Fear! No Fear!

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

Mary praises God saying, “And his mercy is for those who fear him from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50). Zechariah, on the other hand, says, “We, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days” (Luke 1:74). Which is it? Does He have mercy on those who fear or can we serve Him without fear? Yes! I admit, it is possible Zechariah is referring to a fear of the enemies. That is, he might be saying that because we are delivered from our enemies, we can serve God without fearing them. That is a lot like the prayer we hear so often in worship assemblies today saying, “Thank you for letting us gather here without fear of persecution.” My struggle with that is when Christianity started, that is exactly what all Christians faced. Perhaps we can read this as we have no reason to fear our ultimate enemy, Satan. There is definitely truth to that. I can worship God without fear that Satan is going to win. However, I think this struggle we have between scriptural commands to fear God and scriptural promises that we don’t need to fear God comes down to a very simple principle. It was one I was taught back in my college days when I was trained as a trim carpenter. A table saw is a powerful thing. One wrong move, and a finger is gone or an artery cut, and you’re bleeding out on the wood (my boss was always more concerned about blood getting on the wood than leaving my body). However, when you recognize the power and fear it–not a paralyzing terror, but a healthy fear–then you take the proper precautions. When you take the proper precautions, you don’t have to fear the saw. Another illustration comes to mind. When driving, if I fear getting a speeding ticket, I drive the speed limit. When I drive the speed limit, I don’t have to fear a speeding ticket. As odd as it sounds, my fear removes the need for my fear. God has mercy on those who fear Him. Because of that, we have no need to fear Him. Today, because you fear God, go forth without fear.

Next week’s reading is Luke 2.

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Believe the Word

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

Why was Zechariah rebuked and disciplined for not believing, while Mary who also questioned the angel was ultimately praised for believing? Good question. Notice there is a subtle difference between the questions asked. Mary asks, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” Zechariah asks, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” Do you see the difference? Obviously, I cannot see into the mind of Mary. Was there doubt in her question about whether God could perform this? I don’t know. However, her question actually only asks the mechanics. It is not necessarily a question of doubt, but rather one about a lack of understanding. Zechariah’s questions, on the other hand, is essentially, “How do I know you are actually going to fulfill this promise?” Interestingly, there is one other place in Scripture where this kind of question gets asked. In Genesis 15:8, Abraham asks for this very kind of proof when God gives him a promise. Zechariah may have thought he was on good ground asking this question since he was mirroring Father Abraham. The angel demonstrates that this was not a time for mirroring Abraham, but for learning from Abraham. God gave Abraham a son even in his old age. God fulfilled His promise to Abraham. Abraham was the first and perhaps his doubts and questions can be understood. But Zechariah should learn from Abraham that God need not be doubted. God will keep His Word. And that is the lesson for us. We may sometimes wonder how God will accomplish His promises. We may even ask. However, let us know God always will fulfill His promises. God always keeps His Word. May we never doubt that.

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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Thomas, the Leader

Today’s reading is John 11.

We’ve all heard of Thomas, the doubter. But have you heard about Thomas, the Leader? I really hate for Thomas that he gets remembered for his lowest recorded moment. Sure, after Jesus’s death, he, like all of the apostles, struggles to believe in the resurrection. Jesus rebuked him and he grew. However, check out Thomas in today’s reading. Here we have Thomas at his high point. The apostles are all afraid that if Jesus travels to Judea, even for His good friends Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, He’ll be caught and killed. His entire movement will come to nothing. Their last three years will all be wasted. But this time, it is not Peter who steps up first, it is Thomas. “Let us also go, that we may die with him,” Thomas says. And they went. Wow! I get, of course, that Thomas still didn’t understand the nature of Jesus’s mission. I know he was thinking more in lines of a civil rebellion than a spiritual kingdom. I further grasp that this statement is recorded not for us to be amazed at Thomas, but to see the contrast between this expectation and the fact that instead of people dying with Jesus, someone comes back to life because of Jesus. But what Thomas reminds me of here is that I do not have to be identified with my weakest moments. We are all a mix of strengths and weaknesses, moments of doubt and moments of faith. Certainly, Thomas shouldn’t rest on the laurels of this moment, but neither does he have to beat himself up all his life for the weak ones. Instead, he can rest in His Savior Jesus, with whom Thomas did ultimately die and will be ultimately resurrected. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is John 12.

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Bold

Today’s reading is Acts 4.

The apostles prayed for boldness. Did you catch that? That means they were scared. Of course, they had reason to be. Peter and John had been arrested and threatened. Even with that, I have a tendency to think of the apostles as these superhuman proclaimers who were afraid of nothing. Not true. They were afraid as I often am. That’s why they turned to God and asked for boldness. They knew they needed His strength and His courage to face what was coming. They prayed for boldness and what did God give them? Boldness. Instead of heaping guilt and shame on ourselves for our fears, let’s follow the apostles footsteps. Let’s pray for God’s boldness that we may be unashamedly bold. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 5.

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Resurrection Reactions

Today’s reading is Luke 24.

Here is something I find interesting. Today, skeptics and atheists look back at the folks of the first century and paint them as backwards, superstitious, foolish people who just accepted the resurrection of Jesus because they were too stupid to know any better. And yet, the Bible paints them as people who know resurrection doesn’t happen and can hardly believe it when they see it right in front of their own eyes. They have to be convinced and overly convinced. It isn’t enough to see Jesus. It isn’t enough to touch Jesus. They have to see Him eat stuff too. Otherwise they just aren’t going to believe it. And yet, these very disbelievers come to believe and come to testify. And they testify to those who are just as skeptical, but are able to convince many of them. That just amazes me. What would it take to convince you Jesus was raised from the dead? I almost guarantee you that is what you will read in the Bible as being demanded by the folks who most defended His resurrection. I encourage you to check it out for yourself.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 1.

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Thomas

Today’s reading is John 20.

Poor Thomas. His worst moment, and it is the only thing he is remembered for, even though better moments are revealed in Scripture. However, I’m glad Thomas is there. I’m glad he doubted. Skeptics today act like these ancient people were all dim-witted, backwoods, superstitious twits who would simply accept anything. But they weren’t. Keep in mind, Thomas wasn’t the only one who didn’t believe until he saw Jesus. The others just saw Jesus first. The gospel didn’t get started, Jesus didn’t get proclaimed because of a lot of wishful thinking and have success because people were backwards and superstitious. These people saw evidence that convinced them Jesus rose from the dead. They saw the kind of evidence it would take us to believe it as well. Then they recorded it and recorded what came from it. Praise God for showing us Thomas’s doubt. Maybe it wasn’t his greatest moment. But it is a great moment for us. Thank you, Thomas. Thank you, Lord.

Monday’s reading is John 21.

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