Monday, April 30, 2012

increasing faith

Luke 17:1-19

The apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"

He replied, "If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, 'Be uprooted and planted in the sea,' and it will obey you.

"Suppose one of you has a servant plowing or looking after the sheep. Will he say to the servant when he comes in from the field, 'Come along now and sit down to eat'? Won't he rather say, 'Prepare my supper, get yourself ready and wait on me while I eat and drink; after that you may eat and drink'? Will he thank the servant because he did what he was told to do? 10 So you also, when you have done everything you were told to do, should say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done our duty.'"

Jesus didn't explicitly answer their request.  As I've been thinking about how Jesus responded, I wonder if He was saying, in effect, "Faith without works is dead.  Focus on exercising your faith, not necessarily on gaining more faith."  Maybe He wants us to focus on using our full potential (efficiency) more than expanding our potential (capacity).

Heavenly Father, thank you for the faith that you have given me.  Please help me use it today.  Lord, I want to love you and follow you.  Please help me listen to your Spirit as you guide me.  I love you, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

guilty by association

Luke 15

1 Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach. This made the Pharisees and teachers of religious law complain that he was associating with such sinful people—even eating with them!

Would the religious crowd today accuse me of hanging out too much with the "sinful people"?  That's what happened to Jesus.  Granted, He is God, so He didn't worry about being "corrupted" by them.  But I wonder what it would look like if I was hanging out with people enough that stiff church attenders would criticize me.

Heavenly Father, please help me interact with people outside my "holy huddle".  Lord, please help me engage people who need to hear about the love and life of Jesus Christ.  And help me realize that we are all sinners saved by grace.  I ask in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012


Luke 14

One Sabbath day Jesus went to eat dinner in the home of a leader of the Pharisees, and the people were watching him closely. There was a man there whose arms and legs were swollen. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in religious law, "Is it permitted in the law to heal people on the Sabbath day, or not?" When they refused to answer, Jesus touched the sick man and healed him and sent him away. Then he turned to them and said, "Which of you doesn't work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don't you rush to get him out?" Again they could not answer.

Why were they so religious?  Why did they care more about their made up rules instead of hurt people.

I was just thinking on Sunday how irrational it seems to me now that we used to dress up every Sunday morning to go to church.  How did those three hours each week become so much more important than all of the other hours?  Was God supposed to like me better by me dressing up?  I've heard arguments that dressing up shows your reverence for God.  But I thought God was with us all of the time, so shouldn't we be dressed up all of the time?  I wonder how many more people would have become involved in our church throughout the years if everyone had not been so stiff and formal. 

I also think it is ridiculous that a couple of my previous pastors thought that you weren't as devoted of a church member if you stayed home and watched the Super Bowl on Sunday evening.  Almost boils my blood now. 

I wonder how many more disciples of Christ would have been brought into the Church if so many Baptists weren't so Sunday religious.  Makes me wonder how many of them are actually disciples of Christ.  I remember one "revival" preacher saying, "If you spit in to hell, you would hit a Baptist right on top of the head."  Makes me wonder.

Makes me wonder how I am still so religious and don't even see it because I'm so religious.

Heavenly Father, please deliver me from religion.  Lord Jesus, I want to serve you and follow you.  I want to work for your Kingdom.  Holy Spirit, please help me pay attention to people who are hurting and actually minister to people instead of getting caught up in a religious routine.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

presence of the Holy Spirit

Luke 11:1-28

11 "You fathers—if your children ask for a fish, do you give them a snake instead? 12 Or if they ask for an egg, do you give them a scorpion? Of course not! 13 So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him."

So, does our Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit only once, or should I ask the Father to give me more of the Holy Spirit each day?  Is it a once-and-done deal, or is it a continuous renewal process?

Heavenly Father, I know that you have called me to be your adopted son, and I know that you have given me the Holy Spirit.  Please continue to refresh my awareness of the presence of the Holy Spirit, and anoint me again, if that is what you do.  I want to be used by you.  I love you, Lord, and I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

choosing Jesus

Luke 10

38 Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. 39 And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet and listened to his teaching. 40 But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, "Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me." 41 But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, 42 but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her."

Heavenly Father, I want to choose the good portion of focusing all of my attention on Jesus.  Lord, please don't let me be so busy with serving that I miss Jesus.  Lord, I want to walk with you and serve with you.  I want to have time to sit at your feet and listen.  I want to obey, Lord.  Please help me know clearly what you are calling me to so that I may obey.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 13, 2012

ministry begins with family

Luke 8

38 The man who had been freed from the demons begged to go with him. But Jesus sent him home, saying, 39 "No, go back to your family, and tell them everything God has done for you." So he went all through the town proclaiming the great things Jesus had done for him.

I think my ministry should begin with my family.  I need to be more intentional about encouraging my wife and sons in their pursuit and experience of Christ.  I have been passive.

Heavenly Father, please help me encourage and lead my family.  Please help me be intentional and not passive.  I love you, Lord, and I pray in the name of Christ.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

importance of Isaiah 61

Luke 7

When Jesus was in His hometown, he quoted Isaiah 61, clearly identifying Himself as the Messiah:

4:17 The scroll of Isaiah the prophet was handed to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where this was written:

18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord's favor has come."

20 He rolled up the scroll, handed it back to the attendant, and sat down. All eyes in the synagogue looked at him intently. 21 Then he began to speak to them. "The Scripture you've just heard has been fulfilled this very day!"

When John the Baptist wanted to confirm if Jesus really was the Messiah, Jesus responded by explaining that He was fulfilling the mission of Isaiah 61:

7:21 At that very time, Jesus cured many people of their diseases, illnesses, and evil spirits, and he restored sight to many who were blind. 22 Then he told John's disciples, "Go back to John and tell him what you have seen and heard—the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. 23 And tell him, 'God blesses those who do not turn away because of me.'"

It seems to me that we as followers of Christ should be able to be identified as followers of Christ because we are carrying on the mission of Isaiah 61.

Heavenly Father, please help me be focused on you and your Kingdom.  Lord Jesus, I want to serve in the Body where and how you want me to.  Please help me be attentive to how you are leading me so that I may be useful to you.  I love you, Lord, and I want to participate in your mission.  I ask in the name of Jesus.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


Luke 6:

27 "But to you who are willing to listen, I say, love your enemies! Do good to those who hate you. 28 Bless those who curse you. Pray for those who hurt you. 29 If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also. If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. 30 Give to anyone who asks; and when things are taken away from you, don't try to get them back. 31 Do to others as you would like them to do to you. ...

35 "Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. 36 You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

It seems to me that the key here is that we are taking on the character of our Heavenly Father when we are compassionate.  One might argue that genuine compassion is nothing other than genuine love, "agape" love.

Heavenly Father, please pour your love through me.  I can't manufacture your love; I need to be a pipeline of your love.   Lord, please help me live in such a way that others see and experience your love and discover you through me.  I want to be your ambassador.  I love you, Lord.  Thank you for your kindness.

Friday, April 6, 2012

making disciples

Luke 5:1-16

Jesus got in the boat, told Peter how to fish, and demonstrated that He was in control.  He also demonstrated that He would provide for them.

10 ... Jesus replied to Simon, "Don't be afraid! From now on you'll be fishing for people!" 11 And as soon as they landed, they left everything and followed Jesus.

I wonder if I am really fishing for people through the opportunities I have as a professor.  I wonder if there is a balance between "being salt and light" (which sounds somewhat passive) and "fishing for people" (which sounds more active to me).  Maybe with different types of people.  Perhaps with some, my role is more saltiness and brightness, and with others, my role is active discipleship.

Heavenly Father, please help me live the way you want me to.  Please direct my path.  Please help me be salt and light and a fisher of men.  I love you, Lord.  Please make me useful to you.  I ask in the name of Jesus Christ.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

following Jesus, ministry

Luke 4:1-30

In my discussion with the young men of Jeremy's youth group two weeks ago, I explained that Jesus clearly stated the essence of His mission and ministry in His hometown by quoting/paraphrasing Isaiah 61:

4:18 "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
    for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
    that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
19     and that the time of the Lord's favor has come."

If we are disciples of Jesus, then I believe we will embrace His mission and continue His ministry.

Our pastor is preaching through the Gospel of Luke, and he preached from this passage a few weeks ago.  One of the themes of this study of Luke is, "following Jesus into strange places". After Jesus quoted Isaiah 61, He told them that this Scripture was fulfilled in their presence.  But they were skeptical.  So Jesus responded by giving examples from the ministry of two of the most prominent prophets in Israel's history: (1) Elijah took care of a gentile woman in Sidon, and (2) Elisha healed a gentile military officer from Syria suffering from leprosy.

As I've been thinking about how to follow Jesus into strange places, I think it starts with being willing and open to have conversations with people that might be awkward.  It means being open to interact with people.  My dad is really good at that.

Heavenly Father, please help me participate in the ministry of the body of Christ.  I want to be useful and engaged.  Please help me see how you are trying to get me engaged.  I love you, Lord.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

glad my family is back

Luke 3:23-38

My wife and sons were out of town last week visiting family.  I missed them tremendously.

I am so thankful to have such a wonderful wife and precious sons.  Beau is talking more and more, and he is so fun to play with.  We had a great time playing t-ball last night.  And Jude is almost crawling.  It is so exciting to see these boys grow and learn.  I continue to pray that God will use them to advance the Kingdom of Christ.

Heavenly Father, thank you for your love for me.  Thank you for blessing me with such a wonderful family.  Please help me lead them and protect them along the path that you have for us.  I love you, Lord.  Thank you for grace and mercy in Christ.