16 December 2014

Jesus Wants Our Focus

Lot's Wife - Lassetter Reeves
Luke 17:20-37

We have the wisest, most loving commander in the history of commanders. Good commanders give their subordinates information on a need-to-know basis. Our Father, through His Son, has given only the information that we need to know to those who place their faith, their trust, in Him.

In regards to His return, He gives us blinders and urges us to wear them. Blinders are given to many race horses. Blinders keep the horses focus on where they are going on where exactly they are supposed to strive toward in running the best race possible. Blinders keep the horse from becoming distracted by the other horses, by the cheering crowds, by whatever would keep that horse from the singular focus of running the race.

We Christians seem so easily distracted from walking after the Lord, from running the race. Some of us seem obsessed like Indiana Jones stooping excitedly over a map or through a book trying to match clues in order to find the treasure. We want to find the next prophet who will truly be able to point us toward the spiritual realm. We want to find out the specific identity of the Anti-Christ. We want to know the exact timing of how the apocalypse will occur. We want to be able to predict exactly when the Lord will return.

27 November 2014

Jesus Likes Seeing People Praising God

Luke 17:11-19

Lord, thank you for my life. Thank you for knitting me together in my mother's womb. Thank you for my health. Thank you that I don't know what it's like to have to go hungry. Thank you that I didn't grow up worrying about where I was going to sleep. Thank you for parents, grandparents, aunts and churches who taught me what it was like to be loved and safe. Thank you for a happy, innocent childhood. Thank you for parents who took seriously your gift and teachings on marriage. Thank you for parents who listened to you and raised me in your ways. Thank you for raising me in a nation that has allowed me to worship you without fear. Thank you for parents who valued all people, no matter their abilities, no matter their age, no matter their bank account, no matter where they live and taught me to do the same. Thank you for the gifts and abilities you have given to me. Thank you for the ability to serve in your kingdom and disciplining me to bless others the way you have blessed me. Thank you for your church. Thank you for teaching me the value of brothers and sisters who come alongside to help and spur on toward love and good deeds. Thank you for giving me a true partner in the ministry who takes seriously your gift and teachings on marriage. Thank you for four children who are growing up kind and loving with a true desire to love people the way you have loved them. Thank you for continued laughter. Thank you for the ability to sit with a grieving friend in silence. Thank you for each and every person you have placed in my sight that teach me another facet of the diamond of this world. Thank you for your communication with us given in your Word. Thank you for telling me exactly what you expect and the attitude I am to live with. Thank you for your Spirit that does what I am unable to do on my own - change for the better from the inside out. Thank you for your Son. Thank you that thousands of years later, he still answers the plea, "Jesus, master, have pity on us."

If you love people, you will be taken advantage. If you love people, you will be taken for granted. If you love people, not everyone you love will say "Thank You".

Do you know how I know this is true? Because often I forget how incredibly blessed I am and how much mercy He has shown to me.

At the start of the day, at the end of the day, don't forget to say thank you. Thank your family. Thank your friends. But,most of all, thank your Father in heaven.

Happy Thanksgiving!

25 November 2014

Jesus Is Rejected

John 11:45-57

No one can serve two masters. It's either Him or it's someone or something else. Whoever is not for Him is against Him.

In an age of clever man and compromised values, these statements make us uncomfortable. There is always a third option. We pick the benefits of column A and the benefits of column B without devoting ourselves to either with the purpose of getting exactly what we want out of life. After all, it is our life; it's our temple; it's our nation.

Then, the Alpha and Omega comes. The One who was and is and is to come takes on flesh and dwells among us. For the poor, for the rejected, for the unclean, this is good news. For the rich, for the chosen, for the powerful, this is not good news. For those who are happy with what they have, the message to all men of "Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand" is not a welcome message.

"If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation." 

Do you know how the others can tell when religious leaders lose the plot or expose ourselves for who we really are? When we describe what God has given as ours. When we reject God's clear revelation because it will take away what we love. And when what we love is not God or acknowledged as from God, then we are chasing after the wind.

18 November 2014

Jesus Is The Resurrection and The Life

The Raising of Lazarus - Tissot
John 11:17-44

They believed. They rightly believed. They rightly believed and they asked. They didn't hesitate. They didn't worry. They rightly believed and they asked. They believed. They asked. And their brother died anyway.

One of the things I enjoy about the Bible is that it is about real people in real places at real times. We throw around labels so easily. I suppose we label people because we long to simplify and save time. And, too often the labels are negative.

A number of preachers, including myself, have focused on Martha as the one who would have rather kept up appearances instead of spending real time with Jesus. But it is unfair to categorize someone based on a single instance. All of us have our good moments and our not so good moments.

10 November 2014

Jesus Acts Toward Our Need to Believe

Jesus Told About Lazarus - Unknown

John 11:1-16

"God's intention for us is to grow us to the point where he can empower us to do what we want." Dallas Willard

In other words, there is nothing more important than our relationship to our Lord God. The stronger our relationship with our Father in Heaven, the stronger our character develops. When we allow ourselves to be grown to the point where what we want is what He wants, then we are vessels that can be used for incredible good instead of wasted evil.

Mary and Martha's brother, Lazarus, was sick. They did the right thing and asked Jesus for help.  When Jesus heard Lazarus was sick, he did what he did for the centurion's servant and healed Lazarus in an instant.  Uh, no.  When Jesus heard Lazarus was sick, he left straightaway and healed Lazarus. Uh, no. When Jesus heard Lazarus was sick, he stayed where he was for two more days.

04 November 2014

Jesus Wants Us To Walk Humbly With Our God

Image - afr.com
Luke 17:1-10

C'mon, it was just fruit. Was the fall really the result of simply eating forbidden fruit?

No. The fall came when we humans decided that our Father should not be listened to. The fall came when we humans decided that the Living God should no longer be our God.

What is the fall of mankind?  As a result of our broken relationship with our Creator, we have broken relationships with our fellow man, self and nature. When this becomes clear, we then understand why the greatest commandments are not focused on objects or specific actions, but on relationships. First of all, our relationship with the Lord our God and then with our fellow man as we have a proper relationship with self.

If the fall is the fundamental breakdown of all living relationships, then salvation is not merely about eternal destinations but the reconciliation of all living relationships beginning with THE foundational relationship between our Father in Heaven and each one of us. In other words, being saved or born again restores our understanding of our place in His universe.

And so, Jesus instructs his first converts that in their joy of salvation, living in the age of grace, not to forget what they are being saved from.

29 October 2014

Jesus Warns Against Confusing Material Wealth for Spiritual Blessing

Luke 16:19-31

There's a reason why the prosperity doctrine (If you are faithful to Christ, then you will be materially blessed) is so appealing. We all want to get rich and be successful. And so, while so many of us are looking for the formula to material wealth, the prosperity doctrine places Christianity alongside all the other popular self-help books.

It's understandable. We read about historical figures like Solomon who, because he sought wisdom first, was blessed with great wealth. And, we think and many teach, "Okay, this is the model." The problem is while we like to think about the Abrahams, Josephs, Davids and Solomons, we tend not to think about the economic conditions of the Elijahs, Jeremiahs and Isaiahs. 

(We also tend to leave out the portion of Solomon's story that not only did he not finish well personally, he did not finish well politically. His wealth was apparently built, as most rich politicians are, off of the wealth of his people. We know this because when his son, Rehoboam, went against wise counsel of alleviating the people's tax burden, the kingdom of Israel split in two.)

The big problem with the prosperity doctrine is THE big problem with most false doctrines trying to take hold within Christianity: Jesus teaches against the doctrine. The two major lessons from this teaching from Jesus is don't confuse material wealth for spiritual blessing and God has already told his people what they need to know.

21 October 2014

Jesus Teaches Against Divorce

Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery, and the man who marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

"'Til death do we part." - A part of traditional wedding vows made before God, family and friends. 

Five years ago, I worked for a Christian organisation advocating for family values in the public square. We asserted to our government representatives that if our society were to remain strong then our laws, taxes and funding should prioritise preserving the most basic societal relationship, the family.

Our committee consisted of five men, one single and four married. Now, one is single, two are married and two are divorced. On top of that, another well-respected man whose job and reputation was built on a traditional family platform, left his long-time wife to marry another woman and seems to have no remorse about it whatsoever. Apparently, it is easier to talk to others about family than it is to maintain one.

06 October 2014

Jesus Says The Law Still Matters

The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. But it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one stroke of a letter of the Law to fail.

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  It's a fair question, isn't it? If we are forgiven for what we have done, then what we continue to do doesn't matter? If the self-righteous are warned about their sin, then does any effort toward holiness matter?

From the garden of Eden, we have been persuaded by the question, "Did God really say?" Yes, Jesus gives stern teaching to the self-righteous, but he also sends a warning to the self-reliant: The Law still matters. 

02 October 2014

Jesus Wants Us To Be Wise Stewards

The Parable of the Shrewd Manager - Coptic
Luke 16:1-15

Disclaimer: The views on this post or all other posts are solely mine and may not reflect the author of the teaching, Jesus. I may be wrong and/or completely off my rocker. Thankfully, The Teacher is a gracious teacher. If He has given you clearer insights on this teaching, please add to the discussion. There is only one person who knows exactly what He is teaching, but my Sensei stubbornly wants me to search for the answer.

This is such a difficult teaching from Jesus, I have never heard a sermon or a Bible study discussion on this parable. Any preacher will tell you that one of the advantages of expository (or from the text) preaching is not being responsible for the subject of teaching on any given Sunday as going through a particular part of the Bible will dictate what will be taught. As this blog is an expository blog through a harmony of the Gospels, we come upon one of those teachings not easily chewed over.

27 September 2014

Jesus Warns of the Front Door of Self-Reliance

Rembrandt - The Return of the Prodigal Son
I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.

If you want to read some sound teaching on The Prodigal Son read "The Prodigal God" by Timothy Keller.

"For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God."  Only one is righteous. Only one is pure. Only one is perfect. Not the ones standing away from the table muttering. Not the outcasts who are at the table.

Luke 15 is such a brilliant chapter because it so succinctly explains the human condition and the mission his followers are to be on for the rest of this age. At the start of the third parable, he warns about those who love stuff but despise the One who provides it.

25 September 2014

Jesus Wants to Party

I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. 

Did you know that joy is a fruit of the spirit? Would you know that if you went to a church? Not sure. Would you know that if you were to witness heaven?  Oh, yes.

As Jesus tell these parables about the lost, there are two groups. One group eating together.  The other group standing to the side muttering to themselves. Which group is Jesus with? In fact, as we have gone through this study and have hopefully gotten to know Jesus better, could you picture Jesus with the group standing off to the side muttering? I can't.

Here's a lie that needs to be refuted: Heaven hates people.

23 September 2014

Jesus Goes to the Lost

Luke 15

As wonderful as these stories are in Luke 15, they become more poignant when we remember the context. Jesus is again eating with the wrong people, while the right people murmur in disapproval at this well regarded teacher.

Time and time and time again in the Gospels we run into people in need. Time and time and time again in the Gospels we are told about ordinary people who are the outcasts of proper society.  Some are outcasts for legitimate reasons. They steal from their own countrymen to line their own pockets;  they have sex with other people's husbands, etc... Some are outcasts for health reasons. They have an infectious disease, possessed by violent demons, etc... Some are outcasts because they are seen to have no value. They can't see; they can't walk; they are poor, etc...

17 September 2014

Jesus Seeks and Saves the Lost

The Lost Sheep - Soord
Luke 15

It is not the healthy that need a doctor, but the sick...Matthew 9:12

Luke 15 is a beautiful chapter. Once again, Jesus is eating with the wrong people. Once again, Jesus is chastised by the right people. And, once again Jesus speaks the truth in love addressing the right people in close proximity to the wrong people.

But this time, he tells three stories articulating, to all who would listen, the relationship between heaven and earth, the attitudes of heaven and earth and why heaven is the earth's best hope and best ally.

He tells three stories about a lost sheep, a lost coin and lost children.  The first common thread of these stories? All three stories involve something that is lost.