Today in the last part of Luke 13 Jesus teaches about salvation. This is a lesson we all need to pay very close attention to. He is asked if there would be “few or many” that are saved. His answer – quit worrying about that and focus on getting yourself right with God. Check out what Jesus says: “The way to life–to God-is vigorous and requires your total attention. A lot of you are going to assume that you’ll sit down to God’s salvation banquet just because you’ve been hanging around the neighborhood all your lives. Well, one day you’re going to be banging on the door, wanting to get in, but you’ll find the door locked and the Master saying, Sorry, you’re not on my guest list.” How sad that day will be for so many who thought they would be allowed to enter into eternity with God just because they were “hanging around” the church and acting religious. That won’t cut it guys. The ONLY way we will enter eternity with the Father is through a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Hanging around the church, doing good things, talking religious stuff – it doesn’t cut it. Jesus is “the way, the truth and the life” and no man comes to the Father but through Him. We have been given the secret to salvation – now we need to apply it in our own lives and make sure we are in right relationship with Jesus, but we also need to share it with others so they don’t get surprised either. Are you on the guest list? Have you made that commitment? Have you told others how to be an invitation to the best thing they can ever know? It is up to us to share the truth. Let’s get after it!
Archive for January, 2008
Jesus gives us some teaching here about the tree that bears no fruit. Did you know that we are expected to bear fruit? Read John 15 and understand that as a believer, there is an expectation that we will be plugged into the source of life (the vine) and that we will be the branches and bear fruit. Jesus says to “chop it down” when the apple tree has failed to bear fruit for three years. The gardener sounds a lot like me when someone wants to ask me about my personal fruit bearing. Check out his approach: “Let’s give it another year…..maybe it will produce next year”. Are you a “maybe” fruit producer for the kingdom? I know some days I sure am. I lose sight of my mission in life to stay connected and be a fruit bearer for the Lord. But Jesus is clear on expectations and the opportunity. To recall what it teaches from John 15 again: “if you abide in me, and I abide in you….you will bear fruit”. Bearing fruit is not an optional outcome of living the Christian life. It should be the norm. It should happen because we are a growing Christian. Fruit trees don’t make a decision every morning about whether today they want to bear fruit or not. That is what they do. Yet we seem to think we can just go on through life without really producing any fruit at all some days, maybe most. I asked our small group the other night now many people they had witnessed to and led to Jesus in 2007. I know my production was pretty low, ok – non existent is the actual term here. How about you? How many people did you share your faith with and lead to a personal relationship with Jesus? What about discipleship? It isn’t optional for us you know. Jesus said in Matthew 28 to “go and make disciples”. Does that sound like we get to decide on our activity based on how we feel? I don’t think so. So the next question is – how many people did you disciple in 2007? Invest your life into and have them follow you to the Master? My answer was slightly better here as I have made a few investments like this. But you get the drift. We need to be evaluating life in light of scripture. I don’t want to be a barren tree that is chopped down as worthless because I failed to bear fruit. I want to be focused on living a life that produces. Are you living like that?
Luke 12 ends with Jesus talking about the end times. I love how the Message puts it: “Keep your shirts on; keep the lights on”. Are you ready for the day you meet Jesus face to face? Be it when life ends here on earth or He comes again – are you ready? The message Jesus gives us in this teaching today is that we don’t know when the day will come. We just need to be working hard to do the work we are assigned. If we ignore our mission and ministry scripture says we “will be thoroughly thrashed”. What a sad day to stand before Jesus and have to explain why I was too busy to do His work because I spent all my time doing my own. Why? To make money to buy stuff I don’t need or even use? To be popular and well thought of? Why do we use our time like we do men? What is our motive. Check out what scripture says in this very important few verses: “Great gifts mean great responsibilities; greater gifts, greater responsibilities!…I’ve come to change everything, turn everything right side up… I’ve come to disrupt and confront”! Sounds like Jesus mission is to make our lives comfortable doesn’t it? Not! He expects us to use what we have been entrusted to make a difference in our patch. We have been given much – talent, gifts, resources – we will be held accountable with how we use them. Jesus is a CHANGE AGENT guys. He came to change lives – yours and mine included. Things cannot stay the same. We have to learn to deal with change and continual improvement. Our six sigma guys on this string think this way every day – continual improvement. Jesus is in that business for our lives. He wants to see us GROW and become like Him. What are you doing with your life? Are you sitting back and just enjoying the ride? If so you are missing the mission Jesus has for you. He wants you to get in the game and make a difference in those you touch. He wants you to reach out and matter – intentional and significant – make a difference. Who will you touch for Jesus today? Really touch? Walk across the room and do it. Get out of your chair, hug your family, love people and do it!
The middle section of Luke 12 speaks to a topic that we need to be on guard against – greed. It centers on the story of a farmer who had a harvest beyond his ability to store it all. So what does he do? He tears down his barns and builds new ones so he can hold all the bounty. Sounds a little bit like 2007 to me for many people on the farm. God blessed us with a bountiful yield this year. Is that bad? Nope – being blessed by God is good. The key is what we do with that blessing that matters. Are we keeping it all for ourselves? If so that is the wrong response. You may recall in the story that the rich man died that very night. It didn’t really matter how much he had – his life was over. Jesus gives us this truth we would be very good to keep in mind: “Life is not defined by what you have, even when you have a lot”. The score to life is not measured by who has the most toys even though the world will tell us it is. The score in God’s eyes is about what we did with what He gave us. Jesus goes on to explain why the rich man died. “That’s what happens when you fill your barn with Self and not with God”. We have to keep things in perspective – God’s perspective. He alone is the owner of all wealth and everything for that matter. We are merely stewards He entrusts with it. Why does it matter? This truth really is the center of the reality guys: “the place where your treasure is, is the place you will most want to be, and end up being”. Where is your treasure? Scripture tells us to “store up treasures in heaven” because that is what matters to God. We need to let God deal with the details and focus on serving Him. Scripture tells us that “the Father wants to give you the very kingdom itself”. But God won’t hand over the keys unless we are good stewards of what He has already given us. If we want to experience more of God’s blessings, we need to be very diligent in taking care of what He has already given us. That doesn’t mean hoarding things for ourselves, but using that which He has given us to invest for the kingdom. How are you investing in the kingdom today? Where is your treasure? Those things are key for us to consider and act upon. Life is not defined by what we have but rather what we do with what we have.
Are you sold out for Jesus? Luke 12 really brings that question to a head. Jesus is surrounded by thousands who now know about his ministry. But His focus in on the disciples. He doesn’t let the crowd deter Him from what really matters – those who will carry on the ministry after He is gone. Pay close attention to the teaching Jesus gives here: “Don’t be bluffed into silence or insincerity by the threats of religious bullies. True, they can kill you, but then what can they do? There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being. Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life–body and soul–in his hands”. What does that say to you guys? Our commitment to Jesus needs to be at a very deep level. Are you willing to die for your faith? It is happening TODAY in many places around the world. And you know what, the church is flourishing in those areas. You have to be committed to be a believer and follower there. Sometimes I think we have it way too easy in America. We can be marginally sold out to Jesus. We never face real persecution or fear for our lives because we believe. That would certainly change the stakes for me. But it is clear here that Jesus expects us to be that sold out to Him and that the real question is not death but who we fear. It is obvious that our fear needs to be of God, not man. The worst that can happen is death and as Paul says in his writings “to die is gain”. Hard to get my arms around that but I know it is true. Jesus reinforces our need for being sold out with these words: “Stand up for me among the people you meet and the Son of Man will stand up for you before all God’s angels. But if you pretend you don’t know me, do you think I’ll defend you before God’s angels”? Are you living for Jesus? Do people know He is your Savior and Lord? We need to be willing to stand up for the One who gave His all for us. Our future depends on it!
Luke 11 ends with Jesus being invited to one of the Pharisee’s homes for dinner. He goes and does a little teaching about a lamp which I think really applies to us. He talks about light through these verses: “No one lights a lamp, then hides it in a drawer….Keep your life as well-lighted as your best-lighted room”. Have you considered that when Jesus comes into our life as our Savior and Lord, we have our light lit for eternity. The question becomes what will we do with that light. Do we hide it in the drawer or under a bushel? Or when we walk into a room does the light shine brightly and increase what all can see of eternity. Guys – we don’t have to wear a big bumper sticker that says “I am a Christian” (there are some very funny U-tube videos about this based on the PC-Mac commercials if you get a few minutes some day). But we do need to let our light shine so we can share Jesus with the world. Not as an intrusion to their life – but as a gift of light to a dark world. Jesus really rakes the Pharisees over the coals. He tells them they are frauds, hopeless, fakes in how they live. But I love this question one of them asked as Jesus was berating how they lived and treated people: “Teacher, do you realize that in saying these things you’re insulting us”? Now that is one very observant Pharisee. Jesus has been blasting them and this guy wants to know if it is intentional and applies to him. Brothers, Jesus tells it like it is, not just in this story but throughout scripture. Sometimes we water down the truth to make it seem more palatable to people. We don’t need to do that and shouldn’t. We need to speak truth into others just like Jesus did. Some days I may come across pretty strong in what God lays on my heart. Please don’t feel I am singling anyone out because that is never the motive, but if God speaks truth to you through my words – do something about it. Listen, seek His direction and take action. The truth was given to set us free as scripture says it so well. But freedom only comes when we receive truth and then do something with it. Let your light shine today in your neighborhood. Let God’s truth leak all over the place and impact those you touch. Be intentional. Be significant!!
The middle section of Luke 11 deals with Jesus’ casting out a demon and being accused of being from the devil. My how these religious leaders got their thinking confused. They called it “black magic” and could not comprehend how Jesus could possibly be from God. He wasn’t part of their group. He wasn’t in the establishment. He can’t be real. But Jesus uses this as a teaching moment. He talks about how important it is for us to guard our lives from the enemy. He tells us how we must stand united to deal with the enemy. And He also says this: “This is war, and there is no neutral ground. If you’re not on my side, you’re the enemy; if you’re not helping, you’re making things worse”. Whose side are you on? You can’t straddle the fence in the battle between good and evil. You can’t be on Jesus’ team without giving your all. Guys – we need to consider life as the spiritual battle it is. I know that I like to think things are ok. That I can have life and sort of ignore the stuff I can’t see. But know that we have an enemy who is committed to our defeat. Who wants us to fall flat and be destroyed. Jesus is giving us the choice to be on His side of this battle. The war has been won, but there are many battles that will need to be fought in your life and mine before we are able to ultimately achieve that victory of eternity because of His sacrifice on the cross. Are you choosing Jesus? Are you focused on living life that way? Whom will you choose? As scripture says it so well…..”as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord”. How about you?
Luke 11 contains some really important truths about prayer. The disciples came to Jesus and asked “teach us to pray” and Jesus did exactly that. This is how the Message breaks it down:
1. Father, Reveal who you are.
2. Set the world right.
3. Keep us alive with three square meals.
4. Keep us forgiven with you and forgiving others.
5. Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil.
This is the Lord’s prayer through different lenses but it hits the 5 key elements here. Take a bit to think through this and compare it to the way you learned the Lord’s prayer – probably from the King James version like I did. But what I want to really have you consider are these words from Jesus: “Ask and you’ll get; Seek and you’ll find; Knock and the door will open. Don’t bargain with God. Be direct. Ask for what you need”. Do you look at prayer like this? That we should quit tiptoeing around the edge and just ask God. I know sometimes I don’t get to the point quite as quickly as I should. I tend to think it and the truth is God wants us to bring it all to Him. He cares about the little stuff. He cares about every aspect of our lives. He is not too busy or won’t run out of bandwidth to listen to us. God wants us to let Him into every part of who we are and what we do. That starts with prayer. That means we ask Him to help teach us to pray and then we execute by praying. Scripture tells us to “pray without ceasing”. God loves prayer. We need to ask, seek and knock. When we do – we get, find and have doors opened. It is not a question of if God will listen and act. He will. He does. Are you asking?
The last section of Luke 10 contains a couple familiar stories. The first involves the most important question anyone will ever ask: “What do I need to do to get eternal life”? That is what Jesus was asked by a religious scholar to test Him. Do you remember what He said? It was the story of the good Samaritan. You may recall that “a man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jerico”. Just an ordinary guy out doing his normal routine. He gets attacked along the route which wasn’t uncommon as this was a somewhat dangerous trip to make. The man was “attacked by robbers….beat him up…..leaving him half-dead”. You get the picture – not pretty at all. This poor man is beaten in the middle of no where and just left to die along the road. I love the way the Message puts the next event: “Luckily, a priest was on his way down the same road”. Good luck for this beaten man, one of God’s own is coming toward him. Surely he will stop and help. What happens: “when he saw him he angled across to the other side”. Nothing happens except the priest turned his head and left him lying there on the road. “Then a Levite religious man” comes along. Surely this will change the beaten man’s plight. Wrong as “he also avoided the injured man”. Finally a lowly Samaritan comes walking down the road. This guy wasn’t exactly connected to our injured man. The Samaritans were persecuted and scorned. But what happens? The Samaritan’s “heart went out to him”. He cared for him, lifted him up and took him to an inn. Pay close attention to what the Samaritan tells the innkeeper: “Take good care of him. If it costs any more, put it on my bill”. Whoa – this guy got involved. He gave of self to help a man he did not know and by the world’s standards should not have cared about at all. He also allowed his caring to extend into the future by offering to pay for the bill of caring for the beaten man’s recovery. Are you walking by anyone who needs your help in life? Are you failing to “pay the bill” for someone who needs your touch? Remember where this story came from? Jesus was asked how we “get eternal life”. His response was simple – “go and do the same”. Eternity is not about me. It is about loving those Jesus put in my circle and those who cross my path. It is loving like Jesus loved. This story represents the way He came into my life. I am a beaten man, beaten by sin, lying along the road of life dying, separated from God by my sin. Unfortunated too often the church and religious people cross by on the other side. But Jesus stops and picks us up. He heals us and has paid the bill for our sin. Jesus is the only way to eternity. There is no other guys. We need to share that truth as we live like Jesus did – caring for people that cross our path. He put our sin on His bill. He paid it all. Thank you God for Jesus.
Jesus selects 70 in Luke 10 to send out to the “harvest” in order to share the truth of God. He sends them out in “pairs” – two at a time – to do the work of the ministry. Great and important lesson here. Being a Christian does not happen as a lone ranger in Jesus’ plan. We don’t minister alone – we do it together. Scripture is full of verses that teach us the power of two or more. Guys – that is another reason it is critical to be in deep fellowship with other men – so we can effectively minister for God. When we are walking alone, we can easily fall or get in a funk and just wander in the desert for a long while. When we have others who care about us and challenge us to serve, we can pick each other up and be in the game far more of the time. Jesus tells the seventy there is a “huge harvest” out there waiting for them. But catch this – He gives them this as a starting point: “So on your knees; ask the God of the Harvest to send harvest hands”. Ministry has to be wrapped in prayer. It is not about what we can do – it is about what God will do through us. Sometimes we get wrapped up in our ability to minister to others. It really doesn’t have much to do with us other than a willingness to go as God directs. He takes care of the details. He is the One who actually touches people. We are simply His tool and vessel. The seventy were filled with power – they had “safe passage on snakes and scorpions, and protection from every assault of the enemy”. That is God, all God guys. When we are plugged in and working in His will, we literally are unstoppable. But here is a key teaching you can’t miss. Jesus tells them “the great triumph is not in your authority over evil, but in God’s authority over you and presence with you… Not what you do for God but what God does for you–that’s the agenda for rejoicing.” Do you see it – it is not about you and me but God and having Him at the wheel as Lord and Master of our lives!