If you’ve ever watched “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, you heard Linus van Pelt quote from Luke’s Gospel in today’s Bible reading. Charlie Brown complains that Christmas has become so commercialized. (The animated classic first aired in 1965) Exasperated, Charlie Brown asks, “Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”
Linus replies, “Sure, Charlie Brown. I can tell you what Christmas is all about.” Linus takes the stage and asks for the spotlight, “Lights, please.”
“In the same region, shepherds were staying out in the fields and keeping watch at night over their flock. Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for
look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be the sign for you: You will find a baby wrapped tightly in cloth and lying in a manger.” Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel, praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people he favors!” Luke 2:8–14 (CSB)
If you’ve seen the program, you may have missed a crucial point. In the middle of his quote of Luke’s Gospel, Linus drops his blanket as he says, “Don’t be afraid, for look, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: Today in the city of David a Savior was born for you, who is the Messiah, the Lord.”
In dropping his security blanket, Linus drives home the point that because Jesus came, there’s no reason to be afraid.
Have you dropped your security blanket
to embrace the good news of Jesus?
This devotional was originally published June 28, 2019
In today’s Bible reading in Matthew chapter eight, we’re told several stories of faith. The words “faith” (noun) and “believe” (verb) are the same Greek word. They are used three times in the passage. Not all of the stories include the words faith/believe. But faith/believe is implied in the story.
For instance, in the first paragraph, Matthew tells us that a leper comes to Jesus, asking to be healed. The words don’t appear in the paragraph, but we know the paragraph is about faith/believe because why would a leper seek Jesus out unless he believed that Jesus could heal him? Jesus doesn’t tell him that his faith has healed him, but elsewhere when Jesus heals/delivers, He connects faith and healing/deliverance. (Matthew 9:22, Matthew 15:28, Mark 5:34, Mark 9:24, Mark 10:52, Luke 8:50, Luke 17:19, Luke 18:42 [this list is not exhaustive])
If you look up some of the verses above — as with Matthew 8:5-13 — you’ll see that in some cases the faith of the one healed isn’t even factored into the equation. Rather, the faith of the one requesting healing/deliverance is honored by Jesus. And although Jesus rebuked the Disciples’ “little faith”, He honored what little faith they had.
Does this mean that if you have even a little bit of faith, all you need to do is ask Jesus and He’s obligated to answer your request? NO! It doesn’t work that way! Jesus isn’t your heavenly genie!
And that’s one reason we don’t get what we pray for: we ask with the wrong motives. (James 4:3) Nowhere in the Bible are we given a blank check with the authority to command God to do anything. Remember Christian Life Rule #1: God is God. and Rule #2: You aren’t God. Always remember that your place is to submit to God’s authority, God’s sovereignty. He calls the shots. And the reason we pray isn’t to change God, but to change us.
If you are a Believer, you are an adopted child of God. And being one of His gives you incredible authority and privilege. But that authority and privilege must be a balanced with reverence and awe of the Great God Who created it all, owns it all, and rules it all.
And that requires a great deal of humility and killing of pride.
Tomorrow, I’ll be preaching from my home. In an effort to protect our church members and guests from exposure to Covid-19, we won’t meet at our church building until Emergency Management officials feel that it is safe to meet in groups of more than ten.
To be honest, I’ve been amazed at the responses I’ve seen on Facebook regarding the canceling of church services. Some have said, “We’re going to meet like we always do. God will protect us.” Others have said, “The government can’t shut us down!”
My response is the same as when we talked at church last Wednesday. Given the average age and health conditions of our church members, it would be irresponsible to insist on “services as normal”. Protecting everyone from possible exposure to a deadly global pandemic is the “new normal”. Yes, I think that the panic-mongers in the mainstream media are hard at work. And they are succeeding. I mean, just look at the TP shortages. What could be more illogical in the face of a global pandemic of an upper respiratory virus than hoarding TP?! The two are utterly unrelated.
Ok, I’ll step down off my soapbox now.
If you’re available, please join me at 11:00 am CDT for my Sunday Morning sermon. Because we don’t have a license to stream copyrighted music, we’re following the law. Who knows how long this will last. God does. And He is stretching the church to do things differently.
In today’s Bible reading, the writer of the book of Hebrews urges his readers to respond in a positive way to hearing God’s voice. He quotes Psalm 95:7-8 and urges his readers to not harden their hearts if they hear God’s voice.
There is a danger to being familiar with God. The danger is that He becomes so much a “friend” that we no longer find Him awe-inspiring. We no longer see Him with a sense of wonder. Instead, he fits neatly in a box of our creation and choosing.
But the reality is that God will never really fit in a box. God cannot be tamed. God will not be tamed. We must always remember that our God is a consuming fire. (Deuteronomy 4:24, Hebrews 12:29) If you get too close, you will be burned.
There is also a danger to being familiar with God’s Word. Unless you guard against it, you can go through the motions of reading and hearing God’s Word without listening to His voice. He urges his readers to encourage each other daily to prevent sin from deceitfully hardening their hearts.
As you spend time in God’s Word, ask Him to speak. As He speaks, ask Him to show His majesty. Ask Him to show you His magnificence. Ask Him to give you a fresh taste of His greatness. Linger in His Word until you get a fresh taste. And worship.
Perhaps the best thing you can do to keep your heart from being hardened is to strive for instant obedience to whatever God says. Remember that God is God and you aren’t.
A few days ago, I mentioned that demonic encounters in the Bible are relatively undramatic. And then in today’s Bible reading, we see a very dramatic demonic manifestation with a boy who is thrown to the ground, his mouth foams, he grinds his teeth, and becomes rigid. When Jesus casts out the demon, it cries out and convulses the boy’s body. (Mark 9:17-29) That’s pretty dramatic!
But as I said, demons aren’t something that Believers should be afraid of. Jesus is mighter than our enemy, and much more so than our enemy’s servants. There is never a question in Scripture who is stronger and has more authority! If God’s Holy Spirit lives in you — and He lives in all Believers — you have access to a greater spiritual force than your enemy.
So why were the Disciples unable to cast out this demon? Jesus says that sometimes they can only be driven out by prayer. (Mark 9:29) So how were the Disciples trying to drive out the demon? We don’t know, but obviously they weren’t using prayer.
Why do we so often turn to prayer as our last resort? I mean, we may do everything we can. We may ask for other people to help. And then, when we’re at our wit’s end, we turn to prayer. Why?
It goes back to our fallen nature that we inherited from our First Parents, Adam and Eve. They chose independence from God. They chose self-reliance. They chose to do things their way. And so do we, even as Believers.
Spend a few minutes today declaring your dependence on God. Remember that Jesus knew that He could do nothing on His own initiative (John 5:19). And if Jesus had to live in submission, in dependence on God, why would you think you can?