Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Luke, Chapter 10 part 1

I cannot believe I nearly quit yesterday. Yesterday was an up and down day. I was encouraged by a great comment and a good entry. I had a good day writing. Then, I had a silly setback. Two basketball games I had been waiting for all day long, one I was covering and the other an important Purdue game, both ended in overtime losses for my teams. I am a person that something like this greatly affects. As much work as I put into my other blog about Purdue I felt like it was all wasted with last night’s loss.

But I find myself drawn back here on the last morning of 2008 in order to write about the word of God. This passage is all about perseverance. We Jesus name 72 additional disciples and he sends them out to preach the word. He is very up front about what they will face. They will not always be welcomed. They will indeed face struggles along the way. Some would eventually even be martyred for their faith like 11 of the original twelve.

1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. - -Luke 10”1-4

I would be shirking my responsibility if I backed away from this now. The workers are few, and if I gave up just because I saw little results they would be even fewer. This blog will continue into the New Year. It is not about me, but about the message. Tehse 72 men continued on through much harsher conditions and still brought in a great harvest as Jesus describes.

17The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name."
18He replied, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. 19I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. 20However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." – Luke 10:17-20

This is a powerful message. The 72 return successful in their mission, yet Jesus works hard to keep them grounded. The last part of this passage politely reminds them to remember not the power, but the result of that power. What I do means nothing. I receive nothing from the Word of God, for it is what does the work here. I rejoice only in the results of that work. The Word of God only lifts me up in the form of encouragement, not in some mystical power I should be amazed at. I pray that in the new year it’s power does the work it needs to in your life.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Luke, chapter 9 part 3

This may be the final entry for awhile. I am trying to do some mental soul-searching and find my place in this world. There are some lessons I need to learn, specifically what humility means as it is presented here in chapter 9, before I can find out what I am supposed to do next. Honestly, this has been a very difficult time, but the difficult times never seem to end anyway.
The final part of Luke, chapter 9 presents a funny picture, at least to me, with the following passage.

46An argument started among the disciples as to which of them would be the greatest. 47Jesus, knowing their thoughts, took a little child and had him stand beside him. 48Then he said to them, "Whoever welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me. For he who is least among you all—he is the greatest." – Luke 9:46-48

One of Jesus’ central arguments is that we must humble ourselves if we are to truly seek His kingdom. He even hits on this at the end of this chapter when he talks about what must be given up in order to follow Him. I have spent a lot of time this morning ruminating on this passage. Lately I feel as if I have been at odds with it. Despite my job struggles, I continue to be blessed with different short term opportunities. Unfortunately, they are opportunities I despise. I know that the core of this hatred is the feeling that I am above these jobs. I feel like I am meant for more with the abilities God has given me. I know He has a greater plan in mind. Unfortunately, not only has this attitude turned me off to these lesser position, it has let things like my writing passion slip. I have seen it in how my words feel disconnected even when I am writing here. In short, I feel like I should be greater, and that is not the attitude to take.

So what do I need to learn? I know things shouldn’t be beneath me, especially when there are people that would die to be in my position. I am blessed, but I feel like I have taken it for granted too often. It is my prayer this morning that I can step back in this week of freedom from work and examine what is on my heart. I need to get my goals in line with God’s goals for me. I certainly don’t know what I am doing anymore, and the world is presenting me with things I definitely don’t want to do.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Luke, Chapter 9 part 2

I hope that everyone out there had a good Christmas. It has been nearly a week since I have written here. In that time, I have felt very disconnected with God. It feels like I should be approaching Him more and more, especially this time of year, but things keep driving me further and further away. It is a frustrating time. I feel like I have all the time in the world, but I am still rushed by imaginary things that I have to accomplish each day. I want to change that by getting back to explicitly seeking God the first thing each morning. I want to give Him and this endeavor my first moments, undivided, each day. Let’s see how it goes.

When we last left Jesus in the book of Luke he was sending out the Twelve at the beginning of chapter 9. In the middle of this chapter we have two very important events. First, Jesus asks His disciples who they think He is. Remember, these guys were living the Bible. They didn’t have it written in advance. Naturally, they would be curious as to who this guy was with all these powers.

18Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, "Who do the crowds say I am?"
19They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life."
20"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"
Peter answered, "The Christ of God." – Luke 9:18-20

This is an act of faith by Peter. There had been many prophets before Jesus that had similar powers. Therefore, there was plenty of reason for these men to think Jesus was another prophet of Israel. Instead, Peter believed that Jesus was the Christ. He looked past everything to the man and saw the truth. He hadn’t needed more proof at that point. His faith was strong enough (and remember, with Peter, the faith issue sometimes vacillated) to see Jesus for who he was.

29As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. 30Two men, Moses and Elijah, 31appeared in glorious splendor, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem. – Luke 9:29-31

This was a special moment for Peter, James, and John. They were there to witness Jesus revealed in His full glory. They were given a special privilege that even the nine other disciples weren’t given. It is almost like a reward too. Jesus chose to reveal himself not because they needed a boost in their Faith, but because He wanted them to see Him in His full power and glory.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Luke, Chapter 9 part 1

This morning I am trying to refocus my efforts and my thoughts. I have felt very disconnected from God the past few days. I have struggled with branching away and trying to do things on my own. Naturally, this has led to poor results. I have become dissatisfied with many of my efforts as there is little movement career-wise. As usual, my best efforts yield nothing because I am not patient enough to wait on God. That is why I find the beginning of Luke 9 helpful this morning.

We live on faith. We are saved by grace thorough faith. We cannot accomplish anything without God’s blessing. When our reserves of faith are strong it feels like we can do anything. Conversely, when they are low even the most mundane tasks can seem overwhelming. We can quickly become mired in a morass of frustrating pursuits and seemingly fruitless efforts. When Jesus sends out the twelve, however, He instructs them to go with virtually nothing.

3He told them: "Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra tunic. 4Whatever house you enter, stay there until you leave that town. 5If people do not welcome you, shake the dust off your feet when you leave their town, as a testimony against them." – Luke 9:3-5

He did not tell them to go to the ATM and take out a couple thousand dollars. He didn’t tellt hem to call ahead to friends for a place to stay. He sent them out to proclaim the greatest message ever passed along. It is a message that continues to echo through to today. Not only that, He provided for every need along the way. I am doing far less important work. I sit at home with a roof over my head, money in the bank, and a computer as my terminal to the world in which to do my small part, yet I despair that God will provide for my needs.

Jesus does the same in the next passage when he feeds the 5,000 from essentially nothing. I see from these passages encouragement that God can provide for every need. I struggle because it feels like I am going nowhere. In doing so I lose sight for the fact things could be worse. In that, I feel shame. I recently finished reading a book about a gentleman who survived ten years in a North Korean gulag where he had to scrounge for what little food needed to survive. He lives through that and I complain about getting offered a 2 week job that I feel is beneath me? This brings me great shame this morning, and I pray that God will look past my failings and still use me for His kingdom.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Luke, Chapter 8 part 2

When I think of misplaced priorities I think of the second part of chapter 8 of Luke. This is where we see one of Jesus’ miracles performed for a crowd that puts more emphasis on the earthly results than on what Jesus actually accomplished. I am referring to the story of the demon-possessed man and how Jesus cast out the demons into a herd of pigs. Jesus performs this great feat, something that no one else can do, yet they are more concerned about what happened to the pigs.

32A large herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside. The demons begged Jesus to let them go into them, and he gave them permission. 33When the demons came out of the man, they went into the pigs, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned.

34When those tending the pigs saw what had happened, they ran off and reported this in the town and countryside, 35and the people went out to see what had happened. When they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus' feet, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid. 36Those who had seen it told the people how the demon-possessed man had been cured. 37Then all the people of the region of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them, because they were overcome with fear. So he got into the boat and left. – Luke 8:32-37

Where these people happy that Jesus cured this man? Were they amazed that he could do what He did? No. They were more concerned that they had lost a herd of pigs. Fortunately, this story has a happy ending.

One of the things that frustrates me is how my efforts to reach someone with the Word of God can turn up void. I try to reach people, yet nothing happens. Later on, someone else may reach that person, however. That person may be reached years later because of a seed I planted, or it could be for a totally different reason. The most important part is that the person is finally reached. We kind of see that here as the people of Gerasenes turn Jesus away. Though He is asked to leave, Jesus asks the demon-possessed man to stay and proclaim the gospel. This is what the disciples did on a smaller scale. The important thing is that a seed was planted. If they wouldn’t listen to Jesus, maybe they would listen to someone else.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Luke, Chapter 8 part 1

I know I am breaking the book of Luke up more and more, but the way Jesus teaches in this book allows for a deeper focus on some of the smaller passages. Today is one of those cases with the parable of the sower. This has long been one of my favorite parables of Jesus. I feel that is fully illustrates exactly what is possible as far as the effect of his message.

11"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15But 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. – Luke 8:11-15

First of all, we must see what happens when the sower throws the seed. It lands on the ground, of course. It does not defy the laws of gravity and go floating off into space. That tells me that the Word is given to everyone. Now there are arguments as to how the Word and message of Christ’s offer of salvation reaches everyone, but that is for Christ to decide, not me. The point is that everyone has access to it. It is not reserved for the wealthy, the elite, or the educated. This sower in the parable throwing it around randomly is a great metaphor.

Second, it is more important what we do with the Word once we do it. This has been a struggle for me as I try to find which category I fit into. I am pretty sure I do not fall into the category of those that here it, but it is snatched away. I don’t think I am in the second group either because I do endeavor to mature in the faith. The third category is more interesting. There are many days where I strive to learn and follow the Truth, butt his life beats me down. It feels like as I get older, there are more of these days, especially now. I don’t feel like I am in the fourth group because despite my efforts, I feel more isolated from society every day.

It is my prayer that I am maturing and following the path God wants me to follow by laboring in this place. It is also my prayer that you are doing the same with whatever God calls you to do.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Luke, Chapter 7 part 2

Why is forgiveness one of the hardest parts of the human construct? Think about those who have wrong you. How easy is it to forgive them? What are the struggles you go through as someone causes you pain, then seeks your forgiveness? It is difficult, isn't it? Forgiveness is a directive that is easy to talk about, but it is much harder to put into practice. I think it is because when we forgive, we have to admit that we were somehow wrong in a way. We were wrong in harboring our anger.

The second half of Luke chapter 7 deals with the concept of forgiveness and how difficult it is. John the Baptist specifically taught a gospel of salvation through the forgiveness of sins. He didn't have the power to forgive sins, but he was a messenger preparing the way for the one who would have that power. He was a powerful influence, and was one who set everything up for Jesus' ministry to be so successful.

29(All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus' words, acknowledged that God's way was right, because they had been baptized by John. 30But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God's purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.) – Luke 7:29-30

This is where we begin to see a divergence between Jesus and the Pharisees. Their fear of change gave way to their jealousy of Jesus. It is funny, but it was the so called outcasts of society: the prostitutes, tax-collectors, and the like, that understood the message, yet the Pharisees did not. This would eventually cost both John and Jesus their lives.

44Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon, "Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. 45You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. 46You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. 47Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—for she loved much. But he who has been forgiven little loves little." – Luke 7:44-47

Ultimately, love is the greatest message that Jesus gave us. We are told by him to love one another. It was His love for mankind that led to His sacrifice on the cross. Jesus is the purest example of love, and this passage is a great indication of that. Love is what allows him to forgive sins, but as we see, the Pharisees did not see that. Their view of love was tainted, like so many other views of love these days. I admit that is one of the hardest things in life. Love in its purest form, as illustrated by Jesus' life, is awesome. Unfortunately, humanity has tainted it so much that it has become the root of much bitterness for me. We must value and cherish something so beautiful, but instead, mankind has made a mockery of it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Luke, chapter 7 part 1

Yesterday was a very powerful writing experience. It was an instance in which I felt the Word of God truly speaking to me. Of course, it does speak every time we read it. It is simply a matter of how well we are listening. As I listen to today's passage, the first 17 verses of Luke chapter 7, we see that it is a message on Jesus' mercy. It is also a strong lesson in faith.

We have two similar stories with different backgrounds. First we have the servant of the Centurion being healed. Here was a man that was well outside the establishment. In fact, as a soldier for Rome, he was most likely despised by the people of Israel. The very idea of Jesus coming to work in the life of one of the oppressors of Israel was ludicrous in this day. Still, what Jesus said in his sermon during chapter 6 struck a chord with this man. He suddenly gained faith and saw the heart of the message: that Jesus was meant for all, not just a select group.

He was not far from the house when the centurion sent friends to say to him: "Lord, don't trouble yourself, for I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. 7That is why I did not even consider myself worthy to come to you. But say the word, and my servant will be healed. 8For I myself am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I tell this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and that one, 'Come,' and he comes. I say to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it." – Luke 7:6-8

Here was a man of great power, yet he deferred to, what to him, was a crazy preacher from a dusty part of the world. Jesus had such a profound effect on people like this, yet others, such as the religious establishment waiting for his arrival as a Messiah, missed the message. This gentile, someone who wasn't even a Jew, saw and had faith. Sometimes all it takes is just one hearing of the message for it to sink in.

14Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said, "Young man, I say to you, get up!" 15The dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother. – Luke 7:14-15

This also shows Jesus' compassion for a woman he didn't even know. Unlike the Centurion, she had no power or authority. It is likely she was simply a poor widow, as women had very little place in society at the time. Still, Jesus saw as much compassion for her as the man with the command of many. This shows the underlying message that Christ does not care about your station in life. It is meaningless. He cares only about a person's heart and has compassion for all. If it was not for this love, we would be totally lost. It was this love, however, that eventually became His sacrifice for our sins.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Luke, Chapter 6 part 3

Jesus’ words struck a chord with me this morning. It was a shameful chord too. The remaining part of chapter 6 of Luke that we have not gone over reminded me of just how sinful and lost I really am. It is because of that loss that I struggle even more at times such as now. Currently, I am going through a period where I feel directionless. I don’t know where I am going and I question if where I have been has any real meaning. I see little value in what I have accomplished for the last four years of my life because nothing seems to help me move forward.

This relates to the passage on judging others and love for my enemies. I tend to view those who hurt me deeply as now longer worthy of my attention. If the hurt is deep enough, it becomes a silent rage. There is a particular hurt in my life that I continue to wrestle with from time to time. As much as my anger changes nothing, I continue to think that if I just saw this person once and was allowed to unleash my fury it would set things right. I know it would change nothing. The person in question does not care. Still, I am the one hurting. I feel they should hurt for causing me pain.

27"But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, 28bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. 29If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. - -Luke 6:27-29

This is likely one f the hardest teachings of Jesus to apply to everyday life. I know it is for me. It takes an enormous amount of grace to do this, but in it is the root of salvation. It takes an enormous amount of grace for Jesus to forgive us of our sin and allow us to enter into His glory, but he still does it. It is no different than this lesson. In our sin we hate God. It causes us to turn from Him. We mistreat Him when we sin. Still, does He hate us? Does He smite us because he can get revenge? No! A thousand times no! He gives us the ultimate, most pure example of love by offering us forgiveness and salvation through the blood of Christ. Are we worthy of this? We are no more worthy of this than those who hurt us being worthy of our forgiveness. Still, the gift is there. This is love in its most pure, unadulterated form.

43"No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44Each tree is recognized by its own fruit. People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. 45The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks. – Luke 6:43-45

The previous passage relates directly to this verse. What good am I if I store up bitterness in my heart? Look what it has gotten me: a seemingly useless existence with no job. As a result, I sit alone during the day and face every temptation I think I have beaten. I sit alone and simply store up more bitterness at the injustices of the world. What good am I to the kingdom then? What good am I if I succumb each day to the bitterness and not let God use me fully for the plan He has in mind? The choice is ultimately up to me. Do I produce good fruit by striving to move forward with the little good stored in my heart (which is the only way to store up more good) or do I continue to produce dark, bitter fruit and feel the world owes me something simply because I have certain talents.

I know one way hasn’t worked, so I pray that I have the strength, to pursue the other way. I pray God can guide me the other way, too.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Luke, Chapter 6 part 2

I wanted to separate the middle part of Luke 6 because it presents an interesting dichotomy in Jesus’ teachings. Jesus often taught about the treasures of heaven. They are obviously something that we have to wait patiently for. It is not an easy life. As with many things, Jesus showed in this passage that what is easy isn’t necessarily always what is right. This middle passage of Luke chapter 6 is a warning against taking that easy path in this life.

20Looking at his disciples, he said:
"Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
21Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
22Blessed are you when men hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil, because of the Son of Man.
23"Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven. For that is how their fathers treated the prophets.
24"But woe to you who are rich,
for you have already received your comfort.
25Woe to you who are well fed now,
for you will go hungry.
Woe to you who laugh now,
for you will mourn and weep.
26Woe to you when all men speak well of you,
for that is how their fathers treated the false prophets. – Luke 6:20-26

Does this mean we always must be poor, hungry, hated, and sad in this world? Of course not! As usual, Jesus is speaking in a metaphor. He is asking us, as his disciples, to constantly hunger for more. This can be more knowledge, more time in the Word, more time with Him. We must be aware of our sad surroundings and long for the victory He has promised.

That is why we have the woes here too. The woes are presented to show us that if we are satisfied with our present state, we will be sorely disappointed in our eternal state. What we think is satisfying here pales in comparison to the kingdom of God. If we think we are great here we are truly nothing in the sight of God. Jesus is trying to show us how our earthly lives, while not needing to be full of pain and suffering, pale in comparison to what is ahead.

Maybe this is why I have felt so unfulfilled lately. I know that I don’t fit into this world very well. It is probably a large reason why I have struggled to find regular work despite the gifts I have been given. This world seems like nothing more than a dark, forbidding, hopeless place on a lot of days for me. As we are taught here, however, we must remember the ultimate reward. Suffering here will melt away when Jesus’ promise is fulfilled.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Luke, Chapter 6 part 1

This chapter of Luke shows, in my opinion, one of the best examples of how mankind can completely lose touch with reality. It features my favorite bumbling characters, the Pharisees, completely missing the point of one of Jesus' lessons.

1One Sabbath Jesus was going through the grainfields, and his disciples began to pick some heads of grain, rub them in their hands and eat the kernels. 2Some of the Pharisees asked, "Why are you doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath?"

 3Jesus answered them, "Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry? 4He entered the house of God, and taking the consecrated bread, he ate what is lawful only for priests to eat. And he also gave some to his companions." 5Then Jesus said to them, "The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath." – Luke 6:1-5

On the surface, it is ridiculous that the Pharisees got all uptight about something like this. And it is ridiculous. This was probably the least amount of work you could do. Since Jesus was a threat to their power though, it was a punishable offense. Instead of listening to the message behind His words they looked for any small excuse to accuse Jesus. It doesn't stop there, either. As we continue with the story, Jesus performs another healing miracle. Instead of being in awe and wondering how this man had this power, they felt threatened. He worked on the Sabbath according to them. Performing this miracle had to be a greater crime than their own hypocrisy.

Jesus wasn't changing the rules here. We are still supposed to honor the Sabbath to this day. What he did was change ideas and values. Honoring the Sabbath has no value if we enforce traditions simply for the sake of enforcing them. That is what the Pharisees were trying to do. They were so short sighted that they refused to grow. Our lives are about growth, spiritual or otherwise. Without growth up to the last moment of our lives on this earth there is little point in living. This is why I struggle with stagnation. If I am not growing I see little point in continuing.

12One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. 13When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: 14Simon (whom he named Peter), his brother Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, 15Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot, 16Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. – Luke 6:12-16

This is a critical moment in Jesus' ministry. He had plenty of disciples, but these 12 ordinary men were specially chosen for a destiny that would change the world. In this moment, they became more than mere followers of Christ. They became representatives of his ministry. Later they would become leaders and teachers of the Word. What makes this even more amazing is that they were ordinary men. They had no special backgrounds or skills. In less than 3 years with Jesus they were trained to start a movement that continues to grow 2,000 years later. They were often rebuked, doubted,a nd even denied Christ, but they still accomplished amazing things in His name. That is simply extraordinary.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Luke, chapter 5

Why would a man like Jesus need help? Why would Jesus need to pray? Why would Jesus tell people to be quiet about His ministry? Those are just some of the questions addressed in Luke, chapter 5 as we see today. This chapter deals with some of the early events in his public ministry, such as the calling of his disciples. In this, it is not so much an admission that Jesus needed help. Instead, we see that He is intrusting mankind with the dissemination of His message. Yes Jesus could have simply changed minds supernaturally, but by placing the responsibility in mankind's hands He allows for us to come to Him of our own free will.

8When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at Jesus' knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man!" 9For he and all his companions were astonished at the catch of fish they had taken, 10and so were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, Simon's partners.

   Then Jesus said to Simon, "Don't be afraid; from now on you will catch men." 11So they pulled their boats up on shore, left everything and followed him. – Luke 5:8-11

This is an important passage because Simon, later known as Peter, would go on to become the leader of the disciples. Simon is an interesting character. He knew his shortcomings at times, but other times he was reckless in following those shortcomings. His love for the Lord was unmatched, but it too caused him to be reckless. His calling is a metaphor for the work he would accomplish in his life. Peter would eventually go on to lead the disciples in spreading Christ's word throughout the globe. His efforts are still bearing fruit to this day each time the Word of God is testified.

15Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. 16But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. – Luke 5:15-16

Why would Jesus need to pray? He was already fully God, but this shows how he was fully man too. Because of this, He also had to rely on strength from the Father instead of His own strength. In the physical limitations of the human body He couldn't possibly hope to cope with the enormity of what He had to do. This shows us how much we need to rely on prayer. This also links in with the final passage on fasting. Fasting allows us to focus our minds and our spirits on that sustaining prayer. Without, our spiritual lives are directionless.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Luke, Chapter 4 part 2

I have a confession this morning. I very nearly walked away from writing this blog here at Veritas. It has not become what I wanted it to become. I didn't feel like I was reaching much of an audience. Also, I felt like I wasn't developing as a writer anymore. I felt like I was rehashing the same message over and over again, especially in the writings on the life of David. I don't know if it was my inner strength leaving me or what, but I simply didn't feel qualified to write on this anymore.

Then I realized I was breaking a cardinal rule I set forth when I created this space: I was making it about myself. I had gone away from the focus on God and what He was doing behind my words and instead drew disappointment that the focus wasn't on how I can advance myself. I see that same lesson today in the second part of Luke chapter 4. In it, Jesus begins his public ministry away from his home town. He starts in Capernaum, which is a town he would use as one of the bases during His short public ministry.

40When the sun was setting, the people brought to Jesus all who had various kinds of sickness, and laying his hands on each one, he healed them. 41Moreover, demons came out of many people, shouting, "You are the Son of God!" But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew he was the Christ. – Luke 4:40-41

Why would Jesus refuse to allow people to talk about His miracles? It is simple. The miracles and discussion hat would follow would put the focus on Him instead of His message. These miracles did serve a purpose. They drew attention to His ministry. What we see though throughout this ministry is that Jesus never made them the focus. The focus was always His message of salvation and forgiveness through repentance. It is almost like he used the miracles simply as an attention getter. They would say, "If you liked that, let me tell you what else I have," in a way.

Jesus knew he had more important things to say. These were messages that were conveyed not in words or actions, but in the meaning behind them. Jesus only promoted himself in the ways that it matters (i.e. I am the way, the truth, and the life.). The rest of the time, it was all about his message. That is why I am going to continue writing here. It is about the message and the Truth found in the Word, not about my own goals. I invite you to keep reading with me.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Luke, Chapter 4 part 1

What is temptation to you? There are personal demons that everyone battles. In my life, there are three in particular that continue to plague me daily. It is easy to fall prey to temptation even when we are strong. Our own strength is never enough because we are not Christ. Lately I have fallen prey to some of my temptations, particularly those rooted in frustration and anger, because they are the easy way. I don't necessarily get what I want, but it is the easy way to give in and lash out at those around me because life seems directionless. Essentially, that is what temptation boils down to: What is the easy way?

The beginning of Luke, chapter 4, deals strongly with temptation. Before beginning His public ministry, Christ is tempted by Satan directly. It is hard to imagine the Son of God taking the easy way when, if you think about it, everything could be the Easy Way for Him. The easy way was not His mission though. It was not His choice to avoid the suffering and sacrifice He had to face on the Cross. As the Son of God, He didn't have to do it. He wanted to do it though, no matter how difficult it was. The Sacrifice, which was never easy, was necessary in order to provide reconciliation for all mankind to God. Simply put, the Easy Way was not going to cut it.

5The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. 6And he said to him, "I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. 7So if you worship me, it will all be yours."

 8Jesus answered, "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'" – Luke 4:5-8

How could Satan give Jesus everything if He already had it? It is easy to see how a normal man would fall prey to this. Being given the entire world is a tempting offer. Jesus, however, knew the truth. The kingdoms of the world not only were already promised to Him eventually, but they weren't even in Satan's power to give. To me, if I were Jesus (and I know I am far from Jesus), this is the easiest temptation to resist of the three. Jesus knew patience was the key. He was going to win regardless, so why take the easy way?

The second part I wanted to discuss today was Jesus' rejection in His hometown. I love this because it speaks to my character. Jesus did not do what was expected of Him. He did not conform to other peoples ideals. I can relate to this, because I hate conforming. I hate going along with society on many things simply because that is what is expected. Some call it being difficult, but I prefer to think of it as unique. That is a strong part of Jesus' nature though. If you look closely at His ministry, he never makes it about Himself or about others. He is constantly at odds with those He comes in contact with. He directed the message and focus on God instead. In this, he specifically and boldly pointed out the truth without regard to what people thought He should do. Some, like those in Nazareth, rejected Him for it. Personally, I love him for it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Luke, Chapter 3 part 1

I have long been fascinated by the life of John the Baptist. He is one of my favorite Biblical figures, right up there with Abraham, David, and Paul. John was an extraordinary man. He saw that he had a special calling and pursued it with ambitious zeal. In that, he also knew his place. He developed a great following in the desert, yet never let this following go to his head. He never sought power. He longed only to pursue his mission and teach the message of repentance. He knew he was here to prepare the way for Christ, not to be Christ.

15The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Christ. 16John answered them all, "I baptize you with water. But one more powerful than I will come, the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. 17His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." – Luke 3:15-17

The heart of John's message was one of repentance. We see in these verses that he did not have the power to forgive. He knew that salvation was not his to grant. Instead, he was here to teach the basic path of Jesus' message. Jesus is the one with the power to grant salvation. First though, we must repent of our sins and recognize the need for salvation. This was the essential message that John the Baptist preached. He wanted to show us that we had a need for salvation, not that we can automatically expect it because of who we are.

What fascinates me about John the Baptist is the way he selflessly filled this role, even unto death. He ends this passage by being imprisoned, yet he served with the same gusto that Paul would later serve. I also like how there was no middle ground with him. I am a very black and white person, almost too much so. I do not like middle ground. With me, you're either on one side or another. That is how John was, and that is good because it relates to Christ's message. There is no middle ground when it comes to repentance. You must have it. John taught this, and it is an essential part of what we need when we approach Christ seeking salvation.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Luke, Chapter 2 part 2

Very little is known of Jesus' childhood. The only account of him as a boy comes late in this chapter, where as a 12 year old we find him debating with the teachers in the courts of the temple. I have always wondered what Jesus was like growing up. Here He was, completely in human form, yet He was also fully God at the same time. Did he go through all the stages of growth hat humans go through, or did He instantly know everything even as an infant? This is the only glimpse we get of him as a child, but it shows that even then He was quite exceptional.

46After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, "Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you."

 49"Why were you searching for me?" he asked. "Didn't you know I had to be in my Father's house?" 50But they did not understand what he was saying to them.

 51Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. 52And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. – Luke 2:46-52

First of all, this shows an incredible amount of maturity for a 12 year old. Second, this is one of the few times where the religious leaders of the day were at least partially understanding of His ministry. Most of the time they were plotting to kill Him. I don't fully understand what was going through their heads, but maybe they were simply astounded that this was coming from a 12 year old boy. They gave him leeway because of His youth, but later on when Jesus clearly threatened their power they revoked that leeway.

I also especially love the last part of this chapter. It really paints a picture of Jesus' humility. Jesus clearly was superior to every single human being who ever lived. In that, He never lorded it over people. He never showed human pride, being content to serve rather than seek power. He was obedient to His human parents, and much of His life was spent working as a carpenter in His father's business. Remember, His public ministry was only about 3 years long. The time between this story and his public ministry was six times longer than that. In that time, he humbly lived as a normal human being.

Was Christ trying to fully understand what it was like to live as merely a man in that time? I don't know. It is a mystery because if He is omniscient, then he didn't need to do this. I think this allows us to relate to Christ on a very personal level. Though He didn't have to, He still lived just like one of us. To have a Creator that sacrificed everything to live among us is overwhelming.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Luke, Chapter 2 part 1

Today we deal with the greatest event in the human history. What else can you call the birth of Jesus Christ? His coming was foretold across the centuries and still gives us our sole hope for salvation and eternal life to this day. As mentioned yesterday, His predecessor in John the Baptist had a pretty exceptional birth. Instead of human speculation on his life, Jesus’ birth was announced with divine signs from the heavens.

8And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10But the angel said to them, "Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." – Luke 2:8-12

Why would God choose to announce the birth of mankind’s Savior in this way? Why not go to Rome, or to the temple in Jerusalem? It is very important that these shepherds were among the first that knew of Jesus’ birth. They were among the bottom level of society even though David, Israel’s greatest king, was once one of their number. The message is brought to them first to show that Jesus came for all mankind. Had the religious leaders or political figures of the day been contacted first it could have been construed differently. Instead, this humble birth is announced first to the common people, those He came to save.

We see further that the shepherds, these uneducated men on the fringe of society, instantly grasped what the religious leaders of the day failed to do over the course of Jesus’ ministry. They understood that their Savior had been born even without fully understanding the need for one. This only proves that God speaks directly to the heart, not the mind. We will see over the course of the rest of this book that when the mind gets involved, it can be an impediment to the truth. When we listen with our hearts, however, we hear and feel God’s presence move us.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Luke, Chapter 1, part 2

The second part of this chapter begins with Mary’s song. This is nothing less than a beautiful song of praise. If you take a look at the societal norms of the time, however, you can see how difficult it would be for Mary to have a song of praise. She was pregnant before being married. This was more than enough to have her shunned from society. We see in the other gospels that Joseph considered quietly breaking off the engagement as well. We also know that Mary was possibly as young as 14. The fact that she had this song undoubtedly shows an enormous amount of maturity for her age.

This also exhibits the power of God in the way He overcame what surely had to be an enormous amount of fear because of the above conditions. I can barely overcome my own fears, and they aren’t nearly on the scope of Mary’s here.

The rest of the chapter deals with the birth of John the Baptist. As we have discussed before, John was a special type of prophet. He was sent to prepare the way for Christ. His mission was one of change, preparing the people for when Christ would bring about even more dramatic change. Zechariah celebrates this with his won song of praise, but let’s take a look at John’s birth.

62Then they made signs to his father, to find out what he would like to name the child. 63He asked for a writing tablet, and to everyone's astonishment he wrote, "His name is John." 64Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue was loosed, and he began to speak, praising God. 65The neighbors were all filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. 66Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, "What then is this child going to be?" For the Lord's hand was with him. Luke 1:62-66

This is very interesting. John the Baptist was a man that openly admitted he wasn’t as good as Christ, yet his birth is met with great fanfare and wonder by the people around him. As we will see tomorrow, Christ came into the world under even more extraordinary circumstances (the virgin birth), yet His birth was met with very little fanfare. If not for God speaking to the shepherds and the Magi through His angels, it would have met with even less fanfare.

So what can we take from this? It is important to praise God even when things look bleak. It is also important to know that we each have roles. John was someone whom people discussed what he would be in wonder. There were great expectations on him, and he lived up to them. I believe we each have great expectations regardless of what others think. We each have a mission, a purpose for why we are here. It is up to us to seek God first and follow that path.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Luke, Chapter 1

My writings on the life of David didn't go as well as I expected, so I have decided to jump back to the gospels for a moment. Since we are now officially in the Christmas season it is the perfect time to do so. I have already written on the gospels of Matthew and Mark, so today I wanted to get into Luke’s gospel. I think this is my favorite of the four gospels because it feels like Luke is merely writing a letter to a friend. It takes a tone much like Paul’s letters later on in the New Testament.

The first chapter is a long one, but it sets up the background for the birth of Jesus. We get a much better picture of John the Baptist before his birth. He would play a major role in preparing the way for Christ’s own ministry.

11Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. 12When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. 13But the angel said to him: "Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to give him the name John. 14He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, 15for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from birth. 16Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. 17And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord." – Luke 1:11-17

This is very similar to the birth of Isaac as we saw in the life of Abraham. When God Himself gets involved dramatically in human affairs like this is definitely something that we should pay attention to. John the Baptist was the one who would prepare the way for Christ. To this point there have been many people who have prophesied the need for a Savior, but it was up to John to actually prepare the people of the day to receive him.

Christ Himself was going to bring about dramatic change. He challenged the very ideals of Israelite society. It is almost as if God knew that his type of change would be too radical to be completely understood, so he sent John as an intermediary.

41When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. 42In a loud voice she exclaimed: "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! 43But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. 45Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!" – Luke 1:41-45

This second part is important because it shows that Elizabeth understood her place. She knew she was having her own special child, but that child was merely a servant for the one that Mary would have. Even before His birth Jesus was already making changes in the hearts and minds of people.