Luke Chapter 12
So much in this chapter keeps pointing back to the Kingdom. It’s no accident. I have heard some Christians describe life as one big test. Are you going to live your life in a way that honors God, and thus reap the reward? Or are you going to live your life for yourself, and be judged accordingly?
4 “I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. 5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after your body has been killed, has authority to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.
8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. 9 But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.
A young girl that was alleged to have been asked if she believed in God during the Columbine High School shooting in 1999, with the knowledge that answering in the affirmative could end her life, comes to mind when I read those last two passages. She said yes. Around the world today, people are still being put to death for refusing to deny their faith in Jesus Christ. What would you say in these same circumstances?
A bit later, worriers (like me) are advised and encouraged NOT to worry. Your Heavenly Father will provide what you need. You don’t need to be rich or famous, and in fact, those are huge detriments and distractions from your real purpose anyway. Don’t let the worries and distractions of this world, which have no impact on your future inheritance, get you off track. Verse 31 says, “But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well.” God WILL take care of your basic needs. I know there are plenty of things to worry about in this life, but much of our worry ends up having been completely needless. Even when you do have very serious things to be concerned about, remember that no one and no thing can take away your inheritance in the Kingdom. You need not worry about that.
Lastly we are encouraged to be vigilant, always ready to take ownership of the parcel designated as yours in the Kingdom, for we do not know the exact hour Jesus will return, or the exact hour that our time in this world will end. NOTHING in this temporary world is worth risking your place in the coming eternal world.
Luke Chapter 3
Luke chapter three talks about a very important and specific job that John the Baptist had. This job that John had was documented all the way back in the book of Isaiah and quoted in Luke 3:4: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” John needed to prepare the way of the Lord and make his paths straight.
Jesus’ public ministry only lasted about three years. It was important that people were ready for his ministry, as he had a lot to accomplish in little time. Therefore, John prepared the way, so Jesus could make the most out of his little time here on earth. John did a number of things to help prepare the way for the Lord.
One way that John prepared the way for Jesus was to baptize people with water. This baptism was “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins,” (Luke 3:3). I’m sure that we all understand the importance of repentance and the forgiveness of our sins. Therefore, we can see the importance of this baptism by water, as it was for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.
John also spent time teaching and preaching to help prepare the way for Jesus. The crowds asked John, “what then shall we do?” John went on to describe the importance of being generous with our possessions and money (verses 10-14). John also focused on preaching “good news” (verse 18) to the people. That good news that John preached about focused on the message of the kingdom, as evidenced by Matthew 3:2.
Preparing the way for Jesus was the main responsibility that John had. We also have that same responsibility that John had. Right now, Jesus is sitting at the right hand of God, but one day Jesus is going to descend from heaven and return to earth. He is going to establish his Father’s Kingdom. We have to prepare the way for Jesus to come back to earth.
We have to prepare ourselves and others for Jesus to establish his Father’s Kingdom on earth. You can’t prepare others if you yourself are not prepared for God’s coming Kingdom. Therefore, if you aren’t ready yourself, then get ready! If you find yourself ready, then it is paramount that you focus on getting those around you ready for Jesus’ return. In essence, we have the same responsibility that John the Baptist had.
Free Theme – Beatitudes – Matthew 5:8
I’m going to start this by stating very plainly that I’m normally a super hygienic person but there are some times in life when showering just is not an option. We all know that feeling like your skin has an extra layer of grime and you just feel nasty.
I remember one of those times when I felt particularly gross and grimy was after my first backpacking trip. I hiked 4 peaks and climbed something close to 12,000 vertical feet with a 45 lb backpack and the temperature was in the mid 80’s. Luckily the trip was only two days and I really only missed one shower. Needless to say by the time I reached the parking lot at the end of the trip I was feeling pretty dirty. The natural thing to do is to go take a shower and clean ourselves up. Right when we get dirty we wash it off. This way we won’t royally offend people’s nostrils with our B.O.
It’s easy to realize when we’re physically dirty. We can literally feel the grime and (hopefully like myself) try to maintain good hygiene. Sometimes the thing that we fail to recognize is the condition of the heart. We allow our hearts to want, wish, and hope for things that it shouldn’t be hoping for. In our day to day lives it is easy to let the world distract us. Some of the things that we desire aren’t bad things at all and may even have godly results. In essence we can let the world contaminate our hearts or desires to become skewed.
I believe that the life God wants us to live is really just an outpouring from our hearts. Our actions are an indication of the condition of our hearts whether this causes godly or worldly behavior.
How then are we supposed to cleanse a heart when it gets dirty and we allow things in that shouldn’t be there? The answer is pretty easy. We need to ask God to purify it but we also have to put in personal effort. We obviously have to want to have it clean – that means asking God for help in submitting our hearts and minds to focus on Him. Also, not allowing ourselves to focus on things we shouldn’t. The thoughts you allow yourself to dwell on will eventually be imprinted on your heart. Think of your mind as the arena where battle for your heart and life is won and lost.
James 4.8 tells us “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands you sinners and purify your hearts you double-minded.” The truth here is that the double-minded do need to have their hearts cleansed. This is exactly what happens when our hearts become contaminated. We need to be singularly focused on God.
The best way I have found to do this is just praying two phrases as often as needed throughout the day. “Lord, I give you all my heart, all my mind, and all my strength. Help me stay focused on you.” Feel free to change the phrasing to suit you but I think praying a prayer like this will go a long way helping you stay focused on God.
So all this talk so far and we haven’t even gotten to our beatitude. Consider everything before this the pre-requisite for the beatitude. Today’s beatitude is Matthew 5.8 “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
Of all the beatitudes and really all the promises of God there isn’t another which I want to be realized in my life so badly. For a Christian I don’t think there is a reward higher than this. I think that the greatest of all human desires is “to know and be fully known.” Obviously one aspect of that is already completed by God. We are already fully known by God. He knows our minds and our hearts. We, though, don’t fully know God. I don’t know if we ever will but I want to know all that I can. On this earth we do all we can to know him. We pray, read scripture, look to see his glory in nature and we catch glimpses of him in all these things but it isn’t seeing him. It is not viewing him on his throne in real life. I feel like we only get to see God’s social media account and we never get to see him in person. Except God’s social media doesn’t come close to the majesty and beauty that he actually has. I don’t think our physical bodies could handle beholding a holy God in all his beauty and magnificence.
This is why we need to keep our hearts pure. So that one day we could see God for all that he is.
For those of you who drive, have you ever been in the left hand lane on the highway and you have someone in front of you who is driving just slightly slower than you want to? For those of you who don’t drive yet you can imagine the classic slow walker in your school. It can get pretty infuriating the longer the ordeal goes on. Well, when you really look at what is going on here … it’s not that going that extra 5 mph for that 5 minutes is really going to save you that much time. Let’s be honest, most of us would be embarrassed to the fullest extent if our social media usage was published for all the public to see. None of us are missing that sixty seconds to a few minutes. The real thing going on here is a heart issue. That person in front of you is infringing on your freedom to do what you want to do. That is why those sorts of ordeals are so annoying and so infuriating. I for one really enjoy freedom and independence. I feel like I need to insert a ‘Merica here.
Well today we are dealing with the opposite of this attitude. Matthew 5.5 tells us “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” Sorry for setting up everyone but you should have seen this coming.
I think we all have heard that “Meekness isn’t weakness” by now. So, I’m not going to baby bird you guys things you have already heard.
I am absolutely in love with this beatitude and the thought behind it. We all live in the boss babe and power-hungry world that teaches that you need to take what you deserve. You need to walk tall and make sure that no one fronts on you or pushes you around. This beatitude is possibly the most counter cultural of all the beatitudes and I freaking love it!!!
The thing that really gets me about this beatitude is the reward for meekness is the exact opposite of what you would receive in this world for displaying meekness. Right?! How far do you think that you would get in your high school or middle school or corporate job by being meek? It is so rare that a meek person wins in our society. Yet our King in this passage is telling us that we will be happy and we will inherit the earth when we are meek. The very attitude that will get us nothing in this world, in the age to come will get us the whole earth.
This idea is modeled for us in perfection by Jesus. Jesus came as a servant in complete subjection to his Father. He walked this earth humbly, not trying to impose upon others but instead he trusted in God’s faithfulness. The scene that really enforces this idea for me is Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on the way to his crucifixion. He didn’t enter Jerusalem on a beautiful glamorous horse wearing royal robes with a crown on his head looking like a king. He entered Jerusalem seated on a donkey in normal clothes. This is the city that he will eventually rule over and he came into it humbly and submitted himself meekly to the will of the Father that sent him to the cross. The times where Jesus was the most aggressive were the times where his honor wasn’t damaged. Rather the times he was the most aggressive were the times he was fighting for God’s honor. (I.e. The flipping of tables in the temple and his interactions with the pharisees). 1 Peter 2.23 says “When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.” This verse perfectly exemplifies our savior lived meekly on this earth yet he was resurrected to be king over all the earth.
So let’s live meekly, serving those around us knowing that in the kingdom coming we will inherit. Knowing that we are trusting God to fight for what we deserve.
I remember when I was younger trying to open the jam jar and it was almost impossible. All I wanted was my PBJ and needed to open the seal of the jar so I could be successful. No matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get it open, so naturally I asked my brother if he could somehow open it. Then with ease and hardly a second he had it open. My brother was the key to my Peanut Butter and Jam sandwich.
In revelation 5 John is in the middle of a vision and he has in front of him a throne and next to this throne was a book with 7 seals. He is having a difficult time figuring out who could open this book with these seals but could not find any worthy person. But then it describes the one who was worthy to open the seals in verse 5:5 “The lion that is from Judah, the root of David, has overcome so as to open the book and its 7 seals.”That Lion depicted in this verse is Jesus he is the one who has overcome death and has made it possible for us to do that same thing.
Having someone stronger than us in our lives so we can succeed is vital to being a Christian. We have Jesus to rely on and he makes it possible for us to worship God with pure hearts and minds. He was worthy so we can also be worthy.
I would like you all to write down on a post-it note the one thing that holds you back from your greatest potential and hang it on your mirror that you use daily. Remember this when you read it, Jesus overcame sin and death, and He gives us the power to do the same.
The Smokey Bear Wildfire Prevention campaign started in 1944, and in 1947 the slogan that is familiar to many came to fruition; Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires (updated in 2001 to Wildfires). It is the longest public service campaign in the United States’ history. A campaign was derived to help the prevention of forest fires. Years of education gave the ownership to the general public to be more careful and to care for the world around you. The catchphrase reflects your responsibility.
Our family does not do “traditional” camping (unless a cabin with running water or hotel room is traditional camping to you). This doesn’t mean that we don’t love a good campfire. This summer we spent some time in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan at our family cabin. The week was filled with cleaning out the overgrowth of trees and brush on the property, which meant a BIG campfire. Our burn pit is close to the lake, but is really in the middle of the woods (like most campfires). Being in the heart of the woods means being surrounded by a plethora of “fuel” if a fire is left to its own devices. So, before we left the cabin or went to bed, we had to make sure that the fire was out.
The wisdom from Proverbs 26:20 resonated with me. It says, “Without wood a fire goes out; without a gossip a quarrel dies down.” You see, a fire is only going to burn if it is fed. Our tongue is the fire and when you remove gossip or the “fuel,” it dies down. The best way to end (avoid) a quarrel? Keep your mouth shut! Don’t get involved in what doesn’t concern you. Don’t take up offenses of others and don’t be easily offended. Don’t talk about what you don’t know and be very slow to talk about what you do know. Practice self-control in the moment and show Christ-like love at all times. Don’t be the fuel for the fire and the fight!
James 3:5-6 says “Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire and is itself set on fire by hell.” This just reinforces that our small tongue can do big damage.
Don’t fuel the flame of gossip and cause fights, only you can prevent wildfires of your mouth!
For the rest of the week we will be examining the first five chapters of Proverbs. The writer of this portion of Proverbs is Solomon, the man who asked God for wisdom. The book of Proverbs was written as an instruction guide, offering advice, and teaching fundamental truths about life.
Proverbs 1:1-7 introduces the book of Proverbs. This section implores the reader to study continually, always in search of knowledge and wise instruction so that he may gain wisdom and develop the discernment necessary for righteous living. Discernment is the ability to judge well, make the right decisions or proper choices.
1The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:
2 for gaining wisdom and instruction;
for understanding words of insight;
3 for receiving instruction in prudent behavior,
doing what is right and just and fair;
4 for giving prudence to those who are simple,
knowledge and discretion to the young—
5 let the wise listen and add to their learning,
and let the discerning get guidance—
6 for understanding proverbs and parables,
the sayings and riddles of the wise.
Then in verse seven we have the theme. “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” All knowledge and wisdom begins with God. Knowing and obeying God is the foundation for every Christian. The Creator used wisdom to create the entire world, and wisdom is fundamental to all of life. “By wisdom the LORD laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew.” (Proverbs 3:19-20) We can know nothing, without it first coming from God.
The proverb of greatest importance is to fear God. There is nothing more important than to know and obey God. The next instruction for a successful life is to obey your parents. In Proverbs 1:8-9 Solomon warns us to honor our parents’ teachings. He says that a parent’s instructions should be seen as treasures, valued and obeyed. “Listen, my son, to your father’s instructions and do not forsake your mother’s teaching. They are a garland to grace your head and a chain to adorn your neck.” (Proverbs 1:8-9)
Skipping ahead a little to the beginning of chapter 2, we hear again the importance of pursuing wisdom. We are told to purse wisdom, just as we would pursue a hidden treasure. Then we are told again that God is the source of all wisdom. And finally that wisdom will lead us to righteousness, justice and protection.
1My son, if you accept my words
and store up my commands within you,
2 turning your ear to wisdom
and applying your heart to understanding—
3 indeed, if you call out for insight
and cry aloud for understanding,
4 and if you look for it as for silver
and search for it as for hidden treasure,
5 then you will understand the fear of the Lord
and find the knowledge of God.
6 For the Lord gives wisdom;
from his mouth come knowledge and understanding.
7 He holds success in store for the upright,
he is a shield to those whose walk is blameless,
8 for he guards the course of the just
and protects the way of his faithful ones.
9 Then you will understand what is right and just
and fair—every good path.
10 For wisdom will enter your heart,
and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
11 Discretion will protect you,
and understanding will guard you.
Just as surely as God gave Solomon wisdom, he can give it to you, too. “For the LORD gives wisdom; from his mouth comes knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 2:6). However, it does require a constant searching, as if searching for a hidden treasure. Actively studying your Bible every day is a great way to search out the treasure of wisdom.
FREE THEME – Loving through Service
This past week I went to Love Grows, a weekend youth retreat focused on growing your love for others through service. Throughout the weekend we were striving to follow Jesus’ teachings when he told us the two greatest commandments: Love the LORD your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:37-39). This is so important to live by daily. If we love God then we will love others. We need to express unconditional love to everyone, always. By doing this we can train ourselves to see God’s work that needs to be done. Ask God for courage to step out of your comfort zone to do His work. Thankfully, God has given us spiritual gifts, talents, and passions to serve those around us. So use them.
One easy way to show love to others is to serve them. As Christians it’s our responsibility to be the hands and feet of Jesus. Thankfully we can look to the best example of a servant’s heart. Jesus. The most exciting part is that there are so many different ways to shine and serve. It could be as simple as giving someone a hug or a high five. Or even easier, smiling. Whatever it may be, take a minute of your time to invest in someone else’s life. Compliment. Listen. Encourage. It’s amazing how big of an impact a little kindness can have. We just have to keep our eyes open for opportunities.
I want strangers to be able to know that I am different. I want people to see God in me. And I hope you all have similar goals. The only hitch is that it has to be more than just a goal. We need to act in order to make it reality. We should make it a priority. Jesus called us to be different. Be the change. We have a higher calling. Higher standards. Higher expectations. Jesus is calling you to love.
2 Peter 3
Have you ever wondered: when will Christ return? That is a thought that I think every Christian who has read the Bible has thought at some point. We look with hope towards the second coming of Christ. There are others though who have given up believing or never have believed in God’s promises or the return of Christ. These are the mockers that Peter refers to in verses 3 & 4. We hear it today – everywhere people mocking the promises or even existence of God. But God is patiently waiting for people to recognize and honor Him. He is waiting for just the right time to fulfill all that he has promised regarding Christ’s return and the establishment of a new system under Christ’s rule and reign.
In the last half of chapter 3 the apostle Peter talks about the need for Christians to live righteously and soberly in view of the destruction of the wicked so as not to be destroyed along with them. He explains that our present heavens and earth will be destroyed in judgment – by fervent heat so hot it will destroy the elements. Everything will be destroyed – fire will consume water, soil, air, and even will consume itself by burning out. Environmentalists worst nightmares will come true at that point – the destruction of the earth by fervent heat. HOWEVER – this is to make way the apostle Peter tells us for the new heavens and new earth that will be made. This is a new heavens and earth where righteousness reigns. This means the new heavens and earth will be a place of peace, and happiness, where those who have hungered and thirsted after righteousness dwell. All those who have believed in the promises of God will be able to partake in this new heaven and earth.
I like to hike and have taken many hikes across the US and Canada. Each time I enjoy the beauty that God has created around me in this natural environment and his amazing creatures I see along the way. Although I enjoy the natural beauty of our current heavens and earth I am filled with anticipation of the new heavens and new earth that God has promised. What new natural beauty will be there. In our world today where unrighteousness and ungodliness seems to reign and wreak havoc in our lives won’t it be wonderful to inhabit a world where righteousness and godliness are the order of the day? I am looking forward to the new heavens and the new earth – while I still try to take good care of the one we currently live in and do my part to shine the light of Christ in the dark world – I can’t help but think to myself; how wonderful that God has made this awesome promise of a new heavens and earth to us!