One on One With Jesus, Part 5

One on One With Jesus, Part 5

Actions of a Kingdom citizen

How to treat sinners 

Has it ever been said of you, ‘you’re quick to judge’? 

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; and do not condemn, and you will not be condemned; pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and it will be given to you. They will pour into your lap a good measure—pressed down, shaken together, and running over. For by your standard of measure it will be measured to you in return.  

We use the phrase ‘judge not lest you be judged’ broadly and loosely. In this context, it is not used toward fellow believers; it used toward the unsaved. This is the person who has not yet received a new heart to love God, a new mind to know God, and a new will to obey God. 

It’s easy to view sinners with disgust and with disdain. Especially the ones that so clearly dress like sinners, act like sinners, and talk like sinners. Their faces are angry, their attitudes defiant and actions outrageous. Perhaps you can picture such a person right now. 

Such a person may simply walk by you on the street and immediately your mind might go to a place of judgment. All they did was walk by you. You can’t help but judge.  


But let’s take it a little further… 

In the context of this mentoring session in Luke 6 that Jesus is having with his newly minted disciples, he is training them on how to treat sinners. Specifically, sinners who take harmful action against them. 

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. Luke 6:27, 28 

Jesus is giving us a clear reminder of the divisions of responsibilities. Specifically, what we are NOT responsible for. 


God’s Responsibilities toward sinners include: 

  • Judge – judgment is ultimately God’s responsibility. 
  • Condemner – Romans 8:34 
  • Forgiver – Romans 8:1 


Our Responsibilities toward sinners include: 

  • Share the gospel in word and deed 
  • It’s OK to point out that there is a Judge, but it’s not you. 
  • It’s OK to point out that they are a sinner, just like us. We all have a sin problem that ends badly 
  • God sent Jesus to save us by grace – there is no condemnation for those in Christ, Romans 8:1 
  • Receive Jesus by faith in humility – Ephesian 2:8,9 

It’s not easy to refrain from judgment of sinful non-Christians. Especially when non-believers in our lives are doing or saying something that hurts us or our loved ones. It’s really, really difficult to not judge them or condemn them. However, it is not our job. It’s not what we are called to do. 

As we close, prayerfully reflect on the apostle Paul’s commentary of Jesus’ teachings.  


Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay, says the Lord. But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, and if he is thirsty, give him a drink; for in so doing you will heap burning coals on his head, (hopefully the conviction upon them will draw them to Jesus). Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:19-21. 


Father, you have called us to be agents of reconciliation and not the ministry of judgment and certainly not condemnation. Cause us to guard our hearts and minds against disgust and disdain for non-believers. Instead, give us a heart to love them, and share the hope of Christ and the free gift of eternal life through Jesus, our Lord. Amen! 

One on One With Jesus, Part 4

One on One With Jesus, Part 4

Actions of a Kingdom citizen

How to treat ungrateful and evil people!

In our one-on-one time with Jesus, He affirms our attitude of humility toward Him before he guides us on how to act in this world: 

At some point in our story of finding Jesus (or Jesus finding us), we realized we have no capacity to save ourselves and earn our way to righteousness. We wept and mourned over our pitiful spiritual state before a righteous God. All we can say is, ‘Lord, save me, a sinner.’  

Hopefully, you have fallen before Jesus and confessed your spiritual poverty and asked Him to save you; that is the attitude of a kingdom citizen. Blessed are you who are poor (in your own spirituality.) 

… He saves us, not on the basis of deeds we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy … Titus 3:5. 

Be saved my friends. Don’t allow your heart to be hardened one more moment. Be like the tax collector who stood on the hill, beating his chest before God and crying, be merciful to me a sinner. He came down the hill saved. You can cry before God and be saved right now too. 

Now, back to our one-on-one with Jesus today.  Jesus is discipling us today. He is guiding us and mentoring us on how we should live in this world. Jesus moves from dealing with the attitude of our humble hearts to how we should act as citizens of His kingdom while living on earth. Attitude to Action. 


We are to be different! 

I find these following words to be one of the most difficult lessons Jesus ever taught.  

But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 

Whoever hits you on the cheek, offer him the other also; and whoever takes away your coat, do not withhold your shirt from him either. Give to everyone who asks of you, and whoever takes away what is yours, do not demand it back. 

In our society, it is virtuous to stand up for yourself, to defend yourself, and to gain revenge for yourself. So, we must ask, is Jesus being literal or not?  

I believe these words apply to encounters of personal hostility we may encounter in daily life. This doesn’t diminish the self-defense mechanisms in place in our society to protect our families and private property. Governments, through the military, national guard, law enforcement, are set up to protect us. Additionally, citizens can certainly protect themselves from law-breakers, thieves, and criminals. In Luke 22:36, Jesus actually advised the disciples to carry a sword for self-defense. 

In this one-on-one with Jesus, He is speaking to the personal mistreatment we sometimes face, especially for our faith. The disciples listened to these words under the clear reality that they were going to become true to them. They would literally experience fists to the face, the stripping of their coats and clothes, imprisonment, and ultimately, martyrdom. 

Most likely, we do not currently experience, as they did, the tyranny and oppression of the Roman government and the hatred of the Pharisee and religious elite of their day. 

Extreme mistreatment may not happen to us. So, we have to apply these principles in practical ways in our daily lives.


What if? 

  • Another mom in your community is promoting her child as better than all others and better than yours (in sports, academics, music, etc.). She is sucking up to people of influence and is often taking liberties unethically to give her child opportunities above others. What’s your response? What lesson should you teach your child? 
  • A co-worker is subtly sabotaging your work and reputation in order to ‘promote’ themselves as better than you. What’s your response? 
  • What if you loan someone money, they promise to pay you back, but they never do? What’s your response? 

Now, let’s consider the words of Jesus: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you…pray for those who mistreat you. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners in order to receive back the same amount. 

But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for He Himself is kind to ungrateful and evil men.  

These are difficult words. This is teaching that goes directly against our natural bent to defend ourselves and destroy our enemies. The ultimate purpose, I believe, is to show love for our enemies the way that God loves ungrateful and evil people. When believers love unbelievers like God does, they show forth the transforming power of salvation. Like God, let us be compassionate, kind, merciful, forgiving, and humble. 

This is a hard teaching. If we go back to Jesus’ opening words of this session, he begins by saying, But I say to you who hear … love your enemies… My question to you is ‘are you willing to hear these words of Jesus? By being different than everyone else … loving your enemies, blessing those who curse you, giving to those who don’t give back … you reveal yourself to others as a true child of God; saved, sanctified, and redeemed by Jesus. 


Jesus, give us the grace and strength to be kind to all people, even those who are against us. Amen! 

One on One With Jesus, Part 3

One on One With Jesus, Part 3

Have you ever heard someone say, ‘You are really thriving in this environment’?  

Are you thriving in the Kingdom of God?

Luke 6:20-38

And turning His gaze toward His disciples, He began to say, ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and insult you, and scorn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man.

Be glad in that day and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven. For in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets.


Those who thrive in the realm of God’s Kingdom are strange people. Strange indeed. They physically live on earth but their heads are somewhere else. This world is not their home. They are sojourners in a foreign land; visitors, ambassadors, ex-pats. 

Jesus has chosen the twelve and is now fixing His gaze upon them to lay down the ground rules for thriving in His kingdom. These Kingdom principles are quite different from anything the disciples have ever heard before.  

Jesus has chosen you as well and He is about to guide you toward success in His Kingdom. You can thrive in the kingdom of Jesus. But it’s not going to be a walk in the park. Are you ready?  

Jesus is about to teach us about the attitudes and actions of a Kingdom citizen. First, how to be saved and then how to act. Our good actions and acts do not save us. We are saved by faith when we humble ourselves before God. He teaches this lesson in verses 20-26. Then He will give practical rules for Kingdom living (while here on earth) in verses 27-38. 


Be Blessed 

The Bible is clear that the blessings of life on earth come from the Lord and He imparts them first, according to the attitude of our heart. Then what follows is our calling of obedience. 

First, Jesus gives four blessings and four corresponding woes.


What is a woe? It is an exclamation of denouncement. It’s a pronouncement of warning of pending doom. It’s not good. Not good at all. 

Okay, so let’s avoid the attitudes and actions that cause the woes. Got it? Good. What about the blessings?  


Blessed: to endue with power for success, prosperity, fecundity (the ability to produce, to produce abundance), longevity, etc. One who is blessed is given a rich and abundant life. 

When we say we are blessed, we are saying we are living a rich and abundant life far beyond what we deserve. Being blessed is good. Let’s pursue the attitudes and actions that bring about the blessings of God. OK?  


Here are the four blessings and the four woes. 

  • Blessed are the poor. Woe are the rich.  
  • Blessed are the hungry. Woe to those who are well-fed now. 
  • Blessed are you who weep now. Woe to you who laugh now.  
  • Blessed are you when men hate you. Woe to you when men speak well of you. 


A little strange, huh? These first three blessings and woes are dealing with the heart of a person. The clearest reference to the first three blessings and the first three woes is the story Jesus tells in Luke 18:10-14. The tax-collector was spiritually poor, hungry, and sorrowful. The pharisee was religiously rich, well-fed, and happy with himself. 


And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt. Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 

The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: God, I thank You that I am not like other people; swindlers, unjust adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.   

But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner! I tell you; this man went to his house justified rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted. 


Entrance into the kingdom (salvation) is for those who acknowledge the poverty of their spiritual lives and their need of a Savior. Once saved, the Kingdom citizen remains humble and acknowledges that everything they have comes from God. These are the blessed ones. 

Entrance is denied to those who trust in their own righteousness or the righteousness of religious activities. Woe is upon them…unless they turn their heart to God in humility and surrender. 


Be blessed, my friends. Acknowledge your spiritual poverty, mourn over your sin, and hunger for the fulness of Jesus. 


Father, you not only give life in salvation but you also enrich our lives here on earth. In this life, we will have difficulty. But you have overcome the world and in spite of the challenges we face, You have promised peace, joy and sustaining grace to those who love You and obey Your Word. Give us our minds and hearts to understand the joy of being (spiritually) poor and hungry and mournful. Help us also know the joy of suffering as you suffered when others hate us for our faith in You. In all these things, we surrender ourselves to Your will and Your guidance of our lives. Amen! 

Isaiah 53

Healing, Part 3

Isaiah 53

Healing, Part 3

Luke 4 

Here’s what’s happening with Jesus while in Capernaum: within an approximate 24-hour period of time:

  • He publicly casts out a demon in the synagogue, Luke 4:31-37 
  • He privately heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a high fever, Luke 4:38,39 
  • He publicly cast out demons and healed everyone in the village who was sick, Luke 4:40,41 

These events must be highly important in the life and ministry of Jesus because Matthew and Mark write about them as well in addition to Luke. Matthew provides the most compelling statement to tell us why these events happened and why we should seek to understand. 

Matthew tells us that these events in Capernaum were done to fulfill what Isaiah the prophet wrote about in Isaiah 53. 


This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet: ‘He Himself took our infirmities and carried away our diseases.’ Matthew 8:17 


Let’s go to Isaiah 53: 


Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows, He carried…But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. Isaiah 53:5,6. 


Here it is revealed that the suffering of Jesus was for our well-being and healing. Let’s not gloss over this. Jesus healed and cast out demons and Matthew says it was done to fulfill Isaiah’s writings.  


Is healing part of our salvation through Jesus? 

The simple answer is YES. Healing is definitely part of our salvation in Christ. Let that soak in: Jesus died for us to cleanse us from our sin and guilt AND to provide us with a new body.  


But we must be careful to understand what this means. What does the promise of healing and a new body mean?  

We will see that the salvation of our souls is full and complete today in Christ. We also see that the salvation of our physical bodies is still yet to come. It will not be fulfilled entirely until our resurrection.  


Jesus made a pledge! 

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 teaches us this very important spiritual reality. For now, we groan and long for our new body and to be clothed with our heavenly covering, verse 2. For now, this body feels uncomfortable, like a burden, painful; but soon, this mortal flesh will be swallowed up by a resurrected body, verse 4. How do we know this? Verse 5 says that God has given us His Spirit as a pledge and promise of Him that our new bodies are coming. 

When God heals today, it is not a guarantee that He will always heal in this world. When God heals today, He is kindly giving us a sneak preview of our future physical healing and complete transformation that we will receive when He gives us a new body.  

The Spirit transforms our spiritual being with a new heart and soul; forgiven and cleansed. Additionally, the Spirit is given as a pledge of the future transformation of our bodies in heaven, I Corinthians 5:5. 


Bringing it all together 

In summary, here’s what we have learned about healing: 

  • The work of Christ, death, burial and resurrection, is to provide us complete salvation of spirit, soul and body. 
  • The transformation of our spirit and soul, with complete forgiveness of sin, happens to us on earth when God saves us, by grace, through faith. Ephesians 2:8,9 and Romans 8:1,2. 
  • The complete healing and transformation of our body comes at the second coming of Christ. I Corinthians 15:35-50; 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. 
  • Jesus’ ministry of healing was to validate that He was God (John 3:2), and to provide a picture or preview of His work of complete salvation of soul AND body, (Matthew 8:17). 
  • We should pray for physical healing. We should absolutely pray for healing and call upon everyone we know to pray for healing as well. 
  • For loved one’s who are not now saved, we pray for their physical healing and that God may use His healing to save them spiritually. 
  • For loved one’s who are now saved, we pray that God would physically heal them that they might live longer to serve and bless others, 2 Corinthians 5:9. 
  • The full work of Christ has given us a new heart and new mind spiritually NOW, I Corinthian 2:16; Jeremiah 31:33. For now, we have the Spirit as a pledge of what is to come; full transformation in heaven of a perfect soul AND body, 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. 


Father, it is in your nature to heal. In Your perfect time, all things will be made new, spiritually and physically.  We long for physical healing and vitality but we know that sometimes you call us to suffer, just as men and women of God in the Bible suffered. Make us aware that our longings for wholeness, physically and spiritually, should remind us that this earth is not our home. We are not long here; heaven is our home. In the meantime, may we surrender ourselves to You, fully and completely, to be used by You for Your glory. Amen

Healing, Part 2

Healing, Part 2

Luke 4:38-41 

Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her. And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately got up and waited on them. 

While the sun was setting, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Him; and laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them. 


Here’s what’s happening with Jesus while in Capernaum: within an approximate 24-hour period of time,  

  • He publicly casts out a demon in the synagogue, Luke 4:31-37 
  • He privately heals Peter’s mother-in-law of a high fever, Luke 4:38,39 
  • He publicly cast out demons and healed everyone in the village who was sick, Luke 4:40,41 


The public casting out of a demon and the private healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (which probably went public through word-of-mouth), set the stage for a good ol’ fashion healing service. That afternoon, all the people of the village gathered outside of Peter’s home after the word spread about the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. They brought any and all of their loved ones who were sick or oppressed to Jesus.  


And laying His hands on each one of them, He was healing them. Luke 4:40b 


Lessons vs. Absolutes  

Let me give you a hint about understanding the narratives of the gospels: the stories of the gospels teach lessons; they don’t teach absolutes (Doctrine).  

As an example, here’s a mistake some make when they view narratives as absolutes. In this story, Jesus healed everyone from the village of all diseases and affirmatives. Therefore, Jesus will heal everyone who asks. 

Some people prefer to embrace these stories and claim absolutes. TV preachers will proclaim that Jesus wants to heal everyone and then as ‘proof’ they read these verses of Jesus healing everyone. That is a mis-use of the Bible and of the principles of sound interpretation of the God’s Word. 


The Spiritual and the Physical 

To understand the Bible correctly, we should realize that certain parts give lessons and others give absolutes. 

  • The 10 Commandments are absolutes. The narrative account of the Exodus provides lessons. 
  • When Jesus teaches, He provides absolutes. The narratives of Jesus provide lessons.
  • Proverbs contain absolutes. The stories of Solomon’s life in 2 Samuel contain lessons.
  • The epistles of the apostles contain absolutes. The stories of the apostles of Acts contain lessons. 

Additionally, there are absolutes that are true of us ‘spiritually’ but are not yet fully true ‘physically’. For example, Paul teaches an absolute truth by saying that spiritually, we are holy and blameless before Him, Ephesians 1:4. He also teaches that as long as we have a fleshly body, we are going to sin, Romans 7:14-17. Spiritually we are holy and blameless. Practically, as long as we are on this earth, we will still sin. 


A strange story of healing (not). 

I recently heard a pastor tell of a strange experience he encountered regarding the false view of healing that some Christians have. He was visiting some family in a town where he didn’t live. Some friends of his family, knowing he was a pastor, asked him to go to the hospital and visit with an elderly man who was close to death. He agreed. 

When he entered the hospital room, he found an elderly man in the hospital bed, wheezing and fighting for every breath. His family was surrounding his bed but the oddest thing was happening. They were all joking and laughing. The pastor described the scene as awkward, strange and very uncomfortable.  

As the pastor began to interact with the family, he discovered that they all believed that their father would be miraculously healed. Their view of Jesus was that He always heals when we pray. They felt they needed to laugh and enjoy this time because it would reveal to God how strong their faith was. 

Yes, when someone is sick, we should pray for healing. Yes, absolutely. Call the elders and call everyone to pray. But pray with Jesus as your example. He said, not my will but thine be done. Spiritually, when we are in Christ, we will not die. But physically, we will die and therefore, sickness, illness and suffering are a part of our earthly existence. 

Finally, the pastor took the older son out in the hallway and reasoned with him. ‘Your father is about to die and you as a family need to say goodbye. If you don’t, he could die while you guys are telling jokes.’ The son took it to heart and led the family to grieve and say goodbye before their father passed. 


I believe  

Note: I believe that God heals today, as well as in the past and certainly in the future. We all know of miraculous healings and/or have heard stories from reliable sources of God healing. But that doesn’t mean that we can boldly claim, as application of these stories in the gospels, that Jesus will heal everyone. 

Next time, we’ll dig deeper into the fulfillment of prophetic healing found in Isaiah 53. 


Father, as Paul said, while in this body we groan because we long to be clothed with the body that is guaranteed to us in heaven, (I Corinthians 5,4). We long for or physical bodies to be fully redeemed the way You have already redeemed our souls. This longing reminds us that our true home is in heaven. However, while we are here on earth, may we be useful to You, ready to do Your will and share our faith with others. Amen!   

Healing, Part 1

Healing, Part 1

Luke 4:38-39 

Then He got up and left the synagogue, and entered Simon’s home. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Him to help her. And standing over her, He rebuked the fever, and it left her; and she immediately got up and waited on them. 

This is a strange way for me to begin a devotional writing but here it goes…

I literally don’t have any insight or discovery to share with you from this passage. I don’t know why this story is in the Bible three times. It is here in Luke and also in Matthew and Mark as well. There were hundreds of thousands of other moments in Jesus’ life that could’ve been included in the Bible, but God chose this one, the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law. Why? 


Welcome to my journey to discover the wonder of God’s Word.

Come with me as a struggle through this one to gain God’s purpose for this story and the richness of its meaning for us. I don’t know what it is now but I know it’s there. 


How Do I Approach Narratives? 

As we approach the narrative, we should begin with the understanding that there are always primary truths and secondary truths. Part of the fun is trying to discover God’s main purpose for including each story in Scripture and for mentioning each detail contained within the narrative. In order to gain the optimal blessings of God’s Word in our lives, we should be committed to and diligent about handling God’s Word accurately with a heart of discovery. 


Back to Peter’s Mother-in-Law 

This story has to be important because, in addition to Luke’s account, both Matthew and Mark included the story in their gospel. Here are their accounts: 


When Jesus came into Peter’s home, He saw his mother-in-law lying sick in bed with a fever. He touched her hand, and the fever left her, and she got up and waited on Him. Matthew 8:4-17 


And immediately after they came out of the synagogue, they came into the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was lying sick with a fever, and immediately they spoke to Jesus about her. And He came to her and raised her up, taking her by the hand, and the fever left her, and she waited on them. Mark 1:29-31 


As far as having any profound insights, I got nothing. Okay, I’m at a point where I feel like giving up and just moving on to the next section of Luke. Maybe I’m over-analyzing.  Maybe Jesus was just being nice and felt sorry for her. Maybe that’s all there is to it. Maybe I should move on. 

On the other hand, I could keep pressing on to discover what the big deal is about Peter’s Mother-in-Law. Since the narrative is in three of the four gospel accounts, I just can’t let it go. I guess I’m feeling a little stubborn and I’m just not willing to let it go.  

What I usually do when I encounter ‘Insight Block’ is press on with writing out simple observations. Here it goes… 



  • The sequence of this event comes right after Jesus leaves the synagogue in Capernaum where he cast out a demon. 
  • After the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, that evening, all the people in the village bring their sick to Jesus to be healed.
  • Luke said he rebuked the fever and Matthew and Mark say that He took her hand. Both can certainly be true. 
  • Luke, perhaps because he was a physician, called it a ‘high’ fever. 
  • When the fever left, she didn’t need time to recover. She immediately had enough energy to wait and serve.  
  • This event occurred as talk of Jesus among the people was reaching a ‘fevered pitch’. This time in Peter’s home was a brief break from the needs of the people pressing upon Him. 


Still nothing significant from these observations. They are good and interesting observations but they don’t get me to the main point of the passage. So, let’s re-read the same story again in 

Matthew and Mark  

  • After the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law, all three gospel accounts tell of the entire village coming to Peter’s house that evening.  
  • They bring their sick and oppressed and Jesus heals them all and casts out demons. 


Maybe this is it! 

I read more of the context in the Matthew account and I found something I missed before. The Matthew account states that these healings took place to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet;  HE HIMSELF TOOK OUR INFIRMITIES AND CARRIED AWAY OUR DISEASE, Matthew 8:17. 


Now we’re getting somewhere 

These events of healing and casting out demons were to fulfill the prophecy in Isaiah. Next time we’ll go to Isaiah and see what we can discover as the missing key to the story. We’ll dig in further next time. 


Father, Your Word is a treasure to us. It is simple and clear and sometimes we make it too complicated. Regarding this passage in Luke, give us clarity and insight as we diligently seek to discover the important truths You are teaching us. You are our teacher; You are our guide; Your Word is the lamp and light that You use to open our minds to Your ways. What a joy to search and discover the wonders of who You are through Your most holy Word. We praise You and thank You for being our teacher. Amen! 

Silence Broken

Silence Broken

Luke 1:57-66 

Now the time had come for Elizabeth to give birth, and she gave birth to a son. Her neighbors and her relatives heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her, and they were rejoicing with her.

And it happened that on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to call him Zacharias, after his father. But his mother answer and said, ‘No indeed; but he shall be called John.’ And they said to her, ‘There is no one among your relatives who is called by that name.

And they made signs to his father, as to what he wanted him called. And he asked for a tablet and wrote as follows, ‘His name is John.’ And they were astonished. And at once his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he began to speak in praise of God. Fear came on all those living around them, and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea.

All who heard them kept them in mind saying, ‘what then will this child turn out to be?’ For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him.

Everyone is Talking About It!

The last prophecy of the Old Testament predicted the coming of Elijah as a forerunner of the Christ. As we consider the birth of John and the passage before us, God has been silent for over 400 years. Now, the stories being spread about the birth of John are stirring up a lot of excitement.

Fear came on all those living around them, and all these matters were being talked about in all the hill country of Judea.

Perhaps, some of the murmurs were something like; could this be what the prophet Malachi spoke? Could this be a sign of the coming of the Lord? Is the Great Day of the Lord near?

Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord, Malachi 4:5.

The Buzz

What’s causing all the buzz in the Judean hill country? What are the rumors being spread?

  • A priest named Zacharias came out of the temple unable to speak. His face and hand motions made it clear that something amazing happened to him.
  • Zacharias’ wife Elizabeth became pregnant in her old age. Impossible!
  • When the baby was born, the parents named him John even though there were no relatives named John. They named him John because an angel told them to. That’s crazy!
  • Eight days after the baby was born, the father was able to talk again after being mute for over nine months. The things he said about seeing and hearing from an angel are extraordinary.
  • Zacharias said that the angel prophesied that the son born will be like Elijah. He will be the forerunner of the Messiah.
  • The people said, what then will this child turn out to be? For the hand of the Lord was certainly with him, 1:66b.
  • Nothing has happened like this in hundreds of years! Could this be…? Could this be…? Could this be…?

The Role of John

The buzz was actually legitimate. Something amazing is happening! John was born in the spirit of the bold and uncompromising prophet Elijah! The angel Gabriel said about John; It is he who will go as a forerunner before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, Luke 1:17a. Gabriel paraphrased the final words of Malachi from the final prophecy of the Old Testament. The talk of these words is spreading like wildfire.

John’s calling is to make ready a people prepared for the Lord, Luke 1:17b.

In terms of biblical and historical significance, John played a vital and critical role within the redemptive plan of God. In terms of our devotional consideration of John, John is an example and encouragement for us to surrender our lives to God and follow His calling upon us.

Let us learn from John the following:

  • The Spirit of God was upon him. Pray that God’s work of grace and power of the Holy Spirit would be upon you; lavished upon; poured over you.
  • John followed the calling of God upon his life. He fulfilled his ministry calling. Are you serving God according to gifts He’s given you, and upon the path He has led you towards?
  • Let your words be simple and clear such as John; repent, and turn to God.
  • Walk in humble devotion and service to Jesus. As John says, we are not worthy to untie his sandals. He must increase, and we must decrease.

Father God, forgive us for complicating our lives with so many activities and pursuits. Our minds are racing throughout the day with stresses and complications and affections of this world. May our selfish pursuits decrease within our minds and hearts as we open our whole being for You to increase. John reminds of a simple life of Spirit-filled devotion to You and humble service. Cause us to prayerfully consider what we can learn from the example of John. Amen! 

Silence Please

Silence Please

Where’s God?

At the time of the events of Luke chapter 1, the people of Judea had been without a Word from God for over 400 years. Over 400 years separated the final events and final prophecy recorded in the Old Testament from the appearance of the angel Gabriel in Luke 1. The silence of those 400 years was deafening. Though the voice of God was silent, the hand of God was actively directing the course of events during those four centuries.

At the close of the Old Testament:

  • Israel was under Persian rule, (such as we see in the book of Esther).
  • Later, Alexander the Great defeated Persia, and the Jews were now subject to the rule of the Greeks. Alexander promoted Greek living (Hellenism) which produced a current of secularizing for the Jews. Most Jews began to adopt Greek as their everyday language.
  • For a short period, the Jews were under Seleucid rule and ultimately, under Roman domination at the time of Luke chapter 1.
  • The Jews were under foreign rule for over 400 years and consequently had been dispersed from Jerusalem and scattered all over the Mediterranean basin and Mesopotamia.

So What?

Don’t you love history and context? Well, regardless, stay with me — this may not be the greatest devotional message, but the context will shed light on what is really happening at the time of the birth of John and Jesus.
You know how we current-day Christians tend to gravitate to certain Bible passages and themes more than others? It’s true for all of us, to a certain degree. Popular preachers and authors tend to speak and write about subjects that are appealing to us. As an example, Joel Olsteen doesn’t preach the “whole counsel of God” from the Bible. He tends to stay within certain themes, and we keep consuming his content because, well, it feels good. The Bible does contain much about God’s anger, wrath, and judgement. But let’s face it, we all prefer love, joy, and peace. And go ahead and throw in some abundance and healings as well.

Where’s the Messiah I was expecting?

However, we are often hard on the Jews for missing Jesus. Jesus simply didn’t fit the bill of the Messiah they wanted and were waiting for. Throughout the years of the prophets and most likely during the 400 silent years, the Jews focused their attention on a Messiah of power, greatness, and might. A Messiah who would subdue the earthly enemies of Israel and set up a Kingdom on earth where the Messiah would rule and reign and Israel would enjoy their place as in the Kingdom as God’s chosen people.
The last prophecy given by Malachi before the 400 silent years began was focused on the Messiah as King and His Kingdom rule on earth.

‘For behold, the day is coming, burning like a furnace; and all the arrogant and every evildoer will be chaff; and the day that is coming will set them ablaze,’ says the Lord of Hosts, ‘so that it will leave them neither root nor branch.’ Malachi 4:1
Yikes, that’s harsh. But can’t you imagine that if you, like the Jews during the 400 silent years, had been under various foreign governments, you’d be hoping for this day that Malachi wrote about? Being one who is living under foreign rule, you might write this verse down on an index card, keep it under your pillow and read it every night.
You might also add the next couple of verses in Malachi to your index card:

But for you who fear My name, (the Jews are saying, ‘yea, that’s us. What’s it going to be like for us when the Messiah comes?’), the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings; and you will go forth and skip about like calves from the stall, (yes, freedom from foreign rule; we’re going to dance in the streets; preach it brother). You will tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,’ says the Lord of Hosts. Malachi 4:2,3.

Suffering Messiah?

Sure, the teachings of the suffering Messiah were there (Isaiah 53), but the Jews really didn’t see it. All they could see is the power and strength of the coming Messiah to conquer the Romans, set up His Kingdom on earth and elevate the nation of Israel. After centuries of foreign rule, Israel was ready for a Savior… a Savior that fit their liking.

I remember as a young, enthusiastic Christian at the age of 18, that I saw a placard that said, “‘I am meek and lowly of heart,’ Jesus.” I remember thinking, ‘I don’t like that image of Jesus.’ How short-sighted I was. Similar to the nation of Israel at the time of Jesus.

The Buzz

With this context, next time we’ll discover why the events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist caused such a buzz. After all the years of silence and foreign rule, God is doing something. Is this baby born, called John, going to be the prophesied Elijah announcing the coming of the Messiah — the only Messiah that we really want… and need? THE KING!

Father, this topic reminds me that we often create You in our own image according to the God we want and we feel like we need. We have a hard time letting You be You. Lead us to love you fully as the God of all Your attributes. All Your attributes are beautiful, so help us to embrace them all by faith and full trust in You. Amen!

Mary and the Apostles, Part 2

Mary and the Apostles, Part 2

Luke 1 & Mark 9-10

James and John, two brothers, gave up everything to follow Jesus. But their motives are exposed when they out-maneuver the other disciples and make a pre-emptive pitch to Jesus for the right and left thrones in the kingdom.

Contrast their approach against Mary’s mindset when she hears from Gabriel of the great honor bestowed upon her:

He said, She said

Mary said (I am) the bondslave of the Lord; may it be done to me according to your word.

James and John said we want You to do for us whatever we ask of You.

Mary said For He has had regard for the humble state of His bondslave.

James and John said Grant that we may sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in glory.’

But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” They said to Him, “We are able.”

The six deadly words of ignorant pride: give us greatness…we are able.

How about the other ten disciples?

We now know what is in the hearts of James and John: aspirations of pride and greatness. So, maybe, the other disciples are humble, faithful followers??? Not a chance.

Hearing this, the ten began to feel indignant with James and John.

They said something like, ‘Hey, no fair! James and John cut in line.’

Jesus called them together and with great patience, tells them that greatness is to serve. 

Calling them to Himself, Jesus said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them; and their great men exercise authority over them. But it is not this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. And whoever wishes to be first among you shall be slave of all.

For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but serve, and to give His life a ransom for many, Mark 10:42-45.

  • Oh, how we long for comfort!
  • Oh, how we love recognition!
  • Oh, how we aspire to be honored!
  • Oh, how we want to be first!

After nearly three years with Jesus and they still didn’t get it. They so struggled with pride and position. They were men of humble means who for all their lives had been subjected to power-hungry leadership. First, subjected by men of great position among the religious elite of Israel and then the powers of Rome as well. 

Now, with Jesus as their leader, they wanted their turn to attain authority and domination. What a glorious payback, the apostle surmised, if they could assume leadership over those who forced them to grovel as lowly subjects in the village.

Jesus rocks their world and says, But it is not this way among you. Be a servant; be a slave; just like me! We do things differently because we are different. We do it backward. We aspire to be last. We put others before us. We give rather than take. 

It’s not what we attain that matters; it’s what we give.

Brother Lawrence in Practicing the Presence of God says, ‘We must not grow weary of doing little things for the love of God, who looks not on the size of the work, but on the love we give it.’

Father, this was a hard lesson for the disciples and it is a hard lesson for us as well. Like Mary, our souls exalt You, our Lord. Our spirit rejoices in You, God our Savior! For You have regarded the humble state of Your bondslave. You inhabitant the Praises of Your people; You give grace to the humble. You grant honor to the meek. Help us learn this lesson and more importantly, to live it out daily. Amen!