Tag Archives: Jesus

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 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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Today’s Scripture – July 26, 2017

Luke 5:17-20 (NIV) One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick. Some men came carrying a paralytic on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.
When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”

All of the people who came to Jesus for healing had faith that Jesus could heal them, or they would not have come in the first place. But these men who were bringing their friend to Jesus had grit as well.

As they approached the house in Capernaum (Mark 2:1) where Jesus was teaching, they found the narrow street clogged with people. The crowd was milling around more than moving forward, because people weren’t simply getting healed and leaving. Instead, those who had received healing from Jesus then wanted to stay and hear Him teach. So the crowd in and around the house was becoming more dense with the passing of time, not less.

But these men were determined to get their paralyzed friend to Jesus. They developed a plan, and pushed through the crowd to put it into action. Roofs in that part of the world were flat with a low wall or parapet around them, composed of mud and clay packed between rafters, then covered with tile. There was often an outside stairway that went up to the roof as well, and these friend carried their friend up it on his sleeping mat. Then they removed the tiles near where Jesus was sitting ,and dug through the clay until an opening had been made.

Everyone inside was stunned when a shower of dirt fell to the floor, and hands were seen rapidly digging through the ceiling above them. Then they broke into laughter when the man on the mat was lowered down through the hole that had been made. Several men nearby rose to their feet and reached up, helping to lower the paralytic to the floor in front of Jesus.

Jesus looked down at the man lying on the mat, looking hopefully back up at him, then up to the hopeful faces peering down at Him through the hole in the ceiling, and was genuinely impressed. It was easy to see that all of them had a lot of faith in Him.

But as He looked back down at the man, and listened for what it was that the Father wanted Him to do in this situation, He suddenly understood the deepest need that this man had, and that was to have his sins pronounced forgiven. Many had told this man that his disability was punishment from God for some sin he had committed, and so he had been carrying an enormous load of guilt.

So, since that was what was most necessary, that’s where Jesus focused first. The man’s body would be healed, too, but the first thing needed was to rid the man’s mind and soul from its burden of guilt and shame by pronouncing forgiveness.

Father, it’s really easy to see what doctors call “presenting symptoms” and then make the assumption that that is the primary need that must be addressed when we interact with broken people. But Jesus always listened first, observing with His heart more than with His eyes, and so was able to address the real issue, even if it wasn’t immediately evident to human eyes. Help me to listen, too, Lord, so that I can help people where they really need help , and so that their whole body, soul, and spirit can be made whole in You. Amen.

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Today’s Scripture – July 25, 2017

Luke 5:12-16 (NIV) While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.
Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”
Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

This man was about as unclean as a person could possibly get. He didn’t have just a spot of leprosy, say on his forehead like Uzziah (2 Chronicles 26:19-21). He was literally covered with the dead and dying tissue that characterized this dreaded disease. The man was already considered dead by his family and friends; there was no way there could be any contact with him without all of them becoming unclean themselves, something that no one was willing to risk.

The man had heard of Jesus and how He could heal diseases with just a word. So when he saw Jesus walking toward him that day, he fell down with his face to the ground a good distance away, and yelled out, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” He had no idea if Jesus would be willing. After all, he was a complete outcast, assumed by many to be suffering punishment from God Himself for some heinous sin or other. Jesus could easily have walked right by the man, giving him a wide berth, of course, and no one would blame him.

But Jesus was not about to let faith like this man had go unanswered. He kept on walking right up to him without varying His pace in the least. Then, to the wonder (and horror) of those with Him, He bent down and laid His hand on the man’s sore-covered body, saying gently, “I am willing. Be clean.”

Before the gasps of horror and disgust had even died away, the man felt power surge through his whole body, and he knew that he had been healed. He dared to look up from the ground, and found himself looking squarely into the smiling face of Jesus. Jesus held out His hand again, and this time the man took it with his own now clean hand, and climbed to his feet.

Jesus’ warning was not to imply that He had done anything wrong, or that He needed to be ashamed of touching and healing the leper. He simply wanted the focus of the healing to be God and His kingdom. So He instructed the man to simply go to a priest, and to walk through the law’s process for those who had been healed of leprosy (Leviticus 14:1-32) without telling everyone how he had been healed.

But, of course, the man couldn’t help but tell everyone he met about Jesus and about how He had reached through the disease to touch him and heal him. The end result was exponentially more people coming to Jesus to learn and to be healed. That was good for the kingdom, but it made it more difficult for Jesus to be able to spend the kind of time in communion with the Father that He needed in order to hear His voice clearly. But He adapted to the new circumstances, purposefully and frequently withdrawing from the crowds so that He could be alone with the God who not only had sent Him, but who directed His every step.

Father, the lessons here are clear: with You in our hearts, we don’t need to fear engaging with the unclean things in our society that need the light and shalom of You kingdom to bring them wholeness and make them clean. But, at the same time, I can’t do that and maintain my own purity and shalom unless I intentionally keep my connection with You strong and vital by spending lots of time in one-on-one communion with You. If Jesus Himself needed that to be able to effectively do the work of Your kingdom, I most surely do!

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Today’s Scripture – July 19, 2017

Luke 5:1-5 (NIV) One day as Jesus was standing by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the people crowding around him and listening to the word of God, he saw at the water’s edge two boats, left there by the fishermen, who were washing their nets. He got into one of the boats, the one belonging to Simon, and asked him to put out a little from shore. Then he sat down and taught the people from the boat.
When he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”
Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything. But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”

The crowds along the shore were huge, and they continued to press forward on Jesus, shoving Him toward the edge of the water, wanting to touch Him in order to receive a miracle for themselves. But miracles were not to be taken from Jesus; they were to be given and received, so that Jesus was honored, and God glorified through them.

Jesus saw the boats belonging to Simon, and to his partners James and John (Luke 5:10) At this point, Simon had been a follower of Jesus for a few months, and Jesus was using his home as a base in Capernaum (Luke 4:38-39). So when Jesus asked him to leave his net maintenance to row Jesus out away from the shore, Simon instantly responded.

From a few yards offshore, Jesus could teach the people without the constant pressure of the surging crowd, and without the people having divided attention from jockeying for position. So He taught until He was done, and then dismissed the crowd.

Jesus turned to Simon, and instructed him to put out into deeper water and to let down the fishing nets. Simon pushed back against this suggestion, because that’s just not how it was done. The best time for fishing was at night. The nets were spread into the water, and torches were lit on the boat. The fish were attracted to the light (and the promise of insects that would also be attracted to the light) and were snared in the net.

It was full daylight now, so the normal procedure wouldn’t work. Add to that the fact that Peter had already been up fishing all night, and hadn’t caught anything, and you can see the reason for his disgruntled response. But one look at the expression on Jesus’ face made him veer in a new direction: “But because you say so, I will let down the nets.

Father, You often give directions to those who listen to Your voice, and sometimes those directions defy conventional wisdom as to how things should be one. Help me, Lord, to never fall into the trap of trying to tell You how to do things. Instead, help me to simply obey and see what happens, so that You are glorified in everything I do. Amen.

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