Sunday, December 15 — Read Luke 15
There are so many ways to get lost. Sometimes we think we know where we're going, but we end up on the wrong side of town altogether. Other times we're aware of our navigational deficiencies, but proudly and silently proceed, hoping no one notices. There's something about the challenge of finding your own way that wrongly appeals to pride.
The parables in Luke 15 portray situations where the person or item in trouble had no way of solving the problem. Sheep are foolish animals that follow the cravings of their bellies; they don't know how to tell the difference between what's best for them and what will harm them. Inanimate objects like coins may not be in harm's way when they go astray, but money is of no value if it disappears. Its entire purpose for existing is thwarted. Both of these examples are like our accidental, careless wanderings away from Christ.
In the third situation Jesus describes, the lost son is intentionally walking away from his father. The son's prideful pursuit of sin destroyed him. Though he finally became aware of the error of his ways, he was helpless to change his desperate situation.
There are so many beautiful truths woven into these stories. The owner knows the true value of the lost thing and is always looking for it. Even with the lost son, who belligerently sought his own way, the father's eyes stayed on the horizon, watching for his return. Luke 15:20 says, “...while he was still a long way off, his father saw him...” And there's always a celebration when the lost is found. Whether our path away from Him has been gradual or immediate, accidental or intentional, He always welcomes us back with rejoicing and blessing.
Reflect: Was there a time in your life where you felt closer to Jesus than you do right now?What event led you closer to or further from Jesus?What is one step you can take to walk closer to Jesus today?
Monday, December 16 — Read Luke 16
The Bible describes two kinds of wealth. The first kind of wealth is used to buy and build houses, buy cars, go on vacation, get clothes, and pay bills. To acquire this type of wealth, we must have a job or a rich family member as this type of wealth comes from a worldly source. The second type of wealth comes from God and is described as “true riches.” True riches are those with eternal value. True riches can't be spent here on Earth. They are a reward for how we manage all that Jesus has given us.
In order to be faithful in handling our wealth, we must understand the difference between ownership and stewardship. An owner has rights to his property and can do whatever he wishes with his property. A steward manages the property with the understanding that, one day, he will be called to account for his handling of the property. We are stewards of God's property, not owners of our own.
We would say we know the difference between ownership and stewardship, but often our actions tell a different story. Consider your attitude toward money and stuff. Where do you turn when making financial decisions? Knowing who are belongings really belong to changes our hearts. We become less interested in building our kingdom and more interested in building God's. We make decisions with our money based on what God cares about, not based on our ambitions or desires.
We can be short-sighted when it comes to money. But when we view the money and stuff passing through our hands as God's, our perspective changes. No longer pleased with a bigger house or better phone, we start to play the long game, looking for investments that will make a difference today and into eternity. And that is where true riches are found.
Reflect: Looking back over the last couple weeks, how did you handle your wealth? Like the owner or like a steward?When making decisions about money, to what extent do you consult God?Where is one place your wealth can make a difference for God?
Tuesday, December 17 — Read Luke 17 Americans are quick to blame others for our problems. We blame McDonald’s for our obesity. We blame Mountain Dew for our cavities. We blame advertising ploys for the way we mismanage money. We blame our spouses for our unhappy marriages. We’re good at giving others credit when there’s a problem.
Yet when something wonderful happens to us — when a blessing falls into our laps from the Lord — we are sometimes slow to thank God, if we even thank Him at all. Notice that in Luke 17 Jesus healed 10 men but only one came back to give thanks. How often are we just like the nine that walked away? We are often so enamored by the blessing itself that we forget who it came from.
God delights in giving us good gifts. No doubt it brought Jesus much joy to touch the sick, disabled and infirm and watch their ailments disappear. What a rush it would be to experience and witness such miracles!
But consider how it must have hurt Jesus’ heart when those He healed simply walked away, not even considering a word of thanks. Whether it’s a sense of entitlement or simple forgetfulness that stops us from showing gratitude, the result is the same.
Reflect: Have you ever prayed for something for years then when it happened, you never stopped to consider God’s role in the miracle? It’s not too late to stop and say thank you!Take a look around you, wherever you’re reading this. What are some of the blessings you take for granted every single day? What can you thank Jesus for today?
Wednesday, December 18 — Read Luke 18 Throughout the Bible, we see God’s people worshipping someone or something other than God. From the Israelites who worshipped Baal (1 Kings 18:19-39) to the Pharisees who worshipped the law and their own righteousness (Luke 18:10-14), people missed the mark when it comes to making God the object of their worship. It’s easy to read these stories and think, “I would never worship another god” or “I would never worship my own good deeds.” But Jesus proves how easy it is for us to get it wrong as well.
In Luke 18, Jesus is speaking to a crowd when a wealthy man asks how to inherit eternal life. Jesus answers by listing off a few of the commandments, and the man claims, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” Instead of commending the man’s righteousness and celebrating his perfection, Jesus says, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The man became sad at this statement because he was wealthy.
The ruler’s problem wasn’t his money; it was his heart. He worshipped his possessions and his own good deeds. He was proud of himself for keeping the commandments, he was possessive over his money, and he expected Jesus to grant him access to eternal life based on his own achievements.
Jesus wasn’t saying we have to be broke to inherit eternal life. He is asking us to give up anything that competes for our worship. For some of us that might be a career. For others, it might be a house or car. The beautiful truth is that when we put God first He provides in every area of our lives. Jesus says in Matthew 6:33, “but seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” When God asks us to make changes in our lives — or to give up something completely — He promises to provide for us if we are obedient to Him.
Reflect: What is most likely to compete with God for your attention and affection?Take some time today to seek God and ask Him, “Am I worshipping you, or is something getting in the way?”
Thursday, December 19 — Read Luke 19 Zacchaeus, the hated tax collector, wanted to see Jesus but couldn't see over the crowd. So, he climbed up in a sycamore tree so he could see Jesus. Jesus sees Zacchaeus and invites Himself over for dinner.
Zacchaeus went to great lengths to see Jesus. Maybe he heard of Jesus' miracles or maybe he heard the commotion in town and wanted to see what the fuss was about. Whatever his reason, this short little man went to the trouble of climbing high in a sycamore tree to see Jesus. Whether out of simple curiosity or skepticism he pursued the Lord and made himself available. The Bible says that when we seek the Lord with all our heart, we will find him (Jeremiah 29:13).
When Zacchaeus met Jesus, he could not stay the same. Regardless of Zacchaeus' sinful lifestyle and the baggage attached, Jesus called out to Zacchaeus and claimed him as His own. A perfect Lord was ready to accept an imperfect man. The choice was then up to Zacchaeus. Should he act and come down, or stay in the tree and remain in bondage? Zacchaeus opened his heart and jumped down, running towards Jesus' open, accepting arms.
Maybe you're questioning this thing called Christianity right now. Perhaps you're skeptical or simply curious. You're watching from a distance trying to understand what Jesus is all about. He's there; ready to have an active, intimate relationship with you. Don't watch from a distance but jump and run towards Him. He will no doubt accept you with open arms! “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost (Luke 19:9-10).”
Reflection: Was there ever a time in your life when you made the decision to follow Jesus?If yes, how has that decision changed your day-to-day life?If no, what is holding you back? We'd love to talk with you today about working through that decision!
Friday, December 20 — Read Luke 20 What happens when we die? How does this question make you feel? For many, it can evoke a sense of uncertainty and fear. In our desperate need to be in control, this question quickly reminds us we are not. But, that’s OK.
In Luke, a group of religious leaders who denied the possibility of the resurrection asked Jesus what the marriage relationship looks like in the resurrection. Jesus said, “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in the age to come and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels” (Luke 20:34-36).
Jesus reminds us to not think of heaven as an extension of the earth as we know it. While marriage is a gift from God, our relationships will be different in heaven than what we are used to right now. Our relationships in this life are limited by time, death, and sin. In eternity, none of those things will exist.
Our intimacy will be with God and He will satisfy our every need.
Heaven is our greatest triumph. This world is a temporary home for us. As Christians, our citizenship has always been and will be in heaven. Everything we go through on earth is a preparation for our true journey with God in heaven.
Billy Graham put it best when he said, “Though Christians have no immunity from death, death is to them a friend rather than a foe — the beginning rather than the end.”
God is in control and our hope rests in Him. It’s never too late to become a part of God’s family.
Reflect: How does the way Jesus described heaven in this passage affect your view of death?It’s OK to feel uneasy about what happens after death. What is one step you can take to let go of control and trust Jesus?Do you have a relationship with Jesus in which you can confidently say you’re going to heaven one day? If you answered no, you can start a relationship with Jesus today.
Saturday, December 21 — Read Luke 21 The widow gave everything—all she had to live on. Others gave a portion of their wealth. She gave all, out of her poverty. She could have given just one of her two coins. Had she done that, she would've given 50 percent of everything. Fifty percent is quite a bit. Imagine liquidating half your assets and giving them to church or charity. That would be substantial and impressive. Had she given 50 percent of her money, anyone watching would say, “This woman gave generously, even sacrificially.” In this case, the widow chose not to divide everything. She gave everything.
Jesus is not after a percentage of our life. He is after it all. He is passionately after our entire existence. There is nothing hidden from Him. Everything is laid bare in front of Him. We will give an account of everything. He wants it all. Not because He wants to take something from us, but because He loves us and will do so much more with us and for us than we can do on our own.
The Bible says in Romans 12:1, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.” In other words, based on the fact that Jesus gave everything, our only reasonable response is to give Him everything.
So, how are we doing? This story about the widow is not about how much money you put in next week's offering. It's about something bigger. Have you emptied yourself in complete surrender to Jesus? Every day you’re faced with the decision to offer Jesus a percentage of your life or offer Him everything. Will you give Him all?
Reflect: Is there any area of your life that doesn't belong to Jesus 100 percent?Is Jesus asking you to give something up in order to follow Him completely?What step do you need to take today to give that area to Jesus?