When You Don’t Know Where To Go

Uncertainties abound for me right now. I’m not even sure what to write. Usually, I write from what my Master is doing in my heart. I don’t think that’s such a good idea right now. Right now my hope is that my Creator is greater than my heart (1 John 3:20). I’m not sure what that means, though.

What I do know is that Jesus is King of kings, and Lord over all other lords. I know that Jesus’ arrival within human history is the most historic event of that history. And I know that His death, burial, and resurrection is more than sufficient for any action on my part to separate me from my Creator. That much I know, and with that I can worship, I can celebrate this season, and I can praise my Creator.

If you know that, then you can worship, celebrate and praise as well. When we do those things together, we approximate the experience which will be ours eternally in heaven. I know that too. Because my Creator is precisely who He says He is through Scripture. And Scripture confirms these things.

Those things I know are the encouraging things for us, for you, for this season, They are the things that transcend trees, wrapping paper, and stockings. The things that are sure about the Savior are those things that begin in a stable and continue through a cross and empty tomb to the throne of our Creator. Truly, they begin with the words, “In the beginning…” and continue through “Amen! Come Lord Jesus!”

Celebrate, sing, pray, weep, laugh, and enjoy a glass of cheer. Eat, and share with those who have less. Drink, and bless those near and far. Forgive, and release those indebted to you.

Merry Christmas, and a very Happy New Year!


Now What?

Uncertainty is a great description for life. Whatever is alive has both potential and realization. All sorts of opportunities lay before anything alive, plants, animals, people, whatever. Regardless of the range of choice, opportunity, or possibility is always part of what lies ahead.

Sometimes, possibilities and opportunities that we see aren’t what is realized. Often, as disciples especially, our Savior does the unforeseen. He makes the opportunity we did not see the next event. He can take what we thought impossible and make that happen. 

But we do have choice within all this. Often, it’s a choice to either roll with it or fight it. Sometimes it’s a choice to keep or give up. With our Savior, He usually wants us to give up, and the unforeseen event drives directly at that choice. What do I mean? Well consider a group of 120 people who, in the space of a few hours, grew to a group of about 3,000.

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:37-42 NASB

How many seats were there in the upper room anyway? They were probably cramped at 120, to be honest. Who has a house that can hold 120 people? That’s not a house, it’s a mansion. Now they have 3,120 (about). How do you speak to such a group without a sound system, mics, speakers, amplifiers, and so on?

What will these 3,000 do for work, now that they are staying in Jerusalem. Where will they live? They were “continually” breaking bread. That’s a lot of bread. Where were they going to get that? Jesus fed 5,000 men, and then 4,000 men, but not daily. What has to happen here?

The ingathering of 3,000 souls is a lot of change to manage in a single day. I mean, it’s great. But it’s also overwhelming. There’s certainly no going back to the old ways of doing…well, pretty much anything. Gone is the cozy upper room where everyone was feeling a sense of awe. Now it’s feelings of overwhelm because not even 10% of the people fit in the upper room.

Luke doesn’t record many of the problems, but he does record a solution they came up with for one of the problems in Chapter 7. The deacons were chosen because Jewish widows from outside Judea were being overlooked in the daily food distribution. So, they weren’t solving these logistical issues perfectly, not at first. There was learning, growing, and adaptation that had to happen.

I think that’s our challenge today. I post these things at work as well, but I’m not sure where to post this entry at work anymore. They are retiring the one, and the new doesn’t seem to allow religious expression. We’re not sure our group will exist in the new company social network. How will we adapt to the new environment? We don’t know. So, what attitude should we have as we explore the way ahead?

Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. Acts 2:43-47 NASB

Our Savior doesn’t stop being amazing. He doesn’t stop being sufficient, sovereign, or powerful. We, His disciples, can remain in awe of Him, we can remain together, contribute commonly, focused on the needs of each other, being of one mind (the mind of Jesus Phil. 2:5), and continue worshipping Him.

There’s a way ahead, we just need to adapt to this new environment, and press on. Consider the creativity of the Creator of this universe, lying in an animal feed trough in a stable. The way ahead may be unexpected. Let’s roll with it.

Flaming Puns of Fire

How would you describe the indescribable, and please be descriptive? Doesn’t that sound like one of the modern tests our kids are facing these days? I don’t miss taking the college placement exams, not at all. I’m pretty sure, though, that first sentence was the challenge faced by the writers of Scripture. In whatever way they were influenced by the Holy Spirit, every writer’s challenge was to make what cannot be described in human language understandable to human creatures.

And so we have translations in English attempting to render in yet another language what had to be difficult to render in Greek when first written. Check this out:

And suddenly there came from heaven a noise like a violent rushing wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them tongues as of fire distributing themselves, and they rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance. Acts 2:2-4 NASB

Suddenly a sound like that of a violent rushing wind came from heaven, and it filled the whole house where they were staying. And tongues, like flames of fire that were divided, appeared to them and rested on each one of them. Then they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in different languages, as the Spirit gave them ability for speech. Acts 2:2-4 HCSB

And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:2-4 ESV

Suddenly a sound like a violent wind blowing came from heaven and filled the entire house where they were sitting. And tongues spreading out like a fire appeared to them and came to rest on each one of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and they began to speak in other languages as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:2-4 NET

They’re not that different, and each of these translations worked very hard at being as literal yet understandable as possible. Even so, you can discern word choices among them. Even though the same word is used in Greek for the “tongues of fire” and “other tongues” of speech, notice how some are “languages” and some are “tongues”. Was it a sound or a noise? What’s the difference? 

But notice the similarities. It wasn’t a rushing wind. It was a sound like a rushing wind. The tongues weren’t fire, they were as fire. Luke is struggling to describe the indescribable using simile. Does the description of what they saw suggest itself because of the similarity between “tongue of fire” and “tongue of mouth”? Why the sound like but not of a rushing wind? Was nothing blowing around? 

You can sort of get a sense of what happened, but not entirely. We’re still left grasping at tendrils of understanding, our imaginations struggling to fill in blanks. What would it have been like to experience the sound like that but see nothing blowing around except distributed “tongues of fire” that didn’t burn. Think of it. Where else did someone experience fire that didn’t burn? Perhaps a bush in the desert?

Wind that doesn’t blow, fire that doesn’t burn, and languages they couldn’t possibly know. Regardless of the differences in modern translations, the similarities are striking, and challenging.

Putting ourselves in that room, trying to imagine the sight and sound, and trying to wrap our heads around what was and wasn’t happening, that’s where our differences evaporate. This passage isn’t divisive, it’s inclusive. It wasn’t about excluding anyone of differing views, it was about unifying people from every language under heaven. 

The point was to bring everyone together to hear of Jesus’ redemption offer. The child we celebrate this season brings together all peoples and offers to reconnect us to our Creator. We are called to gather around a manger and worship our Creator. And while we may all be different, mostly by design, we are also all redeemed, also by design. As with any gift, we are free to accept it or reject it.