Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Ezra 5 - The Power of the One Speaking God's Word

Ezra 5:1-2 (ESV)

Now the prophets, Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel who was over them. Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

The work of God in Jerusalem was prompted and supported by the prophet/preacher, who may very well be the most powerful individual on earth. Those proclaiming the Word of the Lord are not powerful because any power resides in them, but because there is power in God’s Word. There is power in God’s Word proclaimed by God’s people. Ephesians 6:17 calls God’s Word the “Sword of the Spirit.” Hebrews 4:12 says, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” There is nothing more powerful than the Word of God, thus the one proclaiming God’s Word could be considered the most powerful individual on earth.

Ephesians 5:26 likens God’s Word to water which cleanses and makes holy. What other literature, teaching, or proclamation can do that? God’s Word spoken by God’s prophet/preacher/proclaimer has the power to transform lives in ways that no other teaching can. God’s Word changes hearts. God’s Word empowers faith. God’s Word enables obedience. God’s Word transforms lives.

How can this be? It is only words, yet Psalm 119:105 likens the Word of God to light. It says, “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” When the prophets speak God’s Word they are speaking in the realm of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit who inspired the Word of God also empowers the Word of God. He gives light to our path, and he never leads contrary to the Word he inspired. He convicts, empowers, and equips those who hear his Word. Prophets speak in the realm of the Spirit.

They also speak in light of eternity. Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Lk 21:33). David wrote, “Forever, O LORD, your word is firmly fixed in the heavens” (Ps 119:89). God’s Word is eternal. Isaiah wrote that God’s Word, “shall accomplish that which [God] purpose[s], and shall succeed in the thing for which [God] sent it” (Is 55:11). God’s Word is an eternal word which accomplishes God’s purposes by the power of God’s Spirit. It is a Word that changes lives, motivates God’s people, and equips them for God’s purposes.

Need we any other reason to be faithfully in God’s Word? Need we any other reason to proclaim God’s Word faithfully. Those proclaiming the Word of God are likely the most powerful individuals on the face of this earth. God’s prophets spoke God’s Word, and the people of God got on with the work of God. Listen to the Word of the Lord.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Ezra 5 - The Will, the Courage, and the Power to Continue

Ezra 5:2 (ESV)
Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak arose and began to rebuild the house of God that is in Jerusalem, and the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

The purpose of the Book of Ezra is to remind God’s people of God’s faithfulness in restoring them, and to warn them to live as a covenant people of God. God’s people are to be about God’s work, but sometimes we get tired. Sometimes we get discouraged. Sometimes we come to the place where we are just ready to quit. That is the point where we need to stop and look back at the faithfulness of God. We need to remember the power of God’s word, the strength of God’s blessing and the overwhelming goodness of God’s grace.

The power of God's word gives us strength to continue on. The strength of God's blessing gives us courage to continue on. The overwhelming goodness of God's grace gives us reason to continue on. The circumstances surrounding us, the tasks before us, and the failures of the past drain us of strength, courage, and will. Fixing our eyes on God enables us to take courage and move forward, not in our own strength, for we have none, but in the strength of the Almighty who not only saves us, but who sustains us, empowers us, and fills us with him indwelling Holy Spirit. In Christ we have the will, the courage, and the ability to continue.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

Matthew 8:23-27 There is nothing more powerful than the creator

Matthew 8:23-27 (ESV)
[23] And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. [24] And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. [25] And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” [26] And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. [27] And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”

Jesus is in a boat with his disciples when a “great storm” (Mt 8:24) comes up, threatening to capsize the boat. These are fishermen in this boat. They know boats. They know this sea. They know weather. Knowing that, they are scared witless. They are panicking when they wake Jesus, but they know his power. He is their only, desperate hope. Jesus reply is fascinating. “Why are you afraid?” (Mt 8:26).

One could write off his question to the reality that Jesus is not a fisherman. He doesn’t know the danger. I recall once riding my motorcycle in a huge rainstorm on a very dark night trying to keep up to a tow truck that was towing our bigger vehicle. It was a white knuckle ride for me. My wife was riding behind me on the same bike. She was just enjoying the rain patter on her helmet. She had no idea the danger we were in. We could suggest that Jesus was not afraid because he didn’t know the danger. Ignorance is bliss. But, this is the creator of all in this boat. He knows the storm. He knows his disciples. He is not ignorant of the danger. It is not ignorance that gives him peace. It is power.

There is nothing more powerful than nature. Cities have been flattened by hurricanes. Great forests have been burned by lightning. When lightning is flashing all around you, and tornadoes are going by on every side, it is frightening. Nature is powerful. There is nothing more powerful than nature, except the creator of nature. And there he was sitting in that boat. All he needed to do was to speak a simple rebuke to the winds and the sea “and there was a great calm” (Mt 8:26). There was a great calm where there had been a great storm.

Jesus did not just ask his disciples, “Why are you afraid?” He followed that with the description, “O you of little faith” (Mt 8:26). How often we forget the power of the God we serve. We know it, but we don’t trust it. The disciples had just watched Jesus heal multiple people, one from a distance, and cast out demons, yet when it came to nature they were afraid. We forget the power of the God we serve. There is nothing more powerful than the creator. Serving him, there is nothing to fear.

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Matthew 8:18-22 - Why Follow Jesus?

Matthew 8:18-22 (ESV)
Now when Jesus saw a crowd around him, he gave orders to go over to the other side. And a scribe came up and said to him, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Another of the disciples said to him, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead.”

Just before this passage Jesus performed a number of miracles. He cleansed a leper, healed a Centurion’s servant, and then healed Peter’s mother-in-law along with many others. This passage is followed by several expressions of Jesus’ power. He calms a storm, demonstrating his power over nature, heals two men with demons, demonstrating his power over spiritual forces, and then heals a paralytic, demonstrating his power of sickness, disease, and affliction. In between these expressions of power, we find this passage where Jesus seems to be discouraging people from following him. We would expect “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go” to be followed by Jesus saying, “Well, come on then. Let’s get going.” But instead it is followed by, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” He is telling the man how hard it will be to follow Jesus.

What is going on with this passage? The miracles preceding this passage are concluded with the words from Isaiah, “He took our illnesses and bore our diseases” (Mt 8:17; Is 53:4). Now he is telling them how hard it is going to be. Shouldn’t following Jesus be easy? Shouldn’t it be characterized by health, compassion, and complete provision? Isn’t Jesus the bringer of blessing and life? The problem is that these people saying, “We’ll follow you anywhere,” are very likely doing so because they see a free meal ticket. You can heal sickness? I’ll follow you anywhere, I’ll never be sick again. You can cast out demons? I’ll follow you anywhere, I’ll never be hounded by demonic forces again. You can restore the dying, bring health to the unhealthy, give freedom to those in bondage? Where do I sign up?

What they fail to understand is that Jesus has a higher purpose than just making life easy for them, so because they seem to want the easy life, Jesus reminds them, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head” (Mt 8:20). In the short term, following Jesus is not the easy life. It could very well be a life of rejection, grief, poverty, and pain. Still, we are called to follow him. Here is the deal, why we follow Jesus is just as important as whether we follow him. Jesus always discourages those who want to follow him for the wrong reasons. Are you a follower of Jesus? Then ask yourself this question: Why? Is it so you can have the good life? Then maybe you missed the point. Is your answer, “Jesus is Sovereign Lord. Who else would I follow?” Now you are getting somewhere. Never forget that why we follow Jesus is just as important as whether we follow him.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Mt 7 - Building a Solid Foundation

Matthew 7:24, 28 (ESV)
“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.”
And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching,

Jesus did not teach like the Pharisees and Scribes. He taught with authority. Their teaching was always based on what some previous Rabbi had said about the text. Jesus put his own words at the forefront. He taught them, and then he told them that what he had taught them needed to be the foundation of their lives. This whole section of Matthew five, six, and seven is really an explanation of what Jesus said in Matthew 5:17, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.

What does it mean to fulfill the law? That is a whole theological discussion in itself, but it certainly means that God calls us to a higher level of ethics and morality than the Law. The teachers of his day assumed that the Law was the highest level of ethics and morality. Keeping the Law was what made one holy. Keeping the Law is what set one apart as especially dedicated to God. Jesus taught them that their thinking was wrong. His teaching called them to something higher. The very next things that Jesus taught was the need for faith, and his own power. Following God is not about being good enough. It is about recognizing the power of Jesus and trusting him, which leads to a higher level of ethical and moral behavior than the Law could ever prescribe. Jesus’ fulfillment of the Law, then, is based on faith in the power of Jesus whom we trust. Hearing his words and doing them starts with faith.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Matthew 7:15-16a - What makes a false prophet?

Matthew 7:15-16a (ESV)
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits.

“You will recognize them by their fruits,” but what fruits? What does good fruit and bad fruit look like? Well, he was just talking about loving you enemies, giving to the poor, prayer and fasting, laying up treasures in Heaven and not being anxious, not judging others, and treating others as you would want to be treated. I’m guessing that is the kind of fruit he is talking about. The false prophets that he refers to would then be producing a fruit that looks like not loving your enemies, not helping the poor, not praying in the manner Jesus teaches, but praying for attention and power. They would be more interested in laying up treasures on earth than in Heaven, and treating others from a proud heart that fails to put others first. Jesus will then go on to talk about building on the solid foundation of Jesus’ words, hearing and doing them. A false prophet would not handle God’s Word well. False prophets fail to have a solid biblical foundation for what they say or do. It is not necessarily all of the above, but any of the above should give one pause to consider.

Our world is filled with voices shouting “truth.” The question is whether it is God’s truth. We are not to judge others, but we are to make judgments concerning those who are trying to influence our thoughts and lives. Are they truly speaking from God, or are they false prophets? As believers in Jesus Christ we must not only take Jesus’ teaching seriously for our own lives, we must test those who are influencing us, preaching, teaching, writing books, writing blogs, etc. Are these truly spokespersons of God? The most dangerous false prophets are not the ones coming with a radically different, off the wall teaching. The most dangerous false prophets are those who sound biblical, but fail to live biblically. Their teaching will eventually move away from the Word of God because they are man-centered, not God-centered not matter how godly they sound.

The warning is, “Beware of false prophets.” The other side of the warning is, “Listen to those are truly walking with God. I just had a conversation last night about what makes a great preacher. It is not whether the preacher is quiet or loud, solemn or boisterous, calm or passionate. It is whether the preacher has been with Jesus. That makes all the difference. Who are you listening to today?

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Loving as God Loves

Matthew 7:11-12 (ESV)
[11] If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
[12] “So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.

What do those two verses have to do with each other. Matthew 7:7-11 are talking about prayer and asking from God. Matthew 7:12 is about treating others as you would like to be treated. We often call that the Golden Rule. Many of our Bibles separate the two verses with a new heading, but here is the interesting thing, Matthew 7 begins with verses 1-10 talking about how to treat others. “Judge not” it begins, because “With the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you” (Mt 7:2). Sandwiched between not judging others because you will be judged and treat others as you would be treated are these verses on asking from the Father. What is the connection?

I believe the connection is that God expects us to treat others as we would be treated, not just because we will be treated similarly, but because that is how God treats us. God gives us what we do not deserve. God treats us graciously and loving like a father does a child. Our Father in Heaven “gives good things to those who ask him” (Mt 7:11). That is the ultimate foundation of how we are to treat others. Not simply because we are afraid of God’s judgment, but because God treats us as he would have us treat him. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is not just a good way to live, it is a way to live that actually reflects God. Our relationships with, and interactions with other people is grounded in our understand of God himself. God is saying in these first twelve verses of Matthew 7, “Do as I do.” Today, may we see others through the eyes of Jesus, and may we treat them with the love of the Father, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Matthew 6:34 Do not be Anxious

Matthew 6:34 (ESV)
“Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.

As believers we are to lay up treasures in heaven, not on earth. We are to live in a non-anxious trust. The verse above has been interpreted by some to mean, “Do not plan.” But that is not what it is saying. Planning is rooted in the very nature of God the planner who planned the solution to sin before the foundation of the world. Planning is not wrong. Presuming that my plans will must accomplished leads to anxiety, but planning is not wrong. Insisting that my plans be accomplished leads to much anxiety, but planning is not wrong. James addresses this very issue. He warns us not to say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit” (James 4:13). Rather we are to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that” (Jas 4:15). In other words, it is not the planning that is wrong, it is the assumption that my plans must or will be accomplished as I envision them. That is what is presumptuous and anxiety producing.

In a world filled with stuff one would expect that we would never worry about having enough. But the truth is, the more stuff we have, the more we tend to worry about it. Having enough stuff (things, money, insurance, savings, education, resources, etc.) becomes the basis for our lack of anxiety about the future. Unfortunately, it usually increases our anxiety. What if we don’t have enough? What if something happens to what we have? Our faith quickly turns from God to stuff, and our stuff becomes our god. Then we wonder why we worry. The real issue is that we fail to trust the only one who is trustworthy. We fail to trust God.

Trusting God does not mean that we can presume that he will order our future the way we think it should be. Trusting God means that we reach a certain level of indifference to the future. In other words, we are okay with whatever God chooses to lead us into. Trusting God means that we have learned to truth of Paul’s words.

Philippians 4:10-13 (ESV)
[10] I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. [11] Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. [12] I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. [13] I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

AMEN! May that be true in our lives today.

Monday, April 22, 2019

Matthew 6:5-6 (ESV)
“And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

We do not pray so that others may see us. We do not fast so that others may see us. We pray and fast quietly, secretly, so that God sees us and hears us. But that does not mean that our prayers and fasting have no effect on people. We pray in secret, and we fast in secret so that the love and compassion of Christ is seen in us when we interact with people. We pray in secret so that the truth of Christ is heard in us when we interact with people. Private prayer and private worship is for the purpose of deepening our intimacy with God, but if it stops there then we have missed the point. Intimacy with God is not simply so that we can feel good about ourselves. It is to transform us so that others see God in us. Worship is not about us, and when we make it about us, we have then turned it into an idol. We pray in secret, and we fast in secret so that the world will see Christ in public. Maybe that is why, in the prayer Jesus taught his disciples, he includes this line, “and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Mt 6:12).

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Resurrection Sunday

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)
[16] So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. [17] For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, [18] as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. Our hope is not limited by the length of life on this earth. Our purpose is not simply one of leaving everything to another generation. Our life is not about finding the most fun, excitement, or comfort in the time we have. The resurrection changes everything. “So we do not lose heart” (2 Cor 4:16).

Life is about more than me. It is about more than here and now. There is “an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” (2 Cor 4:17) that gives perspective to this present life. Today there is pain. Today there is grief. Today there is persecution in many parts of the world for following Christ. But there is more than today. I love Michael Gungor’s song Beautiful Things. It starts with these words,

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way

And then the chorus:

You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All this is because of the resurrection. The resurrection of Jesus changes everything. There is hope, and meaning, and purpose!

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Dying so that Others may Live

2 Corinthians 5:15 (ESV)
And he [Jesus] died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

The resurrection is not just a myth told to motivate us to try again, or to start fresh. It is not about Spring cleaning, or turning over a new leaf. The resurrection is about new life that flourishes even as this body dies. The resurrection is about a radically different way to live. It is about the life of Christ flowing through us to take Good News to a lost and broken world that desperately needs to know the living God. In Christ we have the Good News. In Christ we have eternal life. In Christ we have the power of the risen Lord dwelling in us by his Spirit. But God didn’t give us that life for us. He gave it to us for the sake of others.

Our salvation is not for our personal comfort any more that Jesus life on this earth was for his. He came for us. Now he calls us to die for others that they too might live. Because the resurrection follows death, we don’t give up hope. Because his death bought our life, and our death brings the message of life to those around us, we don’t give up hope. The Apostle Paul understood this. He was willing to give his life that the Corinthians might know Christ. He was now calling them to give their lives that others might come to know the life of Christ as well. He understood what Jesus meant when he said, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23).

It is time we stop being so concerned about how God makes me feel, or whether he can fix our problems. It is time we heed Jesus words, “If you want to be my disciples you need to take up your cross daily and follow me.” It is time that we say with the those who have gone before us, “I die so that others may live.”  It is time that we stop doing church for us, and realize that we are the church for the benefit of those outside. It is not about us. How is God calling you to die today so that others might hear his Good News?

Friday, April 19, 2019

The ministry of reconciliation

2 Corinthians 5:6-7 (ESV)
So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.

“We are always of good courage.” Bad things happen. How can we maintain good courage in the face of a dying world? Because “we walk by faith, not by sight.” We walk in the faith that this is not all there is. We walk in the faith that even as this body deteriorates and this world disintegrates, there is hope beyond. We walk in the faith that even in a broken world God opens eyes and ears, changes hearts, and transforms lives.

“Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others. . . . For the love of Christ controls us” (2 Cor 5:11-14). If we didn’t know God we would lose hope; we would give up. If we didn’t know God as he is, and if we were not compelled by the love of Christ we could easily devolve into a group of frustrated, angry people just shouting at the world that they are going to Hell. But because we know the fear of the Lord and the love of Christ, “we persuade others.”

Knowing the fear of God does not mean, being afraid of him. It means truly knowing him. There is an aspect of fear in awe, not because the object of our fear intends to harm us, but simply because there is a grandeur that overwhelms us. Knowing God and being known by him moves us to persuade others that they too can know him.

That persuasion is not done by manipulation or force. It is not done in anger or violence. “We regard no one according to the flesh” (2 Cor 5:16). If we looked at people through the flesh we would see brokenness. But God has called us to the “ministry of reconciliation” (2 Cor 5:17). As a result, we see fellow believers through the lens of his grace. We see them through the cross. We see Jesus in them because they are in Christ. We see the world, not through the lens of God’s anger and justice, but through the lens of his love for a fallen, broken world. We see them through the lens of reconciliation.

Spring is a time when people begin thinking about gardening. They start dreaming about freshly tilled soil, seeds sprouting and popping up through the dirt, and ultimately the taste of fresh tomatoes, carrots, peas, and beans. Those who love gardening look out the window at the remains of last year’s garden and see hope. I look out the window and all I see is work. In John 4:35 the disciples saw crowds of broken people, but Jesus looked at them and he saw fields that were “white unto harvest.” Are you looking through eyes of faith, or eyes of flesh? What do you see? “We walk by faith, not by sight.”

Thursday, April 18, 2019

That we might know no sin

2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV)
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Jesus, who knew no sin, was made to be sin. That is a mind-blowing concept. Both sides of that equation are almost unbelievable. How could Jesus know no sin? He was born into a sinful, broken world. He grew up surrounded by sin. He knew what sin was. He observed it every day, yet he knew no sin. Biblically, to know something is not just to know about it, but to know it experientially. Jesus lived surrounded by sin, but Jesus never sinned.

Jesus was born sinless, lived sinless, and died sinful. That is the Good Friday message. The one who knew no sin was made sin for us. Why would he do that? Why would a sinless individual willingly submit himself to the indignity and shame of being made sin? The answer is, love. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one-and-only son” (Jn 3:16). Love motivated Jesus, the sinless one, to become sin on our behalf.

To what end? “So that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). This is not just a judicial switching of records whereby Jesus record is placed under my name and my record placed under his. It is that, but it is much more. It is not just that we are declared righteous; we are righteous.

The passage doesn’t say “because of him” we might become righteous. It says “in him.” When one puts their faith in God because of Jesus there is a transformation that occurs. It is not just a switching of records. It is a transformation. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation” (2 Cor 5:17). We have a new identity. We are freed not only from the penalty of sin but from the power of sin. When the one who knew no sin became sin, he did that so that we who know sin intimately might become no sin.  That is the unbelievable miracle of salvation.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

“Let light shine out of darkness,”

2 Corinthians 4:3-4 (ESV)
[3] And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. [4] In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.

I fear that we sometimes turn the victims into the perpetrators. It happens in crimes, where the victims of a crime is told that it is their fault they got robbed, or taken advantage of. It happens in rape cases where women are told that it is their fault they got raped because they dressed provocatively. And unfortunately, it happens when it comes to the gospel. When people do not listen, we blame them. We too often claim the verse where Jesus told his disciples to shake the dust off their feet and go on to another town. Somehow we think that principle applies to individual people. If they won’t listen, we stop loving them. If they are reactive or aggressive, we decide they are unreachable, and write them off.

Notice that in these verses in 2 Corinthians quoted above Paul did not write, “In their case, they are hardhearted  and unwilling to listen, so they don’t deserve your time. Move on.” What he wrote was they “the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” You don’t blame blind people for being blind. You don’t blame deaf people for being deaf. You don’t blame people stuck in the bondage of sin for their shackles. You pray for them. Why? Because of the next two verses.

2 Corinthians 4:5-6 (ESV)
[5] For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. [6] For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

We are proclaiming Jesus Christ. If we were proclaiming ourselves, or our religion, or our church, then we would have reason to believe that unbelievers will never believe. But that is not our message. We proclaim  Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as his servants. What did God say to that? “Let light shine out of darkness.” He is the one that brings sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and hearts softened to the gospel which had been hardened by the bondage of sin. It is God who opened our eyes to the truth of Jesus Christ, and it is God who will open the eyes of others as well. So we pray, and we watch for God to move in people’s hearts, and when he opens their eyes we speak the truth in love.

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Resurrection, Death, and Life

We cannot separate the death of Jesus from his resurrection. If he died without raising from the dead, then we have a dead founder of a religion without life. We have a dead example without living power. We have a dead faith without hope. The death of Jesus apart from his resurrection is meaningless.

Likewise, the resurrection without the death is meaningless. Resurrection can’t happen without death. Without death there is no way to rise from the dead. The death and the resurrection cannot be separated. Neither can they be separated from the miraculous virgin birth. Without the death of a sinless life there is no significance to the death, or the resurrection. Jesus showed us what life looks like. Jesus died that we might live. Jesus rose to impart his life and empower us to live a life eternal. But living eternal life in the present, faithless, and twisted world is not convenient.

The resurrection is not just a myth told to motivate us to try again, or to start fresh. It is not about Spring cleaning, or turning over a new leaf. The resurrection is about new life that flourishes even as this body dies. The resurrection is about a radically different way to live.

Monday, April 15, 2019

Failure as a Prerequisite to Ministry

Luke 22:31 (ESV)
“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”

Failure does not mean disqualification from ministry. What matters is what follows the failure. Jesus says to Simon Peter, “You are going to fail me. Then you are going to strengthen your brothers.” How is that possible? Shouldn’t a failure be strengthened by his brothers rather than the failure strengthening his brothers? Shouldn’t the failure be chastised, convicted, or corrected by his brothers? Shouldn’t the failure be taught a lesson about abandoning his faith? How can Jesus possibly mean that after Peter fails Jesus he will be given a responsibility of ministry? Failure does not mean disqualification from ministry. What matters is what follows the failure.

When hardness of heart, rebellion, or an unwillingness to acknowledge one’s sin follows failure then the failure leads to more failure. When brokenness and transparent honesty with God follows the failure then ministry can follow. That is why John wrote, “If we confess (agree with God) our sins He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Agreeing with God about our sin leads to ministry.

How can that be? In John 21 Peter meets Jesus after the resurrection. He is happy to see Jesus, but he is uncertain about his own faith and future. Three times Jesus asks Peter if he loves Jesus. Three times Peter hedges his answer. Three times Jesus gives him a ministry. Earlier Peter has confidently said, “I’ll follow you to death.” Now Peter knows himself better. He knows his own failure. He can’t say, “I love you with unfailing, self-sacrificing love.” He doesn’t trust himself. That is the very kind of person God wants to use. He is not looking for the cocky, self-confident, “Just show me the task and I’ll do it” kind of people. He is looking for the one who in weakness and humility trusts not himself, but Jesus alone.

That is what the cross is about. That is what the resurrection is about. That is what grace is about. The problem is that we give those words and concepts lip service, but we don’t really believe them. We somehow believe that one failure disqualifies us or others from service. We wallow in self-pity and regret rather than running to Jesus. We insist on proof of dependability and faithfulness before entrusting someone with ministry. We give lip service to the cross and the resurrection, but we fail to understand their power to transform broken lives.

The resurrection is about new life. Romans 6 says that we are raised with Christ to newness of life. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” What is interesting is the verse that follows. Verse 18 goes on to say, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.” The resurrection makes all things new and equips, empowers, and employs us for ministry. Failure is not a disqualification to ministry, it is a prerequisite. A person cannot be made new in Christ until they have first recognized that they are failures. Failing is a prerequisite to ministry. Trust God to do in and through you what you are totally incapable of doing yourself. That is the power of the resurrection. God is looking for people who in weakness and humility trust not themselves, but Jesus alone.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Luke 9 & 19 - Missing the King

In Luke 9 Jesus was transfigured before his disciples, revealing his glory. Ten chapters later, in Luke 19, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey while the crowds celebrated saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Lk 19:38). In between a lot of ministry takes place, but notice three passages in particular. In Luke 13 Jesus was warned that Herod wanted to kill him. He responded by lamenting over the unwillingness of Jerusalem to receive her king or his messengers. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!” (Lk 13:34). In Luke 17 Jesus was asked about the Kingdom of God. He warned them that they would see it, but that it would not be what they expected. The King would be rejected, and unexpected judgment would fall. Finally, right after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Jesus wept over the city of Jerusalem, prophesying its destruction (Luke 19:41-44).

The Triumphal entry was a celebration, but for Jesus it was a bitter-sweet celebration. He knew what was coming. Jerusalem would reject her king. Jesus would be crucified. Jerusalem would be destroyed. It didn’t take long for the rejection to begin. When Jesus rode into Jerusalem celebrated as a king, the Pharisees rebuked him. Seven verses later they were “seeking to destroy him” (Lk 19:47). Today is Palm Sunday. It is the day Believers celebrate the coming of the king. It is the day we remember when Jesus rode into Jerusalem as King. But there is a dark side to the day. In the midst of the celebration, the very people who considered themselves keepers of the Law rejected the one to whom the Law pointed. They rejected their own king.

It makes me wonder. . .  I wonder if we who claim to be Jesus followers really understand his plan and program? I wonder if we who claim to be believers really trust him when things get hard? I wonder if we who call ourselves Christians really reflect Christ in all that we do? I wonder if we who consider ourselves keepers of the truth are actually walking in truth ourselves. In the midst of waving palm branches and singing songs of celebration, we would do well to take a little time for self-examination.

1 Corinthians 11 warns of the danger of eating the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner. It then warns, “Let a person examine himself” (1Cor 11:28). 2 Corinthians 13:5 warns, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” Galatians instructs believers, “For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor” (Gal 6:3). It is appropriate, in our time of celebration, to take some time for self-reflection as well. Is our worship really about Jesus and his purposes, or is it about us? Think about it.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Luke 9: 37-45 Looking toward Resurrection Sunday

Every community is made up of broken and shattered people, an unbelieving and twisted generation blind to the majesty of God. But Jesus… The unclean spirit shattered the boy, but Jesus healed him. The people standing and watching were an unbelieving and twisted generation, but Jesus went to Jerusalem to heal them. The people of Jerusalem were a people blind to the majesty of God, but Jesus died to reveal the majesty of God and give them life. He gave his life to give us life. The contemporary worship song By His Wounds, reflects on this truth using the words of Isaiah 53:5:

He was pierced for our transgressions
He was crushed for our sins
The punishment that brought us peace was upon Him
And by His wounds, by His wounds we are healed
(Songwriters: David Nasser / Mac Powell
By His Wounds lyrics © Consuming Fire Music)

By His wounds we are healed! This is the song of life we have for a broken world as we approach this coming Resurrection Sunday.

The day that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey he was chastised by the Pharisees, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples” (Luke 19:39). He responded, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). They failed to see the power and authority of the One and Only Son of the Father. They looked to religious activity, law, and self-discipline to bring about spiritual life. They failed to understand that they were as broken, battered, and oppressed as the boy with the unclean spirit. It is not religion that will brings us freedom. It is not spirituality that brings us freedom. It is not a pastor, or the church that brings us freedom. It is the power of God revealed in the Son of God that brings freedom. All we need to do is believe.

Jesus rode into town being worshiped and praised, yet the townspeople said, “Who is this?” God was in their midst and they were clueless. God is at work in your community. Are you aware that he is here and that he is at work? Who are you praying for as he works in our midst? Not everyone who sees, believes, and not everyone who believes saw something that left them speechless. Salvation is not about the power of God to WOW people. It is about the power of God to open people’s eyes, and transform their hearts. That is why evangelism starts, not with means and methods, but with prayer. As Resurrection Sunday approaches, who are you praying for? May God open their eyes to see and believe.

Friday, April 12, 2019

Luke 9:43 - The Majesty of God

Luke 9:43 (ESV)

And all were astonished at the majesty of God.

In Luke 9 the group of people who watched Jesus rebuke a demon and heal a boy were astonished by the majesty of God. Here is a group of people that have been blind to his majesty. The word as
tonished literally means thunderstruck. They were speechless, dumbstruck, and overwhelmed by God’s majesty. The word majesty (megaleiotes) means greatness, magnificence, or majesty. And yes, the mega at the beginning of the word means mega, large, or great, in the widest sense. In this miraculous healing the crowds see the extreme magnificence of God.

Their response is to marvel. They were astonished at everything he was doing. Let those words sink in … If they understood who Jesus was they would not have marveled at his actions. They would have expected it. They were with Jesus, but they did not understand who he was.

Have you ever seen one of those paintings with mountains and trees, and maybe some cowboys around a campfire, but there are hidden aspects to the scene? If you look closer you see animals hiding in the trees, or Indians sneaking up on the cowboys’ camp stealing their horses. I love that painting where the cowboys are enjoying a meal around the campfire, totally oblivious to the danger right behind them. If you don’t look close, you can look at the painting and see trees and mountains, or a cowboy camp, and miss the real story. That is exactly what the crowds following Jesus had been doing. 

They were overwhelmed by the power of the demon shattering the boy, but they were oblivious to the power of the one in their midst. They saw the campfire and missed the real story. Standing before them was not just an interesting teaching and amazing healer. Standing before them was the one and only Son of God. Standing before them was God in the flesh. How often do we talk good theology, but miss the power of God?

2 Timothy 3:5 talks of those who are “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.” I wonder how often that describes me. Do we say our prayers, or do we pray? Do we sing, or do we worship? Do we read our Bibles, or do we hear from God? Do we say we trust God, or do we trust him? Are we like the crowds who are surprised by the power of God, when we should be resting in his power?

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Luke 9 - a faithless and twisted generation

Luke 9:41 (ESV)
Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”
Everybody loves Jesus, but it is often not the Jesus of the Bible that they love. It is too often a nice, safe Jesus of their own making. The disciples had been with Jesus. They had been taught by Jesus. They had been given power over the demons, and yet in this case they were unable to help (Lk 9:40). Jesus looks out over the crowd that has gathers and calls them faithless and twisted .

The word faithless (apisto) means without faith, or unbelieving. Twisted means crooked or perverted. In Philippians 2:14-15 the Apostle Paul warns the Philippian believers to, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.”

Have you ever seen trees on the edge of an ocean beach, or a mountain top? They are twisted and distorted by the wind. The world is twisted, crooked, and perverted by the winds of sin as it pervades culture and society. It is twisted by the sin that indwells each individual. It is twisted by the constant focus on the creature rather than the creator.  But notice Jesus’ calm power. The “demon threw … convulsed, but Jesus rebuked … healed” (Lk 9: 42).

The unclean spirit threw the boy down. The word means to throw down, or slam down. It did not throw him down easily. He convulsed. The word means to be thrown into convulsions, or mangled. It is combined with the idea of being together with someone or something. Together with the unclean spirit the boy was literally mangled before the crowds. Jesus didn’t panic He rebuked the spirit. It carries the idea of putting him in his place, In some passages of scripture it is translated “warned sternly.” It is the same word used when Jesus rebuked the wind in previous chapter. The result? The boy was healed. “Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit and healed the boy, and gave him back to his father” (Lk 9:42).

Demons tend to scare us. Extremely powerful storms can scare us. The influence of a “crooked and twisted generation” can scare us. But Jesus calls out the people for their unbelief, rebukes the demon, and heals the boy without breaking a sweat. Isn’t it time that we stop focusing on the threats around us, and set our eyes on Jesus? After all, he is the King! It is faith in that Jesus that will shine as lights in a dark, twisted world.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Luke 9:37 (ESV)
On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him.

Coming down the mountain after the transfiguration with his inner circle of disciples, Jesus is met by a great crowd. Not just a crowd, but a “large crowd” or a “great crowd.” Similarly, when Jesus entered Jerusalem on the day we celebrate as Palm Sunday, a crowd gathered around him. In that passage the word used is plethos (from which we get our word plethora). It means a great number. It is a different word from the one used in the above verse, but a similar concept.

When the crowd met him they were looking for a miracle, an expression of power. They were looking for freedom and healing. A man approached Jesus pleading that he would look at his son. He is described as his one and only son. It is the word, monogenes. It is the same word used to refer to Jesus in John 3:16. Jesus is God’s monogenes, his one and only son. Jesus, the one and only son of God brought healing to the one and only son of a Jewish man.

The man explained to Jesus that a spirit shatters his son. The New American Standard Bible says that the spirit is “mauling him.” It is a word, suntribo, that means to break in pieces (vs 39). Jesus calls the people a “faithless and twisted generation.” This “twisted generation” produced a shattered young man. This is the Enemy’s lie. He offers freedom, but shatters an entire generation in return.

I was walking down the sidewalk carrying my favorite coffee mug when it slipped from my hand and dropped to the sidewalk. It shattered. There was no piecing it back together. Imagine how God felt when mankind was shattered by sin. The Good News is that the One and Only Son of God can take a faithless and twisted generation shattered by sin and restore them one by one. This is not done by pointing out how shattered they are. As in the story of the boy in Luke 9, it is obvious to everyone that he is shattered. What he needed to experience was the power of God unto salvation. This is the Good News we have to offer a broken and shattered people.

Romans 1:16-17 (ESV)
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Luke 9 Feeding & Being Fed

As I was reading the account of Jesus feeding the 5000, two thoughts occurred to me. First was the fact that after a time of intense ministry Jesus took his disciples away to be alone. I occasionally take a Personal Retreat Day. It is a day on which I try to get somewhere that has no cell signal nor internet. I take the day to pray, think, and review my ministry, my family, and my calendar. My goal for the day is to refresh and refocus. That is what Jesus was taking his disciples away to do.

The second thing that struck me is that when the disciples request that the crowds be sent away so they can go find food Jesus said, "You feed them." Their response? "We don't have enough food to feed them." That's how I feel sometimes when asked to preach or teach. I need, first of all, to take people to Jesus because he is the one that must feed them. Even when I feel adequate to the task, I need to remember that it is Jesus that must feed them. I have nothing to offer apart from him. I must also remember that this is exactly why Jesus brought them out away from the crowds. They had been ministering and needed to be fed themselves.

Today Lord, let me hear from you. Give me a heart tender to your Holy Spirit, and ears tuned to your Word. And if, while I'm trying to get away, you put someone in my path that needs to be "fed," may I have the wisdom and grace to point them to you.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Luke 9:39-41 (ESV)

[39] And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out. It convulses him so that he foams at the mouth, and shatters him, and will hardly leave him. [40] And I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.” [41] Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.”

In Luke 9 an unclean spirit had shattered a boy, but Jesus healed him. The people standing and watching were an unbelieving and twisted generation, but Jesus went on to Jerusalem, to go to the cross, to heal them. The people in Jerusalem were a people blind to the majesty of God, but Jesus died to reveal the majesty of God and give them life. He gave his life to give them life.

When Jesus rode into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. People were worshiping and praising God, waving palm branches, and celebrating his arrival. He was chastised by the Pharisees, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples” (Luke 19:39). He responded, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40). They failed to see the power and authority of the One and Only Son of the Father. They looked to religious activity, law, and self-discipline to bring about spiritual life. They failed to understand that they were broken, battered, and oppressed. It is not religion that brings us freedom. It is not spirituality that brings us freedom. It is not a pastor, or the church that brings us freedom. It is the power of God revealed in the Son of God that brings freedom.

Jesus rode into town being worshiped and praised, yet the townspeople said, “Who is this?” God was in their midst and they were clueless. Our communities are made up people, broken, shattered people, who are clueless. They are blind to the majesty of God. But Jesus… 

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Luke 8 Fruitful Seed

In Luke 8:25, the disciples of Jesus thought they were going to die in a boat in the middle of a storm. Jesus stands up, calms the storm and challenges them about their faith. Their response? "Who is this guy?"

These are Jesus disciples, chosen by Jesus, taught by Jesus, let in on some kingdom secrets earlier in the chapter by Jesus, and they still don't get him. This chapter is a living illustration of Jesus parable of the seed and the sower. Jesus explained that the parable meant that some people would "get it" and some wouldn't. What follows in the rest of the chapter is a series of events in which some people get it and some don't. Some people, out of fear, ask him to leave, and others beg to stay with him.

Here is the fascinating thing, Jesus wrapped up his explanation of the parable with these words, "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." There are three characteristics of the good seed. They hear, they retain, and they persevere. That's a description of the disciples. They didn't quite understand who Jesus was or what he was about, but they heard him, they remembered what he said, and they stuck with him, well all of them except Judas.

It wasn't about understanding everything from the beginning. Following Jesus was about the journey. There are those crisis events in our lives like the disciples being called by Jesus, or the day of Pentecost, or the day we put our faith in Christ. These are necessary elements of the journey, but it is a journey. Salvation does not begin and end with a profession of faith, that's just a critical point in the journey. God, by your grace, may I never forget that I haven't yet arrived, but may I continue to hear your word, retain your word, and persevere in it. May I be a fruitful seed. Thank you!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Luke 9 Transfiguration - Part 4

Most stories follow a pattern from situation to complication, then resolution, ending with celebration. Where do we see Celebration in the story of the Transfiguration? Perhaps we see it in God’s own words, “This is my son… Listen to him.” But more likely the celebration takes the form of silent wonder. “They kept silent, and told no one in those days.” They weren’t told to speak. They weren’t told to act. They weren’t told to plan. They were told to listen.

Teach me to listen, Lord
For your voice
In busyness and in boredom
In certainty and in doubt
In noise and in silence
Teach me, Lord, to listen.[1]
What were they to listen to? Jesus had just told them to tell no one that their assessment of him was correct. He is the Christ. He had told them that he was going to die. He had told them that if they want to follow him they must die. He will tell them again, in just a few verses, that he is going to die. They need to listen.

Unfortunately, by the end of the chapter they are arguing about who is the greatest. Perhaps that very argument was fueled by their experience. Obviously Peter, James, and John must be greater than the other disciples. They saw things the others didn’t. They experienced things the others didn’t know anything about. They must be greater than the other nine disciples. But that raises the question: Which of the three are greatest? The celebration of silence will devolve into a debate about greatness.

How often do our experiences with the presence of God turn from silent awe to verbal self-focus? How often we believe and act as though because we have worshiped we are therefore greater? We are no better than the world. We are no greater than the world. We are not accepted because we worship. We are not acknowledged because we know our Bibles better. We are not received in the Kingdom because we are moral. We are accepted because of Jesus, and because of Jesus alone.

Jesus didn’t let Peter, James and John see his glory because they were great men. Nor were they great men because they saw his glory. God’s command was, “Listen.” We are all running around trying to be great, trying to be somebody, trying to leave behind a legacy, trying to make sure that we gain our Father’s approval, trying to be okay. God says, “Stop trying, and just listen.

We are often too busy lecturing God on what needs to be done to hear him speak. Listen to the Good News. Listen to God’s plan. Listen to God’s priorities. Listen to Jesus words. “I must die. If you want to follow me, then you must die too. Stop trying to be somebody, and just listen." "This is my Son, my Chosen One, Listen to him!”

[1]. http://www.english-for-students.com/teach-me-to-listen-lord.html, accessed February 26, 2016

Friday, April 5, 2019

Luke 9:34 (ESV)
As he (Peter) was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.

Having seen Jesus in his glory with Moses and Elijah, Peter blurted out a plan to build them tens. Immediately they are enveloped in a cloud and they are afraid. Being in a cloud can be disorienting. I remember one of the first times I flew. We were flying in clouds coming into Spokane when suddenly the clouds cleared and I could see a mountain right beside my window. That was a little disconcerting. A few years ago I was driving in Montana in fog. When I suddenly burst out of the fog there was a herd of deer crossing the road. I was able to thread my way between them, but what if they had been in the fog. I would have never seen them. Being in a cloud can be disorienting and disconcerting.

While in the cloud they hear the voice of God, “This is my Son, my chosen one. Listen to him” (Lk 9:35). The word glory is Doxa. The word expresses reputation, greatness, or renown. The Hebrew word for glory means weightiness, or greatness. Moses and Elijah appear in glory as well. 1 Jn 3.2 says that, “What we will be has not yet appeared.” Could what they disciples saw be an indication of the glory we will have with Jesus when we are in Eternity? C.S. Lewis suggested that if we saw people as we will be, we would be tempted to fall down and worship them. There is a glory in Christ that we enter into now, but will be clearly visible then.

I wonder if we would treat one another the same way we do now if we realized what they will be. What if we were able to catch a glimpse of their future glory? How might that change our attitudes and actions toward our brothers and sisters in Christ? Too often I fear that we live in the fear of the cloud rather than in the clarity of Jesus’ glory. Maybe we just need to open our eyes.

Thursday, April 4, 2019

Luke 9 - The Transfiguration

How do you respond to crisis? When things happen that throw us our of our routine our immediate response is often uninformed and emotional. In Luke 9:28-36 three of the disciples were on a mountain with Jesus. They went up there to pray, but with what seems to be a typical practice, Jesus was praying and the disciples were sleeping. They were suddenly awakened out of a deep sleep. In their grogginess they saw Jesus “who appeared in glory” (Lk 9:31). He was talking with Moses and Elijah. That would throw you a bit. When Moses and Elijah turned to leave Peter blurted out, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents” (Lk 9:33). The text follows that with these words, “not knowing what he said.” He felt like he had to say something and so he uttered an inappropriate and impractical plan about building tents and living on the mountain.

It is interesting that when you look at the differences between King Saul and David. Saul was always responding to crisis emotionally. David more often responded to crisis out of faith and prayer. Those responses made all the difference. Later in life, when David’s son Absalom was rebelling, he failed to respond out of faith and prayer. The result? Many of his own people were hurt. Rash, emotional responses almost never result in good plans. God does not honor quick thinkers. He honors those who take the time to listen and discern what he is doing. As believers in Jesus Christ, we need to learn to slow down and listen well.

Father, teach us to listen.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Luke 7 Greatness

In Luke 7, Jesus has dinner with a Pharisee named Simon. Jesus turns to Simon and says, "I have something to say to you." Simon is one who likes to think of himself as important and righteous. Jesus statement that follows will challenge that. In fact, Jesus will suggest that the sinful woman at his feet is more important and righteous than Simon.

Earlier in the chapter, Jesus said of John the Baptist, "I tell you, among those born of women there is no one greater than John; yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he." Greatness is counted differently in God's kingdom than it is here.

At the beginning of Luke 7, Jesus heals the son of a Centurion. The thing that is significant about the Centurion is that he recognizes that he does not deserve to even be in Jesus presence. Following that, Jesus will take the time to stop and heal the dead son of a single mom. Greatness is counted differently in God's kingdom than it is here.

We ought to be like the Centurion, or the single mom, or the sinful but forgiven woman. It is amazing, not in a good way, how often we read these stories, condemn the Pharisees, and still adopt their view of greatness. God forgive me for not seeing myself and those around me through your eyes. Forgive me for adopting the Pharisees value system even while condemning them. I confess that this is the height of hypocrisy. By your grace give me new eyes to see myself and others from your Kingdom perspective.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Luke 9 & the Transfiguration

Jesus has taken his inner circle of disciples to the mountain to pray. They are falling asleep. This seems to be typical as they have the same experience in the Garden of Gethsemane the night Jesus is betrayed. Jesus is praying while his disciples are sleeping.

Then something extraordinary happens. Through their grogginess the disciples begin to realize that something has changed. This is not an ordinary night. They see Jesus appearance has changed into something they have never seen, nor heard.

St. Matthew tells us how it was altered when he writes that "his countenance shone as the sun." And his raiment was white and glistering; literally, lightening forth, as if from some inward source of glorious light. The earthly robes were so beautified by contact with this Divine light that human language is exhausted by the evangelists to find terms and metaphors to picture them. St. Matthew compares these garments of the Blessed One to light; St. Mark, to the snow; St. Luke, to the flashing lightning.[1]

They recognize, they may not even be sure how they recognize, but they recognize Moses and Elijah talking with Jesus. They see his glory, and the hear him talking with two men they have only heard about – two men from their own faith history. They are startled out of sleep by this astonishing and unexpected event.

Peter's first response is to blurt out the first thing that comes to mind. "Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah” (Luke 9:33). He didn't know what he was saying, but he felt like he should do something. Too often we too are so action oriented that we lose our ability to listen and worship. Too often we are so obedience oriented that we lose sight of the reality that what God wants more than obedience from us is relationship with us.

Psalms 51:16-17 (ESV)
For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it;
you will not be pleased with a burnt offering.
The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.
There was a reason that Jesus took his inner circle of disciples to the mountain to pray, and it wasn't so they would learn to obey. Yes, God want us to do his will, but first he wants us to come and be with him. 

[1]. The Pulpit Commentary, http://biblehub.com/commentaries/pulpit/luke/9.htm, accessed February 24, 2016.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Luke 6 What Does it Mean to Love?

In the passage in Luke 6 where Jesus is explaining that we should love our enemies, he wraps up with these words, "Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful." As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called on to extend mercy and grace, because we have been, and continue to be, recipients of God's mercy and grace.

This is foundational to the statement, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." It is foundational to the command to love our enemies. It is foundational to the instruction to not judge. It is foundational to ... Well you get the point. This is a foundational truth. As recipients of mercy we are expected to extend mercy.

Father I fear that I too little appreciate the mercy with which you have treated me, and too little understand the full extent of the mercy you expect me to show others. Help me see others through your eyes of mercy.

Reflections on Psalms 77-78

Psalms 77:7 (ESV) [7] “Will the Lord spurn forever, and never again be favorable?   The first nine verses of this psalm express abso...