He Turned Aside

Today’s reading is Acts 1.

Why was Judas replaced as an apostle? Have you ever noticed Peter’s reason? It was not because Judas had died. Apostles were not replaced at death (at least there is no biblical indication they were). No, Peter says they needed to choose someone “to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place.” Judas needed to be replaced because he gave up his place among the apostles. The fact is we still have apostles today. Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Thomas, Matthew, Bartholomew, James the Less, Simon, Thaddeaus, Matthias. Paul is one (perhaps a couple others depending on your view of a few passages). Of course, none of these men still live on earth. But they are still our apostles. They didn’t get replaced when they died. Judas didn’t get replaced because he died. He got replaced because he abandoned his place. He would have been replaced even if he hadn’t killed himself. This reminds us that the apostles and prophets of the New Covenant are still the foundation of Christ’s church with Jesus as the chief cornerstone (see Ephesians 2:20). Thank God for these men, His instruments to bring His Word in the world and establish His kingdom of light.

Next week’s reading is Acts 2.

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Who Am I?

Today’s reading is Luke 9.

Don’t miss this. Peter’s good confession in Luke 9:20 is significant. We have heard it our whole lives and might be tempted to rush through it, thinking, “Oh yeah! I know this part.” But this is what the entire book of Luke is about. This is what all four of the gospels are about. We tend to read these gospels like modern biographies. We want to hear about the birth, what was going on in the world, a chronology of events, a precise accounting of conversations and actions, leading to the subjects death. We get confused when each of the gospels gives a differing presentation of some of those facts. They change the order of events. They don’t give exact records of the conversations. They don’t give all the details of everyone who was involved. And they even do that in some pretty significant places and events. Ancient biographers were not interested in that kind of presentation. I don’t just mean the Bible authors, I mean ancient biographers in general. The gospel authors were writing biography the same way the ancients did. Don’t misunderstand. They didn’t make stuff up. They didn’t lie. They didn’t invent the stories. But they were not interested in giving a detailed chronology of events, actions, and conversations. Their goal was not to explain what the subject of the biography did or what people did around him. Their goal was to explain who the subject of the biography is. Therefore, they crafted the events, actions, and conversations together to make that point. That is what these gospels are about. Each is written from a different perspective, with a different audience in mind, driving home a slightly different nuance of meaning. But each one is designed to prompt this one conclusion: Jesus is the Christ of God. He is the anointed Lord, Savior, King, Priest. Follow Him. Become like Him. Keep reading Luke and see how every event, every action, every conversations points to this one fact: Jesus is the Christ of God. Then believe it and have life in His name.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 9.

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The Family of Jesus

Today’s reading is Luke 8.

“My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

“How quaint?” we think. But this is not quaint at all, it is revolutionary. Today, family is important, but it is not what it was in Jesus’s day. In Jesus’s day, family was your security net, your conscience, your identity, your belonging, your protection, your obligation, your public face, your reputation, your community, your everything. And Jesus says, “Who is my family? Not the woman who bore me. Not the siblings who grew up with me. The good soil is my family.” The phrase “Word of God” is used three times in Luke. Two of them are in this week’s chapter. It is the good seed and it is the charter that determines Jesus’s family. Jesus’s family is the good soil. Jesus’s security net is the Word of God. His conscience is the Word of God. His identity is the Word of God. His community, His public face, His obligation, His reputation is the community of those who let the seed of God’s Word dig deep in their heart and bear fruit some thirty, some sixty, some a hundredfold. You don’t have to be born of Mary to be part of Jesus’s family. You do, however, have to be born of the imperishable seed, the Word of God (cf. I Peter 1:22-25). And you can be. Keep reading. Keep studying. Keep following.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 8.

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Filled with the Spirit

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

John was filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. However, according to the people’s testimony of John 10:41, he never performed any signs. Not only that, he would go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah. Elijah multiplied the flour and oil for the widow of Zarephath, raised the widow’s son from the dead, called fire from heaven. Yet, John never performed any signs. He didn’t speak in tongues, heal the sick, raise the dead, cast out demons, foretell a drought, pray the rain back, call down fire from heaven. We might claim he prophesied in that he spoke from God about the the identity of Jesus. Even with that, there were never any accompanying miraculous signs to testify that his teaching was from God. There was even a time when he wasn’t sure about Jesus’s identity (see Luke 7:18-19). Yet, he was constantly filled with the Holy Spirit his entire life, even from the womb. This is different from his parents’ experiences. They were also filled with the Holy Spirit, but only for short periods of time (see Luke 1:41-45, 67-79). This is important to note because when we talk about any aspect of the Holy Spirit, we sometimes commit a Bible study fallacy. We think particular phrases, like “filled with the Holy Spirit,” are technical terms that always refer to the exact same experience or manifestation.* The fact is seen in this very chapter: John being filled with the Holy Spirit was a manifestly different experience from Elizabeth and Zechariah. By the way, the text doesn’t at all say Mary was filled with the Holy Spirit, but she experiences the exact same manifestation as Elizabeth and Zechariah (see Luke 1:46-55). What a fantastic rule of Bible study we should learn here. Certainly, whether we are studying the Holy Spirit or some other issue, we examine all the uses of similar phrases. We will learn a great deal from that exercise. However, never forget immediate context is our biggest help in understanding what is meant with a given word or phrase at a given point. Don’t assume every time you see a word or phrase it means the exact same thing as every other time you read it. Further, don’t assign technical meanings that you then try to force into the words or phrases every time you see them. Stick with the context.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 1.

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Inspiration, Revelation, & Research

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

I fear I too often oversimplify things. I usually do this to keep from causing difficulties or doubts. However, I’m learning that while it avoids difficulty in the short run, sometimes it causes problems for people in the long run who discover how complex things are and then believe we Christians don’t know the complexities. For instance, sometimes I gloss over the true nature of inspiration of Scripture. The recorded Word is very much like the incarnate Word. It is a coming together of deity and humanity. Inspiration does not mean God Himself wrote the Scriptures using men’s hands as the tools. It means God got His message to people. He got what He wanted in there. However, how did He do it? He used men. Certainly, there were times when God told men through miraculous revelation what to write. However, there were other times when men experienced and researched and then recorded what they knew from very natural means. Luke makes this case at the beginning of His book. He doesn’t claim to have sat down in his office and simply allowed God to guide his hand in the writing. Nor does he claim God dictated this book to him. Rather, he researched, studied, interviewed. That is, he acted like an ancient Greek or Roman historian. Through those means, God got what He wanted in this book. Therefore, when we refer to passages in Luke we can say at the same time, “Luke said,” and also, “The Holy Spirit said.” Just as incarnate deity in Jesus Christ poses difficulties at times, inspiration through human authors does as well. It is complex. That, however, is the beauty. God working in man, working with man, working through man. Isn’t that just like our own lives as we walk with God? Sometimes it is messy, but the end result will be glorious.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 1.

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God’s Glory Matters; God’s Authority Matters

Today’s reading is John 7.

Why does the issue of authority matter? Is it because we have to prove we are better at keeping rules? Is it because if we don’t cross all the Ts and dot all the Is we’ll go to hell? Is it because we have to earn our way into heaven by following the pattern? No. None of these things is the reason. The reason authority matters is because God’s glory matters. When I act on my own authority, I’m seeking my own glory. When I’m seeking God’s glory, I act on His authority. It’s just that simple. Whose glory are you seeking? How can you tell?

Tomorrow’s reading is John 8

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When Did That Get in There?

Today’s reading is Matthew 12.

I’m not going to share something with you from today’s reading so much as from my own experience with today’s reading. How many times have I read Matthew? I can’t even count. For the first time that I can remember, I noticed a statement. At the end of Matthew 12:43-45, when Jesus spoke about the vanquished unclean spirit coming back with seven friends to take over and making the latter state worse than the first, He actually ends the paragraph by saying, “So also will it be with this evil generation.” I have read right through that before and never even noticed that phrase. I don’t quite know what to make of it. Is He simply saying things are going to be bad in the judgment for “this evil generation” (see the previous paragraph)? Is He saying that “this evil generation” initially responds but ultimately will be in a bad state? After all, quite a few start to follow Him but end up shouting “Crucify Him” in the end. Is He saying that He is here to clean up this evil generation and initially it will seem to work, but they will ultimately end up worse off because of their rejection? Or is He saying that just like that whole demon-possessed situation leaves a person worse off in the end, the evil generation will be worse off because before Jesus came they had less of an excuse but after He is done, they will have no excuse? I’m not exactly sure what this phrase is saying. I’m going to have to spend some serious time digging into this. But this is another one of those reminders. We think we have read and we know, but there is always more. We often think certain topics and texts are beneath us because we’ve figured them out so they aren’t really for us any more. But that just isn’t so. With every topic and text we are missing so much. We need to keep reading. Keep studying. Keep teaching. Then go back and do it all over again.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 13.

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