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.

an evidence of faith


“How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” [Matthew 21:20-22 ESV]

This is certainly one of the oddest passages in the gospels.
It is hard to explain why Jesus spoke to the fig tree and it died.
Even so, the Lord uses this act to speak to the disciples about faith.

Speaking in hyperbolic language he tells them of how faith can move mountains.
Some misunderstand these verses and interpret them literally.
These imply that faith is all about 'speaking' to the mountains in our lives.

Jesus clarifies the mountain moving passage and puts it in the context of prayer.
Interesting how he connects faith, doubt and prayer.
I often think that prayer itself is an evidence of faith.

I think that it takes faith to reach out when we are hurting.
It takes a belief in someone greater than ourselves to pray.
Perhaps the act of praying evidences faith like nothing else?

I lay down my cares, fears and worries Lord. I hope in you. Help my heart to believe.


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

they were angry


People who were blind and lame came to Jesus in the temple, and he healed them. But when the chief priests and legal experts saw the amazing things he was doing and the children shouting in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were angry.” {Matthew 21:14-15 CEB]


The narrative of the gospels present us with a stark contrast between darkness and light.
The light is shining - Jesus is healing and doing miraculous things.
Even the youngest in the crowd is singing praises to the Son of God.

Yet the darkness is angrily sniping at the heels of the healer.
How blind must a person be to not see divinity in a worker of miracles?
How hard and callous must a heart be to reject compassion.

A darkness sometimes enters when a child transitions into adulthood.
Sometimes the darkness resembles bitterness - it is often it is angry.
I can relate to that transitional experience.

When I was around twenty I rejected the hypocrisy that I saw in the church.
I began to see things that caused me to be angry.
I was unknowingly embracing bitterness, darkness and cynicism.

Yet in my mid-twenties the light broke through my darkness.
I was confronted by the compassion and goodness of God.
With childlike faith I embraced the healer and sang praises to him.

Hosanna to the Son of David! Lord, help me to praise like a child.


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

a hangout for thieves


Upon entering Jerusalem Jesus went directly into the temple area and drove away all the merchants who were buying and selling their goods. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the stands of those selling doves. And he said to them, “My dwelling place will be known as a house of prayer, but you have made it into a hangout for thieves!” [Matthew 21-12-13 TPT]

The Psalmist once wrote: "Zeal for your house consumes me."
That sentiment gives us a peek into what motivated Jesus to act the way that he did.
He saw people making money from those who had come to seek the Lord and it angered him.

I wonder if people like this still anger the Lord.
Most of us are aware of modern day money-changers who focus on profit and hinder seekers.
I suspect the Lord would react with a similar zeal if he was here today.

Perhaps He would start with those who preach a give to get theology?

When I think of a house of prayer my mind does goes to the seeking kind of prayer.
It is why I believe that it is good to gather for worship with other believers.
Something happens to us when we gather together to seek the Lord.

Many times I have walked into settings like this and came away transformed.

I think that is why Jesus calls this "my dwelling place".
A place where those can come to not only seek him but find him as well.
A house that one can enter with heavy burdens and leave refreshed.

Draw us together to seek you in prayer Lord.


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

an invitation into our pain


As Jesus entered Jerusalem, the people went wild with excitement—the entire city was thrown into an uproar! Some asked, “Who is this man?” And the crowds shouted back, “This is Jesus! He’s the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee!” [Matthew 21:10-11 TPT]


The procession of the palms was concluding and Jesus was entering Jerusalem.
The crowds were shouting: "Bring the victory, Lord, Son of David!"
There was a palpable expectation that regime change was eminent.

The Jews had been oppressed by Rome for a very long time.
People wanted to be free from the rule and domination of their oppressors.
Such an atmosphere is ripe for revolution and coup d'é·tat.

I can relate to wanting to be physically free - especially from pain.
Pain can cause us to embrace false hopes of physical deliverance from pain.
My prayers sometimes take on an almost magical persona.

Pain often leads us to pray in way that begs for physical release.
In contrast I think that God is wanting us to invite Him into our pain.
Interesting how Jesus, in a sense, entered into that place of pain.

So perhaps it might be good to find ways to invite Jesus into our pain?
Instead of begging for release, maybe we can invite him into our pain?
And perhaps, in the midst of our pain, we will find release from it.

Come into my pain Lord Jesus.

... pray this prayer with me if you are dealing with pain.

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

blindness, desperateness and healing


The blind men screamed out even louder, “Jesus, Son of David, show us mercy, Lord!” So Jesus stopped and had them brought to him. He asked them, “What do you want me to do for you?” They said, “Lord, we want to see! Heal us!” Jesus was deeply moved with compassion toward them. So he touched their eyes, and instantly they could see! Jesus said to them, “Your faith has healed you.” ... And the two men became his followers from that day onward. [Matthew 20:31-34 TPT]

Whenever I read about blindness I am transported back in time to April 1972.
In my parents home in New Jersey, my wife Ellen told me that she had gone to the eye doctor.
The doctor told her that she was going blind and would shortly be sightless.

For the next three years I watched my beautiful wife suffer in the darkness.
I became intimately acquainted with the desperation voiced by the two blind men in this story.
I helplessly watched as my wife descended into physical and emotional darkness.

Such is the setting for two desperate men sitting beside a dusty road crying for mercy.
Can you imagine the reaction of those two when Jesus stopped and touched their eyes.
I can imagine it because I experienced something just as awesome.

In August 1975 I came home again to news concerning my wife and her eyesight.
My wife had been to church with neighbors and Jesus touched her left eye [read about it here].
And a week later this healing began to take root in my heart.

I was shocked when Ellen passed the eye test and got her driver's license.
Like the two in the story our lives had been turned upside down.
And like them we began to follow Jesus.

Lord, have mercy on me, Son of David!


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

the seduction of power


Then the mother of the sons of Zebedee came up to him with her sons, and kneeling before him she asked him for something. And he said to her, “What do you want?” She said to him, “Say that these two sons of mine are to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your kingdom.” ... And when the ten heard it, they were indignant at the two brothers. But Jesus called them to him and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. It shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your slave, even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” [Matthew 20:20-21,24-28 ESV]

The desire for power and authority can be a dark force in our lives.
For many years my ambition for such position created such a dissatisfaction in my life.
And in the end, when I had such authority I found that I was really not suited for it.

I remember coming to grips with that and thinking about how much energy I wasted.
So sad that I wanted a position that I was really not good at.
Such is the seduction of power, position and authority in our lives.

We long to have it and the money or celebrity that comes with it.
In the end we find that we are not happy when we get it.
In seeking such power our pride is exposed and on display for all to see.

Jesus speaks to this desire and tells us of the difference between earthly and heavenly power.
When we look at his life we see a gentle authority that has its roots in compassion.
We see in Jesus a humility beyond comprehension and a power rooted in heaven.

The night before his death Jesus tries to drive home the idea of servant leadership.
At the Last Supper he stoops down and washes filthy feet.
In his life and actions we get a clear picture of what it is like to lead.

And on the cross we understand the cost of such leadership.

I again repent of my desire for earthly power. Give me the heart of a servant.


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