Through the Bible, August 19

Reading: Luke 8

Summary: Luke gives interesting insight into the group who accompanied Jesus as He traveled and preached.  Not only did it include the twelve, but also a number of women.  Notice also the mention of financial support.

Jesus’ ministry continues in familiar fashion with teaching in parables, healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, and even calming a storm.  Interjected among these events is a rare encounter with Jesus’ physical family.

Devotional Thought:

Dead or Asleep?

Has someone ever said or done something so silly or ridiculous that you laughed at them?  The intention may not be to be demeaning or hurtful, but the suggestion is just so outlandish it can’t be helped.  There’s nothing to do but laugh.

This happened to Jesus.  Not that He laughed at anyone, but people laughed at Him.  And they did so for the very reasons mentioned above.  What Jesus had said was just so ridiculous, they couldn’t help but laugh.  And what was that?  He suggested that mourners should not weep because Jairus’ daughter was “not dead but sleeping” (John 8:52).

And wasn’t it laughable?  This girl was dead. So yes, from a human perspective the suggestion was ludicrous.  Asleep? You’ve got to be kidding!  And no, Jesus was not saying that she was literally in the condition of slumber from which anyone could awaken her.  That requires no special ability or power; it’s not difficult at all.  For Jesus, though, raising the dead was not difficult either; about like waking up someone asleep.

Death is totally beyond our capacity to control, but not for Jesus.  He took the girl by the hand, said, “Child arise,” and her spirit returned to her and she got up at once.  As simple as gently shaking someone from a restful sleep.

The truly laughable thing is that anyone would fail to bow in absolute submission to Jesus Christ, Lord of both the living and the dead.

Through the Bible, August 18

Reading: Luke 7

Summary: In addition to healing the sick, Jesus also raised a man from the dead—the only son of a widowed woman.  He also used the occasion of messengers being sent from John to inquire as to His identity, to speak to the person and work of John.

As an example of Luke’s attention given to social outcasts, note the account of His visit to the home of Simon the Pharisee and the presence there of a sinful woman. Jesus uses the occasion to teach the powerful lesson regarding forgiveness and loving God.

Devotional Thought:

Do I Get It?

Jesus was rarely impressed with people’s faith.  More often He expressed disappointment.  One time, though, He was impressed because a man got it.  What did he get?  Authority.

This man, a centurion—therefore a Gentile military man—said there was no need for Jesus to come to his house to heal his servant.  He understood Jesus’ authority.  It was like his own authority who upon his command it was accomplished.  “I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it” (Luke 7:8). So, all Jesus needed to do was say the word and his servant would be healed.  He understood Jesus’ authority.

That impressed Jesus.  “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith” (Luke 7:9).

So, do you get Jesus’ authority?  Not, do you believe Him when He says “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Matt. 28:18).  Rather, when Jesus says, do you do?  Do you allow Him to exercise that kind of authority in your life?

When He says God’s blessing reside with the poor in spirit…those who mourn…the meek…the merciful…the peacemakers…the pure in heart…the persecuted, do those words actually change anything in your attitudes and actions?  My faith, or lack of it, is proven to the degree I allow Jesus’ words to have authority in my life; and they have authority to the degree that they are carried out and dictate what I do and how I think.

It’s obvious to God whether I get it or not.

Through the Bible, August 17

Reading: Luke 6

Summary: Matthew’s Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) is quite well known.  A parallel to it, and much lesser known, is recorded in Luke 6.    Many similarities are noticeable between this and Matthew’s record, yet, some differences exist as well.  For instance, in Matthew, we find the beatitudes (pronouncements of blessing), while in Luke we find both pronouncements of blessing and woe.

Much discussion has been devoted to determining if these are two records of the same preaching event or different ones.  It seems silly to me, as a preacher, to think that Jesus only addressed certain points or taught certain lessons only one time. I’m convinced the Savior repeated many of His teachings numerous times.  So, same or different events?  It doesn’t matter.

Devotional Thought:

Jesus a Law Breaker?

Jesus was accused of breaking the Law, specifically regarding the Sabbath (Luke 6:2).  His response is interesting.  He doesn’t refute the accusation but instead, shows the grave inconsistency of His accusers for failing to condemn their forefather David for his violation of the Law.  Was Jesus suggesting that lawbreaking was no big deal?  Hardly.

First things first.  If they are going to accuse Jesus, they must also accuse David—which they would never do.  What is more, David did violate the Law, Jesus did not.  Though He was charged with doing so, the only thing He violated was the traditional interpretation of Sabbath law.  He didn’t break the Law, He broke tradition.

There lies the rub.  People tend to be much more in tune with religious traditions and traditional interpretations than they are with the actual word of God.  Jesus never ever violated God’s word, and so, never sinned (Heb. 4:15).

May this be a cautionary incident form Jesus’ life.  We must exercise care to never elevate traditions to the level of God’s word (see Matt. 15:9).  It’s more challenging than we may think.

Through the Bible, August 16

Reading: Luke 4:14-5:39

Summary: As with the other Gospel accounts, Luke’s record touches on several themes, some of them conflicting.  He speaks of Jesus’ growing popularity as well as His rejection in His home town. He heals many people, casts out unclean sprits, preaches in synagogues, calls disciples to follow Him, and is challenged by religious leaders.

Devotional Thought:

Jesus Goes Viral

The word today is “viral”.  It’s always been a medical or biological concept, but in the current day of advanced communication technology (think computer, internet, smart phones, and social media—FaceBook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, etc.), a blog post or Tweet or FaceBook post or YouTube video can “go viral.”  That is, it gets shared and spread nearly everywhere spontaneously.

Going “viral” isn’t a new thing.  It can just happen quicker and have a further reach now than ever before.

Jesus went viral.  “Reports about him spread quickly through the whole region” (Luke 4:14; NLT).  Also take a look at 5:15 and 7:17.  People everywhere, it seems, were talking about Jesus.

The business and marketing worlds talk about “word of mouth” advertising as the very most effective form. Some people call it “creating buzz.”

This kind of thing can’t be manipulated, planned, or controlled.  It just happens.  But it all begins when someone starts talking.  You never know what might come of it. But nothing ever will if we don’t talk about and spread the news of Jesus.

If it were up to me, would Jesus ever even have a chance to go viral?

Through the Bible, August 15

Reading: Luke 3:1-22; 4:1-13

Summary: Luke’s account of Jesus’ public ministry begins appropriately with his account of the forerunner, John the Baptist.  As with Jesus’ birth, he puts it into a very precise historical context (see Luke 3:1-2).  His account closes with the record of John’s arrest by Herod the tetrarch.

Like Matthew, Luke introduces Jesus’ ministry with accounts of both His baptism and temptation.  Between these two events, Luke records Jesus’ genealogy.  We previously read this text along with Matthew’s genealogy (see July 2’s reading).

Devotional Thought:

You Snake!

How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (a 1937 parody of Dale Carnegie’s best selling How to Win Friends and Influence People by Irving Tressler) may seem to have been John the Baptist’s intention when he addressed the multitudes who came to hear him preach. “You brood of vipers!  Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” (Luke 3:7).

Oh my!  What was John thinking?

Was it because those who came did so insincerely?  That “they had come to be baptized because it was the fashion of the hour, and was esteemed as a mark of propriety and reverence” and that it was all for the sake of appearance? (J. S. Lamar, Commentary on Luke, 62).   Heaven knows that style of religion is certainly around today.

If we don’t already know it, we must come to realize the intense gravity of our sin, the absolute necessity of repentance, and our abject unworthiness to come near most Holy God.   Any attitude less than absolute reverence is wholly unacceptable.  If our approach to God and faith is in any way casual, half-hearted, or merely for appearances, “offspring of snakes” (BBE) isn’t too strong at all.

Coddling their vain religion would serve no good purpose.  They needed shaken and startled to reality.  Soft and gentle words would achieve no such end.  They needed straight talk and John was the one to give it.

Which raises some questions; about what do I need spoken to very strongly?  What reality do I need shaken to see?  Who will lay it on the line, unvarnished, for me?  And, will I listen?

August Week 3 Bible Reading Introduction

Week 3: Jesus’ Ministry (Luke 3:1-9:62)

August 15-21

         Having previously read the introduction to Luke’s Gospel as well as the lengthy narratives surrounding Jesus’ and John the Baptist’s births (see the readings for July 1-6), we commence the reading of Luke with the initiation of John the Baptist’s preparation for Jesus’ entrance on the public scene.

Luke is commonly considered to have been written for a Gentile audience.  Also, as noted previously, it is the first of a two-volume work, the book of Acts being the second part.

Luke carries several characteristics that cause it to stand out among the other Gospels.  Emphasis is given here to the universal appeal of Jesus and His message, social outcasts seem to play a prominent role in many events, women play a more prominent role as do children.  Regarding Jesus specifically, there are twenty-two parables recorded in Luke and seventeen of those are found only here.   There are nine prayers uttered by Jesus that are not found in the other Gospels.  Luke certainly has a “flavor” all its own, very important to our understanding of Jesus, His ministry, His message, and His eternal impact on mankind.

Through the Bible, August 14

Reading: No scheduled reading

Thoughts and Reflections: Today is the regularly scheduled day to catch up on your reading for the second week of August. Please take advantage if you’ve fallen behind. Otherwise, below are some thoughts for your consideration for today from this week’s readings.

  1. Jesus knew that His leaving earth would pose an extremely difficult adjustment for the apostles. So, in the upper room, Jesus repeatedly spoke of the Holy Spirit that would come.  He called Him the “Helper,” the “Spirit of truth,” and “guide” (14:26; 15:26; 16:13).  Jesus knew they would need not only this reassurance but also all that the Spirit would provide.  Jesus would not leave the twelve “as orphans” and neither will He leave us without providing every spiritual need (14:18).
  2. Never underestimate the value and power of God’s written word. We may think that we are somehow disadvantaged as ones having never literally heard Jesus preach or been an eyewitness to one of His miracles.  But John says that what has been written is sufficient to produce faith and this faith leads to life (John 20:31-31).
  3. One may wonder why John included some of the information that is found only in his Gospel. For instance, he tells of the “restoration” of Peter (21:15-23).  Perhaps by the end of the first century (the time this Gospel was written) some Christians had begun to think or speak poorly of Peter because of his denying Jesus.  There’s not any way to really know this for sure, but it certainly seems a possibility.  And what encouragement we receive from this—we too, in spite of our failings and mistakes, may also be restored to the Lord.

Devotional Thought:

What a Disciple Needs

The hours Jesus spent in the upper room were brief by comparison to the three years of His ministry.  Though the time was short Jesus had much to accomplish.  This was His final opportunity to prepare these men for the events of the coming days they could not begin to comprehend, not to mention the coming years and their world-changing work.

Notice what Jesus did during this final evening with the twelve.  Hear what He taught.  Observe His emphasis.   See His concerns and intentions.

  • He washed their feet showing the supreme role of service (13:1-20).
  • He identified their love for each other and the bearing of much fruit as the means by which the world could identify them as His disciples (13:35; 15:8).
  • He comforted them, in view of His impending departure, with the assurance of His return (14:1-4).
  • He affirmed His role as the only means to God (14:6-7).
  • He promised the coming Holy Spirit who would provide for them the infallible guidance they needed to fulfill the Master’s mission (14:16-17; 15:26-27; 16:13-14).
  • He warned them of the world’s hatred (15:18-23; 16:2)
  • He prayed for them, that God would guard them and that they might be sanctified (17:6-21).

Other matters were undoubtedly discussed.  These, though, help us see the things Jesus knew His disciples needed.

Do I not need the same?

Through the Bible, August 13

Reading: John 21

Summary: John finishes his gospel with the account of a resurrection of Jesus found only in his Gospel, which is typical. Ample space is devoted to the restoration of the broken relationship of Peter with Jesus—such a stark contrast to Judas’ failed response to his own failure.

Devotional Thought:

What’s My Job?

Sometimes a person can take on more responsibility than is really theirs. We try to fix the world. We try to correct the mistakes of others.  We want everyone else to be just as we are.

Now it is true that we do have the responsibility to “reprove” the unfruitful deeds of darkness and restore any brother who may be caught in any transgression (Eph. 5:11; Gal. 6:1).  Our highest priority and greatest good, though, is much simpler.

After Jesus spoke directly to Peter about his future Peter wanted to know about John and what would happen with him. In essence, Jesus told Peter not to worry about John but take care of his own responsibility.  “Jesus said to him, ‘If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!’” (John 21:22).

There is it. Our greatest responsibility is to follow Jesus.  It’s so easy for our attention and interest and concern to be focused on lots of other people and in all kinds of directions.  Really, it should only be for one thing; that I follow Jesus.

Through the Bible, August 12

Reading: John 19-20

Summary: The deed is finally done—in John’s record at least. The ruling religious authorities finally eliminate Jesus, or so they think, as His crucifixion is accomplished. The reality, though, is that it’s not done at all. As a matter of fact, they have only played into the hands of God’s eternal plan (see Acts 2:23). Because what appeared finished to them, is really only the beginning. God will raise His Son from the dead! This truly changes everything.

Devotional Thought:

Consider John

Think about the apostle John for just a moment.  Even in the two chapters of today’s reading, we learn what a remarkable disciple this was.

  • He’s called “the disciple whom He loved” (19:26). This isn’t the first or only time, but what an insight into this man’s close relationship with Jesus (see also 13:23; 20:2; etc.)
  • He is the only one of the apostles to make an appearance at the crucifixion (19:26). We know of no other who braved an appearance.
  • He, along with Peter, immediately ran to the tomb when Mary reported it to be empty (20:3).
  • He is the first disciple to believe without having yet seen the resurrected Christ (20:9).

Just as John says there were many other signs performed by Jesus not recorded in this gospel (20:30), there are many other notable and admirable features of John’s discipleship not recorded in just these two chapters.  These, though, are sufficient in themselves to impress us with this “son of thunder”.  No wonder Jesus loved and trusted him.  His example encourages and inspires us to follow Jesus more closely, to love Him more dearly, and to believe in Him more deeply.

Through the Bible, August 11

Reading: John 17-18

Summary: Jesus’ final words for the apostles from the upper room are His great prayer (17).  This is often referred to as his “High Priestly” prayer.  If any of His prayers deserve the title “Lord’s Prayer” this is the one.

Next, John begins to lay out the events of Jesus’ arrest and trial.

Devotional Thought:

Glory to God

You already know this, but God deserves praise and glory.  It’s what He continually receives in heaven.  “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power” (Rev. 4:11).  “Glory to God in the highest” was the angel’s opening line in announcing Jesus’ birth to the shepherds (Luke 2:14).  The Psalms are absolutely filled with the same message, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being. (Psa. 146:1-2).

We know that, but do we know this, how we are to praise God?

Apparently, one way is to say it.  The Bible itself says it a lot and records these words often on the lips of men.   But God being praised is not measured by how often or how loud one might say it.

Jesus praised God, obviously.  How so?  “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do” (John 17:4).  There it is.  God is glorified when we do what He expects us to do.  It’s just like Jesus is Lord, not when we call Him that but when we do what He says (Luke 6:46).

What is the work God’s given us to do?  When Jesus was asked that specific question, He said, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:28-29).  Believing in Him always entails our obedience (John 3:36), just as loving Him is impossible unless we obey Him (John 14:15).

So, glorify God?  He deserves nothing but.  Whether or not it happens comes back to my own willingness to do His work.  Can we say, “I have glorified You having accomplished the work You gave me to do”?