Seven Days of Devotion
The Weekly Word is a Collection of Devotionals to be read on the Day Listed and presented freely as a service to and for the Body of Christ and Believers throughout the World that We may Hear God Speak to us as the Spirit of God gives us ears to hear and eyes to see what God would have for us daily in relationship to Him.
Read: Luke 7
TODAY IN THE WORD
Kate and David Ogg grieved. Last March in Australia, Kate gave birth prematurely to twins, and while Emily survived, doctors were unable to revive her twin, Jamie. He was declared dead. Kate and David held the boy’s lifeless body close, cuddling him. She unwrapped him from his blanket and held him against her skin. Then a miracle happened. After two hours of being talked to and touched, little Jamie began to breathe. He opened his eyes. He began to nurse. He moved his head. The doctors couldn’t believe it—the “dead” baby was alive!
The Ogg family’s joy helps us understand the joy felt by the widow in today’s passage (vv. 11-17). Widows had no social standing in that day—and to be a childless widow, well, that was the lowest of the low. Why would an up-and-coming young rabbi waste His time on such a person? To show God’s love and power, that’s why. Jesus’ “heart went out to her.” By raising her son from the dead, He performed His most powerful miracle so far. The people saw God’s covenant love in this deed, and the word that “God has come to help his people” spread quickly.
Three other improbable events in this chapter also testify to Jesus’ identity as the Messiah and Son of God. First, tremendous faith was ascribed not to a Jew but to a Roman centurion (v. 9). The man showed great humility and spiritual understanding in his approach to Jesus, and as a result his servant was healed. Second, doubt was expressed not by a Pharisee but by John the Baptist, the forerunner himself. He sent two followers to get a definitive answer, showing that no one is immune to doubt. Jesus gave him what he asked for (v. 22) and honored his ministry (v. 28).
Third and finally, respect and honor were paid to Jesus not by His own disciples but by a former prostitute. She anointed Him with expensive perfume, an act of respect and worship and an implied prayer for forgiveness. Jesus granted her prayer and taught His listeners a powerful lesson (vv. 47-50).
Read: Luke 8
TODAY IN THE WORD
Sweet potatoes might be an ancient solution to the modern problem of hunger. They have been grown as a food crop for more than 5,000 years. Ninety-five percent of the global sweet potato crop is currently grown in developing countries, where they rank fifth in importance as a food source. Adaptable and hardy, as well as rich in carbohydrates and vitamin A, sweet potatoes have often served as lifesavers in times of famine. The American Society for Horticultural Science recently published research that will help small-scale farmers in developing countries raise even more of this valuable crop.
Planting sweet potatoes can help fight world hunger, and planting the seed of the gospel can help fight world sin. The Parable of the Sower, the first of 29 parables recorded by Luke, is well placed in his Gospel.
The narrative to this point has revealed who Jesus was, why He came, and the central themes of His message. Jesus had already encountered the responses described in the parable (vv. 11-15). First is unbelief, as the devil “takes away the word from their hearts.” Second, people accept it—if it’s convenient. “They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away.” The third response is stunted growth. “As they go on their way, they are choked by life’s worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature.” And the fourth response to the seed of the gospel is obedient faith. They “hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.” These four are meant to be illustrative rather than exhaustive. That is, they do not cover all possible scenarios, but rather represent a spectrum of possible responses to Jesus.
The rest of the chapter gives us plenty of reasons to respond to Christ in faith. We can trust in the One who rules over nature and is able to calm storms and heal diseases. We can trust in the One who rules over the supernatural world and is able to cast out demons. We can trust in the One who reverses death itself and raises a dead girl to life. If we “hear God’s word and put it into practice” (v. 21), this is the One who counts us as family!
Read: Luke 9
TODAY IN THE WORD
While it’s easy to focus on Jesus’ dramatic miracles and confrontations with the Pharisees, His most significant ministry—apart from our salvation—is found in His relational mentoring and teaching of His twelve closest disciples. A classic article in Discipleship Journal titled “If Jesus Led Your Small Group” suggests key principles based on how Jesus led His own “small group” of unlikely future church leaders. These principles include preparation or setting aside dedicated time, modeling what you say, room for questions, a safe atmosphere or forgiveness for failure, mutual friendship (rather than know-it-all authoritarianism), and flexibility.
We see these principles in today’s reading. Luke 9 seems to focus more on these personal dimensions of Jesus’ ministry. When He sent out the Twelve, it’s as if He were saying, “Here, you take the wheel.” This was a powerful and encouraging experience for them, so much so that Jesus afterward took them on a ministry debriefing retreat. When the crowds interrupted, He was disappointed that the disciples seemed to doubt He could do something as simple as provide lunch. His miracle told them once again that He was the Son of God. The leaders and crowds had varying opinions, but He wanted His disciples to have no doubts about His identity. With divine help (Matt. 16:17), Peter boldly declared that Jesus was “God’s Messiah” (v. 20).
Discipleship is a journey filled with highs and lows. There are moments of exhilarating insight, as in Peter’s confession. There are moments of beholding God’s glory, as at the Transfiguration. There are also times of shame and suffering as we live counter to the world’s priorities. Giving one’s life for Christ’s sake is part of what it means to be His disciple (vv. 23-26, 57-62). Following Him must be our absolutely top priority. Thankfully, it’s about God’s strength, not our own, for there will be times when we fail (as when the disciples couldn’t cast out an evil spirit) or embarrass ourselves (as when they argued about who was the greatest). Once we’ve put our hand to the plow, though, there’s no turning back!
APPLY THE WORD
It is possible to understand some spiritual truths but remain clueless about others. Though Peter knew exactly who Jesus was, he didn’t grasp what Jesus told him about the suffering and death He would soon undergo (vv. 22, 44-45). Though the disciples had experienced Jesus’ power, they didn’t grasp that this power was for love and service, not conquest or revenge (vv. 51-56). We must trust that God is the One who enlightens our spiritual understanding at just the right times.
Read: Luke 10
TODAY IN THE WORD
A hit-and-run driver struck a 78-year-old man on a busy city street in Hartford, Connecticut. Car after car drove by the injured man, and bystanders gawked. Several people did call 911, but a surveillance camera captured most people’s unwillingness to get involved or help. The same month, again captured by video, a woman who had been waiting for a bed for 24 hours in a Brooklyn hospital collapsed on the floor, writhing in pain. Staff and patients in the waiting room noticed her convulsions but made no move to help. When someone did check on her over an hour later, it was too late—the woman was dead.
Whether in ancient or modern times, it seems that the sacrificial love of the Good Samaritan remains the exception rather than the rule. Jesus shared this parable about truly loving one’s neighbor in response to a test question from a religious leader about the greatest commandment (vv. 25-37).
The story teaches many things about love. Love is not predictable—those who might be expected to obey the commandment (two religious leaders) did not do so. Love crosses boundaries of ethnic and cultural prejudice, as the Samaritan helped the Jew. Love goes the extra mile and makes a personal investment, seen in the ways the Samaritan cared with his own resources for the robbery victim. Love loves when no one is watching, on a lonely road, not for human praise.
Jesus’ story illuminated the true nature of love, exhorted His hearers to love in this manner, and revealed the deep love and mercy of God. The “neighbor,” after all, turned out to be the one who showed mercy to the helpless man in need, just as God has done for us (vv. 36-37).
God’s merciful love enables another kind of love, that of friendship between human beings and God (John 15:15). Mary was one of Jesus’ closest friends, and at the end of the chapter she showed her devotion by choosing “what is better,” that is, to sit quietly and listen to her friend and Savior (v. 42).
APPLY THE WORD
As when Jesus sent out the Twelve, His sending out of the 72 in today’s reading was a training exercise in leadership and ministry. But even more, it was an act of love for the people of Israel. The preaching and miracles done by this larger group of disciples gave many more people a chance to learn about Jesus than would otherwise have been possible. As He so often does, God was giving people maximum opportunity to turn to Him (see 1 Tim. 2:3-4).
Read: Luke 11
TODAY IN THE WORD
In his book, Read, Think, Pray, Live, youth pastor Tony Jones suggested that an old approach to prayer might be just the thing for modern young people. The approach is called lectio divina, and it involves four steps: reading a Scripture passage both aloud and silently, meditating on the passage, praying aloud about issues that God puts on one’s heart during the previous step, and finally, contemplating God and resting in Him. The idea is that youth today are exceptionally busy and, thanks to technology, constantly multitasking. For this reason, they have a hard time “being still” before the Lord (Ps. 46:10). “Lectio divina” is one way for them to slow down and find silence in which they can hear God’s voice.
Jesus taught His disciples another kind of model prayer in today’s reading (vv. 1-4; cf. Matt. 6:5-13). It begins with “Father”—how gracious of Almighty God to encourage us to address Him with such an intimate term! This is not to take Him for granted, however—“hallowed be your name, your kingdom come” recognizes His holiness and sovereignty and prays for the whole world to do the same.
The first personal petition, “Give us each day our daily bread,” is a request for basic physical needs to be met. The second, “Forgive us our sins,” covers our most basic spiritual need and is followed by reminders that we, too, should forgive others and need God’s help to resist sin’s temptation. Jesus’ expanded teaching on prayer emphasized persistence (vv. 5-8), boldness (vv. 9-10), and faith (vv. 11-13). We should pray tenaciously, believing that God can and will answer.
As seen in the rest of the chapter, prayer is important because it prepares the soul for spiritual experiences and conflicts beyond human strength. This included not only demonic opposition but also human opposition, as Jesus’ enemies made the illogical argument that He was casting out evil spirits using Satan’s power, demanded a sign in addition to all the miracles already performed, and focused on legalistic trivia like hand-washing and spice-tithing rather than justice and love (v. 42).
APPLY THE WORD
Young people are not the only busy Americans who use technology to multitask. Who among us is beyond the reach of our cell phone? How often does the background noise of a car radio or MP3 player fill our ears while we’re doing something else? Is “being still” before the Lord a lost art in our daily spiritual walk? Using the “lectio divina” approach, or simply using the model of the Lord’s Prayer, might slow things down enough for us to be able to savor prayer and listen to God.
Read: Luke 12
TODAY IN THE WORD
Junior high school science teacher Doug Edmonds makes science “cool.” Using music, Edmonds takes popular songs and rewrites the lyrics in order to explain scientific ideas such as density and chemical bonds. Then he creates videos of himself singing the new song, complete with visual aids such as flash cards and diagrams. These music videos are posted on the Internet, where his students (and anyone else) can learn from them. The songs help his students to remember and understand complex concepts. One said, “If I’m ever struggling on a quiz, I’ll just sort of sing them to my-self.”
As seen in His parables and elsewhere, Jesus was also a creative master teacher. Even when delivering spiritual warnings, He did so in powerful language and memorable images. There are seven things in today’s reading that He warned us to be on guard against.
(1) Hypocrisy (vv. 1-3). He called this “the yeast of the Pharisees” and warned that one day their true character would be known. (2) Disrespecting God (vv. 4-12). He cares for us, but those who reject Him will themselves be rejected on judgment day. When we stand firm, by contrast, He helps us. (3) Greed (vv. 13-21). The rich fool in the parable disrespected God and put his trust in the wrong object. In the end, his material possessions couldn’t save him. By comparison, we should seek God’s kingdom as genuine treasure.
(4) Worry (vv. 22-34). Greed might in part be fueled by worry or anxiety, which shows a lack of faith in God to care and provide. A lack of generosity might also show that we’re anxiously attached to our material resources. (5) Spiritual unreadiness (vv. 35-48). The servants in the parable weren’t ready for their master’s return. Committed servants of God need to be faithful and vigilant. (6) Spiritual unfaithfulness (vv. 49-53). Faith in Christ creates difficult social and personal choices, but proper priorities mean God must always come first. (7) Spiritual blindness (vv. 54-59). We need to be sensitive to the “signs of the times” and on the lookout for what God is doing.
APPLY THE WORD
Financial worry might be high—after all, today is when personal income tax returns must be filed in the United States, though this year we actually have until Monday, April 18. Tax season is an excellent time to take to heart Jesus’ warnings concerning greed and worry. Those with more should remember that “life does not consist in the abundance of possessions” (v. 15)—those with less, that we should “seek his kingdom, and [food and clothing] will be given to you as well” (v. 31).
Read: Luke 13
TODAY IN THE WORD
Author and pastor John Piper wrote: “We were made to know and treasure the glory of God above all things. . . . The sun of God’s glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul. And when it does, all the planets of our life are held in their proper orbit. But when the sun is displaced, everything flies apart. The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center. We are all starved for the glory of God, not self. . . . Into the darkness of petty self-preoccupation has shone ‘the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God’ (2 Corinthians 4:4).”
Genuine faith keeps God at the center. When we sin, genuine repentance restores the relationship (vv. 1-9). In the thinking of Jesus’ day (and perhaps in the thinking of some in our own day), people who suffer tragedies must have done something wicked to deserve it. Presented with an example, however, Jesus essentially said that all people are sinners and equally deserving of divine punishment unless they repent. We cannot say that bad things happening show that a person must be especially bad. We are all sinful (Rom. 3:22-24). Like the fig tree in the parable, we all will be held accountable for our actions.
At present, the kingdom of God (vv. 18-30) is about people’s inner faith. The Lord can take faith as small as a mustard seed and turn it into a huge tree, or faith as small as a bit of yeast and mix it throughout a large batch of dough. Initially small and unimpressive, the mustard seed and bit of yeast will be victorious in the end, just as faith will be. In the future, the kingdom of God will be like a celebratory banquet of the faithful, global in scope but also full of overturned expectations. People who think they should be “in” will turn out to be “out” because they neglected the only banquet invitation that mattered—the “narrow door” of faith in Jesus Christ.
APPLY THE WORD
If “God so loved the world” and the kingdom banquet will welcome guests from all over the world, why did Jesus speak of faith as a “narrow door” (v. 24)? Because there is one and only one way to God—belief in His Son, Jesus Christ (John 14:6). No other way will do, no matter how “spiritual” or well intentioned. This truth offends many in our pluralistic age, but it reminds us of the rich necessity of “seeing and savoring Jesus Christ” (the title of a book by John Piper).
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