Read Luke 6

Luke 6:20-23

Then Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “God bless you who are poor, for the Kingdom of God is yours. God blesses you who are hungry now, for you will be satisfied. God blesses you who weep now, for in due time you will laugh. What blessings await you when people hate you and exclude you and mock you and curse you as evil because you follow the Son of Man. When that happens, be happy! Yes, leap for joy! For a great reward awaits you in heaven. And remember, their ancestors treated the ancient prophets that same way.

Jesus. How He challenged, and still challenges, the definition of success on earth. Where we value education, title, position, wealth, and happiness, are not necessarily the attributes that God rewards. While there is nothing wrong with any of these things, God values relationship, obedience, perseverance, love, and mercy. Jesus tells us that there is much more to life than those things we experience here in our brief lives, and the rewards for those who persevere to follow Him will far outweigh any grief or sorrow that we may experience here on earth. Our best days are yet to come, and as believers, we must live in this reality, extending grace to all whom we encounter on our journey. When we look to eternity, our present sorrows indeed seem light and momentary.

Today’s author: Sharon Warner

Read Luke 5

Simon (Peter) and his cohorts spent the whole night fishing, and had caught nothing. And this was not recreational fishing. What they were doing was nothing short of hard work. They had spent a whole night in two different boats and had nothing to show for it between them. And theirs was no salary job. No fish, No income. What a miserable night.

Now the long night is at least over. All they had to do now was repair the nets so they would be ready for the next evening’s work and then at least they could get some rest. As they are going about their work, they can overhear Jesus teaching the growing crowd of people. The crowd grows to the point that Jesus needs to use Peter’s boat to stand in to teach. Might as well get something useful out of it. It’s not doing to good catching fish.

After He finishes speaking to the crowd, Jesus asks Peter to push out farther into the sea and then to cast out his net. The very net that he had just finished cleaning, repairing, and stowing to get finished for the day and ready for the evening’s work. And he’s tired. But Jesus seems persistent in his request.

You read the rest of the story. Peter catches so many fish that he has to call for the other boat to come and help. And with this little miracle four lives are changed and four disciples are enlisted.

Kinda makes me wonder if the bad night of fishing might have been orchestrated by God. A great set up for Jesus to impress his soon to be disciples with his miracle working power, and in their language! Also makes me think about my own struggles. Maybe the next time it seems that I’m just butting my head against the wall, I may actually look to see if God is just getting ready to do something great! They say it is always darkest just before dawn.

Today’s author: Monty Pierce (previously published)

Read Luke 4

Rejection is not a pleasant thing for anyone. Early in His ministry, Jesus gets a taste of what is to come and what would eventually lead to His death.

The rejection occurs in the scene where Jesus is teaching in the synagogue. After He reads the scripture, the initial response is positive (v 22). If the people understood that He was proclaiming Himself the Messiah, they didn’t let on. Instead they “speak well of him,” perhaps even commenting on his good reading skills or other trivial issue.

But Jesus pushes the point. He relates two other stories in which God blessed other non-Jewish people instead of the Jewish people due to their rejection of Him or His messengers. I’m sure these were not some of the favorite scriptures of His hearers. But they now get the message. And they turn from being polite to being downright mean. They seek to kill Jesus. But it is not yet His time to die. And He walks away (by a miracle or just sheer presence, we do not know.)

Telling the truth, even the truth of scripture may sometimes lead to rejection, even from those who are close to us. The problem is when we lead people to see beyond what the scripture says, to what it says about them. At least we can take comfort in the fact that when we face rejection, we are in good company.

Today’s author: Monty Pierce (previously published)

Read Luke 3

As Luke transitions His report to the beginning of John’s ministry, he places John “in the wilderness.” (v 2) This is significant because the prophets of old had foretold that prior to the coming of the Messiah, there would be a messenger in the wilderness preparing the way (see Isaiah 40:3, for example). Principles in the New Testament did not do certain things because they were predicted. Rather, the ancients were given divine glimpses of what was to be and reported it. Thus, the old testament prophets knew that John the Baptist’s ministry would center in the wilderness.

But why was John the Baptist in the wilderness? I am intrigued by one speculation. It has to do with the Qumran community (think “Dead Sea scrolls”) located in the wilderness. The inhabitants were a very religious, ascetic group called “the Essenes.” The religious people felt that others had become too worldly, and so they withdrew from the world of their day and established a community based on strict adherence to their beliefs and teachings.

Interestingly, one of their requirements was a total abstaining from sex, even by those who were married. Obviously, this teaching meant that their way of living would end with the current generation. So in order to extend their beliefs to future generations they became a sort of orphanage for parent-less children of their day.

Now think about it. This might very well have included John the Baptist. The Bible clearly states that his parents were very advanced in years when he was born. It is possible, and believed by some, that upon the death of his parents, John was raised by the Essenes out in the wilderness. And thus the wilderness becomes the stage for John the Baptist’s ministry.

AS interesting as this is to speculate about, there is a point. We may feel at times as though we are in our own wilderness. But if we are faithful to do what God calls us to do, we can have a major impact for the kingdom.

Today’s author: Monty Pierce (previously published)

Read Luke 2

Following the often read birth narrative and a couple of interesting episodes in Jesus’ early life including an early visit to the temple and a later visit when He was twelve, this chapter ends with an interesting summary verse. Luke 2:52 captures the essence of Jesus’ teenage or growing up years. In these years, Jesus did what every boy His age tends, and needs, to do. He grew in wisdom (intelligence) and stature (physical maturity) and favor with God (spiritual development) and favor with man (social development).

Two ideas emerge from this verse. First, Jesus was a normal kid. Please don’t misunderstand this. I am not trying to say that He is anything less than God’s Son. I am merely emphasizing that He was also completely human. (This is one of those “truths” we can’t fully understand but just have to accept.) I would also be willing to venture that Jesus would have been in the gifted and talented program of His day. But unlike some of what the the non-biblical writers had to say, Jesus did not go around with His special powers healing animals and turning clay pigeons into real birds. He did what other normal kids do–He grew and developed in every area of His being.

This leads us into the second idea–Jesus grew. Jesus’ growth included in the area of knowledge, and at least to some extent, in the spiritual realm of His life. Jesus was not born with all knowledge and all understanding. He had to grow in His understand of things physical and spiritual. He was not lying in the manger with an adult mind. His understanding grew until, at some point, He had a complete understanding of who He was and what His mission if life was to be.

We need to model ourselves after Jesus in this process as well. You and I need to continue to grow. This means we also need to accept the fact that we don’t already know it all. It is OK to have some areas in which we are still learning about God and His ways. It is OK to change our thinking in some areas as we grow in our understanding. Having been wrong or incomplete in our understanding is not a sin. Refusing to grow and being OK with our immature understanding is.

Today’s author: Monty Pierce (previously published)

Read Luke 1

New beginnings can be both exciting and scary. A new job. Getting married. The birth of a child. All types of new beginnings. All examples of events that are both exciting and scary at the same time. The promised births of Luke 1 are also new beginnings that bring a mosaic of emotions.

Travel back with me a little over 2000 years. No “new word” from God had been heard for 400 years. No prophets. No visions or angels. But the hope of promises made by God long ago were still held strong by the faithful of Israel. Until then, that which had been happening before would continue. Nothing new. Faithfully carrying on.

Now comes the new beginning. An angel appears to a priest. An aged man who was faithful to God and who had no children. A child will be born. A miracle to an aged and previously barren womb. A short time passes, and another appearance by the angel is witnessed. This time by a young girl, a virgin, looking forward to her wedding day. Another promise. Another child will be born. This birth even more miraculous than the first.

Along with these children, a new day is born. A day when God’s Spirit is once again active. A day in which that which had been promised will begin to be fulfilled. A day that will be both exciting and scary.

This day is still with us. The opportunity for a new beginning is before us. We too can experience the miraculous in our lives as we place our hope in Him. And we will know a new beginning that is both exciting and scary. I’m in on the journey. Won’t you join me?

Today’s author: Monty Pierce (previously published)

Philemon 1

In 30 years of going to church I have never heard a sermon on Philemon. It sits tucked away in the New Testament hidden behind the Pastoral Epistles; just one chapter, Paul admonishing Philemon to accept the return of his runaway slave named Onesimus. What do we know about Philemon? Well for starter’s he was wealthy. How do we know that? The Bible gives us a couple indicators – he owned at least one slave (Onesimus), and he had a house large enough for the church to meet in (Phil. 1:2); in fact, it was the church at Colosse that met in his home. We know this because in Colossians 4:9 Paul tells the church that he is sending Onesimus back to them, and in 4:17 he sends greetings to Archippus. We know from Philemon 1:2 that Archippus is with Philemon and the rest of the letter deals with Onesimus’ return. What we have in the example of Philemon is a man who used his wealth for the benefit of the church and the expansion of God’s kingdom. Philemon’s reputation had become known to Paul all the way in Rome:
“I always thank my God as I remember you in my prayers, because I hear about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all the saints….Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.” Phil. 1:4-5, 7
​Paul commends Philemon that his faith in the Lord Jesus has led to a tangible expression of love toward fellow believers. In v. 7 Paul says that Philemon has “refreshed the hearts of the saints”, an interesting phrase; the word used for refreshed in Greek means to cease from labor, to give rest after toil. A plain understanding of Paul’s admonition is that Philemon was using his resources to bring relief to fellow believers. Perhaps he was opening his home to them, providing food, clothing, shelter. Remember, believers in 1st century Colosse would have experienced persecution for the belief in and proclamation of the name of Jesus, and would have had nowhere to turn for support. It would have been up to members of the local church to take care of their own, and this is exactly what Philemon was doing; this supportive activity would have put him at risk – (1) financially, because these Christians could not pay him pay back, (2) physically, because he would have been openly associating with the persecuted believers, inviting persecuting into his own life.
​Having pointed out Philemon’s love for the saints, he admonishes him to accept his runaway slave Onesimus back as a brother in Christ. After running away from Philemon, Onesimus found his way to Rome, where he met Paul and became a Christian.
“Perhaps the reason he was separated from you for a little while was that you might have him back forever—no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother” Phil. 1:15-16a
As the owner of a runaway slave Philemon was entitled to deal with Onesimus as he saw fit, which included beating or even killing him. Paul points out to Philemon that the running away of Onesimus led to his salvation, which has now fundamentally transformed their relationship from owner/slave to brothers in Christ. The forgiving of a runaway slave would have directly contradicted every cultural norm, and at the same time most vividly demonstrated the gospel. Paul adds in v. 20 that accepting Onesimus would have refreshed his heart.
This is one example of how relationships in Christ supersede every earthly relationship. Paul says it this way in Colossians:
“Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all.” Col. 3:11
Because we are brothers and sisters in Christ, and on equal footing in Him, it is right and necessary for us to give ourselves fully to one another, whatever the cost. It is right and necessary to forgive and accept one another, just as Christ has forgiven and accepted us. In the letter and person of Philemon we get a glimpse of this ideal, don’t miss it.

Today’s author:  Joey Sutton