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Category Archives: Luke

Luke 15:12-13a

The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons. “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land…”
Luke 15:12-13a

Dear God, I know this is a parable to describe your relationship with us, but I still want to sit with the father in this moment. Until the son showed back up, this is where the father’s knowledge stops. He doesn’t know the boy blew all of the money. He doesn’t know how he spent it. He doesn’t know he’s broke and starving. For all he knows, the boy could be out living a good life, being responsible, and he will never be seen again.

I live in a small town that just finished a year of celebrating its 175th year of settlement. 176 years ago, a group of Prussians (now Germans) left everything behind to come to start fresh in America. I’d never thought about their individual motivations before going to a worship service last Thursday, but most of them were saying goodbye to family forever, never to be seen or heard from again. Some of them were probably alone in the world with nothing to lose, but I’m sure there were some who were like the boy in the parable: “I’ve had it with you people. I’m out of here.” Then those that loved them were left. It was like a death.

I’ve experienced this kind of pain. It’s probably why I’m unwilling to inflict it upon others even though that is certainly my temptation. But I know the depths to which it cuts. I can’t do that to someone else. After all, you would never abandon me. How can I completely abandon someone else.

Father, I’m sorry I turn my back on you. I’m sorry I’ve allowed myself to turn my back on others at times. And I don’t mind telling you that my current pain is great. Be in my multiple situations and heal it all. And if this pain must be experienced, please make it count.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2022 in Luke

 

The Day Before Passion Week

Dear God, I decided to go through all four gospels this morning and see what they record Jesus as being up to the day before the Triumphant Entry and Passion Week. Tomorrow is Palm Sunday so it seemed fitting to try to spend some time with Jesus today–the day before. He’s been through a lot at this point, and he knows where he’s going. He has been through the Transfiguration and visited with Moses and Elijah, perhaps even receiving clarity and encouragement from them. He has rebuked James and John for wanting to kill a bunch of Samaritans for not letting him stay in his town. And now it’s all come down to this.

Matthew and Mark actually record Jesus’s activities fairly similarly. They talk about him healing some blind men. because “Jesus had compassion on them (Matthew 20:34).” Mark 10 is more specific and identifies him healing Bartimaeus. I suppose they wanted us to know that Jesus was still having compassion on people and healing them as he prepared for his Passion.

Luke actually gives us a the story of Zacchaeus as Jesus enters Jerusalem but leaves out the blind men (Luke 19). Luke wants us to know that Jesus was still in the mode of extending grace and forgiveness as he entered his last week.

Finally, and true to form, John gives us a whole different perspective. He tells us about a specific scene in Bethany when Mary (of Mary and Martha fame) showed extravagant love to Jesus by taking our some expensive perfume and pouring it on his feet. One last act of genuine worship before the week began. I wonder if John didn’t appreciate Mary’s gift more in retrospect as he told the story of the fair-weather fans who lined the streets with their palm branches. What Mary gave cost her a lot. What they gave cost them very little.

Father, do I give anything that costs me? How selfish am I? Am I willing to stop and extend your power in the midst of my own strife like Jesus did in Matthew and Mark? Am I willing love someone else through their immorality and show them your grace? Am I willing to give all that I have for all that you are? In all of these areas, am I willing to give you my utmost for your highest? As always, the answer is that I am not nearly the man I aspire to be in these areas. If you’re grading on a curve, then I compare pretty well with people around me, but that’s a steep curve. The truth is, my righteousness is rubbish. Please speak to me and give me ears to hear your voice, your direction, and your conviction.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 9, 2022 in John, Luke, Mark, Matthew

 

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Luke 13:11-13a

11 To illustrate the point further, Jesus told them this story: “A man had two sons. 12 The younger son told his father, ‘I want my share of your estate now before you die.’ So his father agreed to divide his wealth between his sons.

13 “A few days later this younger son packed all his belongings and moved to a distant land…

Luke 13:11-13a

Dear God, I don’t think we sit with the father in the parable (you) enough. We don’t know how much time passes between verse 13 and verse 20 (“So he returned home to his father. And while he was still a long way off, his father saw him coming. Filled with love and compassion, he ran to his son, embraced him, and kissed him.”), but it was long enough for a famine to set it and drive the boy to his knees, so it was presumably a long time. And you sit there and wait for so many of us. You just wait, and wait, and wait.

There’s a lot that happens while we wait in situations like this. There’s a lot of second-guessing–at least there is for humans. Is there second-guessing on your part too? There’s sorrow. Mourning. Anger. Frustration. There’s pain. To think of the pain that you expose yourself to is incredible. I know the pain I’ve felt, and it must be insignificant compared to what you feel and on a much broader scale. What a mess life can be.

Father, going off of what I prayed yesterday and combining it with this prayer and scripture today, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2022 in Luke

 

Luke 2:36-38

36 Anna, a prophet, was also there in the Temple. She was the daughter of Phanuel from the tribe of Asher, and she was very old. Her husband died when they had been married only seven years. 37 Then she lived as a widow to the age of eighty-four. She never left the Temple but stayed there day and night, worshiping God with fasting and prayer. 38 She came along just as Simeon was talking with Mary and Joseph, and she began praising God. She talked about the child to everyone who had been waiting expectantly for God to rescue Jerusalem.

Luke 2:36-38

Dear God, I wonder how well Simeon and Anna new each other. And I wonder what Anna was like to be around. She is labeled by Luke as a prophet, but in this case, she is going off of Simeon’s recognition of Jesus as the Messiah. She was 84, so it’s not likely she lived much long after this day. The same for Simeon. That’s another thing about this story. We don’t have to physically see what you are doing. Your Spirit can tell us and that can be enough for us.

Finally, I wonder what it was like for the other people to hear what Anna said about Jesus. Did they recognize her authority as a prophet, or was she just the crazy lady who was always there? Did they respect her and come to meet the baby or did they pat her on the head and send her on her way? I would probably have discounted her and her experience. It reminds me of the shepherds back in Bethlehem going around and telling everyone what they saw. I wonder how those who heard the news responded.

Father, there is so much in my life that I don’t understand. The future is hazy to me. From family, to work, to community, I don’t understand what is happening or what, if anything, you are doing in any of the given areas. But I thank you. I worship you. I am confident in your goodness and I don’t need to physically see evidence of it to believe in it. But I do ask for your direction. I ask that you help me to step carefully, diligently, lovingly, and mercifully today, tomorrow, and for however much time you might have allotted to my life. Do it all for your glory, oh, my Lord.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 31, 2021 in Luke

 

Luke 2:25-35

At that time there was a man in Jerusalem named Simeon. He was righteous and devout and was eagerly waiting for the Messiah to come and rescue Israel. The Holy Spirit was upon him and had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. That day the Spirit led him to the Temple. So when Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus to the Lord as the law required, Simeon was there. He took the child in his arms and praised God, saying, “Sovereign Lord, now let your servant die in peace, as you have promised. I have seen your salvation, which you have prepared for all people. He is a light to reveal God to the nations, and he is the glory of your people Israel!” Jesus’ parents were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise. He has been sent as a sign from God, but many will oppose him. As a result, the deepest thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your very soul.”
Luke 2:25-35

Dear God, there was something about Simeon that he could see through his own preconceived notions of what the Messiah would be. He could hear your voice and use his particular insight to try to prepare Mary for the future. While Zechariah and even Mary herself were prophesying all of the great things you would do, Simeon tells Mary that many within Israel will fall. He says that many will oppose him. He says that the deepest thoughts (darkest secrets?) of hearts will be revealed. And most presciently, Mary’s soul will be pierced.

Of course, it is easy to see how he was right because we have the benefit of knowing the story. I was recently watching a “reaction video” on YouTube. A young man was watching Casablanca for the first time. One thing that occurred to me years ago is that we have the benefit of knowing history when we watch that movie. The Germans lose. Hitler dies. Our side wins. But this movie was filmed shortly after Pearl Harbor and released later that year in 1942–two years before D Day. Three years before V-E Day or V-J Day. They didn’t know how things were going to end. In fact, at that point, things didn’t look good for our side. When you layer that over the top of the telling of this story, it makes it that much more remarkable.

Going back to Simeon, I wonder how his own prophecy made him feel. I wonder if it surprised him. I’m sure it surprised Mary and Joseph. I’ve said before that I’m sure it would have shocked Zechariah and Mary to know how John the Baptist’s and Jesus’s lives met with murder at the hands of Herod and the Jewish people, respectively. I’m sure Mary didn’t expect Jesus to need to be resurrected in the first place. So did Simeon see Mary, Joseph, and Jesus, feel moved, and then just start prophesying things he’d never thought before? How did he feel about this prophecy? As he sat and watched people in the Temple every day, did it surprisingly make a lot of sense to him?

Father, I guess the point of all of this is that the only way I can really see what is going on is if I listen to your voice. I cannot reason my way to the right conclusions. I cannot understand what you are doing in this life or that one. I don’t even understand what you’re doing in my life. But you are working. I trust that you are working. Thank you for doing so much more than I can see.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on December 29, 2021 in Luke

 

Luke 19:41-44

41 As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it 42 and said, “If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes. 43 The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. 44 They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God’s coming to you.”

Luke 19:41-44

Dear God, it’s interesting that Jesus wasn’t pitying Jerusalem because of any great sin. He wasn’t pitying them for debauchery or anything like that. He was pitying them because they didn’t recognize you when he came. And who was it who didn’t recognize him? Was it the godless? No, it was the religious leaders.

I’m going to a ministerial association meeting later this morning. There are some really good people in there. And I don’t want to cast any stones because I am chief among sinners. What does concern me, however, are the leaders who have mixed political concerns (not even power, but just anger over the decisions politicians are making) with theology. It feels like we are just getting all of this mixed up when Jesus didn’t seem to care at all about what Rome was up to. Unfair taxes? Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. Cruel executions through crucifixion? Crucify me too. Centurions who are slave owners? Help them out and heal their slave. And those are just the examples off of the top of my head.

However, there was plenty of venom in Jesus for the religious leaders, and the foremost sin that seemed to disgust him was hypocrisy. Do what I say and not what I do. Love others while I ignore others. Live up to the letter of the law while I disobey the spirit of the law. The fact that they judged others so harshly really, really bothered him.

I’ll admit that it is hard for me to know where to draw the line. I mentioned a couple of days ago a conversation I recently had with a man. He is a good man who is trying to be moral, but he has a venom towards Christianity. But I don’t think it is the Christianity that is about Jesus. I don’t think he is talking about being angry with Jesus. I think, when it comes down to it, he is probably as angry with the church as Jesus was. I wonder how angry you are with the American Christian church now. If you were dictating Revelation to John today, what would you have to say about the church in America?

Father, I admit that I get too easily distracted from really worshiping you by other things. Frankly, the fall can be hard for me because, for whatever reason, I really enjoy college football, and it can really take a lot of my time and energy. But I want to be found faithful. I want you to live through me. I want to be in relationship with you and worship you. I want you to be my God. Thank you for loving me so much.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on November 20, 2021 in Luke

 

Luke 12:49-52

“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three.”

Luke 12:49-52

Dear God, it’s funny how one can read this passage 2,000 years later and be like the disciples at the last supper when he predicts Judas’s betrayal: “Surely it isn’t I, Lord.” But I’m not exempt from this either. Division from children, parents, siblings, in-laws, etc.

I’ll admit that I don’t understand this passage and that Jesus’s words are confusing here. I saw a mock trial at a church one time where they were sentencing Jesus as a capital punishment candidate because he was dangerous to society. Before the mock trial he had already been found guilty. The question for the audience as the jury is whether or not he deserved to die because he was that dangerous. The mock prosecutor used passages like this to show that Jesus did deserve to die. I have to hand it to the writers like Luke here. They didn’t whitewash the more challenging things Jesus said.

Of course, Jesus had experienced this within his own earthly family. His brothers and even Mary had gotten crossways with him. And he also knew that Satan would attack us through disunity and our weaknesses. He would use the sin and insecurities and addictions in our lives to drive us apart. Then there is the thorn in his flesh to which Paul refers in 2 Corinthians 12. I suppose that if my life were exactly idyllic then I would have the gift of pain I talked about last week to mold me. Like a leper, the lack of pain would cause my life and soul to wither.

Father, I don’t know where all of this is going or how it all works out. Lead me to a peace that passes understanding. And keep me humble and willing to examine my heart with the help of the Holy Spirit and repent when necessary.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 21, 2021 in Luke

 

Like 12:42

And the Lord replied, “A faithful, sensible servant is one to whom the master can give the responsibility of managing his other household servants and feeding them.”
Luke 12:42

Dear God, I guess my simple prayer would be that you find me faithful. Find me faithful as I husband my wife. Find me faithful as I strive to love my adult children and offer them whatever it is you need them to have from me. Find me faithful in my relationships with family and friends. Find me faithful in serving you in my community and world. And I regret not listing this first because it should have been first: Find me faithful in worshipping you and growing in you. It is only through my relationship with you that I stand a chance at being faithful in these other areas of life.

So why didn’t I go to you first in that list above? What is it about me that first sees my earthly duties instead of looking at the source from which all of my life comes? As I sit here and think about it, I am reminded of a table from Ruby Payne describing different economic classes and how they view acceptance. In poverty, it’s about being liked and being fun. In wealth it’s about maintaining your connections and relationships. But in middle class, it’s about performance and achievement. I think I tend to live out of that performance and achievement model. I want to perform for you. When I think about you coming back and finding me faithful, I think about it in terms of my achievements and my work. I think what I should really be thinking about is whether or not you will find me in right relationship with you.

Father, I appreciate the responsibilities with which you have entrusted me, but I know I cannot do it without the Holy Spirit guiding me through every step. And if I am going to hear the Holy Spirit’s still, small voice then I must submit to you completely. Help me to be all yours. Help me to worship you well. Do it all for your glory through my life.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 20, 2021 in Luke

 

Luke 12:1

Meanwhile, the crowds grew until thousands were milling about and stepping on each other. Jesus turned first to his disciples and warned them, “Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees—their hypocrisy.
Luke 12:1

Dear God, hypocrisy is such a fascinating thing. But let me start with yeast. Jesus uses yeast as his metaphor here. If he had been speaking to us today, I wonder if a more meaningful metaphor to us would be cancer. Beware of the cancer of the Pharisees. Cancer destroys while it grows unchecked. Jesus saw the disconnect between the Pharisees’ words and theology and their actions and actual lives as something that would spread like yeast through dough or cancer through the body.

How many times have I heard people say they don’t go to church anymore because of the hypocrites there? Never mind that, to some extent, we are all hypocrites—even the person complaining. But there are different levels, I suppose. I worked once for a CEO who was a level 9 hypocrite. What I mean by that is he was a completely different person at church than anywhere else. Surprisingly, he would hire people from church (I would have thought he would want to keep his duplicity on the down low) and they would be shocked at the difference between the man for whom they worked and the man with whom they worshipped. Mean, stealing and immoral by week, and talking a good game on Sunday. And I don’t think he recognized his hypocrisy.

So is there anything I can learn from him? Giving him the benefit of the doubt that he couldn’t see his hypocrisy or that it didn’t bother him, what can I do differently to help me see my own?

Of course, it starts with working with the Holy Spirit to inventory my own sins and repenting of them—on a regular basis. Not just saying, “God, forgive me,” but really repenting and turning from my sin. And then turning again when I do the inventory and realize I’ve done it again. Eventually, I will see myself doing it in real time, and then I will eventually stop doing it in real time.

The next step moves into getting closer and close to you so that more and more of my sin is revealed to me. I’m sure I’ve done three things today (at least) that were sins that I don’t even realize, and it’s not even 8:00 a.m. I’ve become aware of things over time. prejudices. Errant beliefs. Selfishness. Judging of others. It’s all there. It’s not just the obvious things in the 10 Commandments like lying and murder, but also the subtle things like making idols to replace you, not observing the Sabbath and coveting what others have.

Father, purify my heart. Make it right before you, and create a pure spirit within me. Let your Holy Spirit move throughout my entire being so that I might see what you need me to see, repent of my mistakes and hypocrisies, and worship you and you alone. And do it all for your glory. So that my life might be used by you for your purposes.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2021 in Luke

 

Luke 11:37-41

As Jesus was speaking, one of the Pharisees invited him home for a meal. So he went in and took his place at the table. His host was amazed to see that he sat down to eat without first performing the hand-washing ceremony required by Jewish custom. Then the Lord said to him, “You Pharisees are so careful to clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside you are filthy—full of greed and wickedness! Fools! Didn’t God make the inside as well as the outside? So clean the inside by giving gifts to the poor, and you will be clean all over.
Luke 11:37-41

Dear God, this was a pretty audacious thing to say inside a Pharisee’s home and to his face. It almost makes me wonder of Jesus accepted the invitation in the first place so he could challenge this man.

When read in context, this entire chapter shows Jesus being very confrontational with everyone. With the crowd. With the Pharisees and other teachers of the law. No one is spared from rebuke. And I would love to sit here and think about how he might rebuke different churches for their different rules and legalistic theologies today, but it’s probably better if I deal with the log in my own eye as opposed to the speck in anyone else’s.

I talked about this last night, but the truth is I’m still pretty guarded in how I expose myself to others and their needs. It makes me think of an old Steve Camp song called “Living Dangerously in the Hands of God.” I used to listen to that song a lot, but I suppose it is one of those songs that’s easier to sing bravely than live out in actuality.

Father, show me what it looks like to live dangerously today. Holy Spirit, guide me and counsel me. Do it all for your glory and so that your kingdom will come and your will might be done on earth as it is in heaven.

In Jesus’s name I pray,

Amen

 
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Posted by on October 12, 2021 in Luke