Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Holy Day Advice

"Therefore the child to be born will be called holy" (Luke 1:35).

Let me see if I can help.  The next time you hear it called a "holiday tree" instead of a "Christmas tree," or someone says "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas," use it to add to your joy.  Yes, add!

How do you do that?

Simply remember that "holiday" comes from "holy + day."  It is really "holyday."  What a beautiful word!  What a perfect description of Christmas!  Who doesn't love listening to "O Holy Night"?  "Holiday" is like someone singing "O Holy Day."  Enjoy!

But now add in the word of the angel to Mary: "the child to be born will be called holy."  This means that the "holy" in "holiday" is the Christ Child!  And that means that "holiday" is not a secular substitution, but a sacred synonym.

That is how we can hear it, and then pray for people to know the love of God in Christmas.

Holy Christmas Day and its Twelve Days are the Happy Holidays.  They are the holy days that make us sad sinners so very happy, because from them we learn and remember throughout the year that a Savior has been born to us!

God's holiness is on bright display when He moves into the world to save us.  Meaning that the right response to "Happy Holidays" would be (happily spoken): "Holy days indeed!"

Monday, November 21, 2016

Become a Thief

On Sunday we heard and believed the last Holy Gospel of the church year - Luke 23:27-43.  Among other things, it led me back to this devotion.

"According to Your steadfast love remember me, for the sake of Your goodness, O Lord" (Ps. 25:7).

One time on a nursing home visit, I sat and talked with a Christian man who realized he was losing his ability to remember.  He was scared and requested some bit of spiritual advice.  You may know a person who is struggling with the same thing.  As he talked, I listened, and as I listened, God gave me an idea.

When it was my turn I simply said to him, "Become a thief.  Become a robber.  That's what you're to do."  I stopped.

"I could never do that, Pastor.  You know that.  I would never do that," he replied.  But he also knew I had a reason for saying it.

Without even opening the Bible, together we remembered the crucifixion and how there were two thieves.  And how one of them had a change of heart and prayed a most beautiful prayer: "Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom" (Luke 23:42).

"Now," I said, "you become that thief.  You ask Jesus to remember you.  For so much of your life you have remembered God and His Word.  You have remembered the Sabbath day.  You have taken Communion in remembrance of Jesus.  Now let Him remember you.  He will never forget you!  Never forsake you!  Until the day comes when He says, 'Today you will be with Me in Paradise' (Luke 23:43)."

Do your best to remember God.  But know this: Should you ever lose that ability, He will remember you!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Encouraging Jesus

"He looked up..." (Luke 21:1).

In addition to the words of Jesus, we should listen to His body language.  In recording the story of the widow's offering, Luke writes that Jesus "looked up," and that's when He saw the poor widow putting in her two mites.  But it begs the question: Why was He looking down in the first place?

My guess (because we are not told) is that He was sad and wondering whether God's love was making a difference in anyone's heart!  Consider the events that surround the story of the widow: He could only weep over Jerusalem (19:41-44); the temple was being misused (19:45-46); priests and scribes questioned His authority (20:1-8); they tried to "catch Him in something He said" (20:19-26); Sadducees denied the resurrection (20:27-40); He condemned the scribes (20:45-47); He foretold the destruction of the temple (21:5-9) and city (21:20-24); He foretold wars, earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and persecution (21:10-19); they "were seeking how to put Him to death" (22:1-2); and "Satan entered into Judas" to betray Him (22:3-6).

(And I talk about having a rough week!)

The lone bright spot: this widow and her offering.  It wasn't much but it was everything.  And it was all our Lord needed to see.  I sense that it picked Him up - this humble, true faith and love of one person.

It happened on Tuesday of Holy Week.  That's when Jesus looked up and saw her.  What I like to believe is that three days later she looked up and saw Him giving His offering.

But the lesson here would be that we have the ability to encourage Jesus.  He must be in need of it.  He has had to witness the sin, unbelief, and deep sorrows of many centuries.  You can do something about it.

When you give from your heart out of love for the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, you, small though you are, strengthen the heart of the living Lord!  Just like the widow.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

God in Three (Old Testament) Persons

"...the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob....  This is My name forever" (Exod. 3:15).

In Exodus 3 God gives His name.  I wrote something about the "I AM" part of it.  See Finishing the Sentence.

But let me share a thought about this part of it: "the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob."

These words are given twice in Exodus 3 and are quoted by Jesus in Luke 20.  And the thought is this: Could this be an Old Testament way of saying "God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit"?  Think about it.

This name of God uses three persons and puts God with each one of them.  Moreover, Abraham is nothing if not a father.  Isaac is his son, his only son whom he loves - but is willing to sacrifice.

And what about Jacob?  He's a distinct third person, so to speak, but much-related to the other two.  You could even say that he proceeds from Abraham (the father) and Isaac (the son), the way we talk about the Holy Spirit in the Nicene Creed.

I'm convinced that God is revealing Himself as Trinity in Exodus 3.  And He adds, "This is My name forever."  Here in Exodus it has an Old Testament veil over it.  When, in the New Testament, the veil is removed, it sounds like this: "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be forever.  Amen.