Your Last Year: Luke 13:1-9

Focus Passage: Luke 13:1-9 (NIV)

 1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”

 6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

 8 “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”

Read Luke 13:1-9 in context and/or in other translations on!

In this journal entry, we are looking at an ominous story Jesus tells about a fig tree. Most of Jesus’ parables are not all that vague, but when we read this one, it does seem to be less clear than most.

The big idea I want to point out about this parable is precisely what makes it very “unclear” – it’s missing its ending. The parable builds up the story, but then it leaves us waiting, wanting there to be an ending where none is supplied. Instead, we are left with the man who planted the tree giving the vineyard-keeper one more year to get fruit from the fig tree.

Why is this parable missing an ending? Does the fig tree produce fruit with the extra care that it is given? We don’t know, and here might be a reason why: The fig tree represents us.

If we read this parable with the perspective that we are the fig tree, would we live any differently? If God (the One who planted us) is waiting and watching for us to bear fruit (which is another way of saying to be productive with the gifts/life He has given), are we going to let life pass us by, or will we do something with the life that we were given?

If we are represented by the tree, and we were given one more year, wouldn’t that make the coming year a significant one?

This is one of those parables where I am glad there is no ending, because each time I read it I can be reminded that my time is not guaranteed, and what matters is what I am doing with my life today.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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Heaven-focused Hearts: Matthew 6:19-24

Focus Passage: Matthew 6:19-24 (CEV)

19 Don’t store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them. 20 Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them. 21 Your heart will always be where your treasure is.

22 Your eyes are like a window for your body. When they are good, you have all the light you need. 23 But when your eyes are bad, everything is dark. If the light inside you is dark, you surely are in the dark.

24 You cannot be the slave of two masters! You will like one more than the other or be more loyal to one than the other. You cannot serve both God and money.

Read Matthew 6:19-24 in context and/or in other translations on!

If we were to gather all of Jesus’ statements about saving money and placed them on a list, ranked by how well known the passage is, near the top of this list we would find a set of verses in the passage we are focusing on in this journal entry.

Our passage opens in the middle of one of Jesus’ sermons, and it opens with Jesus advising those in His audience, “Don’t store up treasures on earth! Moths and rust can destroy them, and thieves can break in and steal them.” (v. 19)

This makes a lot of sense. Any place on earth is not 100% safe for us to place our treasure. Even in the modern banking environment we live in today, our money is not 100% safe. Even with all the protection and insurance, a banking error or hacker may instantly change the number you thought you had.

But Jesus gives us an alternate place for our treasure in the next verse. He continues by saying, “Instead, store up your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and thieves cannot break in and steal them.” (v. 20)

On the surface, this seems like excellent advice – until one asks the question about how we accomplish this. As far as I am aware, there is no way to transfer money from my bank account from here on earth to heaven, or take my chest of earthly treasure and transfer it up to God.

However, in Jesus’ next statement, we see what Jesus may want to draw our attention to. Jesus finishes this point by saying, “Your heart will always be where your treasure is.” (v. 21)

Perhaps Jesus is not giving us this financial advice because He wants our money. What if Jesus shared this because He really wants our hearts? What if Jesus wants to get our hearts by helping us redirect our focus regarding money?

If Jesus wants us to shift our “money/treasure focus” to be a “heaven focus” instead, then we discover in these three simple verses a way for us to save in heaven – and that is by investing our treasure in things that help advance God’s kingdom and His message.

When our hearts are focused on heaven, the size of our treasure on earth is not as relevant as our focus on advancing God’s movement and message within our sphere of influence. When our hearts are focused on heaven, our treasure will follow, and we will work alongside God in spreading the gospel message, the great news about His kingdom, and gift of salvation He freely offers. That’s what happens when we have hearts that are heaven focused.

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Flashback Episode — Stay Silent or Share Jesus: Mark 7:31-37

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After traveling to the region of Tyre and Sidon on the Mediterranean coast, and both ignoring and insulting a woman needing help, Jesus then leaves the area and travels to about the opposite corner of the area where He focused His ministry – an area called the Decapolis. This trip is fascinating on several levels.

Looking at how the gospel writers focus on many of these events, and how they transition between the places Jesus went, it is almost as though Jesus traveled to specific areas just to help one person who needed help. In our last episode, we focused in on a trip Jesus made to Tyre and Sidon and specifically how it may have been a trip to help just one person. In this episode, we look at another miracle that appears to help another single person.

Let’s read what happened before discussing several things we can learn from this event. Our passage is found in Mark’s gospel, chapter 7, and we will read it from the New International Version of the Bible. Starting in verse 31, Mark tells us:

31 Then Jesus left the vicinity of Tyre and went through Sidon, down to the Sea of Galilee and into the region of the Decapolis.

Pausing briefly, to give you a little context of the geography, Tyre and Sidon were far Northwest of Galilee, and the Decapolis region was south east of Galilee. Picking back up in verse 31, we read:

32 There some people brought to him a man who was deaf and could hardly talk, and they begged Jesus to place his hand on him.

33 After he took him aside, away from the crowd, Jesus put his fingers into the man’s ears. Then he spit and touched the man’s tongue. 34 He looked up to heaven and with a deep sigh said to him, “Ephphatha!” (which means “Be opened!”). 35 At this, the man’s ears were opened, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak plainly.

36 Jesus commanded them not to tell anyone. But the more he did so, the more they kept talking about it. 37 People were overwhelmed with amazement. “He has done everything well,” they said. “He even makes the deaf hear and the mute speak.”

In our passage, I wonder if you noticed something. In the gospel record, the region of the Decapolis is mentioned only three times. The first time we see this location mentioned, it is part of a transition statement in Matthew’s gospel describing the crowds that followed Jesus. Matthew 4:25 tell us that, “Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.” Other than this passing statement, Matthew doesn’t mention this region again, and the context for this verse doesn’t place Jesus in the Decapolis. Instead, the context describes Jesus traveling through Galilee instead.

The next time the Decapolis is mentioned, we learned that this was where the demoniac went following Jesus healing him. If you remember earlier in our year of miracles, we learned about a special trip Jesus made across the lake to visit this man. On the trip across the lake, a storm freaked the disciples out while Jesus slept. When they arrived on the far side, they met a man who was possessed by a legion of demons, and Jesus cast the demons out into a herd of pigs.

This would likely have happened on the Decapolis side of the lake. Those who were present from the area urged Jesus to leave there, and when the man Jesus healed wanted to go with Jesus, Jesus instead commissioned him to tell others what Jesus had done for him. Mark’s gospel tells us in chapter 5, verse 20 that “the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him”.

The last time we read about Jesus visiting the region of the Decapolis is for this single miracle. Word had spread about Jesus’ miracle working abilities, and those living in the Decapolis wanted to see a miracle. The healed demoniac had spread the news about Jesus throughout the region, and it is likely that many of those present bringing this deaf, mute man wanted to see a miracle because of what they heard from the former demoniac.

However, Jesus knew that this crowd wasn’t keen on praising God. They wanted simply to praise Jesus, give Him glory instead of God, and have bragging rights to their friends that they had seen a Jesus-miracle. Jesus pushes back against the selfish current of this miracle while also desiring to help this man. Because of this, we read that Jesus takes the man aside and away from the crowd before healing him.

After healing the man, Jesus tells them to keep quiet about what happened, but the more He wanted people to stay silent, the more people would talk about it. In a way, I find this funny, because this brings out an interesting aspect of human nature – specifically the part of our nature called rebellion. What better way to rebel against Jesus’ wishes than to tell others about what Jesus had done for them when Jesus wanted them to stay silent.

Was this some elaborate scheme Jesus used to get people talking? Probably not, but it’s hard to say.

If Jesus wanted people to talk about what He was doing, He could have simply said so, but if He did this too often, it might appear like He wanted the people to praise Him rather than pointing the praise to God. However, there were times when Jesus did ask people to share what God had done for them, like what Jesus had told the demoniac to do.

However, it is more likely that Jesus simply didn’t want to draw the attention of crowds because He wanted to be free to travel to see those who God wanted to help. When the crowds were present, it made it difficult for those who really needed help to come to Jesus, and it made it more difficult for Jesus to travel to the places where He could help others. Jesus also knew that His time was limited, and that teaching His disciples was also important.

But those in the crowd who rebelled to share what Jesus was doing in their midst share another key idea regarding our human nature. This other idea is that we are wired to share what we find amazing or noteworthy. Every miracle Jesus did was significant, special, and it was not something that had happened before, and because of this, sharing what Jesus was doing was the most natural thing for people to do.

However, what about your life and mine? Is it easy to share what Jesus has done for you today? Is it easier to stay quiet about Jesus when you are not with friends?

While I don’t know what Jesus has done for you, I know that depending on the social circles you are in, some of them welcome stories about what Jesus has done for you while others do not. Many of us on this podcast right now likely have family or friends who they can share with and family or friends that dislike hearing about Jesus.

I don’t know if God has called you to tell everyone your story or if He has called you to be a silent witness? Whichever way God has called you is between Him and you. However, if you are a silent witness today, know that tomorrow God may call you to speak up. Silent witnesses aren’t silent forever, and the more God has done for you the more He will call you to speak up.

Don’t be afraid of sharing the good news. Be ready and willing to share it with everyone who will listen, because when this life is over, and when history is finished, the only news that will matter is news that centers on Jesus and what He has done for all of His people!

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

Always seek God first and be ready to share your faith with anyone and everyone God opens the door for you to share with. Let God lead and guide you to share with others and let God and Jesus be the center of your story.

Also, always keep praying and studying the Bible for yourself to learn and grow closer to Jesus each and every day. A strong relationship with God is built on regular prayer and study, and with this foundation, you will have a strong, solid faith that can weather the storms of this life.

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 of Miracles – Episode 31: In the last miracle the gospels record that took place in the Decapolis region, we discover something significant through what Jesus asks the crowd to not do. Discover if this is something relevant for our lives today or if it was only something for that certain place and time.

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

Sharpening Our Minds: Luke 2:41-52

Focus Passage: Luke 2:41-52 (NIV)

41 Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. 42 When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. 43 After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. 44 Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. 45 When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. 46 After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47 Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48 When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.”

49 “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” 50 But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

51 Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52 And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Read Luke 2:41-52 in context and/or in other translations on!

Only in the gospel of Luke do we find an interesting event sandwiched between Jesus’ birth story and His baptism. In this event, when Jesus is twelve years old, He decides to stay in Jerusalem when His parents begin their trip back up to Nazareth. Only after a full days worth of travel do Mary and Joseph actually realize Jesus isn’t with the group. While we learn later that Jesus had stayed in the temple to spend time with the teachers there, part of me wonders why Jesus chose to do this.

After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.” (v. 46-47)

In these verses, we see what Jesus was doing, but I am curious more along the lines of why.

Perhaps Jesus wanted to get a feel for who these teachers were, or maybe He wanted to understand the angle that these teachers interpreted the Old Testament prophecies. Maybe Jesus was interested in learning how open these teachers and leaders were to new ideas regarding the Messianic role. Perhaps, Jesus knew this would be easier as a young man then it would be when He was older and actively preaching, teaching, and healing.

Or maybe Jesus wanted to try to insert some ideas in these teachers’ minds regarding a different way of looking at the scriptures. Perhaps Jesus wanted to plant some seeds that He was hoping would grow by the time He would start His ministry.

Whatever the reason, we learn in this passage that Jesus’ questioning ability, and His understanding of the scriptures amazed everyone present. This tells us that at an early age, Jesus studied the Bible, and He used it as the foundation for His ministry on earth.

This also tells me that Jesus used the scriptures to sharpen His mind, and that the more we personally study the Bible, the sharper and more discerning our minds will be.

This thought was inspired by studying the Walking With Jesus "Reflective Bible Study" package. To discover insights like this in your own study time, click here and give Reflective Bible Study a try today!

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