Luke 15

All three of these stories paint such a beautiful picture when read together as one chapter.

God chases after those who wander. 

God searches for the lost. 

God celebrates when the rebellious repent and return. 

It’s not always fair, though. I feel like after the first two stories, Jesus had made his point: God comes after his lost people. The third parable of the lost son seems less directed to the lost and more directed to those who consider themselves found. It’s easy to lose perspective and think that Christianity revolves around you, your happiness, your well-being and your feelings. But it’s not, and it can’t be. Jesus is constantly, constantly teaching the religious people that they are getting it wrong.

The older son’s feelings in this story are pretty relatable. He feels like his godly behavior and sacrifices have been ignored and unnoticed. His behavior is being fueled by performance and his identity is being marked by his actions. Thank God good behavior is not the currency of the Kingdom. And really, he’s acting prideful and selfish. God calls us to put others before ourselves and to regularly humble ourselves.

 “His father said to him, ‘Look, dear son, you have always stayed by me, and everything I have is yours. We had to celebrate this happy day. For your brother was dead and has come back to life! He was lost, but now he is found!’” 15:31

We are called to celebrate repentance and reconciliation. Use this story to gauge your emotions. Is it hard for you to accept God’s unconditional love for other people? Sinful people who are in the wrong?

I’m so glad God is just instead of fair and that he lets us back in when we wander away. He is the perfect Shepherd.

 

-Carly

 

 

Luke 14

Sometimes in the West, Christianity can become a life accessory, like being a gym member, blogger, or gluten-free, locally sourced grocery buyer. It’s good for you, keeps you feeling balanced and only takes up a few hours of the week. This chapter knocks that hunky-dory arrangement right out of our hands.

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” (13-14)

“So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” (33)

Following Jesus is nothing casual. It takes a lot of humility, generosity and self sacrifice. It’s giving up self-proclaimed glory and cozy, symbiotic social circles.

Don’t let this discourage you, but don’t ignore it either. Jesus is the source of all you need along the way. He provides for us, so we can be generous to those who can’t repay us. He gives us our identity, so we don’t have to make a name for ourselves.

Knowing and truly experiencing Christ makes these sacrifices less burdensome, but maybe you’re struggling with parts of this chapter. Bring that to Jesus. He is all about transforming our heart of hearts, not just amending behaviors.

From the beginning of Luke, we’ve heard that this Kingdom is good news for the poor. Thank God for the ways He has blessed you, and provided for you, through the sacrificial love of others. Chances are, we’ve all received abundantly more than is asked of us.

-Bethany

Luke 13

“Then Jesus told this story: ‘A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’

‘The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’ “

I’ve kind of lost track of where exactly on the map Jesus is in this chapter and who exactly he’s talking to, but it seems safe to say that he was teaching people who regularly farmed their own food. (Didn’t everyone back then?)

From the commentary I’ve read, the man is suppose to represent God, we are the fig tree and the gardener is Jesus, advocating and extending grace. When I look at it from that angle, my heart pulls at this verse:

“I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer.” Jesus wants to help us succeed. Satan wants you to feel judged, pressed on and choked by God’s tight leash. But we read here that Jesus wants to come alongside us and help us grow and become more successful as godly fruit-bearers. Do you garden? Think of how much time and energy goes into it. Watering. Tending to the branches. Protecting it from weather. Giving the soil food, nutrients to help it grow brighter and stronger. We are under perfect care. Even when there’s a drought, strong winds, enemies that infest and attack (wow the gardening analogy really works on anything), we have a Gardener who wants to give us special attention!

If you’ve believed in God a long time and desire to become more like his son Jesus, there should be fruit in your life. Sometimes I panic and feel buried by expectations when I don’t feel like I’m bearing any of the fruit listed in Galatians 5. When I’m still an impatient person, when I don’t feel like I’ve grown in selflessness at all. But this verse tells us we just need more Jesus. More time with him, and more of his grace and forgiveness that is abundantly available to us.

Praise God for his son Jesus, the perfect Gardener who advocates for us and takes on our failures and shortcomings.

 

-Carly

Luke 12

This chapter is mostly in red, covers a lot, and deserves full attention. Jesus was among us, experiencing firsthand all the things He’s seen mankind stumble through from the beginning. He pleads a focus, a rejection of fear and anxiety, and calls us towards peace and purpose.

“For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” (30-31)

You will never experience a need unique to you. The LORD will never be baffled by your hunger, fear, loneliness, lack of fashion, etc. He takes care the birds, plants and every nation on earth. Running in desperation after these basic needs will only distract and deplete precious energies. Keeping the Kingdom in focus comes with a promise from the LORD: “I’ll take care of the rest.”

We are His people and sooner or later, He will call us to account for how we spent our time here. I let these silly things slow me down way too much. Will He find me ready? Will He find me making big the small things? Will He find me hoarding His blessings or stewarding them?

Of course, He knows we are a harassed and traumatized lot, but He is calling us higher, deeper, closer. It’s good to take this kind of inventory on how time is spent.

How can we prioritize the Kingdom today?

-Bethany

Luke 11

“Once Jesus was in a certain place praying. As he finished, one of his disciples came to him and said, ‘Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.’ 

Jesus said, “This is how you should pray: ‘Father, may your name be kept holy. May your Kingdom come soon. Give us each day the food we need, and forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us. And don’t let us yield to temptation.’ ” 11:1-2

Lord, teach us to pray. Often in Christian circles and church settings, it’s assumed that everyone is comfortable praying aloud and willing to do so. But more often than not, I come across someone who’s terrified to pray in front of other people, or think it’s too intimate of a thing to do in public.

Here, we read that the even the members of Jesus’ close inner circle weren’t sure what was expected and needed to be taught. Prayer is taught. And lucky for us, Jesus is the perfect teacher.

May your name be kept holy. Recognize who you’re talking to. I tend to keep prayer more casual, often running a fluid conversation with God throughout the day. But sometimes, we need to stop and remember who we’re speaking to. I am humbled whenever I read in the Old Testament everything that people went through just to be in God’s presence. So many rituals and rules and curtains! I am thankful for the intimacy of my relationship with God, but also need to revere and respect him the way he deserves.

May your Kingdom come soon. Petition for God to fulfill his promise and return for us! And in the meanwhile, ask for his kingdom to show up in your neighborhood, your family, your marriage, your attitude, your work place and your thought life. Moments of reconciliation, forgiveness and healing are all kingdom-like!

Give us each day the food we need. Whether it’s figuratively or literally, we should be recognizing that it is God who is the provider of meeting our needs each day. Short on patience? Ask for grace. Short on rent? Ask for financial help. God is the perfect provider, ask. 

Forgive. Jesus shows us here that repentance and forgiveness should be a natural rhythm in our relationship with God and others.

Protect us from temptation. Recognize that you are being faced with a daily choice to obey God. Being in relationship with God is a daily decision and choice, and we have a lot around us that distracts and takes away from it.

Don’t be embarrassed if prayer is weird or hard for you. But don’t let that stop you from doing it, either. Do we have to pray out loud? No. Most of the time when the Bible records Jesus praying, he’s off doing it somewhere alone. But there is something beautiful and unifying about praying with other believers. I have been personally blessed, taught and changed by people praying over me, however casual the situation. A great way to start is by prayer journaling. Another way to get comfortable is praying out loud in your car by yourself. Pray with your spouse, or your kids. Pray with a close friend. If nothing else, recite the prayer above once a day out loud.

If you’re interested in growing stronger in prayer, here’s a helpful workbook written by my friend Jenn.

 

-Carly

 

Luke 10

“But wishing to justify himself, he said to Jesus, ‘but who is my neighbor?'” (29)

Jesus paints a picture, through a story, which ends with a Samaritan (an enemy of the Jews) being the hero. Not the priest, nor the Levite, but a Samaritan. Some “half-breed who doesn’t count as a recipient of God’s favor”, in Jewish opinion, but a man who showed mercy.

This story packs a punch by itself, but I can’t help but notice how it comes on the heals of verses like 12 thru 14, which asserts Gentile cities will receive greater grace on the day of judgement than the Jewish cities which reject Christ.

We are accountable for what we know, and for how we respond to the Truth.

This theme keeps leaping off the page at me. God is just in ways which will continue to surprise us.

In the meantime, let’s remain active participants in the Kingdom, Good Samaritans, compassionate neighbors and humble students of Christ’s teaching.

-Bethany

Luke 9

I love the insight we get from this chapter on what it looks like to be in ministry with Jesus. Here are some things I noted:

Ministry involves a lot of hard work. Being in full-time ministry doesn’t just mean studying for hours in a cozy coffee shop or casual hang outs with other Christians. The disciples worked hard. Can you imagine handing out meals to 5,000 people? Especially when you know Jesus could easily take out the hard work and perform a miracle, or send these people away to find their own food? God is a fan of hard work. Yeah, they drank wine and had good meals with Jesus, enjoying his story-telling and traveling to new places. But they also rolled up their sleeves and poured themselves out physically for the gospel.

We get in God’s way a lot (and he allows it). I feel bad for the disciples when they’re so proud of themselves and Jesus ends up rebuking them. Should we send down fire from heaven to destroy these people? Don’t worry Jesus, we stopped other people from using your name because they’re not in our group. I actually laughed out loud when I read Jesus exclaim: “You faithless and corrupt people! How long must I be with you and put up with you?”. We are a handful, and get it wrong a lot. But he invites us to join him in his work anyway. Let’s remain humble in our positions and grateful for his grace with us. 

Following Jesus is going to cost you something (preferably everything). Maybe it’s an entire lifestyle, a location, a relationship, a belonging, or everything. If your life has not changed at all since you started following Jesus, examine this closely. The Bible is pretty clear that the Christian life should be marked by sacrificial living.

What did you notice about these chapters? About the disciples time in ministry with Jesus?

 

-Carly