Tag Archives: disciples

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 – July 15, 2017

Mark 10:41-45 (NIV) When the ten heard about this, they became indignant with James and John. Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

The concept of “downward mobility” that Jesus taught and lived out is very difficult for the people of the world to grasp, let alone implement in their lives. That’s because it militates so strongly against everything that the world system tells us about how to be successful.

According to the ways of the world, the race goes to the swift and clever, and the victory to the strong and smart. So if you want to be successful, you have to ruthlessly seize every opportunity to get into the higher-up slots when they come into view. To be honest, the other ten disciples were indignant with James and John, not because they had done something morally wrong, but because they had beaten them to the punch. James and John had seen an opening and had taken it while the other ten were still waiting for the perfect opportunity.

But Jesus needed to show them that the whole paradigm that they were thinking in was in complete contrast to the ways of the kingdom. Jesus’ kingdom was not a kingdom of the world, to be run by the rules of the world. It was the kingdom of God, which operates on God’s priorities and principles, and is based on His character.

Instead of the leaders of God’s kingdom lording it over those beneath them in the hierarchy,, they live to serve others and help build those others up. Instead of exercising authority over those below them, they intentionally lower themselves to the position of slave, serving the needs of those others. Instead of building a fortune and a comfortable lifestyle for themselves, and looking to make their own lot more pleasant and secure, the leaders in God’s kingdom willing lay down their lives for those beneath them.

The model for this new paradigm was and is Jesus Himself. Jesus never laid aside any earthly treasure for Himself, but relied on God the Father to provide what was needed each day. He did not try to build an empire that would give Him power and authority over others, but lived each day to exalt the name of God by showing forth His glory in His every thought, word, and deed. In fact, Jesus’ focus was never for a moment on the things of this world and the things that people tend to rely on for security. His eyes were continually on eternity, and His every thought on how to draw as many people into that eternity as possible.

The reason that this paradigm shift was such a hard sell for His disciples was that they were still at this point creatures of the world. Their priorities, their worldview, and the way that they thought were all worldly, and kept them, at this stage of the game, from living out the ways of the kingdom. But Jesus patiently taught them, over and over again, realizing that in just a few weeks, on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit would transform their minds and change their hearts, and then they would be able to start living out the ways of the kingdom in their lives.

Father, it is still often difficult for us to think in the ways of the kingdom, to instinctively react in self-sacrificing kingdom ways. But every time we catch ourselves thinking like the world, or strategizing like the world, or jockeying for position like the world, we need to recognize that that is a symptom of a place in our heart that has not been fully transformed and recast into the image of Jesus. Help me, Lord, to see myself clearly, to evaluate myself honestly, and any time I find a worldly place in my heart or mind, help me to bring that part of myself to You to be transformed and filled to overflowing with Your Spirit. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – May 4, 2017

Matthew 26:47-56 (NIV) While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, arrived. With him was a large crowd armed with swords and clubs, sent from the chief priests and the elders of the people. Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: “The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.”
Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed him.
Jesus replied, “Friend, do what you came for.”
Then the men stepped forward, seized Jesus and arrested him. With that, one of Jesus’ companions reached for his sword, drew it out and struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his ear.
“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”
At that time Jesus said to the crowd, “Am I leading a rebellion, that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture me? Every day I sat in the temple courts teaching, and you did not arrest me. But this has all taken place that the writings of the prophets

The events in this passage all took place in the space of a couple of minutes, but to those experiencing it at the time, it seemed like an eternity. When they looked back on it, every sight, every sound, ever detail seemed etched on their minds.

No sooner had they been roused from their sleep, they could hear a large crowd approaching, and see the light from their torches and lanterns flickering through the trees (cf. John 18:3b). Judas needed a signal to identify Jesus because of the darkness that shrouded the whole garden at that late hour. But when he greeted Jesus and kissed Him, he didn’t expect the response that Jesus gave. There was no anger, no fear, just a quiet, “Go ahead, my friend. Do what you came to do.”

Then there was the sound of scuffling feet as several men rushed at Jesus, and grabbed Him roughly by the arms to keep Him from fleeing. But Jesus didn’t even try to get away; He just stood there.

Peter, always impulsive, had drawn a sword as soon as the men had started to move toward Jesus, and now he swung it recklessly at the nearest target, slicing off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus’ sharp command to him to put his sword away caused everyone to stop right where they were. And into the silence that fell over them, they could all hear Him tell Peter that, if fighting was the right thing to do, He didn’t need Peter to fight for Him. At any moment He could cry out to the Father, and instantly have thousands of angels ready to attack. Luke notes that Jesus then reached out and touched the injured man’s ear, healing it on the spot (Luke 22:51).

Now it was Jesus’ turn to have His say. He did not defend Himself – He had nothing to defend. But He accused those who had come to arrest Him, as well as those who had sent them, of working in the dark because their work was illegitimate. If He had legitimately deserved to be arrested, there had been numerous opportunities during the past week as He taught in the temple courts, unarmed and defenseless. But the nefarious work in the dark. He also spoke a final word to them that none of them really caught at the time: By their underhanded dealings and their falsely arresting Him, all of them were unconsciously fulfilling the prophecies about how the Messiah would meet His end, as well as sowing the seeds of the foretold destruction of Jerusalem.

When it suddenly became obvious that Jesus wasn’t even going to struggle, but was going to allow Himself to be arrested like this, terror filled His followers. Would they be arrested too? It was suddenly every man for Himself, and as the men of the mob were binding Jesus’ hands, the disciples fled through the trees.

Father, these verses hold the very hinge of history. Jesus had submitted Himself to Your will, but this moment was when that submission became real. I am so grateful for His faith, courage, and steadfastness, because it was His going through with this that opened a door for me into Your kingdom. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – April 16, 2017

Matthew 24:32-35 (NIV) “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.”

Jesus again focuses on His main thrust in this discourse: the fall of Jerusalem. All the signs that He has given His disciples will come to pass, signaling that the day of judgment on the city is coming, and telling His obedient followers to get out of Jerusalem. They don’t’ have to worry that it will be a false alarm any more than a fig farmer can see the first shoots of leaves on his trees and wonder if it is a false sign of spring that will leave him disappointed.

That is why Jesus could so confidently assert that all of this (the signs of coming judgment and the destruction of Jerusalem) would happen before that generation was gone. He didn’t know the day and hour of His own return, but He knew that the fall of the city would happen in about 40 years. And, while most of His apostles would have laid down their lives for the gospel by that point, at least one of them, John, would live to see it. And it would all fall out before the current generation in Jerusalem had passed away.

Jesus closes with the reassurance that His words of prophecy are more sure, more solid, and more enduring than even heaven and earth. The disciples can confidently believe and follow His words, and just as confidently pass them on to the disciples that they would raise up.

A vital role of these prophecies was to keep Jesus’ followers moving forward. There was no cause to rest on one’s laurels waiting for Jesus’ return. His return would not happen at least until Jerusalem had undergone its punishment. So, even though they knew that He would definitely return to set all things right at some time in the future, it wouldn’t be that soon. They could keep their focus on expanding the kingdom by drawing more and more people into the ranks of the redeemed.

Father, it is often tempting to shift our focus to the end time, forgetting that You clearly told us that it was not for us to know the dates and times of Jesus’ return, or to even worry about them (cf. Acts 1:7). We are simply to rest in the assurance that He will return, based on His always true word. Then we are to be steadfastly about the work of the kingdom, and be ready at all times for His return by walking in Your light. If we will just do that, we can know that everything will work out according to Your plan in the end. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 27, 2017

Matthew 19:27-30 (NIV) Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.  And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.

It is true that the twelve had left everything to follow Jesus.  There were actually thousands who followed Jesus, but the vast majority of them were occasional followers – they would come and hear Jesus when He was in their area, and when He moved on, they would go back to their jobs and families.

But the twelve were different.  Jesus had called them specifically to be with Him full-time.  They had left behind their jobs, their families, their whole lives to follow Jesus.  Some, maybe even many of them, had felt good about doing that because they believed at the beginning that Jesus would soon take over the reins of the government, and they would be elevated to important positions in His administration.  So it seemed like the short-term giving up of financial and familial security would be more than paid back when He was swept into power.

But that scenario was seeming less and less likely.  Jesus Himself squashed that dream every time it surfaced, and instead talked about how suffering and death, not a crown or throne, was waiting for Him in Jerusalem.

Jesus had just told the rich young man that if he wanted eternal life he had to sell all of his possessions, give the money to the poor, and then leave everything and follow Jesus.  Peter and the twelve had already left all to follow Him, so Peter wondered aloud what they would receive, since state positions seemed to be off the table.

Jesus’ answer pointed far beyond the present time, and even far beyond the present world.  Those who had left all to follow Him would indeed receive honor and authority, but it would come at the renewal of all things, when Jesus was recognized as king by the whole world.  All that they had left would be repaid; all that they hoped for would come; but they would only receive it in full (along with eternal life) in the fullness of time.

In addition to reassuring themselves that all they had done would not be for nothing, Jesus’ statement should have immediately done away with the competition and infighting that was always going on among them.  Their future was more glorious than anything they could imagine, and in that future there would be no upper echelons and no lower.  All of them would sit on thrones, all of them would be judges, and all would have eternal life.  But the spirit of competition still continued, albeit in less obvious ways, despite Jesus’ closing warning that those who strived to get to the top would find themselves on the bottom.

Father, the future You had in store for these men was spectacular beyond all they could imagine.  But it was almost too amazing for them to believe.  So they still scrabbled for position instead of simply doing what Jesus called them to do, and trusting Him to ensure that future.  Help us to never fall into that same trap.  Help us to trust You enough to simply obey, and leave our future in Your hands.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 26, 2017

Matthew 19:23-26 (NIV) Then Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.  Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

It was a common teaching at the time of Jesus that the only way a person got rich was if God was greatly pleased with them and funneled wealth their way.  This teaching brought great comfort to the rich (who were thus assured of God’s great love for them), and great consternation to the poor (who were puzzled as to what in their lives was blocking this great blessing).

But now a wealthy man had walked away from Jesus because of His statement that his wealth was actually getting between him and eternal life!  And then Jesus doubled down on this statement by saying that it was easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter God’s kingdom.  Jesus was not just saying that it was difficult or tricky, but pretty much impossible for great wealth and the kingdom of heaven to exist in the same person’s heart.

In one sense, this should not have surprised Jesus’ followers.  In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus had flatly said that it was impossible (not merely difficult) to serve both God and money (Matthew 6:24), because serving both would require giving mastery to both, but only one master can be actually be served in a person’s life, and most people, given the choice, choose money.  But hearing that in isolation on a mountain, and hearing it stated so starkly after watching a man choose money over the kingdom of God struck the disciples completely differently.  If those who had been given abundant material blessings by God could not get into God’s kingdom, who could possibly be saved?

Jesus’ answer was both pithy and profound:  It is impossible for man in his own strength to break himself free from the mastery of money and other material possessions.  The lure of such things is simply too strong, and once a person has them, they find that worrying about them, working to keep and protect them, and struggling to grow them becomes by itself a nearly full-time job.  And as a person’s focus is drawn to those things, their relationship with God quickly falls by the wayside.

But with God all things are possible.  A person with an absolutely rock-solid relationship with God, whose heart is solidly committed to putting Him first and has been purged from a love of money, can be trusted to use worldly wealth for the interests of God’s kingdom without getting snared by it.  In this sense, a rich person getting into heaven is an impossibility on a par with raising someone four days dead.  It can’t be done by any human means, but God Himself can do it easily.

Father, the love of money really can shut the doors of the kingdom to those who fall prey to its snares.  Such idolatry cannot exist in people who name You as Lord.  But I praise You that, through Your power and strength, all things are possible, even having great wealth while being immune to its lordship.  Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – February 11, 2017

Matthew 17:22-23 (NIV) When they came together in Galilee, he said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of men.  They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.”  And the disciples were filled with grief.

Jesus never said anything purely for shock value, although much of what He said was shocking.  But it only shocked those whose minds and hearts were set on earthly things, because they were stated simply and factually from a heavenly perspective.

Jesus’ time was very short.  They were already headed south to Jerusalem, and Jesus knew with crystal clarity all that was waiting for Him there.  The disciples needed to know, too.  And they needed to know that all that would happen was not going to be evil winning out over good, or even the end of Messianic dreams for Jesus and His followers.  It was all God’s plan being worked out precisely as foretold in the Scriptures.

But the disicples, without exception, stopped listening part way through. At the words, “they will kill Him,” their ears turned off completely, leaving their hearts sad and confused.

If they had heard “and on the third day He will be raised to life,” they would have been filled with curiosity instead, and the questions and requests for information would have come pouring out.  But there was none of that at all.

Their minds had become filled with vivid scenarios of how Jesus would march into Jerusalem and proclaim Himself the Messiah to cheering crowds.  Now, all they could hear Jesus saying was that those dreams were not going to come true.  And the loss of their dreams set them on two very dangerous paths: the path of sadness and angst, and the path of trying to figure out how to get the plan back on track.

Jesus continued to tell His followers the truth about what was waiting for them in Jerusalem, but they never really got it.  Jesus’ arrest, crucifixion, and death still caught them all off guard.  But even though they didn’t get it yet, Jesus was laying a solid foundation that He would be able to point to later and to build on after His resurrection.

Father, sometimes I think we still don’t get it.  We still build scenarios in our heads about our mission, our ministries, and even the end times, that can blind us and deafen us to the things that You are trying to tell us that run counter to the expectations that we have built for ourselves.  Help us to keep our eyes and ears fully open to You, and to hold all thing in trust for You with a loose grip, so that You can change our direction or give us additional light any time You want.  Amen.

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