It’s natural—or should be—for Christians to go to the Bible for our spiritual needs. God has promised to meet our needs. His Word gives us hope, assurance, comfort, guidance, and so much more.
But if we’re not careful, we can approach Bible reading with an “all about me” attitude. What’s in it for me, how does it relate to me, how does it make me feel.
Instead, the Bible is all about God. God wants to meet our needs, but more than that, He wants us to know Him. He told Jeremiah of the exiles He was punishing, “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart” (Jeremiah 24:7). Throughout the Bible we see His longing for a people to know Him.
Eternal life begins with coming to know God. Jesus said, “And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (John 17:3). But when Paul said “that I may know him” in Philippians 3:10, he already knew Him as Lord and Savior. Yet he longed to know God more. Peter tells us to “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18).
My husband and I met and started dating in college in SC. But in May, he went home to Idaho, and I went home to TX for the long summer until we saw each other again the next fall. I’m sure I spent much of those summers apart gazing at the photos I had of him. But to get to know him better, I heard his words during the few phone calls we could afford and read them in his letters.
2 Corinthians 3:18 says, “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.” We can’t behold an accurate physical image of God in a painting or photograph. But we behold Him in His Word.
And in His Word, we find that He is good, loving, kind, merciful, righteous, powerful, wise, always present. We see His declarations about Himself. We read what the prophets of old said about Him. We see His actions in dealing with people throughout the Bible. The more we get to know Him, the more secure we are in His love, the more confidence we have in His wisdom, character, and provision.
And as we get to know Him, we trust Him more. We trust His promises in individual Bible verses, but more than that, we trust His character and His ability to take care of every need we have. We move beyond just getting our needs met and we find the ways He wants us to show His love and truth to others.
We don’t get to know Him just to get our needs met. But in getting to know Him, our needs are met.
So as we come to His Word, let us look for Him on every page. Let’s know and trust and love Him more and more each day.
In Thy truth Thou dost direct me by Thy Spirit through Thy Word; and Thy grace my need is meeting as I trust in Thee, my Lord. Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring Thy great love and pow’r on me without measure, full and boundless, drawing out my heart to Thee.
I winced when I heard my mentor-from-afar say that motherhood was the highest calling.
Thirty years ago, hearing such sentiments encouraged me that my decision to stay home to raise my children was a valuable one, contrary to the feminist teaching that stay-at-home moms were somehow lesser beings than career women. And I am sure that’s how this writer and speaker meant her statement.
But where does that sentiment leave women to whom God has not given husbands or children? I know from this speaker’s other writings and speeches that she did not regard single or childless women as any less called by God to serve Him. Maybe in her desire to encourage mothers swimming against the tide of societal pressure, she just didn’t realize how her statement about calling sounded.
I’ve also heard preachers say that being a minister of the gospel is the highest calling. I don’t think they meant it arrogantly. It surely is a privilege to be able to study God’s Word and minister to people with the bulk of your time and life.
But I don’t think the Bible calls motherhood or professional ministry or anything else the highest call of God (unless I’ve missed it. Please feel free to let me know if I have).
In the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30, a man gave three of his servants differing amounts of money and told them to invest it while he was away. When he came back, he called his servants to give an account of what they did with what he gave them. The person with five talents and the one with three each invested their talents and doubled their money. They were each told, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.” The main focus on the passage was on the one servant who didn’t invest anything, but hid his talent away. The master was highly displeased and that servant was punished.
But even though the second servant isn’t the focus, I note that he didn’t grumble, “Well, I could have made ten talents if I had been given five like this other guy. But I was only given three, so this was the best I could do.” No, he was commended for doing what he could with what he had been given.
Paul tells us we’re not wise to compare ourselves with others (2 Corinthians 10:12), yet we all too easily fall into that trap.
What is God’s highest calling? No one profession or ministry. God’s highest calling for each person is to surrender themselves to Him for whatever He asks. He has a place and purpose for each of us.
When we cared for my husband’s mother in our home, hospice sent a bath aide out twice a week. I can’t think of anyone who grew up saying, “I want to give old people baths when I grow up.” But our primary bath aide treated her job as the most important thing she could be doing at the moment. She was efficient, she was on time unless something hindered, she was cheerful. She didn’t gripe about unpleasant aspects of the work. She treated my mother-in-law with dignity and respect. It was like she brought sunshine in with her. But her light came from the Son she loved.
Philippians 2:14-16a tells us we “shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life.”
We can shine His light and make a difference no matter where we are or what God has called us to. Secretaries, executives, doctors, nurses, firefighters, custodians, nursing home residents, all have unique spheres of influence.
In my husband’s first professional job, his supervisor was from a religion where he had been told not to read the Bible. His boss would never have entered a Baptist church, except maybe for a funeral or wedding. So my husband’s only means to share Christ with him were through conversations and working side by side over several years.
Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Those good works are not meant to count for salvation: the previous two verses tell us our salvation is a gift of God, not a result of our works. But from that salvation, from our love and thankfulness, we spend our lives to serve Him. There are things He created us to do, and our highest calling is to do whatever He has put before us with grace.
Does shining our light for the Lord mean nonstop witnessing? No. But when we “do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31), it shows in our lives.
We can shine for God whether we’re comforting a child with a skinned knee, drawing blood, answering a customer service call with a cheerful voice and efficient help, preaching a sermon, washing a patient’s hair, letting someone in our lane of traffic, or having the same conversation for the fifth time with an elderly loved one.
What matters is not the size of our service, but the One for Whom we do it and the love and grace He wants to show others through us.
I’ve mentioned before that Margaret Stringer is one of my favorite people. She was a missionary in Indonesia for forty years among former headhunters and cannibals. Though she had a variety of ministries among the people, one of her main jobs was reducing their language to writing, translating the New Testament into their language, and then teaching the people how to read.
The church we attended in SC supported Margaret. When she “retired,” she lived close enough to the church that she was available to come speak to the ladies’ group several times. She could have us laughing til we were in tears telling us about incidents that would have been quite scary when they happened to her.
Margaret tells how from a very early age, she was sure God had called her to be a missionary. She had a hard time getting the first visa she needed, and it seemed like everyone brought up to her how Paul wanted to go to Macedonia in Acts, but God wouldn’t let him. Margaret wanted God’s will, whether that was Indonesia or somewhere else. But the delays and obstacles just made her more sure that Indonesia was where God wanted her. Later on the field, she was grateful for the hard time she had getting there because of the assurance it gave her that she was in God’s will.
She tells of her arrival on the field, early missionary life, learning the customs and language, getting adjusted to jungle food (like grub worms). She talks about how important it is to understand the world view of the people you’re trying to witness to.
It took a lot of patience to teach people who had not been taught before or hire helpers to learn the language when they had not had paying jobs before. If they wanted to go fishing instead of come to “work,” they did.
One chapter is on “People I Can’t Forget,” most of whom became part of the church there. It took much time and patience and prayer and overcoming many mistakes, but what a joy to see God open people’s eyes to His truth at last.
Margaret includes here one of my favorites of her stories. Once she was in an area where no house or huts were available, so she stayed in a small metal building with open windows (screens but no glass). Once when a terrible storm hit, rain blew in, destroying about 90% of her handwritten translation work. As she tried to salvage what she could and mop up the rest, she felt discouraged. She “fussed” with the Lord about dropping her down in the jungle and leaving her all alone. When she went to bed, something fell off the wall and hit her on the head. She felt like that was the last straw. She turned on her flashlight to see what had fallen. It was a plaque that said, “He cares for you.” She started laughing and said, “OK, Lord, I get it. Thank you.” She comments, “For some people, God speaks in a still small voice. Others of us, however, He conks on the head” (p. 125).
Margaret tells of difficulties in the translation work. She had to consider not just getting the words into Citak, but making them understood in their culture. For instance, they did not have a word for sister or brother—their words were older sister, younger sister, older brother, younger brother. That took some thought when dealing with Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. All of their verbs incorporated time of day, so that had to be considered when translating narratives. The suffix “na” at the end of a sentence indicated the information was heard from someone else rather than witnessed directly. In Luke 11:11, when Jesus asks whether a father would give a serpent to his child when asked for a fish, they said, “Of course.” “The Citak people love to eat snake, and a good-sized python has much more meat on it than the average fish, so who wouldn’t want a snake instead of a fish?” (p. 205). they had to find a different word for a poisonous snake that conveyed the idea of the passage, that “no good father would give his son a poisonous snake when he asked for a fish.”
The Citak people had a big celebration day with invited guests, including dignitaries, when they handed out the completed New Testaments. One of Margaret’s greatest joys was seeing the Citak people’s joy at having the Word of God for themselves and their ability to read and understand it. But one of her greatest sorrows was when people from other villages with different dialects wanted the Bible in their language, too. She knew that it would take more time than she had left on the field to translate the NT for all the people there that needed it.
Margaret writes that the people “went from naked cannibals, without the Bible or ability to read, to 23 churches, and having the New Testament in their language. The journey was sometimes funny, sometimes frustrating, sometimes discouraging, sometimes dangerous, but always rewarding” (p. xvii). I’m thankful she shared glimpses of that journey with us.
Here are a few of the thought-provoking reads found this week:
Hey, Christian, Don’t “Quiet Quit” Your Faith, HT to Challies. “But enough about the noisy quitters! What about the quiet quitters of the faith? There’s been a lot of ink spilled over the rise of the ‘Dones’, those who have just finished with the faith. But there’s a way of leaving the faith that’s less obvious. . . “
Driven by Awe, HT to Challies. “When Christians think of fighting sin, we usually imagine strict self-discipline and saying ‘no’ to wrong desires. Certainly, self-control is one of the fruits of the Spirit and a means of helping us fight our sin. But, what if we had another tool given to us by the Spirit to help us overcome?”
When You Hear of a Scandal, HT to Challies. “I’m no longer naïve. I’m not surprised when I hear of a Christian leader falling into sin. I have, however, learned four important lessons on how to guard my own heart when I hear of another leader who’s fallen.”
Though My Flesh May Fail: Reflections on Chronic Suffering From the Hospital Bed, HT to Challies. “I’m a firm believer in the sovereignty of God’s grace. I believe everything that happens to the believer is for good. After receiving an autoimmune diagnosis and seeing the subsequent bills roll in, though, this conviction has been put to the test. Amidst temptations to doubt, God continues to reveal His good purposes for me in my affliction. As I sit in my hospital bed today, three lessons stand out among the rest as reminders of the sovereignty of God’s grace and His goodness in my life.”
Planning Like Paul. “Some Christians think that making plans for your life is the opposite of being Spirit-led. . . They’ll tell you that if you make plans then you aren’t trusting God. What you really need to do is just let go and let God. But is this the model of the Christian life that Scripture presents us with? Should we never make plans? Are goals simply a manifestation of a lack of faith?”
Stories Are Light. “Isn’t this why we read to our children, why we fill their minds and hearts with true and beautiful story? Why we seek to cultivate their imagination and sense of what is good and holy? This beautiful confession took my words away. Wow, I said. You’re right. That is beautiful and true and wise.”
Tomorrow is the twenty-first anniversary of 9/11. Some years I have acknowledged the anniversary with post, but not always. But I do like to take a moment to think about it. Many of us promised we would “never forget” that tragedy, and I want to keep that promise. It’s a good time to pray for the survivors, the families of the fallen still living with loss, the fight against terrorism.
A few years ago, we came home from having lunch at my son and daughter-in-law’s place to find a large burned patch in the grass to the left of our house as well as damage to a neighbor’s fence.
As we talked with neighbors, we learned that the neighbor behind us had been burning leaves earlier in the week. She thought she had the fire completely out and left a few days later to go out of town.
But underneath the ash, fire had been quietly smoldering for several days. Finally it erupted into flame and then spread over the dry grass. Thankfully neighbors saw it and called the fire department.
It was frightening to me that all this could happen in just a few hours while we were out. Perhaps the fire had already started before we even left, but we didn’t notice it since our driveway is on the other side of the house.
Since the photo above is a panorama shot, it’s a little distorted. Our fence line actually turns a corner rather than standing in a straight line all the way down. Still, you can see how the fire neatly went around the fence.
Another evidence of God’s protection is that just a few months earlier, we had a row of dead trees rather than a fence. Some of you may remember our ordeal of having 50 trees on our property line die off. We had to find someone to cut them down and haul them off, and then someone else when the first crew didn’t fulfill their obligations. Then my husband found some used fencing on Craig’s List and spent several evenings and Saturdays putting up the new-to-us fence.
But imagine what would have happened if that row of dead trees had been in the line of the fire. I shudder to think about the possibilities. I’m grateful for God’s mercy and timing.
I don’t know what brought this incident to mind recently—maybe the sight of a different neighbor burning something in his yard last week.
James 3:5 came to mind: “So also the tongue is a small member, yet it boasts of great things. How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!” Just as an almost-put-out fire can blaze up and burn out of control, a small tongue can cause immeasurable damage.
Lust is another kind of fire. Job said that if he had been unfaithful to his wife, “that would be a heinous crime; that would be an iniquity to be punished by the judges; for that would be a fire that consumes as far as Abaddon, and it would burn to the root all my increase (Job 31:11-12). Proverbs asks, “Can a man carry fire next to his chest and his clothes not be burned? Or can one walk on hot coals and his feet not be scorched? So is he who goes in to his neighbor’s wife; none who touches her will go unpunished” (6:27-33).
Anger is not always bad in itself. God is angry at certain things. We should be angry at injustice, at mistreatment, and so on. But much anger arises from selfish reasons. Some of us have been on the receiving end of the quick flash fire of someone else’s anger. But a slowly smoldering undercurrent is no better. Psalm 37:8 says, “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”
Gossip can easily spread like wildfire. “For lack of wood the fire goes out, and where there is no whisperer, quarreling ceases. As charcoal to hot embers and wood to fire, so is a quarrelsome man for kindling strife. The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body” (Proverbs 26:20-22).
Most sins are more easily dealt with when they’re small. If we let temptation linger without turning from it, if we fail to quench it completely, it can build up under the surface until it suddenly erupts and spreads.
But sometimes it seems we’re not only surrounded by temptation, but filled with it. We have an enemy of our souls who knows what our particular triggers are. And we have an old nature that fights against the new nature we received when we believed on the Lord Jesus as our Savior (Galatians 5:16-16). What hope do we have when the devil lures us and our own flesh betrays us?
I thought it was so unusual that the fire in our yard bypassed the vinyl fencing. I looked up whether vinyl was heat-resistant, and it is, according to this article. Vinyl fencing is hard to ignite, won’t spread easily if it does ignite, and can be easily put out.
How can we help our souls to be fire-resistant?
In describing the armor of God in Ephesians 6, Paul says, “In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one” (verse 16). The word “extinguish” in the Greek means, according to the definitions at the bottom of this page, “extinguish, quench, suppress, thwart.” The shield of faith doesn’t just stop the fiery arrows of temptation from reaching us: it actually puts them out.
What kind of faith makes up this shield? The faith that acknowledges the one true God is righteous, kind, and good. The faith that believes His will and purposes are better than Satan’s lures or our desires. The faith that wants to please Him more than it wants to indulge self. The faith that believes and applies His Word. Proverbs 6:23-24a says, “For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are the way of life, to preserve you.” Jesus resisted Satan’s temptations with the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11).
The Pulpit Commentary says of the shield of faith in Ephesians 6:16:
Withal taking up the shield of faith. The θυξεός was a large oblong shield covering a great part of the body, not the ἀσπίς, smaller and more round. Faith, in its widest sense, constitutes this shield – faith in God as our Father, in Christ as our Redeemer, in the Spirit as our Sanctifier and Strengthener – faith in all the promises, and especially such promises as we find in Revelations 2. and 3. “to him that overcometh” (comp. promise to Ephesus, Revelation 2:7) Wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. “Fiery darts” were weapons tipped with inflammable materials, firebrands, curiously constructed, adapted to set on fire. Metaphorically, considerations darted into the mind inflaming lust, pride, revenge, or ether evil feelings, emanations from the great tempter, the evil one. That such considerations sometimes start up suddenly in the mind, against the deliberate desire, sometimes even in the middle of holy exercises, is the painful experience of every Christian, and must make him thankful for the shield on which they are quenched. An act of faith on Christ, placing the soul consciously in his presence, recalling his atoning love and grace, and the promises of the Spirit, will extinguish these fiery temptations.
We can say with David:
For it is you who light my lamp; the Lord my God lightens my darkness. For by you I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. This God—his way is perfect;d the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.
For who is God, but the Lord? And who is a rock, except our God?— the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless.
Here are some great thought-provoking reads found recently:
Bored With Christianity? HT to Challies. “In a world that offers such multitudinous choices and options for life and happiness–why persist in this same old religion with the same old book?”
Christ’s Crucifixion Isn’t Child Sacrifice, HT to Challies. “Many professing Christians are uncomfortable with God killing his Son as the penalty for our crimes. They see this as child sacrifice. From their perspective, it’s impossible for such a doctrine to be consistent with God’s character when it’s so clear that God abhors the killing of innocent children.”
Unfathomable. “Give them a taste of this big, wild, wonderful world that was made by a bigger, wilder, more wonderful God. It won’t make any of your problems, or theirs, disappear. But I have a strong hunch that in the presence of something so large, they will be reminded of the One who is Unfathomable himself.”
Cosmic Significance Therapy. “For Moses, the aim of considering the brevity of life isn’t hopelessness, but a proper outlook—an eternal perspective. And this perspective shapes how we live and work today.”
When You’re Up to Your Neck in Mud—Sing! HT to Challies. “Singing in adversity gives hope and lifts spirits. If that’s true in general terms, how much truer wouldn’t that be if we were up to our necks in mud and singing songs that actually spoke of hope, songs like psalms and biblical hymns?”
I’m Not an “Angel Mommy,” and Here’s Why. “As a follower of Christ and a mother who suffered three miscarriages, I have a vastly different view of what my babies are experiencing. People who die don’t earn angel wings.”
The Delight and Distress of Preaching, HT to Challies. I’ve experienced what this writer discusses, even though I am not a preacher and have done little speaking. By the way, I would much rather hear a preacher or teacher who feels like this than one who is brash and overconfident.
Knowledge Is Not a Bank, HT to Challies. “Knowledge is not a bank. It’s more like a garden. Truths and skills that are planted in our minds can bear good fruit in our lives. But just as a neglected garden will run wild with useless weeds, so our minds can easily become a wilderness of distractions, anxieties, and trivialities that choke out the good and productive knowledge we’ve accumulated before it gets the chance to take root and grow into real applications in our real lives.”
Reject the Algorithm, HT to Challies. This isn’t written from a Christian perspective, but makes some good points for being genuine rather than trying to get the most clicks.
Strengths, Weaknesses, Warts, and All. “Here’s what she knew, and I do too: We all have done bad things, experienced bad things and had bad things done to us. But God uses all those things to help others if we let Him.”
God’s Healing: Kintsugi in Practice. “It literally takes brokenness and turns it into beauty, and it sees the brokenness not as something to hide, but as something to value as part of the object’s history. As I looked into Kintsugi, I discovered many similarities with God’s healing work.”
Prayer That Pleases God. “We pray. We pray because God tell us to. We pray because we need to. We pray because prayer matters. But do we pray with confidence that God is pleased with our praying? Do we pray with confidence that God is pleased with our praying even when he does not grant our petitions?”
Never Forget! “The book of Deuteronomy contains Moses’ words to the Israelites as they are on the verge of entering the Promised Land, and one message comes across loud and clear: Don’t forget!”
Context Matters: The Whole Armor of God. “Context matters. If we learn to read the Bible for what it is—and not simply as a collection of vibrant metaphors for vague spiritual truths—we’ll discover that some of our most familiar passages may have far more usefulness than we’d previously assumed.”
When I was in college, a story made the rounds about a student who asked a preacher who was a frequent chapel speaker to meet with him. The young man wanted permission to date the preacher’s daughter—not in the sense of taking her to lunch or a basketball game, but in the sense of pursuing a serious relationship.
As the student and the preacher sat down together, the preacher said, “Well, son, are you a Big B baptist?”
The young man responded, “Well, sir, I am a Big C Christian.”
The preacher was not amused.
I don’t know whether the guy got to date the girl or not.
That story may have been the campus version of an urban legend. But it stuck with me because I have known “Big B Baptists.” Some friends, associations, institutions were not only distinctively Baptist, but aggressively Baptist.
In one group discussion about doctrines that Christians could differ on, one man had a hard time placing mode of baptism in that category. All of us in the discussion felt that immersion was the best mode and most in line with Scriptural teaching, but we agreed this wasn’t a decision that would make us question a person’s salvation. We understood how people could believe in other modes, even though we didn’t agree with them. But this man struggled with that thought, though he finally conceded.
I’ve known people who were “Big R Reformed” Christians or “Big C Calvinists.” My first introduction to Calvinism was from college Bible majors who constantly wanted to debate election vs. free will. One was even asked to leave campus, not because of his beliefs, but because he was “sowing discord among brethren” (Proverbs 6:19), constantly stirring up debates. I know some on Facebook like that now.
Of course, not all Reformed people are that way. But I’ve seen some that do not speak of the Christian community, but the Reformed community. They only buy books from Reformed publishers and only quote Reformed writers and preachers.
These defining labels aren’t limited to theological persuasions. I’ve unfollowed some sites that were “Big I Introvert” sites, even Christian ones. Reading about introversion has helped me understand the way I am made and the way I think and react. But some sites are so immersed in looking at life as an introvert that they can seem antisocial. I can lean that way, so I needed to stop feeding that tendency into my thoughts.
And, of course there are many other labels through which people define themselves and look at life. There are “Big R Republicans” and “Big S Sports fans” and “Big E Enneagram” experts (followed by numbers and wings). There are “Big M Moms” who can talk about nothing but motherhood, making single women feel left out of the conversation.
Labels aren’t bad in themselves. My husband’s father worked in a grocery store and was allowed to bring home cans which were missing labels. When Jim’s mom said she was making a surprise for dinner, she wasn’t kidding.
When my husband and I looked for a church to attend here, we wished that church websites would label themselves more distinctly. We put our preferences in our browser’s search bar and got hundreds of responses. The ones we looked into sounded almost the same, even down to their statement of faith and constitution. If they were trying to make themselves sound generic, they were going to disappoint some who came and found they held certain positions. They were also going to miss out on those who wanted to find churches that held particular positions.
So labels are helpful, even good and necessary. I use some of these labels myself.
But labels can lead to two problems.
One problem is looking at everything, especially Scripture, through the lens of our label instead of looking at our label through the lens of Scripture. I’ve known people who did not come to their positions from their reading of Scripture, but from books they read and sermons they listened to. Then they began trying to fit Scripture into their theological grid rather than adapting their theology to Scripture.
In one book I read about introversion in the church, the author said that the reason Jesus climbed into a boat once to speak to the crowd was because, as an introvert, He wanted to put some distance between Himself and the people. That would have been the author’s motivation in the same circumstances, and he projected his thinking onto Jesus’ actions (even though he later wrote that Jesus was the perfect balance of introvert and extrovert). I think that Jesus chose that venue rather because it was the best place for the crowd to see and hear Him.
The second problem is this: what label do we want to be known by first and foremost? When people see our names, do we want their first thought to be, “Oh, yeah, she’s an Enneagram 6” or “staunch Republican” or whatever?
Before people know my personality type or theological persuasion, they need to know that I love God and want them to know and love Him, too. Though I have several sub-labels, I want my biggest labels to be “Christian,” “Christ-follower,” “child of God.”
“See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God” (1 John 3:1a).
Luke 14 drops us right in the middle of Jesus’ ministry, with His healing of a man and then teaching through several parables. The next several chapters continue in much the same way. In addition to parables, Jesus teaches His disciples about the need to take up their cross and follow Him. In chapter 21, Jesus prophesies about the future.
Up to this point, the Pharisees, scribes, etc., have been keeping a close eye on Jesus, trying to trip Him up with questions, challenging His actions. In Chapter 22, things escalate with Judas offering to betray Jesus.
The narrative slows down in the next few chapters to focus on the events leading up to Jesus’ death. He celebrates the Passover with His disciples, institutes the Lord’s supper, is arrested, tried, and is found innocent, yet He is still given over to be crucified. Chapter 23 tells of His crucifixion and burial, and chapter 24 tells of His resurrection, appearance to the disciples, and ascension back to heaven..
There’s a lot in each of those chapters. In our discussion of five chapters at a time at church, we could only hit a few highlights in each one.
Luke’s books were written to his friend, Theophilus, to provide “an orderly account . . . that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:3-4).
Wiersbe ably explains things along the way, shares insights, and harmonizes Luke’s account with that of the other gospel writers. Some of his comments:
Our modern world is very competitive, and it is easy for God’s people to become more concerned about profit and loss than they are about sacrifice and service. “What will I get out of it?” may easily become life’s most important question (Matt. 19: 27ff.). We must strive to maintain the unselfish attitude that Jesus had and share what we have with others (pp. 21-22, Kindle version).
What does it mean to “carry the cross”? It means daily identification with Christ in shame, suffering, and surrender to God’s will. It means death to self, to our own plans and ambitions, and a willingness to serve Him as He directs (John 12: 23–28). A “cross” is something we willingly accept from God as part of His will for our lives (p. 26).
This chapter makes it clear that there is one message of salvation: God welcomes and forgives repentant sinners. But these parables also reveal that there are two aspects to this salvation. There is God’s part: The shepherd seeks the lost sheep, and the woman searches for the lost coin. But there is also man’s part in salvation, for the wayward son willingly repented and returned home. To emphasize but one aspect is to give a false view of salvation, for both the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man must be considered (see John 6: 37; 2 Thess. 2: 13–14) (pp. 31-21).
Sin promises freedom, but it only brings slavery (John 8: 34); it promises success, but brings failure; it promises life, but “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6: 23). The boy thought he would “find himself,” but he only lost himself! When God is left out of our lives, enjoyment becomes enslavement (p. 36).
Peter’s self-confident boasting is a warning to us that none of us really knows his own heart (Jer. 17: 9) and that we can fail in the point of our greatest strength (p. 129).
I never noticed this before, but both the ESV Study Bible and Wiersbe point out that Luke begins and ends in the temple. In the first chapter, the birth of John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, is announced to his stunned father, Zechariah. In the last, Jesus’ followers “worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy,and were continually in the temple blessing God.“
May we follow in their footsteps, joyfully worshiping and blessing Him.
Here’s another list of good reads found this week:
We Need More Holy Fools: How God Awakened Me to Eternity, HT to The Story Warren. “A man is trapped in a car, rushing down a hill toward a cliff. The doors are locked. The brakes are out. The steering barely works. Far ahead, he can see other cars hurtling into the abyss. How far they fall, he does not know. What they find at the bottom, he cannot imagine. But he does not seek to know; he does not try to imagine. Instead, he paints the windshield, climbs into the back seat, and puts in his headphones.”
3 Myths of the Good Old Days. “I’m guessing every generation has uttered this phrase, which makes me question: If my good old days were the previous generation’s not-so-good days, and on and on backwards, then when were the real good old days?”
The Indispensable Ministry of Disability, HT to Challies. “Our more recent experiences with Ben have opened my eyes to the realization that people with disabilities in our congregations are not just objects of ministry. They are gifted just like the rest of us, though often in ways that we haven’t realized.”
Rolls and Circles in Women’s Ministry: Why You Need Both. “When you think of discipleship in your church, women’s ministry, or small group, how do you picture the chairs being arranged? Do you picture the chairs in rows, facing a teacher in the front? Do you picture the chairs in circles, where small groups of women gather? Or do you think of discipleship as a single chair, where a woman opens her Bible and hears from God directly?”
When You’ve Given Your Troubles to God—But Still Can’t Sleep. “Insomnia is horrible. It is a form of suffering that lays us utterly bare before the Lord. We completely depend on him to show up. Sometimes he shows up by letting us fall asleep; sometimes he shows up by stripping us of self-sufficiency, making us see that he takes weary people and sustains them even when all earthly things fail them.”
Take the Chance. “It seemed like the ideal opportunity. Crouching in the darkness of the cave, David saw his enemy alone and vulnerable. It looked like the chance he had been waiting for.”