Luke 9:28-36

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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“About eight days after Jesus said this, He took Peter, John and James with Him and went up onto a mountain to pray.  As He was praying, the appearance of His face changed, and His clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning.  Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus.  They spoke about His departure, which He was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem” (v 28 – 31 NIV)

How interesting it is, Lord, how You weave all sorts of things together.  Here, Moses, the one in Israel’s history most connected with the Law, was part of the scene.  Also, Elijah showed up, one of the most prominent of the Prophets.  Earlier in Your ministry here, during a time You were teaching several people at once on a mountainside, You said about the Law and the Prophets, “Do not think that I have come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).  Then, in this mountaintop conversation with symbols of the Law and the Prophets, You were discussing just how You’d go about that fulfillment!

Your Law set forth through Moses and Your messages proclaimed by prophets like Elijah all converge in Your Son, Jesus.  He even alluded to this at times during His teaching: “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).  Another time, He was explaining the two greatest commandments (which actually sum up and organize the original ten under two headings) and said, “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40).  You tied it all together by Your coming, proclaiming it in Your teaching.

From the very beginning of humanity’s time line, Father, You had been working toward the days when You’d walk on this earth that You spoke into existence.  You wove together all the prophecies amidst all the laws, lives and lessons.  All of it done with one motive, goal, and focus: my redemption from my sin!  Thank You, Lord for making the way for me to be just like Jesus.

When I choose to follow You, Lord, You promise to be with me; yet You don’t promise an easy ride.  You long for me to follow You with abandon and determination.

NO EXPECTING LUXURY

“As they were walking along the road, a man said to Him, ‘I will follow You wherever You go.’  Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay His head.  [Are you ready to rough it?  We’re not staying in the best inns, you know.]'” (v 57-58 NIV [MSG])

When I said “yes, I’ll follow You,” Lord, not once did I hear or read of any promises You made about it being an easy journey.  “Following You” means just that, going where You go, have gone, will go, would go … and Your road was nothing close to smooth.  Still, I choose to follow, because every step of the way, YOU’re with me — there’s no better place to be!

NO WASTING TIME

“He said to another man, ‘Follow Me.’ But the man replied, ‘[Certainly, but first excuse me fro a couple of days, please.  I have to make arrangements for my father’s funeral.  Jesus refused.  ‘First things first.  Your business is life, not death.  And life is urgent: Announce God’s kingdom!]'” (v 59-60 NIV [MSG])

Since You knew people’s true motives, Lord, and usually gave instruction related to those and not the spoken words, I could see that it’s possible that this man’s father was his excuse.  You call us to immediate action when it comes to matters of Your kingdom.  You called me to serve You anytime, anywhere, for however long anyhow.  Let’s do it, Lord!  Here’s my hand; You lead the way.

NO LOOKING BACK

“Then another said, ‘I’m ready to follow You, Master, but first excuse me while I get things straightened out at home.’  Jesus said, ‘No procrastination.  NO backward looks.  You can’t put God’s kingdom off till tomorrow.  Seize the day.'” (v 61-62 MSG)

You want my eyes fixed on You as we travel this road together.  When my eyes wander, it can become easy to doubt the path, to become discontent with the direction, the means, the pace, and so on.  My imagination can conjure up fears and fantasies.  No wonder You call for wholehearted commitment and disciplined focus.  YOU are the Way — there is no other.  Keep my mind on You, Lord, as You make me just like Jesus.  Amen.

Luke 9:1-27

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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“Anyone who intends to come with Me has to let Me lead.  You’re not in the driver’s seat — I am.  Don’t run from suffering; embrace it.  Follow Me and I’ll show you how.  Self-help is no help at all.  Self-sacrifice is the way, MY way, to finding yourself, your true self.  What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you?  If any of you is embarrassed with Me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when He arrives in all His splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels.” (v 23-26 The Message)

“IF ANYONE WOULD COME AFTER ME, HE MUST… (v 23 NIV)

DENY HIMSELF“…has to let Me lead”

You call me to turn over control of my life to You, Lord.  You patiently wait for me to hand You the keys, move to a passenger’s seat, and let You drive me toward the destination You desire for me.  Along the journey, You may allow me to choose some directions we turn or places we stop; but You desire to remain behind the wheel.

TAKE UP HIS CROSS DAILY“… embrace [suffering]”

Jesus, You came to this earth for the purpose of dying for my sins.  Even though, in the Garden of Gethsemane before Your death, You wrestled with desiring not to have to do it, You still chose to embrace the cross that was before You (Mark 14:32-36).  You knew that You must go through that terrible death in order that we, Your loved ones, might be saved, delivered, forgiven, and redeemed.  You knew that You must die, so that the awesome power of God could raise You from the dead, breaking the power of the enemy’s last-resort weapon (death).

With every death in Christ, there will always be a resurrection!  You have promised me that my physical body will die, but that I won’t die; I’ll get to be with You forever (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:50-57).  You also let me know that for each hardship in my life, You bring a relief or restoration through Your life in me (2 Corinthians 4:7-11).  When I die to myself, You bring a resurrection in me that more fully reflects the You in me (Philippians 2:3-11; Is 43:18-19; Ezekiel 36:25-27; Acts 3:19-20).

AND FOLLOW ME“Follow Me and I’ll show you how”

You have walked down every road that You will ever lead me along.  Whether we’re walking, running, driving, flying … or barely crawling, YOU can maneuver every curve in the BEST manner.

Lord, I recognize that You are the One who must be in control of my life, not me.  I realize that suffering comes with the joy.  I acknowledge that You alone are the One to follow.  My head knows all these things.  My heart knows that You love me.  And in light of this knowledge, my will chooses Your way–the denial, the cross, the following.  Take me, change me–make me just like You.  Amen.

Luke 8

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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“A farmer went out to sow his seed.  Some of it fell on the road; …Other seed fell in the gravel; …Other seed fell in the weeds; …Other seed fell in rich earth …” (v 5-8 MSG)

This farmer wasn’t purposefully tossing seed into these areas.  He was using a technique of getting as much seed out as possible as he walked along in his field and threw it about from his pouch.  The growth of the seed was up to how the soil took it and God’s provision of water and sunlight.

You hand me the seed, Lord; it’s Your Word.  And then, You point me to the field, each day as I touch this world.  You call me to sow, sow, sow, and You let me know that You’ll handle the growth.  You choose to use Your people to get Your Word out to as many hearts as possible.  It’s up to each heart whether or not it will receive the Word that’s sown.

“…seeds on the ROAD are those who hear the Word, but no sooner do they hear it than the Devil snatches it from them so they won’t believe and be saved.

“…seeds in the GRAVEL are those who hear with enthusiasm, but the enthusiasm doesn’t go very deep.  It’s only another fad, and the moment there’s trouble it’s gone.

“…seeds that fell in the WEEDS–well, these are the ones who hear, but then the seed is crowded out and nothing comes of it as they go about their lives worrying about tomorrow, making money, and having fun.

“…seeds in the GOOD EARTH — those are the good hearts who seize the Word and hold on no matter what sticking with it until there’s a harvest.” (v 11-15 MSG)

Father, as You continue to sow Your Word into my own heart through various “sowers,” (including my own reading), may my heart be soil that accepts, absorbs, and lets root that seed You toss my way.

Let me not grow stubborn and refuse or let go of Your message like the “road-heart” soil.  Let me not be initially enthusiastic about You but later become disinterested like the “gravel-heart” soil.  Let me not be overcome with “worrying about tomorrow, making money and having fun,” like the “weed-heart” soil.

Rather, make me all together like the “good-earth-heart” soil, hearing Your Word, retaining it, and by persevering, seeing You produce a good crop in and through me.  Keep my heart fertile and ready to receive whatever You have for me in Your Word.

“…As Jesus was on His way, the crowds almost crushed Him.  And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years, but no one could heal her.  She came up behind Him and touched the edge of His cloak, and immediately her bleeding stopped.” (v 42-44 NIV)

You had returned to an area where people were quite aware of You.  They’d been expecting You.  They gave You a hearty welcome.  So MANY people creating such a crowd had gathered that day!  They were so numerous that they “almost crushed” You, Luke wrote.  Most likely, the majority of people in this throng were simply curious, wanting to see Your next feat, maybe wondering what kind of teaching You’d do next …except for two people.  Both of these were described as seeking You out and when they found You, Luke said they “fell at Jesus’ feet” (v 41, 47).  They were more than curious; they were convinced that You held the power of life and wholeness.

Even in the midst of that pressing crowd, You could tell exactly who touched You; yet You wanted this woman to come forward.  Through drawing her out and talking with her, You gave her so many unspoken, unheralded blessings.  You affirmed her as a person, restoring her dignity.  Since “according to Jewish law, a man who touched a menstruating woman became ceremonially unclean (Lev 15:19-28).  This was true whether her bleeding was normal or, as in this woman’s case, a result of illness.  To protect themselves from such defilement, Jewish men carefully avoided touching, speaking to, or even looking at women” (NIV Life Application Study Bible, p. 1815).  But YOU proclaimed her clean before hundreds of people.  You healed her.

When You requested that the person who touched You make him or herself known, You used that opportunity to teach a little morsel.  You helped this woman to see that Your cloak held no magical powers.  You helped her see that it was her faith in You that tapped into Your healing power.

May my faith be that which is continually reaching out for You, Lord.  May my mind remain focused on You and my heart daily hunger for Your touch.  Thank You for how You value me and how You keep on working to make me just like Jesus.  Amen.

Luke 7:36-50

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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“…a woman of the village, the town harlot, having learned that Jesus was a guest in the home of the Pharisee, came with a bottle of very expensive perfume and stood at His feet, weeping, raining tears on His feet.  Letting down her hair, she dried his feet, kissed them, and anointed them with the perfume.” (v 37-38 MSG)

The Pharisee host couldn’t believe You’d let this woman touch You, Lord.  Yet, You took this opportunity to again contrast the attitude of the Pharisees with “sinners.”  In reality, both Simon and the woman were sinners.  The point You were highlighting to Simon was that the woman had realized it.  She was stricken by the raw awareness of her sin and the value of Your mercy, forgiveness, and love.  She was so moved by this recognition that her response was extravagant adoration of You, the one by whom she received such phenomenal gifts.

WASHED IN SERVICE

“…she wet My feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair.” (v 44 NIV)

This woman came into a room, though uninvited, found You there, as she’d hoped, and stood behind You.  (The custom of the day was for guests to recline at the meal table, so Your feet would’ve been behind You, and she could’ve easily slipped in without disrupting the table guests.)  When she arrived at her target destination, all she could do was weep.  No doubt, You felt each tear drop onto Your feet.  I wonder how many tears fell before she noticed their landing spot …before she knelt and more tears gushed forth … until she let down her hair and used it as a towel to dry Your feet…

Father, may my heart be so aware of the fathomless pit out of which You’ve brought me by Your gift of salvation that my foremost act in Your presence is serving You.  Let me not grow so proud as Simon, who didn’t even carry out a simple social custom of providing water for Your dusty feet as You entered his home.  Oh, make me like this woman — aware of my sin, aware of my salvation, and deeply, visibly grateful for the great chasm between the two!

KISSED IN AFFECTION

“…this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing My feet” (v 45 NIV)

Simon had not even offered You a customary kiss of greeting; yet, here again, the woman, who was looked down upon by the religious leader, becomes a model to which You call attention.  Realizing the depths of Your forgiveness, her heart bursts with love and adoration for You, Jesus.

When I embrace the thought of this woman’s actions, I can feel it, yet putting it into words is difficult.  I remember the time when my acknowledgment of my sin used to be more like Simon’s.  I went about my faith walk not conceding too often that, though I’d been a good person as I grew up, I was a sinner like any person whose sins were visible, public, and atrocious.  A reality had to hit me: My sin put You on the cross too.  I recall the change inside when I was vividly aware that I had always been and will always be at YOUR mercy, dependent on Your grace.  Even now, I weep tears of gratitude as I consider how You love me … and I can barely release the words from my quivering lips … “I love You, Jesus.”

ANOINTED IN HONOR

“…she has poured perfume on My feet” (v 47 NIV)

She had carried in a carved, expensive and beautiful jar of perfume, no doubt costing her a great amount.  How had she earned the money to purchase such a treasure?  Was it a family heirloom that she’d manage to hang onto?  Had someone given it to her as payment for her services?  The origin of her gift is not known, except that it was hers, and she chose to use it to honor the One who set her free.

Lord, may I follow this woman’s example of taking whatever I value in this life and using it to bring honor to You.  Let me be extravagant in glorifying You, because like her, I KNOW that it is only YOU who could and have set me free!

SERVICE, LOVE, and HONOR…these three were the responses of a woman who acknowledged the depths of her sin and the price of her salvation.  You didn’t forgive her, save her, or free her because of these good acts.  You did all those things because You came to serve, to show Your love, and to restore honor to us fallen ones.

This woman had You in person; she could convey her gratitude directly to You.  Today, though, Lord, for me, You tell me that I am serving You when I serve others (Matthew 25:31-40) …that I am loving You when I love others (1 John 3:11-18; 4:7-12) …that I am honoring You when I honor others (Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3-5ff).  Help me to live in an attitude of gratitude, cognizant of all You’ve done for me, and humbly expressing what that means to me.  You’ve brought me so far, Father.  Continue to make me just like Jesus.  Amen.

Luke 7:1-35

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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“… Just give the order and my servant will get well …” (v 7 The Message [MSG])

“Taken aback, Jesus addressed the accompanying crowd: ‘I’ve yet to come across this kind of simple trust anywhere in Israel, the very people who are supposed to know about God and how He works.’  When the messengers got back home, they found the servant up and well.” (v 9-10 MSG)

“… a woman’s only son was being carried out for burial.  And the mother was a widow.  When Jesus saw her, His heart broke.  He said to her, ‘Don’t cry.’ … [Then, He restored life to the son and] presented him to his mother.” (v 11-15 MSG)

How evident it is, Lord Jesus, that You love people more than anything.  Your plans were never interrupted by visits with people, for people were at the center of Your plans.

You even pay attention to the details that You observe in the lives of people.  Here, in this account, the faith of a Gentile (non-Jew) intrigues You and You gladly grant his request.  Shortly after that encounter, You are moved with compassion for a widow who had just lost her son, her only remaining means of support.  Without him, and unless other family helped, she would end up resorting to begging to survive.  Yet, You restored her son to her, so that he would be able to support his mother!

“They all realized they were in a place of holy mystery, that God was at work among them.  They were quietly worshipful — and then noisily grateful, calling out among themselves, ‘God is back, looking to the needs of His people!'” (v 16 MSG)

For 400 years prior to the coming of John the Baptist and of Your Son, the people had heard virtually nothing from You, Father God.  There had been no prophecies after those You conveyed through Malachi.  There, in that town of Nain, people finally heard You break the seeming silence.  They recognized that You were present to help Your people.

Sometimes You can seem silent, Lord.  Perhaps, You’ve chosen to wait on me to follow the last directions You gave me.  On the other hand, You may seem silent, when, in reality, I just haven’t been listening. Help me to mute all other noise around me and in my mind, so that I can hear YOUR voice.

How good the times are when I can recognize that You are at work in my life.  You see all the details.  Like with the centurion, You notice my faith.  As with the widow, You see my needs.  With all that You see in me and know about me, You love me deeply still.  Thank You, Father, for all that You do in and for me.

“… Are You the One who was to come, or should we expect someone else?”

“At that very time Jesus cured many who had diseases, sicknesses and evil spirits, and gave sight to many who were blind.  So He replied to the messengers, ‘Go back and report to John what you have seen and heard: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.'” (v 20-23 NIV)

Lord, You went beyond merely answering with a simple “yes” or “no.” Rather, You had the messengers wait while You went about part of what You had come to do, and then You answered the question they asked.  Your demonstration showed that John’s role as a prophet had been fulfilled: The Messiah had come.

In essence, John was the last of the prophets and the Old Testament book could be closed.  Now that You had come, a new book was being penned, a new covenant was being made to be sealed, and the dawn of the New Testament was upon the people gathered around.

“How can I account for the people of this generation?  They’re like spoiled children complaining to their parents, ‘We wanted to skip rope and you were always too tired; we wanted to talk but you were always too busy.’  John the Baptizer came fasting and you called him crazy.  The Son of Man came feasting and you called Him a lush.  Opinion polls don’t count for much, do they?  The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” (v 31-35 MSG)

The Pharisees didn’t care whether they were seen as inconsistent or not.  They just appeared to squirm every time they had to face You, Jesus, because You turned the spotlight on their hypocrisy.  They were good at justifying their own views, refusing to listen to any others, especially Yours.  In fact, THEIR concept of the coming Messiah was what blinded them from recognizing You when You did come.

Oh, Father, where there are areas of my own “wisdom” that are in conflict with Your truth bring those to my attention, flush the non-truth away, and replace it with only YOUR wisdom and truth.  Make my heart and mind clean, transform them.  Conform me to Your will and Your ways as You make me just like Jesus.  Amen.

Luke 6:27-49

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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“Love your enemies.  Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst.  When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energy of prayer for that person … If someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life … Live generously.  Here is a simple rule of thumb for behavior:   Ask yourself what you want people to do for you: then grab the initiative and do it for THEM!” (v 27 – 31 MSG)

Some days, Lord, this kind of gracious interactive living can be intensely challenging and seems mostly impossible.  Actually, when I approach someone in the natural, just as me, in my own strength, I don’t get to see Your process work.  It’s only by allowing YOUR grace and strength to work through me that I can truly let my enemies bring out the best in me.

When someone gives me a hard time, my first reaction can be one of frustration or even verbally lashing back.  Yet, You call me to take the energy that would normally go into those reactions and invest it in praying for the person who’s giving me a hard time.  Remind me of this, Holy Spirit.  Recall these words and, Father, help me to carry them out.

Help me to “live generously” as Jesus did.  Train my thinking to first consider each circumstance with “What would I want this person to do for/to me?”  Then, give me the initiative and strength and wisdom as I do it FOR THEM.

“Don’t pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults — unless, of course, you want the same treatment.  Don’t condemn those who are down; that hardness can boomerang.  Be easy on people; you’ll find life a lot easier.” (v 37 MSG)

How easy it is, Lord, to slip into a complaining mode with the people I see regularly — folks with whom I have a bird’s-eye-view into their strengths, weaknesses, habits, and idiosyncrasies.  The ones who have the most opportunity to either be a blessing or to get on my one last nerve … But then, that means I fall into that same category for them.  Is the way I treat them the same way that I hope they treat me?

Father, I need YOUR help to be different with EVERY new day in this setting.  Help me not to look for, notice and pick at the failures of the people around me.  Rather, help me to affirm them as Your children or Your creation.  Help me not to “criticize the faults,” and cause them to feel lower than dirt.  Instead, cause words of encouragement to come out of my mouth, with a genuine interest in seeing each one succeed.  Make me keenly aware of those who are down, and hold my tongue from adding to that lowness by being hard-shelled toward them.  Teach me, rewire me, equip me, move me to “be easy on people.”  It’s only You who can transform me in this area — please do it, Lord!

“… These words I speak to you are not mere additions to your life, homeowner improvements to your standard of living.  They are foundation words, words to build a life on.

“If you work the words into your life, you are like a smart carpenter who dug deep and laid the foundation of his house on bedrock.  When the river burst its banks and crashed against the house, nothing could shake it; it was built to last.  But if you just use My words in Bible studies and don’t work them into your life, you are like a dumb carpenter who built a house but skipped the foundation.  When the swollen river came crashing in, it collapsed like a house of cards.  It was a total loss.” (v 47-49 MSG)

Keep me grounded on the foundation of Your Word.  And help me to work Your Word into EVERY aspect of my life, so that NOTHING can shake me, as You keep on making me just like Jesus.  Amen.

Luke 6:1-26

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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“One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.” (v 12)

Here again, Lord, another record of a time, in the midst of all that You did as You ministered, when You stepped aside from the work to be with Your Father.  In this visit, the two of You talked all night long.  I wonder what You prayed about, Jesus??  In John 17, I get to read some of the kinds of things that You prayed.  Thanks for the times when Your prayers were of intercession and they included even me (e.g. John 17:20-26).

“…and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor” (v 16 NIV)

Now, Luke was obviously writing this after Judas had shown his true allegiance–to himself, not You.  Yet, when You called those guys together on that mountain one morning, and You designated them as apostles, You knew just what Judas would eventually do.  Still You chose him to hang out with You, to serve with You … You ate meals with him. You even washed his feet (John 13).  Even before he had done to You what You always knew he would do, You loved him fully.

Long, long before I was created, You knew me too.  You had already seen my entire life unfold.  You knew the ways in which I could sin and hurt Your heart.  You knew it all–yet You loved me still.  Your persistent love could never let go of me no matter how fierce my rebellion or horrid my sin.  That’s GRACE!  There is nothing I can do to earn Your love; there is nothing I can do to lose Your love.  You simply love me because … that’s YOU!

Continue to shape Your kind of love in me, so that it touches the lives that I touch.  Make me just like Jesus, so that others can be loved through me like You love me.

“Count yourself blessed every time someone cuts you down or throws you out, every time someone smears or blackens your name to discredit Me.  What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and that that person is uncomfortable.  You can be glad when that happens–skip like a lamb if you like! –for even though they don’t like it, I do …and all heaven applauds …” (v 22-23 MSG)

So, Father, You say it’s a good thing when people who encounter me choose to have negative thoughts and say negative words about me.  You point out that this happens when they can see Your truth in my life and that truth cuts a little too close to home for them.  Then, what does it mean if no one says those kinds of slanderous things about a follower of You?  What does THAT say about the person’s Truth witness?

“…it’s trouble ahead if you think you have it made.  What you have is all you’ll ever get.  And it’s trouble ahead if you’re satisfied with yourself.  Your SELF will not satisfy you for long.  And it’s trouble ahead if you think life’s all fun & games.  There’s suffering to be met and you’re going to meet it.  There’s trouble ahead when you live only for the approval of others, saying what flatters them, doing what indulges them.  Popularity contests are not truth contests… Your task is to be true, not popular.” (v 24-26 MSG)

Father, I am totally bankrupt without You.  Nothing on earth can satisfy my needs.  In each challenge I face, You promise to meet me and walk with me through it.  What others think of me doesn’t matter. It’s Your approval that truly assures me that I am whole.

Thank You for Your promises that You always come through on.  Thank You for the assurance of belonging to You and being Your child.  Thank You for Your work in me to make me just like Jesus.  Amen.

Luke 5

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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“Simon answered, ‘Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because You say so, I will let down the nets'” (v 5 NIV)

“… they caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break … and filled both boats so full that they began to sink.  When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus’ knees and said, ‘Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!'” (v 6-8 NIV)

“Then Jesus said to Simon, ‘Don’t be afraid; from now on you will catch men.’  So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed Him.” (v 10-11 NIV)

No doubt, Simon and his partners had heard news of You, Jesus.  They did get to hear Your authoritative teaching when You borrowed their boat that day to speak from out on the lake.  SOMETHING must have been said that impressed Simon, since he so willingly took his boat out for the sermon and then followed Your fishing instructions after a worthlessly long day of no catches.

Whether Your words did it or not, the effect of Your presence in Simon’s boat sure did trigger something in him.  When Simon saw the massive catch of fish, he knew that it had occurred by no act of his own, that the man Jesus was someone to be revered.  Simon felt extremely unworthy to be in Your presence.

What You said next struck an even deeper chord in Simon and the others.  You calmed them down and then called them out by giving them a vision and purpose for the rest of their lives: “from now on You will catch men.”  They listened and chose to leave all they had known, had, and had been doing to follow You.

In one day’s personal encounter with You, Lord, the lives of a few guys were totally altered.  Their first response to You was COOPERATION, as they met You and first heard Your teachings.  Then, SUBMISSION to Your seemingly useless fishing idea was their next response.  They’d obeyed You, then You blessed them beyond their imagination and their response was AMAZEMENT.  By that time, their encounter with You had prepared their hearts for Your call, to which they responded with DEVOTION.

Father, may my heart be attentive to Your daily work in and around me.  May my response to You always include cooperation, submission, amazement and devotion as You continue to make me just like Jesus.

“As often as possible Jesus withdrew to out-of-the-way places for prayer” (v 16 MSG)

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed” (v 16 NIV)

Father, I recognize that most of the activity in this passage revolves around Your Son’s acts of healing people.  Yet, there’s one sentence that stands out to me each time I read through this.  It’s the one quoted above.

No matter how much Jesus was involved in, He took time to get away and converse with You.  One version says “as often as possible” He did this.  He set an example for me.

How good and pleasant it is, Father, to step aside from my work, my play, my whatever and simply sit with You!  You speak through Your Word and Your Spirit.  You listen to my prayers.  You meet me where I am, embrace me, and move me further along in this journey of becoming just like Jesus.  Thank You for times of fellowship one-on-one with You … for times of renewal in Your presence … for times of basking in Your love for me!  Amen.

Luke 4:31-44

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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Jesus, You are Lord over all!  This passage highlights at least three of those areas subject to You:

LORD OVER DOCTRINE

“He went down to Capernaum, a village in Galilee.  He was teaching the people on the Sabbath.  They were surprised and impressed — His teaching was so forthright, so confident, so authoritative, not the quibbling and quoting they were used to.” (v 31-32 MSG)

You taught like You knew what You were talking about, Lord.  You taught in a manner that no one had taught them before.  Each time You give me an opportunity to convey the truth of Your Word, guide me in teaching so that others are drawn to what You have to say to them.  Create intrigue and then a desire to know more so that hearts are changed.

LORD OVER DEMONS

“In the meeting place that day there was a man demonically disturbed.  He screamed, ‘Ho!  What business do You have here with us, Jesus?  Nazarene!  I know what You’re up to.  You’re the Holy One of God and You’ve come to destroy us!’  Jesus shut him up: ‘Quiet!  Get out of him!’” (v 33-36 MSG)

Just like every other element of creation, You are sovereign over it all, including demons — those spiritual beings who once were angels, but chose to follow Satan.  Of course, You would have authority over them — You made them and You are tremendously greater than they could ever be!  Thanks for the security of knowing You are above ALL things!

LORD OVER DISEASE

“… Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever, and they asked Jesus to help her.  So He bent over her and rebuked the fever, and it left her … the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying His hands on each one, He healed them.” (v 38, 40 NIV)

No sickness can stand in the way of Your power, Lord.  Just a touch or word from You and a sick person is restored to health.  Thank You for the times in my life when You’ve removed sickness from my own body.

You are all-knowing!

You are all-powerful!

You are Lord of all, Jesus!

Thank You for Your presence in my life, for saving me and for loving me always.  Amen.

Luke 4

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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Jesus, this time of tempting HAD to come in Your life, didn’t it?  By this means, You identified with me as a human.  You’ve been tempted in every way, like I am (Hebrews 4:15).

The same tactics used by Satan against You are the ones he tries with me.  He claims that the way forward to what’s best is along the path of shortcuts.  He tries to gain my allegiance through promises of meeting my physical needs and desires, of granting possessions and power, and of boosting my pride to high elevations.  But a quick-fix isn’t usually in line with the way YOU do things, Lord.  You move at just the right time in just the right way to bring about Your wondrous results according to Your will.

The strategy You used defeated Satan in this battle with temptation can be effective for me as well.  You remained ALERT, paying attention to his ploys.  You skillfully used SCRIPTURE to counter his false notions about gaining Your worship.  You relied on the SPIRIT through the trial.  Thanks for Your example, Jesus!  Keep on strengthening me in my knowledge of Your Word, my obedience to it, and my proclamation of it.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on Me, because He has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (v 18-19 NIV from Isaiah 61:2-3, 7 NIV)

At the time Your prophet, Isaiah, penned this text, he pictured the deliverance of Israel from their exile in Babylon.  This deliverance was heralded as a “Year of Jubilee,” when every debt is canceled, every slave is set free, and all property is returned to the original owners (see Leviticus 25).  When the Israelites were released from Babylonian captivity, they didn’t find the fulfillment they had anticipated, because they were expecting something more.  Yet, they still had the Messiah to look forward to … IF they continued faithfully onward.

Most likely, Isaiah’s words were looking further down the human timeline, pointing to the Messiah You were going to send.  Jesus proclaimed that He was the One You were speaking of through Isaiah.  Your intent for freedom encompassed more than deliverance from physical exile and slavery.  You sent Jesus to free me in a way beyond my imagination.

Further along in the passage in Isaiah 61, where Jesus had been reading, it says,

“He has sent Me …to comfort all who mourn, and provide for those who grieve in Zion –to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.  They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of His splendor.  … Instead of their shame My people will receive a double portion, and instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance; … and everlasting joy will be theirs.” (Is. 61:2-3, 7 NIV).

What gifts You bring, Jesus, when You come to me!  Along with the gift of Your presence, You also bring comfort, provision, beauty, gladness, praise, righteousness, and Your grace and joy! Wow!  You bring all of who You are and clothe me with Yourself!  How long, O Lord, until it’s You that others see much more than me?  Amen.

Luke 3:21-38

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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“Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when He began His ministry…” (v 23 NIV)

Apparently, You, Lord, remained in Nazareth all those years prior to this.  You trusted Your Father’s timing for Your life, for the ministry You were to carry out.

According to the notes in the NIV Life Application Bible here, thirty was a significant age in the Jewish culture: “Thirty was the prescribed age for priests to begin their ministry (Num 4:3).  Joseph was 30 years old when he began serving the King of Egypt (Gen 41:46), and David was 30 years old when he began to reign over Judah (2 Sam 5:4).  Age 30, then, was a good time to begin an important task in the Jewish culture.  Like Jesus, we need to resist the temptation to jump ahead before receiving the Spirit’s direction.  Are you waiting and wondering what your next step should be?  Don’t jump ahead–trust God’s timing.” (NIV Life Application Study Bible, Zondervan, p. 1798).

Indeed, Lord, as I seek to know Your “next step” for me, strengthen me to wait patiently on Your clear guidance.  Show me YOUR ways and lead me in them.

Luke’s gospel, like each of the others (Matthew, Mark and John) has its own idiosyncrasies that set it apart.  Being a doctor, he seems to often highlight some of the physiological affects in situations.  He also gives prominence to several women in the account of Your Son he’s set forth.  And here, in this genealogy, he’s shown another portion of a theme that runs through his narrative:  Jesus, the Savior of the whole world.  This lineage trace takes Jesus all the way back through the generations to show how Jesus was spawned through Adam, who was formed by Your very words.

This Savior of the world was/is truly the Son of God.  You even opened heaven and spoke the words Yourself as He began His ministry: “You are My son, whom I love; with You I am well pleased” (v 22 NIV).  Thank You, Father, for sharing Him with this world, so that You could share Your mercy, grace and love with me, as You continue to shape me to be just like Him.  Amen.

Luke 3:1-20

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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“…John, Zachariah’s son, out in the desert at the time, received a message from God.  He went all through the country around the Jordan River preaching a baptism of life-change leading to forgiveness of sins…” (v 2-3 MSG)

At a time when so many rulers, both political and religious, were gaining a name for themselves, You chose to speak through this son of a priest, John.  How wonderful that in Your eyes, Father, greatness isn’t gauged by what a person has or who a person is in this world.  Rather, You look on the heart and ascribe greatness according to the level of faith in You.

“…Prepare the way for the Lord; make straight paths for Him…” (v 4 NIV)

John was getting people ready for Your FIRST coming, Jesus.  Much of what he exhorted people with then is fitting for today, as I look forward to Your SECOND coming.  Guide me in the times ahead to remain FOCUSED on You, ATTENTIVE to Your Word (reading it regularly), and OBEDIENT to Your will.

“When crowds of people came out for baptism because it was the popular thing to do, John exploded: ‘Brood of snakes!  What do you think you’re doing slithering down here to the river?  Do you think a little water on your snake skins is going to deflect God’s judgment?  It’s YOUR LIFE THAT MUST CHANGE, NOT YOUR SKIN… What counts is Your life.  Is it green and blossoming?  Because if it’s deadwood, it goes on the fire.’ “(v 7-9 MSG)

Any change that I pursue must go deeper than the surface or the image I set forth.  My mind must change its thought patterns.  My thoughts must alter my heart, and both need to realign my actions to become fully changed.  Lord, You value internal reformation far above external ritual.  Keep me in line with what pleases Your heart.

“The crowd asked him, ‘Then what are we supposed to do?’…” (v 10-14 MSG)

As the people heard the admonition to be real in their change, they sought help from John in knowing how to change.  He told them to share what they had with those who were in need.  He called for excellence and fairness in each person’s work.  Then, he also told them to be content with their earnings.  Father, create in me these attitudes of generosity, excellence and contentment.

You used John to prepare the way for Jesus. You longed for people to open their hearts and accept the Messiah You sent.  Some did, while others couldn’t get past their own religious blindness.

Lord, here is MY heart.  I’ve given it to You in the past and I recommit myself to You today.  By Your Spirit within me, keep me faithful and make me a witness to others, as You daily make me just like Jesus.  Amen.

Luke 2:19, 41-52

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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Something in Luke’s account has struck me twice now, Lord:

“But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (v 19 NIV)

… But His mother treasured all these things in her heart” (v 51 NIV)

Prior to this time, over twelve years before this day in the temple courts, this same woman had responded to the news of Your plans for her with, “I am the Lord’s servant.  May it be to me as you have said” (Luke 1:38 NIV).  Then, her journey with You began.

You chose a simple woman at a young age to be a vessel for Your ultimate gift of love for this world.  By Your Spirit, that gift was conceived in her.  She was encouraged by others who had received, believed and accepted Your promises too.  She sat in humble awe as You brought forth Your Gift from within her and others came to experience His arrival.  She was inspired with hope as she heard the prophesies and blessings from longtime followers of You, those who had longed for and anticipated this Gift of Yours.  You continued to entrust this Gift to her care as His nature grew, broadened, and deepened.  So much to ponder …and to wonder just what an extraordinary God saw in an ordinary young woman.

Sometimes, I can really relate to Mary.  I see what You’ve been unfolding in my life over the years and am often in such awe that all I CAN do is to “treasure all these things in [my] heart.”  At a young age, You planted the seed of a love relationship with You into my heart.  You encouraged its growth in me through others who loved and served You.  A day came when what I’d been learning about You became more than knowledge, as I experienced new birth and began a personal relationship with You.  Others have tasted and shared in this love of Yours in my heart.  Still others have inspired hope and faithfulness, as Your character within me continues to develop and mature.

May the Savior, birthed by Mary and who brought my rebirth, be formed in me until He, Jesus, is who is seen more than me.  Amen.

Luke 2:21-40

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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“Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, You now dismiss Your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for glory to Your people Israel … This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.  And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (v 29-32, 34-35 NIV)

These words poured forth from Your servant, Simeon, as he held in his own arms the Savior of the entire world.  Could anyone imagine such a wondrous point of realization, Lord?  After waiting for so many years, You granted the longing of Simeon’s heart, and then he felt he could die in peace.

Simeon saw in and spoke of several things he could “see” in Jesus: (1) You sent Him as a gift to this world and especially to those who choose to follow You; (2) You ordained Him to be our Messiah, the One chosen to save us from sin; and (3) You shined a light through His life on earth that exposed sin, that led the way to life, and that radiated with the warmth of Your love.

.  An encounter with Jesus would bring each person to a crossroad, with the choice to either love Him or hate Him.  You leave no room for middle ground or for playing in the gray.  You call us to be black or white, hot or cold (Revelation 3:15-16).

Father, thank You for Your Gift.  Thank You for my Messiah.  Thank You for Your Light.  Thank You for Jesus.  Keep on making me just like Him … until the Day that I get to see Him face to face, as Simeon did so long ago.  Amen.

Luke 2:8-20

Father, thank You for Jesus and the life I have in Him!

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“And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.” (v 8 NIV)

“The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!'” (John 1:29 NIV)

“I am the good shepherd.  The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep … I know My sheep and My sheep know Me … and I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:11, 14-15 NIV).

“Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne … ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!'” (Rev 5:6, 12 NIV)

“We all like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth, He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so He did not open His mouth.” (Isaiah 53:6-7 NIV)

People had been waiting for centuries for the coming of the Messiah.  When, finally, You brought this highly acclaimed deliverer, You chose to reveal the news to some ordinary shepherds.  Everything about Jesus was not always what people expected, but always what You had promised.

How fitting for shepherds to be the first to hear this wondrous news!  For Your Son, Jesus, would Himself be both the Good Shepherd and the Lamb of God.  You were sending Him into this world to lead, guard, and care for us as a shepherd would each sheep (Psalm 23).  He also came to become the sacrificial lamb, which would be slaughtered once for all the sins of all people for all time (Heb 9:26-28; 10:10).

If Your purpose had been different, Lord, You might have announced this birth night to someone else.  If Your intention would’ve been to send Jesus merely to over throw Roman rule, You might have startled soldiers not shepherds.  If Your aim would’ve been to send Him to heal all our physical ailments, You might have aroused a bunch of doctors.  Yet You had different plans.

You knew our deeper need and had been planning since creation for meeting that need.  Through the Levitical priesthood, You established the practice of sacrificing a lamb as a means of atoning for sin.  You knew that our deepest need was not political freedom, physical healing, or the like.  Rather, You knew that we most needed to be freed from the clutches of sin, forgiven for our wrongs against You, and found to belong to You.

Thank You, Jesus, for being my Shepherd and for being that Lamb who died for me.  Amen.