Tuesday, February 12: Luke 9- The punch of Jesus' call.

I am temped often, probably too often, to lighten the blow of the call to follow Jesus. He is not a man calling followers to a Carnival cruise; He is a recruiter enlisting people in the army. The words He spoke at the conclusion of this chapter pressed me to think about the challenges of Jesus’ call to follow Him.

As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.” He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” Jesus replied, No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (57-62)

No place to lay His head... The call of Jesus doesn’t mean luxury or even necessarily stability in this life. It could mean a life of movement and even wandering. It could mean giving up of all normal creature comforts in ordered to be faithful. If we are going to follow Jesus we, too, may not have a place to lay our heads. I don’t normally think of this as a possibility of discipleship... but there it is.

The call of discipleship could cause us to miss some of those important life moments. Particularly in eras past, missionaries left families behind to go and serve Jesus on the frontiers. There was a time when they shipped their belongings to their new land of service in a coffin knowing that death was the only way they would make it back home.

The call of Jesus asks us to not look back on the life we could have had. We are forward looking people... looking forward to serving Jesus and His kingdom.

None of these make me feel particularly comfortable as I contemplate them.

Part of me wonders, why I have had it so easy? Am I truly faithful? How come I haven’t had to pay these costs? This last question makes me wonder if I have avoided some of Jesus’ calls because they are too costly. In other words, have I played it safe with my faith, wanting the ‘good things of this life’ even as I profess to follow Jesus?

I can be harsh toward myself in quiet moments?

I also wonder maybe Jesus knows I couldn’t handle these and He is just being kind to me. If so, it could only be grace...

Lord, speak to me as I ponder these hard questions. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.




Monday, February 11: Luke 8- What yield is my life producing?.

I found myself musing over the parable of the sower and its explanation. First the parable itself:

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds ate it up. Some fell on rocky ground, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown.” When he said this, he called out, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (5-8).

Now the explanation:

“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 rocky ground 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).

Reading the explanation I got to wondering if the seed among thorns people are ‘saved’ but they just don’t mature into fruitful believers. In our family garden sometimes things we plant don’t fully mature but are still edible. Last year we planted what we hoped would be onions... but they never matured and we ended up with a crop of scallions.

As I looked back at the parable, the clear indication is that only the good soil seeds produced a bountiful crop, indicating they alone are the ‘saved’ ones. This pushed me to realize that I was over thinking the parable. I mean Jesus’ clear intention is that the super yield of the good-soil seed is the point of the story.

As I pondered the parable more I began to realize that I was superimposing my 21st century biases onto the text. Jesus never equates salvation with getting to heaven. Eternal life is part of salvation for certain, but salvation affects how we live in this world and producing fruit is the demonstration of our faith this side of eternity.

This thought/realization begs the question... How is my fruit producing going? Am I producing kingdom fruit? Are you?

Think about it.

Lord, may your Word nourish my soul and my life so that I produce a 100-fold bountiful crop. In Jesus’ name and for the sake of the Gospel’s advance I pray. Amen


An additional thought from verses 38-39: The man from whom the demons had gone out begged to go with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return home and tell how much God has done for you.” So the man went away and told all over town how much Jesus had done for him. Sometimes people say the Gospels don’t say Jesus is God. The more I read them the more I see Jesus’ divinity. Notice the bolded words in the above. Told to say how much God did for him, the healed man proclaims Jesus. This is a clear yet subtle explanation by Luke that Jesus is God.


Saturday, February 9: Luke 7- .

I was torn whether to spend my extended time with the story of the Centurion or the widow of Nain? The thought came to me, “Maybe it was the intersection of both.”

The two people Jesus helped were very different. The Centurion was an important man with servants and the widow was near the bottom of the social ladder. A widow with no son puts her in an incredibly vulnerable position.

Jesus apparently saw the need and was not particularly interested in station of life. In the Centurion, it is clear that Jesus saw faith. Luke makes this clear; from the voices advocating for the Centurion to his absolute faith in Jesus, his account is one of faith... faith rewarded by Jesus’ healing of this servant. The Centurion also stands as a witness against Israel since his depth of faith could not be found in all of Israel (see verse 9). 

The woman on the other hand had no one advocating for her. She was utterly alone. And yet Jesus saw her pain and stepped in. She never asked for help... likely a woman would not approach Jesus. Touched by her pain and loss Jesus heals her son in a dramatic manner. The result was not only the son’s resurrection but also the people praising God!

As dramatic and theologically rich as both of these stories are, at their base is Jesus helping a person in need. It didn’t matter to him if the person was wealthy, successful or not. It didn’t matter if the person was male or female. It didn’t matter if the person was Jew or Gentile. Jesus saw a need and blessed the people involved.

Jesus cares for people...

Jesus cares for you and me. What a wonderful thought on the eve of Sunday. Pondering this is a tremendous way to prepare for worship tomorrow!

Lord, as You cared for the Widow of Nain and the Centurion, You care for me. I am so blessed to be Your Son and disciple. Praise You, Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit. Amen and amen.


Friday, February 8: Luke 6- God's agent?!.

So much to choose from, I am at a loss where to pause and spend my time in contemplation. I sit in silence for a few minutes before I look back to the text. Somedays it is obvious where I should concentrate my thoughts and others not so much.

What do you want to say to me today Lord?

Looking back at the chapter, Luke’s report of some beatitudes coupled with their reversal hit me, particularly the ones about hunger. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you will laugh. ... Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you will mourn and weep (21 & 25).

Just the other day I learned that someone I know moderately well has no food to eat sometimes. This reality has hit me pretty hard. Even during some of my leanest years, like seminary, we always had food. Maybe some days dinner was plain pasta with sauce, but we had food. Not having food was never a situation.

I am haunted; learning someone I know has no food sometimes while I have plenty... more than plenty. Ouch, it stings. Reading the words of Jesus is a bit frightening...

Blessed are you who hunger now, for you will be satisfied...

Woe to you who are well fed now, for you will go hungry.

That’s the disparity between me and this other person, I am well fed; they are hungry. Jesus goes on to say that the hungry will be satisfied. It hits me, what if I am God’s person to help the one I know become satisfied? I am wondering what to do for them and how to help them while allowing them to maintain dignity. I am wondering what Jesus is calling me to do... and then how to do it appropriately, kindly, nicely.

Jesus, I have read verse 21 many times and always considered that You would make sure that the hungry become satisfied. And, Lord, that is still certainly true, but I am thinking that You want to use me to help this one person become satisfied. Am I hearing You correctly, Jesus? Am I hearing the voice of the Spirit correctly? I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Thursday, February 7: Luke 5- Solitude.

It was not wilderness per se but solitude that caught my eye today.

One prime aspect of wilderness is solitude, being alone with self, facing God and self. Today we see Jesus spending time in solitude. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed (16).

First, I notice the word ‘often.’ Luke makes it seem that Jesus regularly spent time alone with His Father in prayer and connection. Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

In this place of solitude Jesus prayed. When I am truly in solitude, I can hear things I don’t hear when I am in the hustle and bustle of life. I can hear my inner thoughts and I can better hear the nudges of God. A thought comes to mind that could only be from the Lord. Because I can hear more clearly, I have an opportunity to act more faithfully. To be honest I can still say ‘no’ to the voice of God, but at least I hear it. I suspect I often miss the voice of God when I am moving at the speed of life much of the day.

And this brings me back to ‘often.’ Maybe, if like Jesus, I cultivate a regular and often pattern of being in solitude with God, I will learn to hear and distinguish God’s voice better so that I might even hear Him when I am moving at the speed of life, which is much of my normal day. Secondly, maybe I can cultivate slowing down so that my normal speed of life is a little slower so I can hear God a little better.


Now, I just have to cultivate those times of solitude…

Help me, Lord, find solitude time with You every day. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.


Wednesday, February 6: Luke 4- Wilderness.

Wilderness again attracts me. Luke records, Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness (1).

As we read, Jesus’ wilderness experience was a bit more intense and personal than most of our wilderness experiences, however, his challenges are ones that face most of us in one way or another.

Food, sustenance, provision… temptations to acquire what we need and beyond that, what we want come to every person. How we go about acquiring what we need is the test. Will I earn it honorably? Will I be satisfied if people I know have more than me? Will I trust God to provide what I need or will I go after it by my own strength and ability alone??? These are issues I face, everyone faces… How am I (you) doing with this test?

Authority, power, recognition… again, temptations and enticements to authority, power and recognition tap each of us in one way or another. The parent who lords it over children just because he/she can. The boss who imposes her/his will on subordinates because they can. These are examples of people seeking authority and power. It is not only upper crust people who exert authority, I suspect every human is tempted by this in one relational circle or another. How am I (you) doing with this test?

Testing God… trying to put God in a situation where He must act. First of all it is so foolish that we human beings could cause God to have to act. God is God and we are not. Yet, there are times when I test God. Sometimes the way I pray, as the words come out of my mouth, I hear myself trying to butter-up God with superlatives in order to make Him answer me. Or I repeat some pious action simply because God answered me once when I did that action. It is as if I am thinking God has to answer my prayer again.  One of the common sins of humanity is trying to ‘make God work for us.’ And that is getting things upside down. As I said, God is God and I am not!

Lord God, help me to keep priorities right and lines of authority correct. You are God and I am Your servant. Thank You, Father, for reminding me of this again today and for opening my heart to Your world. I pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen.


Tuesday, February 5: Luke 3- Supporting cast.


Usually I find myself gravitating to Jesus, but today I wanted to think more about John, like I did a couple of chapters ago.

John is in the desert; Luke tells us, during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness (2).

In the quiet and solitude of the desert John heard God’s voice and he knew what to do. He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins (3).

John prepared the way for Jesus. It is clear from Jesus’ arrival that John knew he wasn’t the main story, simply the preparation for the main story.

John was willing to play second fiddle. He didn’t need to be the main story. He was obedient to his call, to be the preparer, the opening act before the main personality enters the stage. But unlike opening acts, John wasn’t hoping to be noticed so he could become a main act. John was content playing a small part in God’s cosmic plan of salvation.

I wonder, am I willing to do the grunt work for God, allowing others to fill the limelight? I hope so and I pray so, because more often than not, I am the supporting cast rather than the lead actor.

Lord, often it seems my role is the side role… please give me the grace to play my role well, to lift up and point to others and particularly Jesus. Lord, may I decrease so Jesus can increase. I pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.