Replace the Spirits

Today’s reading is Luke 11.

While we are certainly supposed to put our sins to death, being a disciple is not about stopping behaviors. It is actually about replacing behaviors. If all we do is cast out the evil spirit, we can do our dead level best to sweep up the house and keep it in order, but that spirit will simply bring seven more. Nature abhors a vacuum. So does our very being. If all we strive to do is get rid of bad stuff in our lives, we will only ever find the bad stuff taking over. It’s like trying to make yourself not think about pink hippopotamuses. Jesus doesn’t verbalize the actual instruction when He offers the warning. But can there be any doubt what the instruction is? When the evil spirit is cast out, it needs to be replaced by the Holy Spirit. I can try with all my might to keep out the evil spirit, but if I don’t invite God in, allowing Him to take up residence, rearranging the furniture as He sees fit, controlling the remote, calling the shots, and filling the space with His presence, then all my attempts at control are nothing more than vacuuming the carpet as the tornado targets my house. Don’t evict the spirits, replace them. That is discipleship.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 11.

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What Makes You Rejoice?

Today’s reading is Luke 10.

I can understand it. If I were able to cast out demons, heal the sick, speak in foreign tongues, raise the dead, speak prophecies, pick up snakes, tread on scorpions, I would rejoice. That would be so cool. In fact, I’m a bit bummed God doesn’t work through us in that way anymore. However, did you catch what Jesus said even to the people who did some of those things? “Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” In other words, you and I have the exact same reason to rejoice as those disciples. We who are in Jesus Christ are recorded in heaven. God knows us. We don’t have to do miraculous things or even amazing things. Jesus has died for us. His kingdom has come near. No matter what else we accomplish or experience, we are enrolled as citizens in the eternal kingdom. Rejoice in that today. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 10.

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Hope for the Gentiles

Today’s reading is Luke 8.

I know we are reading in Luke today, but Isaiah 65:1-7 is a fascinating passage. There, the Lord explained He was ready to be sought by those who didn’t ask for Him or seek Him. He said “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation not called by His name. These people provoked God despite His calls to them. They sacrificed to demons (noted in the LXX, the Greek version of this passage). They sat in tombs. They ate pig’s flesh. And they told the Lord to “Keep to yourself, do not come near me.” Therefore, God explained He would repay them for their iniquities. Does any of this sound familiar? It’s like Jesus’s time in Gerasa, a city in the Greek region called the Decapolis, was modeled after this passage. The Gerasenes learn of the miraculous deliverance of the demon possessed man. However, instead of being in awe over the miracle, they were scared because of their financial loss in the pigs. They demand Jesus leave. Considering Isaiah 65, what might we expect for the Decapolis Gentiles? Judgment. Quick, brutal, complete, avenging judgment. However, how does this story end? As He leaves, Jesus sends the man delivered from Legion into the region to tell them what God had done for him. There is hope for the Gentiles, even for these Gentiles who rejected Jesus. This is the Savior we serve. Praise the Lord! There is hope for us.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 8.

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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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The River of Life

Today’s reading is Revelation 22.

John’s story telling expands even more. We’ve had the repeated cycles in the book. Further, we’ve seen how as he ended his story, he went back to pick up themes he used at the beginning of the book. Now, here at the end of our entire Bibles (can that be a coincidence), John goes all the way back to the beginning of the whole story. What we are witnessing is the restoration of the Garden, but it is a new and improved Garden. It is not just a tree of life, but a river of life surrounded by life-giving trees. There is no night because God is it’s light. And the inhabitants reign forever and ever without fall or failure. WOW! No doubt the ultimate fulfillment of this picture is in eternity where Christ’s church finds its ultimate victory. However, don’t miss the point John is making for his readers in their particular predicament. He is pointing out that this imagery is not merely the church in eternity. This imagery is Christ’s church at all times. Christ’s church, Christ’s bride is this garden city. As the Garden was God’s first sanctuary, His first dwelling place with man, the church is God’s final resting place with man. Whether on earth or ultimately around His throne in heaven, Christ’s church is His temple, His dwelling place, His city, His kingdom, His Bride. And here is the kicker. If you want to be part of the Bride, the city, the kingdom in eternity, you have to be part of it now. The Spirit and the Bride say come. Come now. Come drink from the fountain of living waters that flows from God’s throne, by Christ’s cross, through the Heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, the church. And never leave this refreshing stream. I understand, in its present form, we don’t always see it as this image at the end of Revelation. But this is what it is and, in time, it will be vindicated and demonstrated as such. So, get in now and stay there.

Next week’s reading is Luke 1.

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The Glory of God

Today’s reading is Revelation 15.

When the Babylonians took Solomon’s temple apart, the glory of God was gone. When Zerubbabel and Joshua rebuilt the temple, however, there was no visible manifestation of the Lord’s glory. When Herod refurbished the temple, there was no manifestation of the Lord’s glory in the temple. However, under Jesus Christ, the sanctuary not made with hands in the heavens is full of the glory of the Lord. Here is the picture of victory. In fact, it is the same picture that demonstrated victory in Exodus. We often think the crossing of the Red Sea is the climax of Exodus. Not so. The climax is when the glory of the Lord enters the tabernacle. God had sent the plagues on the enemies, He had delivered Israel through the Red Sea, He had brought them to Mt. Sinai. But the climax is when God shows His abiding presence by entering the tabernacle. That is exactly what is going on here. God has sent plagues of judgment and will continue to do so in the next chapter. But the real glory is that He is in the midst of His people. He takes residence in the sanctuary, which is His church. The promises of restoration are fulfilled not in a temple rebuilt on earth, but in the heavenly temple of God’s house. Praise the Lord! He dwells with His people.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 16.

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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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