Category Archives: Scripture Meditations

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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Today’s Scripture – August 4, 2017

Luke 6:12-16 (NIV) One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor.

Jesus prayed constantly. But before important decisions and events, prayer was even more important to Him.

This decision, who would be in His inner circle, was not just important, but vital to His mission. Those that He chose would be the ones who would walk most closely with Him through the next two years, who would receive authority from Him to heal diseases and cast out demons, and who would be sent out to preach the good news of the kingdom ahead of Him. They would also need to go out after His ascension and continue the growth of the kingdom of God all over the world. So Jesus prayed through the night until He knew for certain which of His followers the Father had chosen for these vital roles.

The men Jesus selected were unremarkable. He did not choose spiritual superstars from among the Pharisees who followed Him. Nor did He petition well-known priests or Levites. He chose common working-class people, like fishermen and tax collectors. The one thing that they had in common was that they had all left behind their families and their livelihoods to follow Him.

Many question the selection of Judas Iscariot to be one of the inner circle, especially if Jesus was able to see into the hearts of people (John 2:25). Didn’t He know that betrayal was in the soul of this guy? Actually God knew precisely who Judas was and what he was capable of, and so did Jesus. By selecting him, by keeping him in His inner circle, by even allowing him to participate in the power of the kingdom, Jesus gave him every opportunity to turn aside from the path of betrayal, knowing that ultimately he would sell Him out anyway.

Father, I appreciate the fact that Jesus chose ordinary people to be in His inner circle instead of spiritual superstars. It helps me to see that Your kingdom is for ordinary people, like me. Jesus taught, and empowered, and transformed those regular guys, just like He teaches, and empowers, and transforms regular people today, and remakes them into genuine saints. Help me, like Jesus, to never write someone off as a candidate for Your kingdom because they are a nobody, nor to exalt somebody in my estimation because they are well-known. Instead, help me to focus on who You have called and remade each of them to be. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 2, 2017

Luke 6:6-11 (NIV) On another Sabbath he went into the synagogue and was teaching, and a man was there whose right hand was shriveled. The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath. But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand in front of everyone.” So he got up and stood there.
Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?”
He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.

The Pharisees were bound up in their own definition of what work was to be avoided on the Sabbath. They had even decided that if someone cut their hand on the Sabbath, a bandage could be applied to control the blood, but no salve could be put on the wound until the Sabbath was over, because that could promote healing, and healing was considered work to be avoided on that one day each week. That’s why they were watching Jesus so closely. If He healed this man with the withered hand, they considered that doing work on the Sabbath, and they could then dismiss Jesus as a Sabbath-breaker, and a sinner.

Jesus knew that this was their line of thinking. He also knew that it was God’s intention to heal that man on that day. Jesus was not the kind of person to do the work of the Lord in secret, so He decided to confront the issue head-on.

He began by calling the man with the shriveled hand to the front, so that what He was doing could be seen by all. Then He confronted the Pharisees directly, challenging them to publicly declare what they believed was permissible on the Sabbath: to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to destroy life. Mark tells us (3:4) that they all remained silent. They weren’t even going to go on record as saying that it was okay to do good on the Sabbath, or to save a life, because that would possibly compromise their stand on healing on the Sabbath!

Their silence irritated Jesus, but it didn’t sway Him from His determination to follow through with what the Father had called Him to do. But HOW He did it really threw a wrench into the plans of the Pharisees. He simply commanded the man to stretch out his hand as if it were whole. He didn’t touch the man. He didn’t pray over him. He didn’t even speak a word of healing. Just “Stretch out your hand.” And when the man obeyed, the healing was instantaneous; the hand was made whole and was easily stretched out.

But this left the Pharisees in a terrible spot. They couldn’t really accuse Jesus of the healing, because none of His actions could be considered that kind of “work.” Simply telling the man to stretch out his hand wasn’t work, and neither was the man stretching out his hand in obedience. And the fact that the healing had actually happened left them open to the dreaded possibility that God Himself had done the healing on the Sabbath, which threatened to undermine their whole theological integrity on this issue.

But instead of reacting in an honest questioning of their beliefs that could have led them deeper into the truth, they dug their heels in out of anger, and determined that Jesus had to be destroyed.

Father, none of us likes to have our theology challenged, especially to have it challenged publicly. It makes us feel unsure and insecure. But if we stubbornly dig in our heels instead of coming to You and to Your word in an honest seeking after the truth, we run the risk of closing ourselves off to what You are trying to show us, to how You are challenging us to grow. Help me to always stay open to all of the light that You want to reveal to me, so that I can continue to be shaped and molded by Your word. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – August 1, 2017

Luke 6:1-5 (NIV) One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. Some of the Pharisees asked, “Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?”
Jesus answered them, “Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions.” Then Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

The Pharisees had ringed the Sabbath with a whole suite of rules to ensure that people didn’t inadvertently sin by doing some kind of work on that day. They had rules for how far a person could walk on the Sabbath before it crossed the line and became work, as well as long lists of forbidden activities.

The Pharisees were not worried that the disciple were stealing grain. A hungry person was actually allowed to pull off heads of grain in someone else’s field, as long as they didn’t use a sickle (Deuteronomy 23:25), or to pull grapes off a vine to eat, as long as they didn’t put any into a basket to take away (Deuteronomy 23:24). But, to the Pharisees, pulling the heads of grain off constituted harvesting; rubbing the chaff off the grain constituted winnowing; and chewing the raw grains constituted grinding flour; all of which were, according to them, classified as work, and therefore not allowed on the Sabbath.

Interestingly, Jesus didn’t argue with them about their interpretation of the law. He turned their attention instead to another instance where God allowed a clear need to be met in spite of the rules. In this instance (1 Samuel 21:1-6), David was fleeing from Saul and had no supplies for him and his men. He approached Ahimelech the priest at Nob, asking for any food that might be available. All the priest had was the bread of the presence which had just been replaced with fresh loaves that day. Normally only the priests could eat that bread, but Ahimelech allowed David and his men to eat it, actually sacrificing his own food because of their apparent need.

Jesus’ point was not that God’s clear commands don’t matter. His point was that if God was willing to relax a rule in order to meet a genuine human need out of compassion, the Pharisees should be willing to do the same with their own rules regarding what was permissible on the Sabbath.

Father, it’s clear that this wasn’t primarily about permission to break rules or commandments (You don’t, for instance, approve of stealing, even by a hungry person), but about compassion for genuine need, and about being willing to receive Your gracious provision, even on the Sabbath. You are a great and compassionate God, and I praise You today. Amen.

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