Monthly Archives: October 2018

Luke 11-13; All These Things

We are a very materialistic society, aren’t we? We take inventory of what we have, and want more. Or we take inventory and realize there just isn’t enough to make ends meet. So we may worry, stress, or look at our neighbor and get jealous and angry because he seems to have more inventory. It’s a problem.

But it must have been a problem in Jesus day, too, because He addresses it here in Luke. From chastising the Pharisees for worrying about appearances, to the parable of the rich fool, and the examples of sparrows, ravens, and lilies, Jesus wants to assure us He’s got this. There is no need to worry.

The key verse is 12:31, “…all these things will be given you.” Well, at least that’s what some people think. They combine that with 11:9-10 and claim them as promises for material (and physical) abundance.

But I wonder if we’re missing something wonderful if that’s all we’re seeing. In fact, the first part of 12:31 tells us to “Seek first the kingdom of God” before our needs are met. In other words, let your time and energy be focused on God, ask and keep asking for more of HIM in your life. Spend every day getting ready for His return, and trust God to handle the rest.

Now, I don’t mean quit your job and spend eight hours a day reading the Bible, then expect God to pay your electric bill. There are plenty of verses that speak of responsible living, and working to eat. I just think God would have us put our jobs into perspective. And our notion of how much is enough. I believe Jesus wants us to understand that as we go about our day, working and living for Him, we will find Him more than enough.

Here’s where God wants us: “…how often I have longed to gather you children together, like a hen gathers her chicks under her wing…” (13:34) And in 11:13 after Jesus tells us to ask, seek, knock, and receive he talks about fathers giving good gifts to their children. Then He says: “how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (emphasis mine)

God wants to wrap His arms around us and give us Himself. Sure, we all have responsibilities and struggles in this lifetime. But if we make those things the focus of our lives we miss something truly amazing.

God takes care of birds and flowers. Why would we doubt He can take care of us who are enveloped in His arms? He promises to give us “all these things,” exactly what we need when we need it.

Do you trust Him or not? I’m praying for you.

Luke 8-10; A Subtle, Yet Significant Difference

Jesus sent out seventy-two missionaries into “every town and place where he was about to go.” (10:1) He gave them this message: “The Kingdom of God is near you.”

Plus, Jesus gave these missionaries power to heal the sick and cast out demons. These seventy-two came back on a mountain-top, filled with joy and excitement as they shared how God had blessed their ministries.

“Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” How awesome to have been a part of God’s work in those cities.

But Jesus said something to them that struck me this morning. “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven… do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.

What caused Satan to fall from heaven? Pride.

And Jesus said, in essence, to the seventy-two, “Wait a minute. Those demons didn’t submit to you. They submitted to me. Don’t allow what I do through you cause you to be prideful. Pride is what sent Satan to hell. If you rejoice in anything, rejoice in the fact your sins – which are many – are forgiven.”

There is a subtle difference between saying, “God used ME,” and “GOD used me.” You may say, “but I am humbled God used ME.” But that sounds like what you are really saying is that you are proud of your humility.

Through this Scripture today, God has prompted me to look at my own attitude toward service. As I write this I started to list the ministries I am involved in to make a point. But all of a sudden it turned into a subtle “Look at me.” “Look how God is using ME.” When in fact, God is reminding me He is the one at work. I am only a tool.

I feel like I need to encourage us to take ourselves out of the mix all together. Look at what God did. Forget the “through me” part of the sentence. We tend to put so much emphasis on the servant when, in fact, God could use a monkey to accomplish the same thing if He wanted to. It’s not about you. It’s not about me. It’s never was.

Let’s not miss recognizing what God is doing, when we subtly turn the emphasis on ourselves. Pride is pride. And it’s a sin even if it’s cloaked in humility, or excitement, or praise. Can we just say “Praise God for working, for doing, for revealing Himself in this situation,” without adding anything about us who were His instrument?

What a shame if we allow our “selves” to prevent us from giving credit where credit is due. What a shame if we would sin while serving. How tragic if we would allow pride to creep in. Yes, it’s a subtle difference. But it’s a difference Jesus felt was important enough to address.

That makes it significant.

Luke 4-7; Deserving

Often, when Christians or just really good people go through awful circumstances, you’ll hear someone say, “He doesn’t deserve this.” That’s the case here in Luke 7.

A centurion whose servant was deathly ill, sent some Jewish elders to Jesus, asking Him to heal the dying servant. They implied that, because this particular centurion was a friend of the Jews, he didn’t deserve the heartache of losing this valued servant.

In fact, the elders suggested Jesus owed it to the man for his good deeds: “This man deserves to have you do this, because he loves our nation and has built our synagogue.” (7:4-5) From the world’s perspective, this centurion was one of the good guys. And bad things should not happen to good people.

At least that’s what the elders are saying to Jesus. But the centurion had a different take. When Jesus was almost at the man’s house, He was met by a few of the centurion’s friends who had a message for Him. “Lord, don’t trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you.” (verses 6-7)

This “good” man knew he wasn’t good enough.

Here’s the truth of the matter: when you are tempted to think, or you hear someone say “He or she doesn’t deserve this whatever it is,” know you are exactly right. They deserve much worse.

We all do.

None of us are good enough or religious enough to make up for even one of our sins. None of us. It is by the grace of God that we are even breathing, much less enjoying the blessing that are ours here in 2018.

Do you think God owes you a carefree life because you go to church, or because you tithe, or because you haven’t murdered anyone yet today? You might look like one of the good guys to the world, but God sees your heart. He hears your thoughts, sees what you do when no-one is looking. God knows you are a sinner deserving of hell.

But Jesus recognized the faith of this centurion, and the servant was healed. Not because the centurion was such a stellar citizen, but because Jesus is merciful and full of grace.

Remember that anything good that comes your way is undeserved. If we got what we deserved, we’d be in deep trouble. But we can thank our gracious God that He is Who He IS, that He loves us, wants to bless us, died for us so that we can be forgiven and enjoy the blessedness of walking with Him in this troublesome world.

I hope you know Him, that you’ve accepted what Jesus did for you on that cross. I hope you love Him, worship Him, and serve Him out of a grateful heart. He deserves that.

 

Luke 1-3; It Changed The World

It is the birth that changed the world. Luke’s account of that birth and the events surrounding it is the most familiar to us of all the Gospels. As a Gentile, Luke would not have been raised in the Jewish tradition. He would not have studied the Old Testament prophecies from his youth. But Luke was a man of details, and researched those details about the birth of Jesus for himself. What we read is not a fairy-tale.

These things happened to Elizabeth and Mary, to Zechariah and Joseph, Simeon, Anna, and John. The shepherds really did witness the angel’s announcement, really went to see the newborn Jesus, and really spread the news to everyone they knew.

The Messiah has come!

I hope you’ll read these chapters and put yourself in the scene, and allow yourself to feel what it must have been like to be one of the first to realize what was hoped for all your life has finally happened.

Because the truth is, everything you’ve hoped for, all that you’ve longed for, has already happened in the birth of that precious baby so long ago. That baby grew up to die for you, and to give you Himself. It is the birth that changed the world. It’s the birth that changed my world. And it’s the birth that could absolutely change your world, too.

Mark 11-16; One More Week

Long before God separated the light from the darkness on the first week of Earth’s existence, He formed a plan. Man would be created with a will, and would need a Savior. Long before that first Word was spoken in the creation of this beautiful world, God determined to BE that Savior!

Then for thousands of years, God watched as His creation worshiped Him, then rejected Him, then repented of their sins, only to start the cycle all over again. God’s created people chose sin time and time again. How it must have hurt God to watch. Jesus, the Son, knew He was the answer.

I think of a third string quarterback, sitting the bench game after game, year after year. “Put me in, Coach. Put me in.” Not that there is anything third string about Jesus. In fact, He was the ace! But He was forced to sit on the sidelines while one quarterback tried and failed, then another, and another did the same. “Put me in, Coach.”

I believe it was with that enthusiasm that Jesus came to earth when, at just the right time, God did put Him in the game, to get the job done once and for all.

Now we read about Jesus’ last week on earth. We watch Him enter Jerusalem amid great fanfare. We hear Him tell His disciples His parting words to them. We are invited into the courtroom to see a sham of a trial, a defendant who never answered an accusation against Him because He wanted to go to the cross.

In fact, the only time we hear Him speak is when He was asked if He was the King of the Jews. “Yes. I AM,” He answered. Make no mistake about it. Jesus proclaimed that He Is God! And He wanted us to know exactly Who He is!

We see Him abused, tortured, lied about, and humiliated, and all the while knowing He had the power to crush His abusers at any moment. But he didn’t crush them because He wanted to die for them.

We hear the same people who, days before celebrated His coming, cry “Crucify Him!” Our hearts break as He is betrayed, rejected, denied, and hung on that cross. Yet that cross was why He was here in the first place. He was finally getting to do what He’d wanted to do since Adam and Eve.

I believe it was for the joy of my salvation, and yours, that Jesus willingly endure the cross. Victory over sin came because of that cross. But He didn’t stay dead! He is alive! And some day He will come again and take His children home.

The account of Jesus’ last days on Earth is recorded in all four Gospels, but I never tire of reading it. I believe this is the most important week anyone has every lived. It was lived by the One who loved us and gave Himself for us.

Thank you, dear Jesus.

“Do Not Sin Against the Child!”

This is a must-read for parents and grandparents. Please take a few minutes and ask God what He would tell you about your own parenting. Your kids’ eternal lives depend on it.

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“Do not sin against the child,” Genesis 42:22, KJV.

This comment is by Reuben as he and his brothers were in the presence of the brother, Joseph, whom they thought they had gotten rid of several years earlier.  Joseph had been a pain in the side especially of some of his brothers who were sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, Jacob’s concubines, as he “tattled” on them, Genesis 37:2.  Unbeknownst to Reuben, his brothers had sold Joseph to a passing caravan.  But now, years later, here he was, and the past was very much now the present!

I’ve been thinking about this post for quite a while, even on vacation when I didn’t hardly go near a computer, hence the long time since the last post.

My grandmother used to tell a story about her own family when she was a child.  She had 10 or 11 brothers and sisters and…

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Mark 9-10; Paradoxes in Christianity

The Gospel of Jesus certainly wasn’t what the 1st Century Jews were expecting They had been living by the “what goes around comes around” philosophy of life, and were expecting the Messiah to give the Romans what was coming to them. Jesus blew that idea right out of the water.

The Gospel isn’t exactly what many 21st Century people expect, either. That all-loving grandpa in the sky who makes bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people doesn’t exist any more than a 1st Century political leader.

Warren Wiersbe, in his With The Word, (Thomas Nelson, 1991, page 660) points out that the true Gospel, in fact, is juxtaposed to the world’s philosophy of life. Just in these two chapters you’ll see several paradoxes that are at the core of our faith.

You’ll see victory out of surrender, when the world would tell you victory comes after hard work and personal effort. You’ll see greatness out of service, when the world would tell you you are great when people serve you.

You’ll see gain out of loss, when the world’s drive is for more possessions, more wealth, more, more, more. Jesus tells us we gain eternal life when we let go of all of that.

And ultimately, you’ll see glory out of suffering. Like Paul in Galatians 6, we can glory in the cross of Christ because, as awful as that death was, as humiliating and degrading, it was there Jesus paid the debt of our sin, the punishment we deserved. Jesus suffered and died for me. And for you. I love that old cross.

To many, the idea of letting go of material things, family members, our health, our reputations, our future, as well as our present, doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t sit well with some to humble ourselves, consider other people more important than ourselves in order to be of service to them. It doesn’t make sense to give up control of our situations and our future, and to trust Someone we can’t even see with it all.

That is, until you do. And you realize the flip side of that coin is amazing. It’s God Himself for today and eternity. Nothing can compare in this life. Nothing!

Paul, in I Corinthians 10 said he was crucified with Christ. He often said he died that day he met Jesus. But in I Corinthians 10:13 he tells us that because Christ lives in him, he is truly alive.

Life out of death might be the ultimate paradox in Christianity. But it’s real. I hope you have died, and know what it’s like to be gloriously alive.