Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Deep discounts...

 So, summoning his master's debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of oil.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ Then he said to another, ‘And how much do you owe?’ He said, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, ‘Take your bill, and write eighty.’ The master commended the dishonest manager for his shrewdness. For the sons of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous wealth, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal dwellings.
(Luke 16:5-9 ESV)
The discussion on this highly-debated parable could be lengthy.  Suffice it to say that this manager did plan ahead.  He thought about changes needing made, and the master commended him for that. What may slip through one's notice is the last sentence - wealth will fail you.  All the splendor and glory of what we obtain will pass away, and only what we have invested in for eternity will last.  It is better to deeply discount the things of this world and put our resources, and our energy into things eternal.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Changing the way we do business...

 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a manager, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his possessions. And he called him and said to him, ‘What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your management, for you can no longer be manager.’ And the manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do, since my master is taking the management away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. I have decided what to do, so that when I am removed from management, people may receive me into their houses.’ (Luke 16:1-4 ESV)
The manager has not been doing his job.  In an illustration we in our society can clearly see - where many of us no longer do manual labor - he is in a spot - too out of shape to do manual labor, and too proud to go on welfare.  But soon he will be on the outside, needing help; he will have nowhere to eat or sleep.  The Pharisees had been poor managers; they soon would be on the outside looking in. What were they doing to do? Were they going to make changes to prepare for their new situation?  Have we gotten too accustomed to "business as usual" in doing God's work?  Have we been good stewards of the gospel with which God has entrusted us?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Don't miss the dance...

 “Now his older son was in the field, and as he came and drew near to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants and asked what these things meant. And he said to him, ‘Your brother has come, and your father has killed the fattened calf, because he has received him back safe and sound.’ But he was angry and refused to go in. His father came out and entreated him, but he answered his father, ‘Look, these many years I have served you, and I never disobeyed your command, yet you never gave me a young goat, that I might celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your property with prostitutes, you killed the fattened calf for him!’ And he said to him, ‘Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to celebrate and be glad, for this your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.’”
(Luke 15:25-32 ESV)
Jesus is quite clear - The Father's house will be full of eating and music and dancing - celebrating the relationship He has with His children, who lovingly serve Him and humbly recognize Him as the great giver of all they have - who are not too proud to admit they have gone astray.  Though we may feel we have not gone away, have stayed "close to home", we have all gone astray.  But He offers forgiveness and new life, if we will come back to him and join the party.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Father's Part

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. And the son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Bring quickly the best robe, and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring the fattened calf and kill it, and let us eat and celebrate. For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate.   (Luke 15:20b-24 ESV)
The lost son had come to his senses, humbled himself and returned to the Father, confessing his sin and rebellion.  The Father's part is being Himself - loving, compassionate, just, and ready and waiting to have a relationship with His child.  But He goes above and beyond that, to bless the son with that sense that he is of value, and will share in His future.  The lost is found; there is great rejoicing in heaven.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Our part - Get Real

 “But when he came to himself, he said, ‘How many of my father's hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. Treat me as one of your hired servants.”’ And he arose and came to his father. (Luke 15:17-20a ESV)
The runaway son came to his senses.  He realized that this is not the way God made him to live.  And he was the problem.  We are the problem - unworthy sinners who have rebelled and hurt the Father.  It takes the humility of soul to admit that and confess it to Him.  It is reality, and failing to get real hinders us from the relationship with Him He created us to have.  Get Real.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Running from God...

 And he said, “There was a man who had two sons. And the younger of them said to his father, ‘Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.’ And he divided his property between them. Not many days later, the younger son gathered all he had and took a journey into a far country, and there he squandered his property in reckless living. And when he had spent everything, a severe famine arose in that country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to one of the citizens of that country, who sent him into his fields to feed pigs. And he was longing to be fed with the pods that the pigs ate, and no one gave him anything. (Luke 15:11-16 ESV)
Our run away from God takes many avenues - any and every one of which lead far from Him- the pursuit of stuff and personal happiness, looking for a thrill, just being able to say "I did it my way."  The end of all these roads is empty - "he began to be in need", and lonely - "no one gave him anything."  Only One can fill that void and loneliness.  Only One.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Every day counts...

 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin that I had lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.”(Luke 15:8-10 ESV)
This woman is not wealthy.  The coins she holds are a day's wage - enough to get by on.  In comparison to the man who lost one in a hundred sheep, she had lost ten times as much, and, for her, that meant one less day to live.  Therefore, her joy is even greater.  It is contagious.  May it be on earth, in our lives, as it is in heaven.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

What's one dumb sheep???

 So he told them this parable: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it? And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, ‘Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep that was lost.’ Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.
(Luke 15:3-7 ESV)
Christ shows His great love and compassion, and adds a new twist to many peoples' concept of God. He seeks us.  Though we are dumb and have gone astray, He seeks us and wants us in His fold.  Lost sheep matter to God, even dumb ones like me and you.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Who do you eat with?

Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him. And the Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.”(Luke 15:1-2 ESV)
The Pharisees and scribes rightly understood that eating is more than a meal; it's relationship. Family meal time is important; dinner in front of the TV is a sterile relationship with the mainstream media.  Chapter 14 began with Jesus having dinner at the home of a Pharisee; now He is eating with sinners. Guilt by association.  If Jesus eats with them and with us, we must be the same.  There is a choice to be made: either we concede that we too are sinners, and have a relatonship with Jesus, or we separate ourselves from them, and therefore, from Jesus too.  Who are you going to eat with?

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Made you look...

 It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”(Luke 14:35 ESV)
As Jesus wraps up this challenge as to whether we are ready to count the cost, take up our crosses, and follow Him, He uses one of His brief summary statements: Check your ears.  Are they there? Are you using them? Are you letting it sink in?  Is it in there: in your heart and mind?  Are you hearing, trusting and being transformed into a citizen of heaven?  He makes us look - not to see if we have ears, but if we are listening, learning and living by faith in Him.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Gray salt is not good...

 “Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away.”
(Luke 14:34-35a ESV)
The salt in Jesus' day did not come out of a box with a girl and an umbrella on it.  It was not "iodized" or fully pure.  Thus, when the salt was used in preservation or some other way, when it had done its job there would be a residue.  Such remains were useless.  Because of any tainting of salt, they would destructive for plant life.  It would be of no value.  As the "salt of the earth", when we lose our impact on the world, when we have blended in so much all others can see is the dirty residue, we are doing more harm than good to the kingdom of God.  Let's keep our saltiness, so others will taste and see that the Lord is good, so that we will have a positive and preserving influence on the world around us, so that we will finish well the purpose for which God has made us.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Don't put off that decision...

 Or what king, going out to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and deliberate whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends a delegation and asks for terms of peace.
(Luke 14:31-32 ESV)
This king, and I, and you, must make a decision.  Judgment is coming.  Procrasination is not advised.  Jesus says one should decide now, when the invasion is "yet a great way off." Why? The invading army may pick up speed as they rally their troops.  And, the further the King and His army must approach, the more time and energy and resources He has expended, the more He will want to recoup those expenses. In other words, the closer He gets, the lest likely terms of peace can be made. Don't wait.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

How deeply do you desire to be a disciple?

 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish.’(Luke 14:28-30 ESV)
We've all seen it - those unfinished homes along the road - concrete block foundations with no house on top, surrounded by weeds. It makes us wonder what happened.  This illustration is even more pronounced.  The man was not just building a home, but a tower, which requires even greater planning and a stronger foundation.  It becomes a mockery not only to him, but the community as well.  Such is a life that proclaims faith and salvation in Christ but fizzles out.  The bare foundation is still there; you cannot just cover it up, but unfinished,"immature" nature of the building is what sticks out.  To follow Christ is no shallow profession.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cannot be my disciple...

 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple.(Luke 14:27 ESV)
Bearing a cross - though the words are familiar, the picture is not - not in reality. We have seen pictures and movies. But it is not an everyday occurance we see - the kind that makes you pause, gawk or turn away.  It means public display of guilt; turning to follow; sacrifice of life.  It is no small step or shallow response.  It is a till-the-death, no-turning-back change of life.  That's what Jesus requires; that's what He deserves, as the one who took our guilt, followed God's plan to the end; and gave His life.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Honest Hyperbole of Hate

 Now great crowds accompanied him, and he turned and said to them, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.(Luke 14:25-26 ESV)
Jesus has been getting more and more demanding in His call to enter His Kingdom and follow Him.  Yet, the crowds are growing.  So He begins to use hyperbole to make sure we are conscious of what we are committing to.  If we truly believe what we say: That He is as great as He is (and He is - He is God the Son) and that what He says is as wonderful as we say it is (very truth), then He deserves what He demands - First Place.  In comparison to our love and allegiance to Him, all else is Hatred. Jesus is calling us to Honesty - Is He Lord of our lives?

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Creative Anger of God

So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry and said to his servant, ‘Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame.’ And the servant said, ‘Sir, what you commanded has been done, and still there is room.’ And the master said to the servant, ‘Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled. For I tell you, none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet.’”
(Luke 14:21-24 ESV)
The Host is rightfully angry that He has invited many guests to come to His banquet, but they have found all sorts of excuses to not come.  They will rightly miss out, but instead of cancelling the banquet, He extends his invitation to others - sinful and needy, not the ones you would guess, to come fill His table.  And they gladly accept.  God has extended His love and mercy and invitation to be a part of His Kingdom to us.  Have you accepted?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lame excuses...

 But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said to him, ‘I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused.’ And another said, ‘I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.’ So the servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house became angry ...’(Luke 14:18-21a ESV)
As Jesus continues His reply to the diner who was sure he was "in", the story takes a twist: many of those invited to the banquet have excuses for not coming.  Even though they knew it was coming, and should have been ready to go, the Host's banquet just wasn't important enough to them.  The host responds with justified anger, and He demonstrates His anger in the most creative way (as we would expect the Creator to do). He... (continued tomorrow...) What excuses do we make for ignoring God?

Friday, July 13, 2012

The most disturbing little word...

 When one of those who reclined at table with him heard these things, he said to him, “Blessed is everyone who will eat bread in the kingdom of God!” But he said to him, “A man once gave a great banquet and invited many. And at the time for the banquet he sent his servant to say to those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’(Luke 14:15-17 ESV)
How can one be disturbed by a little word when the theme is blessing in the Kingdom of God? When that little word is "but."  The diner seems to be in board with Jesus, talking the talk: "Heaven is a wonderful place...", BUT Jesus responds.  Not an "and", or a "yes" or a "therefore", but a "but."  There is something in the man's thinking, or in his heart, that does not have it quite right about who will be at the table.  Quite unsettling.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Different Dinner Manners....

 He said also to the man who had invited him, “When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”(Luke 14:12-14 ESV)
Having addressed the rest of the guests, Jesus now turns to His host and tells him he has invited the wrong guests.  Rather than inviting those who could (and did) invite him back, (and thus perpetuate the idea that they were all okay), Jesus challenged him to invite those who could not repay, and who therefore would be truly grateful for the invitation to the banquet(unlike these, who were being invited to the banquet in the kingdom and were not thankful.  The bottom line is again that the kingdom of God is focus not on the temporal, but the eternal. They and we, have a hard time remembering that.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The humble honored by the Host...

 But when you are invited, go and sit in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he may say to you, ‘Friend, move up higher.’ Then you will be honored in the presence of all who sit at table with you. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”(Luke 14:10-11 ESV)
This passage is consistent with the one where Jesus says service is greatness in the Kingdom of God.  Service does not lead to greatness; it is greatness.  We are not humble so that we will be honored - that would not be humility at all; we would think we deserve it (and some of us do!). Humility is so absorbed with the awesome greatness and grace of the Host that there is no self-seeking of honor.  The honor is to be considered a friend of God.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Hitting a little too close to home...

 Now he told a parable to those who were invited, when he noticed how they chose the places of honor, saying to them, “When you are invited by someone to a wedding feast, do not sit down in a place of honor, lest someone more distinguished than you be invited by him, and he who invited you both will come and say to you, ‘Give your place to this person,’ and then you will begin with shame to take the lowest place.(Luke 14:7-9 ESV)
Jesus is going to end up with fewer and fewer dinner invitations.  As the guest of honor, all eyes are on Him, and all ears are tuned to His voice.  Though Luke says this is an introduction to a parable, Jesus uses the word "you" five times - I'm talking to YOU!  Notice that He does not say the place of honor, but the places of honor.  Even if you chose seat number 7, if it's closer than is appropriate, you will end up in the last, lowest, farthest away seat.  There is to be room for no self-promotion in our lives, if we are to be followers of Christ.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Stilll Stumped on the Sabbath

 One Sabbath, when he went to dine at the house of a ruler of the Pharisees, they were watching him carefully. And behold, there was a man before him who had dropsy. And Jesus responded to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they remained silent. Then he took him and healed him and sent him away. And he said to them, “Which of you, having a son or an ox that has fallen into a well on a Sabbath day, will not immediately pull him out?” And they could not reply to these things. (Luke 14:1-6 ESV)
Since the leader of the synagogue had told the peole to NOT come there on the Sabbath to be healed, Jesus stopped going there. But the people came whereever He was, and he healed them there. In His continuing ministry of show and tell, He again repeats his resounding message: not only is it right to heal on the sabbath, it would be wrong not to.  How much does He need to repeat to us the same message over and over again?  Rather than confess He is right, we remain silent in word and action.

Finding the right spouse # 7...

A picture is worth a thousand words...

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Finding the right spouse # 6... The eyes have it...

And Isaac went out to meditate in the field toward evening. And he lifted up his eyes and saw, and behold, there were camels coming. And Rebekah lifted up her eyes, and when she saw Isaac, she dismounted from the camel and said to the servant, “Who is that man, walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into the tent of Sarah his mother and took Rebekah, and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother's death.(Genesis 24:62-67 ESV)
Thoughout this passage, we have people looking -the servant looking for a mate for his master's son, her looking for someone to open the watering hole, the servant, and here Isaac, looking toward the Lord, and Rebekah and Isaac looking at one another.  The looking is nowhere lustful, but looking for God's will and into the eyes of the Lord and others.  I will never forget the first time I saw my wife - there was something in her eyes; my ears were just clogged for awhile to listen to God's will. At any rate, the eyes have a lot to do with finding God's best for us, including the right mate.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Finding the right mate, part 5...

 Now then, if you are going to show steadfast love and faithfulness to my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, that I may turn to the right hand or to the left.”
 Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing has come from the LORD; we cannot speak to you bad or good. Behold, Rebekah is before you; take her and go, and let her be the wife of your master's son, as the LORD has spoken.”
(Genesis 24:49-51 ESV)
Is this true love?  A pointed question that deserves an answer? How can one know?  Others can see it too.  Others, knowing those involved, looking at the details, can say: "Yes, this is the Lord's doing; this is right."  With their support, love and faithfulness can grow.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Finding a good spouse 4 - a servants heart...

 “Before I had finished speaking in my heart, behold, Rebekah came out with her water jar on her shoulder, and she went down to the spring and drew water. I said to her, ‘Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder and said, ‘Drink, and I will give your camels drink also.’ So I drank, and she gave the camels drink also.(Genesis 24:45-46 ESV)
Abraham's servant had prayed, opened up his eyes, and seen Rebekah.  The big question was: how would she respond? How would her family respond?  This was quickly answered as she showed him immediate hospitality and respect, and subsuquently as her family gave him and his caravan lodging and food.  These acts demonstrated what was in the heart: an openness to God and others, to not be apprehensive about how the Lord may lead, and a desire to live Him and others, not themselves. Such qualities lay the foundation for a life lived together well.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Finding a good wife 3- Amazed....

 Then the servant ran to meet her and said, “Please give me a little water to drink from your jar.” She said, “Drink, my lord.” And she quickly let down her jar upon her hand and gave him a drink. When she had finished giving him a drink, she said, “I will draw water for your camels also, until they have finished drinking.” So she quickly emptied her jar into the trough and ran again to the well to draw water, and she drew for all his camels. The man gazed at her in silence to learn whether the LORD had prospered his journey or not.
(Genesis 24:17-21 ESV)
The servant of Abraham gazed because he was amazed: "Could this actually be the one God has?"  When God leads you to the one of His choosing, you sit back amazed at how He brings it all together.  It's one of those things that's gotta be Him. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Finding a good wife 2...

 Before he had finished speaking, behold, Rebekah, who was born to Bethuel the son of Milcah, the wife of Nahor, Abraham's brother, came out with her water jar on her shoulder. The young woman was very attractive in appearance, a maiden whom no man had known. She went down to the spring and filled her jar and came up.(Genesis 24:15-16 ESV)
Pray, open eyes, see what God shows you.  It will be beautiful... and more than skin deep. What more can we say?

Monday, July 2, 2012

Finding a good woman, part 1...

 And he said, “O LORD, God of my master Abraham, please grant me success today and show steadfast love to my master Abraham. Behold, I am standing by the spring of water, and the daughters of the men of the city are coming out to draw water. Let the young woman to whom I shall say, ‘Please let down your jar that I may drink,’ and who shall say, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels’—let her be the one whom you have appointed for your servant Isaac. By this I shall know that you have shown steadfast love to my master.”(Genesis 24:12-14 ESV)
We would do well to learn from history how one chooses a husband or wife.  When Abraham was old and concerned for his son, he sponsored a search for a good wife for his son, Isaac.  The diligent servant entrusted with this task first prayed.  He did not pray selfishly, but for the manifestation of love to his master and family.  Most of all, he prayed that he would know the Lord's "appointment", the one He chose.  Such should begin the search for the mate of God's chosing, be it for ourselves, or for one we love.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Coming and going...

 At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”(Luke 13:31-35 ESV)
Being masters of manipulation, the Pharisees attempted to derail Jesus from His determined destination: They did not want Him to go to Jerusalem - not that they fully understood why He was so intent on going. But experience thus far had always been: "Jesus versus Pharisees; Pharisees Lose". They did not relish losing at their field/court/arena/house.  Jesus would not be intimidated. He came when He had decided; He did what needed to be done: He gave His life and no one took it; He will come again at the time of His choosing. He comes and goes as He desires; He is Lord.