luke

Luke 24

Today’s reading is Luke 24.

Remember those women in Luke 8:2-3 that Luke said traveled with Jesus and the disciples? Luke named a few of them: “Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out; Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household; Susanna; and many others” (v. 2b-3a). He had told us that they “were helping to support them out of their own means” (v. 3b). That passage in Luke 8 is the only insight we are given in the Gospels--at least, that I can think of--about the financial support of Jesus ministry. Think about 13 men traveling to different villages, towns, and cities. Where did they sleep? Where did they get their meals in an age before restaurants? These women provided them the money they needed to buy food; they probably also prepared food when needed, found places for everyone to sleep at night, brought Jesus and the disciples water during the day. Maybe they helped mend clothes and wash them, too, but it seems clear that they volunteered to help Jesus and his disciples in whatever way was needed.

Here in Luke 24 these women emerge from the shadows again (v. 1, 10). The passage says they came “very early in the morning” (v. 1) to the tomb where Jesus’ body had been buried. My guess is that they figured this would be the last of their unheralded acts of service on behalf of Jesus. When Jesus’ burial was complete, they might have stayed for a few days to mourn his death and remember his life, then they would return to Galilee and re-enter daily life.

Instead of doing the sad, unpleasant, and difficult work of embalming Jesus’ body, the women were surprised to hear the message that Jesus was risen from the dead (vv. 3-7, 10)! The angels that reported this news to them said to them in verse 6, “Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’” That happened back in Luke 9:22. It was just after Peter’s confession that Jesus was the Messiah. One of the benefits of being on Jesus’ support team was that they could listen to him teach as they served or during the moments when there was nothing immediate to do. Verse 8 here in Luke 24 says, “Then they remembered his words” which tells us that they were in the audience when Peter declared Jesus to be the Messiah so they heard Jesus predict his death and resurrection. Now God had chosen them to be the first people learn of Christ’s resurrection.

Although it isn’t the point of this passage, this story suggests a truth that may encourage you today which is that some of the greatest blessings of following Jesus occur when we are doing the difficult, unpleasant, unnoticed work of serving him. If you are discouraged because you feel like your life and or your ministry in the church is often overlooked, unnoticed, unappreciated think of these women. You may be tempted to think that your life doesn’t matter much, but God sees. He knows what our love for Christ leads us to do for him even if nobody else ever knows. And, God may just surprise you one day with an unexpected blessing; it won’t be anything as big as an angel informing you that Jesus has risen from the dead, but it will be a blessing nonetheless. So don’t be discouraged or give up serving Jesus.


BTW: Logos Bible Software, the Bible study software I use has created a pretty cool webpage describing what the tomb where Jesus was buried was probably actually like. Click here to see it: https://www.logos.com/encounter-easter

Luke 23

Today’s passage to read, if you’re keeping up with the schedule, is Luke 23.

Yesterday we read about Jesus’ religious trial in Luke 22:66-71. That trial was for blasphemy (see Matt 26:64-66). Since Jesus claimed to be “the Son of God” (vv. 69-70 here in Luke 23) and that he would “be seated at the right hand of the mighty God” the religious leaders of his era concluded that he was speaking irreverently of God, which is what “blasphemy” means. This was worthy of death in Jewish law (again, Matt 26:66); the problem was that these religious leaders did not have the legal authority to perform capital punishment. If they killed Jesus themselves, they could have been charged with murder by the Roman government. So, here in Luke 23, Jesus was taken to Pilate, the Roman governor of their area, for trial (v. 1).

Their religious reasons for killing Jesus were insufficient for Roman law, so they charged Jesus with sedition (v. 2) before Pilate. Pilate found the charge unpersuasive since Jesus answered indirectly and didn’t seem like much of a threat (vv. 3), so Pilate ruled in Jesus’ favor in verse 4. The “chief priests and the crowd” in verse 5 tried to muster some evidence against Jesus so they talked about how many multitudes had been following him in Galilee. Galilee was under the political government of Herod Antipas who happened to be in town (vv. 6-7). Note that Pilate was governor of Judea, the southern part of Israel while Herod was in charge of Galilee, the northern part of Israel. Jerusalem is in Judea, the South, so they were in Pilate’s territory when Jesus was arrested, but as a Galilean, Herod could be responsible for dealing with Jesus (v. 7). Pilate tried to dodge responsibility by letting Herod deal with Jesus. Herod tried to talk to Jesus, but Jesus refused so, after mocking Jesus, Herod sent him back to Pilate (vv. 8-12).

Once again Pilate tried various ways to release Jesus, knowing that his death would be unjust (vv. 13-22), but he finally buckled to the pressure of the crowd and approved Jesus for the death penalty (vv. 23-26).

Jesus was not alone in his crucifixion. Two other men were crucified with Jesus (vv. 32-43) but they had very different reactions to him. One man joined the mocking of the crowd (v. 39) but the other man spoke up and rebuked the first criminal (v. 40). Notice the words of the criminal who spoke up for Jesus: “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Here is someone who understood sin and punishment. In his own case, and apparently based on what he knew of the other man, he knew that he was guilty and deserved the death penalty. But how could he know that Jesus was innocent? Did he overhear the trial of Christ before Pilate? Had he heard Jesus teaching at some point earlier in his life? Maybe one or both of these things is true and maybe that’s what caused him to say, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” But whatever he knew of Jesus and however he knew it, he believed that Jesus was the Messiah and that even though Jesus was dying, he would still be king! What a remarkable thing! Yet it is a testimony not to the man’s keen spiritual insight but to God’s saving grace. In the final hours of his life, this man turned to Jesus in faith and believed that his eternity would be safe in Jesus’ hands. Jesus comforted him with the promise, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise” (v. 43). Despite all the sinful things he had done, sins so bad they got him executed, he found forgiveness in Christ at the end of his life.

Time seems to harden people to the gospel. It is very rare to see an elderly person--even someone who is dying--accept Christ as savior. Many prisoners who hear the gospel profess faith in Christ but certainly not all of them. Facts like these sometimes cause me to be pessimistic when giving the gospel to adults but my pessimism is wrong. God can save anyone he chooses to save. Hardened criminals who have done wicked crimes can be changed by the power of Jesus Christ. The conversion of this criminal should remind us and encourage us not to pre-judge whether someone will be saved or not. We shouldn’t decide in advance whether or not we think someone will turn to Christ in faith; we should understand that God is saving people all over the world at different points in life and, in some cases, with very little knowledge about Jesus. Let’s trust God, then, and be faithful to give the gospel when we can.

Luke 22

Today’s reading is Luke 22.

This lengthy chapter in Luke’s gospel detailed Jesus’ betrayal, last supper, and his religious trial by “the chief priests and the teachers of the law” (v. 66). In between his last supper and his arrest, the disciples argued (again) about who was the greatest (vv. 23-30). Jesus assured them that they all would be great in his kingdom when he said, “I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (vv. 29-30).

Then he turned and spoke to Simon Peter in verse 31. He told Simon that just as Satan had requested permission to strike Job, he had also “asked to sift all of you as wheat” (v. 31b). This is a visual reference to separating the edible part of wheat from the inedible chaff that covers wheat. Satan was asking to put all the disciples through trials in order to try to separate them from their faith. This should have been a chilling thing to hear, so Christ quickly added that he had prayed for Simon specifically “that your faith may not fail” (v. 32). But then he said, “And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” These two phrases suggest that Peter would be the first to face the trial of his faith in God and, having withstood the test with his faith in tact, he should help the other disciples as they faced tests of their faith. But notice the phrase, “And when you have turned back” In verse 32b. This phrase indicates that Peter would struggle with the test of his faith. The specifics of that struggle were explained by Christ in verse 34 when he told Peter that he would deny Christ three times.

Peter did face the test of his faith in verses 54-62 and, as Jesus predicted, he struggled with the test. In three separate incidents involving different people, Jesus denied knowing Jesus (v. 57), being a follower of Jesus (v. 58), and even understanding what was going on with Jesus (v. 60).

So here we have one of the most vocal of Jesus’ apostles, a natural leader who was part of Jesus’ inner circle of three people, a man who had proclaimed himself ready to die with Jesus just a few hours before (v. 33) who evaded association with Jesus altogether when the pressure was on. And yet apparently his faith did “not fail” (v. 32). It sure looks like failure, so how to we reconcile all of this?

First, we need to understand that there is a difference between a failure of faith and a failure to admit to faith in Jesus. Peter’s denial of Christ was a failure to admit to being a disciple, not a complete renunciation of Jesus. The fact that he “wept bitterly” (v. 62) after it happened shows that his faith was genuine. The problem was that his faith was also weak. In that moment, his fear of being punished with Christ outweighed his belief that God would protect him or allow him to endure the trial with Jesus. It did not mean that he no longer believed in Jesus.

Second, we need to understand that “denying Jesus” or renouncing your faith is more about a complete break with the Christian community than it is about a particular incident in someone’s life. Judas rejected Jesus; he conspired with the religious leaders to betray Jesus (vv. 4-5) which meant finding “an opportunity to hand Jesus over to them when no crowd was present” (v. 6). This is a complete rejection of Jesus and all that he claimed to be that was premeditated and based in greed. Peter’s denial of Jesus was not premeditated and it was based in fear, not greed. What Peter did was lie about his faith in Jesus out of fear of persecution; what Judas did was completely reject Christ personally in such a way that Jesus would also be eliminated publicly.

Finally, Peter’s faith was strengthened by this trial, which is why God allows us to go through trials of faith. Later in life, tradition tells us, he did pay the ultimate price for following Jesus.

So what about us? There are times, aren’t there, when we are put on the spot and fail to speak up for Christ. Does that mean we are “ashamed of Jesus” and that he’ll be “ashamed of us” when he returns (Luke 9:26)? No--or at least, not usually. Maybe someone, when put on the spot, might blurt out for the first time that he doesn’t really believe in Jesus after he had already decided that in his heart. But Peter shows that genuine Christians sometimes have weak faith; that faith may cause them to waver from publicly claiming Christ. It might even, at times, cause them to question God as we see in some of the Psalms. A true believer may have doubts and denials at times caused by weakness in faith but if you are a true believer, God will strengthen your faith over time so that you will stand for Christ later on in your life.

So, be encouraged! If Simon Peter could deny Jesus three times--after all the miracles and teachings he experienced first and--and still become a great apostle for Christ then people like us who are weak a times may fail in our walk with Christ at times. But know that God’s grace is powerful! He will strengthen you when you fail and teach you how to walk with him and stand for him when it is scary and potentially costly to be a Christian.

Luke 21

Today we’re reading Luke 21.

Materialism is an ever-present temptation for us. We are material beings, after all, since we have these physical bodies. They need to be dressed and enhanced and housed and driven around; since God created us with an appreciation for beauty and we need physical goods to live, it is not surprising that beautiful physical possessions interest us. And, honestly, there is nothing sinful about having things; the Bible tells us that God’s creation is good (1 Tim 4:3-5).

The problem is not that we appreciate and enjoy material things; the problem is that we worship material things. We believe that they will make us happy and/or we think that having us will cause people to value us more highly. So we spend money recklessly or hoard money to accumulate wealth and its trappings.

Here in Luke 21, Jesus addressed our thirst for materialism. He began by talking about the poor widow who gave generously to God’s work in the temple (vv. 1-3). Knowing both how easily the rich could afford their gifts and how much this woman needed the money she gave, Jesus praised her for her faith and love for God. To Jesus this woman “has put in more than all the others” (v. 3). That was not true in terms of raw value but, relative to her means, it was very true. Instead of living for material things, she gave to God and trusted him to provide for her.

Although the disciples of Jesus lived by faith for their daily lives, they were still much too impressed with material things. As they praised the beautiful work in Herod’s temple (v. 5), Jesus prophesied about the destruction that would fall on the temple and all of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. in verses 6-33. Then he cautioned the disciples, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you suddenly like a trap.” The widow who gave her last bit of money did not need to worry about being “weighed down” by anything because everything in her life had been handed over to the Lord. This is how we should look at money and material things, too. May God help us not to trust in anything but him, not to worship anything but him, and not to let anything in this life weigh us down from following him with all of our hearts.

Luke 20

Today’s reading is Luke 20.

As we continue to read Luke’s account of the final week of Christ’s life, we read in today’s chapter how Jesus’ enemies tried various ways to discredit him. First they challenged his authority (vv. 1-8), later they considered arresting him (v. 19) but instead spied on him and tried to trap him (vv. 20-26 and 27-40). Jesus responded effectively to all of their attacks, then he told a damning parable explaining why these religious leaders would suffer God’s wrath for rejecting Jesus (vv. 9-16).

After he responded to their challenge about the resurrection, Jesus turned their minds to the scriptures, specifically Psalm 110:1 which he quoted in verses 42-43 of our passage. Jesus had two questions for them (“the teachers of the law,” v. 39) surrounding Psalm 110. The first question is, “Why do people say that Messiah would be the son of David?” The second question is, “Since David called the Messiah “Lord” in Psalm 110:1, how could the Messiah be his Son?

Until you know the answer, this seems like an unsolvable puzzle. On one hand, the Messiah must be the Son of David according to the Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7:16: “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.” But why would David call one of his descendants Lord?

The answer is that Jesus was both human and divine. As a man, Jesus shared a legal tie to David through Joseph, his adoptive father, as we saw in Matthew 1 and a blood connection to David through Mary as we saw in Luke 3. But since Jesus is God, he is Lord over everything as Creator. This is taught in Micah 5:2, “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” Jesus would “come out” to “be ruler over Israel” from “Bethlehem” but his “origins are from of old, from ancient times” -- in other words, eternity. So here we have a complete picture of Jesus. He is human and therefore David’s “son” (descendant) but he is also God and, therefore, David’s Lord.

Although the world did not receive Jesus for the Lord that he is in his first coming, he will return again to complete his work and establish his kingdom. This gives us something to be happy about today; whatever difficulties we suffer today are temporary because Jesus will return and be our king.

Luke 19

Today we’re reading Luke 19.

Today’s passage described the beginning of the final week of Jesus’ life. Just before Christ entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday (vv. 28-44), he told the disciples the parable of the ten minas (vv. 11-27). The purpose of this parable, according to verse 11 was, “because he was near Jerusalem and the people thought that the kingdom of God was going to appear at once.” In other words, Jesus told this story to prepare his followers for a gap of time between then and when his kingdom would arrive.

The parable accomplished three things. First, it slightly foreshadowed Christ’s rejection and and crucifixion. That is suggested in verse 14 where the subjects of the king sent a delegation to try to prevent him from becoming king. In every age, everyone who rejects the Lordship of Christ is trying to prevent him from being king; that applied especially to those who plotted against Jesus to see him crucified.

The second thing the parable accomplished was to begin preparing his followers for his ascension. Although Jesus would receive a Messianic welcome in verses 28-40, he would not literally become king over Israel during this time. As we saw in verse 12, the parable alluded to Jesus leaving, becoming king, then returning.

The third thing the parable accomplished was the main point of the parable which is to instruct us about what to do while we wait for Jesus’ return. Our waiting for Jesus’ return is not like waiting for a plane to depart. In that situation, people just sit around until the plane is ready to be boarded. Instead, we “wait” for Jesus like a pregnant woman and her husband wait for the baby to be born. They “wait” in the sense that time passes, but they also should be preparing during that time--deciding on a name for the baby, preparing a nursery, buying baby clothes and supplies and so on. Similarly, we are waiting for the time to arrive when Jesus will return, but this parable commands us to be productive with the time. Before he left this earth, Christ commanded his disciples to make disciples, baptize and teach them. Instead of sitting around waiting as the wicked servant did in verses 20-21, we have the opportunity to invest in Jesus’ kingdom by obeying his great commission. There are great rewards promised for those who produce for his kingdom (vv. 17-19), so this parable challenges us use the power Christ gave us, obey the commission he left us, and watch as God uses our faithfulness to his word to produce more and more believers who will enter the kingdom.

So, how are you involved productively for the increase of God’s kingdom? Have you figured out your spiritual gift and found a place to use if for God’s glory? Are you making the most of the opportunities you receive to share the gospel? Are you going on faith that God will use you if you invest into his kingdom as he commanded?

Luke 18

Luke 18

The major theme of this chapter is humility. That theme comes out more clearly in some of the paragraphs of this chapter than in others. But consider this:

  • In verses 9-14 the tax collector was justified instead of the Pharisee because “those who humble themselves will be exalted” (v. 14c).
  • In verses 15-17 you have to become helpless like a child in order to enter the kingdom. Verse 17: “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
  • In verses 18-30 the rich man refused the kingdom of heaven because Jesus told him to sell everything. Selling everything would have humbled him, making him dependent on God.
  • Verses 31-34 doesn’t seem to fit the theme of humility except that Jesus’ death required him to humble himself, so maybe that’s why Luke recorded this passage in this spot.
  • In verses 35-43 the beggar was not too proud to stop calling out to Jesus asking for his sight. His personal dignity and reputation among others were less important to him than receiving this healing from Jesus.

So how does the first story in verses 1-8 fit with this theme of humility? Well, maybe it doesn’t. These chapter divisions are not inspired and were added to the Bible much later than the passages were written.

But, although being in this chapter doesn’t necessarily make verses 1-8 about humility and even though humility is not expressly mentioned in this story, I still think the concept is there. The point of this story according to Luke was, “to show them that they should always pray and not give up.” The woman in this story badgered the unjust judge and eventually won her case because of her badgering (vv. 4-5). Then Jesus said that God will listen to those who “cry out to him day and night” (v. 7). What the story does not address is why we won’t “cry out to him day and night.” Why don’t we persist in prayer?

One answer is weak faith or a lack of faith. Another answer is just that we’re human and humans struggle with various kinds of weaknesses. But I think pride is a reason why we don’t pray persistently. Prayer is an acknowledgment that we cannot control something. It is a response to the knowledge among the faithful that we cannot make something happen on our own so, if it is to happen, God will have to do it. That takes humility! Our default assumption is that we can handle things. We can put up with stuff we don’t like, we can persuade someone to do what we want, we can reason with someone who we have a dispute with, we can change ourselves if we try hard enough for long enough. But prayer causes us to admit that these things may not be true and that only God might be able to make something happen. We might pray once or twice asking God for something but after that, we give up to look for “more productive” ways to attack the problem we’re praying about. And, of course, God is sovereign and will do his will, so he may refuse to answer our prayers with yes because they are outside of his will. All of these are blows to our pride.

So, what do you wish God would do for you? If it is within his moral will, will cause him to be glorified, and is truly righteous and just, don’t let your pride keep you from asking God--continually--for it.

Luke 17

You guessed it! Read Luke 17 today.

Leprosy was a horrible disease to contract in the days Jesus lived on this earth. In order to keep from infecting other people, lepers had to live alone, away from society. If they came near anyone else, they had to warn them by calling out, “Unclean!” If you contracted leprosy, your family would never touch you again and the only human companionship you’d ever know again was from other lepers. You would watch parts of your body rot away and fall off until, eventually, you died.

So you can understand why lepers were so eager to meet Jesus and when they saw him, according to verse 13, they “called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’” Instead of making new skin out of mud or laying his hands on them or even waving his hands toward them, Jesus just told them to find a priest and have him check their skin. This was required by the Old Testament law for someone who wanted to be re-admitted to society after having a skin problem that cleared up. Between verses 14-15, they were healed. In verse 14b they expressed faith in his word by obediently turning to find a priest. But, according to verse 15, it took a few moments before they actually realized they had been healed.

Of the ten men who were healed of leprosy, only one of them returned to thank Jesus (v. 16a). And he was less than subtle about it; according to verses 15b-16a, “when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him....” This is what you’d expect from someone who not only just saved and extended your life, but made it possible to return to your family and friends. But he alone gave glory to God and thanks to Jesus and, to top it all off, “...he was a Samaritan.” This continues a pattern in Jesus’ life of being received best by outsiders. Jesus made a point of highlighting that only 10% of the cleansed lepers gave thanks to him and glory to God for their cleansing. His point is one that we should consider as well. People frequently ask others to pray for them but, in my experience at least, rarely give glory to God when the prayer is answered. Furthermore, genuine thankfulness is in scarce supply in our world. We should serve God by serving others in love without expecting to be thanked but thankfulness is a trait of godliness (see Colossians 2:7, 3:15 and 17 for just a few examples).

Do you live a thankful life? Do we notice when God answers our prayers and give him praise and glory for it? Do we thank his servants, his children, when they are good to us? These are habits of a godly life.

Excuse me now, I’ve got a couple of overdue thank you notes to write....

Luke 16

Today we’re scheduled to read Luke 16.

Except for verses 16-18, today’s chapter is all about money:

  • Verses 1-12 are about how the shrewd manager used his master’s wealth to secure his future after he was fired. The point of this story is that we should use whatever money comes our way for eternity (v. 9).
  • Verse 13 gave us Jesus’ most famous saying about money: You can’t serve two masters. The two masters Jesus had in mind are God and money.
  • Verses 14-15 addressed the Pharisees’ hypocrisy of showing love for God on the outside while inwardly loving money.

Then we learned about a rich man, unnamed, and a poor man named Lazarus (vv. 19-31). As rich people do, the rich man lived a comfortable life; conversely, Lazarus the poor man lived a painful, uncomfortable life. Despite his disadvantaged financial standing and the difficulties that poverty created for him, he trusted in God. When death came to both men, their previous situations were reversed. The wealthy man was in torment in hell (vv. 23-24) while Lazarus was in eternal bliss (vv. 23b, 25b). Unable to be blessed in any way while in hell, the unnamed rich man pleaded for Lazarus to be sent back to warn his family (vv. 27-38). At this point, some interesting thoughts emerge:

  1. The rich man knew Lazarus by name. Verse 20 told us that Lazarus was laid “at his gate.” These two facts suggest that the rich man talked to Lazarus at some point or at the very least had his servants find out about Lazarus. Yet, according to verse 21, the rich man gave Lazarus nothing, not even his leftovers. So the rich man had interacted with Lazarus but day after day ignored his horrible poverty.

  2. The rich man’s family knew Lazarus, too. That’s not stated but it is implied by the phrase, “if someone from the dead goes to them, they will repent.” If the rich man’s family was unaware of who Lazarus was, they would have been unaware of his death and, therefore, unmoved by his resurrection from the dead. So they, like their brother it seems, had personal contact with Lazarus and yet did nothing to help him.

This gives us some insight into the selfish nature of the wealthy family portrayed in this story. Not only did they receive “good things” (v. 25) in their lifetime, they were stingy with what they had. Once in hell, however, the rich man became aware of how foolish his comfortable life really was. Unable to be saved or to save himself, the rich man called for a miracle to save his family.

The word of Abraham to this rich man in hell explains so much about our faith. Verse 31 said simply, "‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’” Why did so many people see the miracles of Jesus yet reject him as Messiah? Because unbelief is not about evidence; it is the outgrowth of our darkened sinful hearts. Why do so many people today believe that Jesus did miracles and rise from the dead? Because God’s word has supernatural power. It is not solid logic, or great evidence, or even supernatural displays of power that create faith. It is God who creates faith and he does so with his word. As Romans 10:17 says, “Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ.”

What do you need to be effective in evangelism? God’s word. That’s it. Be faithful in sharing God’s word when you can and ask God to use it to make faith in others.

Luke 15

Today’s reading is Luke 15.

The other day I was standing in line at a coffee shop while the couple in front of me placed their orders, paid, and received change. As the cashier was handing the man his change, he dropped one of the coins. I watched it fall to the ground where it leaned on its edge against the man’s shoe.

My first instinct was to reach down, pick up the coin, and hand it back to the man. But then I hesitated for two reasons. First, the coin was touching him, so reaching down to pick it up would put me uncomfortably into his personal space. Second, the coin was a penny, so was it really worth it for one measly cent?

Before I made a decision, he reached down and picked it up himself so my problem was solved. But the fact that it was a mere penny got me thinking about things that are lost. If you lost a penny, you might look around for it for a few seconds, but probably would not waste too much time searching because the value is so low. If you lost a ten thousand dollar check or an extremely rare coin-- one that was of great value to collectors and of personal value to you because it was given to you by a favorite grandpa or aunt or someone else you loved--you would tear the place apart looking for it, right? You’d do that because of the immense value it has in terms of cash and personally to you.

Here in Luke 15 Jesus overheard the muttering of the religious (v. 2) about Jesus’ tendency to spend time with the outcasts of society (v. 1, 2b). “Those people” were not worth anything to the Pharisees and teachers of the law. They were worth less than a penny because they were “sinners.” If they were coins, not only would the religious people refuse to stoop down to pick them up, these religious leaders would grind them into the dust with their sandaled feet.

Jesus told three stories here in Luke 15 to illustrate why he spent time with sinners. All of them have to do with the worth of the sinners involved. To Jesus, saving sinners was like a shepherd finding a lost sheep (vv. 3-7), a woman finding a lost coin (vv. 8-10), and a man reconciling with his lost (that is, rebellious) son (vv. 11-24). The point of these stories was to invite the religious leaders to reconsider their hatred of sinners (vv. 25-32). But another key point of these stories is to illustrate how much lost humanity means to God.

I have many things in my past that I am ashamed to have said or done. In my present life, there are areas where I wish I was more like Christ and had a greater desire to improve. While I don’t think of myself as worthless, I have to admit that my sinfulness makes me far from desirable to a holy God. Jesus taught, however, that God loves to find his lost sons. This chapter calls us, then, to look at sinners differently. We should see ourselves and others not as worthless pennies but as precious in God’s sight, so precious that he came to find us. Let’s give thanks for God’s love and remember to love other sinners, no matter how reprehensible we think they are. To do anything else puts us in the place of the judgmental older brother who missed out on the party because of his unloving attitude.

Luke 14

Today’s reading is Luke 14.

The Pharisee who invited Jesus to eat in his home on this Sabbath day (v. 1) probably had no idea that his own sacred cows would be on the menu--spiritually speaking, of course.

A recurring theme in Luke has been what is permissible on the Sabbath. The Pharisees had very strict views on this subject and Jesus challenged those views by healing a man on the Sabbath (vv. 2-4), then pointing out their hypocrisy. They would help a child or an animal in a dangerous situation or with an injury on the Sabbath (v. 5) but were deeply offended when he healed a man who had been suffering. God is never offended when people do good and relieve the suffering of others on the Sabbath. The intent of the Sabbath laws supersede strict interpretations of that law.

That opening paragraph (vv. 1-6) happened on the way to the Pharisees house, before the meal even began. That is suggested in verse 1 where it says, “Jesus went to eat...” but it is confirmed in verse 7 by the fact that people were picking out places to sit, so the meal had not yet begun. Jesus turned his rhetorical attention to pride, noting how at wedding banquets people assumed themselves to be the most honorable person in attendance by how they chose their seats. He counseled people to go for the worst seat at the banquet (v. 10a); after all, it is better to invited to move to a better spot than to be demoted to a lesser seat. This is one of the most practical things Jesus said that doesn’t have to do with an overtly moral or spiritual issue. He addressed a common life scenario for his land giving very culture and gave very sage advice. While the situation Jesus described in verses 7-10 is far more mundane than the usual topics he taught about, the deeper issue was human pride as we see in verse 11.

Finally, Jesus addressed his host directly (v. 12) and instructed him to be more discriminating about who he invited to dinner (vv. 12b-13). Instead of inviting people he loved and liked, Jesus advised him to invite the kind of people who don’t usually get dinner invitations--“the poor, the crippled, the lame, and blind.” This was about human pride, too. We like to spend time with people we like, friends who elevate our mood and even our status and who might invite us to their homes as well. A party for the poor, however, doesn’t appeal to us but Jesus said we “will be blessed” (v. 14a) if we befriend and include those who are low in social status. This blessing awaits in the future, however, for Jesus said, “...you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous” (v. 14b).

Passages like these indicate that pride was more overt in Jesus’ day than it might be in ours. We are the inventors of “the humble brag” after all. While we might be more subtle about our pride than the Pharisees and others in Jesus’ day, we still struggle with pride. It’s nice to be noticed so putting ourselves in a place where we are noticeable can be just as tempting now as it was in the wedding banquets Jesus attended. Likewise, we enjoy spending time with people who are like us--“your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives” and especially our “rich neighbors” (v. 12). Jesus’ confrontational style of speaking was designed to challenge our pride forcefully--not to say we can never have our friends and family over for dinner but that we should intentionally befriend and include those who are not usually coveted as friends. His teaching calls us to get over ourselves and look for ways to be a true, tangible blessing to others.

So, what might you do today or this weekend or next week that would wound your pride but make a real difference in someone else’s life?

Luke 12

Today’s passage for Bible reading is Luke 12.

This chapter is really about the future from beginning to end. It starts with a command against hypocrisy (v. 1) but Jesus commanded against hypocrisy because secrets will be known at the judgment (vv. 2-3) so people should live in light of God’s judgment not the judgment rendered by people (vv. 4-12).

In the middle of this teaching, some guy in the crowd interrupted Jesus and asked Jesus to step in and help him settle his estate with his brother (v. 13). Jesus turned even this interruption back to his topic about the future when he rebuked the man for his greed (vv. 14-20) because he was thinking only about his life on this earth and not on eternity (v. 21). Then, returning to his subject, Jesus told the disciples not to worry about how their daily needs will be met but to trust God to meet those needs (vv. 22-30) while they work for his kingdom (vv. 31-34) and prepare for its arrival (vv. 35-59).

Passages like this one call us to reconsider where we put our time and money. If you knew that Jesus would return tomorrow or before the end of this year or that your death was immanent, would you worry about making every last dollar? Would you care about buying a fancy new car or house if you had your basic needs for shelter and transportation cared for? Most of these disciples of Jesus lived many decades beyond this time and, unless the Lord does come soon, most of you reading this devotional have many decades left in your life as well.

But compared to infinite time--what we call “eternity” how much does six or seven or even ten decades matter? On one hand, it matters a great deal because your eternity is settled during the time you spend on this earth. But that’s in God’s hands; he’s the one who redeems and calls. If he’s called and redeemed you, does it matter if you die with a million dollars in the bank or if you have only the one dollar in your pocket to show for your life?

I believe in living wisely and planning for the future but are we doing that to control our materialistic impulses and to be wise managers of what God has provided to us or are we doing it out of fear that there may not be enough for us in the future.

And what about God’s work--are we using retirement planning as an excuse to avoid funding God’s work through the local church, church planting and missions? If so, we are living by short-sighted standards because God tells us that investments made in this life pay dividends in eternity: “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (vv. 33-34).

Luke 11

Today’s reading is Luke chapter 11.

Does God really answer prayer? Going by what Jesus said here in Luke 11:1-13, not only does God answer prayer, he is waiting to bless us by answering our prayers. Why don’t we get more answers to prayer?

One reason is that we pray very differently than Jesus told us to pray. Verses 1-4 record what is called “The Lord’s Prayer” but should be called “The Lord’s Guide to Prayer.” Jesus was not telling us to pray this prayer in these words but rather to let the themes he touched on be the things that we talk to God about. Namely:

That more and more people would come to worship him and stand in awe of his holiness and greatness (“hallowed by thy name”). That his kingdom would finally arrive finishing the redemption of his elect and giving us a place to finally be the society he created us to be (“your kingdom come”). That he would provide for our daily needs not make all our dreams come true (“give us each day our daily bread”). That he would make us holy just as he has declared us to be (“forgive us our sins... and lead us not into temptation”). That he would give us the grace to resolve the relationships we have broken by our sins (“for we also forgive everyone who sins against us”). Jesus’ healing ministry shows us that God does care about our physical problems, but how often is our praying dominated by praying for ourselves and others to have physical healing? But do we pray for each other to avoid sin? Do we take time to worship God for who he is and ask him to save more people so that they can worship him? These are the things Jesus told us to pray for, so let’s let his instructions mold our own talks with God each day.

Luke 10

Happy Monday! Read Luke 10 today to stay on schedule to read the entire New Testament in 2017.

Joy is a major theme of the Bible. It isn’t emphasized a lot by preachers like me because it isn’t hard doctrine. Yet it is a theme that is interwoven throughout the Old and New Testaments and is described throughout scripture as an outgrowth of walking with God (for instance, “The fruit of the Spirit is... joy” (Gal 5:22).

In this chapter of Luke, Jesus prayed “full of joy through the Holy Spirit” (v. 21a) for God’s plan to bless the simple with salvation instead of those who believe themselves to be sophisticated (v. 21b). But in the same context, he cautioned the 72 disciples about the source of their joy. After a successful short-term missions trip, they “returned with joy and said, ‘Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.’” Their joy, it seems, stemmed from their success using the spiritual power Christ had delegated to them. Power can cause pride so our Lord warned them about Satan’s fall (v. 18) and encouraged them not to find their joy in power but instead to “rejoice that your names are written in heaven” (v. 20b).

Our Lord Jesus Christ rescued us from an eternity of misery apart from God. He rescued us from the darkness of living apart from God and his truth. He adopted us into his family and conferred on us all the rights and privileges of sonship, even treating us as if we were as righteous as Jesus is even though we are not. He gave us spiritual power to accomplish anything and everything he calls us to do for his kingdom work. It is his grace and mercy to us and the promises he has made to us about the future that really matter. These are the things God wants us to rejoice about, not what we have done or can do or will do. Whenever the source of joy is about us, we are in danger of pride; whenever it is about God, we have joy as a blessing.

This is a great truth to start the week. God wants you to have joy and the source of that joy is him and all that he has done for us and will do for us. I hope you live today in that joy, rejoicing in God’s grace and goodness to us.

Luke 9

Today we reading Luke 9. Click here for that chapter.

At the beginning of this lengthy chapter, Jesus told the disciples, “If people do not welcome you, leave their town and shake the dust off your feet” (v. 5). Toward the end of this same chapter, Jesus sent messengers into a Samaritan village “to get things ready for him” (v. 52). I take that phrase to mean that Jesus was sending some of the people mentioned in yesterday’s devotional to prepare for Jesus’ arrival because he was going to stay and teach in that village for a while on his way to Jerusalem. According to verse 53, “the people there did not welcome him, because he was heading for Jerusalem.” James and John were incensed by this rejection. Claiming the supernatural power that Jesus had conferred on them in verse 1, these two brothers “asked, ‘Lord, do you want us to call fire down from heaven to destroy them?’”

Their question demonstrated the wrong spirit toward those who had rejected Jesus. When Jesus told the disciples to shake the dust off their feet in verse 5, the reason he gave was “as a testimony against them.” It was for their warning and rebuke that Jesus commanded the disciples to do this, not because they were angry or ready to send judgment on the towns that rejected them. That is why “Jesus turned and rebuked” James and John in verse 55. These men were not concerned about the lost souls of these Samaritans; they were ticked off at being rejected and wanted to show them some power!

Jesus surely will bring judgment on anyone who rejects him in this life. That is one of his promises and one of his roles when he returns. Until the day of judgment begins, however, Jesus calls us to show grace and mercy to his enemies, not to call for their destruction. We should keep this in mind when unbelievers mock our faith, or belittle us personally, or even persecute us. We should definitely testify to them about the judgment that Jesus will bring for these actions; that’s what he told the disciples to do in verse 5--testify against them. But we should be merciful and plead with them as we do this knowing that their eternal souls are at stake. So consider your heart and attitude toward those who are hostile to righteousness, to Christianity, Christians, or Christ. Don’t hope for and call for God’s judgment; tell them of God’s judgment but in a way that shows them how much we want to see God’s mercy in their lives.

Luke 8

Today we’re reading Luke 8.

It’s been surprisingly tough to write these devotionals on Luke because I’ve been preaching through these chapters. I’ve already said a lot about all these sections in my messages so I’m struggling not to feel like I’m repeating myself while simultaneously feeling like I’m not saying very much about paragraphs I’ve studied in a lot of detail.

Anyway, that’s my problem, not yours; fortunately, my problem ends tomorrow in Luke 9 when we catch up to and pass the section I’m preaching from currently. For now, though, Luke 8 presents us with one of Jesus’ best known parables (vv. 4-15), some lesser known teachings of Jesus (vv. 16-21) and several miracles (vv. 22-56). The chapter began, though, by listing Jesus’ key financial contributors, some women who traveled with Jesus and the disciples who “were helping to support them out of their own means.” As I indicated in my message on this series, this paragraph gives us insight into how Jesus and the disciples were able to live while devoting themselves full-time to the ministry and it sets a precedent for how ministry is funded that the rest of the New Testament developed for us.

Luke doesn’t say much about what these women did. Verse 2 indicates that they were with him and the Twelve as they traveled “from one town and village to another” and verse 3 says that they “were helping to support them out of their own means.” That last phrase obviously means that they were spending their own money to pay for food and lodging and anything else Jesus and the Twelve needed money for. But why would these women need to travel with Jesus and the disciples? Couldn’t they just send the money by messenger whenever it was needed?

I think they could have sent the money, but I also think they traveled with Jesus and the Twelve to hear Jesus teach just like everyone else who followed him around. I wonder, though, if they also didn’t handle some of the logistics--going ahead of the men to find enough places for them to sleep, buying food and preparing meals as needed. Again the text does not say this, but it makes sense that they would do at least some of this planning and preparation work so as to give Jesus the maximum amount of time to do ministry and to do so without distractions.

This is a small nit to pick in a chapter that has some great material in it but, again, I’ve already sliced all that bread so I’m looking for some crumbs that got away. If you’ve served somewhere behind the scenes--doing sound or lighting or projection or as a Calvary Class helper or preparing meals for families that just had a baby or helping with the Sunday coffee and donuts or giving rides to people to church on Sunday or making copies of material or helping out with office work or cleaning the floors on Saturday night or serving in the chair ministry or making and serving funeral meals or serving in the food pantry or in the prison ministry or doing any other number of tasks, your ministry is important! It may seem unnoticed or feel unimportant but the truth is that it is very important. Servants like you make every ministry possible so if you’ve served in one of these lower-profile places, thank you!

If you could serve in one of these ways but haven’t volunteered yet, would you volunteer this week? Everything we do as a church takes dedicated volunteers so the more volunteers we have, the more ministry we can do. Jesus said that a cup of water given in his name would be rewarded so there are eternal dividends to be reaped if you sow into His work now, even in ways that seem insignificant and small. So, if you’re not serving somewhere yet, one way to put the truth in this chapter into practice is to find your place to serve. It is the Lord’s work so he’s the one you’re serving, just as these women served him in their unseen but important role.

Luke 7

Here’s a link where you can read Luke 7 to stay on schedule to read the New Testament this year.

Jesus has gone public now and has been attracting more and more attention in his area. That attention continued as he performed miracles such as healing the dying (vv. 1-10) and raising the dead (vv. 11-17). His message was right but his actions were not what John the Baptist expected so when John--in prison--heard about Jesus actions, he sent some disciples of his to ask Jesus to identify himself (vv. 18-27). After reassuring John through his disciples (vv. 21-23), Jesus began to probe what people thought of John the Baptist (vv. 24-27). After asking some probing questions to get people to think about the meaning of John’s life and ministry in verses 24-26, Jesus affirmed that John was a prophet, but he was a prophet plus more (prophet+) in verse 26b. According to Jesus in verse 27, John was, in fact, the forerunner prophesied in the Old Testament to Messiah.

But then Jesus raised the importance of John even further but with a twist. According to Jesus, John was the greatest mortal man who ever lived (v. 28a). That’s quite an assessment to make about anyone, but especially coming from Jesus. But then Jesus said something even more intriguing: “...yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” The most insignificant person who arrives in God’s kingdom is greater than the greatest man whoever lived, according to Jesus. Why is this true?

The answer is that John--great as he was--was a sinner but the “least in the kingdom of heaven” is not a sinner. Sinners are not allowed into the kingdom of heaven, so there are not sinners there. Consequently everyone who is there is a better person than John.

The Kingdom of God must be an empty place, then, because I and everyone I know is a sinner. That’s where Jesus comes in and why he came into the world. Jesus the man lived the sinless life that would qualify a person to enter the kingdom of God. He was able to do that as a man because he was also God. As God, he didn’t need to earn his way into the kingdom of God; it already belongs to him. So, in the great act theologians call imputation, God gave sinners access to his kingdom based on the perfect life of Christ. He imputed--credited--Christ’s righteousness to those who believe him for it. On the opposite side of that coin, he also credited to Jesus the guilt for human sin which Jesus paid for through his death on the cross. For those who believe this message, God imputes your guilt to Christ who paid it in full and imputes Christ’s righteousness to you. That’s how you get into the kingdom of God. When you get there, God will transform you completely so that you never want to or will sin again. Thus, you will be a better human being than John the Baptist, the greatest man who ever lived.

This is an important truth for our salvation. It is one that everyone must humble himself to believe. Even the most morally upright person must admit his sin and need of salvation. But many people are too proud for that so Luke told us in verse 29 that those who knew they were sinners were getting into the kingdom while those who were really religious, according to verse 30, were missing out on what God has done. Don’t let that be you! Don’t let your pride keep you from an eternity in God’s presence and in his kingdom.

Also, know that if you have trusted Christ, God treats you as perfect now, even though you aren’t yet. God treats you as better than John the Baptist already because he gives you the credit of Christ’s perfection. So don’t let your sins and failures discourage you. Keep growing in your faith and trusting God to change you and know that God is not counting those sins against you any more. You’re on his side now because of Jesus, so you can feel secure and forgiven while you grow to become like him.

Luke 6

Today’s devotional reading is Luke 6.

On the seventh day of the creation week the Bible tells us that God rested. This means that he ceased from the act of creating. It was unnecessary for him to “rest” in the sense of recovering and renewing his energy and strength because he is all-powerful. But he set aside a day to cease from labor and even set that day apart to teach us to rest.

Rest is about renewing yourself and spiritual renewal through worship is a key part of resting. By the time Jesus lived, however, the Sabbath had become more about what was forbidden than about the blessing of taking time off to rest your body and renew your spirit. That’s what Jesus faced here in Luke 6. The Pharisees were so legalistic about the Sabbath that they didn’t want anyone to do much of anything; even picking up a snack off the grain fields was sin in their minds (vv. 1-2). Likewise, they were miffed when Jesus healed a man; they should have been happy for him. He recovered the use of one of the most useful parts of his body. What better day to be renewed from an injury or a disability than the day God set aside for renewal?

As Jesus answered the objections of the legalists about the Sabbath, he both asserted his authority over the Sabbath day (v. 5) and reminded the people that the Sabbath is supposed to be about what is good not about putting people in bondage (v. 9). But the Pharisees measured a person’s spirituality based on how well he kept a long list of manmade rules, so Jesus’ actions on the Sabbath threatened their approach to spirituality.

This is an important thing to keep in mind whenever you encounter someone who thinks that pleasing God is about some manmade rule to measure spirituality. Who is more spiritual--a person who reads one verse a day or someone who reads one book of the Bible per day? If we measure by the sheer volume of material, the one who reads a whole book of the Bible each day is the truly spiritual person. But remember from James 1:22 that the person who merely reads the Bible without applying it is self-deceived. One verse--truly considered and applied--is far better than one book of the Bible read only to impress yourself, God, or someone else with how spiritual you are. God wants us to keep his commands but not so that we can impress others or oppress them by pointing out their failures or sub-standard performance compared to us. God does not give us his commands to judge our performance; he gives his commands to transform us. Whenever we judge others for their lack of performance, we are indicting ourselves as legalists. Don’t measure your walk with God by performance metrics; seek to walk with God, putting his words into practice out of love for him and a desire to grow (see verses 46-49 here in Luke 6).

Luke 4

Today we’re reading Luke 4.

Before Jesus began his public ministry in verse 14, it was appropriate for him to win a private victory. Specifically, in order to preach righteousness to others, Jesus had to practice righteousness first himself. That’s what his temptation in the wilderness in verses 1-13 was about.

Although Jesus was fully human his virgin conception kept him from receiving a fallen nature like the rest of us humans have. He did not have any inward pull toward sin like you and I have. That’s why Satan had to get creative in tempting him. He tempted him with food when he had been fasting (vv. 2-3); there is nothing sinful about eating food, so the temptation focused on Jesus using his divine power to create food. Again, there is nothing wrong with that; he used his divine power to create food when he fed the 5000. So this first temptation is hard to figure out; what exactly was the sin that Satan was trying to get Jesus to commit?

The answer is revealed in Jesus’ response to Satan in verse 4, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3 and the context for that passage was how God provided manna for his people in the desert. In Deuteronomy 8:1 Moses instructed the people to “Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors.” In other words, receiving God’s promises was tied to obeying his commands. In Deuteronomy 8:2-3 Moses said, “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord.” This was all a reminder to Israel that the most important thing they needed to do was obey God. If people obey God’s word, they do so because they are trusting God--trusting him to keep his promises and to provide what they need. Moses was reminding the people in Deuteronomy 8:1-3 that God provided for them in the desert so they should obey his word and trust him to care for and provide for them in the future.

Back to Jesus, then, and Luke 4. Luke 4:1 told us that Jesus was “full of the Holy Spirit” and that he “was led by the Spirit into the wilderness.” It was God’s will, then, for him to be there. He was sent there by divine appointment without any preparation. The desert is not a place where food grows naturally so if Jesus were to survive his time out there, God would have to provide for him. The devil’s temptation, then, subtly suggests that God the Father and the Holy Spirit had abandoned him so he should use his powers as the Son of God to provide for himself. Jesus’ reply was that obedience was more necessary for human flourishing than food and that if he obeyed and waited, God would provide for him. The temptation to sin, then, was a temptation to operate outside of submission to God the father and act independently of his own will.

This is what we do, really, every time we sin. When we sin, we believe the lie that our sin nature, the devil, and the world around us speaks; namely, that obedience to God’s way is stupid, that we can’t trust him to keep his promises, so we need to seek our own gain, our own pleasure, our own solutions to the problems in our lives, or whatever else.

So, where are you facing this kind of temptation today? Has God left you waiting somewhere, longing for something that you think he should have provided by now? Don’t turn away from obedience for the false promise of sin. Just as Jesus resisted abusing his divine power by exercising it out of God’s will, live within God’s moral will yourself through obedience and wait for him to deliver and provide for you.

Luke 2

Read Luke 2 today if you want to keep up with the schedule.

Joseph and Mary had a dramatic, miraculous announcement about the conception of Jesus. They had angels celebrating his birth and shepherds and wise men showing up out of nowhere to see him. When they took him to the temple for the rite of circumcision, two people appeared to thank God for Jesus and prophesy about him. Although Luke did not record it, Matthew told us that Joseph and Mary received divine guidance to protect Jesus from the murderous intentions of Herod the Great. So their family life started off very dramatically, to say the least. God was working through them and for them like he never had before for anyone. No wonder “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart” (v. 19) and “his mother treasured all these things in her heart” (v. 51).

This statement of Mary’s is not at all the point of Luke 2, of course. The point of this chapter is to record the birth of Jesus and all the signs that affirmed God’s plan and God’s word about him. But these two statements about Mary cast light on an important side truth: remember to remember God’s work in your life. Walking by faith is often difficult. Mary and Joseph experienced this as people whispered about her pregnancy. Simeon prophesied that the days ahead would be painful, too, when he told Mary, “a sword will pierce your own soul too” in verse 35. One thing that gets us through the hard days in our walk with God is remembering God’s work in the past. God’s work does not--will not--be miraculous and dramatic for you as it was for Joseph and Mary. But his answers to prayer, his leading in your life through providence, the encouragement of other believers just at the right time are just a few examples of God’s work in your life. Treasure them up in your heart as Mary did! Remember them and tell your kids and your friends about them. They will help you keep walking by faith in the dark days of the Christian life.