Sunday, September 30, 2018

Our stuff

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 12-13; Psalm 118

TO CHEW ON: "And He said to them, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of things he possesses.'" Luke 12:15

Jesus, the ultimate teacher, sure knew how to grab those teaching moments. Here the request of someone in the crowd for Him to intervene in an estate division problem gave rise to a proverb and a parable about the stuff people own.

The man who called out, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me," was probably surprised when Jesus took him back to considering the basics of possessions. One of the ideas that He alluded to in His answer: "'s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses," is the fact that people very easily let their possessions define them.

We still do that. Notice, for example, how TV commercials tap into our desire to project a good image. One way, according to the ads, is by being the owner of that new car, living in that home on the golf course development with all its amenities, surrounded by brand-name fixtures and furniture.

Jesus' parable draws our attention away from the glittery stuff we love to posses to our impending separation from those things by death. It's inevitable. It may be much nearer than we think. We can't predict when it will arrive in any case. When it does come, "this night" or that, and our souls are required of us, "whose will those things be which you have provided?"

The implied answer is, "They won't be ours." We'll leave them all behind.

A footnote in my Bible says it concisely:

"Possessions neither give life nor provide security; because death separates from things. The fool in the parable mistakenly looked upon his possessions as his own, not gifts dependent upon the will of God and to be used unselfishly." - New Spirit Filled Life Bible, p. 1413.

We can't get through life without possessions. But we can hang onto them loosely, knowing they are lent for a little while. The challenge is to steward them wisely and in a way that will show us "rich toward God." 

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me to have Your perspective on possessions. She me how to use them in a way that pleases You. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 118

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Different styles of serving

Martha, Jesus, Mary (Artist unknown)
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 10-11; Psalm 117

"… Mary … sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving." Luke 10:39,40

The sisters Martha and Mary make an interesting study in contrasts. Martha is an efficient go-getter. The Bethany home she shares with her siblings is called "her house" (Luke 10:38). She takes the initiative for the dinner party and obviously knows just how she wants the evening to go. It involves lots of details, which I'm sure she delights in, except she needs a little help.

Mary is the dreamy impractical one. While Martha flits around, Mary sits around, oblivious to Martha's "much serving" list and completely engrossed in Jesus and His words.

The contrast between the two sisters is seen again in another incident. It's another dinner in Bethany where again Martha serves (John 12:1,2). This time Mary does more than listen. To show her love for Jesus she pours perfume on his feet and dries them with her hair (John 12:3)! Who but a dreamy, impractical soul would think of something like that?

I believe Martha and Mary were different at a basic level. I think they were both right in serving and loving Jesus according to their makeup. Martha's mistake was to try and force Mary to leave her way of serving Jesus and do it Martha's way. Jesus' reprimand was probably an epiphany moment for Martha as He focused her on the value of what Mary was and was not doing.

I like how my Bible's commentary gets to the core of these differences.

"Martha's legitimate concern was to be a proper hostess. Mary's concern was to be a proper disciple. Jesus does not negate Martha's hospitable activities but is concerned with her distractions, worry and trouble about many things which cause her to underemphasize the one thing that is needed (Luke 10:42) that is to hear the word of Jesus" J. Lyle Story, commentary on Luke, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1408).

My sympathies have always been with Martha in this story. In my own life I see a tendency to get hung up on the practical details of service and ministry while losing sight of the big picture. And I would also like some support in my busy-ness. Perhaps you too?

Through this story we hear Jesus remind us, Don't be worried and troubled about many things. One thing is needed—to listen to My words. Your pursue that in your way and let others do it in theirs (my paraphrase).

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to be a disciple in the way I have been created, while giving others the freedom to be themselves in the way they love and serve You. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 117

The Bible Project VIDEO: Luke - Part 2 (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Words that need to sink into our ears

Image: Openicons /
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 8-9; Psalm 116

TO CHEW ON: " ' Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men.'
But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying." Luke 9:44,45

Three times in Luke 9 we see Jesus speaking of His death. In Luke 9:22, after Peter called Him the Christ (Messiah), Jesus told them, in confidence: "'The Son of man must suffer many things and be rejected and be killed and be raised the third day.'"

Then on the mountain, groggy as they were, they overheard Jesus, Elijah and Moses speaking of Jesus' "decease" - Luke 9:31.

And again in our reading today, after healing the demon-possessed boy (to the amazement and marveling of the crowds) Jesus' words to His disciples were urgent and insistent: "'Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men'" Luke 9:44.

They didn't get it (Luke 9:45)!

Some questions that come to me about this story:
- Why was it so important to Jesus that they understand?
- How could they not understand such plain language?
- Are there spiritual things to which I'm similarly deaf?

One reason I can think of for the importance of their understanding was that it would prepare them for what was ahead.

As to why they didn't  understand, I believe their expectation of Messiah and his role played a big part in their inability to hear and absorb what Jesus was saying. They saw the adulation of the crowd and that part of Jesus' ministry fit in with Him being an earthly savior, so that was the belief they clung to. In fact, in the verses after Jesus pleaded with them to hear Him, they were arguing about who was the greatest, no doubt  thinking of position in His "cabinet."

Finally, I ask myself, are there things to which I am (perhaps all of us are) similarly dull? As I examine my beliefs and compare them to what the Bible says, I do see some things that make me squirm. One is Jesus' teaching that He is the only way to God (John 10:9; Acts 4:1,2 etc.). I believe it in my head, but do my actions support what I say I believe?

Then there's the whole teaching about those rejecting Him ending up in the other place—"hell"—a concept that doesn't sit at all well in modern ears. Yet Jesus Himself speaks of it at the end of the chapter in Mark that tells the very incidents we've read about in Luke. He describes a place of utter torment and separation from God: "'Where "Their worm does not die / And the fire is not quenched"'" - Mark 9:42-47.

Like the disciples, it's important that I (we) hear what the Bible is actually saying and not be swayed by human interpretations and the ideas of a culture that seek to explain away what is hard for us to accept and understand. Like the disciples, there is no excuse for us to enter the future (now and eternity) unprepared.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please open my eyes, mind, and heart to Bible truths that clash with the values of humanism or any other belief systems. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 116

The Bible Project VIDEO: Luke ch. 9-19 (Luke mini-series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

When doing nothing is doing something

"Jesus converses with the doctors of the law"
 - Alexandre Bida

Jesus converses with the doctors of the law - Alexandre Bida
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 6-7; Psalm 115

"And when all the people heard Him, even the tax collectors justified God, having been baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the will of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him." - Luke 7:29-30

There are moments of decision, crossroads where we must choose one direction or another. John the Baptist was one of the people who confronted his listeners with their path options. His message was repentance. The graphic way people showed they chose this repentance road was to submit to John's baptism.

After John's disciples asked Jesus John's question ("Are You the Coming One?" - yesterdays reading), Jesus explained John to the people (Luke 7:24-28). And then the writer Luke adds his author observations about what was going on here (Luke 7:29,30). Here's how the Amplified Bible puts it:

"And all the people who heard Him (Jesus), even the tax collectors acknowledged the justice of God [in calling them to repentance and pronouncing future wrath on the impenitent] being baptized with the baptism of John" - Luke 7:29 Amplified Bible.

However, two groups of people—the Pharisees and lawyers—steeled their hearts against this truth. How did they show their resistance? Apparently by doing nothing. Luke again:

"But the Pharisees and the lawyers [of the Mosaic Law] annulled and rejected and brought to nothing God's purpose concerning themselves, by [refusing and] not being baptized by [John]." - Luke 7:30 Amplified Bible (emphasis added). 

Jesus goes on to describe them as utterly resistant to wisdom (Luke 7:31-35). My Bible's commenter says it well:

"Jesus illustrates the fickle and even caustic response of the people to John's ministry and to His own. Unbelief will not respond to the truth, however well it is presented and demonstrated" - J. Lyle Story, commentary on Matthew 11:16-19, New Spirit-Filled Bible, p. 1310 (emphasis added).

There is a subtle warning in this for us. For we too can choose one way over another by doing nothing—by refusing to respond to the Holy Spirit's tug on our consciences, by resisting His invitation to change direction. How sobering to think that it could be said of me or you: "She / He annulled, rejected, brought to nothing God's purpose concerning themselves by refusing …"

Dear God, please help me understand the danger of passivity. I want to have a heart that is sensitive to You and quick to respond. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 115


Unless otherwise noted, all Bible quotes are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. - Used with permission.

Amplified Bible (AMP) Copyright © 1954, 1958, 1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation - Used with permission.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

Jesus woos us

Jesus Preaches from a Ship - Alexandre Bida
Jesus Preaches from a Ship - A. Bida
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 4-5; Psalm 114

"So when they had brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him." Luke 5:11

It's fascinating to watch Jesus woo the disciples (who were not yet disciples) in this passage.

His popularity with the crowd needed a bit of a stage that provided both visibility and distance. A boat would be just the thing. He chose Simon's (Peter's), asked him to interrupt his net-washing and "put out a little from the land" and taught the crowds from there.

Imagine being the one from whom this upstart asked such a favor. I wonder, did Peter feel annoyed that Jesus just commandeered his boat for several hours, or honored and flattered?

It didn't end there, though. After the teaching session, Jesus turned His attention from the crowds to the boat owner. He told Peter to move to deep water and start fishing. Peter, probably still smarting from the previous unsuccessful night, started to argue but then changed his mind and did as Jesus said.

A great miraculous catch followed. "They" (Peter and probably his brother Andrew) got help from partners James and John to haul in the multitudes of fish. At Jesus' next words "'Do not be afraid. From now on you will catch men,'" Peter was completely smitten. He (and his partners) "...brought their boats to land, they forsook all and followed Him" - Luke 5:11.

I would love to have interviewed Peter and asked him, what was going on in his mind and heart that synchronized with Jesus' actions and words to cause this life change in him.

Perhaps he was wondering how he could continue looking after his family's needs with such unpredictable fishing luck. Jesus had just showed him His supernatural power in that department.

Perhaps he'd been wishing, all his life, to live for something bigger and had for some time been questioning the usefulness of what he was doing. Jesus told him he would "catch men." Peter may not have completely understood, but would surely have been intrigued.

We don't know. But we do know that on that particular day in Peter's life, Jesus ticked all the boxes and the decision to follow Him was easy.

On listening to people's stories of how they come to Jesus, I've noticed something similar. Jesus woos us in different ways. Sometimes it's through unaccountable blessing. Sometimes it's via an inner search for more purpose and meaning. Sometimes Jesus is the last option to stop a downward spiral that, if something doesn't change, will lead to destruction.

Let's pray for friends, colleagues, and loved ones who have yet to meet Jesus, that He will continue to work His wooing ways in their lives and that they will respond like Peter did.

Dear Jesus, I see how You won Peter and his crew over in a few well-timed interventions and actions. Please continue to work that way in the lives of my loved ones who don't know You. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 114

The Bible Project VIDEO: Luke ch. 3-9 (Gospel of Luke series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

Jesus—blessed child

The boy Jesus - Artist unknown
The boy Jesus - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 2-3; Psalm 113

TO CHEW ON: "And the child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him." Luke 2:40

Day eight of Jesus' life brought Joseph and Mary, with Jesus, to the temple in Jerusalem to perform the purification rites for Mary (Leviticus 12:2-8) and present Jesus, their firstborn male, to God (Exodus 13:2).

It was a day of ritual—and surprises when two elderly people came to them at separate times, prophesied over, and blessed Jesus. Mary and Joseph marveled over Simeon's predictions (Luke 2:29-31) and Anna's referring to their baby as a redeemer (Luke 2:38). No doubt Simeon's blessing addendum, about their baby's divisive destiny that would lead to a sword piercing Mary's own soul, was disturbing.

How reassuring to read, then, after all this was over and life settled down again, that Jesus "… grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him."

This verse witnesses to His humanity and his normal development as a child:

  • "He grew..." Luke 2:52 tells us He "… increased in wisdom and stature…"
  • "...and became strong in spirit..." 
The phrase "strong in spirit"  used in the NKJV is not included in all versions. But that very phrase is used of Jesus' relative John the Baptist (Luke 1:80). I like its inclusion. It portrays Him as a physically healthy and spirited, perhaps strong-willed child—in a good way, of course. 
  • "...filled with wisdom..."  
[Sophia: broad and full of intelligence; the varied knowledge of things human and divine, acquired by acuteness and experience, extreme intelligence such as belongs to God.]

Wayne Gruden reminds us that " … he went through a learning process just as other children do—he learned how to eat, how to talk, how to read and write, and how to be obedient to his parents (see Hebrews 5:8). This ordinary learning process was part of the genuine humanity of Christ" - Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, p. 533.
  • "… and the grace of God was upon Him."  
[CharisGoodwill, lovingkindness, favor; that which affords pleasure, delight, sweetness, charm, loveliness, grace of speech.]

Perhaps this "grace" was evident in how life treated Him, how well-liked He was, how easily He learned, how easy He was to get along with. No doubt the qualities of charis (sweetness, charm, loveliness, grace of speech) also emanated from Him.

I love to imagine what Jesus must have been like as a youngster—dark, curly hair, olive skin, lively eyes, with a quick mind and sharp intelligence, full of questions, probably surprising and delighting His parents with funny and wise observations.

Reading how Jesus' childhood turned out, I don't think it's surprising to admit we want something similar for our own children and grandchildren. Let's turn this description of His blessed growing-up years into a prayer for our own little ones.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, as You did, may the little ones in my life grow, become strong in body and spirit, be filled with wisdom and have God's grace upon them in every way. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 113

The Bible Project VIDEO: Luke ch. 1-2 (Gospel of Luke mini-series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 24, 2018

Our prayers—part of God's eternal purposes

"Gabriel Visits Zacharias" - by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld
(Courtesy of the Digital Image Archive, Pitts Theology Library, 
Candler School of Theology, Emory University”)

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Luke 1; Psalm 112

TO CHEW ON: "But the angel said to him, 'Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John.'" Luke 1:13

This story of John the Baptist's beginnings give us a sense of God putting into action ancient and detailed plans. God used the assignment of a lifetime—Zacharias's one opportunity to burn incense in the Holy Place—to deliver, through Gabriel, a life-changing message.

From Zacharias's viewpoint, this was an answer to a very earthly, marriage-long prayer—to have a son.

To God, though, it was way bigger. It was an essential part of preparing for the climax of a plan first announced in Genesis 3:15. Bits of this plan are strewn through the Old Testament. Picking out elements from our story:

Gabriel, in his description of John's style of life ("...drink neither wine nor strong drink" - Luke 1:15) referred back to the lifestyle of a person separated to God, a Nazirite described way back in Numbers 6:2,3.

Gabriel went on to say that Zacharias's offspring (John) would prepare the way for Him (God's special messenger) "… in the spirit and power of Elijah" - Luke 1:17.

We remember Elijah, the prophet who wasn't afraid to confront Ahab. He lived out of the public view during a three-year drought, and then clashed with the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel and begged the Israelite onlookers to again follow God. After that, we remember how Queen Jezebel threatened his life.

John too would end up living in seclusion and then calling people to repentance, pointing out Jesus as Messiah, and baptizing Him. His bold confrontation of Herod for his immorality ended in him being beheaded at the request of Herodias, another royal consort.

The prophecy of Malachi:
Gabriel quoted the Old Testament prophet Malachi (who also referenced Elijah) " 'He (John) will also go before Him "… to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children…" ' " Luke 1:17.
Compare with Malachi's words:
"Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet
Before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the children,
And the hearts of the children to their fathers" - Malachi 4:5,6.

John's birth was indeed an answer to Zacharias's prayer but it was also so much more!

I like to believe that God's purposes are similarly interwoven into the lives of us believers; that the things we pray for (and if we're attached to Jesus—He in us, us in Him—even our prayers are His ideas - John 15:7) lead to answers that help complete His work and purposes on earth just as Zacharias's prayers for a son did.

Dear Father, thank You for this glimpse into the workings of Your ways. Help me to trust that You are similarly working Your eternal purposes through the prayers and answers to pray in my life. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 112

The Bible Project VIDEO: Luke - Part 1 (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Unfinished and finished business

TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 19-21; Psalm 111

TO CHEW ON: “Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We are going with you also.’ They went out and immediately got into the boat, and that night they caught nothing.” John 21:3

Peter’s simple pronouncement, “I am going fishing,” becomes complex when we put it into context. Three years earlier he had left fishing to follow Jesus. The years he had spent with this incredible teacher were quite a ride. He had seen healings of all kinds, people raised from the dead, the Scribes and Pharisees bested. The wisdom of Jesus’ lessons and stories exceeded any he had ever encountered. He had experienced the very presence of heaven.

However, in the end, it all proved confusing and disappointing. Jesus didn’t do the expected and prove Himself Messiah. Instead He was put to death at the instigation of the very leaders to whom He had proved Himself superior. But Peter’s biggest disappointment was with himself. After pledging to stick by Jesus no matter what, he denied Him – and on the prodding of a mere woman.

Now, though Jesus had risen and Peter had seen Him, the future was still utterly foggy. And so his words, “I am going fishing,” seem a poignant attempt to reverse the last three years of his life. He will go back – back to the simple way things were before he met Jesus, back to when he was oblivious to the possibilities of what life could be, but also back to before he had proved himself such a useless cad.

Intuitive Jesus knew where Peter was and how to reach him. In their interchange Jesus put His finger on the exact thing that was bothering Peter and confronted him with it. He brought closure to the unfinished business of their broken relationship.

He also made it clear to Peter that fishing was finished business. He closed the door forever on it by giving Peter a new assignment. The three Jesus-years weren’t a waste or mirage. Instead they were the doorway to more responsibility (despite his failure):'Feed my lambs.... Tend my sheep… Feed my sheep.'

Have you ever been at a spot in your life when you’ve gone back to “fishing”? Perhaps after sensing the call of God, things haven’t worked out the way you thought they would or you’ve let yourself down. Take it from someone who has at various times retreated to the security of the way things were before – it rarely works. If you are tempted to go back to the past in your career or ministry, don’t, until you’ve spent time with Jesus and got the confirmation that that is indeed His next assignment.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help us to leave former things and ways behind. Give us the faith to face new challenges and forge into new territory at Your bidding. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 111


“…once you receive a commission from Jesus Christ, the memory of what God wants will always come like a goad; you will no longer be able to work for him on the common-sense basis.”
- Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest (March 4th reading)
Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

He put Himself in our hands

Judas guides the soldiers - Alexandre Bida
Judas guides the soldiers - A. Bida
TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 16-18; Psalm 110

 "Now when He said to them, 'I am He,' they drew back and fell to the ground." - John 18:5

Even in this darkest of moments, when one of Jesus' friends is in the act of betraying Him and another is about to deny Him, flashes of His God-essence come through. Otherwise what was it that caused these soldiers to "fall to the ground"?

"Man was not made to handle the electricity of God" someone once said (or words to that effect; I can't find the exact quote). Which makes what Jesus did when He surrendered Himself up to die for us all the more amazing. He could have immobilized that whole detachment long enough to get away. But instead, a little later when Peter did some damage with his sword in Jesus' defense, Jesus rebuked: "Put your sword into the sheath. Shall I not drink the cup which My Father has given Me?" - John 18:11.

In a few months we'll again celebrate Christmas and Jesus' birth. It's more evidence of how intentionally the God of the universe put Himself in human hands as He took on human flesh and surrendered Himself to the human condition. Let's let the enormity of what He did give depth and breadth to our praise, worship, and thanksgiving.

Dear Jesus, Your life was not taken from You; You laid it down, and for me. Help me to comprehend just how amazing and wonderful this is. I thank You. Love, V. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 110

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Helper, Comforter

TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 13-15; Psalm 109

TO CHEW ON: "'And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper that He may abide with you forever.'" John 14:16

We cherish a person's last words, whether we hear them in person or read them in a letter or story. Here, through John, we are privy to some of the last teachings and conversations Jesus had with His disciples. They didn't know what was about to happen, but we do and that makes them all the more poignant.

Jesus, realizing He will soon be gone, pre-comforts his soon-to-be-bereaved disciples with words on which they will probably meditate a lot in the days to come. He will soon send them "another Helper" -- the Holy Spirit. We learn a lot about this third person in the Trinity from this chapter (and John 16).

1. Holy Spirit will be given to all. Jesus gave this promise to His assembled disciples, not one individual ( John 14:16).

2. Different Bible translations describe Him as "Comforter"  also "Counselor, Helper, Intercessor, Advocate, Strengthener, and Standby" (Amplified). Each of these names adds a layer of meaning to our understanding of Him (John 14:16).

3. He will live with them and be in them. What amazing intimacy (John 14:16-17)!

4. He will "abide forever" (John 14:16). In other words, He will be a permanent guest.

5. Jesus calls Him the "Spirit of truth" (John 14:17). In contrast, Satan, who is the "ruler" or "prince" of this world (John 12:31) is known for his lying (John 8:44).  No wonder Jesus says the world wouldn't see, know or receive the Holy Spirit.

6. The Holy Spirit will continue to reveal Jesus to them even though He is physically absent (John 14:21).

7. He will remind them of what Jesus said and teach what it means (John 14:26).

8. The Holy Spirit will convict the world of sin righteousness and judgment (John 16:13).

9. He will guide them into truth (John 16:13).

10. He will explain future events to them (John 16:13).

11. He will explain and glorify Jesus to them (John 16:14).

The thrilling thing is that this Holy Spirit is available to us today. He draws us to Jesus and as we give Him the controls of our lives, is with us and in us, just as Jesus described. We probably aren't aware of a fraction what the Spirit does in us, around us, hopefully even through us.

But we can also stymie His presence and activity in our lives. We can test Him, lie to Him, grieve, vex or sadden Him, resist Him, insult Him, and blaspheme Him (Acts 5:9; Acts 5:3; Ephesians 4:30; Acts 7:51; Hebrews 10:29; Matthew 12:31-32).

Let's let Him search us for anything that would hinder His presence and activity in our lives (1 Corinthians 2:10).

PRAYER: Dear Holy Spirit, thank You for being my constant companion. Please help me to realize this fully and, in the knowledge of it, live boldly. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 109

The Bible Project VIDEO - John - Part 2 (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Our very costly oil

Arab perfume bottles
Image: debdebdeb /
TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 11-12; Psalm 108

TO CHEW ON: "Then Mary took a pound of very costly oil of spikenard, anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped His feet with her hair. And the house was filled with the fragrance of the oil." John 12:3

Some of the questions that come to me as I read this story are:
- What was special about spikenard oil and why did Mary have it on hand?
- What was she intending to do with it?
- Why anoint Jesus' feet?
- What would motivate her to give such an extravagant gift?

Study Bibles to the rescue!

According to my New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, "Spikenard was a valuable and fragrant ointment derived from the dried roots of the herbal plant called nard. By the first century A.D. it was already being imported from its native India in alabaster boxes because of its costliness" - Siegfried Schatzmann, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible p. 1465.

Why did Mary have this oil? According to the Quest Study Bible, she had purchased it to anoint Jesus' body when He did die (I'm sure not expecting it to be mere weeks later). "It was not uncommon for family or friends to spend enormous sums of money on strong perfumes and spices to mask the door of a decaying body" - Quest Study Bible, p. 1486.

As for anointing Jesus' feet, the custom was to wash a guest's feet and anoint his head. QSB suggests that Mary (and another woman who also anointed Jesus' feet—Luke 7:37-38) felt unworthy to anoint His head.

Recalling what had recently happened in Mary's life (Jesus' resurrection of her brother Lazarus), we can understand the gratitude and love and respect, and frankly awe, she had for Jesus. Her lavish gift (calculated to be "equivalent to the annual income of a labourer" - QSB, Op. Cit.) was her way of expressing all these feelings to the living Jesus.

As the scene played out, what started as a private gesture soon became very public as the perfume scent filled the house, leading to both ridicule and praise.

Applying this story to life, we in the 21st century have no physical Jesus on whom to pour our love and gratitude—for changed lives, hope for the future, help with our day to day living, healing (both physical and spiritual), etc. But we can still say thank you with the most precious gift we have—our lives. Paul makes the very comparison of our lives to perfume in 2 Corinthians 2:14:

"Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place."

For most of us this is a private gift—a habitual and daily "yes" to what He asks of us. The perfume of this gift may not seem to be going anywhere. But there are sacrificed lives—which were also given in private—whose fragrance has "filled the house." people like David Livingstone, David Brainard, Jim Elliot and many others. I believe heaven will be full of the fragrance the the "very costly oil" of lives poured out for Jesus. May ours be among them!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, help me to continually give you my most valuable possession, my life, with words and actions that say "Yes, help Yourself to me." Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 108

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Do our lives reveal the works of God?

Image: Pixabay
TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 9-10; Psalm  107

“And His disciples asked Him, saying, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’

Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in Him.’” John 9:23

This little story raises a question. We ask, did God allow this man’s congenital blindness, which he suffered with for many years before Jesus healed him, just so Jesus’ power could be on display at this moment in time?

Jesus’ entry into his life at this moment and saying what He did implies to me that all of the man’s life—even the time he was blind, was part of God’s plan for him.

God didn’t create the world with flaws. These things entered when Adam and Eve chose disobedience and rebellion. However, the disciples believed that the man’s blindness was caused by specific sins he or his parents had committed. Jesus said “no” to that. The writer of my Bible’s study notes explains:

“Assuming that an individual case of suffering was due to specific sin, the disciples inquired into the cause of the man’s blindness. Jesus, however, notes that beyond the tragedy of human defects, which result in a general way from man’s fall and the consequent entry of sin, sickness, affliction, and death into the world, God’s merciful and sovereign grace is available” - Siegfried Schatzmann, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1460.

What does this mean for us today? How do we square the fact that God does heal some, but not everyone who prays for healing gets healed? Is it that some don’t have enough faith? That they’re praying the wrong way? That there’s sin in the life?

For me the answer lies in Jesus explanation of why the man was born blind in the first place: '… that the works of God should be revealed.' In this man’s case it was a work of miraculous healing. But we also see the works of God displayed in lives lived under lifelong clouds of sickness, pain, debilitation—any one of the heavy consequences of the fall. To me the life of Joni Earickson Tada is an example of such a work of God on display in a many-year quadriplegic.

Here's Paul talking about a similar situation:
 "And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. - 2 Corinthians 12:7-10.

PRAYER: Dear Father, on this side of seeing You, it’s easy to be puzzled by our health (and other) problems. Help me to live by faith that You have a good reason for everything that You allow into my life. May Your presence within me reveal the works of God, whether works of healing or works of trust, faith, and rejoicing in and through pain, suffering, and sickness. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 107

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 7-8; Psalm 106

TO CHEW ON: "Then Jesus spoke to them again saying, 'I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.'" John 8:12

The scribes and Pharisess who brought the adulterous woman to Jesus figure largely in many incidents in the gospels. My Thompson Chain Bible (NKJV) gives a simple description of them:

"Scribes: Writers or secretaries who copied the Scriptures.

Pharisees: A party among the Jews of Jesus' time that laid great stress upon the observance of rites and ceremonies. They made a pretense of superior piety and separated themselves from the common people. They were believers in the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body and the existence of angels and spirits" (p. 1939).

Most people of that day held the scribes and Pharisees in awe because of their showy saintliness. But not Jesus. And not the Gospel writers. Matthew, for example shows the Pharisees and scribes as:

  • Not righteousness enough to get into the Kingdom of Heaven (Matthew 5:20).
  • Murderous (Matthew 12:14).
  • Insincere when they pretended to be on the verge of following Jesus if He would give them just one more sign (Matthew 12:38).
  • Hypocritical when they tried to entrap others over transgressing the fine points of the law (like hand-washing) while they themselves transgressed the big points (like failing to honor parents) (Matthew 15:1-9).
  • Conniving as they attempted to trap Jesus into saying or doing something they considered wrong (Matthew 19:3).

Today's story from John 8 shows them in just such a scheming mode. And though there was no question that the woman they hauled before Jesus was a sinner, He was masterful in staying out of their trap. When they insisted that she be stoned:

"He raised Himself up and said, 'Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw a stone at her.' Then He bent down and went on writing on the ground with His finger" - John 8:7-8.

Surprise of surprises, instead of picking up stones and getting to work they began, one by one, to leave. Why? Obviously each one was convicted of his own sin.

Some say that the source of their sin-conviction was what Jesus was writing on the ground — that he was listing their sins right in front of their eyes. But I believe it was His simple presence. For, Jesus' declaration of being the light of the world (John 8:12) follows the narrative as if it's the lesson or point of the story. Their slinking away showed that in the light of Him, each one became painfully aware of his own sin and knew he could not be the one to start the stoning.

Like the self-righteous Pharisees we too find it easy to categorize sin and stand in judgment over those whose sin is, in our eyes, worse than our own. Until, that is, we come into the presence of Jesus, the light, and see our own soiled selves.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, please keep me from being pharisaical and judgmental. Help me to view myself realistically and to treat fellow travelers with the same grace that I need. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 106

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Six words we should stop saying

"Christ Feeding the Multitude" by Gustave Doré
"Christ Feeding the Multitude" by Gustave Doré

TODAY’S SPECIAL: John 5-6; Psalm 105

 TO CHEW ON: “‘There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two small fish, but what are they among so many?’” John 6;9

Philip added to his answer about how much food they had, his opinion of their supply: “What are they among so many?” This is not an unfamiliar sentiment to us when we compare what we have with the need. So it’s reassuring to remind ourselves that Jesus’ feeding of the crowd here is not the only time in the Bible God came to the aid of the desperately needy.
  • The psalmist claims God’s help for mental need: “The LORD preserves the simple; I was brought low and the HE saved me” - Psalm 116:6.
  • Jesus healed a recalcitrant medical condition where a woman, after 12 years of hemorrhaging, had exhausted medical help - Mark 5:25-29.
  • Those in storms received God’s help. Jesus came to the disciples when He saw them “straining at rowing for the wind was against them” - Mark 6:48. And a whole boatload was saved through the prayers of Paul - Acts 27:14-42.
  • Jesus came to the aid of a desperate father by casting out a spirit that had oppressed his son since birth - Mark 9:17-29.
  • An angel came to the aid of Peter shackled in prison - Acts 12:5-10.

Let these stories remind us that God is never limited by our lack. So whatever our need and however puny the resources at hand, let’s forever stop the faith-destroying words “What are they among so many?” from crossing our lips.

Dear Father, thank You that You are never limited by my meager resources. Help me to look to You, not myself and what’s around me, when I’m in need. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 105

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 16, 2018


TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 3-4; Psalm 104

TO CHEW ON: "Jesus answered, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.'" John 3:5

Talk of being born again hardly moves the needle on the Richter scale of our minds. But when Jesus first introduced this idea to Nicodemus, it was earth-shaking. It really should remain that to us too. For it is the way we "enter" and "see" the Kingdom of God.

How? In Jesus' words by being "born of water" (repentance) "and the Spirit."

J. I. Packer says of the interchange between Jesus and Nicodemus:

"Speaking corporately for Himself and His disciples to Nicodemus and to the whole class of unregenerate religious people to which Nicodemus belonged, Christ went on to explain that the inevitable consequence of unregeneracy is unbelief — 'Ye receive not our witness' (verse 11). The gospel produces no conviction in them; unbelief holds them fast.

What follows, then? Should we conclude that preaching the gospel is a waste of time, and write off evangelism as a hopeless enterprise, foredoomed to fail? No; because the Spirit abides with the Church to testify of Christ"Knowing God, p. 74 (emphasis added).

The Spirit's working is, by Jesus' description here, a mysterious, unaccountable thing:"'The wind blows where it wishes and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit'" (verse 8).

Packer again:
"It is not for us to imagine that we can prove the truth of Christianity by our own arguments; nobody can prove the truth of Christianity save the Holy Spirit, by His own almighty work of renewing the blinded heart. It is the sovereign prerogative of Christ's Spirit to convince men's consciences of the truth of Christ's gospel; and Christ's human witnesses must learn to ground their hopes of success, not on clever presentation of the truth by man, but on powerful demonstration of the truth by the Spirit" - p. 74 (emphasis added).

Which is why we must not give up on anyone, no matter how resistant to the gospel they appear. For we have no idea how the Spirit is working in their lives, what is growing in the field of their hearts (Matthew 13:24), how Kingdom leaven is spreading  in the  secrecy of their inner lives (Matthew 13:33), or how they might even now be finding themselves mysteriously drawn to God's wedding banquet invitation (Matthew 22:2,9-10).

PRAYER: Dear God, thank You for sending the Holy Spirit to birth me into Your kingdom. God, the Spirit,  please use my life to accomplish Your mysterious, wind-like workings. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 104 

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The glory of miracles

Jesus turns water into  wine - Artist unknown
Jesus turns water into  wine - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: John 1-2; Psalm 103

"This beginning of signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee and manifested His glory; and His disciples believed in Him." John 2:11

The glory Jesus showed the people around Him was not always what we think of as glory, i.e. a bright, white, shining visual phenomenon. Rather it was the glory of signs, wonders, miracles and healing. And when we examine the Bible's telling of some of these events, we see that Jesus' glory shown in these ways accomplished different things in different people.

The glory of miracles, signs and wonders:

  • Caused people to believe in Jesus.
    • The disciples believed after the miracle in today's reading- John 2:11.
    • When Jesus was going to meet Mary and Martha after Lazarus' death, He said, to His disciples, that He was glad it had come to this "that you may believe?" Onlookers as well as disciples believed on Him after He brought Lazarus back to life - John 11:15, 45,48.

  • Caused people to ponder His identity and come to various conclusions about Him.
    • Nicodemus concluded He was a "...teacher come from God" - John 3:2.
    • The nobleman and His household believed Jesus was as good as His word - John 4:50,53.
    • The scribes, Pharisees, and Jewish leaders saw a threat to their power in His miracles and teachings and pronounced Jesus and his works demonic - John 10:20,21.
    • After Jesus fed the multitude, His disciples and those who had eaten believed He was the fulfillment of prophecy - John 6:14.

  • Convicted and challenged His disciples.
    • The great abundance of fish the disciples caught after following Jesus' instructions caused Peter to be aware of His sin - Luke 5:8.
    • John the Baptist's faith was stretched when Jesus continued performing miracles while he, John, was stuck in prison (Matthew 11:2-6). It was an imprisonment that eventually led to his death. Like him we may sometimes have our faith stretched in this way when, no matter how great our need and how hard we pray, God doesn't perform a miracle for us. I take this as a lesson that these glory works are for God's purposes, not ours; we can't manipulate them. 
    • Jesus' feeding of the multitude was proof that Jesus could care for the disciples' physical needs - Mark 8:16-21.
    • Miracles performed in Jesus' name continued on in the church past His death and resurrection, causing the disciples to get into all kinds of trouble - Acts 2:22; 4:30; 8:5,6.
    • Are a means of drawing people to Jesus for salvation - Hebrews 2:2-4.

The Greek word "glory" used John 2:11 is doxa  "The NT doxa becomes splendour, radiance and majesty centred in Jesus. Here doxa is the majestic absolute perfection residing in Christ and evidenced by the miracles He performed" - Dick Mills, Word Wealth, New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1446.

This is the same glory (doxa) Jesus prayed would carry on in us, His disciples:
"And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one" - John 17:22 (emphasis added).

May His glory touch us and flow through us in signs, wonders, and miracles!

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for coming to Earth to show us God's glory through miracles. Thank You for still performing miracles today. Help me to believe even when you don't answer My prayer with a miracle. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 103

The Bible Project VIDEO: John - Part 1 of 2 (Read Scripture Series)

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Friday, September 14, 2018


"The Crucifixion" by Alexandre Bida

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 15-16; Psalm 102

TO CHEW ON: "And at the ninth hour, Jesus cried out with a loud voice saying, 'Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani' which is translated 'My God, My God why have You forsaken Me?'" Mark 15:34

No matter how often I read the story of Jesus' death, these words from the cross (the echo of Psalm 22:1) wrench at my heart. They carry the tones of utter despair and abandonment.

A footnote in my Bible describes them as a "...cry of dereliction from Jesus that reflects the burden of humanity's sin, complete identification with sinners and a real abandonment by God" - New Spirit-Filled Life Bible, p. 1379.

Wayne Grudem names four aspects of the pain of the cross:
1. Physical pain and death ... death by crucifixion was one of the most horrible forms of execution ever devised by men...

2. The pain of bearing sin: More awful than the pain of physical suffering that Jesus endured was the psychological pain of bearing the guilt of our sin (Isaiah 53:6; 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13).

3. Abandonment ... Jesus faced this pain alone (Mark 15:34; Matthew 26:56).

4. Bearing the wrath of God ... As Jesus bore the guilt of our sins alone, God the Father, the mighty Creator, the Lord of the universe, poured out on Jesus the fury of his wrath: Jesus became the object of the intense hatred of sin and vengeance against sin which God had patiently stored up since the beginning of the world (Romans 3:24-25; Hebrews 2:17; 1 John 2:2). - Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, pp. 573-575.

Which makes that desolate cry from the cross all the more impacting. It has something to do with me. My sin—my pride, jealousy, anger, greed, covetousness etc. etc. were part of that black burden that not only separated Jesus from His Father but made Jesus (instead of me) the object of the Father's wrath.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, thank You for not turning away from the terrible "cup." I am forever grateful that You became sin, a curse, for me. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 102

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The fight between sleep and prayer

The Sleep of the Disciples - Alexandre Bida
The Sleep of the Disciples - Alexandre Bida

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 13-14; Psalm 101

"And He came and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, 'Simon, are you sleeping? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation' … And when He returned, He found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy; and they did not know what to answer Him." Mark 14: 37,38,40

No doubt the disciples' sleep was a legitimate physical response to physical fatigue. Yet one gets the sense that there is also a spiritual component to their napping here, while a few feet away, Jesus agonizes in prayer.

Several thoughts...

On prayer:
1. Jesus, the very Son of God, who had unprecedented access to the Father, still desired the disciples' prayer company and support. " 'Could you not watch one hour?' "  Mark reports Jesus saying (Mark 14:37). Matthew adds " 'Could you not watch with me one hour?' " (Matthew 26:40).

2. Jesus' desire for them to be praying was also for their benefit: " 'Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak' " Mark 14:38.

On sleep:
1. The persistence of the disciples' sleep, even after Jesus' warning, alerts us to the fact this may have been more than mere fatigue. They were seemingly embarrassed and perhaps even puzzled by their inability to stay awake: " … they did not know what to answer Him" - Mark 14:39.

2. Luke's account says: "He found them sleeping from sorrow" - Luke 22:45. This suggests their sleep may also have been a form of escapism.

Some insights for our lives as modern disciples from this part of the passion story:
- Prayer: 

  • It aids us even as it supports others.

- Sleep:

  • We do need a healthy amount to function. But could an inordinate sleepiness at times when we set out to pray be an aspect of spiritual warfare?
  • When we're overwhelmed by life situations, maybe we should more often escape into prayer than sleep!
  • Could our inability to stay awake during prayer be a symptom of a dull spiritual state? Perhaps spiritual things just don't seem real enough; prayer doesn't seem important enough to keep us alert and awake. The Bible uses sleep as a metaphor to illustrate spiritual dullness and oblivion:
"… now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed" - Romans 13:11.

"Therefore let us not sleep as others do, but let us watch and be sober" - 1 Thessalonians 5:6.

See also Mark 13:35,36  |  Romans 11:8  |  Ephesians 5:14.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, I confess I have often slept when I should be praying. Please help me to understand what's at stake in maintaining times of prayer. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 101

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Jesus the people-watcher

Bible story book illustration - Artist unknown
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 11-12; Psalm 100

TO CHEW ON: "So He called His disciples to Himself and said to them, 'Assuredly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all those who have given to the treasury; for they all put in out of their abundance but she out of her poverty put in all that she had, her whole livelihood.'" Mark 12:43-44

I love the story of Jesus and His disciples people-watching—and Jesus' attention caught by a poor widow. She stood out because she put so little into the treasury.

Jesus drew His disciples' attention to her, not to hold her up as an example of stinginess, but generosity. Because of His divine insight, He saw and understood the extent of her gift and praised her as the greatest giver of the day.

This story can speak to us on two levels—as the watcher and the watched.

We watch people—observe what they give (not only money in church but time, hospitality, friendship, service...), and make judgments about them. Without Jesus' interpretation of her act, the disciples may well have drawn a different conclusion about her and her gift. We need to be careful not to jump to judgment on the basis of appearances.

We are also being watched. Realizing that the God who knows our circumstances and motivations is constantly watching us can be comforting or unnerving.

If we give with honesty, integrity, courage and stretched faith out of our love for Him we have the comfort of knowing He sees and appreciates, even if our gifts' outward appearances are small.

Of course if we give with mixed motives—to impress others, or as a down-payment on blessings we hope we'll get from Him, or out of habit or duty, He sees that too and is probably as unimpressed by our gift as Jesus was with the "much" given by the wealthy.

PRAYER: Dear God, please help me not to judge people by the appearance of what they give. When I give, please reveal any unworthy motives to me. Amen. 

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 100

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Approachable Jesus

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Mark 9-10; Psalm 99

TO CHEW ON: "Then they brought little children to Him that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked those who brought them. But when Jesus saw it, He was greatly displeased .... And He took them up in His arms, laid His hands on them, and blessed them." Mark 10:13,16

Jesus' disciples had their boundaries in place. When they saw children coming to Jesus, they ordered them and their parents to leave. It seems they saw children as an inconvenience and an unwanted interruption not worthy of Jesus' time.

But Jesus didn't join His disciples in scolding the parents. Instead, He scolded the disciples for sending the little ones away (at least we read He was "greatly displeased").

I wonder what the parents expected Jesus' touch to do for their kids. I wonder after He had taken them in His arms and blessed them, were they forever changed?

Gary Chapman in his book The Love Languages of God holds out the idea that there are five main ways people express and understand love. (He calls them Love Languages. They are: words of affirmation, quality time, acts of service, gifts, and physical touch). At one point he comes to this conclusion:

"It is my premise that the love languages observed in human relationships are a reflection of divine love. If man is indeed made in the image of God, then we would expect to find all five love languages expressed in the character and nature of God. It is also my premise that God speaks all five love languages fluently and that people tend to be attracted to God most deeply when they sense that God is speaking their primary love language" - Gary Chapman, The Love Languages of God, pp. 28, 29 (republished under the title God Speaks Your Love Language).

In the chapter on touch, Chapman points out how often Jesus touched people. He often touched them when He healed them (John 9:11; Matthew 8:2-3, 15; Matthew 9:27, 29-30). He touched His disciples to revive them on the Mount of Transfiguration (Matthew 17:7). He washed their feet (John 13:1-4). And here He touched the children.

Touch is certainly the first communication of love that children get. And it can remain a powerful communicator of love throughout life. So what do children 'hear' when we touch them with our hands and our voices? Gentleness? Respect (in that we don't force ourselves on them if they are wary of us)? Purity? Love? What do we communicate to the adults we touch?

May our touching be Jesus' hands, extended in love to touch the world through us.

PRAYER: Dear Jesus, what a beautiful picture of You touching, holding, and blessing little children. Help my touch to be Your hand extended in love to whomever You send into my life to touch today. Amen.


MORE: Perverted touch

Josh McDowell in the book Undaunted, tells of how he was sexually abused by a man his mother had hired to help with housework. From ages six to twelve this man touched and caressed Josh in impure ways.

That perverted touch left its mark. In an interview with Jim Cantelon on 100 Huntley Street, McDowell told of how to this day (he's now in his late 70s) he cannot stand to be touched. When people put their hands on his shoulders or back when praying for him, he stops and asks them to remove their hands. His reaction shows how long-lasting the effects of wrong, perverted, and impure touch can be.

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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