Day 7: Certainty – Again (Luke 2:1–7)

Can such a story, so far as we have read, deliver what it says? After all, in the first chapter we have had to contend with quite a bit! Luke, I sense, recognizes the challenge of believing such a story. He returns to grounding his account in history—a census ordered by one of the most powerful Caesars of all time. This is no myth.

Day 5: When God Becomes Palpable (Luke 1:57–66)

There are moments when God reveals himself—reveals that his divine and supernatural hand is present. Not to get too far ahead, but verses 68 & 78 say “God visits.” These stories Luke has put before us, the ones he has researched, interviewing eyewitnesses, are stunning. Angels appear, women who should not be able to conceive are able, men are struck mute, while the unborn leap for joy. I mentioned there was a dark time in my life when God’s light shined very brightly. I had been praying for weeks, every night, for hours. One night I was jarred awake.

Day 4: Bursting for Joy (Luke 1:46–56)

There are moments in our lives when our joy erupts. We become disconnected from our center of logic and control—and after that moment is all said and done, we find it quite remarkable that we had such an outburst. Perhaps this is where Mary finds herself. Sometimes these moments come upon us—and sometimes we can move ourselves into them. But how?

Day 3: Following God (Luke 1:39–45)

With all this talk of certainty and waiting, it is good when confirmation comes that you are on the right path. Mary is simply walking toward the house. Elizabeth and her baby are filled with the Holy Spirit. The baby leaps in her womb. Elizabeth brings forth praise. Mary, whose womb is filled with infinity and eternity, responds. But first, I wonder. I don’t know, but I expect not every moment of every day in Mary’s life had this sort of confirmation from God. Many people, when they first begin following God, have all sorts of these delightful moments of confirmation. In my own life, I first came to know God, to put my trust in Him, when my world was very dark.

Day 2: Willingness (Luke 1:26–38)

Imagine you are minding your own business, and an angel appears and asks you to do something that is both wild and does not quite fit your idea of how things work. That is the situation Mary is presented with. For Luke, he has unearthed the angel Gabriel’s activities. The involvement of the heavenly angelic host should not surprise us. God is at work. His workers include mortal and immortal agents.

Day 1: Waiting (Luke 1:5-25)

It is interesting that we jump from the idea of certainty yesterday to a story today. Remember, Luke’s point is that this is not some once-upon-a-time fairy tale. No, this is real. It happened. He grounds it in a specific place, time, and people. Further, it is not a recent story. No, God wrote this story long before the beginning of time. And there have been many people WAITING in expectation. Why bring this up? Because for Luke, this is story of certainty: not human certainty, but the certainty of God.

Gospel of Luke - Introduction

I love math and science. I love solving problems, figuring out conundrums, and having confidence I obtained the right answer. Before coming to know Jesus, I was a difficult person, always thinking I was right. Luke tells us he is writing about certainty, certainty about Jesus. It ts how I am naturally wired, yet this certainty should not lead to arrogance. There is much in Luke’s opening sentences.

Seeking Change While Content

It’s December, and it’s the season—the season for commercials to join gyms, quit smoking, and more. At the Pocket Testament League, we even join in and invite people to begin reading God’s Word more regularly. For the most part, our New Year’s resolutions are aimed at helping us become better people. We want to change, to improve. Today in our text we read: I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content.

Soaking It In

Sometimes I need to simply take an idea in. I need to let it soak into my bones. It is interesting for me to ponder the question of how ideas and beliefs deeply penetrate into me. How can I get what I know is true into me—so much so, that these true ideas affect my attitudes and behaviors? The reflection right before this one was long. I was back on my treadmill of wrestling with Law and Grace and Life. Today, the tone shifts to encouragement, contentment, and joy. I found the tone startling. After all, just one reflection earlier I was locked in a grappling match over my behavior. I was even grappling with grammar. Yikes! So, what happened?

Gaining the Gift You Already Have

I tend to be the kind of person who is usually striving after something—some goal. When I fall short of one of those goals, I can lose my sense of peace. It is not that being focused on a goal is bad—it is how I respond when I succeed (or do not succeed) at achieving and gaining that goal. How about you? What is a moment in your life when you worked very hard towards a specific goal and you accomplished it? Can you remember it right now?Maybe it was something you did as an individual. Maybe it was something as part of a group or team. Maybe it is something you are doing right now, and it is ongoing. Why do I ask? Because I think I’m so goal-oriented that I make following Jesus much harder than it needs to be.

Christmas—Gifts—Family & Waiting

It’s Christmas Eve, and for many little ones, the waiting is almost over. When I was growing up, Christmas Eve was when we put up the tree and more. Our tradition was born, in part, from celebrating Advent, that season of preparation, that season of waiting. Our tradition also helped to keep my parents sane. There were four of us, and our excitement about Christmas grew exponentially as December 25th approached. Filling Christmas Eve with a mountain of things to do kept us fully occupied until we rushed to church at Midnight. It was a good plan. Yet the waiting…oh, the waiting to get to Christmas was torture!

Watch Out for the Dogs

The dogs my wife and I have had have all been easily distracted. The last fella we had, when a squirrel ran across our path, he would practically pull our arm out of its socket, as we tried to restrain his enthusiasm with a leash. My wife and I would start calling out, “squirrel!” Not when we were walking the dog, but when we were talking and one of us would take a sharp – and perhaps random – turn, departing from the main topic. Why bring this up? Because in the text today, maybe you think I should be yelling, “squirrel!” Our reading today starts innocently enough. Its starts with a statement, an exclamation even, of joy! But then it moves to a stern warning about false teaching, and even what appears to be prideful boasting. Did a squirrel just run in front of St. Paul?

It's a Team Sport

I remember once, a person leaving church, pointing out how they were tired of all the sports analogies. I appreciate they can get tiresome.

Let’s consider a list: sport teams, choirs, symphonies, marching bands... What other groups can you think of where people offer their individual gifts/labors and add them to the larger group?

In addition to the above, I can think of most jobs, the military, and church! Yes, the church.

No-grumbling Zone

I heard my wife say, “You must be feeling better.” “Why?” I asked. Her response, “Because you are complaining.” I had been out of work for weeks. I was sick, and I never get sick. As I slowly returned to health, I began returning to my natural state. I began grumbling. Pause for a moment and ask yourself: “When is it that I’m most likely to complain and grumble?” I can tell you my answer. It is when I am working really hard at something, and the outcome doesn’t turn out the way I want. Compare that to what we read today, and ask two questions about Paul’s situation.

Work Out My Salvation? Really?

I stepped on the scale this morning after a week of travel. Up two pounds. You might ask, “Why all the fuss?” After all, it is just a few pounds. That is a reasonable question. And, truth be told, if this were a random occurrence, then I could just as easily be down two pounds next week. However, experience tells me I can quickly establish a trend in the wrong direction! Trends are important. In our lives, we often start doing something a few times a week, then it becomes daily, even hourly. We need to ask if our trend is going to bring us to the destination we desire. Therefore, let’s ask the question, “How am I doing as far as following—living for—Jesus? What’s my trend?”

Christmas—Gifts—Family, Part Two

In Part One I joked about that Christmas classic, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” All kidding aside, as we seek to reach our loved ones for Jesus, we do not want them thinking, I got run over by a Christian! I doubt people truly seeking Jesus ever felt run over by him. Yes, the religious of his day—ever challenging him—got clobbered, but they were not truly seeking him. For those who seek him, his presence is grace-filled. Yet many may not be seeking him, and we want to invite them to meet Jesus. If your heart aches for those you love to meet Jesus, what can you do?

Humility, Part Two: Its Source & Its Growth

In Part One, I more than suggested that the path to becoming humble is to start practicing acts of humility—acts where we put the interests of others above ourselves. It is through action that our lives will be transformed. We become more humble—our lives of humility grow—by action. Yet what is the root of this growth? As I presented this thought to us, taking action as the means to transform ourselves, I knew it was not complete. I left out God. We cannot, by ourselves, apart from God, accomplish anything. Especially when we are talking about taming our pride. We need God.

Humility, Part One: Just Do It!

If you live on this planet, you are familiar with the Nike slogan and their iconic Swoosh. It’s 30 years old. The slogan itself has quite a history, but at its core it has a simple message of action. Not words—action. In a world that is constantly saturated with information, action is appealing. I want to suggest that you and I probably don’t need more words about why we should be men and women of humility—we need to just do it. This brings to us a fundamental question about how you and I go about transforming and conforming ourselves to the Word of God. I don’t know about you, but I somehow fall into the trap of thinking that I can think myself into better behavior... some flawed notion that if I could better understand the why behind the what, then doing the what would somehow be as easy as falling off a horse. The reality is, nothing could be further from the truth.

Christmas—Gifts—Family, Part One

Christmas: it comes with gifts of all shapes and sizes and prices. It has its own genre of music, which somehow includes “Silent Night” and “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.” As followers of Jesus, we sometimes lament how Christmas has morphed into any number of ideas, all of which seem to leave Jesus out. Phrases like “Keep Christ is Christmas” and “Jesus is the Reason for the Season” hit a sweet spot in our psyche. Beyond the slogans, there is a deep ache in our hearts; it is an ache for our family and loved ones who do not yet accept this child in the manger as Lord. That ache is magnified during the Christmas season. What do we do?