One Thank You

Luke 17

Luke 17 17 edit

A simple, but important rule in my sixth-grade classroom is students must say “thank you” anytime they receive something from me.  It doesn’t matter if that something is homework, a reward, a present, or even a consequence, the expectation is always that I am thanked.  Why?  There are a few reasons.  First, when you thank someone you acknowledge you are receiving something.  Second, when you thank someone you acknowledge they are the giver of that something.  Finally, when you thank someone you are showing that you have considered and accepted that something.  Conversely, if I am not thanked, I must assume my students do not value the item, the giver, or its intention.  Now, I am not naive enough to believe every eleven-year-old that says “thank you” has gone through this thought process.  They may simply be well-mannered (or well-rehearsed).  Maybe they know it is a rule and do it to avoid a negative consequence (which they would have to say “thank you” for anyways).  They simply may do it because everyone else is doing it.

It can be hard to tell the authenticity of a thank you, but one pattern I have noticed is when someone is truly thankful, they will seek you out to tell you.  Such was the case of a student of mine who delivered a letter to me on Teacher Appreciation Week last year.  While the standard fare is a box of chocolates, a coffee mug, or a cleverly-punned present, she crafted an honest-to-goodness thank you card.  There were no generic references to how awesome I was, how my class was the best, or how funny I am (which all are true), but she acknowledged specific words I had written in her yearbook at the close of the prior school year. She stated those simple words had changed her attitude, and she wanted to let me know that she greatly appreciated the time I took to consider them, write them, and live them.  Favorite “appreciation” received to date.

In today’s reading, Luke 17, Jesus amid traveling from Galilee to Samaria is met by a lot of lepers.  They each want the same thing: to be healed.  Jesus obliges, and without much reference to how he did it, he simply states in verse 14, “Go and show yourself to the priest,” meaning they would now be known as the men who formerly had leprosy.  They were cleansed, restored, no more peril or pain. They could now enter the city gate, walk the street, and be with all those they had left behind.  In their excitement, nine men rush to show everyone how they had been healed.  A single soul stops; he turns to praise God and give thanks to Jesus for this wonderful blessing beyond measure.  Jesus is curious about the other nine, but tells the lone returner he was “healed because of his faith.”

So many times I have read this story and am left wondering, “Why did Jesus say this man was healed ‘because of his faith’? Were they not all healed?” The more I read over this passage, place it preceding Jesus’ next topic, the Kingdom of God, it begins to resonate what Jesus may be alluding to.  While this thankful leper was cured in the very same way as the other nine, he alone received the lasting healing and life that comes through the acknowledgement of Jesus Christ.  This thankful man’s healing was not physical transformation but an allegoric alignment of his spiritual salvation.

So where does this leave us?  Often, we are the nine.  We joyously jog back to the place we came – complacency or repetitive sin — because we know we are restored, we can enter the city gate, we can walk the streets, and we can be with those we have loved because Jesus has already paid the price for us to do so.  We may thank him because we are well-rehearsed to do so in prayer.  We may thank him because we fear what might happen if we don’t.  We may thank him because that is what everyone else is doing; however, the minute everyone else turns and runs, we are there following them instead of running to our Lord and Savior.  Take a moment to stop. STOP!  Turn around.  Run to Jesus (repent).  Praise God (for your blessing)!  Tell him what he has given to you, what He means to you, and how that is changing your life, not because that is something you do, but because that is something YOU do!  When we offer thanks to him in this way, we will know the eternal healing that comes through a thankful faith.

-Aaron Winner


The Master and Manager

Luke 16

Luke 16 13

God and money?  Can a Christian have both? No. Yes. No? Yes? Hmm.

I am to sell all my worldly possession (Luke 18:22), but I am responsible for making sure the physical needs of widows and orphans are met (James 1:27).  It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle enter the Kingdom of God (Matt 19:24), but God richly blesses men with wealth who follow him (Prov. 10:22).  I am to store up my treasure in heaven (Matt 6:19), but I am told the wise man saves his riches for a rainy day (1 Cor. 16:12. Prov. 21:20).  On the surface of this topic, it would seem we have contradiction, but thankfully today’s reading might help us come to a clearer conclusion when we consider two powerful, but unequal masters: God and money.

In Luke 16 we are presented with a peculiar parable that shows the strength of the almighty dollar.  As the story opens, we are introduced to a dishonest manager who is in charge of accounting (a running theme) of debts for his master. He learns that his master soon will dismiss him, so as each debtor approaches the manager with their contracted commitment, he forgives a portion of their debt.  Being shrewd, he knows he will be the receiver of their thanks, although it was neither his debt to forgive nor his portion to take.  Jesus makes no misgiving that he was speaking specific directly to the Pharisees, who were fundamentally dealing in the same way.  These “managers” of God put literal prices on forgiveness and offerings, ensuring their comfort, but cheating God of glory, praise, adoration, honor, or extending grace himself.  They, like the shrewd manager, traded their merciful Master for passing provision.

In Dale Carnegie’s famous work, How to Win Friends and Influence People, he states “It isn’t what you have or who you are or where you are or what you are doing that makes you happy or unhappy. It is what you think about it.” This is a challenging thought that calls us to contentment, but also in context of this specific parable, helps us increase our focus.  Are you the master or the manager of your wealth? time? health? will? Are they yours to divide, take, or utilize as you please? Who receives honor, praise, and recognition when you offer these things freely to others?  Sometimes we are as shrewd as the Pharisees, thinking a possession, a place, or a position is the source of a joyful life.  They make us feel momentarily like the master, but really, they take us away from our true purpose.

Jesus concludes this parable by saying if we cannot be trusted with the small things, why would God ever give us the BIG things. If we cannot rely upon him for our own daily bread why would he ever ensure we are the steward for the needs of others?  If we are faithful to Him, we are entrusted with more of His bidding, not in direct correlation, but determined by the master (See: “Parable of the Talents”).  Yes, this can include money.  Yes, this can include more time on earth.  BUT GLORY, HALLELUJAH, YES, he is talking about the KINGDOM.

So, can you have God and money? Yes. Can you serve two masters? No.  Will God give you more if you are faithful? Yes.  Is it money? Not necessarily, but IT IS the Master’s wealth beyond measure for His faithful managers.

-Aaron Winner

The Parable of the Lost Ring

Luke 15

Luke 15_10

It was the beginning of a Louisiana winter when I lost my wedding ring just a couple years into my marriage.  It was a beautiful white gold ring with an inscription of our anniversary on the inside of the band.  It was a perfect reminder of my covenant in every way; however, its faults were it was a little loose when my hands were cold, and of course, it had me for an owner.  My friends and I were readying to play a football game on a Sunday afternoon and I was warming up by tossing the ball with a friend.  In a bit of foreshadowing for the events of the day, my ring slipped off as I caught the ball.  I picked it up off the ground, remarked how cold it was that afternoon, thought about placing my ring inside my pocket but thought it might fall out if it was there.  I put the ring back on my finger, only to lose it at some point in the next couple of hours of our pick-up game.

As we finished playing, my heart immediately sank when I realized it was gone.  I felt a cold sweat build on my forehead, my gut churned, and I held back tears, disappointed that I had lost something so precious.  My friends helped me look for almost an hour without success.  In the muddy, mushy, marshy Louisiana ground, I could see the imprints of our shoes and feet, I could see heaps of crawdad holes, but none of us saw the silvery reflection of my ring buried within the mire and muck.

In Luke Chapter 15, Jesus tells a series of three parables with a similar subject of a possession that has gone missing. In “The Parable of the Lost Sheep”, the master realizes that one of his flock is missing, and leaves behind 99 others to search for the lost one.  In the “Parable of the Lost Coin”, a woman takes account (to tie to our theme from yesterday) to realize she has misplaced a day’s earnings and does the equivalent of turning up couch cushion, investigating under the bed, and sweeping every nook and cranny to uncover it.  In “The Parable of the Lost Son” a father turns his son loose with an inheritance, but is actively looking for his return.  In addition to the same topic, each story ends in a similar resolution: what has been lost has become found and there is great rejoicing.

For me, there are two great takeaways as I ponder the collective meaning of these parables.  The first: to be lost, you have already belonged.  It is true that we each must find the Master in order to be saved, but He is the one who never stops searching.  Our Lord desires that not even a single sheep goes astray and is left without the safety of the shepherd (2 Peter 3:9).  Additionally, my thoughts turn to the Book of Life.  In Revelation 3, we are presented an image that our names are not written into the Book at the transition from “lost” to “saved”, but have already received a place there and are blotted out at the end of a life that is not found in Christ.  We are always His, but like the lost son, we make the decision to be found.

The second takeaway is the wonderful rejoicing that occurs when we turn our lives over and are indeed found.  There is a literal fiesta in the firmament to celebrate our Savior’s joy that we are alive again. No longer do we share the fleeting moments of a mortal life with our Father, but have the hope of an eternity of His presence, living with Him in His kingdom, our intended inheritance instead of passing pleasures. We, too, should echo the heavens and revel in each return.

Unfortunately, the resolution to my own parable of the ring isn’t as joyous as our Jesus’.  I searched for the ring for weeks, beseeched friends I know with metal detectors, offered rewards, but none of these measures ensured the retrieval of my wedding band.  I resigned my search, and my ring is forever lost in the loose Louisiana earth.  Maybe, as I like to imagine, it is the crowning jewel at the bottom at some crawdad family’s hole. With this being said, I can’t help but be thankful that my God has called me his treasure and that he never stops searching for me.  He finds me in my wandering, revealing and moving His will and His way through His words, waiting for my silhouette to again darken the horizon when I have gone astray – a Father who never fails finding those who desire to be found in Him.

-Aaron Winner


Counting the Cost

Luke 14

luke 14 27

As an elementary-aged child I remember having a very heightened appreciation for money.  Countless times I would pull the “M” encyclopedia just to look at all the pictures of the bills greater than $10 (which I rarely saw as a child), historical coins, or currency from around the world.  I may not exactly have known the value of a dollar, but I did know that there were few and far between opportunities to have cash on hand to call my own and spend on whatever I would like. I relished each one of these experiences.

On one occasion, I remember walking down the aisles of Walmart with my newly acquired birthday money secured in my blue Mickey Mouse velcro wallet.  There was no need to check inside to see how much I had.  I had counted the money at least a dozen times in the preceding days.  I was so remarkably aware of money at this age, I not only knew that I would be paying the advertised price, but a tax on top of it, which I knew needed to be included  in the cost.  In my care, I made sure that I calculated all the money I needed for checkout, so I would never have to disappointedly walk an item back to its place on the shelf because I couldn’t afford it.

At the end of Luke 14, Jesus asks the large crowd to consider the cost of being a disciple.  A faithful following was created by his miracles and teachings, but not all of them grasped the significance of what he was truly saying.  Undoubtedly to the surprise of many standing there, Jesus makes the most radical declaration in verse 26 when he states, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”  I’m sure these words were followed by disapproval, murmurs, and shock.

Excuse me – HATE?  HATE my father and mother who I am to honor by God’s command? HATE my wife, who is to be called “blessed” and is my flesh? HATE my children who are my wealth and fortune? HATE my brothers and sisters with whom I share the same faith? HATE my very own body which should be treated as a temple?

It is alluded to us a few verses later that Jesus is not literally saying that we should hate the aforementioned family. Also, I don’t think that he is even saying that we should abhor them by comparison of love we have for him and His Father (this conclusion I come to by considering how God loves me as His own – I love others as children of God – the child of God = Jesus).  What Jesus is acknowledging is we must count the cost of following him.  We must be ready to account for every treasure, relationship, and ambition, and when it comes times to pick up our cross and drag it an uncomfortable direction, we are ready to abandon, sacrifice, drop, or pay up anything that isn’t the pursuit of him.  We open up our metaphorical velcro wallets, know the price – tax included – and hand over what has become so precious to us.  If we don’t – our fate will be much like the rich young ruler (Luke 18).  We look at the price, and not having glanced into our wallet for a time, simply think we have what it takes to afford our desire; however, we realize there is just a bit more that is taxed of us, so we walk away disappointed, knowing we can no longer afford our great treasure because we did not take it all into account.

So how much does the Kingdom of God cost?  Everything.  How much is it worth?  So much more.  Don’t be turned away in disappointment, but take stock and be ready by counting the cost.

-Aaron Winner


The Kingdom of God is Like

Luke 13

Then he told this parable

During this time of year, you can simply feel it in the air — people buzzing like bees, quickly moving from place to place, passing off presents, sternly shaking hands, embracing each other, even some merry kissing under the mistletoe.  All humanity grows a bit closer in this glorious time of the year – flu season.  That is right – the flu — the microscopic menace spreading like wildfire, which we can only hope to contain.  Yet the flu is like the Kingdom of God.  Wait. What?

To see the comparison, we started with the question Jesus poses in Luke Chapter 13, “What is the Kingdom of God like?  What should I compare it to?”  He points to two tiny, but curious, examples from nature that illustrate the uncontainable and incurable makeup of the message of the Kingdom of God: the mustard seed and yeast.  Two of the smallest items that can be seen with naked eye can easily work their way into their host with seemingly no offense.  Once mustard seeds are sown, it would be an impossible task to remove them from their soil.  Additionally, if you were to knead yeast into a dough, it would be equally difficult to eradicate.  In just a small matter of time each grow (for lack of better biological terms), changing the landscape around them.

I am by no means a scientist or theologian when I make the claim that the Kingdom of God is like a virus, but I see it as an alike analogy to the yeast and seed, present in today’s known world.  When we become infected by a single strand of a seemingly insignificant substance it almost immediately multiples.  Our body’s biology begins to react by reprioritizing processes and protocols.  Even the most cautious of host cannot help but spread the contagion to others.  Similarly, the hope we have in the Kingdom of God starts merely as a few words that come in through our eyes or ears, terribly trivial when placed within the context of the hundreds of millions we will experience in our lifetime, yet they knowingly or unknowingly work on our hearts differently.  As these words begin to work in us, our priorities shift, our behaviors change, and our effort increases.  The virus begs to be shared in every encounter inside and outside the body – passing of presents, sternly shaking hands, embracing each other, or even in merry kissing under the mistletoe.  It becomes the definition of our existence.

You will undoubtedly be sharing space with the suffering in the coming weeks. As you hear the coughs, sniffles, or maybe even some of the more unsavory sounds of the infected this season, remember that you too, suffer in a similar way.  The eternal infection – the Kingdom of God – is the longing placed into the hearts of all men by God who made them incomplete without it, but this virus is the cure for the condition of humanity, not the sickness. Work it into the dough, sow the seed, and spread the disease, to help others to know what the Kingdom of God is like.

-Aaron Winner


Where Wisdom Can Be Found

Proverbs 1-3


Saturday, January 21

There is a great contradiction in today’s world. In a time when we are experiencing exponential expansions in knowledge, we are also suffering significant shortages in wisdom.   We had placed value so high on creation and discovery, that many have lost what is labeled as “common sense,” in the process.  There are plenty of planes, but no pilots, plenty of shells, but no yokes, plenty of bark but no bite? Wood? No matter.  I see it in adults and students alike.  They are missing a critical component in the navigation of life: wisdom.


Today, begins our reading in Proverbs, The Psalms’ more practical brother.  Much like an instruction manual, a lesson plan, or a mission briefing, Solomon, King of Israel and our author, lays out the purpose of this book in the opening verses:

“ <These Proverbs are> for gaining wisdom and instruction; for understanding words of insight; for receiving instruction in prudent behavior, doing what is right and just and fair for giving prudence to those who are simple, knowledge and discretion to the young” – Proverb 1: 2-4

The faith of Proverbs is not theoretical, hypothetical, or abstract. It is the pragmatic and clinical day-to-day application of faith.  It is the “how-to” or “for Dummies” book of those who are trying to live for Christ.  Even without true understanding of the meaning behind these words, one only needs to put them into practice, and they will immediately benefit. Solomon was granted special insight to God’s infinite knowledge and ultimate goodness. Through this, he had the ability to prioritize, see the sequence of events, discern the lasting outcomes of every decision, and sense the overriding nature of man  throughout his reign.  How did he obtain such a gift?  He asked (2 Chron 1:7-12).


“For the Lord grants wisdom!  From his mouth come knowledge and understanding.  He grants a treasure of common sense to the honest.  He is a shield to those who walk with integrity.  He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him.” – Proverbs 2:6-8


“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver…” – James 1:5-6a


Thankfully, the wisdom of Solomon is available to us.  Yes, literally, here in the Proverbs, as we pour through a lifetime of wisdom in a handful of days, but also in a direct-to-us, handpicked for today’s questions and quandaries type of way.  The only condition is, like Solomon, we ask.  You don’t have to have a certain number of gray hairs, grow a long beard, or wear your glasses on a chain.  God has promised to give generously to all, without finding fault.


Let this time you spend in Proverbs begin or reignite your prayerful pursuit of God’s timeless wisdom.

-Aaron Winner

(photo credit:



Psalm 145-150


Friday, January 20

A few years ago my wife and I went on a driving tour of Ireland.  We had the opportunity to see beautiful and wonderful things, many of them being the untouched creation of God.  Each morning we would leave our bed and breakfast early, then ride around and visit as many sites as we could fit in between dusk and dawn, making sure to get to our next bed and breakfast before the sun went down. Why? It was near impossible to navigate the streets and backroads of the smaller towns of Ireland in the evening.


It was the fourth or fifth night into our journey, and we were having an exceptionally hard time finding our resting place for the evening.  We were driving (unknowingly) in the wrong direction, as the sun was starting to set.  There was a faint mist in the air and mountains ahead.  I watched as the sky and mountains turned from shades of gray to the most vivid reds, purples, yellows, oranges, and more.  It is not hyperbole to say that it was the most beautiful sunset I had ever seen in my life.  I was focused on how beautiful the sunset was, and I kept on oohing, awing, and driving in the wrong direction; however, my wife was focused on getting us safely to our destination, pouring through papers and maps.  I begged her to look up and take at look at the wondrous sight, but she wouldn’t have it; she told me to turn around (in the opposite direction of the sunset!) because we had made a wrong turn.  I turned around to avoid a fight (or more of one), but stopped when I saw a decent pull off.  I said, “You have to look at how beautiful the sunset is!”  We both got out of the car.  We oohed and awed together.  We snapped a photo or two that did not do the scene justice, and we drove off with a memory.


In that moment, I saw something that I wanted to give praise to.  I was amazed and astounded.  I thanked God, but that did not do it justice.  I had to share it.  I had to tell someone (now several someones) about it.  In fact, it was hard to think or speak of anything else.  C.S. Lewis says in Reflection on the Psalms ,


“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation….It is frustrating to have discovered a new author and not to be able to tell anyone how good he is; to come suddenly, at the turn of the road, upon some mountain valley of unexpected grandeur and then to have to keep silent because the people with you care for it no more than for a tin can in the ditch; to hear a good joke and find no one to share it with… Fully to enjoy is to glorify. In commanding us to glorify Him, God is inviting us to enjoy Him.”


God has called us to enjoy His many wonderful attributes throughout the Psalms.  He is patient, kind, caring, merciful, just, faithful, and unrelenting.  While He is exalted in the highest heavens with knowledge too lofty to attain, He is a personal, close, and specific Father who gives us every opportunity to allow Him to work and act in our lives.  The highest of praise goes to an infinite God who has loved us so much! BUT, praise is far beyond acknowledgement.  Praise is an immersive experience. It may be great to see something praiseworthy, but to fully experience praise, we must share it.  Praise is not only see to see the sunset, it is to let others know and share in the moment.  When we experience His blessing, His healing, His power, His comfort, or His love, we cannot be silent or accept; we cannot let it go under the radar. We must let others know.  In this, we have then offered praise.


“Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; This splendor is above the earth and the heavens. And he has raised up for his people a horn, the praise of all his faithful servants, of Israel, the people close to his heart” Psalm 148:13-14.

“Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord.” 150:6

-Aaron Winner

(Photo credit: Aaron Winner – most beautiful sunset)