walking towards suffering

And as Jesus was going up to Jerusalem, he took the twelve disciples aside, and on the way he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem. And the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified, and he will be raised on the third day.” [Matthew 20:17-19 ESV]

Once again Jesus stops along the way to Jerusalem to give a reality check to his disciples.
Can you imagine the disbelief evident on the faces of these who loved him so much?
They have been with the Lord for three years and have watched him do unimaginable things.

They saw him open blind eyes and heard him call Lazarus back to life.
They ate the multiplied fish and bread with the five thousand.
In their wildest imaginations they never dreamed of a crucified ending to His ministry.

What is so impressive is how Jesus set his face towards suffering.
Knowing his horrible fate, he seemed to look past the pain of the cross.
I think that he embraced this thought I shared a few years ago from Joni:
"Trials are not just assaults to be withstood. No, trials are opportunities to be seized!"
Jesus inspires me as I read of him walking towards his suffering.
He did not back down from pain but headed straight for it.
He saw his trials as an opportunity to show the world that God is no stranger to pain.

When he forgave those who were inflicting his pain he was giving us each an example.
A model of amazing grace under trial and perseverance in suffering.
He was showing us how to glorify God in when life takes a really bad turn.

You are worthy of my worship Lord Jesus. Help me to glorify you in my trials.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

divine philanthropy

And when evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the laborers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last, up to the first.’ And when those hired about the eleventh hour came, each of them received a denarius. Now when those hired first came, they thought they would receive more, but each of them also received a denarius. And on receiving it they grumbled at the master of the house, saying, ‘These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’

But he replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I am doing you no wrong. Did you not agree with me for a denarius? Take what belongs to you and go. I choose to give to this last worker as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?’ So the last will be first, and the first last. [Matthew 20:8-16 ESV]

Jesus continues teaching the disciples about wealth by telling them about vineyard workers.
These all received the same daily pay even though they worked different hours.
I think that many of us can relate to this seemingly unfair action by the owner of the vineyard.

Anyone who has lived for a while understands workplace feelings of unfairness.
When another gets a raise or a promotion and our pay remains the same
Many of us would react in ways similar to vineyard workers who worked the entire day.

It is interesting how the master responds to their disappointment with the word generosity.
When it comes to eternal matters and everlasting fairness it is good to pause for a moment.
It is good to understand that life is all about the generosity of God.

Whether we have followed Him a long or short time, it is all about His generosity.
If we are gifted or blessed in any way it is because we serve a philanthropic God.
How much more should we live in ways that reflect His generosity in our lives?

There is no philanthropist like you Lord! Help me to live and give in generous ways.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

when unfair is made fair

Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name's sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first. [Matthew 19:27-30]

Sometimes it seems so difficult to follow Jesus and live like he did.
Especially when life seems so unfair and hardships are prolonged.
In such times we need to remember that we will inherit eternal life.

And to be sure, life is unfair.
People who do bad things do not always get caught.
And people who consistently do good things do not get rewarded.

Ever wonder what Jesus means when he speaks of his followers sitting on thrones?
Some might think that the twelve thrones are reserved for the apostles.
I see it more as a metaphor of how the unfairness of this life will be made fair.

In that new day the pecking order of this age will expire.
Things first in this world will be last and things last will be first.
It causes me to hope in times when I feel discouraged and alone.

I long for heaven Lord. I long for a day when things will be made right.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

fat cat camels

And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” [Matthew 19:23-26 ESV]

I had to laugh when I read this and was reminded of the context of this verse.
"All things are possible" was about a rich person entering the kingdom of God.
Many of us hear the phrase and our minds imagine great miracles an such.

Yet the sobering context of Jesus' assertion was a wealthy man.
A man who had many possessions and walked away from Christ.
One who chose his wealth over the kingdom of God.

Using hyperbolic language Jesus explains how hard it is for rich people.
The invitation to eternal life is so simple yet can be so costly.
The call of the kingdom can sometimes involve costly sacrifices.

Even so, I love the hope that Jesus indicates for even the most hardened amongst us.
That the one we never thought would kneel in prayer may one day respond to God's invitation.
To this end I pray believing that with God all things are possible.

Lord, I lift my family and friends to you. Draw them to you and cause them to kneel.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

possessive possessions

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” ... Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. [Matthew 19:16,21-22 ESV]

The relationship of faith to wealth, possessions and materialism is a tenuous one.
I wonder if this man who came to Jesus was known for his wealth and possessions?
Or maybe Jesus discerned this as he spoke with him?

Interesting how the man came to Jesus with a question about eternal life.
Seemed to think eternal life was earned by doing instead of believing.
Such is the thinking of many who want faith to be about good deeds.

I know people like this man - I often act like him.
People who seem to keep the ten commandments.
People who appear very moral but are very materialistic.

I think that many of us often have a strange attachment to our things.
We find that our possessions are possessing us instead of us them.
If we desire to be perfect or mature we must let go of our 'things'.

Lord, help me to let go of the things that draw my attention away from you.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

childlike hearts

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left. [Matthew 19:13-15 NLT]

I love these kind of scenes from the gospels!
They show such a tender side of our Lord as he makes room and time for children.
Can't you see them climbing up on his lap and embracing him.

Children seem to know how to love like no others can love.
Their hearts are so tender and their love so genuine.
I think that these kids caused Jesus to smile as he held and blessed them.

Jesus says that the kingdom belongs to such as these naive kids.
It cause me to wonder about how I, unlike children, often think and act.
I sometimes choose to take such an analytical approach to spiritual life.

My focus and approach to life is so often so very 'adult'.
Instead of trusting God like a child I lean on my own understanding.
I think that it is a good reminder to live life as a child:
believing the best about others;
laughing and interacting with friends;
and loving God and others with all of our hearts.
Hard to imagine a better way to live.

Help me Lord to be more childlike in the way that I live.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.

growing into the largeness of marriage

Jesus said, “Moses provided for divorce as a concession to your hard heartedness, but it is not part of God’s original plan. I’m holding you to the original plan, and holding you liable for adultery if you divorce your faithful wife and then marry someone else. I make an exception in cases where the spouse has committed adultery.” [Matthew 19:8-9 MSG]

Listen to how Jesus' disciples responded to his words about divorce:
“If such is the case of a man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”
Jesus tells them that marriage is basically for life and it makes them uncomfortable.
Even so, I do find the candid response of the disciples to be a bit refreshing.
Sadly some today enter marriage with this mindset but are not so candid about their attitude.

In verses following Jesus tells them:
“Not everyone is mature enough to live a married life. It requires a certain aptitude and grace. Marriage isn’t for everyone. ... But if you’re capable of growing into the largeness of marriage, do it.”
I think mental duplicity is always tested by trials like sickness and poverty.
It is why our vows often include staying faithful to each other in such times.
To men who find it difficult to commit to such marital vows Jesus says don't do it.

I love how The Message uses the phrase "growing into the largeness of marriage".
Being married forced me to grow up fast and become more than I dreamed I could be.
Dealing with the sufferings of my wives has forced me to becomes a larger person.

My sensitivity grew when wife Ellen went blind nine months after we married.
My heart grew even more when my wife Ann was disabled in 2007.
Marriage provides us with opportunities for growth like nothing else.

I think that marriage can be bring out the best in us and make us better people.
It can change the way that we love from self centered to other centered,
And, in the end, it can make us more like Jesus.

Thank you for my wife Lord. Help my life to be an encouraging force in her life.

... this devotion is part of the Red Letters series. Click here to read more.