Tag Archives: disciples

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.

 

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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.

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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 – 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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