And So It Begins

Today’s reading is Luke 22.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read the story or heard the story proclaimed. I know the victory with which the story will end. But there is always a part of me when we get to this part of Jesus’s story that wants it to take a different turn. Surely, this time all the people involved will realize how things ought to be. Judas will have learned his lesson and decide not to betray Jesus. Peter will have learned his lesson and decide not to deny Jesus. The Pharisees, scribes, chief Priests, and rulers of the Jews will have learned their lesson and decide not to crucify the Son of Man. Sometimes, I even want Jesus to teach them all a lesson, show them all who’s boss, and drop the bomb on them all. Yet, here I am reading for the thousandth time, and every one of these make the same mistakes over and over again. Well, Jesus wasn’t making a mistake. And, of course, that is the key. In this whole sordid mess, Jesus was the only one who knew what He was doing. And He was doing it for me. Because, as painful as it is for me to watch for the thousandth time, I am just like Judas, Peter, the Jewish leaders. You would think I had learned my lesson. But I have made the same mistakes over and over again. As a friend of mine reminds me, let’s not soften the blow. They weren’t mistakes, they were sins. I am a sinner, and I need what Jesus is giving. As much as I find it hard to read what Jesus is going to go through, it is the only thing that can save me. I need Him to keep making that choice. And so it begins. Judas is betraying Him. Peter is denying Him. The apostles are fleeing Him. The Jews are condemning Him. And it is all because I rebelled against Him, but He loves me anyway. Praise the Lord!

Monday’s reading is Luke 23.

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No Pretending

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

It broke my heart. I had become friends with a couple of baristas years ago in Texas. They had invited me to their coffee shop/diner. They often gave me steep discounts. I would try to talk to them about the gospel, Jesus, the church. They were always nice to me. I think they liked me, but they always stiff-armed on the spiritual conversations. I remember one conversation though. They didn’t say it quite this politely, but one of the ladies said one day, “You know how you can tell a business owner is going to take advantage of you?” “How?” I replied. “If he’s got a fish or a cross on his business card.” In other words, business owners who make their Christianity part of their marketing are probably out to make a buck, not save your soul. I’m sure her statement was painting with way too broad of a brush. But it does get at Jesus’s point at the end of Luke 20. God doesn’t like pretending. Christianity isn’t a game. It isn’t a business strategy or a marketing ploy. Jesus Christ intends to change lives down at the heart level and then outward to the behavior that loves God and loves your neighbor. It doesn’t matter how often you go to church, how you dress up when you are there, or how actively you participate, if you are taking advantage of people, you’re just pretending. If you aren’t going to really follow Jesus, don’t pretend.

Monday’s reading is Luke 21.

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Why Do I Ask?

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

I’ve never quite understood the chief priests, scribes, and elders in the first account of Luke 20. Why didn’t they respond, saying, “We asked you first”? However, their obtuseness gives me a warning. They were not asking Jesus their question because they wanted to learn. They had already made up their minds about Jesus and were just looking for “evidence” they could fit into their theory. Sadly, that is often how everyone makes decisions. We have an emotional reaction, settle on an “opinion” from our gut, choose a course of action. Then we rationalize the available evidence to support our emotional response. Finally, we tell ourselves and everyone else that what we believed or did was the only logical option. I have a tendency to think everyone “out there” acts like that while I am truly the epitome of logical reasonability and rationality. However, this Jewish attack on Jesus causes me to back up and do some internal evaluation. With every question I ask of Scripture, of God, of God’s people, of my brethren, I have to ask: Why am I asking this question? Am I trying to learn, or am I just trying to find support for my cognitive biases? Am I really examining the available evidence, or am I just playing mental games? The point I think we all need to take from this story is before we start using it to explain away everyone who disagrees with me, I need to make sure I’m not the one guilty of studying like the priests, scribes, and elders. Asking is actually a good thing. Let me always make sure I’m asking to learn and grow.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 20.

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They’re Watching

Today’s reading is Luke 6.

It was Saturday. Jesus and His disciples were walking through a grain field–a harmless, even seemingly pointless activity. They were just out walking, going from point A to point B. But who was on hand? The Pharisees. “Ha! We caught you. You’re breaking the Law!” Then on another Sabbath, in the middle of their time of worship and teaching, what were the scribes and Pharisees doing? Listening to the teaching? Worshiping God? Examining their own lives to see how they measured up to the teaching? Nope. They were watching Jesus so they could figure out some way to accuse Him. The fascinating thing, of course, is Jesus never sinned. Yet, they drummed up plenty of accusations to make. Fast forward to today. People are still watching. Those who don’t want to surrender to Jesus, who don’t want to curtail their sin, who don’t want to have a King other than self, are looking for reasons to make accusation. Understand, there are going to be enough things that we do that are not sinful that they will use to accuse, let’s not give them additional reasons. I am leery of even posting this because in its most extreme application, I’m essentially saying, “Don’t sin.” While that is a true and necessary instruction, I also know if we try to say we don’t have sin and we won’t ever sin again, we’re lying and don’t have truth in us (see 1 John 1:8, 10). I don’t want to overwhelm us with an instruction none of us believe we can attain. I’m not asking us to be perfect today. I’m just asking us to be aware. They are watching. We are an advertisement for Jesus. Sometimes that advertisement is the humility to admit when we messed up and seek forgiveness. But let’s remember, when we use the world’s tactics in our discussions with them, when we call names, when we get in faces, when we yell and holler and scream, when we gloss over facts to make our case, and when we pursue brazen hypocrisy, they are watching. Look, the world is going to forever throw up in our faces the ungodly Crusades and Inquisitions. We can’t do anything about that. But we can make sure we aren’t going on our own personal crusade and inquisition today. Again, they’re watching. Let’s give them something positive to talk about.

Tomorrow’s reading is Luke 6.

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The Danger in Disciple Making

Today’s reading is Matthew 23.

It may be surprising to hear, but there is one huge danger with a focus on disciple making, and the Pharisees demonstrate it. They were so focused on getting people to sign the proselyte dotted line, they were not actually really producing followers of God. We must always remember the goal is to make disciples of Jesus, not merely people who go to church, who like us, who are willing to make a profession of faith, or who are willing to simply get baptized. Further, we must not become so enamored with all that we will do to supposedly make disciples that we lose sight of actually connecting people to Jesus and being connected ourselves to Jesus. It is shocking to realize but there are people, like those Pharisees, who get so caught up in being the ones to make converts to God, but never actually experience God themselves. Let’s keep making disciples, but let’s always make sure this process is about Jesus and not us.

Tomorrow’s reading is Matthew 24.

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Don’t Be Leafy, Be Fruitful

Today’s reading is Mark 12.

Don’t worry, you aren’t re-reading yesterday’s post. But what a great illustration of the leafy versus fruitful principle we learned in yesterday’s reading. The scribes have the leaves: walking in long robes, prominent seats in the synagogues, greetings in the marketplace, honor in the feasts, and long prayers. However, when the leaves are turned over, despite the promise of fruit, there is nothing. In fact, what fruit is there is rotten. Their time in the synagogue wasn’t changing them. Neither did their long praying impact their heart. They were selfish, self-centered, greedy, and materialistic. This was demonstrated by how they treated the widows, whose houses they devoured. Don’t be as the scribes, merely leafy; be fruitful.

Monday’s reading is Mark 13.

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