Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Luke 14- Personal Difficulty

"If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters - yes, even his own life - he cannot be my disciple. Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple." - Jesus

"The Christian faith has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried." - G. K. Chesterton

"It's never easy." - Will Williams (You probably don't know him, he taught graphic arts at good ol' LLHS.)

So, what about this:
"Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." - Jesus (Again) (This time from Matthew 11:28-30)

So, how do things go from difficult to easy? Where is that transition? When we carry our own burdens: our family and friends and even our selves, life is hard. But, we get used to this hardship and when we are faced with putting it down it becomes even harder. How can I possibly stop worrying about my parents? I've always taken care of my wife and kids!?! If I don't look out for number 1, who will? Putting down these burdens is hard. We want control and the power that comes with it. It is hard to get, hard to keep and hardest to put down.

This is where the light and easy comes in. When we finally put these things down and give them to Jesus things become easy... until we are tempted to take them up again and need to put them down again. It is a daily cycle that we all wrestle with: pick it up, put it down, pick it up, put it down, pick it up, put it down. In this spiritual weight-lifting, we get stronger the longer the weight lies on the floor.

Luke 14 - On Food and Guests

Jesus goes into several discourses about food, banquets and guests. First, he talks about where you should sit if you are invited - humble yourself or you will be humbled by someone else. Second, he talks about who you should invite - those who can't pay you back. (And here I am, just after sending out my wedding invitations that included instructions on how people can pay us back. Don't forget the Ikea gift card option!) Third, he says the people who were invited won't show up anyway, so the people who get to enjoy the feast in the end are the crippled, blind and lame.

My question is, how strongly is the banquet metaphor tied to the Kingdom of God?

It seems very nice to simply equate the banquet invitation with the sharing of the gospel. Then, I'm perfectly okay inviting only friends and relatives to my wedding, as long as I'm sharing the gospel with those who can't pay me back. Sharing the gospel doesn't financially cost me anything, but inviting strangers to my wedding does.

The same rings true for choosing where to sit. If I'm talking about the kingdom and I'm going to be in the presence of Moses and Elijah and David of course I'm going to take the crappy seat in the corner - that's obviously where I belong. But, if that means day-to-day life I've got some thinking to do. We don't often fight over the best seats at dinner (at least not in my house), so what are the modern equivalents? The people we hang out with? The people we share with? The things we buy? The things we piously refrain from buying and let everyone know we refrained from buying? The people we help? The people we tell about the people we help?
All of these?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Luke 13 - Blatant Disregard

The Pharisees come to Jesus and warn him that Herod is out to kill
him. Jesus simply shrugs off the threat and says he has work to do.
When I read this and see the boldness and certainty it fills me with
courage that slowly turns to doubt.

It emboldens me in my current choices and situation. But over time my
selfishness and greedy desires start to creep in. I think about the
things I have given up and wish for them back. My boldness fades and
the seeds of doubt creep in.

That's why I also need to read about Jesus' time of struggle in the
garden. I'm not alone in my struggle. Jesus has been here too.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Luke 13 - Second Chances

"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?"
"'Sir,' the man replied, 'leave it alone for one more year, and I'll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.'"

How many chances have we been given to produce fruit?
Three years worth?
One more year?
How much soil have we used up?
How much do we deserve?
How much do we receive?

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Luke 11 - Scary

"Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering."

The scary part is when you consider that these guys didn't know they were doing this. They thought they were right, just like Saul before Jesus called him out. We sometimes meet people and they are so sure they have the "key to knowledge" that we think they must. The truth is they can be completely wrong. Certainty does not equal correctness.

Luke 11 - Scruples

"Woe to you Pharisees, because you give a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone."

Are we just checking off a list or really bringing about God's kingdom?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Luke 11 - P.R.A.Y?

Maybe you've heard or read or practiced the P.R.A.Y. model of prayer. If not, it is a model that gives some guidelines on how to talk to God. It goes like this:

P - Praise. Tell God how great he is.
R - Repent. Admit the stuff you've done wrong to God and turn from it.
A - Ask. Let God know what you want for yourself and others.
Y - Yield. Relax, be quite and listen for God's response to your prayer.

If we look at this model in relation to Jesus example of prayer in Luke 11:2-4, what do we find?

P - "Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come"
R - "Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us"
A - "Give us each day our daily bread." "And lead us not into temptation"
Y - ?

Okay, How about Matthew 6:9-13?

P - "Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come your will be done on earth as it is in heaven."
R - "Forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors."
A - "Give us today our daily bread." "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one."
Y - ?

I'm not seeing Y as modeled specifically in prayer.
Have we added Y to prayer as an expedient to making this more like a conversation?
Do any of you practice this model regularly and if so, how does the Y part go for you?
Have we added Y to prayer because it is easier to do it there than in the rest of our lives?

Personally, I've never had an experience where I've prayed and heard God speak (or move or influence or prod) specifically when I yielded. Instead, His voice has reached me when I've yielded in other parts of my life.

So, I'm yielding now (Not to God, but to you) so I want to hear your voice. What do you think about this?

Luke 10 - Questionable Neighbors

Jesus' telling of the Parable of the Good Samaritan was prompted by the question, "Who is my neighbor?" At best, the expert in the law was looking for clarification as to who exactly he was to love as himself. Jesus goes through the parable in which we find that the dirty half-breed Samaritan (social stereotypes, not my personal opinion) is a good neighbor to the man in distress. Jesus finishes with, "who was a neighbor to this man? Then go and do likewise."

Jesus never really answers the question. If we look at this exchange literally, we find that the neighbor was the Samaritan. Therefore this is who we should love as ourselves. It results in "love those who show you kindness," which is totally the opposite of what the parable actually means. This has always intrigued me. Where was the guy who stood up and said, "Wait, are we supposed to be like the Jew or the Samaritan?"

Maybe I'm alone in this.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Luke 10 - Humor

"I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this was your good pleasure."

This leads me to believe God got a kick out of Home Alone.

Luke 10 - Daunting Duties

I guess the best thing you can do when sending people into a dangerous situation is to warn them. At least that gives them some idea of what they are getting themselves into. "Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves." would probably qualify as a fair warning. How is that for a challenge.

Jesus follows this up with curious instructions. "Do not take a purse or bag or sandals." I get that this meant they were to rely completely on God. What I don't get is the next instruction, "and do not greet anyone on the road." Why not? This couldn't have been for their protection, they were already completely reliant on God for that. What was it about others on the road?

Luke 9 - Now What?

So many times in life we are left asking the question: Now What? After huge things happen in our lives (good or bad). We may make the statement or have the thought, "This changes everything." So, what is the Biblical response to these ideas or statements?

At the end of Luke 9, Jesus invites a man to follow Him. The man replies that his father has just died, so he had to go and bury him. Jesus says the correct next step is to proclaim the kingdom of God.

In the beginning of the book of Acts, the disciples hear Jesus parting words that they will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth. Then, he is taken up into heaven and the disciples stand around slack-jawed, looking at the place where he disappeared. You could just hear them, "This changes everything!" "Now what?" As in response to their bewilderment, a couple angels show up and ask why they're just standing around. After all, there was a kingdom to proclaim and their job as witnesses had just started.

The same goes for us. What's your next step? To be a witness, to proclaim the kingdom.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Luke 9 - Frustration

Did Jesus get frustrated? When Peter kept putting his foot in his mouth, did Jesus wonder if he would ever really get it? When the people kept coming to him for healings and feedings, did he get start to think they would never understand why he was truly there?

Jesus comes down from the mount and the transfiguration (where Peter had once again inserted his foot squarely into his mouth) and is immediately confronted by people desiring healing. His response is jarring, “O unbelieving and perverse generation, how long shall I stay with you and put up with you?” Ouch. Jesus certainly seems frustrated here. Why else would he respond in such a way?

On one hand, it is very comforting to me to think that Jesus was frustrated by people, because He certainly knows that I get frustrated by people. On the other hand, how often have I been the one causing the frustration?


Today, I looked for a secluded place to do some reading and writing. I found a quiet table by a window that seemed perfect. I got out my laptop and opened it up, then got out by Bible and opened that up. As I was flipping through the pages I heard a terrible, terrible sound. Kerplunk! A single drop of water fell from the pipes above and landed right on my illuminated keyboard, just below the tilde and above the tab. In a split-second my mind filled with fear, anger and action. Damage Control. I grabbed my microfiber cloth and then some napkins and quickly blotted up all the tiny water splotches that scattered seemingly everywhere from the single drop. My heart raced to think about the moisture sensors under the keyboard. Was there one in the top-left corner? Was my AppleCare now null and void? I’ll never know.

So much chaos over one little drop. It wasn’t like I spilled a cup of tea or got caught in a rainstorm, it was just one little drop. Why don’t I treat sin the same way? Why isn’t there the same intense reaction?

One drop of sin can get in the cracks of my life, just like my keyboard. It doesn’t just sit on the surface, it digs deep. And it doesn’t stay put. That on drop lands and splits and leaves traces all over my life - in my relationships with people, in my concept of self-worth and in my distance from God. So, why do I take so many precautions to keep drops away from my laptop, but let protection from sin fall by the wayside. Why do I scramble to clean up the little drops of water, but let the results of sin fester and grow under the surface.

Aren’t I more important than my laptop? Is it because I know Jesus has more grace than the Genius tech support guys do and I take advantage of that?

Luke 9 - One Word

Luke’s account of what it means to be a disciple includes one word that the other gospels omit. Daily. One word, five letters, a world of meaning. We can’t just take up our cross once and be a disciple, we must do it every day. Being a disciple isn’t just a one-time decision; it is making that same decision repeatedly, daily, constantly. It is a conscious ongoing choice to follow Jesus and bring others along with you.

We often wonder what Paul means when he says we should pray continually. If we look at Jesus’ words here, it becomes more clear. Every moment we are laying down our lives and picking up our cross. We can’t do that on our own. We can’t do that alone. We need help. That help comes from God first and second (like the first) from people. If we are to be disciples, we must constantly be in contact with God. We must constantly choose to put Him first and ourselves second.

Daily. One word that changes every moment in the Christian life.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Luke 9 - More Teaching

Jesus asks his disciples, “Who do THE CROWDS say I am?”

Then he asks, “Who do YOU say I am?”

Inherent in this question is the fact that the disciple’s idea of Jesus should be different than everyone else’s. They’ve walked with Him; they’ve talked with Him; they’re being changed by Him. If their idea of Him was the same as the world’s then they had all been wasting their time. Their answer was personal, it wasn’t something that they had heard, it was something they lived.

What is my response to the question, “Who do you say I am?” Is it the answer from books that I’ve read or what my parents or my Sunday School teacher told me? Is it the latest, greatest from academia or the classic idea from one of the desert fathers? It should be none of those. I don’t say who my friends are based on their facebook page or by their biography. I know who they are because of relationship. Anything less in my understanding of Jesus is nothing at all.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Luke 9 - Intentional On the Job Training

Jesus calls the 12 together and gives them power and authority to teach and heal and cast out demons. They go out and turn Herod's kingdom upside-down, leading the king to think JtB was back from the dead. These guys seemed to really be getting it, they were world-changers.

Then they came back to Jesus and regaled him with stories of all they had done. You could see him with the proud papa face hearing about the wild adventures of his little ones. But, Jesus quickly switches back into mentor mode. When presented with 5,000 hungry men (and their families), Jesus tells the disciples, "You give them something to eat." If you just read this section, I could understand their bewilderment at such a suggestion. Remember, these guys had just been healing the sick and casting out demons. How could they let a little hunger be such a daunting obstacle?

So, Jesus takes small steps with them. What food do we already have? Split the people into small groups. Take it to God. He modeled for them what to do.

Now, who got those twelve basketfuls of broken pieces?

Luke 8 - Fear

Jesus casts a Legion of demons out of a man and into a herd of pigs. What is the response to such an act? Were people overcome with amazement? Did they leave everything to follow Jesus and hear every one of his words? Did their lives change?

Nope. They were "overcome with fear" and they chased Jesus out of town. Jesus had upset the status quo and people couldn't handle it. That Demon Guy was supposed to stay the Demon Guy. Sure he was weird and scary and hard to talk to, but he was the Demon Guy and a part of regular life and the people had grown accustomed to it. Now Jesus messed all that up. Suddenly their reality was turned upside down and they had to reconsider things.

What were the people afraid of, Jesus and his power or the idea that if he stayed around things would continue to change? Were they afraid of Jesus or of the impact that he had?

What are we afraid of? Are we afraid of committing are lives fully to Jesus because we are afraid of Him or because we are afraid of the changes that will come with Him?

Amongst the Dead

Yesterday morning I completed my challenge for Reset week 4. I understand how this could be even more challenging for someone who has an aversion to the recommended location. It is worth conquering your fears to experience talking to God in a new place. Prayer is not about getting things or fulfilling an obligation. It is about building a relationship. A major part of relationship building is experiencing new, different, even scary things together. I recommend Pioneer Cemetery near Lunken Airport, it was all those things and historical as well.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Luke 8 - Doubt (again)

First J the B, then the disciples in the boat.
"Master, Master, we're going to drown."
Everyone has times of doubt.

Luke 8 -Listen

"Therefore consider carefully how you listen."

Luke 8 - Heart Dirt

For me (and I'd assume many others) the Parable of the Sower has been a source of comfort. You can read this parable and use it to explain why our attempts at witnessing have not been successful - we are just talking to people who are the wrong kind of soil, so its not our fault that they don't listen or turn away.

What a crock. Farmers don't just go out and scatter seed. They know the value of that seed and the need for a return. Instead, they condition the soil so that it will be more productive. They till and fertilize and plant and fertilize and water and fertilize and water and fertilize. Are we farmers or seed scatterers? It isn't our job to just throw out information and hope for a return. That's a waste and a disservice. That isn't loving God or loving people. Instead, we have to work the soil, work with people and dig into their lives to loosen the soil. We've got to support, nurture and encourage them to water their budding faith. We've got to provide opportunities for them to grow and serve to fertilize the growth that has started. All of these things happen through relationship, not through one-way communication. We've got to live relationship.

We've got to be farmers (at least I do, because that's what my name says).

Luke 7 - Love Much

When was the last time I offered water for someone's feet?
Have I ever wet someone's feet with my tears?
When was the last time greeted someone with a kiss?
Have I ever not stopped kissing someone's feet?
When was the last time I anointed someone's head with oil?
Have I ever poured perfume on someone's feet?
I need to love more and love much.

Luke 7 - Never Happy

John was an ascetic. Jesus was certainly not, he was possibly the opposite. Neither one of them pleased the Pharisees. This was an impossible job. No one could please them. Who or where are these people in our society? Sometimes they are us.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Luke 7 - Doubt

John the baptist spent his entire free life proclaiming two things: repentance and Jesus. (Really, you could say he preached Jesus and the correct response was repentance.) Yet, here we find him in prison and he has a single question to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" It was not too long ago that John was out in the desert preaching that this man was the promised savior. It was not too long ago that John baptized Jesus, saw heaven open and the Holy Spirit descend on him like a dove. Now, in prison, John has doubts.

It is possible that this was not the way he thought things would play out. Why should bad things happen to God's servant, anyway? He had played his role, he lived a radical life of separation from all human comforts, he maintained his part of the deal and it would be easy to think that God had let him down. Are we any different?

Luke 7 - Amazed

Jesus was amazed at the Centurion.
Read that again. It doesn't say that the Centurion was amazed at Jesus. Everyone was amazed at Jesus, that wouldn't be a remarkable statement. Jesus was amazed at the Centurion. That is a remarkable statement. So. Why?

The Centurion showed two qualities here in great abundance that amazed Jesus. The first is the one that Jesus mentions: faith. The man is so convinced of Jesus' power that he knows even the mere words of Jesus have power enough to heal. He believes in Jesus enough to act on his belief. That is what faith is: strong enough belief to cause action.

The second quality that the Centurion displays is humility. Here we have a man, who in his own words has authority. Yet, in the mere idea of an encounter with Jesus, he recognizes his own lowly position and says he is not even worth coming to Jesus. He didn't see the resurrection or the transfiguration or even any other healings, he had only heard. Like us.

Luke 6 - Watch Their Mouth

"For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks."
What you say is an indicator of who you are.
So, if I want to change who I am do I start with changing what I say?
Or do I need to change who I am in order to change what I say?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Luke 6 - Wapner, Judy, Alex, Joe Brown, Paula, Randy and Simon

I've explained before that when we are told not to judge people, that means that we aren't to try to determine if they are saved or not. I've said that judging doesn't mean recognizing sin, it just means condemning because of that sin. Well, Jesus talks about both. Here, he tells us not to judge and not to condemn. So, from what Jesus says: judging and condemning are two different things and we aren't supposed to do either one.

If judging someone isn't condemning them, what is it? If we see someone sinning and we call them on it, is that judging? Do we just turn a blind eye toward sin or speak about it in generalizations instead of directly on a personal level? It is really hard for me to accept that there isn't something we should do when confronted with sin on a personal level. Aha. I've found an assumption that needs to be RESET.
D'oh. This is starting to get hard.

Luke 6 - Heart

"And you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked."

It makes me so mad when I let people out into traffic and they don't give me the little "thank you" wave. I know it's a small thing, but it really gets under my skin. I'll I'm asking for is a little gratitude, right. Just let me know that you appreciate me taking one spot further back in this line of traffic. I could have just rode the bumper of the person in front of me and shut you out. (I've done it before.) Is it so hard to just give a little wave!?!

Okay, so why do I get worked up just typing about this? Where is my heart for the ungrateful? What does that say about my heart for the wicked? Looks like God and I have work to do.

Luke 6 - Woah. Truly.

If I truly look at myself, I have to admit that I'm rich. Sure, I don't own a house anymore or have a (brand) new car or any diamond-encrusted watches, rings or cell-phones, but I am drinking over-priced tea at Starbucks instead of dirty river water.

If I truly look at myself, I have to admit that I'm well-fed. In fact, this belt is down to its last notch.

If I truly look at myself, I laugh way more than I weep. Sure, the older I get the more I tend to cry at movies (the end of Cars gets me every time), but I laugh way more.

If I truly look at myself, more men speak well of me than not. I'm sure I have my detractors, but they never really get in my face.

Well, crap. What am I doing wrong?

Monday, March 9, 2009

Luke 6 (and 16) - The Letter or the Intent

Jesus had a number of fights with the Pharisees regarding the Sabbath. Over and over he did things on the Sabbath day that the Pharisees declared were not allowed. He healed people, picked grain, told people to carry their mats, etc.

Why all the fighting? What was the big deal?
Jesus was doing what he always did - trying to get people to think. He wanted them to see the heart of the matter, the reason behind the Sabbath restrictions, not just the restrictions themselves.

The Pharisees knew the Sabbath laws, what they didn't remember (or consider) was why they were instituted. Were they written to enforce inactivity one day a week? Were they written to keep people from being overworked? Were they written to make God more important than work? Were they written to give people a specific time to turn their hearts to what God wants?
The fourth commandment tells us to remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy. This intent was to be accomplished by refraining from working. This day was different, it was special, it should not just be treated like the other 6 days which were filled with work. Not working was the means, not the end.

Back to Jesus. What was he doing on the Sabbath? If he was healing people, feeding people, saving people, could anything be more holy? Would the day have been more holy if he sat home and twiddled his thumbs? The Pharisees were looking at the letter of the law (which they had refined, polished, applied, multiplied and reapplied) while Jesus was looking at the intent.

Those jerks! We would never do such a thing! But this is our natural tendency. Turn to Luke 16 and read the parable of the shrewd manager. Go ahead. It irks you a little bit doesn't it? If not, go read it again. The manager stole form the owner, then stole again after he got caught and the owner applauds him for it! That's not right. It's not fair! He should have been punished and yelled at, not applauded. We are stuck on the letter of the law, not the Intent.

Let's break it down. Who are we in the story? We're the manager. God is the owner. If we look at the story, we've been caught not being good managers of what God has given us. Protest all you want, this is where we all fall. (Even if you've tithed everything since the first allowance money you were given, EVERYTHING you have is God's and intended for his uses. Everything we spend [dollars or hours] on something other than God's service is mis-management.) So far, so good (or not good).

So, what does the manager do? He uses the owner's stuff (that he has control of) to make friends. (Don't think, "I'll give you $50 to hang out with me." Think "I'll pick up the tab" or "This round is on me.") The manager does NOT pocket the money. He doesn't keep it for himself - he uses it. More specifically, he uses it to build relationships. A relationship with a Christian is the first step in a relationship with Christ.

The letter of the law says, "Give a tenth of everything you own to God." The intent of the law is that all of our possessions belong to God and should be used to Love God and Love People. It is literally the least we should do to give a tenth. The parable says that before we die (get fired), we should start using some of what God has entrusted with us to make friends and influence people.

Luke 6 - Do good or you're doing evil

So, Jesus is about to heal on the Sabbath, he sees the Pharisees lying in wait and he realizes this is a teachable moment. He asks the rhetorical question, "which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or destroy it?" The obvious answer was that it was to save life, to do good.

Surely the Pharisees were looking for a third possible answer: do nothing. According to their practices, this was the right answer. Jesus doesn't present this possibility, because it is a false choice. When Jesus encountered the handicapped he was faced with a choice: do something or do nothing, do good or do evil, save life or destroy it.

Every day we are presented with these same choices. It is up to us to recognize them and act. Just this weekend Cassi and I were downtown at a marriage conference. We had been instructed to plan a date night and Cassi and I were headed to a fancy restaurant to celebrate our graduations, new jobs, engagement (we had been saving up). After walking around downtown, we had about 10 minutes until our reservation, so we headed toward the restaurant. Half a block from our destination we were approached by a homeless man asking for some food. I said, "Sorry" and walked by. Then I even made a joke to Cassi about changing our reservation to three. Granted, I was thinking about Cassi and our special evening together. But by being so focused on my idea of what our evening had to be like, I missed an opportunity to make a much more meaningful evening.

Would spending 15 minutes to take the guy to Arby's have ruined our evening? Nope. Would showing up 10 minutes late for our reservation have caused a problem? Maybe (this was a fancy restaurant). Would it have been the good thing to do instead of the evil thing? Absolutely.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


So Cassi and I saw this at the marriage conference and thought it
could be fun. Then we thought about it some more (and thought about
our friends) and couldn't help but wonder, "What happens if you lose?"

Friday, March 6, 2009

Luke 5 - New and Old, Human Nature

And no one after drinking the old wine wants the new, for he says, "The old is better."
This isn't just true of fermented drinks. If stories about the good old days have taught us anything its that nothing is better than the good old days. Why is that? Is it because we dislike change? Is it because the old wine really is better? If we look at why Jesus said this and when he said this, its easy to say he was talking about himself as the new wine and the religious leaders as the old wineskins. They couldn't handle him and didn't like the taste anyway. But does this scripture, like so much of it, have layers of meaning? What does this mean for Christians today? Christians who've been in the game a while won't like changes? We need to constantly look for God doing new things? We need to do new things? We always need to be searching out and preparing new wineskins?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Luke 5 - Fishers of Men

Jesus tells Simon not to be afraid, because from now on he will catch men. That's what Jesus has called us to be - fishers of men. Yet, for some reason we call ourselves Christians or if we don't like that word we call ourselves "Christ Followers" because it sounds new, cool and different. But, that's not what Jesus calls us to do or to be. Following Him was just the beginning. It was the how, not the what. Why do we stop short? Why don't we focus on the ultimate goal? Is it because we think it is too hard? Is it because we are afraid like Simon? Or is it that we haven't been caught ourselves? Maybe we've been hooked or snared, but have we been reeled in and brought into the boat? Are we just a bunch of fish that are trailing behind the boat (followers if you will)? We need to start reeling people in.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Luke 4 - Power

Jesus speaks and a demon is forced out of a man. That's power. On 24, the president (our symbol of power) speaks up against her capturer, a rogue foreign general. Her words aren't heeded, they only bring a slap to the face. In this situation, she's only brought words to a gun fight (that's more useless than a knife in this situation). The power of her words is limited. This is so contrary to Jesus, who shows unlimited power with His words.
I'm no president and I'm certainly no Jesus Jr. Yet, I sometimes think that my words have more power than God's. What do I mean by that? In certain situations I have trouble letting scripture stand alone. Why can't I just let it do it's work? Why must I constantly try to explain it to people? Do I trust my power more than God's? If the answer is no, why do I insist on using my words to explain His? The power of the Bible, its words, its narrative, its stories is more than enough.

Luke 4 - WJWD

18"The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
because he has anointed me
to preach good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
and recovery of sight for the blind,
to release the oppressed,
19to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor."

What Would Jesus Do?
He would help the poor, bring freedom, provide vision, bring freedom (yeah, that's there twice) and cry out that God is Good.
What are you waiting for?
Get on it!

Luke 4 - Given Away

5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me...
Why do we give away authority and splendor? Satan has so much power, he is such a dangerous enemy. It seems that his ways are more appealing than God's, that they will lead to a more pleasing outcome and more luxury. But, the reason he has authority and splendor is because we as a race have given it to him. They were not his from the beginning. We say that he stole his power from God, but in reality we willingly gave it to him. And worse yet, we continue to give it to him when we choose to follow his path instead of God's path. When we forsake the truth and follow a lie, we give power to the prince of lies - not only in our own lives, but in the perception of the whole world. Darkness only has power in the absence of light.

Luke 4 - Angry, Tired and Alone

Jesus was all fired up, he just had his encounter with John and the Holy Spirit and must have been on top of the world. So, he goes out the the desert to move from peak to valley. Here, he goes without food for 40 days and obviously, is hungry. Then the tempter comes. This pattern is as true for each one of us as it is for Jesus. We go from a high to a low where we face some physical trials and then the Spiritual trials start. If we look, we can figure out what these physical traits are and look for help when we face them. Personally, I've got three things. When any two of these are present, I know I'm in for a fight. Angry, tired or alone. Pick any two and there is likely to be trouble. So, if you see me angry and tired or angry and alone or tired and alone (I guess you wouldn't see me if I was alone), urge me to get some sleep, talk me out of whatever is making me angry or just don't leave me alone. In the long run I'll appreciate it and the tempter won't. If you tell me your triggers I'll try to do the same.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Luke 3 - Simple Action

John the Baptist begins his ministry. He's out in the desert baptizing people and telling them they aren't special just because they are children of Abraham. His message comes across as very harsh. He gets even more in their faces when he says the axe will be taken to the root of every tree that doesn't produce fruit. What should we do, they ask?
John answered, "The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same."
Tax collectors also came to be baptized. "Teacher," they asked, "what should we do?"
"Don't collect any more than you are required to," he told them.
Then some soldiers asked him, "And what should we do?"
He replied, "Don't extort money and don't accuse people falsely—be content with your pay."
In essence, John calls them to change their actions. If you are sinning, cut it out. If you aren't doing good, start. Too many times we look at ourselves and say, "What now God? Where do you want me to go, what do you want me to do?" We complicate things that should be easy. If we're sinning, we should stop. If we aren't serving others, we should start.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Luke 2 - Where He always is

After frantically looking for twelve-year old Jesus, Mary and Joseph find him at the temple speaking with the teachers. Jesus says, "Why were you searching for me? Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" Today we ask ourselves questions like "What Would Jesus Do?" and we look for where Jesus is working in the world. Jesus is where he always has been. He lives in the midst of his father's church - in the hearts of his people. Jesus is moving when His people are moving. If the church sits back and hides from the world, nothing moves. When His church moves, the gates of hell cannot stand against it.

Luke 2 - Bad Sign

"This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed."
So, this kid is good news for all people, yet he will also cause the falling of many in Israel. Hmm. Sometimes a fall is good news. For all of us. If I may quote a wise old scholar, "Why do we fall, Bruce? So we can get back up again." Our lives must be constant falling and rising. It is in falling that "the thoughts of our hearts" can be revealed. This is where we learn the truth, where our false ideas can be RESET and the truth can take hold.
Lord, make us fall and then help us to rise again stronger.

Luke 2 - Constant Fulfilment

Simeon had been waiting his whole life for Jesus. He knew he wouldn't die until he saw the savior. So, he sees the savior and then what? We hear a few of the things he says and hear the relief in his voice, but what happens next? Does he just drop dead? Does he go out and tell everyone he knows? Does he just go back to normal life? What do we do when we meet Jesus? Do we meet him for the first time, say hello and then go back to our normal life? Do we meet him every Sunday morning for juice and crackers, then go back to our normal life afterwards? Do we meet him every morning for a quick chat and then do what we want to do? Is this what it is supposed to be like? Is that a relationship?

Luke 2 - All People

The angel shows up to speak to the shepherds and they bring "good news of great joy that will be for all the people." Again, the angels say all people. So many times when we read this, we think to ourselves, "Right, all people. Not just the Jews, hooray for us." Or we link this with Paul's writings and think, "There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus." True. But. This says that Jesus was good news for ALL people. That means sinners too. Way too often, we encounter people who don't believe or actively disbelieve in Jesus and we are quick to write them off. Even worse, if they've hurt Christianity or hurt us personally, we might be waiting for the judgment day to come. Here's the thing: Jesus is good news for them too - they just haven't truly seen or understood it yet. That's where we come in.