Believe Enough

Today’s reading is Luke 5.

I vacillate on Peter’s faith in the account of the great catch of fish. Sometimes, I think Peter is demonstrating great faith in Jesus. Other times, I think it is just barely any faith. After all, he does what Jesus says, but not without first having to make sure Jesus knows he thinks it is pointless. But, he did what Jesus said. That is the key I always end up getting back to. Whether he had great faith or small faith, he had enough faith. He had enough faith to do what Jesus said. That is how much faith I need to have. I may struggle with my faith. I may not understand why Jesus has asked what He has. I may even complain about it and think it is pointless. In the end, I need to believe enough to do what Jesus says. Today, my goal is to believe enough.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 5.

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Twisted Scripture

Today’s reading is Luke 4.

“But it’s in the Bible,” Satan says as he offers the third temptation. What a subtle and cunning enemy the devil is. He will use anything to get us to turn from God and turn on God. He will even use the Bible. He will pull verses out of context, strip them of their meaning, and then say, “But the Bible says.” There is only one way to combat this kind of temptation. Know God’s Word. If we pluck a sentence here or a verse there, we can make the Bible support just about anything. Jesus explained He would trust in the Father’s care and protection. He didn’t have to test it. He wouldn’t test it. He knew it would be there when it was truly needed; the Father’s Word said so. Yes, that very Word by which Jesus claimed He received life had promised God’s protection. How could He rely on it for life, if He wouldn’t trust it’s promises. The same is true for us. God is our Father. He will take care of us when that is needed, we don’t need to purposefully test it. We just need to purposefully rely on it no matter what Satan says to us.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 4.

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Father, Son, & Holy Spirit

Today’s reading is Luke 3.

What an amazing scene at Jesus’s baptism. Jesus has been immersed while praying, and the heavens are opened. In that moment, we see all three persons of the Godhead–the Son being baptized as the Spirit descends in the form of a dove and the Father speaks from heaven. There are many ways folks have tried to illustrate the triune nature of God. All of those illustrations fall short somewhere. And the skeptics say, “See, this just doesn’t make any sense at all.” But isn’t this struggle actually to be expected? God is beyond space and time. He lives in a “dimension” beyond ours. We have no scope of reference to understand even the realm of His existence, let alone the nature of His existence within it. Doesn’t it stand to reason that trying to explain His infinite existence in finite terms to limited minds is going to be practically impossible? Would we honestly expect that explanation to be easily grasped? It would be like a 3-dimensional cube trying to explain its nature to a 2-dimensional square.

Cube: “I’m six squares placed at right angles to each other so that every edge connects to the edge of another square and forms a unified whole.”

Square: “O, so you’re six squares?”

Cube: “Well, actually, I’m one cube.”

Square: “Wait! What?”

Cube: “Try this. Imagine a million squares stacked on top of each other to form a kind of square that extends up.”

Square: “What is up?”

Cube: “You know, extending into space above the plane on which you exist.”

Square: “What is space? And what do you mean ‘above’?”

Cube: “Just try to imagine one square laying flat on top of you and another and another and another on up to a million.”

Square: “Okay, okay. I don’t know what ‘on top” means. But you’re saying you’re a million squares, not six squares?”

Cube: “No, I’m one cube.”

Square: “Which is it? Are you six squares or one cube?”

Cube: “Yes.”

My point is not that God is three persons added together to make one God. The point is simply to see that the struggle we have to understand the Triune God makes perfect sense. If He were easy to understand and comprehend, it would likely mean we made Him up. Keep studying. Keep working at it, but don’t let the skeptics get you down. This struggle to understand God is exactly how it should be.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 3

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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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Lost Tribes of Israel?

Today’s reading is Luke 2.

Have you ever heard anyone talk about the “lost tribes of Israel”? The idea is that the northern kingdom of Israel was taken captive by Assyria and then essentially just vanished. Judah was taken captive by Babylon and then was released by Cyrus, but the ten northern tribes are never heard from again. Some religions even make a big deal out of so-called lost tribes traveling to the Americas. However, none of this is true. When Babylon conquered Judah, they also conquered Assyria. The Assyrian captivity of Israel essentially blends into the Babylonian captivity. When Cyrus let’s the Jews go, that would include not just the two tribes (three when you count Levi) of the southern kingdom, but also those of the north. No doubt, because of greater time, those ten tribes were greatly diminished. However, did you notice what tribe Anna the daughter of Phanuel was from? She is from Asher, one of the northern tribes. Asher wasn’t lost. In a subtle way, this is just another reminder that God knows who are His. He doesn’t lose His people. Hang on to God; He won’t lose you either.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 2.

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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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God Hears

Today’s reading is Luke 1.

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard.” Which prayer? When was it offered? The more I think about these questions, the more I consider two possibilities. Both possibilities teach us great lessons about prayer. The first is Zechariah had prayed for so long to have a child it had become a habit. Even at the point when he really no longer thought it was possible, he kept praying. Don’t be so quick to throw Zechariah under the bus if he had made this request so long it had almost become rote. Remember, despite being told no for years and year and years, he was still praying. And though it didn’t happen on Zechariah’s time table, God had heard the praying. Wow! OR (and this is what I think is more likely), Zechariah had prayed and prayed and prayed in the past, but he finally got to the point he believed God had said, “No.” That must have been painful. Though he was no longer praying that particular prayer, he kept faithfully serving the Lord. Now, years later, when the prayer is a distant memory to Zechariah, the angel proclaims, “Your prayer has been heard.” How long had Zechariah waited to hear those words? Long enough that he could hardly believe it or even how it could be fulfilled. Again, it didn’t happen on Zechariah’s time table, but God had heard. Please, don’t misunderstand the point. The lesson from Zechariah is not if you pray, eventually God will do what you ask even if it isn’t on your time table. We have to understand that sometimes the answer is simply, “No.” The lesson is God hears. Our praying is never in vain. When it is for God’s greatest glory and our greatest good, God will respond. Even if it has been years since we’ve actually prayed the prayer, God heard and remembers. Even if we’ve prayed it so long we are struggling with our faith in it, God hears and takes note. I’m so glad you are reading your Bible today, please don’t forget to pray. God hears.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 1.

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