Monthly Archives: October 2017

Today’s Scripture – October 31, 2017

Luke 10:5-7 (NIV) “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.”

Part of God’s provision for those sent ahead of Jesus was a place to stay in each village that they went to – a place that would not only provide shelter, but food as well. But these men would have to rely on God’s direction to select that house.

As representatives of God’s kingdom, the first thing that they were to do in each house was to pronounce God’s peace, His shalom, on the home and on all who lived there. Most of the time, their peace would be received by the owner of the house. But there always existed the possibility that the homeowner would not receive their peace, but would put them up grudgingly and complain as he provided for their needs.

Of course, it is always more pleasant to stay in a house where you are warmly welcomed and graciously hosted. But no matter what kind of reception these apostles got at the house that God chose for them, they were carefully instructed to stay there, eating and drinking whatever was set before them as the wages that He was providing for them. They were, under no circumstances short of being thrown out, to try to find a better house to stay at, or a more hospitable host.

The reason for this is that, as they went, thy were to go as emissaries of the kingdom of God, to prepare the hearts of the people that they met for Jesus, who was coming right behind them. Some of the people had desperately hard hearts that needed more preparation than others, and God often would lead them to the house of just such a person. But as those people experienced God’s grace and love operating in and through the lives of those men, their own hearts would be softened and their curiosity aroused as to why they believed and acted as they did, even in the midst of being treated inhospitably. And then, when Jesus arrived, He would find the hearts in that household softened and plowed, ready for the gospel seeds to be planted.

Father, it is so easy for us to look around to find the nicest people to focus our evangelistic efforts on. We figure that they are the “low hanging fruit,” already close to salvation because they are so nice. But I have seen that You are often working most strongly in the hearts of the inhospitable, those who are obviously, painfully lost; those that do not seem to be an intuitive selection at all. Lord, help me to not try to decide so much on my own, but to be content to follow Your lead always, to go unquestioningly to the people and the places You send me, and to work there until the work is done, or You yourself direct me to move on. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 30, 2017

Luke 10:3-4 (NIV) “Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.”

When Jesus traveled, He did so without a lot of resources, and without a lot of planning. Instead, He moved at God’s express direction, and He relied on God’s provision for whatever He was doing. So when He sent out the twelve (Luke 9:3) and the seventy-two, He sent them out requiring the same reliance on God’s guidance and provision that He Himself operated in.

Jesus knew that He was sending those men out into a potentially hostile environment without a lot of resources to deal with that hostility. They weren’t armed, and they were going, not as a large crowd, but in pairs. But, despite how things looked, they were not defenseless. Just as sheep in a field seem to be in danger by surrounding wolves, so these pairs of disciples might seem to be in insuperable danger, too. But a quick glance around the field quickly discovers the good shepherd, ever alert, sling in hand, ready to defend the flock against the wolves, and to take them to a safe shelter before the sun goes down. In the same way, God Himself was the protection for those evangelists, ready to guard them as they walked in obedience to His commands and His directions, and ready to lead them to places of safe shelter every night.

Incidentally, the men were also not to greet others on the road. Their work was urgent – they weren’t to do their own thing, but to prepare people for Jesus, who was coming right behind them.

Father, today we too often lack both Your urgency and faith in Your provision. When Your call comes, we tend to first decide if it is something we want to do, instead of just instantly obeying the call. And if we do decide to participate, we assess whether it is something we can do with the resources we have, or if we need to fund raise or get supporters before we begin to obey. Lord, how much blessing are we missing out on by not simply obeying immediately, and trusting You for what we need? Help me, from now on, to obey Your call instantly, both the what and the how of it, and relying on both Your protection and Your provision. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 27, 2017

Luke 10:1-3 (NIV) After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.”

Jesus had earlier sent the twelve out ahead of Him. But the work was getting more and more urgent the closer that He got to Jerusalem, and he needed His followers to pave the way for His own arrival in each town and village along His way.

This time He sent out seventy-two in pairs. He began by telling them to pray for more workers, as the available workers (the twelve) were too few to get to everyone that needed reaching. No sooner had He instructed them to pray, He informed them that they themselves were the answer to their own prayers. They were praying for more workers, so Jesus was sending them.

It is very often the case that the people praying to God for solutions are themselves the answer to their own prayers. We saw this earlier in the feeding of the five thousand: “Send the crowd away so they can…find food and lodging.” “You give them something to eat.” Luke 9:12-13a) We look at our own small resources and lack of power, and plead with God to do something about the situation. But if God is truly with us (an assumption we make in the first place when we pray to Him), then it is entirely likely that WE, empowered and supplied by God’s grace, are the solution to the problem we are praying about. Often what is needed is not someone praying for a bolt from the blue, but someone willing to pray, “Here I am. Send me.” (Isaiah 6:8b) “I will feed them with Your resources. I will pronounce healing for their bodies in Your power. I will command the demon to flee in Your authority. I will provide clothing for them from my excess. I will provide shelter for them in my spare room. I will buy them a tank of gas from the resources with which You have entrusted me.”

Father, this is true. In the realest sense possible, we, as Your people, have all been called to continue Jesus’ ministry, to go ahead of Him in our world to prepare the people for Him to enter their hearts, and to be His hands, His feet, His voice to all of those around us. To meet their needs in the same way that Jesus did, with the power and authority that He has instilled into our hearts. Help me to be bold and powerful in obeying Your call on my life, no matter where that call may take me. Here I am. Send me.

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Today’s Scripture – October 24, 2017

Luke 9:61-61 (NIV)
Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.”
Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

Again, a man is called by Jesus, but begs to defer his whole-hearted service until he gets things in order back home. And, again, such pleas for delay in responding to the call of God are met by His disapproval. Once Jesus puts His call on a life, the call to follow Him, to leave all behind, take up one’s cross, and become His disciple, His apprentice, that call must be followed at once.
Part of this is logical. If a person goes back to try to tie up all the loose ends before starting to follow Jesus, they will often get enmeshed again in their old life attachment, find more loose ends that need to be tied up, further delay obedience to the call, until the call is all but forgotten. Their look back ultimately costs them their place in the kingdom.
But part of this is spiritual. Jesus’ call to follow is God’s own call to become one of His people. And when the call comes from God, it is incredible that the person would say, “I’d like to be one of Your people, Lord. But I’d like to do it tomorrow, or maybe next week.” As Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 6:2 (NIV): “Now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.”
Remember that Jesus, at that very moment, was on His way to Jerusalem to die. In just a few days He would be hanging from a cross, and the opportunity to follow Him would be lost (at least until after Pentecost – the post-resurrection appearances seem to have been limited to those who were already His followers – 1 Corinthians 15:4-8) Even though few understood it at the time, the time was very short. The call had to be followed “now or never.”

Father, still today we have no right to delay our answer to your call for a day, or a week, or longer while we tie up loose ends. We may not even be alive tomorrow or in a week! Today really is the only day we are guaranteed an opportunity to respond, and we must take it, or see the opportunity lost while we decide. And I can see that this is not only true of salvation (as this passage is usually applied to), but to the call to do anything in Your kingdom. Lord, I commit myself to faithfulness in this, too – so that hearing Your call, understanding Your will, and obeying, is all a single motion. Amen.

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Todays Scripture – October 22, 2017

Luke 9:59-60
He said to another man, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”
Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

As always, Jesus, call to this man is “Follow me.” This means so much more than the modified message that we today tend to put in Jesus’ mouth: “Believe in me.”
To believe in Jesus means to profess faith in Him, believe that His promises are true, and nod in agreement when we read that He was truly God in the flesh and that He paid for my sins. It’s all pretty intellectual, something we can do without even leaving home.
But to Follow Jesus is a whole other thing. To follow Jesus means to leave behind my old life as the fishermen did, as the tax collector did. It means to go where Jesus goes, to do what He is doing, and to take up not His philosophy, but His cross. It means to take up His life, to die to myself, and to commit myself to obey His every commandment. It means to continue to do His work in His power as the first priority of my life.
This man understood all of this when Jesus called him to follow. And so he asked to delay obedience to His call until other obligations were fulfilled. He asked to wait until he had buried his father. It’s important to understand that, at this point, his father was still most likely alive. What he was really saying was, “My father wouldn’t approve of me leaving everything behind to follow you. So let me wait until my father dies, and then I’ll follow you.”
Jesus was unimpressed. He knew exactly what the young man was saying. He would have had no problem if the young man’s father had just died. To bury a person in those days took less than a day. But to delay following Jesus to avoid conflict with family members was out of the question. He had only a few more days left on earth, and the clock was ticking fast. For this man, the call really was now or never.

Father, there really is a lot of difference between; simply believing in Jesus and actually following Him, living His life and continuing His ministry right where I live. The two are not mutually exclusive, but must be pursued simultaneously – to truly believe in Jesus requires that I truly follow Him. Lord, I commit myself to BOTH today. I believe, therefore I will follow with my whole life. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 21, 2017

Luke 9:57-58 (NIV) As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

Many people wanted to follow Jesus, to become His disciple, and even more so as they got closer to Jerusalem, and what they believed would be His coronation as king. In a sense, many of them were not so much longing to be a disciple, but were making a bid to be part of Jesus’ cabinet when He became king.

This man volunteered to go with Jesus wherever He went. But he had no idea where Jesus was actually going, where this road would ultimately lead. He, like the disciples, believed that the path that He was taking would lead Him to adulation and glory.

But Jesus wanted to set Him straight. Jesus owned nothing more than the clothes on His back. (And even those would, in just a couple of weeks, be divided among the guards who had crucified Him!) He didn’t have a fine palace to live in, or even a humble shack in which to lay His weary head. His only home was in heaven, and He had some long days to go before He returned there.

Jesus wanted to make it clear that anyone who chose to follow Him had to be willing to live the same kind of rootless, homeless, unsettled life that He was living, going wherever the Father sent Him to go on a moment’s notice, doing whatever the Father told Him to do immediately and without question, satisfied without any stabilizing possessions of His own.

The same is true today. Those who follow Jesus wholeheartedly must be willing to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, whatever that leading is, and wherever that leading may take them. To follow Jesus means to set aside every personal agenda, and the security that most people derive from possessions, and from having whatever the latest “stuff” happens to be. To follow Jesus, in the end, means to live His life alongside of Him.

Father, Jesus was much clearer about what it means to follow Him than we generally are with those we try to reach with the gospel. He leveled with people completely, and urged them to count the cost before signing on. The life of Jesus is not one of comfort, and ease, and pleasure. It is a life of absolute obedience and self-denial. But it is also a blessed life, because it is lived consciously in Your presence every day. Lord, I choose that life. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 20, 2017

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

Most people, if they knew that torture and death awaited them in a certain place, will avoid that place at all costs. But Jesus had known all along that it was the will of the Father for Him to suffer and die in Jerusalem for the sins of all mankind. It was the reason He had come, the culmination of His earthly ministry. So, when it was time, He set His face steadfastly toward Jerusalem.

The episode with the Samaritan village shows how far apart Jesus and His closes followers were, even at this late stage. The average Jewish person traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem would cross the Jordan River north of Samaria, travel down the east side until they were near Jericho, then cross back into Judea, so that they would not have to set a foot in the corrupted (and, they feared, corrupting) land of Samaria. But Jesus was still on mission, even as He was moving rapidly toward His own death. He had had a harvest for the kingdom among the Samaritans earlier (John 4:1-42), and there could still be some there who would be open to the good news. So He didn’t avoid Samaria, but passed directly through.

But the village He had selected as His stopping point refused to provide hospitality to Him and His followers because they were headed to Jerusalem for the Passover. James and John, feeling indignant on Jesus’ behalf for this slight, offered to call down fire from heaven to consume the whole inhospitable village.

In their minds, James and John saw this as defending Jesus’ honor. But Jesus wasn’t worried about His honor at this point. He knew that in a couple of weeks He would be completely dishonored, hanging beaten, broken, bleeding, and naked on a cross, with crowds pointing and jeering. No, His focus was on the lost people that He had come to save. He rebuked the disciples, according to some manuscripts with the words, “You don’t know what kind of spirit you belong to. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy people’s lives, but to save them. And they simply went to a different village to spend the night.

Father, it is easy to see that Jesus was entirely focused on His mission, seeking and saving what was lost (Luke 19:10) – so focused that He didn’t take any slights to heart. He didn’t want to be treated well, He wanted to save those who were lost, no matter what the cost. Help me to have that same intense focus, Lord, so that any insults simply roll off, and so that whenever I am rejected, I simply continue on to the next opportunity. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 19, 2017

Luke 9:49-50 (NIV) “Master,” said John, “we saw a man driving out demons in your name and we tried to stop him, because he is not one of us.” “Do not stop him,” Jesus said, “for whoever is not against you is for you.”

The disciples were feeling good to be part of a very privileged group – not only chosen out of all of Jesus’ followers to be His inner circle (and thus almost certainly destined for greatness), but also specifically invested by Jesus with authority to do miracles and cast out demons (Luke 9:1-2).

But when they saw someone driving out demons in the name of Jesus (and being successful at it!), that exclusivity felt threatened. If just anyone could invoke Jesus’ name and cast demons out, it would make their own abilities less special, and perhaps their positions less secure. (After all, the majority of them had just spectacularly failed to drive out a demon!)

Jesus’ answer was surprising: “Do not stop him, for whoever is not against you is for you.” They didn’t understand it then, but Jesus knew that it would only be a few weeks before the tide of public opinion would rapidly turn against Jesus and against His followers, and then it would be to their definite advantage to have others in their corner.

Jesus was looking at the larger picture. If somebody was casting out demons in His name, that was an indication that that person had faith in Jesus’ name, and would not quickly turn against Him or His followers (Mark 9:39-40). Like Moses before Him, Jesus longed to see the day when all people were filled with the Holy Spirit, and able to do amazing things (Numbers 11:29). That would be the ideal, the sign that the kingdom of God had really reached the whole of humanity.

But the disciples were only seeing a very small picture, which had their personal advancement at its center. That would change after the day of Pentecost, but in the meantime, Jesus had to keep urging them to see things differently .

Father, in Your kingdom there is no place for us to build our own kingdoms. In Your kingdom there is no exclusiveness and no cliques, but an open door for all who will trust in You for salvation, and who are willing to obey You as Lord. In Your kingdom, we are all valuable parts of Your one body, all with different callings and abilities, but no one more important or with a more direct line to you than another (1 Corinthians 12:12-31). Help me to live out that reality today. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – October 18, 2017

Luke 9:46-48 (NIV) An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. Then he said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all–he is the greatest.”

Jesus’ time was short, and the disciples still had not caught the vision of who He really was and what He had really come to do. Their minds were still focused on the hope that Jesus, as the Messiah, was going to establish the kingdom of Israel as soon as they got to Jerusalem, oust the Romans, depose the Herods and, buoyed by a rising tide of popularity, set Himself up as king on the throne of David.

Of course, as Jesus’ elite lieutenants, the hand-picked twelve out of the multitudes that regularly followed Jesus, the most natural turn of events would be for all of them to take the top spots in the new administration. The only question was what the internal pecking order would be. Hence the discussion of who would be the greatest, Jesus’ second in command, and who would have to take the other, lower spots. Each of them could muster a convincing argument as to why they should be at the top of the heap.

But when Jesus heard this discussion, He knew that He had to stop this line of thinking cold, and redirect the discussion immediately. So he brought a little child to His side, and used that child as an exemplar of the greatest in God’s kingdom.

In Matthew’s fuller telling of the event, Jesus tells the disciples, “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 18:3-4 NIV) He was telling them that their whole focus was wrong. Little children in the home of loving parents don’t strive to put themselves first or to convince their parents that they should love them the most. A small child, secure in the love of his or her parents, merely exists in that love, obeys what is commanded, receives what is graciously given, learns what is taught, and is satisfied.

Likewise, those in the kingdom should be as humble and unassuming as that child, not pushing themselves forward or striving to be counted as the first and best. Instead, secure in the love of God, they should merely exist in that love, obeying what is commanded, receiving what is generously given, learning what is taught, and being satisfied that they are deemed worthy to be God’s people. The one who ceases striving for power and position is the greatest in the kingdom of God, and will receive both power and position in return.

Father, this is completely counterintuitive to the natural human spirit that wants to be recognized and advance up the ranks, and can’t see how that can happen without actively pursuing it. But the rules of Your kingdom are NOT the rules of the world. Help me to rest, to exist like a child in Your love, to obey instead of pushing, to receive rather than pursuing, and to be thankful that I am loved and accepted as one of Your own. Amen.

 

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Today’s Scripture – October 17, 2017

Luke 9:43b-45 (NIV) While everyone was marveling at all that Jesus did, he said to his disciples, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” But they did not understand what this meant. It was hidden from them, so that they did not grasp it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

The crowd was busy oohing and aahing over the young man from whom the demon had been expelled, but Jesus moved a short distance away from all of the excitement and gathered His disciples close to Him. The disciples were curious as to why they had been unable to cast out the demon, and Jesus told them that they had relied on their own abilities instead of on faith in what the Father could do through them (Matthew 17:19-21).

But then Jesus’ voice took on a deep urgency, as He looked each of His chosen followers squarely in the eyes and said, “Listen carefully to what I am about to tell you: The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.” He was not merely repeating an earlier teaching or prophecy like a mantra. The intensity shows that HIs meaning was actually something more like: “Listen! You guys have got to get it together. The time is short. We are headed to Jerusalem, and at that point I’m going to be arrested and killed, and you-all will be given the responsibility to demonstrate, direct, and grow the kingdom. The fact that you just got bested by a demon shows that there is a long way to go, and we have a very short time to get you there! So no more messing around. Get with the program now!”

Jesus’ intensity startled the disciples, but they couldn’t process what He was telling them. Their view of who Jesus was and what He had come to do allowed no room for Him to be betrayed, arrested, or killed. And the idea that they would be left with responsibility for the kingdom would not fit into their heads at all at this point.

Father, it is mind blowing to all of us what You have in mind for us as Your people: “Go and make disciples of all nations.” (Matthew 28:19 NIV) “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15) “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” We figure that you must mean someone else, some other followers of Yours. And we go on with our lives in general. But we, like those first disciples, need to see the intensity in Your eyes when You see all of the lost souls heading for hell. We need to hear the intensity in Your voice when You tell us to “Get moving!” The time is short, and there is much to do. You have done all you need to do to save the people of the world, and the rest is up to us (with your guidance and the power of the Holy Spirit, of course!). We need to get with the program NOW! Forgive our lack of passion, Lord, and our complacency in the face of Your agenda for our lives as Your people, and fill us all with the fire of Your Spirit. Amen.

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