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Category Archives: Luke

Matthew 7:13-14

13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.
Matthew 7:13-14

Dear God, the gate is a constant choice. It’s interesting that choosing a life through the narrow gate or the wide gate will have a cumulative effect and will build on itself, but there’s a portal from each road that will take me to the other instantly.

So what are some ways I can accidentally go through that portal that gets me to the road with the wide gate?

  • Self-indulgence
  • Clinging to my rights over others’ rights
  • Lethargy
  • Judging others
  • Gossip
  • Ignoring the struggles of others
  • Gluttony

Now that I think about it, it is choosing all of the things in Galatians 5:19-21:

The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

The gate is wide for all of these, and I can find myself easily wanting to fall into at least half of them.

But the narrow gate and road are really only dictated by two choices:

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
Luke 10:25-28

Love you with all my heart, soul, and strength and love my neighbor as myself.

Father, I am taking these two days as a vacation, and I have a choice for these two days. I can be self-indulgent or I can love you and love others. If I allow myself to be consumed by news, social media, watching movies/TV, then I will find that I’ll return to work on Thursday in a worse place that I left yesterday afternoon. But if I will take these two days to rest, meditate on you and your word, and think about how my life might be a blessing to those around me then I have a chance of going to work on Thursday morning walking on the narrow path and being a blessing to others in your name. Help me to use these two days wisely.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2020 in Galatians, Luke, Matthew

 

Habakkuk 3:12

In wrath you strode through the earth and in anger you threshed the nations.
Habakkuk 3:12

Dear God, this is an Old Testament passage. In light of the new covenant, what makes you angry now, and how do you handle that anger? I’ll start out by saying that I doubt I’ll be able to work through this deep theological issue this morning and in this format, but it’s an interesting question.

I guess I can try to think about what angered you and Jesus in the New Testament.

  • Hypocrisy among your believers — This is the first thing that came mind as I thought about Jesus. The hypocrisy of the Pharisees seemed to really anger him.
  • Disrespecting you for selfish gain — I’m thinking about Jesus clearing the Temple during Passover on this one. There were plenty of people who disrespected you, but to do it so brazenly for profit really angered him.
  • People who cause others to stumble (Luke 17:1-2).
  • Stubborn, unrepentant sinners who are confronted (Luke 17:3-4).
  • Christians who intentionally mislead people into thinking they are doing holier things than they really are (Acts 5:1-11).
  • Rejecting others who need our charity (Matthew 25:31-40).

Is there a theme in all of these things? If there is, it’s selfishness and deception among your believers.

So what is your response to these things now? Frankly, I don’t think I can be sure of the answer to that. Is it separation from you in eternity? I don’t know? Do you remove a certain level of protection from us to bring us to repentance? I don’t know. Do you actively punish us? I don’t know (although I tend to follow the school of thought that you might remove some protection before you actively punish). And, ultimately, I suppose my understanding of your response isn’t nearly as important as my understanding of what makes you angry in the first place. What grieves you.

Father, help me to not grieve you. Help me to not anger you. I’m sorry for my selfishness. I’m sorry that I still doubt you. I’m sorry that I still indulge my own vanity and actively cultivate a less than genuine image for others to see. I’m sorry I don’t pursue relationships with the poor and downtrodden. I hope, I hope, I hope that when you look at me you don’t see someone who is constantly grieving you because you don’t deserve that from me or any of us. You are a good and wonderful God and I am very grateful for your love.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2020 in Acts, Habakkuk, Luke, Matthew

 

Fathers of the Bible — God

15 All the tax collectors and sinners were approaching to listen to him. 2 And the Pharisees and scribes were complaining, “This man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”
3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man among you, who has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open field and go after the lost one until he finds it? 5 When he has found it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders, 6 and coming home, he calls his friends and neighbors together, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found my lost sheep!’ 7 I tell you, in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who don’t need repentance.

8 “Or what woman who has ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp, sweep the house, and search carefully until she finds it? 9 When she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, because I have found the silver coin I lost!’ 10 I tell you, in the same way, there is joy in the presence of God’s angels over one sinner who repents.”

11 He also said, “A man had two sons. 12 The younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of the estate I have coming to me.’ So he distributed the assets to them. 13 Not many days later, the younger son gathered together all he had and traveled to a distant country, where he squandered his estate in foolish living. 14 After he had spent everything, a severe famine struck that country, and he had nothing.[e] 15 Then he went to work for one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. 16 He longed to eat his fill from the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one would give him anything. 17 When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have more than enough food, and here I am dying of hunger! 18 I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. 19 I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired workers.”’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. 21 The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field; as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he summoned one of the servants, questioning what these things meant. 27 ‘Your brother is here,’ he told him, ‘and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “Then he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’
31 “‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15nger worthy to be called your son.’
22 “But the father told his servants, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, 24 because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate.
25 “Now his older son was in the field; as he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. 26 So he summoned one of the servants, questioning what these things meant. 27 ‘Your brother is here,’ he told him, ‘and your father has slaughtered the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’
28 “Then he became angry and didn’t want to go in. So his father came out and pleaded with him. 29 But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a goat so that I could celebrate with my friends. 30 But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’
31 “‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. 32 But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”
Luke 15

Dear God, I’ve been waiting to get to this one because this one is you. I almost didn’t want to categorize this as “Fathers of the Bible” because you are so much more than my father. You are more than what Adam was to Seth, Abraham was to Isaac, or even Joseph was to Jesus. But Jesus used this father to describe your love for me so I thought I would take some time to see who this father is and what I can learn from you about where my priorities should be as a father to my own children.

First, I suppose I can look back and see consistency in this description of you and how you treated your people in the Old Testament. You gave them freedom. You gave them rope. You allowed them to go their own way and you would hear their cry when they came back to you. Over and over again, you really were this father. I’m surprised I haven’t heard more preaching or teaching about this, but it’s true. With very few exceptions, it’s true.

Second, I wonder if we haven’t mistitled this parable. Should it be, “The Father with Two Sons,” because this is about how you handle all of your children, not just those that act out in rebellion? In fact, this reminds me now of the master who hired people throughout the day and gave them all the same wage regardless of what time they were hired. That parable was about you too. You are not just the father of the prodigal. You are the father of all of us, and we all have a unique relationship with you.

So now let’s look at this parable. This might actually be a multi-day prayer because I don’t want to gloss over any parts of the story. But here are some thoughts about this whole chapter at first glance

  • It’s interesting that Luke is the only one who gives us this story. It’s not in the other two synoptic gospels.
  • Much like John 3:16 is part of a rant that Jesus goes on with Nicodemus, this parable is one of three told in conjunction with one another and they should all be considered together when looking at the context.
  • I might be getting too specific here, but we’ve always thought of Jesus telling the tax collectors and sinners this story as well as the Pharisees and scribes, but when verse 3 says, “Then Jesus told them this parable:” it’s a reference to the Pharisees and scribes muttering about him being around the sinners. Luke’s intimation is that this was directed not at the sinners, but squarely at the Pharisees and scribes.
  • In all three stories, something is lost, and then there is a celebration when it is found. Not just relief, but exuberant joy!
  • Each story intimates that the lost one who returns gives you more joy than the righteous that stays. It makes me wonder what kind of rejoicing there was in heaven in the Old Testament times when Israel would repent and return to you.
  • The third story about the man with two sons is much more complicated than the first two. I suppose stories involving people would be inherently more complicated than stories involving a lamb or a coin.

So what can I surmise about you when I combine these three parables with who you exhibited yourself to be during the Old Testament times?

  • You really like us and want us around. You value our presence! You miss us. It’s not just that we worship you. Yes, in each case, you are the authority (over the lamb, the coin, or the son), but when they return you don’t demand anything in the moment. You just celebrate.
  • Your agenda for us seems to be for our good. You want us around because you know it’s better for us if we are with you. The lost sheep will surely die on its own. The coin will never live out its purpose. And the son will die in misery and spiritual/emotional emptiness. When all three return, your joy is centered around the fact that it is good for them that they returned. And your joy is complete in their wholeness and the restoration of relationship.
  • In terms of the story of the father and his two sons, your ego doesn’t play a role in your responses to the boys. You allow them to rebel. You allow them to insult you. You honor the concept of free will that you gave us all the way back to the beginning. This might be the biggest difference between you as a father and me as a father. None of your decisions appear to be based on how what is happening will impact you. Everything appears, instead, to be centered on how it will impact your sons.
  • Jesus seems to imply that you are more interested in the state of our heart than the words we’ve conjured up. The younger son was broken and had come home to submit to his father’s authority. That’s all the father needed to know. That’s all you need to know. It’s not about what fancy words I conjure. There isn’t anything magical I can produce to earn your forgiveness. There was no way for the son to atone for his sins, but you weren’t looking for atonement. You just wanted repentance, humility and submission. And you knew that this son was now set for a better life after having come to this point.
  • Then there’s the older son. I’m sure the Pharisees (the audience for this parable) were tracking with Jesus and maybe even buying into the idea that you would celebrate the return of the younger son. Maybe they were starting to soften their stance on Jesus trying to evangelize and bring to repentance the tax collectors and sinners. But much like Chekhov’s gun, Jesus had planted an almost forgotten character in the story who must be addressed. He wasn’t just a character of virtue and obedience to contrast with the younger son. He had his own issues.
  • Forgetting the lesson that Jesus has for the Pharisees in his decision to link who they are with this older son, I want to look at much at how you responded to the older son as I did this younger. And it’s pretty simple. Only two verses (31 and 32):

“My son,” the father said, “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.”

Again, I think I’ve read this wrong over the years. I’ve always thought of this little speech as a scolding, but that’s not what Jesus says. He represents you as sayin to the Pharisees, “Hey, you have been good and everything I have is coming your way. But I love that person over there. They are my child to. You referred to him as ‘this son of [mine].’ Well, he isn’t just my son. He is your brother. It’s time for you to love him and celebrate with me because he is alive again. He was lost and now is found.” Jesus wasn’t taking anything away from the Pharisees and scribes that day. He was imploring them to join him in reaching out to and loving these tax collectors and sinner. He wanted them to welcome them.

So what does this have to say about me and who I am as a father? What can I learn from you, my Lord and my God?

  • Not always, to be sure, but I have probably made too many parenting decisions based on how their behavior impacts me, my ego, my feelings, my reputation, etc.
  • While it is good for me to reach out (see the shepherd looking for the lost lamb or the woman looking for the lost coin), it is also right for me to let them come to conclusions on their own. Especially as adults, I cannot force my will upon them.
  • Sibling rivalry is real and I need to deal with each of my children differently while still loving both equally. And if I can somehow get them to have empathy and even mercy for the other–at least a wishing for the best for them–then that should be pursued.
  • You never lightened the consequences for the rebel. Whether it was the Israelites in the Old Testament or the son in this story, you never made the results of his actions easier on him. As a parent, it is very hard to watch our children suffer, even if they brought it upon themselves. But if we get in the way then it can short circuit whatever lesson you might have for them in the experience.
  • You are their father as much as you are mine. Since they are adults now, at this point, I am their spiritual brother and I should care more about their relationship with you than their relationship with me. Yes, they still need the love that an earthly father can give as long as I am alive, but this is no longer about them submitting to me. My goal should be for them to submit to you.

Father, it looks like I ended up doing this all in one sitting after all. Thank you for being who you are. Thank you for being the God you are. Jesus could have taken this parable in a lot of ways, and I’m grateful for the portrait he painted of you and for me to follow. Help me to be the son you need me to be for your glory’s sake and not mine.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Part 12)

After three days, they found him in the temple sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all those who heard him were astounded at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished, and his mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked them. “Didn’t you know that it was necessary for me to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and with people.
Luke 2:46-52

Dear God, just this first sentence makes me think about those times when I was so mad at my child when they were little and, after I’d really built up my anger towards them and how I was going to really get onto them when I saw them, I would find them, hear their explanation, and realize that they hadn’t really done anything wrong at all, but, instead, had done their best to do the right thing. I can only imagine how Mary and Joseph were feeling as they searched Jerusalem for three days. I wonder where they went for those three days. What was the first place they looked? The second place? It took three days (coincidence?) to find him in the temple. I wonder why that wasn’t closer to the top of their list.

So they find him and they are probably ready to let him have it. How do I know? Because we think this account is being told to Luke by Mary and she remembers herself saying, “Son, why have you treated us like this?” Forget the idea of being grateful he was alive. She was just angry at him. She might have been telling herself (and Joseph) that if she found him alive she was going to kill him. How could he do this to her (them)?!?

To be clear, I don’t blame Mary for this and I don’t think Jesus did either. He explained himself fairly innocently, but he also learned–as most teenagers need to learn–that his actions impacted the lives of others as well. Jesus still needed some parenting here too. He was still piecing together who he was and how he should proceed.

Father, my children are grown now and finding their own way, but as long as I’m here I think you’ll have some role for me to play in their lives. It might be diminishing. It might be changing. It might be to simply offer at least one source of unconditional love in their lives–one safe place. If that’s what you have for me, so be it. And also help me to be the son you need me to be for my parents and my wife’s father. Help me to adequately express my love for them and know how to receive from them the things you need me to have.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, the Mother of Jesus (Part 11)

Every year his parents traveled to Jerusalem for the Passover Festival. When he was twelve years old, they went up according to the custom of the festival. After those days were over, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming he was in the traveling party, they went a day’s journey. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him.
Luke 2:41-45

Dear God, the last time I went through this story, focusing on Joseph’s perspective, I stopped here–before they found Jesus–so I thought I would stop here for Mary too. He was a good kid so they made a huge assumption. They just assumed he was with their traveling party. Why wouldn’t he be? He always did what he was supposed to do. But the they figured out he wasn’t there. Oh no! What happened?!?

I would bet that it never occurred to her that Jesus would have not been with them voluntarily. That would have apparently been very out of character for him. No, he must have either been taken or hurt and couldn’t get to them. A woman that fled to Egypt only to learn that all of the boys under two years old back in Bethlehem were killed after they left because someone was trying to kill her son had now lost that boy. Where was he?!?

I wonder if she and Joseph blamed each other as they went back to Jerusalem. Maybe they each blamed themselves. Maybe Mary got all of the blame since she was the mom and moms were in charge of children back then. Either way, I’ll bet there was a lot of fear as they went along…and a lot of silence.

I’ve blamed myself for a lot of things with my children through the years. And I’ll confess that I’ve blamed my wife for things too. And she has, in turn, blamed me for some things. How can you not? We all make mistakes and we all deserve some blame. In this case, I think Mary and Joseph both fell asleep at the wheel because they had grown to trust Jesus so much. But he still needed some guidance and parenting. He was trying to figure things out and he needed their help.

Father, help me to be at peace with the mistakes I have made and the mistakes my wife has made. Help me to forgive myself for anything for which I still feel shame. Help me to forgive my wife for any resentments I still have towards her. As I search my thoughts, I can’t think of any, but I’m sure they are there. And help me to stay alert and vigilant as I continue to be a father my adult children. Help me to not miss what you still need them to have from me.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
 

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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, Mother of Jesus (Part 7)

There was also a prophetess, Anna, a daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was well along in years, having lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, and was a widow for eighty-four years. She did not leave the temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayers. At that very moment, she came up and began to thank God and to speak about him to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
Luke 2:36-38

Dear God, I don’t know that I had ever done the math, but Anna had to have been 105 or so. I mean, these are Genesis years. These are A.D. years. I wonder what it was like for Mary to have Simeon come up to her and give his prophecy and then see this woman, who was obviously well-known to everyone since she had been at the temple for 84 years, start talking to others about her son. I wonder if Mary had ever seen Anna in past trips to Jerusalem as a girl. And here she was now, with a unique child of her own, and Anna seemed to already know all about it. Again, what an amazing set of affirmations you gave to her (and Joseph).

It doesn’t relate to me as a parent, but I am grateful for the affirmations you’ve been giving to me as a leader at my work lately. This is a tricky time. I’m trying to keep people (staff and patients) safe, serve as many as possible, and ensure there are resources available for us to keep doing the work. And so far you have given me some great affirmations in all areas. So far, our entire staff and seemingly all of our patients have been safe from the pandemic, we have found a way to meet a lot of needs and are even brainstorming ways to meet more, and donors are being generous in their support of our work. It’s quite remarkable. The scary thing is that I can see that if I weren’t spending time in prayer with you I would probably take all of this for granted. I would miss you in all of this.

Father, I take these affirmations in my work and apply them to my parenting as well. I do see good signs of your hand in my children’s lives. I see your hand in my marriage. I see your hand all over the place. No, things aren’t turning out like I would have thought (or thought I wanted), but I have faith that they are turning out just as you need them to. So I give that to you. I give you all the freedom you need to do whatever you feel is right in my life. For your glory, Lord, not mine.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 28, 2020 in Luke, Mothers of the Bible

 

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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, Mother of Jesus (Part 6)

When the eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus —the name given by the angel before he was conceived. And when the days of their purification according to the law of Moses were finished, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (just as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every firstborn male will be dedicated to the Lord ) and to offer a sacrifice (according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons ). There was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking forward to Israel’s consolation, and the Holy Spirit was on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he saw the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, he entered the temple. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to perform for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him up in his arms, praised God, and said, Now, Master, you can dismiss your servant in peace, as you promised. For my eyes have seen your salvation. You have prepared it in the presence of all peoples— a light for revelation to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel. His father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and told his mother Mary, “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be opposed — and a sword will pierce your own soul—that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”
Luke 2:21-35

I want to focus on two things about this story.

  • Mary and Joseph were amazed at what Simeon said about Jesus.

I would imagine that this kind of fit the narrative that had been developing over the last year. Perhaps this stuff about Gentiles was new. But glory to Israel–sure. This was going to be special. I can just imagine Mary and Joseph making eye contact and wordlessly saying, “Can you believe this?!?”

But then we get his prophecy to Mary, which brings me to my second point:

  • “Indeed, this child is destined to cause the fall and rise of many in Israel” [Okay, we can still work with this. I can see how this could be part of his destiny] “and to be a sign that will be opposed” [Excuse me. What?] “and a sword will pierce your own soul” [Hold it. What do you mean? This isn’t funny.] “that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” [How does that fit into all of this?]

This is obviously one of the prophecies that Mary remembered about Jesus too. And she decided to tell Luke about it as well. I just went back and looked to be sure, but this is the first time either Mary or Joseph have gotten an inkling that this son of theirs will live a less than glorious life. Even Zechariah didn’t get a warning from his angel visit about John the Baptist’s difficult path. It shows just how much Simeon was in tune with your Holy Spirit that his mind was open enough that he could see what others weren’t able to see yet. A real Messiah will not just rule superficially. He will rule in people’s hearts (“…that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.”).

For Mary, this must have just been a whirlwind. We will look at her visit with Anna tomorrow. She’s getting affirmations all over the place, but she’s also being given pieces of the jigsaw puzzle. Not so that she will know the future, but so that when the future comes 30 years later she will have these words to hold on to. She will be able to have faith while her soul is pierced.

Father, thank you that you don’t tell us too much, but you just reveal yourself to us in the moment. Help me to embrace that concept. As we move through the COVID-19 pandemic day by day, I want to be patient and respond to each moment without having to feel the pressure of what I think I should be doing. I just want to know what you want me to do.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 

 
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Posted by on April 26, 2020 in Luke, Mothers of the Bible

 

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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, Mother of Jesus (Part 5)

And while they were there, the time came for her baby to be born. She gave birth to her firstborn son. She wrapped him snugly in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no lodging available for them.

[The shepherds] hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby, lying in the manger. After seeing him, the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.
Luke 2:6-7,16-19

Dear God, it was a few years ago when I first started to ask “why” regarding the shepherds. Why did you disturb their sleep with this news? Why did you bring them into the loop? Why were they chosen to receive this instead of the local church leaders? And I’ve come up with some thoughts related why them instead of anyone else, but that’s not what I’m looking at today. I’m looking at Mary and how she intersects with their story (or how they intersect with Mary’s story). And the key is found in verse 19: “…but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often.”

It was a night she will never forget. She had to give birth in a stable. She was young (let’s not forget she was likely a child by today’s standards), she was tired, scared, and going through it with a guy she presumably didn’t know as well as she later would. Was there any part of both of them that Satan was using to sow doubt about and distrust of the other? Just how scared and alone did Mary feel that night? Then these dirty guys show up. She likely would have smelled them coming if she hadn’t already been in a stable. But these unlikely heroes came in and told Mary, Joseph, and then anyone who would listen about their own angel visit. But they didn’t get just one angel.

Suddenly, the angel was joined by a vast host of others—the armies of heaven—praising God and saying, “Glory to God in highest heaven, and peace on earth to those with whom God is pleased.”
Luke 2:13-14

They go an army of angels! Mary didn’t get an army of angels on her visit with Gabriel. Joseph didn’t get one either. But these guys saw an army of angels. This was big time!! This was God entering the world. This was an affirmation to Mary that God knew exactly where they were. She didn’t have to worry about whether or not they had done something wrong because they were in a stable. You affirmed to her that you knew she was in a stable. You sent shepherds to her to let her and to Joseph. And as Jesus grew up she could go to this memory and apparently she did that often. She probably did it the day the wise men came. She probably thought about the shepherds a few days later when you sent her more affirmations at the temple in Jerusalem (more on that tomorrow). She probably through about them when Joseph woke her up in the middle of the night and told her to get Jesus ready for a trip to Egypt. She probably thought about the shepherd visit when she heard about Herod killing all the baby boys back in Bethlehem. She probably thought about the shepherds when they were frantically looking for Jesus when he was 12. She probably thought about them as she asked Jesus to make some wine. She probably thought about them when she stood outside a home, worried that Jesus had lost his mind. She probably thought about the shepherds when she saw Jesus crucified. And she probably thought about the shepherds after the resurrection. This memory stayed in her heart for the rest of her life and was always a comfort to her.

Father, help me to remember all of the affirmations you have given to me through the years. My wife and I were talking yesterday about some of the things we’ve prayed for over the years that seemingly haven’t been answered. We ended up also talking about some of the things you’ve done to honor our prayers and say, “Yes,” to us. I told her that I have faith you are working things out the way you want because I’ve seen you work powerfully through some of my prayers (especially if I fast about something) and since I know I have prayed and fasted about some things that I haven’t seen answered yet, I am confident you are doing it all in your time. So I reiterate that faith to you right now. I trust you. I trust you. I trust you. Help my distrust. And help me do today what you would have me to do.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 25, 2020 in Luke, Mothers of the Bible

 

Mothers of the Bible — Mary, Mother of Jesus (Part 4)

At that time the Roman emperor, Augustus, decreed that a census should be taken throughout the Roman Empire. (This was the first census taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.) All returned to their own ancestral towns to register for this census. And because Joseph was a descendant of King David, he had to go to Bethlehem in Judea, David’s ancient home. He traveled there from the village of Nazareth in Galilee. He took with him Mary, to whom he was engaged, who was now expecting a child.
Luke 2:1-5

Dear God, I think we tend to skip past this part of the story and get to the birth too quickly. Several years ago, there was a movie called The Nativity. It was a well-done movie that showed the experiences of Mary and Joseph as they led up to the birth of Jesus. I think the movie made the common mistake of showing that Mary went into labor as they rode into Bethlehem. That’s not what verse 6 says at all, but 90% of the movie was spent looking at the time between Gabriel’s first visit and Jesus’s birth.

In the case of this passage, I want to just spend some time thinking about Mary and Joseph traveling together and spending alone time together, all for the first time. I don’t know how much they knew each other before they were engaged, but this certainly accelerated and changed any type of courtship and newlywed traditions customary for the time. What must their conversations have been like? How did they plan for this new reality? How did they dream? Did they allow themselves to “suppose” about Jesus’s life and who he would be? Did they talk about how afraid they were when the met Gabriel? Did they talk about Elizabeth and Zechariah and Mary’s experience with them? Did Joseph admit to her that he was planning to divorce her quietly before Gabriel told him not to? Did they just hold onto each other because they were the only ones they had in this strange town? I would imagine that this was an in readable time of bonding for both of them.

I remember anticipating our son’s birth. I told my wife over and over again, “I just can’t wait to meet him.” He was a stranger to me, but the most important stranger I’d ever anticipated meeting. I didn’t have any expectations about greatness he would achieve in his life like Mary and Joseph must have had, but I did look forward to getting to know him and his personality. The same was true for my daughter as well, but I’m reflecting on our son because, as Jesus was for Mary and Joseph, he was our first. I remember my wife and I talking about how we felt inadequate to be parents. We were nervous. We didn’t have much money and didn’t know how we would afford things for our child. But we had a home, health insurance that provided a hospital room for the delivery, and I had a job to go to give us at least some financial stability. In short, we had all kinds of advantages on Mary and Joseph, but we still had a special time of bonding over the pregnancy as well.

Father, thank you for my wife. Twenty-four years ago right now, she was pregnant with our son. We could feel him move around. We were buying clothes and building baby furniture. And I’m glad we still have those memories. They seem so long ago, and yet, I still remember some parts quite vividly. But I’m very grateful for what we had then and what we have now. It’s a time that has wonderful potential for parents who are expecting–as long as both are ready to go through the experience together. I feel so sorry for those who go through it alone. I think there is definitely something missing for them and probably for their child as well.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 22, 2020 in Luke, Mothers of the Bible

 

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Mothers of the Bible — Mary, Mother of Jesus (Part 3)

And Mary said: My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, because he has looked with favor on the humble condition of his servant. Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and his name is holy. His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear him. He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; he has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly. He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty. He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he spoke to our ancestors.
Luke 1:46-55

Dear God, it’s been right at nine years that my wife and I have been going to a Catholic church, and while I am still not Catholic, I have read the Magnificat many many times. But I don’t know that I’ve ever really taken these words that are attributed to Mary and looked at them from her perspective. What were the experiences and emotions that propelled these words out of her mouth? What insights was she having with you that we now get to see 2,000 years later?

To set the context, Mary has just arrived at Elizabeth’s after finding out she is pregnant. We don’t know if she has told anyone else yet. We don’t know if anyone knows. But when she walked in the door, Elizabeth gave her all of the affirmation she needed, and Mary just seems to explode with these words.

  • My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior: This is just flat out worship. Recognizing who you are first and foremost. Her soul magnifies you and her spirit rejoices in you.
  • Because he has looked with favor on the humble condition of his servant: She is in awe of you noticing her and counting her as worthy of this honor. She has probably always felt like her life would be limited and humble from beginning to end.
  • Surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed, because the Mighty One has done great things for me, and his name is holy: She’s already had some time since Gabriel visited, perhaps on her journey, to think about her place in history. If what he said is true, then she will be known as the mother of the Messiah for eternity. She had no idea how this would play out, but in her mind she was aware enough to know that this would elevate her to a place in history that women of the time simply never would achieve.
  • His mercy is from generation to generation on those who fear him: She knows a savior is coming. Like Zechariah, she probably has the wrong idea about what that savior will look like, but she knows that those who hear you are within your mercy through the generations.
  • He has done a mighty deed with his arm; he has scattered the proud because of the thoughts of their hearts; he has toppled the mighty from their thrones and exalted the lowly: Again, she probably thinks Jesus is coming to topple Rome. She likely thinks her new baby will bring about Israel’s freedom from the rule of Rome or any other country. The new paradigm that Jesus will bring probably never occurred to her.
  • He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty: I would imagine when you are poor and oppressed there are two main things that hit your radar: hunger and shelter. In her mind, this seems to be an outreach to the poor as well. After all, she is poor. Will the Messiah lift up and provide for the poor as well? Will he topple the wealthy? That seems to make sense to her, but that’s not necessarily the way you work.
  • He has helped his servant Israel, remembering his mercy to Abraham and his descendants forever, just as he spoke to our ancestors: She thinks revolution is coming. Just like Zechariah doesn’t have it completely right, Mary doesn’t yet appreciate that Jesus came for the gentiles too.

Father, what I see here is a young woman figuring things out much like the rest of us do. She is worshiping you, but without perfect knowledge. But that’s okay. You’ll take it anyway because you know her heart is pure in it. She will learn over the years. She will become disillusioned much like I have. And I still have a long way to go. I don’t understand what you are doing in my life or the lives of my wife and children. But I’m here to worship you. I give you my worship and my praise.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2020 in Luke, Mothers of the Bible

 

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