Liz Curtis Higgs: What’s your impossible? Isn’t there something you’re saying to yourself, oh, but God could never do that? But the Bible says so clearly God can do anything.
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John Fuller: Today. We’ll anticipate Christmas with Liz Curtis Higgs in a way that will bolster your faith. Your host is Focus president and author Jim Daly, and I’m John Fuller.
Jim Daly: John, this is a time of year when it’s important to reflect on the principles of our faith, and what better way to anticipate Christmas than to consider the miraculous events that led up to the birth of Jesus Christ. There are biblical truths in these narratives that we can apply to our lives today. And our guest is Liz Curtis Higgs, who gave this message to our staff at a Christmas chapel gathering. Liz is an outstanding Bible teacher. She’s known for the depth of her research and she’s a bestselling author as well.
John: Yeah. And she is such a gifted speaker. Um, Liz wrote a series call The Bad Girls of the Bible. Yep. That was immensely popular. And today she’s bringing some of the content from her more recent book, The Women of Christmas. And of course, we have that here at the ministry, just call 800, the letter A, and the word FAMILY, or you’ll find it at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And here’s Liz Curtis Higgs speaking to our staff, as you said Jim, on today’s Focus on the Family.
Liz: Well today in our short time together, I’m really excited to speak to you about two different women in the Bible, from different ages and different stages. They had a really unusual thing in common, they were both pregnant by surprise. The first, Elizabeth, wife of a priest named Zachariah. Now they were very righteous people. You know these people. These are those good folks at church, they’ve been there forever, every time the door is open, they’re there. They do everything right. But the Bible says, but Luke 1:7. I always pay attention to the buts of the Bible, they’re important. Some are bigger than others, but I, uh, (laughs) but the Bible says in comparison, in contrast, they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.
Liz: So, this is like a triple whammy. They don’t have kids, they can’t have kids, and they’re old. Oh, doesn’t your heart just break for this righteous couple? So, Zachariah has drawn lots and he is going to get to go into the holy place to light the incense and pray. Priests were lucky if they got to do this once in a lifetime, so it was a big deal. There he is standing before the altar, when suddenly the angel Gabriel shows up. He said what angels in the New Testament usually say, “Don’t be afraid, fear not Zachariah.” Now that would be the scary part, fear not I know your name would be scary. And you know Zachariah had every reason in the world to be nervous. It’s been a quiet 400 years since we’ve had any prophets or any angelic appearances, it’s been quiet on the heavenly front. And now here’s an angel. Look what he says, “Your prayer has been heard.”
Liz: Now I suspect Zachariah prayed a lot of things, but what would been the one prayer of his heart? A son, a son, “Your prayer has been heard.” Don’t you sometimes wonder when you pray, God, are you listening? Don’t you hear? Yes, he does. Your prayer guaranteed has been heard. And he says, “Your wife, Elizabeth will bare you a son.” So not only has your prayer been heard, it will be answered. “And” I love this part, “You’re to call him John.” So, none of that business about what should we call the kid, it’s decided for them. Isn’t that fabulous. You’re gonna call him John, we know him as John the Baptist. Then Gabriel tells him all this amazing stuff about his son, “People will rejoice because of his birth. He great in the sight of the Lord, he will be filled with a holy spirit, even before he is born.”
Liz: And Zacharias’ response should have been wow, (laughs) or at least thank you or praise God or something. He says, “How can I be sure of this?” (laughs) Well, he’s an angel (laughs), and Gabriel stands in the presence of the almighty, so I think he’s fairly trustworthy. “How can I be sure of this?” See, he doesn’t believe it can done. He wants proof. How can I be sure? And he explains his two, two big reasons to doubt, “I’m an old man, and my wife is,” this is so gentle, so well, well worded, “well along in years.” Isn’t that wonderful? (laughs) It’s just guys you need to remember that phrase, well along in years. Do you know the LRV on this? Do you have that translation in your bookstore? LRV, Lizzy revised version, (laughs), my old lady is an old lady, is what he’s saying. See, from his point of view, this would be impossible. Even Gabriel the angel saying it, even this promise from heaven, he isn’t buying it because he doesn’t believe.
Liz: And if we’re honest, when we pray, we don’t always pray believing either. We say, Lord, will you please do this? But in our hearts, we’re saying, I’m not sure you can, but I hope you will, but I’m really not sure you can. My prayers are sometimes filled with unbelief. You would think Zachariah would think back to another couple in the Old Testament, in the same situation, older man, older woman, no baby, Abraham and Sarah. It was gonna take a miracle, you’d think you’d remember that one. When the Lord told Abraham that Sarah was gonna have a baby, the narrator, the biblical story reminds us, I love this, Sarah was past the age of childbearing. Also translated ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. In other words, she was post, post, post-menopausal. (laughs) Her eggs were cooked. It was done. (laughs)It was not going to happen.
Liz: Conception just wouldn’t be difficult with Sarah it would be biologically impossible. God loves the impossible. God’s just getting started when you start with the impossible. One too hard for Sarah, she gave birth at 90 and she said, “God has brought me laughter.” Oh, that’s so true in so many ways, Isaac of course means he laughs, but more than that, God has restored Sarah’s joy. I’ve always pictured her with an AARP card in one hand and a pacifier in the other, (laughs) just shouting out to anybody who would listen, “God can do anything. Nothing is impossible for God.” Well, just like Sarah, Zachariah’s wife Elizabeth conceived. And of course, because he did not believe he didn’t talk for the whole of her pregnancy. Have mercy (laughs) from God.
Liz: She remains secluded, you know, for the first five months, I am wondering if she didn’t wanna wait until that amazing moment in a woman’s life when you first feel what they call the quickening, the sense of life. Then the Bible says, “In the sixth month,” that’s not the sixth month of the year, it’s not June, it’s the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy. Imagine this God is measuring time by a woman’s growing womb, incredible. God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, the town in Galilee, busy guy. Went to see Zachariah, now he’s visiting Mary, little Galilee, less than 100 people. He went to see a virgin pledged to a man named Joseph, pledged, betrothed, as good as married. They could not break that short of a divorce. The angel went to her. I doubt she was looking for him. I don’t think she was scanning the skies of Nazareth; I think she was doing what women did back then, she baked bread and she lit her lamp and she pressed olives.
Liz: She was just good Joan about her life like we do, like right now. You’re just doing what you do on a Monday afternoon not thinking about what God is up to right now, but he’s up to something. He is doing things in your life you can’t even imagine. They may years in coming, months in coming, weeks in coming, or could be tonight. But God is busy. The angel shows up and says, “Greetings, earthling.” I just love that. That’s the LRV, it’s actually hail in the King James, “You who are highly favored,” that means full of grace. And he said to her, “The Lord is with you.” This is very different than may the Lord be with you, that’s like a blessing, this is a statement of fact, the Lord is with you.
Liz: No wonder she was shocked. Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be. She was thoroughly shaken; she was very perplexed. The LRV says she was freaked out. And you know what the angel said next, “Fear not Mary, do not be afraid.” Here’s the cool thing in the New Testament, when an angel says fear not, do not be afraid, what comes next is always good news. What you wanna worry about is an angel that shows up and doesn’t say fear not (laughs). Then you be afraid, you be very afraid, okay? (laughs) But when they say fear, not it’s ’cause good news is coming. “You have found favor, grace with God, you will conceive.” Do you see any option here, might happen, might not? “You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you were to call him Jesus.”
Liz: Now every mother thinks her child is special, we do, “But this child will be great,” the angel said, “Called the son of the most high, the Lord God will give him the throne of his father David. He’ll reign over Jacob’s descendants forever. His kingdom will never end.” And Mary says, “How will this be since I’m a virgin.” See the truth of the matter is Gabriel lost her way back at conceive. (laughs) She didn’t hear about all the other stuff; she was back at I’ll do what? Now you would think she’s doubting, that’s not doubted. She’s not asking for proof friend, she just wants to know, it’s a logical question, how? How’s this gonna happen? How can I be pregnant since I know no man? Legitimate question. I love how the angel answered her. The angel didn’t take her voice away, he answered her, “The holy spirit will come on you and the power of the most high will overshadow you.”
John: You’re listening to Liz Curtis Higgs on today’s episode of Focus on the Family. And you can get her book, The Women of Christmas, along with the CD of this broadcast, uh, to share or to play again when you stop by our website, focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. Let’s go ahead and return now to more from Liz Curtis Higgs.
Liz: I’d have so many questions, wouldn’t you have questions? Mary had one question. How she got her answer, the holy spirit and she believed. But then as a word of encouragement to her, ’cause isn’t God good, “Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was unable to conceive is in her sixth month. She who was unable, but God was able.” God loves to bless the barren. He does. Rebecca was barren and then she gave birth to Jacob, and Hannah was barren and then she gave birth to Samuel, and Rachel was barren and then she gave birth to Joseph. Friends, any barrenness in our lives, in any definition of barrenness, is God getting ready to do a miracle. These stories had to have the miraculous because we had to look at them and say only, only God.
Liz: We come to the most important verse, not only in the Christmas story, but I think in our own story, Luke, 1:37, “Nothing is impossible for God.” The NCV is, “God can do anything.” What’s your impossible? Isn’t there something you’re saying to yourself, oh, but God could never do that? There’s a relative that doesn’t know God, and you have just given up, it seems impossible. There’s a marriage that’s so destroyed it just seems impossible. There’s a friendship torn apart it seems impossible. You have friends who are unemployed for months it seems impossible. But the Bible says so clearly, God can do anything. It’s not about what we can do, it’s about what God can do. Jesus said, “With man, this is impossible but with God, all things are possible.” Mary was on board, Mary believed, “I am the Lord’s servant,” she said, “May your word to me be fulfilled.”
Liz: Friend, she was 12, 12, and we’re a little older than that. Except for the baby. Oh, I was hoping you’d call out to me. I love having a baby in the audience. See other people sometimes don’t. Let’s be honest, you look backing up, “Why did they bring a baby?” Even at Focus on the Family. (laughs) But I love having a baby’s cry because do you understand that’s how we sound to God. We think we’re so sophisticated, it’s really more like whaaaa. (laughs) That’s why the holy spirit needs to interpret for us. (laughs) It’s kind of pitiful. He sent Jesus as a baby who had no way to communicate but to cry, but his mother knew his voice, his mother knew what to do.
Liz: I had a woman come up to me with a surprise look in her once and she said, “You teach the Bible like you actually believe it.” (laughs) “Yeah, I do believe it. Cause I’m living proof that God can do anything.” When I first began speaking with women of faith, about three years ago, they had us all get together, all the speakers, they wanted us to kind of make sure we were all on the same page and kind of shape our messages. And so, I was sitting with some old friends and some new friends. And some of them knew my story, probably some did not. But when they said, “So it’s really good to have a strong opening line.” I said, “Okay. Um, before I met Jesus, I slept with three men in one night.” They said, “Oh my word, that would not be the one thing to say.” (laughs).
Liz: Listen dear ones (laughs), I don’t say this to shock you, I say this to show you that Jesus can do anything. 34 years ago, can I hear an amen on that from somebody? 34 years ago, I am the last woman you would’ve ever picked to speak at Focus on the Family, can we get serious about that? Wow. But God already had it planned. You didn’t know, I didn’t know, God already had planned. That’s the God we serve. He looks way down past the end of our lives and our children’s lives, he sees the big picture that we get a tiny glimpse of, but it is good friends, it is good.
Liz: I remember when I left work on a Friday, 34 years ago saying party, and I came in Monday morning saying praise the Lord, I’ve been baptized. People notice stuff like that. (laughs) And they said, “Liz, what kind of drugs were you doing this weekend? Because honestly this is wild.” I said, “Oh, it isn’t about a high, not that kind of high, it’s Jesus.” Really? Well, you can imagine my coworkers at a radio station, a secular station, they watched me like a hawk to see if I was different ’cause I said, I had the audacity to say I was a new creation. And so, they watched, and I guess they saw things changing. I remember getting my first Bible, I was so excited, I saved up. It was a big Ryrie study Bible, NASB, huge notes. I thought the fatter it was the more important, I got a big one and saved up for leather ’cause surely that was more holy. (laughs)
Liz: And I took it into work, and I would sit there at the station in the studio, and I’d have the Bible open, and I’d be reading verses for the first time, so excited. (laughs) And Alice our receptionist could see me through the glass, and she came in and said, “What are you reading?” I said, “Alice, it’s the Bible. Do you have one?” She said, “Not like yours.” (laughs) I said, “Well, if I, if I could get you a Bible, would you read it?” She said, “But can you get me one just like yours?” Just like mine, the big fat leather, I mean it was 50 bucks back when 50 bucks was 50 bucks. (laughs) But I saved up for Alice and I bought Alice the Bible just like mine, gave it to her and she said, “This is thrilling.” I said, “Now promise me you’ll read it.” She said, “Lizzie, I don’t know where to start, you’ve gotta teach me.”
Liz: Okay, so now I have Alice. I got a design for discipleship, um, little workbook, Navigator, still in print, and Alice and I went through that thing together. Friends, I stayed one week ahead, just in case she had questions. (laughs) I knew three verses, you know, I was like such a babe in Christ, but Alice was growing. She was getting it. I’d love to know what I said, I have no idea. It was God being God, not Liz being Liz. Then Jackie, another gal at the station peeked in and said, “What are you guys doing?” Alice said, “Oh, we’re studying the Bible, Liz can get you one.” (laughs) So Liz saved and bought Jackie a Bible. So now there’s the three of us, did I know what I was doing? Oh, I didn’t but God so did.
Liz: Finally, I invited them to my house for dinner because I just really wanted more time with them and, and, uh, understand, nobody comes to my house for the food, are you kidding? When I get near the stove, my kids go hot, hot, so you know, it was… It’s nobody ever comes to the food (laughs). And we are sitting there having our little Sunday dinner and Alice, bless her, is now in the kingdom and she says, “Oh Jackie, I went to a Christian bookstore yesterday. Did you know they have them? Y’all, you have to understand before you’re saved you, you walk right past them, you don’t even see ’em. But once your eyes have been opened,” she said, “Liz, all the books are about God.” I said, “I know, isn’t it incredible.” She said, “I saw this poster called footprints.” Okay, now I’m a believer by six months, now I’m very sophisticated I know all about footprints. I’m thinking, oh, for heavens sakes they have that on key chains. You know, I wasn’t so impressed. Oh, but see Jackie hadn’t heard it before.
Liz: So, when Alice is weeping now in the telling of two sets of footprints and then one set of footprints, she said, “Look, Jackie, look, he carries us. He carries us.” Jackie said, “Can we pray?” I’m like, “Yes, the food is bad, let’s pray right now.” Nothing to do with the food. Jackie said, oh, I forgot to mention she was Muslim. Oh, little minor detail to God. She said, “Dear God, I now realize you have been carrying me my whole life. I want what my friends have, and I figured it out, it’s you. It’s a relationship with you. That’s what I want.”
Liz: Well, friends, we lifted our heads, forget dinner, we leaped up. We were so excited we didn’t know what to do. I put on a record, vinyl record, round and black with hole in the middle (laughs) and you lift a needle on it. It was Sandi Patty and Larnelle Harris, remember? More than wonderful. And we sang all the words and didn’t know any of them. Y’all, we made them up. (laughs) Then Jackie was so excited she said, “Lizzie, Lizzie, take my picture, I think I looked different.” So, I got out a Polaroid camera. (laugh) If you’ve never seen one, they’re magical. The film spits out like a tongue. It sits there for a minute, you wait, you wait, you wait, you peel it back, the image comes up, and there was Jackie, a woman transformed. All I could think of was 2nd Corinthians 3:18, “But we all with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror, the glory of the Lord are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the spirit.”
Liz: When you sing glory, glory, hallelujah this Christmas, I want you to remember that that glory shines on the face of everyone who’s received his grace. May it be you my friend, Merry Christmas. Heavenly father, we just thank you so much. Your word is so alive we just try to run and keep up with it. Father, I pray that someone here received a truth they needed for this season of their life. A total blessing to be here Lord, may you be honored and glorified alone. In the name of your son who makes everything possible, amen and amen. Thank you so much.
John: We were so pleased to have Liz Curtis Higgs shared that message to the Focus on the Family team during a Christmas chapel, and I’m so glad we could share it with you today as well.
Jim: Yeah. What a great way to go into Christmas Eve tonight. And as Liz said, every single day, we have the opportunity to let the glory of the Lord shine through us. And that’s the verse she quoted from the New Testament, 2nd Corinthians 3:18. And that’s a really strong takeaway from this message. As a believer in Jesus Christ, we should reflect God’s grace and love to others, that’s basic. And maybe, like Liz and her friends, will look a bit different as a result.
John: And even just a smile can make a big difference in someone’s day.
Jim: That’s right. And providing that encouragement and hope is a big part of our mission here at Focus on the Family. We want to help you thrive in your walk with the Lord, in your marriage, and in your parenting responsibilities. And best of all, we get thousands of notes saying we really have helped. Here’s an example from Karen. She said, “As professional teachers, my husband and I thought parenting would be a breeze. But with three kids under the age of seven, it’s more like a hurricane (laughs).” That’s good. “We use the Focus on the Family broadcast and other resources from your ministry to guide the spiritual growth of our household. These tools are helpful as we try to keep our kids on the right track. Thanks so much for everything you do.”
John: I really like that feedback.
Jim: Isn’t it great? And of course, we thank the Lord and you, our supporters for making it possible for us to provide these resources to families like Karen’s. So let me encourage you to make a donation to Focus on the Family today, as we bring hope to families. And when you make a donation of any amount, uh, we can send you a copy of the book by Liz Curtis Higgs called the Women of Christmas, Experience the Season Afresh with Elizabeth, Mary, and Anna. And we didn’t hear about Anna’s story today, so that’s something to look forward to when you get the book. And remember now is a great time to give. Take advantage of our matching opportunity before it runs out. Your gift will be doubled making twice the impact.
John: Reach out today, donate online, and request the Women of Christmas at focusonthefamily.com/broadcast. And don’t forget that season five of our Christmas stories podcast is now available. Uh, tune in for heartwarming stories that will remind you of the real reason for the season. We’ll have a link for easy access on the website. I trust you enjoy this special holiday weekend as we celebrate together the birth of our savior and plan now to be with us on Monday, we’ll have a classic broadcast about the power of encouragement.
Florence Littauer: Every word that comes outta my mouth should be like a present, I should give you a present with my words.
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