Reading for March 20th – Luke 13

Shane L. Bishop

In a culture where popular belief was that people got what they had coming to them; things like disease and disaster were theological issues. Jesus states that apart from repentance; we are all destined for disaster.

The fig tree parable applies to many people and churches; unlike his love, God’s patience is not unending. This bends back to the warnings about being vigilant. We don’t have forever to get right with God.

The tension between being loved by the people and hated by the establishment is an exercise in Newton’s Third Law. People in this dynamic become either martyrs or kings. Jesus was both.

Mustard was not a garden plant; it was wilder. Like mint, mustard will take over a whole garden if left unchecked. The Kingdom of God is HUGE and cannot be controlled! You just have to let it grow!

Give it one more chance.

One more.

Luke 13:8 “The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance.’” – If God’s judgement came today, would you be grateful? Or would you wish you had more time? The parable of the barren fig tree reminds us that judgement will come and Jesus has graciously asked for more time. More time for what? To accept Jesus as Lord and Savior and to bear fruit for God.

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Reading for March 21st – Luke 14

Shane L. Bishop

Humility is a huge theme today. There is no downside to humility before God and humanity.

The heads up about Herod by some of the Pharisees, reminds us that Jesus had some supporters in their ranks.

Note the rare female image of a hen used to describe God in the lament over Jerusalem.

Finally, the ancients threw feasts to impress; Jesus reminds us that true generosity is that offered to those who never return the favor. This generosity is rewarded by God!

The parable of the great supper features the same guest list as those mentioned yesterday’s teaching about humility (who could never repay). They come because they are hungry. Those on the original guest list are written off. This theme of “A-listers” ending up outside and the lowly landing inside is a recurring theme of Luke’s. The rich are too comfortable, busy and distracted to respond to salvation. The poor have nothing better to do. Nothing at all!

The cost of discipleship is high. The failure of a disciple is serious. We are encouraged to “count the cost.”

How is being a disciple different than being a church attendee?
What is the cost of discipleship?
Are you willing to pay that cost?

Casual Christianity

Throughout scripture Jesus repeatedly reminds us that the cost of being his disciple is high. There isn’t room for casual Christianity if you are a disciple of Jesus Christ. Jesus may call you to make difficult decisions in your profession, your family, or your relationships. Are you prepared to fully commit to a life of discipleship? 

  • Luke 9:23
  • Luke 9:59-62
  • Luke 14:26-27

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Worship and Rest for March 22nd

Psalm 106:1-5

Praise the Lord!
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good!
His faithful love endures forever.
Who can list the glorious miracles of the Lord?
Who can ever praise him enough?
There is joy for those who deal justly with others
and always do what is right.
Remember me, Lord, when you show favor to your people;
come near and rescue me.
Let me share in the prosperity of your chosen ones.
Let me rejoice in the joy of your people;
let me praise you with those who are your heritage.

Leader Questions for Week 3

Questions for Luke 10 – 14

Feel free to add your own questions to your Connect Group conversations! 

Luke 10: 
Are you willing to pray regularly for laborers for the harvest?
Are you willing to be a laborer for Christ? 
Are you more inclined to “be” or to “do” when it comes to your faith? 
Luke 11: 
What do you do when Jesus’ teachings elude you?
You read it but you don’t get it? 
Do you struggle to link the culture and context of the Bible to today? 
Luke 12: 
Can you recall a time you were ashamed of Jesus? 
What do you think is blasphemy of the Holy Spirit? 
Do you struggle with worry? Why or why not? 
If Jesus would return tomorrow evening, how might you spend your morning and afternoon? 
Luke 13: 
Have you ever struggled with anything that stole your time from God? 
What spiritual role do you think disease and disaster play?

Luke 14: 
How is being a disciple different than being a church attendee?
What is the cost of discipleship?
Are you willing to pay that cost? 

Reading for March 23rd – Luke 15

Kevin Siddle

Luke 15 opens with the Pharisees again complaining to and about Jesus. How dare he associate himself with sinful people! He even eats with them! Something that may not be immediately evident is why the Pharisees are so upset. In Jesus’ culture having a meal with someone showed a level of acceptance. The Pharisees were upset that Jesus had so openly accepted this group of sinners. The Pharisees, unlike Jesus, wouldn’t even consider associating themselves with such ‘despicable’ people. They wouldn’t even try to teach these sinners about God, let alone sit and share a meal with them.

However, the situation I find most interesting is that these sinful people accepted and identified with Jesus. They didn’t reject Him. Relationships go both ways, they are never one-sided. By accepting Jesus into their midst, these sinners dared to believe that they were worth Jesus’ time and attention. The group of sinners didn’t reject Jesus because they weren’t good enough, or because they pitied themselves, or because they didn’t feel they deserved to be near Him. No, they accepted Jesus because they knew something that the Pharisees did not. They needed Jesus.

After the Pharisees voice their complaints to Jesus he tells them three stories to emphasize exactly why he’s associating with sinners. The three parables (Parable of the Lost Sheep, Parable of the Lost Coin, and the Parable of the Prodigal Son) all share similarities in their theme – God loves us, he will go out of his way to find us, and there is great joy when someone repents and returns to God.

As a sinner, I find the fact that God and the angels rejoice when we repent very comforting. There isn’t condemnation or anger. They are celebrating with us! And what a lesson this is for us. Too often there is criticism about someone trying to take the right steps in their life. Too often there is judgement or a lack of support. And too often do I see Christians taking great steps of faith in their life, only to downplay their step because they don’t want to be ‘boastful.’ We need to celebrate! We need to be like God and the angels here! We need to focus on the positive and not let ourselves slip into the negativity and skepticism that the world often sees. Celebrate your victories!

Moving into the final verses of the Parable of the Prodigal Son (v31-32), Jesus addresses a topic I’ve heard others talk about in church. The conversation usually goes like this, “Man, that person has such a great and powerful testimony. They overcame a terrible situation, and now they’re doing great ministry for Jesus. I don’t have anything like that. I’ve been going to church my whole life. My testimony just doesn’t have the power that theirs does.” Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

Your obedience, discipline, passion, consistency, and faithfulness are your testimony! Living in relationship with Jesus is the best life. More is better.

Half-hearted Apologies

In the Prodigal Son account, the first thing the Son does when he gets to the Father is apologize. He doesn’t make excuses for his mistakes, he doesn’t downplay the pain he caused, and he certainly doesn’t blame the Father. The Son gets straight to the point and asks for forgiveness. The Father had already forgiven his son, but the young man needed to ask for that forgiveness in order to heal his own relationship with his father. 

When you apologize, don’t do it half-heartedly. Don’t blame others, the circumstances, or bad luck. Own it. If you caused some damage, take responsibility for what happened, and ask for forgiveness genuinely. Then, if you are forgiven by those you have hurt. Accept their forgiveness. Don’t allow shame and guilt to ruin the blessing. Accept the gift and move on.

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Reading for March 24th – Luke 16

Kevin Siddle

Luke 16 is wonderful. Jesus is forcing us to consider things that we often don’t want to (finances). Jesus begins by telling the story of the shrewd manager. This parable can be very confusing, so let’s break it down a little. 

Think of the master as the CEO of a business. The manager is similar to a chief financial officer. It is the manager’s job to handle all the financial affairs of the master. This could include property, resources, and money itself. The master in this story finds out that his manager is ripping him off, so he calls him in for a meeting. No one likes getting called into a boss’ meeting when they’re stealing. 

The master makes a very reasonable request and asks for an accounting before he fires the manager. This would take some time, just as it would today. The more assets someone has, the longer it will take to put everything together in a nice report. Knowing that he has time, the manager uses this to his advantage. The manager reaches out to everyone who owes a debt to the master and reduces their debt. Not by a small amount either, by a large amount.

The manager is very strategic here. He knows he is going to be without a job soon. He can’t work in the labor force, and he has too much pride to beg. So he concocts a plan that will gain favor with the masters debtors. By reducing the debts, it looks like the manager is very generous. That generosity would bring favor with the debtors and would likely lead to a new job. The only person losing in this situation is the master. 

And to everyone’s surprise, the master commends the manager.
What?! The master had a high level business associate lie to him, take money from him, lie to his business partners, reduce their debts (further damaging his profits), and the master is….impressed. 

Thankfully, Jesus explains. (v9) “Here’s the lesson: Use your worldly resources to benefit others and make friends. Then, when your earthly possessions are gone, they will welcome you to an eternal home.” 

Jesus is not approving of the actions of the manager. He is using this as a model for how we should be strategic and purposeful with our generosity. Jesus is teaching us that making wise decisions with our resources is important. This does not mean we are trying to earn or buy our way into heaven. No, we are to be generous to help those in need, or to help others find Christ. 

And of course, just to put the nail in the coffin on the topic, Jesus says this (v10-12), “If you are faithful in the little things, you will be faithful in the large ones. But if you are dishonest in the little things, you won’t be honest with greater responsibilities. And, if you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the riches of heaven? And you are not faithful with other people’s things, why should you be trusted with things of your own?” 

How do we apply this? We can strive to be trustworthy in all situations. With our finances, with our actions, with our words, and with our thoughts. We can become masters at being faithful in the little things! Then when God deems it appropriate, he will add the greater responsibilities! And what a blessing that is. 

You Cannot Serve Two Masters

Money, and the proper use of money, is one of the most common themes in the Bible. The Bible warns of placing your faith and trust in money as it can easily become a barrier to your relationship with God. It is worth doing a ‘gut check’ to see if money has hindered your spiritual growth. If you answer yes to most of these questions, you may need to spend some time in reflection about how money affects you.

  • Do you think about and worry about money frequently? 
  • Do you cancel plans so that you could be making more money? 
  • Do you spend a great deal of time caring for your possessions? 
  • Is it hard for you to be generous with your time or finances?
  • Are you content with God has given you?

Money can be very deceptive. On one hand, we can use it to bless many people who otherwise would not receive a blessing, and on the other hand, it can be a dangerous addiction. Let God be the Master of your life and allow Him to guide how all parts of your life, including your finances, can be used to glorify Him. 

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Prayer for March 25th

Dear Lord, we need you. We need you to be present, to be close, and to change us. Help us to become the men and women that you see us as. Help us to become the men and women who can boldly proclaim Jesus Christ as our Savior and Messiah. 
We pray that you would protect us from any of the lies, the deceit, or the schemes of the enemy. Steel our resolve to stand against the enemy and not to fall into the traps of this world. We trust in you to be our shield and our strength. We trust in you to be our fortress and our protection. 
Lord, we trust in you. 
We pray this all in the power and the blood of Jesus Christ. Amen. 
 

Reading for March 26th – Luke 17

Kevin Siddle

Do you ever read scripture and think, “Wow, that’s hard.” Welcome to Luke 17.

Jesus opens by talking about temptations to sin. I think it’s important here to distinguish that temptation does not equal sin. Jesus was tempted (Luke 4) but he was also sinless (Hebrews 4:15, 1 John 3:5). What Jesus is saying here is that facing temptation is inevitable. “There will always be temptations to sin.” BUT. That word denotes a change or a turn of direction. “But what sorrow awaits the person who does the tempting!”

Jesus does not offer a lot of grace here. He doesn’t say, ‘Tempting others is bad, but as long as you don’t do it often, it’s ok.’ Nope. What he actually says is, “It would be better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone hung around your neck than to cause one of these little ones to fall into sin. So watch yourselves!”

To be tempted is expected and there are lots of great scriptures on how to manage and handle temptation, (Google: Scripture to help with temptation. – Memorize them.) but to be the tempter… well you’re in extremely bad territory.

Moving on to another difficult section is verses 3b-4. Jesus challenges us to forgive. How often? As many times as necessary if the person is repentant. Again, he doesn’t leave it as a suggestion, it is a command. “Even if that person wrongs you seven times a day, and each time turns again and asks forgiveness, you must forgive.” These are the scriptures that push buttons.

Jesus is not preparing us for goodness. He is preparing us for an eternity lived in righteousness with himself and the Father. With this thought, the disciples immediately ask, “Show us how to increase our faith.” I love this. This would be my response as well. Jesus you want us to forgive people who constantly do wrong to us? Oh Lord, I need some faith! HELP!

And in the most Jesus way, he teaches the apostles about faith. He doesn’t directly answer their question, he guides them with an illustration. The mustard seed in verse 6 shows that the amount of faith isn’t the point. It is the genuineness of the faith that matters. Even a tiny amount of genuine faith (mustard seed) allows us to do great miracles (throw a mulberry tree into the sea – which is quite large)!

Verses 7-10 continue the theme of “things that push buttons.” Jesus is illustrating the importance of obedience to the master (God). The master doesn’t thank the servant for his obedience. No, the obedience is expected. This does not mean that God won’t reward us for a life of obedience. But we shouldn’t be living in obedience to God because we have some selfish desire. As Jesus says, “We are not worthy of praise. We are servants who have simply done our duty.”

Be Ready

We cannot know the day or time when Christ will return. Life will be going on as usual. We will be working, going to school, getting groceries, or participating in any other part of our normal routines. Just as the people of Noah’s time were surprised by the flood or similarly as the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were unaware of their pending destruction, we won’t know the timeline.

Our role is not to figure out all of the details, but instead, to be ready. Jesus may come today, tomorrow, or centuries from now. Whenever Jesus does return, we need to be ready, both morally and spiritually. We need to live as if Jesus were returning this day.

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Reading for March 27th – Luke 18

Kevin Siddle

(v1) “One day Jesus told his disciples a story to show that they should always pray and never give up.” And with one simple sentence, Luke has my attention. 

They should always pray and never give up. Always and never are absolutes. They have a finality to them. Always is absolute; often is not. Never is absolute; rarely is not. Always pray. Jesus teaches the importance of persistence with our prayers. It’s not that God doesn’t hear our prayers the first time, instead, I think that by praying constantly, we are acting in faith. 

When we believe and we cry out to God day and night, we are placing our trust in Him. We have faith that He can answer our prayers. The widow in this story believed that the judge could bring her justice. And with constant requests, the judge relented! 

Whatever you’re struggling with, or whatever aches your heart. Take it to God in prayer. Never give up! Think of Abraham and Sarah, Hannah, and the Israelites. When we cry out to God and we don’t give up, God answers! 

Continuing his teaching about prayer, Jesus offers the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (v9-14). In one corner, we have a Pharisee, who for all rights, should know the proper way to pray and seek the Lord. In the other corner, we have a tax collector, who for all rights, should not. The tax collector in this parable is brutal. He openly insults and mocks the tax collector, “thanking God” that he is certainly not like the tax collector. 

Could you imagine someone praying a prayer like this? Could you imagine being the target of such a prayer? I can. Time to get personal. 

Years ago, I struggled with an addiction. It’s not something I’m proud of or thankful for having, it nearly destroyed my life, but I am grateful that God delivered me from that addiction. During the time where I was still learning how to rely on God, addiction came up in conversation with another person. They had no idea what I was going through at the time, and they said some very hateful things about anyone who had an addiction. They wrapped it up with “Thank God I’ve never had that problem, I don’t know how I could live with myself.” Cut. Deep. 

I can relate to the tax collector in verse 13. I have let my head drop, not daring to open my eyes because I knew that I wasn’t worthy. I have, on many occasions, asked God to be merciful to me, because I am a sinner. 

I have learned through experiences like the one I just mentioned that it is not the other person’s fault. They said something that hurt, yes, but they said it out of a lack of understanding. They have no experience of the pains that I and many others have gone through, and they spoke out of that lack of experience. I am thankful that they haven’t had those same struggles or pains. 

The most important point, and the one that Jesus is focusing on here is that we need to be wary of ‘exalting ourselves.’ We are no better than the next person. Your sin is not better than my sin, and my sin is not better than your sin. We are all sinners saved by grace, through the glorious mercy and love of Jesus Christ. And that is a reason to always pray, and never give up!

Childlike Faith

Children are a beautiful gift from God. Their ability to trust, believe, and love showcases how God loves us. They don’t think about the many duties or responsibilities of adults, instead, they desire to be with the adults who love them. The next time you are at church, watch how children play. Watch how they interact with their friends and their parents. If you can, watch how they worship. Here are some ways that as adults we can have a childlike faith.

  • Delight in the company of Jesus Christ. 
  • Find ways to joyfully read the Bible. 
  • Seek God’s help the way a child would seek the help of an adult.
  • Trust God. 

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke

Reading for March 28th – Luke 19

Kevin Siddle

I like Zacchaeus. I picture someone who looks like Danny DeVito. Zacchaeus was the chief tax collector, and this would have made him incredibly rich, and incredibly hated by other Jews. During that time, Rome ‘hired’ Jews as tax collectors to take from their countrymen. On top of working for the enemy, most tax collectors were also notoriously greedy. They would often levy additional charges against people to increase their own wealth. Zacchaeus, in this regard, has almost everything going against him. He would have been vilified by all Jews.

This makes me wonder, why did Zacchaeus try so hard to get a look at Jesus? What was he looking for? Certainly he had heard about the miracles that Jesus had performed, but he seemed to be in good health. My guess is, God stirred something deep in Zacchaeus’ heart. He was ready for a change, and Jesus became the instrument of that change. Jesus and the crowds start walking by, and to great displeasure and some incredulous stares, Jesus calls out Zacchaeus and asks to go to his home.

Interacting with Jesus Christ is life-changing. Jesus offered Zacchaeus and his entire home salvation. (v10) “For the Son of Man came to seek and save those who are lost.”

Zacchaeus teaches us a few important lessons. First, we need to take the initiative! Zacchaeus didn’t just sit and wait for Jesus to come find him. He took action and put himself in a position to encounter the Lord. We can all do the same. Prayer, fasting, worship, fellowship, discipleship, and Bible study are all ways that you can put yourself in a position to encounter Jesus Christ. Be an active participant in your relationship with Christ!

Next, Zacchaeus didn’t believe what everyone else thought of him. He didn’t retort back to Jesus that he wasn’t good enough to have him in his home. No! He (v6) “quickly climbed down and took Jesus to his house in great excitement and joy.” Zacchaeus doesn’t mope about his failures, he rushes to bring Jesus to him. When Jesus offers his company, ACCEPT THE INVITATION.

Finally, Zacchaeus did the unthinkable, he repented. He did an about-face. Pride is a great enemy. Pride keeps us from asking for forgiveness and admitting our wrongs. Zacchaeus chucked his pride right out the window. He even took it further, he sought to right his wrongs, with interest.

We’ve all failed and caused damage at some point or another. How we react to those failures, though, is critical. We can wallow in our own self-pity and self-criticism, or we can be proactive, ask for mercy, and try to make things right. Zacchaeus had a choice, and so do we. Be like a renewed Zacchaeus.

Gospel Accounts found only in Luke

1:5-80 Special events leading up to the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus.

2:1-52 Events from Jesus’ childhood.

3:19-20 Herod puts John in prison.

4:16-30 Jesus is rejected at Nazareth.

5:1-11 Jesus provides a miraculous catch of fish.

7:11-17 Jesus raises a widow’s son from the dead.

7:36-50 A sinful woman anoints Jesus’ feet.

8:1-3 Women travel with Jesus.

10-1:18-14 Events, miracles, and teachings during the months prior to Christ’s death.

19:1-27 Jesus meets Zacchaeus and later tells the parable of king’s ten servants

23:6-12 Jesus’ trial before Herod

24:44-49 Some of Jesus’ last words before his ascension

*Adapted from the Life Application Bible Commentary of Luke