Saturday, March 31, 2012

That's harsh...

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” (Luke 8:19-21 ESV)
Context is everything. Taken alone, these verses make Jesus seem cold-hearted to His family. But in the flow of what he has said about the seed and the light, these words are not a rebuke of His earthly family, but a challenge to those who have heard Him speak over and over again. Are they doing as He said? Are they allowing the sown seed to sprout? Are they letting the light shine or smothering the flame? Are we acting like God's family or aloof listeners?

Friday, March 30, 2012

Whatcha doin with whatcha got of God's Word?

Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”(Luke 8:18 ESV)
Like the parable of the seed, it's a matter of what we do with what we are given: Are we allowing God's word to penetrate our hearts and change our lives. What good is a big bag of seed that is just held doing nothing? What good is light if we hide it? What good is it to read and listen to sermon after sermon, radio teacher after TV preacher, and not be changed? Or to stop growing and changing, to not become a brighter light, to not understand and apply God's Word more and more? Are we really listening?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Keep listening and keep telling...

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. (Luke 8:16-17 ESV)
When Jesus starts explaining parables with other parables, it can be like a roller coaster ride- keep hanging on for the next turn. But then, that is part of the point of the parables of the seed and the light. Keep at it. Keep tilling the spiritual soil to stay soft for the seed to take root, and keep on sharing what God has taught you. He won't take you any further if you don't apply what you learn, and why should He teach you more if you're going to hog it to yourself? If it is truly part of your life, you cannot help but showing it and sharing it. If it's not showing, the seed hasn't taken root, the lamp hasn't been lit.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Not multiple choice...

Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:11-15 ESV)
As Jesus explains this parable of the sower, which stumped sophisticated scribes and faithful followers alike, we often see the word "saved" and then begin to deliniate which ones are saved - and which are not (a; a and b; a, b and c), with a lot of theological debate over c. I don't think that was Jesus' point or intent. He wants us, whether saved or not, to examine the softness of the soil in our own hearts. To be sure, the seed on the path never takes place, leading to salvation, but believers who get spiritually lazy and do not cultivate thier own soil can also develop a resistence to letting God's Word take root and continually change their lives. It's not a multiple choice test; it's a life-long essay with the right introduction.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Word, like the Word, divides...

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ (Luke 8:9-10 ESV)
What seemed like a simple parable even stumped Jesus' faithful few. But He patiently explained that His Words, like Him Himself, was in a sense divisive. The same words that would bring life and truth to some, who would receive it, also became a stumbling block of confusion to those who would not. The Gospel, the Cross, everything surrounding Christ does the same thing - it becomes the way of salvation for those who trust Him, and damnation for those who reject Him, His Word, His salvation, and His Father.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Simple seed story stumps stubborn soil...

And when a great crowd was gathering and people from town after town came to him, he said in a parable, “A sower went out to sow his seed. And as he sowed, some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold.” As he said these things, he called out, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Luke 8:4-8 ESV)
The parable Jesus is so simple I'm sure some were half listening. The then summarizes it with a simple statement: "Are you listening? Are you really listening to what I am saying? Are you allowing the truth to penetrate your heart, or is it as hard as a rock and entwined so much with the sinful world that the Word can find no place to take root? Are we soft or stubborn soil?

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Restore us to YOU, LORD!

Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old—(Lamentations 5:21 ESV)
As we saw a few days ago, Jeremiah began his plea for revival by groaning, weeping, and crying out to God. As he wraps up his funeral dirge, he again calls out to the Lord, asking for restoration and renewal. He is not simply longing for "the good ole' days;" he is longing for the LORD Himself. Revival is our reltionship and fellowship with Him! It is wanting God in our lives, in our face, in our business, every hour of the day.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Not just them...

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit. (Psalm 51:10-12 ESV)
In each of these six statements David makes it very clear - it's gotta start in me, within me. I need to be cleansed; I need an attitude check; I need to be in the presence of God; I need to allow the Holy Spirit to prompt me; I need His joyful spirit; I need His help to even be willing to make the changes He wants and I need. The buck stops here, with me.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Undeserved Favor

O LORD, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O LORD, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.(Habakkuk 3:2 ESV)
So much is packed into one short verse. First there is recognition of the power and holiness of God. Then there is a plea for God to reveal Himself and His power at work soon. Finally there is the bottom line plea for God's mercy to be shown. Revival is about Him - who He is; what He does; the faithful character He reveals when we call out to Him. Revive us, O LORD!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

“Come, let us return to the LORD; for he has torn us, that he may heal us; he has struck us down, and he will bind us up. After two days he will revive us; on the third day he will raise us up, that we may live before him. Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD; his going out is sure as the dawn; he will come to us as the showers, as the spring rains that water the earth.” (Hosea 6:1-3 ESV)
What great promises we have here: the LORD will heal us, bind up our hurting wounds, revive us, and pour down blessings on us. What are the stipulations for these precious promises? That we would return to the LORD from all those distractions that have pulled us from Him, and that we would know Him, really press on to know Him. May we turn back to Him and truly pursue Him, so we can live life in His presence and blessing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Truly Desperate...

All her people groan as they search for bread;
they trade their treasures for food to revive their strength.
“Look, O LORD, and see, for I am despised.” (Lamentations 1:11 ESV)
Three times in this chapter Jeremiah uses the word "revive." His people were seeking for revival. They groaned, they cried, and they sought Someone to feed them and give them comfort. All the treasures of this world were meaningless, compared to the comfort of the Lord. Many were looking in all the wrong places for that comfort. Jeremiah got it right: "Look, O LORD, and see..." He is the only one that can comfort and give meaning to life; He is the only One who can revive us again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Our Prayer...

And it shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people's way.” For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite.(Isaiah 57:14-15 ESV)
Our Hope is in the Holy One, the transcendent God who also is immanent, here with those who will humbly bow before Him who seek Him, and ask Him to remove every obstruction, every hindrance to fellowship with Him. May He cleanse our hearts and clear the way to build us up as His holy temple.

Monday, March 19, 2012

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving. This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs. When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive. For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.(Psalm 69:30-33 ESV)
What a precious promise for God's people. When we praise and thank Him, and seek Him, He hears us, and will restore our joy and revive our hearts. He does not look on us with disdain and turn His back on us.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It all starts here...

Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? (Psalm 85:4-6 ESV)
Revival, renewal, restoration. That is what God's people need to pray for. It starts by looking to God to look within ourselves. It needs to take place individually, like David, who cried out "Restore to me the joy of my salvation." And it needs to take place corporately, like the Psalmist says here: us... our... Revive us, oh Lord.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

More than a matter of fact...

Soon afterward he went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him, and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod's household manager, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means. (Luke 8:1-3 ESV)
At first glance, this seems to be nothing more than a mere mention of details about some of the women who followed Jesus. But later, at the end of the Gospel, we will find that these women are still there. They were faithful followers who also provided great information for Luke as he investigated the life of Jesus. And they were, well, women. Jesus, by his words and actions demonstrated the unthinkable to the Pharisees - that women have a very important place in His Kingdom. They are, in fact, indispensable. So, rather than just a subtle mention of fact, these three verses speak volumes about the Kingdom of God - Jew or Greek male or female - all are important to Him.

Friday, March 16, 2012

The One Who Forgives...

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.” And he said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” Then those who were at table with him began to say among themselves, “Who is this, who even forgives sins?” And he said to the woman, “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” (Luke 7:47-50 ESV)
The Bible is full of truths, but some of them are stated not once or twice, but three times. Such is the case here: Jesus forgives sins. It is a truth that astounds those sitting around the table, and it must have thrilled the heart of this woman to hear Jesus say" Your sins are forgiven." But it is to Simon that Jesus first announces her forgiveness, which is in essence a statement that "Her sins are forgiven, but your sins... The joys of; being forgiven, the jerk of not.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Pitfalls of Non-OCD

Then turning toward the woman he said to Simon, “Do you see this woman? I entered your house; you gave me no water for my feet, but she has wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You gave me no kiss, but from the time I came in she has not ceased to kiss my feet. You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.(Luke 7:44-46 ESV)
From the onset Simon had been criticizing this woman in his heart. She was "out of control." She went overboard in showing love, faith and worship to Jesus. Now it was time to evaluate his lack of passion and excess. He criticized what she did; Jesus rebuke him for what he did not do. Like Simon, we at times may be a little too "in control" and disciplined for our own good.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Well, duh...

“A certain moneylender had two debtors. One owed five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. When they could not pay, he cancelled the debt of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon answered, “The one, I suppose, for whom he cancelled the larger debt.” And he said to him, “You have judged rightly.”(Luke 7:41-43 ESV)
Having set himself up to have to answer Jesus' question, Simon now is forced to answer the question correctly. It is such an easy answer, he would look totally foolish to not answer correctly. The piercing word for him is in the last phrase: He had judged correctly. That is becasue he had been judging the repentant woman and Jesus for their behavior. He knew the right answer, but he was not doing the right thing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

This guy has guts...

Now when the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would have known who and what sort of woman this is who is touching him, for she is a sinner.” And Jesus answering said to him, “Simon, I have something to say to you.” And he answered, “Say it, Teacher.”(Luke 7:39-40 ESV)
It is amazing that this Pharisee even had Jesus into his home, since Jesus had just put the Pharisees in their place for rejecting John the Baptist. Not only that, based on some previous events, Jesus always seemed to know what those around Him were thinking. Thirdly, this guy makes himself an open target for conviction - "Give me your best punch, Jesus." Normally, it would seem a good thing to: 1) not care what people think about you having Jesus; 2) letting Him into your thought life; 3) giving Him permission to tell you whatever He wants to. But there seems to be an air of arrogance in this man that too often lives in us: I don't care what anyone says; I have a right to my opinion; I can take conviction and not change. Sure, this guy has guts, but does he have what it takes to follow Jesus?

Monday, March 12, 2012

Who let her in here???

One of the Pharisees asked him to eat with him, and he went into the Pharisee's house and reclined at the table. And behold, a woman of the city, who was a sinner, when she learned that he was reclining at table in the Pharisee's house, brought an alabaster flask of ointment, and standing behind him at his feet, weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears and wiped them with the hair of her head and kissed his feet and anointed them with the ointment. (Luke 7:36-38 ESV)
Where are the bouncers at the door? That's the first question that comes to my mind in this paragraph. This Pharisee would typically be very picky about who came in - but then again, he did ask Jesus to come in. A willingness to let Jesus and in serve Him SHOULD make us more willing to open up, let others in, and serve them too. Shouldn't it?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The proof is in the pudding...

Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.”(Luke 7:35 ESV)
Jesus has just completed his critique/comparison of the ministry he and John the Baptizer carried out, as compared to the Pharisees. The Pharisees played a religious game, and they wanted everyone else to play by their rules. The children of God are those who wisely choose instead to respond to John's call to repentance and put their trust in Jesus.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Some people are never happy...

“To what then shall I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’(Luke 7:31-34 ESV)
The Pharisees and their friends criticized both John the Baptist and Jesus, even though their methods were almost exactly opposite. John was in the wilderness, waiting for crowds to come to him; Jesus traveled around and drew a following. John was ascetic; Jesus lived a party life. But it was what they had in common that drew the criticism - a call to repentance and faith. The Pharisees could never be happy when called on to confess; they still are not today.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Amen or Am Mad?

This is he of whom it is written, “‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you.’ I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” (When all the people heard this, and the tax collectors too, they declared God just, having been baptized with the baptism of John, but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by him.) (Luke 7:27-30 ESV)
In Jesus' true evaluation of the life and word of John the Baptist, He drew a dividing line between those who agreed, because their lives had been changed, and those who rejected John, and ultimately Jesus, unwilling to admit their need of repentance or a Savior. The first said "amen"; the second went away angry. How about you?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Roasted Preacher...

When John's messengers had gone, Jesus began to speak to the crowds concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who are dressed in splendid clothing and live in luxury are in kings' courts. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. (Luke 7:24-26 ESV)
What do you think when you see and hear a preacher for the first time? What are you looking for? Good Looks? Powerful voice? Being done by noon? The attitude we have will affect how we receive what that preacher says. Such was the case with John, and Jesus. As we will see, there are two groups: those humbly ready to listen, and those defensively waiting to criticize.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Short and sweet...

And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” (Luke 7:22-23 ESV)
After allowing the disciples of John the Baptist to observe Him at work, Jesus answers thier question with a quote: "Yes, he is the one." The things He did and said were exactly what the Scriptures said the Messiah would do. They had their answer. Now it was in their court as to what they did with the answer: would they receive and embrace the truth, or be offended and march away. Why would they be offended? The same reason we can be; the same reason the Pharisees were: we are confronted with our sinfulness and need of deliverance by someone else: Him and only Him.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

In front of your face...

And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” In that hour he healed many people of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many who were blind he bestowed sight. (Luke 7:20-21 ESV)
Since John the Baptist was in prison, he was not able to come and ask this for himself. He had heard a lot of stories from his own disciples, so they became his representatives to go and ask. Jesus, as He often did, did not at first take time to answer their question - He showed them Who He was. Many times we come to think Jesus is not answering, and therefore not listening to us when we ask Him something, when the answer is right in front of us. We are so caught up in being ignored that we are ignoring what He is doing to answer us.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Cheking it out...

The disciples of John reported all these things to him. And John, calling two of his disciples to him, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”(Luke 7:18-19 ESV)
Word had been spreading about Jesus - His messages, His miralces, and His massive crowds. But all of those things did not disturb John; his one pressing question is: "Are you the One?" What does John expect to hear? For sure, an impersonater could be expected to answer "yes," so what kind of answer is John waiting to hear? And why? The same questions could be asked concerning all the things we ask of God: what are we expecting, what are we hoping to hear? And why? May we, like John be of pure hearts as we ask God the hard questions of life.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A lot of speaking going on...

Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.” And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother. Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!” And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country. (Luke 7:14-17 ESV)
Out of His heart of compassion, Christ has chosen to interrupt his journey to help this widow who has lost her only son. As He has been pointing out, He does not have to do anything but speak - He tells the son to rise and he does. Now a lot of people are talking. First, they are glorifying God - they see Jesus as coming from God and speaking to them for God. Second, they tell others. Are we listening as Jesus speaks to us, offering life-giving words? Are we letting those words grip us? Are we speaking words of praise to the glory of God and greatness of Jesus?

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Unconventional sympathy...

Soon afterward he went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a great crowd went with him. As he drew near to the gate of the town, behold, a man who had died was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow, and a considerable crowd from the town was with her. And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” (Luke 7:11-13 ESV)
What kind of Guy flags down a funeral procession? Doesn't he know that you need to yield and let them pass by, even if your parade is bigger than theirs? Didn't anyone teach Him that you need to let one who is grieving cry? That it's better to just be there and say nothing? What is He teaching this crowd who is following Him? All of this conventional wisdom is swallowed up by one word: compassion. He is the compassionate Christ Who does not always do things in a conventional way. The same is true with us. When it seems to us that He is being rude, uncaring, or just not doing the right thing, He sees us and is moved with the same heart of compassion, as well as all His other glorious attributes.

Friday, March 2, 2012

For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.” And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well.(Luke 7:8-10 ESV)
Have you ever heard the Donut man song about this? Catchy tune, but it leaves you thinking, what does this whole "I too am a man uncer authority" thing? It means the centurion got it - He understood that at Jesus' command things happen. It happened at creation; it happened when He was here on earth and healed or told someone they were forgiven; and it happens when we pray. That is true faith - believing in the Word.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Signs of humble faith...

And when they came to Jesus, they pleaded with him earnestly, saying, “He is worthy to have you do this for him, for he loves our nation, and he is the one who built us our synagogue.” And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. (Luke 7:4-7 ESV)
Besides the fact that this centurion had compassion on his servant, we find he also served his community; he used any authority he had correctly. He also did not presume on his position to get what he wanted. He, in fact, did not want to be a bother to Jesus. Most of all, he humbly believed in the power of Jesus' word, the ultimate mark of humble faith.