Sunday, November 24, 2019

Luke 18:9-43 (NCV)

Two people crying out to God for mercy: a tax collector and a blind man. These two stories form the bookends for five scenarios in Luke 18. Each of these scenes point to our need for a Savior.

TAX COLLECTORS (Luke 18:9-14)

Luke tells us that Jesus told this parable to those who were comfortable in their own righteousness before God and who looked down upon everyone else. The Pharisee serves as the foil for the star attraction: an humble tax collector, hated as a traitor by Jewish society, far away in the shadows of the temple, beating his breast with his head bowed, crying out to God: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” Jesus tells us that this man went home justified before God.

CHILDREN (Luke 18:15-17)

Total dependence upon God’s extension of mercy to broken and contrite people who readily admit that they cannot make it on their own. Kind-of like…a little child, looking up to his or her parent. That’s what it looks like!

No pretense. No resistance. Absent self-sufficiency. Transparent trust. What better example could there be of what God is looking for in us? “I tell you the truth, you must accept the kingdom of God as if you were a child, or you will never enter it” (Luke 18:17).

THE RICH (Luke 18:18-30)

Just like the rich man who was wrapped up in his good fortune and anticipating a life of ease (Luke 12:13-21, NCV) so this young ruler was looking for one more religious practice to enhance his resume for eternal life. Jesus’ advice was simple: “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor….” He said, “Then come follow Me.” Saddened, the rich young ruler walks away as Jesus talks about camels going through eyes of needles. Letting go of our own sense of importance is so hard!

So, the disciples are mystified! If a Law-abiding rich man, obviously blessed by God, cannot be saved, then how can any of us possibly hope to obtain eternal life? Jesus affirms that it is impossible without God’s intervention.


Jesus describes the upcoming events that are looming on the horizon as He anticipates His arrival in Jerusalem, including His own death and resurrection. The starkly explicit details cause the disciples to totally miss the point of the Suffering Servant.

A BLIND MAN (Luke 18:35-42)

Wondering about all of the commotion, a blind man asks what is going on. Told, simply, that Jesus of Nazareth is passing by, the blind man connects the dots and realizes that “Jesus, the Son of David” is here! Taking a common name and realizing that Jesus’ true identity is the anticipated Messiah, he cries out: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy upon me.”

Jesus asks the blind man what he wishes for Jesus to do for him. Of all of things for which he could have asked, he, instead, reaches for the stars and asks to be able to see. As He is healing the blind man Jesus declares that he has been saved by his faith.


The Pharisees, the rich young ruler and the disciples cannot yet comprehend the cosmic nature of Jesus’ mission and purpose. Yet, just ask a child or a blind man and they know what it means to trust in God alone.

Mercy – Jesus, Have Mercy Upon Me!


Sunday, November 17, 2019

Luke 18:9-14 (NIV)

In the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, Jesus is targeting a specific audience of those “…who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everyone else…” (Luke 18:9). In our struggle to obey Jesus, it is important to keep our acts of righteousness in perspective lest we wind up in the Pharisee’s camp.


“Hungering and thirsting for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6) is something Jesus challenges each of us to do in order to be blessed by following Him. However, this may mean different things to each of us depending upon several circumstances. For example, the new Christian will need to discontinue ungodly practices in order to conform to the image of Christ. Alternatively, to the seasoned Christian this may mean a deeper walk with the Lord in spiritual disciplines practiced over time.

The common danger for all is elevating the changes we make in the name of Christ to a means for measuring our personal righteousness. This is especially dangerous when we begin comparing our personal levels of maturity to those around us.


In his prayer, the Pharisee thanks God for blessing him with his own moral behaviors and over-the-top religious and ceremonial practices. This is a good thing; right? Jesus is clear. If this man believed that these admirable qualities justified him before God, he was dead wrong (Luke 18:14). As Jesus had said to the Pharisees earlier, “What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15, NIV).


The justified tax collector had a much different perspective. Recognizing his poverty of spirit and mourning over his sin (see Matthew 5:3-4, NIV), he realized–and Jesus affirmed–that his only hope for justification would be found in God’s mercy (Luke 18:13-14, NIV).

As the apostle Paul would write in Romans 5:9 (NIV): “…we have now been justified by his [Christ’s] blood.” Not, “Christ’s blood AND doing the right things correctly” but “by Christ’s blood”…alone!


What we do is the fruit of what Christ has done for us. It is not about doing the right things in the right way in order to be justified. It is because we trust in Christ, Who did the right things in the right way that we are justified. Understanding these distinctions has incredible ramifications for how we live every day and how we perceive those around us.


Perhaps Luke was concerned about Theophilus and his fellow believers (see Luke 1:1-4) as they mature in their Christian faith. Becoming confident in their walk with the Lord, perhaps they, too, ran the risk of emphasizing the wrong things in the shadow of the cross.

Certainly, we all would do well to heed Jesus’ warning about putting so much emphasis upon doing the right things in the right way that they, themselves begin to overshadow the cross. As the apostle Paul said to the Corinthians (who struggled mightily with this understanding), “For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2, NIV).

Note: The following sermon is preceded by reflections upon the Lord’s Supper and by a reading of Luke 18:9-14.

Justified: By Christ Alone!

A video introduced today’s lesson, entitled: “Resume Vs. Referral“.

It’s All About Jesus!

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 by Dean Wolf

Sunday, November 10, 2019

Christians have differing opinions about many things. But, to be called ‘Christian’ means that a single conviction is common to all: Jesus is Lord! For this to be true, however, means that we do more than pay lip service to this truth; but, that we allow Him to change us day-by-day to be more like Him in every aspect of our lives. This is the truth by which we live. This is the message that we share with the world: Jesus is Lord!

It’s All About Jesus – Dean Wolf

When Jesus Comes

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Luke 17:20-18:8 (NIV)

“Live for Jesus! He may come today!”

My mother would say this to us every morning when we would leave for school. It was a gentle, daily reminder that this is to be a joyful event to which we look with anticipation. If we live as though He may come at any moment, we will be glad to see Him when that day arrives.


Just like today, the Pharisees of Jesus’ time had multiple theories about when God’s kingdom would arrive. At the outset of our passage today, Jesus is clear: “The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, ‘Here it is,’ or ‘There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21). Indeed, here was God Himself in Jesus Christ, standing before them, announcing that the kingdom of God was near! It is right here, right now, in your midst!


First, The Kingdom of God Is Here, In Our Midst (Luke 17:20-21)

There is no need to go looking for it any longer because Jesus has brought the kingdom to us. The lessons learned from the translation discussion of whether the kingdom is “within you” (KJV) or “in your midst” (NIV) is interesting because each understanding carries intriguing meanings and insights to ponder.

Second, The Kingdom of God Will Be Understood With Jesus’ Passion (Luke 17:22-25).

The keys to the kingdom that Jesus announced upon Peter’s confession (Matthew 16:13-20) would issue in the new age on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2). The kingdom was fully realized in the death, burial, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, taking up residence in the hearts of God’s people who would assemble together as the church. These people of the kingdom would look forward to the day of Christ’s return.

Third, Jesus’ Coming Will Happen Suddenly, Without Warning (Luke 17:26-37)

Natural and historical catastrophic events provide great metaphors for understanding the suddenness of His return. Jesus’ examples detail flashes of lightening across the sky, Noah and the flood, Lot and Sodom and Gomorrah. Just another normal day until, suddenly, everything changed.

Fourth, When Jesus Comes Back, God Will Deliver Justice (Luke 18:1-8)

The story of the persistent widow places stress on the widow who drives her king nuts in search of justice until he finally relents. The emphasis is not upon the moral character of the judge but, rather, upon the persistent pleading of the widow (Luke 18:1). When Jesus returns, will He find anyone still looking forward to His coming (Luke 18:8)?


Christians in churches around the world joyfully anticipate the day of Jesus’ return. While there is much discussion about what that day–and the days to follow–will be like, Jesus make is clear in these verses:

  1. There will be no warning or signs preceding the day.
  2. The kingdom of God has already taken up residence on this earth since Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection and ascension.
  3. The day will be sudden and cataclysmic.
  4. On that day, justice will be served.

Maranatha! Lord, Jesus! Come Quickly!

When Jesus Comes Back – Maranatha!


Sunday, October 27, 2019

Luke 17:11-19 (NIV)

There are times in life when the things that divide us become insignificant. Times of suffering are one of those. It is often said that “misery loves company”; but, in the midst of suffering, our misery can also lead us to forget our prejudices and bigotry. This would appear to be the case of the 10 Lepers in Luke 17:11-19.


Luke reminds us, here, that Jesus is still on His way to Jerusalem.  As He and his disciples enter a village, somewhere on the border between Galilee and Samaria, ten lepers cried out to Him from a distance: “Jesus, Master, have pity on us!”

The reason they cried out from a distance was because the Law had specified what lepers must do:

45 “Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ 46 As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.

Leviticus 13:45-46, NIV

Leviticus 13 gives priests the tools for diagnosing various skin diseases, including the dreaded leprosy. The next chapter (Leviticus 14) gives the priests detailed information about what to do when the diseased leper seems to have been cured.

So, from a distance, it took faith to cry out to Jesus for help.  It took faith to realize that Jesus was more than just a man; but, rather, their “Master”. It took faith to choose to obey Jesus’ command to go show themselves to the priest before they had actually been healed.


Whether one believes in God or not, life is lived in faith that the sun will rise and set, that the seasons will change every year, that gravity works and that the people coming from the opposite direction on a 2-lane road will stay in their lane. The distinction between the believer and the non-believer is simply to whom we give credit for the predictability in life. The fact is that predictability is our day-to-day normal, whether we choose to believe that it is by chance or by divine direction.

So, it would not be appropriate to say that the lepers were not moved by faith. Rather than sitting in hopeless helplessness, they chose to get up and walk towards the city where the priest would be ready to receive them. Their faith would be immediately rewarded as they began to realize that they were, indeed, rapidly shedding the effects of this horrid disease and returning to health. It would be understandable that, rejoicing, they would run as fast as they could into town to share the good news of their healing.


Then there is the one leper who, likely, could not run to the Jewish priest with the others because he had lost one curse only to be confronted with another; for he was a Samaritan (See “Samaritans” in Bible History Online). Reading a bit between the lines, I suppose that he was now unable to go with his friends of shared misery. The new normal had set in. Now he was contemplating going back to his Samaritan village alone.

In this moment of mixed feelings, this man suddenly realized he needed to say “Thank You” to Jesus. To this Samaritan falling at Jesus’ feet, Jesus tells him he was made well by way of his faith. All of them listened to Jesus and did as they were told.  But one remembered Who it was that healed him and he worshiped Him.  Faith!


Of all of the touching elements of this story, perhaps the most poignant to me is that when the healed Samaritan fell at Jesus’ feet and worshiped Him, Jesus never told him to stop. If anyone were to run up to me and fall at my feet I would promptly tell them to get up. I might even look around quickly to make sure no one saw what had just happened.

But not Jesus. He received the praise of the Samaritan, wondering why the others did not join him in giving glory to God Who had chosen to dwell in their midst. The extension of Jesus’ questions to us are convicting: with all of the ‘normal’ of our daily existence, how ready are we to give glory to God for our blessings?

Faith in the One Who Saves


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Luke 17:1-10 (NIV)

“Increase our faith!” the disciples said. Something Jesus had said convinced them that it was imperative. “Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them” (Luke 17:4). Is this even possible for a person to do?


Two of Jesus’ constants in Luke’s gospel are the disciples and the crowds. Punctuated throughout are the Pharisees who seem to be on the margins, criticizing Jesus for hanging out with the wrong people (Luke 15:1-2) and setting up false dichotomies between, for example, serving God or serving money (Luke 16:13). Whether it was true or whether it was an anecdotal observation of the Pharisees, “The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it” (Luke 16:16, NIV).


The chasm that separated Lazarus in Paradise and the rich man in Hades (Luke 16:19-31, NIV) was obvious in real life between the religious elite and everyone else. They had become so ‘righteous’ that no one could realistically aspire to their level before God. The ‘sinners’ of the world gave up trying. That is, until John and Jesus started preaching the good news of repentance and the kingdom of God. Now they were storming the gates!

In the minds of the religious leaders, I would suppose, access to God was through the Law. These sinners and tax collectors break the Law daily. Therefore, Jesus–if He was truly a righteous Man–should know that He should be hanging out with them and not with the common ‘sinners’ and hated tax collectors (Luke 15:1-2, NIV). The stories of the lost lamb, the lost coin and the lost son drove home the point that God’s love and the Law are not mutually exclusive approaches to people; indeed, they complement each other!

The fact that this did not make sense to them was tragic, from Jesus’ perspective. This is obvious to the pleading father as he talks to the older brother (Luke 15:25-32, NIV). To the Pharisees, giving access to God to the uneducated and uninformed was compromising righteousness in favor of popularity. To them, Jesus is uncompromising: “It would be better for them to be thrown into the sea with a millstone tied around their neck than to cause one of these little ones to stumble” (Luke 17:1-2, NIV).


Opening the doors of the kingdom to everyone who repents means shedding our religious prejudices and seeing people from God’s perspective. When we become religiously righteous in our own eyes, we are in danger of holding others to impossible standards. So, to the disciples, Jesus says: “watch yourselves” (Luke 17:3).

Dan Stevers – God of the Broken from on Vimeo.

Forgive – Lord, Give Us Faith!

“Jesus, Friend of Sinners” by Casting Crowns conveys Jesus’ message from Luke 17 beautifully.

Money – Part 2

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Luke 16:9-31 (NIV)

God’s love is a truly amazing thing! In response to His love He expects His children to love others. Of all of the ways we can demonstrate His love to others there is, perhaps, no stronger testimony to His power than the way that we use our money for others: for the kingdom.


Seeing the ‘sinners and tax collectors’ gathering around Jesus, the religious rulers believed that Jesus had to compromise The Law. “Righteous people do not hang out with those people,” they may have exclaimed (Luke 15:1-2).

It is at this point that Jesus tells the story of the lost sheep (Luke 15:3-7), the lost coin (Luke 15:8-10) and the lost son (Luke 15:11-24) to show that attending to the lost and keeping the Law are in perfect harmony. Jesus, then, challenges the Pharisees to look at their own hearts as He tells them the story of the older brother. In the story, his father ‘pleaded’ with him to join the celebration (Luke 15:25-32).


At the beginning of Luke 16 Jesus tells the parable of the shrewd manager who uses his former employer’s money to secure his own future. Jesus seems to be encouraging us to use the money that God gives us to make friends to encourage them to secure their eternal future as well as our own (Luke 16:1-9).

Managing God’s wealth well means that we will be entrusted with more responsibility. Conversely, there are negative consequences when we use His wealth selfishly for ourselves (Luke 16:10-12). To try to straddle the fence between worshiping God or money is futile because it is an either/or proposition (Luke 16:13).


At this point the religious rulers begin to ‘sneer’ at Jesus, prompting his convicting accusation:  “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of others, but God knows your hearts. What people value highly is detestable in God’s sight” (Luke 16:15).

Their disdain for Jesus’ love for the lost is now coupled with their love of money. They, themselves, are the ones compromising the Law when they use the wealth that God had given them for their own selfish purposes. Jesus says to them:

“The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.”

Luke 16:16 (NIV)

If Jesus was quoting the religious rulers then He could be mocking them as if to say, ‘Everything was just fine until John the Baptist and Jesus showed up! Now everyone thinks they can enter the kingdom of God!” Or it could be that Jesus is simply observing that the Law and the Prophets have now been realized with the good news of the kingdom of God.


Either way, Jesus’ point is clear, love for the lost and our use of money in response to God’s love for us is consistent with the Law and the Prophets. In fact, Jesus affirms, ” It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law” (Luke 16:17).

To illustrate this point, Jesus boldly wades right into the hotly debated controversy of marriage and divorce. This was an issue with which the religious elite were embroiled in first-century Israel (see Matthew 19:1-9). “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (Luke 16:18). It is as if to say, “There is no controversy here except where you religious rulers have chosen to compromise The Law to your own advantage.”


For those who practice this kind of mental gymnastics, Jesus warns them of their fate in the story of The Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31).

“The Rich Man And Lazarus”, volume 5 of
God Provides” boxed set from Crown Financial Ministries.

The final words of Moses in the story point to a prophetic truth that will be realized in the death, burial and resurrection of Christ Himself: ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead’ (Luke 16:31, NIV).

This observation was as true then as it is now, today. Believe in the Law and the Prophets! Believe in the one who has risen from the dead! Listen to the story, know Christ, and use the money God has given you for His purposes!

Money – Part 2 – Luke 16:9-31


Sunday, October 6, 2019 – Dean Wolf

Romans 7:14-25; 8:5-21 ; 12:1-21 (MSG)


Romans 7:14-25 (MSG)

We struggle to do what is right and to avoid doing what is wrong. Then we find ourselves doing what is wrong and avoiding what is right! The answer is Jesus!


Romans 8:5-21 (MSG)

If the solution to our dilemma is found in Jesus then we are set free to live our lives in Christ to the full. Pursue Christ!


What does the pursuit of Christ look like? He transforms everything in our lives! Everything!

Romans 12:1-21 (MSG)

Romans: Jesus is the Answer!

Money – Part 1

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Luke 16:1-13 (NIV)

Luke 16 represents a body of Jesus’ teachings about money that are echoed in other parts of Luke’s gospel. For example, see Luke 6:30, 38; 12:33; 14:12-14.

In the first half of Luke 16 Jesus tells the parable of the rich man and his shrewdly dishonest manager (Luke 16:1-8). At the conclusion of the story (Luke 16:9-13) Jesus extracts principles about the use of money, trustworthiness and responsibility (vss. 9-12). He concludes with a pretty stark pronouncement:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Luke 16:13 (NIV)


On the surface, one might conclude that Jesus is only talking about money. In truth, money’s value is only relative to importance we assign to it. Give it too much influence in one’s life and we are at risk of thinking that it is all-important. However, it won’t be worth very much when our heart stops beating.

Conversely, among the people of the light, it is to be used to accomplish kingdom purposes: making forever friends in God’s forever family. This kind of stewardship reaps benefits both here, in the making of friends, and in eternity.


Our wealth is a gift from God that provides each person an opportunity for stewardship. The emphasis here is upon how we care for the gifts God gives to us.


Our next lesson in Luke will focus upon the second half of chapter 16 with Jesus emphasizing that He is capable of both caring for “sinners and tax collectors” (Luke 15:1-2) and remaining faithful to the Law (Luke 16:16-18). This is boldly illustrated in the story of “The Rich Man and Lazarus” in Luke 16:19-31.

Money: Serving God

At the beginning of the lesson we viewed the following video from

Dan Stevers – Firstfruits from on Vimeo.

Jesus is Our Shoreline

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