A Good Living OR a Good Life

Today’s reading is Luke 21.

Most of us spend our lives trying to earn a good living. However, Jesus highlights the widow who hardly has any living at all as the epitome of all His teaching. In Luke 12:15, Jesus pointed out that life does not consist of possessions. In Luke 19:18-23, the one we call the rich, young ruler had a good living, but he walked away from true life. Here, a poor widow shows that she was focused on real life. She was willing to sacrifice her life so she could have real life. The point, of course, is not that simply being poor qualifies anyone for the kingdom. Neither is the point that being wealthy excludes anyone from the kingdom. However, we do learn that the idea that material goods are not the indicator of God’s approval. If God blesses you with a good living, that’s cool. Use it to glorify Him and serve your brothers and sisters. But don’t waste your years chasing a good living, invest your time pursing a good life. And through Jesus Christ find what is life indeed.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 21.

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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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A Cross to Bear

Today’s reading is Luke 9.

“We all have our cross to bear.” I think this statement should be stricken from our communication. At least, it should be the way most people use it. Someone talks about having a tough boss, an old car, a leaky roof, a wayward child, an ongoing illness and then says, “Well, I guess we all have our cross to bear.” Bologna! Bearing the cross doesn’t mean putting up with some hardship in life. Jesus tells the apostles, “I must suffer many things and ultimately be killed.” Following that, He says, “If you want to come after me, pick up your own cross and follow me.” Bearing a cross doesn’t mean facing a difficulty. It means picking up the very implement of your death and carrying it to the place you are going to die. Jesus meant if we are going to be His disciples, we are going to follow in His footsteps. That doesn’t mean simply bowing at the foot of His cross. That means picking up our very own every day. The path to resurrection is through the cross. That is, the only way to actually gain life is first to lose it. Today’s question is not what burdens are we bearing. Today’s question is are we actually bearing our cross or just substituting life’s difficulties for really following Jesus?

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 9.

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What’s the Point?

Today’s reading is Luke 7.

Does anyone else struggle with the raising of the widow of Nain’s son? I mean, it is great that Jesus raised up this son. No doubt, it was compassionate. But where was Jesus when the woman’s husband died? And what about all the widows in Capernaum? Where was Jesus when those women lost their husbands or their children? Why does this widow get to be the lucky one? With an ability like this, why didn’t Jesus roam the countryside searching out funerals and raising the dead? Granted, He showed great compassion on this one woman, but what about all the others? Where was His compassion for them? Where was He when my mom died? Where was He when my dad died? Where was He when my father-in-law died? Where was He when countless of my friends have suffered loss? Where was His compassion then? Have you ever struggled with this? Frankly, this is a struggle because most of us do not know why He raised the widow’s son. Jesus didn’t raise the widow’s son because He came to the world on a mercy mission seeking to grant us all relief from hardship. Jesus was on a mission of mercy to save our souls from our sin and God’s wrath. He would do that by dying on the cross. While Jesus often felt compassion for people and often acted out of that compassion, Jesus raised this young man to show who He was. He raised this young man so people would know that God has indeed visited His people. Where was Jesus when my loved ones died? He was right there beside me, pointing to the eternity He purchased for my loved ones and me through His own death. That’s where He was. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 7.

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Not By Bread Alone

Today’s reading is Luke 4.

As Luke tells the story, Satan first asks Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.” Jesus’s response explains what this temptation is all about. “Man shall not live by bread alone,” quoting Deuteronomy 8:3. As God had sustained Israel for 40 years in the wilderness, He has sustained Jesus for 40 days. He gave Israel manna to assuage their hunger. He sustained Jesus’s life, but let Him be hungry. Doesn’t this hit at life’s situation Satan often uses to tempt us. God was sustaining Jesus, but that sustenance didn’t make Jesus feel physically satisfied the whole 40 days. Here we are today, alive, but perhaps not as comfortable as we want. He is providing for us, but not at the standard of living to which we would like to be accustomed. There is discomfort, pain, annoyance, frustration, even a sense that we haven’t been completely provided for. After all, we’re alive, but hungry. Then Satan says, “Quit relying on God. Take matters into your own hand. You’re a child of God after all. If you were really His child, surely He would provide everything you want to the degree you want it.” But Jesus says, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” That is, “I choose to rely on God. My life comes from God. I depend on Him. His grace is sufficient for Me.” That is, God is enough for me. Whatever God provides is enough for me. Satan wants us to believe if we do not pursue whatever he is offering, we’re going to die. However, the only true source of life is God. Not bread. Not water. Not even oxygen. God. Don’t let go of life. Don’t let go of God no matter what Satan offers.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 4.

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The River of Life

Today’s reading is Revelation 22.

John’s story telling expands even more. We’ve had the repeated cycles in the book. Further, we’ve seen how as he ended his story, he went back to pick up themes he used at the beginning of the book. Now, here at the end of our entire Bibles (can that be a coincidence), John goes all the way back to the beginning of the whole story. What we are witnessing is the restoration of the Garden, but it is a new and improved Garden. It is not just a tree of life, but a river of life surrounded by life-giving trees. There is no night because God is it’s light. And the inhabitants reign forever and ever without fall or failure. WOW! No doubt the ultimate fulfillment of this picture is in eternity where Christ’s church finds its ultimate victory. However, don’t miss the point John is making for his readers in their particular predicament. He is pointing out that this imagery is not merely the church in eternity. This imagery is Christ’s church at all times. Christ’s church, Christ’s bride is this garden city. As the Garden was God’s first sanctuary, His first dwelling place with man, the church is God’s final resting place with man. Whether on earth or ultimately around His throne in heaven, Christ’s church is His temple, His dwelling place, His city, His kingdom, His Bride. And here is the kicker. If you want to be part of the Bride, the city, the kingdom in eternity, you have to be part of it now. The Spirit and the Bride say come. Come now. Come drink from the fountain of living waters that flows from God’s throne, by Christ’s cross, through the Heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God, the church. And never leave this refreshing stream. I understand, in its present form, we don’t always see it as this image at the end of Revelation. But this is what it is and, in time, it will be vindicated and demonstrated as such. So, get in now and stay there.

Next week’s reading is Luke 1.

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Why Water to Wine?

Today’s reading is John 2.

Why on earth does John give such primacy to such a seemingly minimal miracle? Why does he treat the water to wine as if it is the first miracle Jesus ever did (though what he actually says is that it was the first in Cana of Galilee)? You would think John would want to pick something more public, something more amazing, something more phenomenal. Almost nobody even knew this miracle took place. So why does John even tell us about it? He doesn’t tell us about it to teach us something about drinking intoxicants. (Honestly, I have a hard time believing Jesus was at a drinking party full of drunk people to whom he gave more intoxicating alcohol.) He doesn’t tell us about this miracle in order to place a stamp of approval on marriage. (As if we needed another stamp of approval other than the one God gave in the beginning.) Nope. This miracle is all about Moses. Rather, it is all about demonstrating Jesus is greater than Moses. What was the first plague/sign God gave through Moses to all of Egypt and Israel? Water turned to blood. As amazing as that was, it was a sign that produced death and misery. Jesus, on the other hand, provides something drinkable and life-sustaining. Jesus is like Moses. But Jesus is not just like Moses, Jesus is greater than Moses. Moses delivered Israel from the bondage of Egypt. Jesus delivers all who believe from the bondage of sin and death. Praise the Lord!

Tomorrow’s reading is John 3.

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