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. 

Let the Children Come to Me

Today’s reading is the 10th chapter of Mark. There are so many topics and lessons packed into this chapter that’s it’s difficult to focus on one for today’s devotion! Jesus talks about divorce, wealth, his upcoming death and resurrection, and heals a blind man.

Verses 13-16 are my focus today.

And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.

I love to imagine what it must have looked like to see Jesus surrounded by a group of children vying for his attention, excited to see him, calling out his name, wanting to sit on his lap and hug his neck. The disciples must have thought Jesus was much too busy and important for this. The word in this version describes Jesus’ response to the disciples rebuking the children as “indignant” – how dare they send away the little children! Not only did Jesus want them to be near to him, he then tells us that the children are a faith standard. I think of this often when talking about Jesus with my children. They aren’t worried about theology, commentaries, scientific proof, etc.

Instead, they focus on the simple truths and cling to them. God is everywhere. God sees and hears everything. God forgives us when we’re sorry. God wants us to obey, but loves us even when we don’t. God knows ALL the animals in the whole world. God is always with us, even when we’re scared or having a bad dream.

As I think of the different conversations I’ve had with little people about Jesus, I’m struck at how much they know so early on. They aren’t riddled with doubt about his existence or omnipotence – they simply accept it as fact and embrace the amazing truth of his love.

Try looking at Jesus through the eyes of a child today. Think of how awesome his creation is, how exciting his promise of eternal life is, and how sweet it is to know for sure we have a Father watching out for us all the time.


Prayer of Submission

Matthew 26 covers the last days of Jesus with his disciples, the betrayals of Judas and Peter, the Passover when Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper and the arrest of Jesus. After the Lord’s Supper and before his arrest, Jesus went to the Garden of Gethsemane, along with Peter, John and James. Jesus knew what was coming soon. He knew He was to be betrayed by Judas and denied by Peter. He knew He would be sentenced to death on a cross like a common criminal. He knew there would be excruciating physical pain and torment. He knew this had been ordained of His life since before His birth. He also knew that the Father was in control of all of this – that if He willed it, the Father could remove this burden from Jesus.

v. 38-39 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.”  And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”

The concept of Jesus as man in the flesh, yet part of the triune God is not easily comprehended by my finite mind. Jesus the man is crying out to God the Father asking that the work he was sent to earth to accomplish be taken away, but more importantly, recognizing that even though this may have been possible, it may not have been God’s will.  “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Jesus was sorrowful. He was desperate. He was lonely. He, the son of God, asked something of God (that he knew God could do) yet he submitted himself to God’s will.

We know that Jesus suffered, died and rose again. We know that he sits at the right hand of God the Father. Jesus knew what his life on earth and death were meant to accomplish. But he was still sorrowful. He still asked God to take away his pain. Struggling with what God calls us to do is not a sin – if it were, then Jesus – who never sinned – would have been wrong in this prayer. I do not think that God (who knows our hearts, minds and souls completely anyway) is disappointed in us when we despair or struggle. It is when we refuse to submit to his will that we sin.

I challenge you (as I am challenging myself) to remember to include this line in your prayers and supplications to God, “not as I will, but as you will.” Ask for the desires of your heart, beg for mercy and healing and relief. But follow that up with a sincere acknowledgement that God may not have the answers you think you want in mind.

Great is His Faithfulness

Today’s reading is Matthew 14. This chapter tells of the death of John the Baptist, Jesus feeding the crowd of five thousand and Jesus walking on water. It’s a lot to fit into one post! One thing that really stood out to me in this reading is what Jesus said to Peter about doubt and faith.

Verses 25-33: And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear.  But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”  And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased.

I’m struck by Peter’s actions. He wants Jesus to prove himself to them – and pretty much challenges Jesus. So Jesus tells Peter to come out onto the water. What really strikes me here is that Peter does it! He has enough faith to step out of the boat and start walking toward Jesus. His faith there is strong and his eyes are on Jesus. But then Peter notices the wind (and waves, no doubt) and his fear takes over. He takes his eyes off of Jesus and begins to sink. But he cries out to Jesus to save him before he drowns, and IMMEDIATELY Jesus reaches out and saves him.

It’s hard to put into words how I see this story in reflection to my own faith. It’s not a one-time thing – it’s a daily (and usually multiple-times-daily) situation. I love Jesus. I am a believer and a Christ-follower. There are times when my faith feels very strong. But the very second I lose sight of Him, things spiral out of control – I begin to drown. And that panic and desperation from not being in control cause me to cry out to Him for help. And this is what I really love – He immediately reaches out to me. Jesus didn’t let Peter drown, but he did let him begin to sink when he lost focus. I could give you hundreds of stories of how I’ve begun to sink when I lost focus too. Probably more, if I took the time to really think about it. But what really counts is the end of each and every one of those untold anecdotes – Jesus has never failed me when I’ve turned my eyes back to Him.

Peter’s faith was like mine – small and incomplete, mixed with trust and doubt. And no matter how strong or weak our faith might be, our Savior is one who will rescue us regardless of our struggle with doubt. His faithfulness to us is not dependent on ours to Him.

My grandma’s favorite hymn is “Great is Thy Faithfulness” – it’s been swimming around in my head while I wrote this post. If it’s not one you know, listen to it today if you get a chance.


Faith enough to hear

Matthew 2

I usually associate the story of the wise men bringing gifts to Jesus with the season of Christmas. Reading and contemplating this passage in the middle of August, especially meditating on it with the concept that we are reading “all the words of Jesus” the text has new meaning to me.

The brief synopsis is that these wise men – or “magi” – from the east have seen a star which somehow reveals to them that it marks the birth of the son of God. These men follow the star and end up in Jerusalem. They begin asking in Jerusalem where they might find the newly born king of the Jews. The priests come together and advise King Herod that the prophesies say that the Christ would be born in Bethlehem, so King Herod sends the wise men off to find Jesus. They do – and they bring him gifts and worship him. The Lord appears to Joseph in a dream and warns him of the danger to the infant Jesus by King Herod’s intentions. Joseph and Mary leave in the night with Jesus and stay away in Egypt until the Lord reveals in another dream that it is safe to return to Israel.

When I read this chapter, I’m struck by the amount of faith-driven action. The wise men see and recognize the star of Bethlehem to be a sign that the savior was born. The prophets had written that this would take place thousands of years before – but these men knew the promises God had made and understood the sign that had been given them to be something worth following.

Joseph recognized the dream he had about the danger to his young child to be a direct message from the Lord, and Mary had faith that Joseph knew what he was doing in uprooting the family and moving to a foreign land. Then, years later, Joseph is told in another dream that the danger is over and to go back to Israel, picking up his family and moving yet again.

The faith of these individuals caused them to be able to hear God’s voice, to recognize His signs, and to act in full obedience without doubt. Later, Jesus talks much about faith – it is the link between us here on earth and the Lord God on high! The faith we see in the actions depicted in this chapter is not weak. It is strong enough to silence any and all doubt. This faith demanded immediate action.

Reflect on the faith of those who God chose to be such prominent players in the earthly life of his son Jesus. The level of faith these people had enabled them to take immediate action on something that – to many others (probably most others) would have been ignored, or at best thought about then tucked away.

I wonder what all the Lord is saying to me that I would be able to hear if I had the faith to listen?

He is our Advocate

1 John 2:1-6

Whenever I’m in trouble, it always helps to know another person is on my side. When I was little, my big sister (who was almost never in trouble) could be a big help to me if she had my back when it came to my parents. As I got older, depending on the circumstances I would usually go to my mom with my problem first, working her over to my side somehow before my dad got involved. If she was on my side, even a little bit, it made things go smoother when I had to fess up with Dad. As an adult, when different things came up and I wasn’t sure how to face them alone, my dad was my go-to. I remember when I was 16 I got a letter in the mail with a traffic citation, claiming I had driven past a stopped school bus. I was terrified. I knew that was a major infraction, and I had no idea what to do. My dad wrote a letter regarding the issue, and the ticket was dismissed without me ever having to step foot in front of a judge.

The character of Christ depicted by John in today’s passage is that of an advocate. One who not only takes on our sin so that we are not burdened by it, but who also intervenes on our behalf with God the Father. How comforting is that??? John is clear – he’s giving us instruction and warnings so that we may not sin – but immediately following tells us that if we do (or rather, when we do) that we are not on our own. If we confess our sins to him, Jesus without fail advocates for us with our Lord. What an amazing thing that is.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.

Great Love

Ephesians 2:4-10 (ESV)

But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

The few verses preceding this passage highlight the powerless, hopeless, lifeless condition of mankind, being enslaved by our fleshly desires and being dominated by the world around us. Then we are reminded that despite our fallen condition, God looked on us with love. Not just a little bit of love – GREAT love. He knew that salvation, if left to us to earn, would be granted to none. He gave us a gift that we have only to accept through our faith. No strings attached. Nothing we have to do to keep the gift.

Why? “So that he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.” He created us and gave us life and this earth to dwell on. He gave us the things we love and enjoy while we’re here (family, food, beautiful weather, etc.) But since many of the things we crave and yearn for are unpleasing to him, and eventually bring sadness and despair in our own lives, he offered a way for us to live with him in perfect eternity – just because he loved us.

It’s difficult to grasp the measure of his love, and the full meaning of this much grace. Almost daily I have to remind myself to show grace to people – over small, mostly insignificant things (cutting me off in traffic, using a large pile of coupons in the grocery checkout aisle, children spilling milk). My instant natural reaction is anger and/or frustration. And these actions aren’t even specifically committed against me personally – they’re just from people making mistakes or going about their business in life and causing me an inconvenience in the process. The concept of loving the way God loves and giving grace the way God gives it is nearly impossible to comprehend. And it has nothing to do with us – we have done, or will do nothing to deserve or earn his love. It’s just there, without fail, without end.

As you think about God today, meditate on his kindness. When you see someone or have an interaction with someone whose actions are less than perfect, try showing them grace. It won’t be easy, but I bet it will turn your heart to prayer and to thankfulness for God’s ability to love us better than we love others. 🙂

Lord, Thank you for loving me. Thank you for being a God of Grace, and for saving me through your son Jesus. Help my actions to reflect your kindness, and help me to show more grace and less frustration to others. 

What are you doing with your talents?

Matthew 25:14-30 contains the Parable of the Talents. A talent was a measure of currency in weight, worth about 6 years of wages. In this parable, a man going on a long journey leaves his servants in charge of different amounts of money (large sums – 5 talents for one, 2 for another and 1 for the last – but even 1 talent was a substantial amount).  The first two servants each took the amounts entrusted to them and worked to grow that sum. When the master returns much later, each of those servants is able to give over to his master not only the original amount left in their care, but also the same amount over again in growth from their diligent stewardship. Their loyalty and hard work is rewarded with a response of  “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.”

The third servant, who received the least amount, had taken his sum and buried it. While he was able to return the entire amount to his master, that was not enough. The master is not happy with this. The response actually seems pretty harsh. You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest.” 

What does this mean? And how does it apply to us? Verse 15 says that each servant was left with a different amount, “to each according to his ability”. Let’s think of the talents (currency) as a different talent – gifts, abilities, etc. To each one of us, God has given a gift. ALL of us have one. Some of us have more, some of us have less, but we all have been given the ability to use what God has given us for his glory. Each of us according to our abilities.

What are we doing with our talents? Do we hide them away safely, maybe let them peek out a bit on Sundays at church, but never use them to grow God’s kingdom? Do we put our talents to use to love on people, to reflect grace to those in need, and to show generosity of spirit?

Reflect today on how many “talents” have been left in your care. What are you doing with them? Are you investing them to grow God’s kingdom or hiding them away?

Lord, thank you for your daily blessings and mercies. Thank you for the promise of your return. Help me to take the abilities you’ve given to me and not only to recognize what they are, but to actively pursue using them to show your love to those around me. 

Who is the Lazarus in your life?

Luke 16:19-31; Psalm 125

The parable of Lazarus & the Rich Man is the account of a very rich man who lived a life of extreme luxury. Laid outside the gate of this rich man’s house was an extremely poor man named who simply hoped “to eat what fell from the rich man’s table”. The rich man was completely indifferent to Lazarus, showing no sympathy or compassion whatsoever. Eventually, they both died. Lazarus went to heaven, and the rich man went to hell.

The context of this parable is that Jesus was condemning the Pharisees for their love of money as well as for the lack of mercy to the poor. The Pharisees were “pious” in that they knew the old testament laws and liked to flaunt their holy behavior and actions, but they were completely without compassion and love to those around them. This parable was a warning to them that the way they were living would be rewarding only on earth, but eternally they would not be shown grace or compassion because they had already received their reward on earth.

In this parable Jesus talks about what the lives on earth were like for the two, what kind of eternity each would have, the inability to cross over from one place (Hades) to another (in the bosom of Father Abraham), and the sufficiency of scripture to be a warning to those on earth of what will happen to them after death.

I am not a Bible scholar, a theologian or a seminary graduate – but I do not think that Jesus is using this parable to condemn being wealthy per say. I read it more of a warning that if your riches and wealth are so important that you are unable to see need of other human beings and are unwilling to show generosity, your spiritual life and relationship with Jesus will suffer. Jesus tells us over and over again through the New Testament how the love of money can separate us from God. He tells us over and over again how the poor, sick, orphaned, widowed, etc. are special to Him.

Before I move on – I think it’s also important to say that it’s difficult to acknowledge this – but for the purposes of this scripture I believe all of us are wealthy. This scripture doesn’t apply only to those with a certain minimum amount of assets and liabilities, but to anyone who has more than what they need to meet their individual needs in a given day.

So who is the Lazarus in our lives? It’s unlikely that there is a sick/lame/starving man laying outside your front door, so here are some ideas to help open your eyes to who I believe Jesus would see as those in need of love, generosity and compassion:

  • Needy illegal aliens who avoid the social welfare system for fear of being deported
  • Divorced moms with kids who are living below the poverty level but are too proud to ask for help
  • Families where the breadwinner is sick or shiftless or missing
  • The poor in third world countries who are out of sight and out of mind

Obviously this list is only a tiny sample, but it is really just meant to get us (me) to begin thinking of and seeing the people around me, and many of whom I come into regular contact with, and finding ways to share what God has blessed me with.

Lord, thank you for your blessings. Give me a heart for the poor and suffering. Please strip away the calluses that I build up to protect myself from their pain. Let me love the poor as Jesus loved them..


Sheep, Gate, Shepherd

John 10:1-18 and Psalm 113

Preparing for today’s reading, I read a little bit about what sheep are like as animals. Here are some of the ways they are described: stubborn, picky eaters, social, followers, run from danger/easily afraid, playful.

Being a mom, how can I not associate these descriptions with my children?? And following that, associating the role that Jesus describes as with mine as a parent? In this parable, Jesus is talking about sheep (us – his flock), and explaining his role as shepherd (caregiver, protector, authority figure).

It is the shepherd’s role to provide for the needs of the sheep, to keep them safe, to keep them well, and to keep them out of dangerous places. The sheep don’t always like for the shepherd to do these things, especially when the grass seems greener on the other side of the hill and they don’t realize there is a cliff to fall off on that side. It is not the shepherd’s job to make the sheep happy all the time, but to safely shepherd them from one place to the other so they can fulfill their purpose in life. Sheep learn their shepherd’s voice and respond to it, trusting the shepherd to take them where they need to go and provide what they need. The shepherd acts as a gate to keep the sheep in their pin safely, keeping the sheep from leaving without protection, and also keeping harmful predators away from the flock.

My little boy Samuel is almost five. When he gets in trouble, it is almost always because he did not listen to me or his dad. Much of my time is spent explaining to him that if he would just listen he would not be in trouble. I try to explain that when I tell him something, it is to protect him, to keep him from hurting himself, or because what he wanted to do was a really bad idea.

I’m asking myself right now how much I listen for God’s voice. I’m thinking about how the God’s word and instruction is meant to protect us, because God knows what we need more than we do, and He wants us to be happy, to live fulfilling lives, and to be safe and anxiety-free.

In fact, He tells us not to worry – very specifically. Yet worry and anxiety can own my thoughts and even cause physical distress in my life. Why?? Because I don’t listen.

Reflect today on what Jesus as your shepherd means in your life right now. Do you know His voice? Do you come when called? Do you follow where He leads?

Lord, thank you for Jesus and his loving words laid out for us in scripture. Help me to listen for your voice, and to obey without doubt. Take away my fear and anxiety, and cause me to trust and have faith in your promises. 


I loved you enough to insist that you save your money and buy a bike for yourself even though we could afford to buy one for you.

I loved you enough to be silent and let you discover that your new best friend was a creep.

I loved you enough to make you take a Milky Way back to the drugstore (with a bite out of it) and tell the clerk, ‘I stole this yesterday and I want to pay for it.’

I loved you enough to stand over you for two hours while you cleaned your room, a job that would have taken me 15 minutes.

I loved you enough to let you see anger, disappointment, and tears in my eyes. Children must learn that their parents are not perfect.

I loved you enough to let you assume the responsibility for your actions even when the penalties were so harsh they almost broke my heart.

But most of all, I loved you enough to say ‘no’ when I knew you would hate me for it. Those were the most difficult battles of all. I am glad I won them, because in the end you won something, too.”

Mothers, and fathers, are given an incredible privilege and opportunity to have the primary role in helping shape the character of the children entrusted into their care. Words are important, but our actions and examples are more important. From how to treat other people to the habit of going to Sunday School and church to the teaching of stewardship by giving the child a quarter to put in the offering, we can instill good habits, morals, and beliefs into our children.