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On My Heart Devotional                             
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God graciously gives us everything we need for life and godliness. In our spiritual journey we rely on Jesus Christ from beginning to the very end. Everything comes from God. Christian spirituality is simply following Jesus and receiving from Him. My prayer is that you will be encouraged by these devotionals and random thoughts.

Devotionals on the Book of Hebrews and Psalms

November 24, 2016

Thanking God

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said "Go, show yourselves to the priest." As they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and Go; your faith has made you well." Luke 17: 12-19 (NIV)

I like being thanked. It means a lot to me when someone expresses appreciation for something I've done. A friend once called to thank me for something I'd done for him years before. He said that he was thinking about how much he appreciated it and realized that he had never thanked me. That simple act of calling to say thanks made my week. It still means a lot to me.

Lepers were outcasts, banned from any involvement in society. No one wanted to risk coming in contact with this terrible disease. Jesus' reputation of having the power to heal had spread everywhere. So when these men heard that Jesus was coming, they were there to meet him. When they saw him, they stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us." He did. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests. Only a priest could officially verify their healing and restore them to community life again. And as they went they were cleansed. Their leprosy was gone!

There is no doubt in my mind that every one of them overjoyed and grateful. They had been healed! They couldn't wait to go home and be reunited with their families. But only one of them took the time to go back and express thanks to Jesus. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?"

I have a lot to thank God for every day. Like these lepers, I am very grateful to God but I'm not very good actually taking the time to say thanks. Fortunately, God is good, even when I don't give thanks.


September 14, 2016

Jesus Seeks and Saves

Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through. A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy. He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd. So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way. When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly. All the people saw this and began to mutter, "He has gone to be the guest of a 'sinner.'" But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, "Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount." Jesus said to him, "Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and save what was lost." Luke 19: 1-10 (NIV)

Zacchaeus had heard reports about Jesus and he wanted to catch a glimpse of this celebrity who was in town. But Zacchaeus was short and couldn't see over the crowd that surrounded Jesus. So he ran ahead and climbed up a Sycamore tree so that he could get a better look at Jesus. When Jesus reached the tree he looked up at him and said, "Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today." Zacchaeus was delighted, Jesus had noticed him. He climbed down and welcomed Jesus into his home.

No one with a good reputation would dare eat with Zacchaeus. He was a tax-collector who had used his position to enrich himself. People were muttering against Jesus, "He has gone to be the guest of a sinner." But Jesus goes home with Zacchaeus and Zacchaeus is transformed by his encounter with Jesus. Zacchaeus repents and confesses that Jesus is Lord. He would never be the same again!

Our Savior eats with sinners. He seeks and saves the lost. He redeems and restores.


August 24, 2016

God Receives Praise

As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, "Jesus of Nazareth is passing by." He called out, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!" Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, "Son of David, have mercy on me!" Jesus stopped and ordered the man be brought to him. When he came near, Jesus asked him, "What do you want me to do for you?" "Lord, I want to see," he replied. Jesus said to him, "Receive you sight; your faith has healed you." Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus, praising God. When all the people saw it, they also praised God. Luke 18: 35-43 (NIV)

Jesus is headed toward his destination and the fulfillment of his mission. In a few days He will face the cross. The blind man could tell something significant was happening, he could hear a large crowd going by him. He could not see what was going on, so he asks what is happening. As soon as he hears that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by he starts calling out for Jesus. "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!," he calls out. But those who are leading the crowd don't want to slow Jesus' progress. They tell the blind man to keep quiet. This isn't a scheduled stop. But he ignores them and keeps shouting, "Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!"

Jesus stops and orders the man be brought to Him. Then He asks the man, "What do you want me to do for you?" The blind man knows exactly what he wants. "Lord, I want to see." Jesus compassionately grant this man's heart desire. Instantly, he receives his sight and joins the crowd that is following Jesus. He praises God and everyone else joins him in praising God when they see what has happened.

Jesus allows Himself to be interrupted to show compassion and meet a need. God receives glory and praise.


June 1, 2016

Ultimate Victory is Certain

Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again." The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about. Luke 18: 31-34 (NIV)

I can easily relate to the disciples failure to comprehend was Jesus was talking about.

Even though Jesus frequently warned the Twelve what was going to happen in Jerusalem, the disciples were shocked when he was arrested and killed. They only heard what they wanted to hear. They couldn't take in what Jesus was telling them.

Jesus knew that a horrible crucifixion awaited him, yet he continued on.

When Jesus talked about his impending shame, humiliation and death he also foretold his resurrection. He knew that ultimate victory was certain. Because of Jesus death and resurrection, our victory over death is certain!


May 13, 2016

Cost and Reward

Peter said to him, We have left all we had to follow you!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus said to them, "no one has left home or wife or brothers or parents or children for the sake of the kingdom of God who will fail to receive many times as much in this age and, in the age to come, eternal life." Luke 18: 27-30 (NIV)

The disciples had given up everything to follow their Lord. Jesus promises that everyone who makes a significant sacrifice to follow Him out of love and devotion is certian to receive God's blessing and life eternal.


March 17, 2016

Saint Patrick's Breast Plate
- Attributed to Saint Patrick - early missionary to the Irish

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

 
I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

 
I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

 
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

 
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

 
Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

 
Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

 
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

 
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.



March 4, 2016

What Must I Do?

A certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus replied. "No one is good - except God alone. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'" "All these I have kept since I was a boy," he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me." When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." Those who heard this asked, "Who then can be saved?" Jesus replied, "What is impossible with men is possible with God." Luke 18: 18-27 (NIV)

This rich person comes to Jesus with a question. He says, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" Jesus wants to make one thing clear; compared to God, no one is good. No one meets God's standards. This man does not really understand God's law. He might even be thinking "God is obviously blessing me with wealth, so I must be meeting God's standards." This man is not aware of who he is really talking to. He thinks Jesus is just a religious teacher. He doesn't realize that he is talking to the Messiah; the Lord of heaven and earth.

Jesus tells him that he already should know God's requirements. He is very familiar with the Scriptures. This man arrogantly claims to have kept all of God's commandments from the time he was a boy! No one who understands God's law could possibly claim to have kept God's law throughout all of life (or even for a day!). So Jesus now puts him to the test starting with the first commandment, prohibiting idolatry. Jesus tells him, "You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me." Jesus realizes that this rich man is so focused on his possessions that he has turned them into idols. But he cannot give up his idols for the kingdom of God. The price is just too high. When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"

The fact is that it is impossible for anyone to enter the kingdom of God. No one is good enough. Only an act of God can make the impossible possible. Only Jesus Christ makes it possible for us to enter God's kingdom. "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." (2 Corinthians 5: 21) Jesus willingly became sin and suffered God's wrath for us. He provides the righteousness that we need. This rich man couldn't bring himself to acknowledge that he desperately needed God's mercy and grace.

I thank God often that He has made the impossible possible for us!


February 4, 2016

Children

People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them. But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it." Luke 18:15-17 (NIV)

The disciples were annoyed. People were bringing babies to Jesus for Him to touch and bless. Jesus was involved in important work; God's work. The disciples thought they were keeping Jesus from doing the main work of ministry, but Jesus had a different perspective. Jesus calls the little children to come to him. He then tells the disciples not to hinder them in coming. He gives his attention to children. Jesus thought there was no more important way to spend his time!

Jesus has a special love for children. Those who have a humble child-like trust in Jesus will enter the kingdom of God, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.


January 27, 2016

God, Have Mercy  on Me

To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: 'God, I thank you that I am not like other men - robbers, evildoers, adulterers - or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.' But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, 'God have mercy on me, a sinner.' I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 18: 9-14 (NIV)

As I was thinking about these six verses I realized that a lot of my prayer life is self-centered. I often pray about myself or for myself.

Jesus tells this story directly "To some who were confident in their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else." He wanted to get their attention. He tells them a parable about two people who went to pray. One was well respected, religious and known for living a righteous life. He gave generously and fasted twice a week. He was proud of his devotion to God and was confident that God was pleased with him. The other person is simply described as a "tax-collector", one who was despised and assumed to be corrupt.

When the religious person prays, he prays about himself. He thanks God that he is not like others, including his fellow worshiper, "this tax-collector". Then he gives God a list of his moral credentials. He reminds God how good he has been. When the tax-collector prays he humbly cries out to God, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner." Jesus then says, "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God."

Both people in Jesus story were sinners. All of us stand guilty before God. The religious people Jesus was telling the story to would probably admit that they weren't perfect. However, they were proud of the good lives they were living. They thought their own goodness made them right with God (or was a major contributing factor). They were trusting in their own righteousness.

Pride in our own goodness keeps us from God. No one enters God's kingdom because of their own righteousness. All are guilty before God. We all need to humbly cling to Jesus Christ and his righteousness. Nothing I do makes me right with God; only Jesus, by his grace, can make me right with God.

The tax-collector knew he was sinner. He knew he didn't deserve heaven. He begged God for mercy. It is only by grace that anyone can be right with God.

Lord, help me to humbly and sincerely pray this prayer about myself and for myself: "Lord, be merciful to me, a sinner."


January 21, 2016

Never Give Up, Pray


Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. He said: "In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared about men. And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, 'Grant me justice against my adversary.' For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, 'Even though I don't fear God or care about men. I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!'" And the Lord said, "Listen to what the unjust judge says. And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18: 1-8 (NIV)

The judge in Jesus' story is a selfish and corrupt scoundrel. And man without a soul. He does not care about people or justice and he has no regard for God. A widow keeps coming to him pleading for justice. This judge refuses to help her. But she keeps coming back again and again pleading her case. This unjust judge finally yields and grants justice because she is persistent and pesters him.

The point of Jesus' story is to show his followers that they should always pray and not give up. Our heavenly Father is just and he cares! He is not like this judge. We will experience suffering, ill-treatment and injustice. God does not forget about us. We are not to take our own vengeance but to cry out to God. God says, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay." Justice may be delayed, but no injustice will last into eternity. We are not to despair, but to pray and not loose heart. God is at work and will accomplish his purposes.


January 12, 2016

Jesus is Coming

Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the kingdom of God is within you." Then he said to his disciples, "The time is coming when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man, but you will not see it. Men will tell you, 'There he is!' or 'Here he is!' Do not go running off after them. For the Son of Man in his day will be like the lightning, which flashes and lights up the sky from one end to the other. But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation. Just as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be in the days of the Son of Man. People were eating, drinking, marrying and being given in marriage up to the day Noah entered the ark. Then the flood came and destroyed them all. It was the same in the days of Lot. People were eating and drinking, buying and selling, planting and building. But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. on that day no one who is on the roof of his house, with is goods inside, should go down to get them. Likewise, no one in the field should go back for anything. Remember Lot's wife! Whoever tries to keep is life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. I tell you, on that night two people will be in one bed; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding together; one will be taken and the other left. "Where, Lord?" they asked. He replied, "Where there is a dead body, there the vultures will gather." Luke 17: 20-37 (NIV)

Have you ever wanted to know when Jesus will return?

Jesus, the King, the one who reigns over heaven and earth had come, yet the religious leaders of His day did not realize that he had already come and was standing right in front of them. They had missed the coming of their King. So they asked him when the kingdom of God would come.

There will be a day when the glory of the final consummation of Christ's kingdom will be revealed. We do not have to look for it, but, we are told to be ready. No one will miss that day! Everyone will see Him and behold His glory as the King of Kings. Jesus tells His disciples that before that day comes "first He must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation."

Jesus say that most people will go about living their lives giving no thought to the possibility of His return. No one took Noah seriously when he warned them of God's coming judgement. Right up until the day Noah entered the ark people were eating, drinking and getting married. Then suddenly, the flood came and destroyed them all. In the same way, Christ will return when He is not expected.

Jesus tells us, "Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it." Like Lot's wife, many people are tied to the things of this world. They are more committed to the world than the Lord. Now is the time to flee to Christ, tomorrow may be too late.


November 25, 2015

Thanking God

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said "Go, show yourselves to the priest." As they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and Go; your faith has made you well." Luke 17: 12-19 (NIV)

I like being thanked. It means a lot to me when someone expresses appreciation for something I've done. A friend once called to thank me for something I'd done for him years before. He said that he was thinking about how much he appreciated it and realized that he had never thanked me. That simple act of calling to say thanks made my week. It still means a lot to me.

Lepers were outcasts, banned from any involvement in society. No one wanted to risk coming in contact with this terrible disease. Jesus' reputation of having the power to heal had spread everywhere. So when these men heard that Jesus was coming, they were there to meet him. When they saw him, they stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us." He did. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests. Only a priest could officially verify their healing and restore them to community life again. And as they went they were cleansed. Their leprosy was gone!

There is no doubt in my mind that every one of them overjoyed and grateful. They had been healed! They couldn't wait to go home and be reunited with their families. But only one of them took the time to go back and express thanks to Jesus. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?"

I have a lot to thank God for every day. Like these lepers, I am very grateful to God but I'm not very good actually taking the time to say thanks. Fortunately, God is good, even when I don't give thanks.


November 19, 2015

Servant

"Suppose one of you had a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Would he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down and eat'? Would he not rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; and after that you may eat and drink'? Would he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'" Luke 17:7-10 (NIV)

I like being noticed, thanked and recognized when I serve. I expect a little appreciation for my hard work. Jesus definitely challenges my expectations about serving and obeying God. Just like a servant we are expected to obey and serve our Lord and Master. If we do everything God commands, then we have only done what is expected of us.
If we obey and serve God perfectly we are only doing what we should be doing. No matter how much we give of ourselves, "We are unworthy servants, we have only done our duty."  God is not obligated to us in any way. We are obligated to God. Everything we have comes from Him.

When we are noticed and thanked, it is because of God's grace. God is not obligated to reward us, although he graciously does. He even promises to crown our works with rewards. Our service to God should never be a reason to boast or expect anything. We serve out of joy and thankfulness for all God has given us. 

What is amazing is that our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, did not come to be served but to serve and give his life a ransom for many. He came as a servant! One day he will actually say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servant."


November 16, 2015

Forgive

Jesus said to his disciples: "Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves. If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him." The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!" He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard sees, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you." Luke 17:1-6 (NIV)

Be very careful what you do, say or teach. Your influence can have powerful consequences. Because of this Jesus warns us to "watch yourselves."

"If your bother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent," forgive him." Our model for forgiveness is Jesus Christ. Christians are forgiven people. Sometimes it is hard for me to forgive. If God were as reluctant to forgive me as I am to forgive those who sin against me, I would be in trouble. Those of us who have experienced the grace of God and have been forgiven so much should be quick to extend grace to others. Forgiveness means not holding a sin against a person any longer. The disciples knew that what Jesus was telling them would be incredibly hard to put into practice. Forgiving someone to this extent is beyond our natural ability. Their immediate response was to say, "Increase our faith!"

Fortunately, God gives us the grace and strength to do what we cannot do on our own, forgive.

I am very thankful for how much God has extended grace and forgiveness to me. Forgiven people forgive.


November 5, 2015

Reflections on the Rich Man and Lazarus

"There was a rich man who was dressed in purple and fine linen and lived in luxury every day. At his gate was laid a beggar named Lazarus, covered with sores and longing to eat what fell from the rich man's table. Even the dogs came and licked his sores. The time came when the beggar died and the angels carried him to Abraham's side. The rich man also died and was buried. In hell, where he was in torment, he looked up and saw Abraham far away, with Lazarus by his side. So he called to him, 'Father Abraham, have pity on me and send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water and cool my tongue, because I am in agony in this fire.' But Abraham replied, 'Son, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things, while Lazarus received bad things, but now he is comforted here and you are in great agony. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, so that those who want to go from here to you cannot, nor can anyone cross over from there to us.' He answered, 'I beg you father, send Lazarus to my father's house, for I have five brothers. Let him warn them, so that they will not also come to this place of torment.' Abraham replied, 'They have Moses and the Prophets; let them listen to them.' 'No, Father Abraham,' he said, 'but if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.' He said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.'" Luke 16: 19-31 (NIV)

Jesus has just said that you cannot serve God and money. Now he tells a story about two people, one served God and the other money. Jesus describes a very rich man. He wears the finest and most expensive clothes money can buy. He even wears quality underwear (fine linen)! This rich man feasts on the richest of food every day. He is contrasted with Lazarus, who is sick, hungry and can only survive by begging. Covered with sores, Lazarus is too weak to work or even sit up. He longs to eat scraps that fall from the rich man's table. But the scraps are not given to him but to the dogs. The rich man ignores Lazarus, looking away every time he sees his miserable figure. The dogs show more compassion, licking Lazarus' wounds. Lazarus suffers without complaint or bitterness. When he dies he is lovingly carried to heaven.

The rich man also dies, as everyone eventually does. He is buried and next we see him in hell, suffering in torment. He sees Abraham far away and next to him is the beggar he constantly passed by and ignored. He recognizes Lazarus, but instead of apologizing and asking for forgiveness, he tells Abraham to send Lazarus to serve him!

Now that the tables are turned, how will Lazarus respond? Lazarus is silent just as he was at the rich man's gate. He doesn't retaliate or scold him. Abraham reminds the rich man there is a "great chasm" and "that those who want to go from here to you cannot." Why does Abraham say this? I think it is because he has a willing volunteer in Lazarus. Lazarus has compassion on his old neighbor, the very person who ignored him, he wants to go and relieve his suffering. Since Lazarus can't come to him the rich man asks Abraham to send him back to his family with a message. There is still no hint of repentance. Even suffering in torment in hell doesn't change his self-centered heart.

Stories like this can be hard to listen to. I don't like thinking about God's judgement.
I prefer thinking about heaven. However, Jesus Christ, the one who did come from heaven and rose from the dead is the one who lovingly brings us this warning. In his grace, God has spoken. This is a story for us. Mercy and compassion are close to the heart of God.


October 8, 2015

Everyone is Forcing their Way In

"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the law. Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery." Luke 16: 16-18 (NIV)

The Law and the Prophets had been the final word of God before Jesus. Religious leaders used the law to keep undesirable people out of God's kingdom. Jesus came preaching the gospel and now all kinds of sinners were streaming (storming) into the kingdom! No one could keep them out. Everyone was welcome.

What about the law? Jesus points out that the law still stands. In Jesus day the sanctity of marriage was being threatened. Women had few rights. A man could divorce his wife easily, for almost any reason. He simply had to write a bill of divorce, have it signed by two witnesses and give it to his wife. Jesus elevates both the sacred bond of marriage and the law of God.


September 30, 2015

Trustworthy

"Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much. So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches? And if you have not been trustworthy with someone else's property, who will give you property of your own? No servant can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money." The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus. He said to them, "You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight." Luke 16: 10-15 (NIV)

I think Jesus would agree with the saying, "You can't take it with you." We are only stewards of what we have, things we own in this world can never be permanently ours. We should keep eternity in mind as we handle worldly wealth, living trustworthy lives. In heaven we will get true riches, riches of God's grace that will be ours forever.

Jesus states that a slave cannot serve two masters. Every moment of a slave's time and energy belongs to their owner. Jesus point is that God is the most exclusive of masters. We belong totally to him.

Jesus turns the values of this world upside down. "What is highly valued among men is detestable in God's sight." He is trustworthy.


September 22, 2015

Example for us?

Jesus told his disciples: "There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So he called him in and asked him, 'What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.' The manager said to himself, 'What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I'm not strong enough to dig, and I'm ashamed to beg - I know what I will do so that, when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.' So he called each one of his master debtors. He asked the first, 'How much do you owe my master?' 'Eight hundred gallons of olive oil,' he replied. The manager told him, 'Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred.' Then he asked the second, 'And how much do you owe?' 'A thousand bushels of wheat,' he replied. He told him, 'Take your bill and make it eight hundred.' The Master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings." Luke 16: 1-9 (NIV)

This manager was in trouble. He was dishonest. He was embezzling from his employer. Now he was going to lose his job. No one else would hire him, he could soon be on the street. He knows he will need friends and favors in order to survive. So he goes to everyone who owes his employer money and falsifies the entries in the books. This will make the debtors grateful to him. He also is involving the debtors in his crimes, so he's now in a position to blackmail them, if needed.

The employer, instead of being shocked or angry when he finds out, actually admires the manager for his shrewdness!

I am always surprised when I read this story. Why does Jesus use this dishonest manager as an example for us? I can't figure that out. Maybe the story is supposed to give sinful people like me hope that my life could possibly be an example to someone.

This person did prepare for the future. Like this manager, who had to account for actions, we all will one day have to stand before God. Anyone would be foolish not to prepare for this. God is a God of grace and mercy; grace that is only possible because of what Christ's death accomplished. When we flee to Jesus for salvation we don't have to fear future judgement. We can face it, confident than everything has been dealt with by Jesus Christ.


August 12, 2015

Beyond Comprehension

"Meanwhile, the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. 'Your brother has come,' he replied, 'and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.' The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, 'Look! All these years I've been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!' 'My son,' the father said, 'you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; we was lost and is found.'" Luke 15:25-31 (NIV)

It's not fair! That's the response of the hard working, responsible older brother.

The younger brother is obviously wrong and soon comes to see the reality of his sin. The older brother thinks he is much better than his irresponsible brother. The news of his brother's return fills him with disgust and anger. If anyone deserves a party it is him, not his no-good brother. He is sorry that his brother has come home.

The older brother is as self-centered as his younger brother. Both the respectable sinner and the obvious sinner must come to the point of seeing their true condition in the sight of God. Both need to come to their senses.

The father shows as much love and patience with his self-righteous older son as he does with the younger. He goes out and pleads with his hard-hearted son. God's mercy and forgiveness is beyond comprehension. He wants us to enjoy the fullness of his grace.


August 5, 2015

Lost Son, Amazing Father

Jesus continued: "There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, 'Father, give me my share of the estate.' So he divided his property between them. Not long after that, the younger son got together all he had, set off for a distant country and there squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything. When he came to his senses, he said, 'How many of my father's hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men. So he got up and went to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, 'Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.' But the father said to his servants, 'Quick! Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' So they began to celebrate." Luke 15:11-24 (NIV)

Did you ever run away from home? One day when I was a young boy, I threatened to run away from home. My mother's response: "Good, I'll help you pack!" (I wasn't being a very good son that day.)

This story about a lost son is one of the most familiar in the Bible. A young man requests that he be given his share of his father's estate prematurely. His father grants the request. Soon he leaves home to escape the watchful eye of his father, wastes his entire inheritance on a sinful lifestyle and ends up broke. His fortune is gone. To make matters much worse, there is a famine and jobs are scarce. He is hungry and in order to survive is forced to take a job feeding pigs. That was about as low as a person could descend.

Finally, he honestly evaluates himself and wakes up to the harsh reality of what he has been doing. He becomes vividly aware that he has "sinned against heaven" and against his father. In brokenness he goes home to openly confess his sin and face the consequences. He will tell his father that he is no longer worthy to be called his son and ask to be taken on as a hired man.

The son had left home but had not left the heart of his father. This father was constantly looking for his son and waiting for him to return. One day he sees his son in the distance, feels compassion for him and runs to embrace him. His son is finally home. It's time to celebrate! The father forgives and welcomes his son back into the family.

The father is the hero of the story. It is a story of God's love and grace. I am constantly amazed at the love of a God who treats us like that!


July 21, 2015

God Carefully Searches

"Or suppose a woman has ten silver coins and loses one. Does she not light a lamp, sweep the house and search carefully until she finds it? And when she finds it, she calls her friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost coin.' In the same way, I tell you, there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents." Luke 15: 8-10 (NIV)

It is easy to picture that God might accept someone who in humility comes crawling home to God begging for mercy. But our God actually searches for sinners and welcomes them with joy. Jesus, God incarnate, came to seek and save that which was lost.



July 16, 2015


Lost

Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them." Then Jesus told them this parable: "Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, 'Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep." It tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:1-7 (NIV)

The comfortable thing for me to do is to isolate myself from those who don't think like me or believe like me. It's easier to avoid those I don't approve of or who are hard to love. However, I too am a sinner in desperate need of the grace and mercy of God.

If you have ever observed a parent who has lost a child you know that they go into action. Nothing stops them until they find their child. Finding their child becomes the most important goal in their life. It becomes their only goal until the child is found.

One summer day a few years ago my heart was captured by a news story. A family had gone on a short outing and picnic. Their seven year old son had wondered off - everyone thought he was with someone else. After a frantic search for the boy, the family knew they needed help. Soon search and rescue teams and several helicopters joined the search. Several hundred people dropped what they were doing to search for the little boy. Why? Because the stakes were high! A child cannot survive the harsh elements of the Arizona desert in the summer for very long. This was a live and death situation.

Jesus' story gives us insight into God's heart. God loves the lost. All around us people you and I encounter are in a desperate situation. They need the love and grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The boy was found the next day after spending a frightening night alone in the desert. There were tears, joy and celebration when he was found. Jesus says, "In the same way there will be rejoicing in heaven over one sinner that repents..." When a lost sinner is redeemed ther is a huge party in heaven!


June 17, 2015

Consider the Cost

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them He said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple. Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to finish it? For if he lays a foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.' Or suppose a king is about to go out to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. Salt is good, but if it loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is fit neither for the soil of for the manure pile; it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear, let him here. Luke 14: 25-35 (NIV)

Jesus was becoming popular; large crowds were following him wherever he went. They did not understand what Jesus was about or what it really meant to follow him. Many were just there for the excitement. Jesus was not interested in quickly increasing the numbers of followers. He turns to the crowd and says, "
If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple." Jesus is not advocating that we hate our family. What he is saying is that the love and devotion we must have for him when compared to our love for our family could seem like hate. Jesus is making it clear that a commitment to him is not painless. "And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." Discipleship is demanding, and out devotion to Jesus Christ many even end in martyrdom. Those who follow him must be prepared for this possibility.

Jesus gives a couple of illustrations to clarify his point. A person who impulsively starts to build something and then discovers that he doesn't have enough money to finish would be ridiculed as foolish. In the same way, Jesus asks us to carefully consider the cost of following him. Those who hastily abandon him when pressure comes are not true followers; they are fools. Wise national leaders carefully gather intelligence and consider all the risks before going to war. When we follow Jesus we are placing our lives into his hands. "In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple."

Following Jesus can be very costly. It may even cost us our life. Jesus is the trustworthy One who took up his cross and carried it for us. He gave his life for us. He is worthy. He is faithful and will not abandon us.


June 11, 2015

Full House

When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, "Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God." Jesus replied: "A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, 'Come, for everything is now ready.' But they all now alike began to make excuses. The first said, "I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.' Another said, 'I have just bought a yoke of oxen, and I'm now on my way to try them out. Please excuse me." Still another said, 'I just got married, so I can't come." The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, 'God out quickly to the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame." 'Sir,' the servant said, 'what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.' Then the master told his servant, 'Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.' Luke 14: l5-24 (NIV)

We frequently invited large groups to lunch or dinner to celebrate special events. Several times I was deeply disappointed when a large number of those who accepted our invitation didn't come.

In the story Jesus tells, the owner of the house is God. He is almighty, generous, gracious and merciful. He has prepared a great feast for his people. A feast consisting of Christ himself, forgiveness of sins, justification, eternal life and salvation. The invitation of the gospel was proclaimed to God's chosen people, but most of them refused the invitation. Jesus then went to the spiritually poor, sick and blind to proclaim the gospel. He called broken sinners to himself. Then through his messengers the message was proclaimed to the entire world. God intends that his house be full! He wants to satisfy us with the riches of his grace and the joy of salvation.


May 26, 2015

Hospitality

Then Jesus said to his host, "When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous. Luke 14: 12-14 (NIV)

I try to occasionally bless friends and family with an invitation to lunch or dinner. However, as I read these verses I am convicted of my self-centered hospitality.

Jesus graciously invites us to His banquet. It is a banquet we don't deserve to be invited to. Yet, while I was God's enemy Jesus Christ died for my sin. I was lost, poor, lame and blind and yet Jesus blessed me by inviting me to dine with him. Jesus paid a price I can never repay and now I can look forward to sitting down at his banquet table. That's true hospitality!


April 29, 2015

Humility

When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: "When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, 'Give this man your seat.' Then humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, 'Friend, move up to a better place.' Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." Luke 14: 7-11 (NIV)

True humility is hard to find. There are many days when I hope someone will notice how humble I am or recognize me for serving. I like being noticed. I like being recognized and honored.

Jesus tells us that honor is not something to be sought after and grasped. It is something that is given to us. If we seek honor, the result will be humiliation. "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted."

Jesus willingly humbled himself for us. Jesus Christ, "Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death - even death on a cross." Philippians 2: 6-8

God promises to exalt His Son, Jesus Christ, the one who humbled himself. One day, Jesus, the host of the great wedding banquet, will be the one who will say, "Friend, move up to a better place."

My attempts at humility seem to bring out sinful pride that is in my heart. I desperately need the grace and forgiveness Jesus provided when he humbled himself. I'm thankful for the humility that Jesus, in mercy, provides.



April 20, 2015

Jesus Under Scrutiny

One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat at the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?" But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away. Then he asked them, "If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?" And they had nothing to say. Luke 14:1-6 (NIV)

There are seven stories in the gospels of Jesus healing on the Sabbath day. The orthodox religious leaders considered Jesus an irreligious law breaker who needed to be stopped. He healed on the Sabbath; therefore he worked on the Sabbath, breaking the law.

Jesus was being carefully watched. He was under constant scrutiny. The Pharisees pretended friendship by inviting Jesus to eat with them. At the same time, they set a trap by arranging to have a man obviously suffering a serious illness there to see what he would do. They wanted one more reason to accuse him of breaking the law. He knew what they were doing and thinking, but without hesitation Jesus healed the man. It was perfectly allowable to rescue an animal on the Sabbath. How could it be wrong to help someone who was suffering? They had nothing to say because it was impossible to answer without acknowledging that Jesus was actually fulfilling the law by healing the man.

Jesus could have turned down the invitation by his enemies to avoid their scrutiny. Instead he uses the invitation to express the love and goodness of God.

 

April 9, 2015


Threatened

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you." He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.' In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day - for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'" Luke 13:31-35

Christians around the world are being threatened and killed every day, especially those who are proclaiming the gospel.

Jesus' enemies had done everything they could think of to stop his ministry. Now they try to intimidate him so that he would flee. They urge him to leave and tell him that Herod wants to kill him. But Jesus has work to do. A threat like this would not deter him from his ministry. He had to continue the work God had sent him to accomplish.

The people of Jerusalem should have welcomed and honored prophets of God. Sadly Jerusalem had the reputation of rejecting and killing the prophets. In love, Jesus had tried to gather the people of the city around him to bring them the life giving message of redemption. He was concerned for their welfare, but they rejected him.

One day everyone, even those who rejected and killed Jesus will have to acknowledge him as Lord of all. One day those who today are threatening and killing Christians will have to bow and acknowledge him as King of Kings and Lord of Lords.


March 25, 2015

The Narrow Door

Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?" He said to them, "Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, 'Sir, open the door for us.' But he will answer, 'I don't know you or where you come from.' Then you will say, 'We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.' But he will reply, 'I don't know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!' There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last." Luke 13:22-30 (NIV)

I ask God a lot of questions. Often the answers I get are not simple or strait forward. Jesus is asked what seems to be simple question, "Are only a few people going to be saved?" His answer is not simple. However, his answer is surprising, profound and gives us insight into the kingdom of God.

Jesus says that the door to heaven is narrow because he is that door. "I am the door; he who enters through me will be saved." John 10:9. We are saved by His grace. Our efforts never get us into the kingdom of God. Jesus does. He warns that one day it will be too late to enter, the door will be shut. Many who think they deserve to enter will find themselves outside, unable to enter.

Jesus goes on to say that there will be a lot of surprises as to who will be there and who will have places of honor. God is a God who is perfect in all his ways. There are people who are never noticed by anyone who will be greatly honored at Christ's banquet table. He notices, knows and remembers his people.

Are only a few people going to be saved? Jesus answers by saying, there will be people there from every place on earth. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their place at the feast in the kingdom of God. There will be people from every tribe, tongue and nation in God's glorious kingdom. (Even people we think don't deserve to be there!) There is a narrow door, but a lot of people from all over the world will be celebrating in God's kingdom.

Jesus provides and is exactly what we need; a narrow door.


March 17, 2015

Saint Patrick's Breast Plate - Attributed to Saint Patrick - early missionary to the Irish

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same
The Three in One and One in Three.

 
I bind this today to me forever
By power of faith, Christ’s incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river,
His death on Cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spiced tomb,
His riding up the heavenly way,
His coming at the day of doom
I bind unto myself today.

 
I bind unto myself the power
Of the great love of cherubim;
The sweet ‘Well done’ in judgment hour,
The service of the seraphim,
Confessors’ faith, Apostles’ word,
The Patriarchs’ prayers, the prophets’ scrolls,
All good deeds done unto the Lord
And purity of virgin souls.

 
I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the star lit heaven,
The glorious sun’s life giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind’s tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea
Around the old eternal rocks.

 
I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, His might to stay,
His ear to hearken to my need.
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, His shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

 
Against the demon snares of sin,
The vice that gives temptation force,
The natural lusts that war within,
The hostile men that mar my course;
Or few or many, far or nigh,
In every place and in all hours,
Against their fierce hostility
I bind to me these holy powers.

 
Against all Satan’s spells and wiles,
Against false words of heresy,
Against the knowledge that defiles,
Against the heart’s idolatry,
Against the wizard’s evil craft,
Against the death wound and the burning,
The choking wave, the poisoned shaft,
Protect me, Christ, till Thy returning.

 
Christ be with me, Christ within me,
Christ behind me, Christ before me,
Christ beside me, Christ to win me,
Christ to comfort and restore me.
Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ in quiet, Christ in danger,
Christ in hearts of all that love me,
Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

 
I bind unto myself the Name,
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One and One in Three.
By Whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.



March 5, 2015


Small Seeds

Then Jesus asked, "What is the kingdom of God like? What shall I compare it to? It is like a mustard seed, which a man took and planted in his garden. It grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air perched in its branches." Again he asked, "What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough." Luke 13:18-21

I've been growing plants on my balcony. I recently started saving the seeds from peppers we eat and planting them. I've harvested hundreds of peppers from just a couple of small seeds. I'm going to try that with other vegetables.

God's kingdom starts small. The small beginning seeds of God's kingdom eventually grow into large trees. Seeds of the gospel eventually yield a significant harvest. God takes the tiny seeds of the gospel and causes growth and transformation. Sometimes God's kingdom seems insignificant or almost non-existent. Don't be discouraged. A small amount of yeast transforms dough. In the same way, the gospel causes amazing transformation as it touches a community.


February 27, 2015

God's Healing Mercy

On a Sabbath Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues, and a woman was there who had been crippled by a spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not straighten up at all. When Jesus saw her, he called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath." The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?" When he said this, all his opponents were humiliated, but the people were delighted with all the wonderful things he was doing. Luke 13:10-17 (NIV)

I'm tempted to criticize people who are ministering in a way that doesn't fit my understanding of how ministry should be done. Jesus faced opposition from people like me.

Imagine what it would be like to be in agony for eighteen years, unable to stand straight at all. When Jesus sees this woman, His heart goes out to her. He does not wait for her to ask for healing. Jesus ministers to her. When Jesus saw her, He called her forward and said to her, "Woman, you are set free from infirmity." Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. She was free from this crippling condition! God had healed her in an amazing way.

An indignant angry religious leader loudly rebukes the people (and Jesus). "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath." This healing had taken place on the wrong day. And in a synagogue too! He thinks he is taking a stand for righteousness but he is moralistically distorting God's purpose for the Sabbath. Jesus reminds him that even animals are untied and cared for on the Sabbath. Are not people more important than livestock? Shouldn't this woman be set free from her suffering on the Sabbath; a day for acts of mercy?

Jesus noticed people and ministered to them. He understands and cares. He even understands and cares about me.


Janurary 28, 2015

The Patience of God

Then he told this parable: "A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, 'For three years now I've been coming to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?' 'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'"
Luke 13:6-9 (NIV)

I have a small garden of containers with tomatoes, peppers and herbs on my balcony. I love nurturing and caring for my plants. I regularly discard plants that aren't producing and plant new ones. I'm glad God is more patient with me than I am with the plants in my garden.

Jesus tells a short parable to communicate serious truth. Someone had planted a fig tree that wasn't bearing fruit. The fig tree was expected to bear fruit three times a year. After patiently waiting for three long years the owner had yet to find a single fig on it. It seemed useless to waste any more time and soil. It should be chopped down and the ground used for a more productive tree. But the gardener pleads for one more year during which he will loosen the soil and fertilize tree. There might be a chance the tree will bear fruit by next year.

God is patient with his people. The unfruitful fig-tree is a type of God's people. During the time of the Old Testament God had patiently looked for fruit in his people. Jesus, the gardener, pleads for a fourth year. A time of mercy filled with his love and patience. He would suffer death, rise from the grave and the gospel would be preached. God's justice is tempered and delayed with patience. He waits patiently before he condemns. But finally God's tender patience must come to an end.


January 21, 2015

Why?

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them - do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish." Luke 13:1-5 (NIV)

When tragedy strikes do you ever ask the question "Why?" I do. When something horrible happens we want answers. It was the same in Jesus' day. These recent tragic events were on everyone's mind. The Roman governor had ruthlessly slaughtered some people.
How could God allow injustice like this to happen? A tower fell and killed eighteen people.  Why did these eighteen die? These were the questions people wanted Jesus to answer.

It is common, even today, for some people to think that a person's suffering is directly related to how much they have sinned. Jesus dismisses that idea immediately. "Do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no!" Suffering is a reality that exists in the world in which we live. But people who experience tragedy, pain and injustice are not usually suffering because of a particular sin or in proportion to how much they have sinned.

Jesus doesn't offer words of comfort either. He shocks us by saying, "But unless you repent, you too will all perish." What is Jesus saying and why?

The penalty for sin is death. We have sinned against a holy God. We are all guilty and under the sentence of death. It is only because of God's wonderful mercy that anyone is alive. Yet we are surprised by suffering and death. We tend to take God's grace and mercy for granted. Every moment we live and every blessing we enjoy is because God is patient and merciful. We don't deserve His mercy. We actually deserve punishment. The question Jesus wants his listeners consider is: why didn't it happen to me? Jesus lovingly gives us this harsh warning to wake us up to the fact that God's patience and mercy is designed to lead us to repentance and the forgivness He graciously provides.

 
November 19, 2014

Treasure in Heaven

"Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Luke 12:32-34 (NIV)

Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is tenderly speaking to his flock telling them not to be afraid. Our heavenly Father, because it pleases Him, in His great mercy has given us the kingdom. We are His children, God is our protector; we have no need to fear. We possess the riches of God's grace. No thief can steal the precious treasure we have in Jesus Christ. We are clothed in the righteousness of Jesus Christ; it is a garment no moth can destroy.

God uses giving and serving the poor as a way to help me stay focused on the eternal riches I have in Christ. I am always amazed at how much clearer I see and treasure Jesus when I care for others.



October 24, 2014

Worried?

Then Jesus said to his disciples: "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear. Life is more than food, and the body more than clothes. Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds! Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life? Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest? Consider how the lilies grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you, O you of little faith! And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. Luke 12: 22-31 (NIV)

The world we live in is an uncertain place. There are a lot of things we could worry about: economic uncertainty, infectious diseases, terrorism are a few things in the news today. Occasionally I lay awake for hours in the middle of the night worrying about something. It doesn't make things better. Anxiety can paralyze and even destroy us. It can erode our faith in the living God.

Jesus is not encouraging laziness or irresponsibility when he tells us not to worry. That is not faith. Jesus' wants us to know God is good. He loves and cares for us. We can trust Him. Worry distracts our attention from God. We can start to believe that money can do what God can't do, turning money into an idol. We look to money, not God for security.

Jesus chooses the raven (not a well thought of bird like a dove or eagle) as an example for us to think about. The raven was considered an unclean, ugly and worthless scavenger. Yet, God cares for and feeds the ravens. "And how much more valuable you are than birds!" Worrying will not add even an hour to your life. So why worry about food and clothing? God cares about you and knows what you need. We are to seek God and His kingdom above all else.

The Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, wants to give us the riches of His kingdom as an inheritance. Do not be afraid. Do not worry. Trust your heavenly Father to provide what He already knows you need.


October 1, 2014

Rich Toward God

Someone in the crowd said to him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me." Jesus replied, "Man, who appointed me a judge or an arbiter between you?" Then he said to them, "Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; a man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions." And he told them this parable: "The ground of a certain rich man produced a good crop. He thought to himself, 'What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.' Then he said, 'This is what I'll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to myself, "You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry."' But God said to him, 'You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?' This is how it will be with anyone who stores up things for himself but is not rich toward God." Luke 12:13-21 (NIV)

Jesus is exasperated with this man who interrupts him with a selfish concern. He is preoccupied with a family dispute over money. Was he even listening to what Jesus had been saying? Jesus now uses this opportunity to teach the crowd.

The man in Jesus' story (parable) is not a fool because he is successful and diligent to plan ahead. He is not a fool because he is rich. He is a fool because he lives his life as if all that counts is wealth and his personal happiness. He doesn't think about God. He has no sense of the value of his soul. He thinks he knows the future. He thinks he has nothing to worry about, but he hasn't considered the state of his soul. God calls him a fool. He has failed to consider eternity. He has neglected his own soul. He is not rich toward God.

In Jesus Christ we have been given the riches of God's grace. In him we have forgiveness of sins. Jesus is the one who guarantees our heavenly inheritance.
Our true wealth is found in Jesus Christ.


September 11, 2014

Do Not Be Afraid

"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him. Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God. Indeed, the very hairs on your head are numbered. Don't be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows. I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God. But he who disowns me before men will be disowned before the angels of God." Luke 12: 4-9 (NIV)

We live in a very uncertain and dangerous world. I know refugees who are a part of our church who had to flee their homes because they are Christians. Some have family or friends who have been killed.

Jesus is talking to those closest to him, his friends. He knows that the pressure of the dangers facing those who follow him can and will become very intense. They will even come face to face with death because of their loyalty to Christ. Jesus tells them, "Do not be afraid." Ultimate power and authority is in the hands of God. God alone has power over life and death. God alone has the authority to cast a soul into hell. Only he can destroy in the ultimate sense. He is the only One we are to fear. God is an awesome God. We are to worship him in awe and reverence.

A healthy fear of God should encourage us to embrace the love of God found in Jesus Christ. Jesus reminds his friends that they are deeply loved and valued by God. You are so important to God that he knows and takes pleasure in every little detail about you. "Indeed, the very hairs of your head are numbered." God pays attention to us! You can be confident that he values you greatly. If you acknowledge Jesus Christ before people then he will be your advocate when you appear before the judgment throne of God. You will not have to stand alone before God. "The Son of Man will also acknowledge you before the angels of God." You will stand covered by the grace and mercy of Christ with nothing to fear. All fear of divine judgment is removed by being in Jesus Christ.


August 22, 2014

Hidden in Christ

Meanwhile, when a crowd of many thousands had gathered, so that they were trampling on one another, Jesus began to speak first to his disciples, saying: "Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs." Luke 12: 1-3 (NIV)

There is somebody watching everything we do. There is someone who knows everything we think. There are no private acts with God. He doesn't need hidden cameras. "There is nothing in all creation hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of Him to whom we must give account." Hebrews 4:13. Jesus warns that ultimately, "
There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs." There is no real privacy. God will tear off the masks of hypocrisy and reveal the truth.

It is best that we live our lives as if everything we do, say and think is being observed. God sees everything. There is a day when God will expose everything; our secret sins and our secret virtues. This would be terrifying if not for the fact that we have a loving Savior who promises to cover his people with the righteousness of Christ. On the day of God's judgment, everyone who is in Christ will be hidden in him.


July 16, 2014

Experts in the Law

One of the experts in the law answered him, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also." Jesus replied, "And you experts in the law, woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them." Luke 11: 45-46 (NIV)

Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering." Luke 11: 52 (NIV)

I have listened to at least three or four thousand sermons in my lifetime. I've attended a lot of Bible studies and Sunday school classes. I've also preached, taught and led hundreds of Bible studies and Sunday school classes. If I was there listening to Jesus, I might have been offended by what he said too. I might have said, "Teacher, when you say these things, you insult us also."

Teaching the law comes naturally. I like giving people direction, giving advice on how to live and helping people apply the Bible to their lives. Life definitely works a lot better when you obey God. The law of God is good.

These experts in the law in their rules for living placed a heavy burden on people with teaching that regulated every detail of life. A burden that kept them from understanding the grace and mercy of God. As a result they didn't understand that righteous cannot be achieved by what we do.

Putting into practice every application point of every sermon I have heard or preached is a good idea. At least it seems like a good idea. But it's also an overwhelming burden. I barely start imperfectly applying what I heard one week, when I listen to another message with more good things to put into practice.
I fail constantly. But my spirit is refreshed and encouraged every time I hear the gospel. It is what I need. I am so grateful that my righteous is found in Jesus Christ, not in what I do. He takes away my burden. The grace and mercy of God is amazing. Maybe the gospel is the key to knowledge.


June 18, 2014

Clean Inside and Out

When Jesus had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went and reclined at table. But the Pharisee, noticing that Jesus did not first wash before the meal, was surprised. Then the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people! Did not the one who made the outside make the inside also? But give what is inside the dish to the poor, and everything will be clean to you. Woe to you Pharisees, because you love the most important seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. Woe to you, because you are like unmarked graves, which men walk over without knowing it." Luke 11: 37-44 (NIV)

Jesus is invited to dinner by a religious leader who had been listening to him teach. His host reacts negatively when Jesus doesn't ceremonially wash (a ritual of purification and cleansing) before the meal. Jesus responds by saying "
Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. You foolish people!" They were practicing the ritual, but ignoring the truth that this ritual was designed to teach. Jesus points out that they are still actually unclean because of the sin in their hearts.

These are verses that cause me to cheer Jesus on and condemn the Pharisees with loud boos. I was doing that this morning while I was reading these verses, then I stopped. I suddenly realized that I have more in common with the Pharisees than I want to admit. Of course, I want to look good. I'm pretty good person. I rarely miss church, I teach Sunday school, I help distribute food to the needy every week, I read my Bible and I even run for exercise most days. I have a lot more good qualities I could list but I don't want you to think I'm bragging. Yes, there is a lot inside me that I'm glad people don't see. I need cleansing inside and out, a cleansing that Jesus provides.

I'm grateful that Jesus Christ died for our sin and then rose from the grave. He cleanses us from sin (inside and out) and gives us his righteousness.


June 13, 2014

The Light of Christ

"No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead he puts it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are good, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are bad, your body is also full of darkness. See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness. Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be completely lighted, as when the light of a lamp shines on you." Luke 11:33-36 (NIV)

Jesus came into the world as the Light of the World. But men and women are blinded by sin and close their eyes to the light of our glorious Savior. Lives characterized by the darkness of sin fear the exposure that light brings. The light of the gospel exposes our sin and show us that we need a Savior. If we acknowledge Christ as Lord, then we must humble ourselves and admit our sin and our need for forgiveness. It means we trust in Christ alone to forgive our sin.

Jesus enables us to walk in the light of God's Word. When the light of Christ dwells within us it extends its influence to every aspect of our life. He shines his light into the dark places of our life. Jesus enables us to see ourselves and him more clearly.

My Aunt Grace once told me that every Friday the thirteenth reminds her of God's blessings in her life because her daughter was born on a Friday the thirteenth. Today there is also a full moon which reminds me that Jesus' light shines in the darkness.


May 21, 2014

Jesus, Our Sign from Heaven

As the crowds increased, Jesus said, "This is a wicked generation. It asks for a miraculous sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so also will the Son of Man be to this generation. The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will stand up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the teaching of Jonah, and now one greater than Jonah is here. Luke 11: 29-32 (NIV)

When I am traveling I'm very grateful for signs. They help me find my way and reassure me that I am going the right direction.

Jesus had healed a man who couldn't speak and he was being verbally attacked by people who wanted to discredit him. The result was that
the crowd of people around Jesus kept growing. Many of them wanted to see some miraculous sign from heaven. Jesus took the opportunity to speak to the crowd. They wanted a sign but they would not receive the kind of sign they wanted. Jesus himself was a sign to them, proclaiming the coming of the kingdom of God.

Jonah had been a sign to the people of Nineveh as he proclaimed the word of God. Jesus was greater than Jonah. A queen had traveled a long way just to hear Solomon. But Jesus, the one speaking to them, was far greater than Solomon. He was the Lord of Jonah and of Solomon. And he was bringing them words of life.

Jesus would leave us with the ultimate sign, his resurrection. His resurrection is a sign from heaven for all generations to come.



May 16, 2014


Blessed Mothers

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, "Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you." He replied, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it." Luke 11: 27-28 (NIV)

This past Sunday was Mother's Day. I hope my mother feels blessed to have me as a son - at least on most days.

Jesus made a deep impression on this woman. She thought and spoke like a mother. She says that she would have considered herself lucky and happy (blessed) to have had Jesus as a son.

But Jesus tells her that true happiness and blessedness comes from hearing and observing the word of God.

In Jesus Christ all of us can be blessed. God has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in Christ.


April 22, 2014

The Kingdom of God Has Come to You

Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, "By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons." Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven. Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them: "Any kingdom divided against itself will fall. If Satan is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand? I say this because you claim that I drive out demons by Beelzebub. Not if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your followers drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come to you." Luke 11: 14-20 (NIV)

The majority of the people who witnessed Jesus casting out this demon were amazed. No one could deny that someone who had been unable to talk was now able to speak because of Jesus. No one denied that Jesus was casting out demons. But a few people who hated Jesus said that it was through the power of Beelzebub (the lord of flies, the prince of demons), that he cast out demons. This was slander designed to discredit Jesus.

Jesus casting out demons and healing people was proof that in Jesus Christ the kingdom of God had come. His words are words of life. In Christ is eternal life. He is the King of kings.


March 5, 2014

God Gives Good Gifts

"Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!" Luke 11: 11-13 (NIV)

I am a pushover when it comes to my children and now my grandson. If my one year old grandson asks me for a cracker (his most common request), I usually give him two crackers (one for each hand). In fact, I make sure we have several boxes of crackers on hand just in case he comes for a visit.

What kind of father would give their hungry child a scorpion if they asked for an egg? Only a cruel father would do something like that! Jesus point is that even sinful people know how to give good things to their children. God is pure and good. Our heavenly Father would not do anything evil. God knows much better than we do how to give good gifts to His children.

God invites us to ask Him for his Holy Spirit. "How much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"


February 27, 2014

Ask, Seek, Knock

Then he said to them, "Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, 'Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.' Then the one inside answers, 'Don't bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can't get up and give you anything.' I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man's boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs. So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened." Luke 11: 5-10 (NIV)

There are days I am reluctant to pray. It's not because I don't want to pray or ask God for something. It's because I suspect that I might be bothering God. Maybe God would prefer I leave him alone for a while. Sometimes I just want to be left alone.

Jesus encourages us to pray. God is not like this reluctant friend.
God is definitely not like me. Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

God graciously gives us the gift of prayer, encourages us to pray and blesses us. So pray, you will be glad you did!


February 19, 2014

Prayer

One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples." He said to them, "When you pray, say: 'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.'" Luke 11: 1-4 (NIV)

I have a tendency to think that the more complex and sophisticated my prayer life is the better it is. 

When one of his disciples asked Jesus to teach them to pray, Jesus kept it simple. He tells them to come to God as a child, address him as Father. Pray God's that name will treated as holy and honored. Pray God's kingdom will be made known in this world. Pray that God will provide our basic needs. Confess sin and ask God for forgiveness. Forgive others. Pray for protection and deliverance from temptation. It is very basic prayer.

Sometimes when I pray, I forget the basics. I forget simple adoration of God, asking for forgiveness, forgiving others and asking God to provide what I need today. These are the vital elements of prayer. Jesus reminds me that prayer is not that complicated. He shows me what I most need to pray for each day. This is the type of prayer that feeds and refreshes my soul.

I am still learning to pray.



February 6, 2014

Martha, Martha

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, "Lord, don't you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!" "Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed, Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her." Luke 10: 38-42 (NIV)

I don't think I would have wanted to take sides between two sisters. However, I would have been inclined to side with Martha. She had just had 13 guests show up. There was a lot that needed to be done. Her sister, Mary, the co-host, was not helping.

Jesus, however, seems to gently rebuke Martha. His words were words of life. In a few weeks Jesus would no longer be with them. But his words would remain with them. Mary was treasuring this opportunity to be with Jesus and listen to him.

Martha loved the Lord, that's why she was serving him. We are not told what Martha does at this point. I think she may have stopped what she was doing and listened to the words of life coming from Jesus. Jesus knew that is what she needed most. He was serving them, giving them spiritual food.


January 29, 2014

Good Samaritan

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. "Teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

"What is written in the law?" he replied. "How do you read it?"

He answered: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'"

"You have answered correctly," Jesus replied. "Do this and you will live."

But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"

In reply Jesus said: "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. 'Look after him,' he said, 'and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.' Which one of these three men do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?"

The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him."

Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise." Luke 10: 25-37 (NIV)

People would ask Jesus difficult questions in order to test him. On this occasion an expert in biblical law asks Jesus, "What must I do to inherit eternal life." This man becomes the one being tested when Jesus replies, "What is written in the law?" He then gives Jesus a textbook answer taken right from the Scriptures (Deut. 6:5 and Lev. 18:18).
"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind; and love your neighbor as yourself." Jesus tells him that he got the answer right. Then he goes on to say, "Do this and you will live." It is one thing to give the right answer, but doing it is impossible! No one can be justified by keeping the law. The law does make us very aware of our sin and our need for God's mercy.

It is simply impossible for me to consistently and fully love God with all my heart, mind, soul and strength. Yet, this is the greatest (most important) commandment God has given us. It is also impossible to love each human being as much as I love myself. This story shows me that I am helpless. I am like the traveler who was robbed, beaten, stripped and left for dead.

Jesus Christ, like the despised Samaritan, has shown us mercy and compassion. He rescued us. Jesus cares for our wounds, carries us to safety and gives us eternal life.


January 24, 2013

We are Blessed!

Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and hear what you hear but did not hear it." Luke 10: 23-24 (NIV)

Sometimes I don't realize how blessed I am until someone points it out to me. This was also true of Jesus' disciples.

The disciples of Jesus were blessed. They actually saw Jesus, the Messiah, in the flesh. They saw the Savior of the world with their own eyes. They heard words of eternal life from his mouth. They saw his glory. All things the prophets had longed to see for generations.

We don't have Jesus here in the flesh today but he is with us always, to the very end of the age (Matthew 28: 20). He has given us the Holy Spirit and his Word. We have fellowship with Him. We are very blessed!


January 14, 2014
 
Revealed to Children

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, "I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure. All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those whom the Son chooses to reveal him."  Luke 10: 21-22 (NIV)

I am often amazed at the insight that children have. Children in my life have taught me a lot about the character and glory of God. 

We cannot discover salvation or the way to heaven using our own wisdom and intelligence. When we humbly like newborn babies crave the pure spiritual milk (I Peter 2:2) of God's Word, God graciously reveals himself.
I am very thankful that God reveals himself to us through the Word of God. What a beautiful gift!


January 10, 2014

Gospel Joy

The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name." He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:17-20 (NIV)

The seventy-two saw great success on their mission. They returned full of joy, excited about all God had done. They were eager to share all that happened with Jesus. God was powerfully at work as they spread the good news of the kingdom of God.

My mood seems to change when I explain the gospel to someone. I need the gospel every day. I am always amazed at the goodness and mercy of God. God actually became flesh and lived among us. The Lord of all creation humbled himself to the point of death on a cross. He was buried and rose from the grave. The entire life of Christ, from his birth to his death and resurrection is a victory over Satan. Because of Jesus we have salvation. We have forgiveness. We have eternal life. Our names are written in heaven.



December 23, 2013

God's Gift to Naughty People

She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. Matthew 1: 21 (NIV)

Families have different holiday traditions. When I was a young child Christmas was the biggest holiday we celebrated. It lasted all week. Our extended family would start arriving at our house around noon and the party would last until early the next morning. Then throughout the week my parents would take us visiting older relatives almost every evening. Santa was also a big deal. My parents had us convinced that Santa was real. We would wake up on Christmas morning to find that "Santa" had come - he had brought a Christmas tree and decorated it and there were gifts under the tree.

I remember being very concerned as Christmas approached. I was told that I'd better be good or Santa might leave me a lump of coal instead of a gift. So I tried to be on my best behavior the closer it got to Christmas day. I hoped Santa would overlook the rest of the year.

Jesus' name means "God Saves". He came to save his people from their sins.  God's gift of Jesus is given to us, people who are on the naughty list.

God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world but to save the world through him. John 3: 16-17 (NIV)

God showed his great love for us by sending Jesus to die for us. 

This week we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, God's gift to us. That is something worth celebrating in a big way!


December 10, 2013

Go! I Am Sending You

"Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves." Luke 10: 3

We follow Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who was slaughtered for the sin of the world. Jesus was sentenced to death. As he was suffering on the cross those who condemned him mocked Jesus saying, "He saved others, but he can't save himself." (Matthew 27: 42) The One with authority over heaven and earth appeared to be powerless. But that is when he could help.

There is real risk to going into the harvest field as God's workers. There will be hostility directed at God and His Kingdom. Those involved in God's work will be targets of animosity and persecution. That's one reason the workers are few. In spite of the danger, Jesus still sends workers into the field.

As he sends out workers, Jesus tells them that their situation will be like lambs among wolves. They will be helpless and defenseless. Their enemies will be powerful. Their trust will be the Lord alone. Their message is Jesus Christ and Him crucified.

Jesus conquered sin and evil by going to the cross. The gospel is first a message about the forgiveness of sins. That is what we need most. That's where real and lasting help begins.


December 4, 2013

Pray for Workers

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." Luke 10:1 - 2 (NIV)

I enjoy having a garden. My garden now consists of a few plants in containers on the balcony of our second story condo. I like seeing the plants grow, but my favorite part of having a garden is harvesting. That's when I finally get to pick and taste the fresh tomatoes, basil, peppers, chard and herbs from my balcony garden.

Earlier Jesus sent out the twelve disciples (Luke 9). Now he appoints seventy-two and sends them out to proclaim the coming of God's kingdom. The first thing he tells this group of disciples is "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few." God is the one at work preparing a ripe harvest. Jesus tells those he is sending out to "Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field." It is God's harvest! He does not tell them to pray for the harvest. It is plentiful. He asks them to pray for workers. They are few. That is the greatest need.

God has prepared a plentiful harvest; He provides and sends workers into the field.
God is at work; taste and see that the Lord is good.


November 28, 2013 - Thanksgiving Day


Thanking God

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said "Go, show yourselves to the priest." As they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and Go; your faith has made you well." Luke 17: 12-19 (NIV)

I like being thanked. It means a lot to me when someone expresses appreciation for something I've done. A friend once called to thank me for something I'd done for him years before. He said that he was thinking about how much he appreciated it and realized that he had never thanked me. That simple act of calling to say thanks made my week. It still means a lot to me.

Lepers were outcasts, banned from any involvement in society. No one wanted to risk coming in contact with this terrible disease. Jesus' reputation of having the power to heal had spread everywhere. So when these men heard that Jesus was coming, they were there to meet him. When they saw him, they stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us." He did. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests. Only a priest could officially verify their healing and restore them to community life again. And as they went they were cleansed. Their leprosy was gone!

There is no doubt in my mind that every one of them overjoyed and grateful. They had been healed! They couldn't wait to go home and be reunited with their families. But only one of them took the time to go back and express thanks to Jesus. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?"

I have a lot to thank God for every day. Like these lepers, I am very grateful to God but I'm not very good actually taking the time to say thanks. Fortunately, God is good, even when I don't give thanks.


November 26, 2013

Fit for Service?

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." He said to another man, "Follow me." But the man replied, "Lord, first let me bury my father." Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God." Still another said, "I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." Jesus replied, "No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back if fit for service in the kingdom of God." Luke 9: 57 - 62 (NIV)

Following Jesus Christ in ministry is a high calling. It requires a denial of self. As Jesus headed to fulfill his ministry, he encounters three people. The first one says to Jesus, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus' response is surprising. Instead of immediately welcoming this potential follower, Jesus warns him to consider the high cost first. There would be no security. "The Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

Jesus asks another to follow him. But this person replies, "Lord first let me go and bury my father." This seems like a reasonable request. But, if the father was already dead (and not buried yet) this person would not have been with Jesus. He would have been obligated to be at the funeral. It might be months or years before his father actually died. Following Jesus can't be put off until it's more acceptable or convenient.

The last person tells Jesus, "I will follow you Lord; but first let me go back and say good-by to my family." Jesus says, "No." You cannot look back. Your eyes must be focused on the kingdom of God.

None of us are "fit for service in the kingdom of God." We fall short of what God requires. Our motives are mixed; our commitment fails; we sin. Jesus Christ died for our sin, gives us his righteousness and by his grace makes us fit for service.


November 19, 2013

Jesus' Mission

As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village. Luke 9:51-56 (NIV)

Have you ever wanted to "call fire down from heaven to destroy" someone? I have to admit that there are times when my desire for revenge is that strong.

Jesus is resolutely on his way to fulfill his mission. He will not hesitate or turn back. He will not avoid the cross. He is headed for Jerusalem. Jesus sends messengers ahead so the next village will be ready to offer the customary hospitality to this group of travelers. But they discover that they are not welcome. James and John are infuriated by this insult and lack of hospitality. They are so angry that they are ready to call down God's judgment upon the village. Jesus rebukes his disciples. Jesus' mission is redemption, not judgment. Jesus came to save people, not destroy them. His mission is one of love, peace, patience, mercy and grace. His mission requires suffering. Jesus will take the judgment for sin upon himself.

Jesus doesn't show any resentment toward the town. His response is to quietly go to another village. The people in the next village will be blessed by Jesus' presence.


November 12, 2013

Who Will Be the Greatest?

An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you - he is the greatest."

"Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us." "Do not stop him," Jesus said, "for whoever is not against you is for you." Luke 9:46-50 (NIV)

The disciples have been arguing. Jesus is concerned about the work of salvation and the disciples are bickering over their pecking order. The disciples are spiritually dense. They are actually arguing over which of them would be the greatest.

I like reading this story. When I read these verses in Luke, I feel superior to the disciples. They are spiritually immature, bickering, thinking about themselves instead of the kingdom of God. It's amusing, I wouldn't have done that. I would have been much more careful and mature. Didn't they realize who was with them? They should have been focused on the One who actually is the greatest, Jesus Christ. I read this passage several times this week. I thought that this would be fun to write about. Then, at some point it occurred to me that I was doing the same thing the disciples did as I was reading about them. I was comparing myself to the disciples and I came out on top. Yikes!

Jesus doesn't ask about their dispute or directly rebuke them. He has a child stand next to him and says that it is the one who takes time for a child who is great. He goes on to say, "For he who is least among you - he is the greatest."

John changes the subject. (I would too.) He tells Jesus that they saw someone driving out demons in the name of Jesus and they tried to stop him. He wasn't one of them and didn't have that right. Jesus instructs them not to stop him. He wasn't hindering the work of Jesus; he was actually participating in it. I don't think John thought this would be Jesus' response.

Jesus humbled himself to the point of death on a cross. He now welcomes us into his kingdom as children of God. He is the greatest.


November 5, 2013

Amazed at the Greatness of God

The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, "Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not."

"O unbelieving and perverse generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? Bring your son here." Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were amazed at the greatness of God. While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, "Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men." But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they could not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.
Luke 9: 37-45 (NIV)

Have you ever been afraid to ask about something you didn't understand? I have.

The disciples of Jesus had been given the authority to heal and to cast out evil spirits (Luke 9:1). While Jesus was on the mountain they encountered a problem that they could not handle. Now as soon as Jesus returned, a desperate father was begging Jesus to heal his only son. Jesus rebukes the evil spirit and heals the boy. Everyone present is amazed at the greatness of God. They are impressed by Jesus' amazing power and authority. But Jesus wants to prepare His disciples for what would soon follow. He does not want them to be deceived by his popularity. While everyone is marveling at what he had just done, Jesus tells his disciples to listen carefully to him. "The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men." He wanted them to get used to the truth that redemption would be painful and costly. The disciples did not understand what he meant. They probably did not want to believe what he was telling trying to tell them. They were afraid to even ask him about it.


October 29, 2013

The Radiance of God's Glory

About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, "Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters - one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah." (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, "This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him." When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen. Luke 9: 28-36 (NIV)

The dazzling brightness of Jesus' divine glory breaks through on a mountain as He is praying. Three of His disciples; Peter, John and James witness this amazing event. Years later Peter refers to this amazing transfiguration of Jesus when he writes: "We did not follow cleverly invented stories when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, be we were eyewitnesses of His majesty." 2 Peter 1:16

In the Old Testament we read that Moses' face glowed after he met with God, reflecting the glory of God's presence. But this was very different. It was not a reflection of glory. Jesus is the brightness of divine glory! His face began to shine and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Moses and Elijah then appear in splendor and talk to Jesus about the suffering and death He must soon go through.

Peter wants to stay on the mountain and prolong this awesome experience for as long as possible.
They cannot stay on the mountain. This event is preparation and encouragement for the difficult redemptive work of humiliation, suffering and death that Jesus must fulfill. For Jesus, it was a taste of the glory that would be His after His suffering. This experience would strengthen the disciples' faith as they faced trials and persecution. This beautiful revelation of God's glory gives us hope of the life to come.

Jesus Christ "is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven." Hebrews 1:3

There is no one who compares to our glorious Lord!


October 15, 2013

Take Up Your Cross and Follow me

Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God. Luke 9: 23-27 (NIV)

There is no need to be ashamed of our wonderful Savior, Jesus. He gave His life completely and suffered shame for us. We can count on the reality of the resurrection, God's glorious kingdom and His unfailing promises.

We who follow Christ identify with the great triumph of the resurrection and His kingdom. But, we also share in the humiliation and suffering that comes from identifying with Jesus Christ. No one likes to suffer, be rejected, ridiculed or be thought of as foolish. Yet, we may (or will) experience these things because of our faith in Christ.



September 24, 2013


Who is Jesus?

Once when Jesus was praying and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?" They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets has come back to life." "But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?" Peter answered, "The Christ of God." Jesus strickly warned them not to tell this to anyone. And he said, "The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life." Luke 9:19-22 (NIV)

There are many opinions today about the identity of Jesus. When I was involved in campus ministry I frequently asked students "In your opinion, who is Jesus Christ?" I got a lot of different responses to that question. Founder of a religion, great teacher, spiritual mystic, prophet, religious reformer, God, and my Savior were a few of the most popular answers to that question.

One day when Jesus was with his disciples praying in private, He asks them, "Who do the crowds say I am?" Just like today, there was a variety of opinion as to his identity. They did recognize that Jesus was not an ordinary person; some thought he was John the Baptist or another prophet who had come back to life. Then Jesus asks those closest to him, his disciples, "What about you? Who do you say that I am?" Peter responds for the group, "The Christ of God." They were saying that they believed that Jesus was the One through whom the salvation of the world would come, the Messiah, the Anointed one.

Jesus commends and accepts their confession of faith in him. He then goes on to clarify what he will have to experience as the Messiah. He would suffer greatly, be rejected, killed and then rise from the dead. There could be no redemption from sin without the Son of Man being delivered and offered as a sacrifice. Our Savior gave his life completely for us. The triumph of the resurrection gives us the assurance that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.


September 17, 2013

More Than Enough

Late in the afternoon the Twelve came to him and said, "Send the crowd away so they can go to the surrounding villages and countryside and find food and lodging, because we are in a remote place here." He replied, "You give them something to eat." They answered, "We only have five loaves of bread and two fish - unless we go and buy food for all this crowd." (About five thousand men were there.) But he said to his disciples, "Have them sit down in groups of about fifty each." The disciples did so, and everybody sat down. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to set before the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. Luke 9: 12-17 (NIV)

When a relative, neighbor or friend stopped by our home for any reason, my mother had the habit of asking them to stay for dinner (or lunch). She frequently told us, "You can always stretch a meal; there is always more than enough." Of course, my mother never had five thousand people show up at dinner time.

It was late afternoon; the disciples suggest that Jesus send the crowd into the surrounding villages to find needed food and lodging. Jesus replies with what must have seemed like an absurd statement, "You give them something to eat." They didn't have much food and probably couldn't even buy enough food to feed such a large crowd. He then tells them to have the people to sit down in groups of about fifty. Jesus gives thanks and blesses the small amount of food they have. Then he breaks the loaves and fish and gives them to his disciples to distribute. Amazingly over five thousand hungry people eat and are satisfied. There is more food left over than they started with! Jesus didn't just "stretch a meal"; this is something only God could do.

Jesus Christ provides, strengthens, satisfies and sustains us. He is the Bread of Life, Living Water and Our Rest.


September 10, 2013

He Welcomed Them

When the apostles returned, they reported to Jesus what they had done. Then he took them with him and they withdrew by themselves to a town called Bethsaida, but the crowds learned about it and followed him. He welcomed them and spoke to them about the kingdom of God, and healed those who needed healing. Luke 9: 10-11 (NIV)

When I return from a teaching or ministry trip, the thing I most look forward to is seeing my family and getting some rest. I like being with people. But, I am an introvert, after constantly being with people for a week or two I want some "down" time - away from people.

Jesus' disciples have just returned from traveling from village to village preaching the gospel and ministering to people. They report to Jesus what had happened while they were in the villages. It had been an exciting and strenuous experience. They are tired and looking forward to some "down" time. They needed some rest. But the crowds soon learn their location and find them. Instead of sending the crowds away or retreating to another place, Jesus welcomes them. He teaches them about the kingdom of God and heals those who need healing. The crowds were not disappointed; Jesus ministers to them with love and compassion.

Jesus always has time for us and welcomes us, just like he welcomed this crowd. He always has time for us when we come to him in prayer. Jesus always welcomes, listens to and hears our prayers.


September 5, 2013

Preach the Good News of the Kingdom of God

When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: "Take nothing for the journey - no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet as you leave their town, as a testimony against them." So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere. Luke 9: 1-6 (NIV)

Jesus chooses twelve of his followers and delegates power and authority to them as his representatives. He sends them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He tells them to travel light and focus on their mission, the preaching of the gospel and healing the sick.

The gospel, the good news of salvation, is the message we all need. I need to be reminded of God's love, grace and mercy every day. Moral teaching and good advice can be helpful, but the gospel is the power of God for salvation. It is transforming and gives life.


August 27, 2013

Touched by Jesus

Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him. And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her. She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, immediately her bleeding stopped. "Who touched me?" Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, "Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you." But Jesus said, "Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me." Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed. The he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace." While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. "Your daughter is dead," he said. Don't bother the teacher any more." Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, "Don't be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed. When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child's father and mother. Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. "Stop wailing," Jesus said. "She is not dead but asleep." They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But he took her by the hand and said, "My child, get up!" Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat. Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened. Luke 8: 41-56 (NIV)

Jairus was desperate, his only daughter was dying. He had a high position of respect and honor in the community. But this doesn't matter now; he falls humbly on the ground in front of Jesus and begs Jesus to come to his house. This is his only hope of saving his twelve year old daughter. The crowds nearly crush them as they head toward Jairus' house.

Luke now tells us about a woman who was in the crowd. She has been in constant agony for twelve years. She has gone to many physicians over the years, but nothing they did helped. Because of her illness she also is ceremonially unclean. This made her situation even more unbearable in the community in which she lived. She desperately fought her way through the crowd so that she could get close enough to Jesus to touch him. She thought that she didn't deserve the direct attention of Jesus, but if she could just touch is garment she would experience healing. In one touch, her twelve years of suffering are over. She was instantly healed. Jesus asks, "Who touched me?" This woman could no longer go unnoticed. Jesus stops and gives his complete attention to this woman. He ministers words of peace, comfort and healing to her. She had been noticed and touched by the living God.

While Jesus is still speaking to the woman; someone comes with the devastating news that Jairus' daughter is dead. Everyone thinks it is too late, with the exception of Jesus. Jesus tells Jairus, "Don't be afraid". Death is not final; Jesus Christ has power even over death. When Jesus arrives at the house he tenderly takes the child's hand and says, "My child, get up!" The girl is immediately brought back to life and is given something to eat! Her parents are utterly astonished. Their daughter had experienced the loving touch of Jesus. Their daughter was alive again!

The one who has all power and authority over death deeply loves and cares for us.


August 21, 2013

Power Over Demons

When Jesus stepped ashore, he was met by a demon-possessed man from the town. For a long time this man had not worn clothes or lived in a house, but had lived among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell at his feet, shouting at the top of his voice, "What do you want with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, don't torture me!" For Jesus had commanded the evil spirit to come out of the man. Many times it had seized him, and though he was chained hand and foot and kept under guard, he had broken his chains and had been driven by the demon into solitary places. Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" "Legion," he replied, because many demons had gone into him. And they begged him repeatedly not to order them to go into the Abyss. A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus for permission to go into them, and he gave them permission. When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and the countryside, and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. Then all the people from the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left. Luke 8: 27-37 (NIV)

If I had been met by this man as I came ashore, I probably would have gotten back in the boat and gone somewhere else. He was naked, demented and completely out of control. The only thing people could do was chain him up. He was completely written off as hopeless.

When he saw Jesus, the demons, speaking through the man, recognize who Jesus is and they are afraid of His powerful authority over them. The demons beg Jesus not to send them into the Abyss, the place of everlasting torment. There will be a time when demons will face ultimate judgment, but this was not the time. Jesus grants their request to be sent into a herd of swine. When the demons enter the pigs; the herd runs into the lake and drown.

Now this man, who was naked and out of control, is calmly sitting at Jesus' feet. His life has been transformed by his encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus probably took off his outer cloak and put it around the man to cover his naked body. He is now clothed and in his right mind. Everyone else is afraid, he is not. His fear is gone. He has been released from bondage. Others want Jesus to leave. He wants to stay close to Jesus.

Encountering Jesus Christ changes everything. I need Jesus as much as this man did. Jesus willingly took our sin, our shame and torment. He was stripped naked, humiliated, bound and nailed to a cross. He willingly surrendered himself to the Abyss for you and me. He rose from the dead and provides what we need. Jesus frees us from bondage, covers our shame and clothes us in His righteousness. He forgives our sin and feeds us with the bread of life. He heals our brokenness and gives us the cup of salvation.


August 13, 2013

Sleeping on a Boat

One day Jesus said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side of the lake." So they got into a boat and set out. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger. The disciples went and woke him, saying, "Master, master, we're going to drown!" He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. "Where is your faith?" he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, "Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him." Luke 8: 22-25 (NIV)

Jesus and his disciples set out to cross the Sea of Galilee. Jesus fell asleep in the boat. Without warning, a storm blew up, violently raging across the lake. The boat was filling with water and these seasoned fishermen were afraid they were about to die. Jesus was so exhausted that this raging storm didn't keep him from sleeping. The disciples were so terrified that they woke up Jesus saying, "Master, master we are going to drown!" Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and sea, and immediately the storm came to an abrupt end. Then he turns to his disciples and asks, "Where is your faith?" It is as if he was asking them, "Don't you know who is in this boat with you?" Now that the storm had stopped, the disciples are even more afraid. They were in the presence of someone who was completely unique.

There was never a person like Jesus Christ. He is in a class by himself. All the forces of nature are under his authority. He is much more than a man. He is the creator of heaven and earth. He is God, who has all authority in heaven and on earth.


August 6, 3013

The Lamp of Truth

No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him. Luke 8: 16-18 (NIV)

Sometimes I get up in the middle of the night and, in the dark, try to find my way to the kitchen to get a drink of water. Most of the time everything goes as planned. However, there are times when I misjudge where I am and stub my toe on a piece of furniture. Those are the times I wish I had turned on a light.

Jesus states the obvious. No one lights a lamp and then covers or hides it. It is intended to provide light so that everyone can see clearly.

The light of the gospel is a wonderful treasure. The glory and radiance of God's grace and mercy is meant to be seen. Jesus said, "You are the light of the world." (Matthew 5:14) 

I'm thankful that Jesus, the light of life, has made himself known. I'm grateful that the radiance of Jesus and his gospel shines through God's people.


July 30, 2013

Generous

While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked out the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown" When he said this, he called out,  "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

The disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, 'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'"

"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."
Luke 8:4-15 (NIV)

I have a small container garden on our balcony. One of my favorite things to do is plant and nurture seeds and plants. I am very careful about what, when and where I plant things. I want my garden to thrive. I love watching my plants grow. It's very satisfying to eat something picked from my garden.

Jesus tells this parable about a farmer. This farmer is not as careful as I am when I plant my garden. Some of the seed he plants falls on where birds will eat it, some ends up on rocks and some of the seed is planted among thorns. Fortunately, some seed of his seed does produce a good crop.

I'm tempted when I read this story to focus on the soil. I want to figure out how to be good soil or use the story as a warning. (Don't have a hard heart. Stay away from those bad thorns!) But I don't think the story is about us, it's mainly about the farmer, a farmer who very generously sows seed.

Jesus tells this story to tell us something he wants us to know about God. He wants us to know that our God is extremely generous. He spreads the good news of the gospel everywhere. He generously sows the seed of the word of God, even in places where it is unlikely to take root and grow. He wants everyone to hear the good news.


July 24, 2013

Forgiven

Now one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him, so he went to the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. When a woman who had lived a sinful life in that town learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee's house, she brought an alabaster jar of perfume, and as she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume over them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, "If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and the kind of woman she is - that she is a sinner."

Jesus answered him, "Simon, I have something to tell you."

"Tell me, teacher," he said.

"Two men owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither had the money to pay him back, so he canceled the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?"

Simon replied, "I suppose the one who had the bigger debt canceled."

"You have judged correctly," Jesus said.

Then he turned to the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven - for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." Then Jesus said to her, "Your sins are forgiven."

The other guests began to say among themselves, "Who is this one who even forgives sins?"

Jesus said to the woman, "Your faith has saved you; go in peace." Luke 7: 36-50 (NIV)

Have you ever showed up to a dinner party when you weren't invited?

A woman showed up at this dinner party because she heard that Jesus would be there. She had lived a sinful immoral life. She had a very bad reputation; she may have even been a prostitute. She was sinful, guilty and broken. Normally, she would not have even considered going to the house of a Pharisee. She wouldn't be welcome or accepted there and she knew it. But Jesus was there and he could give her what she needed. And he doesn't turn her away.

Jesus simply says to her, "Your sins are forgiven." She received what she most needed, forgiveness.

Jesus says the words you and I most need to hear, "Your sins are forgiven."

I am more like Simon that I want to admit. But, like Simon, I am as much in need of forgiveness as the woman who came to his house because she heard Jesus would be there.

I've been forgiven and loved. God has forgiven me when I don't deserve it. We love because He first loved us.


July 16, 2013

Doubt

John's disciples told him about these things. Calling two of them, he sent them to the Lord to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" When the men came to Jesus, they said, "John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, 'Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' At that very time Jesus cured many who where blind. So he replied to the messengers, "Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." After John's messengers left, Jesus began to speak about John: "What did you go out into the desert to see? A reed swayed by the wind? A man dressed in fine clothes? No, those who wear expensive clothes and indulge in luxury are in palaces. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is the one about whom it is written: 'I will send my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.' I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." Luke 7:18-28 (NIV)

Have you ever had doubts about God and his goodness? Have you ever doubted who Jesus Christ is? I have. You and I are not alone.

John had been faithful to fulfill the ministry God had given him. He had even baptized Jesus and testified that Jesus was the One to come. But now, John the Baptist was out of action. He was languishing in a miserable prison. Soon he would be executed. He must have been asking a lot of questions: Why am I here, in this prison? When is God going to deliver me? Did I have it all wrong? Is Jesus really the Christ? John sends two of his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?" In other words, John seems to be saying, "I am not sure you are who I thought you were. Should I look for someone else?"

Jesus understands John's agony. He reassures John by saying,
"Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor. Blessed is the man who does not fall away on account of me." John would have clearly understood that this was a direct reference to what the scripture says about the role of the Messiah who was to come. Jesus was telling John, "Remember what the Bible says. You can be confident that I am the fulfillment of its predictions of the coming Messiah." After John's disciples left, Jesus publicly endorses and honor's John as the greatest prophet in history.

Disappointment, loss, pain, suffering, doubt or failure can make it very hard for us to walk by faith. We do not always understand what God is doing or why. But, our Lord understands the agony of what we are going through. He promises to be with us. He will not forsake us.


July 9, 2013

Jesus and Loss

Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out - the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don't cry." Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up." The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. They were filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people." This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country. Luke 7: 11-17 (NIV)

I've participated in many funerals and memorial services. I'm planning on attending another one tomorrow. They are celebrations of life, love and faith. No matter what the circumstances, there is a deep sense of loss. The loss, grief and sadness can be overwhelming, especially when someone young dies.

Jesus comes upon this large funeral procession coming out of a town. A widow is about to bury her only son. She is overwhelmed with grief. This woman, who had already lost her husband, was now left without a son. Her deep sorrow was almost too much for her to bear. Jesus heart immediately goes out to this woman and he walks up to her and speaks loving words of comfort. Jesus then touches the coffin and He speaks to the corpse. He says, "Young man, I say to you, get up." What happens next fills everyone with awe. The young man, who was dead, sits up and even begins to speak! This dead man had come back to life! Imagine the overwhelming joy this woman had when Jesus gave her son back to her. The people who witnessed this knew something amazing and supernatural had happened. Only God can bring life out of death. God was present. God had come to help.

God is with us. He cares. He understands our loss. He is compassionate. He knows when we are hurting. He is a God who cares about those who mourn. Jesus Christ is present when we experience loss. He brings comfort and promises to ultimately wipe every tear from our eyes.


July 2, 2013

Jesus is Amazed

When Jesus had finished saying all this in the hearing of the people, he entered Capernaum. There a centurion's servant, whom his master valued highly, was sick and about to die. The centurion heard of Jesus and sent some elders of the Jews to him, asking him to come and heal his servant. When they came to Jesus, they pleaded earnestly with him, "This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue." So Jesus went with them. He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him, "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one 'Go" and he goes; and that one, "Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." When Jesus heard this, he was amazed at him, and turning to the crowd following him, he said, "I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel." he said, Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well. Luke 7:1-10 (NIV)

When Jesus speaks or acts the reaction of people is often amazement. But, this is one of the very few instances in all of the New Testament when Jesus is amazed by someone. This soldier, a mid-level officer in charge of one hundred men, had never met Jesus or heard him speak before. He only had heard about Jesus and His reputation. A highly valued servant of this centurion was near death, so he sends for Jesus. This soldier had a good reputation; although he represented a despised occupying power, he had friends in the community. He was one of the few occupiers who actually cared about the people of the land he occupied. The leaders of the town come to Jesus and begged Jesus to go and heal this soldier's servant. The tell Jesus, "this man deserves to have you do this," because of who this man is and all he has done. On His way to his house Jesus is met by some more friends of the centurion who have come with another message: "I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is who I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you."

The community elders based their request for help on the worthiness of the centurion. But the centurion (a man who had a lot he could be proud of) humbly recognized that he did not deserve anything. He was a man who understood authority, and he knew Jesus had it. He understood that Jesus Christ was someone who had authority over life and death. If Jesus would "say the word," no matter where Jesus was, his servant would be healed.


June 25, 2013

Wise and Foolish

"Why do you call me, 'Lord, Lord' and do not do what I say? I will show you what he is like who comes to me and hears my words and puts them into practice. He is like a man building a house, who dug down deep and laid the foundation on rock. When a flood came, the torrent struck that house but could not shake it, because it was well built. But the one who hears my words and does not put them into practice is like a man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete." Luke 6:46-49 (NIV)

Every time I read this story of Jesus about the wise and foolish person, a song I learned as a child about building your house on a rock runs through my mind. These are familiar words, wise words. They are so familiar that I don't think about them much. I simply am happy to identify with the wise person.

Life works much better when we obey God. Out of love and care for us, God gave us his Word. God's word is beautiful and good. When we put it into practice we avoid a lot of pain, heartache and negative consequences. God lovingly gives us direction in his word. We should take it seriously. It is good and wise to obey his word, it is foolish not to.

This story is about people who hear God's word. It's about people like me. Sometimes I'm wise and put into practice what God's word tells me, other times I'm foolish and selective about what I choose to obey. The Bible is full of stories of men and women who obeyed and disobeyed God; people who were wise and foolish. People like Adam, Abraham, Noah, David and the apostles.

We are all are like the foolish man. We make bad choices. We don't put God's word into practice. We sin.

Maybe the reason I don't think too much about this story is that I am more like the foolish man than I want to admit. Fortunately, Jesus Christ, the wise one and solid rock foundation, loves us with an everlasting love. He mercifully extends forgiveness to us for our foolishness.


June 18, 2013

Out of the Heart

No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6: 43-45 (NIV)

Normally I watch myself. I am usually careful about what I do and say. I don't want people to see an ugly side of me. I have done and said things that I regret. In the frustration and emotion of the moment rash words have come out of my mouth. Disturbed by my bad behavior, I make excuses. "I don't know what I was thinking. That wasn't me. That was really out of character. Seriously, that really isn't me." However, the truth is that it was me. My real uninhibited sinful self just happened to be revealed.
For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. 

Jeremiah 17: 9 says: The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

I can't get away with saying "That wasn't me." I can't hide behind excuses. I have to be honest and confess that it is me. My heart is sinful and deceitful. I am selfish, cruel and prideful.

Jesus was the only person whose heart was completely good and pure. He's the only one who produced nothing but good fruit. His words were good, pure and true.

God knows us completely and still loves us. When nothing good was found in us, Jesus gave himself for us and gave us his righteousness and goodness. The heart of God is amazingly good.


June 11, 2013

Your Father is Merciful

Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. Luke 6: 36-38 (NIV)

Mercy, forgiveness and generosity flows from the heart of God. Jesus being rich in mercy took the judgment we deserved upon himself. He stood condemned in our place. Because of Jesus Christ we are forgiven. We have been generously given the riches of God's grace.

Judging others (at least in my mind) is something I catch myself doing almost daily. Finding flaws in people helps me feel a little superior. My attempts to forgive are far from perfect. I think of myself as generous, but in reality my mercy and generosity is limited.

On a good day my attempts at being merciful fall short of God's mercy.
Fortunately, our Savior is very rich in mercy.

In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding. Ephesians 1:7


June 4, 2013

Love Your Enemies

"I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If anyone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you." Luke 6: 27-31 (NIV)

It seems like Jesus is asking us to do the impossible; love your enemies.  When I have been mistreated, lied to, stolen from, cheated, slandered, insulted, threatened or cursed my natural response has been to protect myself from being hurt again. I think I am being good when I don't give in to the temptation to retaliate.
 
Jesus did not protect himself. He loved his enemies in a radical way.

The Bible says of us: Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled us by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy and without blemish and free from accusation. Colossians 1:21-22 When we were God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son. Romans 5:10a

Jesus endured insults, humiliation and prayed for his enemies. Christ loved us, forgave us and blessed us even when we were his enemies. He gave his life for his enemies. That is amazing love.



May 28, 2013


Woe to You

But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. Luke 6: 24-26

This gets my attention! I am very fortunate. Compared to the vast majority of people on earth, I am rich. I have never actually gone hungry. Yesterday was a holiday, Memorial Day, and I ate too much. I enjoy laughing. I also like it when people say good things about me.

Jesus message has turned from a message of blessings to a message of woe (or doom). He does this to get our attention.

The person who trusts in themselves is doomed. God is the one who provides everything we have. Our only hope is in Jesus Christ, who is rich in mercy. Jesus graciously gives us true riches, satisfaction and joy.



May 21, 2013

Blessed are you

Looking at his disciples, he said: "Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man. Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets." Luke 6:20-23 (NIV)

These words of Jesus are well known. Still, I don't naturally think of the poor, hungry, sad and rejected as being blessed.

Blessed are you who are poor. Not necessarily the materially poor. But blessed are the poor in spirit, those who can find no hope in themselves. Their only possible hope is in Christ. They will receive the true riches of the kingdom of God; the riches of the grace of God in Jesus Christ.

Blessed are you who hunger. Those who hunger and thirst for God. Those who hunger for the bread that comes from heaven. Blessed are those who hunger for righteousness. They will be filled, for Jesus said, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty." John 10:35

Blessed are you who weep. Blessed are those who are sad and mourn over their sin. They will experience the joy of forgiveness. The redemption found in Christ will be theirs.

Blessed are you who are hated, excluded or rejected because your trust is in Jesus. Rejoice, your reward in heaven will be great. Remember that God's servants, the prophets, were treated the same way.

Blessed are you.


May 14, 2013

Jesus Praying

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles. Luke 6:12-13 (NIV)

As Jesus was about to extend his ministry and take the important step of choosing twelve apostles he spent an extended time in prayer. He found a place where he could without distraction pour out his heart in prayer to his heavenly Father. After preparing himself by spending an entire night praying to God he called his disciples to him and chose twelve to be apostles.

I have often read this and focused on the fact that Jesus spent the entire night alone praying. Then I reflect upon my prayer life. My prayer life doesn't compare favorably to Jesus' prayer life. Jesus spent a whole night alone praying. I would need a lot of coffee and a group of friends committed to keeping me awake in order to do that. Maybe I should just focus on the fact that Jesus was praying. Besides, this is a story about Jesus, not me.

Jesus was praying. He is still praying; praying for us. It's encouraging and comforting to know that Jesus continues to intercede for us.

But because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Hebrews 7:24-24

Jesus was praying for his disciples. He spent the entire night praying. The disciples were getting the rest they needed. I like that.


May 7, 2013

Jesus and the Sabbath

On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Get up in front of everyone." So he got up and stood there. Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save a life or destroy it?" He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus. Luke 6:6-11 (NIV)

I was a very young child when I memorized the Ten Commandments. It was a Sunday school assignment. We were taught that the Ten Commandments were given by God and the importance of keeping them. I soon figured out that there were certain things you did on Sunday and things you didn't do in order to keep the Sabbath. I tried to use this to my advantage. I started using the excuse that it was the "Sabbath" to get out doing things I didn't want to do (like taking out the trash or feeding the dog). I quickly discovered that my parents didn't have the same view of the Sabbath as I did.

The Pharisees and the religious teachers were looking for ways to discredit Jesus. If Jesus healed someone on the Sabbath they could accuse him of breaking God's law. There was a man with a shriveled hand in the synagogue; they watched to see what Jesus would do. Jesus asks a question, "I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath:
to do good or to do evil, to save a life or destroy it?" The answer to the question was obvious to everyone. Jesus slowly looks around the room then heals the man.

The law is perfectly fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
My attempts at keeping the law are completely tainted with sin.


April 30, 2013

New Garments and New Wine

He told them this parable: "No one tears a patch from a new garment and sews it on an old one. If he does, he will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old. And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the new wine will burst the skins, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine wants new, for he says, 'The old is better.'" Luke 5 36-39 (NIV)

I'm not an expert on wine or on repairing clothing. My few attempts at sewing a button back on a shirt have not gone very well.

Jesus tells these short parables to make a point. Even I know that it would be foolish to tear a piece from a new garment to make a repair on an old one. It would only make matters worse and ruin your new clothes. To put new wine, that has stopped fermenting into old wineskins that have lost the ability to stretch is also foolish. The wineskins will burst.

The old garment is the righteousness of works; the new patch is the free grace of the gospel of Christ. If anyone trusts in their own efforts and also attempts to put a patch of the gospel on their self-righteousness they will find that it won't work. In their heart they are still trusting in their own righteousness instead of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.

The new wine is the wonderful sweet gospel of forgiveness in Christ. The gospel of Christ requires that we deny our own righteousness and trust in the righteousness of Jesus our Savior. The old wine is trusting in our own goodness. The new wine of the gospel is hard for our hearts to take. It is sharp. We have to admit that nothing we do can earn God's favor. Everything we do is tainted with sin. Christ has accomplished everything. Jesus offers our only hope: grace and mercy.


April 23, 2013

Jesus, the Bridegroom

They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking." Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast." Luke 5: 33-35 (NIV)

As a young believer I learned the value of daily Bible reading and prayer. I recommend it. That discipline helped me grow in my love for Jesus. However, it didn't take long before I was comparing myself to others. I would feel guilty if I missed my "quiet time" with God and happy with myself when I spent extra time praying. I thought God was really pleased with me when I fasted (which wasn't very often). I liked knowing my spiritual life was "above average." In my self-righteousness and pride, I was taking the credit that belongs to Jesus Christ. It is easy to forget that our righteousness comes from Jesus, not from anything we do (even prayer and fasting).

Jesus and his disciples are now accused of being spiritually inferior. John's disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees would often fast and pray. Jesus and his disciples: not so much. In fact, they were known for celebrating; eating and drinking.

Jesus answers the criticism in figurative language. Jesus is the bridegroom. His disciples part of the bridal party. His time on earth is the wedding feast. It's appropriate to celebrate at a wedding. You don't fast at a wedding. The joy and happiness of being with the Messiah is cause for celebration.


April 17, 2013

Soul Doctor

After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. "Follow me," Jesus said to him, and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, "Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and 'sinners'? Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Luke 5: 27-32 (NIV)

My parents on more than one occasion told me to be careful who I picked for my friends. They knew that I could be easily influenced for good or for bad by those I spend the most time with. Their advice was wise. They wanted to protect me. The Pharisees were not trying to protect Jesus; they were looking for reasons to discredit him.

Levi, also called Matthew, sat at his tax booth on a well-traveled road collecting taxes. Tax collectors were known for taking their share whenever they got the chance. Jesus came over to him and said two words, "follow me." Levi probably expected a rebuke or a lecture. But this wonderful Jesus, the one everyone had been talking about, actually wanted Levi to become one of his disciples. Those two words of Jesus changed everything. This tax collector, who most everyone had given up on as lost, turned his back on his former life and followed Jesus.

Levi held a banquet and invited his friends to celebrate along with Jesus and his disciples. There was joy and amazement at what had happened. God really does care about people like us. Jesus loves those who are sick with sin. Jesus, the doctor of the soul, came with a cure for the disease of sin.


April 9,2013

Power to Forgive

One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tied to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way into the house because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, "Friend, your sins are forgiven." The Pharisees and the teacher of the law began thinking to themselves, "Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, "Why do you think about these things in your heart? Which is easier: to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say 'Get up and walk?' But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins..." He said to the paralyzed man, "I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home." Immediately he stood up in front of them, took what he had been lying on and went home praising God. Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, "We have seen remarkable things today." Luke 5: 17-26 (NIV)

Several times I've found myself trying to make my way through a crowd without success. These guys won't let anything stop them.

While Jesus is teaching, some men come bringing a paralyzed friend to Jesus to be healed but they can't get close to Jesus. It is just too crowded. They know their need and they know that Jesus can help them. They will not let anything stop them in their quest to bring their friend into Jesus' presence. They climb up on the roof of the house, make an opening in the roof, and lower the man on his mat right in front of Jesus! Jesus sees their faith in him; a faith that motivates them to act. He also perceives this man's deepest need is for forgiveness. Jesus tells the man, "Your sins are forgiven." In their minds, the religious teachers accuse Jesus of blasphemy. Jesus uses this opportunity to declare that he had the authority to forgive sins; an authority reserved for God alone. Then Jesus backed up his declaration by healing the man. The paralyzed man got up and went home praising God.

The greatest need we have, the need for forgiveness of sin, can only be met by Jesus Christ. God loved us so much that he gave us Jesus, the glorious Son of Man. When we are paralyzed by sin and guilt, only Jesus Christ has the power and authority to forgive our sin and free us. In Jesus' presence we experience love and grace.


March 26, 2013

News Spreads Quickly

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5: 15-16 (NIV)

News spreads quickly, both good news and bad news. The news about Jesus was spreading fast. People touched by him told their family, friends and neighbors. Crowds of people came to hear Jesus and to be healed by him.

It is still that way today. The news about Jesus spreads as people who have been touched, forgiven and transformed by Jesus tell their story.

This week we remember the death of Jesus and celebrate his resurrection. It is an amazing story.
It is very good news.


March 19, 1013


The Touch of Jesus

While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell at with his face to the ground and begged him, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. "I am willing," he said. "Be clean!" And immediately the leprosy left him. Then Jesus ordered him, "Don't tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them." Luke 5: 12-14 (NIV)

Have you ever felt unclean or hopeless? This man was desperate. He had leprosy and the disease was in an advanced stage. In Jesus day, when a person contracted leprosy it not only meant they faced suffering from a debilitating disease; it also meant living a life of banishment. They had to remove themselves from all contact with healthy individuals including family and friends. They were barred from worship and survived only on charity. It was a miserable existence. You were "cleansed" from leprosy, as you would be from sin or filth, not "healed."

This man falls down with his face to the ground and begs Jesus, "Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean." Somehow he knew he was in the presence of one whose power and authority was greater than anything he had ever encountered. He didn't say, "If you can heal me" or "Can you heal me?" Humbly submitting himself to Jesus, he says, "Lord, you can, will you?" Jesus compassionately reaches out and touches this man. He says, "I am willing, be clean!" And immediately the man was completely healed.

The touch of Christ is just as transforming today as it was for this man two thousand years ago. Jesus Christ brings cleansing, wholeness and life.


March 12, 2013

Don't be Afraid

When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" For he and his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, and so were James and John, the sons of Jebedee, Simon's partners. Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. Luke 5:8-11 (NIV)

I've gone fishing a few times. I usually don't have much success. My biggest catch ever came when I was a teenager on a fishing trip with my dad in Canada. I caught a huge walleye, the biggest catch of the day. The highlight of a day of fishing for me is catching something - anything.

Simon and his partners were professional fishermen. They had been working all night and caught nothing. Now, because of Jesus, they had their biggest catch ever. They had never seen anything like this; the boats were so full of fish that both boats began to sink. Peter had been listening to Jesus teach the word of God, now he realizes that he is in the presence of someone uniquely holy. He falls down and says "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!"

Simon becomes keenly aware of his own sinfulness. He is so uncomfortable and afraid that he asks Jesus to leave. Instead, Jesus calls Simon to ministry saying, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." Peter's call to follow Jesus as a disciple came at a time when he was painfully aware of his own sinfulness.

My natural tendency is to keep God at a distance. But God gently says "Don't be afraid." His mercy covers my sin with his righteousness.


March 5, 2013

A Solitary Place

At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, "I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent." And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea. Luke 4: 42-44 (NIV)

I spent my morning volunteering at our church food pantry. I enjoyed it a lot. It was a joy be around people who love Jesus and care deeply about people. I was blessed. It was really encouraging to see God at work.

After a full evening ministering to people, Jesus takes some time to be alone. This passage doesn't say what he was doing. Mark 1:35 tells us after this long night of ministry Jesus got up while it was still dark, went to a solitary place, where he prayed. Jesus absence was noticed and soon people came looking for him. They tried to get him go back and stay with them. But Jesus wouldn't be deterred from his purpose of bringing the good news to others also. He continued on his preaching tour. People needed the life-giving Word of God.

After my morning volunteering it was refreshing just to take a break, be alone and relax for an hour. It didn't even occur to me to spend time praying until I sat down to write this devotional.


February 26, 2013

Jesus, the Healer

Jesus left the synagogue and went to the home of Simon. Now Simon's mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her. So he bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her. She got up at once and began to wait on them. When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ. Luke 4: 38-41 (NIV)

Whenever someone you love is sick you feel helpless. You want to do everything in your power to help them feel better. When Simon Peter's mother-in-law was suffering, Jesus was called to help. Jesus, willing to help, rebuked the fever. Immediately she was completely well.

Word of Jesus power to heal must of spread. Soon people were bringing their sick relatives and friends to Jesus. He had compassion for them, laid his hands on them and cured them. All sickness, disease, pain and death came into the world because of sin (the fall). Jesus, the Savior of sinners, in love and compassion touches sinners and takes the curse of sin upon himself.

Because of Jesus, one day we will no longer experience death, sickness, suffering or pain.



February 19, 2013

Authority and Power


Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath began to teach the people. They were amazed at his teaching, because his message had authority. In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, "Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God!" "Be quiet!" Jesus said sternly. "Come out of him!" Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. All the people were amazed and said to each other, "What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!" And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area. Luke 4: 31-37 (NIV)

I've been inspired, gained new insight, come under conviction, and have been encouraged by pastors and teachers. I don't remember ever being amazed by someone's teaching.

The scene is the synagogue in Capernaum. Jesus is the teacher and people are amazed because His teaching is like nothing they had heard before. His message had authority. It wasn't superficial. Then suddenly there was a major disruption in the congregation; a demon possessed man interrupts Jesus crying out at the top of his voice, "Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God!" This evil spirit knew who Jesus was. He despised and hated Jesus. This demon was also frightened by the power of Jesus. Jesus Christ, who came to destroy the works of the devil, commands the evil spirit to be quiet and leave. Jesus' power and authority is overwhelming - the evil spirit immediately leaves the person he has been tormenting. This man, who had been in bondage, is now free. The people who heard and saw this were amazed. They couldn't help but talk about what they had seen and heard.

All authority in heaven and earth has been given to our Lord, Jesus Christ. Sometimes the reality of sin and the presence of evil seem more real than the presence of God; but Satan is defeated. Jesus Christ is Lord, all power and authority is His.


February 13, 2013

It's Hard To Go Home

All spoke well of him and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips. "Isn't this Joseph's son?" they asked. Jesus said to them, "Surely you will quote this proverb to me: 'Physician, heal yourself! Do here in your hometown what we have heard that you did in Capernaum.'" "I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown. I assure you that there were many widows in Israel in Elijah's time, when the sky was shut for three and a half years and there was a severe famine throughout the land. Yet Elijah was not sent to any of them, but to a widow in Zarephath in the region of Sidon. And there were many in Israel with leprosy in the time of Elisha the prophet, yet not one of them was cleansed - only Naaman the Syrian." All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. They got up, drove him out of town, and took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way. Luke 4:22-30 (NIV)

I grew up attending church every week. I liked our pastor; he was a caring example to me. I listened to his sermons and could occasionally even recall the main points at Sunday lunch. But, the only sermon I actually remember from my teen years was titled "You can't go home", based on Luke 4:24.
"I tell you the truth," he continued, "no prophet is accepted in his hometown." Included in his message was our pastor's story of how and why he ended up in western Pennsylvania, far from where he grew up. Often it is hard to be accepted as an adult in a small town where everyone knows you and your family.

People in my home town knew my family. That's was both a good thing and a bad thing. I had high school teachers that taught both my mother and grandmother. I was also scrawny and socially awkward. I wasn't one of the popular kids. I wasn't athletic, was academically average and had no special talent. I did take guitar lessons for a month or so, but eventually my teacher told me I was wasting money and time. I would never be a guitar player. There wasn't a group I fit in to. I had a few friends but often I was the target of cruelty at school. During lunch period often I would skip lunch and go the school library to get away from the cruelty of other kids. (And to avoid eating the cafeteria food - it was bad!)

My pastor's sermon was memorable because I could identify with what he said. I knew that if I was going to be accepted, get married or do anything significant it would be much easier if I left town. That's what I did. By God's grace I matured, gained confidence, got married and the rest is history.

Jesus was speaking at his home synagogue. The people knew his family and saw Jesus grow up. They refused to believe that he was the messiah or that he could actually perform the miracles they had heard about. They became furious when their self-righteous pride was exposed. In indignation they threw him out of the synagogue and deliberately led Jesus to a precipice intending to murder him.

They did see a miracle that day. Jesus quietly and supernaturally passed through the crowd and went on his way. He loved them. He brought good news to them then he saved them from carrying out their murderous intentions. Eventually, he would die for their sin.


February 5, 2013

Scripture Fulfilled

Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news about him spread through the whole countryside. He taught in their synagogues, and everyone praised him. He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it was written: "The spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom or the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, 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, and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing." Luke 4: 14-21 (NIV

Jesus was becoming a well known teacher. People were eager to see and hear him. Synagogues in Jesus time were led by lay leaders. It was common to invite a visiting teacher to read the Scripture and give a brief sermon. Jesus did this throughout Galilee. He gained a good reputation as a teacher.

Now he comes back to his home town and is invited to read and teach. He reads a passage from Isaiah 61 and begins his message by saying today this scripture is fulfilled. The news Jesus proclaims is good news. We are poor in spirit, Jesus is rich in mercy. We are prisoners, slaves in bondage to sin, Jesus frees us. We are spiritually blind, Jesus opens our eyes. Oppressed, Jesus lifts the burden from us. The prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled in Jesus.



January 29, 2013

Temptation and Jesus

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. Luke 4:1-2 (NIV)

When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time. Luke 4: 13 (NIV)

I've read this passage a lot of times; I've listened to sermons on Luke 4. I've taught using these verses. I usually focus on the three temptations in the passage and how Jesus overcame them. When I read these verses I think of temptation I experience. I focus on how to resist and overcome temptation. I also look for reassurance that I'm doing above average at resisting temptation. There couldn't be a better example to follow than Jesus. There is a lot we can learn about sin, temptation and resisting the devil from this story.

Jesus was led by God into the desert to fast, pray and undergo temptation. This week I noticed that for forty days he was tempted by the devil. Forty days!  He was exposed to the intense, powerful and cunning attacks of Satan. What Jesus endured during these forty days is beyond human comprehension. This wouldn't be the last time Jesus would be tempted. The devil left him only until a more opportune time. He would be severely tested again and again.

Everything I do is tainted by sin and mixed motives, even success in resisting temptation. Jesus fulfilled the law of God perfectly for us. Even under intense temptation, of the kind we will never experience, he did not sin. He is absolutely righteous, pure and without sin. It is this Jesus who paid fully for our sin. Christ's righteousness is now credited to us. I tend to make this passage mainly about me and how, like Jesus, I should resist temptation. More importantly, it tells us about our amazing Lord.


January 23, 2013

Father's Approval

When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: "You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased." Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. Luke 3: 21-23a (NIV)

I graduated from college and had a decided to pursue a career in ministry. I was confident God was calling me to serve people through ministry, but I wasn't sure that my family's reaction would be favorable. One day my father told me that he was proud of me and thought I was doing exactly what I should be doing. These were words I'll always remember. Knowing I had my father's approval and blessing encouraged and sustained me when things became difficult.

While the people were seeking forgiveness and being baptized by John, Jesus came to be with them and identify with them. Jesus was baptized and while he was praying the Holy Spirit descended and God gave Jesus his blessing and approval as he began his ministry. That must have encouraged him during times when it seemed as if he was abandoned by God.

God was pleased that his Son would enter this world and out of great love suffer and die for us. What more convincing evidence could God give us of his love?
Because of Christ, God is pleased with us. In Christ we have our heavenly Father's blessing and approval.


January 16, 2013

Look in the Mirror

John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'we have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham." Luke 3: 7-8 (NIV)

John answered them all, "I baptize with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." Luke 3: 16 (NIV)

Boys get dirty. At least I did. I can remember playing outside in the dirt for hours. My brother and I dug, created things out of mud, made roads and tunnels, etc... (Fortunately for us, my parents were not overly concerned with how the back yard looked.) My mother would remind us to clean up every night before dinner. I always thought I did a good job at getting all the dirt off. But, I would sit down at the dinner table after washing myself and my mother would say "you are dirty, go wash up." Of course, I would protest "I'm clean!" My mother would then order me to go back in the bathroom to look in the mirror. I seemed to always miss something. My face would be dirty or I didn't notice the dirt on my arms the first time. I thought I was clean, but I wasn't. Sometimes I had to repeat this process several times before I was clean enough to be at the table.

John came preaching a startling and very harsh message. He called the people he was speaking to "a brood of vipers" and warned them to flee the coming wrath of God. He told them that they couldn't depend on their traditions and heritage as descendants of Abraham. They had hearts that were corrupt and sinful. John's message was like a mirror. He pointed out that even those who thought they were clean were dirty. No one meets the standard of God's law. Everyone needs cleansing from sin.

John also pointed people to Jesus Christ, the One who came to die and fully pay for our sin. In Him we find cleaning from sin. Jesus Christ cleanses us from all our sin.


January 9, 2013

In His Father's House

Every year his parents went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the Feast, according to the custom. After the Feast was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you." "Why are you searching for me? he asked. "Didn't you know I had to  be in my Father's house?" But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart. Luke 2:41-51 (NIV)

When I was a young father and a new homeowner our roof started leaking. I did the repairs myself to save money. I was on the roof when my 18 month old son climbed the ladder to join me. I discovered him as he reached the top of the ladder and was stepping onto the roof. It scared me to death!! He could have easily fallen. I quickly picked him up, I wasn't comfortable until he was safely on the ground. This is a family story that has been re-told often. We treasure it because it reveals a lot about the character of our son at an early age. He's determined, curious and fearless. He wanted to be with and see what his dad was doing on the roof and nothing was going to stop him.

This is well-known story about Jesus. It is the only incident in the Bible of Jesus' life as a youth. This is an incident Mary would treasure, as she looked back on Jesus' life. It tells us a lot about Jesus character and identity at an early age.

The family had gone to the Passover Feast, as they were returning home Joseph and Mary discovered that was not in the caravan with their other relatives and friends. They anxiously went back to look for him. When they finally found him, he was in the temple listening to the teacher and asking and answering questions. Jesus astonished everyone with his understanding and insight. His mother asked him, "Son, why have you treated us like this?" Imagine what it would have been like for Jesus' parents. They were scared. They didn't know where Jesus was for three days! Jesus' reply indicates that he thought they would understand. Where else would he be? God's Son had to be in His Father's house.


December 31, 2013

Holding a Newborn Baby

Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the law required, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying: "Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to your people Israel." The child's father and mother marveled at what was said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: "This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too."  Luke 2:27-34 (NIV)

Our first grandchild, a boy, was born a few days ago on Christmas morning. Seeing him for the first time less than an hour after birth was an amazing experience. This was a real "Christmas miracle" for our family. I couldn't keep my eyes off our new grandson and couldn't wait to hold him. Then I was filled with amazement as I held him.

Simeon, an old man, was waiting and watching for the Messiah. God revealed to him that he would actually live to see the Messiah! When he saw Joseph and Mary with Jesus he instantly recognized that this child was the Lord's Christ. Imagine what it was like for Simeon as he held Jesus in his arms. He could now die in peace. He had seen (and even held) the Messiah. He had seen his Savior.

Simeon blessed them. It must have seemed like a strange blessing. There would be struggling and pain surrounding Jesus. A sword would even pierce Mary's soul. The self-righteous would be offended. The poor in spirit would see and experience the grace of God. Salvation had come.

Holding Grandson

December 24, 2012

I Bring You Good News of Great Joy

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests."  Luke 2: 9-14 (NIV)

I've noticed when a child is born, the parents (and grandparents) are excited and the joyful news spreads fast. But who do you tell first? Would it be shepherds?

Jesus Christ, the promised messiah, had entered the world. The Lord of Glory veiled His eternal majesty and humbled himself by being born as a baby. God made his announcement of this amazing event to a group of shepherds, not the rich and powerful or religious. Shepherds were not known as respectable members of the community. They had no fixed residence and they had reputation for dishonesty. They were considered so untrustworthy that they were forbidden by law to testify in court. Their occupation kept them from participating in religious ceremonies. Yet, they were among the first to be told the news of Jesus' birth.

An angel of the Lord appeared to these lowly shepherds to make the announcement and God's glory shone around them. The angel's message was amazing. It was also personal; "a savior is born to you." The Messiah would be their savior! God loves shepherds! These shepherds were among the first to be told of Jesus birth, they would never be the same.


December 18, 2012

They Shared Her Joy

When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.
Luke 1:57-58 (NIV)

We are expecting the birth of our first grandchild any day now. We are excited; the anticipation is building. There is already a lot of joy.

The birth of a child is something to celebrate. There is a lot of joy when a baby is born. This birth is celebrated. An angel had actually appeared to Zechariah to announce that he would have son. No one thought Elizabeth could have a baby; she did. The joy brought about by the birth of their son, John, was shared with their neighbors and relatives. God was good to them. God was showing His mercy to the world.

The baby's father, Zechariah, prophesied:

"And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins,
because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising of the sun will come to us from heaven
to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the path of peace."  Luke 1:76-79

God's plan of salvation was unfolding and John would prepare the way. Praise be to the Lord, our God!


December 11, 2012

Nothing is Impossible with God

"You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end." "How will this be," Mary asked the angel, "since I am a virgin?" The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the most high will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God. Even Elizabeth, your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God." "I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered, "May it be to me as you have said." Then the angel left her. Luke 1:31-38 (NIV)

Things like this don't happen! Nothing like this had ever happened before and would never happen again. God intervened in our world in a manner that was extraordinary. God entered our world as a baby born of a young virgin, Mary. I've heard this story over and over again since I was a child and it still amazes me.

Mary too was astonished. She would be the mother of the promised Messiah. What an amazing privilege. But Mary, a virtuous woman, would have to endure the questions of her family and community. She would be in the position of trying to explain what happened. Would anyone believe her? She would also have the awesome responsibility of protecting, caring for and raising this holy child. Then she would eventually experience the pain of watching Him be crucified and die.

Yes, it happened. It was something entirely unique. God sent his Son, born of a woman. God entered our world. Nothing is impossible with God.


December 4, 2012

God is Faithful

But the Angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of righteousness - to make ready a people for the Lord. Luke 1: 13-17 (NIV)

Do you ever doubt God and His promises? I have.

Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth, followed the Lord faithfully. For Zechariah, to serve in the Temple offering up prayers for the people at the altar of incense was a once in a lifetime opportunity. It was an awesome privilege.

Zechariah had probably given up praying for a child long ago. He and his wife were well along in years. This day he was probably praying for the redemption of the people of God and for a Messiah to come. He was at the altar when an angel appeared to him. Zechariah was terrified. (I would be too!) The angel's first words were "do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard." The message the angel came to bring was that Zechariah and Elizabeth would become parents of a prophet who would prepare the way for the Messiah. The angel quotes Malachi 4:4-5, the last promise God mad in the Old Testament. Both Zechariah's prayer for the redemption of God's people and for a child would be answered!

Even though God clearly and dramatically speaks by sending a messenger from the very presence of God, Zechariah has doubts. He asks the angel "How can I be sure of this?" Fortunately, God doesn't base fulfillment of His promise on Zechariah's faith. Zechariah's prayer was answered! His son, John, would come to make ready a people for the Lord. Jesus, the Messiah, would come soon. Redemption would be accomplished. God is faithful.


November 27, 2012

Lights

For unto us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David's throne and over his kingdom, establishing it and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. Isaiah 9: 6-7 (NIV)

Yesterday I asked my youngest son, "Do you think I should put up Christmas lights this week?" At first he said he thought it was too early. Christmas is almost a month from now. He started talking about what he did not like about this time of year - the crowds, traffic and commercialism. Then we started talking about what we like - people blessing others with gifts, family gatherings and (if we are paying attention) reminders everywhere of Jesus.

For unto us a child is born...and he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. He is a child and Mighty God. Nothing could be more amazing or incredible. God actually became man and lived among us!

This time of year is a big deal because we are celebrating the coming of our redeemer, Jesus Christ. He is Mighty God, Immanuel, God with us. He is our Everlasting Father and the Prince of Peace. His peace is a peace with God. He took our sin upon himself to reconcile us to God. No one compares to Jesus Christ. Our only hope of eternal salvation is in Him.

My Christmas lights celebrate the coming of the light of the world. I think I'll put them up this week. It's not too early to start celebrating the coming of Jesus.


November 20, 2012

Thanking God

As he was going into a village, ten men who had leprosy met him. They stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!" When he saw them, he said "Go, show yourselves to the priest." As they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him - and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Was no one found to return and give praise to God except this foreigner?" Then he said to him, "Rise and Go; your faith has made you well." Luke 17: 12-19 (NIV)

I like being thanked. It means a lot to me when someone expresses appreciation for something I've done. A friend once called to thank me for something I'd done for them years before. They said that they were thinking about how much they appreciated it and realized that they had never thanked me. That simple act of calling to say thanks made my week. It still means a lot to me. It also made me think about how often I take a minute or two to stop and say thank you.

Lepers were outcasts, banned from any involvement in society. No one wanted to risk coming in contact with this terrible disease. Jesus' reputation of having the power to heal had spread everywhere. So when these men heard that Jesus was coming, they were there to meet him. When they saw him, they stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, "Jesus, Master, have pity on us." He did. He told them to go and show themselves to the priests. Only a priest could officially verify their healing and restore them to community life again. And as they went they were cleansed. Their leprosy was gone!

There is no doubt in my mind that every one of them overjoyed and grateful. They had been healed! They couldn't wait to go home and be reunited with their families. But only one of them took the time to go back and express thanks to Jesus. Jesus asked, "Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine?"

I have a lot to thank God for every day. Like these lepers, I am very grateful to God but I'm not very good actually taking the time to say thanks. Fortunately, God is good, even when I don't give thanks.


November 14, 2012

Consider it Joy?

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

I like things to go as planned. Sometimes things do go as I planned them or even turn out better than I imagined. That's when it is easy for me to be happy. But often problems come up. Things don't go as I hoped they would. When things aren't going as planned, joy isn't my natural response. That's when I'm tempted to question God's goodness.

Everyone faces trials. Trials come in many forms and sizes: persecution, illness, death, financial hardship, relationship problems, family problems, problems at work to name just a few. They may be caused by no fault of our own or our own sin, the sin or malice of others, a natural disaster, or life circumstances. But over every trial there is a sovereign God who loves us. God uses the difficulties we face (large and small) to develop our character. Through it all God strengthens and sustains us.


October 31, 2012

God is Rich in Mercy

As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions - it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace. For it is by grace you have been saved - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no one can boast. Ephesians 2:1-8 (NIV)

When a doctor carefully examines a patient and then declares the patient dead, we know there is absolutely nothing else that can be done for them. There is no hope for recovery. All of us were once in this hopeless situation - we were dead - spiritually dead. Although we were physically alive, we were dead to the things of God. It could not have been worse. There was no possible way the situation could be salvaged. We were under the power and influence of Satan and sin. We deserved God's wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive. God intervened and did what only God could do, bring the dead to life. It is entirely by God's incomparable grace and mercy that we, who once were dead, have been given new life in Jesus Christ.
God's favor has been lavished upon us and we don't deserve it. Salvation is a gift, pure and simple. It is his amazing gift of love to us.


October 23, 2012

Hunger Season

He upholds the cause of the oppressed and gives food to the hungry. The Lord sets the prisoners free, the Lord gives sight to the blind, the lord lifts up those who are bowed down, the Lord loves the righteous. The Lord watches over the alien and sustains the fatherless and the widow, but he frustrates the ways of the wicked. Psalm 146: 7-9 (NIV)

Have you ever said "I'm starving!"? I have. I wasn't close to actually starving (I never have been) but I was hungry and looking forward to eating a good meal.

When I was in Mozambique and Malawi I heard African Christians talk about "hunger season." I found out that hunger season is the time of year when crops have been planted but are not yet ready to harvest. Most of the previous harvest has been consumed. There are food shortages and any food there is in the market is very expensive. During "hunger season" it is common for people to live on just 3 or 4 meals a week.

This Psalm gives comfort to the hungry and the oppressed. It encourages me when I see oppression and people in need. God cares deeply about the oppressed, the hungry, prisoners, refugees, the fatherless and widows.

Psalm 146 also says that God loves the righteous. That's a BIG problem. I am not righteous. Fortunately, God provides what we most need. Christ, the righteous one, died for my unrighteousness. We have been given the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Because of Christ we experience God's love.

"I delight greatly in the Lord: my soul rejoices in God. For He has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels." Isaiah 61:10

I also experienced joyful worship in Malawi and Mozambique. I saw African believers rejoicing and celebrating God'
s mercy, grace and love. They understood that Christ had clothed them in His righteousness.


October 16, 2012

Praise

I will exalt you, my God the King; I will praise your name forever and ever. Every day I will praise you and extol your name for ever and ever. Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; his greatness no one can fathom. One generation will commend your works to another; they will tell of your mighty acts. They will speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty, and I will meditate on your wonderful works. They will tell of the power of your awesome works, and I will proclaim your great deeds. They will celebrate your abundant goodness and joyfully sing of your righteousness. Psalm 145: 1-7 (NIV)

There are many days when praising God is not easy for me.
When I'm praying my mind strays to my to-do list. I think of friends who are battling cancer or who are deeply hurting, experiencing tragedy and loss. I read or listen to the news and it seems like the world is falling apart. It is easy to think of things to pray about. It's not easy for me to focus on God and his glory.

Psalm 145 is an acrostic Psalm. Each verse begins with a new letter of the Hebrew alphabet. God's glory and greatness are revealed everywhere, from A to Z.
There are a lot of reasons to praise and exalt God. His creation displays his glory. God's power, might, faithfulness, compassion, love, provision and grace is evident all around us. This Pslam reminds me that there is a lot of God's goodness to celebrate! I can't even begin to list all the reasons there are to praise God. He is definitely worthy of praise and adoration.

My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise his holy name for ever and ever. Psalm 145: 21


October 9, 2012

What are You Thinking About?

O Lord, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit down and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways. Before a word is on my tongue you know it completely, O Lord. You hem me in - behind and before; you have laid your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too lofty for me to attain. Psalm 139: 1-6 (NIV)

My wife, Anne, knows me better than anyone else. Many times she knows exactly what I am thinking or what I'm about to say. Sometimes she asks me "What are you thinking about?"  There are definitely times I don't want to answer that question. I don't always want to admit what I am thinking about. It can be embarrassing. My thoughts can be selfish, wishful, strange, foolish or sinful. There are times when it is best for me not to voice what I am actually thinking.

God does know what we are thinking all the time. He knows everything about us. He knows our thoughts. He knows when we sit down and when we stand up. He knows every word that we speak before we even say them. He knows our past; he knows our future. He knows us intimately and completely. No one knows us better than God.

My love for Anne is deepened because she knows me so well - the bad, the good and the ugly. I am often amazed that someone who knows me so well loves me.

The amazing thing about God knowing me completely is that His knowledge brings me comfort, peace and confidence. Nothing about us will ever surprise God. He sees all of our life. No hidden sin or unexpected weakness will ever come to the surface to that will surprise Him or disillusion Him. He knows me intimately and completely and He still loves me.It is wonderful.


October 4, 2012

Forgiveness

Out of the depths I cry to you, O God; O Lord, hear my voice. Let your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy. If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness; therefore you are feared. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. Psalm 130: 1-5 (NIV)

I avoid thinking about my own sin. I reason that I'm not as bad as most other people. I'm a good guy. So why sweat it?

The writer of Psalm 130 asks a very powerful question: If you, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand? If God did keep a record of sin, then there would be no hope for us. That is the real problem we face. We are all answerable to God. The real reason I avoid thinking about my sin is that I sin and I don't like to think about it. It would be a very long embarrassing record. Sin permeates my thoughts, motives and actions every day. Even the good I do is tainted by sin.

Thankfully, with God there is forgiveness. Because of God's unfailing love there is complete forgiveness and full redemption in Jesus Christ. Our amazing redeemer, Jesus Christ, has set us free. All our sin has been taken away.

Thinking about my sin and confessing it actually reminds me of God's unfailing love. God turns something I don't want to think about into something quite amazing.


September 28, 2012

Apples, Rebellion and Grace

"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' 'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but did not go. Which of the two did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered. Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you." Matthew 21: 28-31 (NIV)

I always think about apples in the fall. This story Jesus tells reminds me of my teen years. Our family had a small apple orchard and every fall my brother and I were responsible for picking the apples. Some days I was rude and rebellious and told my parents that I wouldn't pick apples. I had other things I'd rather do. Other days I acted polite and said the right words but then "disappeared". Neither tactic worked very well. My parents were too wise for that. The apples got picked. My brother and I picked them.

In Jesus' story the first child is rude and rebellious but later has a change of heart. The second son is polite and respectful. He responds in apparent eagerness and says all the right words but then doesn't do what his father asks him to do.

Jesus compares the first child to the most immoral people in the community. Those who are the last ones we'd expect to enter the kingdom of God. They were the ones who later believed John the Baptist and repented at his message. Jesus compares the second son to people who say the right things and look good but their hearts are actually far from God.

This story encourages me! The person who realizes their guilt and repents of sin, in God's eyes is seen as and treated like an obedient child. Their sin is no longer remembered. This is true for both the outwardly rebellious and for the inwardly rebellious person who looks good but whose sin is hidden from view.

God's generous grace is amazing.


September 26, 2012

God of Peace

May the God of peace, who through the blood of the eternal covenant brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen. Hebrews 13: 20-21 (NIV)

I don't like goodbyes. Goodbyes can be painful, sad and sometimes scary. Saying goodbye means I will miss someone I care about or in the case of a move or job change also enter a new phase of life with lots of unknowns. Today I come to the end of the book of Hebrews and say goodbye to one of my favorite books in the New Testament (for now). I have to decide what to meditate on and write about next.

The book of Hebrews ends with this remarkable prayer. It is my favorite benediction to use at the end of a worship service. Peace has been restored between us and God because of the redemption of Christ. That peace between us and God is the result of God bringing back to life Jesus, the great Shepherd of His sheep. Christ the great Shepherd laid down His life for His sheep, accomplished salvation and rose to life. We are loved and forgiven. God continues His work in us through Jesus Christ giving us what we need.

In a world of goodbyes and change we have an unchanging eternal God who gives us peace.
 

September 18, 2012

Sacrifice

Through Jesus, therefore, let us continually offer to God a sacrifice of praise - the fruit of lips that confess his name. And do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased. Hebrews 13: 15-16 (NIV)

Jesus Christ suffered rejection, was condemned, beaten and crucified as a sacrifice for us.

I think of sacrifice as involving significant pain, loss or giving up something. Praising God through Jesus and serving are things that bring me joy. They don't seem like sacrifices to me. But with such sacrifices God is pleased.


September 13, 2012

Respect and Shame

And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate to make the people holy through his blood. Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore. For here we do not have an enduring city, but we are looking for the city that is to come. Hebrews 13: 12-14 (NIV)

I like being respected. I like looking good. I want to be viewed as a good person, as law abiding, responsible, a good citizen, a good husband and a really nice guy. I've done a pretty good job at looking respectable. I was known as one of the good kids when I was in school. I was a fairly good student. I vote. I rarely miss church. I don't have a criminal record. My driving record is pretty good too. (I am embarrassed to admit over the years I've gotten two speeding tickets and a couple of parking tickets.)

The reality is I don't deserve heaven. No matter how good I am at keeping the law (and other rules) everything I do and my every motive is deeply infected with sin.

Like a criminal, Jesus Christ was taken outside the city, condemned and put to death. His death brought us salvation.
Jesus willingly suffered shame and death for us. As a believer it is a privilege to identify with Christ in his rejection, humiliation and shame. We can do nothing to earn favor with God, we deserve condemnation. Salvation is by grace alone. Christ alone is the source of our salvation.

Our life on this earth is short. Because of Jesus we can look forward to the eternal city that is yet to come.


September 4, 2012

You Never Change!

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

"You never change!" That statement got my attention. It definitely wasn't a compliment. Anne (my wife) wasn't pointing a positive quality of consistency in me. A few years later one of my sons said, "Dad, you've really changed." That was definitely a compliment.

God never changes. To say that Jesus never changes is a compliment that celebrates His perfection and glory. He is perfect. Nothing can be added to or subtracted from His perfect being. We will never find some hidden defect in Jesus. He doesn't need to grow or improve. If Jesus were to change He would be less than perfect. He would no longer be God. Jesus is the same yesterday today and forever.

As a human being I am constantly changing. Some changes are for the better, some changes are not. I am very imperfect. I do need to learn, grow and improve. Fortunately, we have a God who never changes. We have an unchanging God who constantly is at work in us.


August 30, 2012

Entertaining Strangers


Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain
 strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Remember those in prison as if you were their fellow prisoners, and those who are mistreated as if you yourselves were suffering.  Hebrews 13:1-2 (NIV)

It is easy for me to be suspicious of people, especially strangers. In my 36 years of ministry I have been stolen from, lied to, threatened and taken advantage of by people I was trying to love and serve. These haven't been just one or two isolated incidences. Loving people is not easy. It is risky. It can hurt.

God cares deeply about the oppressed, refugees, widows, the lonely, the hungry, the poor, prisoners and those who are mistreated. When I see people suffering it is encouraging to know that God cares and loves those who are hurting.

God has surprised me many more times than I can remember.
The amazing thing about loving people is the joy it brings to me. Loving people is worth the risk. God also cares about and blesses those who entertain strangers and who care for those who are hurting.


August 28, 2012

God's Discipline

And you have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons: "My son, do not make light of the Lord's discipline, and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father? If you are not disciplined (and everyone undergoes discipline), then you are illegitimate children and not true sons. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live! Our fathers disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it. Hebrews 12: 5-11 (NIV)

You've heard the saying "No pain, no gain." That saying comes to mind when I'm thinking about skipping my morning run. I don't like pain. I don't like suffering. It's easy when I am going through hardship to think that God's love for me is a bit lacking.

Suffering is proof that God cares for us. Hardship is proof that we are God's child! Even Jesus, God's son, was made "perfect through suffering" (Hebrews 2:10) and because he "suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted." (Hebrews 2:18).

Like a good father, God loves and cares for us by disciplining and training us. His love produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for us.



August 21, 2012

Perspective

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12: 2-3 (NIV)

Have you ever wanted to "throw in the towel" and quit? I have. It is easy to "grow weary and lose heart". Whenever that happens I know it is time to get a different perspective on my situation.

When I take time to look at Jesus and consider Christ I clearly see that God loves us with an incredible love. Jesus willingly endured the cross to pay the penalty for my sin. Jesus now sits in authority at the right hand of the throne of God. He was victorious over death, a horrible enemy.

I also clearly see myself as I fix my eyes on Jesus. My sins are not minor violations that can be excused. When I look at Jesus I must come face to face with the fact that I am guilty and deserve the most drastic punishment possible, the death penalty. Jesus loves me and provides what I desperately need, an abundant amount of grace and mercy.

Considering all Jesus endured, I think I'll keep running the race.


August 15, 2012

The Race

Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with persevance the race marked out for us. Hebrews 12: 1 (NIV)

My sons all ran track and cross country. I went to their track meets for seven years. I love track meets. My favorite Olympic events to watch are the track and field events. The noise from the cheering crowd witnessing a race helps runners run their best.

We are running a race marked out for us by God. We have the shining example of a vast number of witnesses that have gone before us. Everywhere we turn we find their encouraging example. Like a crowd cheering at a race they encourage us to keep running and finish strong. The author of Hebrews mentions a few of them in chapter 11. Their stories assure us that God is faithful. No one regrets persevering to the end of the race.


August 9, 2012

Faith and Pleasing God

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God's command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. By faith Abel offered to God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith he was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead. By faith Enoch was taken from this life, so that he did not experience death; he could not be found, because God had taken him away. For before he was taken he was commended as one who pleased God. And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him. Hebrews 11:1-6 (NIV)

When I was a young father my son (a toddler) said "Dad, watch me!", he jumped and I applauded. I was very pleased. He saw I was pleased and jumped again and I applauded again. I was pleased, he was my child. I was delighted. I thought he was the most wonderful and talented child in the world.

I used to think that in order to please God I had to have "great faith". The problem is I don't have great faith. I'm someone who needs God's grace and mercy. I am a child of God who has to depend completely on my heavenly Father. 
My trust is in a great God and Savior. This is faith (trust) that pleases God.

Our trust is in Christ who died for our sins and rose from the dead. God has lavished His grace upon us. He has forgiven us and has given us Christ's righteousness. We are children of God. We have the hope of eternal life.

Enoch and Abel pleased God because they were His children. Their trust was in Him.


August 7, 2012

Encouragement

And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another - and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Hebrews 10:24-25 (NIV).

I kept leaving church services discouraged. I liked the people, the music and worship were great and the messages were good. 
We had moved across the country and were new to the community. I couldn't figure out why going to church was a burden. Maybe I just was missing my friends and my home church. Then I realized that hearing the gospel is what encourages me.

The inspiring messages I was listening to each week always ended with application. Every week I came away with something I should do. It was all true. That was the problem. It was true. There are so many aspects of my life that need to improve (actually they all need improvement). The list is overwhelming.

I am encouraged when I hear about Jesus Christ and what He has done for us. Jesus makes me right with God. I am forgiven because of the suffering and death of Christ. I cannot work my way into God's favor. I have been given Christ's righteousness as a gift. God's grace and favor has been lavished upon us and we do not deserve it.

For some reason every time I hear the gospel or a friend points me to the gospel of God's grace I am encouraged to imperfectly love, care, give, serve and pray and much much  more.


August 3, 2012

Waiting for Him

Just as man is destined to die once, and after that face judgement, so Christ was sacrificed once to take away the sins of many people; and he will appear a second time, not to bear sin, but to bring salvation to those who are waiting for him. Hebrews 9: 27-28 (NIV)

Waiting. I don't like waiting. However, trusting in Jesus and waiting for him is definitely worth it.

Death is impossible to avoid, every human being dies. However, death is not the end, after death judgment comes. Everyone must appear before the judgment throne of Christ.

The death of Christ settled the issue of sin, judgment and salvation. Jesus Christ was offered as a sacrifice to bear the sin and take the punishment of many. Christ will appear a second time for the purpose of giving eternal salvation. I cannot imagine what that will be like, but it will definitely be wonderful. As children of the living God, we no longer need to fear death and judgment.



July 31, 2012

Promises

"This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." Hebrews 8:10-12 (NIV)

Promises. I've made them. I've kept promises. I've broken promises. I've disappointed people. I've been disappointed when promises that were made to me weren't kept. Sometimes there are good reasons why I can't keep a promise. There are circumstances I can't control. Other times it's entirely my fault. Whatever the reason, I've failed to keep my promise.

God has made a covenant with His people. He puts His laws in our minds and writes them on our hearts. He will be our God and we will be His people. We will know the Lord. God will forgive us. These are amazing promises. Promises God keeps.

God's grace and mercy is central to the gospel. For the sake of Christ, God forgives us and remembers our sins no more. This is the promise of God.


July 25, 2012

The Point Is

The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man. Every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices, and so it was necessary for this one also to have something to offer. If he were on earth, he would not be a priest, for there are already men who offer gifts prescribed by the law. They serve at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven. This is why Moses was warned when he was about to build the tabernacle: "See to it that you make everything according to the pattern shown you on the mountain." But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is a mediator is superior to the old one, and is founded on better promises. Hebrews 8:1-6 (NIV)

"So, what's the point?" or "Would you please, get to the point!" I admit that is a question (or statement) that comes into my mind frequently. I might be in a conversation, listening to a speaker, in a meeting or reading an article. I like it when things are clear and concise. I rarely say it out loud, of course. I like to think of myself as a patient person.

The author of Hebrews summarizes the main point he has been trying to make. That is, Jesus' ministry is superior because He sits at God the Father's right hand and serves in God's actual tabernacle. Priests on earth serve in a tabernacle that is only a copy of the real one in heaven. That ministry was valuable for instruction because it provides us with a picture of the real tabernacle. But Jesus ministry is superior because it is not a shadow or a copy - it is reality! His ministry is what actually cleanses us from sin and brings us into a right relationship with the living God. I'm thankful this is reality, I need cleansing from sin.


July 19, 2012

He Meets Our Need

But he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: "The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: 'You are a priest forever.'" Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. Now there have been many priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. Such a high priest meets our need - one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priest men who are weak; but the oath, which came after the law, appointed the Son, who has been made perfect forever. Hebrews 7: 21-28 (NIV)

Jesus Christ is indeed the supreme high priest. His priesthood is permanent and superior to everyone that preceded Him. And because it never ends His is able to save completely all who come to God through Him! Jesus is constantly interceding (praying) for us - bridging the gap that exists between us and God the Father. The One who personally paid the price for our sin pleads our case before His Father's throne of judgment. He is devoted to insuring our eternal salvation. He begs for the forgiveness we need but don't deserve. Jesus meets our greatest need.


July 18, 2012

An Anchor for the Soul

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain, where Jesus, who went before us, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6: 19-20 (NIV)

It is Jesus in whom we believe and trust.
He went before us. The anchor of a ship holds a vessel safe and secure even in a dangerous storm with strong winds. We have an anchor for our soul, Jesus Christ. The hope of our salvation is absolutely safe and completely secure, being anchored in the promises of God. Our hope is anchored in God Himself! We have a safe refuge in the promise of God. By God's grace we can cling to the hope of eternal salvation without wavering.


July 12, 2012

God Does Hear

During the days of Jesus' life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him and was designated by God to be high priest in the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 5: 7-10 (NIV)

Have you ever prayed and received an answer to your prayers that doesn't seem like an answer at all? I have. So did Jesus.

Jesus prayed fervently with tears to be saved out of death and he was heard. How was Jesus prayer answered? In one sense the Father's answer was no, Jesus would have to suffer a horrible death. In another sense the answer was yes, Jesus would rise from the grave never to die again. He was saved out of death and now sits enthroned as King of Kings at the right hand of God. We now have the hope of eternal life because of His death and resurrection. God's eternal purposes were accomplished through the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus.

We experience deep disappointment, pain or loss. A dream dies. We may be close to despair. It seems like our prayers go unanswered. Fortunately, Jesus Christ is a high priest who understands. He does hear our prayers. Our Lord is a God who brings life even out of death.


July 9, 2012

Able to Understand

Every high priest is selected from among men and is appointed to represent them in matters related to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal gently with those who are ignorant and are going astray, since he himself is subject to weaknesses. This is why he has to offer sacrifices for his own sins, as well as for the sins of the people. No one takes this honor upon himself; he must be called by God, just as Aaron was. So Christ also did not take upon himself the glory of becoming a high priest. But God said to him, "You are my son; today I have become your Father." And he says in another place, "You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek." Hebrews 5:1-6

I was really hurting. Spending an afternoon talking with a friend about a very difficult and painful experience made all the difference. It was emotionally healing. He understood. He had been through an almost identical experience. He let me talk and didn't say much at all. I didn't get advice, I didn't need advice. What I got was someone who listened, cared and understood. Something changed after that, I was finally able to forgive and begin to move on simply because someone understood.

Jesus Christ is supremely qualified to be a high priest. Jesus was appointed not as a temporary high priest, but as a permanent - eternal - high priest. The sacrifice He offered was Himself. Unlike other priests, Jesus did not need to offer sacrifices for His own sin. He is perfectly able to understand and gently minister to us because of the suffering he experienced.


July 3, 2012

God Sees

For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are - yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4: 12-16 (NIV)

My mother used to say "I have eyes in the back of my head." I believed it! As a child it seemed like I couldn't get away with anything. I had no idea how my parents knew, but they did.

The penetrating power of God's Word judges the thoughts and attitudes of our heart. It even shows us sin we are unaware of. God knows us far better than we know ourselves. Nothing is hidden from God. He sees everything. Even our innermost thoughts and motives are open before the all-seeing eyes of God. Yikes!

The author of Hebrews never loses sight of Jesus Christ and the gospel. Jesus, the Son of God, has gone through the heavens and is our Advocate in the throne room of God. Jesus was fully human. He was tempted in every way, just like us - yet without sin. He understands. He is able to sympathize with our weakness.

Normally, no one would dare come close to a holy and righteous God. But because of Christ, we can approach God's throne with joy and confidence. We will find grace and mercy in God's presence.


June 27, 2012

God Provides Encouragement

See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.  Hebrews 3: 12-13 (NIV)

I'm very grateful for the encouragement that God constantly provides. I don't think much about it, I take it for granted. I've been going to church and Sunday school every week since I was a child. Every week when I attend a worship service I pray, meditate, listen to God's Word read, confess sin, sing praises and remember the life, death, and resurrection of Christ as a part of the service. Every week I am reminded of the gospel and my need for Christ. I look around and see others worshiping, just like me. No matter what has happened during the rest of the week, God graciously provides me with what I need to keep my heart from becoming hard. When I'm spiritually "dry" I still pray, listen to God's Word, confess and think about God's goodness. I am encouraged in my walk with God. I find myself praying in church when it seems impossible to pray. I find myself confessing sin and repenting when I wasn't planning on it. I might not have picked up my Bible all week, but my heart is softened when I hear God's Word read.
I'm reminded of Christ's death and exprience His grace in the Lord's Supper. I see others around me and I know that I am not alone.

Every good gift comes from God. The church is God's gracious gift to us.


June 14, 2012

Jesus, Moses and Me

Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. He was faithful to the one who appointed Him, just as Moses was faithful in all God's house. Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has a greater honor than the house itself. For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. Moses was faithful as a servant in all God's house, testifying to what would be said in the future. But Christ is faithful as a son over God's house. And we are His house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast. Hebrews 3:1-6 (NIV)

I like to read. I like good biographies. Especially biographies that tell the stories of people I admire. Stories about my heroes. My favorite parts of the Bible are the stories about people. For some reason the people I identify myself with are the heroes. People like Mary, Paul, Barnabas, Joseph, Nehemiah, Esther, Daniel, and Moses. I don't identify with Judas, the Pharisees, Peter denying Christ, Joseph's brothers or the thousands of complaining Israelites wandering in the wilderness. I don't think of myself as the bad guy. I'm the good guy, slightly flawed but still the hero. I don't usually even identify myself with people in the crowds that Jesus taught and fed, or with someone He healed. I imagine that if I was there I would have had a lead role in the story. My name might have been mentioned in a positive way.

Moses was one of the greatest leaders in the Bible. He liberated an entire nation from slavery. He led them out of Egypt. He overcame all kinds of opposition. Moses spoke to God as one speaks to a friend. He gave the written law of God to his people. No one was more respected than Moses. Yet, Jesus Christ is far superior to Moses. Moses doesn't even come close to the Son of God. He doesn't compare to Christ.

The truth is I am one who needs to be rescued. My thinking is messed up. I succumb to self-deception. I am not like Moses. (Not even close.) I wouldn't have had a leading role. I am more like one of the unnamed complaining Israelites reluctantly following Moses, a helpless person in the crowd in need of healing, a self-righteous Pharisee, one of Joseph's brothers or Judas. That's why the story of Jesus is so wonderful. Jesus underwent the crucifixion I deserve. God rescues us, redeems us and we get to share in the heavenly calling.

Bob Krepps  2012 & 2013 all rights reserved