Are You Hanging Out With Tax Collectors?

In the second chapter of the book of Mark, we find the story of Jesus eating with the tax collectors at Levi’s house. The Pharisees were appalled that such a “religious man” would be found among sinners and tax collectors.

Don’t we get the same response today? What if you are called to minister to someone who frequents bars. What if you are caught coming out of a bar by the modern day “religious community”? Isn’t there an opportunity for judgment? Don’t you wonder if people will talk?

Jesus is very clear with his answer to their criticism. He tells them in verse 17, “Those who are well don’t need a doctor, but the sick do need one. I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

If Jesus was called to sinners, so are we. He was sent to them and He sent US to them. How are we supposed to reach them if we don’t send time with them? If we don’t go where the lost are because we are afraid of what people will think, how will they ever hear the Good News?

Who do you spend most of your time with? The people who are already saved or those who desperately need to hear the gospel?

Do you spend time with tax collectors? Jesus did.

Waiting for My Ship to Come In

Have you ever heard someone say that they were waiting for their ship to come in? In current culture, the saying means that they are hoping for something good to happen in their life that they have no control over. A hope that good fortune will visit them and all their problems will be solved.

The origin of the saying isn’t clear. It could have come from the days when merchant ships were coming into port every day and you never knew when the one that held your supplies would arrive or if it would ever arrive. Maybe it was overtaken by pirates or sank in a violent storm. With no communication between ship and shore, no one could know for sure if their investment had arrived until they saw the ship coming into port.

The story in Matthew 8 tells of a time when the disciples wondered if their ship would come it. They weren’t just looking for some investment to pay off. Their believed their very lives were at stake. They were in the boat, the storm came up and Jesus was where? Asleep. Didn’t He care what was happening to them or that their lives were in danger? But the scripture tells us three things. Matthew 8:18 tells us “He gave orders to depart to the other side of the sea,” verse 23 says, “when He got into the boat His disciples followed Him,” and verse 28 says, “When He came to the other side.” It doesn’t seem that Jesus had any doubt at all about whether His ship would come in.

Maybe you are in the boat that’s tossing and rolling in a violent sea. Maybe it looks like Jesus is asleep. Doesn’t He care what’s happening in your life? Is He going to wake up and do something before it’s too late?

Remember the story in Matthew. Jesus commanded they cross the sea. He got in the boat and the others followed because they trusted Him. He knew they would reach the other side; there was never any doubt in His mind. Only when the waves looked too high and the storm too strong did the disciples get concerned. They looked at the storm and not their Lord to define their situation.

The storms in life may be overwhelming sometimes. You might wonder if you are really going to make it to the other side. But Jesus hasn’t left you. Keep your eyes on the horizon. The shore will come into view and you will land safely because Jesus is in the boat.

Are You Peculiar?


If you asked most people to define the word “peculiar” you would get some variation of this: “something or someone who is odd, strange, unusual or weird.” Most people would not appreciate being called peculiar. It definitely has a negative connotation in our current culture.

But looking at the 1828 edition of Webster’s Dictionary, I find the following:

Peculiar – One’s own; belonging solely or especially to an individual; not possessed by others; of private, personal, or characteristic possession and use; particular; individual; special; appropriate.

Our modern culture has shifted this word, peculiar, to mean something to be avoided or kept at a distance. No one wants to be called peculiar. They don’t wish to appear odd or strange. Most people would rather blend in and be inconspicuous.

But in the King James version of 1 Peter 2:9 we read, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people, that ye should show forth the praises of Him who hath called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” This doesn’t mean strange or weird, it means they belong to God. Peculiar comes from the Latin word peculium which means “private property.”

We are a peculiar people! We belong to God. We are His and no one else’s. He claims us as His own. And maybe to the world that looks strange or weird. If belonging to God makes me seem strange to the world, so be it!

If following after Christ means you stick out and look different than the world, is that okay with you? How peculiar are you willing to be? Will you stand firmly on the fact that you have been chosen by God, no matter how that looks to the world?

What’s In a Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Those are Shakespeare’s words. Actually Juliet said them. Would a rose smell as sweet if it were called something else? Say, a skunk cabbage or a stinking corpse lily? It’s hard to imagine.

Have you ever thought about the importance of names? People pay a lot of attention to names. Just look at Hollywood. Would a movie starring Archibald Alexander Leach and Doris Kappelhof have been as successful as one starring Cary Grant and Doris Day? And somehow a gun fighter played by Marion Michael Morrison wouldn’t seem as threatening as one played by John Wayne. Maybe it’s a good thing they changed their names!

Speaking of name changing, there are many examples in the Bible where God or someone else changed a person’s name. Frequently it was to signify a change of heart or a redirection in his or her life. Abram became Abraham. Sarai became Sarah. God chose those names to call Abraham and Sarah into a new direction as parents of a new nation. Naomi changed her own name to Mara to describe how bitter her life had become. Simon became Peter, the rock on which God would build his church. All of these are quite significant events.

Another significant event is marriage. The tradition of most English-speaking countries has been for the woman to take her husband’s name when she marries. There is no real proof as to why this tradition began, but there is speculation that it was similar to the name changes in the Bible. A new bride has had a redirection in life. She is now one with her husband and shares his name. It is definitely a change of heart when two become one and the name change is one way to acknowledge its importance.

Biblical names had great significance. The meanings of many names turned out to be prophetic in nature. Many Christian families today take seriously the naming of their children and seek God’s direction before deciding on what name they will give each child.

There is definitely power in names. But there is one name which is above every name. One name that all of creation must bow to. One name that has the ultimate power.


Call upon His name when you feel stressed, when you need comfort, when you need power. Call upon His name when you are discouraged, when you are sad, when you are afraid. He is there and the power of His name is available to you in every situation.

“Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”
Philippians 2:8-10 (NASB)

Made From the Dust

I’m sure you’ve hear people say that they have “felt like dirt” or have been “treated like dirt.” We immediately understand the implication. It means they have not been treated as they think they deserve.

But the truth is, that’s exactly what we are. Genesis 2:7 says, God formed man of dust from the ground.” And Genesis 3:19 says, “For you are dust and to dust you shall return.” That sounds pretty clear to me. Why should we think we deserve to be treated like anything more than the dust that we are?

Ah, but here is the amazing part.  God knows we are dust; after all He’s the one who made us. He knows our limitations. But He doesn’t treat us like the dirt.

I would encourage you to take some time today and read Psalm 103. It’s full of encouragement that God sees us as we really are but treats us as something much more valuable. Psalm 103:14 sums it up quite well when it says, “Just as a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. For He Himself knows our frame; He is mindful that we are but dust.”

Our Heavenly Father will never treat us like dirt even though that’s exactly what we are. He has compassion on us and loves us. We are part of His creation…we are His.

Studying God’s Word Isn’t for a Test Score but for a Life Change

Last Sunday I took notes during the sermon. I also have many Bible study books full of notes I’ve taken over the years. I take notes at women’s conferences and file them in a folder when I get home.Lately, God has been speaking to my heart about all those volumes of notes and shelves full of study guides. I often refer to my notes to write these devotions. It makes me see that all that note-taking is useful.

However, the thing God has been speaking about isn’t my writing or reading or studying. It’s what I do with the information I’m learning. I have to admit that there are some pages of notes I never look at after I write them. You could argue that simply writing things down helps you remember them. In fact, I learned a long time ago that if I make a list for the grocery store, even if I forget and leave it on the counter, I can usually remember most of what I wrote down. If I tried to remember without writing anything it would be a useless trip to the store as I would forget much of what I went for.

But the notes I take when I’m listening to someone speak about the Bible are meant to have some sort of impact later. The idea is that I learn more about God and about myself in a way that brings about changes in me. The goal is to be more Christlike. If I take all these notes and even if I study them so I could pass a written test with flying colors, I would gain nothing unless it changed me.

I think God is saying to me, and perhaps to you as well, that it’s time to take my studies up a notch. I am challenging myself to actually revisit my notes and meditate on what God would have me do with what I am learning. I want to be more intentional about internalizing what I hear and not be just a collector of words on the page.

Let’s consider what we can do to become a more faithful students of God’s Word. The time we spend studying will never be wasted.

“Be diligent to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who doesn’t need to be ashamed, correctly teaching the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15 (CSB)

“Let a wise person listen and increase learning, and let a discerning person obtain guidance, for understanding a proverb or a parable, the words of the wise, and their riddles.” – Proverbs 1:5-6 (CSB)

Jesus Laughed

Sometimes I think we take life too seriously. I know I do. I get caught up in the pressures of my to-do list or the decisions I need to make. I think “if I can just get this or that done then I can relax.” I always seem to be waiting for one more thing to be resolved before I can set it all aside and rest for a while.

Jesus had an incredibly intense life at times, yet he was able to get away from the crowds and the demands and rest. He was able to spend time just hanging out with the disciples. Do you suppose they sat around the fire in the evening and talked about life? Can you picture them telling stories about things that happened to each of them? How about a funny story from Peter about a mess he got himself into? And at the punch line did Jesus laugh? I bet he did. He was able to focus on enjoying the moments in His life that were special. He knew He had a lot of difficult things to deal with, but I don’t believe He constantly thought about those things. I think He allowed himself to love life with His friends.

We can always use the excuse that there are too many important things to attend to at the moment. We can convince ourselves that life it too difficult just now to be able to relax and just have a good laugh. We can tell ourselves that it would be irresponsible to set those challenges aside for a time to just enjoy the life God has given us. But if we do, we will miss some of the most treasured moments of life.

Everyone knows that the shortest verse in the Bible is “Jesus wept.” That verse shows that He had emotions like we do. He wanted to show us that we could have compassion on others. I think He also would tell us that it’s okay to enjoy life and talk and laugh together. I wish there was a verse that said, “Jesus laughed!” I believe He did and that He still does in Heaven. When I get there, I can’t wait to hear Jesus laugh. I’ll bet He has a great laugh!

A joyful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” – Proverbs 17:22(ESV)

The Light of the World

Light is an interesting phenomenon. As you consider the properties of light, it’s easy to see why the Lord used light to help explain His character. Think of all the scriptures where the Lord calls himself the light or uses light to define his nature. Some of the ones I love are:

“This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5

“But you are a chosen race, A royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

“Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, ” I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the light of life.” – John 8:12

Picture yourself in a long, brightly lit hallway with many closed doors on both sides. Imagine that on the other side of all those doors are rooms in complete darkness.  Now consider what would happen if you went down that hallway and opened each door, flooding the rooms with light. Each room would no longer be in total darkness but would be influenced by the light from the hallway. However, the light in the hall would not be diminished at all. No matter how many doors you opened there would be no reduction of light in the hallway. The darkness cannot effect the light but the light definitely impacts the darkness.

When we allow the Lord to be light in our lives, we give him permission to reveal what the darkness would try to hide. We are promised that darkness will always be overcome with light and when we are willing to swing wide the doors of our hearts the Lord will surely keep his promise to shine His glorious light causing darkness to flee.

What Keeps You From Loving?

Last time we talked about how much easier it would be to extend grace if we could tell when a person was going through a rough time. We said that it would be easier to be patient, to forgive, and even  love others if we could tell what was going on in their lives. I called it Bad Behavior, Gauges, and Jesus.

But let’s take it a step further. We truly want to be more like Jesus every day, right? Jesus showed his patience with the woman at the well. He showed forgiveness to Peter after he denied Him. He offered mercy to many throughout the scriptures, as we talked about last time.

Have you ever thought about actions of Jesus at the last supper (John 13)? He came into a gathering of his disciples with the knowledge that it would be their last time together before He went to the cross.

He began by removing his robe and tying a towel around His waist. He washed the feet of the disciples and dried them with the towel. He showed love to all of them equally. And yet…Jesus already knew that Judas would betray Him and Peter would deny Him.  He KNEW what they were about to do and yet He showed them love anyway. He washed their feet as an act of love.

Now look in the mirror for a moment. Could you, knowing that someone was going to do you harm, love them? Could you extend grace KNOWING what they were about to do? We’re not talking about forgiveness after the fact. We are talking about  knowing ahead of time and STILL choosing to love.

How many of us still hold onto hurts and struggle to forgive others for their past actions? If we want to truly be like Jesus, we not only need to forgive, we need to be willing to love others KNOWING they will disappoint us, hurt us, reject us…the list is long.

Can you do it? Only with the help of Jesus. He can give you the strength to love no matter what. Ask Him.

“When Jesus had washed their feet and put on his outer clothing, he reclined again and said to them, “Do you know what I have done for you?  You call me Teacher and Lord—and you are speaking rightly, since that is what I am.  So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done for you.
 “Truly I tell you, a servant is not greater than his master, and a messenger is not greater than the one who sent him.  If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.” – John 13:12-17(CSB)


Bad Behavior, Gauges, and Jesus

Wouldn’t it be great if we all walked around with little gauges over our heads. You know, like the lighbulb in comic strips?  It could be like the temperature gauge in a car only the C would be for calm and content and the H would be for hurting and life is HARD.

That way, when we had difficult encounters with people we could see that there are reasons behind their behavior.  If that guy who just cut you off in traffic had the needle on his gauge pointing clearly toward the H because he is on his way to the hospital hoping to get there in time to say goodbye to his father we might be more forgiving.

Or maybe the woman who was rude to the cashier, her gauge read H because she just lost her job.

And the young girl who rear-ended you at the traffic light because she was distracted. Not by her phone but because she’s pregnant and her father threw her out of the house this morning.

If we all had gauges we would be more patient with each other. When we saw that needle tipping toward the H we would offer hope instead of judgment. We would encourage instead of condemn.

But we don’t have gauges or any way to know what someone else is facing today. Perhaps if we could realize that we ALL are on H at times we could begin to offer understanding and patience. It’s what Jesus did.

It’s what He still does.

“Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose. Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:1-4 (NASB)