Today’s Scripture – November 19, 2017

Luke 11:1-2 (NIV) One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”
He said to them, “When you pray, say: “‘Father, hallowed be your name…”

Jesus’ disciples knew that He prayed constantly often going off by Himself to do so in private. The constancy and focus of His prayers reminded those in His group who had been John’s disciples of John’s prayer, which he taught to those following him. So they asked Jesus to teach them to pray, like John had taught his own followers.

Jesus had no problem teaching them a form-prayer as was commonly shared between masters and their disciples at the time. The prayer that He taught them was very simple and easy to remember, but included every major theme about life in the kingdom of God. It is the basic prayer of which the version in Matthew 6:9-15 is an expansion.

The address used in this prayer is Father. This was a drastic departure from the prayers used and taught by the religious leaders of the day. The terms that they used for God in their prayers were exalted terms, and theologically correct terms, like “Almighty God,” and “Lord of Heaven’s Armies.” But Jesus brought His followers into an intimate relationship with God from the first word of their prayer. When one comes before an Almighty God, one comes with fear and trembling, afraid to bother such a great God with their own trivial needs. But to come before a Father, even a Father in heaven, opens up a whole different dimension. There can be honest and open dialog with a Father. There can be honesty both about the things that are going well, as well as about the struggles that are being experienced and legitimate needs that the child has. And the needs can be expressed without fear that God will give something unpleasant in response (Luke 11:11-13).

But, at the same time, the pray-er is never to forget who they are praying to, slipping into an unwarranted familiarity. The first petition is actually a commitment: may Your name be holy. In the Scriptures, a name is more than a title given to someone; at its root it represents the character of the person named. These few words are a commitment that the pray-er will not only acknowledge God’s character as holy in their own lives; they will represent God’s character as holy before the world by living according to His commandments, so that their lives as the people of God will enhance His reputation.

Father, the words are so simple that we can rattle them off quickly and carelessly, missing entirely the import of what we are praying. Imagine! We get to call You, the God of the universe ,Father! And we get the great privilege of allowing our relationship with You, and the transformation that You have brought to our lives, to shine Your character out into the world through us, so that our every word, our every action becomes a testimony to Your holy and gracious character. Lord, make it so in me today. Amen.


Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – November 16, 2017

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

The two sisters, Mary and Martha, were very different. Martha was in charge of the house. She was a planner and a doer, with lists of what needed to be done running through her head all the time. Mary, on the other hand, was more laid back, doing what was needed when she saw it, or when she was asked.

On this day, Jesus came to their house, along with several of His disciples. Martha, always the good hostess, immediately set about the tasks that were necessary to feed all of those additional people that had suddenly showed up. She was moving quickly and efficiently from one task to another, please at her own ability to multi-task to get things done.

But as she looked into the room where Jesus was teaching, as He usually was, she grew increasingly irritated to see her sister, Mary, sitting quietly at Jesus’ feet, listening intently while He spoke. Her irritation increased the closer it got to meal time, when she looked at her sister sitting there, not lifting a finger to help, and in all probability completely oblivious to everything that still needed to be done.

Finally, she could stand it no longer. That was when she confronted Jesus. She had opened up her home to Him and His disciples, she was getting things ready for a wonderful lunch, and she was having to do it all alone. Surely Jesus would tell her sister that she should do the “Christian thing” and help out in the kitchen instead of sitting there and listening to Jesus teach.

But Jesus’ reply took her entirely by surprise. Jesus was not going to tell Mary that making lunch was more important than what He was teaching. It was actually the other way around. Jesus would be more pleased if Martha would put all of her activity and preparations aside, and come and sit quietly, and learn from Jesus herself. There would always be much that could be done, but when Jesus is teaching, that should be the center of everything.

Father, it is humbling to realize that most, if not all of us, have a bit of Martha about us. It is very easy to allow ourselves to get caught up in activities, even activities surrounding church, instead of really allowing ourselves to sit quietly in Your presence and learn from You. It is really easy to get so involved in “doing ministry” that we have no time to sit quietly with Your word so that we can clearly hear Your voice. Help me, Lord, to focus on the “one thing” that is really necessary: spending time with You to listen and to learn. And then help me to put all of the other stuff in its appropriate place behind that. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – November 14, 2017

Luke 10:25-28 (NIV) On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
“What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”
He answered: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'”
“You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

Not all Pharisees and teachers of the law were closed to understanding who God is and what He requires of His people. In the crowd that day was one who was legitimately interested in what Jesus had to say about how a person could inherit eternal life.

This teacher of the law, when questioned by Jesus about what the Scriptures said, correctly identified the two commandments in the Torah that Jesus Himself said were the two greatest (Matthew 22:34-40), the two commandments that, if integrated fully into a person’s heart and life, would enable fulfillment of all the rest. Those two are an all-consuming love for God that takes up every facet of a person’s life, and a love for others that motivates caring for them and meeting their needs as fully and as naturally as we care for ourselves and as we meet our own needs.

The basis for those two commandments being at the core of the lives of God’s people, and of enabling us to keep all of the other commandments through them is this: if a person loves God with all of their heart, with all of their soul, with all of their strength, and with all of their mind, then there is nothing on earth that will be able to move that person to rebel against God’s authority and sin against Him. And if that person loves their neighbor in the same way and to the same degree that they love themselves, there is nothing on earth that will be able to move them to sin against their neighbor. Paul takes this latter commandment to its fullest expression when he concludes that “love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Romans 13:9-10)

Some might see this as legalism, focusing on “works of the law” instead of on faith in Jesus as the basis of eternal life. But the fact is, these words are from Jesus’ own lips, and are not just for the pre-resurrection dispensation. However, anyone who tries to love God with that kind of all-consuming love, and to love their neighbor with the same effective love with which they care for their own needs, will quickly find that there is no way for them to accomplish it in their own strength. It is only those receive a clean slate and a fresh start through faith in Jesus, and who have the Holy Spirit working unhindered in their lives who can love like that. It is not a matter of salvation by faith versus salvation by works. It is a matter of holy living enabled by saving faith.

Father, thank You for helping me to see how all of this fits together. It really is quite simple when we see all of the pieces hooked together. Now, Lord, help me to fully live out those truths in my day-to-day life, not by my own inadequate strength, but through the power of Your Spirit working through me. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – November 13, 2017

Luke 10:22-24 (NIV) “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”
Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

The seventy-two had returned to Jesus with great rejoicing and reports of their successes in healing diseases and casting out demons. Jesus rejoiced along with them, praising the Father that these “little children” (v21) had “gotten it,” while the truth about who Jesus was and what He had been sent to do continued to elude the wise and learned religious leaders of the day.

But Jesus also realized that who he really was was in fact known only to the Father. Those followers, even His closest disciples, had only seen the faintest outline of His true nature, because, even though He existed in a human body at that time, His true identity was the eternally existent Son of God (John 1:1-5). Jesus’ followers knew that He was the Messiah, and they had started to see traces of what that meant. But more than that they could not even begin to imagine.

They also had a growing understanding of who the Father was, because Jesus had been revealing Him from His earliest days with them. God, the God of Israel, was barely known by the people of Israel. They had know Him by reputation; they had heard of all of His amazing acts in the days of their forefathers. But none of the religious leaders, none of the priests, not even any of the high priests, had a real relationship with the God that they served so diligently. Their knowledge of Him was limited to what He had revealed of Himself in the Old Covenant, and they refused to receive the messenger of the New Covenant. So Jesus refused to reveal more of God to them than what they already believed.

Jesus also pointed out that the things that the people of the Old Testament times never go to see the things that they longed to see, and they never got to witness the fulfillment of the promises God had made to them, because those things were not for their times, but for the future. But the disciples were living in the days of the fulfillment of all of those prophecies and promises, as was evidenced by the abilities that Jesus had, and that they had through association with Him. They needed to realize that fully, and to praise the Father who Had enabled them to be a part of all that He was doing in the world right then.

Father, that last part really hits me right in the heart. As a Christian, it is easy for me to take my salvation for granted, and to wish that I had lived in the “glory days” when Jesu walked the earth. But I need to be reminded that for me to know You at all is an amazing miracle, an act of grace on Your part, and I need to thank You for that frequently. (Thank You!) I also need to be reminded that with me living actively in Your kingdom, with Jesus in my heart and the Holy Spirit directing my steps and empowering my life, these can be the “glory days” as well, where You will continue to show me things that people in other ages could only wish to see, and to hear You speaking things to my heart that they could only wish to hear. O Lord, make it so! Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – November 9, 2017

Luke 10:21 (NIV) At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure.”

The seventy-two disciples Jesus had sent out had been successful in their mission. God’s power and authority had flowed through them freely, and disease and evil spirits had fled. To Jesus, this felt like a ray of bright light after many discouraging episodes, and it caused Him to break into spontaneous prayers of praise.

The wise and learned that Jesus referred to in His prayer were the high priests, the leaders of the people, and the teachers of the law. All of these were admired at the time as people of great wisdom and insight, whose lives were dedicated to following every one of God’s commands in excruciating detail. But in all of their wisdom, in all of their studying, in all of their supposed spiritual maturity, they had no relationship with God, demonstrated by their complete lack of power and spiritual authority. None of them was able to cast out a demon, heal a disease, or do any other miracle, large or small.

Jesus’ disciples, on the other hand, considered spiritually immature by these same elders and leaders, had great spiritual power and spiritual authority, given to them by Jesus Himself. That power and authority, and the miracles that they were able to do, were a clear sign that these men were in relationship with God, albeit a relationship moderated by Jesus at that stage of the game.

God longed to have that same kind of relationship with all of His people, the elders and leaders included, to be able to instill in all of them the same spiritual power and authority that the disciples of Jesus showed. But the elders and leaders were so confident of their standing with God by virtue of their position and their knowledge of the Scriptures, that they were completely unwilling to receive God’s Messiah, Jesus, when he came to them. Rather than see His power and miraculous abilities as a sign of His superior spiritual maturity and of His strong relationship with God, they wrote Him off as an uneducated rube, and His miraculous abilities as signs that He was in league with the devil!

So the simple truths that Jesus was teaching, truths about the here-and-now reality of the kingdom of God, and about the ability of ALL of God’s people to have a new kind of relationship with God through the work of Jesus was hidden from them, and revealed freely to those who simply accepted Jesus and His teachings at face value.

Father, thank You for not putting either the truths of Your kingdom or access to your power and authority on a top shelf somewhere, out of the reach of all but scholars and theologians. Thank You for revealing them clearly to simple, regular people, to spiritual children, like me. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – November 8, 2017

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

When the seventy-two returned to Jesus after their mission trip, they were full of news. Each one wanted to tell Him about all that they had accomplished. They all had been given authority over evil spirits, just like Jesus had told them. But it is one thing to be told that you will be able to cast out a demon, and a totally different thing to actually find that you are able to do it!

Jesus was pleased that they had been faithful, including bravely standing up to demons, and He told them that He, too, had seen demons fall, even Satan himself. But even though they had been given that authority, even though they no longer had to fear attacks from evil spirits (symbolized here as snakes and scorpions) because of that authority, they needed to make sure that they didn’t get so distracted by sharing and comparing stories with each other that they missed the main point: none of this would be possible if it were not for the overarching truth that their names were written in heaven.

No mere human being can stand up to a demon in his or her own strength. That kind of authority has to come from God, and that authority will only be given to those who have received Jesus, and whose names are written in the book of life (Revelation 20:12-15). But if a person has been given that authority, we no longer have to be afraid of evil spirits, or even of Satan himself. Those evil beings no longer have any authority over our lives, and must flee whenever one of God’s people tell them to. There was never a battle, never a struggle when Jesus encountered a demon. When He said to leave, they left immediately. Even Satan had to leave immediately when Jesus commanded Him to go (Matthew 4:10-11). The same was true of the apostles: no battle, no struggle, just instant compliance by the demons. And the same can be true of us, too.

Father, outside of a few circles, very few of us have really been taught that we have that kind of authority and protection from You. But the promise and the evidence is all through Your word. Help me to walk in this truth today, secure in the knowledge that my name is written in heaven, and then confident of being able to walk in Your authority over all kinds of evil. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – November 7, 2017

Luke 10:16 (NIV) “He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

The disciples always had to remember that the mission that they were on was not their own mission; it was Jesus’ mission, and they were merely acting as His advance team, as emissaries of His kingdom. Therefore, they were not to take personally either their successes or their failures; either the praise from those that they were reaching out to, or their rejection.

If they were rejected by the people of a town, they needed to immediately remind themselves that the people were rejecting not them, but Jesus and, by extension, God Himself. And if the people received their message, it was Jesus that they were receiving, not them, and, by extension God Himself. Thus, if they did their job faithfully and with their whole hearts, there was no room at the end of the day for either pride or shame at the outcome.

Even today many Christians are afraid to share the good news of the kingdom with others, betraying a fear of being rejected. Others take pride in the number of people that they had led into the kingdom. But today it is still Jesus’ mission, and we as God’s people are merely acting as Jesus’ advance team, His emissaries. So now, just as then, no one who is obeying Jesus’ command to go and make disciples of all nations should take personally either their successes or their failures; either the praises of those that they are reaching out to, or the rejection of those people.

If we, as God’s people, are faithfully doing this vital work of the kingdom with our whole hearts, there is no room at the end of the day for either pride or shame. Instead, each of us should simply say, “We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.” (Luke 17:10 NIV)

Father, I admit that I can easily allow too much of myself into Your mission, allowing myself to take personally both the successes and the rejections when I am sharing the gospel with others. But Jesus’ point is crystal clear: it’s not about me at all, but 100% about Him. Help me to adjust my sights, to shift my worldview on this issue, so that I can simply be faithful in serving You without either pride or fear. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations