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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A More Opportune Time

Today’s reading is Luke 4.

When I was younger, I pictured that Jesus had it easy. Satan tempted Him three times and then left. However, as Luke records it Jesus was being tempted throughout the 40 days. Then, when this particular round of attacks does come to a conclusion, Satan retreats, looking for a more opportune time. In other words, Satan wasn’t done. This is an important lesson when it comes to temptation. The time I am most likely to fall is right after I’ve had a huge victory. I let my guard down. I think I’m unbeatable. I feel like I’ve made it and nothing can stop me. That is when Satan comes from out of nowhere and kicks my legs out from under me…every single time. Certainly, we can rejoice in our victories. However, we must not be so blinded by them that we get caught up in the aftershock of temptation and then swept away by the undertow. Thank God for victory, but keep holding on to His hand because Satan will be back.

Next week’s reading is Luke 5.

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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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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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It is Written

Today’s reading is Luke 4.

Satan will attack any way he can. Jesus has just heard from the Father at His baptism: “You are my beloved Son.” Satan comes at him with, “If you are the Son of God…” It’s as if to say, “I get it. God says He’s your father, but will He prove it? Let’s see.” But Jesus stands the test. The anchor which gets Him through is, “It is written.” Jesus is saying, “He doesn’t have to prove it to your satisfaction, Satan. He doesn’t even have to prove it to Me. He said it, and that is enough for Me.” This is exactly the temptation Satan puts before us over and over and over again. “If you were really God’s child, wouldn’t your life be easier? If God really loved you, wouldn’t you have gotten that promotion? If God were really paying attention to you, would your loved one have gotten so sick?” And in those moments of temptation, these words sound so reasonable. They are not. God does love you. He said it in His Word. More than that, He proved it by sending the Word who lived and died at our hands to wash our sins away. The only way to combat these foolish lies of Satan is to drink in God’s Word. Remember what it says; use its truth to cast down his misleading error. God does love you. You are His child. It is written. Praise the Lord!

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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The Bride

Today’s reading is Revelation 21.

I know we’ve talked about the Bride before, but now we meet her again in all her glory. At the beginning of Revelation, we were introduced to her in the image of the seven churches. At that time, they were struggling with faithfulness and loyalty to the Hero. But now, just as one of the seven angels with the seven bowls of God’s wrath introduced us to the seductress (Revelation 17:1), one of those same angels shows the Bride. The seductress was out in the wilderness, the Bride is at the top of a mountain. The seductress was pictured as a woman on the back of dragon, though she was called the city Babylon. The Bride is pictured as a city. And what a city. Perfectly square, with insurmountable walls, unassailable gates, unbreakable foundation. It is full of the glory of God. The Lamb is it light. God Himself is its Temple. While I don’t want to take away the beautiful picture of eternity most of us jump to when we see this picture, we need to understand that John’s point was not simply that in the end we go to heaven. His point was this is the bride of Christ; this is the kingdom of Christ; this is the church of Christ. Yes, the enemies gather around our city. Yes, they besiege our city. Yes, they mount their attack against our city. But our city is unassailable. The question is not who will win this war. The question is to which city will you flee for refuge: Babylon or the Heavenly Jerusalem? When you see how the story ends, the choice is obvious.

Tomorrow’s reading is Revelation 22.

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