What Page Are You On?

It’s so easy — and dangerous — to get consumed with the hopes and desires of the present.

Following Jesus’ bread of life speech, and a realization by many in the crowd that Jesus was not merely around to serve their daily needs or meet their earthly goals, many of those who had been Jesus’ disciples began to turn back and stop following him.

They failed to see that to follow Jesus is to get on Jesus’ page. They just were not willing to go there. It’s important to know that Jesus doesn’t want us on his page because he’s on some sort of power trip. He wants us on his page because that’s what’s truly best for us.

The other day I was in an airport, and I saw a family — a Dad and a Mom with two little girls about 3 or 4 years old. The girls had matching rolling bags that they brought with them. The younger of the two little girls kept wanting to stop to get things out of her bag. This happened several times, with her parents patiently trying to explain that they needed to move their way more quickly through the airport.

The little girl was having none of that, and she was persistent about what she wanted for herself (and apparently her entire family as well) — frequent stops so she could dig around in her bag.

At last, her father simply took hold of the bag, and gently relieved her of it. The response of the little girl was not pretty, as I’m sure you can imagine. She pouted quite loudly for a really, really long time.

Sometimes we behave like that little girl. We want God to hold everything up — including his own gracious plans — for us. After all, in our minds, who’s more important than we are?

Jesus had just made it clear that he had come for his own purpose and glory. This involves the eternal salvation of mankind. So wasting a lot of time baking bread for people (or even just miraculously making it!) wasn’t on the agenda. Instead, he was going to be busy helping people see him as the bread of life. His concerns were far more of an eternal nature.

The people — like the little girl — didn’t like being told someone else’s agenda took precedence. So they turned away. It was just too tough to swallow.

Jesus watches them go, and then turns to his inner circle, the twelve, and ask them, “Do you also want to leave?”

Their answer shows that the disciples — by the Spirit’s power — had gotten on Jesus’ (eternal) page with him.

“Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We have come to believe and to know that you are the Holy One of God'” (John 6:68-69, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Monday, May 11, is Judges 12:1 – 13:25, John 6:60 – 7:13 and Psalm 59:9-17.

Lord, I repent for the times when I want to be on my own page, rather than on yours. My mind and heart want to dwell on the present, and on my own worldly needs, rather than on eternity, and your eternal desires for me and for the world around me. Please forgive me! Jesus, I want to be on your page with you. Send me the Spirit, who gives life, through your words. You have the words of eternal life, because you are the Holy One of God.

Header image based on "Studied Godspel" by Daniel Paixao Fontes, CC By 2.0

Claims of Divinity

Sometimes people who don’t know the Bible very well will make statements like, “Jesus never claimed to be the Messiah. And he certainly never claimed to be the Son of God!”

I guess for me the question boils down to this. What actually constitutes a claim to divinity? If others who know you repeatedly and consistently make the claim for you, and you are aware of this, and yet fail to ever once deny those claims, then is that not the very same thing as making the claim yourself?

In John’s gospel, chapter 1, the apostle John brings up one person after another who recognized Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God. They all verbally stated their recognition of this out loud, often with crowds of people around, and Jesus right there in their presence.

Not once does Jesus say, “No, that’s not true. Don’t make those claims about me.”

So, we’re left with only two possibilities. One is that Jesus was a megalomaniac with delusions of grandeur who listened to others verbalize lies and fantastic claims about himself and did nothing to stop it. The other is that Jesus really is the Messiah, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. He truly is the Son of God.

Personally, I am already persuaded the latter is the right conclusion. And I think as you continue to read with me through the Bible, you will become convinced of the same — if you’re not already convinced, that is! Certainly, John the Baptist, Andrew, Philip and Nathanael were persuaded!

“The next day John [the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God,who takes away the sin of the world! This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me…’ Then John gave this testimony… ‘I have seen and I testify that this is God’s Chosen One.'”

“The first thing Andrew did was to find his brother Simon and tell him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (that is, the Christ).”

“Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote—Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.'”

“Then Nathanael declared, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel'” (John 1:29-30, 32a, 34, 41, 45, 49, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Thursday, April 30, is Joshua 17:1 – 18:28, John 1:29-51 and Proverbs 10:31 – 11:8.

Jesus, I am convinced that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, and that you have taken away all my sins. Please re-convince me of this every day. Then give me your Holy Spirit so that I may walk and live with this truth as the core of my being and my purpose every day, bringing glory to you as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Header image based on "crown" by Jason Train, CC By 2.0

Closed Minds

Do you know what the number one roadblock to learning something new is?

A bad memory? Constant distractions? A bad teacher?

Nope. None of the above.

The number one roadblock to learning something new is a closed mind. And the apostles were suffering from a closed mind, even after Jesus’ resurrection. (That’s how powerful a closed mind can be!)

The apostles needed a supernatural intervention. And they got one.

“Then he [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45, NIV).

Now, here’s the bad news. Because of sin in our hearts, we all suffer from a spiritually closed mind. And there’s only one solution for it.

Have Jesus intervene — supernaturally — and open our minds, too. Then — and only then — will we be able to understand the Scriptures.

Our Bible reading for Tuesday, April 28, is Joshua 13:1 – 14:15, Luke 24:36-53 and Psalm 52:1-9.

Jesus, I want to understand the Scriptures. Open my mind so that I can understand what you want me to know about you, and about your love and forgiveness.

Header image based on "firmly closed" by Jenny Downing, CC By 2.0

The Source

Idolatry is the root of all sin. We are constantly on the watch for something — anything — that we think will give us life, peace, joy, contentment. In some way or another, all of life is a hunt for these things.

Our pursuit of them is the reason that we worship idols. Whatever idols we pursue, we pursue them only because we hope that they can bring us one of these — life, peace, joy, and contentment.

Our idol might be money. It might be possessions. It might be a relationship. Or it might be chemicals. Or sex, or power, or respect, or education. Some idols are idols not because they are bad things in themselves, but because we see them as ultimate things.

We pursue them for what we hope they will deliver to us. We chase the thing we hope will give us the THING.

It doesn’t work. Not in the long haul, anyway.

And there’s a much, much better way. Pursue Jesus. Listen to him speak. Adopt his angle on life. Follow his commands.

The way to do this is to absorb his words into your heart, deep inside of you. And post his words as reminders all around you. Post them even on your hands or on your forehead, if need be.

Jesus is the one and only true Source of life, peace, joy and contentment. He is the Ultimate.

“Be careful, or you will be enticed to turn away and worship other gods and bow down to them. Then the Lord’s anger will burn against you, and he will shut up the heavens so that it will not rain and the ground will yield no produce, and you will soon perish from the good land the Lord is giving you. Fix these words of mine in your hearts and minds; tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” (Deuteronomy 11:16-18, NIV).

Lord, help me to seek you, pursue you, find you. My heart naturally does the opposite. I am a sinner and and idolater. I look in every place but you for what only you can give. Please forgive me. Turn my stubborn and rebellious heart to you. Fix your words on my heart and mind. Give me a clean heart. Grant me a heart that trusts you above all else.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, April 9, is Deuteronomy 11:1 – 12:32, Luke 12:35-59 and Psalm 43:1-5.

Header image based on "Source of the Mississippi" by Randen Pederson, CC By 2.0

Impossible Righteousness

Do you ever feel like saying, “Really, Lord? Really?! How is that even possible?”

If you get to know the real Jesus (not the “Jesus” our culture sometimes makes up in its head), you’re going to have moments like that. Because Jesus says things that are difficult — if not impossible — to do. And really, many of them are hard to even imagine.

It just so happens that there’s a whole bunch of these sayings in a section of Luke affectionately known as “The Sermon on the Plain” (which bears a striking resemblance to the teaching in the Sermon on the Mount).

“But to you who are listening I say: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:27-31, NIV).

Could we review that quickly?

  • Love my enemies?
  • When someone hates me, treat them well?
  • When someone curses me, bless them?
  • When someone pounds on me, let them do it again?
  • If someone steals from me, offer them more of my property — as a gift?
  • If someone asks for help, always give it to them? Every last time?
  • And then, if they take advantage of my kindness, just let it go?

Well, that’s exactly what I hear Jesus saying. How about you?

I think if we actually acted like this, we would stand out. Big time. And Jesus says that we will too.

“If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them.” (Luke 6:32, NIV).

Impossible to do all these things? Yes, it absolutely is impossible to pull them off in our own power. That’s why we need Jesus. He did them all for us. He did the impossible perfectly so that he could present his impossible righteousness to us as a gift.

And he will send his Holy Spirit so that each day — living in Jesus’ grace and forgiveness — we get a little better at doing the impossible ourselves! Then, because we stand out, we can point people to a Savior named Jesus who stood up for a world of sinners.

Our Bible reading for Thursday, March 26, is Numbers 21:4 – 22:20, Luke 6:12-36 and Psalm 37:21-31.

Jesus, thank you for standing up for me, and offering yourself as the perfect sacrifice for my sins. Thank you for being my Champion. Now, by your Spirit’s power, allow me to stand out by making choices that the world finds distasteful and completely uncomfortable.

Header image based on "Agape" by Marcelino Rapayla Jr., CC By 2.0

Over-Promise? Not God!

An angel named Gabriel came with a message for Mary. She would be the mother of the Messiah. This was an amazing statement. Because the Messiah would also be the Son of God. And he would be the Savior of the world. And a King whose kingdom would never end.

Quite the promises! Mary was astonished at the words that fell from the angel’s lips. First, she was troubled in her heart. Then came bewilderment. Had this guy never heard of making promises you can’t keep?

After all the amazing and confusing things that Gabriel told her, there was one phrase that seemed to turn the tables for Mary.

For no word from God will ever fail” (Luke 1:37, NIV).

Gabriel’s reminder to Mary was that when God says something, you can bank on it. That’s a reminder we also need, isn’t it? We especially need that reminder when it comes to having a Savior named Jesus.

We hear so many confusing, competing, “promise-the-world” messages in our world today. So we don’t always know what we can bank on and what we can’t. We sometimes feel much the way Mary did — astonished, bewildered and confused.

And let’s face it. A time or two we’ve probably even been guilty of this ourselves. We’ve sent messages that confuse or over-promise.

What Gabriel wanted Mary to know — and you to know — is that God cannot over-promise. No word he speaks to you will ever fail.

You can bank on that. Even better yet, you can bank on him.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, March 14, is Numbers 1:1 – 2:9, Luke 1:26-38 and Psalm 33:12-22.

Father, thank you for giving me your words and promises. I love knowing I can rely on them. I get great peace from having somewhere I can go and be perfectly confident in what’s being said. Most of all, thank you for Jesus. He is the One in whom I confidently find forgiveness and salvation.

Header image based on "Promise?" by Carmella Fernando, CC By 2.0

Eternity On the Line

Luke was a companion of the apostle Paul. It’s likely that Paul and Luke first encountered one another in the city of Antioch, in Syria. We know from the book of Colossians that Luke was a physician.

Luke’s Greek is grammatically excellent and proper. His descriptive references to ancient cities and towns, and his correctness in ancient terminology mark him as a careful scholar.

As Christians we know that the Holy Spirit divinely inspired the words of the gospel Luke wrote. But the Holy Spirit also chose Luke, the careful scholar, to be the one to do the research work that would allow him to provide us with an accurate and well-ordered account of the life of Jesus, our Savior.

God is so good. As Luke writes in the introduction to his gospel, God wants us to have certainty about the things we have been taught. He does not want to leave us hanging.

That’s because a lot is on the line here. Eternity, to be exact.

Our Heavenly Father wants us to be confident. He wants us to know the Bible is trustworthy. And most of all, he wants us to know that his work of sending his Son, Jesus, to be our Savior is fully reliable. All because he wants our eternity to be secure.

“With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4, NIV).

Lord, thank you for showing us that your word is reliable. As the true author of the Bible, you carefully selected the men who would record your words. And they in turn, carefully did the research so that in the process we are left with an account of the life of Jesus that we can trust is completely trustworthy. So much is on the line. Thank you for such love!

Our Bible reading for Friday, March 13, is Leviticus 26:14 – 27:34, Luke 1:1-25 and Proverbs 7:1-5.

Header image based on "Eternity" by Newtown graffiti, CC By 2.0

When Jesus’ Love Gets Direct

A lot of times we associate directness and bluntness with a lack of tact, or outright unkindness. With the picture many of today’s people have of Jesus, most can hardly imagine Jesus ever being direct or blunt in his speech.

But sometimes the best way anyone can love a person is to get straight to the point. Sometimes the kindest thing we can say to a person is something very, very direct. Blunt, even.

That’s because not everyone is listening from the same vantage point. If a person is listening in order to judge, rather than to grasp, or learn, or empathize, then what’s being said is going through a very thick filter. And that filter can be almost impenetrable.

Unless we can get the person to listen from another position there’s very little possibility of punching through that filter. It’s only when a person moves from the judge’s bench to the pupil’s desk that words — even Jesus’ words — can penetrate to the heart.

Jesus is in the business of penetrating through to the heart. That’s why he doesn’t give up on the chief priests and the elders. Still, he’s definitely having trouble cracking through their filter, and he can’t seem to get them to change positions.

But Jesus’ heart for sinners is huge. So though it’s near the end of his life, he still wants to break through the concrete bunkers their hearts have become. He goes “direct” with them. He addresses the chief priests and the elders with very blunt, challenging words:

“Jesus said to them, ‘Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.'” (Matthew 21:31b-32, NIV).

It’s clear what Jesus was seeking. Repentance — minds and hearts willing to make a turnaround. Sadly, the chief priests and elders were too busy judging to consider a change of mind and heart.

If you’re struggling to hear or believe what Jesus says, try changing positions. Move from the judge’s bench to the pupil’s desk and see what happens.

Jesus, crack through the concrete bunker of my pride, and help me switch listening positions. Move my mind and heart so that I am willing to turn around, and listen to you from the pupil’s desk. You have so much to teach me. Don’t let me miss a thing! And Lord, if you have to be direct with me to get my attention, then go right ahead. I know that it’s all just love!

Our Bible reading for Sunday, February 1, is Job 22:1 – 24:25, Matthew 21:18-32 and Proverbs 3:21-35.

Header image based on "Second Judicial Circuit" by July, CC by 2.0

He Alone Is Great

When someone makes a claim that’s going to affect me, I want to know what I’m going to do about that claim. The claims of the Bible are sometimes counterintuitive. But they are the claims of the Bible. It’s important we understand them clearly.

The Bible, for instance, makes some exclusive claims for God, such as in Psalm 148, where we hear the Psalmist say, “For his name alone is exalted.” Some may find a claim like this hard to swallow. But when you think about it, claims like these go along perfectly with other ideas presented in the Bible.

Just one example. One of the most well known words in the Bible are the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2, NIV). If God truly is one-of-a-kind, unique and stand-alone in our universe, isn’t he someone with whom you would want to be acquainted? Isn’t he someone whose friendship you would want to enjoy? And ultimately, if this claim is true, isn’t God someone we would want to worship and praise?

“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his splendor is above the earth and the heavens” (Psalm 148:13, NIV).

Lord, send me your Spirit, so that I can understand your claims in the Bible, and know what to do about them.

Our Bible reading for Sunday, December 28, is Zechariah 7:1 – 9:17, Psalm 148:7-14, Proverbs 30:29-31 and Revelation 18:1-24.