Tag Archives: Luke

Through the Bible, July 5

Reading: Luke 2:21-38; Matthew 2:1-12

Summary: Following Jesus’ birth some matters of religious importance had to be tended to.  On the eighth day He was to be circumcised and on the fortieth day He was to be presented in the temple with appropriate sacrifices for purification.  Luke tells of these events and the individuals whom God’s Spirit led to meet the Christ child there.

Much more familiar to us is the visit of the wise men.  This event would have taken place several months following Jesus’ birth (possibly up to two years), not at the manger as common “nativity” scenes depict.

Devotional Thought:

A Right Emphasis

The birth of Jesus is surely one of the best-known portions of all of Scripture.  Everybody knows about baby Jesus in the manger.  Well, at least we know parts of the story.

Luke’s account tells us about Joseph and Mary’s visit to the temple to take care of purification rites when the child was but forty days old.  While there they had memorable encounters with two elderly saints, directed by Gods’ Spirit to come at that time in order to personally witness the Lord’s salvation.  Why isn’t this as well known as the visit of the wise men?

Obviously, the emphasis given to the biblical account of Jesus’ birth has not been even-handed.  Can that be a good thing?  Hardly.

This should serve as a warning to us in regard to how we handle any and all of the biblical message.  There is the traditional emphasis and there is the actual emphasis.  Obviously, falling into the traditional patterns of thinking, interpreting, and applying the Bible is the easiest; but it’s not the best.

Thoughtful, concentrated, fresh, and clear consideration of the biblical text is not easy. But it is most rewarding.

Why not adopt, as best we can, the same emphasis as the Bible?

Through the Bible, July 4

Reading: Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20

Summary: It is in nearly unassuming fashion that the Bible sets out to record the most important birth to ever transpire in human history.  Think about the gravity of the event of God becoming flesh, the result of God’s divine work through generations of Israel’s history.  Yet, to this event, a combined twenty-eight verses are all that are used to tell of this marvelous occurrence.

Devotional Thought:

Whom Do You Tell?

When something big happens in your life whom do you tell?  Who’s the first person you want to know when a great event has taken place?  Where do you begin?

Likely it’s with those nearest and dearest to you; the really important people in your life.  Have you ever not told one person until you had told somebody else?  You didn’t want anyone to know before they did?

Events really don’t get much bigger than Jesus’ birth; that is, God coming to earth, in the flesh, to dwell among men.  This is big!  It’s huge!   And who’s the first to know, outside of Joseph and Mary?  Shepherds; lowly shepherds out with their flocks at night.

A host of heavenly messengers appear to these men to announce the arrival of the greatest personage to ever grace earth; the Savior, our Lord.

That doesn’t seem to fit, does it?  Should more important people be the first to know?  If it doesn’t seem right, it’s only because our own sense of value and importance is different than God’s.

Remember also the announcement of Jesus’ resurrection—another event of tremendous (I need a stronger adverb here) importance.  It was made by angels to the women who came to the tomb.  Like it or not, in that culture, women, like shepherds, weren’t exactly people of consequence.

We tend to discount the value of people; common, ordinary people, such as ourselves.  We’re not “big” enough or important enough; we don’t have enough influence and power to really matter much.  Who says we don’t matter?  Who says we’re not important?  Us?  The world?  Certainly not God.

The first people God wanted to know His big news were important people.  They were important to Him.  We too are important to Him.

Through the Bible, July 3

Reading: Luke 1:5-80

Summary: The great majority of information concerning the birth of Jesus is found in Luke’s gospel.  Included in that material is the record of John the Baptist’s birth.  Both John’s and Jesus’ arrival were matters of angelic announcement to both Zechariah—John’s father, and Mary.  The lives and ministries of both John and Jesus were the fulfillment of prophecy.  These were no ordinary births, but the result of divine operation.

Pay particular attention to Luke’s record of the inspired words of both of John’s parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth, as well as those of Mary.

Devotional Thought:

Patience

Luke 1 is one of those rare occasions when angels make a public appearance.  We know there are many of these beings (myriads the Bible says) but yet they aren’t seen very often or recognized when they are seen.  But Zechariah saw and knew what he saw and he feared.

The angel’s message for Zechariah was that his prayer had been heard.  And what was that prayer?  To have a child.  Think about it.  Zechariah and Elizabeth were both “advanced in years” and had no children (Luke 1:7).  Elizabeth had lived with the stigma of barrenness for all of her adult life.  When do you suppose these two had begun praying to God for a child?  Early on, no doubt.

But then, how quickly had the thrill of being newly married and the anticipation of their first baby given way to frustration and aggravation at their inability to conceive?  Were the prayers intensified about now?  How many “home remedies” had they tried?  How much friendly advice had they politely heard?  How many cutting comments had they endured?  Finally, at some point, resolve had no doubt set it in that they would never have a child. Did the time ever come that they stopped praying for one?

Now, remarkably, so late in life, their petition has been heard.  Amazing.

For what have you prayed for which no response is evident?  How quick are we to abandon our petitions?  How soon do we decide God’s answer is “No” because it hasn’t happened yet?

If anything, we learn from Zechariah’s experience the value of patience.  We often speak of God’s patience with man, but here it is our patience with God.

Through the Bible, July 2

Reading: Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38

Summary: Of tremendous concern to the Jewish mind is one’s genealogical heritage. This is particularly true if the one being presented is the fulfillment of so much prophecy.  That is precisely the point of Matthew’s work, climaxing with the statement of Jesus’ identity on the lips of Peter, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16).  Consequently, Matthew uses two primary historical markers in tracing the Messiah’s lineage: Abraham and David.  Notice how it begins in verse 1, “The genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”  Also noteworthy is the presence of three women in the list—very non-typical for a Jewish genealogical record. What is more, each of the three is a woman of sullied reputation.

Luke’s genealogy comes a bit later in his Gospel, inserted as a segue into the ministry of Jesus.  Two primary differences from Matthew’s genealogy are notable. One, Luke traces the record all the way back to Adam while Matthew went to Abraham.  Second, Luke started with Jesus and went back in time, while Matthew started back with Abraham and moved to the present.

Devotional Thought:

Who Are These Women?

Jesus’ genealogy is dominated by men.  The formula is pretty mundane: this guy was the father of this guy who was the father of this guy who was…you get the idea.

Four notable blips show up in that formula when we find that this guy was the father of this guy by this woman (five if you count Mary).  Who were these women?  And why are they mentioned?  If memory serves, for one man to be the father of another there has to be a woman involved every time.  Why are these four pointed out?

They all share something; scandal.  Tamar (v. 3) portrayed herself as a prostitute to become impregnated by her father-in-law (Gen. 38).  Rahab (v. 5), who saved the spies at Jericho, was a prostitute (Josh. 2).  Ruth (v. 5) was not a Jew, but a Moabitess (Ruth 1)—a forbidden marriage by the Law. And Bathsheba (v. 6), she’s not even named but called the “wife of Uriah”—a not so subtle reminder of her adultery (2 Sam. 11).

What’s the point?  During the long history of God’s plan to bring Jesus to this earth, He worked through people; flawed, broken, sinful people.  Sometimes we get the idea that whenever and wherever God works conditions must be ideal.  Untrue.

This includes me.  Yes, I am to live a “self-controlled, upright, and godly” life (Titus 2:12), but the fact is we make mistakes—sometimes big ones—or we may have a sketchy past.  We may tend to think this excludes me from God’s plan and God’s work, but it doesn’t.

The fact God can work despite scandal is itself scandalous in the minds of many.

Through the Bible, May 31

Reading: Luke 4:16-30; Acts 8:26-40; Hebrews 8:1-13

Summary: Today’s readings are three prominent examples of how Jesus and the New Testament writers viewed and applied prophecies of the coming Messiah and the new covenant He would initiate.  Note, in the example from Luke in particular, how preconceived ideas prevented people from grasping the truth of the prophet’s message and its fulfillment.

Devotional Thought:

It’s Easy to Reject Jesus

How hard is it to accept (receive, believe…insert your word of choice here) Jesus?  Had it ought not to be easy?  His coming into the world was by the work and will of God.  There’s nothing too difficult for Him.  His intention is for all men to be saved (and thus the need for Jesus being accepted).  The capacity to do acts and deeds far beyond human capacity (miracles) was at His disposal.   His arrival on earth, among men, was not a surprise as it had been foretold in such a way that people were in expectation of his appearance.

Everything appears to be in place for people to fully embrace Jesus as the Son of God.

But, they did not.

Perhaps the most startling rejection came in His own hometown, Nazareth.  What began as a warm welcome quickly digressed to attempted murder averted only by a divine act—at least that’s how I understand “passing through their midst, he went away” (Luke 4:30).

The fact is, Jesus did not fit their preconceived notions of what the Messiah should be, He didn’t do for them the miracles they’d heard about, He dared speak the truth of God’s word that contradicted their cherished traditions.  To them, He failed utterly.

We may hold dear to many ideas, notions, and beliefs that actually contradict reality, truth, God’s word, and His Son.

It’s easy to do.

It’s easy to reject Jesus.

My Delight is the Lord, December 31

Listen More

December 31, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 27:1-28:31

The centurion cannot be accused of not hearing different viewpoints when he had to decide if the ship would winter in Fair Havens. He heard the thinking of Paul, the pilot, the ship’s owner, and apparently others on board. He “paid more attention” to those who thought they should go ahead and set sail, than to what Paul said (27:10-11). Several voices were heard; that of experience (the pilot of the ship), that of vested interest (the ship’s owner), the majority, and an imprisoned preacher (Paul). On the surface it seems some of these opinions should carry more weight than others. But only one was correct and that was Paul’s. This is such a critical lesson, we must be very careful about whom we listen to more than others.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Was Paul’s advice inspired? (27:9-10)
  • What made them think they had made the right decision? (27:13)
  • Who spoke to Paul in the night? (27:23)
  • Did all the shipwreck’s victims make it safely in the same way? (27:43-44)

My Delight is the Lord, December 30

Principled Lives

December 30, Friday: God’s Story (1)

Scripture Reading: Acts 25:13-26:32

The Romans were a principled people when it came to their judiciary. As Festus explained, “it was not the custom of the Romans to give up anyone before the accused met the accusers face to face and had opportunity to make his defense concerning the charge laid against him” (Acts 25:16). Had such noble principles of justice governed Paul’s trial, it would have turned out quite differently. The problem is that those principles must be exercised by people and sometimes people are less than noble; Festus and Felix for instance. So it is also with God’s word, it is true and right. The trouble comes when people fail to embrace what is true or practice what is right. As serious as we should be about identifying timeless principles and eternal truths, we must be no less so about living them.

Questions to Ponder:

  • How did Festus summarize Paul’s charges to Agrippa? (25:19)
  • Why do you think Paul resisted a change of venue back to Jerusalem? (25:20-21)
  • Of whom was Paul’s audience comprised? (25:23)
  • Why did Paul believe Agrippa was aware of what he said? (v. 26)

My Delight is the Lord, December 28

Transitions

December 28, Wednesday: Knowing God’s Son

Scripture Reading: Acts 1:1-11

What started at Bethlehem ended on Mount Olivet. Jesus entered the world in the presence of Mary and Joseph and left it in the viewing of 11 apostles. The Son of God taking on flesh and living among men marked a planned-for and necessary transition in God’s eternal plan. Jesus’ ascension was no less a transition. From this time on His followers’ existence would be lived in light of what He had accomplished and so should be dominated by two realities; one, communicating His message “to the end of the earth” (v. 8), and the other, to anticipate the next great transition–His return (v. 11)! As critical as it is to know and understand the Savior and His message, so also is it to be busy fulfilling the Master’s will in the time in which we live.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What did Jesus talk about between His resurrection and ascension? (v. 3)
  • What was the “promise of the Father”? (vv. 4-5)
  • About what were the disciples concerned? (v. 6)
  • What is associated with the Holy Spirit’s coming? (v. 8)

My Delight is the Lord, December 24

The Way

December 24, Saturday: God’s Story (2)

Scripture Reading: Acts 24:1-25:12

Paul’s accusers referred to followers of Jesus as “the sect of the Nazarenes” (24:5). On the other hand, Paul called that which he believed (along with those who believed the same) as “the Way” (24:14). It’s no wonder that enemies of the faith used terms like “sect,” which implies divisiveness, and “Nazarene,” a town of less than honorable reputation (see Jn. 1:46), to describe Paul and his ilk. Of more interest is Paul’s terminology. While “Christianity” dominates modern vocabulary, Paul uses the very expressive, “the Way.” It’s not a segmented portion of the larger body of Jews identified by their adherence to Jesus (such as “sect” suggests). Rather, this is everything that God has worked toward and for through the long history of his involvement with Abraham’s heirs. It’s that to which the Law and prophets all pointed. It truly is the Way.

Questions to Ponder:

  • What accusations were made against Paul? (24:5-6)
  • Of what was Paul always very careful? (24:16)
  • What interesting insight do we get about Felix in 24:22?
  • What was the real reason Felix kept Paul in custody? (24:26)

My Delight is the Lord, December 23

Take a Stand?

December 23, Friday: God’s Story (1)

Scripture Reading: Acts 22:30-23:35

The wisdom of Paul was on full display in his initial trial before the Sanhedrin. Following his arrest by the Romans, Claudius Lysias wanted to know what charges the Jews had against Paul. The apostle, though, realized the impossibility of a fair hearing and therefore used the diverse makeup of the Council (comprised of both Pharisees and Sadducees) to his advantage. Positioning his case as a question of the resurrection the assembly quickly descended into chaos. Paul did not win anything this day. He didn’t even attempt, in this setting, to take a stand. Maybe he saw this as a “pearls before pigs” situation (Matt. 7:6). What he did do was survive to preach and teach and defend himself another day. Not every battle is worth fighting. Not every challenge is worthy of an answer. God, please give us the wisdom to know when to take a stand.

Questions to Ponder:

  • Who called the Jewish council into meeting? (22:30)
  • Does our conscience have limitations? (23:1)
  • What were some key elements of the Sadducees theology? (23:8)
  • Who informed Paul of the plot to kill him? (23:16)