Thursday, December 31: James 5- Helping people who stumble and fall.

Remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of their way will save them from death and cover over a multitude of sins (20).

The last word of James’ letter is one of spiritual care, spoken not to religious authorities but to the church as a whole. Watch out for one another. Care for one another.

None of us are perfect. Any of us could slip into spiritual error or sinful ways. None of us are above or beyond a fall. And any one of us could be God’s agent of restoration, bringing back a fallen sister or brother from the brink.

The military has a saying, “leave no one behind.” Jesus taught about leaving the 99 and going in search of the one lost sheep.

James is reminding us to care of our brothers and sisters. To constructively intervene when we can because our words of life spoken under the guidance of the Holy Spirit can restore when spoken at the right moment.

Care for one another. Help one another. Look out for one another. Be kind toward one another. Speak truth in love to one another… these are a few thoughts that break into my soul this morning as I spend time with my Lord and His Word.

How did they speak to you?

Lord, I am part of a body of Believers who are to care for one another and love one another. Help me and all my sisters and brothers to get to the finish line together because we cared for and even restored one another along the journey of faith here on this side of eternity. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Wednesday, December 30: James 4- Sin -what I do and do not do.

Too often when I think about sin, I think about things I should not do… most of the 10 Commandments begin “You shall not…” However, James reminded me that there are sins of omission as well as commission.

Verse 17: If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.

So according to James, when I know I should do something (for example something that fulfills the commandment to love God and neighbor) and I do not do it, I sin.

This causes me to have to think… and thinking reminds me how often I really do sin!!!!

Not good…

My, do I need a savior. I don’t even come close to living up to God’s ways.

Dear Jesus, I constantly fall short. I am regularly sinning.   Forgive me, dear Lord. I need Your forgiveness deeply and repeatedly.

Thank You for taking my sins and paying my debt. I am eternally grateful. I love You, Lord. In Your name, I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, December 29: James 3- What do I say on social media?.

The tongue… James hits this topic hard! And it drives me to consider how I use my tongue? Do I flatter or tell the truth? Do I build up or tear down? Do I sow seeds of doubt and/or dissention or harmony? Do I use it to show love or express hate? Do my words usher in peace or carry fear?

Interestingly, a thought popped into my head… it is not simply how I use the words that usher from my lips, but also the words that I write and words that I post on social media.

What if I took those questions above and used them to review my social media posts before I clicked ‘post’.

I reviewed those questions with Facebook or Twitter accounts in mind.

Do I flatter or tell the truth?

Do I build up or tear down?

Do I sow seeds of doubt and/or dissention or harmony?

Do I use it to show love or express hate?

Do my words usher in peace or carry fear?

Maybe I should ask myself a series of questions like this before I post something on the internet.

I think the world would be a better place if everyone did that. If that is my hope, then I need to start living that way.

Think about it…

Lord, may the words of my mouth and my online posts bring more peace and harmony into the world. May the words of my mouth and my online posts show Your kind of agape love… this is my prayer. In Jesus’ name. Amen.


Monday, December 28: James 2- Favoritism.

My hunch is that if I were to ask 10 people to list actions and behaviors that God does not like, favoritism would not make the list. It wouldn’t have been on mine. But, yet, in today’s reading, James spends a good chunk of time explaining how God abhors favoritism. God’s church must strive to not show favoritism, particularly favoritism based on economic status.

The poor, Jesus says, we will always have, but in the church favoritism, based on economic status, is not to exist.

As I think about this, God is saying that we are to treat each person based on their innate dignity as a human being not their worldly status.

Status based on wealth has been around a long time. The style of toga one wore in ancient Rome broadcast one’s status! Jewelry, then (see verse 2) as now, declares status. God says this should not be. And by extension we can see that stratifying people based on race or gender or nationality is wrong, too.

Within the church, favoritism is not to exist.  James says it forcefully; My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism (1).

This passage requires me to examine how I treat people in my fellowship. Do I consciously or unconsciously favor people like me… educated, white, affluent and married? Do I?

You might ask yourself a similar question, being honest with your preferences…  

O, God, for the sake of Jesus, my Savior, who showed no favoritism but offered his love to all, I begin by asking for forgiveness for all the times and ways I do show favoritism. I also pray for grace to change and grow to be more like Jesus and to bear the Father’s heart to all I meet.

I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.




Saturday, December 26: James 1- To those who are rich.

So many nuggets to chew on. So many good words and challenging words and thought provoking words. I decided to go with the first nugget that caused me to pause and take notice when I was reading through the chapter.

Verse 9-11: Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.

I live in a land of wide economic disparity and, for reasons beyond my pay grade, I have always lived closer to the top than the bottom. So when I read these words, God’s arrow pierces me with the word to the rich person.

But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.

I must not get prideful about my wealth and station in life. This says to me that I must not look down upon people of lesser means as if they are lesser people in any way. My lot in life could easily have been their lot in life.

Secondly, I better not be prideful about my life.  I will pass away like everyone else and my wealth will not save me from this. My wealth will not save me from death and my wealth will not grant me safe passage into eternal life.

What these words do not mention is any obligation my wealth places on me.  However, James does have more things to say about using the wealth we have, but those thoughts are for another day.

Lord, I am blessed in many ways, one being financial.   Help me to use my money and resources for God and not merely for self. Break my selfish heart, I pray. Amen.


Friday, December 25: Psalm 82- God over all gods .

It is difficult to write a statement more clearly:

God presides in the great assembly; he renders judgment among the “gods” (1).

To my mind little more needs to be said.

If I believe the Bible, which I do, this is an open and shut case. The God of the Bible is the supreme God of all gods.

I sit looking out our wonderful picture window as the sun rises and night turns into day. All I see is God’s creation. God made it and God is in charge of it. No one or no thing is on par with God. Nothing.

As I sit, I am thankful that God has given His Word. I am doubly thankful that God has opened my eyes and ears and heart to what He has written. And I am grateful for His one and only Son, Jesus, who is God Himself, Lord of the cosmos and the one I confess to be my Lord and my God.

I am grateful today that the great and awesome God is knowable through the Scriptures.

Praise be to the Lord, God, Almighty, who is Creator of all things and is above all things and is God over all gods. Amen and amen.


Thursday, December 24: Psalm 81- An invitation to believe.

If… only…

If my people would only listen to me, if Israel would only follow my ways… (13)

If only Israel would listen to me, cries the psalmist, how quickly I would subdue their enemies and turn my hand against their foes! (14)

The Lord stands poised to step in and help. Earlier the psalmist wrote how God had lifted their burdens and rescued them, asking only that they believe and are faithful (6-10). Sadly, Israel has not remained faithful. So the Lord issues one more call… if only, then I…

To this day, God issues a similar cry to all people through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If only a person will listen to Jesus, if only one would follow Him… How quickly the Lord God will come to the one who believes in Jesus and rescue them from the clutches of sin and usher them into God’s Kingdom.

The invitation to believe is given every day and to every age…

What does listening to Jesus and following Jesus look like today? This is the BIG question God asked of me to day as I read this ancient Psalm.

Lord, as I walk through today help me to hear Your voice, Jesus, and most importantly give me strength to LISTEN and FOLLOW what You are saying to me.

Lord, I don’t want to be like ancient Israel, turning my back on all the gifts and wonders of salvation that You bestow. Faith to believe, faith to follow… faith to be Yours all day, every day. This I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Wednesday, December 23: Psalm 80- Broken yet calling out.

Ancient Israel is a sad tale filled with lacking faithfulness and chasing after foreign gods. Over and over Israel strayed. Over and over the Lord called them home. They would return to abandon God again.

But the preserved prayers of God’s people sing a different story. Imperfect, straying, but always calling out again to the Lord. Israel’s psalms always return to the Lord.

Today’s Psalm is evidence. Despite the straying and refusal to listen to God’s call to return through all kinds of calamities and troubles, the psalmists leads Israel to sing and pray:

Restore us, O God;

make your face shine on us,

that we may be saved (3).

Three times this refrain is sung, verses 3, 7 and 19 with a minor stylistic change in verse 7 where O God is replaced by God Almighty.

This refrain calls out to the Lord in a reverent and beseeching manor. At its heart it cries to God to bless the nation. Make your face shine on us echoes the great blessing Aaron pronounced over Israel.

The LORD bless you

and keep you;

 the LORD make his face shine on you

and be gracious to you;

the LORD turn his face toward you

and give you peace (Numbers 6:24-26).

God’s face shining, God smiling on them was concomitant with His blessing.

Asaph invited the people to call out to the Lord in their distress.

This meditation reminds me that God is my refuge and my strength. God is my help in times of trouble. Rather than cursing God, turning from God when bad things happen, this Psalm invites me to turn to God and call out to the Almighty for His blessing.

O, Lord, God Almighty, I fall before You…

Bless me and keep me; smile upon me and let Your grace flow; turn to look at me and bring Your peace, Your wonder, Your presence into my life…

I pray this, Lord, so that Your presence might flow through me to the people around me. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, December 22: Psalm 79- When sin creeps in.

When bad things happen where do I go mentally? This is the question that emerged as I read this Psalm. Israel has been destroyed and Asaph first looks to the sin of the country… then he turns to God and cries out for mercy.

Israel had sinned, the prophets had announced this and the destruction of Jerusalem was God’s punishment. So Asaph was right to understand the direct correlation of the two.

At this point the Psalm takes a turn… Do not hold against us the sins of past generations; may your mercy come quickly to meet us, for we are in desperate need. Help us, God our Savior, for the glory of your name; deliver us and forgive our sins for your name’s sake (8-9).

Forgiveness, mercy… these were the cries of Asaph. A recognition that God’s help was needed and only His help would and could change the situation.

Sin creeps into my life as well. I am far from perfect and sin has its consequences. As I meditated on this Psalm, I asked myself how I react when I am confronted with my own sin.

Do I, like Aspah, recognize my part and confess my role, my sin? Do I call out to the Lord, who is great in mercy, and beg for mercy? Do I ask forgiveness for my sins?

O, God, I pray I do. O, God, I pray that I can humble myself before You and others, if need be.  And seek Your forgiveness and Your grace to climb from my hole through Your power and mercy.

Lord, help me to be honest and transparent with You. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.



Monday, December 21: Psalm 78- Parents pass on the faith.

God will never abandon His people forever. He will, however, allow us to taste His anger and fury when we sin.  This for me was the major theme of this Psalm. Within these, theme verses 5-7, an important message stood out for us as we live within God’s care.

He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them, even the children yet to be born, and they in turn would tell their children. Then they would put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

Being God’s family is not a birth right by blood as much as it is by faith. A parent’s role is to teach their children the way of the Lord so that the children put their trust in God and would not forget his deeds but would keep his commands.

I cannot say because I am a Christ follower my children are automatically be Christ followers. It is not a matter of birth or parentage; it is a matter of faith. As a parent my role is to teach and model the faith so that my children will eventually put their faith and trust in the Lord.

Parent’s step up to the plate… it is your call. The church can and certainly does help, but it remains your responsibility.

Lord, I pray for Christ following parents everywhere… help us to parent well, and to model well the way of Christ. And then I pray, Lord, that You, by Your Spirit, work in their hearts and call each child home to You. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.



Saturday, December 19: Psalm 77- The power of memory.

I have a friend who is constantly speaking about Philippians 4:8 and how helpful it is for life. The verse goes like this, Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Her words are so true. What we think about and dwell upon grows into our soul and shapes who we are…

The psalmist found himself brooding and depressed and what, alas, broke the doom and gloom? Verse 11:  I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago.

The psalmist made a conscience effort to remember what God had done. He combed the recesses of this life and memory for those moments God broke in and did something.  As he pondered these things, God drew him from his depression.

Two thoughts hit me as I thought about this…

1)      First, the psalmist had tucked away these memories! When God did something he placed those memories in a vault labeled “remember this.” Some people use an ‘answered prayer list’. Others simply make a determined effort to remember. And, of course, God’s Word is a treasure trove of miracles and deeds of God on behalf of His people.

2)      In a time of need, the psalmist called the memories from the vault and brought them to his present mind… he remembered. He pondered anew the things God had done! One of the classic hymns of the church has us sing, ponder anew what the Almighty can do, if we will first just believe him (check words)

So this morning God calls me to store His wonders so I may see today and always remember  and think on the things that He has done in days past!

We serve a Great God, let us never forget that!!!

Lord, for the myriad of ways You have touched my life I am forever grateful.  I will remember and live from the position of memory and gratefulness. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Friday, December 18: Psalm 76- Do you believe in the Lord God Almighty?.

It is you alone who are to be feared.

Who can stand before you when you are angry?

From heaven you pronounced judgment,

and the land feared and was quiet—

when you, God, rose up to judge,

to save all the afflicted of the land.

Surely your wrath against mankind brings you praise,

and the survivors of your wrath are restrained (7-10).

The Lord, our Lord God Almighty, alone is to be feared! This is the message that screamed off the page to me this morning.

Every day the news media seems to peddle fear, the way they announce breaking news or script their stories.  It seems that they are working to arouse our fear… something terrible may happen to us.

Asaph, the psalmist, sings of an ultimate fear… fear of the one who casts down armies and directs world (as well as personal judgments). It is not the baals or the Buddha; it is not Muslim’s Allah or new age spirit guides, it is the Lord God, Jehovah, the God of the Bible, who alone is to be feared. The Lord God alone pronounces judgments to save some and bring down others.

I sat and thought… about the awesomeness of the Lord. If I am going to believe the Bible, then I must believe the God of the Scriptures is THE Lord God Almighty…

I do believe this… do you?

Lord, I bow to You. I honor You as THE God among all gods. I worship You. I adore You. I will obey You. Where I sin against You, I beg Your mercy and grace through faith in Jesus Christ, Your only Son and my Lord. Through Christ, I pray. Amen.


Thursday, December 17: Matthew 28- Will I give my life for Jesus?.

Jesus is alive!  For all the twists and turns in the Gospel story, the Gospel closes with Jesus resurrected and giving instructions to His disciples. What He said would happen, did. He was arrested and killed and rose from the dead. Try to imagine the roller coaster of emotions that the followers of Jesus went through. I did.

·         disbelief at his arrest

·         fear of the crowd and soldiers

·         nervous wondering that you might be next (I recall Peter’s crumbling at the voice of a young maiden saying she was with Jesus)

·         confusion at the crowds chanting, “Crucify Him”

I imagine how these and many other emotions multiplied at the sight of the bloodied, beaten Jesus carrying His cross to Golgotha.

Then another exponential rise in emotions happens as you watch Him hanging on the cross. And now you are sitting with Him as He instructs you about a world that needs to know who He is and what He has done.

You have never left Palestine, and He is directing you to go to ‘all nations.’ Do you even know what that means? But He is alive and everything He has said has come true. Everything!

My final thought… will I give my life for Jesus, His gospel and His kingdom, like He gave His life for me?

Lord, Jesus, I believe in You.  Lord, Jesus, I surrender to You.  Lord, Jesus, praise be to You, the Father and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Wednesday, December 16: Matthew 27- I really do need a savior.

I found myself pondering Judas and the religious leaders. Judas has remorse upon Jesus’ arrest so he returns the blood money he was paid to give up Jesus. The religious leaders really don’t care. They are hell bent on their plan and they stuck to it despite the star witness saying Jesus was innocent.

These men of the Law, supposedly righteous men, did not care an ounce about truth or innocence; they only cared that Jesus was out of the way.

They were blinded to the ideals of their religion, which they attempted to live scrupulously.

These religious leaders remind me that we, humans, can rationalize virtually anything. We can be cold hearted and calculating of evil to any degree.

We are a wretched bunch.

And, oh, do I, do we, need a Savior.

In fact, the remainder of this chapter is God’s story of redemption for people like you and me, like the religious leaders, even like Judas. God offers salvation, forgiveness, and a new start to everyone. All a person needs to do is reach out and accept God’s free gift by believing in Jesus and His atoning work on the cross…

Most of the religious leaders missed this. Judas, who walked with Jesus for three years, missed this. Please don’t make the same mistake. Reach out to Jesus by faith and believe in Him… please. It is your only way to forgiveness and salvation.

O, God, through faith in Jesus, forgive me. Redeem me. Save me, I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, December 15: Matthew 26- I need a Savior.

The juxtaposition of Jesus’ calm in the face of inquisition by Caiaphas and Peter’s bumbling, lying, cursing response to questioning by regular folk struck me.

It was a mirror into my (our) humanity. We all fall so far short of our Master and Savior.

My weaknesses and resulting behaviors cascaded into my thoughts.

Oh, how much I need a Savior. Oh, how much I need a God who forgives, who shows mercy and grace.

I sat today, thankful for my God, my Savior, my Lord, Jesus…

Thank You, blessed Lord. Thank You. Amen.



Monday, December 14: Matthew 25- A life that pleases God.

My eyes widened as I saw the progression in this chapter and in Jesus’ teachings.

It starts with the parable of the virgins and the emphasis on being ready for the Jesus’ return,

then it moves to the parable of the servants and the bags of gold. While the element of return is central to the story, the point is being made about the king’s business and using the gold he has given you for the king’s benefit. So we have to be ready and be diligent working for the King…

Finally the last parable is the separation of the goats and sheep that will happen at the King’s return. The sheep cared for the ‘least of these’ while the goats did not.

I heard God clearly say, ‘be ready and be diligent, taking care of the least of these until the King, Jesus, returns’.

This chapter paints a clear message for me about living life in a way that pleases God…

I invite you to think about these things, too…

Lord, open my eyes to those who I might help in Your name today. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.



Saturday, December 12: Matthew 24- No one knows the time or hour.

Jesus is perfectly clear that no one knows the time of His return (36). But rather than live in uncertainty, Jesus gives us a recipe to be prepared for His sure return in verses 44-46:

So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns.

To be ready for the return of Jesus we should be tending to our God-given tasks. In simple words, we should be living for Jesus.

Every once in a while people get whipped into a frenzy about Jesus’ return. I generally feel like an oddball but I don’t get into that frenzy since God says we won’t know the day or hour. Instead I take comfort that if I am doing the things of God, I will be ready. And what are some of those things of God?

Am I growing in His Word; both knowledge and living of it?

Am I exhibiting the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) in greater abundance?

Am I helping fuel the advance of God’s Kingdom?

Am I loving, brother, neighbor, friend and foe?

This is a tall list and I am certainly not in the top 10% anywhere, but am I growing and seeking in my love and following of Jesus?

How about you? If you are, then you are ready, too.

Lord, I look forward to the day You return, Jesus. Come, Lord Jesus. Come, Jesus, bring Your justice and rule… that all the world will know You Are Lord. Halleluiah!  Amen.


Friday, December 11: Matthew 23- The greater things.

Jesus said, Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices—mint, dill and cumin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel (23-24).

Sometimes in the church today we major in the minors, too. God forgive me (us). It is not that the minor things are unimportant… they have great importance but they are not everything.

The Pharisees missed the more important matters like justice, mercy and faithfulness. Do I do that, too, I wondered.

Justice:  am I willing to see that everyone gets a fair shake… people like me and people different than me… different in faith, attitude, station in life, nationality and so on.?  Will I labor for it and work for it?  It is so much easier to say ‘Yes’ than to live ‘Yes’.

O God forgive me when I fall short, which is all too often.

Mercy: I am all for mercy, especially when I am the recipient! But do I show and give mercy… to that person who angered me, to that person who took advantage of me, to that person I do not feel is pulling his/her weight???

Lord, God, I fear that I am not a good mercy giver… Ugh, I fall short again. Forgive me, please.

Lord, here I am begging for mercy for not being a mercy giver, how ironic and sad…

Faithfulness: this brings me full circle. Faithfulness, living the way God wants me to live and doing it with a gracious and humble heart.

Lord, the fact that I fall short of seeking justice or giving mercy shows how far short of faithfulness I have fallen. Show me, Lord, how to grow in these major issues even as I maintain myself in the minor issues as well. Through Jesus, my Lord, I pray. Amen


Thursday, December 10: Matthew 22- loving God with all.

There were a number of short pithy statements of Jesus to ponder this morning. I didn’t know which one to choose. Eventually I felt drawn to the first half of the greatest commandment. Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind’ (37).

All heart… total, absolute devotion to God. Thinking of God throughout the day, passionately wondering how I might please God now and being concerned about that all the time.

All soul… Taking the soul to be that place of life-centering; loving with all soul would entail complete disavowing of any other centering focus, whether career or play or even relationships. God would be the all in all that breathes life into my life.

All mind… buckling down and attending to the things of God and the words of God with a passion and determination that drives continual learning. Putting more effort into knowing God through God’s Word than any other field of study, even those which drive our careers.

As I write this, I realize how impossible it is to be totally God focused and passionate.As I move to my morning devotion, I realize how short I fall of this command.

I don’t even come close to loving God with all heart and mind and soul… not even close!

Lord, I truly am saved by grace, I cannot come close to keeping this one command and I haven’t even considered the other side of the great command…loving neighbor.

Jesus, Father, Spirit, I call out to you… save me. Amen


Wednesday, December 9: Matthew 21- Lip service or obedience.

Found only in Luke, Jesus tells an interesting parable…

 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’

“ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went.

“Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go.

“Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him (28-32).

It doesn’t take a scholar to get Jesus’ point. The son who obeyed is the one who did what the father wanted. Words are cheap. As they say, “Actions speak louder than words.”

Despite the backtalk or the yes-talk, only the son who did what the father asked was obedient.

After this simple story, Jesus nails the religious leaders confronting them with their lack of obedience. Did they get baptized by John? No, they were too righteous! Were the leaders willing to repent and believe God was on the move? NO, they were too righteous and stubborn.

As I typed that last work, the Spirit spoke to me. It is not always a matter of righteousness, sometimes it is stubbornness, not being willing to lay down what you have always done or thought that gets in the way of trusting Jesus.

Lord, show me my stubborn streaks so that I can surrender those to You and live more fully as an obedient son in Your kingdom. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Tuesday, December 8: Matthew 20- Servanthood.

I live in a culture which lauds power. In fact I live in a world that lauds power. I have done some traveling and every place I have gone, power, authority, and being on the top of the heap is hoped for and strived after almost universally. Oh, different cultures use different metrics, but striving for the top seems universal.

At its root isn’t that what Adam and Eve longed for when they thought eating the forbidden fruit would make them ‘be like God’ (Genesis 3).

Against this backdrop I read Jesus correcting His disciples, who are jockeying for power in Jesus’ coming kingdom, Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave— just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”  (26-28).

Greatness in God’s kingdom is about service, even ‘slavery’ of others.

These words hit me quite hard today. I don’t think those of us in the church have done a very good job at this. As I look around I see far more emulation of the world and its understanding of power and greatness than I do Jesus who gave life as a ransom for many.

As I thought about this, the poem One Solitary Life by Dr James Allan Francis (© 1926) came to mind. I looked up:


He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman.

He grew up in another obscure village, where he worked in a carpenter shoo until he was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never had a family or owned a home. He never set foot inside a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place he was born. He never wrote a book, or held and office. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness.

While He was still a young man, the tide of popular opinion turned against Him. His friends deserted Him. He was turned over to His enemies, and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. While He was dying, His executioners gambled for the only piece of property He had – His coat. When He was dead, He was taken down and laid in a borrowed grave.

Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure for much of the human race. All the armies that ever marched and all the navies that ever sailed and all the parliaments that ever sat and all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man upon this earth as powerfully as this “One Solitary Life.”

Maybe Mother Teresa understood this. Maybe Francis of Assisi understood this. Maybe Henri Nouwen and Dallas Willard got this, but most of us, including me, don’t.

I feel God piercing my bubble, what will happen as I go on from here I do not know. I only pray…

Lord, may I have the strength, fortitude, humility and servanthood heart to follow You. Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.


Monday, December 7: Matthew 19- Who then can be saved?.

A rich person comes to Jesus to find the way to eternal life. After confirming that the man has kept the 10 commandments, Jesus asks the man to sell everything he has and come follow him. The man turns and sadly leaves.

At this point Jesus turns to his disciples saying, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible”  (23-26).

What caught my attention was the disciples question, “Who then can be saved?” it seems that they understood the dilemma of wealth. Even though the man who came to Jesus had great wealth, the disciples had some wealth and it sounds like with their question they wondered if they could be saved.

Jesus’ surprise answer comes, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” None of us can accomplish our salvation by ourselves. Salvation is impossible for human mission. Whether riches or poverty none of us can will ourselves to God. We all need the powerful work of God to make salvation possible.

I needed God to overcome my human thinking to believe in Jesus and all the Bible says about Him and God. I needed God to short circuit my pride in ME being ‘good enough’ so I recognized the need for a Savior. I needed God to tear down that religion could save me and open me to a relationship with God through faith in Jesus. Without these and other God actions I could and would never have come to believe.

Where did or does God need to work in your life so you can follow Him? Think about it.

Lord, God, thank You for all You did the make a way for me to believe in Jesus. Without You I would not believe and I bless and thank You this morning for the gift of salvation.

I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. 


Saturday, December 5: Matthew 18- .

Two topics drew me… forgiveness at the close of the chapter and the children issues at the beginning. I opted for forgiveness…

How many times must I forgive someone? This is a true life issue. Jesus’ answer is stunning… as many times as they require. Really, Jesus, can’t I just write them off at some point?

His response is emphatic, “No, you cannot.” You must forgive them 77 times or 70x7 times depending upon how the text is read. The actual number is not the point. If we want to offer a gracious number of times, God says make it a gracious, gracious number of times. The point, just keep forgiving.

Before disregarding this… consider God. “Isn’t that what God offers us? Unlimited forgiveness?” And aren’t we supposed to emulate Jesus, who is God?

Do I sometimes take advantage of God’s graciousness? Yes. But more than that, God’s willingness to forgive me over and over again is both a lifeline and a love-line. God loves me and will never turn His back on me. And His unending love draws and beckons me to Him, imperfect as I am.

Jesus is asking me to offer this same kind of love, wrapped in forgiveness, to others that I receive from Him. And this thought makes the parable all the more compelling. I constantly go to God for forgiveness and I am never rebuffed. How dare I rebuff someone who comes to me and they come to me with much more minor grievances than I lay before God?

Forgiveness is not necessarily easy but it is the right and godly thing to do.

As I put my head in my hands to see who I need to forgive, the first face I see is my own. This surprises me. But it is true I can be so hard on myself. I need to offer myself forgiveness, even as I offer others forgiveness.

Mine was not the only face I saw, just the first…

Lord, trying to live Your teaching, I forgive myself for…

Lord, I forgive NBK for …

And I forgive xxx for…

Lord, help me to truly release these people from any hold I have maintained. As You have forgiven me, may I forgive others… Through Jesus, I pray. Amen.



Friday, December 4: Matthew 17- Difficult news often takes time to sink in.

I noticed that Jesus repeated to His disciples about his impending death and resurrection. Matthew recorded it this way: When they came together in Galilee, he [Jesus] said to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men. They will kill him, and on the third day he will be raised to life.” And the disciples were filled with grief (22-23).

The disciples didn’t quite get it. But their reaction differed from the last time Jesus told them about His impending death (Matthew 16:21-24). Last time Peter –the apostles’ spokesperson –rebuked Jesus saying it would never happen. This time they were filled with grief.  There was no rebuke.

I thought about that, realizing that difficult news is often hard to take. We deny it, bargain with God, fight against it, soften to it; eventually the healthy realistic person accepts it. I guess it is also true that some reject it.

I was thinking of the way we receive and process a loss or death…

As I ponder this, similar stages (although it is certainly not linear moving simply from one stage to another) often happen as we deal with difficult spiritual truths.

The first time I heard the message of salvation and that without Christ I was in a heap of trouble, I really didn’t buy it. I rationalized it away… God wouldn’t do that, etc.

But as I pondered it and read the scriptures, the truth began to seep in and finally it dawned on me. I needed a savior. A friend showed me to Jesus.

My take away this morning is that not many people hear the call or get the teachings of Jesus on first hearing. Many of us wrestle, grow, change and mature. Like the disciples, God’s Word seeps in and finds a resting place in our heart and then we believe.

Where are you on your journey with Jesus? 

Thank You, Holy Spirit, for Your ongoing work in us… drawing us to Jesus and then growing us up in Him. Continue Your work, O Holy Spirit, in my life and when need be, accelerate my learning and believing through whatever means You deem necessary. I pray this for the sake of God’s kingdom advance here on earth and the name of Jesus being broadcast to the ends of the earth. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.


Thursday, December 3: Matthew 16- Who do you believe Jesus is?.

Jesus asked his disciples profound questions, “Who do people say I am? What about you, who do you say I am?” (13-15).

At some point, concretely or indirectly, everyone answers those questions. The first one is relatively safe. To answer, one only needs to know the basic options. It is safe because it does not require a personal commitment.

The second question is in an entirely different league. It calls us to go on record. It calls us to make a choice and a decision.

This is no ordinary question. How a person answers this question makes an eternal difference. To believe Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the living God, is to acknowledge Him as Lord of one’s life. And that is the doorway to salvation… the only doorway to salvation in the Scriptures.

Are you willing to name Jesus as the Messiah and Lord and your Lord and Messiah? I am and I will go on record proclaiming so…

Jesus, Lord and Savior, I bow to You. I believe You are God’s one and only Son and the only means of salvation. I believe that You died for the world, becoming the substitionary atonement for everyone who believes in You.

I put my faith in You and I love You and I will follow and obey You.

Father God, thank You for sending Your Son, Jesus. I am Yours as I am His. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Wednesday, December 2: Matthew 15- Pretense Faithfulness.

Jesus quotes Isaiah, These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me (8) as an attack against the religious leaders. Their crime is creating religious rules that look pious but in fact serve themselves not God. In the referenced case, religious leaders would dedicate money to God and in so doing, exempt it from money that they could have (should have) been used to honor and care for their parents.

This launched me into thinking, “Are there ways that I act religiously but do so in a way that actually causes me to avoid doing what the Father would desire me to do?”

Another way to ask the question goes like this, “Are there ways I can act religious but in truth I am being self focused?”

This takes some thought and pondering…

How about you???

Lord, I have prayed before and I will pray again today… call me up short anytime I act hypocritically. Confront me, Lord, anytime I lack integrity, pretending to be more spiritual than I truly am.

In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen.


Tuesday, December 1: Matthew 14- Insights into a faithful life.

Reading this chapter it occurred to me that some of Jesus’ most memorable miracles grew out of a time of mourning and weakness.

Here is what I noticed as Matthew sets the scene.

The chapter opens with the gruesome events of John the Baptist’s death, concluding with the notation that John’s disciples went and told Jesus.

Jesus, hearing the news, withdraws by boat to a solitary place (13). Connecting the dots in my mind, Jesus needs some time to mourn the death of His cousin. Crowds, however, follow Him and so rather than getting His time alone He heals their sick. This takes all afternoon, which leads directly into the account of feeding the 5000 (13-21).

Fed and cared for, Jesus dismisses the crowd to go home. He also sends the disciples away in their boat, while He grabs His solitary time on the mountain to pray (22-23). Connecting more dots, Jesus needs to get that alone time with His Father that He didn’t get when the crowds showed up. Even more now He has spent Himself in ministry all day so He is doubly depleted and makes sure He gets His rejuvenating time with the Father.

When His time in prayer is over, He catches up with His disciples by walking on the water to them and this results with ‘the Peter miracle of walking on the water’ (24-32). The disciples had an ‘ah ha’ moment (32) that Jesus is the son of God.

Then when they land, another day of ministry begins… (33-34).

A few life lessons…

·         Some times life asks us to give out and help others when we ourselves are depleted.

·         Connection with the Father can be postponed due to ministry and the needs of others but it shouldn’t be forgotten.

·         Faith life is no cake walk… it seems neither Jesus nor His apostles got much sleep that day.

·         Other people’s needs are not necessarily on our time schedule. 

There are probably more lessons for me to find as I think on this throughout today. But for now this has been a treasure trove of insights from the Lord.

Thank You, Father, Son and Holy Spirit for these words today. Help me to live for You with the rest of my hours today. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Monday, November 30: Matthew 13- Sorting out the kingdom.

A number of the parables about the kingdom of heaven included a sorting of the good from the bad at the end that I felt compelled to think on the sorting.

Verse 30: Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.

Verse 30 explained, The one who sowed the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed stands for the people of the kingdom. The weeds are the people of the evil one, and the enemy who sows them is the devil. The harvest is the end of the age, and the harvesters are angels. “As the weeds are pulled up and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send out his angels, and they will weed out of his kingdom everything that causes sin and all who do evil. They will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Whoever has ears, let them hear (37-43).

Verses 47-50:  “Once again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught all kinds of fish. When it was full, the fishermen pulled it up on the shore. Then they sat down and collected the good fish in baskets, but threw the bad away. This is how it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come and separate the wicked from the righteous and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

There will be a sorting out by God at the end. The righteous, those who live in line with God the Father, will enjoy life with God. Those who are evil, anyone who causes sin or does evil, will be thrown into the fire where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. Whatever this punishment is, it is NOT good!

Certainly these verses are a warning to those who hear them… a warning to examine whether or not we are on the Lord’s side. Jesus spoke these words so that people would think, “Am I living the way God wants a person to live?”

Quite naturally I spent my remaining time with the Lord answering that question for myself. You would be wise to do the same…

Lord, there is no way I can ‘justify myself.’ I fall on Your mercy and grace. I love You. I do try to follow You, but I am FAR from perfect. I sin and screw up repeatedly. I beg Your forgiveness and pray for strength from You to live for You. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.