Resurrection, Ascension, and Future Return – Luke 24

(This is the final meditation in a series of 366 written on the Genealogy of Jesus Christ. One meditation is provided for each day, with an extra for leap years. This series can also be heard as a podcast of the same name, with a month and day assigned to each reading.)

On the third day, after dying on a cross and being buried in borrowed tomb, the Messiah, Jesus Christ, was raised from the dead by the power of the Holy Spirit. He had completed the Father’s will flawlessly, living a sinless life, and laying down His life as the complete atonement for the sin of all who would believe.

Jesus’ disciples gathered after His death and burial, not quite sure what to do now. They were in despair and probably also felt guilty for abandoning Him the way they did, in absolute fear for their own lives. But God was about to turn their mourning into a great gladness.

36 And as they were saying these things, He (Jesus) Himself stood among them. He said to them, “Peace to you!” 37 But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. 38 “Why are you troubled?” He asked them. “And why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 Look at My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself!  Touch Me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.” 40 Having said this, He showed them His hands and feet. 41 But while they still were amazed and unbelieving because of their joy, He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish, 43 and He took it and ate in their presence.

44 Then He told them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47 and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And look, I am sending you what My Father promised. As for you, stay in the city until you are empowered from on high.” Luke 24:36-49 (HCSB)

Jesus instructed them to stay in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Holy Spirit, Whom they would receive on the day of Pentecost. When they did receive His Spirit, they were filled with a new boldness, conviction, and connection to God, and we’re never to run from trouble again. After a fruitful and successful life of ministry, many of these disciples would also be put to death for their faith, proclaiming the name of Jesus to the last.

Forty days after His resurrection, Jesus would return to heaven from their presence.

50 Then He led them out as far as Bethany, and lifting up His hands He blessed them. 51 And while He was blessing them, He left them and was carried up into heaven. 52 After worshiping Him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy. 53 And they were continually in the temple complex praising God. Luke 24:50-53 (HCSB)

Their collective Pentecost experience would occur ten days after this, with 120 of the believers having been gathered in an upper room for a prolonged prayer meeting.

One of the youngest of the twelve apostles, John, would still be alive six decades later. While in exile for his faith on the island of Patmos, he was given a vision of Christ’s future return, as recorded in the book of Revelation.

1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea no longer existed. I also saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice from the throne:

Look! God’s dwelling is with humanity,
and He will live with them.
They will be His people,
and God Himself will be with them
and be their God.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes.
Death will no longer exist;
grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer,
because the previous things have passed away.

Then the One seated on the throne said, “Look! I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” And He said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give water as a gift to the thirsty from the spring of life. Revelation 21:1-5 (HCSB)

What began with the call of Abraham, to call out a people of faith, to the call of Moses to free them slavery and lead them into a Promised Land, to David, the faithful king whose throne has been preserved forever for Jesus to reign from, God’s plan for the redemption and restoration of His fallen people has been completed in Christ.

This collection of meditations is the story of the people who lived this journey as members of the genealogy of Jesus, and of the prophets who led, encouraged, and guided them. But this website is just a starting point. By prayerfully searching and immersing ourselves in God’s word, we continue to learn more and more about God’s ways, His kingdom, and His goodness. May we all be filled with the Holy Spirit of Christ and strengthened as we seek to learn from Him, and to follow in His footsteps. May we also be ready and found in faith, with the oil of the Spirit burning bright, when the time comes for Jesus to return for us in His glory. And may the Lord richly bless you each and every day on your faith journey.


This series evolved out of a Bible Study on the genealogy of Jesus that my wife and I hosted for a few teens from our church several years ago. During the Covid pandemic, I began writing it down and putting it online, a little at a time. Now, three years later, it is complete.

The sum of this series is a record and a testimony on how God has used His word and His loving generosity to impact my life over the course of many days and years. Along with everyone else, I am still very much a work in progress, with a long, long way to go.

Father God, we pray that the readers, wherever they may live on Your good earth, will find drops of Your grace scattered throughout this writing, and that they will partake of Your enclosed scripture, tasting and seeing that the Lord is very good. We pray Your blessing and protection on all who have the willingness and wisdom to seek and to follow You. We ask this in the name of our precious Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

May the Lord richly bless you with a beautiful day today!

The Thief on the Cross – Luke 23

One weekend, several years back, a friend from church named Len and I were prayer partners at a weekend prison ministry event in Louisiana, hosted by Russell Roseberry’s InnerFaith Prison Ministry. It was Len’s first time participating in that type of ministry, and he was surprised how comfortable he felt there and how much he was enjoying it.

For most events, we volunteers were able to go around the prison two by two, visiting, sharing, and praying with any inmates who wished to on the prison yard, in the dorms, or along the rows of cell blocks. Many inmates did choose to visit with us.

At one point, while visiting with an inmate from outside his restricted cell, Len felt prompted to share with him from the gospel account of the thief on the cross. In the account, two criminals had been condemned to die and were crucified along with Jesus, one on His left, and the other on His right. Len continued reading from the scriptures how one of the criminals began to mock Jesus, while the other did not.

39 Then one of the criminals hanging there began to yell insults at Him: “Aren’t You the Messiah? Save Yourself and us!”

40 But the other answered, rebuking him: “Don’t you even fear God, since you are undergoing the same punishment? 41 We are punished justly, because we’re getting back what we deserve for the things we did, but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when You come into Your kingdom!”

43 And He said to him, “I assure you: Today you will be with Me in paradise.” Luke 23:39-42 (HCSB)

The man in the cell listened with a perplexed look on his face, then responded by exclaiming, “This day? Today? Today you will be with Me in paradise? Really? This day?”

He shook his head and could barely believe it was true – we all, even a condemned thief, can be saved by grace in such a way? And then find ourselves in God’s heavenly presence by faith, even if condemned to die on a cross?

Yes, it is true. Although not the recommended way to use the spiritual gifts and resources that God has made available to us, the thief on the cross really did get into paradise that day, by turning to God, just in the nick of time. Talk about cutting it close with the decision of a lifetime!

There is a caution, though. One speaker, Dr. Mike Smalley, has put it this way: the thief had a saved soul, but a wasted life. Although he experienced an authentic salvation experience and complete redemption, he never had the chance to put his new life to work in the flow of the Lord, bearing fruit for God’s kingdom. We have the opportunity to accomplish so much more if we are willing to follow God’s will for us. Jesus told multiple parables about how we will receive heavenly rewards for such service.

The inmate that Len spoke and prayed with has probably long since been released from incarceration. We pray that he was able to find his way into a faith community to be accepted and built up in love, helping him to lead a joyful and blessed life for the remainder of his days. God is a big God, capable of great miracles of healing, redemption, and restoration in all of our lives, even a thief on a cross.


Father God, thank You for saving us by Your wonderful grace, made possible through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Help us to move forward in a fruitful manner, successfully living out the divine appointments and assignments that You have prepared for us. Teach us to love and serve others with Your tolerance and purity. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Way, the Truth, and the Life – John 14

On the night that He would be betrayed, after instituting the sacrament of Holy Communion at His final Passover meal, Jesus girded himself with a towel and began to humbly wash His disciples’ feet. He then warned them that the hour had come for Him to lay down His life for His believers, and that one of them would be the one to betray Him.

Shocked and realizing that something very serious was about to happen, the disciples did not really know how to respond. Seeking to ease their concerns, Jesus began to tell them that their (and our) eternal future would be one of great joy, something to remember and lean upon during the dark hours that lie ahead.

 1 “Your heart must not be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if not, I would have told you. I am going away to prepare a place for you. If I go away and prepare a place for you, I will come back and receive you to Myself, so that where I am you may be also. You know the way to where I am going.”

“Lord,” Thomas said, “we don’t know where You’re going. How can we know the way?”

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. John 14:1-6 (HCSB)

Jesus laid it out plain and clear: No matter what happens, even the unthinkable, continue to place our focus on Him. He is the way. He is the truth. He is the life. He loves us and has paved the way for us to live eternally with Him. He has covered all of our sins and shortcomings by His sacrificial death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. And He will return one day to take us to Himself – keep the faith!

Having been raised in glory after His atoning mission was complete, Jesus now presents all of us with a new relationship with the Father. Previously, only a high priest could approach God’s divine presence in the Holy of Holies, located in the temple in Jerusalem, and then only after being cleansed by a blood sacrifice. But upon Jesus’ death on the cross, the curtain in the temple, which separated a holy God from unholy people, was torn in two from top to bottom. Reading from the gospel account of Jesus’ death on the cross:

44 It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three, 45 because the sun’s light failed.  The curtain of the sanctuary was split down the middle. 46 And Jesus called out with a loud voice, “Father, into Your hands I entrust My spirit.” Saying this, He breathed His last.

47 When the centurion saw what happened, he began to glorify God, saying, “This man really was righteous!” 48 All the crowds that had gathered for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, went home, striking their chests. 49 But all who knew Him, including the women who had followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:44-49 (HCSB)

By faith in Christ, all believers have been made holy by His sacrifice and may now approach the Father directly with their prayers and petitions. As Jesus had explained to His disciples on Passover night:

“If you know Me, you will also know My Father. From now on you do know Him and have seen Him.”

“Lord,” said Philip, “show us the Father, and that’s enough for us.”

Jesus said to him, “Have I been among you all this time without your knowing Me, Philip? The one who has seen Me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words I speak to you I do not speak on My own. The Father who lives in Me does His works. 11 Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me. Otherwise, believe because of the works themselves. John 14:7-11 (HCSB)

We have been showered with so many blessings as a result of Christ’s incredible sacrifice. But at the end of the day, as with any gift, it is still up to us to receive Him. For any number of reasons, many will choose to reject Jesus’ loving offer and sacrifice. But many others will receive Him by faith, and enjoy eternal fellowship with Him in the place that He has prepared, beginning here and now. May the Lord richly bless you today!


It is a privilege to be free to enter the Father’s throne room, to be welcomed by Him at any hour of the day or night to make our prayer petitions. We have been qualified and made righteous to do so by faith in the loving sacrifice of Jesus, our eternal Savior and Redeemer.

Father God, thank You that You always hear our prayers and care so deeply about us. Your grace, mercy, and generosity are gifted to us without limit. We look forward to one day celebrating in fellowship and worship in the physical presence of Your courts, and residing in the place that Jesus has prepared for us. We pray this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Sheep and Goats – Matthew 25

When confronted by a teacher of the law who was trying to trap Him in His words, Jesus was asked:

36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 Upon these two commandments hang the whole Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:36-40 (NASB)

In the previous meditation, we saw how Jesus addresses the first of these two main commandments in the Parable of the Ten Virgins. The grace of God draws us to love and pursue the Lord in faith, such that He fills our hearts with the presence of His Holy Spirit, the spiritual oil Who fuels our light to shine as a testimony and a blessing to people around us.

In a later parable in Matthew 25, Jesus addresses His second great commandment, to love others as we would love ourselves. He seems to indicate that the sum of our thoughts, actions, and motives in life will reveal the true nature and authenticity of our faith.

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’

40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’  Matthew 25:31-40 (HCSB)

This is the relatively easy part of the parable, as even the hardest of people can think of times when we shared something in kindness, or reached out to aid or comfort someone going through a difficult season. But Jesus did not stop there.

41 Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!

42 For I was hungry
and you gave Me nothing to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me nothing to drink;
43 I was a stranger
and you didn’t take Me in;
I was naked
and you didn’t clothe Me,
sick and in prison
and you didn’t take care of Me.’

44 “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’

45 “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’

46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” Matthew 25:41-46 (HCSB)

I must be frank – this section of the parable has always challenged my theology. Virtually the entire New Testament rests on salvation through a living faith in the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. By grace, we are saved through faith, and not by works, as Paul writes in Ephesians 2. Yet this section implies that our salvation rests on whether or not we sought to comfort others in their difficulties and trials.

So are we saved by faith? Yes. Are we saved by works? Paul says “not by works”. But perhaps Jesus’ younger half-brother, James, born of Joseph and Mary, has it figured out.

 26 For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. James 2:26 (NASB)

Whatever the case, Jesus’ parable is an important reminder to keep the needs of others in the forefront of my mind. I need to remind myself daily to be as a sheep, following the Shepherd with a genuine faith that reflects His compassion for others, and not as a goat, looking out only for my own welfare and interests.


Father God, help us to take this vital parable to heart today, and to reflect Your love and compassion to those around us, with patience and tolerance. Help us to be generous and tender peacemakers, rather than always seeking to win every potential conflict we face. Help us to forgive those who have hurt us, and to make amends to those we have hurt or offended. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Lamps Without Oil – Matthew 25

God has placed us here on earth for a purpose. We can choose 1) to pursue Him and His plan for us, 2) to reject Him and the whole of His spiritual world, or 3) to live somewhere in between the two, hedging our bets, just in case. Near the end of His three-year ministry, Jesus told a parable which, I believe, is about those who choose the first or last scenarios, and is called the Ten Virgins.

 “Then the kingdom of heaven shall be likened to ten virgins who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.Now five of them were wise, and five were foolish. Those who were foolish took their lamps and took no oil with them,but the wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. But while the bridegroom was delayed, they all slumbered and slept.

“And at midnight a cry was heard: ‘Behold, the bridegroom is coming; go out to meet him!’ Then all those virgins arose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘No, lest there should not be enough for us and you; but go rather to those who sell, and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they went to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding; and the door was shut.

11 “Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, Lord, open to us!’ 12 But he answered and said, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, I do not know you.’

13 “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming. Matthew 25:1-13 (NKJV)

I have puzzled over the interpretation of this parable over the years, often not quite sure what Jesus was intending to convey. And I am apparently not the only one. One time, when visiting a church in Louisiana, I heard a sermon on it, and realized that, to my memory, it was the only time I could ever recall it being preached on from the pulpit.

But this morning, as I read it, it seems to have a simple clarity.

Jesus often referred to His church of worldwide believers as a bride, and the Great Banquet that will be put on with them at His return as the great Wedding Supper. Perhaps we of faith, weak or strong, are the ten virgins, having been designed from the beginning of time to spend eternity with Him. Whatever else is happening in our lives, like those ten virgins, we have a very important role in our future – to meet Him at His return with our spiritual “lamps” burning. Having begun to take Him seriously enough at some point in our lives, early or late, we have begun to worship and serve Him, bearing fruit for the kingdom of heaven by the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the oil of faith in the lamp of our heart.

In the parable, when news of the bridegroom’s imminent arrival was heard, five of the virgins immediately went out to meet Him with oil in their lamps. They were ready, with faith in Christ burning in their heart.

The five other virgins realized they had erred by not taking their spiritual life seriously, as they had never sought a faith relationship with Jesus to receive the “oil” of His Holy Spirit. They had lamps, just as effective as the other five virgins had, but theirs were empty of oil. Now, at the last minute, they scrambled to make up for lost time, desperately trying to find some oil to light their lamps. They followed along to meet the bridegroom, who was now clearly identified by them as “Lord”.

The fact that these five took their lamps along shows that they had some knowledge about God, and likely believed that He existed. Those who outright reject God likely “discarded” their lamps long ago, hardening their hearts and choosing to live without any regard for the Lord or His ways. These other five virgins may have had an appearance of faith, but apparently never sought any actual relationship with God, which might have provided them with at least SOME spiritual oil in their lives. Perhaps they had a half-belief, keeping the idea of God simmering on the back-burner of their minds while otherwise going about life ignoring His presence.

Many of us believers have been in that position. I have. But God will draw us to Him and shake us out of our spiritual stupor and ignorance if we have even an ounce of willingness. From this mustard seed of faith, He will grow a deep root, producing spiritual fruit through His ever-flowing grace and goodness. Our budding faith in Jesus leads to our rebirth, and fills our hearts with the oil of His Holy Spirit.

May the Lord fill us all to overflowing with His Spirit, and may He burn brightly in our hearts for all to see and experience today.


How do you interpret the Parable of the Ten Virgins?

Father God, help us to always be prepared for the return of Jesus, whether He comes in our lifetime or not. Fill us with His Holy Spirit so that we may produce divine fruit for the kingdom and to be a bright light of hope to those around us. Guide and protect us as we seek to follow Your will for our lives. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

The One You Love is Sick – John 11

As Jesus’ three year ministry was drawing near its end and the cross was approaching, He received word that the brother of two of His very closest friends was seriously ill.

Now a man was sick, Lazarus, from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with fragrant oil and wiped His feet with her hair, and it was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent a message to Him: “Lord, the one You love is sick.” John 11:1-3 HCSB)

Mary and Martha are well known in scripture as being close to Jesus and entertaining Him in their home. They are best known for the time when Mary sat at Jesus’ feet as He taught while Martha was busy about the house, attending to the guests and quite disturbed that Mary was not assisting her. Jesus gently let Martha know that Mary had chosen the better thing at that moment, as the Creator of the universe would not always be there teaching among them.

The news about Lazarus’ sickness did not surprise Jesus. He knew that the Father had a reason to permit it to happen, and a plan use it for Jesus’ glory.

When Jesus heard it, He said, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. So when He heard that he was sick, He stayed two more days in the place where He was. Then after that, He said to the disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again.” 11 He said this, and then He told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on My way to wake him up.” John 11:4-7, 11 (HCSB)

The disciples were quite confused by Jesus’ expression of Lazarus being asleep. He had said this to indicate that it was not a hopeless situation, but in the end, Jesus told them plainly that Lazarus was indeed dead.

17 When Jesus arrived, He found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days.  21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if You had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Yet even now I know that whatever You ask from God, God will give You.”

23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.

24 Martha said, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”

25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in Me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die—ever. Do you believe this?”

27 “Yes, Lord,” she told Him, “I believe You are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.” John 11:17, 21-27 (HCSB)

In this grief-filled and painful situation, Jesus presents the joyous truth about His coming victory over death. Though we all, like Lazarus, will die, in Christ, His believers shall rise from the dead to live with Him, the source of our resurrection and eternal life in God’s kingdom. Through the tragedy of Lazarus’s death, Jesus would clearly demonstrate the truth behind His words and promises.

34 “Where have you put him?” He asked.

Lord,” they told Him, “come and see.”

35 Jesus wept. John 11:34-35 (HCSB)

We are made in God’s image, and our tender and breakable hearts are filled with compassion and sorrow in such situations. Jesus, both God and human, has a heart filled with love like no other, and the overwhelming grief and pain experienced by His loved ones brought Him to tears, weeping despite knowing full well what He was about to do. Additionally, He was angry at the whole idea of death, which came to us because of our sin. Removing sin and the sting of death was the primary objective of His earthly ministry, and this likely gave Him further strength and conviction as He prepared to face brutal suffering and death on the cross on our behalf.

38 Then Jesus, angry in Himself again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 “Remove the stone,” Jesus said.

Martha, the dead man’s sister, told Him, “Lord, he’s already decaying. It’s been four days.”

40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”

 43 After He said this, He shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Loose him and let him go.” John 11:38-40, 43-44 (HCSB)

It has been said that if Jesus had not specifically mentioned Lazarus by name, every dead person buried in the tomb would have come out. But Lazarus was the one who did, and Jesus’ instructed the people to remove his grave wrappings to set him free, returned to his loved ones.


Painful as the whole experience was, Jesus used it to confirm His power to do everything He has promised, even to raise His believers from the dead. It also reminds us to never lose hope, no matter how dark our situation may be, as the Power that raised Lazarus from death is there for us, to free us from any painful entanglements or trials that are overwhelming us. In Christ, all things are possible.

For those who are ready to turn to God, we pray:

Father God, Your resurrection power gives testimony to Your great glory and generosity towards us. We receive the gift of eternal life offered through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Come into our life to save and regenerate us through the power of Your Holy Spirit. We ask this in the mighty name of Jesus, Amen.

Taking Up Our Cross – Matthew 16

Jesus went to the cross in an unsurpassable act of love for us. Sin separated all of us from God, and there lay before us an impassable canyon, between the filthy rags of my best efforts to qualify for heaven on my side, and the blinding light of God’s purity and holiness on the other. It was impossible for us to “earn” our way across this canyon, it was far too deep and wide, so Christ built a bridge for us – His own voluntary death on our behalf as the complete sacrifice for our sin. His resurrection from the dead by the power of God’s Spirit then raised up all believers to a new and eternal life with Him.

That sums up the gospel in a nutshell, the final focus of this series of meditations on the genealogy of Jesus Christ. Or does it? Jesus added one more, somewhat mysterious requirement for His followers:

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. 25 For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will find it. 26 What will it benefit a man if he gains the whole world yet loses his life? Or what will a man give in exchange for his life? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will reward each according to what he has done. Matthew 16:24-27 (HCSB)

What does Jesus mean when He says that we believers must deny ourselves and take up our cross? For Jesus’ apostles, this would have special meaning, as tradition tells us that most of them would die for their faith, some of them on a literal cross. And globally, many believers are still being killed as martyrs for their faith, even today. But for most people, Jesus is speaking of something different – putting to death our own selfish and self-centered desires and sinful actions and choosing to live each day for Him, seeking to follow wherever He leads. This requires a constant effort on our part to focus or refocus on, and prioritize, the things of God.

For those who live according to the flesh think about the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, about the things of the Spirit. For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit itself to God’s law, for it is unable to do so.  Romans 8:5-7 (HCSB)

Oftentimes, we fall short of this ideal behavior, and say or do something offensive and not in keeping with a citizen of God’s kingdom. When that happens, we are able to approach the Lord to confess our sins and to recommit our hearts to Him, making amends, if possible, to anyone we have hurt, and forgiving others in the same way that God has forgiven us.

We are transferred into God’s kingdom by grace, through faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But Jesus also tells us that, beyond salvation and an eternal presence with Him, believers will also be granted rewards when He returns from heaven with His angels to set up His final kingdom here. Presumably these rewards will follow from the times we have fulfilled our role in the good works that God has prepared for us beforehand.

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10 (NKJV)

It is in the act of choosing His will for us over our own fleshly desires that we are, in essence, taking up our cross to follow Him. This is accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit, who lives within the hearts of all believers.


In referring to the effectiveness of his Christian walk, my pastor, Craig Cooper, often states, “I may not be who I want to be, but I am not who I used to be”. Our lifelong journey is one of spiritual progress, not perfection, except for the perfection of Christ, who lives within us and gives life to our souls. God’s forgiveness when we fail is offered in abundance, and every victory we do have, whenever we choose to follow Him rather than our old selfish ways, is celebrated with great joy on earth and in heaven.

Father God, thank You for Your amazing grace, mercy, and love for each one of us. Help us to follow Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, and to live a spiritually fruitful life that is pleasing to You. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Who Do You Say That I Am? – Matthew 16

13 When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”

14 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; others, Elijah; still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”

15 “But you,” He asked them, “who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:13-15 (HCSB)

William Wolfe has stated that the best question one can ask when seeking to share God with a hungry soul is, “Who do you think Jesus is?”. This will bring immediate clarity.

Jesus Himself asked the same question of His disciples. They had heard the somewhat limited view that others had of Him, but had also seen the countless miracles Jesus performed, far surpassing anything God had done in the past to qualify the authenticity of any prophet. And they had observed Jesus character twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, and would have noticed any human failings or shortcomings. We all have them.

Peter, the only one brave enough to have walked upon the storm-tossed water, brief as it was, spoke out:

16 Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!”

17 And Jesus responded, “Simon son of Jonah, you are blessed because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father in heaven. Matthew 16:16-17 (HCSB)

Jesus would later state that, unless the Father draw us, none of us would come to faith in Christ (John 6:44). This is sometimes called prevenient grace, the gift of preparation of our hearts and souls to recognize Christ for who He really is, and to be willing to reach out to Him in faith. Peter’s fledgling faith would be the first of many, a foundation upon which the kingdom of heaven would grow throughout the entire world.

18 And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the forces of Hades will not overpower it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth is already bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth is already loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19 (HCSB)

Certainly an impressive responsibility and position for any person.

With the foundational stake of His new church now firmly planted, Jesus could begin to reveal the true mission of His first coming – to serve as the atonement for the sins of all believers, before, during, and after His earthly ministry. Peter, more focused on Jesus’ next role as king of a new and eternal kingdom, did not like the idea and tried to change Jesus’ mind. Given the extreme nature of the suffering Jesus knew He must face, this served as a great temptation – one more way that Satan would attempt to sidetrack and foil God’s plan to take back the kingdom.

21 From then on Jesus began to point out to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, “Oh no, Lord! This will never happen to You!”

23 But He turned and told Peter, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are an offense to Me because you’re not thinking about God’s concerns, but man’s.” Matthew 16:21-23 (HCSB)

Peter got a sharp correction, but he was not the only one. One time, I was planning to make an excuse to get out of an upcoming prison ministry event. I turned on the Christian radio, and immediately heard these words, “you are thinking of the things of man, not the things of God”. Ouch! I changed my mind and went, experiencing one of the most wonderful weekends of my life.

When we are brave enough to ask someone who Jesus is to them, spiritual doors may open. It may take the courage of Peter to do it, but with God’s help, if we do, it could be the rich turning point for someone’s life journey.


I must confess, asking someone this question is very difficult for me to do. How about you?

Father God, grant us the courage to speak up and ask people who Jesus is to them. Their life will get incredibly better if we speak up and they become believers. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Walking on the Waves – Matthew 14

Many years ago, my brother-in-law Larry and I went overnight fishing with another brother-in-law, Steve. Steve’s small motorboat was quite adequate for the mild ocean waves we encountered at the east end of Long Island, New York, off Montauk Point. The fishing was good and the company pleasant.

But during the night, a storm came up. Larry and I were sleeping in the back of the boat, and Steve woke us up to have us move to the front of the boat, “or we might not make it back”. I remember that there was enough light to see the large waves just behind us, and it was a frightening experience. We made it safely back to shore and went back to sleep – in the car.

The following morning was sunny and calm, and we returned to fishing. On the way, we saw a Coast Guard vessel towing a large sailboat. But all that was visible of the boat was the very top of its tall mast – the rest of it was submerged, a stark reminder of the tremendous power of a stormy sea.

Jesus’ disciples found themselves in a very similar situation on the Sea of Galilee, on which violent storms can also quickly arise. We read about it in Matthew 14, speaking about Jesus:

23 After dismissing the crowds, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone. 24 But the boat was already over a mile from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. 25 Around three in the morning, He came toward them walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s You,” Peter answered Him, “command me to come to You on the water.”

29 “Come!” He said.

And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid. And beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those in the boat worshiped Him and said, “Truly You are the Son of God!”  Matthew 14:23-33 (HCSB)

Peter comes under a lot of criticism for his wavering faith, but from my own night on the boiling sea, I have only the deepest admiration for him having the courage to step out of the boat. None of the others did! And for a brief time, he did walk truly upon the waves, held up by a miracle of God.

Our own desperate situations are also resolved when Jesus reaches out His hand to us. No matter what trials we face, He is always there, and has promised to never leave us nor forsake us. We can trust Him to calm the waves that toss us about whenever the storms of life are threatening. May He safely carry you through any that are troubling you today.


Would you have joined Peter to walk on the waves?

Father God, thank You for protecting us whenever the storms of life rise up to confront us. We lean upon Jesus to take our hand and bring us through. We ask this in His name, Amen.

Five Loaves, Two Fishes, and Jesus – Matthew 14

Jack O’Dell tells a story of a young boy who claimed that it was not all that difficult to feed 5,000 people. According to the boy, “All you need are five loaves, two fishes, and Jesus.”

This is a simple truth that describes what happened one day. After hearing the tragic news about John the Baptist being killed by King Herod, Jesus intended to retreat to take some time away from the crowds to pray and then to be with His disciples.

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.  Matthew 14:13-21 (ESV)

It is interesting that the twelve apostles picked up twelve baskets full of leftovers. I wonder how much more abundance was left unharvested.

The prophet Elijah also experienced the miracle of multiplication when a single flour jar allowed him, a widow, and her son to continue living off of it for years, supplying enough bread each day to keep them all alive through a terrible drought. God does the same for us as we ask Him to “give us this day our daily bread”.

In more recent times, God has also provided miraculous provision in answer to prayer, such as with George Mueller, who, though poor himself, raised thousands of children over the years in an 1800’s orphanage. Quoting about one incident from

“The children are dressed and ready for school. But there is no food for them to eat,” the housemother of the orphanage informed George Mueller. George asked her to take the 300 children into the dining room and have them sit at the tables. He thanked God for the food and waited. George knew God would provide food for the children as he always did. Within minutes, a baker knocked on the door. “Mr. Mueller,” he said, “last night I could not sleep. Somehow I knew that you would need bread this morning. I got up and baked three batches for you. I will bring it in.”  Soon, there was another knock at the door. It was the milkman. His cart had broken down in front of the orphanage. The milk would spoil by the time the wheel was fixed. He asked George if he could use some free milk. George smiled as the milkman brought in ten large cans of milk. It was just enough for the 300 thirsty children.”

The Lord loves people, flaws and all, especially children. He wants to bless each one of us and to receive our love and recognition of Him and His goodness in return. When Jesus fed the 5,000, everybody ate, no one was left out, and there was plenty left over for everyone to take what they could with them. Jesus does not do anything half way. We can trust Him, one day at a time.


Father God, thank You so much for our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, and help us to forgive those imperfect people who sin against us. Flaws and all. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.