Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.
This journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem is so romanticized [make something seem better or more appealing than it really is]. In my mind it’s a serenely beautiful story of a faithful man and a very pregnant woman traveling at an inconvenient time. I see the image in my mind of them traveling alone on that road to Bethlehem carried along by the promises given by angels that the coming “holy Child shall be called the Son of God” That image is further supported by many movies and books…but…
Then I started pondering the bottom line of what makes their story real…and beautiful too. Did they realize the birth was that close? What was the trail like? How far could they go in a day? Where did they sleep? How did they cook? What did they eat? How did they manage the required ritual cleansing? What about sanitation? Weren’t there many other people and animals on the same trail?
I don’t know any of those answers but here’s what I do know…Mary and Joseph were real people, in real circumstances with real choices. Each chose to believe their own promise received from an angel despite the impossible circumstances. They chose to obey the law of their heritage and go to the city of David to do what was required of them despite the timing. They chose to be obedient even when they others would say they had no choice in the matter. .
Their lives were filled with legitimate opportunities and reasons to say “no” to circumstances beyond their control but instead they chose to say “yes” to God. God bless choosing “yes.”
Posted in Christmas Eve, Luke, Sunday, The Big Event
Tagged Beautiful, But..., Choices, Circumstance, Journey, Obedient, Real, Yes
Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord…15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about… 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.
These shepherds weren’t wise men. They were barely even acceptable. They couldn’t possibly observe the rules of cleanliness living as they did. They lived on the edge of religious society because they were unfit. They lived on the edge of danger because of the predators that threatened them and the flocks they were protecting and they lived isolated lives on the edge of town. It’s no wonder they were terrified when suddenly all around them there was inexplicable light and sound.
The revelation of the centerpiece of God’s plan was given to those who were unfit, at risk and isolated. That’s how God still works today. Do you remember how God first got your attention? You will certainly have a much less dramatic story than this revelation to the shepherds but the fact is their story is ours. Our heritage was not the intimacy God intended at creation but of our descent from Adam. God determined he would pull his creation back from the edge of life’s circumstances to that first-love intimacy with him and give them “good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”
God chose to reveal the centerpiece of his plan, a Savior, to YOU…of “all people!…” to give YOU the joy of intimacy with him so YOU might desire to …”go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about,”…again this year. God really meant Jesus, the Big Event, to be all about YOU. God bless YOU + Jesus.
Posted in Luke, The Big Event, Wednesday
Tagged Attention, Back From the Edge, Centerpiece, First-Love Intimacy, Heritge, joy, Revelation, Wise, YOU
Luke 22:39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them.
This is our Savior…sweating blood…in anguish…pleading with God to tell him if there’s any other way. This is our Savior completely aware of just how bad it will be to be punished for our sin. This is our Savior who’s repeated concern is still that his disciples “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”
It’s heartbreaking to read later in Luke 22:61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.
The rooster’s crow confirmed the worst…the Lord’s prediction had come true. They’d all fallen away…and Jesus was going to pay for it.
Repent, pray and remember… Jesus paid for you too.
Mark 11:9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.
This is probably one of the most familiar Biblical stories associated with the week leading up to Easter Sunday. I’m sure you know it. There was the donkey, a prophetic symbol, the ride of choice for a king coming in peace. The cheering crowd confirming that Jesus’s ministry was spreading and the palm branches were the modern-day equivalent of their rolling out the red carpet for him.
The details of this story in the four Gospels vary a bit but the main idea is the same; Jesus’s determination to begin his final confrontation with sin in the city of peace, Jerusalem. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’ ” Luke 19
Jesus knew exactly what that triumphal entry was really about. The crowd’s Hosannas weren’t at all shouts of praise as I’ve come to think of them. They were cries of it’s literal meaning; “help” or “save, I pray” from people longing for Jesus to prove himself as the conquering Messiah they expected. That conflict between Jesus’s determination and their expectations explains why a short five days later their cries had changed from Hosanna to “crucify him.”
Thank God for this Palm Sunday reminder…sometimes repentance includes surrendering my expectations of how Jesus should prove himself to me and celebrate that he already has. Hosanna!
Luke 17:3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
I thought I clearly understood the relationship between repentance and forgiveness. I repented, God forgave. That’s the model to follow, right? “They” repent, “I” forgive. Hmmm…I’m having to think a little deeper about that because seven times in a day seems like too much to ask.
Could it be that there’s critical heart-change element tied to forgiveness just as there is for repentance? If my words speak forgiveness while my heart does not, isn’t that just a “prettified” form of judgment? In that case, who is more in need of forgiveness…them or me? Does that mean the reality of forgiveness is yet another part of my own repentance?
Why did that verse have to begin with “So watch yourselves?” I’m sorry Lord, that I even have to ask these questions. I thought I understood. Forgive me.
Romans 2:4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
It seems harder to deal with repenting after you’ve walked with Jesus for a while. The “big” stuff was so obvious there was no hesitation about what needed to go. That was good, but this is the season to take another look. There’s a hidden closet where the evil one has stashed some of my less obvious sins. That makes them really easy to forget about. They’re smoldering, fiery darts that will be used as weapons of contempt for God’s “kindness, forbearance and patience” and to discredit the reality of his work in me. I caught a whiff of smoke and realized where there’s smoke…there’s fire. it’s time to put out these fires.
• The well-meaning prayer request with “too many details” about someone else’s crisis can become a weapon that impacts other people’s response to them. I need to remember God already knows every detail!
• The wrong tone of voice, even when used with “just the right” words, is a devilish eraser capable of wiping out the validity of God’s work in my life to the ears that hear them.
• Using the Word of God as a weapon to verbally discipline someone or manipulate their behavior is a serious violation of my trust in God’s sovereignty, and it’s unkind. The power of the Word lies in “realizing that God’s kindness is [what’s] intended to lead you [both] to repentance.”
The closet has been aired out. I’m waiting for the smoke to clear. Amen [So be it!]
Posted in Luke, Romans, Sunday
Tagged Fiery Darts, Hidden Closet, Kindness, Less Obvious Sins, Repentance, TMI, Tone of Voice, Weapons, Word of God
Luke 5:31 Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. 32 I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
Today is Ash Wednesday; the beginning of the observance many of the faithful call Lent. This is the period leading up to Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. Your church may not “officially” observe Lent but why not think of it as your own forty-days visit with Jesus in whom you have placed your life and your eternity?
We can make these days a personal, purposeful opportunity to examine our own spiritual health. That’s how we honor the Savior’s sacrifice. We can choose to repent of believing we are “good enough” because of the work he has already done in us AND we can choose to celebrate we are still under the “doctor’s” care with the promise of complete healing.