Monthly Archives: August 2017

Today’s Scripture – August 22, 2017

Luke 6:41-42 (NIV) “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when you yourself fail to see the plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.”

In this section, Jesus is returning to the theme of judgment. Jesus was a master of rhetoric, using hyperbole to paint ridiculous but stunningly clear pictures of the points He is making. This particular picture is aimed straight at the Pharisees, whose judging of others was legendary.

In this particular picture, one person is standing in judgment over someone who has a speck of sawdust in their eye, offering to help remove it for them, while at the same time, they have a board sticking out of their own eye. One vital element in this hyperbole is that both the board and the speck of sawdust are made of the same thing: wood.

The Pharisees were quick to point out the sins that they saw in other people, while carefully hiding the fact that they were engaging in the same sinful behaviors in private, often to a greater degree than those at whom they were pointing. This, of course, disqualified them from being able to help anyone with that particular sin.

Of course, this did not and does not apply only to Pharisees, but to anyone who has sin in their lives. Their sin completely disqualifies them from helping a brother or sister who is also sinning, especially when it comes to dealing with the sin that they both have in common.

But that’s not the end of this picture. We are supposed to graciously help a brother or sister caught in sin to repent and to be restored. But to do that, we must first make sure that our own hands are clean. We must ruthlessly examine ourselves to ensure that there is no sin, overt or hidden, large or small, in our own lives. Only then can we have hands clean enough and vision clear enough to help our brother or sister with their sin, overt or hidden, large or small.

Father, how easy it is for us to see sinful behavior in others, the whole time turning a blind eye to the sin that is present in our own lives. Give me eyes that can see clearly any trace of sin in my own life and heart, and a will to deal ruthlessly with that sin, and cast it out of my life. That way, when I see sin in someone else, I won’t condemn them for it, but can humbly help them to get rid of it. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 21, 2017

Luke 6:39-40 (NIV) He also told them this parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? A student is not above his teacher, but everyone who is fully trained will be like his teacher.

Everyone who wants to grow spiritually must choose their teacher carefully. In every age there have been men and women who put themselves forward as teachers and gurus, some offering their services for free, others offering their services for a fee, or sometimes for publicity, for increased reputation because of how many students they are able to attract.

Some of these teacher were and are blind guides, false teachers who cannot see the ways of the kingdom, and who teach a dead faith of rules and regulations. In Jesus’ day, most of the Pharisees and teachers of the law fell into this category. They had no spiritual life in themselves, no power to push back spiritual darkness, to heal bodies, or to raise the dead. But still they pushed themselves forward as great spiritual teachers because of their intellectual knowledge.

As Jesus pointed out, the norm is for students to approach the knowledge and skill of their teacher. But it is the extremely rare student who will surpass their master. The goal is to become like the master. And if your master has a lot of head knowledge, but no spiritual power, that is what you will become if you apprentice yourself to them – that is as high as you can go.

The secret is in choosing the right teacher. Those who apprentice themselves to Jesus as His disicples are learning from the most spiritually alive and powerful teacher who ever lived. Therefore, they can look forward to being like Him, to having that same kind of spiritual life and power in their own lives when they are fully trained and sent forth into the harvest. No one will ever surpass Jesus in spiritual life and power, but becoming like Him is not only a reasonable goal of those who genuinely follow Him, it is actually promised in this passage.

Father, this is a mind blowing promise that You are making to us. To become like our teacher is a worthy goal to strive intentionally for. And with Your help, with the power of Your Holy Spirit working in us, it is achievable. Help me, Lord, to be intentional in all of my learning, in all of my imitating of Jesus, in all of my openness to Your transforming power, so that I can realize this goal in my own life. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture

Luke 6:37-38 (NIV)

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven. Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”

The last phrase :“For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you,” applies not just to the giving part of this teaching, but to every part.

  • The measure that we use to judge others is the same measure that God will use to judge us. If we judge others harshly, then God will judge us just as harshly. If we judge others with our judgment tempered with mercy, then God will judge us mercifully. But overall, it would be best for each person if we simply withheld our judgment of others entirely, leaving that to God, and showed mercy instead. Then we will not end up being judged harshly by God for judging others harshly.
  • If we condemn others, then we ourselves will be subject to the same condemnation. No one is without sin; no one is eligible to “cast the first stone” (John 8:7-8); no one can point a condemning finger at others without finding ourselves on the other end of God’s condemning finger.
  • If we forgive others when they do us wrong, we will be forgiven when we do wrong; the same measure will be used. But if we withhold forgiveness, refusing to be merciful, we will find that forgiveness is withheld from us in turn (Matthew 6:14-15).
  • And in the area of giving, the same measure will be used by God that we use toward others as well. If we are generous toward others we will receive generously from God’s hand. But if we are stingy toward others and grasping toward what God has blessed us with, we will find that we have cut ourselves off from God’s blessings, too.

This is not karma, or tit for tat. It is simply that way that God has set things up to work in His kingdom. The more that we, as God’s people, align ourselves with His loving, generous nature, the more blessings we will receive. But the more that we exhibit the attitudes of the world, harshly judging and condemning others, refusing to forgive, and being greedy toward our possessions, the more we will find ourselves cut off from God’s blessings, and subject to His judgment.

Father, no one who reads these words of Jesus can claim ignorance: the words are crystal clear and completely unambiguous. Help us, Lord, to really reflect Your character in the ways that we treat others, so that we can keep ourselves in the path of Your blessings. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 10, 2017

Luke 6:32-36 (NIV) “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even ‘sinners’ lend to ‘sinners,’ expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.”

The key to all of these kingdom expectations is that the character of those who belong to the kingdom will no longer be the character of the world, but that it will be transformed into the character of God Himself.

The people of the world show love to others when there is an expectation that they will be loved in return. And if their love is not returned, they are quick to turn away, to cut their losses and move on. But God shows love all day long to people who not only don’t return it, but who often throw it back in His face. And He keeps on showing that love for years, sometimes generations. God’s people, the people of His kingdom, are expected to show that same kind of self-sacrificial, other-focused, long-lasting love to others.

The people of the world do good to others as long as there is an adequate return. That return may be material, or just feeling good about trying to make a difference. But God does good to others who never acknowledge it, and when there is no “payback.” He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and He sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous (Matthew 5:45), even though the evil and the unrighteous never thank Him for this provision that makes food grow and makes life pleasant. God’s people, the people of the kingdom, are expected to continue to pour blessings into the lives of the people around them, even if that good is never acknowledged.

The people of the world lend to others expecting to make a profit on their investment. But God never “lends” to people at all. Everything that we receive from God is a gift of love. Some people do multiply what God gives them out of love and devotion to Him, but that is not a condition of His giving, and He freely gives a multitude of blessings to those who will not even acknowledge that those blessings come from Him, preferring to believe that they are the result of hard work, or “luck.” God’s people, the people of the kingdom, are not to lend to others with the expectation of gain, but are to lend freely, and even to give to those in need with no expectation of return.

Of course it takes more than a mere profession of faith to change the mindset and character of a person from the mindset of the world to a kingdom mindset. It takes transformation, a complete remaking of the mind that only comes to those who are willing to give themselves wholly to God, to make themselves a living sacrifice, holding nothing back (Romans 12:1-2). But to those willing to give themselves fully to God, He will give a new heart of flesh to take the place of their stony, worldly heart, and will move them with His Holy Spirit to be just like Him, and to do what He would do (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

Father, to have such a kingdom mind and heart seems so far a stretch for many of us that it is hard for us to believe that we could ever think and behave in those ways. A big part of that is that we try to figure out how we can change our own minds and behaviors to be more like You, instead of simply devoting ourselves entirely to You and allowing You to do the more significant work of true inner transformation, remaking us into Your own image. Help me, Lord, to give up the “self-help” paradigm so common among Your people, and simply give myself to You to be completely transformed. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 9, 2017

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

This section of Jesus’ teaching about how to deal in the way of the kingdom with those who use their power, authority, or strength to cause harm to us. And, before their lives were over, Jesus’ followers would have ample opportunity to put these principles into practice.

In most areas of the world resistance, even escalating to armed resistance, is the normal response to oppression. But when the people of the kingdom are oppressed or persecuted, the twin agendas of love and kingdom growth and expansion are to take priority over self-defense. Love is to be shown when hatred is evident; blessing is to be given for ever curse received; and passionate prayers are to be prayed for the forgiveness of those who mistreat us. (These were clearly demonstrated by Jesus on the cross – Luke 23:34.)

In addition, non-resistance is commanded toward those actively exercising authority against the cause of Christ, because resistance and fighting can never turn an enemy into a follower of Jesus. So if someone strikes us, the command is to keep showing love, and to turn the other cheek. If someone takes our clothes, we are not to resist, just love and pray for them. And if someone takes what belongs to us, we must remember that it actually belonged to God anyway, and not set up an adversarial relationship to get it back.

The cap to all of this is the so-called Golden Rule: Do to others as you would have them do to you. In other words, even when wronged, we are to put ourselves into the other person’s shoes and ask ourselves, “If I was them, how would I want to be treated?” and then treat them that way. This applies whether the person is just someone we meet, or, as the context clearly indicates, someone who is actively persecuting us.

Many push back against this, figuring that it will only lead to our ruin and being continually being taken advantage of. But it is the same rule that Jesus Himself actively lived by, and his life was continually blessed! Admittedly, the way of the kingdom is radically different from the ways of the world. But, at the same time, the goals of the kingdom are radically different form the goals of the world.

Father, obviously Your ways are higher and better than the ways of this world. But they are so different that they do not come naturally to us. They seem too strange, almost too dangerous. Lord, if I am going to live effectively in Your ways, I need to be transformed in my mind and in my heart. Please work that complete transformation in me so that I can live every moment of my life in the ways of Your kingdom. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 8, 2017

Luke 6:20-26 (NIV) Looking at his disciples, he said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, when they exclude you and insult you and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
“Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
“But woe to you who are rich, for you have already received your comfort. Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep. Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets.”

Luke gives a brief encapsulation of the beatitudes that Jesus gave to His followers. Matthew captured only the positive aspects of this speech in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:1-12), but those whom Luke interviewed also remembered the “flip side,” the woes that Jesus pronounced on those who were satisfied and self-righteous. These come in four contrasting pairs.

Those who are poor are called blessed. Though they have little of material value, they are receiving the kingdom of God because of their faith in Jesus. On the other hand, those who are rich and satisfied with their lives will not receive the kingdom. Their self-satisfaction and the lure of wealth will block their way. This angle was reemphasized by Jesus in His encounter with the rich young man who would not turn away from his worldly wealth, even to enter the kingdom of God (Luke 18:22-25).

Those who are hungry (Luke emphasizes physical hunger, while Matthew focused on hunger and thirst for righteousness) are blessed, because God Himself has promised to provide what is needed for those who serve and obey Him. He will open up channels of provision for them, even as he provided manna for His people in the wilderness. But woe is pronounced on those who are well fed, because fortunes change and shift constantly, and those who depend upon their own ability to provide for themselves and their families are very likely to end up in need at some point. And, because they have not relied on God in times of plenty, they will not receive His provision in times of need.

Those who weep and mourn over tragedies and unfairness of life are pronounced blessed, because they can turn to God and receive comfort for their souls. But those who are satisfied and have joy in their comfort have woe pronounced over them, because circumstances shift suddenly, and loss and grief are inevitable in our broken world. If a person does not cultivate a strong relationship with God in the good times (and very few even think about their relationship with God when they are riding high), they have a very hard time seeking God when grief suddenly comes into their lives, and they will end up facing those hard times alone.

Finally, those who are hated, excluded, rejected, and persecuted because of their relationship with Jesus are blessed, because they are sharing in the same persecution as God’s true followers have always experienced at the hands of unbelievers. On the other hand, those who work their words and their lives to gain the acclaim of others, avoiding the hard truths that must often be spoken to draw people close to God, may enjoy a good reputation among the people of the world, but they deserve a woe from Jesus. They are doing the same things that the false prophets of the past have always done, telling people what they want to hear, and they will ultimately end up with God’s judgment against them.

Father, many of us are familiar with the up-sides of these teachings, the blessings. But the down-sides, the woes are as jarring to us as they would have been to those who first heard Jesus speak them. After all, we consider those who are rich, well-fed, happy, and popular, to be blessed above all others. But Jesus pronounced solemn woes over them, because all of those positive things can easily lead to self-satisfaction and a feeling of autonomy that can become a wall between them and You. Help me, Lord, to never allow myself to become self-satisfied like that, and to end up outside of the circle of Your blessing. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 7, 2017

Luke 6:17-19 (NIV) He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

When most people think of Jesus’ disciples, they picture the Twelve. But there were actually multitudes who followed Him as disciples. Jesus had selected the Twelve out of all of those who followed Him to be His inner circle and, with the exception of Judas Iscariot, to lead the work of continuing to grow the kingdom after His departure.

But in the meantime, ALL of His disciples needed to learn more about the kingdom, how it operated, and what the people of the kingdom were to be like. But before He taught them, He saw to the needs of those who had come from all around the area to be healed of their diseases or to be set free from evil spirits.

Notice that the healing of the people and setting them free from evil influences was not a separate thing from Jesus teaching them about the kingdom. The two went hand in glove. Jesus, the very embodiment of the kingdom, healed the people and set them free as a sign that God’s kingdom was becoming a reality right in front to them. Then He taught them what the kingdom was all about, and how to live in it.

Later, after Jesus’ ascension into heaven, and after the Holy Spirit filled His followers on the day of Pentecost, the disciples often used the same process: they healed someone, or several people, and when a crowd had gathered, they used the miracle that had been done as a springboard to tell the people about Jesus and about the kingdom of God, and how to live in it. And, because of the power that was being demonstrated through the lives of these men, the people listened and believed, and great numbers flocked into the kingdom.

Father, thank You for this example from Jesus. Lord, we need that same power flowing through our lives today to help us to be powerful and effective witnesses of Your kingdom. Sadly, the lives of many people who go by the name of Christian are very little different than the lives of those we are trying to reach with the gospel; very little different in power, in purity, or in Your evident presence. So we are often seen as offering nothing to these people that they don’t already have. Those first disciples’ lives were of a completely different kind, a different quality than the lives of those around them due to the presence of Your Holy Spirit. And that difference was immediately apparent to everyone around them. Lord, unleash Your Holy Spirit in my life today, so that the whole world can see the difference, and hunger for You, the One who makes that difference. Amen.

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