Friday, December 31: Acts 3- Doing what Jesus did.

There is a scripture in John that says Jesus’ disciples will do what He did and even greater things (John 14:12). That is exactly what I see Peter and John doing in today’s reading.

We have no record of Jesus ever giving money to someone begging but there are many occasions where Jesus healed those who needed it.

Peter and John are going about their business, entering the temple for daily prayers, when they come across this beggar. Instead of giving alms, an important Jewish action I might add, they speak healing in Jesus’ name. Here are two disciples doing what Jesus did.

The account continues. A crowd forms as the man makes a bit of a scene jumping around and praising God. As soon as the crowd forms, Peter seizes the moment to clarify the healing –making sure people know it is the power of Jesus not themselves- and then Peter proclaims Jesus, giving an impromptu salvation message.

Two thoughts spring to mind. First, Peter is living out Acts 1:8 and his commission to be a witness to Jesus (recall his understanding of his new job, my devotional from Acts 1 a couple of days ago). Additionally Peter is mimicking his Master Jesus, who often proclaimed the kingdom of God after a miracle.

In this chapter I see Peter and John doing what Jesus did.  That’s what disciples do. Disciples do what their teacher did.

As I write these last two sentences, it is as if the Holy Spirit says to me, “And… And how about you, Bill? You say you are Jesus’ disciple…”

Cut to the heart.

O, God, I am cut to the heart by this encounter with the text and Spirit. Am I weak in my faith or is it that this kind of action is not my calling?

Lord Jesus, I lay myself at Your feet to be used however You would like… This is my prayer, in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Thursday, December 30: Acts 2- Saved.

As I read this chapter there were a number of stopping places. I marveled at the upper room experience with what seemed to be tongues of fire and wind and then the eruption of tongues. What a time that must have been.

Another pause was with the crowd that gathered. Some hearing and believing, others making fun. Life is so often like that, a mix of skeptics, belittlers and followers.

I loved Peter’s words, frank and honest, “These men are not drunk, it is only 9am!”  From there he goes on to explain the new thing God is doing. Encouraging and inclusive: the new thing God is doing is for everyone –sons/daughters, young/old, men/women… for anyone and everyone who calls on the Lord to be saved. In this new age of God, human barriers are torn down.

A wonderfully rich morning, so far.

Then I came to the word ‘saved’ again at the end of the chapter and it seemed to capture most of my thoughts. I have never been a big user of the word ‘saved.’ I don’t know, maybe it sounded too fundamentalist. I generally choose other words to describe becoming a Christ-follower. And yet there it was from Peter’s lips and Luke’s pen multiple times.

 And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved' (21, quoting the prophet Joel).

With many other words he [Peter] warned them; and he pleaded with them, "Save yourselves from this corrupt generation" (40).

…praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved (47).

As I think about the word ‘saved,’ I am realizing what a wonderful word it is. ‘Saved’ recognizes that someone did something for me that I needed. ‘Saved’ also shows that I was in trouble and now I am not. Too often I think of life in this world as good, (and, yes, much of living is good and fine) yet, at the same time our world is a ‘corrupt generation’ as Peter says. It is living without God and against God and, therefore, by definition is corrupt. I don’t often think of the world like that, but it is true. And then, I thought of Col 1:9-14, particularly 13-14: For he [God] has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. The text says God rescued us (I know it isn’t the word ‘saved’ but it is the same idea) and it speaks about being moved from one local to another, moved from the dominion of darkness (‘ahh’ fits with our corrupt generation, doesn’t it) and into a new kingdom… the kingdom of Jesus.

The more I think and muse, the better the word ‘saved’ is sounding…

God, thank you for saving me through Jesus. I believe He is both Lord and Christ.  Yes, Jesus is my Lord and Christ. In His name I pray. Amen.


Wednesday, December 29: Acts 1- A new job


I love when I observe something new in scripture, something I don’t recall seeing previously. Today provides one of those moments.

One of the often quoted verses of Acts 1 is verse 8: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. I have heard and preached messages about being witnesses for Jesus to the ends of the earth. My new ‘ah-ha’ came a few verses later.  It was when Peter stood and interpreted Judas’ death and what they must do to fill Judas’ spot in the apostles. Peter said to the faithful gathered in the upper room, Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John's baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection (21-22, bold mine).

The apostles took very seriously that Jesus had commissioned them to be witnesses. So seriously, in fact, that they believed they had to choose a replacement for Judas. But there is even more.  This new person must become a witness. It is as if the apostles understood that they had a new job.  No longer is their first thought to be about catching fish or collecting taxes or whatever they did before they followed Jesus.  Now their first thought and highest priority was, ‘How can I witness to Jesus’ resurrection? How can I tell others about what I saw and heard while I walked with Him those three years?’

Observing this puts a different spin and higher priority on the apostles understanding of God’s call in their lives and, frankly, challenges me. Too often I think more about the receiving of power in verse 1:8 than the witnessing. The witnessing was serious business for the apostles. And the thought occurred to me that the rest of Acts will show how they lived and what they did as witnesses to Jesus.

Wow, it seems God may be giving me new eyes with which to read the book of Acts…

Holy Spirit, Father, Jesus, ramp up my understanding of the call to witness and show me how best to be a witness to Jesus and His resurrection. Cause me to take on the apostles’ earnestness and vitality to be a witness for and to Jesus. In His name I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, December 28: Luke 24- The reason Jesus came.


As I opened my Bible and saw today’s chapter, I actually said, “Hallelujah!” After the last couple of days contemplating the cross, the resurrection brought a refreshing release of joy.

This is why Jesus came… to set us free. This is why He was incarnate (was born). This is why He lived and taught and died… so that with His resurrection, He could break the curse of sin once and for all through His perfect atonement.

Jesus told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. (46-47). Now with the tomb empty and the plan of God fulfilled, repentance and forgiveness can be preached!!! It all started in that manger in Bethlehem.

I find myself wanting to spend a few minutes in thanksgiving and praise to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for my salvation.

I find myself wanting to spend a few minutes in praise and thanksgiving to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit for inviting me to become a herald of this great news. Jesus continued, “You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." (48-49).

I invite you to join me in praising and thanking our great and awesome God, Father Son and Holy Spirit, for the gift of life They give through faith in Jesus Christ.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Praise Him all creatures here below. Praise Him above you heavenly host. Praise Father Son and Holy Ghost!  Amen.


Monday, December 27: Luke 23- Prophet, priest and king

Many writers and Bible teachers talk about Jesus fulfilling the roles of prophet, priest and king. Some see in the gifts of the Magi, allusions to those three functions. For some reason, before I even began reading, I was thinking about the gifts of the Magi and Jesus being prophet, priest and king. Surprisingly, as I read the account of his trial and crucifixion, I saw those roles lived out by Jesus.

KING: Jesus agrees with Pilate that he is a king. Verse 3: So Pilate asked Jesus, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied. Again in verse 11, Herod’s men make fun of Jesus’ kingship. Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. Jesus is a king, God’s king and he knew it.

PRIEST: A priest stands between people and God.  They speak on behalf of the people to God. One major function of the priest was to bring God’s forgiveness and atonement to the people. In verse 34, we see Jesus declaring forgiveness on those who tortured and killed him. Jesus said, "Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." ….

PROPHET: Admittedly this may be a stretch, but prophets were often miracle workers, who displayed God’s power in deed and word. All Herod wanted was to see Jesus, the miracle worker, do a big show. Jesus refused. Verse 8: When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform some miracle. Prophets were not magicians-for-hire, they were the mouthpiece for Almighty God.

I spent time this morning thinking about Jesus, baby in a manger and Savior on the cross… I contemplated Jesus, prophet, priest and king and how each role calls me to respond to Jesus!

Jesus, thank you for standing between me and the Father… brings God’s forgiveness and atonement (priest) and speaking and demonstrating God’s power and might and word (prophet). And, Jesus, bless You for being King., I worship You as King of my life and King of my world.  Lead me and direct me, O Jesus, my King! Amen.


Saturday, December 25: Luke 22- sing, weep, sing.

Merry Christmas…

The jubilant songs of the angels has morphed into the taunts and insults of the soldiers. Jesus’ torturous march to Calvary has begun.

My heart sings and weeps and sings again as I play and replay the life of Jesus in my head. At Christmas my gaze is almost exclusively on the manger and the entrance of God’s son into our world to redeem and save us. Angelic choirs announce the occasion.  Wonder and awe fill the ‘air.’ My house is decorated with smiling snowmen and angel tapestries. As one holiday song goes, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year…”

And yet today’s reading reminds me that manger and birth are only half the story. Jesus came to give His life to redeem those who believe. For me, on this Christmas day, the reading of Jesus’ last hours before Calvary fills in the entire story.

Honestly, my breath is short and my eyes filled tears.  This is how much God loves me! This is how much God loves the world. This is how much God loves you.Jesus came and died for you and for me, to pay a price we could never have paid and to give us a right standing before God we could never have earned!

I can’t stop the newsreel of Jesus’ story in my head. Calvary is not how the story ends. Three days later the stone is rolled away. “He is not here. He has risen!” the angels declare.

Yes, my heart sings and weeps and sings again as I play and replay the life of Jesus in my head.

All to Jesus I surrender;

      all to him I freely give;

      I will ever love and trust him,

      in his presence daily live.


      I surrender all, I surrender all,

      all to thee, my blessed Savior,

      I surrender all.



Friday, December 24: Luke 21- Gift giving.

I am so used to thinking of Jesus as a baby in a manger on Christmas Eve, that it felt strange listening to Jesus talk about the destruction of Jerusalem and through that lens talk about His Second Coming. Jesus’ Second Coming is an Advent theme, but it is not a theme that often captivates my thinking. Maybe it should…

The verses that the Spirit seemed to highlight for my pondering this morning came at the opening of the chapter. In verses 1-4 Jesus observes the giving of money into the temple treasury. Some commentators suggest that since this wasn’t the temple tax, it was money given for the care of the poor. Listen in as Luke recounts the event. As he looked up, Jesus saw the rich putting their gifts into the temple treasury. He also saw a poor widow put in two very small copper coins. "I tell you the truth," he said, "this poor widow has put in more than all the others. All these people gave their gifts out of their wealth; but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on."

Tonight in my house all my family will be present. Before we will go to bed, people will sprinkle gifts they have purchased for family members around the tree and tomorrow morning, we will rise and open our presents. It is fun to think about family member and buy them presents they truly want. Even as my kids have grown into adults, it is fun to see their faces as they open their gifts. I gain enjoyment watching their delight.

The text, however, presses my liberality in other directions… giving to God, giving to the poor, and not holding back in these giving selflessly. Some might say even the woman gave recklessly, she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on.

This woman’s giving was not stimulated by slick marketing or the abundant wants, it was devotion to the Lord God Almighty…

Lord God, how do I grow in the kind of giving this poor woman exhibited? I know that this kind of giving pleases Jesus and I want to please Jesus, too, in this arena of my life and in every arena of my life. Holy Spirit, teach me, show me lead me… Amen.


Thursday, December 23: Luke 20- An unpopular wondering..

   My wonderings this morning (and I call them wonderings because I am not sure if my wonderings are accurate and true or not…)

Whenever I read the discussion between Jesus and the Sadducees about heaven and whose wife the woman will be in heaven (vv 27-39), I wonder what heaven will be like. Particularly I wonder if we will know the people in heaven we have known on earth? Common belief is that we will know our families and our loved ones and it almost seems as if we will live in our families forever in heaven. Yet, verses 34-36 cause me to wonder if that is accurate? Here’s what the text says, Jesus replied, "The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels. They are God's children, since they are children of the resurrection.

Okay, it doesn’t say anything about knowing other people but it does imply that marriage doesn’t exist in heaven. And if there is no marriage, are there families in heaven like there are families here on earth?  I just don’t know, which is why I call this a wondering.

Where I am much more secure in my thinking, is that heaven will be such a glorious place with God so present and knowable that my earthly understandings of life will not matter.

Another thing that set me at ease is that God created us as humans to live in relationship with other humans (Adam and Eve in the garden and this was before The Fall!!!). So, somehow our relational needs will be completely and totally and perfectly fulfilled in heaven. How that will happen is God’s design and God’s decision and I am comfortable with that.

I hope my wonderings haven’t created problems for you. When I have wonderings spawned from the text like this, I rest in the understanding that God’s ways are higher and better than my ways.  I am willing to wait until I see God face-to-face to find out the answer.

Lord, I am so blessed that You, God, have revealed Yourself to me. I know I cannot fully know You this side of eternity. My mind simply cannot fathom all You know and have revealed. I am a flawed and limited human being. I trust You for my ultimate salvation and I trust You will the specifics of my future this side of eternity and forever. I love and trust You. And I will follow You no matter what You ask of me and no matter the path You want me to walk.

Lord, I am blessed, too, by the family members and friends that You have placed around me. You have always taken care of me and I know You always will.

May Your name be praised… In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.




Wednesday, December 22: Luke 19- Work the best you can, but be sure to work

I am so familiar with Matthew’s parable of the Talents (Mt 25:14-30) that the differences in Luke’s telling of the parable of the minas caught my attention. (By the way the differences shouldn’t create any concern, since Jesus likely used parables more than once and could have tweaked them to fit differing contexts.)

In Luke’s account, 10 servants receives the same amount of money, one mina (3 months wage) to invest. When the king returns, one servant hands him 10 minas (yes, a ten-fold ROI). Another servant gives the king 5 minas (a five-fold ROI). The last servant mentioned gives the king no ROI.  He squandered his opportunity not even gaining the king any interest.  What he had is taken from him and given to the servant who proved the best money manager.

What an interesting parable… the king rewards according to ability.  The more the ROI, the greater the reward and no ROI (no initiative) gains a rebuke. The king’s response stimulates a number of thoughts.

First, the king accepts the hard work of each servant according to his/her ability. Those who produced were given opportunities to use their skills now with bigger projects, i.e. cities.  But the king does not suffer fools.  The one who did nothing with what the king gave him was rebuked and dishonored in front of everyone. I thought about Jesus’ message. God will reward according to effort + ability. Ability is innate.  We can hone abilities but we can’t manufacture them. Some people have more and different abilities than others.  God honors the use of whatever abilities He has given.

Effort, however, is clearly within our control. I can choose to apply myself or not. God rewards for effort. Now that gives me pause. How much effort am I giving to God’s kingdom advancement? This is where the Holy Spirit wants me wrestle and think and pray.  How about you?

Lord, help me to give you A+ effort… Amen.


Tuesday, December 21: Luke 18- the manger and the cross

It felt strange or disconnected. I spend much of my day preparing for Christmas –the Christmas eve service at my church and Christmas day with my family- and then I read about Jesus telling his disciples that he is going to Jerusalem to die and rise again. "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again" (31-33). Christmas and Easter –a cute newborn baby and a cruel cross- seem like two puzzle pieces that don’t fit together…?!

Yet as I pondered the seeming incongruence I was feeling, it was as if God turned one of the puzzle pieces and immediately they slid perfectly together.

The manger and the cross are both symbols of God’s extraordinary love for you and me and all the human race. In the manger God comes to us, becoming one of us (!), identifying and connecting with us so that He can lead us back into a relationship with Himself. The cross, then, is the necessary payment that makes the reconnection between us humans and God who loves us. Both are necessary to complete the task of putting sin-filled humans, like me, back into a relationship with the almighty and perfect God of the universe.

I don’t normally think about Good Friday and Easter at Christmas time but as I do this morning, I am glad God put these together for me in my devotions this morning. What an incredible picture of God’s supreme and sacrificial love for me, for you, for everybody…

Lord God, thank You for demonstrating Your love. Jesus, thank You for your birth, Your life, Your death and Your resurrection. Holy Spirit, thank You for unveiling my eyes and allowing me to see how much You, the Son and the Father love me… Amen.


Monday, December 20: Luke 17- Increase my faith.

In a moment of stunning honesty the disciples cry, “Increase our faith!”

Their cry interrupted Jesus, who was speaking some strong words to His disciples. Things that cause people to sin are bound to come, but woe to that person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around his neck than for him to cause one of these little ones to sin. So watch yourselves. "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him (1-4)

Take a moment with what Jesus has just said. Jesus calls us to look at our lives. Is our living causing another person to become all bound up in sin? Is my (your) example or advice leading people into sin? The penalty is pretty extreme. Pay attention to how you live(!) intones Jesus.

Then He escalates the situation, saying that we must forgive a repentant brother or sister every time they ask, even if they sin against us 7 times a day and repent 7 times a day. (Now I don’t know about you, but I wonder how sincere is their repentance if they sin against me 7 times in a day. This is a hard word!)

It is at this point that the apostles say to Jesus, "Increase our faith!" (5).

To which Jesus gives an interesting reply, If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you (6).

I have some mustard seeds in my office.  They are a tiny dot of a seed, not much larger than the period at the end of this sentence. Obviously, a little faith goes a long way.

Jesus continues with another hard saying.  He teaches us that doing our duty to God is only the bare minimum, we should do much more than mere duty (read verses 7-10 again).

To which I want to reply, “Increase my faith, Lord!”

Listening to Jesus I am so far from even doing my duty, much less living beyond duty into sacrifice… “O, God, increase my faith!”

I am humbled by this morning’s word from Jesus. I join the apostles, recognizing how far short I fall of Jesus’ expectations.

Lord Jesus, increase my faith and beyond that, increase my resolve to live out the faith I have fully. And, Lord, sit with me today as I evaluate my life, so that my manner of living would point others to You and not away from You. Help me to be lavish with my forgiveness to all who sin against me.  Help me to regularly ask for Your forgiveness, repenting of my sins to You and to the sister or brother whom I sinned against. For Your glory, Jesus. Amen.


Saturday, December 18: Luke 16- Developing a life pattern.

   Two intriguing stories bracket this chapter. It opens with a corrupt manager and ends with the intermingled lives of a rich man and a beggar. Buried between these main acts is a single sentence that caught my attention. Verse10: Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.

As I read and reread that sentence, I found myself thinking about building a life legacy.  And this word from Jesus reminds me to start in the right direction.

Whoever can be trusted with very little… whoever is dishonest with very little. Certainly a life can change but don’t underestimate your start. Start well signals Jesus.

When I was a youngster my parents emphasized honesty. One day my friends and I got into some neighborhood mischief and a neighbor caught us and sent us scattering into the woods. What I didn’t know was that my neighbor called our parents. When I came home, my mom asked what I had been up to. I lied, replying something like, “Oh, nothing, just riding bikes.” Then the hammer fell.  She started “Mr. So-n-so called…” I don’t remember much of the rest of what she said but what I do remember is the conclusion… “You are in trouble,m not for what you did, but because you lied to me…”

I learned a tremendous lesson about honesty that day, one that has served me well throughout my life.

My parents understood that I should learn this key lesson early in life so I could build a life on honesty.

ON the flip side, statistics show that prison is populated with people who began with petty crimes and over time things escalated. Be wise in choosing your path, that’s the Lord’s devotional ‘take-away’ today…

Lord, I want to be an honest person. Lord, I want to be a person who hears Your voice and follows. Lord, I want to be a person whom You can trust. Lord, where I have started and journeyed well, I pray You will use me.

And, Lord, in those areas where I have not traveled the straight and narrow, I ask Your forgiveness and I pray that you will allow me to start over in the right direction. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen 


Friday, December 17: Luke 15- Lost and found.

Luke establishes the scene for the chapter with these words, Now the tax collectors and "sinners" were all gathering around to hear him. But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law muttered, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them" (1-2).

Tax collectors and sinners… not a pretty group and certainly not the ‘in-crowd’ or the people you will find gracing the covers and insides of Greenwich Magazine or frequenting ‘The Ave’. And yet, these are precisely the people who were attracted to Jesus and His message. Jesus obviously didn’t mind the company.

Pharisees and teachers of the law hung around Jesus, too, but not so much to hear His words as to catch Him in a compromising situation or statement.

Now comes the meat of the chapter… lost things being found and the joy of finding.

With each of the three lost and found vignettes, the message multiplied.  Finding the lost brings joy to the inhabitants of heaven! Finding the lost no matter where they have been or what they have done or who they have become brings joy to the inhabitants of heaven. Along with this refrain, the parables sing three stanzas of searching, looking, scouring dirty places for the lost… the shepherd searches, the wife scours and the father looks and never stops looking.

There are lost people all around us.  We can write them off as the Pharisees did for tax collectors & sinners or we can catch the melody of Jesus and be about the task of looking and finding…

“Think about it,” whispers the Holy Spirit.  More than that learn to sing and live Jesus’ melody…

God, make me into to a ‘looker and finder’, increase my searching skills so that my legacy this side of eternity will be one who found the lost. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Thursday, December 16: Luke 14- It costs.

Everything I have costs me something. House, car, clothes, family members, you name it and it costs. Last week at lunch with a friend, he commented about another friend of his who has lived with his parents into his 50’s and is only now getting married. “He is ready to retire,” my friend commented, “with no kids and no housing expenses.  He invested his earnings and has quite a portfolio.” I wouldn’t trade my family or my life for any portfolio even though hundreds of thousands of dollars has been spent on rearing kids and basic living in the 30+ years since I graduated college. And I have only mentioned monetary costs but there are also costs in terms of time and emotional energy as well.

Everything has a cost…

Jesus reminds me this morning that even faith costs.

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters--yes, even his own life--he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

"Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? For if he lays the foundation and is not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule him, saying, 'This fellow began to build and was not able to finish.'

"Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? If he is not able, he will send a delegation while the other is still a long way off and will ask for terms of peace. In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple. (25-33)

Following Jesus costs.  It can cost us relationships with those we love who don’t understand who Jesus is and what He asks of his followers. History abounds with relatives turning in other relatives for being Christians. Missionaries I know have converts whose families have put a price on their heads because they converted! Extreme cases for sure, nonetheless, very real.

Faith in Jesus costs…

We don’t talk about the costs of faith in the US very often. As I think about that I suspect it has led to a ‘soft faith.’ We highlight the benefits of faith, which are many, but often neglect the costs, which can also be many.

The nudge of the Holy Spirit, as I sit with the Lord this morning, is to consider the cost of following Jesus… the monetary, time, emotional energy, etc. costs of the Christian faith…

Jesus, help me count and willingly pay the costs for following You…



Wednesday, December 15: Luke 13- Called to repent

Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. Jesus answered, "Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them--do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish."

The twice repeated phrase “unless you repent” from the lips of Jesus caught my attention. I sometimes pass over the call to repent thinking, “Oh,I did that when I first put my faith in Jesus.” Yes, that is true but as I reflected on this account, I found myself thinking about repentance as an on-going posture of a life submitted to Jesus. I regularly need to repent for actions I have done, thoughts I have entertained and dreams I have dreamt.

I wish my life reflected more of Jesus’ life and less of my former sin-nature but it doesn’t. I am a work in progress. Yes, I have made strides, my life is significantly different and more Jesus-like than when I first repented. Jesus has changed my life! But it seems that the longer and closer I walk with Jesus the more blemishes I see in my life for which I regularly need to repent, seek forgiveness and the strength to break.

Actions, thoughts and dreams flash in my mind.  It is time for me to do some repenting…

Lord Jesus, Almighty Father, Holy Spirit… I come to You with a humble and contrite heart. Forgive me for those areas Your Spirit revealed to me a few moments a go. I turn from them. I repent and ask You to help me gain victory in my life… In and through Jesus, my Lord, I pray. Amen.


A Second Tidbit from Chapter 13

Verse 16 is the final word on a brief story of a crippled woman’s healing on the Sabbath. Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?" There is no mention of casting out of a demon in this account yet Jesus says her healing freed her from the bounds of Satan. The thought that healing is freeing someone from the bounds of Satan seemed new to me. Hmmm, healing as a defeat of the enemy… I have to think about that some more. And I invite you to do so as well.

One more related thought.  In Luke 4, quoting Is 61, Jesus said He came to set prisoners free, free from the chains and bounds of Satan. More to chew on…



Tuesday, December 14: Luke 12- What do I value?

What do I value? What do I give my attention to? Buried in the middle of this chapter, filled with teachings by Jesus on many topics, was a single sentence that caught my eye. Like an arrow it pierced my morning tiredness and made me think, wonder and wrestle.

Verse 34: For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I looked deeply at the things I treasure. I saw some good things and many selfish things. I wondered about how much attention I give to these things… LOTS! I tried to be honest with myself but that wasn’t easy. I was tempted to fool myself about my priorities…

I went back and examined the verses immediately preceding my morning arrow.  Jesus’ words were all about possessions. "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys (32-33). In light of this ‘Jesus-word’, I recognized that certain possessions and my quality of life is something to which I give considerable attention. This was neither pleasant nor easy to admit.

And so my morning went. I looked back at the next set of verses again.  The verses were about being watchful for Jesus’ coming and being found doing His business. Would that be me or would I be found treasuring my possessions?  And so my morning soul-searching continued.

God poked and prodded at my faith. God showed me some shortcomings and areas that need my attention

Almighty God and Father, this has been an uncomfortable morning with You. Your word challenges me in places that, obviously, are near to my heart. Lord, it seems appropriate for me to pray a prayer of confession like the one we often pray on communion Sundays…

Most Merciful God, I confess that I have sinned against you in thought, word and deed, by what we have done and by what we have left undone. I have not loved you with our whole heart and mind and strength. I have not loved my neighbors as myself. I am truly sorry and humbly repent. For the sake of your son Jesus Christ, have mercy on me and forgive my sins; that I might delight in your will and walk in your ways to the glory of your holy name. Amen

Thank you for forgiving me.  Show me how to live so that my life grows more and more reflective of my relationship with You each and every year. Amen.


Monday, December 13: Luke 11- Hanging on his words.

This chapter is filled with words, thoughts and teachings by Jesus. There are many parallels to Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (chapters 5-7).

What occurred to me as I read is how people hung on Jesus’ words. It opens with the disciples who have watched Jesus pray asking him, “How should we pray?” They hungered for Jesus’ teaching on the matter.

After teaching on this and other topics the scene shifts. Jesus casts out a mute demon and reading the crowd, He begins to teach some spiritual principles around casting out of demons. The people (crowds, the text reads) hang on His words.

The crowd swells and Jesus widens His teaching gaze… and so the chapter goes. Jesus teaching; people listening, processing, even interacting.

My mind and spirit began to muse, “Do I listen to Jesus with the intensity of the disciples, crowds, others? Do I interact with Jesus and his teaching?”

The opposite I suppose is letting Jesus’ words roll off my back and drop to the ground without affecting me? (I hope Jesus wouldn’t accuse me of this.)

Which do I do? Such is my soul searching this morning…

Lord, my head acknowledges that Your word is truth.  Do I live out that truth? Lord, help me grow in curiosity of Your word. Help me grow in interest for Your word, for the direction it will give, the correction it supplys, and the help it always offers. Help me be attentive to You and Your word, Lord…. In Your name I pray. Amen.


Saturday, December 11: Luke 10- Not what, who.

There is an intriguing little paragraph mid-chapter that grabbed my attention. In the story line it happens after the 72, who have sent out by Jesus to preach and heal, return. The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name" (17). Immediately Jesus replies, "... I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (19-20).

First observation: Jesus has given the 72 His authority. It is a completed action. Jesus’ authority has been passed on.

Second observation: However, and this is where I felt the Holy Spirit’s nudge to slow down and ponder, they are not to rejoice because spirits submit to them,but to rejoice that their names are written in heaven.

Jesus has given us, as disciples, authority to do what He did.  To do amazing acts healing, casting out of demons and speaking the ‘Good News’ of His gospel. When I pause to ponder that, it is amazing!  I mean we get to do what Jesus did. We get to live like the first Christians who we read about in Acts and the NT. The authority they displayed we get to display. AMAZING!!!!!

But that is not what should fire me up. Seeing what God does through me should not be the biggest charge in my life. No, what should give me the greatest joy, the deepest ‘ahhhh’, is that my name is written in heaven. What should give me and you the ‘WOW’ of life is that we are part of God’s family.  We are saved, adopted as God’s children and that our names are written in the Lamb’s book of Life!

When we are invited by the Lord to pray for someone and we see them healed or set free from some issue or attachment; when we have a God-opportunity to share Jesus with another person and we are there when they step across the life of faith into the family of God; those are special moments and joy should well up inside of us! But we shouldn’t let it go to our heads, it is God working though us, not our goodness at work.

More special than those moments, is the truth that every moment and any moment we have access to God. At any moment and every moment we can speak with the Lord of glory, feel His presence with us and live like His son/daughter. We get to revel in our salvation 24/7/365. We get the benefit of the great cross-exchange all the time. Jesus taking our sins and bearing the penalty for them.  Jesus giving to us His righteousness so that we can stand in the presence of the Almighty without fear and with boldness, the boldness of a beloved daughter or son!

This, Jesus suggests, should give us a joy to which even the greatest work for Jesus cannot compare.

My prayer for you and me is that we do many great and mighty works for God –speaking salvations words, speaking healing and delivering words- but that we do them with a humility that grows from a never-dimming awe of our salvations in Jesus.

Lord God, I praise and thank You that You invite me to be part of Your kingdom advancement. I thank You that I am used by You to display Your power and care and love in this world. It is wonderful to be used by You in these awesome ways. But, Lord, if I never get to do another great action for You, if by Your providence and wisdom I am set to the sidelines for whatever years I have left this side of eternity, I will always marvel and rejoice that You reached down into this corrupt and fallen world and saved me. You gave me Your name, and have given me life in You. That, Lord God, produces an ‘ Alleluia’ that will sing forever in my life and spirit. To You –Father, Spirit, Son, be glory an honor and power and praise for ever and ever. Amen.


Friday, December 10: Luke 9- Jesus' way of authority and power

I have been thinking and teaching about the authority we have in Jesus lately, so that idea is on my mind. As I came to this chapter, rich in meditation points, my thoughts were captivated by the authority Jesus gives to us as disciples. Allow me to string some vignettes from this chapter together.

Verses 1-6: When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. He told them: "Take nothing for the journey--no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them." So they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere.

Jesus gave His disciples both power and authority to drive out demons and heal people. Then He sent them out to preach and demonstrate the kingdom of God.  However, this authority and power was not a means to personal gain.  They were allowed to take not bag or food. They ate what people offered them and they had no bag to collect gifts along the way…

Stop number two: Verses 23-25 Then he said to them all: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it. What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit his very self?

Denial of self for the sake of the kingdom is a Jesus principle. I had this image. If I am carrying ‘my cross’, then I don’t have the ability to carry much, if any, worldly stuff. It seems Jesus is saying in the latter two sentences I can seek to gain life or worldly stuff… by inference not both.

Last stop, Verses 9:51-58: As the time approached for him to be taken up to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem. And he sent messengers on ahead, who went into a Samaritan village to get things ready for him; but the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem. When the disciples James and John saw this, they asked, "Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?" But Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they went to another village.

Quick thought… authority and power are not meant to harm people, even those who reject us and, likely by extensions, even those who seek to harm us. I recall Jesus said, “We’re to be turn-the-other-cheek people”. (Mt 5:39)

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, "I will follow you wherever you go." Jesus replied, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head."

These last two verses reiterate that following Jesus is not about bettering our lives (living more fancifully) in this life. In fact, it might call us to be itinerates, on the move for Jesus, which suggest we need to live (i.e. travel) light.

So where did the Spirit take me with all this? I am wondering about the using of my money and resources.  Accumulating stuff… is that the way of Jesus?

Lord, this is not a comfortable thought.  In fact, it is a difficult challenge. Christmas is not far off and so much of Christmas is driven by commercialism and stuff.  It is too late for this year but I wonder if there is a better way? A more ‘Jesus way’.

Lord, I can feel the internal struggle within me even as I pray this prayer and conclude this time of reading and meditation… Give me strength to get real with this word from You. Amen.



Thursday, December 9: Luke 8- An everyday story explained

Traveling through an agrarian society, Jesus told a farming story about scattering seeds. Jesus’ story described an occurrence every farmer immediately related to and understood. Scattering seed is part of a farmer’s life.

Later Jesus explained to His disciples the spiritual lessons of the story.  Jesus’ words speak volumes. This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop (11-15).

As farmers of the word of God, not everyone we speak to will accept Jesus’ teachings and enter the kingdom. The devil snatches the word from some so that they may not believe and be saved. Still others seem to get it but the next thing we know they have disappeared and returned to their former ways and lifestyle of unbelief. Others, like the disciples in the boat, see the waves and storms of life but instead of calling to Jesus like the disciples, these people slip back into old ways and forego Jesus and the way of Jesus. But those who do believe produce a bumper crop of faith.

Some thoughts float through my heart…

(1) Sow seeds, that’s my job. God determines the increase. Not everyone will believe my testimony to Jesus but I am responsible to sow. I cannot tell what kind of soil they represent.

(2) We have an enemy don’t forget that. But we also have a defense…the armor of God… read Ephesians 6.

(3) Old patterns die hard… persevere with Jesus, pay attention to your faith and work at it.

(4) Call out to Jesus when you are in trouble. I love the song Angelo has introduced to our worship, ‘Whisper His Name. Whisper, Call, Shout His name and Jesus will come to you’. (listen at: We don’t have to live life alone. We have a Savior who not only forgives our sins but Who is also there to rescue us when we hit problem patches, like the disciples in the boat turn to Jesus, when you are in trouble.

Well, now I have to chew on all this…

Lord, I have feasted at Your word.  Please help me to take time with it, to apply it and to take it deeply into my life… In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Wednesday, December 8: Luke 7- Unfolding understanding

The last few years of reading the Bible and writing my thoughts has produced a treasure of new insights for me. I suspect it has to do with the intentionality of my morning devotion time. Today is another case in point. The punch line or result of the healing of the woman from Nain’s son is that people were all filled with awe and praised God. "A great prophet has appeared among us," they said. "God has come to help his people" (16). Recognition began to dawn on the people that Jesus was special. He was a prophet. And prophets are people send by God and speak and act for God.

Reading this, I realized that the people had made a significant step toward fuller understanding of who Jesus was.

Believing in Jesus often involves a process as our minds and thoughts are challenged and changed from disbelief to belief, depending upon a person’s starting point.  Do they believe in a god at all?  Do they have any kind of religious background, any monotheistic religious background, etc.? The journey to belief may be long, dotted with many intellectual, experiential or theological hurdles.

Jesus gave people time. He allowed people’s thinking to grow and evolve. He was satisfied, in the account above, that the people had made the step to believing He was from God. Oh, they didn’t have full understanding yet about His divinity or His atoning death but they had made a significant step toward true understanding.

I began to think, do I give people time to believe? Do I let them make small or large steps in understanding and allow God, the Holy Spirit, to work in their lives, changing and transforming their thinking?  Or do I give up on people because they don’t ‘get it’ quickly or completely right away? I need to think about this some more and more deeply.  There is a kernel of truth here that should impact my witness to Jesus….

Come, Holy Spirit, bring Your wisdom. Teach me the way of Jesus.  Teach me to better share my faith in Jesus… Teach me, O Holy Spirit, that I might lead people to faith in Jesus and in the Father who sent Him. Amen.


Tuesday, December 7: Luke 6- Being watched.

As I began to read this chapter, I found it interesting how closely Jesus’ life was scrutinized by the Pharisees. Here He is walking with His disciples and the Pharisees are walking with Him, watching His every move. In fact, the chapter begins with two Sabbath stories where Jesus is being hounded by Pharisees. I get the impression they were watching His every move; one small misstep and they were ready to pounce, “Got ya!”

But it wasn’t only the religious leaders who were watching Jesus. Verses 17-19 reveal how those in need were watching Jesus, hanging on His every word and looking for any opportunity to engage Him or just touch Him. He went down with them and stood on a level place. A large crowd of his disciples was there and a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coast of Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by evil spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

I spent a few moments trying to feel what it was like to live in the ‘fishbowl’ that Jesus lived in. Some were trying to catch Him in a lie or mistake and others were desperately trying to get a healing from Him. Still others, hungry for truth, crowded around so they could hear every syllable He uttered. It must have been exhausting to be ‘on’ all the time.

Now I am no Jesus, but my wondering shift to my life (our lives). We, too, are being watched and our faith is being scrutinized by others. Some want to catch us in a misstep… “Some Christian you are,” they are dying to say or at least think. Others watch us to see, if in fact, our life is different because we profess Jesus. Some people might think that because we are ‘religious,’ we might be able to speak a blessing upon them. Whatever their reason, people are watching…

Lord, I surrender my witness to You. I pray that my life is a credible witness to You and that people will see a difference in the way I live and that my living and my words in all situations would be honoring of You. And, Lord, when I do fall short of Your ideal, I not only ask You to forgive me, I pray that my mistakes do not bring reproach on Your wonderful name. To You Father, Son and Holy Spirit, be the honor and glory, now and forever. Amen.


Monday, December 6: Luke 5- Staying connected with the Father

In the back of my thoughts, as I was reading this morning, is Luke’s emphasis on Jesus as the prototypical Spirit-empowered man. I believe I have mentioned already that Luke, more than any other gospel writer, emphases that Jesus operates in the power of the Holy Spirit (which is the same Spirit God will give to the church in Acts, Luke’s second volume). With this in my thoughts, two comments about Jesus’ life jumped out as me as I read. It was as if they were highlighted in yellow as I read.

The first is verse 16, But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Jesus needed and made connection time with His heavenly Father. Jesus’ life was incredibly busy. Like a rock star or celebrity of today, Jesus was hounded by paparazzi, people pushing to get near him. They didn’t want a photo.  They wanted to be healed or if they were skeptical of Him, like the teachers of the law, they wanted to catch Him in a compromising situation or giving a compromising quote. The gospels picture Jesus as one who had scant time to Himself. So, apparently Jesus made time to be alone with the Father in prayer. He would disappear, other verses suggest this was sometimes (often?) at night, when others slept. Whenever it was, Jesus pulled away from the crowds and even His disciples to pray.

This speaks to me.  If Jesus is the prototype spirit-empowered man and He needed to recharge His life by spending alone time with the Father, then I (we) would be wise to learn that life-trait, too, if we want to be His disciple and want to live Spirit-empowered lives.

‘Act on this’, nudges the Holy Spirit…

The second sentence, that seemed to be highlighted, comes at the end of the next verse which reads, One day as he was teaching, Pharisees and teachers of the law, who had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem, were sitting there. And the power of the Lord was present for him to heal the sick (17). The inference of this almost incidental sentence is that the power to heal was not always with Jesus and Jesus knew the difference.

The fact that these two verses are side by side causes me to think that they are related. Since Jesus maintained a close relationship with the Father, it was through His communion with the Father that Jesus knew who and when and even how to heal. Admittedly, this moves beyond the actual wording of the text but it seems a reasonable deduction from the text.

Again, the Spirit nudges, ‘Stay connected with the Father and keep your Spirit-ears open for the direction of the Father. When you do this, you will be living the Spirit-empowered life.’

O, God, thank You for the Holy Bible, Your word. Thank You that You continue to speak through it today and that You will speak through it every day until Jesus returns and we live directly in Your presence. Continue to shape my life as I spend this time with You each day. And, Lord, help me to be attentive to You throughout the day, listening for Your voice, Your direction and Your leading so that I might be available to You in order to bring Your kingdom light to anyone You want. I ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Saturday, December 4: Luke 4- Overwhelmed

I am overwhelmed this morning as I read this chapter. There are too many thoughts, too many ideas, too many devotional stops along the way.

I am overwhelmed by Jesus and His greatness, the magnitude of His spiritual strength, His power, His message and His forthrightness.

40 days in the desert without food and the text simply says He was hungry (2). He battles the devil with scripture.  Jesus, the Word, spoke the word accurately and forthrightly in His combat with the devil. I notice in this section that it says, When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time (13). The devil is a wily enemy, who looks for opportune times to attack and to bait us into failure.

I am reminded as I read this that I must always have my guard up against the schemes of the evil one.  I must immerse myself in scriptures so that, like Jesus, I will have the Word as a defense against attacks.

I am struck by the strength with which Jesus emerges from the desert. Luke highlights that Jesus returned… in the power of the Spirit (13). (Throughout Luke Jesus is the prototype for the spirit empowered believer, which the church realizes in Luke’s second volume call Acts). And the power of the Spirit means power in proclamation and demonstration, which sometimes elicits faith-filled responses and sometimes rejection.

Talk about being overwhelmed, I was listening to Jesus’ self declaration as Messiah by reading ‘Isaiah 61’ and then declaring, Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing (21). For me this morning, listening to Jesus speak that, was a moment for the ages. Jesus sat there and said, ‘That scripture is about ME!’ Jesus had absolute clarity about who He was and what He came to do.  The remainder of the chapter is living out that declaration… through healing, casting out demons, and preaching in the towns and villages of Judea.

This morning I have been overwhelmed by Jesus! Following my reading, I sit for a few moments catching my breath, marveling at who Jesus is.  I am marveling, also. that He has called me to live under His grace and authority.  Also to point people to Him so that they, too, might believe and surrender their lives to His lordship.

O Jesus, today in Your word was a powerful time. I saw Your strength, Your power, Your conviction, Your focus on Your call. You are the prototypical spirit-filled man and God in human flesh and I worship and adore You. Tomorrow morning I will gather with Your community and worship You and I will dine at Your table, I will listen to Your word and speak with You through prayer. O, Jesus, thank You for opening my eyes to who You are and for inviting me to worship You. I love and adore You, Jesus, together with the Father and the Spirit. Amen.


Friday, December 3: Luke 3- Honest with self

From what I read, John would never pass Dale Carnegie’s course, How to Win Friends and Influence People. John’s appearance was rough and tumble and his words straight, seemingly with an edge to them. Assuming this morning’s reading is representative of John’s preaching, he certainly didn’t soften his blow: John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire." "What should we do then?" the crowd asked. John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same." Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?" "Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them. Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?" He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely--be content with your pay."

The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." And with many other words John exhorted the people and preached the good news to them (7-18).

You wouldn’t hear that at a political rally!

Yet people came.  They were honest about their shortcomings, failures, lifestyles and sins.   They accepted John’s call to repentance and baptism for repentance. It is their honesty with self that connected with me. Jesus’ call to repentance requires the same self-honesty. To accept a savior a person must admit she/he needs help!

Lord, I need help. I needed help years ago when I first came and asked You to save my life and I need help today. I pray and work and try to live my life for You. Lord Jesus, I am a sinner and I need and desire Your saving love and grace regularly. Help me Jesus to live a life worthy of Your name. Amen.