People Are Watching 👀

 “…they watched Him closely… (Luke 14:1). 

The skeptics were always watching Jesus. As with our Master, so with us.

They wanted to find an inconsistency with which they could discount all that Jesus stood for. Thankfully, they found none! May the same be said of you and me.

May our lives and speech (or silence) never cause skeptics to discount the Gospel or—even worse—blaspheme God, nor may our lives cause a weak Christian to doubt or stumble.

This requires from us—

  • Self-awareness … I have to know my tendencies and avoid those things that cause offense.
  • Boldness … to speak the truth in love.
  • Knowledge of the Scripture … and its correct application.
  • God-confidence … so that we’re not intimidated by man’s disapproval.
  • Humility … to not seek things for our own benefit.
  • Charity … as we demonstrate our faith in loving action.
  • Focus … on eternity and on the greater treasure in Heaven.

Holy Spirit, empower us to live like our Master every day. “Adam’s likeness now efface, stamp Thine image in its place.” May people see and hear Jesus in us. No matter how closely they watch us, may they see no inconsistencies.

Bible Study Tools

I love to read (just take a peek at the number of books I read and reviewed last year). But without a doubt, hands-down, the clear runaway favorite read is my Bible. 

“The Bible alone seems broader, and deeper, and fuller the oftener it is studied. We have no need to look for allegorical and mystical meanings. The fresh truths that will constantly spring up before our eyes are simple, plain, and clear. Of such truths the Bible is an inexhaustible mine. Nothing can account for this but the great fact that the Bible is the Word, not of man, but of God.” —J.C. Ryle

I thought I’d share with you some of the current Bible study tools I’m utilizing—

  • I am reading through the Bible on YouVersion’s plan called As It Happened. This takes you through the Scripture in chronological order. 
  • Along with this chronological plan, I have also subscribed to the daily devotional called Missionary God—Missionary Bible. This comes as a daily email from premier missiologist Dick Brogden, and follows the readings of the chronological Bible.
  • I am reading through the John Maxwell Leadership Bible, where events and characters are studied through a leadership lens. 
  • Since I am presently in the Gospels in the Leadership Bible, I am also utilizing Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes by Kenneth Bailey, and Expository Thoughts On The Gospels by J.C. Ryle. 
  • I also utilize the Hebrew and Greek resources almost every day at Blue Letter Bible.
  • And I also love doing shared reading plans with family and friends on YouVersion. 

Please share in the comments what Bible study tools you are using so we can all learn and grow together. 

God Knows Your Name

Allow me to introduce myself in the Aramaic fashion—I am Craig bar Raymond. I am proud of my father and want my name to always be associated with his, so I remember my heritage by telling people I am Craig son of Raymond. 

If I wanted to be a little more formal I might introduce myself as Craig Bar Raymond Bar Colson, or even Craig Bar Raymond Bar Colson Bar Walker, to honor my forefathers back four generations. 

People took great pride in their family heritage. They wanted to keep their connection to their family and their tribe intact and known to those around them. It’s how they kept their standing in their community.

That’s why it’s odd that Luke—the premier historian that he is—introduces us to a man he simply calls “a blind man” in the city of Jericho. Luke was always so precise in mentioning names throughout both his Gospel and the Book of Acts, and it appears that this man does have a name. In the Gospel of Mark he is called Bartimaeus, and presumably Luke used Mark as one of his source documents. So why would Luke omit this guy’s name?

Keep in mind that “bar” simply means “son of,” so although Mark calls him Bartimaeus, his name is really something like “_________ son of Timaeus.” Is that because he was born blind and his parents didn’t even name him? Or was he thought so little of that people couldn’t remember his first name? Maybe it’s because Timaeus means unclean, defiled, polluted. So this blind beggar is really just the Anonymous son of Filth! 

This beggar is looking for alms in Jericho when he hears a commotion. He asks what is happening and is told, that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by. 

This man knows the reputation of Jesus, recalling that He has even opened blind eyes. Immediately he shouts, “Jesus, son of David have mercy on me!” Son of David is a title only used twice in the New Testament (also see Matthew 15:22), and both times by desperate people who wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. 

Actually, his phrase is in the form of a command, so he really says, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on me NOW! 

“Who do you think you are, you nameless beggar,” the townspeople rebuke him. “How dare you demand anything of anyone! Shut your mouth, you worthless piece of filth!” 

Undeterred, this man now raises his voice to a shriek and repeats, “JESUS, SON OF DAVID, HAVE MERCY ON ME NOW!” 

This shriek gets Christ’s attention and He stops dead in His tracks. He commands that this man be brought to him.

Check out the confidence this blind man shows—he throws his cloak aside to get to Jesus. Why is that significant? Because he’s blind! If he can’t see, how is he going to find his cloak again? Who would ever want to help him? 

Jesus asks him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He was testing him: did he want a hand-out? did he want revenge on the cruel people in Jericho? did he want to get back at his parents? 

He specifically prays, “I want to see.” Jesus is moved by compassion (Matthew 20:34) and says, “Your faith has made you whole.” The blind man immediately is healed! 

What was his faith that healed him? It was a loud, insistent, persistent, won’t-take-no-for-an answer, audacious request. The crowd said he was asking too much, but Jesus was moved to compassion by his insistence and boldness and answered his prayer. 

That community may have forgotten that man’s name. Maybe the blind man had even forgotten his own name. But God hadn’t! 

Jesus is moved by faith-filled, won’t-be-silenced cries for mercy. He wants to answer your specific requests. You aren’t an anonymous son or daughter of filth. You aren’t marginalized, worthless, or overlooked by your Heavenly Father. 

God knows your name. He knows your need. He is passing by. Cry out to Him again and again and again! When He answers your prayer, you are made whole and our Heavenly Father is glorified. 

Join me this Sunday as we continue to learn lessons for our prayer life from the bold pray-ers we find on the pages of the Bible. 

No Looking Back

…He steadfastly set His face… (Luke 9:51). 

Jesus wasn’t about to be deterred, delayed, or detoured from fulfilling His Father’s mission. 

Some of the other Bible translations fill in this meaning:

  • resolutely (NLT) 
  • steadfastly and determinedly (AMP) 
  • gathered up His courage and steeled Himself (MSG)
  • “to turn in a certain direction, confirm it, and resolutely follow it” (Strong’s Concordance)

Jesus could do this for at least three reasons—

  1. He knew “the time had come” (see v. 51 and John 13:1, 3) 
  2. He knew the joy at the end of the journey (Hebrews 12:2)
  3. He knew His Father loved Him (John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17)

A mark of a godly leader is one who resolutely follows God. No matter what!

Jesus calls His followers to the same path He walked—“No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62)

It’s hard because people reject a resolute man. 

It’s hard because the accommodations along the way are uncertain. 

It’s hard because I have to give up my right to myself. 

But the reward is incomparable—Heaven forever with Jesus!

This is part 33 in my series on godly leadership. You can check out all of my posts in this series by clicking here.

How To Get Wisdom

Steve Martin had a comedy routine where he said, “I will tell you how to have a million dollars and never pay one cent of income tax on it. First, get a million dollars.” 😂 

Solomon says something in Proverbs 4 that on the surface sounds just as comical: “I will tell you how to have wisdom and reap all the amazing benefits from it. First, get wisdom.” 

Here’s what he wrote: “The beginning of wisdom is: Acquire wisdom; and with all your acquiring, get understanding” (v. 7).

The Hebrew word for “get” means acquire, create, buy, possess. But Solomon uses this verb in the imperative sense—which means it’s not a suggestion, but a command! He doesn’t say, “It’s a good idea to get wisdom,” but, “There is no other way: you must have wisdom.”

Throughout the Proverbs, Solomon personifies wisdom as Lady Wisdom. She is constantly calling out to people, “I have what you need. Come and get it.” James tells us the same thing, “If you need wisdom, ask God for it” (see James 1:5).

So… how does one get wisdom? Simply by wanting to have wisdom, and then going to the right source. In the rest of Proverbs 4, Solomon echoes the same thought—

—“Prize her [Wisdom], and she will exalt you; she will honor you if you embrace her.” (v. 8)

—“Take hold of instruction; do not let go. Guard her, for she is your life.” (v. 13)

—“My son, give attention to my words; incline your ear to my sayings. Do not let them depart from your sight; keep them in the midst of your heart.” (vv. 20, 21)

—“Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.” (v. 23)

How do you get wisdom? You go to Wisdom and get what she has to offer!

When Your Walking Is Your Praying

Have you ever been in the right place at the right time to experience something wonderful? Maybe you got to meet someone important, or you got the job, or you got the money, or you got to ride in that fancy car. 

Some will call you “lucky” or say you “caught a break,” but both of those statements imply that something unexpected happened to you. 

Is it still “lucky” to be in the right place at the right time if you knew ahead of time that it was coming? For praying Christians, to be in the right place at the right time when we are expecting God to provide is called “an answer to prayer.” 

David prayed, “In the morning, Lord, You hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before You and wait expectantly” (Psalm 5:3). The Aramaic word for prayer means “to set a trap.” If we pray, and we live in expectation, then it isn’t luck when we’re in the right place at the right time, but it’s a “trap” that caught the answer to our prayer. 

Our daily walking can be our daily praying, as long as we’re walking in faith in the direction God pointed us. 

One man who—literally!—walked this principle out was Elisha.

Before we look at Elisha’s expectant, prayerful walking, let’s look at his prayer request—

When they reached the other side, Elijah said to Elisha, “What can I do for you before I’m taken from you? Ask anything.” Elisha said, “Your life repeated in my life. I want to be a holy man just like you (2 Kings 2:9 MSG).

Elisha was essentially asking to be like Elijah’s firstborn son, to be his spiritual heir. This was the original promise God gave when He told Elijah to anoint Elisha as his successor (1 Kings 19:16). From that point onward, Elisha steadily walked in expectation of God answering this prayer. 

Elisha wouldn’t stay in a place of military victory, or in a significantly spiritual place, or even in a place surrounded by godly leaders. Elisha wouldn’t be held back by a lucrative family business, or the warning words of friends or his spiritual mentor, or even the seemingly uncrossable Jordan River. He kept on walking (see 2 Kings 2:1-15).

He kept on walking.

He kept on walking until “suddenly” God showed up and answered his prayer. 

But was it really “suddenly”? Elisha knew it was coming. He believed what God had promised. He clung to it even when Elijah told him he had asked “a difficult thing.” Elisha kept on walking until he was in the right place at the right time to receive all that God had planned. 

If you have prayed in faith, start walking. Settling anywhere else is robbing yourself of a blessing and robbing God of glory. 

Just keep walking! And let your walking be your praying. Don’t get discouraged. Don’t settle. Don’t stop eagerly expecting that the next step you took could be the “suddenly” you’ve been waiting for. Just keep walking!

Join me this Sunday as we learn a valuable lesson from another bold pray-er from the Bible. 

Thursdays With Oswald—What Is Mammon?

Oswald ChambersThis is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Oswald Chambers. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Oswald” in the search box to read more entries.

What Is Mammon?

     You cannot serve God and Mammon [Matthew 6:24]. A man of the world says we can; with a little subtlety and wisdom and compromise (it is called diplomacy or tact), we can serve both. The devil’s temptation to our Lord to fall down and worship him, i.e., to compromise, is repeated over and over again in Christian experience. We have to realize that there is a division as high as heaven and as deep as hell between the Christian and the world. ‘Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God’ [James 4:4]. … 

     Never compromise with the spirit of Mammon. When you are right with God, you become contemptible in the eyes of the world. Put into practice any of the teaching of the Sermon on the Mount and you will be treated with amusement at first; then if you persist, the world will get annoyed and will detest you. … What is Mammon? The system of civilized life which organizes itself without considering God. … 

     When we become mature in godliness God trusts His own honor to us by placing us where the world, the flesh, and the devil may try us, knowing that ‘greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world’ [1 John 4:4].

From Studies In The Sermon On The Mount

Mammon wants to get what it wants to get, without considering God and without regard to the long-term consequences. Mammon wants satisfaction right now! 

Mammon is the system of the world. People are constantly driven by what they can get for themselves right now, with little—if any—thought to what God thinks or to what the inevitable outcome is going to be. 

A Christian is different. 

A Christian is focused on something which cannot be seen right now. But just because the rewards cannot be seen doesn’t make them any less real. In fact, Jesus teaches that the rewards He gives are Reality itself. 

When a Christian insists on doing things God’s way, the devil will sneer and people will laugh. But God’s Spirit in you is greater than all of that, and He will help you to stand firm in Him, not compromising with the lure of Mammon. 

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