Archive for July, 2017

Luke 17

Luke 17 has Jesus teaching His disciples about sin.  He says “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come”! How we live matters.  Temptation is a reality of life.  We face a very real enemy that seeks to kill, steal and destroy, and temptation is part of his strategy to pull us away from living God’s way.  But Jesus makes it clear that we should not be part of the tempting.  And He goes on to tell us that when sin happens, we need to forgive.  “If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him, and if he sins against you seven times in the day, and turns to you seven times, saying, ‘I repent,’ you must forgive him”.

Forgiveness is a difficult choice.  It is a choice, not a feeling.  Jesus teaches us over and over that forgiveness is a way of living that we need to embrace and choose.  People will fail us.  We need to set them free through forgiveness.  Jesus goes on to talk about the power of faith.  “If you had faith like a grain of mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you”.  We have so much power available to us through faith.  But we have to truly believe, and live based on that faith.  We can do great and amazing things through Christ, but not based on our own ability or power.

Jesus tells the story of the ten lepers who he met on the road.  They asked for healing, and Jesus granted it.  But notice how He does it. Scripture tells us “as they went they were cleansed”.  It didn’t happen while they were speaking to Him.  It happened as they believed it and were heading toward the priests where they could be declared clean.  Healing came as they believed and had faith in what Jesus had told them.  All ten were healed, yet only one came back to tell Jesus thank you.  When we experience the power of God’s hand, we need to be sure we’re like the one who returned to say thanks.

Jesus ends talking about eternity and the end times.  He makes it clear that no one will know when that time will come.  It will happen like it did in the days of Noah or Lot – people were living life and then it happened as God moved.  The lesson is we need to be prepared and ready, and when we see it move toward God.  We must not turn back or try to preserve life as we know it.  “Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life will keep it”. It is through letting go and trusting God that we’ll experience life in its fulness!

Luke 16

In Luke 16 Jesus teaches His disciples about money.  He tells a story of the rich manager who was being fired from his job, and decides to call all the debtors to the business he was managing and offer them a reduced level of debt.  His logic was that it would build good will, and once he was fired and on the street it would provide him some friends and places to go.  The truth of the matter is that you can’t buy friendship.  But Jesus’ lesson was about much more – the importance of integrity and honesty.

One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own”?  Jesus makes it clear that we are to be honest in all things we do.  And when we are not, there is a price to pay.  Our character matters and will cause issues if we don’t live it well.

He goes on to share an important principle.  “You cannot serve God and money”. He doesn’t say that money is evil.  But He does make it clear that it competes for our heart and can get in the way of our serving God.  The reality is that money can cause us to prioritize the wrong things, and put stuff ahead of God and people.  We can only have one Master in our life.  We can’t have split allegiance.  God doesn’t share that spot well, actually not at all.  He insists on being Lord, the King of Kings, and that means money has to serve Him, and what matters to Him.

Jesus finishes the teaching by telling the story of the rich man and Lazarus, a poor man who suffered much on this earth but ended up sitting next to God.  The rich man could see him across the chasm from hell, and asks God to allow Lazarus to give him some relief from the very uncomfortable place he was.  God says no, and we need to heed the reality that there is a big difference in eternity between heaven and hell.  The rich man then asks that someone be sent to warn his family.  Jesus says “If they do not hear Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be convinced if someone should rise from the dead”.  We all face a very real judgment.  We’ll stand before God one day.  We need to listen and heed the truth that the Bible contains.  Sin is a real problem that will cause eternal separation from God.  We can avoid that, but we have to take action while we are living.  Are you ready?

Luke 15

Luke 15 has Jesus teaching in parables.  The Pharisees and scribes are upset because “the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him”.  They didn’t think Jesus should hang out with that kind of crowd.  So Jesus tells them a parable about the man with a hundred sheep, and the woman who lost one coin.  The lesson from both was that God rejoices over each one.  In the parable of the sheep, He says “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance”.  God is in the business of saving us.

Jesus goes on to tell one of the most famous parables in all of scripture – the story of the Prodigal Son.  A young son comes to his father and asks for his share of the inheritance.  “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me”.  Legacy is about far more than what we do with our stuff, but in this story, the young man is focused on getting what he believes belongs to him.  In those days a father could either grant the inheritance before or after his death, but it was usually done after he passed away. But in this case, the younger son asked for a special exception, motivated by foolishness and greed.  He wants to take what is his and live wildly so “he squandered his property in reckless living”.

His father knew that this was going to happen.  This son wanted his independence, but he wasn’t ready to be alone and on his own.  Yet the father allowed it to happen.  Sometimes it is only through experiencing the school of hard knocks that we learn things.  After a fairly short time, the money was gone and this kid was feeding pigs.  “When he  came to himself, he said….my father’s hired servants have more than enough bread, but I perish here with hunger”.  It’s not going well for him. This isn’t the dream life that he had in mind.

So he decides to go back home and tell his 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”.  He knew that being with his father would be better than anyplace he could be on his own.  His father had never given up hope that he would come to his senses.  He was always watching and “while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him”.  He didn’t wait for him to arrive – he ran to greet him.  He didn’t scold him for his foolishness – the father welcomed him with open arms.

It becomes a major celebration as “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….my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found”.  God rejoices when we come back to Him from our life of sin.  He is waiting and watching, not only ready to welcome us back, but ready to throw a party about our return.  God is in the restoration business – He wants to restore us into relationship with Him.  We leave through our sin.  We return through our repentance.  He is there ready to welcome us home!

Luke 14

Luke 14 has Jesus again dining at the house of one of the Pharisees.  And they were all watching Him carefully to see how they might trip Him up.  Jesus heals a man with dropsy on that Sabbath day, and of course is accused of violating the law.  But Jesus schools them on what is important, and how they ought to live – not focused on themselves – but on loving those in their patch.  He also teaches on humility: “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted”.  Scripture teaches much about pride and humility.  It is a quality that God desires each of us to have.

Jesus then gets personal with His host, and tells a parable about hospitality.  Jesus saw that His host chose his guests from a sense of exclusion and pride, rather than a general love for people around him.  We should not associate only with people who have the ability to do something for us.  That isn’t the basis for how we should interact.  Jesus teaches that we need to be centered on others and using what we have to bless those around us.  In His parable, the man invites a select few but “they all alike began to make excuses”:

  • I have bought a field, and I must go out and see it. Please have me excused
  • I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to examine them. Please have me excused
  • I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come

The master is frustrated.  Excuses are made for convenience.  The offer was great, but the invited would not accept the invitation.

So the master instructs his servants to “Go out quickly to the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in the poor and crippled and blind and lame”.  Jesus is beginning to make His point – that those who will be included in heaven’s banquet won’t be the people that the Pharisees think deserve to be invited, but redeemed sinners with the normal problems of life. Jesus points out God’s heart for man as the parable continues.  “Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled”.  God desires His house to be full.  From an evangelistic perspective, Jesus is telling us to go where the people are and share the gospel story boldly.  People need to understand the invitation, but also the reality of failing to respond.

As Jesus wraps up His teaching in the chapter, He gets laser focused on what it means to be a disciple – a Christ Follower.  “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. Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple…. any one of you who does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple”.  Following Jesus is about much more than saying yes to His offer of salvation through grace.

Jesus uses some strong illustrations here to drive home the point that being a Christ Follower or disciple is not simply responding to an invitation:

  1. It is focused on relationship.  Jesus must be first.  Other relationships must be of lower priority than the one with our Lord.
  2. It focused on being willing to die for Him. Carrying a cross always led to death on a cross. No one carried a cross for fun.
  3. It focused on giving up our rights and stuff.  There is a cost to following Christ.

Jesus made it clear that only cross-bearers can be His disciples. We sometimes may understate the demands of Jesus when we present the gospel. We can give people the impression that coming to Jesus is only to believe in His grace instead of a yielded life.  That’s the Lordship of Christ – that we are to be disciples or Christ Followers where He is first, and only, and all things are His.  Are you truly living as a follower of Jesus?

Luke 13

Luke 13 has Jesus teaching on the importance of repentance and salvation.  He talked about two recent disasters – one involving Pilate and his killing of a group of folks, and the second a tower that fell on 18 people – but the purpose was to make the point that “unless you repent, you will all likewise perish”.  Jesus says that we all will die, we all have a sin problem, and no matter how it happens, we will stand before God and give account.  Thus we have to repent while we can or we face God’s judgment – we will perish.  It’s a direct message to the religious leaders that their attempt to earn their way to heaven was going to fall short.

Jesus illustrates the truth with a parable involving a fig tree that wasn’t bearing fruit.  “Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground”?  God looks for fruit.  The fruit of our life shows what kind of person we really are. What fruit is God looking for? It certainly has to begin with the fruit of the Spirit, but then it moves toward bearing fruit by bringing others to Christ.  The farmer in the story illustrates patience from God’s judgment.  He gave the tree a second chance to reach its purpose to bear fruit.  He gave it special care.  God does the same in our life, but we have to respond to that love and care and begin to bear fruit.

Jesus teaches and heals in the synagogue, which doesn’t go without resistance.  He isn’t following the rules that the religious leaders have set and He is upsetting their apple cart both economically and following the law.  So they are out to get Him.  But he makes it clear that God’s plan is different than theirs.  Jesus illustrates and answers their question: “What is the kingdom of God like”?  He gives a couple different illustrations for them:

  1. “It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches
  2. It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in  three measures of flour, until it was  all leavened

These are really a picture of what the growth and influence of the church should be.

Jesus’ first example is that of a mustard seed that becomes a tree and paints a beautiful picture of the church growing so large that it provides refuge for all of the world.  It’s actually what the early church did, sprouting from the very seed of Jesus’ life, and becoming a rapidly growing place for Christ Followers to come together.  The second example involved leaven, where a little bit can impact the entire batch.  Jesus uses this to illustrate that corruption can get into the church and hide, yet impact the whole.

Jesus goes on to address the question about salvation with this response: ““For many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able when once the master of the house has risen and shut the door”.  There will come a time when it is too late to enter; that is why we must have an urgency to enter now.  No one knows the day or time we’ll stand before God.  But there will come that day, and God’s love and mercy will only extend to a point.  We have to take action to receive the grace He has offered us through Jesus Christ so we are ready to enter rather than be denied.

Luke 12

Luke 12 has Jesus warning His disciples about hypocrisy, which the Pharisees and other religious leaders were guilty of.  Hypocrisy is like leaven in the sense that it only takes a little bit of it to affect a great mass.  Jesus warns that there are no secrets.  “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in  private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops”.  The religious leaders haven’t figured that out, but Jesus makes it clear.

Jesus assures His disciples that “everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God”.  Jesus comforted the faithful, explaining that the suffering Christian will be given the reward of allegiance and honor before the throne of God.  But note that Jesus did not say, denies Me in their heart or denies me in their mind; He said, ‘denies Me before men’. There is a real and important place for a public declaration of allegiance to Jesus. For many, this is the most difficult thing of all – and is usually difficult because of a fear of man – what will people think?

Jesus reorients us to what is important in life.  It isn’t about accumulating ‘stuff’.  He that has the most toys does not win. Jesus says “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions”.  There is a countercultural statement.  The world would tell you we are all keeping score and the one with the most wins.  Jesus shared a parable about a rich man who took that approach.  “I will tear down my  barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods….I will say to my soul, Soul, you have ample goods laid up for many years; relax, eat, drink, be merry”.  Sounds a bit like the American Dream, doesn’t it?  But the rest of the story puts it all in perspective.  “This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be”?

The reality is that stuff won’t save us.  And in fact, all that we spend so much of our time and energy to accumulate won’t go with us when we die.  It doesn’t go into the casket and isn’t buried in the ground with us.  We can get caught up and spend all our precious time building an empire of stuff that has absolutely no value in God’s eternal economy.  “So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God”.  We can have a lot of earthly wealth and absolutely be bankrupt spiritually – which is the part that truly matters when it comes to eternity.  Are you laying up treasures here on earth – that last only a short time and will not be taken with you – or are you building up treasure in heaven where you are creating an eternity that provides eternal life with the Father?

Luke 11

Luke 11 begins with a clinic on prayer.  Jesus tells us to pray like this: “Father, hallowed be  your name. Your kingdom come. Give us each day our daily bread, and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation”.  Luke’s version of the Lord’s prayer is shorter than captured elsewhere in the gospels, but it gives us some wise direction on prayer:

  • Start by recognizing who is being prayed to – our Father
  • Give Him the honor He deserves – hallowed be your name
  • Recognize that it is His plan that will be accomplished – your kingdom come
  • Ask for the needs of the day – give us each day our daily bread
  • Ask for forgiveness – and forgive us our sins
  • Forgive those who have sinned against us – for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us
  • Protect us – and lead us not into temptation

There is power in prayer.  Jesus tells the crowd this way.  “And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened”. Prayer isn’t complicated.  We have an example on how to pray, and a promise from Jesus and in scripture that prayer works.  Plus we have thousands of years of history that demonstrate that truth.  We’re told to ‘ask, seek, knock’.  It’s not hard.  But it does require us to do something.  We have to take action.  And that is where we seem to struggle.  It’s free, it’s powerful, it works – yet we can’t seem to make time to do it.  The disciples wrestled with it too.

Jesus is asked to come eat with one of the Pharisees and as expected, was immediately under attack.  So He turned the tables on them.  He first shared a list of things the Pharisees were doing that were wrong:

  • “you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness
  • you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect  justice and the love of God
  • you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces
  • you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it”

These religious leaders really didn’t get it.  They were stuck on themselves, and ignored their real job of caring for the people.  They didn’t demonstrate the love of God but rather merely focused on getting all they could for self.  Jesus calls them to the carpet.

But He doesn’t stop there because one of the lawyers answered him.  This isn’t a lawyer as we know them today, but rather an expert in the interpretation and application of the Law of Moses.  He was an enforcer of the law amongst the people.  He should have kept quiet, but since he spoke, that opened the door for another list of things from Jesus that this group of individuals was doing:

  • you load people with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers
  • you build the tombs of the prophets whom your fathers killed
  • you have taken away the key of  knowledge.  You did not enter yourselves, and you hindered those who were entering

None of this set well with the leaders of the day, and they were looking for a way to catch Him doing something they could accuse Him of.  Rather than receive His correction and God’s truth, they purposed to attack Him and remove the discomfort from their lives.

Luke 10

Luke 10 gives us the plan Jesus has to reach the world – 2 by 2 evangelism.  He appointed 72 others and sent them out in pairs to spread the good news.  “The Lord appointed  seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go”.  John the Baptist was tasked with preparing the way of the Lord originally, but now, Jesus sends out groups of two into every town and place he is planning to go.  That was quite a group of preparers, but Jesus is kicking his ministry into high gear.

Why?  He makes it clear.  “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are fewTherefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest”.  That hasn’t changed.  The harvest today is still plentiful – but we get so busy living our own lives and caught up in the chaos of the world that we don’t share the Good News with those in our patch.  Jesus warns his disciples: “Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves”.   The world was a rough place back then, and it is no different today.  The enemy wants to destroy all Christ Followers, whether we’re doing the work of the ministry or not.

Jesus makes it clear that like the four kinds of soil that God’s Word can be sown upon, there are two kinds of towns that the disciples would encounter:

  1. “Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, The kingdom of God has come near to you
  2. But whenever you enter a town and they do not receive you, go into its streets and say, Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet we wipe off against you. Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near”.

As we share the Good News, we must never forget that we are not responsible for the response.  The harvest belongs to God.  Our job is to live our lives in a way that others can see Jesus in us, and to speak the Good News to those we come across in a way they can understand it.  It is up to them as to their response.  We will not see everyone receive it with joy.  But that isn’t what we are tasked with.  We are to go and share!

Jesus is asked a very important question – maybe the most important question of all that each of us need to know the answer to.  “Teacher, what shall I do to  inherit eternal life”?  A simple question, but profound in its impact.  Eternity is a very long time.  We need to know, with confidence and assurance, the answer to that question for our life.  Jesus told the man “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself”.  The two great commandments where Jesus summarizes all the law down to these things.  Unfortunately, we all fall short.  That’s why we need Jesus.  Christ alone is the way to eternal life.  There is no other path!

Luke 9

Luke 9 has Jesus sending the Twelve out to do ministry among the people.  He tells them “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics. And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart”. No preparation, no plan, just go and serve people.  Ministry is a pretty simple process for the Twelve – find the need and serve the people.  Jesus also made it clear that they shouldn’t waste time trying to convince people they need or want help.  “And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet  as a testimony against them”.

Jesus begins to prepare the Twelve for what is to come.  “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised”.  Notice the list of those who will reject Him – it isn’t the people – it is the religious leaders and those who are being impacted by His ministry.  Jesus is disrupting the status quo.  He’s messing with the economics of the day.  He is interfering with the power structure that was in place.  He has no regard for what has been, He only serves and loves the people.  That doesn’t sit well with those in power.  They will reject, punish and ultimately crucify Him.

Jesus talks with His disciples about what it means to be a Christ Follower.  “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself”?  Here is the crux of being a Christ Follower – it isn’t about me – it is completely about Jesus.  We have to come to the point of denying self as being in charge, and put Jesus in the driver’s seat of our life.  It’s about making Jesus Lord, not sharing a bit of time with Him.  Being a Christ Follower is a daily thing – 24X7X365 – and we need to realize it is a choice we have to make daily and actively.

The disciples didn’t get it.  They were arguing about the complete opposite.  “An argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest”.  Jesus had just finished explaining that following Him was not about their life, but His.  Yet they want to be known as the greatest of the disciples.  Then Jesus makes another run at trying to make it clear. “Whoever receives this child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. For he who is least among you all is the one who is great”.  It’s not about me, or you.  It’s all about Jesus and our relationship with Him.  He must be Lord of our life, not merely Savior.  Are you walking with Him in that way?

Luke 8

Luke 8 has Jesus telling the parable of the sower.  He describes four types of soil as He paints a picture of the hearts of man.  He describes them as:

  1. “some fell along the path and was trampled underfoot, and the birds of the air devoured it
  2. some fell on the rock, and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture
  3. some fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up with it and choked it
  4. some fell into good soil and grew and yielded a hundredfold”

So we have the hard soil, the rocky soil, the weedy soil, and the good soil.  Each has it’s own characteristics, and the first three had a problem that led to an outcome where there was no yield.  Either the birds, drought or weeds prevented any kind of harvest.

The disciples aren’t exactly sure how to interpret what Jesus was teaching.  So they ask for an explanation.  Jesus begins by telling them “The seed is  the word of God”.  This is a picture of how we deal with God’s truth.  First thing that has to happen is that we have to sow the seed.  We have to get into God’s Word so there is some seed that has the potential to take root and grow in our life.  That’s actually where many of us fall short.  We spend little to no time in God’s Word.  We fail to read, listen, study, memorize or meditate on God’s Word much if any at all.  It can’t grow if it is never sown.

Jesus does go on to explain the four types of soil, and the outcome for each:

  1. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved
  2. the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away
  3. what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but  as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature
  4. that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience

The only one of the four that receives a harvest is the one who hold on to God’s Word.  In all four examples, Jesus tells us that they heard the word.  But in only one do they actually do anything with it which is connected to the place it lands in their heart.

Then Jesus gives us the real lesson here.  “Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away”.  This principle shows up in multiple teachings of Jesus.  It is similar to what happens in the parable of the talents, where the one who did nothing had his talent taken and given to the one who did most.  God partners with those who actually take what He entrusts and use it as He intends.  God wants us to DO something with what we are given.  Life isn’t about collecting and hoarding, it is about using and blessing those in our patch with what He has given us.  That begins with God’s Word.  We need to hear, but then DO.  We need to listen and then apply.  We need to take what God provides us and use it for His Kingdom.  That’s how we become people who bear fruit and yield a hundredfold harvest!

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