Reading: Luke 13 – 14
Then Jesus said to his host, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or relatives, or your rich neighbours; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid.
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.” Luke 14:12-14 NIV
What would it have been like in the days of Jesus to have the disabled come to your place for tea? As in many places in the world today — with no fancy wheelchairs to travel in, or state-funded caregivers to assist — such guests may well have required a high level of personal assistance, not to mention tolerance and humility on the part of the host, and a willingness to overcome natural reservations and spiritual taboos.
On the surface of it, the cost of hosting such a group would seem high. And, as Jesus points out, there was no likelihood of the favour being returned. For those of his audience who felt “above” those disabled folks, it would have represented a step down…
And for the disabled, despised and rejected by men as they were, and familiar with suffering, how would it have been for them to be in the presence of these “respectables”, these esteemed ones of that society? How would they have felt? Because they themselves were most certainly not esteemed.
All of which sounds curiously familiar…
“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.” Isaiah 53:2b-3 NIV
Isaiah describes it perfectly: Jesus put aside his majesty to become like those he came to save. The very same ones he would have me invite for dinner…
Jesus saw people as they really were, and he still does. He sees me as I really am. No matter what I choose to clothe myself in — respectability, wealth, position, social acceptance, an air of self-confidence — Jesus looks right through those things to see what is in my heart. And he asks that I release to him those garments that have been my source of dignity, and instead put on a new set of clothes…
“Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” Colossians 3:12-14
There is something about those clothes, and the change of heart that is required to wear them. Somehow, they seem more suited to serving in, whoever the guests might happen to be…
Lord Jesus, please help me to see people as you see them. Help me not to suffer from a superiority complex, but instead, please work humility into the very fabric of my being, that along with all of God's children, I might be dressed well — ready and willing to love and serve.
Reading: Luke 11:1 – 12:11
There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.
What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. Luke 12:2-3 NIV
One day, everything that there is to know about us will be known by everyone else. All the good things in our lives — the deep things, the hidden things, the things that show just how good God has been to us — all these will be on display for his glory, a reflection of all that Jesus won for us at the cross. What a wonderful day that will be! What a celebration!
But what of the “not so good” things?
I find great reassurance in knowing this: There will be no shame on that day for sins confessed. They are forgiven and forgotten, for “as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us.” (Psalm 103:12).
But what about unconfessed sin? Is it possible that I could live my life as a follower of Jesus, and yet still harbour sin? Would I not have to completely ignore the promptings of the Holy Spirit? And how could I live in such a place of deceit? Obeying that still small voice of the Spirit is the very essence of living the Christian life, “…because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.” (Romans 8:14)
But in actual fact, as I think about that day when “all will be revealed”, I find there is no fear within me. Instead, I am comforted by the knowledge that in God's sight, everything is already revealed.
“Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:13).
What a wonderful arrangement! Whenever I turn my eyes toward God, if there is sin or a wrong attitude or something that needs to be put right, it is right there — “uncovered and laid bare” — all ready to be confessed, and forgiven. So long as I keep seeking his face, I need never be afraid of harbouring sin. Sin can't remain in his presence, so he helps me get rid of it, meaning I can always stand before him clean and forgiven.
And now, the priestly blessing in Numbers 6 carries new meaning. As God turns his face toward us, it is inherent in the blessing that he meets our sin with his grace, and replaces our shame with peace.
And when that great day comes when “all is revealed”, it will be for us a day not for shame, but for glory and great joy. Hallelujah!
Thank you Jesus that the fruit of your work in my life will one day result in much glory and celebration. I look forward to that day! I agree with what David said: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.” Psalm 32:1-2 NIV
“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26 NIV
Have you tried SOAP? Using SOAP as you read your Bible is a great way to hear what the Holy Spirit has specifically to say to you. Why not try it? You can read about it here: What is SOAP?
Reading: Matthew 26:57 – 27:31 (NIV)
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”
“Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Matthew 26:63-64 (NIV)
It's interesting to reflect on the challenge that the high priest made to Jesus. He said, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” The reply he got was exactly what he wanted. He knew that Jesus was compelled to tell the truth, and he welcomed it, not as truth, but as a succinct unambiguous claim of identity: “Yes,” Jesus said, “it is as you say.”
With this statement, Jesus had nailed himself. But Jesus didn't leave it at that. He added a powerful prophetic statement to leave them in no doubt, and to lay down a warning: “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.”
Anyone there who really was open to the possibility that Jesus might in fact be who he said he was would have cause to swallow hard about what they were planning to do. It was a stark warning, but it fell on hard hearts. The company present would kill Jesus, and his words would come back to haunt them.
There was perhaps one man in that gathering who did have fresh cause to reconsider his opinion of Jesus. Malchus was the servant of the high priest. He had been there when Jesus was arrested on the Mount of Olives. It was he who had his right ear cut off as impetuous Peter lashed out with his sword. And, it was he who looked up to find that the very one they had come to arrest was reaching out his hand, and touching him, and he was healed. It was a moment he would never forget.
I wonder if in that moment, something softened in his heart? Enough to give him reason to pause, and consider afresh, “Could this man actually be who he says he is?”
Humility before God is the only way for us to know truth. It's being prepared to lose face by stepping away from our old attitudes toward Jesus in order to stand with the very one we had previously mocked. Or shunned. Or perhaps simply ignored. It's being able to come before him with hands empty and heart open to say, “I was wrong. And I need you.”
Father God, your approval is what I want more than anything. Ultimately, the opinion of others matters not. Only that you would forgive me, and accept me, and enjoy me. May arrogance be far from me as I thank you, and humbly accept your incredible gift of grace.
Reading: Colossians 2
…that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Colossians 2:2a-3 (NIV)
To discover Jesus is to discover “the mystery of God”. He is “the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints [that's us who have believed]. To them God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” (Colossians 1:26-27).
I picture this mystery of God as being like a bulb in the ground which over “ages and generations” sent up its shoot and grew. In time a plump flower head developed, and all who sought God wondered, “What will the flower look like?” Not until Jesus came and died and then rose from the dead did the flower finally open fully to reveal God's wonderful plan for us. And the plan was Jesus. In him, a living intimate relationship with God can begin as we discover the “surpassing riches of God's grace.”
In hindsight, the plan of God can be seen right through the Old Testament, but how wonderful it is to discover for ourselves the “glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in [us], the hope of glory.”
It's interesting that “All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” are “hidden” in Christ. They are not just 'lying on the ground' waiting to be casually picked up. They are only found as I earnestly seek Jesus, searching the written Word to discover the “living Word”, reaching out for him in prayer, and looking to the Holy Spirit to reveal more of Jesus to me.
There is so much more to this “mystery of God” than just the initial discovery. Having found Jesus, I am like an explorer in the desert who has discovered a great archaeological treasure protruding through the sand. Having found it, I start to dig to discover more of what lies hidden below, initially with an excavator, then a spade, then a small trowel, and finally a brush as the beauty and intricacy of the treasure is revealed.
This is not some small artefact to be added to my collection of wisdom and knowledge, but a whole kingdom, a lifetime's worth of treasure hidden in Christ and waiting for me to uncover and enjoy and marvel at.
Lord Jesus, what a privilege that you should open the way for me to know you. I long to know more of you. Thank you for your written Word. I pray that as I read it and ponder on it, you would reveal yourself to me in increasing measure, and bless me with the wisdom and knowledge that are to be found in you.
Reading: Joshua 21 and 22
But be very careful to keep the commandment and the law that Moses the servant of the Lord gave you: to love the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to obey his commands, to hold fast to him and to serve him with all your heart and all your soul.” Joshua 22:5 (NIV)
As I read those words, I feel something leap inside of me. “Yes! That's what I want Lord! To love you, to walk in all your ways, to obey your commands, to hold fast to you, and to serve you with all my heart and all of my soul! All those things – they are the desire of my heart.”
To love, to walk, to obey, to hold, and to serve – these are all verbs, “doing” words, the out-working of my inner faith. Without that faith, my efforts would be like branches on a hollow tree, sooner or later rotting and falling off. Without God's ongoing gift of faith to me, that's all I would be – a hollow tree.
But I am not a hollow tree. I am an “oak of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendour.” (Isaiah 61:3) There is an inner strength in me based not on my own virtue but on that of Jesus. How wonderful was that divine exchange that happened at the cross! Not only am I renewed and restored, but the Holy Spirit has come to live in me!
Now, as I love and walk and obey and hold and serve, I do so with the enabling power of the Spirit. He is willing me on! It's as if my faith is bursting into life. No wonder my heart leaps at the opportunity to express my love for God. He is truly the heart and strength of my life.
I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness… Isaiah 61:10
The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. My heart leaps for joy and I will give thanks to him in song. The Lord is the strength of his people, a fortress of salvation for his anointed one. Save your people and bless your inheritance; be their shepherd and carry them forever. Psalm 28:7-9
See also, Surprise! It's Righteousness!
Reading: Psalms 112-116
I love the Lord, for he heard my voice; he heard my cry for mercy. Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live. Psalm 116:1-3 (NIV)
“Because he turned his ear to me…” Two pictures come to mind as I consider the remarkable thought of God turning his ear to me. The first is of a man walking down a road who suddenly stops and kneels down with his ear to the ground to listen to an ant.
The second is of a person who, in the midst of a noisy crowded room, picks out the voice of one particular person and ignores all the other voices so as to focus on what this person has to say.
It is clear from the psalmist's words that God didn't just 'notice' him, but that he showed concern for him in his distress, responding with compassion and grace. And the psalmist's response? Devotion. “Because he turned his ear to me, I will call on him as long as I live.”
This is yet another reminder of God's love not just for the human race, but for me! He loves me, and one of the ways he expresses that love is by listening to me. He values what I have to say, which means he values me!
Nothing is so big or so small that I can't talk with him about it. Paul tells me to “Pray continually.” (1Thess 5:17). In Philippians 4:6 he says, “Don't worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done.” (NLT)
But there is more here. Listening is a way that I too can express my love, both for God as I meditate on his Word and seek his voice in prayer, and for others as I take a genuine interest in what they have to say and how they feel about it.
Thank you Lord that you not only welcome open communication with me but you seek it. I don't want to miss any opportunity to commune with you, but I need your help. Please open my ears to hear you more clearly, and teach me as I practice with you the fine art of listening.
See also When Your Words Come
Reading: Philippians 3-4
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death… Philippians 3:10 (NIV)
“…Becoming like him in his death…” What was Jesus like in his death? Sapped of all human strength, mocked, tortured, tormented by the agony of crucifixion, and carrying upon himself the weight of all our sin – how did Jesus respond?
He had already committed himself to his Father's will: “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42). Still, when it came to it, there was no protest, no pleading for mercy or shrinking back from the atrocity he was suffering. Instead, there was submission.
“He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7-8
Nor did he show resentment, but rather, grace. “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34). In Hebrews 2:10, Paul tells us that Jesus was made “perfect through suffering”. Indeed, though he suffered terribly, Jesus responded with enormous courage, with humility and with continuing obedience to his Father, demonstrating for all time the depths of his love for both the Father and for us.
That's what Jesus was like in his death.
“If anyone would come after me,” Jesus says, “he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24). In this verse, it seems like Jesus is offering me a burden, but actually, I think he is offering me a secret, the key to becoming like him in his death. And that is, to put my life completely and utterly into God's hands – to “lose it”, as it were, to him.
But although I offer him my life, I suspect it will not be until I find myself in the 'crucible of suffering' that my submission to him will become complete, and I will, as Jesus was, be made perfect through suffering. And in the meantime, with any suffering that comes my way, I can follow Jesus' example by lifting up my eyes from the suffering at my feet, and instead fixing them on the joy set before me.
Your example Jesus is inspiring. Please open the eyes of my heart to see you, and to understand more deeply the joy that is set before me. May I live my life with courage, humility and obedience as with your help I commit myself daily into your hands.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. Hebrews 12:1-3 (NIV)
See also Joy, Suffering and the Fragrance of Life.
Reading: Mark 7-9
…on the way they had argued about who was the greatest. Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all.”
He took a little child and had him stand among them. Taking him in his arms, he said to them, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” Mark 9:34-37
On learning that his disciples were discussing who was the greatest among them, it's interesting that Jesus doesn't rebuke them for this. Rather he explains to them what constitutes greatness in the kingdom of God, and it is clearly not what they were thinking. Greatness in the Kingdom allows no room for pride; rather, it stems from humility. It takes the opportunity to serve and delights in allowing others to go first. It is not self-promoting, but instead leaves God to promote as he sees fit. It seeks not the adoration of men, but rather, the approval of God.
Some of the greatest people in the Kingdom of God may be those whose deeds are unknown by the world, but, “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” Matthew 10:26
I enjoy being recognised for doing something well. But being able to enjoy the moment with my Father in heaven, and then “chew the fat” with him afterwards – that is a very great privilege. Enjoying the warmth of his approval frees me from the need to have the approval and affirmation of others. To please him in everything I do, knowing that he sees all I do, and knows what is in my heart – this should be my number one priority. Whatever job he has for me is the job I will put my heart and soul into, whether that job be great or small.
Thank you Jesus for your wonderful example. Help me to delight in serving others, and in knowing that as I serve, I am bringing pleasure to you, my King. I look forward to the reward you have for me. My life is in your hands.
Yes, the title of this SOAP was rather grandiose, wasn't it! “Simon the Great!” I had a good laugh with God about this one. Have you tried using SOAP in your own times with God? It's a great way to listen to God as you read his Word. You can learn more about SOAP here: What is SOAP?
Reading: Luke 5:1-16
While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him. Luke 5:12-13 (NIV)
The law of Moses contained various rules and regulations about skin diseases, and how these affected a person's “cleanness”. (See Leviticus 13). Being ceremonially unclean meant a person could neither touch nor be touched by another person, or that person would also become unclean. Neither could they “touch” God, because nothing unholy can stand in the presence of our holy God. Effectively, to be unclean meant to be cut off.
The picture was really a representation of the effect of sin in my life: it makes me unclean, and it cuts me off from the presence of God. Like an infectious disease, sin taints and infects everything it comes into contact with.
But in this story of the man with leprosy, something wonderful happens. Everything gets reversed! Jesus touches the man (that would have been a surprise in itself), but his holiness is not tainted. And instead of the unclean man making Jesus unclean, he himself is made clean by Jesus! Holiness has come, and the power of his uncleanness has been broken.
No longer is sin flowing out from me and causing damage. Instead, grace is flowing into me bringing holiness and restoration. In fact, everything is flowing in a new direction, and all because Jesus has reached out and touched me. The power of my uncleanness has been broken. Instead of being cut off, I am free now to enter and enjoy the very presence of God. I need to do this! I need every day to open my life to him to receive all that he has for me.
I am also free to reach out and touch others! God's grace flows not just to me but also through me. I need to open the penstocks and freely share with others the goodness that is flowing my way. The more that flows through, the more capacity I will develop to be able to share God's grace.
Jesus, thank you for your incredible gift. Thank you that everything now is flowing in a new direction – from you to me to others. Help me to know more of your grace, and to share it generously with those you bring across my path.
Reading: Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 10
The Lord said to Moses: “Tell your brother Aaron not to come whenever he chooses into the Most Holy Place behind the curtain in front of the atonement cover on the ark, or else he will die, because I appear in the cloud over the atonement cover. Leviticus 16:2 (NIV)
Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body… …let us draw near to God…” Hebrews 10:19-22 (NIV)
What a contrast between Leviticus 16 and Hebrews 10. It's so inspiring to read the two chapters side by side. Both highlight the holiness of our God, and the perils of approaching him in an unholy state. Aaron could enter the Most Holy Place just once a year, on the Day of Atonement, when sacrifices of bulls and goats were made, and strict protocol needed to be followed.
But that day, which continued to come around year after year, was just a shadow of a day that was to come. On the real Day of Atonement, my unholiness was dealt with once and for all. No longer would God warn me against entering his holy Presence, lest I die.
Now, a new and living way had been opened up “through the curtain”, so that not just the high priest, but every man, woman and child – including me – could enter freely into the very Presence of God, the Most Holy Place. It's what God wants for me, and Jesus has made it possible, “…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Hebrews 10:14)
What amazing words those are: I have been “made perfect forever”. That truth needs to permeate my entire being:
I have been made perfect forever…
God is perfecting holiness in me…
How can I now entertain fear or feelings of inadequacy? How can I remain conceited or self-righteous? I can't. But what I can do is embrace the wholeness and confidence that true holiness brings. I am acceptable! I can come into the very presence of our holy God without shame, not as one who is inadequate, but with joy, as one who has been made perfect forever!
This makes me feel so differently about myself. In the way I relate to other people, it gives me confidence and opens the way for love. And in the way I relate to God, it invites a relationship that is almost indescribable. Jesus has changed everything! Closeness with God is now attainable, and I can have it!
Thank you Lord Jesus for your indescribable gift. I accept! Please open my eyes to see you more clearly and know you more closely. I want to know more of your holiness. Please remove from me all that is false, and may the truth that is found in Jesus permeate every part of me, to the very core of my being.
“…because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” Hebrews 10:14