by Shaun Caudill
Read the instructions first. I have been told that my whole life, but I don’t always practice it. I just want to get the project finished. I look at the pictures or read a couple of the main paragraphs and I feel like it is going to be a simple breeze to accomplish. It can be a very unpleasant experience when you think you know what you are doing only later to find that the project has become a total mess. If only I would have read the instructions first and followed them!
This is exactly what happened on the first Easter. Jesus had risen from the tomb, the women had seen and talked to Jesus, the disciples saw the empty tomb, however none of that seemed to sink in with the rest of Jesus’ followers. What should have been an exuberant celebration was instead marked with dismay and sadness. On the road to Emmaus, two men were walking and lamenting that their hope in Jesus had failed. On their way, Jesus Himself appears, but they do not recognize Him. When Jesus asked them what they were discussing, they launched into their discussion of despair with Him. After Jesus listened to them, He rebuked them. In Luke 24 it states, “And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” Notice Jesus interpreted ALL the Scriptures concerning Himself. Not just the victorious passages, but also the ones where He would have to suffer. There are times that you and I just like to take the passages that make us feel hopeful. Notice I said feel. Every Scripture in the Bible is meant to increase our faith and draw us closer to Him in love and dependence, but we have a tendency to just look at a few and then proclaim that we truly understand God. This is a recipe for a total mess! It is the beginning of a complete letdown of your faith when things are not going the way you believe they are supposed to go. What would happen if you read the Bible (all the Bible) and began to let God show you His entire plan for the world and for you? What if you began to pray to God and ask for understanding over difficult passages instead of just skipping them altogether? What I am suggesting is more time consuming and difficult and may not always give the immediate gratification that you are looking for, but in the end you are on solid ground and full of more hope, joy, and peace because God has told you who He is and not vice-versa.
At the end of this story, Jesus has explained everything and then sat down to eat with them. When He breaks the bread their eyes are opened and they recognize who Jesus is. At that moment, everything changes. “They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord has risen indeed…!”” Let’s make a choice and start today to read all the instructions.
by Crystal Townsend
Luke’s portrayal of Jesus’ crucifixion elicits both disgust and admiration, sorrow and joy, rage and peace. How could something so brutal be equally beautiful?! Jesus, who had just endured a trial resulting in the freedom of a murderer and His own condemnation to death, peacefully treads toward the hill of Golgotha as the crowds are in chaos. His heart is turned to the Father as He chooses to plead, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The crowds observe. Lots are cast for His clothes. Jesus is tormented and humiliated. A conversation begins . . . one that cuts to the heart of the situation.
The first criminal chooses to torment Jesus as he hangs beside Him. He questions Jesus’ authority and power while mocking Him. The second criminal hanging beside Jesus cannot stay silent. He grasps the fact that he is a sinner, being justly punished, and he knows Jesus has done nothing wrong. After rebuking the mocker, he humbly asks Jesus to remember him in His kingdom. Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” (Luke 23:43)
The grace, peace, and forgiveness the sinner received was given freely by a Savior who chose to take the punishment for our sin. Who endured a torturous crucifixion for the purpose of redeeming the very people who sin against Him. Who chose obedience even to the point of death in order to glorify God the Father. Who walked peacefully, as a lamb to the slaughter. This portrayal of Jesus’ crucifixion is brutal as we realize our own filth and required punishment, but it is beautiful as we realize Jesus’ willing sacrifice for our redemption.
by Shaun Caudill
“I wish I were not having to go through this moment in my life.” I think most of us have felt this way at some time in our life when things just seemed very overwhelming. We find ourselves living in a moment of our life that we hate and wish we could get out of. In Luke 22, when Jesus was in the Garden of Gethsemane, he was experiencing great emotional strife over what he knew was coming next and prayed the prayer, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me…” Jesus knew what was coming. Physical pain, people mocking and rejecting Him, almost all of His disciples abandoning Him, His mother watching Him suffer, and on top of all that, God the Father forsaking Him. He did not want to be in that moment, and He prayed if possible that that moment be replaced by another moment that was…easier.
We do not like difficult moments because, well…they are difficult. We hate pain and suffering and really feel that we could do so much more good for our life and for others if we could just control our circumstances and do what we want to do, when we want to do it. But that is not reality or truth. There is also no trust or reliance upon God in that scenario. We forget that we live in a fallen world where sin still has somewhat of a grasp. Sometimes we have a choice to get out of difficult moments, but there are other times that, no matter how hard we try, we are staring at this difficult moment face to face. In those moments, where it seems I do not have a choice in the matter, I need to change my mindset. Instead of thinking about how to get out of the moment, I should try to find where God is with me in that moment. That is why Jesus finished His prayer by saying, “nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” By accepting His moment, Jesus brought about the ultimate glory for the Father and Himself. He also secured eternal salvation for us and an everlasting intimate relationship with us. God is at work in the world and in our lives. The suffering that we are trying to avoid, God is using to bring about His hope in the world and our perfection, by causing us to draw close to Him and rely upon Him more. Jesus did not want His moment but trusted the Father that if it had to happen, then it would bring about the ultimate good. Will you choose to take your difficult moments to God and walk in faith with Him? Will you trust Him to work in them to bring about His glory and your good?
by Doug Bratcher
Growing up as an only child I never had to stress over things like “who gets the last slice of pizza.” Sometimes when my cousins would come over they would do barbaric things like lick their fingers and touch the last slice so no one else would take it or stuff their face so fast that they were done first, thus laying claim to the last slice. These were not the rules of engagement I was used to, and frankly, it stressed me out! I would love to say that I was above the fray and did not partake of such actions, but when push came to shove I was just like the rest. I’m still not used to them as an adult even with multiple children who constantly want the best, most, last of all things in the house and will feel slighted and pout for hours when things don’t go their way.
I wonder if that is how Jesus felt dealing with the disciples sometimes. I wouldn’t put it past Peter to lick his finger and rub it on the last piece of bread to make sure he got it and no one else did. Right after Jesus tells them that one of them will betray him, the question of which of the disciples is the “greatest” is brought up. Jesus’ reply is simple, profound, and game changing. The one who serves is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven, not the one who reclines at the table and is waited on. The greatest is the one who forgoes his last slice of pizza so another can be full. We are in a time right now where it is easy to be selfish. Those are our basic, sinful tendencies. Jesus even turns to Peter after they have asked about who would be considered the greatest (and I would bet Peter assumed it would be him) and tells him that Peter will deny him when the moment comes.
I caught myself saying things that sounded very similar to this just the other day. I said something that sounded like “right now we have to worry about team Bratcher,” and in retrospect, all I was saying was “I want that last slice of pizza” or “will I be considered the greatest”. Now is NOT that time for those kinds of thoughts. The world needs us to stand and be the servants, the givers, and helpers to a hurting world during a dark time.
by Crystal Townsend
When I was little, the neighbor kids and I played together daily. I was the oldest and had a strong sense of right and wrong. I was happy if everyone was following the rules of the neighborhood, otherwise I would call attention to the rule breaker. I clearly remember a day I refused to eat with a friend because she broke my neatness rule and left crumbs in my tent! I’ll never forget the feeling of anger at the ease of her disregard for MY tent rules. The speech I gave in my fury ended with me sending her home. Needless to say, the reconciliation was humbling. I was reminded of my sinful nature and my pride. I was broken at the realization that I so easily chose actions of anger over love.
Here in Luke 22, as Judas begins to be used by Satan for the betrayal of Jesus, I’m struck by Jesus’ actions. He’s not distracted by His anger or emotions. He simply continues in the Passover preparations. He provides for his disciples and leads them through the last supper. All the while, Judas is sitting and eating among them, but Jesus doesn’t send him home. He calmly explains the importance of the bread and wine and the symbolism of his body and blood. Finally, He points out that His betrayer is at the table and that the consequences shall come. Today we struggle with a myriad of different emotions as people let us down or our plans fail, but be reminded of the example Jesus set as Judas’ betrayal unfolded. Choose to take your frustrations to Jesus and not act in anger or haste. Remember the ultimate sacrifice Jesus made out of His great love for us. What a great reminder of the life Jesus has called us to live! A life of love, joy, peace, and patience. What a great reminder of the sacrifice He has made to bring us into the family of God. And just know, I’ve gotten a little better at dealing with injustice lovingly…I’ll hold friends accountable, but I now refrain from reaming them out and sending them home over crumbs!
by Shaun Caudill
As a child, I loved getting as much attention drawn to me as possible (as an adult too sometimes!). My mother would encourage me to not be loud or exuberant, but I couldn’t help myself…well, I didn’t really want to. I wanted the attention! Now, as an adult, I sometimes embarrass myself because of this need. I now also have my own kids who want attention, too (sometimes embarrassing me because of the attention they draw to themselves…sorry Mom). I finally get it. My mother wasn’t just giving me her preferences about how she wanted me to live life. She was taking this truth from Scripture. Proverbs 27:2 states, “Let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.” Anyone who draws attention to themselves for the sake of being recognized, validated, or thought of as worthy is putting themselves on a throne that is not meant for them.
However, when Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, people cry out “Hosanna!” believing that He is the king that will save them from the Romans, heralding Him as the coming Messiah… and Jesus receives it all unflinchingly. When the Pharisees tell Jesus that He should quiet His disciples down and make them quit this spectacle, Jesus tells them that even if His disciples were quiet, the rocks would burst into praise right behind their quieted voices (Luke 19:40)! Why does Jesus do what the Proverbs tell us not to do? Because JESUS IS GOD! If He is lifted up, He will draw all people to Himself (John 12:32). Jesus will draw attention to Himself because He is the greatest good, the fulfillment of our greatest need, and the ONLY one who deserves all the attention. I have this desire to be recognized. Christ has already recognized me as His (through my faith in Him), and He accepts me completely and whole-heartedly. What more do I really need? What would happen in this world if I drew more attention to Christ than to myself? What would happen if I cared more about people acknowledging Christ instead of acknowledging me? What would happen if I cared more about Christ being known than trying to make myself known? Am I sitting on a throne meant for Christ and need to step down? Am I lifting Him up? I don’t want the rocks to take my place! Hosanna! He is worthy!!
by Scott Kerr
In times like these, more people turn to prayer than normal. Should we have confidence when we pray? In the first few verses of Luke 18, we read about a persistent widow and an unjust judge. In these verses, we read that the widow was being denied justice by the judge because he didn’t “fear God or care about people.” However, the widow continued coming back and back and back until finally the judge got tired of her bugging him, and so he gave her the justice that she was looking to receive. In verse 1, we are told that Jesus told the parable so that his disciples would continue to pray and not give up. Consequently, some have read the parable to mean they should keep bugging God until they get what they want. Is that what we are to learn? The answer to that is no. We are even told in James 4:3 that sometimes we do not receive because we ask wrongly. So, just being persistent to get our way is not the point. So what is the point? Jesus explains in verses 6-8. “Hear what the unrighteous judge says. And will not God give justice to his elect, who cry to him day and night? Will he delay long over them? I tell you, he will give justice to them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:6-8 ESV). The point is we should keep praying because we can trust that God will give justice to His people. When we pray, we can keep praying because at the appropriate time and in the appropriate way God will answer the prayers of His people. If an unjust judge will finally give justice, we can trust that God will act more quickly to provide justice to His people. So, what Jesus really wants us to do is keep praying with confidence, knowing God will take care of His people.
by Shaun Caudill
“Are we living in the end times?” That is a question that seems to be asked rather often in the time we are living but even more so when we are experiencing a crisis in our world. In Luke 17, the Pharisees were wanting to know from Jesus when the kingdom of God would appear. Jesus doesn’t answer the Pharisees’ question by answering the “when” of the end times but the “who” of the end times. The Pharisees were so preoccupied with seeking the signs of when the kingdom was coming that they couldn’t even see the answer they were looking for right in front of them! Not when, but Who! Jesus was standing right in front of them stating that if they would look to Him they would experience the kingdom they were so were desperately seeking. Living in the presence of God through faith in Jesus IS the kingdom!
Understanding and studying what the Bible says about the end times is an important topic but not for the reason many think. We do not study so that we can say which event or events will lead up to His second coming but so that we can draw closer to Him in faith. By studying Scripture, we know certain things are going to take place because God is in complete control and tells us beforehand! John 15:15 tells us that we are His friends and He desires that we live in confidence and faith with Him. Because I know that everything is under His control, I can be at peace. Guess what? Jesus told us that things can get uncomfortably crazy but that we don’t have to be scared or fearful because through Him everything is under control. Are we living in the end times? Let’s ask a better question…Do I have a relationship with Christ and trust Him? If I am in Christ then I can be at peace regardless of how difficult things get. He is with me and has promised that He will see me through as I seek Him. Are you living as if Christ is in control of these times we are living in?