lead to infertility, but said there hasn’t been much money in recent years for the research needed to pin it down.
It is clear that environmental exposures can affect a child’s development, as well as the reproductive years for males and females, said Jerrold Heindel of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina.
“The more data we get, the bigger the effect of environment seems to have on diseases in general,” said Heindel, a scientific program administrator. “I believe the same will be true for infertility.”
● Contact reporter Tony Davis at 806-7746 or tdavis@azstarnet.com.

Laptop on the Lap Leads to Infertility
Techtree News Staff
Nov 28, 2007

Lugging around a snazzy laptop might add to your ‘cool quotient’, but balancing it on your lap may be the most ‘uncool’ thing to do.

Researchers from the State University of New York have found that heat generated by laptops raises the risk of infertility in men who perch their laptops on their laps.

Leader of the research pack, Prof Yefim Sheynkin, explained that working on laptops in ‘laptop position’ causes considerable rise in scrotal temperatures because of peculiarities of posture and exposure to heat.

The researchers arrived at these results after studying 29 healthy men, aged between 21- and 35- years of age, for two- one hour sessions within the confines of a climate-controlled room.

The men were made to dress in casual attire, and get acclimatized to the temperature of the special room by standing in it for about 15 minutes, before they were given working and non-working laptops.

All 29 men were asked to balance their computers on their laps. The researchers removed the non-working laptops, while asking those men to hold position for the rest of the session.

Meanwhile, men with working laptops were allowed to keep the laptops in ‘laptop position’ throughout the session.

The researchers continued recording the men’s scrotal temperatures every three minutes. Besides, temperatures showing on the bottom of the working laptops were monitored.

The findings all but revealed that scrotal temperatures rose in both cases: working, and non-working laptops. However, the working laptops prompted a greater increase in scrotal temperatures — about 2.7 degrees Celsius — which is quite enough to cause infertility.

So all ye men, think one more time before you pull that ‘oh-so-cool’ laptop balancing number!