Luke 8

“The seed in the good soil, these are the ones who have heard the word in an honest and good heart, and hold it fast, and bear fruit with perseverance.” (15)

“My mother and My brothers are these who hear the word of God and do it.” (21)

Jesus is setting up His new Kingdom and it’s not about having the “right blood” anymore (as if it ever really was). This Kingdom is forged from people who respond to the love of God.

We continue to see His good news proclaimed to the poor, afflicted, outcast and foreigner, and now examples of sovereignty over weather (22-25), demons (26-39), death (40-42; 49-56) and disease (43-48).

“Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” (48)

This woman with the hemorrhage embodies this change of Kingdom status. She approaches, trembling, wanting to go unnoticed, because she has lived her whole life at the bottom of the totem pole. Now, Jesus calls her daughter and praises her faith.

He could have kept going, He was on a mission to save a little girl, after all. Jesus was surrounded, pressed up against a crowd of people, and of course someone was bound to be sick, drawing power out of him. He didn’t have to stop, but He wanted to let this woman know her place in the kingdom.

What is my posture toward the poor, sick, ostracized, marginalized? Am I someone who proclaims the coming of Jesus as fulfilled in Isaiah 61? Does the Spirit lead me to proclaim “good news to the afflicted, healing to the broken-hearted, liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners?”

This is a question all who claim to follow Jesus must ask themselves. The family of God lifts the most unlikely people to the King’s table. He has the power to heal, deliver and liberate.

How can you share this good news today? How will you bear fruit in 2018?

-Bethany

Luke 7

I love what Luke chooses to highlight in this chapter: Jesus’ interactions with a widow, a slave (owner) and an immoral woman. We are being painted the same picture over and over again; Jesus is an open-minded, compassionate, loving, merciful God hunting after the misfits.

This chapter alone leaves no excuse for someone to claim God couldn’t love them. A slave, a widow and what I’m assuming was a prostitute were all very low on the social totem pole, yet God favors them. If you feel unworthy of God’s love, you are. That is not a lie. You are being lied to when you feel unqualified to receive his love. Jesus has qualified us! 

“When Jesus heard this, he was amazed. Turning to the crowd that was following him, he said, ‘I tell you, I haven’t seen faith like this in all Israel!’ “ 7:9

It’s fair of him to be in awe of someone actually having faith in who he was. For starters, he was just getting started and people were hesitant. But I can’t help but assume he probably still feels the same way these days, with us. “Hey! They actually trusted me!”

We should aspire to have this impact on Jesus. I want him to be amazed at my faithfulness and be pleasantly surprised by my ability to surrender to him in unthinkable circumstances. Lofty goals, but reading this book has me motivated!

What would be his response to your faith?

 

-Carly

Luke 6

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” (45)

When push comes to shove, what really inhabits us slips out. Yikes.

Jesus isn’t about the show, or nit picking the rules. When the Pharisees sought to entrap him, he simply asked, “Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save a life or to destroy it?” (9) In all their cracking down on the Law, the religious leaders had lost the heart of God.

It’s not about fairness or procedures, it’s about unconditional love; that which gives generously, expecting nothing back.

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you.” (27-28)

We are each accountable to God. This disqualifies us from ever refuting, “but they...”or, our favorite past time: judging others. Only God is qualified to judge, because only see can see our hearts. Our job is to love as He loves.

Therein lies the “come to Jesus” moment, because none of it is possible in our own strength. God must touch the core of our hearts, otherwise we are still faking righteousness, judging internally, and hoping no one really shoves us. Thankfully, this is exactly what He promises to do.

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel‬ ‭36:26)

Thank you, Jesus, for working powerfully within us to make us more like you, with a heart like your heart. Thank you for showing us your beautiful way, and not leaving us to navigate Jewish laws. Lead us in generosity, not comparing ourselves to others or judging, but loving unconditionally.

-Bethany

Luke 5

We’ve decided to slow it down and take it one chapter at a time to really enjoy this time reading about Jesus!

This chapter is so full of Jesus’ gentleness towards us and his tendency to flip our understanding of Christian living upside down. When reading these stories, I realize if I don’t genuinely welcome in and show love to social outsiders, I am getting it wrong. In these few verses alone, we see Jesus pursue people covered in contagious diseases, illiterate fishermen, a dreaded tax collector and various other social outcasts.

I want to be like the men who get their paralyzed friend to Jesus to be healed. Their deep faith that He possessed the healing power to restore their friend’s body is remarkable. They are persistent when the circumstances aren’t ideal. They work hard and find a clever, although impractical, way to get their friend to Jesus. I believe I have those type of friends in my life, friends who do the heavy lifting, peeling back roof tiles to heave my brokenness in front of Jesus to be omitted from my life.

Who has done that in your life?

Is there someone who needs to be advocated for in your life? Who can’t fend for themselves and desperately needs Christ’s healing? The answer, for all of us, is yes.

We are called to mimic the life of Christ, who solely associated himself with the unwanted, the judged and the poor. He paid no mind to how it impacted his social standings. My prayer is that I love like this, eager to reach the people that need God most. O, how easily we tend to turn from inconvenience in our love towards others. Let’s all learn from the men who barged in through the roof to help someone reach Jesus.

What did you notice in Jesus’ actions from this chapter?

 

-Carly

 

 

 

 

Luke 3-4

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the LORD, make His path straight. Every path will be filled, and every mountain brought low; the crooked will become straight, and the rough roads smooth; and all flesh will see the salvation of God.'” (3:4-6)

How does John prepare the way for Jesus? He calls for people to repent, change, not rely on their Hebrew blood to save them.

“Do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father,’ for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” (3:8)

And what’s more:

“Indeed the axe is already laid at the root of the trees; so every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (3:9)

This invokes the correct response: “Then what shall we do?” (3:10) and John is able to answer them accordingly, personally.

Yes, the way is being made. The Kingdom of Heaven is coming to earth and each person must make space for it. No sliding in due to race or societal standing. The tax collector, the soldier—heck, the person with two tunics—must make a decision.

Jesus has arrived. At His baptism, the LORD confirms Him; speaking from heaven, calling Him “My beloved Son”, and the Spirit ascends as a dove. A month and a half later, He announces Himself to His hometown, Nazareth; declaring His fulfilling of Isaiah 61:1-2.

He makes me weak in the knees. After long seasons in the Old Testament, the gospel accounts of Jesus make me weepy. He came for us all. He even points out to His fellow Nazarenes how the prophets were a blessing to Gentiles (4:26-27). He has been for all people from the beginning.

Soak it all in. Every word Jesus says. The way He responds to everyone personally. He is our example, our king, older brother, Lord and Savior! Take notes! What sticks out to you?

-Bethany

Luke 1-2

Get the first part of the Bible Project overview here.

These are long chapters, covering many remarkable things, but at the center of this story we find ordinary people, struggling to understand the magnitude of God’s use of them.

First, there’s Zechariah, the aged, childless priest who hears this:

“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, your prayers have been heard, for your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you will call him John. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (1:16-17)

This description of John is a reference to Malachi 4:5-6. No one has heard from the LORD in centuries, and imagine Him speaking out, for the first time, to say, “your deepest desires are about to come true. Plus, your son is a fulfillment of ancient prophesy.” He is taken aback, even more skeptical, but his speech, nine months later (found in 1:68-79), shows how, after some time, he has begun to embrace the deep implications of his life.

For Mary, there are many encounters with the divine. Her initial visitation from Gabriel, the Holy Spirit confirming it through Elizabeth and baby John, the story of the Host of Heaven told by the shepherds, the exaltations of Simeon and Anna and Jesus’ own observation when they lost him in Jerusalem. She pondered these things in her heart and treasured these things in her heart.

All these signs, and yet, when Jesus starts his ministry, 18 years later, no one sees him coming! Tomorrow we will read about how John sees him coming, but even so, later in his life, John—from his prison cell—questions everything.

This is all deeply relatable. The weight of the glory of God coming to earth, in Jesus, is too great to comprehend. On a smaller scale, I have many words from the Lord and promises, as I’m sure many of you do. To be honest, I have to write them down and re-read them regularly, because life, the frailty of humanity and the perceived distance from all things divine, make these promises easy to forget or cast aside.

Instead of striking us all dumbstruck, like He does with Zechariah, the LORD is often gentle, and repeats Himself, like He does with Mary. The truth is important to hold on to, and it’s life and death to accept.

How many times in Mary’s life did she call to mind the testimony of the shepherds?

“Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”‬ (‭2:10-11‬)

How many times in her life, living in a small, poor community, at some point losing her husband, was she afraid? Did she remember these words? “Fear not”?

This news of great joy is for all people. How often do I need to remember to calm down and remember the Savior Of the World has already arrived?

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas, as you remember the greatest gift humanity could have ever received. Share this joy and hope with all people. He is for us all and He is able to use us; becoming a part of His beautiful story.

-Bethany

Amos 8-9

“Behold, the days are coming”, declares the LORD GOD, “when I will send a famine on the land, not a famine for bread or a thirst for water, the rather for hearing in the words of the LORD.” (8:11)

Things are about to get bleak, and to make matter worse, the LORD will have nothing to say to them. This will later be referred to as the 400 years of silence: The time between the minor prophets, Ezra and Nehemiah—and the first word of the LORD coming to Zechariah, foretelling the birth of John the Baptist.

9:1-10 are terrifying and it begins to feel like God really is washing His hands of Israel. But then,

“Behold, the eyes of the LORD GOD are on the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from the face of the earth; nevertheless, I will not totally destroy the house of Jacob, declares the LORD.” (9:8)

And THEN,

“In that day I will raise up the fallen booth David.” (9:11)

The LORD “who does this” (9:12) is not finished. Not yet. The night is darkest just before the dawn!

On Monday, which also happens to be Christmas Day, we will pick up in that very place: Luke 1-2.

God Himself comes to dwell among us, to set us free, and show us His most excellent way. He won’t be what anyone expects. He will have compassion on the sick, poor, sexually broken, and lost; speaking harshly only to the religious elite, who would seek to close the doors of the kingdom in peoples faces.

As we reflect on the message of Amos, the call for justice and righteousness, and the end of a complicated year, let us hold fast to the hope which was then, is now, and forever will be: the coming of Christ, Emmanuel, God with us.

Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother, and in His name all oppression shall cease. A thrill of hope! The weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morning!

-Bethany