A Sequel

Today’s reading is Acts 1.

“In the first book,” Luke begins reminding us that Acts is a sequel. In the first book, Luke dealt with all that Jesus began to do and teach. This implies that the book we are about to read is about all Jesus is going to continue to do and teach. This isn’t really the Acts of the Apostles, it is the Acts of Jesus. Of course, Jesus isn’t physically present, rather He is working through the apostles and through the church that gets established. But that reminds us exactly what the church is. It is Christ’s body. The church is the incarnation of Christ in the world today. With that in mind, “Acts” is continuing on today. In a real sense, we are part of the sequel. It is not being recorded in Luke’s account, but it is being recorded in heaven. Christ is the head, we are His body. In our doing and teaching, when we follow where the head leads, Christ is continuing to act in the world today. Let’s be Jesus today.

Tomorrow’s reading is Acts 1.

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Too Grown to Receive the Kingdom

Today’s reading is Luke 18.

Jesus told a story about a Pharisee and a tax collector. Then He runs into a living, breathing version of one of His story characters. While it is true that a “ruler” of the Jews was not necessarily a Pharisee, that is most likely the case here. We find this term ruler used in Luke to refer to a ruler of the synagogue (Luke 8:41), a ruler of the Pharisees (Luke 14:1), then as Jewish leaders connected with the chief priests (Luke 23:13; 24:20). Since he is asking about inheriting eternal life, he is not likely one of the Sadducees, who didn’t believe in the resurrection (see Luke 20:27-40). What is the problem with the rich ruler? A lack of childlike faith and reception. He was too grown to receive the kingdom. We might find it hard to believe someone would really act like the Pharisee in Jesus’s story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in the middle of a prayer to God. That seems a bit over the top. However, we see how such an attitude of arrogance, pride, and self-deception acts out in real life. Here is a man just like the Pharisee of Jesus’s story. He has kept the law. We don’t see him bragging in prayer, but we do see him turn away in sadness at Jesus’s instruction. He is not childlike enough to simply accept what Jesus says and do it. Who knows, maybe he does later. But at this point, he leaves Jesus in sadness without the kingdom and unjustified. The message is don’t be so grown up you miss the kingdom.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 18.

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Counting the Cost

Today’s reading is Luke 14.

If we want to be Jesus’s disciple, we must count the cost. We don’t want to be like the fellow who starts to build a house, couldn’t actually afford it, and leaves a half finished monument to his poor planning. The cost? Renouncing everything. Isn’t it interesting that the cost is not paying everything? Even when the fellow we often call the rich, young ruler came to Jesus, Jesus didn’t say, “Sell all you have and give it to Judas my treasurer.” Jesus was no cult leader trying to get rich off the backs of gullible followers. However, this isn’t just about money. This whole teaching was actually based on Jesus’s claim that before we come to Him, we must hate our father, mother, wife, children, siblings, and even our own life. We are giving our allegiance to Jesus. We must be ready to renounce everything, including our family, our livelihood, anything we believe makes up our life right now in our service to Him. In other words, Jesus is to become our life. Renouncing doesn’t mean getting rid of everything. It means renouncing our claim on everything and everything’s claim on us. What is ours becomes His to be disposed of, dispersed, distributed, deposited, destroyed, defended as Jesus sees fit. Am I really willing to hand everything over to Jesus? Is there something in my life that if Jesus asked me to give it up, I’d say, “No.” If so, I need to keep counting. Don’t answer that question thinking, “Well, yes, there are some things I’d never give up, but Jesus would never ask me to give those up.” He may not. But He may. Is Jesus more important to you than anything else? Your reputation, your mother, your house, your spouse, your car, your business, your father, your acclaim, your children, your job, your pleasures, your pursuits, your goals, your desires, your identity, your money, your sexuality, your savings, your trophies, your retirement. We live in a culture that says no one has the right to ask this of us. In fact, no one does…except one. Our Creator, our Savior, our King. The good news is knowing that Jesus only asks of us what is best for us eternally. Understand, this is not really a question of whether you will renounce everything. You will. You already do. There is something in your life that holds sway over everything that might be considered important to you. There is something for which you will sacrifice everything no matter how painful or traumatic. It is different for each of us. Jesus says make it Him. Have you counted the cost?

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Who’s the Greatest?

Today’s reading is Luke 9.

The kingdom of Jesus is upside down. The competition is not for who is the greatest, but who is the least. And Jesus set the bar high. Or maybe I should say low. He is the greatest. He is the King. Not of a country, not of the world, not even of the universe. He is the king of all things in heaven and on earth, of the earthly realm and the heavenly places, of the present age and the age to come. He is the sovereign ruler. However, He stepped off His throne and into the world. He didn’t come as a king or ruler. Rather, he came as the seemingly illegitimate son of a backwoods carpenter of an oppressed people. He grew up in the most backwater of their towns. However, that wasn’t low enough. Though He was beloved by many, He was ultimately arrested as an insurrectionist and died the death of a criminal. He stooped that low to save you and me. Jesus is no leader who says, “Do as I say, not as I do.” He stepped up (or I should say down). He showed the way. He walked the path. We do not impress Him with our greatness. Let’s quit trying to. Rather, let us be impressed by Him, by His way of life, by His stooping service. Let us be so impressed we let Him imprint His manner of living on us. “Make me a servant, just like Your Son,” we sing. Today, let’s live it.

Next week’s reading is Luke 10.

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An Upside-Down Kingdom

Today’s reading is Luke 7.

I caught something today I’ve never thought about before. When Jesus is describing John, He says, “Those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings’ courts.” The thing is–John is part of a King’s court. He is the herald of the greatest King ever. Yet, he still lived in the wilderness, ate locusts and wild honey, and was rough as a cob. What’s up with that? Jesus’s kingdom is upside-down. It isn’t about advancing to luxury and leisure. It is about advancing to the role of servant. The greatest servant in the whole kingdom is the King Himself, who stepped off His heavenly throne, lived as a poor man on earth, and suffered as if He were a criminal all to save us. Is it any surprise His great herald is a man like John? The good news for us is to become a citizen of the Kingdom, we don’t have to climb the ladder of corporate success. We do not have to be financial tycoons. We do not have to be counted great in the eyes of the world. We do not need to advance up the ranks to hit the top. In fact, that is not advancing in the kingdom at all. We must grow to be the least, the smallest, the servant, and we will be great in Christ’s kingdom. In fact, we will become greater than the King’s herald. What is your advancement strategy today?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 7.

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#Blessed

Today’s reading is Luke 6.

Everyone of my kids at one time or another has come up to me and said, “Dad, I hate you.” Then when I started to get upset has replied, “Opposite day!” and they laugh like they just pulled off a great joke. In Luke 6:20-26, I half expect Jesus to shout, “Opposite day!” Honestly, I don’t completely know what to do with Jesus’s lists here. I simply know I tend to see it in the exact opposite light. I tend to see Jesus’s blessings as woes and vice versa. I’m not completely sure what to say. I’ve rewritten this post about 4 times now. So, I will leave it there. What I see today is that, as always, I’ve got a long way to grow. And I need to wrestle with this passage where Jesus seems to say the opposite of how I feel. What about you?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 6.

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King of the World

Today’s reading is Luke 4.

Satan tempts Jesus to worship Him, but Jesus is not tempted by worshiping Satan. There is nothing about worshiping Satan that by itself is tempting. No, Satan tempts Jesus with the kingdoms of the world. However, the temptation was not actually being king of the world. God has already promised that to Jesus (see Psalm 2). The temptation is becoming king of the world, but avoiding God’s pathway. I don’t think Satan understood the plan of God. I don’t think he had foreseen the crucifixion. But he saw Jesus had left the throne of God and come into the world. He could see God’s way to the throne was awful for Jesus. Satan was supposedly offering Jesus a ticket back to the throne room of God. Whatever God’s plans for Jesus might be, Satan was saying he would give up without a fight and Jesus could bypass anymore hardship. He would just hand over the nations of Jesus would worship him. He could quit this whole incarnation and any other terrible thing God had planned for Jesus if He would just bow down. What a temptation! And isn’t that just how Satan does it. He offers us the easy way. He promises life, joy, peace if we will just take the shortcut. But Jesus knew better. The shortcut wasn’t worth it if it meant worshiping someone other than God. The same is true for us. The shortcut isn’t worth it if it means surrendering to someone other than God. Sure, Satan was probably lying. He always does. Sure, he promises the moon, but only gives dirt. That, however, is really beside the point in this story. Jesus chose the hard path because it was God’s path. God is the only one to be feared, reverenced, obeyed, and worshiped. Oh, how sad it makes me to think of the times I have failed at this even after learning better. But Jesus shows us the way to victory. No matter the past, follow His way today. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 4.

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