Betrayal of a Friend

My heart is pounding. Sweat is pouring down my face. I’m lined up with 10 other guys ready to go into battle. I have a teammate on my left and a teammate on my right. I can’t stop looking at the referee waiting for a whistle to be blown. As each moment passes, I feel like a year has gone by. Every other moment of the game I have nerves of steel but right now they feel like melted rubber. Not until I see that ball comes flying in the air do I start to get a break from the nerves but they don’t leave me until I start running full speed at my opponent and WHACK! Gone were the nerves for the rest of the game. I wanted to use this analogy because I guarantee this is how Jesus was feeling the night he knew he was going to be betrayed by Judas.

 

Luke 22 talks about a few big things. One was the Passover meal and the other was when Judas betrays Jesus. I want to focus on the betrayal. Imagine you are Jesus in this moment of time. Let’s bring it to today’s world so you can really relate to it. You have gotten together for a potluck meal at one of your friend’s homes. These are just any friends; these people have been with you in the thick and thin. They had your back and you had theirs. You guys went on vacations together, you grilled out on summer nights, you served at the church with them. Even after all of that, YOU knew that one of them was always going to betray you.

It had to be tough to be Jesus that day. Just reading scripture you can tell that even the God of the universe struggled with this.

In verses 41-44 it says, “And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him. 44 And being in agony he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

Have you ever prayed so hard you sweat? I know I haven’t. I bet that if you knew you had to die today, you would be praying just as hard trying to figure any way out of it. I love how Jesus puts it, “nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” That right there is a sermon in itself. My will is not important; it is God’s will that I should focus on. Next time you are in a situation where you have to make a big decision, trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your OWN understanding, in all your ways submit to him and he will make your paths straight! (Proverbs 3:5-6)

I want to leave you with one thing, God’s will is always more important than my will. Remember that and remember that you can go to him whenever you need him.

 

A Lesson on Leadership

Today’s reading: Luke 21, Psalm 69

I had always thought of the Widow’s Mite (Luke 21:1-4) as a lesson on giving but through a recent study I’ve come to believe it is actually a warning of the implications of false leadership, specifically self-righteous, legalistic religious systems and their false leaders.  A good thing to know how to spot and avoid (Psalm 1) and a good thing to help us refine our beliefs on true leadership. 

When taken in context this account is surrounded by diatribes of false teachers.  (Luke 20:47, Luke 21:5-36)  In addition to the lack of the subject matter of giving in the surrounding scripture, is the lack of any principle taught on giving in this passage.  Jesus neither condemns the rich for their giving nor commends the widows for hers.  In my estimation, Jesus never said He was pleased with the widows giving, nor did he even imply it.  

On the contrary, we know that Jesus did not approve of the religious system that was receiving the gifts and from that we can even go as far as to assume he may not have been pleased with the fact that this widow was being separated from her last coin on account of it.  All throughout scripture, God’s Word protects and provides for widows, it never leaves them destitute.  (Exodus 22:22, Psalm 146:9, Proverbs 15:25, Isaiah 1:17, Isaiah 10: 1-4, Jeremiah 49:11, James 1:27)

The word rich used here is ‘plousios’ and means those who have enough. The word poor used in verse two is ‘penichors’, meaning someone who is needy but not destitute. The second mention of the widow being poor in verse three after she is seen giving all she had, is a different word ‘ptochos’ meaning someone who has nothing and has been reduced to begging.

The lesson, in my estimation, is this: the widow’s involvement in this false religious system has cost her everything.  The warning; false leaders and their systems prey on the weak and pry from them what little possessions they have.  Why give this warning?  Perhaps, this will help us identify these systems so we can avoid them and not be party to them.

Another identifying characteristic of these systems is in the preceding two verses. The leaders of these systems create them so that they can accumulate what they desire; influence, position, power, money, etc. at the expense of the weak. (Luke 20-46-47)  They are systems designed to serve the leader. 

Contrasting false from true: real leaders do two things.

  1. They serve those they lead and
  2. they lead by example.  

(Mark 10: 42-45, Philippians 2:3, Matthew 17,12, 1Timothy 4:12, 1Peter 5:1-3, Hebrews 13:7)

Here is a lesson of the cost of false leadership, a warning to false leaders and an aid to help us discern true from false leaders.  In a culture that has so much to say about leadership, God’s word helps us understand the truth and protects us.  Praise God!

 

Study resource: The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Luke 18-24

Painting by James Tissot (French, 1836-1902)

Cornerstone of Christ

Our Cornerstone

Today’s Reading: Luke 20 Psalm 68

God’s living word is filled with truths of How we should live our lives…, When we should call on Him…, Where you can find hope…, Why a relationship with God is necessary…,and Who we should live for.  The answer to all these questions point directly to Christ Alone and the timing is now and always! So as we reflected on how to live this earthly life,we land on a verse that reminds us of our essential Cornerstone.

Luke 20:17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, ” Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone?”

This verse is a reminder that all our lives are built on this cornerstone? That in our broken lives God is in perfect control. The cornerstone breaks us down to make it not about me or you, but about Him.  This brokenness is necessary to draw us to the realization that we need God. That building our life on the Cornerstone of Christ gives Him full authority.  Do I remember that all the time? This cornerstone mentioned throughout the bible in various places represents our crucial stone, the cornerstone that holds up our whole structure. (Psalm 118:22, Matthew 16:18, Acts 4:11, Eph. 2:19-21) I love this use of cornerstone in these verses.

Here in verse 18 we are reminded that;

Luke 20:18 “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.”

We are all broken. We have been broken to pieces. But God has provided us with this cornerstone that in our broken state we can submit to Him.  When we admit to our brokenness, repent, and give our lives to God, He makes us new.  We make it not about self-centeredness but giving it all to Him. The foundation is already at our feet.  Those who deny this cornerstone and don’t submit to God are described as “crushed”.

Dear Lord,

You are our cornerstone we put all our trust in.  We know we are broken and that in our weakness you are strong.  God we pray that in this earthly world we focus less on us and more on you.  We love you and give praise to you.  The victory is yours. Amen

 

In Psalm 68:4 David tells us to sing praise in His name, extol Him, rejoice before Him – His name is the Lord! Our Cornerstone!

Cornerstone – Hillsong

Resources:

The Jeremiah Study Bible

Tysdale Study Bible

Missing It

Today’s Reading: Luke Chapter 19, Psalm 67

“As he approached and saw the city, He wept over it, saying “If you knew this day what would bring peace-but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days will come on you when your enemies will build and embankment against you, surround you, and hem you in on every side. They will crush you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave one stone on another in you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation.” Luke 19:41-44 (HCSB)

 There is so much in this 19th Chapter of Luke, I can hardly hold it in. Reading the story of Zacchaeus repenting for his sins and hosting Jesus while others looked on with distain. Then on to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on that young donkey. My HCSB Study Bible explains that the distance between Jericho and Jerusalem is about 17 miles. The elevation change is 3,300 feet which means that the road was going up on average at a rate of almost 200 feet per mile. As he nears Jerusalem his disciples and followers spread their cloaks on the road as a way to honor their King. People were rejoicing and proclaiming His mighty works. I can only imagine the electricity in the air that day! I can imagine what it felt like to believe that your King has come and to be able to see him. Some texts say that the crowd was shouting Psalm 118:26:

“Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! We bless you from the house of the Lord.” (Ps 118:26)

This further solidifies the messianic expectation at that time. But when Jesus begins to approach Jerusalem he weeps. He weeps at the thought of rejection by the city of Jerusalem. It is true that the Jews enjoyed peace in this time under Roman rule until about 40 years after Jesus spoke the words in verse 44:

“…They will crush you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave one stone on another in you, because you did not recognize the time of your visitation” Luke 19:44

 In A.D. 66 the Jews revolted against the Roman control, three years later Roman soldiers attacked Jerusalem and burned it to the ground in A.D. 70. Six hundred thousand Jews were killed during that siege. Many Jews did not open their eyes to see Christ as the Messiah or recognize His coming as God’s visitation and offer of salvation. After studying the gospel of Luke and the historic context I’m struck by how similar this ancient society is to our so called modern society. We too are arguing about who is really the messiah. We have modern pharisees asking us to rebuke one leader in favor of another. Jesus viewed the corruption of the temple as a reflection of the corruption of the nation. He knew that they were about to enter an even greater season of judgement. How can we learn from the fall of Jerusalem? Can we begin to connect the dots between ourselves and the ancient Christians? The leaders among their people included wealthy men in politics, commerce and law. They saw Jesus as a threat. He drove the merchants out of the temple and his teachings favored the poor. He attracted attention that wasn’t in line with their business goals.

I love the woven tapestry of Luke 19. It’s a collection of parables for us to consider and then compare to our own Christian life. Are we tax collectors? Are we merchants in the temple? Are we truly spreading our cloaks out for Jesus to walk upon or are we a Pharisee, rebuking the message of Christ. Are we just plain missing it…in other words are we actually missing the opportunity for a visit from God. Are we so close but not quite there in our total commitment to the Messiah? I know that I have work to do. My eyes are open and looking for encounters with Him this week. I hope yours are too.

Peace.

 

 

 

Luke 13

I am a reader. Those who know me will probably smile when they read those words. In my free time, I am rarely without a book in my hand. When I was younger, I read mostly fiction – especially the Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden series. My favorite author, though, was Louisa May Alcott. I read and re-read every book she ever wrote because I loved how she created a story. Even though her books were fiction, I felt as though I were reading a true story – her plot and details were that believable. And I always learned something from her books.

Jesus is the master story-teller. Over and over in the New Testament, we read of our Savior using a story to make a point or to teach a lesson. In doing so, He teaches about complex topics like faith and grace and salvation. We see this over and over in Luke 13, our chapter for today.

Jesus uses the parable of a barren fig tree to teach about how to live a Godly life (Luke 13:6 – 9). He compares the kingdom of God to both a mustard seed and to leaven used in baking bread (Luke 13:18 – 21) He uses the idea of a narrow door to represent the fact that “no one comes to the Father except through me” (Luke 13:24 – 30; John 14:6). The people to whom He was talking would have had as difficult a time as we do now understanding concepts like the kingdom of God, faith, and salvation. Fig trees, mustard seeds, leaven and doors, though? They understood those. They were familiar with these objects, because they used them in their daily lives. By using stories, Jesus made complex topics more easily understood.

As Jesus ends this time of teaching, He laments over the lost in Jerusalem, saying, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” (Luke 13:34). As I finish writing this devotion, it is Monday morning, and our country is waking to the news of the massacre in Las Vegas. Jesus’ poignant cries over Jerusalem remind me that my Savior also weeps today, along with those who grieve.

The Parable of The Sower

It was the end of July and vacation bible school was wrapping up for the summer. I and about another 100 kids were packed into our small rural church listening to some guy talk about Jesus. I didn’t know much at the time but accepting Jesus just felt right. This guy speaking was asking anyone who wanted to accept Jesus into his or her hearts to come to the front. Luckily for me, I had just been up on stage playing a game for a prize so it was no big deal. I still got my brother and cousin and made sure we headed up together because we were all in it together. I remember after that church service being as excited as I was for Christmas to come that year. I don’t experience that kind of joy very much as an adult but wish I did. I was so excited that night that we spent the whole drive home calling everyone one we knew and telling them that we accepted Jesus into our hearts. Never a second thought. Sometimes I wish I could think more like that now.

Luke 8 has many stories and miracles but the one that really stuck out to me was the parable about the sower.

4 And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, 5 “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. 6 And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. 7 And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. 8 And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

After this parable Jesus explained to the disciples on what it meant. I really enjoyed the way the message version explains it.

 

11-12 “This story is about some of those people. The seed is the Word of God. The seeds on the road are those who hear the Word, but no sooner do they hear it than the Devil snatches it from them so they won’t believe and be saved.

13 “The seeds in the gravel are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn’t go very deep. It’s only another fad, and the moment there’s trouble it’s gone.

14 “And the seed that fell in the weeds—well, these are the ones who hear, but then the seed is crowded out and nothing comes of it as they go about their lives worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun.

15 “But the seed in the good earth—these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what, sticking with it until there’s a harvest.

I can easily see these seeds in my own life. I have had times where I feel like I have been on fire and the Holy Spirit was with me. I have also had times where I choose to not listen and to ignore the love of my heavenly father. I can bet that you can relate to that too. The good news is that God is patient, God is kind, God keeps no record of wrong because he died for us. We are saved by grace and nothing we do will ever make us worthy enough to not need God. So if you feel like you are one of those seeds who fell among the thorns and there is no chance that you are good enough, I can promise you are.

God is always knocking; you just need to open the door.

I wanted to write about the day I accepted Jesus for a couple reasons. One is that even though I accepted Jesus, I truly didn’t know what it meant to have a relationship with him and that relationship suffered because of that. Secondly, I wanted to let you know that God died for all sins and will always love you. It’s not a young person thing to do. No matter how old you are, it is never too late.

Enjoy your Thursday and be praying for those seeds in your life who may have fallen into the wrong plot of land. I promise that they are never too far away to come back to God.

Give ear to my prayer, O God

Today’s Scripture reading includes Psalm 55, in which David pours out his heart as he laments over a betrayal of a close friend (possibly Absalom and/or Ahithophel – 2 Samuel 15-18).  The word betrayal presumes a deep trust was placed in a source that proved untrustworthy.   The Proverbs teach us not to have respect of persons. (Proverbs 28:21)  Our unfettered trust is placed assuredly in God alone.  The summit of the psalm is verse 22:

“Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee: he shall never suffer the righteous to be moved.”

Amen!  Amen!  Only He is trustworthy!  

Today’s Scripture reading also includes Luke 7, wherein the famous Centurion’s faith in Christ was chronicled.  When he was in need, he placed his trust in the one true source.  

  • Have you ever encountered a situation in your life when you immediately knew that God was the only one who could help you?  
  • What would our life be like if we did not trust in ourselves or anyone for anything but submitted everything with thanksgiving to the LORD?  

Painting:  Christ Heals the Centurion’s Servant – Ricci, Sebastiano