Luke


Luke 21-22 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He prays that we will remain faithful in the face of temptation

I told my children when they were young that if they were accused of something by someone, they needed to understand one thing: I knew that it was possible for them to be guilty of anything they were accused of.  I would hope in my heart that it wasn’t true, but I would seek out the truth.  I imagine this mindset came from serving for decades in youth ministry and encountering the moms or dads who refused to believe that their son or daughter could be guilty of anything.  Be assured, this attitude did not serve their children well.  In this same way, I believe that it is possible for me to fail in any sin, but I hope in my heart that I will not.  Peter, however, was in denial…on two counts. 

@Luke 22
In the timeline before His death, Jesus was approaching Calvary and had just shared a time of fellowship and instruction at the Last Supper.  From the Gospels we know that Jesus declared to His disciples that they would all desert Him during this time of trial.  This news was met by opposition by Peter, “Lord, I am ready to go to prison with you, and even to die with you.’ But Jesus said, ‘Peter, let me tell you something. Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.” (Luke 14:33-34)  “No!’ Peter declared emphatically. ‘Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!’” (Mark 14:31)

I would have thought that Peter was mature enough by this time to know that never and always are fighting words in any setting.  When we say in a dialogue, “I always…I never…you always…you never,” we should get ready to rumble.  Satan was right there to take Peter on. In fact, Jesus had just predicted it. “Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” (31-32) But when the moment came to accept the Lord’s warning and proceed with caution, Peter felt he was too committed to the Lord, too strong to fail.  He thought he would never deny the Lord.

Of course, we know that he did deny Him; then, after the third denial, “And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed.  At that moment the Lord turned and looked at Peter. Suddenly, the Lord’s words flashed through Peter’s mind: ‘Before the rooster crows tomorrow morning, you will deny three times that you even know me.’ And Peter left the courtyard, weeping bitterly.” (61-62)

When the enemy throws a temptation my way to deny the Lord or to fail Him, I hope I will remember the failure that followed Peter’s arrogance.  Paul expressed it this way in I Corinthians 10:12-13, “If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall. The temptations in your life are no different from what others experience. And God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”  We will never see the way out that the Lord provides if we think we would never need it. It just won’t be on our radar.  And may I add, the thought of the Lord looking at me in the midst of my failure as He did with Peter is one I can hardly bear.

The good news in this story for Peter as well as for us is that Jesus is praying for us when we face temptation (32), and if we will accept His help with humility, we will be victorious.  Peter repented and went on to be a powerful leader in the emerging church, proving that there is hope for all of us! 

Moving Forward: What an assurance I have that in the face of any temptation Jesus is praying for me to remain faithful.  I move forward today accepting His prayer and His cautions with the knowledge that He’s looking at me. 

Tomorrow @ I Thessalonians 1-3

Luke 19-20 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He gives us all that we need to invest in His Kingdom

When I was young girl my mom often said something similar to “use your talents for the Lord or you’ll lose them.”  I didn’t really know at the time if it was a mommy-ism or hardcore truth, but then later I came to understand it was based on the story in Matthew 25 and this similar story in Luke 19 about the king and the money or talents.  When my saxophone was stolen some years later, her words were ringing in my ears.

I played my saxophone in college and in church for many years, but now it sat in the corner of the basement, pads drying out, picking up a musty smell.  I was in the ministry and just too busy with other things.  Well, someone broke into our home and took only four things – a pillowcase, a small empty piggy bank, a package of frozen hot dogs and yes, my saxophone.  I used to laugh and say that I still had the talent but just lost the saxophone.  However,  now so many years later, I’m fairly certain it’s a lost skill as well.

Jesus used the story of the talents to clear up some misinformation.  The oppressed Jews were looking for Him to overthrow the Roman government and establish Himself as their King, but He was interested in a different Kingdom.  The Jews had rejected Jesus as their Messiah, they crucified Him, He arose and ascended to Heaven and the church age began.  This story gave a clear picture of the responsibilities of His listeners that day as well as for us.

Each servant was given a pound of silver to invest and grow the kingdom, and those who did were praised and rewarded when the king returned.  The servant who hid the money to protect it out of fear of losing it was reprimanded and the money was taken away – he lost it anyway.   I’ve heard plenty of excuses through the years about why Christians can’t use for the Lord what He has put in their hands to do, and I’ve offered many of them myself.  Most will say they just don’t have any talents or gifting to use for the Lord, and I’ve found it hard to argue with a few of them, but if we’re still breathing, then the very least we have is time.  Time, skills, money, intelligence, physical strength – God has given everyone something to use to bless His Kingdom.

A had a friend who owned a beautiful set of china.  It sat deep within her china hutch and was never used because she was afraid it would break or be harmed in some way.  So sad.  In truth, I was tempted to take a dish out and damage it in some way and say, “OK, now the set is ruined, go ahead and use them.”  Of course, I never did it.  The china rarely adorned her table and never served its intended purpose.

Sometimes we hide the talents He’s given us because we fear failure or misuse, but I think we should understand that He rather use a chipped or scratched plate than none at all.  Often we are too focused on our own busy lives or perhaps we’re just too lazy to use what God has put in our hands.

The servants knew that the king would return to see how well they had invested his money and lived for that moment when they would hear “well done, faithful servant.”  We can look forward to the day when Jesus returns to establish His Kingdom, but in the meantime, He expects us to live like He’s returning.  “For we must all stand before Christ to be judged. We will each receive whatever we deserve for the good or evil we have done in this earthly body.” (2 Corinthians 5:10)

A faithful servant longs to please the One he serves, longs to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:21)  I’ve always said that when we stand before Him someday, it won’t matter how many things we have accumulated, how clean our house was or the prestigious positions we held.  No, all that will matter is what we did with Jesus and what we did for Him. Once again the reminder, the only thing we take with us into eternity is other people. 

Moving Forward: I want to be the faithful servant today, not hindered and not afraid to invest any talent he has given me for His Kingdom, using those dishes! 

Tomorrow @ Colossians 3-4

Luke 17-18 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He responds to our heart-felt praise and thanksgiving

My husband and I didn’t stay in youth ministry for 40 years because of the spontaneous and habitual outbursts of gratitude from teenagers.  No, it was because we just couldn’t help ourselves – we loved those kids.  But when those words of thanks came on occasion, they were deeply appreciated, and they encouraged us to do even more to minister to them and get to know them in a greater way.  Because we are made in God’s image, no doubt He feels the same way towards words of thanks, and the story of the ten lepers in Luke 17 is a beautiful illustration of gratitude and the blessings that flow from it.  Just for the record, I would never compare teenagers to lepers. 

@ Luke 17
“As Jesus continued on toward Jerusalem, He reached the border between Galilee and Samaria.  As He entered a village there, ten lepers stood at a distance, crying out, ‘Jesus, Master, have mercy on us!’” (11-13)  This was the last road trip for Jesus before His death and wouldn’t it be just like Him to travel right through Samaria, the town that other Jews went out of their way to circumvent.  I must admit I might have been tempted to avoid groups of lepers calling out to me, but not Jesus.

Jesus made one request of them, “He looked at them and said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’  And as they went, they were cleansed of their leprosy.” (14)  From verse 13, we know that the lepers knew who Jesus was and perhaps had heard of His healing power.  Even before they saw the evidence of healing, they responded in obedience and did what He said, and because of it, they were cleansed

“One of them, when he saw that he was healed, came back to Jesus, shouting, ‘Praise God!’  He fell to the ground at Jesus’ feet, thanking Him for what He had done.  This man was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Didn’t I heal ten men?  Where are the other nine?’…And Jesus said to the man, ‘Stand up and go. Your faith has healed you.’”(15-19) The nine lepers were so focused on their healing that they forgot about the Healer, but the Samaritan man who had every reason to avoid Jesus, returned to give thanks.  This allowed him to move on to Round Two.

By returning to the Healer, the man not only was healed from leprosy like the others, but he found out why he was healed.  His heart of thanksgiving opened up a face to face dialogue with Jesus who gave him the key to future healing, “Your faith has healed you.”  However, in the original language, this word “healed” has a deeper meaning and is often translated made whole, speaking not only of a physical healing, but of a spiritual healing as well.  The man’s belief in the Lord and His wholehearted act of giving glory to the Lord made him the winner that day!

God revealed in Psalms, “But giving thanks is a sacrifice that truly honors me.  If you keep to my path, I will reveal to you the salvation of God.” (50:23)  And that is what happened for the Samaritan leper!  His words of true thanksgiving were not given in order to get something more from Jesus, but blessing came because of them.  Just as gratitude encouraged my heart to do even more for our youth and to know them better, I imagine that God is also encouraged to do even more and to reveal Himself in a greater way in response to our praise and thanksgiving given in honor to Him.

Moving Forward: I will move through this day with praise in my heart and words of thanksgiving on my lips for who He is and all He has done.  It’s a win/win situation. 

Tomorrow @ Colossians 1-2

Luke 13-14 (NLT link) 

Discover His heart: He asks that we count the cost of following Him, loving Him more than any other 

@ Luke 14
Within our cache of junk mail, we all have received the seemingly innocuous credit card offers.  What a deal!  Free annual fee, 0% interest for about two minutes followed by a monthly pint of blood and extortive interest rates.  Well, somebody has to pay for it!  We would be wise to count the cost of this incredible offer – some offers just are not what they appear to be.

On the other hand, we all have been offered an amazing opportunity that is not only more than what it appears to be, but more than we can even imagine:  free paid membership, life-long eligibility as per the agreement, including out-of-this-world dividends – literally.  However, before we sign on the dotted line, it would be good to read all the print. There will be some dues to be paid as well as commitment to the everything stipulation.  In spite of this, the offer is miraculous, and there’s really nothing like it anywhere.

“If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison…carry your own cross and follow me…count the cost…giving up everything you own,” Jesus explained to the large crowd following Him that day. (26-33) While these requirements to His offer may seem difficult, this blog couldn’t begin to hold all the blessings that result from our acceptance of His offer – abundant life here on earth and eternal life in heaven, just to name a couple of them.

We can easily understand the examples Jesus gave of the builder, the king and the importance of counting the cost to follow Him.  And because of the example of Jesus at Calvary, we can somewhat understand what it means to carry our own cross and the willingness to follow Him even to death.  Many throughout history have followed Him to this very end, and others are walking this path today. Does He really require us to hate our families and friends? In comparison to our love and devotion to Him, it may appear that way at times.

The giving Him everything stipulation is a tangible, hardcore, giving of all that we are, all that we ever will be, all that we have and all that we ever will have.  The truth is that our everything could not be in better hands—He gives back to us what we need, when we need it and how we need it.  We couldn’t find a better life coach and financial planner anywhere!  More importantly, He is our Creator, the One who knows us better than anyone else does and the One who knows our tomorrow.

Jesus desires that we count the cost of following Him so that our passion and enthusiasm is authentic and eternal.  The offer is this:  “For God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)  When counting the cost, how can we can we not consider His incredible offer!

Moving Forward: Today I renew my commitment to the cost of following Him, regardless of the path it takes. I’m yours, Lord, everything I am or ever hope to be, everything I have or ever hope to have.  I love Him most. 

Tomorrow @ Philippians 1-2

Luke 9-10 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is Jehovah Jireh, the One who provides. 

@ Luke 9
“Late in the afternoon the twelve disciples came Him and said, ‘Send the crowds away to the nearby villages and farms, so they can find food and lodging for the night.  There is nothing to eat here in this remote place.’ But Jesus said, ‘You feed them.’” (12-13)

Can you imagine?  As a cook and one who has fed small multitudes of people on occasion, the logistical nightmare of feeding 5,000 men plus women and children brings me to my knees, literally. With 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish, the size of each being inconsequential at this point, and 10,000-15,000 hungry people, well, we can do the math.  What was He saying?  Did He realize what He was asking?  Of course He did.

I’ve learned some little tricks through the years in feeding large groups of people.  Take for instance a food item requiring a serving spoon.  If more people show up than expected, I provide a small serving spoon; and if fewer show up, I use the largest spoon in my kitchen drawer.  For some reason, there always seems to be just enough food.  Imagine that!  But no matter how small I would have cut those fish sandwiches that day, there was not going to be enough food.  Even though the disciples protested at His response, the miracle began when they submitted to His request.

“Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, looked up toward heaven, and blessed them. Then, breaking the loaves into pieces, He kept giving the bread and fish to the disciples so they could distribute it…all ate as much as they wanted.”(16-17)  When we give out of our lack in obedience to His prompting, it signals God to perform the miraculous.

In today’s economy many are facing lack, but it is in our lack and limitations when the miraculous takes place.  When we give out of our abundance, it’s a gift or offering and this is good; but when we give out of our lack, it becomes a miracle!  We hold in our hands what little we have, asking Him to bless it and to use however He may choose, whether to meet our needs or the needs of others.  He takes our limited resources and multiplies them and their effectiveness more than we could ever imagine.  Miraculous!

This story of 5,000 unexpected dinner guests is the only miracle of Jesus recorded in all four of the gospels, obviously impacting Jews and Gentiles alike, a tax collector, a young adult, a doctor and a fisherman in the mix. It shows that God is concerned about our physical needs as well as our spiritual needs.

Perhaps the disciples were just learning about who they were following, this man called Jesus claiming to be the Son of God.  Perhaps they were just discovering that He was Jehovah, Jehovah Jireh, the One who provides.  Have we really discovered who it is that we are following?  “And afterward, the disciples picked up twelve baskets of leftovers!” (17)  Jehovah Jireh, He provides more than enough!

Moving Forward: Today I hold in my hands my lack, asking Him to bless it and multiply it however He chooses.  I know that He will provide more than enough – He is Jehovah Jireh, my Provider. 

Tomorrow @ Ephesians 1-3

Luke 7-8 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He is blessed by our acts of faith

Military personnel understand authority.  I saw this fact played out time and time again while living in Colorado Springs, surrounded by Army and Air Force personnel who attended our church.  They understood the chain of command and accepted it with unwavering loyalty, every pastor’s dream. The only problem with the military personnel in our church was that just when we knew we couldn’t live without them, Uncle Sam moved them on to another base somewhere in the world. Their understanding of authority could not be denied as was true with the officer in Luke 7.

@ Luke 7
The Gentile officer’s valued servant was ill.  He had heard about the authority over sickness that a Jewish man named Jesus possessed, and military people understand authority.  “Lord, don’t trouble yourself by coming to my home, for I am not worthy of such an honor. I am not even worthy to come and meet you. Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed…When Jesus heard this, He was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following Him, He said, ‘I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel.”(6-9)  Amazing Jesus!  Well, it’s true, He certainly is amazing.  But I mean amazing, in the sense to amaze Jesus.  Every time I read the story of the Roman officer I question, “Has my faith ever amazed Jesus?”

“Just say the word from where you are, and my servant will be healed.  I know this because I am under the authority of my superior officers, and I have authority over my soldiers, I only need to say ‘Go,’ and they go or ‘Come,’ and they come.”(7-8)  From the accounts he had heard, he understood the authority that Jesus possessed over sickness and death, and he actually believed it! Chapters 7 and 8 tell of many miracles of Jesus that were off the chart in magnitude, like raising the dead and delivering a demoniac of many demons to name a couple.  Having read all the miracles of Jesus throughout the Gospels, do I have the faith of the Roman officer?

Of course, being Italian and all, it thrills me that the one with the most faith in all of Israel was a Roman; but I wonder if the thing that thrilled Jesus the most was that the man understood that healing from Him did not require a special potion, a particular location or standing on his left foot and counting to 100.  “Just say the word,” was all it took.  Just say the word.

In these chapters we learn that Jesus ministered to the undesirables of His day when He responded to a gentile officer, forgave an immoral woman, delivered a demoniac and healed an unclean woman.  Obviously, His miracles did not fall under the scrutiny of racial or moral profiling – everyone and everything are under His authority!  We have heard of His miraculous works, but do we amaze Him with our faith and believe that He will heal our bodies and set people free and provide the jobs, food and shelter that we need.  The method Jesus uses to respond to our requests is in His hands, but the miracle often begins when our faith catches His attention.  Oh, how I want to amaze Him! 

Moving Forward:  I surrender my needs to His authority today. With a believing heart, I cry, “Just say the word, Jesus, just say the word!”  I pray He is amazed. 

Tomorrow @ Galatians 4-6

Luke 5-6 (NLT) 

Discover His heart: He calls us to be fishers of men

I grew up in Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes.  I have many grand memories of canoeing on the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes, swimming in their cool spring-fed waters during the hot summers, almost drowning in Cedar Lake (not such a grand memory) and fishing in lakes all over Minnesota.  Lots and lots of fishing.

I’ve sat for hours in a boat or on a pier with hardly a nibble, waiting for the big one to come along. I’ve caught hundreds of sunfish, perch and trout and I’ve even snagged a walleye or two. I love to fish, I don’t know why, but I do.  And there’s nothing like taking fresh-caught fish, cleaning them up and pan frying them on the spot, tasting their freshness while dodging all those bones.  Great memories!  However, our fishing story today reminds me of another kind of catch, one with an eternal destination. 

@ Luke 5
“[Jesus] said to Simon, ‘now go out where it is deeper, and let down your nets to catch some fish.’ ‘Master,’ Simon replied, ‘we worked hard all last night and didn’t catch a thing.  But if you say so, I’ll let the nets down again.’ And this time their nets were so full of fish they began to tear!” (4-6)  Fishing with Jesus – now that was a sweet catch!  I’m blessed by the fact that Jesus is concerned about our temporal needs, abundantly providing for us at just the right moment, but as we continue to read the story, we understand that the compelling goal of Jesus was to complete His mission. He was looking for fishers of men.

My mom was a fisherman and very successful, but she wasn’t after trout or bass or grouper.  She was always fishing for people.  In her lifetime, she caught hundreds and hundreds of lost and hurting people and reeled them into the lifeboat, one by one, day in and day out.  In all my years of observation, I never saw one person refuse her message of the love of Jesus.  Although she was delightful in every respect, her success was not due to her eloquent speech or charismatic personality.  No, she was a successful fisher of men because she got into the boat with Jesus and threw out the net, so to speak.  Every morning as she made the beds and prepared for the day she asked God to lead her as she went about her day to those who were in season, ready to be caught.  And He did.

One of the things that made mom a great fisher of men was her acceptance of others.  It’s easy to be busy judging and condemning the bad behavior of others rather than being about the business of catching them.  Not mom.  To her there wasn’t a living, breathing soul that did not deserve to hear about the Lord, no throwbacks for her, everyone was a keeper.  “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.  Do not condemn others, or it will all come back against you.  Forgive others, and you will be forgiven.” (6:37)  Mom even shared the love of Jesus with those who had wanted to hurt her at one time or another because all she cared about was their eternal destination.  She’s in heaven now with a boatload of catch.

The stories of her fishing expeditions are endless, but one time mom left the grocery store with a cart full of groceries. She was walking to her car when a woman approached her.  It was one of those moments when Jesus said, “Cast your net.”  Without concern for the melting ice cream or wilting lettuce, she turned her attention to the woman who said, “I really need a cigarette.  Do you have a cigarette you could give me?”  Mom smiled and said, “No, I don’t have one, but I have something that will satisfy you much more than a cigarette.”  She shared with her the wonderful love of Jesus and His power to satisfy.  The tearful woman accepted the Lord as her Savior, and started attending church with her.  Yes, mom was quite the fisherman.

After filling two boats full of fish (be still my heart), Jesus said to Simon, “From now on you’ll be fishing for people!’  And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.” (5:10-11)  If you’re looking for me, I’m with Simon – Gone fishin’! 

Moving Forward: Net in hand…looking for the catch of the day!

Tomorrow @ Galatians 1-3

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