Read Luke 18

Throughout Scripture we learn the importance of prayer. Prayer is basically conversation with God; listening, as well as speaking. In this chapter, we learn that persistence in prayer is important, not because God does not hear or needs to be begged. Humans have that problem. God’s response to our prayers is based on his purpose and will for our lives. Sometimes it takes us a while to understand that.

We also see in this passage that prayer should lead us to be repentant and humble. It is important to remember who we are talking with. God does not need to be reminded of our shortcomings, but we certainly do. Agreeing with God regarding our delinquent behavior shows our acknowledgement of his holiness and our dependence on his mercy.

Finally, we should visit with God like the children we are. He is the supplier of every need in our lives, just like we depend on our earthly parents. Of course, our earthly parents are a part of his delivery system for our needs, but unlike God we are often not as consistent in responding. My adult daughter recently called me while I was mowing the yard about a need I thought we had already addressed. It was an inconvenient time; I was tired, hot, dirty, and I wanted to be through with the task. Her need at-the-moment did not seem to be as important as mine. I am embarrassed to admit I was less than receptive. Not so with God. He is always ready to visit with us about any need big or small.

This thing of prayer continues to be a mystery to me, but Jesus taught it and modeled it and I know really all I need to know. How true the words to that great hymn we so seldom hear or sing now, “Sweet Hour of Prayer”. Look it up.

Today’s author: Randy Babin

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Read Luke 17

John D. Rockefeller was one of the richest and most successful businessmen in modern history.  He was once asked by a reporter a deep question:  How much money is enough?  His answer was quite telling.  He responded by saying “just a little bit more.”  If we were to ask our children how many toys are enough, surely their answer would be “just a little bit more.”

The disciples can be found asking Jesus for “just a little bit more” faith in Luke 17 and Jesus corrects their misguided thinking.  In verses 3-4, Jesus gives the disciples a difficult command.  “Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him.”

I can just hear the disciples screaming inside saying “But Jesus, if he keeps sinning against me he’s not TRULY sorry?  Why would I have to forgive him?“  Instead, maybe they let out a collective gasp and say “Increase our faith” (verse 5)…just a little bit more.  We tend to be the same way.  When God challenges us, our tendency is to ask God to increase our faith.  Instead, we should acknowledge that He is the source and giver of our faith and because of this, we are equipped to handle anything God chooses to challenge us with.  Asking God to give us more of what He has already blessed us with is to be ungrateful for the gift of faith.  Remember that we don’t need MORE faith, we need to remember the SOURCE of that faith.

Today’s author: Kevin Slocum

Read Luke 16

Whose kingdom am I building?

Luke 16 begins with the parable of the unjust steward, who is ironically commended for his shrewd behavior, and ends with the parable of Lazarus and the rich man.  Settled right in the middle of these two powerful, though I will be honest and say somewhat baffling, stories, Jesus chides the Pharisees, “who were lovers of money,” for setting their hearts on the things of this world.  His initial statement to them in response to their ridicule following the first parable is piercing. “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. (v. 15)” What does it mean to ‘justify yourselves before men’? In Galatians Paul states, “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.”

The Pharisees didn’t approve of Jesus’ earlier statements regarding money.  He stated, following the parable of the unjust steward, that one cannot serve God and wealth, for he “will hate the one and love the other; or else he will hold to the one and despise the other.” A person can only serve one master, and my actions on this earth can paint a pretty clear picture of whom I truly serve. How I steward the things of this world that God has left in my care demonstrates what is in my heart.  Notice, the Pharisees are described as lovers of money, and Jesus states that God knew their hearts.  “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21. In Mark 12:30 Jesus points out the greatest commandment; “you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” So, am I to be shrewd in my financial dealings so that I can make a kingdom for myself?  Or like the rich man, am I receiving and hording all my good things here on earth, forgetting that there is an eternity beyond this life? I am struck by the phrase in the first parable that the rich man knew the steward was “wasting his possessions.” Being shrewd in this world is for a purpose, and it is not for me to grow my kingdom; that is wasteful.  My stewardship, my shrewd handlings, and my compassion and care for others have the purpose of glorifying God and building His kingdom.  Being faithful in the things of this world demonstrates my faithfulness in the things of God; for if I can’t even be faithful in the little breath of time I am given with the temporal things under my care, how can I be faithful in the important things that last?

Though the two parables in Luke 16 teach us many things, one truth that has gripped my heart and mind is that I am the Lord’s and all that I have is His.  I am to live this life ever mindful of the charge given by my Master – to make disciples and bring Him glory. It is not to lavish upon myself all that this world has to offer, but to lavish upon others all that God in Christ has offered me.

Today’s authors: Sean and Rebecca Jamerson

 

Read Luke 15

Luke chapter 15 presents the three parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son. While these stories are all different and unique, they contain the central idea that someone or something had been lost or wandered away, but was eventually found. The sheep was sought out and found by the shepherd. The coin had gone missing but was found by its owner. The son had turned away from his father by disrespecting him and wasted his inheritance on sinful living, but then when he had no where else to turn, shamefully returned home. These stories differ in content, but there is one element that remains the same among all three. The shepherd, the owner of the coin, and the father GREATLY rejoiced when they found what they had lost.

There are many places in the Bible that can be difficult to read and challenging to think about because God can seem so wrathful and honestly harsh at times. I have had seasons in my life where I struggled with the thought of God being a loving God. But after reading passages like these, spoken straight from the mouth of Jesus, how could I question His love for us? We can relate to the feeling of finding something valuable that you had misplaced and that feeling of utter joy when you lay eyes on it! Some of you might know what it feels like to lose a child in Walmart and experience that relief and joy when you hold them in your arms again. On a much larger scale, Luke 15 tells us that God rejoices so much more when a sinner repents and turns to Him. The same God that split the sea and calmed the storms rejoiced and celebrated when you and I accepted Christ as our Savior. I truly cannot fathom that the God of the universe loves me that much, but I am so thankful He does.

Today’s author: Kayla Brewer

Read Luke 13

During the time of Jesus it was commonly understood that you got what you deserved.  In other words, if you were a bad person, then bad things would happen to you.  Therefore when something tragic happened in someone’s life it was assumed they had done something terrible and awful to deserve it.  In Luke 13:1 Jesus is asked about the death of some Jews who were murdered in cold blood by Pilate.  The assumption is that they had done something terrible to die so tragically.

Jesus responded to say that they were not worse sinners than others and urged the audience to repent.  He then provided another tragic example of 18 people dying when a tower in Siloam fell.  He asked, “Do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem?”  He answered his own question, “I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

Despite our understanding of grace and the reality that we are living in a broken world marred by sin, we too fall into the trap of assuming tragedy strikes people because they’ve done something to deserve it.  Jesus rejects that way of thinking and says what is most important is what we get our lives right with God and repent.  We need to be prepared to meet our creator at any moment and return to Him in case we too fall victim to a sudden and tragic death.

To further explain Jesus shared the parable of the unfruitful fig tree.  The master of the vineyard gives the fig tree one more year to bear fruit or it is going to be cut down.  This is an unresolved parable as we are not told the ending to the story.  The point Jesus is making is that master is justified to cut down the tree because the tree has not yielded any fruit.  Yet an appeal is made and one more year is given for the tree to bear fruit.

We do not know how long we have on this earth.  We should be in right relationship with God because we are not promised a long life.  As these examples remind us, tragedy can strike at any time.  We need to be prepared to meet the Lord and repent while we still have the time.

Today’s author: Scott Bryant

Read Luke 12

My father is a quiet man. He’s not given to conversation unless it has to do with railroads, tractors, guns, and deer hunting. Even then, his words are sparing and slow, and he will wait for you to ask the questions, despite his vast knowledge on each of these topics. That is not to say that he doesn’t communicate with his family. He does. But, in keeping with his way, he is thoughtful and deliberate about it. When he’s stored up exactly what he wants to say, the child or grandchild is  summoned to the front of the house and invited/commanded to sit beside him and give audience for what we’ve termed a “Porch Swing Talk.” Franklin Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats ain’t got nothin’ on my daddy’s Porch Swing Talks. Sometimes they are a word of encouragement. His purpose might be to help you lay out a plan for something you’re facing (something you maybe didn’t even know he was aware of).  When I was younger, they might be a laying out of discipline. They may include stories from his own life about mistakes made and lessons learned. Always there are words of wisdom and advice. And you listen! Regardless of how you came to the swing–angry, disappointed, resentful, confused or disinterested–you end up hanging on every word. Why? Because the one unifying theme of every porch swing talk is this: love. Whatever circumstance prompted this normally reticent man to speak his heart, he’s telling you this because he believes these words are good for you, and he is bothering to tell you this because he loves you.

In chapter 12 of Luke, we are right in the middle of the Sermon on the Mount. As I read over this well known chapter for writing my devotional, I struggled to focus on one aspect. There’s so. much. here.  And what I read and jumps out at me today is different that what I saw yesterday. I expect it is the same for you. I encourage you to read it and imagine Him not on a hillside preaching to the multitudes, but sitting next to you in a porch swing. Just like my father’s Porch Swing Talks, I know whatever it is you are facing, you will find wisdom and instruction and always, ALWAYS love.

Today’s author: Jessica Sullens

Read Luke 11

Distracted driving is dangerous, and brothers and sisters, I am guilty of it. I have answered texts while driving. I have let my eyes wonder away from the road. Sometimes I drive by brail. If I feel bumps on the right I veer left. If I feel bumps on the left I veer right. I have never been guilty of a DUI (Driving-Under-the-Influence of alcohol), but as for DUI-DQs I am a repeat offender. Many times I have driven under the influence of a Dairy Queen Blizzard. If you see me pulling out of Dairy Queen with a Blizzard in my hand watch out! I may be driving through town or driving down the Interstate at 75 miles-per-hour, but my focus is on getting that next scrumptious bite into my mouth without dripping it on my car or on my clothes. All my attention is on that next little bite of pure pleasure. The speeding world of cars and trucks around me blurs into the background. It is foolish to neglect what is truly important, my safety and yours, because I am hyper-focused on something as trivial as a chocolate chip cookie dough Blizzard.

Dear friends, distracted living is foolish, and I am guilty of it. In today’s passage Jesus has another run in with the Pharisees. In verse 42 He calls them out for neglecting what is truly important. They should have been focused on the main and plain things of God’s Word like justice and love, but instead they were hyper-focused on small things like tithing their spices or washing their hands. Jesus always says it best. “But woe to you Pharisees! For you pay the tithe of mint and rue and every kind of garden herb, and yet disregard justice and the love of God; but these things you should have done without neglecting the others.” I would love to say that we don’t get distracted today, but we do. If we are not careful and prayerful we too can become hyper-focused on insignificant matters all the while ignoring the Great Commandments to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Today, take your eyes off the little things that do not matter, and place them on the Eternal All-Powerful God of justice and love.

Today’s author: John Sullens