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.

divine concessions


“Then why did Moses say in the law that a man could give his wife a written notice of divorce and send her away?” they asked. Jesus replied, “Moses permitted divorce only as a concession to your hard hearts, but it was not what God had originally intended. [Matthew 19:7-8 NLT]

Have you ever had a conversation like this one?
Often people use Old Testament law saying that God has spoken and has settled a matter.
Such is the place that Jesus finds himself in this passage.

Religious leaders are defending a man's right to divorce his wife.
Interesting to note that a woman did not have this right.
Jesus points them back to the garden and the way that marriage is meant to be.

Does this passage cause you to wonder?
Are there other things were allowed because of the hardness of people's hearts?
Perhaps many things in life are merely divine concessions similar to divorce?

Jesus describes this idea in more detail in the sermon on the mount.
There he speaks of hard hearts that hate, lust and covet.
In that sermon, and here, Jesus appeals to the heart of issues.

God is always in the heart of an issue and not all that interested in the legality of it.
The heart seems to be the real issue when it dealing with difficult life issues.
So why not overcome a concession than merely live into it?

Help me Lord to keep my heart soft and tender.


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

seventy times seven


Then Peter came up and said to him, “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven. [Matthew 18:21-22 ESV]


Following his answer to Peter, Jesus tells a story that illustrates his point.
The story is about a man who is forgiven a great debt by the king.
The man then refuses to forgive a man who owes him a smaller debt.

Jesus concludes the story with these words from the king:
‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. And should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’
The heart of forgiveness is mercy - God's unconditional mercy that always forgives.
One who keeps an account of forgiveness does not understand the heart of forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not about "seventy times seven" but really about forgiving every time.

Jesus wraps up the story with this lesson from it:
And in anger his master delivered him to the jailers, until he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.
I think that there is no greater spiritual bondage than that of unforgiveness.
When we refuse to forgive we imprison our soul in a dark dungeon of bitterness.
Such is the reason that Jesus tells us to forgive others from our heart even when they do not.

Lord, I forgive all that have offended me. Wash me clean of any bitterness.


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

the heart of reconciliation


If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. [Matthew 18:15-17 ESV]

I love the way that God's ways are so different than our ways.
Sadly, each of us can relate to the idea of complaining or gossiping when we are offended.
Going to the source of our disappointment and heartbreak can be so hard to do.

Sometimes the people we are called to confront can be difficult to talk to.
Often we have to summon every bit of courage just to talk to them.
Perhaps this kind of reconciliation is the only way that healing really comes to us?

The passage is not so much a process to follow but a glimpse into the mind of God.
The words speak to us not so much of discipline but about healed relationships.
In these few sentences Jesus presents an image of what reconciliation really looks like.

When he says:
go alone, he speaks to the sensitivity that is needed to restore a relationship.
take one or two, Jesus is stressing our need for accountability.
tell it to the church, he is telling us about the importance of reconciliation.
The focus is about God's concern about the interpersonal relationships of his children.

Lord, forgive me when I gossip about my pain. Give me a heart of reconciliation.


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

the one percent


What will somebody do who has a hundred sheep, and one of them wanders away? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hillsides and go off to find the stray? [Matthew 18:14 CJB]


How do you think that you would have reacted to the lost sheep?
  • A bean counting accountant might have written the sheep off as a loss.
  • The manager of a sports team might have replaced it with another.
  • Corporate executives might see it as the cost of doing business.
There are so many ways that people react to the loss of the 1%.
Here is how Jesus say that a real leader responds:
God’s shepherd goes to look for that one lost sheep, and when he finds her, he is happier about her return than he is about the 99 who stayed put.
These are such telling words about the heart of God towards the 1%.
They inform us about the intrinsic value that each of us have in God's eyes.
And teach us that no one is unworthy to be sought out with love and compassion.

Much is made of the forgotten 'one percent' in society these days.
I think that this passage reminds us that we must care deeply about them.
In reality, our call is seek out and help those who have gotten lost in our culture.

Help me Lord. Give me eyes filled with compassion that I might see those who are invisible.


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

angelic emulation


Do not think badly of these little children. I tell you this. They have angels in heaven. And all the time their angels can see the face of my father who is in heaven. [Matthew 18:10 WE]

Looking upon a child Jesus begins to give us a peek into the heart of God.
In just a few sentences our Lord paints a beautiful picture of our Heavenly Father.
He tells us that protecting angels are assigned to his children.

He goes on telling us how God searches out wayward children and rejoices when they are found.
His heart for his children is matchless and His love overwhelms us.
He is a Father like no other and is an example of unconditional love.

Jesus tells us to not to think badly of God's children.
In contrast, we should be like the angels in our protection of each other.
We should always have each other's back.

When one of us strays our heart should demonstrate the compassion of our Father.
Our prayers, like the angels, should behold the face of God for those who are lost.
We should rejoice when a lost soul is found - our heart should be that no one perish.

Dear Lord. Help the child that has strayed. Open their eyes to your love.


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

overcoming sin


Misery will come to the one who lures people away into sin. ... If your hand clings to sin, cut it off and throw it away. If your foot continually steps onto sin’s path, cut it off and throw it away. ... And if your eye is always focusing on sin, pluck it out and throw it away. [Matthew 18:7,8,9 TPT]


Some have interpreted Jesus' words literally.
Sharia law even commands that the hands of thieves be cut off.
These totally miss the point of what Jesus is teaching.

Using hyperbolic language Jesus exaggerates to make the point that sin is serious.
I think that our actions would be different if we saw sin the way that our Lord saw it.
The truth is that sin damages not only us but the fabric of society as a whole.

Perhaps heaven can be described as a place that is absent of sin?
Going with that it seems that might be one way for the heavenly kingdom to come.
Maybe that is an aspect that we should keep in mind when we pray?

The phenomena of temptation is one that is common to everyone.
We all have weak areas where temptation is the hardest to overcome.
In a sense, we yield to temptation when our outer being is stronger than our inner being.

So the onus is on us to do the things that make our innermost being strong.
The challenge is to deny ourselves, pick up our cross and follow Christ.
Each time that we do, we strengthen and exercise our innermost being.

Lord help me to feed and exercise my innermost being today.


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

kingdom humility


“Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” ... "Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 18:3-4 ESV]


Children are the most vulnerable of all humans - they are the most innocent.
Their faith is simple - they have a genuine trust of others.
These are humble - their faith in God is something to be emulated.

A hallmark of a great culture is the way that it treats children.
How we treat children says much about us and the society we live in.
And the Lord tells us that there are severe consequences of causing harm to children.

In contrast, adult human beings, like the disciples, are all about "who is the greatest".
The demeanor of pride filled adults is in stark contrast to the humility of children.
Perhaps pride is the sin that Jesus warns his disciples about?

I wonder if our exodus from childlikeness is all about the road from humility to pride?
And maybe the aging process is a journey from the heart to the head?
In the end, Jesus tells us that the road to greatness is maintaining a childlike humility.

I repent of pride Lord. Help me to be like a child.


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

blessed taxes


Jesus asked him, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the world collect fees or taxes? Is it from their family members or from other people?” [Matthew 17:25 GW]

In April tax returns will be due here in the United States.
Over the years I have encountered Christians who believe that they do not have to pay taxes.
Can't really remember their rationale but they were pretty firm in their beliefs.

The truth is that many begrudgingly pay taxes.
These look for every single legal (and I used that term loosely) deduction they are entitled to.
I think taxes have always been an unpopular reality.

Even back in Jesus' day people hated to pay taxes.
Interesting how Jesus addresses the inequities of the tax code back then.
Apparently it was common knowledge that some (i.e. royal family members) did not pay taxes.

This sounds a lot like folks today who use loopholes in the tax code to evade taxes.
Jesus later tells Peter that he should pay the tax to simply not offend the taxing authority.
He did not see himself as one above the law.

Amazing how he paid the tax using a shekel found in the mouth of a fish.
I mean really. How did he know that fish had a shekel?
Perhaps it is an object lesson for us who believe?

I wonder if the fish represents God's blessings of those who are faithful to pay taxes?
In reality taxes are simply our civil tithe to those who keep our streets and our nations safe.
Perhaps our attitude should be one of thankfulness for those who tangibly serve us?

My trust is in you Lord. Help my attitude to be one of gratitude when I pay taxes.


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

a greatly distressing message


As they were gathering in Galilee, Jesus said to them, “The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him, and he will be raised on the third day.” And they were greatly distressed. [Matthew 17:22-23 ESV]

The gospel is a greatly distressing message.
Just consider what happened in the hours preceding the death of Jesus.
My heart breaks when I consider what happened to God's only Son.

He was delivered to the religious and governmental leaders of that time.
He was given a mock trial and declared guilty of blasphemy by religious leaders.
The 'Men of God' should have known better.

He was delivered to two leaders (Pilate and Herod) who treated him with unspeakable violence.
He was then sentenced to death and nailed to a cross on a Friday.
The gospel is a greatly distressing message.

Yet the message was turned on its head on Sunday morning.
In a single stroke of the miraculous, God would not let the cross be the last word.
Jesus was raised from the dead and appeared to his disciples in an immortal body.

Reams have been written about the resurrection and still many do not believe.
Perhaps these cannot get past the distressing message of the cross?
Perhaps the resurrection is too wonderful to embrace?

Thank you Lord that the cross was not the last word. Praise you Jesus.


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

seed-like faith


The disciples said, “Why could we not cast it out?” He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” [Matthew 17:19-20 ESV]

This can be a difficult passage if one interprets Jesus' words to his disciples literally.
Many read these words and do not understand that Jesus is speaking in a hyperbolically.
The imagery of seeds and mountains paints a picture about the role of faith in prayer.

In my view, he is not speaking about what we say but about what we pray.
In a few words he teaches us that great obstacles can be removed when we pray.
The message of this passage is that even the smallest of faith can be effectual.

The fact of the matter is that God is the only one who can remove mountainous obstacles.
Consequently, I think that he must always be the focus of our faith and of our prayers.
When we pray our desire should first be to see the coming of his kingdom and will on earth.

If our faith, even great faith, is directed in any other direction it will fall short.
Yet if our small seed-like faith is focused on God it will accomplish much.
Obstacles to our spiritual growth will be moved and nothing will be impossible in prayer.

Help me to stay focused on you Lord - in difficult times and in ones not so hard.


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