Pray, Prepare & Plan, and Participate

Today’s Reading: Luke 11

The purpose of Chapter 11 of Luke is to give us a blueprint or outline of our daily work and spiritual growth.  In the days of Christ and in our society, we are all seeking ways to better our mind, body, and spirit.  The same questions that the early church dealt with are seen in our lives.  We are confronted with how to pray, how to worship, how to sing and praise, what to wear, how to live for God?   But in this passage of scriptures we can find some solace in Christ’s words.  The outline that I find here is: Pray, Prepare and Plan, and Participate.

PRAY:

As Stephanie stated in the previous section, we must pray often and daily.

Luke 11: 1- 4

Now Jesus[a] was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say:

“Father, hallowed be your name.
Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread,[b]
and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

 Jesus has given us the most powerful prayer that can be prayed.  This is the purest connection that the Father and Son had and it was given openly and graciously to us to have an inherited connection with the Father. This prayer contains all the essentials that God requires of us.  We can come into true relationship with Him with this prayer.  Jesus uses the relational language to create peace and reverence to reconcile us with God.  This prayer creates the aim and focus for our lives and daily living.

PREPARE AND PLAN:

Luke 11: 24-26

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

Throughout my life, my father has always had a saying that means more as I grow into a young man and father: Focus and Plan.  Even as a child I had this printed and framed in my room.  The meaning behind this statement is: You must FOCUS on the goal or the dream and then you must PLAN how to achieve it.  In Luke 11, Christ teaches about not only do you need to PRAY, but also you must PREPARE & PLAN your life to be for God and live for him daily.   In this passage Jesus performs several miracles that are questioned by the Pharisees thereby questions his authority.  Christ expels an unclean spirit from a man and then proceeds to give a parable about how to maintain the new Christ-filled life.  Jesus states it s not only a one-time process of cleaning, but it must be a continual and daily process.  Sometimes, when we commit to Christ, we have the newbie excitement and then it fades and we may find ourselves back where we were before or even in worst places.  Christ relaying this information, with a warning to allow him to clean us up and then we need to continue to seek him and make him a part of our house.  When He is the Lord of the house, not only the cleaner, we will be made whole.  This will allow his light to shine through us and bring others to Him.

PARTICIPATE

Luke 11:39-44

And the Lord said to him, “Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.40 You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? 41 But give as alms those things that are within, and behold, everything is clean for you.

42 “But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. 43 Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces. 44 Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.”

Jesus has had many interactions with people of all backgrounds and is genuinely truthful in all aspects.  I love the way that he goes to the dinners he is invited and then challenges each person. In the passage, Jesus is sitting and enjoying food with the Pharisees and lawyers and then gives them and us great advice.  We can be blinded by the “proper and correct” manner of living and neglect justice and the love of God.  How many times do we turn a blind eye to the injustices that happen in our daily lives? How often do we see our brothers or sisters in need and turn the other way?  Sometimes this is easy to see, but there are some instances that we don’t see or choose not acknowledge.  We must become better participants in God’s plan and continually ask Him for guidance and direction to show His Love.

This outline is one that will allow us to be ambassadors to the kingdom of God.  Praying, Preparing& Planning, and Participating are the essential parts to allow Our Father to create his Kingdom to Come. Are we following the blueprint? How can we change to become more aligned with his vision and purpose? Be Blessed.

PRAY

 

This morning as I wake up and prepare for the day, I am easily overwhelmed at my list of to-do’s!  Today contains:  a workout at the gym, mowing the yard along with fall yard clean-up, making a meal for my husbands’ grandpa, writing this Bible Journal Post, picking up the house for the weekend, attending the high school football game to watch my daughter cheer, and anything else that may pop up.  I am totally focused on what I have to do and accomplish.  But this is NOT the work that Jesus calls me to do!  All the things on my list today are good and may serve others, but the focus is not on God.

God tells us in our reading today, Luke 10, that our focus should be PRAYER.

And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.  Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”  Luke 10:2 (ESV)

We have to shift our focus from our daily work or list of to-do’s and focus on PRAYER.  It is hard to do, because prayer is not busy work, it does not seem to help us accomplish much in the immediate.  But, this is the issue, we focus on our immediate presence and what is before us.  We focus on what we have to accomplish today, right now.  And all this time, God is asking us to pray for workers – not be the worker.

There is so much work to be done.  When we step out of our homes we are faced with the tragedy and crisis all around us.  It is easy to think, “How can I help fix this, or what can I do to help show love to a neighbor in need?”.  We can easily stay busy meeting the needs of all those around us, and this is good work.   We are called to love and serve our neighbors.  But Luke 10:2 first calls us to PRAY!

In this chapter, Jesus is preparing 72 disciples to go out and reach the people.  These 72 are not to do the job of reaching others all by themselves, but they are to PRAY for more workers.  They are to begin by gathering more people to PRAY.  To PRAY that other people will join them in reaching out.

I know that I spend so much more time on my to-do’s then I do in prayer.  What is your focus today?  God calls us to pray for more workers to bring the good news to our neighbors.  Will you pray for this today??

Man, Prophet, or God?

Luke 9

How did God make the stars? Were they thrown in the air like pixie dust settling into random patterns, or were they placed, one by one with care and intention?  I can spend hours in the fascination of the stars and our universe, becoming quickly overwhelmed with their mysteries and possibilities.  God has not revealed to me how, or why, he created the universe, I just know he did.  In fact, we all know.  We to experience it every time we look into the sky.  I find myself saying “Wow, you are awesome God!”

I don’t question that God created the universe.  Maybe because the evidence is all around me.  Sure, there are people that contrive alternate explanations, but I believe He did it.  I have no doubt.  In order to believe that, I have to consider his capabilities.  I come to greater understanding that he is far bigger than me. I see that his capacity for both creativity and activity are infinite. Why then, do I question that he was able to feed 5,000 people with four loves and two fishes?  Why do I attempt to rationalize and water down the story into some rational explanation? Seriously, there is no rational explanation for the universe so why do I attempt to create them around the works of Jesus?

Asking those questions is scary.  Actually, the answer is the scary part because it reveals what I believe about Jesus.  You see, if Jesus was a prophet, or merely wise human, feeding the 5,000 is impossible and I need to rationalize the story.  If, however, Jesus is God, the creator of the universe, the answer is quite different. Feeding the 5,000 is easy when you know how to make a sun and stars and moons.

Who do you believe Jesus to be?

Hills and Valleys

Today’s reading is Luke 8.

Does it ever shock you how much worry and how little faith the disciples often have have during their time with Jesus? They worry about having enough food for the crowds of people and themselves multiple times, they are scared when Jesus walks on water thinking He is a ghost, most run away in terror when he’s captured by the authorities, and here in Luke 8 they are scared during the storm before Jesus calms it. In Luke 8:25, Jesus even directly says to them, “Where is your faith?”

A great brother in Christ and myself were just discussing the importance of being humbled through challenges, disappointments, and perceived failures (at the time) in life. Let me be clear these things are never fun. I don’t like them for myself, and I don’t wish these shortcomings on anyone. However, when we observe things closely we can often find that when we don’t face challenges we can become distant from God, not giving the glory to Him and not being a servant leader for Him and to those around us. How many times do we see celebrities and the greatest athletes making poor choices in actions and words that are all about them? I believe it’s often because they have not been humbled to realize that while they have likely worked hard to get to where they are, they would not have accomplished what they have without the people around them, the organization they are within, or even the time they were born and live in (Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book Outliers). They often don’t give others credit for the help they received and first and foremost to the One who put those people around them, to the One who put them within that organization/sport/profession, and to the One who brought them into the world at this perfect time to accomplish what they have. They don’t feel like they “need” God.

On the flip side of this, we read later in Luke 8:43 where a woman who had a bleeding issue for twelve years who could not be healed by any physicians went to Jesus believing she could be healed if just touched His clothing which she did. She was humbled by her sickness. She had nowhere else to turn but to Him. Jesus says to her in Luke 8:48, “Daughter, your faith has made you well, go in peace.” Check out James 1:2-4 and James 1:12 for how trials help us grow and shape us into the person He wants us to become. James 1:6 specifically says, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of seas that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” What a great example she was of having faith without doubting! Is God not giving you what you want right now? Are you being humbled right now through challenges? What is God trying to teach you in this season of life? Are you FULLY relying on Him, trusting in Him, and believing in Him to bring you through these challenges? Or would He say to you like He did to the disciples in Luke 8:25, “Where is your faith?”

In closely observing this occurrence of Jesus calming the storm, I find it interesting that Jesus is the one that suggests they get into the boat to go to the other side of the lake. Yet, He doesn’t say why, nor does it say what they did when they arrived after the storm. In fact, it just says in Luke 8:26 they sailed to Gerasenes. Did Jesus have them go out into the boat just so they could see His miraculous powers to calm the storm so they would grow in their faith and trust in Him? Although the disciples lacked faith often during their time with Jesus, this time of growth helped them become so unbelievably complete in their faith and trust in God that 11 of the 12 (Judas Iscariot not in the 12) of them were killed for their faith later. They went from running away in fear when He was captured and killed to risking it all for Him shortly thereafter. They became perfect and complete in their faith through all these trials lacking nothing and spreading the Good News to others so that you and I would know it today. There is no doubt they are being greatly rewarded in Heaven.

Let us pray the following prayer…

“Lord God, in times of challenges and valleys let me raise my eyes to You, the One who sees me there and will bring me out. Please help me to be perfect and complete in my faith and trust in You, lacking nothing. When I’m on the mountaintops, let me give You all the praise and glory knowing that You are the source of all good things. You are the God of hills and valleys. Please help me remember Your words that those who want to be first shall be last by living my life as servant leader to You and others around me. Thank You for modeling this through Your death on the cross so that I am forgiven for my many shortcomings and can live with You in eternity. I love you. Amen.”

 

The “A” words

Today’s chapter Luke 7 is yet again filled with so much to unpack.  Four very different messages for us to digest piece by piece.

AMAZED – In this first part of Luke 7, Jesus is the one who is amazed.  A centurion is panicked over his committed servant.  It is obvious the centurion cares so deeply for his servant that he asks for Jesus’ help.  He must have been desperate to seek Jesus’ healing but then changes his mind.  He feels he is not worthy of Jesus’ healing power.  The centurion may have felt guilty, realizing he was using his power over people in the wrong way.  It does not tell us why type of centurion this man was but back in that day, a centurion typically ruled over an army and thus was all powerful.  Jesus understands how he is feeling and is “amazed” at him.  It is as if Jesus is feeling the transformation of this centurion.   “I tell you, I have not found such great faith even in Israel.” 10 Then the men who had been sent returned to the house and found the servant well.

AWE – The second story is one of great sadness which turns to joy.  Jesus is entering the city of Nain.  A widow’s dead son is being carried out of the city to his burial place.  The mother has experienced sadness given she is already a widow and now has lost her son. 13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.” Jesus, seeing her great sadness, immediately helps.  He stops, he places his healing hand on the bier and heals the dead son. “Young man, I say to you, get up!” 15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.  They were all filled with awe and praised God.  We all can feel the grief of this mother who is then overcome with joy as her son is raised.

AWESOME – John the Baptist.  God sends his messenger ahead of Jesus to prepare the way, baptizing in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  These verses are awesome as John and Jesus have not met each other.  John is sending messengers to try to find out more about Jesus.  They obviously didn’t have Facebook or LinkedIn or Google to search and seek more information like we do today!  They used the good old fashioned way of word of mouth, sending others to investigate, ask questions, bring back the truth.  Was Jesus the promised Messiah?  If he was performing all this healing, he might be, but how would John know?  22 So he replied to the messengers, “Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy[a] are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor.  Jesus then uses this time to preach to his followers. 28 I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.”  He wants everyone present to understand John.  He may appear to be a wild man, but he is so much more.  He is the messenger for Jesus and plays such an important role in the story of Jesus’ time on earth.  The story does not continue in this chapter but we know that John and Jesus soon meet at the Jordan River where John baptizes Jesus.  Awesome!

ANOINTED – As we reach the fourth and final story of this chapter, we have a completely different setting.  Jesus is invited in to a Pharisee’s home for dinner.  As he enters, a sinful woman is overcome with emotions.  I see her tears as representing her release of her sins and her recognition of all the things she has done wrong.  She is meeting the awesome Jesus and is feeling less than worthy to the point of weeping.  She uses her tears to clean his feet as she feels this is the least she could do for him.  She then cleanses or anoints his feet with perfume.  He feels her repentance and grasps her need for forgiveness. 48 Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.”49 The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” 50 Jesus said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”  Jesus uses this scene to teach the Pharisee a different way to look at people, through is eyes.  This woman may not have been worthy of the Pharisee, but she was worthy of Jesus.  She believed, she confessed, she demonstrated her faith and is saved.

As I read these four very different stories and examples of faith, it reminds me to keep my head up, looking and searching for God’s word and messages in my daily life.  Sometimes we have many stories in our days and in our weeks.  Are we looking for God’s healing word?  Are we taking advantage of healing or helping others?  Look for the “A” words in your day today.

What kind of fruit do I produce??

Our reading this morning is the sixth chapter of Luke. Read through this and you’ll find some very familiar passages – the Beatitudes, the “love your enemies” quote, the “judge not” directive, and more. Verses 43-45 are my focus today.

For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Have you noticed that the teaching of Jesus sends those with questions about other’s sins directly back to look at themselves? Jesus doesn’t focus on how to fix other people. Earlier on in this chapter he tells us to love our enemies, to give them our coats if they are cold and our food if they are hungry. He doesn’t tell us to examine whether they are worthy – just to love them. Then he warns us that if we judge others, we should be prepared to be held to the same standard of judgment we use on those we judge. Following that is this analogy of our hearts and actions to a tree bearing fruit.

Jesus is pointing us inward – He is telling us that our actions and words are a direct reflection of what is in our hearts. Of what we value and treasure. He wants our actions to be good – but that’s not enough. He wants us to know that it is what we love – WHO we love – that matters. That by treasuring and focusing on what matters, our actions (our fruit) will be good.

Lord – help me to treasure your promises and gift of salvation above all else. Let me be concerned more about my own heart than about the actions of people around me. Help me to live in this world as someone who loves you so much that my mouth speaks love and my actions show it. 

Recognize, Realize and Get Ready

Waiting For The Word/creativecommons.org

Today’s Reading: Luke Chapter 5

Good morning Bible Journal readers! Today we are studying Luke 5 in our journey through the words of Jesus. I’m loving this scripture today because I feel like we can all find ourselves in these three miracle moments. The first miracle is one that’s familiar. Jesus takes Simon’s boat out into the water while preaching and then casually tells Simon to throw the nets out. Simon sort of rolls his eyes and says “I suppose, because you said so but it probably won’t work because we’ve been throwin’ nets all night and ain’t no fish comin’ up!” Simon shows his obedience to Jesus but it’s clear that he doesn’t believe the outcome will change. Can you see yourself in this moment? Do you sort of use faith as a last resort rather than a first strategy? I feel like I fall into this habit almost daily. We know how this story ends, the nets come up with so many fish that boats nearly sink under the weight of them. Simon is awestruck at this miracle and immediately feels shame:

“Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!” Luke 5: 8

Have you ever been blessed by God and felt unworthy? Do you hide from Him because you recognize your sin and don’t want to face judgement? I feel such a connection to Simon Peter in this moment. I remember a time in our life when our son was very sick and his hospital bills were so far beyond our meager capacity. We tried to work extra hours, we tried to negotiate with the hospital to lower the bill, we argued, we cried, but what we didn’t do was pray. Of course, we prayed for our son to get better but we never prayed to God to help us with the financial part of the problem. We were encouraged by some friends and mentors to pray for that specific need and our nets were filled! In fact, they were overflowing. We never even considered that Jesus could or would address that need in our life. If you’ve been a Bible Journal reader or writer for a long time, you know that we experienced that miracle through you.Our Bible Journal family made that happen through the love of Jesus Christ.

God has three requirements for coming to Him:

  • Recognize our own sinfulness
  • Realize we can’t save ourselves
  • Be Ready to leave everything behind and follow Him

In verse 31 Jesus tells the sinners at Matthew’s house:

“It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:31

Jesus is talking about recognizing our own sin. Until we examine our hearts and place ourselves in a posture of humility we can’t begin to accept His mercy. Next, we need to realize that we truly can’t save ourselves. Often, despite our best intentions we make errors in judgement or our pride gets in the way of asking for help. Finally, we need to be ready to leave everything else behind including the false God’s we rely upon for protection and follow Him. Levi the tax collector first encounters Jesus while sitting in his tax collecting booth. Jesus implores him to “follow me” and Levi is moved in that moment. He leaves the promise of money, status and power to follow Jesus by faith. I’m not sure that I’d have the strength to do that. If Jesus came to my work place tomorrow and said “follow me” I hope I’d be ready. Today’s scripture has so many examples of Jesus ministering to people in their day to day struggles. I hope that encourages you to pray this week for the little things. Pray for Him to intercede and truly move in your life.

Jesus is Tempted

In today’s scripture covering the words of Jesus, we look at Luke 4. This is a continuation from yesterday’s message in Luke 3, where John the Baptist taught about repentance, turning from sin, and being baptized. Luke 4 picks up after Jesus’ baptism and goes right into Jesus being tempted by Satan in the dessert. I love this picture of the human side of Jesus, and I’m going to look across the other gospels to show this full picture, because I love everything about this passage!

Matthew, Mark, and Luke each record different aspects of the temptation. Most bible scholars agree that Jesus was fasting in the wilderness for 40 days, during which time Satan was tempting him. At the end of the 40 days, Satan tempted him with three specific things that are recorded in detail (Matthew 4:1-11, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-18).

The situation is intriguing from the very beginning. The Holy Spirit directs Jesus to go to the wilderness to be tempted. Jesus was sent there for a purpose! A lot of times I think we create and walk right into our own messes – we made choices that lead to the storm we find ourselves smack dab in the middle of… But there are other situations that truly pop up out of the blue, and we are left scratching our heads with questions like… Why am I here? How did this happen? What am I supposed to make of all of this? Just maybe we are led there for a reason. Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into this temptation for a purpose. And we shouldn’t underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to lead us to places that have tempting situations. Why? Why would He do that? God uses victory over temptation as an example for others. What example is God using in your life for others? Is there an area you need to take a more black and white stand, as an example for others? Are you tempted to stay silent when you need to speak truth into a situation?

Next, we look at how Jesus was tempted. Sounds pretty familiar to the same types of things we are tempted by… physical needs and desires (bread), power (the world), and lastly, He was tempted to test God (throw Himself off the mountain).  Jesus was tempted in the same ways that Satan tries to tempt us today. It’s pretty cool that Jesus walked before us and showed us exactly what to watch for!  When you think of these three areas of temptation, is there one you need to take hold of today and claim victory?

How? How can we overcome? BAM – Jesus shows us! He responds to each temptation by reciting scripture (we find it in Deuteronomy) back to Satan. What an awesome example for us to keep the Word of God in our hearts and overcome Satan. Do you have some go-to scriptures that you can use when you’re feeling tempted? Here are a few of mine:

Keep thy tongue from evil. Psalm 34:13

Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord. Romans 12:19

Whatsoever things are good, whatsoever things are lovely, think on THOSE things. Phil 4:8

Fear not, I am with thee. Isaiah 41:10

Depart from evil and do good. Psalm 34:14

My God will supply all your needs. Phil 4:19

Love your enemies, bless them that curse you. Luke 6:27

As cheesy as it sounds, I like to say them out loud. There’s power in verbally declaring victory over the enemy!

The last piece of Jesus’ temptation is His Father’s care and compassion. After Jesus endured the temptation, God sent help (His angels) to comfort and minister to Jesus. I really don’t know exactly what this means (not much is explained), but I’ve always envisioned some sort of angel cheerleading situation. V-I-C-T-O-R-Y, GOOOOOO JESUS! Oh, and I also picture them carrying lots of bread. All the bread. As a grain-a-holic myself, my version of this story is with a satchel full of naan, baguettes, bagels, all of it. I mean, Jesus was fasting for awhile!!  In all seriousness, when we are in the middle of a temptation, we can look forward to being replenished by our Father. God will restore our weary souls. Can you look back and see this provision in your life?

God is so gracious to give us this fully-man Jesus to walk before us and show us how to do life on earth. It’s no coincidence that this temptation by Satan occurred right after Jesus’ baptism.  The enemy doesn’t want us to gain any ground in our faith walk. When we declare our commitment and belief in God, the enemy will work to shake us. Let’s follow Jesus’ example and be ready, armed with the Word of God!

What then shall we do?

Greetings readers! I love talking about matters of the heart and today is no exception.

A few recent observations regarding people’s hearts:

  • One of my children diligently studied on a Friday night, Saturday morning, and on Sunday for a test the following week, but received a mediocre grade. The result wasn’t expected or desired, but what mattered was his heart.
  • A group of business associates gathered from around the globe. Each person had varying levels of expertise. Reflecting on our time together, their knowledge was not at all what impacted my opinion or our overall success. It was their heart, the passion they demonstrated. The teamwork, listening, and asking good questions.
  • An executive within my organization was asked “what company would be a good role model for us to aspire to be like?” His response had nothing to do with talent, or measures of success in dollars. His response admittedly didn’t directly answer the question, but it targeted the most desirable attribute: “I want this to be a company that people want to work for… there are other local and highly desirable companies, but I want people to at least give us a look because this is a great place to work.” I view this as having heart, one that focuses on people as our greatest asset.

In today’s reading (Luke Chapter 3), John the Baptist is preaching on true repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Even with John’s direct and sharp words, people appear to be responding in a favorable manner, asking good questions with the right heart.

  • The crowds asked “What then shall we do?” (Luke 3:10b)
  • Tax collectors respectfully addressed him as teacher saying “what shall we do?” (Luke 3:12b)
  • Soldiers also asked “What shall we do?” (Luke 3:14a)

All three of the aforementioned groups demonstrated an initial recognition that things for them might not go so well in the future.

John’s responses in verses 11-14 (paraphrased):

  • To the crowds: share your stuff (love others)
  • To the tax collectors: quit stealing (be fair)
  • To the soldiers: stop using your power to bully people and be glad for what you have (you’re in a position of authority, respect the position and others in your care)

Notice that John’s response was not simply “repent” (and keep on sinning). For each question, he gave specific instruction for their actions. This goes back to Luke 3:8a: Bear fruits in keeping with repentance.

Also in Luke 3:8, John warns them against relying on their heritage to save them. Our religion won’t save us, nor our deeds, nor our lineage; only our true repentant inward hearts reflected by outward actions, seeking salvation through Jesus Chris will save us.

This chapter also points out the contrasting heart. That of Herod whom John confronted for his sinful ways. Herod’s response was to lock John up in prison and ultimately have him beheaded.

Father God, you know my heart, I have no secrets from you. You know all. Show me my sins. Show me where I need to be more focused on others instead of myself. Have mercy on me. Show me a way out when I’m tempted. Thank you for saving me. Give me words and courage to share the good news with others today. Amen.

 Featured image: bronze sculpture of John the Baptist by Giuliano Vangi.

Blank Space

Today’s reading:  Luke 2

Luke 2 begins with the birth of Jesus, and ends when he was 12 years old.  Luke 3 picks up when Jesus is 30 years old and ready to begin his ministry.  Do you find it interesting that the blank space between the chapters covers 18 years?  Nothing about Jesus’ teenage years and twenties is recorded here.

As I was preparing for this post, I began to reflect on my life between the ages of 12 and 30.  A lot of growing up and maturing happened over the course of those 18 years.  During that time I finished my core education, began a career and married my true love.  Some of my choices were good, some were bad, but almost all of them were learning experiences.  I’m pretty glad a transcript of my teenage and early adult years does not exist.  In fact, I wish I couldn’t remember some those “learning” experiences!

Have you ever wondered why the Bible doesn’t account for what happened during that time in Jesus’ life?  Do you think he was impulsive, emotional and smart-mouthed just like I was at that age?  It’s hard to imagine.  Here’s what I do know for sure – unlike me, Jesus lived through those years without sin.  Not just without getting caught, but entirely without sin!  Even so, I think Jesus, who was fully God and fully man, spent those 18 years learning and maturing just like I did.  Based on the last two verses of Luke 2, here’s what I see in the blank space –

Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man (Luke 2:51-52).

Jesus grew in wisdom – until he was 30, Jesus lived an ordinary life in the ordinary town of Nazareth.  As a carpenter’s son, he learned a lot about earning a living and dealing with people.  Have you ever noticed that after Luke 2, the Bible says nothing else about Jesus’ father Joseph?  More than likely, Joseph died during the eighteen year gap between Luke 2 and 3.  Jesus and his brothers would have taken on the responsibility to provide for their family.  Going to school, running errands, doing the laundry and cleaning house are likely some of the routine responsibilities Jesus and his brothers would have taken on in their father’s absence.  As God’s son, Jesus’ already had all the knowledge he needed. What he gained during this time was experience and connection.  By living through the cadence of ordinary life, he learned to how to connect with people through their triumphs and temptations.  Jesus’ growth and maturity during this time was purposeful, effectively preparing him for his ministry.

Obedience put Jesus in favor with God and man – verse 51 tells us Jesus returned to Nazareth and was obedient to his parents.  The story of Jesus in the temple at the end of this chapter was the first glimpse of Jesus acknowledging his identity with God.

“Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house” (Luke 2:49)?

Jesus knew his earthly ministry was not to begin until he was age 30, but he submitted to his earthly parents for another eighteen years while he prepared for it.  It is hard to believe God’s plan for the King of kings and Lord of lords was to come to earth to save his people, but live in obscurity for the first 30 years. That seems like such a long time!  Can you imagine Jesus, who truly was smarter than his parents, choosing to be obedient when he probably knew a better way most of the time?  Jesus wasn’t just obedient to God’s plan, he was also obedient to God’s timing.

Growing in wisdom and being obedient to God’s plan molds as shapes who we are far beyond our teenage and young adult years.  Today, I challenge you to embrace God’s plan for your life.  Invite him to work through your faithfulness, and learn to be patient with his timing.  He knows what’s best for us!