Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Poem

by Becky

I wrote this acrostic poem last year. It's inspired by John 15, so I thought I'd share it. Hope that's okay. Sometimes abiding means being pruned...

am grafted to the Vine
Nurtured when with Him combined.

Created to bear fruit,
He is my source and root.
Refined because He prunes
I will not doubt Him soon.
Sustained and strengthened with His life
Trained by Him, I trust His knife.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

John 14 - The Obedience Cycle

by Katrina

LINK: John 14

In this chapter Jesus explained to his disciples that he would be leaving to return to the Father in heaven and that the Holy Spirit will be coming to help them. He began and ended the conversation with comfort for the disciples. "Let not your heart be troubled" and "Peace I leave with you."

The disciples, along with many others, thought Jesus was about to establish himself as king and overthrow Rome. That's why Judas (not Iscariot) was confused and asked why Jesus wasn't going to disclose himself to the world (vs 22). Jesus told them that Satan is the ruler of this current world (vs 30).

Once again, Jesus explained to his disciples that he is one with the Father. They didn't fully understand it, but they would "get it" once the Holy Spirit comes.

Jesus linked love with obedience, and he linked both with God's presence. Everything Jesus did was out of obedience to the Father and through the Father abiding in him (vs 10). As for everyone else, Jesus said, "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments" (vs 15) and "He who does not love Me does not keep My words" (vs 24).

God reveals himself to those who love and obey him. "He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him" (vs 21). It's a wonderful cycle - The more we know of God and obey him, the more he reveals himself to us. So we know more, and obey, and the cycle goes on.

What an amazing opportunity we have to know God!

Jesus has work for us to do. "He who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater (works) than these shall he do; because I go to the Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it" (vs 12-14).

Our work is to obey. We are not left on our own, though. The Holy Spirit is our helper (vs 16) as we seek to keep God's word. And whatever we ask in Jesus' name, he will do (vs 13-14). Asking "in Jesus' name" is not a magic formula to be tacked onto the end of a prayer. It is to ask what Jesus would ask. It's like we stand in his place, as his representative, and speak for him. And the purpose of our request must be to bring glory to God (vs 13).

Father, thank you for your word that gives us a glimpse of who you are, and for your Holy Spirit who is our helper. May we seek to love and obey you in all we do so that you will receive all the glory. Amen.

Monday, March 29, 2010

John 13 - Washing Feet

by Katrina

LINK: John 13

John 13-17 is Jesus' "farewell address" to the disciples. This is his last evening with them, as later this night he will be arrested. These chapters consist of some final instructions, promises, information about the future, and prayer for the disciples and all who will come after them.

The setting of chapter 13 is the final meal Jesus will share with his disciples. Unlike much of Jesus' ministry, this is a closed group. Only Jesus and his disciples are in the room. There are no Pharisees or crowds to distract or challenge them.

Jesus washed the disciples' feet. Washing represents cleansing from sin. Jesus was demonstrating to the disciples that they were forgiven and cleansed from sin, yet they still had a need to "wash away" the sins of every day life. Jesus did point out that one of them (Judas) was not cleansed and really had no part with Jesus. He also told them that they needed to forgive each other as Jesus forgave them.

When Jesus told the disciples that one would betray him, they all looked at one another and had no idea which one he was referring to. Although Jesus pointed out Judas as the betrayer, the rest of them still didn't understand.

After the meal, Jesus explained (again) that he was about to die. God would be glorified through his death, and in turn God would glorify Jesus. In the meantime, Jesus instructed the eleven to love one another. It would be their love for each other that would demonstrate Jesus to the world. Peter didn't like Jesus talking about leaving and promised to go with him even if it cost him his life. Much to Peter's disappointment, I'm sure, Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the cock crows once.

When Jesus washed the feet of the disciples, he was demonstrating his humility. Here he was the master acting as a servant. It obviously made a big impression on Peter, and I'm sure it affected the others as well. No service to man was too lowly for Jesus to do.

Jesus was also demonstrating the need for continual forgiveness because we continually sin. He assured the disciples that they were cleansed; they were forgiven and given new life. But day-to-day life would involve more sin, and those "little" sins could not be ignored. They must be forgiven. He wanted the disciples to see their need for daily cleansing from God, as well as their need to forgive one another.

When he finished washing the disciples' feet, Jesus said, "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. . . . If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."

In our culture, we do not wash feet as they did in those days. People aren't walking everywhere on dirt roads with sandals on their feet (or barefoot). In Jesus' day, a servant would wash people's feet when they arrived at the house. We simply don't have this as one of our daily habits.

But what Jesus did wasn't normal in their culture either. The feet should have been washed before the meal, not during it, if this was the normal ritual. Jesus was doing something different here. Yes, Jesus was demonstrating humility and teaching us to be humble. And Jesus was teaching us to be forgiving toward each other. But maybe he was also saying that believers should wash each other's feet. Not many churches practice washing of feet. Any group of believers can do it. We have foot washing as part of our communion service. It truly is an act of humility. That's what makes it so hard to do! And it's awkward the first time, too (which is also humbling). But I can attest to the fact that those who do it are blessed by it.

Lord, teach us to be humble like Jesus. He lowered himself from his place of glory to become a man and lowered himself even more to death, even death on a cross. He took the punishment for sins he never committed. That is great humility! Help us to be humble and forgiving toward others, following the example of Jesus. Amen.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

John 12 - Responses to Jesus

by Becky

LINK: John 12


The anointing of Jesus by Mary of Bethany can also be found in Matthew 26 and Mark 14, though those passages emphasize the anointing of his head, while this one in John emphasizes her wiping His feet with her hair. This is not a contradiction, but shows how each writer picks out different events to highlight. In the next chapter of John, Jesus will wash his disciples' feet. Perhaps that is why John stresses that part of Mary's anointing. There is also an account in Luke 7:36-50 of a different woman who anoints Jesus not only with ointment, but with her tears. The events in Luke happen in Galilee a year before Jesus' death, while the events here in John occur in Bethany of Judea just before Jesus' death. Jesus reacts differently as well. In Luke the host comments that if Jesus were a prophet He would know that the woman was a sinner. Jesus responds with the parable of the two debtors. Here in John (and in Matthew and Mark), Jesus defends Mary when Judas complains that the money would be better spent on the poor. Jesus says that her anointing is in preparation for His burial.


Look at all the different reactions to Jesus in this chapter:

We have Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, who earlier had sat at Jesus' feet to learn from Him, whose own brother was raised from the dead by Jesus, who now wastefully shows her love for Jesus. She humbles herself in the sight of all at the feast by pouring expensive perfume on His head and feet and then wiping His feet with her own hair. The whole room is filled with the smell of the perfume.

We have the crowds who waved the palm branches. The crowds line the streets for Jesus' entry into Jerusalem. They'd heard that He'd raised Lazarus from the dead. He must be the Messiah! He would rescue them from their suffering. He would free them from the oppression of the Romans. That is what they expected. Then when Jesus talks of kernels of wheat dying to the Greeks who come to talk to Him, when He tells the crowds that He must be lifted up, they are confused. They understand that this means He will die, and that doesn't fit in with what they expect of the Messiah. Many reject Him. Their hearts become harder and harder the more they hear yet don't believe.

And we have the ones who do believe but are afraid to confess it - to let people know. Why? Because they fear what will happen if they make it public. They would be kicked out of the synagogue, and lose their positions in society. They would be stripped of what they held dear. "They loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God." (43)


Jesus made it clear in this chapter that those who don't come to Him walk in darkness. They won't know where they are going. Making up a Jesus who fits our own idea of what He should be isn't coming to Him. Jesus often doesn't fit our idea of a conqueror. He spoke of dying.

He came and gave His life so that we can live. So that we can walk in the light.

How do you respond to Him?

Have you packaged Him up in a box of expectations and rejected Him because He didn't bring you what you wanted? Do you want to follow Him, but do it halfheartedly because you care too much what people think of you? Do you love Him wastefully and extravagantly, like Mary?

Jesus said that those who follow Him will be like Him. He gave Himself wastefully for us. We are to give ourselves to Him.


Help me to love you with my whole being, Lord Jesus -extravagantly. I don't want to fear anything or anyone other than you. Thank you for giving yourself for me, for loving me, for giving me life and light.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

John 7 - Living Water

by Katrina

LINK: John 7

The setting for this chapter is the Feast of Tabernacles in Jerusalem. This feast took place at harvest time each year and celebrated God's provision during the years of wandering in the wilderness. This particular festival was about six months before Jesus was to die.

The scene opens with Jesus' half-brothers trying to convince him to go to the festival and show his powers to the world. They want Jesus to set up his kingdom. Jesus refuses to go with his brothers, but goes to the feast quietly a bit later.

There are three groups of people Jesus encounters at the feast. There are "the Jews," which refers to the religious leaders such as Pharisees, Scribes, Sadducees. They are hoping for a chance to get rid of Jesus. The city is also full of "the multitudes" of people coming to the feast. Many of them haven't heard much about Jesus before arriving in Jerusalem. They weren't up to speed on the opinion of the Jewish leadership about Jesus either. The third group was the Jews who lived in Jerusalem. They have been hearing about Jesus and have also heard about the condemnation of Jesus by the Jewish leadership.

When Jesus spoke at the festival, he clearly proclaimed that he came from heaven. He also told the Jewish leaders that they didn't know God. He would return to the Father where they could not follow. The religious leaders responded with anger and denial.

Jesus said that anyone who believed in him would have rivers of living water flowing from his innermost being. This is likely a reference to Isaiah 55:1. A Jewish student of the scriptures would recall to mind the entire chapter of Isaiah 55 upon hearing something so similar to the first verse.

Water for drinking is also a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Water satisfies physical thirst and allows the production of fruit, and likewise, the Holy Spirit satisfies spiritual thirst and produces spiritual fruit. Jesus would send the Spirit to those who believed in him.

Jesus was also claiming to be the source of the life-giving water in the desert. Each day during the feast of tabernacles, there was a tradition of carrying water up from the Pool of Siloam to the temple and pouring it into a basin by the altar of burnt offerings. This was done as a reminder that God gave them water from the rock in the wilderness. I wonder if Jesus chose the moment the water was being poured out to stand up and cry out, "If any man is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink." Even if he didn't do it just then, it would still be fresh in the minds of the people since all this occurred during the feast of tabernacles. The strong reactions of the people indicate that they thought what Jesus said was very significant.

Do you drink of the living water? Does it flow from you in blessings to others?

Lord, you are the source of life. Let me drink deeply of your living water, and let your Holy Spirit overflow through me. Amen.

Monday, March 22, 2010

John 6 - The Bread of Life

by Katrina

LINK: John 6
Parallel Passages:
John 6:1-13 ~ Matthew 14:13-21 ~ Mark 6:30-44 ~ Luke 9:10-17
John 6:14-21 ~ Matthew 14:22-33 ~ Mark 6:45-52
John 6:22-71

John 6:1-15
Jesus multiplied the bread to miraculously feed the 5000, and the people responded by trying to force him to become king. Jesus withdrew and avoided their plan.

John 6:16-26
Jesus walked on the stormy sea out to the boat where his disciples were. It frightened the disciples greatly to see him walking on water, but when Jesus assured them of who he was, they received him into the boat. At that moment the boat miraculously reached shore. The multitude followed and found Jesus the next day. They weren't even after the signs and miracles of Jesus per se, they just wanted more food from him.

John 6:27-71
Jesus told the multitude (Katrina's paraphrase), "Don't put your life effort into the things of this world; rather work for things of eternal value. This is the work of God, and you do it by believing in Me (Jesus)." They asked Jesus for a sign, something like the sign Moses gave when he provided manna in the wilderness. Jesus countered (my paraphrase again), "It wasn't Moses who gave you bread; it was God." So, the crowd asks for some of this bread as a sign. Jesus presented himself to them as the bread of life who came from heaven.

The Jews didn't like that claim and began to grumble. So Jesus continued to explain that he was the bread of life. The Jews continued to complain and argue. But Jesus' explanation was even more offensive to them. He said they would have to eat of his flesh and drink of his blood in order to have life.

Even the disciples were having trouble with this idea. Jesus explained to those who were following him that he really did come from heaven and that spiritual life comes from the Holy Spirit. Only those who the Father drew would come to Jesus. Many did not believe and left him at this point in his ministry.

Jesus asked the twelve if they wanted to leave to. They wisely said that there was no one else who had the words of eternal life, so there was no where else to go. Then, although Jesus himself had chosen these twelve men, he knew that one of them served the devil.

Jesus came down out of heaven to give life to the world. What does Jesus say about himself as the bread in this passage? What are the implications of these things? What happens to those who partake of this bread? Make a list and meditate on these things today.

Father, thank you for providing life to us through Jesus your son. May we work hard for things of eternal value and not waste much time, energy, and resources on things that will not last. May we do the work you have for us to do to bring you honor and glory. Amen.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

John 5 - Helpless or Self-Sufficient?

by Becky

LINK: John 5


If you were paralyzed wouldn't you long to be set free? This chapter begins with a man who is paralyzed, who has lain beside the healing pool of Bethesda (which means "house of mercy") for thirty-eight years, hoping to somehow make it into the pool for healing when the waters are stirred. He has no one to help him so others always get there first. Yet he remains, helpless, and I suspect, hopeless.

Jesus finds him there and asks him if he wants to be healed. When I read that, I wondered why Jesus asked him that. Isn't it obvious that he does? The man answers that he has no one to help him into the water of healing. Jesus replies, "Get up, take up your bed, and walk." And the man does. Just as simple as that.

But this is a problem for the Pharisees. It's the Sabbath and there are rules upon rules of what may and may not be done on the Sabbath, which God had prescribed as a day of rest. The Pharisees had taken that delight and made it a nit-picky hardship for the Jews. They had taken a mercy and made it into binding ropes. There was a rule against carrying things and so the Pharisees, seeing the man carrying his mat, reprove him and when they find out that Jesus is the one who healed, renew their persecution of Him. Jesus doesn't get into a squabble over words with them - but instead points out that His Father always works - a wonderful reference to God's continuing care and sustenance of all.

What follows in the chapter is a long discourse by Jesus. He declares himself equal with God the Father - saying that if people don't honor Him, they are not honoring the Father. He reiterates that He is the giver of life - and that that is the reason He has come. Jesus reprimands the Pharisees and points out that they have had many witnesses to the truth that He is God. John the Baptist testified that Jesus was God; Jesus' own works (actions) show that He is who He says He is; the Father Himself testifies; their own Scriptures point to Jesus as the life giver; even Moses, "in whom their hopes are set," wrote about Jesus. Yet they have not believed. They are paralyzed by their pride - they care more for the praise that comes from men than God's praise. They look to themselves for life and find death.

I can't help being struck by the juxtaposition in this chapter of the man at the pool of Bethesda and the Pharisees. Jesus' discourse to the self-sufficient Pharisees follows the account of a helpless man who longs for mercy. That man, knowing himself to be helpless, came to "the place of mercy" and waited for thirty-eight years - hoping against hope that someone outside himself would help him so that he could be healed, be freed from the paralysis that bound his body.

The Pharisees, who were as helpless spiritually as that man was physically, who'd been brought to the "place of mercy" by the Scriptures, by Moses, by John the Baptist - didn't realize it! If Jesus had asked them (as He did the paralyzed man), "Do you want to be healed?" their answer would have been that they didn't need healing! There they were, paralyzed by their own sin and pride, and they didn't know it. They didn't want help and mercy, because they didn't think they needed it. They were content to live in bondage to themselves and other people rather than admit they were helpless, bound, and unable to set themselves free.


We are often locked into seeing the Pharisees as legalists (which they were) and forget to see them as self-sufficient people who prided themselves in having the answers. It also was important to them what others thought of them! It's easy for us to get caught up in those traps, too.

Jesus is the "place of mercy" for us all. The trouble is, many of us don't think we need mercy and grace. We think we are fine just as we are. We compare themselves with others and think we measure up - not realizing we are paralyzed people comparing ourselves to others who are helpless.

Jesus came that we might have life. Right now and forever. Are you like the paralyzed man, helpless and hopeless in sin, needing to be made whole? Jesus, in His mercy, will heal you and set you free. Or are you like the Pharisees, confronted with mercy, yet thinking yourself capable and self-sufficient? I hope not.

So I'll ask the question again: If you were paralyzed wouldn't you long to be set free?

Believe Jesus. It's that simple.


It is easy, Lord, to fall into the trap of the Pharisees - to trust in myself rather than in You - to want to see myself as capable and worthy rather than as helpless, to care more what others think of me than what you think. Help me to rest in your loving mercy always. I am so thankful that you have set me free from the burden of myself and given me life. Also, if there's someone who is reading this who knows she is helpless, who longs for spiritual healing, please reveal yourself to her, so that she can receive mercy and be made whole.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Luke 24 - The Risen Savior

by Katrina

LINK: Luke 24

We discussed the resurrection of Jesus in Matthew 28 here and Mark 16 here.

Those who arrived at the tomb and found it empty were perplexed. The two who walked along the road to Emmaus were discouraged and amazed at the women who said Jesus was alive. The eleven were startled and frightened when Jesus appeared among them.

But when Jesus explained Scripture to them and allowed them to touch his body, they marveled and rejoiced. Their hearts burned within them. He opened their minds and they understood. When Jesus shared a meal with them, their eyes were opened and they recognized him.

They encountered the risen Jesus and were never the same again!

Jesus told the disciples and others in the room, "You are witnesses of these things." They were to begin from Jerusalem and proclaim to all the nations that the Christ suffered and rose again from the dead three days later, and that repentance would bring forgiveness of sins.

What was begun by the original disciples is continued today by believers all around the world. What does it mean to be a witness? A witness is not a judge or jury. A witness is not a prosecutor sent to condemn. A witness doesn't make up stories.

Rather, a witness is one who sincerely tells what he has seen and heard. In this case Jesus specifies that his witnesses would tell people about their encounter with Christ. They would tell others about his suffering, death, burial, and resurrection. And they would tell how repentance will bring forgiveness of sins.

Let's share this good news of forgiveness with others!

Father, you amaze us with your resurrection from the dead. You amaze us even more with our own encounters with you, the risen savior! Make us bold to share the good news of forgiveness and salvation with others. Because of Jesus, amen.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Luke 23 - Crucifixion of the Savior

by Katrina

LINK: Luke 23

The Sanhedrin did not have the authority under law to carry out capital punishment, so they brought Jesus before Pilate, the Roman governor who did have that authority. Pilate found no guilt in Jesus and hoping not to have to deal with the Jews anymore, sent Jesus to Herod. Herod only used Jesus for his own amusement and sent him back to Pilate Once again, Pilate found nothing in Jesus worthy of death and tried to convince the Jews to release him. The Jewish leaders insisted on death, and Pilate finally turned him over to be crucified.

Because Jesus had already been beaten repeatedly, he was too weak to carry his own cross as was usually done. Roman soldiers pressed Simon of Cyrene into service to carry it for Jesus. Cyrene was a city in North Africa where many Jews lived, so Simon had likely traveled to Jerusalem to participate in the Passover celebration there. This participation was surely more than he had planned!

The women who had followed and provided for Jesus throughout his ministry were present at his crucifixion, and Jesus showed his compassion for them. Jesus also had compassion on the Roman soldiers who nailed him to the cross. They weren't the ones who had condemned Jesus, and they weren't fully aware of who he was, so Jesus asked the Father to forgive them for this act.

Jesus was crucified between two criminals. One joined in all the mocking and abuse thrown at Jesus. The other demonstrated tremendous faith in Jesus when he said, "Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!" This man saw Jesus dying yet believed that he still had the power and authority to establish a kingdom. What amazing faith!

Jesus was on the cross for about three hours when at noon the sun went dark and darkness prevailed for the next three hours. The veil of the temple was torn in two. Jesus cried out,
"Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit," breathed his last breath, and died. He gave his life voluntarily at that moment. The death of Jesus had a profound effect on those who observed it. The centurion believed and praised God, and the multitudes beat their breasts. Jesus' friends and the women were still standing there observing all that happened.

Joseph, a member of the Jewish Council, asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Criminals didn't normally get a burial, and Joseph wanted to see to it that Jesus' body wasn't discarded with the others. He wrapped the body and laid him in a rock tomb where no one else had ever lain. He didn't have time to do a complete preparation of the body before the Sabbath sun-down that prohibited work, but he did what he could and made plans with the women to complete the task properly on Sunday after the Sabbath.

Let's look at the temple veil that tore during the crucifixion. Matthew tells us that it tore from top to bottom (Matthew 27:51). That veil was in the temple, separating the place of sacrifice from the holiest place of God's presence. The high priest went into the inner "holy of holies" once a year in order to bring atonement to the entire nation of Israel. This process is explained more fully in Leviticus 16. (And you can read Carol's comments on Leviticus 16 here.)

What is atonement? It is the covering over of sin, producing reconciliation between man and God. The system described in Leviticus was one that provided a temporary restoration of the relationship between Israel and God and had to be repeated every year. The atonement provided through the death of Jesus isn't just for Israel but is for all mankind. It is also complete and never needs to be repeated.

The fact that the veil was torn by God (the only way it could tear from top to bottom), demonstrated that the final atonement had been made and accepted by God. No longer would a priest need to bring an offering before God on behalf of the people. Jesus had provided the ultimate atonement in his death.

In Matthew 5:17, Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill." In Jesus' death on the cross he fulfilled the Law concerning atonement. Can you think of other ways Jesus fulfilled the Law?

Has the atonement that Jesus provided on the cross been applied to you? Do you see how Jesus was crucified to pay the penalty for your sin? The death of Jesus provides for us access to God because he took the punishment for our sin on himself. His death removed the veil that separated us from God's presence. His death opens the way for us to have forgiveness before God. Come to him for that forgiveness. Be like the thief on the cross next to Jesus and put your faith in Jesus.

Thank you, Father, for showing us our need for atonement by spelling it out in the Law. And thank you for providing that atonement through your son Jesus and his death on the cross. We rejoice that you have given us access to your presence. May we seek after you always. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Luke 22 - Who is Greatest?

by Becky

Luke 22


For previous comments on parallel passages which apply to this passage look here: Matthew 26 and Mark 14. They deal particularly with Peter's denial and Jesus' testimony before the Sanhedrin.

Jesus and His disciples eat the Passover meal together, gathered in a large room already set up and known beforehand by Jesus. This was the last meal that Jesus was to have with the twelve and He knew it.

The gospels vary a bit in their accounts. This doesn't mean they disagree, only that different points are emphasized by the different writers. For instance, here in Luke it mentions that Jesus took two cups of wine, while Matthew and Mark mention only one. The traditional Passover meal has wine served four times, so probably this one did, too. Each book mentions what is most important to its theme. John goes into depth about what Jesus tells His disciples - here in Luke, the actions and the disciples' response are highlighted.

Here we see Jesus sharing with those closest to Him the news He is going to die. Look at what He says in v. 15: "I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." This is something Jesus had longed for: an intimate, private meal with those He loved. He has things he wants to tell them, chief of which is to prepare them for His death and He uses the bread and wine as metaphors to explain what will happen.

Verses 35 - 38 are difficult. This section is found only in the gospel of Luke. Earlier (in Luke 9:3 and Luke 10:4) Jesus had told them to take no moneybag and nothing for their journey. Now He asks them if they have lacked anything and when they reply, "No," He responds by telling them to now take a moneybag and knapsack, and even a sword! Somehow this is linked to a Scripture prophecy: "He was numbered with the transgressors." (Isaiah 53:12) The disciples say that they have two swords, which Jesus says are enough, and one of the twelve subsequently puts his to use in defense of Jesus at His arrest, and cuts off the right ear of the servant of the high priest, whom Jesus immediately healed (vv 47-53). This implies that Jesus intended no violence, so why the swords? Why supplies now, when He told them no supplies earlier? I don't know the answer, but I have thoughts. I wonder if Jesus is warning them that life is going to be different, that it will be hard in the future. He Himself is going to be killed as a criminal ("transgressor") and as His followers, they will also be treated as outlaws. The days when Jesus was sought after and popular with the Jewish people are over, so that is true for His followers as well.


Please take time to reread verses 24 - 27. I find it so ironic that here, in this setting, with Jesus obviously sharing His heart and struggle, about to give His life for them, the disciples argue about who is the greatest. How like humans! Each of us is so self-absorbed!

Jesus responds to their rivalry by making it clear that His definition of greatness is not what they have understood in other contexts. Those twelve men are great in His kingdom, but that greatness does not mean they should seek power and authority over others. Rather, a true leader, Jesus says, is one who serves, just as Jesus did.

When I was in college I spent a summer on a mission trip with a group of about fourteen other college students and young adults. We were a construction team, building a Christian camp. There was one guy on our team, a strong believer, who faithfully lived in humility and demonstrated a servant's heart. He never called attention to what he did. He quietly looked for ways to serve others, even when I knew he had to be dog tired, even when others took advantage of him. I noticed. I don't know if others did, but I did. He taught me so much, but I hadn't thanked him, and for years I wished I had.

Fast forward 22 years. Our family, visiting friends in another state, took a day trip to a state park with them. We were walking on trails and talking and calling to our children. I heard a voice from the other side of some bushes call my name (using my maiden name), "Becky _____, is that you?" We rounded the bend and I came face to face with this man who served our team in humility and love! He had heard my voice and recognized it! I was filled with joy and thanks to God. I had the opportunity to look this man in the face and thank him for what he had taught me those many years ago. As I told him what I had learned from him, tears came to his eyes (and mine). We parted soon afterward and I haven't been in touch since. I consider that encounter an amazing gift from the Lord!

Motivation matters. It's not serving when we seek thanks. It's not serving when we expect others to praise us for what we've done. Serving others is not done in order to gain influence or friends. Service is done in humility and is motivated by our love of the Lord Jesus and faithfulness to Him.

On the other hand, if someone has served you, have you thanked him? Have you told her just how much her humble service has helped you? If not, do it! Let's look for ways to encourage each other.


Pray with this passage in mind.

How do you view greatness? Is it important to you? Do you seek power and influence, or do you serve others in faithfulness and humility? I think that if we look, we will see many opportunities to serve in love and self-forgetfulness.

If you've thought of someone who has served you, someone who has done it quietly and without fanfare, why don't you take the time to thank her or him? We are to encourage one another!


Keep our eyes on you, Lord. Make us self forgetful! Help us to see as you do and in loving you to love others and serve them. Keep us from being conformed to the ways of thinking that are all around us and that are counter to your perspective.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Luke 17 - How Big is Your Faith?

by Katrina

LINK: Luke 17

This first statement is likely directed to the Pharisees and anyone else who seems or pretends to be directing people toward God but in reality are leading them astray. This is a strong indictment against religious organizations that are just that. We must be sure to lead people to a relationship with Jesus, not to a set of religious traditions.

Then Jesus tells us to be forgiving of others. No matter how many times a person offends, we are to forgive. This is such a tall order! And the apostles thought so too.

Upon hearing the command to forgive, the apostles cried out, "Increase our faith!" They knew they weren't able to obey on their own. I love the answer that Jesus gave. He told them that the size of their faith wasn't the issue. It takes only a tiny amount (mustard seeds are very tiny). The issue is where the faith is placed. As long as our faith is in God, only a small amount is needed, because the God we trust is big and powerful.

Then Jesus went on to explain that righteous actions do not earn "extra credit" with God. The Pharisees thought that all their righteousness was earning them favor with God.

Ten men with leprosy asked Jesus to heal them, but only one man bothered to come back and thank him.

The Pharisees asked for a sign that would tell them when the kingdom of God was coming. Jesus replied that there wouldn't be observable signs. Rather, his presence was the kingdom. However, he gave further explanation to his disciples that later they would long for these days when Jesus was with them. In the future there would be much false hype about the second arrival of Jesus, but believers should ignore the hype. When Jesus returns, it will not be predicted by man. Rather, man will be surprised by it, just as men were surprised by the flood in the days of Noah and by the rain of fire and brimstone in the days of Lot.

The leprous men are an example of how God works through man's faith. When they asked Jesus to heal them, he didn't do anything but tell them to show themselves to the priests. He didn't even touch them. (A person with leprosy had to keep his distance from all other people, and when a person was clean after leprosy, he had to go to the priest for "inspection" and to be declared clean again.) Jesus sent them on their way, and they headed for the priests, believing that they would be healed. While they were walking on their way, the healing occurred. When they acted in faith, Jesus healed them.

How big is your faith? It only takes faith the size of a mustard seed! Place your faith in the true God and you'll see how big and powerful HE is. Act on your faith and let God take it from there. Then be sure to thank him and give him glory for the things he does.

Father, you are an all-powerful God. We are very weak and small. Teach us to walk in faith in you and not trust in our "religious" activities or anything else we might do, but to trust fully in you. Take our little faith and use it for your glory. Amen.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Luke 16 - Wealth

by Katrina

LINK: Luke 16

Jesus talks about wealth a lot in this chapter. First, there is the story of the shrewd manager. He is responsible for managing the money of a very wealthy man. When he is caught squandering the rich man's wealth, he is fired. Before he is thrown out on the street, he contacts all the debtors and reduces their bills, thus making friends with them all. His hope is that these new friends will take care of him once he is kicked out of his master's household.

Next, the Pharisees laugh at Jesus because they love money. Jesus tells them that, although they think they are righteous because they look righteous to everyone else, God judges their righteousness by their hearts. And they are detestable in God's sight. Pretty strong condemnation!

Then, we have the story of the rich man and the beggar named Lazarus (not to be confused with the Lazarus who Jesus raised from the dead). His money did not buy the rich man a place in paradise. He spent his life on himself and would spend eternity in continual punishment for it. While Lazarus had no money in this life, he had an eternal reward for his faith.

Some thoughts from the Life Application Bible:
  • Let us use our resources wisely because they belong to God and not to us.
  • Money can be used for good or evil; let us use ours for good.
  • Money has a lot of power, so we must use it carefully and thoughtfully.
  • We must use our material goods in a way that will foster faith and obedience
  • Our integrity often meets its match in money matters. God calls us to be honest even in small details we could easily rationalize away.
  • Heaven's riches are far more valuable than earthly wealth.
  • Money has the power to take God's place in your life and become your master.
  • Prosperity may earn the praise of men, but it must never be a substitute for devotion and service to God.
What's your attitude toward wealth, money, and possessions? Do you hoard them selfishly, or do you use them to help others? Here are a few questions to ask yourself along these lines:
  • Do I think or worry about money frequently?
  • Do I easily give up other opportunities or time with family in order to make more money?
  • Do I spend a lot of time caring for my possessions?
  • Is it hard for me to give money away?
  • Do I have credit card debt?
If these are true, you may be more a slave to your money than you realize. You can't serve both money and God. You'll have to choose one or the other.

Lord, we are constantly bombarded with the thinking that money is the goal of life. This world serves money, but we want to serve you. Help us not to be distracted by the wealth that is around us but to be more focused on you. Let us learn not to be concerned about money but to be concerned only about loving and serving you with our lives. You have given us all that we have; may we learn to manage it for your glory and your honor. Amen.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Luke 15 - Duty or Delight?

by Becky

Luke 15


In Luke 14 we saw warnings to the proud; in this chapter we have a series of three parables (stories with a spiritual meaning) in which Jesus answers the Pharisees' complaints that He welcomed sinners and ate with them. In these parables we see illustrations of how much the LORD loves those who are lost. The stories rebuked the Pharisees for their selfishness and pride. More than anything, though, they show us God's great love and mercy.

Only the parable of the lost sheep is found in another gospel (Matthew 18:12-14). The parables of the lost coin and the two sons are unique to Luke.

Please read them!


These parables show us God's love. If we ever doubt that we are loved, that each of us matters to the LORD, this is the place to go to get set straight.

The last parable in this chapter is often called "The Prodigal Son." It seems to me that it's really about two sons, each of whom had trouble understanding just what it meant to be a son who had been given his father's possessions.

One son left. He foolishly valued immediate pleasure over a relationship with his father. When he found himself without resources in a famine in a foreign land, he came to his senses. He headed home to humbly ask his father for a job, realizing he didn't deserve to be called a son.

The other son stayed at home and worked, but he, too, didn't understand. His perspective was that of a slave, not a son. He was performing tasks out of duty, not for love. He had ALL of the resources of his father, but didn't seem to understand that. He had reduced a relationship of lavish love into a list of duties and "do's and don'ts." It was all about what he had done, not who he was and what he'd been given. That's why he couldn't celebrate his brother's return and forgiveness.

Both sons were selfish and self-centered. But the younger son came to his senses and realized that he'd traded something of great worth for something that was ultimately worthless. The older son still thought that his "sonship" was based on what he gave rather than on what he'd been given. How sad.


Jesus told this parable to the Pharisees, but not many of them got it.

It's very easy to slip into the attitude of the older son - trading delight for duty. There the son was, given all that his father had, but willing to eke out his life in measured tasks. It was all about how much he did, about how well he did it. That's why he couldn't celebrate his brother's return! He didn't see that he had everything! He had his father's love and possessions. He was short sighted and though he thought he was doing what was right, his attitude was that of pride and self-centeredness.

Which son are you more like?

I confess that I am often like the older son. I often see my relationship with the LORD as one of duty, rather than delighting that I'm loved and that He has blessed me with ALL of His good gifts. I live as a slave rather than a daughter. I think that there are times when as a daughter I will obey from duty, but behind that dutiful obedience is the understanding that I am loved and that I have been given everything by my Father. I am not earning His love by what I do.

Do you understand how much you are loved by your Father? Are you living as a child of grace or as a slave under law?

And please, if you have questions, say so! I write these posts with some fear. God's word is what is true. My words are only my insights and thoughts.


Dear Father, thank you for illustrating for us in this chapter your great love and mercy. Help us not to trade away that love for what is worthless - for either the pleasures of this life or for the pride of what we do. Keep us from the errors of both the younger son and the older son in this parable.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Luke 10 - a Mission, a Question, and a Meal

by Katrina

LINK: Luke 10

Verses 1-24
Only Luke records the mission of the 70 (some translations say 72) disciples. Jesus gave them power over Satan, harmful animals, disease, and illness as they proclaimed that the kingdom of God was near. These disciples went from town to town along a path that Jesus would follow. They would announce his coming maybe a few days before his arrival in each town. The 70 were very impressed with the power from God that they wielded. Jesus told them not to be too excited about power, but that they should rejoice more in their salvation.

Verses 25-37
A man who studied and knew well the law of God, came to Jesus to test him. He was trying to find fault with Jesus by asking his question. It's interesting here, that Jesus doesn't answer the man's question; instead he asks the man to answer his own question from his knowledge of the law. And the lawyer quotes the law perfectly. This lawyer knows that he must love God and love his neighbor. But he wants to get himself off the hook for the part about loving other people. So, he asks Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" He wants to know just who, exactly, he is responsible to love. The answer from Jesus is the story of "The Good Samaritan" and actually answers a different question.

Let's look at the characters a minute. The lawyer asking Jesus the question is a respected Jew. He studies the Law and probably teaches it. The traveler in the story is also a Jew, traveling from one Jewish city to another. The Levite and priest are official Jewish religious leaders (like the lawyer). But what is a Samaritan? Remember that God used the Assyrians to judge the northern nation of Israel? When the Assyrians conquered Israel, they deported most of the people and brought foreigners into the land. The Samaritans are the descendants of mixed heritage -- part Jew, part Gentile. At the time of Jesus, generations later, the Jews and the Samaritans despise one another. And the Jews, especially, hold themselves in higher esteem, especially with regard to religious worthiness.

In the story, a Jewish traveler is attacked and left barely alive on the side of the road. Why do the priest and Levite pass him by? If they touch a dead man, they will be unclean and will not be able to perform their religious "duties" for the day. Their motivation is entirely selfish and gives no thought to the poor man's needs. The religious leaders do nothing to help the poor man, but leave him there to die. The Samaritan, on the other hand, had compassion for the wounded man. He put aside his personal prejudices for the sake of another human being. He stopped to help the poor guy.

Jesus is telling the lawyer that his "religious" activities do not impress  God. He is also telling him that he is not superior to a Samaritan just because he's a Jew. God is more interested in compassion than service that makes oneself look good. Instead of answering, "Who is my neighbor?" In other words, "Who do I have to be nice to?" Jesus demonstrates how to be a good neighbor by showing mercy and compassion on others, no matter who they are.

Verses 38-42
Jesus visited the home of sisters Mary and Martha (whose brother was Lazarus). While Mary sat and listened to Jesus, Martha went about preparing a meal. When she complained that her sister wasn't helping her, Jesus told her not to spend so much time and energy on meal preparations, and he refused to send Mary out of the room to help her sister. If Mary chose to sit at the feet of Jesus, she chose a good thing.

I've enjoyed "sitting at the feet of Jesus" today as I studied this chapter. I marvel at the power God can give to man to do his work. I rejoice that my name is written in heaven. I love how Jesus "answered" the lawyer. I'm challenged to be a good neighbor to anyone around me, not to be selective. And I want to keep the distractions of this world to a minimum, so I can sit at the feet of Jesus even more.

Lord, thank you for giving us your word, so we can sit at your feet and learn from you. Help me to spend less time being distracted by this world and more time with you. Teach me to love others as you do. In the name of Jesus, amen.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Luke 9 - Ministry & Discipleship

by Katrina

LINK: Luke 9
Parallel Passages
Luke 9:1-6 ~ Matthew 9:35-11:1 (Matthew 10) ~ Mark 6:6-13
Luke 9:7-9 ~ Matthew 14:1-12 ~ Mark 6:14-29
Luke 9:10-17 ~ Matthew 14:13-21 ~ Mark 6:30-44 ~ John 6:1-13
Luke 9:18-36 ~ Matthew 16:13-17:8 ~ Mark 8:27-9:8
Luke 9:37-50 ~ Matthew 17:14-18:14 ~ Mark 9:14-50
Luke 9:51-56 ~ John 7:10
Luke 9:57-62 ~ Matthew 8:19-22

As you can see from the parallel passages, we have discussed the content of most of this chapter in Matthew and Mark. So, I'll just touch on a few highlights here.

Verses 1-9
Jesus gave specific power and authority to his disciples before sending them out on a ministry trip. Similarly, we go making disciples in the power and authority of Christ. Matthew 28:18-20 is the famous "Great Commission" passage. Notice what Jesus told the disciples there, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." And in Acts 1:8 Jesus said, "but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth." As believers, we have authority from Jesus and power from the Holy Spirit to take the gospel everywhere in the world.

Verses 10-17
Once again, we see Jesus withdraw by Himself, but it didn't last long before the crowds found him. Although his private time was interrupted, he welcomed the multitude, taught them, and fed them miraculously. He put their needs before his own. (See link above for further discussion.)

Verses 18-27
Jesus talks about true discipleship and what it will cost you. (See link above for discussion.)

Verses 28-43
Transfiguration and Jesus casts out demon (See link above for discussion.)

Verses 44-56
Here the disciples get into a discussion (argument?) over who is the greatest disciple. Jesus makes it clear to them that if they think they are great, then they are not! He also makes sure they understand that they weren't the only disciples who were empowered by God. It was not an exclusive club. Jesus also was not about destroying those who didn't agree with him. He came to offer salvation to as many as would receive him.

Verses 57-62
Once again, Jesus made it clear that following him is not an easy life. It requires complete commitment to him and putting aside the things of this world. When a man wanted to bury his father before following Jesus, that did not mean that the man's father was already dead. The man would wait until his father died (and maybe received the inheritance?) before leaving home to follow Jesus. One who keeps looking back will never truly follow Jesus as he intends. This reminds me of the Israelites when God brought them out of Egypt. They were constantly looking back and thinking how good they used to have it when they were slaves in Egypt. In reality, they didn't have such a great life there, but they were more comfortable with a miserable known than anything unknown that required them to trust God.

Jesus knew what his purpose was. He "resolutely set His face to go to Jerusalem." It's interesting, though, in Luke's version, he says that Jesus' ultimate goal was his ascension (verse 51). He was looking past the crucifixion to the culminating event of his return to the Father in heaven.

Most people will not follow Jesus through the ordeal of his arrest, trial, and crucifixion in order to get to the ascension into heaven. They will put their earthly lives ahead of a life committed to Jesus. They may begin to follow him, but will get distracted by the things of this world -- family, friends, houses, things, etc., and they will flee when it gets dangerous to be associated with Jesus.

The same is still true today. If we are to follow Jesus, we must focus on that task and not let the things of this world distract us. We can't keep looking back at how "good" we had it before. We must give up everything else to be Jesus' disciple. Jesus said it wouldn't be easy. But the eternal reward is worth the earthly cost!

It's certainly not easy! I find myself sometimes hanging onto something in my life to keep it rather than let Jesus have control. Usually I do this out of fear. I have to get to the place where I trust Jesus with that part of my life. It seems to me that, although we make a major commitment to Christ at the time of salvation, there are many other times of renewing that commitment as we go through this life. But the more we "practice," the more he proves himself, the more we trust him, the easier it gets.

Is there something you are holding back? Take it to Jesus today. Wrestle with it. And give it to him. He is worthy of your trust.

Lord, you require ALL of me, and my nature is to keep control and hold back. Help me to learn to abandon myself completely to you, and truly let you be LORD of my life. Let me not get distracted with this world and all it has to offer, but be focused on you. Jesus gave his life for mine, and you have purchased me for yourself. Let my life be given entirely in service to you. Amen.