Archive for May, 2010

Luke 2:39-52

Luke 2:39-52 picks up the story of Jesus following His dedication.  This is one of the few glimpses we get of His childhood.  You probably remember the story – every year at Passover time Mary and Joseph went to Jerusalem to celebrate along with everyone else.  The memorable part of this yearly event happens when Jesus is 12 and like every year prior – they took the long trip up to Jerusalem along with many others to celebrate God’s faithfulness.  And like every other year, when the feast was over, they started back toward Nazareth with the pack of people going home.  You know how some of these things happen – large group of folks going the same place – you just move with the flow and assume your kids are somewhere in the group with their friends.  Not this time as “Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem”.  He didn’t bother telling his parents who just figured He was along somewhere.  But after the first day’s journey they “began to search for Him among their relatives and acquaintances” and He was no where to be found”.  Ok – time to become a bit worried.  They didn’t find Him so they head back to Jerusalem and “after three days they found Him in the temple”.  So by my math – one day traveling away – one day back and then three days looking – maybe five days of Jesus being separated from mom and dad at 12.  No details given in scripture but it wouldn’t be a stretch to think Mary and Joseph were a bit irritated by this time.  Jesus was impressing the folks in the temple – which wouldn’t have been the normal person on the street – but the learned and those who knew the scriptures – “all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and His answers”.  Of course Jesus can’t understand why His parents are looking for Him – that sounds like a typical teenage response doesn’t it? 

But that is what we would expect – He was in fact a young teen.  The key here is that even though His parents didn’t understand why He stayed and He didn’t understand what the big deal was – check out what scripture says:  “And He went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them”.  Did you catch that? Jesus doesn’t really understand why He has to leave the temple and what the fuss is all about – but He goes and obediently lives with His parents anyway.  Obedience is not about understanding or even agreeing with things.  It is about doing.  It is about being willing to give up my desires, my will, my perceived rights – and doing what someone in authority requests.  Jesus sets that example.  And it applies to you, and to me.  Whether I am a person under God’s authority, a husband or wife, a child, a pastor or teacher, an employee, a leader, a follower – every one of us is under authority – actually a number of authorities – and our response needs to be just like Jesus – obedience, submission, doing what we are asked, doing what we know we are supposed to.  What scripture tells us next is so important and I think results from living an obedient life: “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man”.  There is an outcome to obedience – it is called being blessed.  It is God pouring out His love and compassion on us.  It happens when we walk with Him like Jesus shows us as a 12 year old.  We often wonder why life is so tough.  Sometimes it is because we miss this simple little step – obedience.  I prayed this verse over my kids and now my grandkids all the time.  I so want them to be touched by God’s blessing in these four areas.  But the key to this is built on obedience.  And my job, my role in the process is to set the example and teach them how to obey in every area of life.  Are you walking in obedience – submitting where you should – and following God’s direction.  That is how we receive His blessing and touch.  Do it today!

Matthew 2

Matthew 2 is our next chapter in the chronological walk through the new testament.  It is a very familiar Christmas story of the wise men coming from the east to find the baby.  You will recall that “when Herod the king heard this, he was troubled”.  Here we are a few thousand years later and people are still focused on keeping control of their power.  Herod pulled together all the priests and scribes and “inquired of them where the Christ was to be born”.  They told him the place – Bethlehem – which was no secret because it had been prophesied many years earlier.  Guess that tells us Herod didn’t read the Book much, if at all.  So he calls the wise guys in and asks them to “go and search diligently for the child” and then asks them to come tell him where he can find the baby.  Legit request – Herod is the king after all.  So the kings set off following the star and it led them to Jesus – “it came to rest over the place the child was”.  Now that is no little feat – for God to hang a star and freeze it over the place Jesus was.  The three wise men come and give their gifts and worship Him.

As they left, they were “warned in a dream not to return to Herod”.  So the three were faced with a dilemma.  The king has specifically told them to return and let him know where to find the baby.  Yet God spoke to them and said no – go another way.  Does that ever happen to you?  You know God wants you to do something yet you really had another plan in mind.  What do you do?  These guys did the right thing.  “They departed to their own country by another way”.  They took a different path and stayed away from Herod.  It was also an angel that carried a different dream to Joseph and told him to “rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you”.  Are you seeing a pattern here?  God is directing the steps of people.  He wants to do that for you and me today as well.  Joseph too gets up and took off as instructed.  Both the wise men and Joseph show how we should respond to God’s lead – it is called obedience.  Not when we get around to it, or feel like it, immediate, complete and total.  There was no arguing, no debate, no questioning of God’s direction here.  Just get up and move now.  Herod figures out that he has been hoodwinked by the wise men and gets irritated so he decides to kill all the “male children in Bethelehem….who were two years old or under”.  A bit over the top, but grabbing for power causes people to do very stupid things.  Herod dies, God again speaks to Joseph and tells him he can go home and they “went and lived in a city called Nazareth” again to fulfill prophecy.  The story of Jesus birth really has a lot to do with obedience.  Mary obeyed and was willing to be the vessel God used to send His Son to us.  Joseph listened and obeyed at least three times – he married Mary, he took them out of the country, he returned to Nazareth – just as God directed.  The wise men did what God told them, as did the shepherds.  The birth of Jesus really gives us a picture of how we need to listen and obey as God leads us.  The story could have gone in a very different way had someone gotten stubborn or refused to follow God’s direction.  Do you?  Are you listening and more importantly obeying what He says to do?

Matthew 1

Matthew 1 gives us the geneology of our Lord Jesus Christ.  It begins with a long list beginning with Abraham and running for 14 generations to David, then 14 more generations to the deportation to Babylon and 14 more until the birth of Jesus.  So 54 generations are listed here from Abraham to Jesus.  Lots of names that are hard to say and may not make sense – but certainly some notable people in the lineage.  We have Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Boaz, David and many others.  It is a bit of a who’s who of great Old Testament biblical names and faces.  Does any of this matter?  Well it does in that it is consistent wth God’s truth and the prophecy of His Word.  So yes it absolutely matters.  We don’t need to dive in and necessarily know and understand each of these men on the list – but we do need to recognize that God had a plan from the beginning on how this would all take place – and He completed it in His way.  Down to the very last detail – every prophesy fulfilled – each of the people on this list doing their part of completing His Story.  And it is important to note that we have the same kind of responsibility – to fulfill our part of His Story – the history of our life matters in God’s big picture.  We have things to do which have been assigned to us by the Father – people to see, places to go, life to live – that is part of God’s plan for our life and for His plan.  It is important that we find out those assignments and get after completing them.

The chapter ends with a description of the reality that was facing Joseph and Mary.  Pregnant fiancée – not a good thing in those days.  In fact, the norm was to divorce and put a woman like that away.  Joseph considered doing that – after all – he knew this baby was not his.  It would have been what most men would have done.  We see his heart when scripture tells us he was “a just man and unwilling to put her to shame…..resolved to divorce her quietly”.  He wasn’t going to make a big deal out of it – Joseph was not intending to be vindictive or make an example out of Mary – but he wasn’t planning to get married to her either.  Then it happens.  “But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared… not fear to take Mary as your wife…..she will bear a Son and you shall call His name Jesus”.  That would tend to get your attention wouldn’t it?  Joseph woke and “did as the angel of the Lord commanded him, he took his wife”.  Obedience is the key.  Joseph could have fought the direction of God.  He could have said no.  But he didn’t and a baby was born and “he called His name Jesus”.  Are you listening to God’s direction for His story in your life?  Do you walk with Him as He directs?      

Luke 2:1-38

Luke 2:1-38 is really a familiar passage.  It is the story of Jesus’ birth.  It begins by the requirement that all “should be registered”.  Seems the government was busy messing with the lives of people even 2000 plus years ago.  All about taxes I am sure, so not much has changed.  Joseph heads to Bethlehem because he was to go back to the town from where they came, and “he was of the house and lineage of David”.  While there to do what they were required, “the time came for her to give birth”.  Things were busy – and there was “no place for them in the inn”.  Mary laid the baby Jesus in a manger.  Not a very kingly way to enter the world, but it was part of God’s plan.  It did fit the prophecy of scripture and set the expectations for what is to come.  You’ll recall that “there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night”.  They were doing their regular job – watching and protecting their flocks just like every other night.  But this one is very different.  Jesus had been born.  And now “an angel of the Lord appeared….the glory of the Lord shone….they were filled with fear”.  These were not the elite of their day.  They were lowly shepherds who dealt with danger every day as they fought off wild animals and greedy people who were out to take or kill their sheep.  Yet as the angel appeared – it was a very different situation.  The announcement is made – Jesus had been born – “a Savior who is Christ the Lord”.  They were told how He lie in the manger in swaddling clothes.  

So what do they do?  They talk about it and immediately “went with haste” to find the child.  They wanted to “go over to Bethlehem and see”.  And they found Mary and the baby and told everyone in sight.  At eight days they named Him Jesus, “the name given by the angel” and they presented Him and offered sacrifice as was the custom of the day.  There was an old man Simeon who was “righteous and devout” who had been promised “he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ”.  God kept him alive awaiting the chance to see Jesus.  He saw him and blessed him and spoke these words: “this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel….so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed”.  Jesus came to change lives and hearts and point them to God.  He is the way, the truth and the life and the only way to the Father.  Another old person – Anna – was there and waited to see the Savior.  When she did she came “up at that very hour….began to give thanks to God and to speak of Him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem”.   Jesus is born in a simple stable, laid in a manger, is revealed to some lowly sheperds, and then is announced by two very old folks – Simeon and Anna.  He comes into the world in a very unassuming way, and becomes our Savior without fanfare and a big production.  Oh how God loves us and did this His way.  It wasn’t how Hollywood would have written the script.  But it was how prophesy wrote it and how the Father fulfilled it.  All because He loves us – enough to send His very Son – to save us and give us eternity!

Luke 1:39-80

In Luke 1:39-80, we see how Mary responds to the news that Elizabeth is with child.  “Mary arose and went with haste” to be with Elizabeth in the hill country.  She went there to spend time with her and as she came into their home, “the baby leaped….and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit”.  Pretty strong response to a young unwed pregnant girl who has come for a visit.  God is at work in both these women’s lives.  The Holy Spirit is active and Elizabeth proclaims the reality that “blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her form the Lord”.  That is the secret of Mary finding favor with God – she believed He would do what He said.  She believed that God was not only able, but that His plan would come to fruition as she was told.  God responds favorably to those who believe.  Faith is the foundation of receiving His blessing in many places in scripture, and Mary has it figured out.  In fact, she says “My soul magnifies the Lord….my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…..for He who is mighty has done great things for me…..He has shown strength with His arm”.  Mary gets it.  God is faithful to do what He says – she believes it – and gives Him the glory and the praise for who He is.  Have you put God where He belongs in your life? 

As Elizabeth gives birth, we see the story of Zechariah unfold.  Normally, the tradition would be that “they would have called him Zechariah after his father”.  That is how things worked in this time in history.  Firstborn son – named after his father.  But Elizabeth said no – his name is to be John.  And they ask Zechariah and he asks for a table to write his response – J O H N – “and immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed”.  Remember, he has been mute since the angel told him of this son coming over 9 months ago.  And he wasn’t set free from that until he was obedient to God’s command to name the boy John.  Not only did he get his speech back, “Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit”.  God is really getting involved in Zechariah’s life – He gives him prophecy to speak.  And as Zechariah speaks truth about what this newborn baby would do we get a picture of who John was to become:

–       “Prophet of the Most High

–       You will go before the Lord to prepare His ways

–       Give knowledge of salvation to those who sit in darkness

–       Guid our feet into the way of peace

God is at work in Zechariah’s life here too – after He lines up with God’s plans and is obedient.  We see it with Mary.  We see it with Zechariah.  We see it with Elizabeth.  God takes action when there is faith and belief and obedience.  As we walk with Him, God takes action.  That is what turns His power loose!

Luke 1:20-38

Today we read Luke 1:20-38 and see a couple of very exciting things happen.  You will recall that Zechariah has been serving as priest in the temple and has an encounter with the angel Gabriel telling him he would have a son.  He doesn’t believe and there is a price for that: “you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things take place”.  So because of his unbelief – which seems pretty normal actually – he is struck mute.  Scripture is clear why that happens – “because you did not believe my words”.  God sends an angel with truth and Zechariah struggles to accept it.  He never really says he can’t believe it – he asks for a sign to know for sure.  But God’s expectation is that we know and accept truth when it is delivered to us.  That applies to His Word which is truth as well – we need to know it and accept it as such.  Zechariah comes out of the place of worship and can’t speak and the people figure out he has seen a vision.  It didn’t take God long to be true to His word as “Elizabeth conceived and for five months she kept herself hidden”.  Can you imagine the talking that would go on about this news?  Old lady becomes pregnant – husband is mute – oh the rumors that proably were flying. 

Gabriel now six months later is sent to “a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph”.  He comes with news again of a super natural event.  Gabriel explains to Mary that she has “found favor with God” and will bear a son who shall be named Jesus.  Mary questions: “How will this be, since I am a virgin”?  And Gabriel answered that “The Holy Spirit will come upon you”.  Gabriel also tells her about Elizabeth being with son and states this truth: “For nothing will be impossible with God”.  Do you believe that?  Nothing, absolutely nothing, is impossible for God.  That doesn’t mean He will do everything we want or wish for.  If does mean He absolutely can do anything He wants.  There are no limitations.  Mary asked a simple question of the angel – how can this be?  Zechariah had a similar question – how shall I know this?  The outcome was very different as Zechariah was struck mute and Mary just went on with life.  Why the difference?  I think it is in Mary’s response to the angel.  Check out what she says: “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word”.  She couldn’t have really known what she was signing up for.  An unwed girl becoming pregnant and bearing a child in those days was not acceptable.  But she trusted God and knew He would be faithful to His Word and she said I am all in.  Zechariah never really says the same.  He actually would logically be the one who would recognize and know God was at work – after all he was a priest.  But Mary puts her trust and faith in God’s message and says she is ready to be used.  That is how God wants us to respond.  Complete faith and a willing heart to go and do whatever He calls us to do. 

Luke 1:1-19

Today we will focus on Luke 1:1-20.  This is the story of Zechariah and his encounter with the angel. Do you remember the story?  Zechariah is married to Elizabeth.  They were “advanced in years” which means they were too old to have kids, or so it seemed.  Scripture tells us “they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord”.  That is a pretty strong testimony of faithfulness isn’t it?  They were walking with God – both of them – and doing what they were supposed to.  But they still didn’t and couldn’t have kids.  Doesn’t really seem fair does it?  Here are two folks who are walking with God and they can’t seem to get pregnant.  At least the way they wanted, in the time they wanted.  We do see that they kept on doing what was right.  Zechariah was “serving as priest…..chosen by lot….the whole multitude of people praying….there appeared to him an angel of the Lord”.  OK – things are getting interesting here now.  Zechariah has been faithfully serving God for years.  Today was just another day for him doing what he did hundreds of times before.  But today – an angel shows up and talks to him.  So what changed?  He didn’t do anything different or special this day.  What changed?  It was God’s appointed time.  God’s plan was to meet Zechariah face to face through the angel Gabriel this day.  It is His timeline, not ours that matters.

So what does the angel tell him?  “Your prayer has been heard”.  How many times do you think Zechariah and Elizabeth prayed for a baby?  How many times do you think they wondered if God heard?  But they kept on praying, and they kept on waiting for God to answer.  And while they waited – this is the key part – they remained faithful to walk with God.  They didn’t change their behavior because they didn’t get the answer when they wanted it.  They just kept on walking with Him.  And the answer – well it amazed Zechariah to the point he questioned the angel – “your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son”.  How is that for a miracle announcement.  Now remember – this is a miraculous encounter.  It isn’t like Zecharioh talked with angels every day.  He hears but doesn’t accept it – must have been a mistake – he was too old for that.  So he asks “How shall I know this”?  Good question and Gabriel tells him that he was sent to deliver the news.  I don’t blame Zechariah for asking.  But suffice it to say, a promise is given that a son would be born – John to be his name – and that would be the man who would proclaim and prepare the way for Jesus.  Pretty important announcement.  Pretty amazing answer to a lot of years of prayer.  We need to stay faithful and focused on prayer.  God listens.  He answers in His time and in His way.  Our job is to keep praying and walking faithfully.

The Journey

I am beginning a walk through the New Testament in Chronological order based on this reading plan:

Join me in the journey.  It starts on week 40 – but I won’t be trying to read it at the speed this chart shows – just in the chronological order.

Revelation 22

Revelation 22 ends the Bible and John wraps up his vision of the end times.  God has won the victory – evil has been defeated and Satan and his demons have been cast into the Lake of Fire.  What John sees in heaven is the “Water of Life River ….and the Tree of Life”.  God has created heaven with all goodness – “never again will there be any night”.  It is just going to be light all the time because of the glory of God and His presence.  And “the throne of God and of the Lamb is at the center”.  It all comes down to God and having Him where He belongs – even now in our lives.  God should be in the center.  He should be our One central focus.  John also sees what we will be doing if we are spending eternity there:  “His servants will offer God service – worshipping, they’ll look on His face, their foreheads mirroring God”.  We will be in His presence to worship Him.  And we will look on His face.  We need to begin seeking His face now – rather than just continually seek His hands and what He can do for us.  We need to get to know Him – to build a deep and abiding relationship with Him.  Instead we often just dump our laundry list of needs and wishes and seek His hands to see what we can get from Him.  That is not the way it will be, and we should begin to do it differently even now.

John also gives us a message about what is to come.  “Yes, I’m on my way.  Blessed be the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book”.  We need to realize that the end is coming.  We need to live like that.  We need to live like today may be the day – that Jesus could return at any time and we need to be ready.  To have our own life in order and to make sure those in our patch have made things right with Him as well.  He goes on to say “don’t put it away on the shelf….time is just about up”.  We should not ignore what God has written for us.  It is to be our guide book.  “Let the righteous maintain a straight course and the holy continue on in holiness”.  God’s Word is given to help us walk His way.  It is to help us prepare for eternity.  Jesus is coming and scripture tells us here that He’ll “pay all people in full for their life’s work”.  We will get what we deserve based on how we live according to God’s Word.  It is pretty basic and clear.  How we live matters.  It will determine our future and eternity.  Are you ready?  John ends the writing of God’s Word with these truths.  We need to get ready!   

Revelation 21

Revelation 21 talks about what heaven will be like.  John gives us a vision of it – “I saw Heaven and earth new-created”.  He takes us on a tour as he sees what God has in mind.  I love how he describes the basics of it: “God has moved into the neighborhood, making His home with men and women”.  Did you catch that?  God is moving into the neighborhood.  It reminds me of the worship song that goes “Heaven is a wonderful place, filled with glory and grace”.  God is making His home with those who followed Christ.  He is moving in and we are moving on up.  John captures some other facts about heaven that are pretty exciting as well:

  1. He’ll wipe every tear from their eyes
  2. Death is gone for good
  3. Tears gone
  4. Crying gone
  5. Pain gone
  6. I’m making everything new
  7. I give freely to the thirsty

It is gonna be good there.  And the fate for those who are not Christ Followers – well John sees that too – “for them it’s Lake Fire and Brimstone”.  That is a very different outcome. 

The second half of the chapter gives a lot more details on what is to come.  John describes a few key things: “But there is no sign of a Temple, for the Lord God – the Sovereign Strong – and the Lamb are the Temple”.  Can you see it?  We will no longer need a place to go and worship – we will be with God and Jesus and it will be worship live all the time.  We will live in a place that will be in their presence 24X7 although time will be no more.  Eternity doesn’t require keeping time – it lasts forever – so that is why the decision about Jesus and the judgment is so critical.  John goes on to tell us “the city doesn’t need sun or moon for light.  God’s glory is its light, the Lamb its lamp”!  What a picture of how it will be. The glory of God will light up the place – we won’t have any darkness – just the light of His glory.  “Its gates will never be shut by day, and there won’t be any night”.  Can you see it?  The lights will be on all the time because it will come from the presence of God who will be right there all the time.  And it will be completely pure as “nothing dirty or defiled will get into the city, and no one who defiles or deceives”.  God will have the place protected from any and all evil.  There will be no more darkness or evil at all.  No vacancy for the bad stuff.  “Only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s Book of Life will get in”.  This is the reality – if your name isn’t written in the Book of Life – you aren’t going to be there.  Eternity isn’t rocket science.  It is making sure you have your relationship right with God and that Jesus is your Savior and Lord.  Eternity hinges on that decision.  Have you made it?  Have you made the right decision?  It is never too late to put Jesus where He belongs as your Savior and Lord as long as you are alive.  But do it today – tomorrow may not come.

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