Tag Archives: God

Through the Bible, August 22

Reading: Luke 10-11

Summary: Jesus sends out the largest contingency of preachers we know of when the 72 are sent.  Thirty-six pairs of preachers go out and return rejoicing over the authority exercised in Jesus’ name.

Today’s reading also includes the famous parable of the Good Samaritan, Luke’s version of “the Lord’s Prayer” as well as Jesus’ woes pronounced on Pharisees and lawyers.

Devotional Thought:

Is The Bible to be Trusted?

It’s incidental, really.  A small thing but its implications are great. It’s certainly worth knowing about and thinking about.

Here it is.  In Jesus’ instructions given to the seventy whom He sent out to preach, He says, “for the laborer deserves his wages” (Luke 10:7).  Later, in Paul’s first letter to Timothy, he quotes this statement of Jesus from Luke (1 Tim. 5:18).  That’s not unusual at all, but notice this; he says, “For the Scriptures say, ‘You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain,’ and ‘ The labor deserves his wages.”  Paul calls what is recorded in Luke, “Scripture” and places it on par with a quotation from the Law of Moses in the book of Deuteronomy (Deut. 25:4).

For Bible believing folks that may seem to be no big deal, but it is big—it’s huge.  We know that in the first century the Jews and the Christians recognized the Hebrew Bible—what we call the Old Testament—as Scripture; that is, the very word of God, authoritative and binding.   Now here, Paul, even before the New Testament has been completed is acknowledging the existence of additional Scripture, in this instance the Gospel of Luke.

The reason this matters is because of a predominant and popular theory about the formation of the Bible, especially the New Testament. The idea is that the contents of the New Testament were decided upon by a council of men in the fourth century A.D. who voted, and what’s more, did so with very political and self-serving motives in mind.  This is why it’s not uncommon to hear about “lost” books of the Bible or other “Gospels” that were excluded in that process.  Don’t you believe it!

The reality is that as the New Testament documents were first circulated they began to gain recognition as being of divine origin, they were genuinely Scripture!  And, in the same process, others were rejected as Scripture.  What is more, this started before the end of the first century and prior to the last New Testament books being written.

The bottom line here is that we have every reason to have full confidence that not only is the Bible God’s word, authoritative and binding but that its contents are complete.  Nothing is lacking.

Through the Bible, August 21

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflections: Today is the regularly scheduled day to catch up on your reading for the third week of August if need be. If not, following are some thoughts for your consideration for today from this week’s readings.

  1. We might sometimes think that had we been present to witness Jesus as He preached and performed miracles that faith in Him would have been an easy thing. The Bible suggests otherwise.  It is quick to show us that many who were privileged to hear and see Him in person did not believe.  This included members of His own family, some Samaritans, Herod, as well as the Jewish religious leaders. Apparently, even first-hand encounters with Jesus didn’t convince everyone.
  2. It is evident that people thought Jesus was someone special. Some thought He was John the Baptist raised from the dead, others that He was Elijah (as prophesied in Malachi 4:5), still others that another of the Old Testament prophets had risen (see both Luke 9:7-8 and verse 19).  Just like today, people were trying to figure out Jesus.  Though they may have thought highly of Him and known He was someone special, only one conclusion was/is correct; He is as Peter confessed, “the Christ of God” (Luke 9:20).
  3. As we’ve previously noted, Luke gives special attention in his account of Jesus’ ministry to individuals and classes of people not highly regarded by the culture of that day. He speaks directly to Jesus’ dealing with women, lepers, tax collectors, non-Jews, the sinful, widows, etc.  The fact is that every culture and every age has its own marginalized and “outcast” people.  Our challenge, as followers of Jesus, is to be more influenced by the attitudes and actions of Jesus toward these people in our own day, than we are by the culture in which we live.

Devotional Thought:

Will We Ever Learn?

What if you had an enterprise you wanted to “get off the ground”;  you were just getting started but you had big plans, huge plans. What kind of people would you be talking to?  With whom would you be rubbing shoulders?  Who, in your mind, was going to be key to helping make this thing happen?

Now, think about what Jesus did during His three years of ministry; with whom He interacted, where He spent His time, the people He chose to rub shoulders with.  All the while knowing that His “enterprise” was nothing short of the very kingdom of God and that kingdom was a world-wide endeavor.

Reading the gospels ought to firmly impress on us, among other things, the importance Jesus placed on people—all people, individual people, rejected and disenfranchised people. Quickly surveying a portion of this week’s reading (Luke 3:1-9:62) shows Jesus engaging the demon-possessed, the sick and handicapped, fishermen, tax collectors, sinners, women, the hungry, Gentiles, widows, etc. That’s about the most powerless, un-influential, socially and politically irrelevant group of people you could compile.

That should tell us something very loudly and very clearly; Jesus was not about building an enterprise, He was about people.  His love and care and concern and interest were for people.  The typical measures of human worth and value meant nothing to Him.  Each one was made in the image of His Father and the object the greatest love ever known.

Do we have something to learn about our efforts involving His enterprise, God’s kingdom?

Through the Bible, August 20

Reading: Luke 9

Summary: Chapter 9 of Luke is quite diverse in that it contains record of Jesus sending out the twelve to preach, Herod’s confusion over Him, feeding the multitude, Peter’s confession, the transfiguration, casting a demon from a young boy, His rejection by a Samaritan village, as well as His foretelling His own death and teaching on what it means to follow Him.

Devotional Thought:

What Shall We Talk About?

What do you talk about?  What are your favorite subjects to discuss?  When you’re trying to make conversation, where do your thoughts go?  There are some easy, obvious choices: the weather, the big game, the latest headlines, the new popular show or movie or book; you know, the usuals.

What did Jesus talk about?  The kingdom.  When Matthew describes the initiation of Jesus’ public ministry, he says the He began to preach that “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).  Here in Luke when Jesus sent out the twelve to preach, it was “to proclaim the kingdom of God” (Lk. 9:2).  As large multitudes followed Him “He welcomed them and spoke to them of the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:11).  Elsewhere the gospel message itself as preached by Jesus is called the “gospel of the kingdom” (Matt. 9:35).

This raises a key question; what place does the kingdom hold in my thinking.  How frequently is the subject on my lips?  How comfortable am I to even discuss the subject?

As we give lip service to following in Jesus’ steps, ought not our own interests and concerns mirror His?  Without a doubt, the kingdom was a priority to Jesus.

Through the Bible, August 19

Reading: Luke 8

Summary: Luke gives interesting insight into the group who accompanied Jesus as He traveled and preached.  Not only did it include the twelve, but also a number of women.  Notice also the mention of financial support.

Jesus’ ministry continues in familiar fashion with teaching in parables, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, and even calming a storm.  Interjected among these events is a rare encounter with Jesus’ physical family.

Devotional Thought:

Dead or Asleep?

Has someone ever said or done something so silly or ridiculous that you laughed at them?  The intention may not be to be demeaning or hurtful, but the suggestion is just so outlandish it can’t be helped.  There’s nothing to do but laugh.

This happened to Jesus.  Not that He laughed at anyone, but people laughed at Him.  And they did so for the very reasons mentioned above.  What Jesus had said was just so ridiculous, they couldn’t help but laugh.  And what was that?  He suggested that mourners should not weep because Jairus’ daughter was “not dead but sleeping” (John 8:52).

And wasn’t it laughable?  This girl was dead. So yes, from a human perspective the suggestion was ludicrous.  Asleep? You’ve got to be kidding!  And no, Jesus was not saying that she was literally in the condition of slumber from which anyone could awaken her.  That requires no special ability or power; it’s not difficult at all.  For Jesus, though, raising the dead was not difficult either; about like waking up someone asleep.

Death is totally beyond our capacity to control, but not for Jesus.  He took the girl by the hand, said, “Child arise,” and her spirit returned to her and she got up at once.  As simple as gently shaking someone from a restful sleep.

The truly laughable thing is that anyone would fail to bow in absolute submission to Jesus Christ, Lord of both the living and the dead.

Through the Bible, August 18

Reading: Luke 7

Summary: In addition to healing the sick, Jesus also raised a man from the dead—the only son of a widowed woman.  He also used the occasion of messengers being sent from John to inquire as to His identity, to speak to the person and work of John.

As an example of Luke’s attention given to social outcasts, note the account of His visit to the home of Simon the Pharisee and the presence there of a sinful woman. Jesus uses the occasion to teach the powerful lesson regarding forgiveness and loving God.

Devotional Thought:

Do I Get It?

Jesus was rarely impressed with people’s faith.  More often He expressed disappointment.  One time, though, He was impressed because a man got it.  What did he get?  Authority.

This man, a centurion—therefore a Gentile military man—said there was no need for Jesus to come to his house to heal his servant.  He understood Jesus’ authority.  It was like his own authority who upon his command it was accomplished.  “I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (Luke 7:8). So, all Jesus needed to do was say the word and his servant would be healed.  He understood Jesus’ authority.

That impressed Jesus.  “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9).

So, do you get Jesus’ authority?  Not, do you believe Him when He says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18).  Rather, when Jesus says, do you do?  Do you allow Him to exercise that kind of authority in your life?

When He says God’s blessing reside with the poor in spirit…those who mourn…the meek…the merciful…the peacemakers…the pure in heart…the persecuted, do those words actually change anything in your attitudes and actions?  My faith, or lack of it, is proven to the degree I allow Jesus’ words to have authority in my life; and they have authority to the degree that they are carried out and dictate what I do and how I think.

It’s obvious to God whether I get it or not.

Through the Bible, August 17

Reading: Luke 6

Summary: Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is quite well known.  A parallel to it, and much lesser known, is recorded in Luke 6.    Many similarities are noticeable between this and Matthew’s record, yet, some differences exist as well.  For instance, in Matthew, we find the beatitudes (pronouncements of blessing), while in Luke we find both pronouncements of blessing and woe.

Much discussion has been devoted to determining if these are two records of the same preaching event or different ones.  It seems silly to me, as a preacher, to think that Jesus only addressed certain points or taught certain lessons only one time. I’m convinced the Savior repeated many of His teachings numerous times.  So, same or different events?  It doesn’t matter.

Devotional Thought:

Jesus a Law Breaker?

Jesus was accused of breaking the Law, specifically regarding the Sabbath (Luke 6:2).  His response is interesting.  He doesn’t refute the accusation but instead, shows the grave inconsistency of His accusers for failing to condemn their forefather David for his violation of the Law.  Was Jesus suggesting that lawbreaking was no big deal?  Hardly.

First things first.  If they are going to accuse Jesus, they must also accuse David—which they would never do.  What is more, David did violate the Law, Jesus did not.  Though He was charged with doing so, the only thing He violated was the traditional interpretation of Sabbath law.  He didn’t break the Law, He broke tradition.

There lies the rub.  People tend to be much more in tune with religious traditions and traditional interpretations than they are with the actual word of God.  Jesus never ever violated God’s word, and so, never sinned (Heb. 4:15).

May this be a cautionary incident form Jesus’ life.  We must exercise care to never elevate traditions to the level of God’s word (see Matt. 15:9).  It’s more challenging than we may think.

Through the Bible, August 16

Reading: Luke 4:14-5:39

Summary: As with the other Gospel accounts, Luke’s record touches on several themes, some of them conflicting.  He speaks of Jesus’ growing popularity as well as His rejection in His home town. He heals many people, casts out unclean sprits, preaches in synagogues, calls disciples to follow Him, and is challenged by religious leaders.

Devotional Thought:

Jesus Goes Viral

The word today is “viral”.  It’s always been a medical or biological concept, but in the current day of advanced communication technology (think computer, internet, smart phones, and social media—FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc.), a blog post or Tweet or FaceBook post or YouTube video can “go viral.”  That is, it gets shared and spread nearly everywhere spontaneously.

Going “viral” isn’t a new thing.  It can just happen quicker and have a further reach now than ever before.

Jesus went viral.  “Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region” (Luke 4:14; NLT).  Also take a look at 5:15 and 7:17.  People everywhere, it seems, were talking about Jesus.

The business and marketing worlds talk about “word of mouth” advertising as the very most effective form. Some people call it “creating buzz.”

This kind of thing can’t be manipulated, planned, or controlled.  It just happens.  But it all begins when someone starts talking.  You never know what might come of it. But nothing ever will if we don’t talk about and spread the news of Jesus.

If it were up to me, would Jesus ever even have a chance to go viral?

Through the Bible, August 15

Reading: Luke 3:1-22; 4:1-13

Summary: Luke’s account of Jesus’ public ministry begins appropriately with his account of the forerunner, John the Baptist.  As with Jesus’ birth, he puts it into a very precise historical context (see Luke 3:1-2).  His account closes with the record of John’s arrest by Herod the tetrarch.

Like Matthew, Luke introduces Jesus’ ministry with accounts of both His baptism and temptation.  Between these two events, Luke records Jesus’ genealogy.  We previously read this text along with Matthew’s genealogy (see July 2’s reading).

Devotional Thought:

You Snake!

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (a 1937 parody of Dale Carnegie’s best selling How to Win Friends and Influence People by Irving Tressler) may seem to have been John the Baptist’s intention when he addressed the multitudes who came to hear him preach. “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7).

Oh my!  What was John thinking?

Was it because those who came did so insincerely?  That “they had come to be baptized because it was the fashion of the hour, and was esteemed as a mark of propriety and reverence” and that it was all for the sake of appearance? (J. S. Lamar, Commentary on Luke, 62).   Heaven knows that style of religion is certainly around today.

If we don’t already know it, we must come to realize the intense gravity of our sin, the absolute necessity of repentance, and our abject unworthiness to come near most Holy God.   Any attitude less than absolute reverence is wholly unacceptable.  If our approach to God and faith is in any way casual, half-hearted, or merely for appearances, “offspring of snakes” (BBE) isn’t too strong at all.

Coddling their vain religion would serve no good purpose.  They needed shaken and startled to reality.  Soft and gentle words would achieve no such end.  They needed straight talk and John was the one to give it.

Which raises some questions; about what do I need spoken to very strongly?  What reality do I need shaken to see?  Who will lay it on the line, unvarnished, for me?  And, will I listen?

August Week 3 Bible Reading Introduction

Week 3: Jesus’ Ministry (Luke 3:1-9:62)

August 15-21

         Having previously read the introduction to Luke’s Gospel as well as the lengthy narratives surrounding Jesus’ and John the Baptist’s births (see the readings for July 1-6), we commence the reading of Luke with the initiation of John the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus’ entrance on the public scene.

Luke is commonly considered to have been written for a Gentile audience.  Also, as noted previously, it is the first of a two-volume work, the book of Acts being the second part.

Luke carries several characteristics that cause it to stand out among the other Gospels.  Emphasis is given here to the universal appeal of Jesus and His message, social outcasts seem to play a prominent role in many events, women play a more prominent role as do children.  Regarding Jesus specifically, there are twenty-two parables recorded in Luke and seventeen of those are found only here.   There are nine prayers uttered by Jesus that are not found in the other Gospels.  Luke certainly has a “flavor” all its own, very important to our understanding of Jesus, His ministry, His message, and His eternal impact on mankind.

Through the Bible, August 14

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflections: Today is the regularly scheduled day to catch up on your reading for the second week of August. Please take advantage if you’ve fallen behind. Otherwise, below are some thoughts for your consideration for today from this week’s readings.

  1. Jesus knew that His leaving earth would pose an extremely difficult adjustment for the apostles. So, in the upper room, Jesus repeatedly spoke of the Holy Spirit that would come.  He called Him the “Helper,” the “Spirit of truth,” and “guide” (14:26; 15:26; 16:13).  Jesus knew they would need not only this reassurance but also all that the Spirit would provide.  Jesus would not leave the twelve “as orphans” and neither will He leave us without providing every spiritual need (14:18).
  2. Never underestimate the value and power of God’s written word. We may think that we are somehow disadvantaged as ones having never literally heard Jesus preach or been an eyewitness to one of His miracles.  But John says that what has been written is sufficient to produce faith and this faith leads to life (John 20:31-31).
  3. One may wonder why John included some of the information that is found only in his Gospel. For instance, he tells of the “restoration” of Peter (21:15-23).  Perhaps by the end of the first century (the time this Gospel was written) some Christians had begun to think or speak poorly of Peter because of his denying Jesus.  There’s not any way to really know this for sure, but it certainly seems a possibility.  And what encouragement we receive from this—we too, in spite of our failings and mistakes, may also be restored to the Lord.

Devotional Thought:

What a Disciple Needs

The hours Jesus spent in the upper room were brief by comparison to the three years of His ministry.  Though the time was short Jesus had much to accomplish.  This was His final opportunity to prepare these men for the events of the coming days they could not begin to comprehend, not to mention the coming years and their world-changing work.

Notice what Jesus did during this final evening with the twelve.  Hear what He taught.  Observe His emphasis.   See His concerns and intentions.

  • He washed their feet showing the supreme role of service (13:1-20).
  • He identified their love for each other and the bearing of much fruit as the means by which the world could identify them as His disciples (13:35; 15:8).
  • He comforted them, in view of His impending departure, with the assurance of His return (14:1-4).
  • He affirmed His role as the only means to God (14:6-7).
  • He promised the coming Holy Spirit who would provide for them the infallible guidance they needed to fulfill the Master’s mission (14:16-17; 15:26-27; 16:13-14).
  • He warned them of the world’s hatred (15:18-23; 16:2)
  • He prayed for them, that God would guard them and that they might be sanctified (17:6-21).

Other matters were undoubtedly discussed.  These, though, help us see the things Jesus knew His disciples needed.

Do I not need the same?