Tag Archives: Gospel of Luke

Whose Party Is It?

21 Dec

Very few people believe Jesus of Nazareth was actually born on December 25, yet that’s when most Christians celebrate His birth. I get that. I was born December 24, a date easily remembered but difficult to celebrate. I was never short on birthday wishes, but my only “non-family” party happened when I was in the 7th grade. I didn’t care that it wasn’t my actual birth date. What mattered was celebrating with friends.

I’m a flexible celebrator for another reason. My dad was a “locomotive engineer on the Santa Fe Railroad.” That title was both a source of pride and humility. Papa loved his job and was very good at it. However, he didn’t want anyone to assume he was an electrical, mechanical, or any other kind of engineer. Driving a train occasionally took Papa out of town on December 25, yet somehow Santa always knew if he needed to arrive on the 24th or 26th. We didn’t care that it wasn’t actually Christmas day; what mattered was celebrating as a family.

What do you think matters to Jesus? Decorations, presents, parties? We can get a pretty good idea by looking at how God the Father orchestrated Christ’s first birthday. The venue seemed low on His priorities. Or perhaps the smelly stable intentionally introduced a humble Servant-King. Humility and unselfishness undoubtedly matter to Jesus.

Father outdid Himself on the invitations. He decorated a lonely pasture with brilliant light while angels announced the party with shouts of praise. “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying: ‘Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!’” (Luke 2:13–14 NKJV).

No matter the celebration location, I think Jesus would like candles and lights, beautiful music, and most of all, a sense of wonder. How can it be that the King of Kings and Lord of Lords would invite lowly shepherds and us to this amazing event? Last Sunday as my husband conducted John Rutter’s Gloria for choir, brass, and percussion, I fought back tears as we sang. I think the Lord Jesus Christ was glorified and pleased with our offering, and the congregation was inspired. I wondered if it might have been a tiny taste of what we will experience in heaven.

The shepherds’ reaction went from intense terror to eager expectation and curiosity. It’s not every day angels declare a treasure hunt for a king wrapped in strips of cloth lying in a feed trough. The shepherds hurried to Bethlehem and searched until they found Mary, Joseph, and the Baby King. They amazed their friends with the story of this most miraculous birthday party. When they returned to work the shepherds continued “glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen” (Luke 2:20 NKJV).

Jesus must long for more awe and less commercialism surrounding His birth. I think He would be pleased to hear us eagerly share His story with those who haven’t heard, rather than carefully consider whether to proclaim “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” I’m certain He doesn’t want this to be a one-day celebration. Rather, He would have us search daily for Him in the common places of our lives then celebrate and share our Discovery.

Never doubt you’ll find Him—if that’s your desire. “And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13 NKJV).

Merry Christmas and Happy Birthday, Jesus. I hope you like your party.

Do You Choose Ashes or Beauty?

7 Dec

It’s fireplace weather as the weatherman predicts single digit temperatures. I love rotating in front of the fire like a marshmallow on a coat hanger—equally toasted on all sides. Frequent fires produce abundant ashes.

As I transferred cold ashes from the fireplace to a trashbag, I thought how they no longer resembled the logs originally placed on the grate. No longer sturdy logs, the ash pile was now gray, powdery, and easily scattered by the slightest puff of air. Perhaps, like me, there was a time when your life was in ashes—cold, colorless, without meaning or apparent value, no longer resembling the life you once envisioned.

The Bible uses ashes to symbolize misery, shame, humility, and repentance. Deeply distressed mourners sat on ashes and threw them toward heaven, allowing the ashes to fall as a head covering. That’s why Isaiah’s prophecy was so powerful. He promised “comfort [for] all who mourn, . . .a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair” (Isaiah 61:3a).

This dramatic transformation would come through faith in God. Jesus Christ later read this passage from the scroll of Isaiah, “‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:18–21 NIV).

No matter what you’ve been through or what you’re facing, Jesus offers understanding and victory. He gave up heavenly glory to be born in a stable. He endured poverty, grief, injustice, rejection and faced every human temptation for our sake. Why then do we continue to cover ourselves in ashes when He offers a crown of beauty? Our freedom comes not through escaping our circumstances, but in accepting the love, power, and joy offered in Jesus Christ.

The fireplace wood we burn is often a mixture of pine and oak. Pine flames quickly; oak burns slowly and provides lasting warmth. God can transform our lives from ashes to oak. As Isaiah says, “They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor” (Isaiah 61:3b NIV).

My prayer for us is that we display God’s splendor, as we remain strong in His power and love.

Saving Sunshine—Part 2

15 Aug

IMG_0547
Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest, they don’t have storerooms or barns, but God feeds them. And you are worth much more than birds . . . Consider how the lilies grow; they don’t work or make clothes for themselves. But I tell you that even Solomon with his riches was not dressed as beautifully as one of these flowers (Luke 12:24, 27 NCV).

God says pay attention to His creation; we can learn something.

Months ago, I began asking God if I should get another dog after my little Sunshine died. I got on rescue websites and even made a call or two about specific dogs. In every case, someone else adopted the dog. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to adopt. My busy schedule combined with my husband’s reservations caused me to have second thoughts. Then I realized that three of the four local rescue shelters kept dogs alive; the fourth euthanized them after one week. I couldn’t save them all, but I could save one.

I still had my list of preferences: female, small, doesn’t shed. I went back to the Humane Society website and found Bambi who met my first three “qualifications.” I called; she hadn’t been adopted. When I got to the shelter (25 miles from home), she wasn’t there.

“She’s been taken to another shelter,” the rescue worker told me, “but I can give you that number.”
“No thank you. The point is not to have a particular dog, but to save a life.”
“You’re welcome to walk around and see if there is another dog you might want.”

So I found the cages marked FEMALE and walked up and down the aisles asking God to lead me to “my” dog. Nothing. Disappointed, I returned to the office.

“Did you find a dog?”
“Not this time. I was hoping for a small female, maybe part Shish Tzu.”
“Did you look at number 21? She’s a Shish Tzu-terrier mix.”
“I thought that row was males.”
“They’re next to the males.”

I went back to #21. A small dog put her nose against her cell and licked my fingers. Her entire backend wagged in welcome. She never barked once, though surrounding dogs howled, barked, and whined. I let the workers know I’d be praying about #21.

The next afternoon I went back to see #21 without stopping in the office.
She was gone!

Tears of disappointment surprised me. Surely, I hadn’t formed an attachment so quickly. I ran back to the office as I dried my eyes and put on a calm exterior.
“Number 21 wasn’t there,” I explained.
“Oh, she’s in the TV room.”
“Do dogs watch TV?” (I know. Brilliant response.)
(Smiling) “No. We were making a TV spot to encourage her adoption.”
Huge relief. “Could I meet her one-on-one?”
We got acquainted in the penned patio. Number 21 was a bit rambunctious and covered with bloody ticks and scabs—but she stole my heart.

“I think I want to adopt her. By the way, what’s her name?”
“ Sunshine.”
“Are you kidding?”
“No, that’s her name . . . Are you going to cry?” (Obviously, a rhetorical question)
“Sunshine was my dog’s name; she died a few months ago.
I signed the paper work and wrote a check.

So God made the wild animals, the tame animals, and all the small crawling animals to produce more of their own kind. God saw that this was good (Genesis 1:25 NCV).

Worry

2 Aug

I sat cross-legged on the bed in our inexpensive motel room, midway into our 900-mile trek. Our destination was the university where George hoped to get his doctorate. All our possessions were stacked in the rental truck and stuffed into the towed Datsun station wagon. Two dogs and a ferret occupied boxes in the back of our aging van, which pulled the boat. (“The Grapes of Wrath” comes to mind.) The university hadn’t yet accepted George into the doctoral program; neither house nor jobs waited. I read Matthew 6:19-34, which concluded with these words.

[Jesus said,] “Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing?’ . . . for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:31–34 NASB95).

I wrote in the margin, “Does this mean tuition, books, gas?”

I’ve heard the definition for worry is assuming responsibility God never intended us to have. Perhaps the key is distinguishing between God’s responsibility and mine. The passage above says our part is to seek God first. God knows us and adds to our life all necessary things.

Yet that’s an incomplete picture. Second Thessalonians 3:10b says, “Anyone unwilling to work should not eat” (NRSV). George and I worked extremely hard—maybe too hard. Remember how Martha worked as Mary sat at Christ’s feet? Jesus told her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her” (Luke 10:41–42 NRSV).

Ultimately, God is our greatest need.

Still, we spend time worrying about so many things; most never happen. I realize we have legitimate concerns and God is not our fairy godmother. However, worry changes nothing. I’ve learned to do all I know to do and leave the results to God. We can trust His love and intimate knowledge of our needs. “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you” (1 Peter 5:7 NLT).

Paul said, “I have learned to be content with whatever I have” (Philippians 4:11 NRSV). That gives me hope. Replacing worry with contentment is something I can learn. The three years it took George to get his doctorate taught us remarkable lessons in contentment versus worry and faith versus fear.

Several years after my encounter with Matthew 6, I wrote the answer to my own question. “Yes— tuition, books, gas and so much more!” In spite of discouragement and fear, God provided material needs, emotional support, spiritual strength, and encouragement—always in His time. Life is continually a matter of praying, trusting, and waiting.

“Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7 NRSV).

Singing Mountains and Clapping Trees

13 Jul

IMG_1211Every year I ask the Lord for a verse. In 2012, He gave me Isaiah 55:12. “For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands” (ESV).

The previous couple of years had been challenging to say the least, and I yearned for renewed joy and peace. I claimed Isaiah 55:12 with no idea how God would bring it to pass. He was true to His word and eventually led me into this place of joy and peace. Our vacation in the national forest of Colorado brought all this to mind, as quaking aspen and gurgling streams reminded me of God’s faithfulness.

After three years, we’re once again camped in our 5th wheel trailer. My husband is an excellent fly fisherman and I enjoy photography. We delight in watching humming birds compete for a place at the feeder. There’s time for walking, reading, poking burning logs in the fire pit, and meaningful conversation.

We drove one of the “improved roads” up from our camp. The picturesque 10,000-foot mountain surpassed our expectations of beauty and fun. I couldn’t help but think of Romans 1:20. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (NIV). How can anyone witness the grandeur and beauty of creation and not recognize the Creator?

Isaiah 61 gives those trapped in physical, emotional, and mental affliction reason to clap and sing. Jesus proclaimed Isaiah 61:1-2 spoke of Him.

And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He . . . found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4: 17–19, 21 ESV).

Isaiah 61 continues, “To grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. (Isaiah 61:3 ESV).

Did you notice Isaiah called us trees? We are to be God’s beautiful oaks of righteousness, bringing glory to Him. Christ heals our broken hearts, sets us free, and so much more. Therefore, we join nature in singing, clapping, and proclaiming His glory.