Category Archives: Scripture Meditations

Today’s Scripture – January 19, 2018

Luke 14:15-24 (NIV) When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the man who will eat at the feast in the kingdom of God.”
Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’
“But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’
“Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’
“Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’
“The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’
“‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’
“Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and make them come in, so that my house will be full. I tell you, not one of those men who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.'”

The great feast in heaven was a theme in Jewish teaching. All of God’s people, those who live in His kingdom and who serve Him wholeheartedly are on the invitation list.

The Pharisees, like the one at whose house Jesus was eating that Sabbath afternoon, were considered by all to be shoo-ins for the feast, as they were known for their conspicuous works of righteousness. But Jesus told this parable to show a different side of the coin. The details are not the critical elements of this parable. Instead, the overarching themes, the junctures of the story are where the meaning is hidden.

The first juncture is where the Master has completed preparation for His banquet and sends out invitations. His planned guest list was quite impressive. And, of course, it is assumed that the Pharisees would all be on the list. The messenger is sent with the urgent invitation: the feast you have been waiting for so long is now ready. Drop everything and come to the feast!

But then the plot takes an ironic twist. The guests won’t come! In the interim, while waiting for the banquet, the had filled their lives with their own agendas, with their own stuff, which had now become more important to them than the feast that the Master had been preparing. They won’t be there. These “too busy” invitees are obviously representative of the Pharisees. Jesus, the messenger of God Himself, had come bearing the invitation for them to follow Him into the kingdom, to the feast prepared for them, but they refused to follow Him. Instead, they were all too busy with their own stuff, the righteousness that they had built with their own hands. They wanted to come to the banquet, but they would only come on their own terms.

The Master is not even mildly understanding about this affront to His invitation; He is angry. So He cancels the invitations of those ungrateful people, and in their places He fills the hall with the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame. These symbolize those whom the Pharisees had written off as cursed by God and unworthy of a seat at the table. When that doesn’t not fill the hall, the Master finishes by inviting those from the roads and country lanes, those far outside the city, representing the gentiles. If those whom God had owned as His own people refused to come, He would build for Himself a new people out of those who were not His people.

Father, it is tragic to see how those people, people who were ostensibly waiting for You with bated breath, refused to come to You when You finally arrived in the person of Jesus. And in doing so, they ended up excluding themselves from all of the blessings You had come to give, including eternal life, a place at Your banquet. Lord, keep my heart soft and obedient, so that I never refuse Your invitation, no matter where it is to, and so that I don’t miss out on Your great blessings. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 18, 2018

Luke 14:12-14 (NIV) Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Jesus said these words at a banquet in the house of a Pharisee, and a wealthy one at that. It was common practice then, as it is in many circles today, to invite people of status to your banquets and parties, not because they were friends, but because social norms dictated that, if they deigned to come to your banquet, they were obligated to invite you to their next banquet. So people tended to load their guest lists with those that they wanted to be invited by in the future. So every party that a person threw tended to be loaded with the ulterior motive of climbing the social ladder, no matter how altruistic their stated reason for inviting their guests might be.

Jesus, on the other hand, saw through the surface reasoning, straight into the heart. Inviting people over is nice, sure. But if the people we invite, invite us back, our goodness and niceness will have been repaid, and God will not bless us for it.

If we want God to notice what a nice person we are to others, then we need to show that we have no ulterior, social-climbing motive hiding in the background by inviting those who have no potential to invite us back, no potential to improve our social standing. Such people, in those days and in ours, are the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. If we invite these, God knows that we are doing it from a pure motive, to simply bless those who are less fortunate, since there is no way that they could ever pay us back. And He promises to bless us in their place.

This is not to say that Christians can’t invite people to dinner who are well-to-do, or who could help our career. It simply means that if our motives are social gain or advancement, we can’t dress it up as a compassionate event and expect God to pour out His blessing on us.

Father, You always cut right to the heart of the matter, inspecting not just our actions, but our motives as well. Lord, help me to always act with motives that are firmly fixed on glorifying You and advancing Your kingdom, so that I can always receive Your great blessings. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 17, 2018

Luke 14:7-11 (NIV) When he noticed how the guests picked the places of honor at the table, he told them this parable: “When someone invites you to a wedding feast, do not take the place of honor, for a person more distinguished than you may have been invited. If so, the host who invited both of you will come and say to you, ‘Give this man your seat.’ Then, humiliated, you will have to take the least important place. But when you are invited, take the lowest place, so that when your host comes, he will say to you, ‘Friend, move up to a better place.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all your fellow guests. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

In every society, many desire to be close to the top, close to those in power, close to where the action is and where the perks originate. So there is usually a constant jockeying for position – a jockeying that becomes more apparent the higher you go in that society.

Even Jesus’ own disciples were not immune to this desire for position and prestige. They were constantly discussing which of them was the greatest of Jesus’ followers, and who would get the top spots in His administration once He took power. James and John even went so far as to directly petition Jesus to be given the two top spots in His kingdom (Mark 10:35-40), making the rest of the disciples indignant (mostly because they hadn’t thought of doing that themselves!).

But, as Jesus points out here, the ways of the kingdom are the polar opposite of the ways of the world. In the world, the tops spots are often given to the most assertive, although that assertiveness does come with some real risk. Whether it is choosing a choice seat at a banquet, or pushing ourselves forward for a position of greater responsibility, there is always the chance that we will be asked to move down to make room for the one chosen by management for that position. Then we will have to move down in front of everyone to a lower position. When James and John tried that kind of technique, Jesus answer was not congratulatory of their initiative. Instead, they were told that, ”these places belong to those for whom they have been prepared.” Translation: “Not you; move on down.”

Instead, the way of the kingdom is for all of us to realize that everyone in the kingdom is a servant of God, and, even though we might have different jobs in the body of Christ, and different responsibilities, we can’t actually place ourselves above another in the kingdom organization. No human will be able to improve on God’s agenda or His priorities. No human will be able to point out to God a detail that He overlooked, or remind Him of something that He has forgotten. And no human will be able to wow God with their creativity and potential that He hadn’t noticed. So instead of pushing for a higher position or greater recognition, the best way to operate in the kingdom is for each person to humbly do the job that God has given to each of us, to humbly fulfill that calling that He has placed on our lives, and leave it up to God to decide when more responsibility or greater recognition is appropriate. Then such additional responsibility and recognition won’t prove to be a corrupting influence, but will greatly enhance the success of the work of the kingdom in the world.

Father, we are so used to working in the ways of the world, blowing our own horn for fear that we and our accomplishments will be overlooked. But in Your kingdom, nothing is ever overlooked by You. You know precisely what we are fitted for and when we are able to handle additional responsibilities. Help us to be content with that, to humbly focus on doing what You have directed until new orders come from You, in Your perfect timing, or until we stand before Your throne to hear “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21) Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 16, 2018

Luke 14:1-6 (NIV) One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from dropsy. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him away.
Then he asked them, “If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull him out?” And they had nothing to say.

Jesus had several run-ins of this kind with the Pharisees over His healing on the Sabbath. Jesus saw nothing wrong with it, but the Pharisees listed healing as an activity that they always considered work, hence one that was not allowed on the Sabbath.

The situation that day was a total setup, and Jesus knew it. It would be extremely rare for someone with dropsy, extensive fluid retention, to be on the Sabbath dinner guest list. And the fact that the dinner guests were watching Jesus carefully showed that this was an orchestrated meeting – a trap.

Far from shying away from the conflict, Jesus actively entered into it as a teachable moment. And He did that by cutting right to the chase, asking the key question, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” Everyone in the room remained silent. They couldn’t say yes and be consistent with their own theology. But if they said no, they could end up deterring Jesus from healing the man, and spring their own trap on empty air. So they sat there silently.

Jesus allowed just a few seconds before He touched the man, instantly healing him, then sending him on his way home. The man had just received a great blessing, but it was not necessary that he be part of the conversation that would follow.

Jesu’s point was made again with a single question that attacked the heart of the Sabbath controversy. If a child or an ox falls into a well on the Sabbath, nobody, even the staunchest Pharisee, would refuse to pull it out. The life of a child was precious; an ox was valuable – one’s whole livelihood could depend on it. So they all would definitely pull either one out of the well immediately, Sabbath or no Sabbath. The point was immediately clear: there was scant difference between saving the life of a precious being who had fallen into a well, and saving the life of a precious being who had fallen into a desperate illness or demon possession. If the one was okay, logically the other had to be okay as well.

The dinner guests realized that they had lost the argument without even entering into it. They silence now was not out of rebellion, but out of frustration. There really was nothing left for them to say.

Father, Your priority is always quite clear: loving people. Not a doting love that refuses to acknowledge or punish sin (that would violate Your justice), but a love that most naturally results in good being done to the bodies and souls of people seven days a week, with You acting directly in some cases, and through the hands of Your people in others. Help us to never limit what You are wanting to do, to never put You into a box of our own prejudices or rules, but simply to love others with Your love every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 15, 2018

Luke 13:31-35 (NIV) At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”
He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day–for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

Jesus was almost to Jerusalem, His final destination. His face was set steadfastly toward that final goal, including toward the suffering and death that He knew was waiting for Him there.

Herod was waiting for Him too, but not to kill Him, as this Pharisee indicated. Herod had been trying to see Jesus for several months (Luke 9:9, 23:8), hoping to witness a miracle. The Pharisee was being deceptive, because He had been watching the excitement grow among those who were following Jesus as they got closer to Jerusalem. They believed that Jesus was going there to set Himself up as king, and the Pharisees wanted nothing to do with that.

But Jesus responded to the urging of the Pharisee on its face. Suppose Herod really was trying to find Jesus to kill Him. It did not change Jesus’ plan one iota. Jesus had two more days on the road, days that would be filled with driving out demons and healing people, in precise obedience to His Father. On the third day, Sunday, He would enter Jerusalem in triumph, and set events in motion that would lead to His arrest and crucifixion. Nothing, no plans of men or kings, could move Him away from that course now that God’s plan had entered its final stages.

In any case, Jesus knew that no assassination attempt on Him could succeed outside of Jerusalem where He was destined to die. Jerusalem, the city where God had chosen to manifest His presence 1000 years before, had a terrible reputation. Many, many prophets had been killed there by wicked and rebellious kings. And now the leaders there were going to kill the very Son of God who was coming to save them, but whom they were rejecting, just as they had rejected Him over the previous three years.

Surprising to some is the fact that this rebellion broke God’s heart, and Jesus accurately expressed that heartbrokenness in His lament over the city. God loved His people. They were the ones that He had chosen to be the channel through which salvation would come to the people of the earth. But they were still stiff-necked and rebellious. And that rebellion would, in the end, lead to their destruction.

Father, Jesus was single-minded and totally focused on Your agenda. How I wish that all of us, Your Church, were the same today. But we tend to let our hearts be pulled in all different directions. Forgive us, Lord, and help us to catch Your vision for the kingdom, and to translate that vision into concrete action every day. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 14, 2018

Luke 13:22-30 (NIV) Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?”
He said to them, “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’
“But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’
“Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’
“But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’
“There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”

This person’s question was short, but very interesting: Are only a few people going to be saved? The prevailing thought in Jesus’ day was that the Messiah was going to come to save the Jewish people, and those who were willing to become Jewish through conversion, baptism, and circumcision. Thus only a small percentage of the world’s population would end up being saved.

Jesus’ answer is surprising. He did not say that only a small number would be saved. Instead, He indicated that those saved would be a different group than what the people were expecting.

Jesus was not in the least teaching that everyone would be saved, despite God’s clear desire that everyone would believe in Jesus for salvation. Instead, he taught that those who wanted to be saved would have to do it by entering through the narrow door: Jesus Himself (John 10:1-2, 7). In the end, there will be many who refuse, but who will insist that they be allowed to enter by way of their own preferred door.

For many of the Jews, this door would be through obedience to the law of Moses and conformity to the sacrificial system. Among these were the Pharisees, teachers of the law, and priests. They were familiar with this law, and were pretty good at it. But Jesus clearly let them know that that door opened onto a dead end.

Others over the last 2,000 years have wanted God to accept their devoutness in whatever religion they chose to follow. But again, Jesus tells them clearly that there is only one door into the kingdom, into salvation. Anyone who tries to muscle their way in through another door will find themselves denied entrance.

Some will even try to get in on the basis of knowing who Jesus is. But real saving faith is not a matter of knowledge about Jesus, but of relationship. If there has not been a relationship, they will be turned away at the door with an “I don’t know you or where you come from.”

The most remarkable part of this discourse is Jesus’ warning to the Jewish people that, if they refuse to enter salvation through faith in Him, they will be stuck outside of God’s kingdom, excluded from salvation, while they watch people from all over the world, Jewish and gentile, male and female, come into salvation because they are willing to set aside everything they have depended on, and enter through Jesus, the one door.

Some might be critical that God has established only one door to salvation, likely excluding many who are devout in their own non-Christian religion. But they must remember that God was not required to provide any door to salvation at all. Instead, in mercy, He established one perfect door in Jesus, God the Son, born in the flesh to be a perfect sacrifice, able to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole world. And then He gave all of those who have come into salvation through Jesus the responsibility to make disciples of all of those around them, and to the very ends of the earth, bringing the good news of salvation to them all.

Father, this is very simple, very easy to grasp: a single door that You provided to bring salvation to whoever believes in Jesus (John 3:16). I’m afraid that we have done a poor job, however, on the mandate to go and make disciples, spreading salvation around the world. Far too few of us, the people of the kingdom, are about that work, either just not seeing it as our job, or content to leave it to the “professionals.” Forgive us, Lord, and fill us with your fire, so that we can clearly show everyone around us the one amazing door that You have provided for salvation. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – January 13, 2018

Luke 13:20-21 (NIV) Again he asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.

Jesus again draws a comparison between the natural world and the kingdom. And this time, He uses the imagery of yeast, or leaven. In Jesus’ day the workings of yeast in dough was a mystery to people. They didn’t know how it worked; they only knew that it did work. Today we know how it works, and the increased knowledge actually adds to the understanding of Jesus’ point.

In Jesus day there was no instant or powdered yeast. Instead, a woman would take a small piece of leavened dough from the previous day’s batch and set it aside. When she was preparing the next day’s dough, she would knead that set aside piece in with the new batch of dough. Then, as the dough rested in the warmth of the cooking area, the yeast in that small piece of dough would spread throughout the whole loaf, until the whole thing was light and fluffy.

Today we know that yeast is actually a single-cell fungus that eats carbohydrates, excretes carbon dioxide, and then divides. The carbon dioxide bubbles are what makes the dough light and fluffy. But it is the rapid multiplication of the yeast that enables a small piece of leavened dough to be able to effectively leaven fifty pounds of flour.

This is a very good picture of how the kingdom of God operates. As each Christian is supplied with the power of the Holy Spirit (the spiritual food for disciples), and then uses that power and energy to multiply, by reaching out to those outside the kingdom and bringing them inside, the character of the society in which those Christians are living is transformed. And, as the process continues, the multiplication becomes exponential.

Of course, without food, yeast goes into a quiescent state, a kind of hibernation, and no multiplication takes place. But when food and moisture is added, the yeast wakes up and begins to multiply as it does its work.

In the same way, the reason that the Church is not powerfully multiplying in so many places in the world today is that many of the people who go by the name of Christian have fallen asleep spiritually. They have cut themselves off from the food of Holy Spirit power through disobedience to God’s commands, carelessness, busyness, or compromise with the world. And without the power that comes from the Holy Spirit, we become spiritually quiescent; we hibernate, waiting for God to somehow act and revive us.

What is needed is not for God to act. What is actually necessary is for God’s people, the people of the kingdom, to repent, to remember the height from which (we) have fallen (Revelation 2:5 NIV), to quit compromising with the world, to quit being lukewarm and instead be filled with the fire of the Spirit. Then the power of the Holy Spirit can work powerfully to feed all of God’s people, and to enable us to multiply and fill the earth with righteousness in preparation for the coming of Jesus.

Father, this is a more powerful illustration than I imagined! Even the simplest organisms on the face of the earth illustrate Your glory and Your ways. Father, help us, Your people, to really repent, to get rid of the idols of compromise and busyness, and really become the yeast of Your kingdom to spread Your righteousness all across our land. Amen.

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