November 1, 2016 Bible Study

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Luke 21-22.

    I am not sure that today’s blog entry will have any continuity. As I read the passage there were several things which I wanted to comment on that are not connected in my thoughts. The passage begins with Jesus’ commentary on the widow’s offering. Entire sermons have been, rightfully, written on this three verse passage. We have no basis for taking any pride in our giving until our giving means we may miss a meal because we cannot afford it. Jesus is not saying that we should give to the extent which the widow did. However, His message throughout was that serving God should mean more to us than having food to eat.


    In discussing the coming trials and struggles which His followers will face Jesus warned us that people would appear claiming to be Him, or claiming to fulfill His role. He assured us that there will be no mistaking when He returns. Everyone will know. We will not need someone to tell us that Jesus has come back.
    This passage also contains Luke’s account of the Last Supper, which was the Passover Meal. Here Jesus says something to which I do not think we pay enough attention: ” For I tell you now that I won’t eat this meal again until its meaning is fulfilled in the Kingdom of God.” A few years ago, the pastor of the congregation I was attending preached a sermon series on Passover, including the meaning of the meal. I can think of one or two other times in my life where the meaning of the Passover Meal was discussed. I have been as guilty of this as any. I do not think I have put much thought into the meaning of the Passover Meal, even when I am writing on the passages in the Bible where it was instituted.

October 31, 2016 Bible Study — Seek And Save The Lost

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Luke 19-20.

    The story of Zaccheaus is the perfect model of Christian outreach. First, Jesus did things which made Zaccheaus curious enough to look to see what was going on. Then Jesus reached out to Zaccheaus and treated him as a friend, not as a pariah. The people condemned Jesus for associating with someone as corrupt and evil as Zaccheaus. Jesus responded by indicating that He came to seek and save the lost. This is an important lesson for the outreach we conduct today. We are not called to make our congregations better than others so that people will change from those others to ours. We are called to seek those who have not yet come to know the Lord. This theme continues in Jesus clearing the Temple. Those selling animals for sacrifice had turned the courtyard of the Temple into a stockyard, making it inhospitable to worship by Gentiles, who were allowed no further into the Temple.

October 30, 2016 Bible Study — Faith, Persistence, and Prayer

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Luke 17-18.

    Right after telling His disciples that if they had faith like a mustard seed they could tell a tree to be uprooted and it would happen, He tells them that they should not expect to be praised for doing as He commands. If our faith is true we will do as God commands because it is our duty to do so, not because we expect to be rewarded for doing so. Looking at the connection which Jesus makes here between the impact of our having faith on doing God’s will gives me a new insight into the parable of the persistent widow. In that parable Jesus tells us to learn from the woman who got justice from an unjust judge because she was persistent. In the same way, we are to be persistent in our prayers. The thing which connects this to the earlier teaching about faith is that Jesus wraps up this teaching by asking how many He will find with faith when He returns. Do I have enough faith to be persistent in my prayers?

October 29, 2016 Bible Study — Counting The Cost

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Luke 14-16.

    In yesterday’s passage the leader of a synagogue where Jesus healed a woman reprimanded the woman, and the others present, for seeking healing on the Sabbath, saying that healing was prohibited because it was work. So, in today’s passage, Jesus asked the religious leaders who were present if it was lawful to heal on the Sabbath. I had not touched on it in yesterday’s passage, but the main thrust of Jesus’ teaching on this subject is that it is never wrong to do good for others. From there Jesus transitions to talking about puffing ourselves up. I see an important connection between what Jesus says here and His teachings about those who serve others being the greatest. If the most important question we ask when deciding whether or not to do something is “What’s in it for me?” we have failed at the most basic level to understand what Jesus taught.


    As followers of Christ, each and every one of us is called to obey the Great Commission. We are to go forth into the world and make disciples. However, sometimes in our eagerness to make new disciples we downplay the difficulty of being a follower of Jesus. Jesus tells us that it is important that we be aware of what it will cost us to be His follower. No one should be encouraged to start following Jesus without first knowing the trials and suffering which they will face as a result. Our eagerness to bring others to the Lord is not misplaced, as Jesus makes clear in the parables He tells in chapter 15. However, we must make sure that we do not convince people to follow Jesus under false pretenses. The cost of following Jesus is high, higher than most are willing to pay. We know the reward is worth it, but that is a decision which each person must make for themselves.

October 28, 2016 Bible Study — Decide For Ourselves What Is Right

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Luke 12-13.

    Jesus teaches that we should not, that we need not, worry about material possessions because God knows our needs and will care for us. In fact, He tells us that we should expend our material possessions to help those in need and thus store up possessions in Heaven. From there He goes on to give two illustrations about being ready for His return. Then Peter asks Him if those illustrations were just for the disciples, or for everyone. Rather than answer outright, Jesus gives yet another illustration about a servant who has been placed over other servants to await their master’s return. The traditional interpretation of all three of these illustrations is that Jesus should find us doing as He instructed when He returns, and this is correct. However, I realized today that it is incomplete. Looking at how these illustrations come on the heels of Jesus telling us to store up wealth in Heaven, it occurred to me that Jesus was also telling us that we should be ready to help those in need when the opportunity presents itself to us.


    Jesus’ third illustration, which He gave in response to Peter’s question, indicates that those, such as the disciples, who have been given authority over others will be held to a higher standard. Jesus’ third illustration on this subject teaches us that those who have been given more authority, more wealth, more knowledge, or more of something else will be held to a higher standard. Jesus even puts in a bit about those pastors, and other leaders, who abuse their position to benefit themselves at the expense of those over whom they have been given authority. If we know what God’s will for us and do not act accordingly, we will suffer much greater punishment than those who do not know His will.


    Jesus goes on to tell His disciples that He did not come to bring unity. He says here that He came to bring division. This passage is directly aimed at those who argue that we should acquiesce on this or that point in the name of unity. My understanding of what Jesus means here is significantly influenced by the fact that immediately after saying this to the disciples Jesus turns to the crowds and asks them why they cannot decide for themselves what is right. We are to decide for ourselves what is right, not take the word of our pastor, or some other leader. Don’t take my word for what is right. Read the Bible, pray, listen to how others interpret it, and allow the Holy Spirit to move in your heart to understand what God wants you to do. But that is not going to lead to unity because some of us will see things one way and others will see it another, and some people will push for us to accept things which they know are wrong.

October 27, 2016 Bible Study — The Harvest Is Great, But The Workers Are Few

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Luke 10-11.

    “The harvest is great, but the workers are few.” I was going to say that is even more true today than it was when Jesus said it, but that is not true. However, much to our shame it is as true today as it was when Jesus said. And why is it so true? Because we do not pray enough(more on that in the next paragraph), nor hard enough for the Lord to send more workers. Look around at our society, if your heart does not break for those who do not know and serve the Lord, my heart breaks for you. I want to make it clear that when I say “we do not pray enough” I am most definitely including myself in that “we”. I think it is time for me to stop just praying where I am when the conviction comes upon me to pray and for me to get down on my knees to pray. I need the Spirit to fully overcome me so that I speak God’s word to those in need of it around me.


    There is much in today’s passage which connects to how we should approach the “harvest”: the story of the Good Samaritan talks about how we go about the harvest, as does the story of Mary and Martha. Then Jesus teaches us about prayer. Notice how sparse and clean is the example prayer which Jesus gives us. Our prayers are not better for being wordy. The contrary is true. Let us keep our prayers simple and direct. We do not need to tell God why it is His will to answer them. He knows that already. However, Jesus does remind us of the importance of persistence. Keep on asking. Keep on seeking. Keep on knocking. If we believe that what we are asking for is God’s will, why are we not asking for it again, and again, and again, and again. If we believe that what we are looking for is necessary to perform God’s will, why do we give up when we do not find it after a day or two. We should keep on looking until we find it, even if it takes decades. If we believe that God wants us to go through that door, why do we stop knocking when nobody answers it the first time? Instead let us make sure our ring is turned in and knock harder, look for a doorbell, find a stick so that our knocking can be louder, and keep knocking until someone opens the door. And if we do not believe it is God’s will, why were we knocking in the first place?

October 26, 2016 Bible Study — Carrying Our Cross On The Path To Becoming The Least

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Luke 9.

    When Jesus said to His audience that they needed to “take up your cross daily” it would not have been a vague metaphor. That would have had vivid meaning to them as they would have been familiar with seeing condemned men carrying their cross has they were taken to be executed. Jesus is telling us that in order to serve Him we need to do things which we will no more desire than those men desired to carry their cross. If we wish to serve Jesus we will need to willingly go to our deaths, sacrificing our wants and desires in order to perform God’s will. If we try to avoid doing so, we will lose our lives and our very souls. The only way we can preserve our lives and our souls is to willingly give them up to serve God. One of the main characters in a book series I love put it this way, “It does us no good to give up our heart to obtain our heart’s desire.” As much as we might dread what we expect to find at the end of the path which Jesus leads us down, the end of every other path is worse. However, Jesus also tells us that we will find that the end of the path He is leading us down will be less dreadful and more glorious than we imagine. Yes, there will be suffering, but beyond the suffering is glory.


    I have been struggling with what to say here because I am going to use an example involving someone who I know reads this blog. Here Jesus tells us that the least among us is the greatest. He says this in the context of telling us that those who welcome a child in His name welcome Him, and that those who welcome Him welcome God the Father. We have a tendency to read Jesus as saying that those who are least will be greatest, as if you may be the least now, but you will be the greatest later. However, that is not what Jesus said. He said, “Whoever IS the least among you IS the greatest.” This is not that somehow in the future God will make you great because you are least. No, this is the least are really the greatest.
    Now for the part that makes me nervous. I, and a couple of other friends, run a practice for a local group. After our last practice I was talking with someone who feels that they are not as good as they should be. They feel like they are the least able person at our practice (for the purpose of this blog I am going to assume that this feeling reflects reality, although that is open to debate). As a result of this, they think it is a waste of time for them to continue. Yet I cannot help but think that Jesus is telling those of us who think we are better than this person at this activity that we are wrong. He is also telling this person that because they are the least at this activity that they are actually the greatest. The thing about it is that I almost know what He means in this context. This person, who thinks they are so terrible at this activity, is my favorite teacher of newbies who are just starting to understand what they are doing because when she works with them she does not intimidate them, as some of our members who are more confident of their skill do(myself included, not because I am that good, but because I am that confident). And because she more naturally fences down to them in a way that encourages them to stretch their ability. And all of that is irrelevant to my point. Jesus is telling us that when we think we are the least is actually when we are the greatest.

October 25, 2016 Bible Study — The Women Who Followed Jesus

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Luke 8.

    I do not think I have ever given much thought to Luke’s passage here about the women who accompanied Jesus and the twelve as they traveled around Galilee. It is somewhat interesting that these women were travelling around with a group of men in that culture. At least a couple of these women were prominent women. In particular, Luke mentions the wife of Herod’s business manager and a woman named Susanna, someone with whom he appears to assume his audience is familiar. I conclude from this that Susanna was someone who was significant in the early Church (or at least in the area where he was sending this letter). However, the part of this which caught my attention is that these women were covering the expenses of Jesus’ ministry out of their own resources. The way Luke words this suggests that some amount of support for Jesus and the Twelve came from people in the towns they preached in, but that these women provided the expenses which could not be covered that way. The fact that Luke emphasizes that these women did this out of their own resources suggests that he wants to make it clear that they were not using their husband’s or their family’s money to support Jesus. These were women who HAD their own resources to support Jesus’ ministry.


    In reading the parable of the lamp in Matthew, Mark, and now in Luke I have started to realize that there is something there more than what I have traditionally understood. My traditional understanding of it, and what I remember being taught about it, is that we should stand up and not be shy about others learning that we are believers in Christ. However, Jesus immediately follows this parable by saying that secrets will eventually be revealed and that the hidden will be exposed. While that suggests that Jesus may mean something other than the traditional understanding, the very next thing makes it certain. The next thing Jesus tells us is that we need to be careful how we listen to what He says, that we need to really work at it. Those who don’t just hear what He says, but actually listen will gain more understanding, but those who think they do not have to listen will lose what little understanding they already have. I don’t quite understand how these things connect. The best I can come up with is that we need to make sure that we let people know that our actions are motivated by what Christ teaches and that we are constantly striving to understand Him better. Let our words and our actions shine light upon Jesus and His teachings.

October 24, 2016 Bible Study –Don’t Worry About The Speck In Your Brother’s Eye

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Luke 6-7.

    The part of this passage which the Spirit brought most to my attention was the verses from chapter 6 verse 41 through verse 44. We need to focus on what we are doing wrong, not on what others are doing wrong. It is important to note that “doing wrong” includes not doing right. That is, if we are not doing things we should be doing it is just as bad as doing things we should not be doing. If I fail to help those in need, I am as much of a sinner as a person who murders someone. While the verses about the relationship of good and bad fruit to good and bad trees is not directly related to the teaching about worrying about our own faults, there is a connection. Someone who spends their time focusing on the shortcomings of others will never overcome their own shortcomings. It also provides us with a measuring stick by which we can measure ourselves. Are we producing good fruit? Are we doing the sorts of things which show God’s love to the people around us? Because, if we are not, then we are not only not producing good fruit, we are producing bad fruit.

October 23, 2016 Bible Study

I am using the daily Bible reading schedule from “The” for my daily Bible reading.


Today, I am reading and commenting on Luke 4-5.

    The three temptations which Luke describes Jesus experiencing in the wilderness describe the three basic temptations faced by those who desire to make the world a better place. The first temptation is to supply people’s material needs, making them dependent upon you. They will need to do the “right thing”, or you will cut them off. The second temptation is the temptation to compromise with evil in order to gain political power. Sometimes this is justified by the belief that, once political power is gained, you can go back on the compromise. It never works that way. Once you have justified compromising with evil you can always find a reason to do it again. The third temptation is to harness the power of religion and spirituality. Declare that all who do not fully support your agenda are heretics and servants of Satan. All of these represent attempts to take shortcuts from the hard work of convincing people, one at a time, to surrender their lives to God.


    When Jesus spoke in the synagogues His teaching was different than most religious teachers of His time. He did not refer to other people’s interpretation of Scripture. Jesus went directly to the Scripture and justified His teachings based on what was written there. We should follow His example. This does not mean that we should not study what others have said and written about Scripture, or that we should not use their teachings in teaching others. No, what is means is that we should treat only the Bible as authoritative and trust the Holy Spirit to show us what it means. If you hear or read someone’s teaching about God’s will and do not find it a convincing explanation of what is written in the Bible, set it aside and rely on what you read in the Bible.