the source of fear


Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. [Matthew 10:29-31 ESV]

The fear that Jesus speaks to is real for those who he is sending out.
The disciples eventually were put to death for proclaiming the good news.
These risked all to proclaim Jesus' message.

To these, and us, Jesus speaks about trusting God with our very lives.
A tough message when persecution is at hand or when things seem out of control.
There is much to fear in life, yet Jesus tells us to "fear not".

To these disciples, and to us, Jesus speaks to how much we are loved and valued by God.
He tells us that God really knows us and even numbers our hair follicles.
God knows our capacity to believe when we are faced with fear laden circumstances.

Jesus indicates that when we stand up to fear we acknowledge God's presence in our lives.
When we give in to fear we lean into our heads rather than our hearts.
In reality, our fears evidence a trust in things seen rather than things unseen.

I think that fear is all about trusting our finite brains.
So often I find myself thinking about things that might happen.
In doing so I forget to trust the One who numbers the hairs on my head.

Fears of things that present imminent danger are rational and appropriate.
Yet fears become irrational when we trust the imaginations of our brains.
These fears seem to be sourced in thinking rather than trusting.

Lord, give me grace to trust you and not be afraid.


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

in the midst of wolves


“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake ... When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. ... the one who endures to the end will be saved. [Matthew 10:16-18,20,22 ESV]

The imagery of being a sheep in the midst of wolves is a very scary one.
Wolves eat sheep - ungodly leaders persecute and kill heavenly ambassadors.
The stakes are serious and Jesus instructs them (and us) to:
  • be wise - use our heads and embrace the wisdom of our hearts;
  • be innocent - live from our heart and have pure motives;
  • beware men - be on the alert in our dealing with men of ill-will;
  • not be anxious about what to say - rather trust the Holy Spirit to give the words;
  • endure - so needed when trials and persecution come our way.
Sometimes life is a bit scary - things sometimes seem so out of control.
It is in times like these that we need to remember Jesus' instructions to his disciples.
Our lives may be different than theirs but Jesus words are no less effective when we heed them.

I need you Lord. Bless me with grace to be wise, innocent, alert, trusting and enduring.


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

the ministry of amateurs


Jesus sent these twelve out and commanded them, “Don’t go among the Gentiles or into a Samaritan city. Go instead to the lost sheep, the people of Israel. As you go, make this announcement: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with skin diseases, and throw out demons. You received without having to pay. Therefore, give without demanding payment. ... If anyone refuses to welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet as you leave that house or city. I assure you that it will be more bearable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on Judgment Day than it will be for that city. [Matthew 10:5-8,14-15 CEB]


Jesus has just given his disciples authority to cast out unclean spirits and to heal every disease they encounter. Now he sends them out on their first mission trip. A few reflections:
  • The focus was the lost people of Israel. Jesus was not eliminating gentiles
    in general but just in this specific mission.
  • When the kingdom is near, the miraculous is possible.
    In this we get a picture of what heaven might be like.
  • The ministry of the kingdom is without charge but the workers should
    have their needs met by those who welcome their ministry.
  • Ministers need to be received. Too often religious people have an
    ungodly cynicism when it comes to pastors and ministers.
  • There is a blessing when we receive ministers, drop our guard and
    open up to the Holy Spirit's work through them.
  • There is a consequence to rejecting the gospel and the minister of the gospel.
    It is a serious thing to reject the Holy Spirit.
  • Ministers of the gospel are usually amateurs sent by the Lord.
Some pentecostal folks imagine this passage, along with the command to heal the sick and work miracles, to be a template for mission trips today. In doing this I think that they miss the idea that this mission was specific and the disciples had specific instructions from Jesus.

On the flip-side others sometimes discount the Holy Spirit's working through others and miss out on the blessing that comes through the ongoing ministry of amateurs.

Lord, help me to be open to your working through me and through others.


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

things illogical and invisible


That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. ... As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. ... We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. ... Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. ... Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. [Luke 24:13,15,21,27 NLT]

Jesus is miraculously alive and he chooses to walk a few miles with two of his disciples.
Now doesn't that sound like our Lord?
And isn't the dialog so revealing about the disciples' mindset?

They have resigned themselves to the idea that Jesus is dead.
And they have rejected angelic reports of his resurrection.
They have given themselves over to all that is logical and visible.

Such is the place that many find themselves today.
What would Jesus say to many of us if he walked that stretch with us?
Would our words reveal our trust in the visible and the logical?

Would Jesus have to explain the scriptures to us?
Would he speak to us of things illogical and invisible?
Would we be slow to believe if his words disagreed with our ideology and theology?

Or would our hearts be open to the things that he would share with us?

I am often foolish Lord. I often rely on my senses instead of trusting you with all of my heart. Help me. Open my eyes and my ears. I do not want to be slow to believe.


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

a taxing perspective


Then the Pharisees went and plotted how to entangle him in his words. And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone's opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances. Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?” [Matthew 22:15-17 ESV]

Often questions tell us quite a bit about the one who is asking them.
Such is the case in this passage where the question is preceded by patronization.
The Pharisees really did not believe what they were saying about Jesus.

And their question was not aimed at the answer but the supposed lack of one.
But Jesus would not play their game and called out their malicious hypocrisy.
And his answer? Oh my! Small wonder that they marveled at it.
But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites? Show me the coin for the tax.” And they brought him a denarius. And Jesus said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said, “Caesar's.” Then he said to them, “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”
I think that there will always be a real mistrust of the government.
Whether it be a harsh dictatorship, as in Jesus' day, or a representative democracy.
There are people who simply do not want to support governmental activities by paying taxes.

Even so Jesus did not give his listeners, or us, an excuse for tax evasion.
By saying "render to Caesar" he validated lawful taxation.
By telling them to 'render to God' he put the paying of taxes in perspective.

I ask you to help the leaders in our governments Lord. Give them grace to acknowledge you in their lives. Give them wisdom to understand how to lead cities, states and nations.


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

loving the unlovable


Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. [Matthew 21:31-32 ESV]


Can you imagine the reactions of the religious leaders?
Jesus speaks to them of hated tax collectors and prostitutes.
And says that they would go into the kingdom of God before them.

In the parable he likens them to people who merely give lip service to God.
And the 'sinners' as those who have a change of mind and repent.
In doing so he reveals the heart of God toward the hearts of men.

Jesus chides them for having hard hearts toward those repenting in baptism.
In truth their hearts should have been softened at the sight of repentance.
He speaks to them, and to us, about going past lip service and loving the unlovable.

And such is the challenge before us today.
Loving hurting souls who appear so unlovable.
Caring for those who have been abused and mistreated.

Embracing people who are so different than we are.
The opportunity is before us to either be like Jesus or religious leaders.
The challenge is to be the embodiment of a different sort of person.

A person whose heart breaks when others suffer.
A person who, with the angels, rejoice when people repent.
A person who goes past mere lip service and compassionately does the will of our Father.

Open my eyes to those who are hurting Lord. Help me to pray for and encourage them.


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

the authority of love


And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” [Matthew 21:23-25 ESV]

That phrase, "From heaven or from man?", hits at the heart of the issue of authority.
And, to be sure, the authority Jesus is speaking of is not merely religious authority.
Although the religious leaders of his day wanted to frame the discussion in that light.

Their challenge to Jesus basically asked the question:
"Why did you not get our permission to do these things?"
Their issues were all earthly. Their concerns were fleshly. They feared losing their authority.

In contrast Jesus magnificently showed them, and us, what heavenly authority looks like.
His authority was a blend of spiritual power, wisdom and love.
The power was displayed in miracles and demonic exorcism.

Wisdom emanated from his teachings.
He was moved by compassion when He healed or performed a miracle.
Unlike the religious elders His authority had a basis in love.

And so it is with us - our authority is heavenly when we love.
If you want to influence anyone simply love and care for them.
And you will have more authority than you'll ever want.

Forgive me for not loving Lord. Help me to love.


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