Luke 9 Reading

Luke 9:18-26

18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone, the disciples were with him. And he asked them, “Who do the crowds say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist. But others say, Elijah, and others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 Then he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” 21 And he strictly charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” 23 And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. 25 For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? 26 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) The identity of Jesus: Peter correctly identified that Jesus was the “Christ of God”. “Christ” refers to the promised “annointed one” of the Old Testament, the coming Messiah, who would save Israel from her sins and enemies, subdue the nations, and make all things new. But even though Peter was correct in seeing the identity of Jesus, he was not correct in understanding the mission of the Messiah.

2) The mission of Jesus: During the time of Jesus, the people of Israel were looking forward to a coming Messiah, but understood that promise in primarily political and national terms. They wanted a king who would end the oppression of Rome, give them back their liberty, and make Israel great again in the world. But Jesus had a different mission, a much greater mission, to save not only a remnant of Israel but a remnant of all the nations. But it also involved great sacrifice. So he had to correct the expectations of his disciples. Jesus came to suffer and die for sinners in order to bring them eternal life. He warned the disciples many times, as he did here, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (vs. 22) The Messiah must face rejection and death and then rise again. Glory would eventually come, but it would come through the suffering of the Cross. Jesus did not just come to smash his enemies, but first to save many of them through his death and resurrection. Judgment would eventually come, but not before all the nations heard the offer of pardon from the crucified and risen king.

3) The mission of those who follow Jesus: This pattern of suffering before glory is the also pattern of Christian experience. Christians will resemble the example of Christ himself. We are called to take up the “cross” daily (vs. 23). In Jesus day, the cross was a symbol of utter humiliation and shame, a death reserved for the worst criminals. It meant the utter rejection from Roman society. For a Christian to take up his cross daily means you consider yourself dead to the world and it’s fading pleasures and values. You see them for what they are, hollow and meaningless in light the demands and hope of eternity. Gaining the whole world, if it’s a fallen condemned world, has no value in saving the soul. It’s like playing king of the mountain on top of a dunghill. Only Jesus can save the soul. And the only way to have Jesus is to take up your cross with him. You follow the values and ambitions of Christ, looking forward to a new world with God. You ally yourself to Christ, and trust in his cross and resurrection as the only source of salvation for your soul, and follow him no matter what suffering may come. And it’s called a cross, because that daily choice is a hard one. The lure of worldly pleasures, respect, and wealth is strong. You may often feel like you are dying needlessly while the rest of the world lives on in freedom and pleasure without any worries or cares. But one day, Christ will return in glory to judge the world and bring an end to this fallen world, and make all things new for his people. At the end of the road of the cross is a resurrection. And only those who took up the cross daily and looked forward to that coming day will be acknowledged by Christ and welcomed into that new world. And in that day all the suffering, sacrifice, and self-denial will seem like nothing compared to the joys of life with God in eternity.

Micah 4 Reading

Micah 4:1-13

1 It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and it shall be lifted up above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it, 2 and many nations shall come, and say: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. 3 He shall judge between many peoples, and shall decide for strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore; 4 but they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken. 5 For all the peoples walk each in the name of its god, but we will walk in the name of the LORD our God forever and ever.
6 In that day, declares the LORD, I will assemble the lame and gather those who have been driven away and those whom I have afflicted; 7 and the lame I will make the remnant, and those who were cast off, a strong nation; and the LORD will reign over them in Mount Zion from this time forth and forevermore. 8 And you, O tower of the flock, hill of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, the former dominion shall come, kingship for the daughter of Jerusalem.
9 Now why do you cry aloud? Is there no king in you? Has your counselor perished, that pain seized you like a woman in labor? 10 Writhe and groan, O daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued; there the LORD will redeem you from the hand of your enemies. 11 Now many nations are assembled against you, saying, “Let her be defiled, and let our eyes gaze upon Zion.” 12 But they do not know the thoughts of the LORD; they do not understand his plan, that he has gathered them as sheaves to the threshing floor. 13 Arise and thresh, O daughter of Zion, for I will make your horn iron, and I will make your hoofs bronze; you shall beat in pieces many peoples; and shall devote their gain to the LORD, their wealth to the Lord of the whole earth.

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) Vs. 1-5 Micah had a glimpse of the future kingdom of God, and preached to encourage the people of Israel who were about to go into exile as a punishment for their sins. A day was coming when their day of humiliation would be over, and God would return and establish his throne again among his people. But even more, other nations would be ruled by the Lord, and he would settle their disputes with perfect judgment, and bring an end to wars forever. A day is coming when no more swords are needed but only farming tools. Micah had a glimpse of the growing work Christ and his Church in the world, and ultimately the new creation after the return of Christ. In light of this certain future God will bring, Micah rejects any other “gods” and commits to “walk in the name of the LORD our God forever”. How can our own walk be helped by this future hope, when it seems like things are falling apart all around the world?

2) Vs. 6-8, God called the Israelites in exile “the lame” and those he drove away and afflicted. God had afflicted them and took away their king and country for the purpose of discipline, to break their love of idolatry. But he also promised to save a remnant, bring them back and make them a strong nation again, and provide a king again. This began to be fulfilled with the coming of Christ. God’s people have a king on the throne, who rules and defends them, and builds his kingdom in ways the world cannot fathom. But often the way he builds us is through the furnace of affliction. He breaks us down to kill our sins, and then rebuilds us, making us fit for fellowship with him in glory. How can this perspective help you during your afflictions? Will you always be in that state if Christ is your king?

3) Vs. 10-12, many times the church is put into a humble state before the world, often as a form of discipline for her sins. And the world thinks they have the upper hand over the Church in that condition because God has abandon her. But God has his own plan for his people, and will cause them to rise in triumph again when the time is right. This is often the pattern for the Church, because that was the pattern in the life of Christ himself. The enemies of Christ thought they triumphed over him on the Cross, but he rose again three days later. Such is the ultimate end of the Church too as His body. How can this encourage us when the church is under various afflictions, or when the world sneers at her?

4) How often do you actually think about these pictures of our future glory with Jesus in the new creation? If you thought about these realities more often, would it help you or hinder you in enduring afflictions with more patience and hope?

Psalm 84 Reading

Psalm 84:1-12

TO THE CHOIRMASTER: ACCORDING TO THE GITTITH. A PSALM OF THE SONS OF KORAH.
1 How lovely is your dwelling place, O LORD of hosts! 2 My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God. 3 Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O LORD of hosts, my King and my God. 4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah
5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion. 6 As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools. 7 They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion. 8 O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah
9 Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed! 10 For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly. 12 O LORD of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) The psalmist began by expressing his longing to be at the house of the Lord, the temple in Jerusalem. The temple was where Christ was preached through the sacrifices and types. It was also the place of corporate worship, where God’s people would gather together to be in His presence. The psalmist so longs to be with God and his people that that he wishes to be one of the birds who has made a nest on the roof, just so he could always be there. Is this how you think about public worship? Are you eager to return to public worship with your congregation in the presence of God to hear the gospel preached again? And these occasions of public worship are glimpses of what our worship and communion will be like with God forever in heaven.

2) The psalmist then zooms the camera back to his present experience. He is going through the “valley of Baca”, literally the “valley of weeping”. It is a place of sorrow and trial. And yet, because his strength is in the Lord and he knows where he is going (vs. 5), the waters from his weeping are transformed into waters that sustain his soul on the rough journey. Instead of dying from weariness and exhaustion, the Lord give “strength to strength” with each step. The Lord sustains him through each moment as he needs it. How often are there times in your life where weeping was great? And yet the Lord sustained you through those times? Do you realize he will do that for the rest of your life through every trial until you reach your final home with him?

3) The psalmist closes by zooming the camera back out again to his destination, the temple where God dwells. And he recounts God’s provision with new images. First God is a “shield” (vs. 9, 11). He protects us from the mortal blows that would kill us. And he is a “sun” (vs. 11), the source of light and heat necessary for life. It seems contradictory at first, that God could both radiate and block at the same time. But in fact, these are complementary. God defends us and sustains us at the same time. He provides us every good thing in the moment we need it (vs. 11). But remember, it is “good” things as God sees them, with his perfect knowledge, wisdom, and plan, not good things as we see them from our limited understanding. For us, it may be hard to see the good of going through the valley of weeping, but if God promises to sustain us through it every step of the way, and eventually bring us to his presence in glory, do we really have any reason to doubt or complain? When we receive each new gift of strength along the way, aren’t we gathering even more reasons to praise him in the congregation?

Psalm 138 Reading

Psalm 138:1-8 OF DAVID.

1 I give you thanks, O LORD, with my whole heart; before the gods I sing your praise;
2 I bow down toward your holy temple and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness, for you have exalted above all things your name and your word.
3 On the day I called, you answered me; my strength of soul you increased.
4 All the kings of the earth shall give you thanks, O LORD, for they have heard the words of your mouth,
5 and they shall sing of the ways of the LORD, for great is the glory of the LORD.
6 For though the LORD is high, he regards the lowly, but the haughty he knows from afar.
7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the wrath of my enemies, and your right hand delivers me.
8 The LORD will fulfill his purpose for me; your steadfast love, O LORD, endures forever. Do not forsake the work of your hands.

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) The psalm began with “give thanks” twice (vs. 1, 2). This thanksgiving is “whole hearted”. Is that your attitude and posture when you pray? In vs. 2, David specifically gave thanks for God’s “steadfast love” and “faithfulness”. The word “steadfast love” here may be better translated as “covenant love”. The reason God is steadfast in his love for us is because he has bound himself to us by his covenant. He promised to be our God and will fulfill it. To often we think of God’s faithfulness to us like the law of gravity; an impersonal force that we take for granted. But in fact God’s love and faithfulness to us was a sovereign personal choice, more reliable than gravity and entirely personal and purposeful. The same God who is “exalted above all things” take a personal interest in you, your daily needs, and your future. Isn’t that a reason to give thanks everyday?

2) David caught a glimpse into the the future of a time when all the kings of the earth, and indeed the whole world, will sing in praise to God and recognize his glory (vs. 4-5). David himself, and us along with him, do not live in such a time yet. Today, some rulers do acknowledge Christ as Lord, but many more do not and often resist the Lord, his people, or his ways. But David’s glimpse of the future is the inevitable result of God’s plan of redemption. It will happen, no matter who tries to oppose it along the way. Eventually the earth will be cleansed of all sin and evil, and every voice on the earth will ring out in praise to God forever. The great glory of the Lord makes this future goal inevitable in the new creation. No one can stop him from accomplishing his purposes for his people. Very often, our lives in this fallen world feel like being washed away by a great river, tossed through rapids and over waterfalls, but that river is actually carrying God’s people to a place of bright shores and the calm ocean of God’s glory and peace at the end. All our troubles and trials in this life are pushing us closer to that end. And importantly, all of our prayers for help now are always answered by God with that ultimate end for us in mind. He will not forsake the work of his hands (vs. 8).

3) Finally, there is a note of irony and divine reversal. This God who is so exalted and glorious over all, only draws near to the humble and lowly (vs. 6). While those who are haughty or proud, who exalt themselves against God and over his people, are far from God. It is a great mystery that baffles the world and it’s way of thinking. The more you lower yourself, the closer you are to this most high and exalted God. But the higher you elevate yourself, the further God is from you. Perhaps call it a gospel principle of personal magnetism, God is attracted to the lowly, humble, and contrite, but repelled by the proud, haughty, and rebellious. It is the lowly and trusting who will eventually be washed into the sea of glory, while the proud rulers and mighty men on the earth will be broken upon the rocks along the way.

We could spend even more time meditating on other parts of this psalm, but hopefully this is enough to get you started.

Devotional Guide This Week (March 30-April 4)

Memory Verses for the Week:

James 1:2-3 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 

James 1:5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 

Daily Scripture Readings

  • Day 1             Psalm 138
  • Day 2             Psalm 84
  • Day 3             Micah 4
  • Day 4             Luke 9:18-26
  • Day 5             1 Peter 1:1-9

Hymns of the Week

  • Psalter 345

To The Hills I Lift My Eyes

1 To the hills I lift my eyes;
whence shall help for me arise?
From the Lord shall come my aid,
who the heav’n and earth has made.
He will guide through dangers all,
will not suffer thee to fall.
He who safe his people keeps,
slumbers not and never sleeps.

2 Thy protector is the Lord,
shade for thee he will afford.
Neither sun nor moon shall smite;
God shall guard by day and night.
He will ever keep thy soul;
what would harm he will control.
In the home and by the way
he will keep thee day by day.

  • Trinity Hymnal 38

Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise

1 Immortal, invisible, God only wise,
in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,
most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,
almighty, victorious, thy great name we praise.

2 Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,
nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;
thy justice like mountains high soaring above
thy clouds which are fountains of goodness and love.

3 Great Father of glory, pure Father of light,
thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;
all praise we would render; O help us to see
’tis only the splendor of light hideth thee!

John 10 Reading

John 10:14-30

14 I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”
19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?” 22 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon. 24 So the Jews gathered around him and said to him, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”
25 Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock. 27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) In the ancient world, a shepherd knew their sheep because they lived among them and knew each sheep’s needs. It was his responsibility to protect them from dangers and enemies, and to risk his life to face wild beasts or thieves, to prevent his sheep from being snatched away. Hired hands though were not so committed (vs. 12). Jesus called himself the “good shepherd” because he knows us and lays down his life for us (vs. 14-15). His knowledge of us is so intimate, and his commitment so great, that he draws a comparison between the the way the Father knows the Son, and the Son knows the Father. It is a unique communion and bond which Jesus does not share with the rest of the world, only his sheep. And the Father and Son share this commitment to the Son’s flock so that none may be snatched from either of their hands (vs. 28-29). If all this is true, should we ever fear that God will abandon us, stop loving us, or fail to meet our needs in a timely manner?

2) Jesus also said his sheep will hear his voice and applies that in two ways. First, those who will not listen to him are not his sheep (vs. 26). Instead true sheep will “listen” to his voice (vs. 16) and “will follow” him (vs. 27). Can we legitimately call ourselves Christians if we do not trust Jesus and follow his commands even in difficult situations? If we do not have Jesus as a shepherd, to provide for and protect us, what dangers are we exposed to if we are outside his flock?

3) Jesus made some profound statements about his own authority and special place before the Father. The Father loves the Son for accepting the charge to save his sheep. The Son voluntarily used his divine authority to become a man, lay down his life, and take it up again to save his sheep. The Son bears witness to the Father and his purpose of redemption through the Son. There is complete unity of purpose between Father and Son. Both act to save the sheep for eternity. Paul summarized the same idea in Romans 8:31-32 “If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?” All of God, and all that is in God, in all his triune majesty and glory, is “for you” and your salvation as his sheep, no matter what circumstances our good shepherd must lead us through. Though there is great mystery here in pondering the inner communion of Father and Son, there is also great comfort for us as the beloved flock who will never be snatched from their hands.

Matthew 14 Reading

Matthew 14:13-36

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. 15 Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 28 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” 34 And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 And when the men of that place recognized him, they sent around to all that region and brought to him all who were sick 36 and implored him that they might only touch the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.

A few thoughts for meditation:

1) What is our typical response when needy people crowd into our lives at unexpected times? Is it compassion or annoyance? How did Jesus respond?

2) When resources are scarce and the need is great, do those limitations hinder Jesus from providing what we need? When we feel at the end of our own ability to help others, can Jesus still help us to do it?

3) Twice, Jesus tried to get some time alone to pray during a heavy ministry load (vs. 13, 23). If the perfect Son of God needed time alone to pray, how much more do we need it? What better time to spend time in pray than now, when you are not allowed to go anywhere else, and the needs around us are so great?

4) The disciples struggled to sail during a storm at night on the rough waters. How would you have responded to see a man walking toward you on the rough water at nighttime? When Jesus enabled Peter to walk on the water too, in the midst of the rough storm, how would you have responded? When the storm stopped immediately after Jesus got into the boat, how would you have responded? How did the disciples respond? (vs. 33).

5) What was Jesus teaching the disciples about himself through these supernatural experiences of healing and control over nature? What has it taught you about the character, identity, and ability of Jesus?