Advent 2019 - A Divine Gift

A read through the book of Luke provides a picture of Jesus in His humanity, and what better time to understand He was "God with us" than at Christmas time. Born into our physical world, He came for us, and He died for us. Our blessed Savior! Join in by reading a chapter a day. 

Luke One

Read Luke Chapter One –

The first chapter of Luke’s story is not only amazing but I find it inspiring. A woman named Elizabeth is barren. She and her husband, though they had lived according to God’s plan for their life, had never been blessed with children and year after year they dealt with the disappointment of infertility but they remained faithful to God.

God saw, God knew, and as He is still, God is in the business of the miraculous. He took this simple man and woman of God, who had struggled for so long, and gave them a son named John that would become the one to proclaim the Messiah was coming. A cousin was coming, but He would be like no other for He was the Son of God.

Then we see a second story of an angel announcing a coming birth. This one to Elizabeth’s younger cousin, Mary. Again, God does the miraculous and Mary conceives a son, but this One was the long-awaited Messiah. And the story of love coming to earth begins.

As I read through this familiar story once again, there are always things that stand out.

Verse 3 – Luke tells why he is writing this letter - “It seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

We all need a friend like Luke who wants us to know the truth.  And we all need to be a friend like Luke, too. He investigated everything carefully. He pored over the prophecies leading up to this moment. He studied all that had happened to make sure it was the “exact truth.” These words inspire me to know all the truth, the exact truth. And then to be that kind of friend that wants a friend to know that truth, too. I know it will require time, study, and effort, but I want to be that person who makes the time for the One who took the time to come and save me.

The second phrase that impacted me was in verse 37, “For nothing will be impossible with God.”  And I wonder, how much do I hinder God from doing the possible because of my lack of faith, my fear, or my plain old disobedience?

God wants to do the miraculous in each of our lives and with Him nothing is impossible.  As we begin this Advent Season let us be ones to whom God finds favor. The ones who seek for the exact truth. The ones who walk with more faith, less fear and true obedience.

God bless you today and in this holiday season of the miraculous. 

Luke Two

Read Luke Chapter Two

This chapter is the most familiar to me, as we read the story of Jesus’ birth every Christmas eve as a child, and many times since. But now when I read it, I think of the time our daughter was two and a half years old, sitting in her feet pajamas atop a stool her grandfather had made her for Christmas. As her grandfather began to read the story, she became enthralled with it, repeating after him in an excited whisper, “a angel!”, “a baby”, “Momma, an angel”. Her little chubby hands clapping in delight and wonder at the words he was reading.

As I read the chapter this morning, I prayed to have that awe and wonder again. To read it with the faith of a little child, to see it with fresh perspective. The story becomes so familiar that it’s easy to skip over some of the really miraculous things that God did throughout this story. And since God skipped over sharing some of the details, it’s as if we’re reading the cliff notes of the scenes. He doesn’t tell us about the past nine months of waiting, when surely someone would have been aghast that Mary was pregnant before Joseph and she were formally married. Or the conversations between Mary and Joseph who had both been visited by an angel.

Instead we see that they traveled to Bethlehem for the census that was being taken. The hotels full up, they were apparently happy to find a room with a covering, even if it was the stable. Their story becoming even more unbelievable considering they were giving birth to the King of kings. Jesus was born in a lowly manger.

As for Luke studying and researching to find the “exact truth”, he sure skips a lot. There’s the host of angels singing praises about the newborn Jesus to a group of startled shepherds. Can you imagine the angel’s thoughts in all of this? For years, they must have wondered how God was going to reconcile mankind to Himself? How was He going to settle this long-standing conflict between sin and righteousness? And then God gives them a glimpse of the picture, He’s going to send a baby. And they sing for joy, that finally, there will be “peace among men with whom His is pleased.”

Luke continues with details of Jesus being taken to the temple to be presented to the Lord. What a unique moment that would have been, especially since we see John tell it this way, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men.” “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:1-4, 14 Nasb). Leaving His place in glory with the Father, He came as a baby, dependent on others to care for Him, those whom He had created. I’ve often thought, being dependent upon our parents should have been good training ground for being dependent on God, but then, in our flesh we rebel. We want to do it our way. Even that darling daughter of mine, like most two and a half year old’s, would say, “Me do it!” Not this two and a half year old, Jesus “continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him.” Oh that we would pray for the grace of God to be upon our children and grandchildren. 

Luke skips years ahead and tells a story of Jesus being left behind in Jerusalem on a family trip, only to be found by His frantic parents a few days later in the temple. A strange interchange happens and they set off for home, again. And “He continued in subjection to them; and His mother treasured all these things in her heart.”

Oh, that we would take the time to treasure these things in our hearts this Christmas season. To remember what this baby accomplished, but to also remember that He would first have to grow up, “increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” All of which He did by doing only what the Father told Him to do.

Let’s at least give that a try today. Let's set aside the “me do it myself's” and follow His leading. Certainly, let's walk in His grace, but let's also live out His plan with the faith and wonder of a child, determined to keep Him the focus of the season.

God bless you as you do.

Luke Three

Read Luke Chapter Three

“And all flesh will see the salvation of God.”

That was the purpose of Jesus’ coming, wasn’t it?

Jesus’ older cousin, known as John the Baptist, is visited by God and told to go baptize people. Baptism, of sorts, was already in practice among the Jews who would wash before offering a sacrifice at the temple. It was called mikva’ot (mikvehs). So, walking along the Jordan river and seeing a man baptizing people wasn’t that shocking of an idea for these Jews. However, while they were used to ceremonial bathing (a purification immersion before offering a sacrifice for their sins) this was different. For them, the sacrifice was seen as the covering of their sin, and they were quite content to just cover it up. But John was preaching to be baptized for the repentance of sins.

This may have been a novel idea to those passing by, religious Jews who knew the Law and what they were supposed to do under the Law. But to hear that they should repent, that was poles apart from their thinking. They marched to the tune of the Law and they did it by rote. John was calling them to repent from the sin that would require a sacrifice. He was proclaiming the need to change their thought toward sin, to turn away from it. He was calling them to do more than live out a religious existence. John wanted them to know of the coming Messiah. It would require something other than religion and lineage to follow after Him.

John wasn’t afraid to call sin “sin”. We see that boldness in the later verses when he reprimands King Herod for his brother’s wife, and all the other wicked things he had done. The King’s response was to add another wicked thing to the list and have John thrown into jail. Yet another reminder that just because God calls you to do something it doesn’t mean it will all go smoothly and easy. In fact, every biblical example we have tells us the opposite. Oh yes, He always blesses in the midst of it, but we still must walk through the midst of it! I’m not sure there is any greater “knowing” than to know the feeling His strength and power helping you through a trial. And, there are always trials, even when we are walking in perfect step with God.

Today I was speaking with a Doctor who was asking about our daughter. She was diagnosed with the dreaded “C” word last year, and his words were, “doesn’t seem fair, does it?” My response was that we never even thought about its fairness. This world isn’t fair. Life is hard. It’s filled with woes and sorrows, right alongside the joys and triumphs. She was triumphant, by the way. She also saw a doctor today and her lab work came out clean, to which I say, Praise the Lord! But you know what? I was praising the Lord even when she had cancer. Why? Because He revealed Himself time and time again, quite often through those that surrounded us. Blessings? Oh, there were unimaginable and wonderfully sweet ones. Some large, some small. The biggest being that God was with us, and ultimately, we have not only seen His salvation, but we have trusted it. Not for the physical well-being, but for our eternal well-being. 

As we’ll see in the rest of John’s story, though physically hard and really didn’t end as any of us would like, his eternal life was far better. And through the trials, he was blessed by the assurance of His Savior.

The lesson for us? Repent, turn from those things that take the place of God and what He has for you. Repent from just covering up sin in your life to moving the opposite direction from it.

I pray you are blessed by His assurance as you do that. He came so that all flesh would see the salvation of God. He is with you. He is for you. Even when, and even if.

God bless

Luke Four

Read Luke Chapter Four

Don’t you find it interesting in this chapter that Lucifer, Satan, the devil, whatever we might call him, taunts Jesus with “If You are the Son of God…” in the first part of the chapter, and then in the latter verses, as Jesus is casting demons out of people that each of them acknowledge that He is the Son of God before His power is even revealed?

Lucifer knew exactly who He was, and exactly what He had come for. His whole desire was to do anything and everything he could to make sure Jesus did not accomplish the purpose He came for, that is, to be the Savior of the world, reconciling man to God. While you or I do not rate the personal attention of the ruler of this world, I’m pretty sure his minions, those angel-demons that are under his authority, have their orders to distract us and lead us away from following after God wholeheartedly, to do anything and everything to keep us from fulfilling our purpose, as well.

You did catch the fact that Satan is the ruler of this world (verse 5). While our supreme and sovereign God has ultimate control, He has allowed this world to be ruled by Satan who wanted to be like God. We can see by the mayhem and evil present in this world that God is allowing Him a long leash where it’s concerned. We can also thank the Lord that the time is short, and it will not always be this way. One day Satan will be cast away too. One day this world will be made new, with a truly wonderful King. 

So, what are we to do in the meantime? Follow Jesus’ example. He knew what to do. One, He was filled with the Holy Spirit. Surrendered to His control completely. Allowing His responses to be guided by the Holy Spirit, not His own flesh. You have to know He was hungry, tired, and yet, none of that was used as an excuse for Him. Two, He knew God’s word so that He had a ready reply to Satan’s temptations. He welded that word as the sword it was intended. But that meant knowing the word!

For us, these are two very good places to begin. Our battles will come just as they did for Jesus, but if we are ready, if we are prepared, we, too, can stand firm. When we do, just as with Jesus, the miraculous can happen. You see, for Him, it wasn’t just a season of miracles, but His life lived out under the control of the Spirit was a miracle. God working through Him allowed miracles to take place daily.

Toward the end of the chapter, after the 40 days in the wilderness, after the temptations by Satan, after the miraculous healings and demons being cast out, the morning arrives and Jesus goes off to a secluded place, alone.  That’s the third thing that we need to be sure to do. Get alone with God on a consistent basis. Throughout Jesus’ life we see Him time and again going off alone to spend time with the Father. Have you spent time with Him today? Take the moments, as Jesus did. Get alone with your God. And then, be available for the miraculous.

God bless!

Luke Five

Read Luke Chapter Five

In the story of Jesus telling Simon and the other fishermen to go out to the deep and let down their nets, the men had such low expectations that they didn’t even want to give what He said a try. After all, they’d already tried it and it hadn’t worked! But Jesus knew something they didn’t know, and He proved it to them in a big way.

Bigger than a boat load of fish was the response. These tired guys had tried all night without any fish, how could this be? Simon knew it was nothing short of a miracle. Look at verses 8, 9 & 11. 'But when Simon Peter saw that, he fell down at Jesus’ feet, saying, “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man!” For amazement had seized him and all his companions because of the catch of fish which they had taken; When they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed Him. 

A true example of what happens when we try to make life happen on our own. Oh, we can get by, but why settle for that when the miraculous can take place? From healing a leper to associating with tax collectors, Jesus was constantly making miracles happen.

Simon Peter’s response to the bursting net load of fish was to recognize himself as a sinner unworthy of Jesus’ presence, yet the Pharisees, who should have known the prophecies of His coming more than Simon Peter, didn’t accept Him as the Messiah.

The Pharisees were an interesting group, big on judging and usurping authority, ignoring the miracles, they were quick to declare that Jesus shouldn’t be associating with tax collectors. But weren’t they themselves at the same dinner? That’s one of the traps of being religious, often holding others to a higher standard than they do themselves, being “above it”, as it were, instead of glorifying God for the miracles taking place they became jealous opponents, seeking to trap Him. Jesus had a way with words though, words that both made a point and set things straight. He didn’t hesitate to tell them who He was. But they didn’t believe. With all their education and status, they instead condemned Him. While the fishermen left everything to follow Him.

Is there something keeping you from believing whole heartedly in the Savior? Or believing God has a plan for you? Are you willing to settle for life without the miraculous? I pray not. Our God is still in the business of miracles. And when you least expect it, He will be there saying, trust Me, do as I say. My prayer for us all is that our answer will be a ready “yes!”

My prayer is that this Christmas season we are knocked to our knees in recognition of who He is, and who we are not. That we become eager to see what He will do in our lives when we step out in obedience.

God bless as you do, and may His name be praised forever. 

Luke Six

Read Luke Chapter Six

One of the best things about Jesus coming and being our Savior is that He is also “the Lord of the Sabbath” (v 5) Under Levitical Law the Jews were required to take a day of rest, just as when God’s creation work was complete, He rested on the seventh day. But an incredible thing happened with the coming of Jesus. He, being the Lord of the Sabbath has become our Sabbath rest, every day! We can rest in the work that Jesus completed for us. It was a work, after all, that we could not accomplish ourselves. We can rest in His Spirit to provide whatever we need for the day because He has provided, through His abundant grace, everything we need to live this life in a godly way (2 Peter 1:3). In Jesus there is complete rest, rest from worry and rest from thinking we must be perfect. He is the Lord of the Sabbath.

After Jesus had spent the entire night alone, praying to the Father, He came back to the large crowd that had been following Him and chose twelve men from among them to be His apostles, those who would be His closest confidants, those who would move and travel with Him, they would be witnesses of all He would do, and those whom He would entrust the task of sharing the gospel after He was gone. (Except that one who was chosen to fulfill prophecy, knowing that he would be a traitor and a thief. There were plenty of others like him, but Jesus chose Judas Iscariot.)

What a task these men would have ahead of them, and what a life of preparation they would see in the short few years they traveled with Jesus. Not only would they see the miraculous but they would be given power to perform miracles as well.

Jesus came down with these twelve men to the crowd of “people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear Him and to be healed of their diseases; and those who were troubled with unclean spirits were being cured. And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all” (v. 17-19) Just to touch Him. Just to know His power and be healed. Ever been there? Whether it be in body, soul or spirit, He is the Lord of the Sabbath and available for us to reach out to touch Him, and find rest.

Jesus begins to preach the infamous Sermon on the Mount. A sermon that describes a happiness that only comes when we live like Christ did. As some have termed this list, the Be Attitudes, our attitude has everything to do with how we perceive life. It’s not about our situation in life, it’s about our response to it that can bring happiness, regardless of what it is. The word “Blessed” in each of these verses means “happy”, so, as you read through them, Jesus is saying, these are the things that should make you happy. It’s a list that is opposite to what the world tells us. And this list in the beatitudes can be misconstrued. It’s so very important to harmonize with other scriptures to get a complete picture of what God teaches.

What we take away from the Beatitudes is that it is better to be in the poor house and realize your need of God than to be rich and rely on your riches. It is better to look for satisfaction and comfort in the arms of Jesus than to take what this world offers. It is better to be hated by men and loved by God. It is better to love your enemy than to have hate in your heart. It is better to give than to receive. And on the list goes.

What Jesus is saying is that if we want to be happy, we need to keep our eyes on God. Not on the things of this world. Live the “Golden Rule” – treat other people like you would want to be treated. But above all… Seek God. Seek His help to live as you should. Seek His touch to be healed. And be aware of the Lord of the Sabbath.

There is much more to cover in this chapter, but as a take away, it’s a good reminder this holiday season that all the rest we need can be found in Him. The Lord of the Sabbath.

What stood out to you in this chapter?

Luke Seven

Read Luke Chapter 7

Oh, there’s so very much in this chapter again. It seems I say that about every chapter, but Luke, in his thoroughness really wants to put in a lot of details and today is no different.

The faith that is shown by those who need Jesus’ help comes in all shapes and sizes. We see Jesus heal the slave of a well-known and loved Centurion. He raises a boy from the dead out of compassion for his mother. Many sick and ailing come to Him for healing.

Meanwhile, John the Baptist still sits in prison, and the time of confinement makes him begin to question his own life, and question whether his cousin really is the Son of God, the Messiah, and he sends some of his followers to Jesus to ask, just to be sure that He really is the One they were waiting for. Jesus’ reply was full of good news: “the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” A resounding, Yes John, Jesus is the One! Even with all that good news John still sits in a dank prison cell, awaiting his fate. His purpose fulfilled.

Then comes one of my favorite stories. Although it bothers me to call it “stories” as its too easy for people to consider them as fairy tales, fables from old, when they are truth spoken for us to learn by, live by.

The woman, known as a sinner (a woman of bad reputation) brought expensive perfume (usually saved for a burial oil) and broke open the vial, poured it on Jesus feet and washed them with her tears and wiping them with her hair. What a sight, wouldn’t you say? The snooty Pharisees with their aspersions condemn her and Jesus along with her for associating with her. Then Jesus tells the parable about the two who owed debts. One owed a larger debt than the other, but both debts were paid. The one who recognized just how much had been paid loved greatly the one who paid it, while the one who only owed a little didn’t see the great significance of their debt being paid and only loved a little. How sad that any of us would not recognize just how much we owe Jesus. He came on our behalf, and the knowledge that only one sin would separate us from a relationship with God should be cause enough to live a life of gratitude to the One who died to pay our debt. Woe to us if we think our debt wasn’t large, or significant. It was large enough to send us into a lake of fire for eternity were it not for Jesus.

Our sins have been forgiven. All because of a Christmas miracle. A Savior full of compassion and power to change all of history. Relish in His love and compassion for you today. You’ve been forgiven. You’ve been made new. No longer are you the woman known as a sinner. You belong to Him! 

Luke Eight

Read Luke Chapter Eight. 

I hope you’re reading the chapters for yourselves because there’s no way to cover all the different people and things that Luke is writing about. This chapter gives some of the details of Jesus’ ministry.

It begins with telling a little about the women traveling with Jesus and the Apostles. What a resume they have.

He tells the parable of the Sower and the Seed. (Just for reassurance, other scriptures confirm that each one of us have our own choice to make what our soil is like. The decision is ours regarding faith. God doesn’t make that for us, and neither can Satan. 2 Corinthians 4:3-5 is a great comfort “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, in whose case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelieving, so that they might not see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” So, if you find yourself wondering how others cannot see the truth of who Jesus is, you can know, that because they would not believe the word.)

My prayer is that His word has found fertile soil in each of us. That we will settle for nothing less than a relationship that is growing and effective. Bringing fruit to maturity.

We are to take care how we listen.

It didn’t matter how many miraculous things the apostles and others saw Jesus perform, when something was affecting them, or happening to them, their fear took center stage. Short memories to the amazing things He had accomplished in their sight, they are scared witless during a storm on the sea. And then, Jesus is woken by them and speaks peace to the wind and waves. All is calm once more.

What wind and waves are at your door? Jesus is just as willing today as He was then to say, Peace, be still. “Where is your faith?” Those words must have silenced the men as fast as the winds obeyed His command to be still. Fearful and amazed, they had seen Him raise the dead, and were still caught off guard that He could calm the storm.

What about us? Are we surprised when He enters the situations of life and brings peace? Changes circumstances? Rearranges things in ways we could never have imagined? Have you heard His voice say, “where is your faith?”

He revealed His power over life, death, illness, demons, wind, waves, and yet, even today, I venture to say, that we forget the power He’s made available to us to face the situations, to be at peace in the midst. To deal.

Perhaps we are like the woman who had been hemorrhaging for twelve long years. It seems we will never be done with the circumstance we’re in. It just goes on and on and on. And yet, all it takes is faith. That faith may not remove the situation as it did for her, but that faith will carry you through. In this case, the woman simply reached out in faith to touch only the hem of His garment. She didn’t require a face to face, a one on one appointment, she merely wanted to touch the hem of His garment. And she was healed. Perhaps she was at a point when she had nothing else to lose. No where else to go. Desperate for healing. Desperate for acceptance and peace, that incredible peace of no longer being seen as unclean. I’m certain there was humility that caused her to seek the bottom of His hem, rather than to look into His eyes, or to speak to Him. I’ve been there. Have you?

To tie this chapter up, Luke tells of Jesus bringing a little girl back to life with the words, “Child, arise!” Words we’d do well to hear also. Child, arise, and recognize the incredible power of God. Regardless of your situation, your illness, your storm. Don’t fear. Have faith. He is with you.


Luke Nine

Read Luke Chapter Nine

When He calls you, He empowers you, and believe Him when He says, that’s all you need.

As the chapter opens, Jesus calls His apostles together and gives them power to do miraculous things. Then He sends them out. Out without Him, out without a staff, nor a bag, nor bread, nor money; and not even a change of clothes. Instead, He filled them with the Holy Spirit. I’m thinking this was a little like basic training for these men. A huge lesson in trust and reliance on God to provide whatever they may need. A lesson for us that when He calls us, He empowers us. We too, must learn to trust that it’s more than enough, regardless of what it looks like, or how ill-prepared we feel. If God be for us, who can be against us?

Of course, there will always be Herod’s who try to impose their will. Herods who try to block us, trip us up, and try to defeat God’s purpose. We must be alert to their ways and keep being about God’s business. Those good works He’s prepared for each one of us need our cooperation to complete. But when God is in it, miraculous things keep happening!

The Apostles have an incredible boot camp. People are healed through them. They find people willing to take them in and feed them, supplying daily needs, and listening to the gospel message. They come back amazed at all that was done. And then… they forget all that’s available. That seems apparent as we read the next part of the story. There’s a hillside of hungry people. Over 5000 men (that doesn’t include the women and children) and they’ve been listening to Jesus teach a long time, surely they are hungry, and surely they must be sent off to go get food. But Jesus tells the Apostles to feed them. They are astonished He would ask such a thing. How are they supposed to feed that many people when they didn’t have any food themselves? All they had was a boy with five loaves of bread and two fish, but how would that feed that large a multitude?

Are we that forgetful? Do we get through a time when God does the implausible for us and we declare His praises, only to get scared when the next thing comes up that seems formidable?  The good news is that just as Jesus was with the Apostles, God is with us, so very patient! He showed them. And everyone was filled to the full with twelve basketfuls left over (possibly one for each of the twelve Apostles.)  And as they leave with their twelve basketfuls, I wonder how long it was before they were questioning His power. I’m guessing, not long.

After Jesus spends time praying (I love that Luke documents so many times that Jesus went alone to pray. This was not just Him praying in need, or when a crisis came, but continually He went to talk to the Father, seeking His will above all). He speaks to His Apostles and asks a very important question. Perhaps THE most important question ever asked of anyone, “Who do you say I am?” Peter’s answer was “The Christ of God.” Who do you say He is?

And then Jesus wants them to know what they’ve signed up for. The Son of Man (Jesus) must suffer many things at the hands of the Pharisees and Scribes. He’s going to be killed. Then He adds, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Is that what you signed up for?

About eight days later, Jesus takes Peter, James and John up to the mountain to, yes, you might have guessed, pray. But this time, during prayer, something astounding happened. Peter, James and John almost missed it because they had fallen asleep (how many times have you fallen asleep while praying? Yes, been there!) When they fully woke, they saw Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus, whose appearance was radiant. Impulsive Peter offers to build tabernacles for each of them, to which a voice in heaven responds “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!” Oh, I’m sure Peter was listening then! I would be! As they returned the next day, not a one of them mentioned it to anyone. Impulsive speech was on hold for at least a short while, the memory of that Voice still current in their minds.

After all the miracles performed by each apostle, after all the time in Jesus’ presence, a dispute of sorts breaks out among them. Who would be the greatest in His kingdom? Then the accusation pronounced that someone, not of them, was casting out demons in Jesus’ name. I think they Apostles liked the exclusivity of their small group, and maybe were thinking a little too highly of themselves. But Jesus isn’t exclusive. That patience I spoke of earlier you’d think would be wearing thin. But thankfully, He is long suffering. Ever patient.

I had to laugh at verse 54, oh these eager men. As they approach a city, the people reject them because they are heading toward Jerusalem (Samaritans and Jews were enemies.)  And the apostles, the same ones who worried about feeding the 5000, asked, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them?” I’m sure they were secretly hoping for His yes but what bravado they speak with now.

The chapter ends with another reminder that if we are to follow Him that we may not have the comforts and luxuries of life. “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.”

That’s what we signed up for. If we are going to take up our cross and follow Him it needs to be clear, there will be sacrifice. And as we’ll see in the coming days, Jesus was more than willing to do that for us. 

Luke Ten

Read Luke Chapter Ten

Excitement reigns in this chapter. From the seventy sent out to do miracles, to Mary seated at Jesus’ feet, this chapter deserves the time to sit and enjoy the excitement.

After the Apostles had returned regaling stories of all God had done, Jesus appoints seventy of His followers to go out to do likewise. The seventy had to go through the same boot camp of going without supplies, relying on God and His Spirit to meet their needs. This time they would live in a place for a while, with whomever would welcome them, and they were to heal whomever would be healed. They were also to proclaim, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ Their job was to prepare the way in the places Jesus would soon be coming. And they did.

They then returned with joy, saying “’even the demons are subject to us in Your name.’ And Jesus said to them, ‘I was watching Satan fall from heaven like lightning.’” What a sight! What excitement, in both heaven and on earth!

But then Jesus says, “Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are recorded in heaven.” For those of us who are in Christ Jesus, we should be excited, too! We’ve been redeemed, bought with the precious blood of Jesus, and because of Him we can be in a relationship with the Triune God. At salvation your name was sealed in God’s holy Lamb’s Book of Life. Never to be blotted out.

The baby came to earth to be the sacrificial Lamb, and He changed our world! I’m excited, aren’t you?

Herein lies the reasonable act of service that Paul refers to in Romans 12:1, “You shall 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 your neighbor as yourself.”  And when asked, “who is my neighbor” Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan. A story of those who should have been happy to help but shirked the responsibility until one came who was considered more of an enemy, one who wasn’t supposed to associate with him but that didn’t stop the Samaritan from taking the responsibility to care for the injured man. He was the true neighbor.

In this day and age of garages and backyards, it’s possible to go days, even months without seeing our neighbors as we pull into our garage and shut the electric door going inside without a word to anyone. But if we are to share Christ with them, we are going to have to make the effort. This Christmas season is prime time to make a visit, drop off some goodies, perhaps some flowers, or an invite to a Christmas production at your church. A great time of year to break the ice and get to know your neighbors. To be Christ to them in some way. How else will they know? Be bold as the seventy had to be. And if you’re rejected, His peace will come back to you. Be the good neighbor, even if it takes a little sacrifice on your part. 

The blessing is worth it.

The chapter finishes up with the story of two sisters, Mary and Martha. These are some of my favorite ladies we read about in scripture. I can’t help but relate to both of them. As a pastor’s kid, I quite often took it upon myself to “serve” the church body, to try and make sure things were in order, and people were happy. My dad had to tell me on more than one occasion that I was not the church hostess and was not responsible for everyone’s happiness. Serving kept me busy and focused, and helped me have a sense of accomplishment.

But then, I love sitting at Jesus’ feet too. Being in the Word, learning and growing, and studying to share with others. Some of my fondest memories are times sitting with the Word, and going deeper than the English words I was reading. There’ve been times in my living room with worship music playing, singing my heart out to the words that spoke volumes.

Martha gets the short end of the stick in this conversation because she wants help in the kitchen, while Mary sits at His feet. It wasn’t that what Martha was doing was wrong, for His Spirit has certainly gifted some with the gift of service, but look again at Jesus’ words to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part…,”

It wasn’t the serving that was the issue, it was the fact that Martha was working under her own power, under her own time frame. She wasn’t relying on the Spirit to help her, no, she was worried and bothered.

Some of us can start out serving with the best intentions, but then, we look around at others, and forget that we each have our own race to run. We cannot play “holy spirit” in another’s life, that’s not our job. Our job is to walk in the works that God prepared for us to walk in, individually. If we are to serve, serve with the grace He provides. When we start looking around at what someone else is not doing, we aren’t treating them in grace, and we’ve forgotten Whom we are serving. If He wants them to serve, He will let them know.

As with any scripture it’s important to look at the context, and when we do that, we can see what Jesus wanted Martha to know is that it is better to sit with Him than to be so busy, busy, busy that we miss out on His peace.

The Bible is His letter to us, I hope you take the time to read the chapters this month. As busy as this season may be, there is no greater place to be than at His feet.  God bless you as you do

Luke Eleven

Read Luke Chapter Eleven

“Lord, teach us to pray…” Those were the words the apostles spoke to Jesus after He was finished praying. Ever felt that way? You hear someone pray and its as if they have God’s full attention, and He has theirs? Such sweet communication between them. The words don’t even have to be that eloquent, just pure and simple devotion and love between them.

We don’t have Jesus’ complete answer in the book of Luke on how to pray, but he gave a shortened synopsis. Prayer is a vital aspect of a believer’s relationship with God. There are many acronyms used to remember the facets of prayer, the one I remember the most is ACTS (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication). When we begin prayer by remembering who God is it allows us to put things in the right perspective. He’s always bigger than any problem, after all. Quite often when we see Him as the Sovereign and Holy God, we are then faced with our need to confess sin in our life that has kept us from living holy and set apart to Him. Once we confess and agree with God about the sin in our life (He is faithful and just to forgive, 1 John 1:9) then we can move to thanksgiving. Praise and thanksgiving are different in that praise affirms who God is, what His character is like, and thanksgiving deals more with how He has blessed, helped, or been with us. There are always things to be thankful for. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says in every thing give thanks because that is God’s will for us in Christ Jesus. He’s not telling us to be thankful for the situation, but to be thankful that God’s grace is big enough to handle anything that we find ourselves in. 

Prayer is vital in our daily walk with God. It’s open, on-going communication seeking His will, His help, as Jesus pointed out in His instruction. Prayer is also to be addressed to the Father, coming to Him in the name of Jesus, through our spirit being in union with His Spirit. All three persons of the triune God are involved, each having their role. Bottom line is, we need to be prayers.

We also need to remember that this was before Pentecost. The Holy Spirit came and went. He had come in a mighty way for the seventy, and the Apostles, but He didn’t remain in them at that time. We, on the other hand, have a very different relationship. He has come to indwell every believer so that we only need seek His help to do what we are called to do. Jesus, in these verses about prayer, wanted them to know how much better it would be if they would ask for the Holy Spirit than to ask for food, or physical needs. We would do well to keep that in mind, too. Even though He permanently indwells us, let’s not forget that the spiritual is more important than the physical.

Then we see the Pharisees again. They were truly confused, and unbelieving. Contesting that Jesus could only cast out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons. Jesus points out that makes no sense. Why would the ruler of the demons let Jesus cast out demons who were doing their job? That would lay waste to the kingdom he had built up for himself. Verse 20 talks about a much higher being giving Him the power. The finger of God is symbolic of the Holy Spirit, so Jesus is acknowledging that His power to cast out demons is coming from God Himself.

Then there’s that phrase, “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me, scatters.” The pharisees weren’t there to be on Jesus’ side. They did their best to “scatter” those who might believe. I see it a lot on Facebook, or other conversations. Unbelievers (atheists) aren’t content to not believe, they don’t want others to believe either. They will mock, ridicule, and some even seek to do harm. Whose side will you be on? Will you be firm and stand with Christ?

“Blessed are those who hear the word of God and observe it.” Oh, may we be those ladies who hear the word of God and obey.

The crowds continued to grow, coming to see the show. They sought a sign that Jesus was the Messiah. Jesus doesn’t respond gently. “This generation is a wicked generation…”  The sign of Jonah He was talking about was the prophecy that the Messiah would be in the heart of the earth for three days and three nights, just as Jonah was in the belly of the great fish for three days and three nights, which happened at His burial until His resurrection. These unbelievers, who wanted to see the show, but didn’t want to believe, they will be condemned by God on judgment day. A judgment day is coming when He will separate the followers from those who rebelled. Among them will surely be some of these Pharisees that thought so highly of themselves that they couldn’t raise Jesus to the stature of Messiah. Jesus lets them in on just how foolish they are being. How arrogant they are.

They might go through all the rituals of being clean (for show) but on the inside they were full of evil. They pay their tithes, but show none of the love and compassion that God would call them to have. They love having the VIP seats in the synagogue. It’s all about the show. But Jesus says, they are really the walking dead. And the Lawyers are too.

Oh, let’s be careful not to think too highly of ourselves. Or follow Jesus for the show. As the chapter began, may we always be, in prayer, remembering Who our God is, and who we are in light of that. And then let our light shine for others to see. Not to see us, but to see our Father in heaven and glorify Him.

Luke Twelve

Read Luke Chapter Twelve

In Chapter Twelve there are so many people following Jesus by this time that Luke says they are stepping on one another. And when that many people come in, there are that many different ideas and thoughts. Jesus takes the opportunity to warn His followers to beware of the leaven.

Leaven was represented of sin in that day. It’s a good analogy as you think about what happens when its added to something in baking, it expands, rises. A little leavening effects the whole lump of dough. And a little sin effects the whole body, as well as a little of the Pharisees religiosity effecting the whole church.

Sadly, we see it in today’s churches as well. Human philosophy is added to the scriptures and a little truth is tainted with false teaching. My mom and I were just discussing this morning how easy it has been for Satan to take a little truth and mix in a little lie, and how easy it is to accept it as the new truth. We've become lousy students of the Word. It might sound familiar, even right, when we don’t know what the Bible truly says. Scriptures are taken out of context, “traditions of men” are thrown in with truth. It’s easy to be persuaded by a good speaker to accept man’s thinking rather than adhering to what God thinks. Sp easy to be led astray, just as Jesus warns His followers, we would do well to heed His words, too. As with any teaching be careful to test the spirits, as we’re told in 1 John 4:1.

It wasn’t just the Pharisees rituals and teachings He was warning of, it was the fact that they were out to get Him and those who were His followers. Jesus doesn’t leave them with the warning without pointing out that their spiritual well-being is much more important than their physical well-being. They would do far better to fear God than to fear the Pharisees. He also points out that God is aware of their needs, and will care for them. He gives the comforting words that God has not forgotten them. If He knows about the sparrows, He knows about them. And, in case you weren’t aware, He knows about you, too. “Do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (verse 7)

This chapter can be pretty convicting this time of year when the Wish List’s are long and the “I wants” take center stage. Greed can sneak in without warning, and the focus become something entirely different than it should be. Our treasure should not be the earthly things, but rather treasures stored up in heaven, again, putting the focus on their spiritual walk rather than the physical existence.

As far as life here, we need to be living it in a state of readiness for the Lord’s return. He’s coming back for us one day. Will we be caught off guard? Or will the Master return to find us faithfully serving Him? We’ve been entrusted with the gospel, entrusted with spiritual gifts to use “for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7) and had good works prepared by God Himself for us to fulfill. That can only be done as we walk in fellowship with Him, for how else will we know what we are to do? Will we design our own plan of living for Him? The Pharisees were good at that and Jesus warns of their being clean on the outside while filthy on the inside. They looked good, they showed well, but they were a fraud. Living for themselves rather than for God.

“Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.” (Verse 43) Jesus was our example of how to live in fellowship with The Spirit, only doing what the Father told Him to do.

If we aren’t going to be caught off guard, we must be diligent to keep our eyes looking for Him. Be diligent to walk in fellowship with The Spirit, so that we are found busy doing the Master’s business.

There will be division, where Christ is concerned. As we speak about peace in the world throughout this season, remember that His word alone is sharper than any two-edged sword. He may come between family members as we each one of us are responsible for accepting His grace. The peace He brought was not between people, but miraculously He brings peace between man and God.

Jesus tells of a loving Heavenly Father who knows us intimately, who seeks the best for us out His great agape love, a love that only does what is in the best interest and keeps on loving regardless of the response. That love and care for us should cause us to stand firm in our faith, to want to know His word so that we are able to spot the untruths when they are presented.

Let’s be dressed in readiness and keep those lamps lit, because our Savior will return for us one day. The prophecies of old came true. The remaining prophesies will not fail. Our Master will return, may He find us ever faithful. 

Luke Thirteen

Read Luke Chapter Thirteen

In the first five verses, Jesus points out that we are all sinners. No one is worse than the other because even the smallest sin separates us from God. Everyone is in need of repentance. Everyone is in need of a Savior. And, unless there is repentance, we will all likewise perish, as those described in this portion. Jesus again makes the distinction between the physical life and the spiritual life. And, God is giving us time, but we never know how much time we have. He’s giving us a way in which Christ becomes our redemption, paying the cost of our sin, in Him we are made acceptable to God.

The things that are acceptable to God are much different than that which is acceptable to man. As we see in verses 10-17. This poor woman had been sick for eighteen long years, and all the Pharisees cared about was that Jesus shouldn’t have healed her on the Sabbath. Well, that’s what they said, but really, their problem with Jesus was much bigger than that. How could they compete for the acceptance of the people when He was doing such incredible miracles? The people were beginning to listen to Jesus, rather than to them.

Jesus doesn’t mince words here. He calls them out as hypocrites because He knows they would take care of their ox or donkey on the Sabbath, but they would keep Him from healing someone? He humiliated these leaders, and the crowd rejoiced over all the glorious things being done by Him.

Then He begins to describe the kingdom of God. Described as a mustard seed that grows into a tree which birds are able to then nest in. And then, in one of the only times that leaven is not used in a symbolic way, but rather in its natural use, Jesus compares the kingdom of God to some leaven that is hid in three pecks of flour until it was all leavened. The point being that the kingdom of God is growing. As more people repent and are added to the number of who will be in heaven, it grows. The Pharisees weren’t happy about this growth, to be sure.

Let’s talk about this entrance into the kingdom of God. Verse 24 says to strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and not be able. Why not?

There are a several reasons why not. Most commonly, they try to come to God on their own terms. Or, they wait until it’s too late (though I truly believe that God will allow each one enough time to accept Him if they truly would. He’s not going to hold out on them if they are truly seeking Him and His kingdom, it’s not in His character to do so.) Then there are those who walk along religiously, thinking they are “good with God” (I’ve heard that, one too many times, from people) and they really aren’t good with God at all. They have deceived themselves into thinking that if they just live good enough, or believe that there is a God, and believe that Jesus actually did die on the cross that they are good with God. But, that kind of belief is not enough. Demons believe and tremble (James 2:19). There is a large difference between knowing a fact (believing a fact) and putting action to it. 

Salvation requires two things. A Savior, and a believer that surrenders oneself to the Savior. There must be repentance. A turning from your own plan to get to heaven and accepting God’s plan. It’s not a hard plan, it’s one full of mercy and grace. The hard part is in the dying to self and living unto Him. But even that becomes easy when it’s accomplished because He makes it worth it! The narrow way, the only way, rankles those in our community who don’t like exclusivity, but God says, the only way is in Christ Jesus. He is the narrow way. He is our entrance into heaven. And oh, the blessings that come from being in Him. The list is long and miraculous!

Jesus came with a mission. And, nothing would thwart that mission, not the Pharisees, not Herod. A little facetiously Jesus speaks about the prophets who have been martyred. He lets them know that He has longed to have Jerusalem be gathered up and protected, as a mother hen would her brood, but instead they have rebelled. Living on island we have a lot of free-range chickens and roosters. They are working animals. But I can’t tell you how disheartening it is to see a hen with her brood of chicks. The first day we see them out of their nest there are anywhere between 10-12 of the downy little chicks with Mom. She tries to tuck them all under her wings, but the next day a couple are missing, and the next day a couple more are missing, until after several days she’s lucky to have 2-3 left. There are too many animals higher on the food chain. Whether it’s the mongoose, or the feral cats, even dogs in the neighborhood have been seen carting them off; it’s a sad fact of life. They need protection. Jesus said, “I wanted to gather your children together, just as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not have it!” Their house is left empty. Desolate, because they would not repent.

One day they will see the bigger picture, and one day as Christ returns, they will say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” but it will be too late. I pray you have entered in the narrow gate. That you have taken refuge in Jesus Christ our Savior and belong to the kingdom of God. For that is where peace and joy reign. One day He will gather us up, His brood, and we will live with Him forever.

Until that day… let us continue to live in such a way that we “rejoice over all the glorious things being done by Him.”

God bless!  

Luke Fourteen

Read Luke Chapter Fourteen

The scene in this chapter is almost comical. Jesus is at the home of a Pharisee, along with many others. And “it happened…” that it was a Sabbath. “It happened…” that Jesus was being closely watched. “It happened…” that a man who was ill was placed in front of Him. “It happened…” that Jesus knew what they were trying to do, so He spoke directly to the Pharisees and Lawyers and then went ahead and healed the man. It happened. And they were silenced. With that taken care of, Jesus begins to observe the others, a bit like He was being observed. What He saw caused him to speak in a parable.

He'd been observing each of them picking out places of honor when they chose their seats. Vying for the best seat. But, He points out in the parable that it’s better for them to sit in the last seat and be moved to a better seat by the one who invited them rather than to sit in the place of honor and be asked to move to a lesser seat for someone else to sit in his seat.

Jesus, above all others, understood humility. Philippians 2:5-8 gives a clear word regarding His understanding. He set aside deity to live as a mere mortal. Yes, Jesus knew humility. His humility brought Him to be born in a lowly manger to a teenage girl and her carpenter husband. He was mocked and rejected by His own people. But, in humility He obeyed His Heavenly Father, even to death by crucifixion. It would have only taken a word to slay His accusers, but He remained humble.

Humility seemed to be sparse in the room, and He moved on to party etiquette as He talked about lunches and dinners and who to invite or not invite. Was He saying we should never have dinner with friends and family? Of course not. But along with humility we must also work on compassion and reaching out to those who might not normally receive an invitation. The result will be a blessing.

Jesus took the opportunity to share the gospel as someone said, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God.” A true statement, by the way, except that not all will be in the kingdom of God. God has invited all, but not all will accept the invitation. Indifference, self-indulgence, life, pride, all can get in the way of ending up at the table. He was addressing the Jews, those who were His own family and friends, and they were rejecting Him, so God’s gracious plan called for the call to go out to everyone, even those who were poor, crippled, lame, blind. And such we were. Helpless and poor, apart from the Savior. 

Did verse 26 give you a jolt? Context and harmonization are so very important in reading God’s word. Why would Jesus, the One who is all love, ask us to hate our own fathers and mothers, etc…? The importance of His statement is that He must be our all in all. He’s seeking complete devotion, and He wanted them to weigh the cost. There were plenty of people who were following Him, who were there for the show, but they weren’t willing to make Him their all. Our relationship Jesus must supersede every other relationship we have. He must be first in every way if we are to be His disciple. And, in addition, it’s only through our relationship with Him that all other relationships will be what they are intended to be. 

I’m all about taking God’s word literally, but at the end of this chapter, if I were to take the words literally, I would think God wanted me to be hateful and desolate. But we know He calls us to love everyone, both neighbor and enemy, and I’m sure every relationship we have would fit in between those. In verse 33 He says we have to give up all our possessions, but if we did that then how could we obey Him and share with others? Again, harmonization is everything.

Jesus is making a point. He must be first, last and everything in between. As we carry our own cross and follow Him, we must have no thing, nor no one in a higher place than Him. He is to be the King of kings and Lord of lords. Any thing, or any one who we give more authority, or priority in our life becomes an idol. That kind of living is useless. And once we surrender to Him our life should be anything but useless.

He didn’t save us to be useless. He’s prepared good works for us to be busy at (Ephesians 2:10), so let’s take up our cross and follow wholeheartedly after Him, until He’s first, last and everything in between.

Luke Fifteen

Read Luke Chapter Fifteen

We’ve come a long way from the darling of Heaven being born in a manger. As a young parent I often wondered what my children would grow to be like. Mary and Joseph had been given an inkling of who Jesus would be when the angel came to speak to them, but I don’t think either of them understood the magnitude of what His life on earth would be. One thing is for sure, where Jesus went unusual things happened. Miraculous things took place.

Here, we find Jesus speaking to the Pharisees who are grumbling about the company He’s been keeping. They are just a little bit full of themselves, aren’t they? Grumbling now because Jesus dines with them but then turns and dines with the sinners and tax collectors. “This man receives sinners and eats with them” (verse 2). The Pharisees were so busy trying to discredit Jesus as the Messiah that they couldn’t see their own sin, or their own need for a Savior. Self-righteous, they didn’t realize that whether He was at their table or the table of the tax collectors, pure perfection chose to dine with sinners in order that He may win some.

Jesus turns to storytelling to try to get them to understand. When someone is lost, they need to be found. Who among them would not exhaust all measures to find one lost sheep, and then tell everyone else when it’s found so that they too can rejoice? Jesus lets them know that there is even more rejoicing over one sinner who repents. Likewise, a woman who had lost some money cleaned every corner, and when the money was found she shouted for all to rejoice with her.

Think on this… on the day you were saved the angels rejoiced in heaven. One more for the home team!

Then comes the story of the prodigal son. He came to his father and wanted his inheritance, before his father was even gone. And he went away and squandered it on loose living. Then the money was gone and he was left feeding the pigs (among Jews the pigs were unclean, the lowest, and not to be touched. Here the son is, living with the pigs.) He decides to go home and beg his father for forgiveness. (And here’s the part of the story I love…) The father sees him still a long way off, and he begins to run to him. The son had every intention of begging for forgiveness, but the father never gave him the time to ask, he just joyfully welcomed him home. He restored him to all the benefits of being in the family. Killed the fattened calf and threw a party for all to rejoice with him.

The story doesn’t end there. Jesus tells of the older brother who wasn’t so quick to forgive his brother. A little self-righteous like the Pharisees, he felt he deserved the party and fattened calf because he’d stayed and worked with his dad all those years. He didn’t squander the riches. He’d been faithful. He forgot that he’d had all the continual blessings of living with his dad. He’d been enjoying all that his father had on a daily basis.

I’ve been on both sides of that story. I’ve been both the prodigal that rebelled and went to live as he wanted, and also the older brother who was a little snooty over one who’d come home and I felt they needed to at least have to do some sort of penance. The good news is that the Father is gracious to all. And great rejoicing happens over each one when repentance is involved.

If we learn anything from this chapter it’s to realize that we are all sinners. We all need a Savior. We can rejoice that His name is Jesus!

Luke Sixteen

Read Luke Chapter Sixteen

Parables, they’re meant to make us think, but I confess, this one has made me thinking hard! We have Jesus teaching His disciples about money, and the story He tells is confusing on the surface. The story of this manager who has squandered his employer’s money and gets caught. He’s about to get fired, so he decides I better make friends with some of these people so I’ll have a place to go when I get fired. He goes to the people that owe his boss money and cuts their payment in half. Some scholars believe that as the manager he would have received part of the money owed as a usury fee, and perhaps he was giving his portion to them so that they would be indebted to him. That’s not clear. What is clear is that his boss heard what he did and was impressed by his shrewdness and praised him for it.

Jesus makes the point that we (believers) aren’t as shrewd about using our money to make friends. But what if we began to think about our money (which by the way, we are stewards of because God owns it all and just gives it to us to manage) as a means to win people over to the Lord? Would we find those people greeting us in heaven some day?  Are we that shrewd?

What kind of stewards are we of the monies that God has given us? Some have been given a little, some have been given a lot. Either way, as a manager of God’s money, what are we doing with it? How are we using it for eternal worth? Or are we? 

The other part of this story is that if money is seen as the prize then it becomes an idol. If the things we can buy with money are the driving force for us, it has become an idol. I’ve been guilty of “retail therapy” in my life. When life wasn’t going as I wanted it to, I began shopping to ease the hard life, the only problem is, the more I shopped the worse our budget was, and that only made me want to find more comfort in shopping. It was a vicious cycle until the Lord opened my eyes to my folly. For me, I had to stop cold turkey. No shopping, no catalogs, no magazines that inspired me, or tempted me more like it! God had to point out that those things were idols as I was trusting them to bring me joy rather than Him. Sometimes life lessons are hard! But Jesus tells His disciples what I share with you, you can’t serve two masters. So, why not let God be Master and the money be a means to an end. The end of course being making friends with the unrighteous so that one day they may be the welcoming committee when you cross into heaven. Use money to win them over to the Lord.  Don’t squander God’s money. A good principle to live by.

The Pharisees, of course, were lovers of money and scoffed at Jesus over this notion. He gives it right back though as He confronts them with regardless how good they make themselves out to be that God knows their hearts. They think they are living the best life but God doesn’t think like man. In fact, He finds the things men esteem to be detestable. Their motives are all wrong. Their life is all wrong. He confronts them with the Law, and speaks of the gospel. He declares that the Law will not fail (remember the Law was to point to sin), but they must have failed the Law as He brings up divorce.

And then, He changes the subject to discuss the afterlife. He tells a story of Lazarus and the rich man. Prior to the resurrection of Jesus all those who died went to Sheol (abode of the dead in the heart of the earth.) There were two compartments in Sheol: Abraham’s Bosom (for believers) and Hades (for unbelievers) and a large chasm was in between the two. The story Jesus tells is of a rich man who lived in luxury while on earth, but because he had trusted in his money and not in God he went to Hades. The second man, Lazarus, was a poor man on earth, but when he died, he went to Abraham’s Bosom. The rich man begged for mercy, but it was too late. Whatever choice we make before death is the choice we live with for eternity. And then, the heart wrenching realization for the rich man was that he had brothers he wanted to be saved, but had no way to get word to them.

Father Abraham made a good point in his reply, if people didn’t believe Moses or the prophets, they won’t believe just because someone is raised from the dead. In fact, it wouldn’t be too long before One was raised from the dead, and still people won’t believe.

Money. It’s just a means to an end as a believer. God has entrusted us to manage it. Will we squander it, or will we put it to good use as an eternal investment in others.

At this holiday season, let’s especially be mindful of how we are using His money. Let’s be shrewd, not frivolous.

God bless!

Luke Seventeen

Read Luke Chapter Seventeen

The disciples continue to have Jesus teach them. That’s what disciples do. They find a teacher and learn from them, except in this case, Jesus found them. But a disciple was meant to learn. And such are we, disciples of Jesus Christ, learning what is pleasing to the Lord. So, thanks for being steadfast and sticking with His word, and for allowing me the privilege to share some thoughts with you. But it’s scriptures like today that make every teacher cringe. The part about being a stumbling block, the “woe to him…”. Stumbling blocks can come in many forms. Whether through misleading on purpose, or on accident. Misspeaking. Misunderstanding. A lot of misses! And verse three is one of those causes everyone to rankle, but it’s what Jesus taught. “If your brother sins, rebuke him.” But isn’t that judging? Well, in harmonizing scripture I’ve found that as believers we are called to make a judgment call when we see other believers sinning. Note that it says, when you see a “brother” sin (that’s extended to our sisters too. Family is family.) We are not only called to confront a sister or brother about sin in their life, but we will be held responsible for our lack of obedience in that regard if we don’t.

And if they repent, we are to forgive. Forgive and forgive and forgive. How many times do you find yourself apologizing to God for the same thing? Part of the process of 1 John 1:9 in confessing our sin is to name it. Agree with God that it was sin. But in naming our sin before Him, don’t you find you keep doing the same thing over and over, even though you repent, over and over? 

Don’t worry, you’re in good company. Even the Apostle Paul said he does the very thing he doesn’t want to do. The very thing he doesn’t want to do, that’s what he keeps doing. We are creatures of repetition, of habit, but God can out last us! His forgiveness is available over and over and over. Never ending! And if a brother returns, repents, we are to forgive him. Just like the prodigal’s brother, this must be a learned behavior. So, don’t be a stumbling block, leading others into sin, but rather, be on your guard and bring those sinning brothers and sisters to repentance. Forgiving them and moving forward.

The apostles ask the Lord to increase their faith. And the Lord gives us great hope in regards to what can be accomplished if we just have faith. Is there something that God has put before you that you fear won’t come to pass, or you can’t see how you can do what He’s asking? It only takes a little faith, a miniscule amount of faith to move there, because once you rely on Him, He provides all you need to do the thing. We’re to be busy doing the Master’s work, not with our eyes fixed on us, but on Him. We are His doulos, His servant, set apart to serve Him. We don’t have time to think about what we can and cannot do. If we are controlled by His Spirit then we only have time to carry out His desires.

The story of the ten leprous men that He healed, only to have one come back and give God glory, is a little bit like us. Quite often God does some miraculous things for us, and we run off without a thank you. How many times have you prayed for something, only to have it given and move on to the next, “I want” on the list without stopping to thank Him for what He’s already done? There are times when God is treated like a big Genie in the sky, there to do our bidding. Then people are disgruntled when they didn’t get exactly what they wanted, or when they wanted it. It’s so important to keep God in His proper relation. He alone is God, we are not. We are the servant here to do His bidding. Not the other way around.

And someday Jesus will return.

The last portion of this chapter is not speaking of the rapture of the church, which will be a gathering of the church age believers in the sky, but rather, this was being spoken to the Jews regarding the event at the end of the tribulation when Jesus will come back to set up His kingdom for a thousand years here on earth. Before that, there will be false prophets who come they are Him, but He’s warning them not to believe it. When He comes there will be no question. All will know. The unbelievers will be removed and His reign will begin.

Until then, we are to be God’s servants, busy doing whatever He tells us to do. Part of that is to not cause others to stumble in their walk with Him. Part is to bring others to repentance, part is to forgive others, part is to not forget we are the servant and He is the Master. Then the best part is, we can know He’s coming again! A new advent.

Until then… 

Luke Eighteen

Read Luke Chapter Eighteen

Like a series of vignettes to view, there are several stories mixed into this chapter. From instructions to miracles, we see more of Jesus’ daily life and the blessings of being His follower.

Still teaching them to pray, he talks about a widow that comes to a judge over and over seeking protection. The judge wasn’t a righteous man, nor did he fear God, but even he finally gave in to the woman. How much more will God, who is perfect righteousness and full of mercy come to the aid of His elect. Who are the elect? Scripture tells us that they are those who are in Christ Jesus. The ones who have accepted His sacrifice and His grace. Those who belong to Him. Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, those who come to Him receive eternal life in Him. What a blessing to know that those who are His will receive justice. Good news, right there, for we live in such an unjust world, but, praise Him, one day all that will change.

What gets me about this section of verses is the ending sentence in verse 8, “I tell you that He will bring about justice for them quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?”

Will He find faith on the earth when that last battle is fought? A startling thought. Will His people still be standing with Him? Or will it be like the scene on the crucifixion day where they all scattered, save one or two who stood and watched? Oh ladies, we need to be diligent to be standing strong in our faith, and that will only happen as we devote ourselves to being His servants, seeking to serve Him and Him alone. The world can be persuasive, but we need to be persuaded only to follow Him with all our heart, our mind, our soul and strength. May He find us faithful, everyday!

Let’s not become as those in verse 9, thinking themselves righteous while looking down on others. We are only righteous when we live in the direct and perfect will of God. The only way that happens is in humble submission to the Spirit. We need to be on our knees anytime that we find our selves thinking we are a better Christian than someone else. Anytime that we see their sin without confessing our own, the proverbial log in our own eye. Pride is insidious, it can come in the simplest ways. Whether because of our financial standing, our physical stature, or how spiritual we might think we are. It’s a trap! For we are all sinners. His mercy and grace are available to everyone. “everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.”  Better to humble ourselves than to be humbled by someone else, don’t you think?

About this time, we have the scene of the children gathering around Jesus. And the disciples, still learning, received a little humility when Jesus corrected them and told them to allow the children to come. “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter at all.” It’s that simple childlike faith that gains our entrance into heaven, not knowledge, not religion. Simple faith.

However, the Rich Young Ruler didn’t find it so simple, did he? He wanted to gain eternal life, but there was something holding him back. It wasn’t the law. He was more than willing to do a list of things that fit within his lifestyle, but Jesus, knowing his heart, spoke to him where it hurt. Give up your money. Sell all you possess and give it away to the poor. But he just couldn’t do it. He was too wealthy to give it all away. So, he went away.

This ties back into the verses the other day. You can’t serve both money and God. Choose whom you will serve. Again, as we harmonize with other scripture, we see that having money isn’t the issue. God blesses many people with the gift of giving, the only way they can give is if they have the money to do so, and He makes that possible. As a pastor’s kid, growing up I saw God use other people to bless our family with gifts, sometimes the money was to the penny for what was needed. Only God could do that. I have watched God use other’s money to bless my parents even today. They blessed my daughter while she went through cancer treatments. And my son, who is also in full time ministry, God just keeps providing blessings through people who have money. So, do not get the wrong opinion of what Jesus is asking this rich young ruler to do. If you have lots of money it's because He wants to use you to bless others. It goes back to the stewardship of whatever gifts He's given you. Money isn't the issue, it’s the heart.

The disciples saw the conflict in the young man, and it was yet another teachable moment for them as Jesus says it’s hard for the wealthy to come to the realization of their need for God. It made them wonder, “then who can be saved?” To which Jesus replies, “The things that are impossible with people are possible with God.” I’m so thankful for that!  He makes all things possible!  No one is out of His reach.

God repays whatever we might offer up to Him. It matters not what we have to sacrifice for Him, He will bless us in ways we cannot imagine. All because we are in Christ. Eternal life is ours through simple faith in what He has done. The miracle of miracles, He saved a wretch like me.

That came at the cost of His physical mocking, mistreating, scourging and death. But oh, that third day!

May we be as the blind beggar, asking to have our sight, so that we might see every miracle we have because of the advent of Jesus.

Let’s glorify Him through our actions and words, so that when all the people see it they will give praise to our God. 

Luke Nineteen

Read Luke Chapter Nineteen

Zaccheus, the wee, little man. That’s how he’s remembered by those who went to Sunday School. A wee, little man that climbed up in the sycamore tree for the Lord he wanted to see. Zaccheus was a very rich man, Jewish, and a tax collector (the same as being a robber in most minds.). Small in stature, he didn’t let that fact stop him from wanting to see Jesus, and up the tree he went. It made an impression on Jesus who told him to come down so they could go to his house. Of course, there were they usual grumblers over Jesus associating with known sinners, but He talked about Zaccheus’ faith, and replied, “Today salvation has come to this house, because he, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” And in that small span of time, Zaccheus went from being curious about this Christ, to repenting and accepting Him as Savior. His faith saved him.

The whole advent story is revealed in verse ten, “the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” A miracle on so many levels. Deity becoming flesh. He, being our substitute for death. Grace poured out on all who would believe and eternal life with Him. Amazing.

Zaccheus had a lot of restitution to make to those whom he had over-charged, swindled and cheated. And Jesus takes the time to teach on stewardship. Money stewardship. Jesus spoke more about money during His ministry, than any other topic. He knows the trouble money can make if we allow it to.

He tells the story of the three stewards given money to manage until the master calls for them to come. And again, Jesus is trying to get the point across that each one of has gifts to use for the Master. God has given us assignments, if you will. They may require work on our part, all will require working under the control of His Spirit to accomplish it. The parable points out that it takes boldness to be a good steward. Takes initiative. Takes action. It takes that shrewdness we talked about the other day. It takes being mindful that whatever gifts He’s blessed us with are to be utilized in service to Him. It’s to His gain, not our own. And one day the Master will call for us to join Him.

These Jews were certain that Jesus was going to set up His kingdom on earth right away. They misunderstood the time table, the prophecies, the purpose, and so we have the scene of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on the back of a borrowed donkey. People began laying their coats on the road in front of Him. And singing, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

As you can imagine, the Pharisees didn’t like that at all. They demanded Jesus stop them but His response was, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!”  It would have been fun if He’d had the rocks join in the chorus! I would have loved to see the Pharisees faces then. But Jesus wasn’t in a playful mood.

He could see Jerusalem down below him as they began the descent into town. And He wept. It was only a short time before that He had to evade those who would kill Him and leave Jerusalem. It would only be a short time now before they succeeded. And Jesus knew what was coming. He knew the rejection of His people. He knew the cross was before Him.  He knew the plan He had come to fulfill. The “things which make for peace!”  Yes, our Savior came to bring peace between God and man.  But they didn’t see it. They didn’t recognize their day of visitation. God had prophets foretell His coming for hundreds of years, only for them to miss it.

Jesus knew the extent of those in Jerusalem living religiously, without any thought as to a relationship with God. They were following the Law but not the Spirit. They were getting rich at the expense of other’s sins as they sold animals for sacrifice, and other goods there in the temple.

Jesus doesn’t hesitate to clean house. He says, ‘And My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a robbers’ den.” And then, Jesus begins to teach in the temple daily, all the while the Pharisees and others were trying to devise a plan to destroy Him. But no one could figure out how to do it since everyone else was hanging on to every word. 

Jesus, back in Jerusalem for His final week. Busy teaching and healing. Knowing what would be coming. But faithfully living out His designed plan.

Again, an example of what we are to be doing as well. Be a wise steward. Be faithful. And live out God’s plan for your life until He comes to call you home. What a day that will be!!

God bless.

Luke Twenty

Read Luke Chapter Twenty

People can be so cruel. We try not to think about that during this season of giving and good will, but people can be cruel.

Such is the story we find today. It’s heart wrenching to read how they turned the servants away, treating them with disdain, beating them, surely mocking them. There was no respect for them or for what they were there to do. No respect for the owner of the vineyard. And then, the owner sends his very own son. They murder him, too, saying, “This is the heir; let us kill him so that the inheritance will be ours.”

The parable describes the treatment that the prophets and the Messiah would suffer at the hands of those who were left as stewards of all God blessed them with. They thought that if they did away with Jesus it would be all about them. In arrogance, wanting it all to themselves, they killed the very one who could give them the inheritance they sought.

Jesus said, “The stone which the builders rejected, This became the chief corner stone.” The corner stone upon which the Church would be built.

A corner stone had to be perfect, for every other stone would balance on it, measure up to it, be supported on it. Jesus is the Chief Corner Stone and the Pharisees, Scribes, and Elders of the Jewish people all missed it!

The Jewish leaders were in a quandary. They wanted Jesus gone, but He was so beloved by the people that they were afraid to touch Him. If only there was a way to trip Him up. But as we’ve seen, He does not lack shrewdness. And it helped that the Holy Spirit was keeping Him alert and aware of what was going on. (Another reason we’d do well to allow the Holy Spirit to be in charge of our lives all the time.)

The leaders sent some in pretending to be His followers. They were there to spy on Him and catch Him saying the wrong thing. But He didn’t. Wouldn’t you love to be like that? Never saying the wrong thing? Just one more perk we will enjoy in heaven. I love how His answers silence them.

Since their plan didn’t work, the Sadducees (who were sad-you-see, Sorry, corny runs in the family) came to question Him about the resurrection. Not believing in a resurrection to after life, they present a dilemma of a very unlucky woman who was widowed, remarried, widowed, remarried, continuing many times over. They asked, Who would be her husband in heaven?

We are so often short-sighted. Ladies, heaven will be beyond anything we can imagine, or anything we have experienced here on earth. Jesus describes heaven a bit for us. He says there won’t be marriage in heaven. 

We often find some theology gone wrong when this passage is spoken of. The truth is, Christians do not become angels when they die. We don’t “earn our wings” at death. Harmonization of scripture tells us that though we are currently made lower than the angels, that afterward we will be higher than the angels. So, what did Jesus mean when He said we’d be “like angels”? Well, angels are always shown in a masculine gender. And as pretty as the angels are atop our Christmas tree, if they are feminine, they are not a true representative of an angel. “Like angels” refers to the fact that they do not marry. None of us will marry in Heaven either. And, we will never die again. For God is the God of the living.

I feel like one of you may be thinking, “this is no life I’m living. Death might be better.” But know this, that your God is the God of the living. Where there is breath, there is life to be lived. Keep looking up and see what He has for you. He’s not only the God of eternity, but the God of the present, and He has plans for your day, your tomorrow, and every day beyond, until He calls you home. Don’t give up on living that life He has for you. Talk to Him. Talk to someone around you. I beg you to not let negative thoughts become your god. We serve the God of the living!

Jesus knew what to say to those who questioned Him. He knew what questions to ask others because He knew people. He came to seek and save that which was lost. He is the Chief Cornerstone on whom we are to build our life. Life like no other when it is centered in Him.

May God bless you with all joy as you seek Him today. 

Luke Twenty-One

Read Luke Chapter Twenty-One

What makes a gift extraordinary? Is it the amount that’s given, or is it truly the “thought that counts”?  Jesus answered that question when He noticed the poor widow giving her gifts. Two small copper coins. It wasn’t even an amount worth mentioning by the rich who were putting their gifts into the treasury. They had probably put in much more than that. So, what was it about the widow that caught Jesus’ eye?

It was the fact that she gave all she had. She held nothing back. It wasn’t from her surplus it was her everything.

We aren’t told what her thoughts were as she put the coins in. But we do know her motives were pure, her heart was in the right place, her faith was fully intact as she laid those two last coins into the treasury not knowing where the next would come from. Her reverence for God led her to extraordinary giving. But perhaps she understood it all belonged to Him anyway.

Jesus made it a teachable moment. And two small coins were all it took to point out the lack of the rich who only gave from their surplus. That’s not the kind of giving God wants. He doesn’t need any of our money anyway; what He wants is a heart that is completely His. This woman may have been financially poor but I would venture a guess that she was spiritually much wealthier than those others putting their money in the coffers.

Temple life. It was what the Jewish faith was built around. It was a daily thing, a lifestyle, not just a once a week thing like church is now. The temple was considered to be the house of God. Again, this is all pre-Pentecost before the eternal sacrifice was paid and the Spirit came to indwell believers. It was ornate and beautiful. If you ever look at the list of all that was gathered up from the people to build and decorate it, it would be a marvel to see. And Jesus begins to describe a time when there will no longer be anything left of it.

The temple that was spoken of was indeed destroyed, and currently, the Dome of the Rock, which is an Islamic mosque, stands there. The prophecy, or at least that portion of it, fulfilled. But to this group, it was all in the future. Jesus continues to speak of things that will happen in their future. Nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom, great earthquakes, various plagues and famines. Terrors and great signs from heaven. We’ve experienced some of these, and yet, we haven’t seen anything yet

As Jesus goes on to describe the fate of these men, it’s amazing they weren’t terrified and running the other direction. One of my favorite quotes from these verses are fourteen and fifteen where Jesus has told them they are going to suffer for His sake, and He says, “So make up your minds not to prepare beforehand to defend yourselves; for I will give you utterance and wisdom which none of your opponents will be able to resist or refute.” Terrible things are coming, betrayal, persecution, imprisonment, but Jesus says, don’t decide what you will say now, you’ll know what to say when the time comes. Could we live like that?

In both of these scenarios, the poor widow and the fate of Jesus’ followers, they were to not worry about being prepared. Does that mean we should not prepare for the future? Of course, it doesn’t. Harmonization, you keep hearing me mention it, but it makes a difference in our lump sum theology. And in this very next section Jesus takes time to prepare us. To teach us of the coming days. It’s going to only get harder until His return. But return He will. We can already see the signs of what He told us. And what was His instruction? “Keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (verse 36)

The bottom line of these stories is about trust and obedience. When we do those two things God shows up in ways we couldn’t imagine. In both situations it leads to an opportunity to testify for God. In fact, whatever story God has you in now is an opportunity to testify for God. Keep on the alert, and pray.

That’s what Jesus did. During the day He was teaching in the temple, but at evening He would go out and spend the night on Mount Olivet. Early in the morning people would get up to come hear Him speak.

I’ve called this series Advent 2019. My prayer is that you are seeking His advent in your life even now, in 2019. Rise early in the morning to meet with Him. And then, spend the rest of the day trusting and obeying. Keep alert and pray. And then, don’t be surprised when He uses little ol’ you to testify of the faithfulness of your God. 

Luke Twenty-Two

Read Luke Chapter Twenty-Two

The Feast of Unleavened Bread was originally a week long feast in the Spring celebrating agriculture. It was eventually tied to the Passover as the Lord directed them to prepare to leave Egypt. The Israelites had been enslaved for hundreds of years, but now, under the leadership of Moses, they were to follow his instructions implicitly, for tonight would be like no other they had known. Any and all forms of leavening had to be cleaned out their houses, not even a crumb could be left in a corner. I’m pretty sure this is where “spring cleaning” came from. They were told to bake loaves of bread that didn’t have leavening agents in them to show the haste with which they had to leave. There was no time for leaven to cause the dough to rise.

The night of Passover, you might remember, was when the Israelites were told to kill a lamb, put its blood over the doorpost of their house so that everyone inside would be safe. However, the Egyptians didn’t have this instruction. And as the Spirit of God passed over, the first born of both man and animal died. It was the final straw that caused Pharaoh to let Moses’ people go when he heard the wailing of all those families, including his own, who had lost their first born.

From that time forward the Israelites were to celebrate their release every year with a Passover Feast during the week of Unleavened Bread. That is the time frame that Luke takes us into in Chapter Twenty-Two.

The disciples prepare a place for them to enjoy Passover together. Verse fifteen tells us how “earnestly” Jesus desired to share Passover with them before He died. The time had come, their sins were soon to be passed over forever.

Jesus, as He reclines with those closest to Him takes a cup, and He stops to give thanks for the cup. Then He passed the cup for them to drink from. He also took some bread and broke it. Remember, there was no leavening in this bread, it was more like a flat matzah bread. He broke it, saying this is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me. Note that He did not say what I hear quoted so often. He did not say, this is My body broken for you. I point that out because the prophecy stated He wouldn’t have any broken bones. During crucifixion, if they wanted to speed up the death of the one hung there, they would go by and break their legs so that they could not hold themselves up and suffocation would happen quickly. But when the soldiers came to Jesus to break His legs, He was already gone. Instead, they pierced His side. But He had not one broken bone, just as the prophecy had described.

The cup represented the blood of the new covenant. A covenant is a binding agreement that supersedes all other agreements. The old covenant was the Law and it was ratified by the killing of animals and their blood sprinkled on the altar as well as on the Israelite people. The new covenant came in the form of grace, and Jesus was the sacrifice for our sin. His blood covering us who believe on Him. When we accept Jesus as our Christ, we enter into a covenant with Him. His life in exchange for our eternal life. We become His own, and are to live for Him. Galatians 2:20 say, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.

That’s what we’ve signed up for. That’s what the disciples were signed up for also, they just didn’t have an understanding of that quite yet.

Someone at the table was going to betray Jesus, and they all begin to discuss who that could be, and end up in a dispute of who was the greatest among them. Never mind that Jesus, the One they left everything to follow, just said He was going to give His blood and body for them, they are concerned about who will be the greatest. We can be so dumb, can’t we?

Jesus talks to them about how they had stood with Him through thick and thin, and promises them a place at His table. But He turns to Simon Peter, with words that would have me shaking in my boots. “Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;” in a tone of reassurance Jesus adds, “But I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail.” Peter was probably thinking, good, I’ll be okay, but then Jesus adds, “and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” “Turned again”? Peter, ever impulsive Peter, pipes up that He will never turn away from Him. But we know the rest of this story, don’t we?

One would think the emotions would be running high about this time. Someone among them is going to betray Jesus. Jesus has said He’s going to be killed. Peter is going to be sifted like wheat! But as Jesus takes them out to the Garden of Gethsemane to spend time in prayer, they fall asleep. Not just once, but several times. Jesus, however, knows the magnitude of the situation and pleads with the Father for another way to make this work. Finishing with “not My will, but Yours be done.”

This chapter is such a hard one to read. The agony of the betrayal. The arrest, hearings and trials that He was drug through. The denial of Peter. The scattering of His apostles. And He’s brought before the Jewish Council of elders who finally have Him where they want Him.

“If You are the Christ, tell us.” Here it was, the long-awaited confrontation in which they would have Him blaspheme in front of the people, so that they might be justified in putting Him to death.

Jesus’ reply was simple, “Yes, I am.” The term, “I am” was much more significant than an agreeable answer, for in those words Jesus was declaring Himself deity.

Remember when Moses asked God, who do I tell them has sent me and God answered from the burning bush, tell them “I am” has sent you?

The Great I Am. That is who Jesus is. God incarnate, for you and me. Those two words sealed His fate, the Jewish leaders finally had their evidence. What about you? Is that evidence enough for you? They didn’t want to believe, for then, where would their authority and control be? The choice has been given to us. Will we hang on to our perceived control and authority, or will we accept Him as the Messiah?

Christmas is about the Christ, who submitted Himself to the plan before Him, fulfilling the will of His Father. May we fulfill His will also, and always pray, not my will but Thine be done. 

Luke Twenty-Three

Read Luke Chapter 23

This is where the story gets serious. I was mentioning to my dad that it’s hard to read this when Christmas is only two days away. Things should be lighthearted and fun. It doesn’t seem right to be dwelling on His death when we haven’t celebrated His birth yet.

In reality, this is just as it should be. For it’s a wonderful thing that Jesus came as a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, but if He were only a baby we would still be in excruciatingly, dire need of a Savior. The whole reason for His advent was what we will read in the next couple chapters.

We read yesterday that Jesus was betrayed and arrested. It’s important to note that there were two power structures at the time. There were the Jewish leaders (Pharisees, Sadducees, Elders of each tribe, and Priests) and there was the Roman government, who reigned over all, at the time. The Jewish leaders had to obey the Roman government, and could not take someone’s life. So, it was imperative for these leaders to gain Roman approval for putting Jesus to death. The problem was, Jesus had done nothing against Roman rule.

He was taken before the Roman Governor, Pilate. The charge? Calling Himself Christ, a King. Typically, that would just move someone into the psychiatric ward, but these leaders were afraid of Jesus. They saw the impact He had on the people. They heard His teachings, saw His healings. They needed Him silenced or they would lose their power.

Pilate, matter-of-factly, asks Jesus, is it true? And Jesus says, “It is as you say.” Pilate tells the Chief Priests and the crowds “I find no guilt in this man.” That didn’t make the crowd happy and they pitched out more accusations. During the process, Pilate learned that Jesus was from Galilee, making Him Herod’s problem, not his. And since Herod happened to be in Jerusalem, it worked out. Herod was glad to see Jesus. He had heard so much about Him and wanted to find out about this man. Herod wanted some entertainment, but he didn’t get any for Jesus didn’t answer a thing. In response Herod treated Him with contempt. The soldiers mocked Him, dressing Him in kingly robes they sent Him back to Pilate.

Pilate still doesn’t see the problem. So what, if He declares Himself a King. But just to appease the people he says he’ll have Jesus beaten and released.

Now, under Roman rule, the Governor could release one prisoner a year on Passover. And instead of releasing Jesus they cried out to release Barabbas. Pilate tried to talk them out of it since Barabbas was a murderer and Jesus had done nothing wrong. But the mob began to chant, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”

The argument went on between Pilate and the people, until finally, he granted their wish. He released Barabbas, and Jesus would suffer death on a cross. They led him away, and pulled in Simon of Cyrene from the crowd to carry Jesus’ cross, since He Himself was beaten so badly He couldn’t carry it. A large crowd was following.

Not all were against Jesus, some were crying for Him. I’m sure His mother, Mary, was among them. And the other women, the one who He’d cast out demons, those He had healed. Others who had traveled with Him, serving Him, feeding Him, caring for Him. They had thought He had come to save them. This was not what they had pictured.

They came to the place called The Skull, Golgotha. And there they crucified Jesus, between two criminals. It was there that Jesus asks the Father to forgive them. Forgive them all. Wasn’t that what He was there for? Forgiveness of mankind, even their cruelty?

The crowd continued to mock Him, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” They placed a sign over His cross that read, “This is the King of the Jews.”  

Amid all the hate speech, the cruel jabs, one of the criminals wonders how the other one could join in since he was about to meet God. He talks about suffering justly, while Jesus had done nothing wrong. And then, he asks Jesus to remember Him when He comes in His kingdom. Even this criminal knew that Jesus would reign as King.

Jesus, in the midst of all His pain says, “today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” What words of comfort to the criminal dying on the cross next to Him. That’s Who this Jesus is, the Great Comforter.

It was about 3 to 6 in the afternoon, when the sky turned dark, the Light was leaving earth. He cried out, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” Breathing His last.

It was then that Centurion saw what had happened and began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent.” Matthew and Mark both state that his words were that “this man was the Son of God.” Why the discrepancy?

Each of the four gospels represent a different side of Jesus. Matthew presents Jesus as the King. Written to the Jews, Matthew wants them to see Joseph’s lineage that allowed Jesus the legal right to the throne, and tells about His kingly attributes. Mark presents Jesus as the Servant of God. He came in obedience to serve God’s purpose. Luke speaks of Jesus as man. He shows the lineage of Mary which gave Him the spiritual right to the throne. He presents Jesus’ life as He walked on earth. And John reveals Jesus’ deity. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The emphasis was to show that Jesus was God, incarnate. There are no discrepancies in the four gospels, only different aspects of Jesus Christ.

While the soldier was praising God for Who Jesus was, Jesus followers were standing at a distance, watching. Mourning. There was a rich member of the Council who was “good and righteous”. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. He wrapped Him in linen and placed him in his tomb.

The women followed to see where His body would be laid, but it was preparation day, and the Sabbath was soon to begin. So, in their mourning, they went away to prepare His burial spices and perfumes.

The One whom they loved had been killed. None of this happened as they thought it would. And they were left to wonder, what would happen next.  

Luke Twenty-Four

Read Luke Chapter Twenty-Four

It must have been with dread and sorrow that the ladies hurriedly returned to the tomb that Sunday morning, carrying their package of spices to put on Jesus’ body. I’m sure it was the longest three days of their lives after watching Him die one of the most excruciating deaths. He was to be their Savior, and now, helpless to stop the insanity that would take Him away from them, He was gone. 

They were on their way to do what they could to clean and prepare the body. With the double Sabbath that week due to Passover and the regular Sabbath, they had no choice but to wait for the time to pass. I’m sure they fully expected a great stench in the tomb. Perhaps they even prepared extra spices to cover the smell. Thinking of His body, bloodied, beaten, laying rotting for three days, it would surely be hard to take. But they went early in the morning as soon as they were allowed to go. With the Sabbath ending at 6 am that Sunday morning, out the door they went, hastening to His tomb. 

It must have stopped them in their tracks when they saw the stone rolled away from the opening, and going in to find He was gone. Perplexed, now there’s a word. I should say they were perplexed. Where was the body of Jesus? They had followed Joseph and the men who laid Him here, in this tomb. But where was He now?

Then to have two angels appear, saying, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?” Just taking those words in would have had my brain spinning. Living???


“Remember how He spoke to you while He was still in Galilee, saying that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and the third day rise again.”

They remembered.

A couple of things we learn from this is that all the while Jesus was speaking and teaching, the women were listening. It was these women who would be first to understand what His words had meant. I’m not sure what that significance is, but I do know that in the years of working in women’s ministry that I’ve seen women be the first in their family to understand the depth of need for a Savior. I’ve seen women devote themselves to Bible study, all the while praying their husbands would do the same. Perhaps God knew it would take women to light a fire under their men, as they returned home to report what they had seen and heard.  

Never underestimate your influence in your home. As the nurturing mom we train up our children in the way of the Lord. As a wife, we are to win our husband without a word. We can set the atmosphere in the home. Be an example. We can have a deep abiding relationship with God that is all our own, but overflows into every aspect of our life, affecting others. We have purpose in Christ that belongs only to a woman. Even when it seems no one believes us!

Peter didn’t know what to think, so he just ran to the tomb to see for himself. Stooping and looking in, he saw what the ladies had seen. An empty tomb!

The scene cuts to two men walking to the town of Emmaus, talking about all that had happened. Jesus shows up and starts walking with them. Asking what was going on? Shocked that this man didn’t know, they began to tell the story. But did you notice that their description of Jesus was that He was a prophet? Not that He was the Son of God, or the Messiah, though they do say they thought He was going to be the redeemer of Israel.

They had been with the gathering of those when the women came back from the tomb though, and couldn’t bring themselves to believe their words.

Foolish and slow of heart to believe. We may not understand the why of all that transpired, but we can still believe. In fact, according to Jesus we would be foolish not to. As Jesus took the time to explain it all to these two men, His word explains to all who will read all that was prophesied from beginning to end. His advent was prophesied, and fulfilled. His second advent is yet to come. Yet, we do not have to be foolish and slow of heart to believe.  He will come!

As we read of His other appearances to different ones, we can know that He has risen. He brings peace between God and man, to whomever will accept and believe. We don’t have to be troubled or let doubts arise in our hearts. Just open His word and read of His plan.

The book ends with the story of Jesus leading them out as far as Bethany, lifting up His hands, He blessed them, and while He did so, He was raised up in the clouds into heaven.

And so, the church begins, with those having seen His ascension first hand. They returned to Jerusalem in great joy and worship. Praising God.

May the Good Lord find each of us this Christmas season in great joy and full of worship, for our Savior has been born.

Unto us a child was given, and He became the Risen King.

Thank you for coming along in this journey through the book of Luke. It’s been a privilege and honor to walk along with you.