Devotional on Luke

2014 – Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve – near Birch Bay, WA

Exactly, what prayer was that?

Luke 1: Your prayer has been heard.

For Zechariah it’s an once-in-a-lifetime event. He’s the priest who’ll enter the sanctuary and burn incense before the Lord. As he carefully and reverently goes about this task he sees movement to the right of the altar, then, out of nowhere an angel of the Lord appears. Zechariah would run if he could, but instead just stands there, eyes wide, mouth open, face to face with an archangel. The angel speaks reassuringly, and, to the old priest’s surprise, calls him by name. Then this angel adds, “Your prayer has been heard.” I wonder what thoughts raced through Zechariah’s mind in that instant. Here’s what I think: I imagine the old priest thinking, “What prayer is that?” You see, there was a time in his and Elizabeth’s lives when they prayed for a child most every day. They were young then and all the other couples they knew were having babies. However, time was passing and they remained childless. The years passed and they were no longer a young couple. They prayed about this less and then they gave up, disappointed but trusting God with their emptiness. Now, years later, when Gabriel says, “Your prayer has been answered” my guess is that the “baby prayer” is the farthest thing from Zechariah’s mind. Zachariah might have forgotten the prayer, but God hasn’t. Now, at the time that seems way too late for this senior adult couple, God is about to move. Once again I’m reminded that God’s ways aren’t my ways and his schedule isn’t my schedule. Beyond that, I see that God’s ways are the right ways and his time is always the right time. This realization has plenty of practical applications in my life today.

Take Away: Never doubt the power of prayer.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve – near Birch Bay, WA – cottonwood trees are blooming

Hats off to those who are “very old”

Luke 2: She was by now a very old woman.

Jesus is now eight days old and his parents take their newborn to the nearby Temple in Jerusalem for the rite of passage for every Jewish boy. Lots of people spend their days at the Temple. Some are there as doing jobs and others are simply devout people who’d rather be there than anywhere else. On this day we meet two senior citizens who are Temple regulars. One is a kindly old gentleman who loves baby dedications. He spends his time hanging out in the area where that takes place congratulating parents and asking if he can take a peek at their eight day old boys. The other is a sweet but reclusive woman who spends her days in the Court of Women. Lots of people see her there because this is where the offerings are given, but she’s generally off to the side and out of the flow, head bowed in prayer. When Joseph and Mary bring baby Jesus to the Temple, Simeon heads straight to them. There’s purpose in his walk and he gently asks if he can hold the baby. With tears in his eyes he praises God. Joseph and Mary are speechless and thrilled with this event. Then, the other senior saint shows up. Aged Anna joins them and starts singing a wonderful song of praise to God. The official baby dedication by the priest hasn’t yet happened, but these two senior adults who are so in tune with God do the most important part of the dedication on this day. As I look back over my life and think of folks who are best connected to the Lord I’m not surprised to find that they’re all older people. I’m a strong believer in God’s transforming works of grace in our lives but I also understand that maturity and spiritual depth only comes over time. When a person who’s faithfully walked with the Lord for 80 years has something to say we’re smart to listen.

Take Away: The only way to become a mature Christian is to be a faithful Christian for a long time.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Park at Blaine, WA

One tough man

Luke 3: The main character in this drama…will ignite the kingdom life, a fire, the Holy Spirit within you.

John the Baptist storms onto the world stage as “Thunder in the desert.” This is one tough man. He preaches a radical repentance. He calls some of his congregation “snakes” and tells everyone to straighten out their lives. When people begin to speculate that he might be the Messiah of God he points to the precious Lamb of God who’s soon to be revealed. John says that water baptism is the best he can offer. The coming Messiah, he declares, will baptize with the fire of the Holy Spirit, changing people from the inside out. John’s approach to life change is to take a hard line against sin. Those who claim a righteousness of their own he calls “snakes.” It’s a hard message, one intended to draw attention, and of course it’s true. However, John’s message is of only limited value. The tax collector who repents and commits himself to do the right thing is still the same person he was before. The real need of his life will never be met in this manner. The need is for him to be changed, transformed into a new person. John’s method creates skin deep believers. Jesus’ method creates saints of God. Any time I’m tempted to come down hard on people, challenging them to straighten up and fly right I need to remember that the finest, most anointed practitioner of that kind of preaching ever says that he’s a mere stage hand compared to the real Star, Jesus. His method isn’t to “tell it like it is.” Rather, it’s to be a loving, humble servant of God and man. Lord, make me more like your Son, Jesus.

Take Away: More than reformation people need transformation.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Blaine, WA

The kingdom of darkness

Luke 4: He shut them up, refusing to let them speak because they knew too much.

Following his baptism Jesus is led by the Spirit out to the wilderness where he faces intense testing by the Devil. From this opening act of his ministry it’s clear that Jesus isn’t going to have an easy time of it. Right off he’s severely tested, both spiritually and physically. Obviously, the Tempter knows who Jesus is and he makes every effort to derail the work of Christ before it ever gets underway. The Devil then retreats for a time, waiting for another opportunity. Now Jesus begins his work in earnest. Luke begins the story of our Lord’s ministry in his home town of Nazareth but tells us Jesus is rejected there. Then it’s off to Capernaum, a place that will be blessed by many miracles of Jesus. When our Lord confronts a demon possessed man it’s the demon who speaks, apparently surprised at being confronted by Jesus, God’s Son. Other possessed people are brought to Jesus and he drives the unclean spirits out as they protest their unexpected encounters with the Son of God. Jesus isn’t ready for all this “Son of God” talk and orders them quiet, but Luke reports it to us. I find myself thinking of the nature of what might be thought of as the “kingdom of darkness.” When Jesus goes to the wilderness, the Devil comes to confront him. Clearly, the Devil knows the identity of our Lord. Then, just a short time later, when Jesus begins to challenge demons, they appear surprised by Jesus. Sometimes we tend to think of Satan as the evil opposite of God, but that’s nothing close to the truth. Satan has nothing like the power and authority of God Almighty. He’s isn’t always present and he isn’t in control of anything. In the case of this passage, we see that the demons aren’t like soldiers in his army, taking commands from him. The Devil knows Jesus is beginning his ministry as Son of God, but the demons don’t know it and are surprised when they found themselves face to face with him. I’m not sure what to make of this aside from being reminded that we tend to give Satan more power and authority than he actually has. Beyond that, we see here the absolute authority of the Son of God over all the kingdom of darkness. The Devil and the demons aren’t as big a deal as some think they are. Still, seeing what happens when Jesus confronts this dark kingdom causes me to want to cozy up as close to him as possible.

Take Away: I want to be aware of the kingdom of darkness but not be focused on it.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Whatcom Falls Park, Bellingham, WA

So where’s Jesus now?

Luke 5: As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer.

This statement about the prayer habit of Jesus sticks out like a sore thumb in this passage. It feels as if it was just tossed in after the fact, maybe written while Luke was thinking of what to next tell us about the ministry of Jesus. We’ve just heard Jesus preach while sitting in Simon’s boat and then watched as, under the command of Jesus, Simon and partners have caught a huge haul of fish. Now Jesus is healing a man with leprosy and soon he’ll be surrounded by people seeking healing and with Pharisees seeking arguments. Right in the middle of all this action is this one liner about Jesus slipping away for prayer. Obviously, this is more than random filler from Luke. He wants me to connect the mighty acts of Jesus with his secret prayer life. As he teaches and heals God’s power flows out of him. In his secret prayer life God’s power is replenished in him. This is no chance thought of Luke’s. Rather, he’s providing me with insight into the power source of our Lord. Another devotional thought here is that in spite of the fact that Jesus is a busy man he makes time for prayer. When the last needy person has been satisfied and these new disciples find themselves and Jesus finally alone they expect to enjoy some quality time with their Lord, or at least some down time before it all starts again in the morning. James and John look around and realize Jesus isn’t there. “Where’s Jesus?” they ask. “He’s down by the lake,” Peter answers, adding, “He said something about needing some time alone.” This is to become a daily pattern that the disciples will come to expect. If it’s good for Jesus it’s good for me too.

Take Away: There’s always time, and the necessity, for prayer.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Whatcom Falls Park, Bellingham, WA

Drinking from a fire hose

Luke 6: Our Father is kind; you be kind.

Reading the Sermon on the Mount is like trying to get a drink from a fire hose. It’s not like the parables in which there’s a story followed by the lesson. Instead, there’s one wonderful, challenging, powerful concept after another. As I try to write a devotional for each chapter of the New Testament the challenge is not finding something to write about. Rather, it’s trying to dip into the huge stream of material and grab just one concept out of all the concepts and get my mind and heart around it. Right now I’m focusing in on how our Lord says we’re to relate to our enemies. I can’t help but note that Jesus doesn’t talk about how we’re to respond “if” we have enemies. He apparently takes it for granted that some folks aren’t going to like us and some will go so far as to wish us harm. What am I to do about such people? First, Jesus says, I’m to pray for them (“respond with the energies of prayer”). Second, I’m to return good for evil (“practice the servant life”). Third, I’m to have genuine love for them (“love your enemies”). Fourth, I’m to go easy on them (“be easy on people”). Fifth, I’m to realize I’m not so wonderful myself (“wipe that ugly sneer off your own face”). The key to my relationship to my enemy, according to Jesus is “kindness.” The measure of that kindness is the kindness our Father shows to us. “Oh Lord, let me live a life that reflects your kindness to me, even when I deal with people who aren’t very kind to me.”

Take Away: The Lord is quite interested in how we treat people who don’t treat us well.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Whatcom Falls Park, Bellingham, WA

A ruined dinner party

Luke 7: I forgive your sins.

It’s intended to be a formal dinner in the home of a community leader. However, some of the formality is waved off. After all, Simon thinks Jesus ought to be impressed and humbled that a common person like Jesus is even invited to the home of a Pharisee. Then, to Simon’s surprise this disgusting woman has managed to slip into the room. Some servant will pay the price for that! She ruins Simon’s nice dinner party. Not only is he scandalized that such a person would dare enter his very house, but she’s dominating the moment. With all this foolishness going on how can he properly impress his guests? Jesus is obviously uncomfortable with her groveling at his feet, but he’s clearly moved by her sorrow. Maybe Jesus doesn’t know her story? Its then that Jesus speaks first as a teacher and then as a Savior. This woman is overwhelmed by her sins. Simon has missed the point because he doesn’t see himself as a sinner. Jesus then turns his attention to this poor, grieving woman and says the greatest words she’s ever heard: “I forgive your sins.” Simon hears blasphemy, she hears salvation. In this story, do I best identify with Simon or with this miserable sinner?

Take Away: We tend to see ourselves as the “good people” in Gospel stories, maybe, though, we’re supposed to recognize ourselves as those who aren’t so good.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Whatcom Falls Park, Bellingham, WA

How much I have and how much does what I have have me

Luke 8: There were also some women in their company.

The ministry of Jesus is in full swing here in the North. Jesus teaches, heals, and performs other miracles. He’s now traveling from place to place leading a large band of dedicated followers. Of course, we see the disciples in that number but also several women are in his entourage. These women, we’re told, have stories of deliverance to tell. They’re also major financial supporters of this ministry. I think it’s instructive to remember this as I read later on of Jesus telling the rich young ruler to give it all away and then follow. Apparently, these women are, at the same time, wealthy and followers of Jesus. They haven’t been instructed to give it all away. As I think about this I realize that the problem isn’t how much money the young man has, but is, rather, how much the money has the young man. These women who accompany Jesus use their resources for his work. I think it’s important to realize the balance that’s required of us who follow the Lord. Anything that comes between him and me needs to be cast off. All else is to be laid at the feet of Jesus, a part of my living my life in him.

Take Away: Having money isn’t the big deal. The big deal is when my money has me.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Whatcom Falls Park, Bellingham, WA

The other view of Jesus

Luke 9: The appearance of his face changed and his clothes became blinding white.

In Jesus we see God and man. He is, at the same time fully God and fully man. As he goes about his ministry he does so as man. Here’s humanity as the Lord intended. Jesus trusts and obeys his Father implicitly. He performs miracles, not by drawing from his power and authority as God, but as a man who relies on his Heavenly Father and is thus empowered to do miracles. Then, we arrive at the Mount of Transfiguration. For a short time it’s God in this God-man who’s evident. There’s light such as the disciples have never seen. Then, there’s fellowship with two spiritual giants of the past, Moses and Elijah. The Lord God in the person of Jesus discusses the coming events in Jerusalem with two great men of the past. I’m not saying I understand all that’s going on here. Still, it’s my feeling that throughout most of our Lord’s ministry I see, in Jesus, humanity as was intended at Creation. In this case though, I see God breaking through in such a way that skin and bones can hardly contain him. The disciples experiencing this are speechless. Now, more than 2000 years later I read of this event and struggle to find words to describe what I see happening.

Take Away: The Jesus I see on the Mount of Transfiguration is the same Jesus he always is, but here, I see him in a way I haven’t seen him before.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Point Whitehorn Marine Reserve – near Birch Bay, WA

Gentle rebukes

Luke 10: Martha, dear Martha, you’re fussing far too much and getting yourself worked up over nothing.

When their friend Jesus arrives everyone at Martha’s house is excited. They love Jesus and they can’t think of anything better than spending some quality time with him. Mary is quite literal about that. She stays in the room where Jesus is, hanging on his every word. Martha, though, feels a sense of responsibility to make her guest comfortable. In fact, she’s frustrated with her sister for not pitching in and helping with the meal Martha’s preparing in honor of Jesus and his disciples. It’s as she busies herself with these practical matters that frustration grows to the point that having Jesus there becomes secondary to her feeling of aggravation. I can just imagine it: many people, including Mary, are in the living room listening to Jesus when the door bursts open and there stands Martha. Without meaning to, she interrupts Jesus, demanding that he order Mary to help her. Our Lord responds to her with an ever so gentle rebuke. I’m so glad that his rebuke is a gentle one because I identify with Martha. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no cook and I’m certainly not known for having the gift of hospitality. However, I do sometimes get so focused on the nuts and bolts of things that I miss the big picture. Maybe you’re like that too. Maybe you can’t give yourself fully to the worship service because the guy running the video keeps getting the words out of sync. Maybe you spot cobwebs under a pew or notice that one light bulb in the chandler is still burned out. If you tend to focus on stuff like that you have to join me in appreciating the fact that the rebuke Jesus gives to Martha is, at least, a mild one.

Take Away: Sometimes it takes a bit of self-discipline to focus on Jesus rather than some of the minor distractions of life.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Whatcom Falls Park, Bellingham, WA

Persisting in prayer

Luke 11: Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open.

After teaching the disciples to pray Jesus tells them a story to illustrate how persistence in prayer works. A man goes to his neighbor’s door in the middle of the night asking to borrow some food so he can feed an unexpected guest. However, the neighbor calls out through the closed door that he’s in bed and he doesn’t want to wake up the whole family to answer the request. The man at the door, though, is persistent and is also somewhat perplexed. His need is real and his friendship with his neighbor is genuine. Not only that, but he knows his friend has the resources to meet his need. Perplexed or not, his faith in the good will and resources of his friend is unshaken. He doesn’t know why his friend doesn’t respond right off, but he persists, knocking again and again until his neighbor responds. Now, this story is told by our Lord to teach us to stay with it when we pray. The minor detail of the reluctant neighbor being in bed, etc. isn’t what this story is about. Obviously, unanswered prayer isn’t the result of the Lord taking a nap. The role of the Almighty is not in play here. This little illustration is about us. When I have a need, I can go directly to the Lord with that need. I go in assurance that he welcomes me to do so, and in faith that he has all the resources necessary to meet that need. With good will and faith I ask. On those occasions when the answer doesn’t come, Jesus tells me that it’s not against the rules for me to ask again. After all, like the man in the story, my need is real and I’m certain that my Neighbor can meet that need and that he’s my friend. I don’t understand why he hasn’t yet responded, but I do understand his good will toward me. So what do I do? I ask again: humbly, in faith, and probably with a bit more urgency. Asking again doesn’t show a lack of faith. In fact, it’s an affirmation of it.

Take Away: It’s nice when prayers are answered immediately, but when they aren’t it is okay for me to ask again, and again, if necessary.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Day trip to Vancouver, BC

Do you think copiers pick up on our stress level?

Luke 12: What I’m trying to do here is get you to relax.

Most Sundays I arrive at church early, meeting with friends for coffee and prayer. Usually, as we’re praying I can hear the church “waking up” as folks start arriving. Generally, I like what I hear. I’m a real fan of happy chatter, children playing, folks sounding glad to see one another. Sometimes, though, I can tell that the morning isn’t going well for some. They’ve met with some issue or another on the way to church. Maybe there’s some family argument going on. Others have things to take care of when they get to church. They arrive and want to get past the friendly greetings as quickly as possible so they can hurry and make copies before their class begins. I appreciate their dedication but wish I could get them to relax a bit. In the passage I’m reading today Jesus notes that some people are always worried about one thing or another. His examples aren’t just frivolous stuff either. They’re concerned about having food to eat and clothes to wear. In soothing tones our Lord points to how God supplies the needs of nature and assures them that they’re more valuable to him than all else. I understand that life brings unexpected, last minute concerns to us so I’m not being critical of those folks who anxiously wait for the copier to warm up. Still, I have the idea that their day will go much better if they’ll make it their practice to join us in prayer, enjoying some quiet time in the presence of the Lord before launching into a busy Sunday morning.

Take Away: If I view the Lord as a stern unyielding judge I have every reason to be stressed – if I see him as my loving Heavenly Father I can rest in the assurance of his provision for me.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Day trip to Vancouver, BC

Proximity religion

Luke 13: That’s when you’ll find yourselves out in the cold, strangers to grace.

I find this phrase, “strangers to grace” a chilling one. Jesus says that a lot of people think that because they hang out in the right places and associate themselves with the right people that they have it made. When the curtain of history falls they think they’ll be just fine and they’ll have a place at the table. The trouble is that their level of “knowing” falls far short of the requirement. To know Jesus is vastly superior to knowing about Jesus. His disciples live in a personal relationship with him. They don’t just hang out in the vicinity but, instead, enjoy a spiritual intimacy with our Lord. I can’t think of anything worse than depending on “proximity religion” when a personal, cherished, living relationship is available. It’s only at that level, as I live as a friend of the Lord, that I enjoy being a “friend of grace.”

Take Away: I want to be well acquainted with God’s grace in my life.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Day trip to Vancouver, BC

The carried cross

Luke 14: Anyone who won’t shoulder his own cross and follow behind me can’t be my disciple.

Jesus is now one of the most famous people in all of Israel. Everywhere he goes he’s accompanied by a large crowd. On this day, to everyone’s surprise he stops, turns, and addresses them all. There’s nothing gentle about what he says to them. If they want to really follow him and not just be tagalongs they have to let go of all else. Family ties have to be loosed. Claims to self-sovereignty have to be renounced. These are hard enough words, but then he adds, “If you won’t shoulder your own cross you can’t be my disciple.” These Jewish people absolutely hate the cross. It’s not only the instrument of cruel execution but it’s the symbol of their humiliation under Roman rule. The cross not only means death for the one who is so unfortunate as to be hung on it, but it’s also the means of grinding to dust the pride of the entire nation. Those who are following Jesus in hopes of seeing a miracle or at least getting a free meal need to rethink their discipleship. To this day the decision to follow Jesus should be a thoughtful one. Long after the memory of seeing a “miracle” fades and the meal has been digested the cross remains. The occupied cross becomes for Christians the symbol of God’s love for us. The empty cross becomes the symbol of resurrection and hope. The carried cross is the mark of our continued sacrifice and commitment to Jesus.

Take Away: Am I a tagalong or a genuine follower of Jesus? The answer is found in my willingness or unwillingness to take up the cross.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Whidbey Island, WA

Playing it smart

Luke 16: I want you to be smart in the same way.

It’s an interesting story for Jesus to tell because the hero’s a crook. This guy mismanages his bosses’ money and then, when he’s caught he mismanages it some more in a quick witted move to find a soft landing elsewhere. Jesus doesn’t advocate that his followers be good at making shady deals, but he does urge us to play it smart. At one level I can respond by spiritualizing the story. That is I can come away having been reminded that I’m to be smart in how I go about the business of the Lord. For instance, I can use my wits to find ways to reach out to lost people and not just stand for the status quo all the time. However, I don’t think this is the primary application of this story. Rather, Jesus is talking about living smart, being alert to opportunities, and taking advantage of openings. When I see an investment opportunity I’m not to turn away piously declaring that “God will take care of me.” Rather, I’m to explore the possibility that the investment opportunity might be God’s way of doing just that. Jesus’ story isn’t a license for me to take unfair advantage of people but it is a reminder that Christians should live smart lives and not think we’re too spiritual to take advantage of legitimate opportunities that come our way.

Take Away: A person can be ethical in the highest sense of the word and still be a good in business.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Day trip to Vancouver, BC

Jesus likes people of doubtful reputation

Luke 15: A lot of men and women of doubtful reputation were hanging around Jesus.

One problem the religious leaders have with Jesus is the type of people he attracts. He gets along with prostitutes and tax collectors, the very ones they use in their sermons as the kind of people who should be avoided at all cost. Jesus, though, welcomes them. He doesn’t tell them to go clean up their acts and then come back. Rather, he welcomes them just as they are. When the religious leaders complain about this, Jesus tells three “lost and found” stories. In each story that which is lost is of real value and in each there’s great rejoicing when it’s found. The religious leaders might think of these folks of doubtful reputation as worthless fodder for the fires of hell. Jesus, however, places great value on them and when one of them comes and listens and then chooses to be a friend of his he thinks a celebration is in order. As I read these lost and found stories I fear I’m less like Jesus and more like the religious leaders who are represented as the elder son in the final parable. In our society a Christian can pretty much saturate his or her life with “Christian stuff.” If I handle things right, I can avoid these people of “doubtful reputation” and not have to deal with them at all. If I do that, though, I have more in common with the religious leaders than I do with Jesus.

Take Away: Jesus loves lost people and so should I.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Whidbey Island, WA

Big faith, little faith

Luke 17: There is no “more” or “less” in faith.

They’ve seen Jesus do amazing things. On some days he’s healed so many people that they couldn’t even keep track of them all. He’s fed thousands and walked on water. He then explains it all as the result of faith. They’re convinced so they ask Jesus to give them more faith. His response is that with faith there’s no such thing as more or less. You either have it or you don’t. A “little bit” of faith is as powerful as a “lot” of faith. At least that’s what I hear Jesus saying in this passage. At other times, though, Jesus talks about people having “great” faith and he sometimes chides the disciples for having “little” faith. Here’s what I think Jesus is saying: when I have faith I believe God can do anything. When I have great faith I apply that belief in some extraordinary way. It’s not my faith that’s large or small. Rather, it’s my application of what I already believe that can be “great” or “small.” Like the disciples, I don’t really need to believe in God more. I already believe that he is Almighty and acting in the world. However, also like the disciples, I do need to trust him with more of my life, even the areas that are so big and menacing that I tend to be overwhelmed by them.

Take Away: Lord, I believe. Help me with my unbelief.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – La Conner, WA Thousand Trails

When Jesus shows mercy

Luke 18: Jesus! Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!

On the outskirts of Jericho a poor blind man spends his day listening for the sound of footsteps that he might beg for some loose change from some passing person. On this day, though, voices raised in excitement are drawing near and he begins shouting out the question, “What’s going on?” Finally, someone responds, “Its Jesus of Nazareth, the miracle worker. He and his disciples are coming this way.” The blind man begins shouting at the top of his voice, “Jesus! Son of David! Mercy, have mercy on me!” Several tell him to be quiet and the sound of the crowd nearly drowns him out anyway. He shouts all the louder, “Have mercy on me!” Then, a calm, authoritative voice is heard. Jesus is right there in front of him. “What do you want from me?” he asks. The blind man answers, “Master, I want to see again.” “Okay, do it,” Jesus replies. Light, color, and movement flood in as sight is restored. As I read this story, I’m the blind man. Life is empty, desperate, and hopeless. Then, Jesus passes by. In my own words, I shout out “Have mercy on me!” And he does. Thank you, Lord, for your light giving mercy in my life.

Take Away: Its mercy we need and its mercy we receive from the Lord.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Whidbey Island, WA

Crossroads in time

Luke 19: All this because you didn’t recognize and welcome God’s personal visit.

It’s the Triumphal Entry. As many cheer, giving Jesus a royal welcome into Jerusalem others harden in their opposition to him. In less than a week Jesus will be dead. Our Lord weeps, not for himself but for Jerusalem. This city is at a crossroads in time. This day could have been much more than the Triumphal Entry. It could have ushered in a new, transformed age of peace on Earth, good will to men. This week could have been a week without a cross. Instead, the results of these days for Jerusalem will be horror, pain, suffering, and destruction. It’s a moment in time. Listen, I don’t claim to grasp the theology of all this but Jesus says it didn’t have to be the way it was. He wept as he considered how different things might have been. As I deal with this passage from a devotional perspective I wonder how often people come to such pivotal moments. I wonder how aware they are that they’re about to walk into a trip wire that will change their lives forever. My consolation is that in the case of the passage before us Jerusalem has had hundreds of years of opportunities to prepare for this moment. It’s not in ignorance that they’re about to step off this cliff. I have to believe that in smaller, personal ways that it’s the same for us as we arrive at our crossroads in time.

Take Away: I may not always recognize the significance of life events so I must rely on the help of the Holy Spirit as I negotiate life.

Devotional on Luke

2014 – Riding the Anacortes Ferry to Friday Harbor

Images

Luke 20: Give Caesar what is his and give God what is his.

It’s a pretty good “gotcha” question designed to get Jesus into trouble with either the Romans or with the devout Jews. The specific tax in question requires payment with a specific coin. That coin bears the image of Caesar. Pious Jews know what the Commandment says about “graven images.” They avoid such things, knowing they are sin. The Romans say they have to carry with them a coin for tax payment that bears, not only a graven image, but, specifically, the image of a conquering king who considers himself divine. If Jesus says he thinks they ought to pay taxes the pious Jews will have reason to accuse him of advocating the breaking of the Commandment. Of course, if he says otherwise, he’ll fall into the trap that’s being set for him, setting him up as an enemy of Rome, a troublemaker. The Romans know how to handle troublemakers. Jesus, though, calmly asks for one of the hated coins. Casually glancing at it he asks whose image it is engraved on the coin. Everyone knows it’s the image of Caesar. Then he hands the coin back, remarking that since its Caesar’s picture the coin is his anyway. If he wants it, give it to him. In God’s Kingdom, that coin is worthless. The “flip side” (pun intended) is that they’re to give to God what’s his. What is it that I’m to give to the Lord? I think the same test used on the coin helps me answer that question and the answer is given to us long before even the Ten Commandments are given. In the very first chapter of the Bible we find this: “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him.” If I’m obligated to give to Caesar what is Caesar’s I’m also obligated to give to God what’s God’s. It may be marred and soiled, but I’m created in God’s image. My life is to be given to him.

Take Away: If a coin bearing Caesar’s image belongs to Caesar, then a human being created in God’s image belongs to the Lord.

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