‘Tis The Season

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December 15 (Luke 1:3-4)

Having carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I also have decided to write an accurate account for you, most honorable Theophilus,  so you can be certain of the truth of everything you were taught.  (NLT)

Advent and Christmas are seasons of investigation and robust analysis.  They are times when we set aside our emotions and do the hard work of study.  We explore, dig deep, question, and then dig even deeper.  “Uh, hold on a minute,” you say.  “You’ve got that wrong.  This is the time of year for warm feelings, the joy of family and friends, and the wonder-filled story of a baby in a manger.”  You, of course, are not wrong, but if that is all this season is to you, then you will be left with nothing but warm feelings that quickly cool, joy that fades with the memories of celebrations, and a story that is just that, a story and nothing more.

God created us with hearts to feel, and therefore our feelings are important.  He gave us a spirit with which to understand spiritual things and to hear from Him.  But He also gave us minds, and Luke acknowledges that when he begins his gospel for his friend Theophilus.  He acknowledges that the Christian faith is something that is taught in addition to being felt and he knows that what is taught must be true or it is at best a waste of time and at worst outright deception and fraud.  So, what does he do?  He investigates the sources and carefully presents an accurate account of the life of Jesus.

This is actually the best time of year for you to do the same.  You may have some time off from work or some vacation time in which to get away and relax.  Use that time to dig deeply into the Bible.  You don’t have to be a scholar exploring manuscripts in the original languages.  In the case of Luke, he has already done that kind of work for you.  Instead, read the Bible itself.  Read it slowly and carefully.  Ask questions of it.  Share them with God and let Him lead you into all truth.

Father, thank You for giving us the Bible and continuing to speak to us through it.  So many of its stories have become so familiar to me that I almost take them for granted.  Help me to see them anew and for what they are, the accurate account of Your creation and Your relationship with it.  May the Holy Spirit guide me into what is true, and may that always lead me to greater praise and service to You in the name of Jesus, my Lord and Savior.  Amen.

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Hold On To The Truth

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July 28 (2 Thessalonians 2:15)

With all these things in mind, dear brothers and sisters, stand firm and keep a strong grip on the teaching we passed on to you both in person and by letter.  (NLT)

This verse comes in Paul’s discussion about the return of Jesus, and it is easy to see that return right around the corner when things are going wrong on a large scale.  When we see wars and injustice and immorality sweeping the nations, we become convinced that Jesus is ready to come back.  Yet Paul’s admonition here is for Christians.  What’s going on?

There is a temptation to fall away from God’s word every day, or worse yet, to rebel against it.  This rarely takes the form of openly embracing murder or tyranny, but instead comes in the form of yielding ground an inch at a time.  God wants me to be happy, right?  Therefore, I should be able to do X.  The Bible says it is wrong.  Oh, but the Bible was just the best wisdom of its day, and we know better now, don’t we?  And on and on it goes, a bit at a time, until we have fallen so far from God’s will that our lives are unrecognizable as Christian, despite whether we still choose to call ourselves such.

It is more important than ever in the information age to keep a strong grip on orthodox, Christian teaching.  Everyone with a keyboard or camera can broadcast this or that and claim it is Christian, but that does not necessarily make it so.  God has given us His word in the Bible along with the Holy Spirit to guide our understanding.  On top of that we have the body of Christ, the church, which is far more than the congregation we attend.  The church includes the faithful stretching across the planet and two thousand years into the past.  If what you claim to be a Christian belief or practice can only be reached by a tortured reading of the Bible or would be unrecognizable to the body of Christ at large and throughout the centuries, then it probably is not Christian at all.

Lord, guide my thoughts as I study Your word.  Engrave Your teachings into my heart.  Help me to hold on to what is true no matter how attractive another teaching may seem or how much I want to believe something else.  I ask this in the name of the One who is the truth Himself, Jesus Christ.  Amen.