Monthly Archives: November 2017

Today’s Scripture – November 29, 2017

Luke 11:14-16 (NIV) Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed. But some of them said, “By Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving out demons.” Others tested him by asking for a sign from heaven.

The occasion for this conflict was the simple casting out of a demon that had made a man unable to speak. And, as was always the case, Jesus successfully drove out the demon, restoring the power of speech to the man.

The majority of the people who witnessed this exorcism were powerfully impressed with Jesus’ easy command over the demon. He employed none of the usual accoutrements of exorcists – anointing oil, candles, bells, and such. He simply spoke a word of command, and the demon left. There was never any struggle, never any sign of resistance.

This caused some Pharisees in the crowd (Matthew 9:34) to accuse Jesus of being possessed by Beelzebul, the king of demons. How else could they explain Jesus’ easy command of the demons, His inexplicable authority over them that none of the exorcists in their own crowd had? How else could they explain the fact that the demons never fought back, unless Jesus was using the authority of their own king, against whom they did not dare to rebel?

Others in the crowd, again, predominantly Pharisees, were demanding of Jesus a sign from heaven (of their own choosing, of course) to prove to them Jesus’ authority. Maybe if He could do the impossible task that they set for Him (such as moving the sun back in the sky, like Isaiah did) they would set aside their doubts and listen to Him.

But all of those accusations and demands did not come from an honest pursuit of the truth. Instead, they were motivated by jealousy of Jesus’ power and authority. The Pharisees had no spiritual power – they only had rules and regulations that they were champions at obeying. And they had no spiritual authority. They themselves could not cast out any demons or do any of the miracles that Jesus pulled off without any apparent effort. So the only way that they could maintain their own illusion of authority was to attack Jesus’ credibility, which they did with increasing vigor.

But Jesus was not a trained dog that would jump at the commands of those who were challenging Him to prove Himself. He did not need to be accepted by these “authorities” to validate His own identity. He was the eternal Son of God, and they should have been seeking HIS approval instead!

Father, Jesus’ authority was always questioned by those who saw themselves as having authority. And His miracles were doubted by those who could do no miracles themselves. His identity was challenged by those who had proved themselves to be spiritually blind. And He never took the bait! He was always 100% confident of who He was and what He had been called to do. Help me, along with all of Your people, to have that same confidence, that same assurance of our identity in Christ, so that the doubters and nay-sayers can never shake our confidence and faith. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 28, 2017

Luke 11:9-13 (NIV) “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
“Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

This paragraph is the explanation of the parable of the persistent neighbor. (Note the word “So” at the start of the section.) the key to this section is the progressive tense of the verbs. A good translation would be “keep asking…keep seeking…keep knocking.” The emphasis is on persistence in these activities, like the neighbor in the parable, as opposed to a single prayer request.

The verbs also progress in intensity, from simple asking, to active seeking, and finally to aggressive knocking at the doors of heaven until the request is granted. The focus is on the definiteness of the need in the mind of the one who asks, seeks, and knocks, and the strength of their desire to have that need met. If the need is small and indefinite and the desire small, so that a single prayer is rattled off and then forgotten, the odds of receiving a response from God is correspondingly low. But if the need is desperate, driving the petitioner to his or her knees in progressively deeper desperation, the odds of God taking up their need is high.

And we, as God’s people, can pray without fear that He will give us something nasty in response to our prayers instead of what we need. Like the popular adage among Christians that a person should never pray for patience, because God is likely to send more trials in order to help that person to build patience. But Jesus’ teaching show the inaccuracy of that theology, as well as how insulting it is to God. No halfway decent father would give his child something nasty (a snake or a scorpion) instead of a requested need (a fish or an egg needed for food). Love compels them to give what is asked for that is genuinely needed. And God is much more loving than any earthly father.

The bottom line is simply this: when God’s children cry out to Him persistently for what they genuinely need, they can count on Him to provide it for them. If they need sustenance, He will provide sustenance, as He did for His people in the wilderness.  If they need power, He will provide power, just as He did for the people in the first century Church. If they need wisdom, He will provide wisdom. And if they need patience, the power to continue in trying circumstances and not give up, He will provide that, too.

Father, I have tested You in this and have never found You wanting. Thank You for Your faithfulness, Your love, and Your consistent demonstration of care for me. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 27, 2017

Luke 11:5-8 (NIV) Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and he goes to him at midnight and says, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread, because a friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him.’
“Then the one inside answers, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is already locked, and my children are with me in bed. I can’t get up and give you anything.’ I tell you, though he will not get up and give him the bread because he is his friend, yet because of the man’s boldness he will get up and give him as much as he needs.”

Since Jesus is teaching His followers about prayer, He goes on to teach them about persistence in prayer as well. Many people believe that only one petition is necessary to see an answer to prayer. Still others teach that to pray more than once for something shows a lack of faith. But that is not what Jesus taught.

In Jesus’ illustration, a man goes to a neighbor’s house to ask for bread to feed some unexpected guests. The need is real and, according to hospitality norms in the Middle East, urgent. It would be a strong insult to a visitor to not offer travelers something to eat after their journey. But the poor host has nothing to set before them; not a single loaf of bread.

So the desperate man goes to his neighbor, despite the lateness of the hour. The need is that urgent. He knocks at the door and calls out for help. But the answer that he receives is not encouraging: “Don’t bother me!” The hour is late, the house is dark, and everyone is packed together in the small sleeping area of the house. If the home owner was to get up, he would jostle everyone, possibly waking the children. If he were to light an oil lamp to try to locate the bread left over from the day before, that would rouse the whole household. It’s too much trouble; he is not willing to waken his whole family to get bread for this inconsiderate neighbor.

But the desperate man will not give up. He would rather be shamed before his friend, this sleepy irritable neighbor, by asking for what he desperately needs than to be shamed before his visitors by returning empty handed. So he knocks and calls out louder and more desperately, until his friend stirs himself and gives him what he needs.

The short lesson is not that God is irritated when His people ask for what they need each day, or that we must rouse Him from His slumber before He is willing to grudgingly accede to our requests. It is simply that if the friend is willing to get up and disturb his whole family in response to the persistence and shameless boldness of his friend in need, how much more will God respond to the persistent and shamelessly bold request of His own people when we are in need.

Father, I really appreciate this word, and the encouragement to not only ask persistently, but boldly for what I truly need each day, my “daily bread.” I don’t have to come to You ashamedly, because You Yourself have instructed me to come before You daily and ask. Thank You for the promise, and the encouragement. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 26, 2017

Luke 11:4 (NIV) “Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation.”

The last two petitions of the form-prayer that Jesus taught His disciples deal with the spiritual dimension.

The first spiritual issue is forgiveness. Everyone in the world needs forgiveness, a forgiveness that became available with the coming of Jesus in a way that was never available before.. Before Jesus, forgiveness required the sacrifice of a spotless animal for every sin committed. But after Jesus’ death and resurrection forgiveness simply required confession (1 John 1:9), genuine repentance (Acts 2:28), and asking (Luke 11:4). The sacrifice has already been made.

I say simply, but for some this is genuinely complicated. Repentance is more than simply saying “I’m sorry.” True repentance requires a change of mind with regard to the sinful actions and attitudes, and a change of direction away from the sins. And that can be very difficult, impossible even, unless the will is there to make those changes.

And notice that Jesus included a condition in this petition. He instructed His disciples to pray for forgiveness of their sins on the basis of their having already forgiven everyone who had sinned against them. Matthew’s version, especially the explanation that He gave following the prayer (Matthew 6:14-15) provides additional clarification. Jesus taught there that without our actually forgiving others, we cannot be granted forgiveness for our own sins.

The final petition is for God’s help in avoiding temptation. The enemy is continually looking for opportunities to lead God’s people astray. But God can help us to overcome the enemy if only we will ask. Just as Jesus did not ever get ensnared by the enemy’s  temptations, so we, His followers, can have victory over every test as we walk in God’s grace.

Father, we do need Your forgiveness for sins committed, and Your grace and power to resist sins in the future. Thank You for making them both so freely available to us, just for the asking. Help me to never block my own forgiveness by withholding my forgiveness from anyone else. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – November 24, 2017

Luke 11:2b-3 (NIV) “your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread.”

The first part of this form prayer that Jesus taught His disciples, sometimes with more detail (Matthew 6:9-15), and sometimes with less, as here,, focuses on worship and adoration of God. It then moves on to practical kingdom living.

The next petition is “your kingdom come.” This is not a petition for Jesus’ return, but for God’s kingdom to become a living reality in the lives of all of God’s people. Matthew’s version includes a brief addendum to this petition that explains it more fully: “your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” The kingdom of heaven existed on earth then, and still exists and operates today, in the hearts of all who are committed to doing God’s will on earth in the same way that it is done in heaven: instantly, joyfully, and completely.

Included in this petition is an implied commitment on the part of those praying it to their own obedience to God’s will, instantly, joyfully, and completely. In that way, the kingdom is not only present, but grows into the lives of those around who see the good works of Jesus’ followers, and give glory to God (Matthew 5:16).

The next petition is for daily provision. The imagery used is of the Israelites in the wilderness who had to depend on God to provide manna, daily bread. They relied on God, and every day when they went out to receive their daily bread, the sustenance that they needed for that day, it was there. On the day before the Sabbath God provided twice as much and miraculously preserved it from decay so that they didn’t have to go out to get their bread on the Sabbath (Exodus 16:23-26). For forty years, God provided the daily bread for the Israelites, and never let them go hungry a single day. In the same way, God’s people today can ask for and receive their own provision, the sustenance that they need to live, day by day.

Father, I can’t help but see the intimate connection between these two petitions. As we commit ourselves to living consciously in Your kingdom, manifesting Your glory and obeying Your will, we are given the great privilege of asking for what we need each day, and receiving it (Matthew 6:35). Thank You for this amazing promise contained in the petitions given to us by Jesus Himself. Amen.

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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.

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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.

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