Archive for November, 2014

Luke 5:12-16 — Leprosy, or any skin disease, was the AIDS of its day. Although we have made great strides in the treatment of AIDS and the social reaction to it, when AIDS first hit the scene, it was a segregator. It had social stigma. It separated people because we did not know enough about it to know what it was and how it spread. Both would segregate you from society. Leprosy would force you to live in a leper colony and you no longer had a normal life. AIDS was that way back in the 80’s. Even as late as the 1800’s, leprosy would cause you to be segregated from society. It did not matter that you were once a family man, a respected person in society. The disease, your outer appearance ended the life you once knew. It was indeed a death sentence. Forced to live in leper colonies, they could no longer be in contact with non-lepers. They, as a result, could no longer work normal jobs. Food and clothing were only available through theft or the generosity. No way to earn money on conduct commerce. You slowly died from starvation and the filth of leper colonies. It was awful. You were a dead man before you physically died.

It is against this backdrop that we find Jesus and the leper. This situation teaches us two things. The first thing is that Jesus did not care about the social stigma. He did not care about being seen with a leper. Imagine this man walking into the presence of the crowd. They all scatter like roaches when you turn a light on shouting, “unclean” as they go. Jesus welcomed him into his physical presence. Everyone else had deserted to a safe distance. This scene shows us about Jesus’ compassion for us. Jesus does not care if you have physical warts or spiritual ones. He doesn’t care if society thinks that you are ugly or whether society thinks you are beautiful. He does not care if society thinks you are an oddball weirdo. He does not care if you have some terminal disease that segregates you from society. He only cares about your soul. He does not care about your outward appearances. He does not care about your labels that have been placed on you by society. Jesus loves you. He came to this earth to be your Savior. He came to earth to reconcile you to God. He came to show you that you have great value in God’s eyes. So much so, He sent His Son so that whosoever would believe in Him would have everlasting life with the Father in heaven. No matter what society says about you, Jesus is standing right there in front of you accepting you, willing to touch you and make you part of His family, the eternal family of God, the family that really matters. Are you ready to run to the only one who will accept you no matter your appearance, no matter what you have done? In Him, we have hope. Through His disciples in His church (the churches that really get it), you will find acceptance. We are all lepers covered with sin sores. In Jesus, we are all made clean, white as snow. Take His hand. Come into fellowship with Jesus and his ragtag band of believers!

The second thing that we notice here is that there is desperation in this man. How desperate are you to change your life? Are you at your rock bottom? Are you desperate enough to ask Jesus to take over. This man knew all the social stigma of leprosy. He knew there was no cure. He hated hearing “unclean” every time he came out in public and watching people scurrying away from him. He was tired of scavenging for food in the waste piles outside town. He was tired of living in a cave outside town with other lepers just as miserable as he was. He did not want this life anymore. His life was in shambles. The good life that he once knew was a distant memory and it was a life that he would never know again. Can you identify with this man? Has your life taken a detour from which it seems that you will never recover? Do you know his desperation? He had heard about this Jesus guy probably from hearing people talking about Him from a distance. He heard about the miracle at the synagogue where Jesus expelled a demon. He had heard about the many people that Jesus healed while hanging out at that fisherman Peter’s house. He had heard about the crowds that were gathering around Jesus every day. He was so sick and tired of the rock bottom that his life had become. He was at the end of his rope. Life as he used to know it with family, friends, joy, happiness, celebrating at the synagogue, just being part of life were all distant memories. He was desperate. He said to himself. This Jesus guy can heal me. But he had been so humbled by his experience that he approaches Jesus in humility and says, “Lord, if you will…” He did not demand healing from Jesus. He asked Jesus in all humility, “if you will…” Are you this desperate? Only if you will Lord, only if you will. I have accepted that my life is in shambles but I am so desperate to escape that I come to you in all humility. I cannot change my life. I have accepted that I have made a mess of it. I only ask you to heal me if you will. I recognize that you are Lord and you have the power to do so, but only if you will have mercy on me. I know that I do not deserve it but only if you will Lord. Are you there? Are you willing to lay yourself at the feet of Jesus and ask him to heal you realizing that He does not have to.

Funny thing is that when we come to him in true humility and realize that He is Lord, that He is the only option, that He only can change the trajectory of our lives, He says, “I will”. Jesus will. He waits for you to recognize that He is the only way out. He waits for you to come to Him and say that He is Lord. He wants to heal you. He wants to fill you up with new life. He wants to make you whole again…in Him. He will. He will make you clean. He will remove your sin sores. He will make you pure and clean again. He has taken on your sins so that you can be in the presence of God forever. He is our one true hope. Go to Him. He will!!!

Luke 5:1-11 — I caught a fish and it was thiiiis big! Ultimate fishing stories. We’ve all heard them. Maybe, we even have one of our own that we have told. I have an ultimate fishing story for you today. It involves Jesus calling his first disciples. These fish changed the world. The way that Peter becomes a disciple is symbolic of how each of us come to Christ.

The first thing we know about Peter and Jesus is that there is already an existing relationship there. Jesus apparently already knew Peter well enough for Peter to his home for the Sabbath meal. Remember, when we were young, Sunday dinner after church was a big deal. If you invited one of the neighbor kids to Sunday dinner, it meant that they were one of your inner circle. Sunday dinners were a big deal in the South back in the day – family time usually extended family. I imagine it was similar in first century Jewish society. To invite someone to your Sabbath meal meant that they were someone special in your life. Jesus and Peter had knowledge of each other already. Isn’t this true of many of us when begin our journey to Christ. We have someone who is a Christ follower who has befriended us and through God’s providence they become important people in our lives rather quickly. We admire them for their integrity. We admire them for the way everything they say makes sense. We admire them for their wisdom. That is the Holy Spirit working behind the scenes to draw us closer and closer to Christ. Jesus invested in Peter. Jesus saw something special in Peter. Just as those who have influenced us toward Christ saw something in us. They saw a lost heart. They saw someone who was really trying. They saw someone who could use a Savior. Today, we thank God for the fishers of men who came into our lives just at the moment when the moment was right.

The second thing we notice here is Jesus takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. Jesus took the ordinary day to day task of fishing and made it extraordinary. Everyone knows that night time is often the best time to go fishing, but Jesus uses the morning dead of fishing to demonstrate his authority and power. He creates a miracle of fish. There is no other explanation for this. By laws of physics and the nature of this particular lake, Peter knew that there was no logical way that they should cash anymore fish. But Jesus takes the ordinary and makes it extraordinary. In fact, it was so extraordinary that the amount of fish almost sunk two boats. Isn’t this always the way when we come to Christ? There are things that happen to us that make us face the question of where we stand before Christ. Jesus pursues us in this way. He takes ordinary events in life to force us to deal with Him. Sometimes, it is a job loss. Sometimes, it is a failing or failed marriage or long-term relationship. Sometimes, it’s medical diagnosis. Sometimes, it’s not negative. Sometimes, it is something good happening for which there is no other explanation than it was a God thing. Jesus finds ways to get our attention through the ordinary events of life combined with a heart that is searching for answers. Peter’s encounter of this sort was the fish stories of all fish stories. There was no other explanation here than a plain out miracle. Paul knew Jesus as a man, now he knew Him as something more, the living breathing Son of God. Is God trying to get your attention today? When He does finally get your attention, He will do extraordinary things in you, an ordinary man or woman!

The final thing that I noticed here is that when Jesus does get our attention in the ways that only He can. We realize who we are. Peter says, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, Oh Lord!” There is a realization that we all come to right before salvation is that when we stand before God, we are hopelessly sinners. We fall on our knees before our Savior and beg Him to forgive us for our many and myriad sins. This is the most precious moment of our lives is when we realize that we are in the presence of God and we see our sin-filled nature. We see that we deserve to be sent straight to hell. We realize that we are not the perfect person that we betray ourselves to be. We see that it is not about doing more good than bad. A single sin stains us in the presence of God. We will be consumed by that one simple sin. Our problem is that we don’t just commit one sin. We commit many, many sins. Daily. Every day. We are mired in sin. We are stuck with sin’s consequence. At the moment of salvation, we take our blinders off and take our masks off and we see ourselves for who we really are. Peter saw it immediately when his blinders were taken off. The miracle took his blinders off and He stood there a sin-stained man in the presence of God in the flesh. We all become conscience of our sins when we quit lying to ourselves. What does Jesus do? He does not reject Peter because he admitted his sins. He already knew that. He says do not be afraid. Come with me and from now on you will be catching men. It is that moment that we realize Jesus is Lord and all our pretenses are laid aside that Jesus welcomes us into His arms. It is then that He can begin to use for His purposes. What a glorious day that day is! When we realize that we are not our own god. When we realize that we are ugly, nasty sinners. When we see ourselves for who we really are. When we realize that we need intervention. When we realize that we deserve hell for eternity for each and every sin that we have committed. When we realize that there is only one answer. Jesus Christ. When we realize that it is not just some theological treatise but something real to me personally. Jesus died for me. Jesus’ death on the cross covers me. Jesus looks you square in the eye and for the first time you really see Him. He says to you, “Do not be afraid! Come to me and I will make you a fisher of men.” Jesus says to us that our past doesn’t matter. He says now that you really, really see me, it is time for your real life to begin. The one that I intended for you. He says now…go back to the first point in this devotional and repeat the process of the centuries. One saved soul investing in a lost soul and leading them to Christ. Amen.

Luke 4:42-44 — CLEMSON CAROLINA GAME THIS SATURDAY! Now that I have your attention….This passage is about priorities. The worst thing that can happen to us in life is realize at our deathbed that we had wasted time, that we had not made use of the time that we had on this earth. It reminds us that we need to get our priorities straight.

In this week of the Clemson-Carolina rivalry game, this passage is a great reminder that we must keep things in the right perspective. I will tell you I am a passionate fan of the Clemson Tigers. My mood on Saturdays is affected by whether my Tigers win or lose. But we must remember to keep it in perspective. It’s just a game. At the end of the day, it is not the most important thing that will happen Saturday. For me, this year, God is teaching me just that, two of my dearest friends in the world watched their mother (and mother in law) pass into eternity on Wednesday evening. The funeral is on Saturday at 2pm, right in the middle of the Clemson-Carolina game. However, to me, there is no question that I am going to miss the game to be at this funeral of the mother/mother-in-law of two of the original charter members of my life group. They are more dear to me than Clemson football. These two people deserve my respect. They have served their mother who has been bedridden for two years. They have been there with almost round the clock these past two years. Outside of church, CR, work, and their son, their mother has been their vigil. I will not disrespect them over what ultimately is just a game. Clemson-Carolina does not feed people. Clemson-Carolina does not solve social injustice. Clemson-Carolina does not end sex slave trafficking in India. Clemson-Carolina does not solve immigration issues. It changes nothing. To make the game a priority in my life is just wrong when it is compared to the suffering and pain at losing a loved one and the end of a long road of suffering for their mother. Being there when friends need you matters. Honoring commitments matter. Setting an example matters. Setting an example to my wife and girls what my priorities are and should be are what matters. Fighting the fights that need fighting in life are what matters. We fight for things that matter in life not wasting time on things that don’t. Don’t get me wrong, I love my Tigers, but their priority in my life must, must be kept in proper perspective. My priorities in life should start with things of eternal value and go down in priority from there.

This idea is of priorities is exactly what this passage is about. Jesus had his priorities and he executed them in exactly the order that His priorities were throughout His ministry. The first thing that we notice in this passage is that Jesus departed from Peter’s house and went to a desolate place. This shows us the number one priority of Jesus in His function as the Son of God on earth. His first and foremost priority was not healing. It was not preaching. His first and foremost priority was his relationship with the Father. Jesus was constantly sneaking off to be alone with the Father in prayer. We see it throughout His ministry. We see it right up to the last minute of freedom in His life before He was arrested by the temple guards. Jesus constantly in prayer. Jesus was always seeking to do the Father’s will for Him. This should be our priority. Seeking things of eternal value. Seeking God’s will for our lives. Having a deep abiding relationship with the Father should be our top priority. When we are like David, after God’s own heart, we begin to focus on things that really matter. We begin to seek to do things that are in the Father’s will. Clemson-Carolina gets put in its proper place – entertainment. Having a proper relationship with God the Father is, should be, and always will be the most important priority in our lives. If we do not get that one thing right, everything else falls part. Think about it. Our lives were a mess before we met Jesus Christ. When we are not seeking God’s will for our lives first and foremost, everything else is all out of what. When we do not put God first, everything is a deck of cards that falls apart at the slightest breeze. Jesus had his priorities straight. So should we.

The second priority of Jesus’ life AFTER His relationship with the Father was preaching the Good News. He said I MUST preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well for I was sent for this purpose. Jesus was sent to preach and teach and instruct people on the kingdom of God and about how seeking the Father’s will is what our life is supposed to be about. He came to tell us that ritual and legalism are not the way to the Father. He came to preach to the world that it was through Him that we have eternal life. Shouldn’t this be our priority as well? Shouldn’t our first priority be to share what God has done in our lives through Jesus Christ with others. Jesus came to proclaim to the world what it takes to enter the Kingdom. It is not Carolina-Clemson. I know that in the South, college football is like religion. Many people make it the most important thing in life. They end friendships over some disrespect that a fan of a rival school may have made to your school. We get fired up over this stuff at times. We sit and yell and scream to the top of our lungs for our favorite college team. We get to the point of wanting to fight others over our favorite college team. We don’t speak to family members for years over some disrespect they have shown to Clemson or Carolina. What if we had these same passions over eternal things? What if we expressed our praise in church in the same fashion as we do at Clemson or Carolina games? What if we invested in identifying ourselves as Christians as much as we spend on Clemson or Carolina attire? What if we shared the gospel with the same fashion as we have for Clemson or Carolina? Sharing the Good News was what Jesus said He MUST do. Other things in life are preferences. Sharing the gospel is a priority. It is a must do. May we have Clemson-Carolina passion for that! May we have Clemson-Carolina passion for seeing life change in others by telling them about what Jesus did in ours! Jesus had an intense laser focus on His ministry. He was solely focused on teaching people about what God expects of us, about how God loves each and every one of us, about how He was sent by the Father to make us right with God. Nothing was to deter Him from that. Everything else was secondary. If his was Jesus’ second priority, don’t you think it should be ours too?

Clemson-Carolina or being there for friends when they are in need, honoring a friendship, standing up for things that matter. Jesus had His priorities straight. Relationship with the Father in Heaven was His first priority. That should be our first priority too. Sharing the gospel with others, that was Jesus second priority. That should be our second priority too. Things of eternal value were of top priority to Jesus. Certainly, I am not downplaying sports and those who excel at them. I tell people kiddingly that football is life. Football teaches us many valuable, eternal lessons in life when participate in it. There are values that I learned playing football that are of great value to me today. These lessons though are not about temporary wins and losses. The lessons that I carry with me from football are the eternal ones. Being part of a team working toward a greater goal, understanding my role in achieving that greater team goal, picking yourself up from utter defeat and moving on, realizing that we are not all talented in the same way and being ok with that, developing relationships that last, forgiving others for their failures, having them forgive me for mine, and for fans it teaches us about loyalty through thick and thin and not abandoning ship when things get tough. All of these things have eternal value. Even if we are football players we can honor God by the way we play the game. As fans, we can take this loyalty thing into our lives and use it like in our marriages – being loyal through thick and thin even when times are hard and so on. We must though realize that regardless of what the game teaches us, the game is game meant to entertain. It is not religion. It is not reason to end relationships. It is not reason to fight with your neighbor. It is not reason to humiliate. The game itself though teaching eternal lessons to participants and fans alike has no eternal value. That prior to the current streak of five wins by Carolina, Clemson won 24 of 32 in the 32 years prior matters not in eternity. What matters in eternity is our relationship with our Father in Heaven through Jesus Christ. What matters in eternity is sharing the gospel with others. What matters in eternity is my soul, your soul and the souls of others. When we arrive in heaven, there will be Clemson and Carolina fans there from the centuries. It will matter not to us then, we will just be glad to be in heaven together, celebrating our Savior all the day long. This is what I want the story of my life to be. I want it to be said I was a Christian first. I want it to be said that I was a good husband. I want it to be said that I was good father. I want it to said that I was a good friend. Then way down the line after that, low on the scale, that I was a Clemson fan. I want it to be said that I had my priorities straight. That is one of the reasons that I will gladly be sitting a memorial service on Saturday afternoon right during the Clemson-Carolina game. Jesus set the example of having our eternal priorities first. Everything else is secondary.

Luke 4:38-41 — There are three things that come to mind when we read this passage. Those three things are relationships, restoration, and rebuke. All three of these things together combine to demonstrate the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, The Son of God, The Messiah, The Christ, The Anointed One.

The first thing that you have to notice here is that Jesus went to the home of Peter. It makes me suppose that there was a relationship there. Certainly, Jesus and Peter were not as close as they would become later but the relationship between them has already begun. Jesus and Peter were of enough of aquaintance with one another that Peter invited Him to his house for the Sabbath meal. This makes my love my Savior even more. He was not some aloof man. I can see Him and Peter hanging out and talking. I can see my Savior laughing. I can see Him having a great sense of humor. I can see Jesus and Peter sitting in the courtyard after a good meal and just having conversation. Jesus was about relationships. He did not touch every person living on the earth at the time when He was here on earth. He touched only a very few people. However, He chose twelve guys in whom He would invest deeply and it was those twelve who changed the world because they had intimate, deep relationships with Jesus Christ. Jesus wants deep, abiding relationships with you and me. He is personal. He already knows everything about you so you have a home with Him. You already have a place at the table with Him. Jesus wants you to talk to Him. He wants to hang out with you. He wants to be all up in your business. Jesus is about relationship.

The second thing that I see is that Peter’s mom who was healed by Him immediately began serving Him. She was completely healed from the high fever she had. Jesus met her need. In meeting her need, she became so overjoyed at her healing that she began serving her Lord. It reminds me that Jesus here models what we should be doing each day. We should be meeting a need in others. There is an old saying that it hard to share the gospel with a man who has an empty stomach. We must meet needs of the people around us before we can share the gospel with them. A homeless family needs a home. A hungry man needs a meal. We meet needs in love just like Jesus did. We share the gospel when we have loved people first. Jesus met Peter’s mother in law’s need. Jesus was not just a good teacher of spiritual truths, but also sought to alleviate pain and suffering in the people around Him. And He wasn’t concerned only with those who were closest to Him, but for all people who came with their needs. She was healed by Him. She was completely healed. She didn’t need recuperation time. She was completely healed. She knew that it was only because of Jesus. She was so overjoyed at her healing that she immediately began serving. This is so emblematic of the way we are after Jesus us heals us of our sin. We come to the realization that we are eternally and hopelessly sick in sin. We know we are permanently separated from God. But along comes the Miracle Man. He heals us. We are overjoyed. We cannot help but serve. We cannot help but love on others. We cannot help but show the same love that we have been given. Jesus has personally healed us. He has changed us. We can’t help but spill out to others. Jesus is about healing. Jesus is about meeting our needs. Jesus is about taking away that which prevents us from worshiping God. Let’s be Jesus to the world around us. Meeting needs. Loving. Sharing. Removing those things that keep people from having relationships with Jesus.

In the second half of this passage, we see the authority of our Savior. He is God in the flesh. He commands demons to leave and they leave. They recognize who He is. Even demons recognize Him as the Holy One. They know that they are subject to Him. This is my Savior. It is kind of like being a little kid brother with a big brother much older. The little brother gets himself in a jam and is about to get pummeled until His big brother shows up and little brother’s tormenters scatter like roaches when you turn the light on. That’s my Jesus. He is bigger and badder than any demon. That’s my Jesus. He is bigger and badder than any problem I have. He has the entire universe subject to Him. Through Him, the universe was created. Jesus is in authority. There is nothing that Jesus cannot do. He is God. He is my Savior. With Him in my life, there is nothing that I am afraid of. I can take on anything that happens in my life with Him in it. There is no problem in this fallen world that I cannot overcome through Jesus. He is there with me. He is bigger than any problem that I have. I love Him. He is my Savior. I serve Him. I proclaim His name. It through Him that I am made right with God. I serve Him because I love Him. I proclaim His Name because He is great. He meets every need that I have. He is personal to me. He is the ultimate authority. He is my Jesus.

Luke 4:31-37 — This passage reminds us that there is no power greater than God. There are a couple of things to notice here. First, Jesus spoke with authority. Second, we are helpless against Satan on our own. Finally, even demons recognize the power of Jesus Christ.

Throughout the gospels, we see that people were amazed at the the authority with which Jesus spoke. Jesus required no biblical citations when He spoke. He required no research material citations to support what He said. He spoke with authority. He spoke with authority because He and the Father are one. God inspired holy men to write Scripture. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, all Scripture was given life through His breath. God created the universe in which we live, thus, He has all knowledge. Jesus in his trinitarian function of the Son is God in the flesh. Jesus had all knowledge and all power. He chose to set His glory aside to walk among us in the flesh. That made Him no less God. Therefore, His speaking with authority is not unexpected. Luke emphasizes this fact often. Jesus spoke with authority, he says. People were amazed. He did not say, “Rabbi X said this” or “Scholar X said this”. Jesus needed no citations. He is the Lord. He was direct and clear. He was the ultimate expert on truth and life. In fact, that’s one of the things that still bothers people about Jesus – – – he was so straightforward and unambiguous. He said that he is the only way to God; outside of Jesus there is no forgiveness of sin or eternal life. The authority that amazed people then still amazes us today. Luke is stressing to His readers that there is a reason for that. Jesus was God in the flesh. He needed no support of others. He, the Father, and the Holy Spirit are self-sufficient in the Holy Trinity. God has always existed and existed before creation. Everything was created through Jesus. His authority is complete. Why do we not recognize this fact? Why do we try to make ourselves god and not submit to the only and one Creator God whom we know through Jesus Christ?

The second thing that we notice here is that we are helpless against Satan on our own. We can be possessed by evil so easily. It doesn’t have to be physical possession by an actual demonic spirit but we are so easily manipulated by Satan. Since Adam, we are born with a sin nature and we are manipulated by Satan based on this sin nature. We cannot make it through life without giving into Him on a daily basis. He plays on our self-centered nature. We have a nature of looking out for number one and we often don’t care who we hurt in the process. Satan loves destruction, disarray and discord. Some very bad things happen to very good people just because we live in a world that has been messed up by sin. There are bad things that have no direct demonic involvement that we can see or identify. Besides, we are more than capable of sinning on our own. However, there is an invisible spiritual battle raging around us that seriously impacts our lives. Demons do exist according to Scripture. Have you ever been in a situation where you felt the presence of evil and it gave you chills and made you want to get out of there as fast as you could. There are evil spirits. They exist just as surely as there are angels. Physical demonic possession does occur on occasion. There are evil things that people do that can be explained no other way. People that seem to have no soul that do things that are just pure evil. They are under the influence of demons. We are helpless in the absence of Jesus through the Holy Spirit. Even if we are not physically possessed by demons, or simply oppressed by them, we are easily influenced by Satan. We believe his lies. We are susceptible to his lies. We have a sin nature that makes it possible. We need the One with authority. We need Jesus.

The final thing to notice here is even the demons know Jesus Christ as the Son of God. They know that they have no authority greater than Jesus and are afraid of Him. They call Him the Holy One of God. They were afraid of Him. Isn’t funny that the movies try to make us believe that demons and/or Satan himself are as powerful as God. In the movies, they can read our minds when in reality they cannot. In the movies, they can overpower good. It is reality that demons and Satan are no match for Jesus. They recognize that He is God. They are created being and He is not. They recognize that it was He that cast Satan out of heaven. They recognize that He is the Holy One. They recognize that He has power of them. They recognize that they are no match when we call on the name of Jesus. That doesn’t sell movie tickets. But, that is the reality. All things created are subject to Jesus. Even the demons recognize His holy Authority. Why is it that we are so willing to believe in the power of evil and believe that it is unparalled or at least equal to the power of Jesus Christ. It is just not true. We so easily believe the flashy displays of evil in the movies but we cannot believe the miracles of God that happen daily around us. Here, in this passage and in others where demons meet Jesus, they bow down to Him and leave on His command. Can we not remember that the next time, we feel defeated and oppressed? Jesus is greater than any problem, any situation that we have. He is the Creator! Nothing, include the demons, is greater than He. The demons believe He is the Son of God with all power and authority — why do we have such a hard time truly believing that Jesus is greater than anything that we face? Even the demons have no issue with that! Why should we? Believe that Jesus is the one and only. Believe that He has the power over sin and evil. Believe He is who He says He is. Amen.

Luke 4:14-30 — It is a bit ironic that as we approach the family gatherings of this week that Jesus returns home to Nazareth after being gone for a while. He had begun his ministry and had done miracles already and he, now, was returning home. His return was nice at first but turned sour. It is similar to what many of us will experience this coming long weekend. Jesus’ many rejections began in his hometown.

Jesus spoke of the fact that He was the fulfillment of Scripture’s prediction of the Messiah and He was rejected for it. It is so common in our life experience that our families or the people who know us best are the most critical of our life change. They knew us when. Jesus proclaimed Scripture and amazed them with His understanding of it. But, when He applied it to Himself, they could not believe what they were hearing. They ultimately rejected Him because He was proclaiming to be the Messiah. They were willing to listen to Him at first. He was a local boy done good. They had been hearing of his deeds in other parts of Galilee. But when He said He was the Messiah but yet they were going to receive no special favors from Him they turned on Him.

Have you ever experienced rejection from those that know you best when you received Christ as your Savior. Jesus was sinless and was rejected. Imagine the incredulity of the people that know us best when we have radical life change in Christ. Jesus understands what you are going through. The people that had know Him for 30 years rejected Him because He was speaking boldly about Him being the Messiah. When we accept Christ as our Savior, there are those who are going to scoff at us. They remember all the things we used to do when we were younger. Some of the rabble-rousing stuff we used to is all they remember. The arrogant self centered stuff we used to do. The stupid decisions that we used to make. They remember all that stuff but why is it that they cannot believe life change? Many times, can you blame them? Many of us have sordid histories of stupid mistakes, poor choices, and flagrant disregard for the feelings of others, for our own good, and for our own safety. It is only by the grace of God that many of us are still alive to tell of our past misdeeds.

As you go home again this Thanksgiving as a changed person living a new life in Christ, be prepared for rejection of your new lifestyle. Your family may not believe your life change. They knew you from way back when. They know of the trouble that you caused your parents. They may see your promise of life change as just the latest way that you are going to deceive them. The Nazarenes simply saw Jesus as a carpenter’s son. He was, to them, and untrained reader of the Scriptures not the inspiration of all Scripture. He was a poor boy from a poor family. To them, there was no way He could be the promised Messiah. Jesus was just a carpenter’s boy. Your life change may be questionable to your family. Your life change may be even more questionable to your old friends. They are not going to believe it and may call you a holy roller now. They remember when you were that party boy who didn’t care about anything but himself. We must remember that sinless perfect Jesus was rejected in His hometown. Because of the religious core of Jewish society, for Him to claim that He was Messiah was revolutionary. It was blasphemous. It struck at the very core of their beliefs. They longed for the Messiah but yet they would not believe Him when He stood in front of them. And that was Jesus my friends. Think of how much less grace our families and old friends have for an imperfect person such as ourselves.

What did Jesus do? When they rejected Him and always through Him over the cliff, He depended on His Father’s protection and just walked away. We cannot make people believe our life change and we cannot force them to do so. We can’t get angry. Yes, we have a past and we should never try to outrun it. It is part of our story. If we admit our past and not downplay it, we can then speak boldly of just how miraculous that salvation is. There were many who rejected Jesus and never came around to believing in Him. There will be those that will never believe that your life can be change so radically from the direction it was heading. You will never be able to convince those that are hard-hearted toward you. All you can do is just walk away. Let you new life speak for itself. Let you walk do your talking. As we go home again this week, give your family the same grace that Jesus gave us. It is not your job to convince them this weekend. Let your life change speak volumes going forward. Jesus is a life changer. We should live our lives in thanksgiving toward Him and simply love our families through their unbelief in our life change. Sometimes you will just have to walk away and let your walk do your talking. Maybe one day your family will accept your life change. Maybe they don’t. But just maybe your life change in Jesus Christ will radically change your whole family. You may have to walk away this weekend. But maybe your commitment to Christ over the coming years leads others to question their position with Christ and come to Him because of your consistency. Keep on keeping on. You are not rejected in Christ. You are accepted in your new family – the family of believers. Amen.

Luke 4:1-13 — The Temptation of Jesus. This of course is one of the most famous passages in the Bible. Jesus was tempted by Satan just as Satan tempts each one of us. He tempts us to seek self-satisfaction. He tempts us to compromise our principles. Finally, he tempts us to seek the easy, most popular way out. Jesus never waivered and used Scripture to combat Satan.

This is one thing that our Wednesday life group peeps have been talking about a great deal lately. Each of has something going on in our lives that is Satan attacking us and it is often where we are weakest in our walk. Jesus knows what we are going through as Satan tried to take Him down too.

First, we see that Jesus fasted for 40 days before He began His earthly ministry. Certainly fasting is an admirable way to grow closer to God and Jesus in His humanity needed to have this forty days of fasting and prayer. In His divinity, He always sought to be close with the Father so He communed with the Father for 40 days in preparation for the intense 3 years ahead. But, for sure, coming out of the 40 days, Jesus was just like anyone of us. He was probably really, really, really, really, hungry. Satan attacks at this week spot – self satisfaction. As hungry as any human would be after 40 days with no food, Jesus could have easily fell for this one but He does not. How often do we fall for the sin of self-satisfaction. How easy is that we begin to rationalize it when we are not satisfied with our present state and there is something we think that will make it better. We are prey for Satan at these times. That pretty young thing with the short skirts and high heels that has been tempting you seems so easy when you have two kids at home, a wife that is seemingly not interested any more. Satan tells you deserve the attention. Go ahead, he says, have sex with her. Have an affair. Satan says satisfy yourself. It’s OK to want what you want. How often does this happy daily in our world. Self-seeking. I deserve it. God wants you to be happy says Satan. Don’t take care of your ailing parent for ever how long it takes. You deserve your life. Just hire somebody to do it. Your parent doesn’t even know you are there says Satan. Live your life. Satan may tell you that you are ready to be to a lead pastor and not to be patient. Satan wants us to satisfy ourselves. The only thing wrong with Satan’s words here are that they are inconsistent with Scripture. Jesus fought back with Satan with Scripture. Man does not live by bread alone but by every word from the mouth of God (Deut. 6:13). Jesus, being God in the flesh, knew every inch of the Scriptures that He inspired. We must know Scripture too as Satan attacks us to seek our own self-satisfaction at the expense of others. He will tempt us here. It is the basis of our culture nowadays. Satan is winning at this battle. Look at how much self-seeking is going on in our society today even among Christians. Christians have a divorce rate just as high and the general population. We are is biggest prey. Self-seeking leads to destruction of families. Self-seeking makes us either permanently ineffective or at least temporary out of the battle. We need to know Scripture. We need to know how to battle Satan’s siren call as Jesus did.

Second, we see Jesus being asked to compromise his calling, compromise the whole purpose for which He came to earth. Jesus was tempted with wealth and authority the easy way. How common is this to our existence. We encounter this one quite frequently. Compromising our integrity. In our society today, microwaves, quick and easy, drive-thru, instant access, faster and easier is the rule of the day. It is our mentality. We get mad when our internet does not react in a split second. We see advertisements constantly for easy riches. No longer are we a society that invests for a long haul. We are so fickle that we expect our political leaders to fix problems that are 60 years in the making in a single term in office. And, God forbid, that a lawmaker recommend that we do something that requires an extended commitment. We no longer wish to make sacrifices that take a long time to show fruit. Certainly, too, we don’t want to do anything that requires pain and suffering for extended periods of time. Just look at our college and pro football teams. No longer is a coach allowed to build a program over time. He must win within 4 years of being hired or he’s gone. This mentality is how Satan tempts. Short circuit the hard work. You deserve riches now. You deserve much now. All you have to do is compromise your integrity. Cheat the game plan a little. Take the easy route. Nobody will notice. You deserve it right now. Just charge it. You can pay for it later. Don’t worry about later. Later will take care of itself. You need this now. Now. Now. Now. All you have to do is compromise. I know you want to serve the Lord but you need a new car. You need the newest house. God will understand. He wants you to be happy. Satan doesn’t tell you about the mountain of debt that will keep you ineffective in serving the Lord or funding the kingdom at your church. He doesn’t tell you that every time you compromise yourself the closer you are to being his servant rather than God’s. Jesus combated this siren’s call of Satan — immediate satisfaction, compromising your integrity, taking the shortcut—with Scripture. We are only to serve the Lord your God and Him only you serve. When we compromise our integrity, we are not serving the Lord only. We are seeking to shortcut God’s plan for our lives. We must know Scripture to battle Satan. We must compare his every temptation to Scripture. Otherwise, we are drawn away easily by Satan and we become ineffective in God’s kingdom. Jesus knew that it would be easier Satan’s way but that was not God’s plan. May we remember that the next time we are asked to compromise our integrity and go against what we know from God to be wrong.

Finally, Satan tempts Jesus with fame and popularity. If Jesus threw himself down and the angels saved Him, it would have made his job so much easier. Everyone would have immediately bowed down to Him. He would probably have had no problems with the Jewish establishment and the Romans. Every one would have made way for Him. However, that was not the plan and Jesus refused to put His Father to the test. He knew that his ministry was to come to earth to call us to obedience, to have faith, and to go to the cross as the final sacrifice for all time for sin. He could not short circuit the plan that the Father had for Him. It must be done this way. He could have certainly made it easier. How many of us would rather seek fame rather than do the hard work that nobody notices. Would you rather hear your name called from the stage at church rather that serve the Lord in anonymity. Who are you serving? Your ego or the Lord? Jesus battled Satan with Scripture. Jesus said sure I could seek fame and fortune but God’s plan for me is to be a poor peasant traveling preacher. Fame is fleeting. Jesus was after the eternal. We are not to short-circuit God’s plan for us by seeking our ways to work God’s plan. We must trust that the Lord’s plan is sufficient. Seeking fame from others or seeking fame from God is our choice here. Jesus reminded Satan that God has a plan and we must not short circuit that. Trust in the Lord and do it His way.

Jesus battled Satan with Scripture. We must know Scripture to fight Satan. He knows our weak spots. He knows that He can tempt us with self-satisfaction in a world in love with it. He knows he can tempt us with compromising our integrity and God’s plan to get what we want now. He knows he can tempt us with fame among people rather than serving the Lord quietly and in the background. Where are you tempted? What is your weak spot? You’ve got one or many. I’ve got one or many. Satan is lurking out there with temptations for you and for me. We must know God’s Word. It is our armor. Stay in your Bible. Know it. Learn it. Live it. Eat it. Breath it. Satan is lurking! We will fall on occasion but how much more susceptible are we if are not in the Word. Compare everything to Scripture they say. How can you compare everything to it, if you don’t read it, study it and meditate on it daily?

Luke 3:25-38 — Oh here we go again, you might say to yourself, when you read this passage. Another biblical genealogy. The Old Testament frequently gives us these genealogies. But, this time it’s in the New Testament. Why does Luke wait til three and half chapters into his book to give us this genealogy and why does he give it to us at all?

You know, as I do these daily devotionals as we walk through entire books of the Bible, before I write what’s on my heart, I typically do a little research just to make sure that what’s on my heart is true to the meaning of the passage that I am writing about. Usually, there is a wealth of research out there online to rely upon. However, today, I find very little on this passage. It is a genealogy after all. Even the most avid readers of the Bible will admit to skipping over genealogies in the Bible. Long lines of who begat who with names that are difficult to pronounce. We often either skip through the begatting and move on to the next passage that to us has some meat to it. However, this is the Word of God, and if you are walking through entire books of the Bible, like we do here, then you have to deal with the tough passages. That’s where we are today. This is the Word of God and we must deal with it. 2 Timothy 3:16 tells us that all Scripture is God-breath and is useful for instruction. So, there is a point to these genealogies in the Bible and we must figure out what this genealogy in Luke 3 is teaching us.

First, it is interesting that the genealogy here is traced down through Jesus’ earthly mother, Mary. In a society that had a very low view of the legal status of women, it is almost radical that Luke would trace Jesus’ genealogy through his mother. Luke is admitting that Joseph was not the biological father of Jesus. Tracing his lineage through Joseph would be one of adoption rather than biology. However, the genealogy is biological through Mary. She physically gave birth to Jesus. As you see throughout Luke, he gives numerous mentions of women. As he researched his gospel, he found that Jesus himself elevated the stature of women and they played prominent roles in his ministry. Luke, as a physician, saw women as equals with men. To him, there was nothing in particular about men that gave them greater stature in the world. Thus, it is not surprising that Luke had the revolutionary idea of listing this genealogy as traced through Jesus’ mother rather than the normal way of tracing genealogies through fathers. To those who think that the Bible puts down women, just continue reading the gospel of Luke. Here, you will find that in Jesus’ ministry, women were important. They found more freedom and worth in the Jesus movement than in society in general. So, let no one tell you that Christianity oppresses women. They have played central roles in the faith from the beginning.

The second thing that is interesting here in this genealogy is the difference and similarities between it and the genealogy of Matthew 1. Matthew was writing for a mainly Jewish audience and his intent and purpose was to show the Jews that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. His genealogy’s purpose was to show Jesus’ Jewishness. He wanted to prove that Jesus was of royal descent and was fulfillment of the promises made to David. He need go no further then with his genealogy than back to David. Here, with Luke, you can see the difference. Luke traces Jesus’ genealogy to David and then goes on all the way back to Adam. Why did he do this? Luke wrote to a mainly non-Jewish Greek audience. The point in the genealogy is that Jesus was for everyone not just the Jews. He traced Jesus back to the first man — the one from whom all people were physically fathered. In this subtlety, Luke is allowing his readers to identify with Jesus not as someone from that highly religious and quirky people called the Jews but as everyman Jesus, everyday Jesus. Jesus is all inclusive. No one is excluded from His grace. The only requirement is that you have a pulse and believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for your sins. Grace knows no race. Grace knows no national origin. Grace knows no gender. Grace knows no ethnicity. Grace is available to all through Jesus Christ. It does not matter who you are or where you’re from, Jesus has enough grace for you. That’s what this genealogy does. It confirms the message that Jesus is for every man, woman, and child. He is not the exclusive realm of a certain few.

The final thing that this passage tells us is that Jesus was real. He had family roots here on earth. Reading this genealogy you find that Mary came from a long line of the “Who’s Who” from the Bible. This is the family into which Jesus was born. It means that He was real. He was a member of a family. He probably celebrated birthdays, weddings, and other family events. He also probably wept at funerals of members of His extended earthly family who had passed away. He existed in family life for 30 years before He began His ministry. He knows of family life. He knows of the human existence in a fallen world. We know that Jesus existed in history because of the extrabiblical references to his ministry. But, this genealogy tells us that Jesus was not only a real guy that made his mark on human history but we know that He was part of a family. He knows of human existence. He knows family. Thus, He knows you. God was careful to show these names of these people who are part of Jesus’ family as a reminder to us that everyone has a name and every name is important. Jesus knows you. Jesus knows your hurts, habits and hangups. Jesus knows what you are going through. He just wants you to come to Him and ask Him to be your Savior so that your name came be added to Jesus’ family genealogy. He wants you to have your name listed in His book of life. He wants you to be part of His family. He wants you to be co-heirs of the Father’s promises with Him. He wants you in His genealogy.

Father, thank you for sending Jesus into the world through the womb of Mary. Jesus understands the human existence. He was part of a human family. His genealogy proves that He had a human existence and that He knows of the dangers, toils, and snares of human life. This passage also tells me too that Jesus is not the exclusive club that some may make Him out to be, He is for everyone. His grace extends to all. Thank you Father for showing us through this simple often overlooked way, a genealogy. Thank you for showing us that women are just as important to you as men are. It also validates that Jesus is for everyone. His grace extends to all. Thank you Father for sending your Son to be grace for all. All we have to do is believe on His Name. Amen.

Luke 3:21-22 — Why did Jesus allow Himself to be baptized by John The Baptist? He was sinless wasn’t He after all? There are several reasons. First, it is symbolic of Jesus’ earthly life.

First, it was symbolic of Jesus’ earthly life. Jesus lived an earthly life (symbolic of Him prior to immersion in the water). He lived here among us as a human being. He know the life that we live. We have that in common with Jesus Christ, God in the flesh. As we have discussed here before, Jesus understands the human existence. He lived it. The only difference between Him and us was that He was able to go through this life without sinning. We see in Matthew 4:1-11 that Jesus was tempted by Satan Himself during Jesus’ human existence but never failed, never sinned. However, His lack of sin does not mean that He does not understand our existence. He lived among us. The next step in the baptism process is the immersion in water. This is symbolic of Jesus’ death on earth. Being in the water symbolic of the time from Good Friday at sundown to sunrise on Easter Sunday morning when Jesus was in the tomb. Again, it is a reminder that Jesus experienced death just as we do. Jesus’ death was an excruciating ordeal on the cross. Jesus knew that physical pain that sometimes occurs as we die. He knows of slow agonizing death. He knows of welcoming His last breath. He knows that hour when the body gives up and shuts down and stops working. He knows of that moment when the life force stops. But that is not the end of the story with Jesus nor is it the end of story for us as His followers. The next step in the baptism process is the rising out of the water. It is symbolic of Jesus’ resurrection into new life, and a new body. He arose from the dead just as he arose from the death of the water. There is such beauty in this symbolism.

In another gospel, John The Baptist ask this same question. Jesus said that we must carry out what God requires (Matthew 3:15). The baptism thus was not about a symbolic rejection of sin, because there was no sin in Him. It was about carrying out God’s mission. Jesus was baptized because it is symbolic of Him taking on the sins of his nation and of all people. He was following Nehemiah, Ezra, Moses and Daniel. In His baptism, He again identifies with you and me and any who would believe in Him. He who was without sin was baptised. Again, He shows that He is willingly taking our place though He had no personal need to do so. He shouldered the sins of the world on the cross. He is doing it here as well. The sinless substituting Himself for the sinner. He is identifying Himself with those who are repentant. You will notice He is in the water with the penitent ones not up on the shore with the watching Pharisees. There are some today who stand on the shore and believe that they are righteous in their own right. Jesus does not stand with them. He stands in the mess of the murky water with us, the sinners. Jesus, the perfect man, did not need baptism as the symbolic gesture of rejecting our past life of sin, but He accepted baptism because He, as the Son on earth, was being obedient to the Father. His Father in Heaven was well pleased in the obedience of His Son and what it means to us.

The baptism is also an annoucement. It is announcing to the world that Jesus’ ministry has begun. It is public now. All the preparation is over. There is no turning back from the pre-ordained trajectory of Jesus’ life by the Father. Jesus’ baptism is saying to the Father, I am ready. Let’s do this. Prior to arriving at the Jordan, Jesus had been preparing for His ministry for 30 years. He was learning the human experience. He lived it from birth til now. No one could ever say that Jesus could not possibly understand what it’s like to be human. He did it for 30 years! He did not magically appear. People knew him as one of them. He was a tradesman’s son. He lived the life. He experienced joy, laughter, happiness, pain (physical and emotional). He was a child and knew what that experience was like. He was a teenager and knew what that experience was like. He was a young man learning to make a living in the world. He knew what that was like. He was now ready to end that portion of His existence with all that it allowed Him to experience and move on to the specific purpose for which He was sent. As Rafiki says to Simba, “It is time.” It is now time for the stakes to be raised. The game is on. It is also interesting to note that Jesus’ announcement of the beginning of His ministry begins in humility, on the fringes, in the dirty water, not in the main court of the Temple. He went to the river and identified Himself with those who were actually interested in repenting of their sins. This annoucement is humble. He submits Himself to John just as He submitted to the Father in everything He did. Jesus was so humble and obedient to His Father. He was obedient to the point of death on the cross because that was what God required of Him. It all starts right here.

Right here in this moment of baptism, we see our humble Savior saying to us, “I am with you.” I identify with you. I know what is like to be human. I know and understand it from birth to death. He knows how hard it is for us to not sin and how hard our very existence is. In this moment of baptism, He is telling us that He is taking on our sins – a theme that took him through the remaining three years of His life to the cross. The baptism and the cross are book ends to His willingness to take on the sins of His nation and the sins of the world. He loves us that much. His entire earthly existence was preparation. It was understanding of the human experience. It was all pointing toward taking on our sins. He came to give us an out from the condemnation that we deserve. The baptism was the beginning of the ministry. The crucifixion was the literal sacrifice. The baptism the symbolic one. Through His literal sacrifice on the cross, He did what God required to solve man’s sin problem permanently. But like the end sequence of His baptism ritual, that’s not the end of the story. Jesus came out of the water at His baptism. Jesus came out of the grave after his sacrificial death. He demonstrates to us that through Him we have conquered sin and death. We have promise of eternal life with Him through His resurrection. It all starts right here in the Jordan River. The ministry that changed the world begins here in the murky, muddy waters of the Jordan.

Luke 3:1-18 — John the Baptist was the fulfillment of prophecy in Isaiah. He was the forerunner of the Messiah. His message was unexpected to many though. Today, we will look at feeling safe because of who we are and sitting on the fact that we are Christians in a world that desperately needs change. John the Baptist was an agent of change. We should be too.

In John’s day, before a king would take a trip, messengers would be sent to those he was planning to visit to prepare the roads for him. Similarly, John’s message to his listeners was that they should be making themselves ready for the coming Messiah. That was his job – to herald the coming Messiah and to get people’s attention about what was required of them when the Messiah comes.

His message was pretty bold. Many of John’s hearers were shocked when he said that being a descendant of Abraham was not enough to ensure salvation. The Jews of the day had this as their fallback position whenever their sins were pointed out to them. John says don’t count on this my brothers. The religious leaders and many Jews counted on family lines than on faith for standing with God. For them, their standing with God was inherited. However, a personal relationship with God cannot be handed down from parents to children. Everyone has to make a personal decision of whether or not to trust Christ as their Savior. We should not rely on someone else’s faith for our own salvation. Just because you are a son or daughter of God fearing and morally upright parents and grandparents does not guarantee our salvation. We cannot live off the relationship with God that our parents and grandparents had. When we stand before the judgment seat, we will have only ourselves to account for. No comparisons to others will be allowed. No saying I did more bad than good. There are no scales to weigh out our sins vs. our good deeds. We are sinners who have committed sins. That is all that matters at the judgment seat. Any one sin that we have committed renders a verdict of condemnation at the judgment seat. Eternal separation from God in hell is the verdict. There is only one way to avoid our just and due punishment. It is a deeply personal relationship with Jesus Christ. We must have accepted Him into our lives and made Him Lord over it all. That is grace. That is our stay of execution. Nothing else works – not pedigrees, not deeds, not what church we belong to.

As well, some people wanted to be baptized by John so they could escape eternal punishment. They wanted fire insurance. However, they were not really repenting of their sins, nor were they willing to change the way they lived. John had harsh words for such people. God values repentance over ritual. He values transformation over routine. Confession of sins and repentance that results in a changed life are inseparable. There must fruits of the spirit that are evident in those who say they have given their life over to the Lord. There must be life change. Jesus himself gave this same message to the Jewish establishment. They were so in love with their power that they could not see their need for repentance. They were not willing to submit to the Messiah. Turning from sin must be tied to action. Following Jesus means not just doing the right things, going through what are perceived as the right motions, it means that we are changed. Everything, all the good deeds, overflow from a changed heart, a changed soul. We love on the world around us because we have true inner joy that bubbles out of us. We can’t help it because we owe so much to our Savior and we want others to share in it. We don’t do these things to earn points. We do this to express thanksgiving and to spread the good news.

Similarly, a nation should not expect that just because our founding fathers were deeply religious men that our nation will continue to receive special favor from God. Giving billions to aid other countries is meaningless as an example of how Christian we are if the true motive is only to gain some political advantage. We think if we contribute to the right causes as a nation we will earn points with God and He will allow us to continue as the world’s leader. A nation is only as good as its people. A nation of people straying from God will not enjoy His favor. We must repent as a nation of people. Just as God allowed Israel to be overrun because of their lack of commitment to Him so too will our nation continue to decline in power and influence in the world. We are a nation that has strayed from God. As Christians, it is our duty to be in society but not of it. We cannot water down the gospel message. We must carry it. Above all we must be active in the civic realm. We must not sit behind our fences and say our nation is going to hell in a handbasket and do nothing but comment on it. We must stand up get out in the world and change it. Not through Westboro Baptist Church protests but engaging the world with our message of love and forgiveness. Engaging the political structure by running for office. Lord knows our political system today needs men and women of integrity. We must change the world from the inside out. We must be people of integrity that the world looks to when things turn to crap. May we take on the worlds problems and change them because of our love for our Savior demands it. Which would we rather say at the judgment seat — that we really did some good complaining about the world we live in or did we in honor to our Savior go out and change the world for Christ. Let us be the ones who lead our nation back to Christ rather than complaining that it has turned away and there is nothing we can do. How John the Baptist is that!