Read Luke 19.
One of the great lyrics from 90s alternative rock goes, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” While Luke 19 marks the beginning of the end of Jesus’ earthly life, it also sets the stage for a new beginning for others. Allow me to explain…
In Luke 19, Jesus made his way into Jerusalem one final time. He wept over the city and cleared out the temple before teaching daily in that same temple – but his fate was sealed: “The chief priests and the scribes and the principal men of the people were seeking to destroy him” (v. 47). As the days and chapters ahead will attest, they accomplished just that. Mocked, beaten, and murdered on a cross, Jesus’ earthy life would come to an end.
But it was the end of Jesus’ earthly life that cleared the way for many more to one day experience a new beginning through faith in the crucified and risen Christ: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Read Luke 14.
I love the complexity of Jesus. One minute he’s feasting with “tax collectors and sinners” and on the receiving end of the Pharisees’ scorn (Luke 5:29-30), the next minute he’s “[dining] at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees” (Luke 14:1). It seems that Jesus is an equal-opportunity eater.
Nevertheless, it’s at this table that Jesus made a profound statement meant to pierce the Pharisee’s heart – one that should continue to pierce our hearts some 2,000 years later. After telling a short story about the embarrassment of being kicked out of the wrong seat at a wedding feast, Jesus punctuates the parable with the following statement: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (v. 11).
According to the gospel narratives, the Pharisees loved to be seen, celebrated, and exalted (see Matthew 6:5, 16). But according to Jesus, this was a fast-track to humiliation; walking in humility, however, was the sure path to exaltation.
What a timely word for us in a day in age in which everyone seems to be scrambling to build their own platform. “Look at me! Pay attention to me! Follow me! Smash that ‘Like’ button and subscribe to me!” This is the self-exalting soundtrack of our day.
May we be people who increasingly choose humility over self-exaltation, who more consistently choose the way of Jesus, who “emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant” and “humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death” (Philippians 2:7-8).
Read Luke 9.
Lots of things are happening in Luke 9. Jesus is moving and shaking and making things happen – and it all demanded a response.
Herod was so perplexed that he wasn’t entirely sure what the proper response was.
Peter responded by confessing Jesus as the Christ.
The same Peter, along with James and John, responded to the transfigured Christ in stunned awe and silence.
Upon witnessing a boy healed of an unclean spirit, the crowd responded in astonishment “at the majesty of God” (v. 43).
A variety of situations and circumstances received a variety of responses from a variety of people. But Luke also records a prompt from Jesus that we must also respond to: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (v. 23).
So how will you respond? And I’m not asking “what’s the right response?” – because you can know the right response without actually responding accordingly. I’m asking you, “how will you respond today?” May we respond not just in word, but also in deed – denying ourselves and walking daily in the way of Jesus.
Read Luke 4.
Luke 4 marks the beginning of Jesus’ earthly ministry – approximately three years spent preaching the good news of the forgiveness of sin, proclaiming the kingdom of God, and performing many signs and wonders. In doing these things, Jesus was fulfilling the very purpose for which he was sent (vv. 16-21, 43).
But did you notice that Jesus’ fulfillment of his God-appointed purpose came on the far side of difficulties and disappointment? Before he turned any water into wine, he was first tempted in the wilderness (vv. 1-13). Before he raised the dead to life, he was first rejected by his own (vv. 16-30).
Friends, you have been called up into God’s story. You have a critical, God-appointed role to play in his plan of redemption. But make no mistake – it will come with challenges, frustrations, and struggles. Living on mission can get messy, and making disciples can be difficult. If this was the case for Jesus, why would we expect anything less?
May the Spirit of God help us to see and press on toward the opportunities that lie on the far side of opposition.
Read Revelation 18-19.
When I read the book of Revelation, my most consistent thought is, “What in the world is going on here?!”
Clearly, I’m not the only one. All of the apocalyptic language and imagery has resulted in a wide variety of interpretations as to exactly what John was referring to when he penned the revelation he received. But here in the middle of today’s reading we have an image that most of us can relate to in some capacity – a marriage ceremony.
The theme of marriage is one that runs throughout the entirety of Scripture. Scripture opens with a wedding ceremony in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:18-25). In the Old Testament, the constant failures of God’s people often results in them being equated to an unfaithful spouse. In the New Testament, the church that Jesus instituted is referred to as his bride (Eph. 5:22-33). And here in the concluding pages of the Bible is the promise that God will bring all of history to a close by uniting Jesus and his bride for all of eternity (Rev. 19:6-10).
For all the confusion and questions that often come along with the book of Revelation, there is one thing that is sure: Jesus loves his church, and one day he will come again to receive his bride unto himself. I don’t know when that will be (nor do any of the “interpreters” of Revelation that think they’ve nailed down the date), but I do know that we’re closer in this moment than we’ve ever been before.
Until then, may we be found as a bride ready and waiting for her groom.
Read 1 John 1-3.
How do you really know something to be true? That’s not an insignificant question in the land of clickbait headlines and conspiracy theories.
That quest for assurance is at the heart of John’s first epistle: how do you really know if you’re truly a follower of Jesus? How do you really know if you are a child of God? Is there any objective evidence to give you confidence in your standing before God? Can you ever really even be sure? Or has God left you to do your best, cross your fingers, and hope it all works out in the end?
John’s resounding answer is, “Of course you can know!” No, John doesn’t write those exact words verbatim, but it is clearly implied. His letter, particularly the first three chapters, almost reads like a template for evaluating one’s life for assurance of a growing relationship with God: am I walking in the light (1:7)? Am I keeping his commandments (2:3-6, 3:24)? Do I exhibit a genuine love for others (2:9-11, 3:14-18)? Have I wrongly prioritized the things of this world (2:15-17)? Do I consistently and continually engage in unrepentant sin (3:4-10)?
God has not left you in the dark–after all, he is light (1:5). There is genuine assurance available for those who believe so long as we are willing to examine ourselves (2 Cor. 13:5; 2 Pet. 1:10).
Read 2 Timothy 3-4.
Think of all the movies you’ve seen where a dying character imparts some sort of profound wisdom or insight moments before their untimely death. More significantly, think about the profundity of Jesus’ final words, both on the cross (“It is finished!”) and before ascending to heaven (“Go therefore and make disciples…”).
Here’s the point: final words matter.
Paul’s second letter to Timothy is widely regarded as Paul’s final writing prior to his execution. In this final letter, Paul leaves his ministry protegė with one final charge: preach the word (4:2).
Of all the parting wisdom that Paul could have given Timothy, why the emphasis on preaching? Because, according to Paul, it is God’s Word that is “able to make you wise for salvation” (3:15). It is God’s Word that is “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be equipped for every good work” (3:16-17). It is the truth of God’s Word that will expose those that “[have] the appearance of godliness, but [deny] it’s power” (3:5). It is God’s Word that will confront those that “will not endure sound teaching…and will turn away from listening to the truth” (4:3-4).
If final words matter, Paul’s final words make it clear that God’s Word matters most.
Paul literally gave his life to God’s Word – both in preaching it and in penning the Spirit-inspired letters that make up a significant portion of God’s Word that we still read to this day. May we likewise be a people committed to receiving and responding to God’s Word in our own lives.
Read Hebrews 11
Hebrews 11, or the “Hall of Faith” as it has been called, really is the “who’s who” of Old Testament names. Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, and David, to name a few, are all commended as being heroes of the faith.
But upon further examination, some of these individuals were not always heroic. They didn’t always exhibit the most exemplary character.
Noah ended up passed out drunk and naked. Jacob was a notorious deceiver. Moses killed a man and then tried to bury the evidence. Rahab was a prostitute. Samson was a mess on a variety of levels. David committed adultery with another man’s wife and then arranged to have said man killed. We could go on, but you get the point. Safe to say most of these folks wouldn’t be hired to work at any church I’ve been a part of.
How, then, are characters like these considered commendable here in Hebrews 11?
The short answer is that they’re commended not because of who they are or even what they themselves have done, but because of their faith in the One who was working all things according to his eternal purposes.
Their stories are complex and grimy. Maybe yours is too. But the good news of the gospel is that we aren’t commended or saved on the basis of our own clean records–rather, we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus Christ (Eph. 2:8).
Read Hebrews 3-4.
What comes to mind when you think about Jesus? My hunch is that you think of someone altogether different than you–the perfect and sinless Son of God. Maybe your mind immediately conjures up images of him hanging on the cross or rising from the grave or ascending to heaven or performing the miracles we read about in Scripture or any number of other things that you cannot relate to in any experiential way. And you wouldn’t be wrong to think in that direction–Jesus certainly is different from any other man or woman to have ever walked the earth.
But he also shares far more in common with you than probably comes to mind.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.Hebrews 4:15
Most of us are quick to acknowledge Jesus’ deity; we immediately recount the qualities he shares with God that we are altogether unable to relate to. But we are equally quick to forget Jesus’ humanity; we overlook the fact that, by wrapping himself in flesh, he took on the totality of the human experience–yet without sin.
Jesus experienced fatigue, hunger, sorrow, frustration, want and need, and countless other “weaknesses” that we experience as humans. And lurking under each of these weaknesses is a temptation to distrust, disobey, and rebel against the Creator of the universe. In some way, Jesus experienced those temptations too–yet without sin.
The next time you find yourself facing similar temptations, come confidently to Jesus and cry out for help. Jesus gets it. He can relate. He’s been there–yet without sin. He does not stand far off, shaking his head in disbelief that you’re tempted yet again. He is near, able and willing to dispense grace and mercy in your moment of need.
Read Ephesians 3-4.
“You can do hard things!”
That’s one of the phrases we use regularly to encourage and motivate our kids to do things…
1) they don’t want to do,
2) they don’t think they can do, and/or
3) they tend to give up on too easily.
Ephesians 4 begins with Paul’s more eloquent version of “you can do hard things!” No, he doesn’t say it verbatim, but the point is essentially the same. In chapters 1-3, Paul has spilled quite a bit of ink reminding the Ephesians of how their salvation has reconciled them first and foremost to God but also to one another.
And the “one anothers” that they have been reconciled to are people that aren’t entirely like them. The church of Ephesus began with a combination of Jewish and Gentile Christians–individuals from different backgrounds and experiences that, historically, didn’t have much in common. Nevertheless, through their mutual faith in Christ, they had been reconciled to one another as “fellow heirs” and “members of the same body” (3:6). In short, the gospel had called them to unity.
Unity sounds like a good idea, but it doesn’t always come easy. Though they had been declared united, it would take some time for them to function in unity, but they could do hard things! So Paul urges them to pursue unity, which meant growing in “humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love” (4:2).
2,000 years later and the church is still learning to walk in unity. We still need to grow in humility and gentleness. We still need to exhibit a lot of patience. We still have to bear with one another–sometimes painfully and perseveringly–in love. But we can do hard things! And it’s as we pursue unity with one another–especially with people that aren’t exactly like us–that the gathering power of the gospel is highlighted for the world to see.