Friday, April 3, 2020

Friday - Luke 24 - Perplexed, Afraid, Amazed and Joyful

ON'T you just love reading about the reactions of the disciples to the resurrection of Christ? Talk about a final chapter that reconciles a whole book & makes the story good, nothing compares to the triumphant resurrection of the hero of the Book of Luke. At first Jesus' followers were puzzled. They were perplexed, confused & frustrated (vs. 4 & 22). In fact, the disciples had already been rather bumfuzzled by the death of Christ. They had thought He was the Messiah; the Redeemer of Israel (vs. 21). Even though He had told them about His coming death & resurrection, they just didn't see it coming. How could He rescue His people if He was dead? So, when Christ's tomb ended up empty, wild thoughts began to fill their heads & hearts (vs. 38).

When these same disciples began to "see things" that they had never seen before, inexplicable things, they were downright scared. Angels in Jesus' empty sepulcher, Christ's disappearance from the supper table in Emmaus & His reappearance to the 11 apostles in Jerusalem – these were strange & unexpected occurrences (vs. 4, 31 & 36). Jesus had no desire to frighten His children, but their own doubts & sinfulness stood in the way of spiritual wisdom. But, when the disciples began to realize what had happened, naturally they were astonished & thrilled. The return of their leader after His death was a tremendous surprise & relief. Add to that the message that He bore, & the obvious spiritual power that He possessed, & we can see how the joy of the disciples became understandably boundless (vs. 32-35, 39-41, 45 & 52-53). They worshipped Him with gladness & wonder!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Thursday - Luke 23 - Savage Sounds

S you read this chapter, be smitten by the many references to the sounds that surrounded Christ's trial & execution. Allow the descriptions of what happened on that day to scream loudly in you mind. The sounds are acrid; hostile; savage. These are the sounds of an enraged race, rebelling against authority; hell-bent on destroying its Maker.

Can you hear the accusatory tone of Jesus' enemies (vs. 2)? As they mixed truth with lies in an effort to get a conviction, these men spat out words that were dripping with malevolence & vitriol. In stark contrast with the mild words of Christ, these hate-mongers' words were biting, cruel and fierce (vs. 5).

Then, listen to the prodding questions of Herod as he continually barrages the silent Christ with his selfish & senseless babble. Herod was trying to incite Jesus to try some of His "magic" – that is, to put on a show for him. And this, while the most religious of all Jews continued to vehemently accuse their Messiah of evil (vs. 9-10).

When Pilate attempted to release Jesus (due to a lack of evidence and the absolute absence of a cause), the mob erupted into frenzied shouts. They required that Jesus be killed; destroyed; crucified (vs. 18 & 21). Their chant was loud & demonic (vs. 23).

They were persistent and insistent. Their tone was demanding & harsh. Hear the agony of Christ bearing His own cross; the gruff conscription of Simon to help Jesus carry it (Luke 23:26); the roar of the crowd; the wailing of the women who lamented & cried as they saw Christ's suffering – & on we could go.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Wednesday - Luke 22 - The Least and the Greatest

HERE are places in the Scripture where it is taught that the way to be great is to be small (Luke 22:26 is one of these places). The way to live is to die, the way to have is to give, the way to lead is to serve, the way to save is to lose, the way up is down, etc. From a simpler perspective though, there are many contrasts in the Scripture that lead us to think about the significance of one thing & the relative irrelevance of another; the goodness of one thing & the evilness of another.

In verses 2 & 4, it was the "great" people who wanted to kill Christ. The common folk did not – at least not initially. In verses 3, 21 & 22, we see that Satan & Judas were the opponents of Christ: evil against good. And, there are other comparisons & contrasts in this text, but the part that stands out most to me is verses 23-24. The twelve apostles were unsure concerning which one among them would stoop to betraying Christ. This issue then evidently led to an argument about who was the greatest of the twelve. Jesus rebuked them for even having this discussion (vs. 25-27). Basically, Jesus said that if HE was willing to serve, then the rest of us should be willing to serve as well. After all, it's our place in the heavenly millennial kingdom that matters, not our place in the current earthly kingdom of Babylon (vs. 29-30).

Now, Peter thought that he was great (vs. 33). Jesus edited Peter's opinion of himself.  Jesus shared with Peter that he was standing in Satan's crosshairs (vs. 31). Jesus informed Peter that his greatness was yet future, & that some things would have to change before that greatness would be realized (vs. 32). Again, Christ went on to encourage Peter to pray for strength (vs. 40 & 46). We know, of course, that Jesus prayed for Peter (vs. 32). No surprise, when it came time to pray, the strength of Christ & the weakness of the apostles became very evident indeed.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tuesday - Luke 21 - An Expiration Date

HE temple (in which Jesus preached) had a date with destiny (vs. 6). It was sure to be destroyed. But, that's not all. The whole earth has an expiration date.  We just don't know when that day will come. That doesn't mean there won't be any indications of its proximity though.  We aren't speaking of the rapture here. We are looking at the Second Coming of Christ; not for His church, but with all His saints; not to rescue His bride, but to conquer His enemies and deliver Israel once & for all.

So, what are the signs of the end? Here Jesus said that there will be antichrists, wars, drama, earthquakes, famines, diseases, dangers, strong anti-Semitism & (most specifically) Jerusalem surrounded by armies. Of course, if we are already seeing these things around us, then it seems reasonable that the rapture of the church is just that much closer. Still, we haven't seen anything yet, at least not like that which will be common during the Tribulation (vs. 25-26). Luke 21:22 says, "For these be the days of vengeance..." I’m so grateful that I will not be here for it. God has not appointed us to wrath, but instead to obtain salvation; rescue!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Monday - Luke 20 - Authority

UTHORITY is an interesting thing. Those who relish having it are apt to misuse & abuse it. Some avoid it, & thereby miss out on great opportunities. Others accept it & bring upon themselves grave & wonderful responsibilities. From a different angle, many resist being under authority. This they do to their own destruction. All authority is distributed from God's hands. Apart from Him, there is no authority. Human governments (good &evil) are beholding to God in this regard. Parents, pastors, businessmen; anyone with authority – all owe God allegiance & gratitude for any position of influence that we possess. It is a privilege & a trust.

There has never been anyone who had as much authority as Jesus Christ. He was the Maker of all things; the eternal son of God; the manifestation of the Father. He was the son of David, the last Adam, the sinless Savior, the perfect Prophet, the rightful King, the sufficient Sacrifice, the Great High Priest, the Capitan of our salvation, the friend of sinners & the Redeemer of Israel. But His contemporaries didn't like his claims. They criticized Him & asked for His credentials (vs. 2). Knowing their evil hearts, He asked them about John's authority. He knew they wouldn't touch that one. Jesus was the source of Israel's significance. He was their true Master & Lord, yet they had only rebellion to offer to Him.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Friday - Luke 19 - Wanting to Hear Jesus

UKE 19 begins and ends with Jesus being desired. It starts with Zacchaeus. Zacchaeus was a wee little man who climbed up in a tree in order to see the Lord. Zacchaeus wanted to see Christ. He sought after Him. There were others who stood between him and the Lord, but He pursued Him anyway. So, when Christ invited Himself over to Zacchaeus' house, Zacchaeus was thrilled. And, the influence of Christ was immediate. Zacchaeus (who had been quite a crook), determined to restore the things that he had taken unjustly.  Not only did his heart incline in that direction, but publicly he made his intentions known. This would have done a couple of things. It made Him accountable, but beyond that it spoke of the change that had occurred in Zacchaeus' heart. Jesus said that salvation had come to Zacchaeus' house (Luke 19:9). Zacchaeus sought for Christ, and Christ found Him (Luke 19:10).

This chapter concludes with an account of Jesus' triumphal entry and His cleansing of the temple (Luke 19:28-48). Both events were enough to infuriate His enemies, and to instigate a violent resistance against Him. In fact, these events did lead into Christ's Passion and death. One reason why there wasn't an immediate execution of Christ is because there were a significant number of people who were still seeking to hear Him (Luke 19:48. They wanted to listen to His words. They were seeking after Him. They were interested in His doctrine. Like Zacchaeus, they desired the Lord (Haggai 2:7).

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Thursday - Luke 18 - Coming to God

F course, we all know that God came to us first. He is the great initiator. If He didn't seek for us, then we could never (and would never) seek for Him. We are expected to respond to His advances. We are invited, obligated and responsible to respond positively to Him. We are supposed to come to God. If we love Him, we love Him because He first loved us. But beyond that, just how is it that we come to God? We come through Christ, that's for sure. But what should our spirit look like as we approach? Can a person come defiantly; in unbelief and cursing? Is God willing to accept a man if he has no faith and no repentance? Hardly!

So, what should our coming look like? We should come to God persistently; or at least, consistently. Pray. Always. And don't faint; these were Jesus' words. We should never give up on God. Part of faith is patience. Part of faith is continuity & continuance (vs. 8).

Humility and repentance should also characterize our approach. We should come as a child comes. Another ingredient addressed here is loyalty.  What  man  would  take  a  wife who also desired to marry 10 other men on the same day – or just 1 other man for that matter?  No!  I want all of her, or I want none of her.  This is not unreasonable. Neither is it unreasonable for God to demand sincerity and exclusivity (Isaiah 48:11). Will coming to God require sacrifice? Sure! We must let go of one thing in order to grasp the other. God is a jealous God. He is willing to share His grace with His children, but He is NOT willing to share His children with the devil.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Wednesday - Luke 17 - Suddenly

OW does one prepare for an event that is sure to come without warning? There is only one way, and that is to get ready now, and to stay ready perpetually. In Luke 11:20, we read where Jesus said that the kingdom of God had come upon His audience.  Here in Luke 17:21 the wording is a little different.   Here, it is recorded that He said that the kingdom was within His audience. For sure, the kingdom of God, as Christ presented it, was a foreign idea to the Jews of Jesus' day. It appears that all they were looking for was a descendant of David who would defeat the Romans and reestablish Israel's dominance in the region (or in the world). Clearly Jesus was primarily interested in the hearts of His people. If they would accept Him as King, willingly yielding to His authority and program, then whether they lived or died; ruled or served; won or lost, they would have the kingdom.

Attitude is the first thing to address as we are looking toward the kingdom of God. Things like humility, gratitude, worship, faith, sacrifice & watching – these are keys to the kingdom. Who can enter the presence of the King (safely) without humility? The answer is: nobody! And, how about gratitude? Gratitude should permeate the attitude of the children of the kingdom. Thankfulness is a significant expectation that is laid upon those of us who have received such kindness from our Maker (vs. 17). And, we were made to glorify God. We should fulfill our purpose (vs. 18). If Christ comes suddenly; tonight even, will He find these things in us?

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Tuesday - Luke 16 - Misery in Hell

T is a fool who ignores the present and denies the future. Luke 16 begins with a story about a man who prepared for the future.  Despite this man's past errors, when he saw trouble coming, he planned for it. He acted in order to be ready for the judgment. Luke 16:9-15 make it abundantly clear that the decisions we make now in this material world determine what our eternity will be like. We cannot legitimately claim to be spiritually righteous while we are materially unrighteous. Such piercing words were spoken by Christ in Luke 16:15, "…God knows your hearts…" The Law of God is rigid. The kingdom of God is looming. We must be sure that our hearts are right with God. Whether our adulterous distraction is mental, physical or spiritual, it stands between us and our necessary preparations for eternity, so we would be fools to grasp it tightly. The old message of John and Jesus is still the most relevant of all: REPENT!

Luke 16 concludes with the record of the passing of an unnamed rich man & a poor homeless man named Lazarus. The rich man didn’t prepare for eternity. Lazarus did. The rich man used his physical life to serve only his physical passions. Lazarus had only enough in this life to prepare for the next, but that is just exactly what he did with it. So, the rich man went to hell when he died – not because he was rich, but because he worshipped his riches rather than using his riches to worship God. Lazarus went to paradise when he died – not because he was poor & homeless, but because he was a true worshipper of Jehovah.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Monday - Luke 15 - Joy in Heaven

ECENTLY we examined 2 things that bring intense pleasure in God's heart: faith & love. Allow an expansion on that topic. What causes all of heaven to rejoice? How about the choice of an earthling to move from unbelief to belief; from hate to love, or, in the case of a backslidden believer, his return to faith & love?

Jesus loves sinners; there is no doubt about that (Luke 15:2). But what does He love to do with them? He doesn't love to leave us in our sins. He rescues the lost sheep and brings it home (Luke 15:3-6). Luke 15:7 tells us that Jesus said, "Joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repents…" (see also Luke 15:10). Make the message clear and plain: Christ joyfully receives sinful men!

Now, Luke 15:12-32 includes a well-known story of repentance and redemption. This is the story of the prodigal son – or of the self-righteous brother – or of the gracious father – or of a good reason to rejoice. There are several different emphases from which to choose. In context it seems that the last option is the best one.

God loves sinners. "For God so loved the world that He gave…" (John 3:16)! We should rescue the perishing because this pleases and thrills our Savior. There is joy in heaven when a sinner repents. This is surely the best way of all for us to invest in eternity. There can be nothing wiser than doing a thing that will make God smile.

Friday, March 20, 2020

Friday - Luke 14 - Wise Humility

ISDOM and humility are critically important ingredients in the life of any Christian. Yet, all too often these traits are missing. Jesus spoke of these 2 qualities, and some of His words are found here in Luke 14.

Concerning wisdom, this chapter commences with a little example of practical goodness.  Certainly, there are laws and regulations that God has established. But, in every case, these laws are based upon principles. In Luke 14:1-6 Jesus defended His "work" of Saturdays by demonstrating that it was better to do the work in order to be kind and generous than to avoid it just because of the letter of the law pointing toward rest.  The spirit of the law supersedes the letter and requires more of us. The spirit of the law requires internal goodness and practical wisdom, which is harder than mere legalism.

Concerning humility, this chapter again includes an example of practical goodness. Taking the lowest seat or the least important position in a group setting is not only natural for a humble person; it is functionally more sensible (Luke 14:7-11). Even and especially in spiritual matters, the way up is to go down.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Thursday - Luke 13 - Perishing

HE most famous Bible verse of all time is surely John 3:16. What part of that verse speaks the loudest? Is it the love of God, the gift of God, the Son of God, faith in God or eternal life with God? Or, is it the wrath of God? "Whoever believes in Him [that is, in Christ] will not perish..." What does it mean to perish? Is it just missing heaven? Is it purgatory?  Is it annihilation in hell or soul sleep or reincarnation or rotting in the grave? Do unbelievers cease to exist? These questions reflect a few of our modern culture's popular ideas as well as some of the devil's more ancient lies.  But the Bible is rather plain in its revelation concerning damnation. Luke 13:27-28 repeats Christ's words just as they will be directed at unbelievers in the day of the judgment, "I tell you, I do not know you, nor do I know from where you came; depart from me, all you who are workers of iniquity." Then Jesus continued very descriptively saying to His audience that on that day of judgment, "There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, and all the prophets, in the kingdom of God, and you yourselves thrust out."

So, perishing is nothing to take lightly.  To die is bad enough, but for  a man's death to  be the beginning of an eternal loss; perpetual destruction; banishment to misery without God and without purpose; dying and dying again over and over throughout forever – that is the view of perishing which is put forth in the Scriptures. And who is relegated to this awful fate?  Luke 13:3 & 5 says that those who do not repent will perish.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Wednesday - Luke 12 - No Fear?

OME years ago the slogan "No Fear" was very popular indeed. How about that? Aren't there things of which we should properly be afraid? We know that Jesus repeatedly comforted His friends by offering a kindly "fear not" at key moments. The apostle John indicated in his first epistle that love conquers fear (1st John 4:18). Solomon gives us a little different perspective in Proverbs 29:25 where he juxtaposes the fear of man up against trusting in God. I think Luke makes it all abundantly clear here (in Luke 12:4 & 5) where he records the words of Christ thusly: "I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and  after that have  no more that they can  do.  But I will forewarn you whom you shall fear: Fear Him, which after He has killed has power to cast into hell; yes, I say unto you, Fear Him." There is no interpretation necessary there. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, and that's both a New Testament and an Old Testament principle (Proverbs 9:10, Ephesians 5:21 & 1st Peter 2:17).

Sometimes fear is a good description of a healthy respect for a specific danger, even if there are no emotional manifestations associated with that fear. I do not have phobias about germs, rattlesnakes or heights, but I do respect the real dangers attached to each. In Luke 12:15 it is recorded that Christ warned us against the dangers of materialism (which is called covetousness here, and dubbed idolatry elsewhere). He followed that up with a little lesson on "Don't worry!" "Take no thought," He said, for food or cloths (Luke 12:22). And, we usually focus on Luke 12:31 as if it is the peak of this section. But, perhaps the greatest verse in this context is the next one: Luke 12:32, "Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom." Notice again that He said, "Fear not!" Fear God; fear nothing else.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Tuesday - Luke 11 - The Kingdom of God is Come Upon You

kingdom is a place under the authority of a king; a place of life & activity. A kingdom without inhabitants would be no kingdom at all. And, a kingdom in which the king did nothing & required nothing of his subjects would again (in function & reality) not be a kingdom at all. The religious leaders of Christ's day accused Him of participating in the devil's kingdom. Of course, nothing could have been further from the truth. However, those same religious leaders were the recipients of some rather cutting criticisms from Christ along these same lines. Consider His words as recorded in Luke 11:44, "Woe unto you, scribes & Pharisees, hypocrites! for you are as graves which appear not, & the men that walk over them are not aware of them." That's about as dead & forgotten as is possible. But Jesus was & is king over a living kingdom (Luke 20:38).

Our King is great and He deserves great praise. He is greater than Jonah or Solomon were (Luke 11:31 & 32). His kingdom is an everlasting and (presently) an invisible kingdom. Above all else, it is the hearts of humans that God desires to possess (John 18:36). He desires truth in the inward parts (Psalm 51:6). He is looking to produce spiritual discernment and the love of the Father in us (Luke 11:42).  The good deeds that should be done by those of us who are children of the kingdom should always flow forth from a life that is instructed by the Spirit and in tune with the Word. The key to the kingdom of God is certainly only available to the humble (Luke 11:52).  Through Christ, the kingdom of heaven is at hand; it has come upon all of us.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Monday - Luke 10 - Sent by the Savior

NCE again, we are in a chapter which covers more territory than we can possibly expound in this setting. Let's shoot at what we can though. First off, in addition to the 12 apostles, Christ commissioned 70 other disciples to minister in His name throughout the cities of Israel. Like John the Baptist, these men were sent out to prepare the people for the arrival of the Messiah. He planned to come right behind them. He sent them as His representatives and with His power. He sent 70, but more were needed (Luke 10:2). He sent them as lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3). He sent them out to speak words of peace (Luke 10:5). He sent them to proclaim the nearness of the kingdom.

We are also ambassadors for Christ. And, what a great responsibility and privilege this assignment is! Notice the weight of the commission of Luke 10:16, "He that hears you hears Me; and he that despises you despises Me; and he that despises Me despises Him that sent Me." Wow! That's a heavy seal of approval. This should encourage and inspire us to aspire for excellence in faithful ministry. We are ordained as His ministers, bearing the words of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:19). Through Him, we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:37). The Son of God has all authority and power, and through His Spirit He has infused us with that same authority and power. Satan has fallen and is no match for us (if we are moving forward in the name of the Lord - Luke 10:18-19).

Friday, March 13, 2020

Friday - Luke 9 - Strange Aspects of Ministry

 love the words of Christ in Luke 9:44, "Let these sayings sink down into your ears..." There are many things about the Christian faith that demand an adequate explanation, our undivided attention, and some old-fashioned meditation. That is not to say that Christianity is supposed to be either complex or confusing. There is simplicity in Christ. The gospel is plain and simple. The concepts of repentance, faith, sin, righteousness, heaven, hell, God and the devil are not complicated. However, since God's ways are so different than the ways of worldly wisemen, we frequently encounter doctrines & circumstances that need some clarification. This chapter includes a hodgepodge of just such things.

One question (that is often presented to me concerning Christianity) regards the fact that both the Old & the New Testaments are chocked full of physical miracles, & yet inexplicable miracles seem to be glaringly lacking today. The simplest answer to this question is that we have the whole Bible now. In the days when the Nile was transformed into blood & the Red Sea parted, there were no Bibles. Today we have the whole story; all 66 books of it. The revelation is complete, & it has stood the test of time. Public signs & wonders in this era are generally not the work of God.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

Thursday - Luke 8 - Important Women... and Men

ALATIANS 3:28 is the Christian’s equalizer: "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for you are all one in Christ Jesus." Now, Paul was not in denial. He knew that there are definite and undeniable differences among us. Ethnicity is real, socioeconomics is real and gender uniqueness is real. Yet Christ certainly valued everyone regardless of the color of their skin, the brogue of their speech, the quality of their clothes, or their gender. Luke 8 is not solely about women, but there are some significant references to women in this chapter. And more importantly, everyone who followed Christ followed on the same basis. Entrance into life – eternal life – is not affected by geography, genealogy or gender.  All regenerate individuals are saved by grace and through faith. There are no exceptions. 

However, Luke commences this chapter with a portrait of Christ traveling and preaching while leading a small train of disciple. We are  familiar  with  the  12  leading  disciples, of which 11 eventually became apostles. But there were even more female disciples who traveled with Christ (Luke 8:2-3).  In fact, Jesus' ministry was clearly financed to a great degree by the generosity of these female followers. Jesus was definitely inclusive in His presentation of the gospel. He cared for the souls of women just as He cared for the souls of men. In a culture that belittled women, Jesus honored them. That is not to say that Jesus' ministry was dominated by women. Luke 8:19-21 demonstrates that Jesus was sent (and set) to do the will of His heavenly Father, and there was no compromise in that commitment, even for the sake of His mother, Mary. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Wednesday - Luke 7 - Great Faith & Great Love

HAT impresses Jesus? Maybe there are more than a few correct answers to this question. However, in Luke 7 it is evident that Jesus was thrilled with the faith of a Roman centurion and the pure spiritual love of a harlot.

First, it was faith that impressed Christ. Of course, we know that without faith it is impossible to please God. The aforementioned centurion had a particular brand of faith that caused Jesus to be amazed. Jesus called his faith "great" faith. You might be familiar with a different occasion where Jesus called Peter's faith "little" faith because it didn't endure; because it was supplanted by doubt (as he walked on water). The centurion who caught Christ's attention did so with a combination of 2 wonderful traits: he was humble, and he gave absolute credence to Christ's authority and power. "I am not worthy for you to come to my house," he said, "Just say what needs to be said and my servant will be healed." So, Jesus commended him publicly. And since he was a Gentile, Jesus used his testimony as an example (and a rebuke) to the sophisticatedly suspicious Jews.

The second great trait which Christ commended here was the great love of a humble whore.  She wept at Christ's feet, washing them with her tears and wiping them with her hair. She kissed his feet and anointed them with expensive ointment. She had commendable faith as well (which Jesus also pointed out), and her repentance is evident. Yet Christ emphasized something else above everything else on this stage. He rewarded her for her love. "She loved much," He said.  And by the way, she was forgiven of her sins too (even though they were very many). Jesus was thrilled with the love of this societal outcast. Love covers a multitude of sins.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Tuesday - Luke 6 - Who is the Boss on Saturday's?

ESUS is Lord! He possesses all power and owns all authority. He is the King of all kings and the Lord of all lords. He is the Boss. The fact is, if an individual can get this issue settled in his or her mind and be happy with it, salvation will suddenly be seen on the bottom shelf. "He who comes to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who diligently seek Him," that is that He is the Boss and that He is good. Everything else in soteriology is attached (one way or another) to those 2 facts.

Now, during His earthly ministry, Jesus had an agenda. He wanted to trim away all the artificial piety and substitute rituals that were eclipsing His gracious Father. One of the main issues (that the religious Jews had to get over) was the Jews' overemphasis on the rules surrounding their "holy Sabbath" day. They had made so many rules about the Sabbath that they had eliminated everything that was holy about it. Jesus shocked them with His disregard for their man-made traditions. It is rather obvious that Jesus went out of His way to violate their rules in order to reveal their hypocrisy.

Whether it was defending His disciples for "harvesting" on Saturday or healing publicly Saturday, Jesus made it abundantly clear that He rejected any and all reverence-of-cultural-rules above God's law. He despised how distracted these religious people were with things that didn't matter (while simultaneously they totally ignored things that did matter). It is a common error of superstitious humans.

Monday, March 9, 2020

Monday - Luke 5 - Power to Forgive

HAT takes more strength, justice or forgiveness? I dare say that both require great strength, but forgiveness is the harder of the two. An extreme example may be the best way to illustrate this reality. If a stranger killed every member of your family and every friend too, what would be harder for you, justice or mercy; revenge or forgiveness? True forgiveness takes great strength and even greater authority.

Let's raise the bar little. If a man is a criminal, he should answer for His crimes. God has in fact authorized and deputized human governments to punish criminals. As such, there may be an instance where a government official might appropriately forgive a criminal. But by no means should governments offer total-forgiveness-for-all-criminals-at-all-times. They do not have the authority to do that.

Truly, you or I could forgive anyone for anything, if the crime is against us specifically. But I can't forgive Bob for a crime that He commits against Bill. I don't have that kind of authority. And certainly, I can't forgive a person for a sin that they commit against God alone. Yet, Jesus was a forgiver of sins; any & all sins. Publicly, He offered carte blanch forgiveness to people for all their sins, as if He were God incarnate or something - which (of course) He was; is.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Friday - Luke 4 - Temptation & Teaching

FTER Christ's baptism, He went out into wilderness for 40 days. For 40 days Jesus was tempted by the devil. We usually think of Jesus' three specific temptations as if they were His only temptations. Matthew's account does leave that impression. Mark's and Luke's accounts are rather clear though. Satan troubled Him the entire time. The climax of His test did apparently come at the end of this period of physical solitude though. Wonderfully, Satan was defeated by a proper application of the Scriptures. In other words (in resisting temptation), Jesus used a tool we also possess.

Truly, the Old Testament was a primary tool in Christ's ministry. Not only did this reality show up in His resistance to temptation, it is also the dominant factor in His first ministerial statement (in the synagogue in Nazareth Jesus had a habit of attending every Sabbath day when the Bible was read). On the Saturday after Christ's temptation, He stood in that synagogue and read from the book of Isaiah. He read a prophecy that pointed directly to Him. Then He told His audience that He was the fulfillment of that prophecy.  This was the commencement of the career of the greatest teacher ever.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Thursday - Luke 3 - John, Jesus, Genealogies... and Baptism

OHN and Jesus grew into adulthood. John's ministry started before Jesus' though. Both men were relatively young (that is, around 30 years old). What a preacher John was! He proclaimed God's message with boldness and courage. He declared the perfection of God and the imperfection of men. He hit his audience right where it hurt them most.  He preached against specific sins, commanded generosity, condemned ethnic pride, and introduced Christ. He preached these things until his preaching landed him in jail. It didn't matter though. He had accomplished his mission. Israel had been warned and informed. Jesus had been anointed for service at the hands of John himself. It was time for Christ to step forward. It was time for everyone to see the salvation of the Lord.

Now, Luke 3 concludes with a genealogy. We were given the ancestry of Joseph back in Matthew 1. We should assume that this is Mary's family tree. The fact that this genealogy goes all the way back to Adam seems to point specifically to Christ's humanity, which was (of course) traced through Mary, not Joseph. His rights to the throne, as a son of David, were demonstrated in Matthew's gospel. His rights to be the sacrifice for our sins were a result of his connection to Adam. In both cases he was demonstrably the son of David, of Judah, Abraham, Shem, Seth, Adam and of God.

One of the key topics in Luke 3 is the issue of baptism. John baptized his disciples in water. He called upon them to repent of their sins. John also prophesied that Jesus would baptize differently. John submersed adherents in H20 as a reminder of their depravity and of their need for grace. Jesus would eventually baptize His followers in the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:4 & Ephesians 4:30) as a seal of their redemption. Unlike John, Jesus will someday baptize even those who refused to follow Him. He will immerse them in fire.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Wednesday - Luke 2 - Twelve Years of Christmas

HIS is a lovely chapter. These are indeed "good tidings of great joy" (as the angel said to the shepherds). It's the story of Christmas. It's a story with which you are surely most familiar. God became a man. Immanuel - God with us! God sent His Son to live among us; to be one of us; to save us. Joseph and Mary traveled from Nazareth to Bethlehem in order to pay their taxes. While in Bethlehem, Mary gave birth to the Christ. She wrapped him in rags and put him in a feeding trough in a barn. Angels informed some shepherds about this event so that they could come to witness and worship. And there you have it: that first Christmas was over. But there was much more to come.

Eight days after His birth, like every other good Jewish boy, Jesus was circumcised. After that He was brought to Jerusalem to the temple to be presented to the Lord. According to the law of Moses, every firstborn son belonged to God. Jesus belonged to the Father in more ways than one. Being very poor, Jesus' parents offered the simplest of offerings at Christ's dedication. It was then that they met two beautiful old saints who had been looking for the Messiah. Simeon and Anna both prophesied spectacularly in the presence of this holy child. Because they had met the Redeemer, the Savior, they spoke of redemption and of salvation.

We know that eventually Jesus and His parents ended up back in Nazareth. It was there that the wonder of the Christmas story really began to take shape. Jesus "grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon Him." What an amazing experience it must have been both for Jesus and for His parents. He was heaven's child.  He was perfect. Yet, He grew up as other boys did; learning, changing, exploring – and going up to "Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover." And, they did that for 12 years. By that time, He was strongly aware of His obligations to His Father.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Tuesday - Luke 1 - Important Babies

VERY baby is important. Every baby is unique. Every baby has an eternal soul. Unless God or someone else changes the name somewhere along the way, when a parent gives a baby a name, they have just dubbed one of God's creatures with an eternal title. Anyway, the point is that all babies are immeasurably significant and valuable. If for no other reason, this reality should show that abortion is a crime. What if Mary or Elisabeth had elected to have an abortion? It's an incredibly frustrating model to contemplate. Their children were John the Baptist and Jesus Christ. Of all the great babies in history, these were the 2 greatest. Not because of their childhood, but because of their ministries in adulthood. But every adult biography is preceded by a childhood and a family. And as I just indicated, Luke 1 gives us the background of Jesus and John.

John the Baptist was a Levite, a descendant of Aaron. Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, a descendant of David. Both boys had very godly parents. There is no question about this. The gospels plainly tell us about the relative piety and sincerity of these faithful people. Not that they (the parents) were perfect. John's father struggled with unbelief concerning the prophecy about John's conception and birth, (even though the news was brought to him personally by an angel).

One must rejoice in the conversion of Zacharias through his 9 months of silence. In the end, he boldly declared his belief. It was no slouchy gospel proclamation.  John was yet an infant and Christ was yet unborn, and a transparent soteriology was already being propagated. Hallelujah for these 2 babies and for their good parents. Hallelujah for the gospel which John would preach & Christ would provide!

Monday, March 2, 2020

Monday - Mark 16 - Believe, Believe, Believe

E usually think of the gospel of John as the "believe book” – and rightfully so. However, we might award the title of the "believe CHAPTER” to Mark 16. The fundamental message of Mark 16 is the resurrection of Christ. However, the invitation of the chapter is to believe this good news. And while we're at it, we might as well admit that the commission of the chapter is for all of us to be faithful evangelists. The angel announced Jesus' resurrection. The women who first saw the empty tomb also did a little sharing. And, Jesus Himself declared His conquest. But, the last piece of this puzzle portrays you and me going forth boldly with the gospel of Jesus Christ, inviting people to believe. The salvation or damnation of a soul hinges on belief or unbelief. And belief can't come if one hasn't ever even heard the good news about Christ. Don't be discouraged by people's initial unbelief. At first, the disciples doubted too. Then they became first class missionaries. Spend a few minutes today telling someone about the risen Christ. He is alive! Amen!

Friday, February 28, 2020

Friday - Mark 15 - The Death of the King

AS Jesus a political threat? Did the Romans, Rome's puppets, or the Jewish leaders really have anything to fear concerning the possibility of a loss of their political power? I find it hard to believe that anyone thought Jesus was planning a revolution or a coup of any kind. Yet, Pilate's line of questioning centered on this one issue. The accusations against Christ and the sign that hung above his head were about His supposed aspirations to the royal throne. Why? It is true that He said much during His ministry about a kingdom, but He clarified His meaning repeatedly. He was building a heavenly kingdom. During His trial He admitted that He was a king, but where was His army? Were His opponents truly afraid that Jesus was going to take over? Or, were they simply afraid of that which they did not understand? Jesus had spiritual power, moral character, and religious influence like nobody they had ever encountered. This was what frustrated and intimidated His opponents.

Now Pilate offered to release Jesus the morning after His arrest, but Jerusalem wouldn't hear of it. The people literally chose a known killer to be released rather than their innocent King. They were angered by His claim of authority; angry enough to kill Him. The soldiers who tortured Christ were aware of Jesus' supposed treason. They mocked Him. The laughed at Him as the beat Him. Unwittingly, they mocked the One who will someday be their Judge. In fact, Jesus was mocked by almost everyone on the day of His death, and the mockery centered on His royal identity.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Thursday - Mark 14 - A Convenient Betrayal

E should always be amazed that Jesus is willing to be our friend and companion. It's one thing for us to worship Him, it's quite another to be allowed to fellowship with Him; to commune with the Almighty. Because I'm so astounded by the reality of Christ's condescension, at first, I entitled this meditation, "Communion with Peter and Other Sinners." We might balk at God's willingness to commiserate with the likes of Peter, but how about His willingness to do the same with us? Sure, Peter seems to have been annoyingly brash and vocal (and we all know of his denial of Christ), but really, are we any better?  In fact, without God's grace it would be more accurate to line us up beside Judas Iscariot instead of merely comparing ourselves to Simon Peter.

In Peter's situation, in Judas' case, and in our own circumstances, one of the biggest problems that we have is our affinity for what is convenient. In Mark 14:11 we read that Judas "sought how he might conveniently betray Christ." That word convenient is a doozy.  It's a medium sized word wearing a sophisticated looking suit, but it simply means "easy."  If standing firm and professing Christ had been easy, surely Peter wouldn't have denied Him. And, it was an easy route for which Judas sought when He exchanged his Master for 30 pieces of silver. In his sin he was looking for an easy way; a path that was agreeable to him and to his agenda. In Mark 14:1 we find that the chief priests were looking for an easy way to get rid of Jesus. They were frustrated in their sin only by the fact that there was some inconvenience in it (vs. 2). How pitiful. How tragic!

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Wednesday - Mark 13 - Watch

HAT does it mean to watch? Defined secularly it means to be alert, attentive, careful and cautious. If we stay awake, remain vigilant, maintain devotion and live expectantly – that fits with what it should mean to be watching. To be watchful (spiritually) is simply to be on the lookout for what God is doing next. Of course, we should be looking for Christ's return, that is foundational and fundamental to this whole concept. But, in what ways will this attitude influence our daily decisions?

Jesus began this discourse with the words "Take heed" and ended it with injunction to "Watch!" (Mark 13:5 & 37). Do you think maybe He wants us to pay attention? I think so. Jesus was the greatest prophecy teacher of all time. In fact, He was the greatest prophet of all time. But His prophecies were never just informative. Exemplifying perfect preaching habits, He always called people into action. In this case, He was attempting to influence the overall perspective and demeanor of every believer in every era.

Admittedly, Jesus was speaking to a very specific group and about a very specific point in the future. He spoke to the Jews about the conditions just prior to His own 2nd Advent. But His doctrine is classic and exceedingly practical. Notice some of the simple admonitions that we find here. Expect the world to be full of trouble, preach the gospel, depend on the Holy Ghost, be faithful, expect resistance, don't listen to the devil or to his disciples and live like you will be called on to answer for your life at any moment. Those truth should be enough to keep us busy for sure. They should motivate us to live circumspectly. They should remind us to "watch and pray" (Mark 13:33).

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Tuesday - Mark 12 - Divine Ownership

HEN a thing is owned, the owner thereof has both rights and responsibilities. This chapter reminds me of God's ownership of all things. The chapter begins with a parable about a vineyard owner whose entrusted keepers misused and abused their stewardship (vs. 1-12). Without repeating the narrative, note the obvious interpretation. God sent many prophets to Israel, but they rejected them all. God owned Israel and their land. God owned their destiny. But they resisted His authority.  And, when He sent His own Son, they rejected Him too (at least they would be rejecting Him fully, by crucifying Him). This would do nothing to detract from His rightful ownership of all things though. In fact, the sealing of redemption with His own precious blood says all that is needed about God's ownership of all things.

Jesus emphasized His ownership of humanity with His answer to the pretense tax question of the Pharisees and Herodians. "Give to God the things that are His" (Mark 12:17). That answer had almost nothing to do with money or taxes. We are made in the likeness of God.  He made us. We are like Him. He owns us and when we were stolen from Him, He bought us back. We owe all to Him. That's ownership if I've ever seen it!

Monday, February 24, 2020

Monday - Mark 11 - The End Approaches

ARK is a brief gospel account. Here we are in chapter 11 and we are already approaching the end of Jesus' ministry. Included here is His triumphal entry (Mark 11:1-10), the cursing of an unfruitful fig tree (Mark 11:11-14 & 19-26) and the cleansing of the temple (Mark 11:15-18 & 27-33). His death was looming large. The end and climax of Jesus' 1st Advent was near. Yet, He was still doing the same kinds of things He had been doing all along for the previous 3 years. He was doing good deeds, teaching truth, performing miracles, receiving worship and resisting evil. He was honoring the Father, depending on the Spirit, fulfilling the Law and loving humanity. This was Christ.

Notice the superlative phrase that was used in reference to Christ in Mark 11:10, "Hosanna in the highest!" Essentially the crowd was calling Christ the Supreme Savior. And, that's who He was and is. Hosea 13:4 is one spot in the Old Testament where Jehovah is declared to be the ONLY one who saves. Yet, Jesus accepted these words directed at Him. They called Him the Savior. Why did He accept this label? Because, He is the eternally divine Son of God. He is God. He is the Savior. He received worship willingly, knowing that the only hope for His audience was to be found in Him.  He received worship from His own creations, from creatures made originally for this very purpose. He received worship for reasons that are beyond our comprehension.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Friday – Mark 10 – Because He Loves Us

HY is a parent demanding of a child? Or better, should a parent be demanding, and if so, why? Oh, perhaps "demanding" is not the best choice of words, but a parent should most certainly set standards and declare expectations. And, the reason? Love! In the words of Solomon, those who fail to discipline their children demonstrate that they do not love them (Proverbs 13:24). What would the opposite equation look like then? Those who do love their children will discipline them. Such is true with God as well. He disciplines us because He loves us. In Hebrews 12:6 we read that because the Lord loves us, He chastens us.

Now, here in Mark 10:21 we see that Jesus loved a certain individual. And, how did He express that love? He laid down the law. The man happened to be rich. So, Jesus charged him thusly, "Sell everything that you own; give it to poor folk and follow Me!" What a strange way to show one's love, or is it? This man needed tough love for sure. He was a hard case. He ran to Jesus - what zeal! He fell on his knees - that was proper. He was certainly coming to the right place with a noble objective - he came to the Savior seeking for eternal life. Yet, he was lost.  He came lost and went away lost still.  This is why we can say that he was a hard case. Jesus loved him... but sadly, this man only loved himself.

This whole chapter points to the great love that God has for us. Even the statement that "God made male AND female" demonstrates His love. It’s a simple reality that is replete with evidence of God's powerful love.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Thursday – Mark 9 – Help My Unbelief

ARK 9:24 records a spiritual statement that I have identified with many times. An unidentified man in a crowd of people asked Jesus to heal his son. His boy was troubled by a violent and oppressive evil spirit. When Jesus enquired about this man's trust, the man "cried out, and said with tears, 'Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief."' Perhaps this is the heart cry of every humble Christian. Jesus gives us much to believe. From His eternal existence to His holy conception (through the power of the Holy Ghost in Mary); from His miracles to His prophecies; Jesus always makes our dilemma a faith dilemma. This chapter commences with Jesus glowing like an incandescent light bulb while talking personally to men who hadn't been seen for many centuries; one (Moses) who had been very much dead for a very long time. Without God's grace guiding us toward the truth, that story would be unbelievable. Yet, we believe it. Do I also believe that He is alive today, that He lives in my body, that He will take care of my physical needs if I will trust Him, that He will use me to win the lost (if I will proclaim His gospel and preach that He is coming again to receive us up into heaven)? Yes! I believe all of that.... except perhaps the part about Him taking care of my physical needs.  To that I must pray with honest shame, "Lord, I believe... please help my unbelief."

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

Wednesday – Mark 8 – Winning & Losing

ESUS certainly knew how to turn a bad situation into a good one. Having already read of the feeding of the 5000, it is no surprise to us to discover here that in another situation Jesus fed 4000. Jesus, His disciples and the commoners in the multitude were surely winners on that day. But not everyone won that day. There were Pharisees who sought for a sign (or a vindicating miracle) from Christ immediately after He had fed the 4000. Was that not a sign enough for them? What losers! They should have believed, but they didn't. They doubted and denied.

But, before we get all high and mighty in self-righteous disdain for the Pharisees, notice Jesus' strong words against the disciples in this same context. He rebuked them rather soundly for worrying about material things right after they had seen what He could do to provide for the physical needs of His followers. It would indeed be hard to give these guys ribbons or trophies for that day’s deeds.

Sometimes winning requires patience. In fact, starting this paragraph with the word "sometimes" is probably not appropriate. When are winners declared? Winners win in the end of a game or a fight, not at the beginning or in the middle. In Mark 8 we read where Jesus healed a blind man... but at first the success was only partial. The blind man was able to see, but not clearly. So, Jesus repeated the process, this time with complete success. The man could see clearly. It is instructive that neither Christ nor the blind man were in despair after the first step. Christ continued.  The blind man also continued. This is part of winning. The adage is a good one, "Winners never quit, and quitters never win."

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Tuesday – Mark 7 – Our Ways vs. God's Ways

HERE are 3 sections in this chapter. In one way or another, all 3 sections provide some contrast between the ways of God and the ways of men. The first part deals with the vain traditionalism of the Pharisees and scribes. The second piece of this chapter tells the story of Jesus trying to hide from the public eye. Still, He helped a Gentile woman and her demon possessed daughter instead. Through an account of the healing of a man who had a hearing impairment as well as a speech impediment, the last section of Mark 7 uniquely reveals the good and strange ways of God.

In Isaiah 55:7-9, the prophet wrote a crucially important description of God's ways juxtaposed against the ways of humanity. The long standing practices, habits, customs or "ways" in any culture are referred to as that society's traditions. In every culture there are some people who want to change the set traditions, and others who want to preserve them. Many times, these conflicts are a result of stubborn rebellion. In some situations, changes are desired in order to make legitimate improvements to the status quo. Such attempts are frequently resisted without reason. Then again, there are cases where it really is nothing more or less than a jostling of diverse personalities and preferences. When we encounter these types of conflicts, we would be wise to discern which scenario is at hand