Category Archives: Scripture Meditations

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.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

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.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

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.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – October 16, 2017

Luke 9:37-43a (NIV) The next day, when they came down from the mountain, a large crowd met him. A man in the crowd called out, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.”
“O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.” Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion.
But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God.

Jesus, Peter, James, and John all came down from an amazing mountain-top experience in God’s presence, and found themselves squarely in the kingdom of the world.

The issue that challenged Jesus most in the situation that greeted Him there was not that a demon needed to be cast out; Jesus dealt with demon possession frequently. What disappointed, even alarmed Him, was that He and His followers were preparing to start for Jerusalem, where Jesus would be arrested and executed. Even though He would rise again, He would be headed home to heaven very shortly afterwards, leaving the responsibility for leading the people of the kingdom in the hands of these followers, who apparently weren’t able to handle a simple exorcism!

The anxious father had sought out Jesus’ camp at the foot of the mountain, and was disappointed to find that Jesus was not there, and His disciples weren’t sure when He would return. But the disciples were confident that they would be able to cast this demon out. They had done it before, when Jesus had sent them out ahead of Him (Luke 9:1-2). But no matter what words they used or what prayers they prayed, the spirit refused to budge.

That was when Jesus suddenly walked into the camp. His frustrated cry, “O unbelieving and perverse generation,” Jesus replied, “how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?” was aimed at the disciples, His inner circle, who seemingly had failed to learn this important lesson.

But Jesus quickly turned from the shame-faced disciples to the need at hand. As soon as He focused on the demon-possessed boy, the demon, in a show of power designed to intimidate Jesus just as it had the disciples, threw the boy into a spectacular and alarming convulsion. But Jesus wasn’t intimidated in the least. He simply rebuked the demon, told it to leave, and it had to go.

The small crowd there along with the disciples was stunned at how quickly and effortlessly Jesus had dealt with the demon, and immediately began to praise the Lord. Jesus simply gave the boy, free at last from the demon that had plagued him for years, back to his grateful father.

Father, we so complicate things, and try to impose our own ideas, techniques, and strategies on them. The disciples failed to learn that casting out demons was never a matter of technique, but of God-given spiritual authority over them. Jesus simply exercised His authority, and the demon fled. As a follower of Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, I have that same authority. Help me to live in You, obey Your leading and, when appropriate, exert that authority to help set people free. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – October 13, 2017

Luke 9:32-36 (NIV) Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters–one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)
While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves, and told no one at that time what they had seen.

The three disciples with Jesus woke from a deep sleep to see the miraculous scene before them: Jesus shining like the sun, and the two great prophets, Moses and Elijah, talking with Him about His upcoming “Exodus” in Jerusalem. They watched and listened in silent awe as the three men talked.

When the conversation ended and Moses and Elijah were fading from view, Peter felt the need to say something. This was such an amazing moment, so charged with spiritual power, full of the aroma of the miraculous, that he didn’t want it to end. His basic premise was that Moses and Elijah didn’t have to go away; the disciples could easily build some shelters for them so that they could stick around and continue the visit.

But, as was frequently the case at this point, Peter’s heart was good, but his focus was off. Before Peter even finished his sentence, he and his companions saw a glowing cloud quickly approaching them. It came at them so fast that they were engulfed in the brightness before they had any chance to react.

Then a voice, loud, deep and majestic, the voice of God Himself, came from the cloud, terrifying all three disciples, and causing them to fall on their faces in terror (Matthew 17:6). “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” Their focus had been on the historical personages, great prophets of old, celebrities in their minds. They wanted them to stay so that they could rub shoulders with them for a while. But they were missing the fact that Jesus, the one that they were so familiar with, was now being revealed to them as God’s Son, in all of His eternal glory. Their focus was on the limited and temporal, when the eternal was mere inches away.

God’s voice completely overwhelmed these men, just as it had the Israelites 1500 years earlier (Exodus 20:19). Even after the cloud disappeared and Moses and Elijah had gone, they lay motionless on the ground, until Jesus touched them and warned them to keep what they had just witnessed to themselves (Matthew 17:7-9).

Father, it is humbling to realize that we, too, are prone to allow our focus to get off. We can so easily grow enamored of the words of the saints, both those of old and those of the current day, reading their books, meditating on their writings, and standing in awe of the depth of their insights, while the whole time ignoring, or setting at a lower priority the words of Jesus close at hand in our Bibles. Even in the Scriptures we can end up focusing more on the epistles than we do on the gospels, more on the words of Paul than on the words of Jesus. Help me to hear Your voice clearly today, terrifying though it may be, calling me back to a clearer focus on Jesus, Your Son, and His words. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Scripture Meditations