The last state of that person is worse than the first.

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

There is a tendency to take these verses literal and try to explain the interactions of demons with human beings - I once approached them that way. When we focus on that aspect we really miss the greater message of it. We miss that Jesus is speaking of a generation of unbelieving people.. an evil generation, if you will, that embraces some sort of faith for a season and then falls away. It reminds me of these chilling verses in Hebrews:
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
I am really not a fire and brimstone kind of guy. In my life I have found that love, and not fear, brings me closer to God. Yet these verses and others like them must be included in a complete theology. They speak to me of temporal and eternal consequences. When a person continually rejects the Holy Spirit they harden their heart towards Him.. and these continual actions cause the last spiritual state of that person to be worse than the first.

Lord, I lift to you those with hard hearts. Help them to simply say yes to you.

He takes away his armor in which he trusted ...

And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

Have you ever believed in something so fervently only to find out (maybe years later) that what you believed was not 100% truth? I have. I wonder what part of us needs to embrace that kind of thinking? At some level you know that those who accused Jesus of being in league with the devil knew that they were wrong - yet these, because of their pride and insecurity, would not let go of a lie to embrace the truth. And sadly, they now find that they are fighting God.

I wonder if the two men pictured in these verses are representatives of two kingdoms? Perhaps the first is the kingdom of religion and the second the kingdom of God? Residents of the former kingdom trust in external armor and cling to ancient traditions that seemed to have kept them safe for so long. Yet these are not able to withstand the assault of the latter because the armor of the inner invisible kingdom is always stronger than those of the external one.

Help me to always be on your side Lord. I want to gather, not scatter, with you today.

A divided household falls ...

Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand?

I once spoke to a young couple (who were Jehovah Witnesses) that told me that Satan was involved in miraculous healings. These embraced the same error that some in Jesus day held. These simply did not understand the nature and the mission statements of spiritual kingdoms. If they did they would realize that demonic forces are never portrayed in the bible in a way in which good is used to do create evil. Jesus' answer to evil was to exorcise it.

On the flip-side I know of many people who seem to always be seeking a sign from heaven. It reminds me of a time in 1976 when my first wife wanted to be healed of diabetes and went off her insulin as "an act of faith". As she became ill God spoke to the both of us through the scriptures about the foolishness of putting Him to a test. Sadly, many even today do not understand how foolish it is to put God to a test by seeking miraculous signs.

Help me today to seek you and not signs Lord.

How much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit ...

What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

There is a pure grace involved in prayer that many find uncomfortable. The idea that a father in heaven longs to lavish us with good things is a foreign concept for many who have grown up trying to earn their father's love. Sadly, our image of God is often molded by the brokenness of our earthly parents. Even so, Christ speaks to us in this passage and tells us that even the best of the best of parents here on earth cannot be compared to our heavenly parent.

Many times Christians focus on the gifts of the Spirit but seldom is there mentioned the Spirit as a gift. Perhaps this is so because we want the gifts that the Spirit can give us (i.e. wisdom, healing, miracles, etc.) rather than the Spirit himself? Consider how Paul says in Romans that "you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” Maybe this gift of himself is one that gives the spiritual identity that we so long for?

Abba! Daddy! Thank you for the gift of the new birth. Help me to live like your child today.

Ask ... Seek ... Knock ...

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Whenever I read these verses I always think of how the words Ask, Seek and Knock spell out ASK when you use the first letter of each word. Here is the way that I see the progression of prayer in these verses:
  • Ask: communicates to me the simplest form of prayer. Often all that is needed is to simply request something of the Father. Many times this is a one-time occurrence that is answered in a straightforward manner.
  • Seek: this type of prayer represents more than just a request. When we seek we do not seek for an answer so much as we seek God in the answer. The answers to seeking prayers often come in a much subtler fashion.
  • Knock: the role of persistence and perseverance in prayer is represented by this word. Lets face it, no one likes to stand knocking at a door for a long period of time. Yet this is the sort of prayer that can change us the most.
The wonder in what Jesus says is that each of these prayer types always has a God response. I sometimes ponder if, when my prayer is not answered, I am asking when I should be seeking or seeking when I should be knocking.

Teach me to pray Lord. Help me to discern the type of prayer that I need to pray.

Because of his impudence he will rise ...

And he said to them, “Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves, for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him’; and he will answer from within, ‘Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed. I cannot get up and give you anything’? I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his impudence he will rise and give him whatever he needs.

The idea of a friend knocking on the door of a friend at midnight is fairly alien to most Westerners - I think that we all feel a bit too "civilized" to do something like that. Perhaps that is one of the messages in this passage? Perhaps some prayers are not answered because we are simply not desperate enough to ask God for something in an uncomfortable manner? Perhaps our prayers sometimes go unanswered because we do not put ourselves on the line?

I am reminded of a day in March of 1990 - my first wife Ellen had a heart attack and kidney failure at age 39 and she was in intensive care at our neighborhood hospital - things were tense in her room and she was not breathing strong enough to get oxygen to her extremities. As the doctors began to prep her for a ventilator I told them all that I wanted to pray first. They stopped what they were doing and I cried aloud an awkward prayer of desperation.. and her oxygen levels increased.. and a ventilator was not needed. I believe that God heard my desperate cry for help.

Help us Lord to embrace a style of prayer that makes us feel a bit uncomfortable.

When you pray ...

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say:
“Father, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins,
for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
And lead us not into temptation.”

This remembrance of the Lord's prayer in Luke is a bit different than the one in Matthew. Perhaps Jesus taught it at a different time. I get the idea in the gospels that he sometimes rendered the same teaching to different audiences. Even so, the essentials of worship, intercession, petition, forgiveness and leadership all remain. In it Jesus calls us to:
  • Call God "Father" - is there a sweeter word for God in any language?
  • See Him as a king as we ask for His reign in our lives and in our world.
  • Acknowledge God as the one each day who provides for our needs.
  • Bow before the Lord as people who have been forgiven a great debt.
  • Understand our need to not only be forgiven but to forgive everyone.
  • Seek His leadership knowing that our flesh is weak under temptation.
These sentences speak to me of how God longs to hear us speak to him in prayer. They remind me that God is close enough to us to hear each word we utter. And they shout out, from the pages of holy writ, that our Father loves his children with an everlasting love. How can we not be faithful to bear our hearts in prayer to a God such as our Father.

Father, help us today to pray the heart of the words and sentences that you have taught us here.

Many prophets and kings desired to see what you see ...

Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it.”

There can sometimes be a mundane and casual approach to the gospel by those who have been longtime followers of Christ. I wonder if the disciples really understood how unique, in all of history, their lives were. I think that it might have been easy, after a while, to even take for granted the wonderful healings, exorcisms and miracles that Jesus did. And how could they know that the beautiful teachings from the lips of Christ would soon be silenced?

I think that many of us today long to see what they saw and hear what they heard. I know that the gospels record the teaching for us to read and the miracles for us to imagine but what would it have been like to have been there. It reminds me that Jesus once told his followers "Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." There is a blessing that comes through the eyes of faith that cannot be obtained through natural eyes. Praise God.

Open the eyes of our hearts Lord that we might see you high and lifted up.

You have hidden these things from the wise ...

In that same hour he rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Sometimes I forget how extraordinary it is to have a relationship with God. The notion that the One who created everything I see, and cannot see, has come into my life sometimes overwhelms me. With Jesus I rejoice greatly that our Heavenly Father has revealed himself, and his thoughts, to we who treasure his name. It speaks to me of how salvation is an issue of the heart. For such wisdom cannot be obtained in an intellectual quest but in a childlike manner.

The blessed eyes that behold the things of God are not the rational and critical eyes of an adult but those of a child. For to embrace the kingdom of God one must abandon heady religion and theological pursuits and stoop to the level of a child. One of the most important lessons in the gospels is that the most prestigious theologians missed God and his blessings because they were not willing to forsake their intellect for their heart. Such must not be the case for us.

Lord help me to live with childlike faith strengthening this new heart you have given me.

I saw Satan fall ...

The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

It is clear in the gospels that the forces of evil are terrified of Jesus. In each interaction with him demons are heard pleading with him to not be destroyed before their time. Jesus exhibited authority over such beings. Likewise, in his name, the seventy-two who were sent out had this amazing power. I cannot imagine what it must have been like for them to be doing the things that they had only seen Jesus doing before this. The experience must have been surreal.

Yet the bottom-line reaction of our Lord was to speak to them not about evil but about heaven. I think that the key in dealing with evil demonic forces is to first understand who Jesus is and to then understand who we are in him. Our faith in Jesus, and in his name, is powerful when confronted by evil. Speaking his name, even in a whisper, is powerful when we truly know that our names are written in his heavenly book. It is a reason to greatly rejoice.

Let Satan fall again today Lord as I walk with you and speak your name in prayer.

The one who hears you hears me ...

But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near.’ I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!

For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.

“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.”

In this passage Jesus uses the perceptions of his listeners to compare their rejection of him to those of past prophets. This is the way that Bob and Gretchen Passantino put it at their Answers in Action site:
The common misunderstanding of these passages rests on two interpretive problems. First, Jesus is using an ad hominem argument - he is assuming something his opponents believe and then using it against them. Second, Jesus is using a common rabbinical argument, arguing from the lesser to the greater.
His argument can be paraphrased this way: "If Sodom, Gomorrah, Tyre, and Sidon were justly condemned by God for rejecting the prophets how much more just is God's coming condemnation against those who reject the very one the prophets prophesied about."
Rejecting the message of a prophet sent by God is serious business. It is dangerous because the prophet speaks for God. Such is the case with those that Jesus sends - both then and now. Sadly there seems to be groups of people that are predisposed to reject the gospel. These prefer so-called rational thinking to believing the gospel of Christ.

Lord, help me to remember that I am often called to speak for you. Please give me ears to hear and a tongue to speak.

Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals ...

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.
Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. ... And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house.

These verses precede one of the great passages of the gospels where, not only the elite twelve disciples go, but a horde of many are appointed to precede Jesus on his journey. These are told to go into each town and "Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’". And, as they go, these are instructed to pray for more harvesters to be raised up. It really encourages me to know that this kind of ministry is not just for apostles.

I love it how the Lord also tells them to just go and let God, through others, meet their needs of food and shelter. I have to admit that, as a onetime project manager, this advice seems pretty ridiculous. I mean who goes on a trip and does not make reservations in advance? We all enjoy the illusion of controlling our destiny and our destination. Yet, in this example, the Lords paints us a picture of what it means to trust God for the journey - both then and now.

Help me to let go Lord. Teach me what it means on this journey to trust you to meet my needs.

No one who ... looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.”

I think that the Lord, in these three examples, is speaking to what it means to deny yourself, pick up your cross and follow him. To follow Jesus one must often deny himself the creature comforts associated with a home to lay his head. In like manner familial relationships must always come behind our relationship to Christ. Because of this the gospel can sometimes seem to be a hard message but God is really not interested in playing second fiddle in our lives.

The past is not a place to ponder when we are walking with Christ. I sometimes look back, and when I do, I go to dark places. When a person who steers a plow looks back he is unable to plow a straight furrow. In like manner when we look back we are unable to walk the narrow path that leads to life. It reminds me that the writer of Hebrews instructs us to fix our eyes on Jesus when we run life's race. We are unable to walk a straight path when are focus is anyplace else.

Give me laser focus Lord. Help me to consider you in everything that I do.

One who is not against you is for you ...

John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him, for the one who is not against you is for you.”

The sentiments offered by John in this passage remain in Christianity until this day. It is shameful the ways in which leaders with such biases divide the body of Christ into their own little fiefdoms. Throughout the ages people with small minds have majored on minor theological points and minored on major issues like love and unity. It is a sad commentary on the fleshly power mongering of church leaders who use all sorts of devices to divide rather than unite.

In contrast, Jesus calls John, and us, to a unity that transcends denominational doctrines. In a few words he boils it down to an issue of being for each other or against each other. Interesting that, in this passage, he does not speak of one who is for or against 'him' but for or against 'us'. Jesus understood the theology of division very well as he saw it in his religious leaders. It is why we need to live and love in such a way as to foster unity with all those who follow Jesus.

Help me Lord to not major on the minors. Help me to be for others who see things different than I do.

He who is least among you all ...

An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest. But Jesus, knowing the reasoning of their hearts, took a child and put him by his side and said to them, “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great.”

Humility is one of the cornerstone principles of the Kingdom of God. When I consider it I am drawn to what the Old Testament prophet Micah wrote many years ago:
"He has shown you, O man, what is good; And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justly, To love mercy, And to walk humbly with your God?"
Humility, like justice and mercy, are requirements of God's kingdom. These three are inextricably connected. One cannot do justly or love mercy without humility because humility puts another before oneself.

I love the way that Jesus used an innocent child to illustrate this principle and to define humility. To these who would be great the Lord says that it is not about them but about how they react to the least among men, namely children.

In truth, greatness is never about us but about others. When we love sacrificially we declare that another's needs are greater than our own and exhibit an uncommon brand of humility. If we would be great we must be least among all.

Help me to understand humility Lord in such a way that I live for others and not myself.

Let him deny himself ...

Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of God.”

There is a cost to confessing Jesus as the “The Christ of God”. I think that there always has been a cost associated with biblical faith. The writer of Hebrews describes people who had faith in this way:
Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.
When I ponder the cost of faith I am drawn to the words "let him deny himself". At it's core faith is about a display of sacrificial love that denies ones own needs with deference to the needs of another. Jesus magnificently displayed this brand of love when he forfeited his life for the lives of mankind. This kind of love is required to follow Jesus.

In contrast there are people who, like the elders and chief priests and scribes, reject Jesus as “The Christ of God”. These see no value in denying themselves because they cannot embrace a life that transcends death. These live only for today and the profit of it. These will taste death but the faithful will not taste it but transition to a life immortal.

Praise you Lord for the gift of faith. Help me today to embrace faith, deny myself, pick up my cross and follow you.

Who do you say that I am?

Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.”

Interesting that the questions posed about the identity of Jesus to the disciples came in an atmosphere of prayer. The first inquiry was rather generalized and was about public opinion - could have been called it a poll of sorts. Interesting how the crowds sought to equate Jesus with flesh and blood thinking that he was the reincarnation of one of the other great Israeli prophets. Perhaps it was because his message was like John's and his miraculous power like Elijah?

Yet it is not all that important what the polls think about Jesus but it is very important what you or I think about him. The great Christian author CS Lewis framed it this way: "Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable." In essence, Jesus is either God come down to man or he is not. I am convinced with Peter that he is the Christ.

Lord Jesus, you are the Christ of God. I bow at your feet in worship and submit my heart to your will.

Take nothing for your journey ...

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere.

What kind of image do you see in the commissioning of the twelve disciples? Can you see the Lord calling each one to him and laying his hand on their head? Or maybe they were gathered in a private room where he spoke to them as a group? I wonder what was going on in their heads as Jesus told them that soon they too would be healing the sick and casting out demons? And I wonder why the Lord instructed them to take nothing for their journey?

I think that the disciples must have been so changed by this experience. To now be doing what they have seen Christ doing must have been a surreal experience. I wonder how people reacted to them and their request for hospitality? How much dust was shaken and how many people were touched? How their faith must have soared during their travels! The adventure of such a mission seems so exhilarating! Wouldn't you have liked to be with them on this journey?

Open up my eyes Lord to the way that I can be on this kind of journey today.

Do not fear; only believe ...

And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus' feet, he implored him to come to his house, for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. ... While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler's house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” But Jesus on hearing this answered him, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.”

And when he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter and John and James, and the father and mother of the child. And all were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” And her spirit returned, and she got up at once. And he directed that something should be given her to eat. And her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.

This play is broken up into two acts. Act I is the journey to Jairus' house. The trip is interrupted at least once by a woman who had been sick for twelve years. I wonder what was going through the mind of Jairus as the Lord stopped to minister to her. Knowing how sick his daughter was, I imagine that he was a bit impatient with the delay. Nevertheless the delay did not hinder Christ in the least and, in a sense, opened the door for a greater miracle.

Act II begins as the Lord arrives at the home of Jairus and is mocked because he tells them that the daughter is not dead but merely sleeping. It begs the question of whether she was actually dead or in some sort of coma. I imagine that Jairus had to be wondering about Jesus' admonition to not fear but believe. Perhaps he was hanging on to those words with everything he had. And, in the end, the words of Christ proved true as they watched her rise from her bed.

Help me to not fear today Lord but to only believe.

Who was it that touched me?

As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!”

But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.”

This story is unlike others where Jesus had an active part in a person's healing. Reading the account of a woman being made whole by simply touching Jesus' clothes astounds me. That the Lord sensed power leaving him causes me to wonder about the nature of Christ and of faith. Do you sense the desperation in this woman who had been sick for so very long? Can you envision her stooping down as she came to Jesus? I can imagine her crawling towards Jesus.

It is a moving scene that speaks to me of a woman who had abandoned all hope of ever being well again. And then she heard of a man who opened blind eyes and deaf ears. Can you sense faith arising in her soul as she approached the great physician? Can you feel with her as healing flowed into her body? It reminds me of the difference between bumping into God and touching him with faith. Many bumped into him that day but only one touched him with faith.

Help me to understand how to touch you in faith Lord.

What is your name?

Then they sailed to the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. When Jesus had stepped out on land, there met him a man from the city who had demons. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he had not lived in a house but among the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he cried out and fell down before him and said with a loud voice, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me.” For he had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many a time it had seized him. He was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the desert.)

Jesus then asked him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Legion,” for many demons had entered him. And they begged him not to command them to depart into the abyss. Now a large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, and they begged him to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and drowned.

Just a few hours ago the fearful disciples marveled at how Jesus, with a word, calmed the wind and the waves that were threatening to capsize their boat. And now, as soon as they touch land, the Son of God is tested once again by the forces of darkness. What a terrifying site this demonized man must have been to those present. Yet I imagine that the Lord saw him through eyes of compassion. I wonder what it must have been like to hear Jesus talk to the demons?

Some feel that reports of demons in the gospels were merely instances of people who suffered with some sort of mental illness as many of the symptoms of demonization resemble illnesses like bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and other psychoses. Yet this one seems different in that "Legion" existed apart from the man and, when cast out, caused a herd of swine to die. Either way, the disciples now know that Jesus has power over both natural and supernatural forces.

I am in awe of your power Lord Jesus. I fall at your feet in worship. You are God.

Who ... bear fruit with patience.

As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart,
and bear fruit with patience.

Most of us are familiar with the parable of the sower and the seed but if you are not you can read it in Luke 8:4-15. Today I would like to consider the seed that "fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold". Unlike the seed and soil previously mentioned this account speaks of the fruit produced from good soil and a good heart.

When I consider spiritual maturity I think of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Paul's letter to the Galatians. In these nine aspects of spiritual fruit we see what it means to mature in faith. Unlike much of the self-help books we read about these days, the spiritual fruit that Paul speaks of has little to do with our mental capabilities and fleshly pursuits.

Spiritual maturity begins when we receive the gift of a new heart. This new heart is different from the old unregenerate heart because it is good and has the ability to love like God loves. When we live from it, rather than from our own understanding, we produce spiritual fruit. We are kind, patient, controlled and caring when we live from our heart.

Thank you Lord for the gift of my new heart and the promise of spiritual growth when I embrace that gift.

They are choked by ... riches and pleasures ...

And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature.

Most of us are familiar with the parable of the sower and the seed but if you are not you can read it in Luke 8:4-15. Today I would like to consider the seed that "fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it". The weedy soil seems different than the first two because there seems to be fruit - albeit immature fruit.

When some think about the idea of fruit in a person's life they often examine the outward successes and failures. Some might consider wealth a fruit of hard work - even though some of the hardest workers are poor. Others look at a person's children and judge whether their parenting fruit is good or bad - like the children are robotic inventions.

In contrast, the Lord tells us that riches and pleasures actually choke and inhibit our spiritual growth and maturity. In truth, wealth is often a spiritual thorn that causes us to trust it instead of the Lord - and when we trust it we become filled with cares and worry. Yet when we, with all of our heart, trust God, we grow in grace and experience peace.

Capture my heart once again dear lover of my soul. I confess my trust in you and your plan for my life.

They believe for a while ...

And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away.

Most of us are familiar with the parable of the sower and the seed but if you are not you can read it in Luke 8:4-15. Today I would like to consider the seed that "fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture". Unlike the seed that fell on the pathway this took root and began to grow in a visible way.

I think that the challenge for many of us in this part of the story is wrestling with what it represents. The seed that fell on the hard heart was understandable and pretty straightforward. This one, not so much. The one with the hard heart did not believe but Jesus says that these "believe for a while" and when trials come they fall away.

The seed on the rock communicates a shallow heart that superficially accepts Christ. I want to say that they believed a different gospel but the seed remains the same in each instance. The problem is not in the message but in the heart. These fall away because God does not have all of their heart. It speaks to me of the dangers of halfhearted faith.

I want you to have all of me Lord. Shine the light of your Spirit on those parts not already yours.

The devil comes and takes away the word ...

The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.

Most of us are familiar with the parable of the sower and the seed but if you are not you can read it in Luke 8:4-15. Today I would like to consider the seed that "fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it". Jesus tells us that the seed is the "word of God" and the ground is the heart.

Oddly enough the sower in the story does not seem to be concerned that he has wasted seed by throwing it on a foot path where it will be unable to take root. He seems to treat all ground surfaces like they are equal even though he knows that only the good soil will produce a crop. So the problem is not the seed but the place that it has fallen.

This part of the story speaks to me of how easy it is to reject the gospel message when one has a heart hardened to God. Many things make a heart hard. In my early life I let bitterness and pain establish a hard inner crust in me. And when God's message of salvation came to me I rejected it. Fortunately God had an antidote for my hard heart.

Help me today Lord to encourage others and melt hearts hardened by pain, disappointment and bitterness.

Where is your faith?

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?”

Years ago my wife and I were passengers on a cruise ship when she began to sense numbness take hold of her legs. Within a day she was paralyzed from the waste down. I was beside my self with fear and anxiety as it would be a few days before we reached shore in Key West. In the midst of this stormy trial the Holy Spirit ministered to me and brought a sense of peace to my heart. It taught me that, in the darkest of places, He is there when we call out to him.

I love how, in this story, Jesus was unaffected by the raging waves and the winds that were rocking the boat. And when his friends woke him up he simply rebuked the storm and all was quiet again. It reminds me how faith is so needed when we are going through the stormy trials of our lives. Interesting how the disciples' fear turned from the storm to the one who had power over the storm. Perhaps our fear of the storm might reflect our need to trust the power of God?

I bow to you Lord. You have power over my trials. I will trust you in the storm.

My mother and my brothers are those who hear ... and do ...

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”

I wonder what it must have been like for Mary, the mother of Christ, and his brothers to come looking for Jesus and encountering such crowds. Not much is mentioned of the Lord's earthly family in the gospels. He certainly had younger brothers that had to wonder what had happened to their eldest brother. Seeing the crowds and hearing of his fame must have caused them to wonder and ask questions. Maybe this visit was for that very purpose?

I love the way Christ gives this great follow-up to the parable of a man who built his house upon a rock and takes the metaphor a step further. He tells us that obeying the word of God is not just a matter of having a house that stands but it is an issue of familial relationship as well. Many want to feel like they are a part of God's family but so few, relatively speaking, have a zeal for the word of God. Yet the ones who do Jesus claims as a part of his spiritual family.

I desire to do your will today Lord. Open my eyes and help me to obey your word today.

Nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest ...

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

One of the qualities that we attribute to God is omniscience.. the ability to know all things.. seen and unseen.. past and present. In this sense nothing can ever surprise God. He knows what we think and he understands our motives even when we are confused about them. He sees the future as clearly as he does the past. Nothing ever is hidden to him.
It is why Christ is called the Alpha and the Omega in the book of Revelation. He is the beginning and the end.

Yet God is not satisfied in merely knowing these things for himself but wants us to know them as well. It is why Jesus often called people out for the hidden attitudes that they had towards others. In the same way the Holy Spirit often speaks to us about the things that we thought that we had buried in our lives. Sometimes he wants to bring these things to light by confessing them to a friend. Other times he simply desires that we would expose them to him in prayer.

Shine your light on my inner thoughts Lord Jesus. Help me to expose any darkness in me.


He who is forgiven little, loves little.

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.” Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment. Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.”

I have to admit that there is something about this passage that strikes me the wrong way. My heart gets the message in it but my brain is slow to embrace the truth that there is a connection between forgiveness and love. I think that the issue is one of magnitude. My brain tries to convince me that my sins were not "all that bad" and the forgiveness God offers me not that great. But my heart knows the pride and arrogance that grips me and wants to control me.

Many self righteous individuals have a similar view of "sin". These are quick to believe that their sins are less than those who are prostitutes and thieves. And as they embrace such thinking their hearts wax hard and their loves grows cold because they do not understand the depth of their forgiveness. In truth, one who has been forgiven the sin of pride and arrogance has been granted a gift that outweighs all others. If only their heads could catch up to their hearts.

Open the eyes of my heart to understand the depth of my forgiveness Lord. And help me to walk in it.

I have something to say to you.

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”

There is not a more touching image of repentance in all of the bible than this one. The boldness of this woman.. someone known simply as "a sinner".. to come to Jesus with so many tears as to be able to cleanse his feet.. simply inspires me. I imagine she might have been crying with great sobs. Her repentance was great and her desire to know God even greater as she knelt kissing the feet of Christ and pouring the contents of the flask on them.

In the midst of this moving act the owner of the house, a Pharisee, reveals a chilling indifference and callousness that is not befitting a man of his calling. With disdain he looks down his nose at a hurting and repentant daughter of Israel. Small wonder that Jesus called such men hypocrites. Instead of weeping with this dear woman he chose to judge her. And in doing so he also judged the Lord. Sensing his reaction Jesus gets ready to call him out in rebuke.

Help me Lord to not marginalize others by calling them sinners. Help me to weep with those who weep.

Wisdom is justified by all her children.

“To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”

It is difficult for people steeped in fleshly traditions to accept a prophet because it goes against our flesh to embrace change. In America, the prophetic voice of Martin Luther King Jr. was met with much opposition and violence. Because of a deep seeded prejudice many disparaged his message and did not recognize that God was visiting our nation when he spoke. But his message was a wise one and has been justified over the years.

Such was the reactions of the religious leaders to John the Baptist and Jesus. Their messages challenged the elders' traditions and the rulers called them names. Jesus and John did not play by the elders' rules and the elders did everything to discourage people from heeding the teachings offered by these prophetic figures. Yet, when we look back, we see wisdom steeped in not only the message they taught but in the children they spawned.

Help me to accept the prophetic voices that you send into my life Lord.