Week 12 Devotional Blog (March 18-24)

Day 1

Luke 16:14-31

This whole passage begins with Jesus speaking to the Pharisees who were lovers of money, which nothing in the text has anything to do with. However, each topic which Jesus speaks of here does challenge the value system of the world, and this descriptor, "lover of money", is telling us that the religious elites who ridiculing Jesus were motivated and driven by earthly ideals.

Jesus speaks of their heart to justify themselves, according to strict adherence to the Mosaic Law. And he contrasts that with the true nature of the Kingdom of God, which can only be freely received through the empty hands and open heart of faith. Jesus says even as they hear the gospel preached, they're trying to adjust it to fit there self-sufficiency sensibilities. They are trying to earn and deserve what can only be received, and thus rejecting the gift.

Then Jesus puts remarriage to or as a divorced person in the category of adultery. Again, he's challenging earthly mindsets and values, trying to get us to think seriously and biblically. So, while he doesn't speak to divorce directly in this brief word, he's speaking to the permenance of the marriage covenant, and God's design for joining a man and woman together for one lifetime. Worldly values are for personal happiness and therefore, when relationships get difficult, specifically marriage, we look for ways to undo our union. Jesus changes our focus from looking for ways to get out and move on from difficult relationships, to how to make them work.

Than thirdly, in this lengthy parable, Jesus tells the Pharisees that what they value in time will determine where they spend eternity. And there are no do-overs. We get this one mortal life to repent and turn in faith to Christ. Jesus even predicts in a way here, how these same Pharisees will not believe in him even after His resurrection, which you would think would convince everybody. But, because we think in earthly categories, we tend to dismiss even clear evidence for the truth and reliability of the gospel, when it doesn't fit our expectations or existing paradigms.

So Jesus' word to them, and to us, is that no miracle, not even a resurrection will be any persuasive to us than miracle of his Word. We have this miracle accessible and available to us of the Law and the Prophets, sufficient in their own right to lead us to faith in Jesus Christ. Add to that, the apostolic witness to Jesus' life, ministry and work, as well as the NT as a whole, and the Scriptures as a whole are incredibly clear.

In theory, we think, if we could behold a miracle like his resurrection, than we'd believe and follow Jesus. Jesus is saying that we have a miracle in the writing and preserving of his word. If we won't receive His Word to us, we aren't any more likely to receive his work on our behalf. And all this goes back to the beginning of the passage, where Jesus said, God knows the heart...

And that's where the barriers to faith truly lie... in our hearts, which instinctively resist God's word and God's ways, because we love the world's wisdom and the world's ways. For the Pharisees, and for us, we have to repent for our alignment with the world's system to consciously move our hearts and heads in the direction of Kingdom values.

A Prayer for Miracles:

Gracious Father, it is no natural thing to trust in the means of revelation and salvation which you have provided. Everything in my nature, in fact, resists the idea of a divinely inspired Bible, and a resurrected Jesus, whom this Bible promises and bears witness to. There is a streak in me that wants to see the sensational... but would you always let the miracle of your self-revelation in your word; the miracle of your Son's incarnation, perfection, substitution and resurrection; and the miracle of faith awakened in this once dead heart; let these miracles always be enough for this heart to resist the urge to try and earn what you've already freely given through grace. Let me not be fooled by the clamorous part of my heart that cries out for more "proof", but instead, to live in the midst of the miracles you've already performed with awe and wonder. Amen.

Day 2

Luke 17:1-10

Jesus says that temptation is a given. We will be faced with scenarios that prey upon our fleshly appetites. There's no way around it. But, he also says to watch our own hearts and lives, so that we are not the source of temptation for others. In other words, we have a real impact on people. And while their sin is their own responsibility, we must pay close attention to the ways in which we impact others. Are we a source of reassurance, and life, and encouragement, and truth for people. Or are we creating insecurities, preying on weaknesses, provoking anger, offending them needlessly, etc.

We need self-awareness regarding our impact on people or we may find ourselves as those tempting them toward sin. And Jesus says that if we are a contributing cause for people faith wavering and wandering or dissolving altogether, God accounts for that.

The second thing, here, which I'm really intrigued by today, is v. 6. I've read this I don't know how many times in my life... a lot though. And I think about how often we say that Jesus tells us if have faith even the size of a mustard seed we will be able move a mountain (Matthew 17:20) or move a mulberry tree. And we talk about it like it's literal.

But isn't it obvious that Jesus is speaking metaphorically. He's not tellin gus we can actually move mountains or uproot trees. But he is telling us that and shred of faith in Him is able to dislodge the most weighty assumptions and deeply entrenched ideas which oppose the gospel and keep us bound to earthly realities. Jesus is saying that our faith in him is able to dig up those strongholds which have planted themselves in our heads and hearts and which keep us from seeing things as they really are.

The supernatural seeds of faith, planted in the good soil of a humble heart, is strong enough to move the lies of the enemy, the lies of the world, and lies of our own flesh, into the sea of dismissed thoughts and ideas that have no control or influence in our lives... through faith in Jesus, the entire root system of those lies that have formed so much of our lives can be eradicated from our lives so that the word planted in us as room to grow and bear fruit.

A Prayer for Faith:

Sovereign Lord, give me faith in Jesus in greater measure. As I affirm the gospel in my own heart and mind, continue to disolodge the lies on which I have built my life. Let the seed of the gospel take root deep in my heart so that every counter idea or competing version of reality is cast into the sea, never to be heard from again. I want life according to your word. Give me the wisdom to combat every thought and belief and even feeling that opposes you so that faith has room to grow and flourish. I choose Jesus again today, as the source of my life and the basis for my life and the pursuit of my life. Amen.

Day 3

Luke 17:11-19

I love this text because it shows the heart of Jesus, the very heart of God, to draw near to those who are kept at a distance. He is not turned off by or repelled by those things that disgust us. He personally pursues the outcast, the diseased, the rejected, the marginalized, the vulnerable and weak. And he does so, not sentimentally, but powerfully.

Leprosy was such a cruel disease in that not only did it ravage the human body, but it severed the sufferer from human connection. Nobody would come near them. They're suffering was not limited to the physical dimension, but it imposed itself on the social dimension and, there is an inevitable spiritual and internal suffering that sets in as well. Alienation is an unbearable affliction.

So when Jesus does all the work to provide for the healing of 10 lepers, he isn't just ridding them of disease, he is reattaching them to community, and reinvigorating hope within, for personal wholeness and fullness of life. To expel leprosy from their bodies made it possible for them to live again in every other way.

This is what Jesus offers all of us... we all have the disease of sin which functions like leprosy, cutting us off from others, separating us from God, isolating us from others, even alienating us from our own hearts. And Jesus comes to rid us of this disease which robs us of life in every dimension of our humanity, so that we can actually live again.

The trouble for us, is we're prone to being like 9 out of the 10 lepers... we want the healing and hope and renewal that only God can give, but we have very little inclination to acknowledge it's source. Rather than recognize the extent of what has been done for us, and hurl ourselves at Jesus in humble gratitude, we just move on with our lives as though the grace that we're being carried by was just some sign we passed on the side of the road. We diminish the grace of the gospel when we fail to continually see the comprehensiveness of Jesus' healing for what ails us.

I wonder if today you are being formed by a deep gratitude for the way Jesus has powerfully provided for healing at every level of your person... are you walking with an awareness of his mercy lavished on every part of your soul so that you can live again?

A Prayer for Thankfulness:

Jesus, you are truly amazing. Give me eyes to see, a heart to feel, ears to ear... awaken all my senses to the reality of your grace and how powerfully it is to cover every part of my... give me a deeper understanding of how your grace makes a way for me to live fully in every part of my life. Expand my understanding of my need... the pervasiveness of sin and my own brokenness... so that I might have an accurate experience with the massiveness of your grace and power. I want to be thankful in proportion with your provision for my need. And I'm not there yet. So help me to connect, as with this one leper, to how exhaustively your grace remakes everything.

Day 4

Luke 17:20-37

To the Pharisees, Jesus is speaking about the reality of the kingdom, which is surprising and imperceptible by it's nature, and which has come already in himself ("the Kingdom of God is in the midst of you"). He's telling all of us that His Kingdom does not bend to our expectations, but that our expectations should adjust to what is revealed about the Kingdom. It isn't your typical Kingdom, or a geopolitical nation/state... it is bigger than that, yet less obvious than that, at least in this stage of the Kingdom.

There is a day coming, Jesus tells the disciples, when the hiddenness of the Kingdom will be now more. v. 24 tells us the Kingdom of God will come, at his return, in glaringly obvious way. While the Kingdom has taken on certain characteristics in it's inauguration, it will take on some more dramatic shifts in it's consummation.

And that event becomes the focus of this passage... And one of the emphases Jesus makes is the suddenness with which his Kingdom will appear. He refers to two OT events, when God's judgement came on a people in a similar fashion, and says it will be like that. People will be going about their ordinary, everyday occupations and activities, when in the blink of an eye, Christ is revealed in his glory, to the salvation of the redeemed and the judgement of the unredeemed.

And what follow in the text is the reason Jesus wants them to know the suddenness with which the Kingdom will come... and it's for their preparation. We must live in the ordinary, everyday occupations and activities with a sense of anticipation that this moment is coming. We must guard our hearts and watch our lives now. We must live with a sense of readiness and a degree of urgency knowing that Christ is returning at any moment and we must be sure to be found in Him.

There is this tendency in us to put off living for Jesus or seriously surrendering our lives to him. We presume upon the Lord, that we have tomorrow to figure things out... that we have plenty of time to live it up within our earthly kingdoms before taking His Kingdom seriously, and he is graciously warning us against that impulse.

The Kingdom is indeed a future and coming reality, but it is also and here and now present reality. And Jesus is calling us to live right now in the reality of the Kingdom... to submit ourselves right now to his reign and rule. To lose our lives right now, and live moment by moment under his authority, so that at his coming we find the fullness of life that he came to secure for us.

The last thing they ask him is where the kingdom will come in this manner. Where will his return occur? And Jesus says, essentially, the reality of His Kingdom will become fully visible and obvious everywhere that sin and corruption have reigned. He isn't coming again to confront the sin of the Pharisees only, or of Rome, or any other people. He is coming to deal with sin and it's effects in a comprehensive way, and to establish, not a local Kingdom in Jerusalem, but a globalized Kingdom where all people come under his protection or his judgement.

He is pointing forward to a larger picture in order to ground us in the soil of His Kingdom now. After all, as He said earlier to the Pharisees, His Kingdom is already here. It is among us. In all this talk of his coming Kingdom, Jesus is giving us reasons to take him and his Kingdom seriously right now and to enter into the reality of his Kingdom today.

A Prayer for Readiness:

Lord, I confess it is difficult to think ahead about the return of Jesus with a sense of it's urgency. It's easy for my head to think of this as real, but for my heart to consdier it as fanciful or mythologoical. I don't live much with a clear sense of this coming day. I lack urgency. I live for the moment. I get fixated on what's right in front of me. It's hard to see past the next pay cycle, they next vacation, the next deadline, the next big event in my life. And these things obscure the presence of your Kingdom now, and the anticipation of your Kingdom coming. Father, would you cause me to heed Jesus' words in Luke 17... not to live with fearful uncertainty, but to live with constant intentionality, knowing that my life is hidden with Christ. Let me live fully and freely under his reign now, until his reign is fully established. Come, Lord Jesus. Amen.

Day 5

Luke 18:1-14

I guess we owe Luke a thank you on this one, beause we have two short parables which he interprets for us...

The first one conveys the goodness of God, and his heart to bless and provide for and care for his own children. If the uncaring judge will give a widow justice in his desire to be rid of her, how much more will our loving Lord give us justice in his desire to have relationship with us. Obviously, this is no guarantee of securing everything we want in life if we'll just be persistent. But Jesus is trying to orient our hearts toward persistence and confidence. Persistence in seeking God's merciful and gracious hand because of confidence in God's loving and generous heart.

Even if the earnest desires of our hearts is not given to us, we can know that it is not God being petty or irritable. That which he gives to us flows from his goodness and that which he withholds from us also flows from his goodness. Therefore, we can continually pray, knowing that God loves our coming to him, and regardless of his response, we can know it flows out of his love for us and his kindness to us.

Maybe one side note on this parable... it says of the judge that he neither feared God nor respected man. It's worth pointing out the connection of these two attitudes. A disregard for God will always cause us to dehumanize others. If we have no regard for God we will have no real regard for those who bear his image. And that's why we see a lot of the darkness in our culture today.

The second parable is a personal favorite of mine. It's simple but profound. And it really confronts those of us who are self-reliant, self-sufficient, and self-justifying. Jesus, again, is speaking to our realization of our need. The Pharisee and the tax collector are both sinful and needy. But only one of them is aware of it and willing to admit it.

The Pharisee measures himself in comparison to the subjective standard of others. Specifically, he loves to measure his strength against the weakness of others. And this leads to debilitating pride. The tax collector measures himself in comparison to an objective standard of righteousness. He measures his weakness against the holiness of God. And this humbles us into the dust.

I wonder if you're taking on more that Pharisee mentality or tax collector mentality. Our drift is always toward the pride side of things. We have to nurture humility. We have to remind ourselves of our weakness and need, rather than hiding it, masking it, defending it or denying it. We need to own our sinful condition, our sinful hearts, and our sinful choices every day. We pursue humility confessionally and aggressively, or we drift toward pride pathologically.

A Prayer for Mercy:

God, be merciful to me... a sinner. Amen.



Week 11 Devotional Blog (March 11-17)

Day 1

Luke 14:7-24

Jesus gives us two parables in Luke 14, one surrounding a wedding feast to which you are invited, the other regarding a banquet of which you are the host. He is showing us again, in a personally poignant way and in a clear and obvious way, how different the Kingdom of God is from earthly kingdoms.

Everything in earthly cultures perpetuates a fear of being at the bottom and a drive to get to the top. We want to be in an elevated position, socially, economically, vocationally, whether it is achieved or assumed. We are very status conscious. We desperately want the place of honor, the place of recognition. And Jesus speaks to our practical sensibilities first, before driving home the Kingdom reality.

He appeals to our fear of humiliation and embarassment. He says the best case scenario if you assume a high place, is that you remain there, but there is a real possibility you suffer the shame of being publicly outed. On the other hand, if you assume the low place, there is no shame but there is a possiblity of public honor and recognition.

He has madethe case logically and emotionally here, but then v. 11 drives home the spiritual reality. The honor and recognition you want from earthly status is conferred upon us by the God of the universe, when we take the low place voluntarily. Your desire for recognition and honor is in no way demeaned or denounced by Jesus. He simply says your supposed strategy for attaining it is wrong. The low place is the place of blessing.

The parable of the banquet, then comes at this same issue of status from the opposite angle. You aren't trying to reach for status anymore. You are the person in the high position. What's the temptation there? To gravitate toward and associate with only those people who are on your level in some sense.

Jesus says to ignore that impulse. If you settle for the shared earthly of cultural elites, or societal equals, you may well miss out on the shared status with Him, as God's own Son. God has highly prized and hospitably invited the outcasts and misfits like us, into his family and kingdom. And when we do the same from the earthly standpoint, we demonstrate that we understand our status apart from Christ and the status we have received by God's grace in our union with Christ.

If you're status conscious, or position obsessed, Jesus is telling you that in and through him you can receive the highest honor, the most elevated status, and the richest reward imaginable. But you have to think about earthly matters from a heavenly perspective.

A Prayer for Humility:

God you are so highly exalted in every way... you sit enthroned above, and I am but dust. There is no earthly status I can achieve that can exalt me to acceptibility or noticability before you. To be known and accepted and even delighted in by you is the greatest status anyone could ever have. And I have set my eyes far too low. Today, empower me to take the low place and direct my eyes to those in lower places. I want the honor of being known by you, dining with you, and being rewarded by you. They can have this vain world. Give me Jesus.

Day 2

Luke 14:25-35

Here's where the God who is love demands that we hateour family members if we're going to follow him. There are those that would use this text to speak of the Bible contradicting itself, but Jesus is speaking in hyperbolic terms to drive home the seriousness with which we must take following him. He isn't promoting hatred and the fracturing of families. Jesus is driven by love and reconciliation and his followers are called to a ministry of the same.

Jesus is talking about proportion of love and devotion required to follow him faithfully, which is to be far greater than even our love for family. He knows that family bonds are foundational and strong. He knows that family systems are powerfully shaping. That's true in virtually every human society throughout history, but it is especially true of the Jewish culture throughout their history, and this is a primary audience of Jesus' teaching.

And if people are going to seriously consider walking with him, and following after him, than they deserve to know and are best served in considering the cost of that decision. Jesus is telling them, and us, that surrendering to Christ means that personal family relationships and powerful family systems which must also be submitted to the reality of Jesus. He does not become on factor among many to consider in our lives, he becomes the controlling, determining authority of our lives. And in some cases that may well mean that we retreat from family relationships or reject family systems which undermine our faithfulness to Jesus.

It's a wonderful thing to follow Christ with the full support of your family. But that's not everybody's experience. Many of us follow Jesus in the face of criticism from our family. They demean us, They distance themselves from us. They argue against us or accuse us. Following Jesus can cost us the most imoportant and stabilizing relationships, and Jesus is saying that's okay... that's even to be expected at some level. He's not salesman peddling all the benefits and none of the drawbacks. He's paiting a real picture of what's coming for us if we follow him, and what's required to follow him. Don't be surprised by rejection, loss, isolation, criticism, resentment and pain that comes your way, specifically because you are following Jesus. Don't expect it to be easy, comfortable and fully supported by everyone. If you follow Christ, you will suffer because of it. Know that going in.

Jesus knows how lonely this can be too, but he's accounted for that. That's why he brings us into a new family, the Church, and connects us to brothers and sisters and fathers and mothers who are also following him. We need a spiritual family who will now be our relational foundation and who will create a new, healthier system rooted in Christ, and driven toward faithfulness to him. God does not pull us out of family to leave us to a life of independence and isolation. He brings us into a new family to connect us more deeply than ever to a life of interdependence and community.

The bottom line is that following Jesus will cost us dearly. We will certainly have to change how we relate to everyone and everything in some way. We may well have to give up what we cherish most altogether. Jesus will jack with your life. He will have you rearrange and reconsider everything. But he will be worth it.

A Prayer for Willingness:

Lord, I hold so many things back. I guard parts of my life and protect things I cherish from you. I am afraid if I let you really take over that you won't let me keep anything I love. There is so much fear and uncertainty in me. I don't want following you to hurt. I want it to be a guarantee that everything about life is better. I've even believed at times it was supposed to be that way. But you've never sold me that. I renounce the idea that following you should be comfortable and cost me little to nothing. And I accept Jesus' own words, that to follow him will cost me. I will have to be willing to endure difficulty specifically because I'm identified with Christ. Father, give me a willingness to suffer for the sake of following Jesus. Give me a willingness to lay down what is most precious to me if it means I can be close to Jesus. Give me a willingness to distance and detach myself from that which keeps me from walking faithfully with Christ. Let be all in for Jesus. Amen.

Day 3

Luke 15:1-10

It's funny how yesterday we read about and considered our own willingness to suffer ridicule and rejection on account of following Jesus. In Luke 15 we see that Jesus is willing to suffer ridicule and rejection on account of forgiving and becoming friends with us. He is willing to associate with the outcasts, the marginalized, the guilty, the lowly, the unimpressive, the corrupt, the despised. It's not only that we suffer in following Jesus. Jesus clearly suffers to have us follow him. The criticism he receives here gives us a glimpse into what the cross will more fully reveal.

Why does Jesus make a point of pursuing with and identifying himself with those whom society has defined as deviant in some way? Not because they have a greater degree of need or lostness than the Pharisees or the put together. But because they feel their need and lostness to a far greater degree than the Pharisees or the put together. They are aware of their inability to be what they need to be or to fix what is broken in them. While the "righteous" perceive themselves as already fixed and unbroken.

And so Jesus loves to identify with the hurting, the guilty, the lonely, the rejected. He loves to draw near to people who have nothing to offer. Jesus isn't needy so he's notinterested in what we have to offer. He's interested in providing for all that we need. But in order to receive that, we need to know our need.

This is Jesus telling us that union with him is achieved through our repentance, not our righteousness. You bring your repentance, he provide the righteousness, and God and all the angels in heaven will rejoice.

A Prayer for Exchange:

Lord, I keep wanting to inject me into the equation of my life. I want credit. I want praise. I want recognition. I want to stand on my merit. And yet Jesus tells us that 99 righteous people with no need for repentance have nothing on even 1 repentant person. So, why am I trying so hard to impress you and other people with what you are unimpressed by? I give up. I give you all of me... all that's within, and all that that has produced. I exchange that for all of Jesus, and all that he has provided. That's an unfair trade but it's the one you've offered and I'd be a fool to keep deliberating over that. I'll take it. I give you my nothing and receive your everything. Forgive my stupidity and sinful clinging to myself, and put me to death so I can enter fully into life with Christ. Amen.

Day 4

Luke 15:11-32

This story is really meaningful to me... God used Tim Keller's book, Prodigal God, which explores this parable in depth, to have the gospel come alive for me in a profound way. So, when I read the parable it's hard not to be mindful of what God showed me more than 10 years ago.

Specifically, I saw then, for the first time, the depth of brokenness and relational distance from the father which characterized the older brother every bit as much as the younger brother. That mattered then because I was the older brother, for the first time realizing my sense of entitlement and blindness to my own need, was robbing me of God's gracious provision for my need. Rather than enjoying him and being grateful to him, I had spent much of my life feeling I earned or deserved the best of what he had to offer... I felt somewhere deep in my heart that God owed me. And for the first time, I was awakening to my need.

That was painful in some ways, but it was glorious, because for the first time in my life, I was letting God be God, and I was seeing both myself and Him in the light of day. I thank God for helping me see then, as he is now, how my sense of earning what has been freely and graciously given to me keeps me from experiencing the sweetness of his grace.

There is a symmetry in this parable which is really poignant, wherever we find ourselves... we probably all of in us an older brother streak as well as a younger brother streak. The wayward son, who demands his inheritance but wants nothing to do with the father, represents that side of all of us, which just rejects God outright. We want his blessings, his provision, his riches, but in order to indulge ourselves and spend it on our impulses. It's easy to see the brashness and rebellion of the younger brother. When we eat in pig sties long enough, it's easy to see the error of our ways and coming to ourselves, as the younger brother did, is an obvious place to arrive. The slop of our lives makes it hard to deny the sin that's led us there.

What's far more surprising and far less obvious is the older brothers relational distance from the father. He was the good son. The one who did what he was supposed to, dutifully, for his whole life. He stayed close. He worked hard. He was responsible. He was loyal. He was reliable. But as he thumbs his nose at the grace shown his younger brother, we find that, like the younger brother, his heart was to earn the blessings, provision and riches of the father. His repudiation of God's grace to his brother was really a rejection of God's grace shown to him, because he showed the inner sense of entitlement and earning from the father, rather than as a receiving from the generosity of the father.

Both brothers were after the father's inheritance, and had little interest in the father himself. They just went about it differently. Both brothers felt they were owed what the father had, and neither was grateful for what the father provided. The reall ironic part is that, in the end, the younger brother is re-attached to the father at a heart level. He actually encounters the grace of the father and is able to enter into the felt love of the father. It's the older brother, the one good at being good, who ends up outside the party, at a distance, resentful for the love the father showed the undeserving, because he saw himself as so much more deserving.

I wonder about you... do you see yourself as deserving more than what God has given you, or as deserving nothing of what God has given you, particularly in his own son, Jesus? He's given us all the same grace to cover our same guilt. But the condition of our hearts will either warm us to God's love for us because we know we've done nothing to earn it, or our hearts will be be cooled to God's love because we deserve more than what others have already received. Either way, the Father is inviting us into the party, to receive from His fullness all that our hearts long for... the only price of entry is need. To share in his riches, we have to come to the place of seeing ourselves as those being given a place at the Father's table, not as those earning a place at the Father's table.

If you are above the need of the younger brother, than you'll end of on theoutside looking in like the older brother.

A Prayer for Joy:

Father, I want to experience the joy and celebration of the younger brother being received back into the Father's household. Forgive me for having squandered much of what you've given to me. Forgive me, too, for the ways I've felt entitled to more what you can provide. I've spent so much time on that which leaves me in the pig sty. And I've spent so much time sitting close to the house and the party, while letting pride and resentment keep me out of the party. I want in. I want to enter into your joy. I want delight in your grace. I want to rejoice over your work the lives of others. And I want to rejoice over the undeserved kindness you've shown me. Help me to see my own need... to come to myself... and to stop pouting at a distance... draw me close, into the feast of your grace and love. Restore to me the joy of myself salvation, and cause me give up the charade of earning what you so freely given. Amen.

Day 5

Luke 16:1-13

This parable is summarized at the end... You can't serve both God and Money. In the parable itself, the dishonest manager is commended and rewarded for his dishonesty. His own boss sees his shrewdness, and the crookedness of his dealings and praises him. Why? Because both of them serve the same god. The rich man can trust the dishonest manager because they both worship money. In the end, the makes the manager useful to the rich man. And these are the kind of terms on which the world operates.

But if you are going to follow Jesus and worship God, you have to renounce any such allegiance to wealth and money, or any other such earthly idol. And this will set you in opposition of others. To operate with a kingdom mindset within a worldly system will provoke others against you. Playing the corporate game, and using manipulative measures to attain a higher status or accumulate a higher wage, will earn you a certain kind of trust with a certain kind of person, to be leveraged within a certain kind of system, which will land you in a certain kind of place... if you operate within the confines of the kingdom of darkness, and embrace the values and methods of the kingdom of darkness, then you will be right at home in the kingdom of darkness.

But Jesus is inviting them to live above the worldly system, and operate outside of those corrupt and short sighted norms. He calls us to faithfully steward our time, talent and treasure as members of His Kingdom, and according to the values of His Kingdom. Our faithfulness with earthly things, even great riches, will only eer fall in the category of faithfulness with a little. So what we value here, and live for here, and worship here, will determine where we spend eternity.

There is certainly the warning of judgment here, but notice that which Kingdom we live for here determines which kingdom we will spend eternity in. God invites all people into his Kingdom, and he gives all people access into His Kingdom, but those who prefer the kingdom of earth and of darkness, will get the desires of their heart. Judgement is essentially the eternal securing of what we've always wanted and consistently chose anyway.

A Prayer for Faithfulness:

Lord, I want to be faithful, according to your standards. I am enticed by and drawn to the things of the world. I value earthly treasure and human approval. I value physical comfort and pleasure. I value social status and influence. But I want oneness with you. I want peace and reconciliation with you. I want to walk faithfully with you and to honor you. Give me the wisdom and steadfastness to live daily as one whose aim is faithfulness to you. Let not the approval of man and the gain of riches, seem better at any moment, than your approval and the gain of godliness. Give me the moment by moment discernment to live for your kingdom even in the midst of earthly kingdoms, so that I might enter into the fullness of life with you now and forever. Amen.



Week 10 Devotional Plan (March 4-10)

Day 1

Luke 12:35-48

Betsy was out of town last week for a few days with a couple of our kids. She was driving home Saturday afternoon and I was going to be gone all day, so in the morning what did I do? I cleaned the house. I put laundray through, washed the dishes, sprayed down the counters, swept the floor, cleaned up the scattered items which accumulate over a few days of several boys living together without a woman to keep them neat and tidy. I wanted the house to be ready for her to come home. I wanted the environment to reflect what I know she wants it to be. And it's always this way when she is coming home from being gone.

Well, Jesus desires a certain kind of order in our lives too, where he is at the center, and the character and quality of our lives reflects something of his character and beauty. His desire is that we would use all that he's entrusted to us for the intended purposes of his glory and honor. But we don't know when he's coming back, and that's by design. Jesus is calling his followers in this passage to a posture of anticipation, readiness and urgency.

Anticipation puts the reality of his return at the forefront of our minds and hearts rather than as an after thought. It's about an internal heightened awareness that he could show up at any moment.

Readiness is about that anticipation shaping our priorities and conduct. Because we're aware and expectant and on alert, we never stray too far from what we would want to be found doing. I don't go hide in the basement and play video games for hours eating cheetos and drinking chocolate milk while letting the kids do whatever they want when I know Betsy is coming home any time now. I clean up and tend to things far more carefully and mindfully when I know she's coming back.

Urgency speaks to the felt seriousness of these things. In a life full of distractions and possible uses of my time and energy, urgency intensifies my awareness of what really matters. It helps me rightly prioritize.

We tend to waste time on things that seem fun or interesting or exciting but which are of little value. And Jesus is leading us into a life that really matters; a life of meaning and purpose. He is saying, "Don't waste your life. Make it count. Live for what truly matters. Don't let the momentary distractions keep you from fulfilling what God has created you for and called you to. Don't settle for a life of mediocrity..."

There is an inevitable malaise which emerges in our lives if we don't aggressively guard against it. There are enough seemingly important and urgent things in our lives that we'll always lose sight of what's truly important and urgent unless we keep it ever before us. And Jesus is helping us to see the bigger picture... to not get so preoccupied with the tree that we ignore the forest to which it belongs. Let's live each moment, each day, as if Jesus is watching... because he is; and as if Jesus is returning at any time... because he is. Let's let the urgency of that order our priorities and engagement with the world.

A Prayer for Readiness:

Lord God, it's so easy to assume I have tomorrow, and the next day and plenty of opportunity to give come back to the things that really matter. It's so easy to get distracted by the pressing earthly things and fleshly impulses presenting themselves right now, which seem so important and urgent. But I belong to you. And I've been called to represent you, and steward my life for your glory. Help the urgency of your return to embed itself in my heart, not so I live with pressure or in fear, but so that I might live a life that matters. Thank you for giving me purpose and meaning and guard me against the impulsivity that would rob me of that. Help me to live each moment and each day as if you have given it to me and as if it is my last, so that I live with intentionality and wisdom in all things. Amen.

Day 2

Luke 12:49-59

There are three short sections here about very different things on the surface. The one thing I see across all three passages is our capacity to dig in our heels about the wrong things.

Jesus says he came to bring division, meaning that he would polarize people. By his very nature and purpose, how people respond to Jesus would drive a wedge between them (v. 49-53). And either people will stay tethered to their assumptions about reality before Jesus came, or they would rightly adjust their undersanding of everything around Jesus.

Jesus also essentially makes the case that Christianity is evidence based. He has not called us to blind faith with no reason to believe. He says that just as you see certain things in the natural world which you understand to indicate weather patterns, so He has come and given clear signs pointing to obvious conclusions (v. 54-56). But we trust in the obvious things that science may tell us, while ignoring or resisting the obvious things Jesus reveals to us.

Then, it's almost as if Jesus brings this down to our horizontal, human relationships to show us how natural and compulsive this is. He says that our tendency to focus on the wrong things, and stubbornly defend the wrong things even to the point of going to court of stupid disagreements with people (v. 57-59). He's basically telling us them and us that are way to willing to defend ourselves and our position to the foolish risk of our future and freedom. We're willing to stubbornly dig in our heels on our own sense of rightness to our own peril.

Taken together, there is a warning here for us to consider all that Jesus reveals through his work and words, about reality. We can disbelieve his work because it doesn't fit with our limited view of things and the reality we've assumed, and dismiss his words accordingly. Or, we can pay attention to his work, as so extraordinary and so outside of the scope of our assumptions, that we consider what he is pointing toward, and hear his words as a credible testimony on everything.

We need to seriously stop dogmatically adhering to our assumptions with such limited understanding and perspective, and open ourselves up to Jesus' worldview and the truths that he came to make obvious. Jesus tells us through his life and teaching that we're pretty much wrong about everything, but our need to be right about things and defend our views and our lives at all costs amounts to taking Jesus to court to have our competing views of reality judged. We ought to be uncomfortable with that scenario.

A Prayer for Doubt:

Lord, give me doubts about me. I am so in touch with my doubts about you. I question so much about you and the truth of your word. I lean so heavily into my own thoughts and the ideas of the culture surrounding me, and the worldviews whcih undermine your supremacy and authority. I give so much credibility to the educated, academic and successful. But still I doubt you. I doubt Jesus. I doubt miracles. I doubt Scripture. I doubt the gospel. Forgive my arrogance. Cause me to doubt the other things I am so sure of... the things which I assume are true and real and which cause me to doubt you. Let me assume you are real and true. And let me doubt everything else, and question everything else in light of you. Let me not lean on my understanding, but give me understanding according to your word. Amen.

Day 3

Luke 13:1-17

I want to focus on the repentance part of this section. There was this idea in Israel that the level at which you suffered and the manner in which you suffered was some indicator of how sinful you were. Jesus debunks this mythology... wewrongly judge people in this way, but Jesus makes it personal. One of the defense mechanisms basic to humanity to is to keep the focus off ourselves by focusing on the sins of others. We distract from what's wrong or broken in our lives by attributing and assuming brokenness in other peoples lives. And Jesus confronts that...

"Unless YOU repent, you will likewise perish," He says. They want to focus on the consequences of guilt and sin in the lives of people out there, and ignore any possible consequences of guilt and sin in their own lives. Jesus reminds us that our biggest problem isn't sin out there, in the lives of other people, our biggest problem is sin in here, in our hearts and lives. And rather than being relieved that we aren't like some other group of people who we've judged harshly, Jesus says we need to repent because God's judgement is coming for us otherwise.

There is no Christianity where there is no repentance.

A Prayer for Personal Conviction:

Lord, it's just too easy to lament the evils and immorality and sin that are so pervasive in our culture. It's so easy to identify guilty in others, and assume the worst of others. It's so easy to define other people by their worst moments. But it's all a distraction. What's hard is to see me as I really am. I deflect so naturally and so chronically from dealing with my own sin by focusing on the sin or needs in others. Holy Spirit, make my heart soft to your gentle but firm conviction. Sensitize me to the things that grieve you, so they would grieve me. Whenever I move in my mind to judge another person, cause me to consider my own failures and shortcomings... my own sin. Lead me, in your kindness, to personal repentance as a way of life. Amen.

Day 4

Luke 13:18-30

This passage should be a wake up call for any of us that have trafficked in church culture for a long time. The question posed to Jesus is whether those who are saved will be many or few... and Jesus focus' on two characteristics of those who will be saved but mentions nothing of quantity. The idea of taking the narrow door indicates the singular route to salvation which goes through Christ. It is a well traveled road, but it's the only road.

The bigger point is that those who are saved, won't necessarily be few, but it will be surprising. Many who think they are saved, will in fact, remain dead in their sins. Jeus describes there own thinking this way, "We ate and drank in your presence, and you taught in our streets." In other words, we think because we associate with Jesus, identify with Jesus, are proximate to Jesus, maybe even because we like Jesus, that we are obviously saved by Jesus. And Jesus says that's a tragic assumption.

This is the danger of church. You can assume that because you go to church and sing to Jesus, and fellowship with people who love Jesus, and hear Jesus proclaimed, and because Jesus has some role in your life, that Jesus has saved you from your sin. We can assume that being near Jesus and familiar with Jesus means that we're followers of Jesus. And Jesus says a lot of people in that place will be surprised to discover that they're lives have nothing to do with the real Jesus, and he will disassociate from them.

On the other hand, people who Israel saw as having no part in God's redemption and who are outside the scope of salvation in Jesus; people from far off, distant places who don't deserve Jesus; people who appear to have nothing to do with Jesus and whom we don't associate with Jesus; they will in fact be welcomed into the kingdom of God, and Jesus will claim them as his friends.

Jesus is saying, in yet another way, don't trust your own assumptions and thoughts about him and how he operates. Our ways of thinking and judging are all bent. Jesus operates out of a whole different paradigm and according to completely different factors. Lay down all your assumptions about how religion works and how God works and let Jesus recalibrate your thinking and understanding, according to the way of the kingdom. He will turn everything you think you know on its head, and it will ultimately be the rightside up.

A Prayer for Correction:

Lord, I don't even know all the ways in which I'm wrong about you, about life, about the world, about myself, and about people. I'm so wrong about so much that even right now, I still think I'm right about almost everything. I love your word where it affirms my assumptions, but where it conflicts with my assumptions, my impulse is figure out how to adjust your word to my worldview, not to adjust my worldview to your word. Would you give me a desire for and openness to correction. Give me personal insights into where I'm wrong about the things that matter, so that I can enter life as it is, and not keep living within the world I'm constructing in my own mind. Help me want to be right with you, more than I want to be right about you. Show me where I'm wrong. I don't want to be surprised in the end... I want to know you for real, and be known by you. Amen.

Day 5

Luke 13:31-14:6

We sang a song recently at Generations called ["Jesus Lifted High."][1] And in the bridge of the song, it says,

You get the last word You always do You know the best way You always move You have the best heart You always will be lifted high...

I was thinking about that line, "you have the best heart," when I read this passage in Luke today. Jesus has faced so much opposition in Jerusalem, so much resistance, criticism, accusation, slander, etc. And he will experience much worse as it later escalates to injustice, violence, torture and even wrongful execution. This is the place of power in Israel, and the power brokers hate Jesus. And yet his heart is not angry, resentful, bitter, vengeful or retaliatory. That's certainly what would be going on in me.

But Jesus is tender toward them, open to them, and grieved by them. He just longs for their salvation. He uses a maternal metaphor to characterize his heart toward this city, and these people who have so flatly rejected him. He sees past all the wrong thinking and misunderstanding and false accusations they've contrived in their heads; past their rebellion, insults, and hardness of heart; past the personal suffering he has and will endure at their hands; he sees past all of it, to their deep need, and their profound brokenness that's beneath it all.

And rather than deriving any satisfaction from what's to come for them, he's just grieved and sad that they will miss out on the very Kingdom they're waiting for, because they're expecting it come in a particular way that conforms to their own ideas and ideologies. Jesus' heart isn't hardened to them one degree... like a mother who wants to protect her most vulnerable children, Jesus desires to cover Jerusalem, and protect the people from their own ignorance and foolishness.

I'm so not like Jesus. Man, if I'm honest, I'm not even sure I want to be in these ways. I suspect a lot of us see Jesus as weak here, and are glad to posture in the strength we draw from our anger and defensiveness. We lament suffering in the world and in our lives, but then we don't even like the idea of being the people who might reduce suffering. We get mad at Jesus when he speaks of judgment, but we ourselves want to judge Jesus and certainly we want to retain the freedom to judge others. We can't embrace Jesus until we embrace this self-denying mercy as a worthy ideal.

Following Jesus means receiving this mercy from him for yourself. But following Jesus also means that at least see this as strength and not weakness, and as something we should aspire to in our own lives. This means we have to abandon, yet another reflex so natural to us. We must not only be those who desire mercy from others, but we must become those who extend mercy toward others.

Jesus really does have the best heart... May we see that plainly today and embrace it wholeheartedly.

A Prayer for Mercy:

Father, you have shown mercy beyond measure in and through Jesus. Thank you. Thank you for being merciful to me, a sinner. For remaining open to me even when I was closed to you. For being patient with me, even when I move away from you. Your heart is unrelentingly kind and gracious, and I know because I've tested that. Forgive me for all the ways in which I want your mercy for me, while withholding mercy from others. I want mercy when I offend. But I want justice for those who offend me. I want grace when I trangress. I want consequences for those who transgress against me. Forgive my hypocrisy. And change my heart to want the heart of Jesus... help to embody to others, that which I love to receive from you. Amen.



Week 9 Devotional Blog (Feb. 25-March 3)

Day 1

Luke 11:24-36

“Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!” (Luke 11:28)

This text records several shorts snippets from Jesus' teaching and interactions... I'll try, in one or two sentences to summarize his points:

v. 24-26

Being delivered from an evil spirit doesn't guarantee freedom, because we can always use our freedom to re-open doors to the demonic. Demonic spirits have a way of returning with a vengence and for our greater destruction if we fail to guard our hearts, and minds. A supernatural experience of Christ's power is of no value if we don't walk in the reality Christ's power.

v. 27-28

We think of God's blessing in terms of material affluence, broad influence and reputation, fame and the applause of men, success, and these earthly thing. But Jesus thought the greatest blessing was have the word of God revealed to you so that it lands and actually reorders your life according to it. To hear and obey God's word is a supernatural thing and it is the deepest blessing God can bestow on us.

v. 29-32

The generation that lived and around Jesus was really not unlike our own generation... and probably every generation. We all want proof. We all want the sensational. But Jesus refers back to significant figures from Israel's history, Jonah and Solomon. And rather than giving into the appetites of people for the remarkable, Jesus says he's the greater Solomon and the greater Jonah. Solomon was known for his wisdom as Israel's King, and Jonah was known was the prophet to a wicked people who preached repentance. Jesus is saying rather than signs, which he obviously did plenty of, the real essence of his ministry is the wisdom of God which he not only has, but actually embodies, and the loving plea for people to repent from their sinful and selfish ways of life to turn to God. No amount of signs and wonders is more important see Jesus as wisdom from God and responding to him in repentance and faith.

v. 33-36

This one is a little tricky but I think Jesus is saying that he came to give us ligh by which we can see everything as it really is. But our own eyes, our own perspective will determine the usefulness of that light. If my own sight is distorted, darkened or dimmed in any way; in fact, if I'm blind, no amount of light will change that. It's one thing to be blind and know it. But it's another thing entirely to be blind and think yourself as having great sight. If you know you're blind you will rely on the sight of others... they become light for you. If you think you're fine, you'll stumble around in darkness you're whole life. Will we allow Jesus and the light he brings and is, to become the means by which we navigate our way through the world and this life?

A Prayer for Trust:

Father, at the core of all these things is the question of where I put my trust. Will I trust Jesus to orient my life rightly? Will I trust him to order my thoughts and feelings wisely? Will I trust him moment by moment, day by day? Will I bring everything in life under the light that Jesus gives? Or will I trust me and my thoughts, my feelings, my ideas, my solutions, my understanding, and my interpretations? Will I trust social trends, cultural orthodoxy, modern sensibilities? Lord, I choose you. Jesus is far more credible than any other source of wisdom, and I choose to lean into him, today. But my flesh wants to assert myself everyday. I want to trust me everyday. That impulse is strong in me. Help me choose to trust you again tomorrow... and the next day. Let me never waver from relying on you, Jesus. Amen.

Day 2

Luke 11:37-54

"Woe to you..."

The Pharisees and the Lawyers are obsessed with the right outward behaviors. They're good at appearances. They're proficient at externally embodying the values of their culture. And they think everyone else should be too.

But they're motivated by status, recognition and the personal benefits of social clout. These were the morally elite; the sexually pure; the theologically precise; the faithful donors to charity; the spiritually impressive; the educationally advanced; the culturally accomplished; they were the standard to which everyone aspired. And Jesus wants nothing to do with them. Why? Because as John Gerstner has said of the religiously credentialed, "the main thing between [them] and God is not so much their sin, but their damnable good works.

Their is a religious, church version of the Pharisees today. And their is also a cultural version of the Pharisees today. There are those in the church who are gracelessly preoccupied with outward morality, religious practices, saying and doing the right things, fixating on alignment with accepted religious orthodoxy, but who ignore the cruel bent of their own hearts. There are also those in the culture who are intolerantly preoccupied with pushing a social agenda, turning everything into political outrage, always saying and doing the inoffensive thing, fixating on alignment with the accepted cultural orthodoxy, but who ignore the cruel bent of their own hearts. Both are filled with disdain and contempt for those who don't fit in their narrowly defined boxes.

The gatekeepers of a culture or sub-culture are always in danger of becoming ruthless toward those who don't immediately and comprehensively conform. Jesus is always concerned about the character of our lives and how we live and engage in the world. He's even and always more concerned with the motivational forces which animate the character of our lives. This is why he says to the Pharisees, "But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you."

He's saying that the condition of our hearts determines the true quality of our character. Jesus certainly isn't advocating for the indulgence of immoral impulses within. He's arguing for integrity. A whole person conversion. He's saying that external holiness may be of social benefit, but only external holiness which flows from internal holiness is a spiritual benefit.

Abel and Zechariah were these two righteous men before the Lord. They were prominent men in the OT who were slain unjustly because of their righteousness. And Jesus is so strongly censuring the Pharisees and Lawyers way of seeing and being in the world that the innocent blood of those two men, and those who are like them, is on their hands. He's saying that the heavy handedness and rigid demands they place on people; the shame and guilt they mass produce is choking life out of people.

This is the problem with corrupt leadership. Not only do they fail to enter into the reality they pretend to represent. They actually create barriers for others to enter into that same reality. When leaders refuse to genuinely enter into life with God on God's terms, they inevitably end up keeping others on the outside of life with God too.

It's a stark indictment on them and a serious warning to us. Are we the graceless keeping people from knowing the real Jesus? Are we allowing the graceless to keep us from the real Jesus? Are we precoccupied with creating an image for people to be impressed with and affirming of, or are we preoccupied with nurturing in our hearts, a love for Jesus and for people that is grounded in our awareness of our own need and unimpressiveness?

A Prayer for Grace:

Lord, I love to pretend I have it together. I love measuring my worth and value by what I do really well. And I can't help it... I actually love denigrating others in my own heart based on what they do poorly. It's just easier to focus on cleaning the outside of our lives. And it's easier to try to get other people to clean the outside too. I can feel really successful when I define success by certain outward behaviors that come easier to me, while seeing as failures those to whom those same things don't come so easily. Save me from being in the graveyard of unmarked tombs. Let the grace you've lavishly extended to me, extend through me to others. Make me a grace-filled person. Amen.

Day 3

Luke 12:1-12

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God..." (Luke 12:8)

We tend to be short sighted. We are caught up in expediency and pragmatism. But what's best for right now is often the enemy of what's best. Jesus sees things differently. He has a long view of things. He is present in the moment to be sure, but he isn't ruled by the moment.

Our temptation is always to do right now whatever gets us what we want right now or avoids pain right now. But we will never follow Jesus faithfully without seeing the bigger picture. It's easy to see the wicked in the moment as prospering or as threatening to us. Worldly forces are always against Jesus because his Kingdom is not of this world.

So Jesus is reminding us of what is true beyond the momentary fear of the earthly powers are set against us. And in the big picture here's what's ultimately true which undermines are momentary fears:

  • The injustice and corruption which we think others are getting away or perhaps which we think we're getting away with will be seen for what they are... in the end there will be no secrets and the implication is we will be held to account.
  • The earthly powers that hate you because of Jesus, and which threaten you, can only do earthly damage. They can even go to the point of killing your body, Jesus says, which is scary. But he's reminding us that our physical body is just a temporary housing for our eternal souls. There is a life beyond this life and a body on the other side of this body, and Jesus is speaking to our realest and deepest earthly fears of pain, loss, rejection, suffering and death by reminding us that we're deeply loved by God, valuable to him, cherished by him, and therefore ultimately safe and under his protection. Jesus is saying we can be at peace in the possibility of earthly suffering, because there is a corresponding certainty of our eternal security.
  • But then Jesus says something surprising. Jesus seems to think that an eternal perspective doesn't just give us hope for a better end, it gives us the courage for a better now. If we're willing to openly identify with us, and have an opened awareness of him in the midst of whatever earthly sufferings we face, it will be his own joy to openly identify himself with us, which he will do by sending the Holy Spirit of God to minister according to our needs of the moment. If we'll embrace Jesus as our ultimate reality, not only will we have an eternity secured by him and with him, but we will have his living presence with us right now to sustain us through whatever challenges we face. That's an amazing promise... and it's an even greater reality.

A Prayer for the Holy Spirit:

Father, Jesus says elsewhere that you lovingly provide for the material needs of your children, but how much more will you give the Holy Spirit to those who ask? I'm asking... I'm pleading and begging you... don't let me do life my way, in my strength and wisdom, or in service of my agenda. I've had enough of me. I don't want life on my terms. I want the Holy Spirit. I want your power and strength and wisdom... I want your very presence. Please give me your Spirit in greater measure to orient my thoughts, feelings, desires and will toward Christ. Turn my eyes upon Jesus so that the things of earth may grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace. I need you to even turn my eyes and heart in that direction. I don't want the Spirit to help me escape earthly realities, Lord. I want the Spirit to help me engage meaningfully and redemptively in earthly realities. I need a presence and power not of this world to navigate this world. I need you.

Day 4

Luke 12:13-21

“ on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” (Luke 12:15)

Through the rest of Luke 12, Jesus addresses how we relate to material provision. In this section, Jesus tells a parable of a man who has great wealth and spends his time and energy figuring out how to store and spend his wealth on his own enjoyment and pleasure. He has a small and selfish view of what he has accumulated. It all proves to be a waste because he's used his resources to build his own life and kingdom rather than to build into others and God's Kingdom.

The part I want to draw attention to though is the first leading into the parable, where Jesus says, "be on your guard against all covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.”

The parable is told to illustrate this point that Jesus makes so plainly. And it's really simple, yet very profound. This man comes to Jesus because he sees the authority and power of Jesus' words, and he wants to leverage that authority to secure his financial future. He's coming to Jesus, the one from whom the God's glory radiates, and his total fixation is with a financial inheritance that he and his brother are bickering over. If when you come into the presnce of Jesus and the dominant thought is your financial viability long term, you may not be seeing Jesus for who he really is.

Jesus is essentially saying, "guard yourself against discontent and a preoccupation with more, because more stuff doesn't lead to more joy or more life." Discontent isn't really about resources, it's about perspective. We are all pursuing satisfaction in something, and it's natural and normal to think that more of what hasn't satisfied will ultimately satisfy. And Jesus is saying we're wrong. Discontent is not about more accumulating more of what we desire, it's aobut adjusting our desire toward the ultimate good we were created for...

Thankfully, Jesus doesn't just identify problems, he actually proposes solutions. The enemy of our happiness is v. 21... laying up treasure and living for ourselves. It's a powerful impulse within us to think we need to make our own happiness our greatest aim or we'll never be happy. But that's the problem. We become obsessed with earthly comfort, modern conveniences and the chronic need for more.

The solution is the other side of v. 21... being rich toward God. The key to happiness is counterintuitive... it's not living for your happiness. Happiness comes when we live for a higher purpose and greater pursuit than our happiness in general. And ultimate happiness comes when we live for our ultimate purpose and pursuit which was established for us at creation and is not set by us at our whims. We exist as God's image bearers to reflect His nature and His character for His glory and His kingdom.

A Prayer for True Happiness:

Father, I seek satisfaction in so many ridiculous things. I know better, but it's like I can't help it. My heart drifts back, again and again, to the desire for earthly comfort and personal convenience as the solution to my discontent. I am drawn so easily away from your beauty and radiance and to things with a dull shimmer and shine. Would you put in me a deeper desire for you and your kingdom... for your ways and your wisdom. Put in me a dicontent - indeed an utter contempt - for the best the world has to offer, so that I might be obsessed, not with my own fleeting happiness, but with you who can make me pervasively and eternally happy.

Day 5

Luke 12:22-34

Anxiety is normal. Worrying about clothes and food and housing and our future is normal. This is what people from everywhere on the face of the earth have always done. And living in the most affluent society in human history hasn't diminished that one bit. Jesus knew this was a real issue for people. And he even knows the felt needs are legitimate. He just says that are coping mechanisms are useless and self-defeating.

But he's not doomsday about our situation. He gives us a real comfort and then a real solution to the real emotional turmoil we experience.

The comfort is this: Look at how well He takes care of other aspects of creation and consider that we, as His image bearers, are of the highest value to Him in all of creation. If you're factoring God into the equation at all - and most of us do even though there is a varied conception of who He is - than factor in the evidence for his trustworthiness. If God is real, and God is good, stop believing and acting as though you dictate outcomes. Take a deep breath.

The solution is this: rather worrying and internalizing things, and rather than trying to control things externally, Jesus says seek the Kingdom. Meaning, if you want peace, security, settledness of heart and a internal rest, than give yourself to the things of God. Every culture in history as fallen for the trap of pursuing peace and security through earthly wealth and control and America as achieved it at a higher level of any society, and we're medicating seemingly everybody for anxiety and depression. It just doesn't work.

The antidote to anxiety isn't ultimately medication, it's to orient our thoughts and lives around Jesus and his kingdom. Give ourselves to eternal and heavenly realities, and the our hearts will calm down. If earthly worries are cuasing you anxiety it's a signal your too preoccupied with earthly things. You certainly can't know God is going to give you a certain job, or salary, or house, or wardrobe, or food and drink. He provides for our needs but not all our wants.

But he loves to give you his Kingdom. He loves to extend his loving reign into your life, and be present with you, and to minister to you and through you... he loves to use as an agent of peace. He loves to lead you into reality with God and life with Him. So, if you'll make that your emphasis, your preoccupation, your fixation and obsession, he'll be more than happy to meet you personally, and give you the peace you long for and which no earthly solution can grant you.

A Prayer for His Kingdom:

Father, I don't pray this enough or even consider this enough... you have a Kingdom not of this earth but which you have invited us to live in through Jesus while we're on earth. And still I get so caught up in what's visible and visceral. Open my awareness and arrest my thoughts to desire, pursue and live in the reality of your kingdom, to invest in and represent your kingdom throughout each day. Let my sense of place and belonging and ambition be tied to the enjoyment and advancement of your Kingdom. May I experience in and through the living presence of Jesus, the joy and peace of your loving care, in such a way that my internal state is not ruled by earthly needs or wants, but by my eternal rest in Christ, and all that he has secured for me. Amen.

The solution



Week 8 Devotional Blog (Feb. 18-24)

Day 1

Luke 10:13-20

" not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:20)

The short term missions trip ends, and the teams come home and debrief with Jesus. And the greatest impact of their trip was that God dealt powerfully with demonic spirits through their ministry. They were participants in deliverance ministry and witnesses to people being freed from oppression. And there is this broad sense among his followers of the power they now have access to through Christ.

And Jesus' response isn't to tamp that down at all. Instead, he seems to suggest they have even more power than they have imagined. That through the authority of Jesus, they have only scratched the surface. In other words, he's enlarging their expectations beyond they're already remarkable experience. But, then he says, essentially, "don't let this power be the source of your joy and amazement... be amazed that at miracle I've done in saving you, reconciling you to the Father, and drawing you into life with God. Find your joy in that."

Jesus is a miracle worker. But his greatest miracle is the miracle of salvation for guilty sinners... that through him enemies of God would become sons of God... that's the greatest miralce of all. The danger we face is in normalizing what is superantural. Our hearts can get anesthetized to the wonder of our own redemption. We can grow acallous toward and entitled to our union with Christ which is the greatest miracle. If we're followers of Jesus, than we are seated with Christ in glory, already... we have a seat reserved at that table; our name is on the guest list; and we've been so transformed by the life of God in us that we actually belong in glory. This earth is not our home.

Jesus is warning us not to lose the wonder of that. He's reminding us not to get caught up in lesser miracles like healing of disease, calming of storms, and casting out demons. He's saying the ultimate miracle is for the dead to be raised to life. And that's our reality... he's raised our dead bones to new life in him. Let that land today... and every day.

A Prayer for Joy in my Salvation:

Father, I think of David's prayer in the Psalms, where he asks you to "restore to me the joy of my salvation..." That's my request today. Do that for me, Lord. Let me see and savor the the greatest miracle you've done, which is to save a wretch like me. Thank you for your grace and mercy that is beyond my own recognition or ability to comprehend. Thank you for the newness of life I've received through your Son. Thank you for loving me when I was, and though I am unlovable. Thank you for setting your affections on me in my lostness and helplessness. Thank you for sending Jesus to identify with me in my weakness and frailty and even take upon my guilt and condemnation, so that I could be identified with him in his power and perfections... in his righteousness and holiness. Thank you for the miracle of my salvation. Amen.

Day 2

Luke 10:21-37

But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (Luke 10:29)

The first few verses here are a continuation of Jesus' debreif with the disciples which we read about yesterday. It's his elaborating on the miracle of our own salvation, really, and might be read as separate from the parable of the Good Samaritan. But it's worth connecting to the parable...

The parable is a part of Jesus' answer to the question of a man who is desiring to justify himself. How it is that he can inherit eternal life. In other words, how can I be own savior? How can I work my way into God's favor?

Jesus points the man to the Mosaic Law. The man rightly restates the law in it's summary form of Love the Lord your God and Love your neighbor as yourself. So Jesus says, "yeah you got it... just go do that." But the man wants to qualify it so he asks, "who is my neighbor?"

So, Jesus tells this famous parable basically to broaden our understanding of "neighbor" to an uncomfortable, surprising and even damning degree. He discerns that the man wants to stand on his own merits by narrowing his own definition of neighbor to exclude those he is hardened toward, indifferent toward, or perhaps even hateful toward. So, Jesus says, in a sense, "whoever you don't want to think of as your neighbor or are least likely to include in the category of your neighor... that's your neighbor."

The point is, he's just gone on about how salvation and eternal life are something that only come through the miracle of God's grace to us and revelation of himself through Jesus. And right on cue, as if to highlight what Jesus just said about these things being hidden from some, this man tries to ascertain and grab hold of that which can only be revealed and received.

We're called to love our neighbor which includes those we're repelled by... and that typically gets all the focus here. But that's just more law. The larger point is that we fail all the time to love our neighbor, and that's true even if you were to narrow the field. Jesus was really expanding the category so the man might admit his own failure to meet the standard and give up on v. 29... "desiring to justify himself." Jesus isn't re-establishing the law. Jesus is re-applying the law for it's first use, which is to wipe out our self-rightouesness and humble us into the dirt. You can't love your neighor. You don't love your neighbor. You don't really even want to love your neighbor.

But you've been loved as a neighbor. Jesus is the Good Samaritan who went to the other side of the tracks, scooped us up in our weakened state, carried us to safety, fully paid for our healing, mercifully restored us to new life, and so proved to be a good neighbor. The only way you can be a good neigbhor is living inside and under the love of the Good Neighbor. By receiving daily the care for your soul that you did not earn or deserve from him, you can be empowered to love your neighbor, not perfectly as a means of earning, but imperfectly as as extension of having received.

A Prayer for Receiving Love:

Heavenly Father, thank you for receiving me into your care, for allowing Jesus' reconciling work to bring me to you, where you have received his payment for my forgiveness and healing. Thank you for restoring me. Let me forsake all of my foolish attempts to be for myself what Christ has already been and which only he can be. Let me receive from him, and from You the Love that my soul needs and longs for, and which I owe to but withhold from others. And as I live inside the reality of your love for me that is utterly insane, considering who I have proven to be time and again, let me humbly receive power from your Spirit to display something of your love for those nearest me and those I'd like to maintain distance from. Amen.

Day 3

Luke 10:38-42

But Martha was distracted with much serving. (Luke 10:40)

Yesterday was a little long... my apologies. But today I will justify myself by being more brief. :)

This is a tough one for most of us. I think Martha would receive the praise and accolades from most of us if we were at the party. I can picture all the Christians who were in the room would be whispering that night or gossipping the next day about Mary's laziness or flirtatiousness or unthoughtfulness, always making things about her, making her sister do all the work while she sat around chit-chatting.

This is so important for us to get though... because Jesus has called us to be servants. What do servants do, if not serve. Yet here, he's critical of Martha who is serving him and others faithfully and sacrificially. But he gives us a clue as to why in v. 40-41... notice these three words: Distracted. Anxious. Troubled.

Martha, like many of us, works out her restlessness through frenetic activity. But the solution to restlessness isn't productivity. It's rest. Your busy heart will not find rest in finishing your work. Your busy heart will only find rest in Christ, and his finished work on your behalf. It's so easy, so natural and so normal to be so preoccupied with what needs to get done, that we neglect to root ourselves in what has already been done. We instinctively and chronically replace personal connectedness to Jesus with personal accomplishments for Jesus. (It's worth noting that what is easy, natural, normal, instinctive and chronic is typically sinful, even if subtly so).

We let knowing Christ get swallowed up by serving Christ. And serving Christ is what we're supposed to be about, but it becomes a disservice to ourselves and others when it is detached from, rather than fueled by, intimacy with him. Jesus isn't excusing us from serving him or others. He's simply inviting us to the necessary reordering of our hearts so our lives can be rightly ordered.

Working and doing more is always the enemy of an already distracted, anxious or troubled heart. Those negative emotions and thought patterns are only alleviated by slowing down and reconnecting to Jesus himself... letting our distancing hearts rejoin to his welcoming heart. More busyness is never the antidote to busyness. But receiving from Jesus the rest and refreshing and renewal that he gives can settle a busy heart and sustain a busy life.

A Prayer for Restfulness:

Lord, pour into me the refreshing I need from you. Settle my troubled soul. Focus my distracted heart. Calm my anxious thoughts. I lay down my need to produce and reaffirm my need to rest in you. Let me breathe in your grace, sit in your presence, and reconnect to your heart. Let your love wash over me, your nearness surround me, your worth embed itself in me. Let me be at peace today, internally. Let anything I do outwardly flow from a heart satisfied in you. Amen.

Day 4

Luke 11:1-13 of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray..." (Luke 11:1)

The disciples, just back in chapter 10 experienced the power of God to overcome demonic spirits even throgh their ministry. The've experienced the authority of Christ over real spiritual forces. Yet, they never ask how to do that. They're energized by it. They're amazed by it. But they aren't looking for a class on dealing with the devils. To their credit, they were looking for a class on Prayer.

I wonder if they assumed a cause and affect relationships between the prayer life of Jesus to the power of Jesus' life and ministry. At any rate, it's encouraging to me that we, with the disciples, can admit we don't really know to pray and we need Jesus' help. Jesus is certainly a willing teacher on the subject.

I could cover the content of the Lord's prayer in depth but that would take a lot of time and space. Instead, I'll just summarize that by saying that our prayers are to be characterized as relational and personal (Our Father); confessional and worshipful (hallowed be your name); mission advancing and kingdom expanding (your kingdom come); humble and dependent (give us each day our daily bread); repentant and honest (forgive us our sins); considerate of our hearts and negative emotions (for we ourselves forgive everyone...); and an opened awareness of our own vulnerability to sin.

So Jesus gives us a model to order the content and considerations of our prayers. But then Jesus compares the Heavenly Father to earthly fathers in order to highlight the predisposition of His heart toward attentiveness, kindness, generosity and a wide openness to responding to our need.

And that undergirds v. 5-8 which essentially urge our persistence in prayer... that we will see the blessing of God on our lives and his closeness to us if we'll pray this way, not occassionally or sporadically, but continually and resiliently.

A Prayer for Prayer:

Lord, I am chronically prayerless. It just isn't natural for me. I have to work at it. But I really do believe it matters and that it changes me and reaches your heart. I want to be faithful in prayer like Jesus was. I know I need it, even though I don't act like I need it. Would you deepen my heart for prayer? Would you draw me more irrestistably into prayer? Would you meet me tenderly and personally in prayer so that I might come back again and again in eagerness and desperation. I know I need to pray as a discipline... but I want so much more to pray as delight and desire. I want to draw from you the strength and wisdom and grace I need, through prayer and personal closeness... I want to drink from that well rather than all the polluted wells I so often settle for. I look forward to more intimacy with you and trust you'll be more than happy to open yourself to me, if I'll actually open myself to you. Amen.

Day 5

Luke 11:14-23

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. (Luke 11:23)

This is a pretty complicated text on the surface, so I want to try to simplify it. I'll start with the demonic spirit and it's impact on the man. The word translated "mute" also indicates deaf. In essence, the demon has robbed this man of communication. He is cut off socially but also spiritually, in the sense that he cannot hear or share the good news. He's essentially scattered from community with people and communion with God.

By casting the demon out, Jesus has reconnected this man to his people and gathered him to himself. The irony of the text is that the Pharisees presume to be the guardians of Israel's connectedness to their history, to each other and to God. So what Jesus is doing by the power of the Spirit they accuse him of doing by the power of Satan. And Jesus talks about the house divided against itself... that to do in name of God the work of the Devil would ultimately be self-defeating. This is a second irony. They are actually the ones doing what they are accuing Jesus of doing. They are claiming to minister in the name of God and for the purposes of God and yet they keeping people from God all the time.

Jesus says, basically, "either I am doing this as you say, by the power of Satan, or I'm doing it by the finger of God, and you have a different problem, because you've opposed me at every turn." They think they're protecting Israel's worship and spiritual purity, but they're really fighting to preserve their religion, their power, their control. Satan is using them to preserve his kingdom against the oncoming kingdom of God.

According to Jesus, the kingdom of darkness divides, fragments, isolates, and disconnects people from their own hearts, each other, and from God, bringing conflict, confusion and chaos. Meanwhile, Jesus' kingdom is about gathering people together, giving them a place to belong, real and meaningful connection to their hearts, to others and to God. Jesus' mission and his kingdom is all about God gathering back to himself a people for his own name from among the scattered and displaced masses.

He illustrates the point by gathering to himself a mute, deaf man who was detached from his people, while highlighting the detached reality of the ultra-connected Pharisees themselves as well as their scattering impact on people. The whole point seems to be that if we're rallying people to anything or anyone other than Jesus, than we are simply scattering by another name.

A Prayer for Gathering:

Father, we live in a fractious time and it's easy to beat the drums of our own opinions and agendas, even to attach you to our agendas. I pray for a supernatural ability to withstand the powerful pull into uhelpful conflicts and unfruitful controversies. Give me wisdom to refrain from the many outlets available for venting and airing grievances in ways that are not valuable. Help me to make your kingdom and your rule be my agenda, over and above the many hot button issues of our day. As I think about, speak into, and listen to those conversations let be so as one whose agenda is promote and embody the glory and grace of Jesus faithfully, so that you might gather people to yourself. Amen.