Five things I learned writing daily Lent devotions

A week before Ash Wednesday (February 14 this year), I cast a line via my weekly email into the congregation announcing that I would be writing daily devotions on Mark’s version of the passion of our Lord during the forty-six days of Lent (I included the Sundays). About twenty replied and received a daily early-morning email devotion. This was a new project for me, and here’s what I learned from the experience. Continue reading

Wait for it – Matthew 1:24-25

“When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (Matt. 1:24-25).

If anyone ever underestimates Joseph's part in the story of Christ's birth, they just need to read these two verses. Some honeymoon, huh? I know, I should be a little more reverent, but the whole idea of getting married is so that you can “know” your wife (and I know you know what that means!). Obedient, patient, self-controlled — if you ask me, Joseph is one heck of a husband!

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Matthew 1:22-23 Fulfillment and a sign

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I find it very interesting that Matthew draws on so much Old Testament prophecy to tell the story. Here, he quotes Isaiah 7:14 and links it to Jesus’ birth. I can’t imagine anyone at the time of Isaiah had the slightest clue what these words would later mean.

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Matthew 1:20-21 A name

sleeping“…behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:20-21). 

As an angel unveils what God has done, Joseph discovers he’s right in the middle of it. God’s plan includes him. He is to marry Mary, name her son and be his father. Just a few moments before, Joseph was ready to walk away. Not so fast, Joseph! You’ve got an important role. You’re the connection with David. You’ve got a wife to take care of. You get to name the Savior. Continue reading

Matther 1:18-21 Doing the right thing

Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins'”(Matthew 1:18-21).

Here are a couple of people who are just trying to do the right thing. They plan to get married, have children, start their life together. God shows up and upsets their plans. (After all, his plans aren’t our plans and his ways aren’t our ways.) So, Joseph tries to do the right thing with a quiet divorce, adhering to the law while sparing his fiancee some very severe consequences. But then Joseph learns in a dream that the right thing is indeed marriage, children and a life with Mary. He received the assurance, “It’s OK. And it’s going to be OK.” Continue reading

Matthew 1:17 Fourteen?

“So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations” (Matthew 1:17).

Lot of numbers in the Bible have significance: six days of creation, twelve disciples, forty days and nights of rain. But what about fourteen? Why does Matthew make us notice the three sets of generations in the ancestry of Jesus Christ? Actually, Matthew skips a few names so that it will fit this pattern. Why? Continue reading

Matthew 1:1 – The beginning

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“The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (Matthew 1:1 ESV).

That’s an interesting way to begin your version of the greatest story ever told! Actually, it’s a pretty boring way to begin the story if you ask me. Do you want people to read your gospel? Give them something more interesting than a family tree. Continue reading

What did they do before there were Bibles?

At the beginning of any new year, you’ll see lots of read through the Bible in a year or two plans promoted. Be sure to check out this blog that talks about what to do when you’ve already fallen behind in your resolve to read the Bible.

Here’s my question: how did Christians read their bibles and do their personal devotions before there were bibles you could own and read? Printed bibles have only been around for about 500 years. Before that, there were hand-copied bibles in churches and universities, but virtually no one had one at home. Before that, there was just the Old Testament, and they kept and read those scrolls in the synagogues. Get this: Jesus didn’t even own a Bible!

I’m guessing that the answer is, for the most part, they didn’t. If you were a monk in the middle ages, I guess you could go to the prayer hours (matins, vespers, etc.) and hear the Word read there. Otherwise, the Word was read at mass each week. In the earliest days of the church, you got your teaching live from an apostle who recounted the things they had heard from Jesus and seen Him do. That must have been very cool. And before that, you got your daily dose of the Word from the Word Himself, Jesus. And before that you would have gotten the Word from the prophets, who spoke for God, but hardly anyone listened to them anyway.

I’m not sure where I’m going with all this, but I believe it’s important to remember that the current emphasis on bible reading and study, which really drives a lot of our programs, is a fairly recent one in the history of the church. And since we do have bibles coming out our ears (and electronic devices), we should take advantage of them. There doesn’t seem to be much excuse to not know what’s in the Bible or what God says about something. But I read somewhere that biblical illiteracy is disturbingly high among self-proclaimed Christians. You know what that means: job security for me.