These are days of distraction and division. Days of greed and gluttoney. Days of hurt and hopelessness. Days of anger and anomosity. Days of loneliness and losses. 

But, Jesus is present and these can be…. 

Days of… 

…repentance and renewal… 

…releasing and relinquishing… 

…restoration and response… 

…remaining and reflecting… 

And days of… 

Redemption 

These are days of preparation and promise. Days of hope and humility. Days of connection and change. The days of turning from what keeps us from God and turning toward what brings us closer to Him. 

Join us beginning on Ash Wednesday, as WE begin our 40-day journey through Lent with These Are Days. 

Tips For Lent

Questions for Reflection

  1. What is a habit in my life getting in the way of me fully loving God and others? Or being loved by God and others? What are some steps I can take to address this habit? How am I going to respond when change becomes difficult?
  1. What is something I am attached to but don’t need? Is God leading me to give up this attachment for Lent? If so, how would surrendering this area of my life prepare me for the new life of Easter?

 

Personal Activities

  1. Observe a Sabbath for six consecutive weeks. Many people find sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday an excellent time. Spend time resting, reflecting, practicing recreation, restoring, and replenishing. After each Sabbath, think about what God was doing in you during the Sabbath.
  2. Read the Gospel of Luke. Go slow. You only need to read about half a chapter per day. At the end of each reading—ask the question: How does God want me to apply one lesson I learned to my life today and in the future?
  3. Fast from using a credit card or debit card and become aware of how you are spending money. Reflect on what it means to be a good and faithful steward of God’s resources.
  4. Write forty notes of gratitude or encouragement to family, friends, co-workers, classmates, neighbors, or people from your past (both people who are alive and deceased). Think about how God is working through this process.

 

 

For Families with Children

  1. During meals or before bed, share together how each of you experienced God during the day. Pray together for a deeper experience of God’s grace in your life.
  2. Go old school and turn off all electronic devices one evening per week from after-school until the next morning. You will survive and the world will be fine too. Talk about this experience the next day.
03.02.2022
Ash Wednesday
Repent
03.06.2022
Renew
03.13.2022
Release
03.20.2022
Relinquish
03.27.2022
Restore

Beginning on Ash Wednesday, March 2nd, The Water’s Edge invites you to embark on a journey to say, “These are days…” Over the next 40 days, WE will replace the things in our lives that take hold of our days. The things that keep us from days of hope. The things that keep us from days of gratitude. The things that keep us from days of joy. The things that keep us from days with Jesus. 

Each day, WE invite you to use this study guide – individually, as a family, with friends or with your House Church – to lead you through the week’s practices. 

Throughout Lent, WE will be reading through the book of Luke. WE encourage you to do the readings along with us each day. Click on the dates below to open a link to that day’s reading.

M a r c h  2 

L u k e  1 : 1 – 3 8 

M a r c h  3 

L u k e  1 : 3 9 – 8 0 

M a r c h  4 

L u k e  2 : 1 – 2 0 

M a r c h  5 

L u k e  2 : 2 1 – 5 2 

M a r c h  6 

R e s t  &  R e f l e c t 

M a r c h  7 

L u k e  3 : 1 – 3 8 

M a r c h  8 

L u k e  4 : 1 – 3 0 

M a r c h  9 

L u k e  4 : 3 1 – 4 4 

M a r c h  1 0 

L u k e  5 : 1 – 3 9 

M a r c h  1 1 

L u k e  6 : 1 – 1 6 

M a r c h  1 2 

L u k e  6 : 1 7 – 4 9 

M a r c h  1 3 

R e s t  &  R e f l e c t 

M a r c h  1 4 

L u k e  7 : 1 – 2 3 

M a r c h  1 5 

L u k e  7 : 2 4 – 5 0 

M a r c h  1 6 

L u k e  8 : 1 – 2 5 

M a r c h  1 7 

L u k e  8 : 2 6 – 5 6 

M a r c h  1 8 

L u k e  9 : 1 – 2 7 

M a r c h  1 9 

L u k e  9 : 2 8 – 6 2 

M a r c h  2 0 

R e s t  &  R e f l e c t 

M a r c h  2 1 

L u k e  1 0 : 1 – 4 2 

M a r c h  2 2 

L u k e  1 1 : 1 – 2 8 

M a r c h  2 3 

L u k e  1 1 : 2 9 – 5 4 

M a r c h  2 4 

L u k e  1 2 : 1 – 3 2 

M a r c h  2 5 

L u k e  1 2 : 3 3 – 5 9 

M a r c h  2 6 

L u k e  1 3 : 1 – 3 5 

M a r c h  2 7 

R e s t  &  R e f l e c t 

M a r c h  2 8 

L u k e  1 4 : 1 – 3 5 

M a r c h  2 9 

L u k e  1 5 : 1 – 3 2 

M a r c h  3 0 

L u k e  1 6 : 1 – 3 1 

M a r c h  3 1 

L u k e  1 7 : 1 – 3 7 

A p r i l  1 

L u k e  1 8 : 1 – 1 7 

A p r i l  2 

L u k e  1 8 : 1 8 – 4 3 

A p r i l  3 

R e s t  &  R e f l e c t 

A p r i l  4 

L u k e  1 9 : 1 – 2 8 

A p r i l  5 

L u k e  1 9 : 2 9 – 4 8 

A p r i l  6 

L u k e  2 0 : 1 – 2 6 

A p r i l  7 

L u k e  2 0 : 2 7 – 4 7 

A p r i l  8 

L u k e  2 1 : 1 – 8 

A p r i l  9 

R e s t  &  R e f l e c t 

A p r i l  1 0 

L u k e  2 2 : 1 – 2 3 

A p r i l  1 1 

L u k e  2 2 : 2 4 – 5 3 

A p r i l  1 2 

L u k e  2 2 : 5 4 – 7 1 

A p r i l  1 3 

L u k e  2 3 : 1 – 3 1 

A p r i l  1 4 

L u k e  2 3 : 3 2 – 5 6 

A p r i l  1 5 

L u k e  2 4 : 1 – 2 7 

A p r i l  1 6 

L u k e  2 4 : 2 8 – 5 3

WE encourage you to use these devotions written by Doug Giffin to dive deeper into your reading of Luke during the 40 days of Lent.

Luke 1:11-19

Don’t Question a Gift – By Doug Giffin

Too often we get hung up on the details instead of just accepting what we’re given

Scripture:  Luke 1 11-19 11 Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense.   12 When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear.   13 But the angel said to him: “Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John.   14 He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15 for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born.   16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.   17 And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”   18 Zechariah asked the angel, “How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.”   19 The angel said to him, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news.

Imagine if you will that you really wanted a red Mustang GT.  You’d been hoping and wishing that somehow you could have one for years but it just didn’t seem to be working out and now, since it had been so long, you had pretty much decided it just wasn’t going to happen.  One day at work for no apparent reason a genie appears next to your desk.  He says, don’t worry everything is going to be all right, your wish will be granted.  There will be a 2016 fire engine red Mustang GT in your driveway when you get home.  I have the keys right here and the title is in your left hand desk drawer.  I’ve made sure to put the high performance package on it so you and your wife will be sure to enjoy it.  What would you say?

Would you say, “Oh, man, how am I going to pay for the licensing and my insurance will just be through the roof!”  Or, would you say, “I’m going to have to call my wife, right after I call security!”  Or would you say, “Thanks a lot, gimme the keys!”  Somehow, in the face of incredible good fortune and blessedness, Zechariah questioned how it could all work out and be possible rather than just saying “Great!  Thank God!”  Such is the inclination of all of us I’m afraid.

We ask for things in prayer.  We pray that blessings will be bestowed on us, things that will enrich our lives and make them whole.  We yearn for that something that we know will give us joy and fulfillment beyond our wildest dreams.  We believe that thing is the key to our happiness.  And when God pours out the good stuff on our lives we look at it and say, “How will I know this is actually going to happen for me?  There are so many reasons why it can’t.  It never has before.  I’ve wanted it for so long.  I realize this is a huge gift, but how’s it all going to work?”

Imagine for a second.  What would it be like if we just said, “Great!  Thank God!” and then let things unfold as He intended?  What’s so wrong with that?  Give it a try sometime.

Where and in what way do you need to get out of your own way and accept the gifts that God has given you?  How would that feel?

Luke 2:8-20

Why?  Oh, yeah.

Luke 2: 8-20  8  And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.   9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.   10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.  11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord.   12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”   13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,   14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”   15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”   16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  17  When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,   18  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.   19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.   20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen which were just as they had been told.

I look at this scripture and it seems to me to be a set of verses where I ask myself why and then always answer, oh, yeah.  For starters, why shepherds?  Oh, yeah, they represented the most common of common folk.  They weren’t at all elite, refined or scholars of their day. However, the fact that the angels chose them as the first ones to break the really, really good news to means that even though I’m not necessarily upper crust, just an ordinary, common guy I might be worthy of being chosen to hear about the biggest news ever.  That’s good for me.

Why were they so afraid?  Imagine you’re in the country, far away from home.  It is pitch black and all of a sudden some million candlepower light is shining from out of nowhere.  Then some being tells you about this fantastic event nearby.  Oh, yeah and even though you’re still quaking in your sandals after it’s over, collectively you have the good sense and presence of mind to follow directions.   So, if these guys could muster the courage to follow the path laid out before them out of the blue (really the black) then shouldn’t I be able to handle what God’s telling me today?

Why were the shepherds the ones moved to spread the news and why was everyone amazed?  Oh yeah, they wouldn’t have been the most socially adept of people at that time (think long periods living with sheep, in remote areas, no cell phones, no twitter or Facebook).  These were not guys that ran around in social circles and yet their news was big and they were seen as the herald of something awesome.  They were transformed by the Holy Spirit which is really encouraging to me who is so NOT a lot of things.

Maybe they were brought into this thing to serve as an example of what is possible for a guy like me?  Oh, yeah.

What big thing is the Holy Spirit trying to move you to do today?  Have you told yourself a story about why it’s not possible?

Luke 4:31-37

Be Quiet

It looks like the process of becoming a follower begins with shutting up and listening.  That’s how we get the bad stuff out of us.

Luke 4 31-37  31  Then he went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and on the Sabbath he taught the people.   32 They were amazed at his teaching, because his words had authority.   33 In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an impure spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice,   34 “Go away! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!”   35 “Be quiet!” Jesus said sternly. “Come out of him!” Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him.   36 All the people were amazed and said to each other, “What words these are! With authority and power he gives orders to impure spirits and they come out!”   37 And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area.

Once a week.  Only on the Sabbath; that’s when he taught and they were amazed.  Like Celine Deion in Vegas or Billy Joel in Atlantic City or Jerry Seinfeld in Madison Square Garden.  Regular.  Structured.  He spoke with authority not like Cartman screaming “Respect my authority!” but with the words, the content that would eventually spread all over.

But it wasn’t just the words; there were the deeds, like this one.  Now, I don’t know if the man who yelled at Jesus was truly possessed, I wasn’t there.  For all I know, he could have been just common, garden variety nuts.  Look at the scripture though.  Look at what Jesus said, “Be quiet!  Come out of him.”  Simple.  Stern.  Straightforward.  His words carried power and they make the impression you would expect.

We’re not all possessed (maybe some of us have a little of the devil in them) and we’re not all nuts (again, same aside) but don’t tell me we don’t need someone who speaks to us with authority, with power and maybe at times a little sternly.  I know I can use a little wake-up call every once in a while.  I get it most often in the events or miss-steps of my life but that’s another story for another day.

The deal is that if we’re going to follow someone why not this guy?  He was a man but not just any man.  It’s clear he made an impact.  It’s clear he did good things and it’s clear he had some things to teach the people of his time and those things still carry weight, still ring true today.  So, be quiet and get that bad stuff out of you (I know I’ll be trying to) and follow Him.

We all deal with this stuff.  What’s the noise in your life right now?  What are the bad things?  What will it take for you to get rid of both and forever get them out of your life?  Won’t you please leave a comment below?  It might really help someone out.

Luke 8:16-18

Onion

Some things just keep going and going and going, like some sort of smelly vegetable.

Luke 8: 16-18 16 “No one lights a lamp and hides it in a clay jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, they put it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light.   17 For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open.  18 Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they think they have will be taken from them.”

Ever peel an onion?  I have and it seems like the more layers you take off the more seem to appear.  Before you know it you have a pile of skins, your eyes are burning and watering and you’re not sure where to stop.  That’s where I seem to find myself with these three verses from Luke.

In the first layer/verse I’m sure I’m being told to let the good stuff in me shine.  It seems pretty logical that if there’s good in me why would I hide it, right?  Unfortunately in the second verse it looks like if I let the good stuff out then everything is going to come out in the open.  I certainly don’t want that!  There’s some stuff I’d rather, you know, keep on the down low.  Finally, in the last verse it looks like somehow the old saying “Them that has, gets!” is true according to Jesus.  I’m left wishing I had never started peeling, regretting I ever heard of an onion and wondering what I am going to do with the wreckage.  I have no choice but to keep peeling and hope it gets better.

So, on the second reading, my light doesn’t apparently have to shine for everyone, just those that come into my room.  That’s good for me because I’m a little uncomfortable really professing all the stuff I believe or think or hold close to my heart.  I’m not really okay putting myself out there so much.  In the second verse it looks like that’s just fine, you know, that I’m a little hesitant because everything (in this case the good stuff) is going to be known anyway. It’s really not necessarily up to me because if I believe the second verse, my goodness will come out in the end no matter how little or how much I do.  Lastly, it looks like assuming I have a lot, I have nothing to worry about.  I’m going to be blessed.

But here’s the kicker.  Jesus said consider carefully how you listen, not if you listen but how.  It looks like the Son of God is saying this whole listening thing is tricky.  It looks like he’s telling us to watch how we decode the messages of this world.  I’m afraid he’s telling me that if I don’t watch how I interpret things I could end up an arrogant braggart who’s smug in his piety and self-assured that he’s got it made.  Or, I could end up a timid wimp, afraid of being noticed, trying to make myself invisible who’s going to lose everything in the end anyway.

Maybe what I need is someone to make sense of all this.  Maybe what I need is someone to follow, someone to show me the way, someone that will help me avoid the pitfalls that appear to be everywhere.  Maybe my best bet is the guy that handed me the onion in the first place.

What do you struggle with most trying to make your way in the world?  Are you able to use what’s in the Bible to interpret what you’re feeling, seeing and experiencing?  How do you do it?  Leave a comment below and help a guy out.

Luke 9:28-36

I can do that!

Luke 9: 28-36 28 About eight days after Jesus said this; he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray.   29 As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.   30 Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus.   31 They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.   32 Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him.   33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” (He did not know what he was saying.)   34 While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.   35 A voice came from the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen to him.”  36 When the voice had spoken, they found that Jesus was alone. The disciples kept this to themselves and did not tell anyone at that time what they had seen.

So, let me see if I have this right.  Your leader, the guy you believe to be the savior of the world takes you up onto a mountain to pray.  Except, you can’t stay awake because obviously this is a very boring little excursion you’re on (with the Son of God).  Then there’s some lightning and some splendor things and your guy is standing there with a couple of the legendary figures from the past that just happen to have been dead for many years.  When you finally sort of come to, one of your buddies suggests that you build a marker or monument to signify him and the two dead guys (who are now gone, of course) at which time a voice from the clouds (which have enveloped you) tells you straight up that this guy standing in front of you is his son.  And the voice is God’s but you and your buddies don’t tell anyone.  IF I have this right, about all I can say is “Are you kidding me?!”

As aghast as I am at the disciples behavior (what could they have changed if they’d just opened their pie holes?) in a strange way I’m encouraged.  If these guys were the ones Jesus chose.  If these guys were the ones he was going to give the reins to once he was gone.  If these guys then went on to spread the news all over the world and started a movement that still goes strong today.  I have to say, I can do that!

I mean, they couldn’t seem to stay awake (this would happen again).  They would deny they ever knew him.  They would go into hiding after he was crucified.  And then they would finally, finally have their eyes opened and do great and fantastic things.  I guess the encouraging news is there’s hope for me after all.  I can mess up, fall down, fall short and flat out fail but if I keep my eyes and my ears open and listen I too can be saved.  Not only that, I can be a force, a light to others.  Hallelujah!

Where have you messed up, missed the boat and fallen down?  Do you believe that your past misdeeds don’t exempt you from salvation?  Do you believe that God still wants needs and yearns to have you be an instrument for him?

Luke 11:33-36

Of Light and Dark and Vision

What we see, light or dark, can’t help but go into us and become part of us.

Luke 11: 33-36  33 “No one lights a lamp and puts it in a place where it will be hidden, or under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, so that those who come in may see the light.  34 Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eyes are healthy, your whole body also is full of light. But when they are unhealthy, your body also is full of darkness.  35 See to it, then, that the light within you is not darkness.   36 Therefore, if your whole body is full of light, and no part of it dark, it will be just as full of light as when a lamp shines its light on you.”

Far from being a plug for the benefits of optometry the above verses speak to what’s inside you, in fact inside all of us.  I don’t think Jesus is advising me not to read in bad light, not change my contacts regularly or avoid tests for glaucoma.  It’s said that the eyes are the window to your soul and I believe what Jesus is saying is that window will show a light or a dark body but it will show something.  We can’t avoid that.

It’s up to us to keep our eyes healthy but what is that exactly?  Obviously we see with our eyes so the admonition would be to look at healthy versus unhealthy things.  Our eyes take in what we put in front of them.  You may have heard someone jokingly say they wish they could have unseen something.  The thing is… we can’t.  Once that unhealthy thing is seen it goes into us and according to the scripture it makes a part of the inside of us dark.  I picture it a bit like a filter that if I bring clean air through it, will remain clean but if I run dirty, smoky, crummy air into it that gook remains.  Then there’s the other side to be considered, the output side of this equation.

You may have heard the computer saying, “Garbage in, garbage out.”  It holds true here that if we bring darkness in there can be no light.  What Jesus is saying is that we will fill our bodies, our selves, our souls with this stuff.  It can be light or it can be darkness but whichever it is that is what will come out.  That whole window to the soul thing doesn’t contain any kind of refractive properties to clean up what’s entered in the first place.

My hope for you is that you consider what’s going in and take measures to ensure more light than dark enters on a daily basis.

What do you think is the greatest source of darkness in our world today?  How do we not take that into ourselves?  I appreciate your ideas on this.

Luke 14:1-14

Here’s One Poor Dinner Guest!

I’m guessing Jesus made things really uncomfortable for the others at this table.

Sometimes I think that we, as the body of the church, have become way too nice.  We make far too few waves and ruffle hardly any feathers.  Acting this way is not following in the steps of Jesus.  Jesus was not a good dinner guest but then again the Pharisees had it coming.  Take a look at how he acted in Luke 14: 1-14.

Jesus stepped on toes all the time.  Imagine your guest pressing you for a values or ethics or morality judgment.  When you’re unwilling to give it, your guest declares they’ve decided their opinion or stance or morals are correct.  I’m thinking no pound cake would be served and it might be an early night.  Your guest isn’t done though and doesn’t even seem to care; he’s just getting warmed up and takes aim at your ego.

The story he tells and the lesson of it are a poke in your eye.  Your black eye becomes the black eye of your other guests and your friends; really everyone in the group.  Needless to say you won’t be inviting this guy back!

Jesus knew the score.  He knew the undercurrent and the reason he had been brought to the table.  It wasn’t to make friends, break bread, find common ground or extend some sort of olive branch.  The purpose was to make him look bad, to trip him up.  He had the audacity to fight back though, to call a spade a spade and to declare what he knew to be right.  I’m afraid personally this doesn’t sound too familiar.

When was the last time you did something like that?  When was the last time you stood alone and said “Here’s what I believe, what I know to be true and what I, as a follower, will do.”  I’m going to confess for me personally it’s been since…..never.  I hope you’ll join me in saying, “That’s gonna change!”

What would the consequences be for you personally for doing what Jesus did?  What are the consequences for NOT doing what he did?  Which has the immediate impact and which has the eternal impact?  Which one makes it easier to sleep at night?

I’m afraid I do a lot of hand-wringing and work through a lot of remorse when I review how I acted.  I find myself coming up with the exact words I should have spoken, only about 12 hours too late.  There’s lots of reasons I do this and not what I should do in the first place. Maybe this story and example will give you courage.

Luke 15:11-32

Luke 15: 11-32. – To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons.   12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So, his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.   13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land, and there he wasted all his money in wild living.   14 About the time his money ran out, a great famine swept over the land, and he began to starve.   15 He persuaded a local farmer to hire him, and the man sent him into his fields to feed the pigs.   16 The young man became so hungry that even the pods he was feeding the pigs looked good to him. But no one gave him anything.   17 “When he finally came to his senses, he said to himself, ‘At home even the hired servants have food enough to spare, and here I am dying of hunger!   18 I will go home to my father and say, “Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, 19 and I am no longer worthy of being called your son. Please take me on as a hired servant.”’   20 “So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.   21 His son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against both heaven and you, and I am no longer worthy of being called your son.’   22 “But his father said to the servants, ‘Quick! Bring the finest robe in the house and put it on him. Get a ring for his finger and sandals for his feet.   23 And kill the calf we have been fattening. We must celebrate with a feast, 24 for this son of mine was dead and has now returned to life. He was lost, but now he is found.’ So, the party began.   25 “Meanwhile, the older son was in the fields working. When he returned home, he heard music and dancing in the house, 26 and he asked one of the servants what was going on.   27 ‘Your brother is back,’ he was told, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf. We are celebrating because of his safe return.’   28 “The older brother was angry and wouldn’t go in. His father came out and begged him, 29 but he replied, ‘All these years I’ve slaved for you and never once refused to do a single thing you told me to. And in all that time you never gave me even one young goat for a feast with my friends.   30 Yet when this son of yours comes back after squandering your money on prostitutes, you celebrate by killing the fattened calf!’   31 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours.   32 We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’

There’s a lot of things I don’t know.  I don’t know which way the stock market is going to go.  I don’t know how long I’ll be here on earth.  I don’t know what I’m going to have for lunch.  There is one thing I know, though.  I know the story of the prodigal son.

If you’re like me you’ve probably heard it a bunch of times and you get it.  Here’s the story of a young man who selfishly wanted his reward early.  He didn’t want to wait.  (Guess he was an early adopter of our insta-culture today, huh?)  Anyway, he blows his money and comes crawling back home ready to humble himself and take whatever his father will give him.  You knew how the story ended probably before you read it in the link above.  His father takes him back, throws a party and all is forgiven.  Easy, right?  Heard it a bunch, even seen it a few times in real life, right?  Well, let’s pare this story down a whole bunch.

Just this once I’d like you to take a look at only one verse of the story above.  Take a gander at verse 20.  It’s just three sentences and the middle sentence of the three is just huge.  “And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming.”

For me, beyond the folly of the son, beyond the forgiveness of the father, there is the searching, the caring and the constant vigil God keeps for us, his prodigal sons and daughters.  There’s no real definite mention of how long the prodigal was away.  It could have been two weeks or two months, maybe two years.  Regardless of the actual time, for the father (God) to have seen his son coming from a long distance he had to have been looking.  Not just an occasional glance, not just a ‘check the horizon from time to time’ his father was intently studying things that were far off.  This is good news for me because I have to confess, I go away for a while sometimes.  Sometimes I’m off the reservation for way too long.

I’m less than I should be.  I take pleasures and borrow from accounts I have no business withdrawing from at times.  In plain terms, I don’t do what I’m supposed to do.  And God still looks for me; always.  He searches for me constantly and when I return, he rejoices.

Sure, I’m repentant and I should be.  I return many times broke, down on my luck and starving for things I can’t provide for myself.  He always takes me in with open arms, joy and compassion.  He enriches my life, gives me back good things and feeds me in ways I could never manage or imagine.

God sees me from a long way off.  And when he sees me, he doesn’t wait for me to make that long, shameful, woeful journey to him; he runs to me.  He accepts me and he is glad for my return.  He wants me at the party, and that’s very, very good news indeed.

 

Where or how do you need to come home to God today?

Luke 17:1-10

Luke 17: 1-10 1 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.   2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.  3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.  4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”  5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”  6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.  7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?   8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?  9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?   10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

Devotion

I have to think that Jesus chose his disciples not because they were super-good, awesome, upstanding pillars of the community but because of all their inadequacies, insecurities and shortcomings.

Here, Jesus instructs them how much to forgive, how often and then what the consequences of sin should be.  Their response, like something out of Wayne’s World:  “We’re not worthy!” To which Jesus replies (and I’m paraphrasing) “Come on guys!  It takes about a speck of faith to make a miracle happen and you surely have that in you.”  So he’s told them how and he’s told them they’re able.  He finishes up with why.

In a word, it’s duty.  As a servant of God and as a servant to others it is our responsibility to forgive.  Where would we be in this whole follow Jesus thing if we didn’t do that?  Nowhere, the same place we would be if God didn’t forgive us (Ouch!).  Jesus is really just issuing a call to arms if you will.  It’s a call we would be wise to answer today.

We’re not at all unlike the disciples.   We think we can’t do it.  We think we’re not up to the task and that we’re just too busy, stressed, weak, etc. etc., etc. to do this whole forgiveness thing.  Jesus calls us, like he did his disciples, to man up and do what we’ve been put here to do. Furthermore, he says this isn’t a one-time thing.  We must do it over and over and over and over and over, again and again.  There’s no stopping point, no finish line, no place where we say, “Okay, that was a righteous stretch there.  We’re done with that stuff, now we rest.”  Nope, there’s no breaks, not for God, not for us.  As servants we’re called by Jesus to always and forever forgive.

Something to think about

What’s your limit on the forgiveness meter?  At what point do you say “Enough” and no longer give forgiveness?  What is it going to take to destroy that line over which you will not cross?

Luke 18:18-30

An Unpopular Guy

We may not want to admit it but this Jesus guy wasn’t really the life of the party.

Jesus was not a very popular guy.  Sure, there were the blessings, the teachings and the healings (those played especially well to the crowds) but he himself refuses to be called good, even here.  He didn’t tell people what they wanted to hear.  His answers weren’t what they were looking for and I’m certain many went away saddened like this ruler.  Still, I don’t think he’s saying you have to be without money or home or family to enter the kingdom of God.

Surely we can agree that if money rules your life, the getting, accumulating and the having of it, then God will not be first and who could expect him to take second position?  Also, if we aren’t willing to at least temporarily give up our home whether for a mission or the extravagance of something like a fur sink (old Steve Martin joke) then we’ve put possessions ahead of God once again.  And last, if we aren’t willing to give up our family if they do not follow God we’ve put that relationship ahead of our relationship with Him.  Not popular stuff, but necessary.

God won’t accept second place.  He’s not okay with silver, it’s gold he’s after and lest you think that just means money consider the poor woman who gave a small amount but all she had.  We’re talking commitment here and not necessarily a popular one at that.  Still it’s possible.

As Jesus said the impossible for us alone is possible with God.  With him we can give up the things, the money, the possessions/status and even relationships.  All of these may take us away from him and that’s not what he’s about.  Make him the center and there isn’t anything that holds you back.  He doesn’t promise popularity or even the norm here in this life but in him today and eternally the riches abound.  Now that; should be popular.

This following-Jesus thing isn’t always easy but it’s worth it.  We’re going to suffer some unpopularity just like Jesus did I imagine.  Still, with God there isn’t anything that’s impossible.  So we’ve got that going for us, which is nice.

Luke 1: 57-66

Marvelously Ordinary – By Doug Giffin

Apparently even way back when, following directions and doing what you were told was a pretty big deal.

Luke 1: 57-66 57 When it was time for Elizabeth to have her baby, she gave birth to a son.   58 Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown her great mercy, and they shared her joy.   59 On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him after his father Zechariah,   60 but his mother spoke up and said, “No! He is to be called John.”   61 They said to her, “There is no one among your relatives who has that name.”   62 Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child.   63 He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone’s astonishment he wrote, “His name is John.”   64 Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue set free, and he began to speak, praising God.   65 All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things.  66 Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, “What then is this child going to be?” For the Lord’s hand was with him.

I admit I don’t remember a lot of the skills or information I was given to do my first “big-boy” job but I do remember a video training program we had on customer service.  The instructor said we would be amazed how people would marvel at our service and praise our company if all we offered was good old, garden variety courtesy.  He said that people just wanted to be treated decently and if we did that we would have nothing to worry about.  All we had to do was follow that one simple axiom.  I’ve never known this advice to be flawed.

Apparently it’s been true for a long, long time.  Look at Elizabeth and Zechariah for instance.  They were given some pretty simple instructions about this son of theirs, one of which was what to name him.  Now, I could be missing entirely the significance of NOT naming your son after a relative but it’s clear the neighbors and family did not.  As so often happens, even the best intentioned people can be a force trying to lead us astray from what we’re told to do.  Elizabeth surely must have felt that.  Zechariah had a little more compelling reason to follow instruction (not being able to talk for nine or so months will do that to a guy).  I imagine he had thoroughly learned this lesson:  always follow the directive from an angel.  Especially once he could speak.  The people that really make me go “Hmmm” though are the others.

Zechariah and Elizabeth were merely showing obedience to God, simply respecting the direction they had been told to go.  It was nothing more and nothing less.   And the people were astonished.  This was big news and it spread all around.  Imagine, keeping a promise to God.  How incredible!  The thing is; I don’t believe it’s really any different today.  Not that we’re out there trying to create a stir but how about if we just give doing what God instructs a try for a while?  You might be surprised.  You might have people talking about you all over the place.  Shoot, you might gain notoriety, even be a little famous maybe.  Doing what God instructs apparently is pretty awesome, even today.

Why and how does God call you to step out and be bold in your life today?

Luke 2:12-20

12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”  13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,   14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”  15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”   16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.  17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,   18  and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.   19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.  20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

I think we need more amazement.  We need more amazement in our lives, more wonder, more exclamation points; like the shepherds in the scripture above.  Now, to be fair to us today we do have Google and Amazon and a lot of other really cool other stuff that’s probably got us jaded to things like, you know, the savior of the world, so I can see stuff like this not really resonating with us.  Sarcasm in the first paragraph on Christmas, how about that?

I imagine if we were working late some night with our team and a bright light shone into our cubicles and an angel of the Lord appeared and told us to leave and go to a barn somewhere and see a baby we would probably go.  I’m not 100% sure we would hurry there (we’d probably have to send one last email or tweet about it at least).

Who knows?  We probably really would have to clock out when we left.  You know, overtime and all and I’m not sure we’d be spreading this around a lot afterwards (especially if we didn’t go off the clock).  Then there’s the whole amazement question.  Go ahead and call me a pessimist but I’m just not sure that IF we told people they’d be amazed.  Sure, it’s a fantastical story with the light and the angels and the singing (if they believed that part) but essentially what we went to see was a couple of people away from home who had to make do and bring their son into the world.  I can imagine the questions wouldn’t have been so much about this baby being our savior as they would have been about did we get the child to a hospital.  We’d probably get all Midwest-practicality on this thing and miss the whole point.

So, I think this season, this lifetime holds at least several challenges for us.  There’s the challenge to hear, the challenge to act, the challenge to tell and the biggest challenge of all, to be amazed.  Here’s hoping that this Christmas if you do any one of these things, it’s the last one.  Realize that our God sent his Son to live among us, to show us how to live and to finally die for all our sins.  And be amazed.

What was the last thing that amazed you?  Do you find it hard to be amazed by the Christmas story?

Luke 5:12-16

Marketing 101

Luke 5: 12-16   12 While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”   13 Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.   14 Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”   15 Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses.   16 But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.

Jesus clearly knew nothing about marketing or promotion.  Look at the evidence.  He obviously had a dynamite product (healing of sickness) an active and fervent following and a growing reputation but what does he do?

He tells the healed to go to the religious leaders of the day, pay the money that you’re supposed to pay for healing (Wow!  What a racket, huh?!  And we thought our healthcare system was messed up) and then lie to them that the system, their system, made him well.  I’ve heard of reverse psychology and law of scarcity but this is ridiculous.  I mean this guy says he knows Jesus has the power to make him clean if Jesus is only willing.  You just don’t see that kind of faith in a process every day; in anything.  If you think about it, Jesus’s product could have been something like salt.

Let’s say Jesus found/discovered salt and he gave some of it to someone and they said “Boy, this makes my fries taste fantastic!  Thanks for being willing to give me some of this stuff!”  Clearly a happy customer.  But instead of telling him to tell all his friends or putting this customer on the commercial Jesus tells him to go to the pepper salesman and tell him thanks for making his fries taste so wonderful.  Then, pay the pepper salesman for the pepper he didn’t give you and you didn’t use and don’t tell anyone about the salt.  Crazy, right?

Also, in your spare time as the CEO of salt, (if you’re Jesus) you don’t plan your IPO for your company; strategize with your disciples how to build your brand or anything like that.  No, you go away by yourself and pray.

This is obviously a recipe to kill any momentum you ever had for salt.  In no time at all the memory, the benefits, the usefulness of salt will fade into oblivion and no one will remember what a fantastic thing it was or who you were, right?

Yep!

Obviously I’m being facetious with my little marketing story above.  What has God been asking you to do that runs counter to what you think you should be doing though?  Are you listening?  I’m curious to hear your story if you would like to comment below.

Luke 8:40-56

Scripture Luke 8: 40-56  40 Now when Jesus returned, a crowd welcomed him, for they were all expecting him.   41  Then a man named Jairus, a synagogue leader, came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house   42  because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. As Jesus was on his way, the crowds almost crushed him.   43 And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.   44 She came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.   45 “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. When they all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the people are crowding and pressing against you.”   46 But Jesus said, “Someone touched me; I know that power has gone out from me.”   47 Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. In the presence of all the people, she told why she had touched him and how she had been instantly healed.   48 Then he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.”   49 While Jesus was still speaking, someone came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue leader. “Your daughter is dead,” he said. “Don’t bother the teacher anymore.”   50 Hearing this, Jesus said to Jairus, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.”   51 When he arrived at the house of Jairus, he did not let anyone go in with him except Peter, John and James, and the child’s father and mother.   52 Meanwhile, all the people were wailing and mourning for her. “Stop wailing,” Jesus said. “She is not dead but asleep.”   53 They laughed at him, knowing that she was dead.   54 But he took her by the hand and said, “My child, get up!”   55 Her spirit returned, and at once she stood up. Then Jesus told them to give her something to eat.   56 Her parents were astonished, but he ordered them not to tell anyone what had happened.

Devotion

The scriptures above are an awesome re-telling of two of the miracles Jesus performed.  But as neat and cool as they are I think we can all agree that no one like Jesus will walk among us ever again.  He was one of a kind.  However, there will always be people like Jairus, the woman afflicted and the masses that jump on the bandwagon.

For as long as people have been around there have been those that request help and yet lack belief in whatever or whomever answers their plea.  Jairus and his wife were this type.  On the one hand they believed, apparently, that Jesus could heal their daughter but on the other hand did not believe he could bring her back from the dead. Sure, this is a big deal, however what is our level of faith?  Do we ask for God’s help but then expect that his power only extends so far.  We don’t really have faith that all things are possible, just the things that we think are probable.  Still, for all their shortcomings, Jairus and his wife at least asked for Jesus’s help.

The woman in the crowd treated Jesus like a long shot at the track.  I imagine she hoped against all hope that just touching him would make her well, however she certainly didn’t intend to make her condition, her request or her faith, however small, known to anyone else.  Only when her hand was forced, did she own up to any of these things.  Her healing is more a testament of Jesus’s power than of her faith even though Jesus tells her that her faith, not him, has made her well.

Finally, the crowds exhibit characteristics and approach typical of the unbelieving.  Where there is spectacle they clamor to be spectators.  Where there is drama they revel in it the most.  And where there is a proclamation of the power of God they find derision.  It’s clear that Jesus had no interest in being part of some sort of fantastical sideshow for the entertainment and amazement of the masses.  No, his work was done among those he loved and that loved him, despite their shortcomings.  Good news for us indeed.

What kind of a believer are you?  What limitation do you put on yourself to ask God and what kind of limitation do you put on what God can do?

Luke 9:61-62

Looking the wrong way

Sometimes for all our good intentions we just don’t see what we should.

Luke 9: 61-62  61 Still another said, “I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say goodbye to my family.” 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”

I’ve spent more time than I would care to admit cultivating corn.  Not so much anymore but when I was growing up we ran something called a go-dig.  Once the corn was up and big enough we pulled this implement down the row and it dug out the weeds and turned the soil.  This removed competition for nutrients and moisture for the corn and aerated the soil.  The corn’s growth always surged after we cultivated, but there were risks.

If you weren’t careful and got off the row your go-dig would dig up corn, wiping out the very plants you were trying to benefit.  This was bad and tremendously frowned upon by the supreme commander, my dad.  He always told me, “You can’t watch behind you, where you’ve been, you have to look forward.”  This scripture speaks directly to where I come from.

Even with everything Jesus had done, all the miracles and feeding of the thousands of people and teaching, there were still people who just didn’t get it.  They were too trapped by the things of this world, tilling the land and family obligations to see what was right in front of them.  There were those that came forward even though they didn’t understand what was needed at the time and there were those that flat out refused to provide it.  Still Jesus was resolute and he kept going, always moving forward, always on the right path, even as he moved toward his own death.

The challenge for us back then, just as it is today, is to see and realize what’s plainly in view.  The clutter and busyness, although the world says differently, just really don’t matter when you’re talking about this stuff.  Jesus tells us; put me first, behind no one and no thing.  Our lives today and for eternity would be better if we would heed that advice.

The Everyday Question:  Priorities are a heck of a thing and unavoidable but what gets in your way when you try to put God first?

Luke 12:22-34

Luke 12:  22-34 – Then Jesus said to his disciples: “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.   23 For life is more than food, and the body more than clothes.   24 Consider the ravens: They do not sow or reap, they have no storeroom or barn; yet God feeds them. And how much more valuable you are than birds!  25 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?  26 Since you cannot do this very little thing, why do you worry about the rest?   27 “Consider how the wild flowers grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you, not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these.  28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith!  29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it.   30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them.  31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.  32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

I’ve never been a clothes person.  Essentially if it’s clean, free of holes, rips or tears and made within the last three decades, I don’t have a problem wearing it.  So, the part of the verses above addressing clothes really hits home for me.  It makes me feel like I’ve gotten it right all these years.  Unfortunately there’s the other part, food.

You may not know me but let’s just say if you saw me you might believe me when I say I’d fight you for a piece of pie.  I might flog you for a hot fudge sundae and I could be accused of throttling you for a cupcake.  I like my sweets and I am consumed by them.  I’m not sure why, I clearly have enough to eat, I’ve never really known hunger and growing up we always had enough on the farm to sustain us (gotta have fuel to do that work).  Still, I’ve been guilty of going to a movie for the popcorn and soda.  I read the passages above and I find myself asking, along with Jesus, why?

Am I so worried about not having enough that I’ll eat to the point of pain?  It just doesn’t make sense.  Maybe the answer is in the scripture.  If we seek his kingdom, God will provide what we need.  It may not be Versace and filet mignon but we will have enough and knowing we’ll be taken care of frees us up for something even greater, giving.  The freedom that comes with the assurance of provision in all things unhinges us from the things of this life, this pagan existence, and allows us to store up where it matters most, our hearts.  That’s really good news, even for a guy who never met a candy bar he didn’t like.

The Everyday Question

What  would it be like to NOT be concerned by the things you find yourself worried over right now?

Luke 14:11

The ‘Ol Switcheroo!

Luke 14:11  11  For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

A lot of people love a happy ending.  They like to see the downtrodden, the underdog, come out on top while the seemingly unbeatable foe goes down for the count.  We need look no further than the “Rocky” franchise (I think at last count there were 17 versions) to know we like this story line.  Jesus said it was a fact that this is how it would work out but he had a slightly different reference point; one that had nothing to do with pummeling sides of beef.

Jesus states this truth in the context of a dinner party and he couches it (pun intended) in the choice of where, as a guest, one should sit.  He says that if you choose the best place at the table right away there’s a good chance the host will have to move you because more than likely someone else at the party is of a higher stature than you.  As you might imagine this is very embarrassing and a major party fail.  Rather, Jesus says, sit far down at the poorest seat and allow your host to beckon you to a better spot.  When you’re moved, the other guests will see that you are favored and it will reflect well on you.  As you might imagine, the lesson here goes much deeper than just some party trick.

Clearly Jesus wants us to know it’s highly uncool to put on airs or think ourselves more important than we really are, however this isn’t humility for humility’s sake either.  Jesus is telling us that by remaining humble we allow our host (God) to raise us up to a higher place.  If we live according to his teaching and believe, our Father will improve our lot in life.  And there’s absolutely no one-arm pushups required.

Where do you struggle to remain humble?  Are you comfortable waiting for God to lift you up?

Luke 16:10-11

Extrapolation

Trust is a dicey thing sometimes.  Good to know God has faith in us.

Luke 16: 10-11  10 “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much, and whoever is dishonest with very little will also be dishonest with much.  11 So if you have not been trustworthy in handling worldly wealth, who will trust you with true riches?

Extrapolation is a heck of a thing.  If you’re not familiar with the term it’s taking a few things you know to be true, usually in a sequence, and then predicting what comes next.  Today’s scripture is all about extrapolation.

I would imagine everyone has experienced some situation in their lives where they were asked to perform some small task and upon completing that task they were given a larger, more important one with more responsibility.  Luke’s laying down just such a scenario but we’re not talking about TPS reports here, we’re talking about the kingdom of heaven.

I know, you’re saying, “Whoa!  That’s pretty heavy stuff.  I’m good with volunteering once a month and helping out on some charity drives but the kingdom of heaven?  That might be too much.”  The thing is God says that just because you don’t see what you do as something big, he’s confident that because you handled one thing, you can handle another.  He’s willing to trust you with true riches.  The question becomes, will you trust yourself?

Will you trust that you have it within you to take care of a level of richness that we humans find hard to grasp?  Will you see yourself up to the task?  Sadly, many of us defeat ourselves before we start.  God doesn’t see us that way.  He makes an extrapolation and puts in our hands the greatest wealth of all.

Will you trust yourself with it?

The Everyday question:

What’s God been trying to give you that you’ve felt you couldn’t handle?

Luke 18:1-8

Scripture  Luke 17: 1-10 1 Jesus said to his disciples: “Things that cause people to stumble are bound to come, but woe to anyone through whom they come.   2 It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble.  3 So watch yourselves. “If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them.  4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”  5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”  6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you.  7 “Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, ‘Come along now and sit down to eat’?   8 Won’t he rather say, ‘Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink’?  9 Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do?   10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, ‘We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.’ ”

Devotion

I have to think that Jesus chose his disciples not because they were super-good, awesome, upstanding pillars of the community but because of all their inadequacies, insecurities and shortcomings.

Here, Jesus instructs them how much to forgive, how often and then what the consequences of sin should be.  Their response, like something out of Wayne’s World:  “We’re not worthy!” To which Jesus replies (and I’m paraphrasing) “Come on guys!  It takes about a speck of faith to make a miracle happen and you surely have that in you.”  So he’s told them how and he’s told them they’re able.  He finishes up with why.

In a word, it’s duty.  As a servant of God and as a servant to others it is our responsibility to forgive.  Where would we be in this whole follow Jesus thing if we didn’t do that?  Nowhere, the same place we would be if God didn’t forgive us (Ouch!).  Jesus is really just issuing a call to arms if you will.  It’s a call we would be wise to answer today.

We’re not at all unlike the disciples.   We think we can’t do it.  We think we’re not up to the task and that we’re just too busy, stressed, weak, etc. etc., etc. to do this whole forgiveness thing.  Jesus calls us, like he did his disciples, to man up and do what we’ve been put here to do. Furthermore, he says this isn’t a one-time thing.  We must do it over and over and over and over and over, again and again.  There’s no stopping point, no finish line, no place where we say, “Okay, that was a righteous stretch there.  We’re done with that stuff, now we rest.”  Nope, there’s no breaks, not for God, not for us.  As servants we’re called by Jesus to always and forever forgive.

Something to think about

What’s your limit on the forgiveness meter?  At what point do you say “Enough” and no longer give forgiveness?  What is it going to take to destroy that line over which you will not cross?

Luke 18:31-34

Thick

Being chosen doesn’t mean you have to be a rocket surgeon.

Luke 18: 31-34.  31 Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled.  32 He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; 33 they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”  34 The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.

I consider myself a fairly logical person but I shake my head when I read these verses.  At first blush it seems to me that these disciples, the twelve hand-picked by Jesus were just about the thickest he could have chosen.  Jesus lays it all out, step by step what will happen and yet they understand none of this.  The meaning was hidden and they didn’t know what Jesus was talking about.  Really?  You didn’t get it?  Maybe I’m being too hard on these guys.

Granted these are just twelve guys off the street, from all walks of life, nothing particularly special about any of them.  Still, they’ve been with Jesus a while, seen all forms of miracles, stupendous things he’s done, listened to his teachings and then, nothing registers?  They knew this man and my guess is that he hasn’t lied to them thus far.  Do you suppose they thought it was another parable?  I’m grasping here, I know.

The scripture says the meaning was hidden from them.  This I can understand.  As noted, these are not religious giants.  Some of them were the exact opposite.  I can see how perhaps they just couldn’t grasp someone, anyone, wanting to do this to the Son of Man.  I mean, who could?  Assuming they believe Jesus to be the Son of Man it might be hard for them to see how anyone could want to do him harm.  From a political point of view, they just might not get it.  But there’s another possible reason, one that probably carries more weight and probability.  They just couldn’t quite bring themselves to believe the whole thing, that this all was happening.  It’s hard for all of us to buy.

We just can’t grasp the idea that a man, the Son of God, was sent here to teach and lead and send followers out into the world to spread the good news and die on a cross only to be risen from the dead three days later.  It’s tough for us to understand that level of sacrifice and love and grace.  We struggle with accepting the meaning for our lives here on earth and eternally.  Finally, even though it’s laid out for us, how to live, how to love, how to forgive, how to do everything in our lives to follow Jesus we act sometimes like we don’t know what he’s talking about.  We don’t know what to do.

The good news is; that makes you a disciple.

The Everyday Question

If Jesus chose these guys, does that give you hope and encouragement that he might also choose you?

Luke 2:6-7

By Doug Giffin

Luke 2:6-7:  While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.   7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

 Today we read about the birth of our savior, Jesus Christ.  I’m not sure words can do justice to the gift we all received at the birth of this baby so long ago.  There’s never been an event before, nor one since, of the magnitude described simply and matter-of-factly by Luke in the scripture above. One would think that such an enormous occurrence in the history of the world, of our lives, would be surrounded by fanfare.  Such was not the case.

His parents were on a journey, one dictated by duty and an authority to which they freely agreed.  They were in the crowded town of Bethlehem because of a decree.  They were following the direction of a higher power and in so doing they fulfilled the prophecy of the highest power of all.  And in a stable, of all places, a king was born.

Just as there was no place for Mary and Joseph in the inn, there would be no place unfortunately in the hearts of many for the teachings of their son.  Yet, as he would exemplify later in his life, they were undeterred.  They made do with what was available.  This birth place surely wasn’t optimal.  In fact it’s hard to imagine a more inhospitable location than one surrounded by the agrarian tools of the day including livestock.  Still, despite all those difficulties, despite all those encumbrances, God’s will was realized; his Son was born.

Today, as it was back then, we encounter situations far from perfect as we attempt merely to lead God-centered, Christian lives.  We’re met with resistance, denied a place to carry out what we see as the most basic duties of our faith and yet it is our call to persevere.  We must have faith that our path is true.  We must take courage in the knowledge that God’s love and his plan for our lives, although often littered with difficulty, is clear.

I pray this Christmas that you will be filled with the Holy Spirit, that you will take heart that despite the struggle, God always prevails.  Have a blessed Christmas.

What’s something in your life that, while far from perfect, needs to be fulfilled?  With God beside you, is there any doubt it can be accomplished?

Luke 3:21-23

Doves and Cereal Bowls:  All Related

We couldn’t be more different and yet we’re all just really the same.  You, me, Jesus and the utensil I ate my Life out of this morning.

Luke 3:21-23  21  When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened   22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”   23 Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph, the son of Heli,

I was baptized in our kitchen from a cereal bowl.  It had tap water in it.  I don’t recall exactly how old I was but I was at least four.  I know this because I know what house we were in and we moved there when I was four.  I’m pretty sure that my sister was baptized at the same time but I don’t remember praying.  I know there were no voices from heaven and no dove-like spirit.  In fact I don’t really recall anyone saying much of anything.  However, there is one really, really important thing that Jesus and I share in this experience.  We’re both the son of God.

How do I know this?  Well, the rest of this scripture that goes on through verse 38 traces Jesus’s lineage all the way back to Adam who was the Son of God (seeing as how God made him from dust and all).  There are a lot of names to be sure, most I don’t recognize but some like Noah; that I do.  Realizing that someone at some time had to remember all those people and that lineage really blows me away (I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday) and I’m really grateful.  Not so much for the lunch, but for the remembering how we’re all tied together.

The fact that Jesus is traceable all the way back to God, by flesh and bone, makes him all the more real to me.  It also gives me a sense of belonging and hope that somewhere, somehow, thousands of years ago events were put into motion that not only brought Jesus here but brought me here also.  Now Jesus was conceived not by man but by immaculate conception.  I get that, but he still needed a father here on earth.  You know, someone to watch out for him and teach him things, like how to use a hand planer.

It was still Joseph who decided to keep his promise to Mary and it was still Mary who brought Jesus into this world.  The people of Jesus’s day thought they knew his father, Joseph but Joseph knew better and so did Mary.  They chose to make him a part of their lineage though, a part of their family tree.  He was a part of events that brought us salvation from our sins just as other events occur to bring us to spots where we need to be.  How or if we step into those gaps remains to be seen.  In the end it’s just good to know we’re all family.  I’m good with that, cereal bowls or not.

Think about the sequence of events that have brought you here to this point today.  How have those worked out to place you right where you need to be right now?  If you’re willing, I’d be interested to hear your story below. 

 

Luke 7:11-17

Giving Back

Helping someone out, no matter the size of the gesture, shows our true humanity.

Luke 7 11-17  11 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him.   12 As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out—the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her.   13 When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, “Don’t cry.”   14 Then he went up and touched the bier they were carrying him on, and the bearers stood still. He said, “Young man, I say to you, get up!”  15 The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.   16 They were all filled with awe and praised God. “A great prophet has appeared among us,” they said. “God has come to help his people.”   17 This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country.

This is a guy I can like.  This is a guy with compassion.  This is a guy who is generous.  This is a guy I can follow.

What sticks out to me in this telling of a brief encounter at the gate of Nain is the gentle, decent, caring nature of a man called Jesus.  Certainly the dead man was no acquaintance of his, nor the mother.  However in her time of grief, in her time of need, when she must have felt the weight of being alone in this world most, a total stranger stopped and gave her son back to her.  Why would this unknown person seemingly commit the first documented random act of kindness?

It’s simple really, Jesus’s heart went out to her and he did what he could do.  We’ve all witnessed people in our midst, in our social circle, perhaps even in our family go through difficult times.  While we don’t have the abilities that Jesus had, does it mean we get excused from doing what we can do?  I’d like to think that our heart does break for those having a tough time but if I’m honest, sometimes I think we pass it off with a “That’s too bad.” or a “Those poor people.”  Can we help everyone?  No.  Should we do what we can?  Absolutely.  We should help.

Our help can be through prayer, comfort, a word or gesture of caring or support through works or monetarily.  We need to remember that in the midst of all that must have been going on around Jesus, with the disciples and the anxious crowd he recognized a need.  Jesus exhibited his humanity.

The Son of God, the prince of peace, a man heralded as a prophet who many probably already thought had come to save an entire people stopped what he was doing to ease the burden of another.  I can accept that guy as my savior.

What have you done to help someone out?  Did you know them?  What do you tell yourself when you don’t do what you can for someone else or some cause?  What could simply doing what you were capable of mean in your life?  How might it change you?

Luke 9:16-17

Supersize

Luke 9: 16-17.  16 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke them. Then he gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people.  17 They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over.

We Americans are used to cheap food and a lot of it.  We almost always decide to have the combo meal or the full entrée.  We seem to be perpetually stuck in a mindset of more even as we tote home our to-go box with the leftovers that might, might, make it to the next day if we don’t raid the ‘fridge.  We seem to have a hard-wired fear of lack even as we loosen our belt or go home and put on our sweatpants.  We are never satisfied.  Then this story comes along.

How in the world did everyone (and there were a lot of them, more than even the number of choices on an Applebee’s menu) eat?  Not only eat, but be satisfied?  And that’s where the hinge is, that’s where we need to learn.

See, these people were satisfied even though maybe they didn’t have enough. Certainly by our standards today they wouldn’t have had enough.  I mean heck it doesn’t say anything about them going home with a Styrofoam package.  No, they passed food up and passed it along, so much so that the disciples gathered up the leftovers probably to take home and put in their ‘fridge for later.  Those disciples!

Clearly I’m having a little fun with this scripture but our desire, our need, our pursuit of more to try to satisfy a voracious appetite isn’t all that funny.  Here were thousands of people “dining” on five loaves and two fishes and still a bunch was left over?  We just wouldn’t see that today.  So if the hinge is satisfaction, then the stretch is changing how we look at “enough”.

Do we have enough food, enough stuff, enough money, enough cars, enough title or prominence in our career?  Or are we satisfied?  Furthermore, are we ready to pass some of what we have along to the next person?  Are we ready to give?  Satisfaction.  Enough.  These are things we full, rich people need to examine and lift our eyes upward and give thanks.  And then pass along.  May God bless you with that.

Where is God telling you to give?  Do you think it’s because you have enough in that area?  More than enough?  If you’re willing, I would sure like to hear your thoughts below.

Luke 11:1-13

Some Simple Instructions on Ringing the Bell

A teacher lays it out very clearly how to get what we need.

In my humble opinion teachers could learn a lot from Jesus.  Ask any teacher and they’ll tell you that patience and an accommodating nature are invaluable in their day to day.  Consider that Jesus was fully human.  He was a man with all the emotions and feelings of any one of us.  Knowing this I can’t imagine sometimes he didn’t roll his eyes when one of his chosen disciples asked him to explain what I’m sure seemed like minutiae.

Luke tells a story about when Jesus fielded one of these questions.  He couldn’t hardly help but think to himself, ‘Do I have to spoon feed you guys everything?’  Jesus told them how to pray and not just how but exactly what to say when they prayed.  We now call it the Lord’s Prayer but it really was the product of a question from a disciple who was afraid he might not be doing it right.  I guess we have his insecurity to thank for the prayer we say every Sunday.

Jesus went on to tell them they should expect fulfillment of their prayers.  He used a story to illustrate this.  The compassion of a friend is something these fishermen would have understood.  It’s something we still get today.  As a metaphor for our Father we should know it doesn’t matter what time of the day or night if we come to him we will get as much as we need.  But we have to persist.

In this transaction our part is the action part.  We are told to ask, seek and knock to request entry.  Notice he didn’t say hope, wish and yearn to be let into the kingdom.  Sometimes I think we miss that.  Call it a peril of our culture.  We’re served so much (we even have a segment of our economy called the service industry) that we expect not only to have our wishes carried out but to have them done quickly.  Imagine how ticked off you would be if you had to ask for a refill of your water glass at a restaurant, seek out the waiter when he didn’t return and actually knock on the kitchen door to get his attention and bring the pitcher!

Yet, lest we think that maybe God won’t grant us what we ask for, Jesus makes these promises real by comparing how a father would respond to the request of a child.  Even though we are far from perfect we understand, as the disciples would have, we would do everything in our power to give our children what they ask for.  Who doesn’t want good things for their child?  Should we expect less from God?  Again, it’s a pretty easy question.  The simple answer is no.

Laid out so simply I shake my head that the reasons to pray are so evident, so apparent and so simple and yet we don’t pray more.  Our Father wants what’s best for us.  What father wouldn’t?  Jesus says our prayers will be answered and our needs met.  We must come to him and ask and seek him out through prayer.  When we do that we are assured of our Father’s love and his provision.  I don’t know how much more we can ask for.  The instructions are, after all, pretty simple.

Luke 13:1-9

It’s Simple

It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do if you don’t say you’re sorry and change.

Luke 13: 1-9  1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way?  3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.   4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?  5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”  6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any.  7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’  8 “‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it.   9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”

Is it just me or am I sensing a “tone” here in Jesus’s teaching?  I’m getting a definite vibe that he’s had about enough of the nitpicking and splitting of hairs that I’m guessing he has been asked to do over and over again.  If you think I’m wrong, just take a look at the exclamation points above.  Now, I realize these may have been added by a well-meaning interpreter but if Jesus got a little miffed, could you blame him?  Sometimes it seems like all we do is search for gray areas, places where we and we alone can be an exception, a circumstance which exempts us from what the teacher says is the measuring stick.  In this case it’s clear, stop comparing and repent.

I don’t count myself as unique when I say sometimes it’s hard for me to say I’m sorry.  The process where we say, “Look, I fouled up.  I was wrong.  Please forgive me” isn’t always an easy one.  We don’t want to make that admission do we?  We don’t want to look bad.  We don’t want to throw ourselves at the mercy of another person.  Is it any wonder that public figures, athletes and the like issue “statements” which explain but never out and out say “My bad.”?  Their attempts are the stuff of internet derision but are they that much different than us?  If they are, then when we say we’re sorry, do we mean it?  Based on the parable, it looks pretty important.

Produce fruit or suffer the axe.  Pretty harsh, huh?  I think Jesus was trying to make a point once and for all.  Stop trying to bend the rules.  Forget finding some reason or scapegoat or victim mentality to hang your hat on for crying out loud.  Say you’re sorry.  Your God, the one who tends you, who nurtures your growth is full of grace.  He has the power and the will to forgive you but you have to repent and bear fruit.  So do it now.  Otherwise, you may not get another chance.

The Everyday Question:  Do you believe in “one more chance”?  If you do, then when do you pick up the axe?  I’m interested to know where you stand on this.

 

Luke 15:1-10

Salesman

The successful sales guy recognizes a marketing opportunity others have forsaken.

There’s an old sales axiom that goes something like:  “Facts tell and stories sell.”  I doubt the saying was around back in Jesus’s time but he certainly operated like he knew it.  I think he knew his audience, his target market, was maybe going to be a tough sell but what an enormous, untapped market it was.  It went against the grain (Luke 15: 1-2)

Jesus “sold” to the people that the rest of the sales guys, the Pharisees and teachers of the law, had long ago written off as potential customers.  He went into the places they wouldn’t go and made his pitch to those who had never been buyers before.  The other salesmen thought he was nuts and definitely below their paygrade.  I can hear them mutter, “It’ll never work.  What’s he doing with them?”  The thing is, Jesus was selling something they weren’t; belief and not just in anything but in the customers’ worthiness as consumers.

Jesus told the castoffs, the unclean, the unworthy that they were valued and not just valued but prized.  These ones who had been told countless times they were no good, unwanted and total screw-ups were being told something radically different by this sales guy.  Jesus told them and told them with authority that they were desired.  Oh, the “good” ones were fine and all but Jesus’s company was willing to walk away from that existing customer base just to win their business.  Jesus’s company was an innovator, a trailblazer.  This just never happens in the marketplace, except when it does and it’s the biggest most life changing, world changing revelation to ever happen.

Consider the automobile and you’ll see a Pharisee sitting on a horse saying “Folly!  Never work!’  Consider the airplane and hear the Pharisee saying “If man were meant to fly….”  The internet:  “Just a fad, it’ll pass.” (Overheard at the morning coffee group)  The list goes on and on and on.  They said it then and they say it today:  “Not a chance.  Gonna fail.  Doesn’t have a prayer.”

Thank God it does.  Thank God it did back then.  And thank God he sent his Son into the underserved, unworthy market that was and still is all of us.  I’m sold on this thing and I hope you are or are headed toward buying too.

 

Luke 16:13-15

Playing the Field

Luke 16: 13-15  13 “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”  14 The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and were sneering at Jesus.  15 He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight.

Ever date two people at the same time?  Yeah, me neither but I knew a guy who did and here’s what he told me about the experience.  It was awful.  See, he liked both people but he just couldn’t decide which one he liked more.  They both had good qualities, they both made him happy in their own way and he just didn’t want to give up the good things that he got from both and yet he knew he was being dishonest.  Even though he’d never told either one that they were “exclusive” he knew that each of them wanted him for themselves.

Each of the people desired his whole heart, not just a portion.  There was even a further complication.  See, the one person was really popular.  I mean really, really popular.  So popular that if you were with them you were immediately accepted among the “in” crowd.  It was instant status

On the other hand the other person really got to his heart.  They spoke to him.  He was maybe not seen as a cooler person to the rest of the crowd when he was with her but he was a better person because of her.  He just couldn’t get over the pull in the other direction, especially when it came to social things.  He was constantly torn.

So, how’d it all turn out you’re wondering?  Not well, I’m afraid.  Eventually he had to choose and he just couldn’t do it.  When he finally ‘fessed up it sort of ruined both relationships.  He never got over it.  As far as I know he’s still single.  He’s never found anyone else that made him feel as socially accepted as the first person nor touched him as deeply as the second.  He just sort of pinballs around from relationship to relationship but I have hope for him.

I’m pretty sure someday he’ll give into someone that he’s able to give himself, his heart, completely to and he’ll be truly happy.  Until then I pray for him.  I pray for his heart and I pray for his commitment.  I think someday God will show him the way again and this time he’ll listen.

What two things are you trying to serve?  How would it feel to embrace the relationship God is offering?

Luke 18:9-14

Two Sides, Same Coin

Light and dark like good and evil both exist inside us

A guy named Luke re-tells a story told first by someone he followed in order to make a point about comparison.  We all compare ourselves to others.  Whether we do so actively or passively, whether we are too pleased with ourselves or too hard on ourselves, we can’t help it.  Unless we are completely isolated from birth I think we will always measure ourselves against some one else or some thing else.  To do so is human nature.  In the story it was a person who many looked upon as religious who sets a low bar when it comes to looking down on others.

In the story he gives thanks that he’s not a bad person.  Most of us aren’t robbers or adulterers or even evildoers like he says and we’re certainly not the thug-scum that the other guy (a tax collector) was so it’s probably a prayer of thanks that our lot in life has been good that many of us could make.  But the apparently religious man takes it too far.  He lets pride into the mix.  His prayer is in essence “Look at me!  See how wonderful I am!  See how pious I am!  I am so thankful that I am so good!”  Even out of context and out of church any man on the street could spot his arrogance.  The tax collector is quite different though.

Unlike the religious man, his prayer lacks verbosity, it lacks comparison and it lacks any mention of good or bad deeds.  No, the tax collector doesn’t look left, he doesn’t look right and he doesn’t even look up because he knows where he stands.  He doesn’t say what he isn’t by comparison but what he is by declaration.  The tax collector, like the religious man, owns who he is but unlike the religious man he knows who he is.  His plea comes from a need to be recognized but not for all the wonderful things he does.  His need is the sincere need for forgiveness.  It’s something we all need.

We’re all a little like both of these people.  We need forgiveness for our religious guy moments (maybe our pride) and our tax collector-like actions (maybe being unfair or unkind).  We’ll all find ourselves comparing ourselves to others in a crowd at times and standing alone pleading for forgiveness at other times.  It’s the flawed nature of our humanity that both are contained inside us.  But it’s the gift of humility which has the power to lift us up and bring us out of our muck that we need to recognize.  It’s our humility that allows us to be known by another term: exalted.

Luke 19:1-10

Partying with the Wrong People

Luke 19: 1-10 1 Jesus entered Jericho and made his way through the town.   2 There was a man there named Zacchaeus. He was the chief tax collector in the region, and he had become very rich.   3 He tried to get a look at Jesus, but he was too short to see over the crowd.   4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree beside the road, for Jesus was going to pass that way.   5 When Jesus came by, he looked up at Zacchaeus and called him by name. “Zacchaeus!” he said. “Quick, come down! I must be a guest in your home today.”   6 Zacchaeus quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.   7 But the people were displeased. “He has gone to be the guest of a notorious sinner,” they grumbled.   8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”   9 Jesus responded, “Salvation has come to this home today, for this man has shown himself to be a true son of Abraham.   10 For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Ever hang out with the wrong people because you just didn’t know any better?  I have.  True story.  My first friend in Junior High when I literally knew 3 kids among about 750 was David Zikmund.  Dave literally was the first kid to speak to me in the building.  I don’t recall what he said but I know I was grateful someone actually took some interest in me, a shy, awkward, skinny kid from the country.  I wouldn’t learn until much later that Dave was looked down upon by the “cool” kids in my class.  I don’t know if he caught more flack because he hung out with me but we know Jesus was in the doghouse for associating with Zacchaeous.  And why wouldn’t he be?

Jesus went to eat with a guy who was literally notorious for the crummy things he did.  Why was that?  Did Jesus see something in him?  Maybe.  Perhaps Jesus knew anyone who would literally climb a tree just to get a glimpse of him was searching for something.  Maybe Jesus knew Zacchaeus’s time was right to change.  The story doesn’t tell us outright but there’s one thing we know from this story and from many others about Him.  Jesus knew Zacchaeus needed forgiveness.  We all do.

No matter if our sins are large or small in our own eyes we are worthy of forgiveness.  Forgiveness that only God can extend, is available when even we don’t think it’s possible.  Forgiveness that others may not think is available because of the rotten things we’ve done in their eyes is offered to us by God if we will only look for it.

The good news is we don’t have to climb any trees to catch a glimpse of our savior.  We need merely to go to God in prayer.  We need to speak with our Father and let him know what’s in our heart, how we will change and let him know our joy in being in a relationship with him.  Then, forgiveness is ours.  And that’s very Good News indeed.

What’s something you feel you’ve done that’s beyond forgiveness?  I encourage you to talk to God about it.  There’s nothing so big he can’t forgive it.

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