Flashback Episode — John’s Urgent Message: Luke 3:1-18


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As we continue into the gospels this year, we transition out of the Christmas story of Jesus’ birth, and now come to the introduction of Jesus’ forerunner in ministry, John the Baptist. While the gospel writers focus heavily on Jesus in their books, which we want and expect them to do, all four gospels give a little focus towards John the Baptist, who prepared the way for Jesus to step into His public ministry.

The gospel of Luke, chapter 3, sets the scene and identifies the point in history this all happened. Let’s read what Luke shares as he makes the transition from talking about Jesus’ birth and childhood onto John the Baptist’s public ministry. We’ll be reading from Luke, chapter 3, starting in verse 1 from the New Living Translation:

It was now the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius, the Roman emperor. Pontius Pilate was governor over Judea; Herod Antipas was ruler over Galilee; his brother Philip was ruler over Iturea and Traconitis; Lysanias was ruler over Abilene. Annas and Caiaphas were the high priests. At this time a message from God came to John son of Zechariah, who was living in the wilderness. Then John went from place to place on both sides of the Jordan River, preaching that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.

Let’s pause reading here because I want to draw our attention onto something that might be very easy to miss. If we look at how Luke sets the stage and how he words the first verses of this chapter, it reads more like a historical stage than a fictitious stage. In other words, Luke draws our attention onto a specific point in history, which lends credibility that he wrote his gospel to document history, despite what critics might say or think.

Luke also draws our attention to the detail that John gets the nickname of “Baptist” or “Baptizer” because his message was one of repentance and he stressed that those who wanted to show they had repented should be baptized in a public setting.

Continuing on, Luke also describes how John the Baptist was prophesied about in the Old Testament. Picking back up in verse 4, we learn that:

Isaiah had spoken of John when he said,

“He is a voice shouting in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord’s coming!
    Clear the road for him!
The valleys will be filled,
    and the mountains and hills made level.
The curves will be straightened,
    and the rough places made smooth.
And then all people will see
    the salvation sent from God.’”

Pausing briefly again, I wonder if John had read this prophecy about himself and felt a little overwhelmed. Imagine for a moment this message described you. How might you live your life if you knew you were helping to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming?

How did John do this? Luke then describes how John framed his message and what he challenged those who came to listen to him to do with their lives.

Continuing our reading in verse 7, we learn that:

When the crowds came to John for baptism, he said, “You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.”

10 The crowds asked, “What should we do?”

11 John replied, “If you have two shirts, give one to the poor. If you have food, share it with those who are hungry.”

12 Even corrupt tax collectors came to be baptized and asked, “Teacher, what should we do?”

13 He replied, “Collect no more taxes than the government requires.”

14 “What should we do?” asked some soldiers.

John replied, “Don’t extort money or make false accusations. And be content with your pay.”

If you ever wondered if God or Jesus would have a message for us living today about how we should live, we can take what John says and pull out some big themes.

John challenged those in the first century to “Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God” and I believe this could be a challenge for all of us living today as well. The best decision you can make is putting your belief, faith, and trust in Jesus to save you from your sins, but the way you make your decision public is by repenting, which is a fancy religious word for choosing to intentionally not do a particular bad action anymore and instead replace it with a good habit and action.

John challenges Christians throughout time that our lives are our greatest witness to others whether we have truly accepted Jesus into our hearts.

John challenges us to not rest on our past ancestry, our past choices, or even our past accomplishments. Instead, he challenges us to live our repentance each day we want Jesus in our lives.

John challenges believers to be generous, to be honest, and to be kind to each other. While this sounds incredibly simple, it is actually one of the hardest challenges for each of us to live out each day. While there are some people who can love others effortlessly, others, such as myself, must intentionally choose to love in this way because there are some people who don’t make loving them easy.

John’s message cut to the heart of the people living in the first century, and Luke draws our attention to another interesting detail. Continuing in verse 15, we learn that:

15 Everyone was expecting the Messiah to come soon, and they were eager to know whether John might be the Messiah. 16 John answered their questions by saying, “I baptize you with water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17 He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with his winnowing fork. Then he will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into his barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire.” 18 John used many such warnings as he announced the Good News to the people.

While I might not think that John’s warnings sound like “Good News”, we can see from the anticipation in John’s message that he believed Jesus would come and usher in a new age of the world. Some people living today believe this to be the case. All the Old Testament prophecies seemed to point to the Messiah coming and setting things straight, but we might wonder why things are still messed up. Is the urgency in John’s message misplaced?

Should we give our message about Jesus a sense of urgency similar to John, or would that be misplaced too?

I don’t believe any message about Jesus is wrong to have a sense of urgency applied to it. Every time we share Jesus with others, we should include a sense of urgency because of two things.

First, there will be a time that the world will end and Jesus will come back. Each day brings us one day closer to this event.

Secondly, with rare exceptions, each of us don’t know when our lives will end, and if our lives end before Jesus returns, then it doesn’t really matter when Jesus comes back for us specifically. If you or I only have a week or year to live, this makes our decision for Jesus urgent for us. Since we don’t know the day we will die, it’s safest to live every day with the sense of urgency that either Jesus will return today, or that our lives might end today leading to the next thing we see being Jesus.

John challenged those present in the first century to be ready for Jesus’ first coming, and all of us in the 21st century should focus on preparing ourselves for Jesus’ second coming!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always start by challenging you, intentionally seek God first in your life. Live your life with a sense of urgency, and with an intentional purpose of growing closer to God. While we don’t know when our lives will end or when exactly Jesus will return, we do know that only one decision matters in the end, and that is whether we have placed Jesus first, repented, and intentionally chosen to put our focus, faith, trust, and belief on Jesus.

Also, as I regularly challenge you to do in one way or another, as we move forward in life and history, be sure to pray and study the Bible for yourself so you will be able to know and understand what God and Jesus are really like. The better we know the God of the Bible, and Jesus who came showing us a picture of God, the better we will be able to recognize Jesus when He returns.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or fall away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 3: As Luke transitions away from Jesus’ childhood, before describing Jesus as an adult, discover how Luke describes Jesus’ forerunner in ministry, John the Baptist, and what made John’s ministry important and significant.

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

The Wedding Miracle: John 2:1-12


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In our last episode, we started talking about Jesus’ famous first-miracle at the wedding of Cana. However, our last episode focused on the faith of those present before and after the miracle, and not on the miracle itself. For this episode, we’ll look again at this miracle, but focus in on another huge idea we can learn from it.

Let’s read the whole passage surrounding this miracle then dive into what we can discover from it. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 2, and we will read it from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 1, John tells us that:

1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.” 6 Now there were six stone waterpots set there for the Jewish custom of purification, containing twenty or thirty gallons each. 7 Jesus said to them, “Fill the waterpots with water.” So they filled them up to the brim. 8 And He said to them, “Draw some out now and take it to the headwaiter.” So they took it to him. 9 When the headwaiter tasted the water which had become wine, and did not know where it came from (but the servants who had drawn the water knew), the headwaiter called the bridegroom, 10 and said to him, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

12 After this He went down to Capernaum, He and His mother and His brothers and His disciples; and they stayed there a few days.

While the faith of Mary and the disciples is very present in this passage, there was faith present among the servants too. I probably should have pulled this detail out last week when putting that episode together.

However, what really stands out to me is that the bridegroom receives credit for something he had no direct part in. It’s a little humoring that we don’t have any response from the bridegroom himself, and it’s possible the bridegroom was speechless not having known exactly what happened. John points out that only the servants, and the early disciples, knew where the wine came from, and that it was merely water minutes before.

But what really stands out in my mind when reading this is the statement the headwaiter tells the bridegroom. In verse 10, the headwaiter tells the bridegroom, “Every man serves the good wine first, and when the people have drunk freely, then he serves the poorer wine; but you have kept the good wine until now.

This statement is as profound in the headwaiter’s eyes as it is symbolic in our own. Too many people alive today think that what we see in this life is all there is to see. Culture pressures people to live by the philosophy “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die”—which is ultimately a recipe for living hopeless lives. The implication is that we have the good in life first, but then it just goes downhill from here. The implication is also that there is nothing to look forward to after death. The implication in the headwaiter’s statement is that after those present eat and drink freely, then those involved don’t realize that the quality of their drink is poorer than before, and in a symbolic sense, their lives begin to slide downhill as well.

But the symbolic counter-cultural message here is that Jesus flips this idea upside down. When Jesus is involved, what we thought was good wine served first is really poorer quality because what comes next is infinitely better. While those living without Jesus live hopeless lives believing that times are good then worse, when we live with Jesus, we can face the good and bad times in this life knowing that the best is still to come.

However, this isn’t the only amazing thing that stands out in my mind with this miracle and what it foreshadows.

When discovering that this miracle was Jesus’ first miracle, we see that it was at a wedding, and Jesus is responsible for resupplying the wine. Once you see this parallel, it is hard to unsee it, because during the last supper, Jesus parallels the wine with His blood which is poured out for the forgiveness of sins, and Jesus promises to wait to drink it until the great wedding feast when the church comes as a bride to meet Jesus, her groom.

At the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, and the very first miracle designed to prompt people to pay attention, Jesus is at a wedding feast, and in my mind’s eye, the first thing the church will do when we have been joined with Jesus Christ is have a great wedding feast celebrating Jesus’ sacrifice and His victory for all of us!

Both the truth we see in the headwaiter’s statement and the truth we see foreshadowed in Jesus’ presence at a wedding point us to look forward to what God is preparing for us. While this life has its ups and downs, and its positives and negatives, when we live with God, we have hope. We look forward to the wedding feast, and we look forward to our future, eternal life with God forever!

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always intentionally seek God first and remember that with whatever we face in this life, our future with Jesus will be better than our life in our current sin-filled world.

Also, be sure to intentionally pray and study the Bible for yourself and grow personally closer to Jesus each and every day. Don’t assume or take for granted what the Bible teaches. Choose to study God’s truth out for yourself to discover what He wants you to learn from His Story and His plan of redemption.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, chicken out of, or abandon where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 3: When Jesus turns water into wine as His first miracle, discover how this event foreshadows what we can look forward to when this life is over.

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Flashback Episode — A Manger of Great Joy: Luke 2:1-20


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As we continue into Luke’s gospel, we come to what might be the most Christmas-themed passage in the whole Bible. However, just because many of us have read or heard it as recently as last month, doesn’t mean that there aren’t truths tucked in it that are relevant for us regardless of what time of year we are in.

Let’s start reading this passage, and pause when we get to an interesting point or idea. We’ll be reading from Luke’s gospel, chapter 2, using the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 1, we read:

1 Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth. 2 This was the first census taken while Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 And everyone was on his way to register for the census, each to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, 5 in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child. 6 While they were there, the days were completed for her to give birth. 7 And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

When I read this passage, I’m not sure if it is the traditional Christmas story that makes me think this, or if it is my mind that wants to condense the time frame. I don’t know how long Roman registration took for each person when they were doing a census, but in my mind, I always imagined that Jesus was born sometime during the night they arrived. But nothing in this passage hints at this idea, or even that the manger Jesus was laid in was out in a stable or cave with animals.

By the time the wise men arrive in Matthew’s gospel, which was actually a separate event from the shepherds, Matthew describes them going to a house, which might indicate that Jesus was born in the house of an unknown person.

I wonder if because there was no room in the inn, one of Joseph’s relatives offered to let them stay with them, or perhaps a friend of the innkeeper. However, this homeowner didn’t have anything prepared for a newborn, so this couple went out and got a manger from their stable so that the newborn could have a safe place to lay.

Let’s keep reading and see if we can see any other interesting details surrounding this event. Picking back up in verse 8, we learn that:

8 In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; 11 for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 
14 “Glory to God in the highest, 
And on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased.”

Let’s pause reading again here because two ideas stood out to me. The first thing I’ll draw our attention to is how the angelic choir praised God. Most of us are probably familiar with the King James Version of this message, but the NASB gives the last phrase a different angle. While the King James reads, “And on earth peace, goodwill toward men,” the NASB describes this message as, “And on earth peace among men with whom He [God] is pleased.

This is a fascinating distinction because as I read and compare the various translations, most translations read more similarly to the New American Standard Bible than the King James. This means, at least to me, that God wishes there to be peace among those with whom He is pleased, and if we desire to be pleased by God, we probably should desire His peace to fill our lives. It also might imply that God dislikes those who disrupt peace, whether this be in a society, a faith community, or between countries.

The other thing I noticed while reading this is in the first angel’s message. The original angel messenger begins his message by saying, “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people”. This stands out in my mind because the good news about Jesus is good news for everyone, not just one particular race or group of people. Jesus came for everyone, and while there are those who reject Him and those who hate Him, Jesus entering the world as a human is great news for everyone because even though Jesus isn’t accepted by everyone, most everyone would agree that something needs to change with the world we live in.

Jesus came the first time to give us a way to benefit from His coming the second time. God has promised that our current earth, with all its issues and problems, is only temporary. God has promised a recreated “new heaven and new earth” with all the flaws of our current world fixed. The only way any of us can experience this is because of Jesus’ first coming, and while there might be an exception or two, even most of those who reject Jesus would not want the current flawed world we live in to continue forever.

The first coming of Jesus is good news of great joy for all people, and the shepherds wanted to know more. Picking back up in verse 15, we discover that:

15 When the angels had gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds began saying to one another, “Let us go straight to Bethlehem then, and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” 16 So they came in a hurry and found their way to Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger. 17 When they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child. 18 And all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.

When the shepherds find Jesus, we don’t have any indication about where they found the young couple. It could have been a house, a stable, or simply near a tent and a fire to stay warm. The details surrounding where Jesus was born are less relevant than we might think. What truly matters is why Jesus came, that Jesus came, and what we will do in our own lives because Jesus came.

Our current world won’t continue forever. God has promised us a place in the new heaven and new earth and we can accept this gift and promise by choosing to accept and believe in Jesus. Looking at life from the big picture, this should be our highest goal each and every day of the year. Will you intentionally choose Jesus every day along with me?

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

As I always challenge you to do, intentionally seek God first in your life and choose to place Him first each day of your life. While life can get busy and distractions are guaranteed, intentionally make God first in your life, because from the perspective of eternity, a relationship with God is the most important thing we can have!

Also, as I regularly challenge you to do, place God first by intentionally spending time with Him each day in prayer and by personally reading your Bible. Don’t take a pastor or podcaster’s word for it. Discover what the Bible says for yourself by opening up the Bible and reading it for yourself!

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or give up on where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Flashback Episode: Year 4 – Episode 2: When reading one of the most famous Christmas passages in the Bible, discover what the Bible doesn’t say about Jesus’ birth story, and a big truth about what it does share that is relevant in all of our lives, every day of the year!

Join the discussion on the original episode's page: Click Here.

A Mother’s Faith: John 2:1-12


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As we continue forward in our year of podcasts looking at Jesus’ miracles, we actually step back slightly in the timeline of the gospels to the first miracle Jesus did. If you are wondering how we know this, the gospel of John records this miracle, and John also clearly states after this miracle that this was Jesus’ first miracle, or the first of Jesus’ signs.

With this as a backdrop for our episode, let’s read what happened and discover one big thing we can learn from this event. Our passage is found in John’s gospel, chapter 2, and we will be reading from the New American Standard Bible translation. Starting in verse 1, John tells us:

1 On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there; 2 and both Jesus and His disciples were invited to the wedding. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come.” 5 His mother said to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it.”

Let’s stop reading here, because what John has just told us about Mary is amazing. Next week, we’ll finish looking at the rest of this miracle, but with what has just happened, I don’t want us to miss this powerful theme that we can see in what Mary just said. But before we get to why this is powerful and amazing, let’s read verse 11, which I alluded to at the start of this episode to give us a little additional context for what we will discover. In verse 11, after the miracle had happened, John tells us that:

11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.

In this event, and especially in Mary’s declaration, we see an amazing level of faith in Jesus’ ability even though no prior miracle has taken place to make Mary certain of Jesus’ ability to perform miracles. While no previous miracle had taken place, we can look at Mary’s bold statement to both Jesus and to the servants and see faith present in at least two different angles.

The first angle we can see is Mary simply asking Jesus to help, but not necessarily asking for Him to perform a miracle. Mary knows that Jesus is more than physically capable to take the servants out and find a place where they can get wine, but we also don’t know what time of day this is. If it was at night, the shops would be closed and the shop owners would be sleeping. While Jesus chose to perform a miracle, the setup for the miracle doesn’t really emphasize a miracle being necessary, only that help is being asked for and expected.

The second angle we can see in this event is Mary asking Jesus for miraculous help. While there may have been plenty of non-miracle options for Jesus to choose from to help, from Jesus’ response when He says that His hour has not yet come, we can conclude that Mary is asking for help from Jesus’ divine nature more than His human nature. And Mary is unwilling to accept “no” for an answer.

In Mary’s persistence and her unwavering confidence in Jesus’ ability to solve the problem, we discover a model for us to use with our faith, persistence, and confidence. While it isn’t always smart to blaze forward ahead of God’s will, through Mary’s example, we see that when we move forward confidently and fully trusting in God’s help, we discover that He is willing to step in to help us even if it isn’t part of His original plan.

In contrast to Mary’s faith being present before having a miracle to back up her faith, verse 11 finishes by saying that following this miracle, “His disciples believed in Him”. The disciples didn’t have the same history with Jesus that Mary had, but that didn’t stop them from believing in Jesus when they were given a reason to believe.

While we don’t have the same privilege that these early followers had to witness this miracle, they demonstrate faith based on what they saw Jesus doing, and we can base our faith on what we see Jesus doing in our own lives. While culture and Satan tempting make it easy to be skeptical of the truly miraculous, when we ask God to open our eyes to what He is doing in the world today, expect to see the world in a different way. God wants us to see the world as He sees it, and He wants to help us love the world as He loves it!

From the very beginning of Jesus’ ministry, we discover a miracle that confirmed the faith of Jesus’ mother, and it gave the first disciples a reason to place their faith and belief in Jesus as God’s Messiah.

While there is more we could focus in on in this miracle, we’ll save it for the next episode. I can think of no better focus for Jesus’ first officially recorded miracle than to bring out the faith that this event included in it: both the faith of Mary who prompts this miracle, and of the disciples who believe in Jesus because of this miracle.

As we come to the end of another podcast episode, here are the challenges I will leave you with:

Always seek God first and let Him lead you forward through life. Ask God to teach you how to see the world through His eyes, and be willing to live, love, and help in a compassionate, Christ-like way.

Also, as I always challenge you to do, be sure to intentionally and regularly pray and study the Bible for yourself to grow your personal relationship with God. Through a personal relationship with God, we are able to have faith in Him and the closer we draw to God, the easier it will be to live how He wants us to live, and see the world as He sees it.

And as I end every set of challenges by saying in one way or another, never stop short of, back away from, chicken out of, or deviate away from where God wants to lead you to in your life with Him!

Year of Miracles – Episode 2: In His first miracle, we discover that Mary, Jesus’ mother, prompts Him to do it. Discover the faith that is displayed in this initial miracle, and the effect that this miracle has on the early disciples.

Join the discussion. Share your thoughts on this passage.