July 23 – Jezebel

Our grandmother from yesterday’s Bible passage was a horrible woman.  Her concern was very much for herself to the point of seeking out her grandsons and destroying them so she could have the throne. It should not surprise us to find that her mother is none other than Jezebel of the Old Testament.  Queen Jezebel and the lessons we will learn from her today are a warning.  When we don’t follow the way of the Lord, we don’t just coast through life.  Much damage follows in our wake and being given over to our own drives and desires can be quite a scary thing as we will see in the life of Queen Jezebel. 1

Jezebel is the daughter of the king of Tyre (a city in what is now Lebanon) and her great contribution to society was to try to introduce the worship of Tyrian Baal as the state religion of Israel.  Yes, the state religion of God’s people.  Any prophet who didn’t forward the cause of Baal was put to the sword.  She had a bounty out on the head of every man of Yahweh to the point that they were being hidden away in caves‘While Jezebel was killing off the LORD’s prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.’ 1 Kings 18: 4  

Jezebel’s husband King Ahab is the 7th king of Israel, but it is she who rules the nation.  This one verse in the Bible says it all.  1 King 21:25 ‘There was never anyone like Ahab, who sold himself to do evil in the eyes of the Lord, urged on by Jezebel, his wife.’   What a horrible epitaph.  Who wants to be known as the wife who urged her husband on to do evil?  I encourage you to read the following passages to get a full picture of Jezebel and her wicked endeavors which include:

  1. She was involved in both idolatry and witchcraft.  2 Kings 9:22
  2. She threatened Elijah, the prophet of God saying, ‘May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.’ [dead prophet] 1 Kings 19:2
  3. She slayed as many prophets of the Lord as she could find. 1 Kings 18
  4. She rebuked her husband and demanded that he ‘act like a king’ 1 Kings 21
  5. She orchestrated a death in order to secure a vineyard that the owner didn’t want to sell. 1 Kings 21
  6. She wrote letters to the elders and nobles of the city telling them what they were to do and how to do it. 1 Kings 21
  7. She became a standard for wickedness, and as such is mentioned again in Revelation, as returning and seducing God’s servants to commit fornication and to eat things sacrificed to idols.  Rev. 2:20

The lesson from this woman of the Old Testament is a warning.  If we choose to not obey the Lord, we will affect far more lives than just our own.  The grandma who slaughtered her grandsons learned at the feet of her mother Jezebel.2  How we live is what we will teach our children.  We are all very familiar with how parents’ actions and words get repeated in the kindergarten classes of their little ones!  Now, our choices are not going to be as drastic as in the life of Jezebel.  I doubt any of us will pursue ministers of God to have them killed or write a letter to the mayor of the city telling him what to do.  But we will have an effect on our family.  Our lack of zeal for the things of God will affect our marriages.  The next generation will grow up under the influence of our attitudes, actions and apathy.   We have all heard it said, ‘she is just like her mother,’ ‘he takes after his father,’ and even ‘the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.’  Whether it is the evil of setting up altars to Baal or teaching our children to worship at the altars of selfishness, greed and apathy, our actions will affect those around us.

But don’t lose heart.  Did you know there is another who pursued men of God to see them imprisoned and put to death? 

‘Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples.  He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem.’ Acts 9:1,2

Yes, the apostle Paul, writer of about one third of the New Testament basically started out the same way.  It was after his encounter with the living Christ (Acts 9:3ff) that he became such a blessing and example for us to follow.  God, in His goodness, always provides a stop and reboot if we humble ourselves, confess and start the journey again with our eyes on Him.  As we daily encounter the living Christ and let Him lead and direct our lives through His Word, our epitaph will be one of honour to Him.

Our woman of the Old Testament is Jezebel.  May we remember her example as someone NOT to follow.  May we be stopped in our tracks when we go astray, and instead be used by God to impress the next generation and those around us with truth and blessing, to the glory of God.


 1 Queen Jezebel married King Ahab.  Ahab was a wicked king and is probably best known for the battle between his god, Baal, and Elijah calling on Yahweh at Mt. Carmel.  Grandma Athaliah is either their daughter, or King Ahab’s sister.  Thus, Jezebel is either the mother or sister-in-law of wicked Grandma Athaliah.

2 It is unclear if Jezebel is her mother or her sister-in-law.  Either way, her wicked ways and lack of concern and love for family has been passed on to the next generation.

July 22 – Jehosheba

Today’s devotional comes from a Biblical soap opera.  In this real-life account, we meet a woman of the Old Testament who does just the opposite of yesterday’s sisters.  This woman has a chance to move up in the world but goes to great lengths to see that position goes to a male instead.

The full story can be found in 2 Kings 11 and repeated in 2 Chronicles 22-24, and quite honestly reads a little bit like a Shakespearean play.

CAST:
Joash—one-year old male 
Ahaziah—8th king of the Northern Kingdom and father to Joash, and son of Athaliah
Jehosheba—sister to Ahaziah, aunt to Joash
Jehoiada—husband to Jehosheba and uncle to Joash
Athaliah—mother of Ahaziah and grandmother of Joash

SCENE ONE:  King Ahaziah is killed and seeing that her son has died, Athaliah proceeds to wipe out the entire royal family including her grandsons.  Aunt Jehosheba grabs her one-year old nephew Joash and hides him away for safety.  Grandma rules the land.

 2 Kings 11: 1-3 When Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she proceeded to destroy the whole royal family. But Jehosheba, the daughter of King Jehoram and sister of Ahaziah, took Joash son of Ahaziah and stole him away from among the royal princes, who were about to be murdered. She put him and his nurse in a bedroom to hide him from Athaliah; so, he was not killed.He remained hidden with his nurse at the temple of the Lord for six years while Athaliah ruled the land.

SCENE TWO:  After 6 years of rule under Athaliah, Jehosheba’s husband (Uncle Jehoiada) leads a well-planned takeover and Joash is rightly crowned king.  Shouts of ‘treason’ fill the air, but Grandma/ruler Athaliah is put to death and 7-year-old Joash is now king of the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

2 Kings 11:12-16 Jehoiada brought out the king’s son and put the crown on him; he presented him with a copy of the covenant and proclaimed him king. They anointed him, and the people clapped their hands and shouted, “Long live the king!”  13 When Athaliah heard the noise made by the guards and the people, she went to the people at the temple of the Lord. 14 She looked and there was the king, standing by the pillar, as the custom was. The officers and the trumpeters were beside the king, and all the people of the land were rejoicing and blowing trumpets. Then Athaliah tore her robes and called out, “Treason! Treason!  Jehoiada the priest ordered the commanders of units of a hundred, who were in charge of the troops: “Bring her out between the ranks and put to the sword anyone who follows her.” For the priest had said, “She must not be put to death in the temple of the Lord.” 16 So they seized her as she reached the place where the horses enter the palace grounds, and there she was put to death.

SCENE THREE:  The rightful heir is on the throne, and for the first part of his reign, does good in the eyes of the Lord, including pulling down the temples and altars to Baal.  
Our woman of the Old Testament is Princess Jehosheba, daughter of a King and sister to a king.  When her brother is killed and the whole royal family is to be murdered, rather than protect herself, she puts her life at risk to save her one-year-old nephew.  She recognizes that although she could now fight or wait for a claim to the throne, it rightfully belongs to the line of another and she puts her own dreams or success aside.  She chooses to follow God’s plan for Israel rather than seeking prosperity and advance for herself.  Despite the danger, she secretly raises her nephew in the temple, preparing for the day when he can be re-established as the rightful heir to the throne.

Yesterday we looked at 5 women who boldly asked God for what was rightfully theirs.  Today we look at Princess Jehosheba who boldly submits to God’s plan rather than taking what could easily (but not rightly) be hers.  What do these women have in common?  To borrow a statement from another, they followed God’s plan over the world’s narrative.

The world’s narrative preaches a version of morality where every man is a law unto himself; everything is acceptable as long as it is about love and an embracing of diversity.  God’s Word sets forth many rights and wrongs with reference to morality, and He expects us to follow these tenants unswervingly.  The world’s narrative says, ‘Stand up for your rights.  Fight for choice.’  God’s Word says, ‘My choice is to be your choice.  I know best.’  The world’s narrative tells us all love is good, your happiness is what matters, and if you are doing it right you will be healthy, wealthy and wise.’  God’s Word says, ‘I have loved you with an everlasting love,’ ‘my wisdom is foolishness to the world,’ and ‘be careful to do everything written in it [Bible]; then you will be prosperous and successful.’

One day soon even the church will be required to choose.  And when that battle comes, will we stand on the Word of God and follow Him, or will we look at the ease and advantages and choose the world’s narrative?  It may be about tithing and tax receipts.  It may be about when and how we can meet together.  It may be lenient requirements for leaders and Pastors that conflict with the guidelines set forth in the Scriptures.  It may come disguised as love and we may be challenged to search the Scriptures to see what our stand, in love, needs to be.  Regardless of which war it is, let us pray we have the courage and bravery of Princess Jehosheba to choose God’s plan first when the battle is on our doorstep.

July 21 – Noah

This week we are focusing on women of the Old Testament. Some will be familiar to you, like Abigail, and others may be new to you, including a woman named ‘Noah.’   These 5 sisters are our next women of the Old Testament and they are found in Numbers 27, just proceeding the commissioning ceremony of Joshua where Moses anoints and appoints him as the next leader of Israel.

Numbers 27: 1-11
The daughters of Zelophehad son of Hepher, the son of Gilead, the son of Makir, the son of Manasseh, belonged to the clans of Manasseh son of Joseph. The names of the daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milkah and Tirzah. They came forward and stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders and the whole assembly at the entrance to the tent of meeting and said,“Our father died in the wilderness. He was not among Korah’s followers, who banded together against the Lord, but he died for his own sin and left no sons. Why should our father’s name disappear from his clan because he had no son? Give us property among our father’s relatives.”

So Moses brought their case before the Lord, and the Lord said to him, “What Zelophehad’s daughters are saying is right. You must certainly give them property as an inheritance among their father’s relatives and give their father’s inheritance to them.“Say to the Israelites, ‘If a man dies and leaves no son, give his inheritance to his daughter. If he has no daughter, give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, give his inheritance to his father’s brothers.11 If his father had no brothers, give his inheritance to the nearest relative in his clan, that he may possess it. This is to have the force of law for the Israelites, as the Lord commanded Moses.’”

Here we have 5 sisters, descendants of Joseph, who have found themselves orphaned and unmarried when their father dies.  The custom of that time forbade a woman from owning property.  This meant that their father’s land and his inheritance would be passed to someone else and not to them, simply because they were unmarried and female.  This practise of inequality is not just found here in the Old Testament.  When John and I worked in youth ministry at the University of Western Ontario, we met a young man from Lebanon.  He had defected from a civil war that saw all his classmates except one die in the first few months. When his father passed away, the only way his mother could claim the family home and their savings was if the only son returned back to Lebanon and stood in his father’s place.  This, of course, would also require prison for defecting.  His mother lived in poverty despite the size of her husband’s estate until her son was granted a visa to bring her to Canada.

There are many instances of inequality in our world today.  Some are justified complaints, and some not so much.  However, the important thing here is to see the principles that Noah and her sisters implemented.  Let’s look at what they do:

  1.  They stood before Moses, Eleazor the priest, the leaders, and the whole assembly in one spot at one time and presented their case. 
  2. They were in agreement with each other as sisters.  
  3. They asked the God appointed leadership of the day to consider their case.  What society thought was irrelevant.  They came to the leadership with confidence.
  4. The leadership did not make a decision.  Moses brought their case before the Lord and sought God’s reply.
  5. When God spoke and the verdict was in favour of the women, the leadership and all those in attendance recognized God’s way as supreme over the cultural laws and norms.
  6. God went a step farther and solved this dilemma for others who may find themselves in a similar circumstance.
  7. The new law (directly from God) surpassed this single case.  It set a precedent that removed the male superiority over inheritance.
  8. On a second request, God set boundaries.  The women respected these boundaries not because they were in agreement with them, but because they came from God.

These women didn’t grumble, moan, complain, demand, march or demonstrate.  They came up with a respectful plan and put it into place, making sure that the message was clear to all.  These women saw societal practises as irrelevant when seeking God’s will.  At the same time, they respected God’s boundaries.  After this law was communicated and put into effect, others came and asked that the girls marry within their tribal clan so the land would stay allotted within its ancestral tribe or clan of Israel.  Every 50th year was deemed the Year of Jubilee (7×7) and land would revert back to the father’s tribal clan.  If the women married outside of the tribe of Manasseh, come year 50 that ancestral land would no longer revert back but would become part of the inheritance of a different tribe.   Once again, the leadership sought the Lord, and God gave a ruling.  The girls could marry whomever they wished, but it needed to be a male within the same tribe.  They agreed because they were interested in doing God’s will, not just in changing society in the name of ‘my rights.’  (Numbers 38)

The application for us is clear.  We are to live our lives in accordance with God’s will and not societal norms.  We should measure our decisions by what God says, and not what society deems acceptable or unacceptable.  The example here for church leadership is to take any questions to the Word of God and use that as the determining factor: not society, not culture, not tradition.  On the other hand, we shouldn’t fight against what God has put in place as boundaries.  We live according to His will and not by what we prefer, wish or believe to be true.  God’s truth is truth for all.  He cares for us, is wiser than us, and desires us all to be free.  Real freedom to play comes not in a room or on an acreage, but in a yard with a God built fence.

July 20 – Abigail: Part 2

Yesterday we met Nabal, whose name means ‘fool,’ and his wife Abigail.  After hurling insults at David and his men, Nabal has put his whole family at risk of being killed in the anger of retaliation.  If it wasn’t for Abigail stepping in and appeasing King David with her words and her gift of food for his army, not one male of her whole household would have been left alive by morning. (1 Samuel 25) Now Abigail has one more thing to do.  Remember that ‘wicked man that no one can talk to?’ She now has to return home and tell her husband that she totally disrespected his wishes and did the very thing he was so against.  In addition, she needs to inform him that she used his resources in the process!  We pick up the story in 1 Samuel 25:36.

 36 When Abigail went to Nabal, he was in the house holding a banquet like that of a king. He was in high spirits and very drunk. So, she told him nothing at all until daybreak. 37 Then in the morning, when Nabal was sober, his wife told him all these things, and his heart failed him, and he became like a stone. 38 About ten days later, the Lord struck Nabal and he died.

Nabal is either feeling very powerful or is very naïve.  His whole household has just been on the brink of being wiped out, and he is not only holding an opulent banquet, but it isn’t to drown his sorrows.  He is in high spirits and drunk.  What does wise Abigail do?  Nothing at all.  She simply leaves without saying a word about what has transpired and goes to bed.  This woman of the Old Testament is very wise!  Why engage in a conversation with a drunk man?  He isn’t reasonable at the best of times, so why would you expect him to be so now?  What I like about Abigail here is she seems sure of herself, but not in a prideful way.  She exudes confidence that she has acted according to God’s will and seems to draw her confidence from that fact. She isn’t married to a man who is kind, let alone seeks the Lord’s way, but that doesn’t stop her from being who God wants her to be.  She also does not seem to be afraid of him because she went to him right away and we know that she does tell him at daybreak.  I have never seen my husband drunk given that he doesn’t drink, and his name is John not Nabal, but I have been in situations where I am right and he is wrong, and I’m confident that I didn’t have the same reaction.  All too often I am itching to argue.  All too often I am willing to point out my ‘win.’  Abigail has literally saved the day, but off to bed she goes.  Her interest seems to be in doing what is right and kind and good.  God’s way.

Remember when Abigail first came upon King David?  We are told 23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say.”  She is respectful.  She is wisely defusing a volatile situation.  She isn’t fighting against every man.  She is humbling herself. 

The next morning Abigail tells her now sober husband what she has done, and the result is he has a heart attack or stroke.  His heart fails him, and he became ‘like a stone.’  For about 10 days Nabal cannot move or speak, but he most likely can think and has more than enough time to reflect on how he has lived his life.  He has more than enough time to process what his wife has done while God halts him from being able to respond.  Approximately 10 days later God strikes him, and he dies, not because of the heart attack, but because God says so.  In King David’s words, “He has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.”

39 When David heard that Nabal was dead, he said, “Praise be to the Lord, who has upheld my cause against Nabal for treating me with contempt. He has kept his servant from doing wrong and has brought Nabal’s wrongdoing down on his own head.” Then, David sent word to Abigail, asking her to become his wife. 40 His servants went to Carmel and said to Abigail, “David has sent us to you to take you to become his wife.”41 She bowed down with her face to the ground and said, “I am your servant and am ready to serve you and wash the feet of my lord’s servants.” 42 Abigail quickly got on a donkey and, attended by her five female servants, went with David’s messengers and became his wife.

Abigail so impressed King David with her level-headed and practical, kind response that he actually asked her to marry him.  And she said yes.  
By God’s grace may we all learn to be more like Abigail and less like Nabal in our interactions with those at home and those we meet out in the world.  To coin a popular phrase, in a world where you can choose to be anything, be kind.

July 19 – The story of Abigail: Part One

This week, we are going to enjoy a series of devotions bases on women in the Old Testament. Thank you, Wendy, for being part of our devotions team.

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Abigail is an interesting woman of the Old Testament.  She actually becomes the wife of King David, but in the Biblical account we will look at today, she is married to Nabal and upon meeting King David for the first time tells David, “Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him.”  This is certainly not the way I would expect a wife to talk about her husband!  Let’s turn to 2 Samuel 25 and read ‘the rest of the story.’

1 Samuel 25:  Now Samuel died, and all Israel assembled and mourned for him; and they buried him at his home in Ramah. Then David moved down into the Desert of Paran.A certain man in Maon, who had property there at Carmel, was very wealthy. He had a thousand goats and three thousand sheep, which he was shearing in Carmel.His name was Nabal and his wife’s name was Abigail.  She was an intelligent and beautiful woman, but her husband was surly and mean in his dealings—he was a Calebite.While David was in the wilderness, he heard that Nabal was shearing sheep. So he sent ten young men and said to them, “Go up to Nabal at Carmel and greet him in my name. Say to him: ‘Long life to you! Good health to you and your household! And good health to all that is yours!“‘Now I hear that it is sheep-shearing time. When your shepherds were with us, we did not mistreat them, and the whole time they were at Carmel nothing of theirs was missing. Ask your own servants and they will tell you. Therefore, be favorable toward my men, since we come at a festive time. Please give your servants and your son David whatever you can find for them.’”When David’s men arrived, they gave Nabal this message in David’s name. Then they waited.10 Nabal answered David’s servants, “Who is this David? Who is this son of Jesse? Many servants are breaking away from their masters these days. 11 Why should I take my bread and water, and the meat I have slaughtered for my shearers and give it to men coming from who knows where?”12 David’s men turned around and went back. When they arrived, they reported every word. 13 David said to his men, “Each of you strap on your sword!” So, they did, and David strapped his on as well. About four hundred men went up with David, while two hundred stayed with the supplies.14 One of the servants told Abigail, Nabal’s wife, “David sent messengers from the wilderness to give our master his greetings, but he hurled insults at them. 15 Yet these men were very good to us. They did not mistreat us, and the whole time we were out in the fields near them nothing was missing. 16 Night and day they were a wall around us the whole time we were herding our sheep near them. 17 Now think it over and see what you can do, because disaster is hanging over our master and his whole household. He is such a wicked man that no one can talk to him.”

Abigail knows that her husband has acted rudely and wickedly.  He snubbed the protection they had received and failed to observe cultural protocols.  In doing so to the King, he has put them all in danger.  I love the next 2 verses:

18 Abigail acted quickly. She took two hundred loaves of bread, two skins of wine, five dressed sheep, five measures of roasted grain, a hundred cakes of raisins and two hundred cakes of pressed figs, and loaded them on donkeys. 

Ah, yes!  Let me quickly bake 200 loaves of bread, slaughter, clean and cook 5 sheep, and along with all the other foods I have gathered, load them onto the donkeys!  Living in a time of no ‘skip the dishes’ she makes a plan, focuses on fulfilling that plan and then ‘ubers’ the take-out order directly to David’s men.  Yes, she is going to appease the men with food.  Additionally, all this time she said not a word to her hubby.  She did not reprimand him for his foolish actions which put them all in danger.  She did not ask his permission to rectify the situation.  She did not let him in on her plan.  She just moves.  And in doing so, she saves her family, her servants and all her male relatives from being killed in retaliation.  She also saves King David from what could be the biggest mistake of his life.

19 Then she told her servants, “Go on ahead; I’ll follow you.” But she did not tell her husband Nabal.20 As she came riding her donkey into a mountain ravine, there were David and his men descending toward her, and she met them. 21 David had just said, “It’s been useless—all my watching over this fellow’s property in the wilderness so that nothing of his was missing. He has paid me back evil for good. 22 May God deal with David, be it ever so severely, if by morning I leave alive one male of all who belong to him!”

23 When Abigail saw David, she quickly got off her donkey and bowed down before David with her face to the ground. 24 She fell at his feet and said: “Pardon your servant, my lord, and let me speak to you; hear what your servant has to say. 25 Please pay no attention, my lord, to that wicked man Nabal. He is just like his name—his name means Fool, and folly goes with him. And as for me, your servant, I did not see the men my lord sent. 26 And now, my lord, as surely as the Lord your God lives and as you live, since the Lord has kept you from bloodshed and from avenging yourself with your own hands, may your enemies and all who are intent on harming my lord be like Nabal. 27 And let this gift, which your servant has brought to my lord, be given to the men who follow you.

28 “Please forgive your servant’s presumption. The Lord your God will certainly make a lasting dynasty for my lord, because you fight the Lord’s battles, and no wrongdoing will be found in you as long as you live. 29 Even though someone is pursuing you to take your life, the life of my lord will be bound securely in the bundle of the living by the Lord your God, but the lives of your enemies he will hurl away as from the pocket of a sling. 30 When the Lord has fulfilled for my lord every good thing he promised concerning him and has appointed him ruler over Israel,31 my lord will not have on his conscience the staggering burden of needless bloodshed or of having avenged himself. And when the Lord your God has brought my lord success, remember your servant.”

Abigail not only thinks and acts wisely, she speaks wisely too.  Note the purple verses.  She chooses her words carefully to almost ‘manipulate’ David into seeing the folly of his plan.  And it works. 

32 David said to Abigail, “Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, who has sent you today to meet me. 33 May you be blessed for your good judgment and for keeping me from bloodshed this day and from avenging myself with my own hands. 34 Otherwise, as surely as the Lord, the God of Israel, lives, who has kept me from harming you, if you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive by daybreak.”35 Then David accepted from her hand what she had brought him and said, “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request.”

God uses Abigail to appease the anger of David.  It is because of her humility (bowing down), wisdom, quick thinking, quick provision and carefully chosen words that David, who has just vowed to annihilate this family instead says, “If you had not come quickly to meet me, not one male belonging to Nabal would have been left alive at daybreak.” 

Abigail shows us that God expects us to use wisdom and take action when appropriate.  It doesn’t matter if you are a man or a woman; you can be used greatly by God to bring about His desired result.  One person can really mess it up [Nabal] but another can step in and not just be resigned to the consequences.  The same is true in our relationship to God.  We can really mess it up, but that doesn’t have to be the end of the story.  God is always ready to relent should we come to Him with confession and a repentant heart.  “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14.

July 16 – The Sign of Jonah

29 As the crowd pressed in on Jesus, he said, “This evil generation keeps asking me to show them a miraculous sign. But the only sign I will give them is the sign of Jonah. 30 What happened to him was a sign to the people of Nineveh that God had sent him. What happens to the Son of Man will be a sign to these people that he was sent by God.

31 “The queen of Sheba will stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for she came from a distant land to hear the wisdom of Solomon. Now someone greater than Solomon is here—but you refuse to listen. 32 The people of Nineveh will also stand up against this generation on judgment day and condemn it, for they repented of their sins at the preaching of Jonah. Now someone greater than Jonah is here—but you refuse to repent.

As we know from earlier records in Luke, crowds were following Jesus. Charles W. Swindoll says in his commentary, Living Insights: Luke: “Jesus shined brighter than any prophet. He fed multitudes with abundance taken from virtually nothing. He worked hundreds, perhaps thousands of miracles. He cleansed lepers. He raised the dead. He cast out demons. He commanded nature.” (pg. 328) No wonder crowds followed Jesus around. 

Yet some, especially the Pharisees, rejected Jesus. Others just weren’t sure, and wanted more proof. Jesus gives them two examples of situations where people believed in God with much less evidence. Jonah went to a Gentile nation known for its barbaric practices, and preached about their need for repentance. They listened to this Jewish preacher.

“The people of Nineveh believed God’s message, and from the greatest to the least, they declared a fast and put on burlap to show their sorrow. When the king of Nineveh heard what Jonah was saying, he stepped down from his throne and took off his royal robes. He dressed himself in burlap and sat on a heap of ashes.” (Jonah 3: 5 – 6)

The Queen of Sheba visited Jerusalem because she had heard about Solomon’s wisdom and his immense wealth. After talking with Solomon, she said: ”How happy your people[a] must be! What a privilege for your officials to stand here day after day, listening to your wisdom!  Praise the Lord your God, who delights in you and has placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king so you can rule with justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10: 8 – 9)

Jesus has shown much greater evidence of being sent from God than Jonah and Solomon, yet the people reject him – especially the religious Pharisees. 

Receiving the Light

33 “No one lights a lamp and then hides it or puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where its light can be seen by all who enter the house.

34 “Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. 35 Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. 36 If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”

Jesus told them if they received God’s true message, that Jesus was the Messiah, their lives would be “radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.” We can certainly see that in the gospel accounts of the 12 disciples, and in Acts as we see them make such a difference on God’s behalf. But you fool yourself if you think you know what is important, but reject Jesus. Then you are actually filled with darkness. Again, Jesus is telling us there is no in-between. You are either for God or against him.

Intervarsity Press’ online commentary has some excellent comments on these verses and how they apply to us today:

“It is popular in our day to be neutral. In a culture where tolerance is highly valued, nonpartisanship is attractive. In religious discussions we try to avoid stepping on toes, for in Western cultures religious views are generally considered private. We want to avoid offending others in a culture that is diverse. But neutrality is not always a good thing, and neither is polite disengagement. Some issues are important enough to require our considered choices. That is Jesus’ premise in this passage.

If God exists, should we think of him as having a laissez-faire attitude, not interested in how we relate to him? Jesus argues that is not the case. Religion by its very nature is a public affair, since it deals with how people relate to reality and to others. Though religious coercion such as marred European history in the Crusades and the Thirty Years’ War is wrong, so is our culture’s tendency to relegate religious concerns to the fringe world of private reflection. The issues are too important to be kept peripheral. Ultimately, we must ask each other: What centers our lives, what do we accept as truth, what defines our character? And so, in this short passage Jesus calls us to consider what directs our lives.”

Our song for today is You Never Let Go by Matt Redman.

July 15 – God Is Above All Things

Luke 11: 14 – 28  NLT

14 One day Jesus cast out a demon from a man who couldn’t speak, and when the demon was gone, the man began to speak. The crowds were amazed, 15 but some of them said, “No wonder he can cast out demons. He gets his power from Satan, the prince of demons.” 16 Others, trying to test Jesus, demanded that he show them a miraculous sign from heaven to prove his authority.

17 He knew their thoughts, so he said, “Any kingdom divided by civil war is doomed. A family splintered by feuding will fall apart. 18 You say I am empowered by Satan. But if Satan is divided and fighting against himself, how can his kingdom survive? 19 And if I am empowered by Satan, what about your own exorcists? They cast out demons, too, so they will condemn you for what you have said. 20 But if I am casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you. 21 For when a strong man is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe— 22 until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings.

23 “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.

24 “When an evil spirit leaves a person, it goes into the desert, searching for rest. But when it finds none, it says, ‘I will return to the person I came from.’ 25 So it returns and finds that its former home is all swept and in order. 26 Then the spirit finds seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they all enter the person and live there. And so that person is worse off than before.”

27 As he was speaking, a woman in the crowd called out, “God bless your mother—the womb from which you came, and the breasts that nursed you!”

28 Jesus replied, “But even more blessed are all who hear the word of God and put it into practice.”

Jesus cast out a demon who had taken away the ability of a man to speak. Up to now in Luke, when miracles happened, they were the center of attention. They would be described in detail – where it happened, who was there, the reaction of the healed person, etc. This time, the miracle is stated in one verse and then the debate began. Jesus is going to clearly set out the fact that there is a spiritual war between God and Satan, and everyone needs to choose a side. You can’t be somewhere wavering in the middle, in no man’s land. “Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.” (v. 23)

Jesus gives an example of the middle ground with a man whose demon left looking for a better place. Not finding it, the demon returned to the man who was described “as all swept and in order”. (v. 25) It was empty, so the demon and 7 more decide to move in, making the man worse off now than before. If God had been there, that wouldn’t have happened. That empty space is an invitation for Satan.

The reaction of the people to this miracle is typical of people today. The first group was against Jesus, claiming he was actually doing this in Satan’s power. Others were not sure, and wanted him to do more miracles to prove he was from heaven. (v. 15 – 16) When we talk about our faith in God to people outside the church, many just state they do not believe in this religious stuff.  Others will say they are not sure, that they’ll think about it. We need to realize that there is no middle ground. You are for God – or you are not.

In our culture, we tend to consider demons, evil spirits, dark powers, etc. as myths and the subject of movies. At Hallowe’en, dressing as a devil or a witch is no problem. Even angels are more like fantasy as we see them in art, or cute little figurines. But this spiritual world is real. It is something we have to realize, but we don’t have to live in fear and terror. God will win this battle, and we can count on his strength to be with us through our lives.

To reinforce your confidence in being on God’s side, here are some verses written by the Apostle Paul in Ephesians 1: 19 – 23 and continuing into Ephesians 2: 1 – 10. Soak these verses in and understand how confident you can be as God’s child:

“I also pray that you will understand the incredible greatness of God’s power for us who believe him. This is the same mighty power 20 that raised Christ from the dead and seated him in the place of honor at God’s right hand in the heavenly realms. 21 Now he is far above any ruler or authority or power or leader or anything else—not only in this world but also in the world to come. 22 God has put all things under the authority of Christ and has made him head over all things for the benefit of the church. 23 And the church is his body; it is made full and complete by Christ, who fills all things everywhere with himself.

2: 1 – 10

Once you were dead because of your disobedience and your many sins. You used to live in sin, just like the rest of the world, obeying the devil—the commander of the powers in the unseen world. He is the spirit at work in the hearts of those who refuse to obey God. All of us used to live that way, following the passionate desires and inclinations of our sinful nature. By our very nature we were subject to God’s anger, just like everyone else.

But God is so rich in mercy, and he loved us so much, that even though we were dead because of our sins, he gave us life when he raised Christ from the dead. (It is only by God’s grace that you have been saved!) For he raised us from the dead along with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms because we are united with Christ Jesus. So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus.

God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it. 10 For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Our song for today is Resurrection Power by Chris Tomlin.

July 14 Pray

Luke 11: 5 – 13  NLT

Then, teaching them more about prayer, he used this story: “Suppose you went to a friend’s house at midnight, wanting to borrow three loaves of bread. You say to him, ‘A friend of mine has just arrived for a visit, and I have nothing for him to eat.’ And suppose he calls out from his bedroom, ‘Don’t bother me. The door is locked for the night, and my family and I are all in bed. I can’t help you.’ But I tell you this—though he won’t do it for friendship’s sake, if you keep knocking long enough, he will get up and give you whatever you need because of your shameless persistence.

“And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

11 “You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

For years I used to wonder what these verses meant. It seemed that if you “bugged” God long enough, you’d get what you wanted. God seemed to be the upset neighbour who didn’t want to get out of bed. But that’s not God!

In the culture of the Mideast in Jesus’ day, if someone showed up at your door in need of something, you had to help them. It would be incredibly rude to ignore someone’s needs. So, the man looking for bread to feed a late-night arrival is actually the good person. He needs that food for this person who knocked on his door; arriving late at night would indicate the traveller had been on a long journey. The request for bread from his neighbour is a good thing. But his neighbour is like the father of the second story who gave his child a snake. He refused to offer needed food – something in that culture you didn’t do. 

These two stories tell us about prayer. God is not like the neighbour who didn’t want to get out of bed. He is not like the father who gave his child a snake instead of the healthy food the child asked for. He is ready to meet our needs. God wants to give us good things. God is like a neighbour who would be glad to help out even when it is inconvenient. God is like the father who wants his children to be well-fed and nourished.

But Jesus says we sometimes need to keep on asking. “And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks, receives. Everyone who seeks, finds. And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.”

Why? Why do we need to keep on asking? Both the “askers” in these two stories were asking for something good.  Sometimes, we think we are asking for something good, but it’s not in God’s plan. Maybe not at all, maybe not then. Maybe our “wish list” needs some changing. God wants us to be in contact with him on a regular basis, not just when we’re desperate for something. Can you imagine what a marriage relationship or parent/child relationship would be like if the only conversations took place when something was needed right away, pronto?

Jesus also promises the Holy Spirit will be present for those who are praying. “How much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him.”

Paul repeats this idea in Romans 8: 26 – 28:

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. 27 And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers in harmony with God’s own will. 28 And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.”

Prayer is the foundation of our relationship with God. Talking with him brings us closer to him. These past 3 days, we’ve been looking at Jesus’ instructions about prayer. We need to acknowledge God’s supreme being as well as knowing he is our loving father. We can pray about our basic needs – our jobs, our income, our homes, our families, etc. We need to ask for forgiveness as the Holy Spirit nudges us about what we’ve been doing and thinking. We also need to be aware of how much God forgives us, and be willing to forgive those around us – a humble spirit. We can pray for God’s help in keeping us close to him.

We can pray – everyday, and as much as we want all day long. We can keep on asking. Sometimes, it seems so repetitious, but I’ve discovered that asking God for help in some area numerous times really makes me aware of how much that request means to me, and if it is really what God wants.

Our song for today is Pray by Sanctus Real.

July 13 – Father, Please Give Me What I Need

Luke 11: 1 – 4

“Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:

“Father, may your name be kept holy.
    May your Kingdom come soon.
Give us each day the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
    as we forgive those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation.”

We begin prayer with adoration and praise. Then we move on to personal needs. If you’re honest, I suspect you often start your prayers with what you need. I know I tend to do that. Things crop up in my day, and I send a prayer for God’s help. There’s nothing wrong with that, but we also need to find time for calmer, purposeful prayer.

Putting time aside for prayer is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. As a young person, life was busy with school and part-time jobs. As a beginning teacher, life was crammed with preparing lessons, teaching, marking, and supervising extra-curricular activities at the school. As a young mom … well, you can guess, life starts the moment your little ones wake up and ends in crashing into bed. In our culture in the 21st century, life is just busy – period. So, we need to find that time when we can talk to God with both praise and requests.

“Give us each day the food we need” We can ask God for all the essentials we need to survive. In North America, just what is that? When I think of my lifestyle in comparison to those in Third World Countries, I cringe. Most of us can thank God every day for all he has provided for us. As a result of this pandemic, some of us may need to ask God for the support we need because of lost jobs or reduced income. One thing we can know is that God does care about our daily basic needs. We can pray about what we need and trust him for that.

“Forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us.” I used to wonder about how being forgiven and forgiving others was tied together. If someone had hurt me badly, would God not forgive me if I was struggling to get over the hurt and anger against that person? Charles R. Swindoll talks about this in an effective way:

“The one whose pride and selfishness prevents him or her from extending forgiveness to others cannot possibly understand the meaning of grace. And how can one receive what one cannot comprehend? In truth, we all have this in common: We all have someone we can blame for something, and we all deserve blame for harming and/or hurting someone else. And, in the same way that someone is indebted to us for wrongdoing, we are indebted to God all the more! He also commands forgiveness because it is basic to maintaining the soul. Enemies and their evil deeds can become the focus of life unless we voluntarily remove them through forgiveness.”  (Living Insights: Luke – page 317)

“And don’t let us yield to temptation” I am so thankful that I can ask God for the strength needed to follow him. If I had to depend on my own ability to be satisfied with just the basics of life, and to be a forgiving, loving person all the time – I’d totally fail. As I read my Bible and begin to grasp how amazing God is, and what he wants me to be like … I’m desperate for his help. Even the Apostle Paul experienced this:

“I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  (Romans 7: 21 – 25) 

So yes, my prayers need to include asking God for the strength to turn away from my self-centered life and attitude. In closing, perhaps you might enjoy Solomon’s prayer that reflects what the Lord’s Prayer says”

Proverbs 30:7-9

O God, I beg two favors from you;
    let me have them before I die.
First, help me never to tell a lie.
    Second, give me neither poverty nor riches!
    Give me just enough to satisfy my needs.
For if I grow rich, I may deny you and say, “Who is the Lord?”
    And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name.

Our song for today is The Lord’s Prayer by Hillsong.

July 12 – Our Father, Who Art in Heaven

Luke 11: 1 – 4

Teaching about Prayer

“Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, “Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.”

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray:

“Father, may your name be kept holy.
    May your Kingdom come soon.
Give us each day the food we need,
and forgive us our sins,
    as we forgive those who sin against us.
And don’t let us yield to temptation.”

Jesus prayed often, and that really speaks to me. How often do I spend time with God in prayer? Just how close is my relationship with God?

Jesus was God Incarnate; his mind and God the Father’s mind were alike. Yet there would be a human component as well. Remember in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed, “My Father! If it is possible, let this cup of suffering be taken away from me. Yet I want your will to be done, not mine.” (Matthew 26: 39) So there were times when Jesus would have preferred, as a human being, not to follow God’s plan but he knew God’s plan and did follow it. Their minds were in harmony, yet Jesus prayed.

In a small way, I know the mind of God too.  From reading the Bible for many years, I have an idea of what God wants and cherishes. I suspect many of you do too. But we don’t know what God wants in the details of our everyday lives – where we should go, what we should do, etc. If Jesus prayed frequently, then how much more should I? 

Jesus begins his prayer instructions with “Father, may your name be kept holy.” Chuck Swindoll in his commentary Living Insights: Luke writes:

“The model prayer doesn’t begin by calling God “Friend”, as though we are His equals. It doesn’t call God “Master” as though we are His slaves. Jesus didn’t call Him “King” as though we are merely His subjects. The model prayer doesn’t open with “Teacher” as though we simply come to Him for knowledge. Although God is indeed Friend, Master, King and Teacher, Jesus instructed us to address God as He does: pater in Greek, abba in Aramaic (Mark 14: 36; Romans 8: 15; Galatians 4: 6) “Father” in English. The title is intimate, familial, and honorific. It recognizes authority, but in the context of a trusting relationship, protection, guidance, and affirmation.” (pg. 315, 316)

Addressing God as Father is so special. There are several verses in the Bible that confirm that relationship we have with God.

Psalm 103: 13   “The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.”

2 Corinthians 1: 3   “All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort.”

2 Corinthians 6: 18   “And I will be your Father, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the LORD Almighty.”

Galatians 4: 6   “And because we are his children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, prompting us to call our, “Abba Father”

1 John 3: 1   “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!”

Romans: 14 – 17  (my favourite one)  “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.”

But our relationship with God is not exactly like the parent-child relationship on earth. As humans, we tend to treat our parents more like equals as we grow older. We think, as adults, we are in charge of our own lives, and our parents have no right to interfere with what we do.

“Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon.” God is our loving, caring father. We can be confident in that. We can talk with him at any time. We can complain to him, question him – it’s a completely open relationship. But, we must remember God is holy, supreme. It is his will that we want in our personal lives, and in this world. In our day-to-day lives, people around us should see our respect and awe of God.

Swindoll says in his commentary: “This is an affirmation of the Lord’s redemption and reformation of the world under His authority. It’s an exclamation of respect and support, not unlike “Long live the king!” It serves to place the prayer in the proper attitude. Again, one’s mental-emotional posture is bowed in submission., accepting God’s plan and purposes, reminding the one who prays of a program greater than any human agenda. While the Lord cares about our concerns, we will find greater comfort and fulfillment by adopting His.”  (page 316)

As we begin our prayer time with God, we need to start with adoration and praise. We express our love for him, and acknowledge his supremacy. We ask that his will be done in our lives and on this earth.

Our song for today is The Lord’s Prayer sung by Andrea Bocelli

July 9 Trust in You

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”   Jeremiah 29: 11

As the pandemic starts to slow down, and our country/province begins to open up again, do I ever have plans! I’m going to visit with family out of town. I’m going to start inviting people over to my home again. I’m going to start ‘hanging out’ with my grandkids again. There are things I want fixed around my house, and I’ll start looking for someone to help me. I want to wander the malls again, and look for new clothes. I’m going to start eating out again. I may want to buy tickets to music concerts and plays. I can hardly wait to ditch those pesky masks. Yes, I definitely have plans!

But wait:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” 

God has plans for me. But, do God’s plans correspond with my plans? Over my life, I’ve often discovered that God has plans that differ from my plans. One of the most dramatic examples was when I reapplied to teach when we realized Wayne’s health issues were serious as he waited for a liver transplant. I thought I had as good a chance as anybody of getting hired because many of the people I worked with, before I had my kids, were now in administration. They knew me and my reputation as a teacher. My husband was also well-known at the board offices for the work he had done over the years. Discovering that my application had been lost, and now I was offered the only job which was left – in alternative education – an area I had no experience in at all – ‘threw me for a loop”. I was upset and panicking. But that job turned out to be the best job of my life, and the biggest learning curve I’d ever had. In so many ways the ripple effects of that job – in various areas of my life – have totally convinced me that verse is true. God has “plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.” 

In 2021, life is opening up again after more than a year of shut-down. What are God’s plans for me now? In Luke 10, Jesus gave us an answer when a young man wanted to know what the priorities in life should be.

“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.’ And, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (10: 27)

I don’t think there is anything wrong with the list of plans I wrote at the beginning of today’s devotions. But … maybe I need to stop and ask God what his plans are for me now. As I look at my life, what should be my priorities? In what specific, down-to-earth ways should I put God first – “love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.” How do I fit God into my everyday life?  And then, how do I “love my neighbour as myself”? What should I volunteer for?

I’m still thinking and praying about all that. Perhaps we all should. Life would be full of hope and good things if we looked for God’s plans. Disaster and regret wouldn’t be part of our story.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord. “They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”   Jeremiah 29: 11

Our song for today is Trust in You by Lauren Daigle.

July 8 – Listening

Luke 10: 25 – 41

On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”

27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”

28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”

29 But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”

30 In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. 31 A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. 32 So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. 33 But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. 34 He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. 35 The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’

36 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

37 The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”

Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him.39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”

41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

If you’ve been a Christian for any length of time, you’ve probably heard one or several sermons on these two stories. Maybe it is even difficult for you to read them without skimming. And maybe you skim them because they give you a bit of an uncomfortable feeling when you think about how you are supposed to apply them. Bad enough when you look at them separately, but more complicated when they are right after the other. For example, why it was good for the Samaritan to serve the wounded man, but it wasn’t good for Martha to serve Jesus?

I asked myself if Luke put these stories together at this point in the narrative for a reason and I think he did it to make a point about listening. If we go back to the last chapter and the account of the transfiguration of Jesus, God speaks from heaven, so it’s worth taking note:

“A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.” (Luke 9: 35)

If we look closely, that theme continues through chapter 10.

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (10: 16)

Jesus knows who He is and because of that can send out his followers in his name as his representatives. He expected the seventy sent ones to listen to (and obey) his instructions. He knew that not everyone would.

“But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (10: 29)

The expert in the law came and asked Jesus an important question. You might expect someone with a question to listen to the answer. It looks like there is a dialogue going on and Jesus gives him an answer to his question, but instead of listening to the answer and taking a moment for self-reflection, he tries to justify himself and deflect the attention from himself to a question about definitions. The Bible doesn’t give a record of his response to Jesus’ command to go and do likewise. Maybe the words continued to ring in his ears and eventually made their way to his heart.

She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. 40 But Martha was distracted…” (10: 39 – 40)

We don’t know if Mary had been helping before she started listening, or if she was planning to hop up and help in a bit, but we do know that Martha was distracted. It’s hard to listen when you’re distracted (and even harder when you’re irritated at the same time). Jesus doesn’t tell Martha that the work she was doing was bad; he told her that Mary had chosen what was better. At that time in Jewish culture, the teachers (rabbi) would sit on a chair or pillow while they taught and the students would sit on the ground around them—they literally sat at his feet. Mary was listening and learning from Jesus as his disciple. David Guzik outlines what this means:

· To sit at the feet of Jesus implies readiness to accept and obey what Jesus teaches

· To sit at the feet of Jesus implies submission to Jesus; rebellion is done with

· To sit at the feet of Jesus implies faith in who Jesus is

· To sit at the feet of Jesus implies discipleship

· To sit at the feet of Jesus implies love

So, the connection between the two stories and between the two chapters is listening to Jesus, God’s Son, through the power of the Holy Spirit. When we need to know what to do in a specific situation (help with our hands or help with our prayers? stay or go? speak up or be quiet?), let us determine to take a moment or more to be still.  To be still and to intentionally listen for truth, to listen without trying to justify ourselves and to listen without distraction. 

July 7 – Woe and Joy

Luke 10: 13 – 24

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades.[b]

16 “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

17 The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

18 He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19 I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you.20 However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

21 At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

22 “All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows who the Son is except the Father, and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

23 Then he turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. 24 For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

As the account of Jesus sending out the seventy laborers into the harvest field continues, Jesus pronounces “woe” on three towns in Galilee. Woe is an expression of grief and of judgment, of impending doom. It says “alas” or “oh no”. Jesus uses the word “woe” more than anyone else in the Bible. You can be sure that Jesus doesn’t use the word in an off-handed way. His words aren’t pronounced with vindictiveness or callousness, even though he knows they will deserve any punishment they receive, but with sadness.  If the ones who are being sent out are listening at this point, perhaps they are hearing it as a challenge to try to bring those towns to repentance, something like happened in Nineveh. Jesus points out to them that when someone accepts or rejects their announcement of the kingdom of God, it is he, Jesus, that they are accepting or rejecting.

In contrast to this sober message, the next two paragraphs are full of joy! The disciples return rejoicing at their successes. Jesus shares in the rejoicing, but cautions them against pride at all they had done “for” God. Successes and strengths can turn to pitfalls when carried too far. We can probably all think of examples of Christian leaders whose successes have ultimately become a trap for them. Jesus reminds them and us to value what is truly valuable and lasting, more than any ministry success—God knows my name and he has a place for me in heaven! On the other end of the spectrum, for anyone who feels unused by God or is in the midst of apparent failure or lack of results, we dwell on the same truth—God knows my name and he has a place for me in heaven!

The phrase in verse 21 jumped out at me, Jesus was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit”. Jesus was a happy man! He was happy for his disciples’ success and he was happy that Satan was being defeated and people were experiencing the love of his Father. Luke has already said that Jesus was full of the Spirit and led by the Spirit. We’re used to those phrases in connection with the Holy Spirit, but it is refreshing to think about our joy coming through the Holy Spirit as well. Jesus is joyful here, even while being sorrowful about those who have seen signs and still don’t believe. Jesus is our example of sorrowful rejoicing and grave gladness. Joy and sorrow are like the rails of train tracks that run parallel into the horizon. We should expect to experience them both as we look at the world around us with spiritual eyes.

Even though the term trinity is not found in the Bible, this is another instance, as when Jesus was baptised, when the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are found in the same sentence. It’s good to hunt for the Trinity in the Bible and when we find it, to take note. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are in agreement that the kingdom of heaven turns the world upside down. It’s not necessary to be wise and learned and old in order to enter have your name written in heaven. That’s not to say we shouldn’t work towards knowledge and understanding and maturity—both the Proverbs and the apostle Paul encourage us to do that. But in this Jewish culture, these words coming from the mouth of a rabbi, would have certainly been revolutionary.

I remember how one of the elders of our church in Prague, who is now with the Lord, gave his testimony and told about how he had had question after question as he had searched for the answers to his philosophical and spiritual questions, trying to determine if the Bible was trustworthy and if he should become a Christian (this was during the Communist years so it was not a decision to be made lightly). He said he had spent 20 years asking questions and finally decided all of his questions would never be answered so he took a step of faith and put his faith in Christ. He did that when he was about 40 years old. When he passed away at age 73, he was probably one of the most knowledgeable and well-learned people I’ve ever known, but possessing a pure, child-like faith and I guess what could be only described as “full of joy through the Holy Spirit.”

Jesus tells his disciples how blessed they are to be living at the time they are. Prophets and kings and even angels longed to see the things they were seeing. (I Peter 1:10-12). How much more blessed are we to live as believers with the Holy Spirit dwelling in us and the word of God, the sword of the Spirit, so easily available to us. Go into your day making the most of those blessings!

July 6 – Be Ready To Go

Luke 10: 1 – 12

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. 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. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you.And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say,11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless, know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

Even though I have had the title of “missionary” for over 25 years, this passage is still a challenge for me. Here are some observations about these verses, that are simultaneously based on personal experience and also reminders for myself.

1.Chapter 10 begins with “after this”. So we look back at the end of chapter 9 and see that Jesus has been helping individuals in the crowd that follows him around to discern their priorities. Apparently, at least 70 (or 72) are chosen by him to make a third preaching tour of Galilee. Jesus had already sent his core group of 12 out on a healing and preaching tour and now he is giving more of them the opportunity to get some experience in ministry. When the Lord gives us the opportunity to step out in service, let’s get our priorities in order and take it.

2.They went two by two. Working in teams doesn’t have to be a hard and fast rule, but is a good principle to follow. If you feel like the Lord is telling you to go out in his name, it is a good idea to bring someone with you. If another one or two people aren’t able to physically join you in the work, make sure you have one or more going with you spiritually in prayer.

3. Jesus sent them to places where he himself was about to go. I like that extra emphasis—he himself. He would be out there keeping his eye on them. At that time, he was limited by his human body. In John 16:5, Jesus told his disciples that it was better for them that he go away because he would be sending the Holy Spirit to be with them and convict the world of sin. We should be always thankful that we have the Holy Spirit who is present with us in every situation wherever we are sent by God. 

4. Jesus says the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. So what does he tell them (and us) to do first? His first command is to pray (and pray earnestly) for more people to join in the work, and his second command is to go. We don’t have any excuses not to obey his command to pray.

5. In this instance, Jesus was sending them out into towns among their own people. When he talked about the harvest in John 4 with the woman at the well, he was looking out at the people in her own community. Later he sent the disciples out to the ends of the earth. Whatever the destination, we want our attitude to be “planning to go where God send us, but willing to stay” rather than “willing to go, but planning to stay.” Can you sense the difference?

6. Whether the place God sends us is next door or in another country, no matter how beautiful or comfortable it might look, we can be sure that there will be wolves of all shapes, size and disguises. Satan doesn’t want the gospel to spread.

7. Jesus’ instructions as he sends them out into first century Palestine can sound pretty obscure to us in the 21st century, but it could be boiled down to travel light, you’re on an urgent mission and keep the main thing, the main thing!

8. What is the main thing? The kingdom of God has come near to you. God’s power has power to heal the needy ones and in it they will have a glimpse of his kingdom, but even those who they heal will eventually die. Those who believe that Jesus is the Saviour will wake in heaven to experience God’s kingdom fully and those who do not will be eternally separated from God. As John Piper has expressed it, “Christians care about all suffering, especially eternal suffering.”

9. God places physically and spiritually needy people in every Christian’s life and we need to be faithful and persevere in the task he has given to us.  But we can be sure that miraculous healing is not going to convince everyone to believe and neither is a clear proclamation of the gospel. Sometimes God gives us the freedom to “shake the dust off our feet” and move on. We surrender those people to the Lord and emotionally let go. We are only responsible for our obedience to God, not for the results.

July 5 – Hope for the Future

Isaiah 43:18-19  (NIV)

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”

The past year has been difficult. The pandemic has brought so many changes, and especially changes we didn’t want. Over the past year, many people had to change their lifestyles as their income was reduced. Others lost a loved one and couldn’t have a funeral to celebrate their life. Parents have been stressed watching their children struggle with online learning.

LSA split near the end of 2018, and then there was a year plus of healing, and in 2020 the pandemic hit. During the pandemic, our new lead pastor arrived, but how do you adjust to a new pastor in the middle of a pandemic? Sometimes the church meets in person, sometimes online. How does a pastor get to know the congregation when he only sees some of them, and they have masks on, and have to leave quickly? Our past habits of attending church weekly, and meeting with friends there, has been totally topsy-turvy.

But as the number of people who are vaccinated rises, life looks like it has a chance to get back to “normal”. But is that “normal” where we are actually going? As we look at those verses in Isaiah, God tells us to forget the past, don’t dwell on it. God is doing a new thing!

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”

What does God want us to do as we face the future? One thing we can count on is God’s presence and guidance. God has plans for LSA. We need to be confident about that. We need to pray and listen for the Holy Spirit’s nudging. As we make plans for the future, we need to be willing to try new things, look for new people to get involved. We need to look ahead, not look back and wish for those years – and programs – when everything seemed to be going well in the past.

One new thing that is coming at LSA is Community Groups. We would like to see everyone be willing to join in a small group where we encourage and care for one another, where we grow in our personal relationship with God. Think and pray about it. Would you be willing to have a group meet in your home? Would you be willing to lead a group?

Soak in these verses from Isaiah:

“Forget the former things;
    do not dwell on the past.
19 See, I am doing a new thing!
    Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
    and streams in the wasteland.”

Our song for today is Promise Keeper by Hope Darst.

July 2 – What Does It Mean to Follow Jesus?

Luke 9: 51 – 62 NLT

51 As the time drew near for him to ascend to heaven, Jesus resolutely set out for Jerusalem.

Luke uses this statement to let us know he will now concentrate on the end of Jesus’ ministry on earth. In his commentary, Living Insights: Luke, Charles Swindoll refers back to a prophecy in Isaiah that predicts this moment in time. I love these prophetic statements since they affirm my faith.

“The Sovereign Lord has spoken to me,
    and I have listened.
    I have not rebelled or turned away.
I offered my back to those who beat me
    and my cheeks to those who pulled out my beard.
I did not hide my face
    from mockery and spitting.

Because the Sovereign Lord helps me,
    I will not be disgraced.
Therefore, I have set my face like a stone,
    determined to do his will.
    And I know that I will not be put to shame.
He who gives me justice is near.
    Who will dare to bring charges against me now?
Where are my accusers?
    Let them appear!” (Isaiah 50: 5 – 8)

52 He sent messengers ahead to a Samaritan village to prepare for his arrival. 53 But the people of the village did not welcome Jesus because he was on his way to Jerusalem. 54 When James and John saw this, they said to Jesus, “Lord, should we call down fire from heaven to burn them up?” 55 But Jesus turned and rebuked them. 56 So they went on to another village.

There is ongoing antipathy between Samaria and the rest of Israel. It was an area of the country where Jews and Gentiles had intermarried during the occupations of Israel in the Old Testament. If you are interested in learning more, check out gotquestions.org. Jesus rebukes the disciples when they react angrily to the Samaritans being unfriendly. To Jesus, northern Israel, Judah and Samaria are all part of the original Israel. The Great Commission in Acts 1: 8 reflects that:

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

The Cost of Following Jesus

57 As they were walking along, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you wherever you go.”

58 But Jesus replied, “Foxes have dens to live in, and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place even to lay his head.”

59 He said to another person, “Come, follow me.”

The man agreed, but he said, “Lord, first let me return home and bury my father.”

60 But Jesus told him, “Let the spiritually dead bury their own dead! Your duty is to go and preach about the Kingdom of God.”

61 Another said, “Yes, Lord, I will follow you, but first let me say good-bye to my family.”

62 But Jesus told him, “Anyone who puts a hand to the plow and then looks back is not fit for the Kingdom of God.”

Jesus is on his way to Jerusalem and the cross. He wants people to know that following him means sacrifice; it’s not an easy life. Three scenarios are given by people who are interested in following Jesus. When the first person says he is willing to follow Jesus everywhere, Jesus replies that he must be ready to have no home, no money (resources). In his commentary, Chuck Swindoll wrote that in the culture of the day, people who followed army commanders and political people often ended up richer. This person likely thought that following Jesus meant a better life in a new Israel. That was not what Jesus’ mission was about at all.

Jesus’ reply to the next person seems rather harsh. Why couldn’t a man bury his father? It is likely the man was asking to wait to follow Jesus until his elderly father died and the estate was settled. The third person asks to go home and say good-bye to his family. The implication is that the person values his family immensely and leaving them is a sorrowful thing.

In all three situations described here, Jesus is saying that following him must be first – the most important thing in your life. That expectation frankly shakes me to the core. Maybe it does you as well?

How important is my relationship with God in my life? How does it show up in the way I spend my time? How does it show up in the way I spend or save my money? How does it show up in the way I treat people? How does it show up in my thought life?

Our song for today is Word of God Speak by Mercy Me

July 1

Ephesians 5:20  NLT

“And give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

1 Thessalonians 5:18 NLT

“Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus.”

Colossians 4:2 NLT

“Devote yourselves to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart.”

These are the words that began the devotions on July 1st last year (2020):

“I am so thankful to be a Canadian! Especially in this pandemic time, I am thankful that our leaders ‘got on the case’ early on, and kept the rate of spread down to manageable levels. I am thankful the government has developed programs to financially assist those in need. I am thankful the majority of Canadians follow the social distancing rules and do their best to stay healthy. I am thankful for media and the ability to have face-to-face chats with family around the world.”

I can read that paragraph, and know I still am thankful for most of those things mentioned. But I sure didn’t know in July 2020 that we’d still be talking about a pandemic one year later – that “keeping the rate of spread down to manageable levels” was impossible back then. It’s been a long and difficult year!

But can we be thankful? Yes. At LSA we have a new lead pastor. We are thankful for Brian McGuffin and his family. He’s likely both thankful and impatient about the past 9 months. Impatient to get to know his new church family and get programs going, but also thankful for the time he’s been able to learn LSA’s culture, and figure out what needs to be kept and what needs to be changed.

In our personal lives, we’ve likely assessed what is important and what is not. We’ve realized how important our families and friends are, and how great it will be when we can travel and visit with them whenever we’d like. We’ve likely realized that church life is important. We may not be best friends with everyone at our church, but it’s sure nice to be able to say hello, or serve in various ways with them. We’ve probably gotten rid of a few things, and even taken a good look at our financial situation. Maybe, we’ve struggled with loneliness and depression, and hopefully found refuge in our relationship with God. It’s been a year of “overhaul”.

I can still say I am thankful to be a Canadian, but I am so much more thankful that I am a child of God.

“So you have not received a spirit that makes you fearful slaves. Instead, you received God’s Spirit when he adopted you as his own children. Now we call him, “Abba, Father.” 16 For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God’s children. 17 And since we are his children, we are his heirs. In fact, together with Christ we are heirs of God’s glory.”

(Romans 8: 15 – 17 NLT)

As his child, we know he will take care of us – and has taken care of us. Nothing has happened to us that he doesn’t know about. Even in the difficult situations of this past year, he has been by our side.

Psalm 121  NLT

“I look up to the mountains—
    does my help come from there?
My help comes from the Lord,
    who made heaven and earth!

He will not let you stumble;
    the one who watches over you will not slumber.
Indeed, he who watches over Israel
    never slumbers or sleeps.

The Lord himself watches over you!
    The Lord stands beside you as your protective shade.
The sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon at night.

The Lord keeps you from all harm
    and watches over your life.
The Lord keeps watch over you as you come and go,
    both now and forever.”

Our song for today – Grateful by Elevation Worship

June 30 – Walk by Faith

Luke: 37 – 50 NLT

Jesus Heals a Demon-Possessed Boy

37 The next day, after they had come down the mountain, a large crowd met Jesus. 38 A man in the crowd called out to him, “Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, my only child. 39 An evil spirit keeps seizing him, making him scream. It throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It batters him and hardly ever leaves him alone. 40 I begged your disciples to cast out the spirit, but they couldn’t do it.”

41 Jesus said, “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you and put up with you?” Then he said to the man, “Bring your son here.”

42 As the boy came forward, the demon knocked him to the ground and threw him into a violent convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit and healed the boy. Then he gave him back to his father. 43 Awe gripped the people as they saw this majestic display of God’s power.

InterVarsity Press’ online commentary talks about the boy’s condition (which was also written about in Matthew): “Matthew 17:14-15 says the boy is “moonstruck” and describes symptoms of epilepsy, a disease that ancient Jews viewed with much apprehension (van der Loos 1965:401-5). The disease brought terror because of its associations with darkness. It was this condition that David feigned as having before Saul (1 Sam 21:13). The detailed description of the possession’s effects underline the father’s terror as he watches his son controlled by forces that seek to destroy the boy. There is hardly a better metaphor in the whole Bible for the effects of evil’s presence in one’s life.”

Jesus rebukes the disciples for not being able to handle this situation. Remember at the beginning of chapter 9 when Jesus sent his disciples out in twos to proclaim the Good News?  “One day Jesus called together his twelve disciples and gave them power and authority to cast out all demons and to heal all diseases.” (9: 1) I wonder if the disciples had gotten a little self-confident, and forgot to trust God for the power to deal with the situation.

It’s easy to do. Sometimes we are involved in some type of service in our church, or in the community, and after a while, we think we know the “job” and we prepare and do the work without praying for God’s help. We need to remember we are weak and he is strong.

Jesus Again Predicts His Death

While everyone was marvelling at everything he was doing, Jesus said to his disciples, 44 “Listen to me and remember what I say. The Son of Man is going to be betrayed into the hands of his enemies.” 45 But they didn’t know what he meant. Its significance was hidden from them, so they couldn’t understand it, and they were afraid to ask him about it.

Jesus is preparing his disciples for what is coming. He doesn’t outline all the details, but gives them information a bit at a time. God knows they likely couldn’t handle all the details at this point. Later after Jesus’ resurrection, they likely talk with each other about those early clues. Remember when he said …?

Again, I love the fact that God knows us and only gives us what we can bear. In the “love chapter” in Corinthians, God tells us that we have limited ideas in this life, but he knows us and our future.

1 Corinthians 13:12: “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.”

The Greatest in the Kingdom

46 Then his disciples began arguing about which of them was the greatest. 47 But Jesus knew their thoughts, so he brought a little child to his side. 48 Then he said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this on my behalf welcomes me, and anyone who welcomes me also welcomes my Father who sent me. Whoever is the least among you is the greatest.”

Using the Name of Jesus

49 John said to Jesus, “Master, we saw someone using your name to cast out demons, but we told him to stop because he isn’t in our group.”

50 But Jesus said, “Don’t stop him! Anyone who is not against you is for you.”

The disciples have a lot to learn about God’s ideas about what is great and good. I suspect we have a lot to learn as well. We might look at their argument about which one of them was the greatest as being rather silly and childish. But, how often do you actually wonder about how great/good you are yourself? How often do you judge others based on who you think is great or not? We might not say it out loud, but I imagine we think it. And those thoughts likely influence our behaviour toward others. Do we really think, “Whoever is the least among you is the greatest”? Not in our culture.

O Heavenly Father, help us/me to be humble before you and with those around us/me.”

Our song for today is Walk by Faith by Jeremy Camp.

June 29 – God is With Us

Luke 9: 28 – 36 NLT

The Transfiguration

28 About eight days later Jesus took Peter, John, and James up on a mountain to pray. 29 And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was transformed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly, two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared and began talking with Jesus. 31 They were glorious to see. And they were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.

32 Peter and the others had fallen asleep. When they woke up, they saw Jesus’ glory and the two men standing with him. 33 As Moses and Elijah were starting to leave, Peter, not even knowing what he was saying, blurted out, “Master, it’s wonderful for us to be here! Let’s make three shelters as memorials – one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 34 But even as he was saying this, a cloud overshadowed them, and terror gripped them as the cloud covered them.

35 Then a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.” 36 When the voice finished, Jesus was there alone. They didn’t tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

Jesus took three disciples with him as he went to a quiet, secluded place to pray. The disciples were tired and fell asleep. Actually, I understand that since they are keeping a busy schedule, and there are always crowds of people around. Can you imagine what their lifestyle was like? Tons of walking, crowds of people, unpredictable places to sleep and eat … but when they woke up – Wow!

Luke spends the first 9 chapters of his book relating events that took place in the first 2 to 2 and 1/2 years of Jesus’ ministry. Now, he is going to concentrate on the latter days as Jesus prepares to go to Jerusalem. This moment of transfiguration is a heavenly moment before the storm.

Jesus is both human and divine, a concept that is hard for us to truly comprehend. As Jesus prays, his appearance changes; his clothes become “dazzling white” and his “face was transformed”. Moses and Elijah appear and talk with him. “They were speaking about his exodus from this world, which was about to be fulfilled in Jerusalem.” I wonder if this was a reassuring time for the human Jesus as he knew he faced horror ahead.

It was a reassuring time for Peter, James and John who would become the main leaders of the church after Jesus’ ascension. At this moment, we know that they loved Jesus, followed Jesus, but really didn’t grasp what Jesus was all about. There was still that hope that Jesus would rescue Israel and make it great again. That he was about to die wasn’t in their consciousness at all. But it was coming … and they would need a strong faith to keep going.

This time with Jesus in his transformed body with Elijah and Moses was something in their moments of doubt and fear that they would remember. At the time, they were excited and terrified. Peter, in his usual rash self, proposed setting up 3 tabernacles (a small, temporary hut like the ones built during the Feast of the Tabernacles). But then they were covered by a cloud. I suspect they never forgot the voice in the cloud. “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.” They didn’t talk about this experience with anyone else until much later, but it was seared into their souls and minds. As events unfolded in Jerusalem, in their fear and confusion, they would remember that moment when God spoke about his son. I’m so glad that God understands each one of us, and knows exactly what we need to carry on his plans for us.

Have you ever experienced the presence of God is some special way? I remember my car ride home from London to talk with my daughters about what the doctors had told my husband and I about his future in 2010. He had been treated for cancer over the past several months, but the cancer hadn’t gone away and his liver transplant was in rejection. They told us he had about 2 weeks to live. I drove home alone, and for those 2 hours, I experienced God’s presence like never before. I listened to a CD by Selah and every song spoke to my heart and mind. Even though I was frightened, I knew God would give me the strength I needed. (God actually gave us a miracle and 8 more years together.)

God was there for Peter, James and John. He knew they needed the assurance God was with them as they were about to face a horrible time. Because they would be the leaders of this new church, God made sure they knew that Jesus was God’s Son.

God can be there for each one of us too. You may have doubts and fears; you are human. But God can give you strength.

Our song for today is You Are My Hiding Place by Selah

June 28 – Confusing and Challenging

Luke 9: 18 – NLT

Peter’s Declaration about Jesus

18 One day Jesus left the crowds to pray alone. Only his disciples were with him, and he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

19 “Well,” they replied, “some say John the Baptist, some say Elijah, and others say you are one of the other ancient prophets risen from the dead.”

20 Then he asked them, “But who do you say I am?”

Peter replied, “You are the Messiah sent from God!”

Jesus is asking his disciples if they had any idea what the results of a poll would be.

Who is Jesus?

After Jesus fed the 5000 related in John’s gospel, John wrote: “When the people saw him do this miraculous sign, they exclaimed, “Surely, he is the Prophet we have been expecting!”When Jesus saw that they were ready to force him to be their king, he slipped away into the hills by himself.” (John 6: 14 – 15) In Luke, the disciples reply with several answers to the question – John the Baptist, Elijah, and some other ancient prophet risen from the deaf. The Jewish people were aware of Old Testament prophecies of a Messiah who would return Israel to its former glory as it ruled the earth, but they didn’t understand (or maybe preferred to ignore) the prophecies that predicted suffering. As the crowds followed Jesus, they saw miracles of healing and they also were fed. The crowds grew bigger.

When Peter answered the question, he gave the right answer. “You are the Messiah sent from God!” But he didn’t really comprehend what that actually meant. We will see that as we continue to read through Luke. Peter knew Jesus was very special, but he certainly didn’t see suffering as the goal. But Jesus did, and he began preparing them for what was coming.

Jesus Predicts His Death

21 Jesus warned his disciples not to tell anyone who he was. 22 “The Son of Man must suffer many terrible things,” he said. “He will be rejected by the elders, the leading priests, and the teachers of religious law. He will be killed, but on the third day he will be raised from the dead.”

23 Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me. 24 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 25 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed? 26 If anyone is ashamed of me and my message, the Son of Man will be ashamed of that person when he returns in his glory and in the glory of the Father and the holy angels. 27 I tell you the truth, some standing here right now will not die before they see the Kingdom of God.”

I wonder what the disciples thought when they heard Jesus say he would be rejected and be killed? Sometimes we have a tendency to just skip over things we’d prefer not to hear. I know I do. I’ll tell myself not to get stressed and be positive – look at the bright side. But Jesus is continuing with more instructions that again, if I were there, I might want to put aside. “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, take up your cross daily, and follow me.”

Am I willing to put God first? Am I willing to be identified as a Christ follower? I don’t think that means I can’t enjoy the career I have, or enjoy my home, family and friends. But where is my focus? Is it getting ahead in my career? Is it acquiring a bigger, lovelier home? Is it having fun? Is it saving lots of money? Jesus tells us that if our focus is on the things of this world, this present life, we’ll actually lose.

This really makes me stop and think. How much time do I spend with God, on the things that matter to him? How much do I help others? How often am I willing to share my faith with others? If I were to look at how I behaved in the past week – how much time have I spent with God, how many times did I pray asking for guidance about everyday events …? Is God kind of a Sunday event? Or is he crucial to my every day?

I am so glad God is patient with me. We see him being patient with the disciples. He begins telling them what is ahead here in Luke 9, knowing it will take a lot of time for them to understand. In fact, they really didn’t start to grasp what it was all about until Acts 1 and 2, at Jesus’ ascension and the coming of the Holy Spirit.

And so, the Holy Spirit works patiently with each one of us, helping us to understand God’s will for our lives.

“And the Holy Spirit helps us in our weakness. For example, we don’t know what God wants us to pray for. But the Holy Spirit prays for us with groanings that cannot be expressed in words. And the Father who knows all hearts knows what the Spirit is saying, for the Spirit pleads for us believers[a] in harmony with God’s own will. And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8: 26 – 28)

Am I listening? Am I paying attention?

Our song for today is Strength Will Rise (Everlasting God) by Chris Tomlin