What Was God Thinking?

Today’s reading is Luke 2.

If God wanted to make a splash, He sure went about it an odd way. It’s almost like He was doing everything He could to turn people off from Jesus. Jesus comes from a poor family living in a backwoods town of a backwoods nation. Not only that, but everyone who knew anything about the family would think Jesus was an illegitimate child. I know that term is out of favor in our day and age, but that is exactly how those around Jesus would have viewed it. The birth is first announced to shepherds. Really? Of all people, not the Jewish Council, not magistrates, not officials, but shepherds? Why would God start this way? Perhaps for the same reason He whittled Gideon’s army down to 300 (Judges 7). When this story is done and it is successful, it leaves everyone knowing one thing. God must be behind this. And that really is where we are, isn’t it? We live in a world whose largest religion follows the Man described above. He not only came to popularity, but He claimed to be divine and was then killed. Did that end His popularity and His following? Nope. It only increased it. Everyone else, throughout all history, who claimed to be divine lost their following when they died. But not Jesus. That is amazing. How could this happen? Only if God is real and really behind it. Hang on to Jesus today. I promise you’ll be glad you did.

Next week’s reading is Luke 3.

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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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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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On Rules and Relationship

Today’s reading is John 14.

We hear people today say, “It’s not about rules its about relationship.” And, in some ways I get that. However, I wonder what Jesus would say to that. “I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father.” Today, make it about your relationship with the Father. Today, live so the world will know you actually love the Father. Today, keep His commandments. Because asserting that you aren’t going to worry about His commandments because you are more about your relationship with God than the rules of God simply doesn’t make biblical sense. Love God today.

Tomorrow’s reading is John 15.

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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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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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I Know Whom I Have Believed

Today’s reading is 2 Timothy 1.

Paul was unashamed. Why? Because he knew whom he had believed. He knew who God was. He knew what God was capable of. He knew what God had promised. He knew he could trust God. Jesus has abolished death and brought life and immortality through the gospel. Paul knew it and was convinced. So, no matter what the world dished out, no matter what society said about him or did to him, he would be unashamed of Jesus. He would wear Jesus like a badge of honor. May we be so convicted that no matter the shame society tries to heap on us, we will revel in believing Jesus and belonging to Him.

Tomorrow’s reading is 2 Timothy 2.

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