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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Those questions..

Luke 20 19-47

How crafty were the Pharisees? As we saw earlier, they lay in wait like spies. They wanted Jesus to trip up and say something that they could arrest him for. Surely he would say something wrong.
Now matter how they tempted him, Jesus would not be fooled. He recognized their attempt to soothingly put him at ease. As soon as he messed up and said something wrong, they would pounce on him and drag him to court. Jesus wouldn’t mess up. He still had work to do. Though his time was drawing near, he had a few more things to accomplish. More tools to leave his disciples and followers.
Their first temptation was to get Jesus to speak out against the government. Is it lawful to give money to Caesar? Being Jews, they were subject to the occupying army. If Jesus was God’s son, he would release them of the burden wouldn’t he? Obviously paying taxes to an occupying force is wrong. They had hoped that Jesus would start ranting about the inequality of taxation without representation.
Nope. He said, give unto Caesar what is his. No argument.
Then they tried to trick Jesus with a question of the resurrection. Maybe this time they can trip him up and they can bring him to court on some trumped up religious charges. They brought up the issue of who’s married to whom in heaven. They hoped that Jesus would go into some deep religious discussion far away from his message and purpose.
Nope. He stayed on track. Jesus simply replied that in heaven, those who are saved have a new life. They don’t wed and they don’t die.
Perhaps in your desire to lead others to Christ, you have found yourself in similar situations. You know the questions:
Where did Cain and Able find their wives?
Were there dinosaurs?
Do I have to give money when I go to church?
What about gay people?
How old is the earth?
And on and on and on. People ask these questions to trip you up. When you present or attempt to present the gospel, it brings people to a point of making a decision. They become uncomfortable and instead of making a decision, they want to make an escape. How else better than to ask an irrelevant question. It’s up to us to remain focused on pointing people to Christ and not the political flavor of this age.
Take an example from Jesus. He answered the questions and returned people to the topic.
Should I pay taxes as a Christian? Give to Caesar what is Caesar. Give to God what is Gods. There, back to the topic of God.
Who will I be married to in the resurrection? In heaven, we are like the angels. Those who are saved don’t marry and they don’t die. There, back to God.
Stay focused and keep pointing people to God.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

The Cornerstone

Luke 20: 1-18
Jesus entered Jerusalem with much fanfare from his followers and under the watchful eyes of the treacherous Pharisees. Those who followed him took audience in the temples as Jesus told of his father, forgiveness and righteousness. His words dripped with truth, hope, and redemption and Jesus' numbers grew. The investment he made to humanity returned thousands of times over as people flocked to hear him and believe. He spoke of prophesy, his impending death and God’s love. More and more people came to God through Jesus ministry.
The Pharisees did not believe that Jesus was God in human form. They could not listen to the words of blasphemy from a nomad’s mouth and could not understand this man’s grip on the populations. They questioned him, but were shamed speechless lest their words would condemn them.
Jesus continued to preach and teach, knowing full well he would suffer the wrath of the scorned religious leaders. He knew what was coming, but he was urgent to get the truth out. The Pharisees questioned Jesus authority for running out the money changers and his message of hope for the masses. What could Jesus do but speak God’s plan, not to put the leaders in their places, but to make sure they had a chance to connect with God. He also could not stand by and let the leaders persuade the crowds otherwise.
The parable of the vineyard was a tale the must have cut the leaders deep. How God’s prophets had been killed by the very people he had loved. For their sakes, we can only hope that the religious men’s eyes were opened to the truth as a result of Jesus’ reasoning and chastisement. Terribly, some did not listen, but chose to continue looking for a way to destroy Jesus. Those are the ones that will spend eternity in horrible regret. However, some were saved and will continue to be saved because Jesus thought the event important to tell.
Have you ever experienced opposition while sharing the Gospel?
How did you respond?
Was it out of love for the lost and with a sense of urgency for the very people who made fun of or questioned you?
Was it out of spite and malice for the hurt you felt?

Remember, everything Jesus did was for us. Everything Jesus suffered was because of us. He is our example demonstrating that the salvation of the world comes before our feelings. The bigger picture is more critical than our points of view.

For those who have never believed in Jesus:
Have you heard the Gospel before and have chosen to ignore God’s gift?
Is this the first time you have had a chance to hear just how much God loved you?
If you’ve never done so, but you know that you need to accept Jesus, won’t you invite him to be your savior now? The simple plan in the margin can help.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Triumpal Entry

Luke 19: 28-32
Jesus had just finished the parable of the ten pounds when he set out for the final journey returning to Jerusalem. On his way up to the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples up to get a colt and return it to him. Jesus is just about to fulfill more prophesy and this passage is full of the promises kept.
Though Jesus faced tremendous emotional, spiritual and physical pain he focused on the outcome; his mission to bring salvation to mankind. Though if it were me, I would have focused only on the impending doom. Jesus knew that his impending death on the cross would not be the end of the story.
The disciples found everything just as Jesus had described. The colt stood ready and the owner appeared and asked the questions just as Jesus had said he would. They then returned to Jesus with the colt. They helped Jesus up and then the crowd went wild. They spread their clothing on the ground all the way up the Mt of Olives. When they reached the top, they began praising the King and making a joyful noise to God.
Enter the Pharisees, or maybe they were already there doing pharisee things like spying and taking notes. Soon, they would have their big day, but not just yet. Now, all they wanted to do was for Jesus to ask his followers to quit saying “Blessed be the King that commeth in the name of the Lord: peace in heaven and glory in the highest,” a quote directly from Psalm 118:26.
Why do you think Jesus responded as he did? Would the rocks really have cried out? Well, let’s go back to Luke 13: 34-35. Jesus was almost run out of Jerusalem as his life had been threatened. He said he would not return until... (drum roll please) “…you shall not see me until ye shall say, Blessed is he that commeth in the name of the Lord.” Another prophesy fulfilled, thank you.
Jesus was focused on his mission and taking the opportunity to show his people God’s work in their lives. He was sure to quote scripture and demonstrate how the times and events that the prophets and kings had predicted. He even showed them how his own words had come true. All this was to build their faith in him so that they would believe and be saved. Jesus then gave another prophesy that would unfortunately occur years later, but it would be indeed fulfilled. He didn’t take joy in their lack of faith and the future destruction of Jerusalem, but he reminded them to look for the signs and how God was keeping his promises. *****
The following versus demonstrate Jesus’ focus of spreading God’s word as he headed for Jerusalem. He knew his time on earth drew near, and he worked within that amount of time to reconcile us.

In Luke 9:51-54, 13:22-24;33, 17:11; 18:31, 19:11, 28 Jesus sets out for Jerusalem

We often times focus on Jesus passion, suffering that occurred on the cross. But in these passages, Jesus focused on redemption, healing, forgiveness as he made his way to Jerusalem. Jesus still had work to do on his way to reconcile man with God. Though he would suffer, his death and resurrection would allow God to overlook our sin and let us into heaven. Because of Jesus’ obedience, all believed upon him would be saved. That’s what Jesus focused on and he remained faithful to the mission all the way to the end.

Have you ever anticipated accomplishing or doing something good?

Were you aware of the challenges or tough times associated with the goal?

At the time, did you focus on the end results or the challenges, sacrifices, or tough times associated with the goal?

***** Interesting Website:
Flavius Josephus Wrote:
While the temple blazed, the victors plundered everything that fell in their way and slaughtered wholesale all who were caught. No pity was shown for age, no reverence for rank; children and greybeards, laity and priests, alike were massacred; every class was pursued and encompassed in the grasp of war, whether suppliants for mercy or offering resistance… The slain [were] more numerous than the slayers. For the ground was nowhere visible through the corpses; but the soldiers had to clamber over heaps of bodies in pursuit of the fugitives.
In addition to those who died by the sword, Romans discovered many houses that were "packed with bodies of the victims of the famine."
Not One Stone Left on Another
Titus ordered:
the whole city and the temple to be razed to the ground, leaving only the loftiest of the towers, Phasael, Hippicus, and Miramme, and the portion of the wall enclosing the city on the west…All the rest of the wall encompassing the city was so completely leveled to the ground as to leave future visitors to the spot no ground for believing that it had ever been inhabited.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What have you done with your pound?

Luke 19:11-27

Okay, I’ll admit, this was one of the tough passages for me. I had to use some bible references to discover Jesus’ meaning. I’m still praying about it, but this is what I believe I understand. Jesus’ ministry and mission were almost complete. He was still headed to Jerusalem and others around him still didn’t grasp the sacrifice Jesus was offering. I’m sure some of the questions were, “when will you reign?”, “what will you do with the Romans and tax collectors?”, “What will my position be?”. In other words, His followers were looking for a huge event, the arrival of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus had given them hope and they waited expectantly. They held to the false hope that Jesus would usher in a mighty age of a strong Jewish nation with a triumphant king riding on a steed, striking down all those who oppose the nation. They were hungry for power, had a strong national pride and were ready to rule.

Very few had understood that the Kingdom of God was not what they were expecting. True, God would establish a New Jerusalem upon Jesus’ return, but that’s still his secret and is to come. However, Christ had already established God’s Kingdom in the hearts and souls of his followers. His mission was mighty and huge and would eventually take over the world but it would not be with the fanfare that most had expected. The Kingdom would soon be marked with Jesus arrival on a colt or donkey, not the image of a warrior, but of an agent of peace. Jesus worked on winning hearts and directing men, women and children to His father, the one who loved them enough to send Jesus. Through Jesus, God demonstrated his unconditional love for a disobedient world that had killed his prophets and would very soon reject his Son.

Jesus answered their question about the kingdom with the parable of the nobleman who left to seek his kingdom. Upon his return, he asked for accountability of the pound he gave his servants. He also ordered the deaths of those who would not yield to his authority. Jesus is now establishing his Kingdom and preparing his return. As soon as God is ready, he will send Jesus back to earth. Jesus’ mission will be different upon his return as he will be asking for an account of what we have done with his pound. Did we accept him as ruler or reject him? Those who accepted will reign with him in the new heaven and earth.

Where will you spend eternity? What account will you give Jesus when he asks? If you are not sure, please see the margin for “How to become a Christian.” For those of you who are going to heaven, join me in helping others get there. We only have this time that God gave us. Let’s do what we can.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Calling you out

Luke 19:1-10

The story of Zacchaeus is one of an amazing transformation, no pretenses, no false fronts, just an event between a shameful man and his savior. Have you ever given your testimony or tried to share who Christ is with a non-believer? Maybe you’ve experience some who have said, “I want what you have, how do I get it?” They’ve watched you over time, or have witnessed something in your life that has brought them to the point of believing in Him. Most likely others may have reacted with, “well, I would like to believe, but then I’ll have to give up _________” (Fill in the blank with a vice or habit).
Zachaeus was a tax collector who had done unfair things to his fellow citizens. He collected for the Romans and collected a little for himself. He had heard the wonderful news as the story of Jesus’ mission spread rapidly. The man wanted to meet Jesus but the crow was too large and he was not tall so he climbed up a tree to get a better view. Unexpectedly, he saw the man whom he wanted to see turn his attention, pointed him out and call him down.
Jesus knows. Do you remember the centurion’s dying daughter, the woman who touched Jesus robe, the men with leprosy and the blind man on the road? Jesus singled all of them from the crowds. He knew the conditions of their hearts and that they were willing to believe. In previous cases he healed something physically and their belief provided salvation. In Zacchaeus’ situation, he just believed. All of these support the Son of God’s mission. In 19:10, he says, “For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which is lost.”
Zacchaeus found relief for his guilty heart. The messiah had seen into his soul, but had accepted him nonetheless. Zacchaeus didn’t have to justify, make promises, or mend his way for Jesus to save him; he just had to believe. No conversation took place until later, after his belief. Once saved, he generously offered to make restitution, but that was a decision he made with help from Jesus.
Maybe Jesus has pointed you out and wants you to come down from the tree. Maybe you feel like you aren’t good enough or you are just too bad for Jesus to save you. That’s a lie. Jesus isn’t looking for deals, you don’t have to be perfect to be accepted, you just have to believe in him and confess him as the Son of God. You don’t have to give up anything to be saved; you just accept God’s free gift. However, just like Zacchaeus and all the others who have believed in Christ, there is a life changing experience. What is the change? That’s between you Jesus.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Looking for God

Chapter 18: 31-43

After explaining the sacrifice believers may endure as they follow him, Jesus then begins to explain what he himself will soon go through. His perfect sacrifice will soon unfold and he spends a few moments explaining to his disciples the prophesy that he will soon fulfill.
In the disciple’s hearing he probably talks about what was written in the past as it relates to what will soon unfold. Jesus probably relayed the writing of Psalms, Isaiah and the other prophets foretelling of how he will be mocked, spit upon whipped and put to death. The disciples didn’t quite understand. They didn’t understand the words of the prophets and how they were coming true with Jesus in their midst.
Christians today have the benefit of knowing how this all turns out. We can flip a few chapters in the bible and witness the fulfillment of those prophets words, but he disciples were living one day at a time. Believers today can see that Jesus was speaking of his crucifixion and what his death and resurrection will accomplish.
What the disciples experience with prophesy is nothing knew and we can hardly chastise them for their disbelief or lack of understanding. The bible is full of prophesy that is revealed and we refuse to see or understand what is happening from a biblical point of view. The Holy Spirit is revealing what God is doing and we may not acknowledge it.
How often have you heard someone ask, “does anyone have any prayer requests or praises to share?” They may ask another way, “What are you thankful for today?” What is the response in the room? Is it dead silence or is everyone clamoring to share something good that the Lord has done for them.
I had that experience last night at church. The pastor asked the question and a few people answered very excited about what God had done for them. Though I didn’t share and though I thought I had nothing to share, their praises were almost exactly what God had done for me. Why hadn’t I noticed?
This must have been on my mind as I fell asleep. A few hours later I sat up in bed after a bad dream. The dream was unrelated to what happened next, but it served to wake me up. As I settled back in bed to get back to sleep a thought occurred to me. Two people had mentioned in a prayer requests that two men had lost their jobs and how it their age and the economy may work against them in finding a new job.
What got to me was the truth that these men were only 15 – 20 years older than me. I began to ponder what it would be like if I lost my job, how would I feed my three young ones (see my other blog: I mean, God had been so good to help me with job security and promotions during a difficult economic time. And there it was, God’s blessings that I had been blind to. In my panic, he revealed his work in my life.
More often than not, I might find myself silent searching for something, anything that I can be thankful for. This experience just demonstrates that my lack of response does not reflect God’s inactivity, but my failure to keep in tune with how He is working in and around me.
I often pray that God will help me see what he is doing. When I do so, I become more aware. Others keep a journal to write down prayers, some pray, others get together and talk about it. What methods do you use to keep God’s blessings in mind?

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Forsaking All

Luke 18: 15-30
Have you noticed how willingly children accept things of God. From a very young age, my son was always doing things to please God. At four years old, we overheard him tell his friend, “Aren’t you happy that God loves us?” Children are accepting of information without having to ask questions; it’s in their nature to trust.. Jesus wants our hearts to be just as willing to accept His gift of eternal life.
In contrast, the rich ruler asked questions and tried to rationalize his lifestyle. How can one be save? What else must I do? Isn’t there any other way? Instead of being accepting, he had been focusing on his ability to obey God’s commandments and not of the life changing power that happens when God is in control. He had asked what he could do to inherit eternal life.
We all know that God has already performed what needs to be done. All sin has to be covered with a sacrifice and Jesus was that sacrifice. Jesus took the opportunity to reminded his disciples that the only way to be saved is a supernatural way prepared by God and that salvation was by no means anything that a human could do. Man’s role is to accept God’s unconditional love and gift just as a child would.
Perhaps you are concerned that you will have to make a sacrifice. You are worried that following Christ may cause you to lose your friends, family, lifestyle, career. But it’s exactly what Jesus means by forsaking all to follow him. The choice to follow Christ is not for the faint of heart. It is full of the adventure of personal courage, faith, and sacrifice. Jesus addresses the difficulty of sacrifice to his disciples by encouraging them; “The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.”
Children are accepting, trusting, and vulnerable. This open trust is what helps people believe in a God that loves them and has a plan for their lives. Accept God’s gift to you, trust that believing in Jesus Christ will cover yours sins, and be vulnerable to the healing and forgiveness repentance brings. The sacrifice is something that God has already done, there’s nothing else to do. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Spiritual Pride

You can’t make up the situations Jesus speaks about in his parables. I love this one about the Pharisee praying to God and lifting himself about all others. Not only were they a burden to their flock over public and religious matters, but they also used their power and authority in their prayers to God.
In the case of Luke 18:9-14, this Pharisee has so much spiritual pride that he is actually thanking God because he is not as sinful as the other man praying a distance from him. He is caught up in his own privilege and power that he cannot have a realistic communion with his creator. This is the ultimate case of self-absorption that leaves the Pharisee unable to move forward in any type of relationship with God. His spiritual pride won’t allow him to repent of his sins or acknowledge his own need for God.
The tax collector is so convicted of his sin that he pours his heart out to God. His own heart is broken and he desperately wants to establish a relationship with a loving God. He is humbled to the point of desperation and recognizes that he has to come clean as a way to move on.
Christians, especially leaders can easily fall into the Pharisee’s situation. Those in positions as Reverends, Pastors or other professional staff have tremendous responsibilities to set a good example and live blameless lives. Lay leaders such as elders, deacons, teachers and small group can also put up walls and pretenses of being sinless. However the Bible tells us we are all sinners and those who claim to have no sin are lying.
Another point to be considered is that we as leaders are afraid to be vulnerable because we may let someone down. Take a good look at what is happening in Sunday school classes and other bible studies. Many students have an opportunity to build relationships with each other through sharing of experiences where they have failed God. However, the leader may not feel comfortable joining in. They may facilitate the lesson, but not engage in the same manner as those they are teaching for fear of losing credibility or causing others to stumble.
If you are a leader, are you putting people in your life with whom you can share your failures and who will encourage and not judge?
Are you living a life of prayer where you can speak to God honestly and not as the Pharisee out of position or authority?
Are you making yourself available to others who have the same spiritual need to talk about their experiences in a non-threatening and encouraging manner?
Our spiritual success depends on developing honest relationships with God and other Christians. To do so, we have to be vulnerable and able to admit our sins and hopelessness. God can do the rest when we have the right attitude.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Pray constantly

Chapter 18 1-8

We should pray often and not grow weary. What great direction. Prayer, as difficult as it is sometimes, gives us the line to God’s ear. God asks us to give him our burdens and the best way to do that is bring the issue to God, he will listen.
Jesus demonstrates this with the story of a ruler who did not fear God, but nonetheless performed righteous judgment because someone requested it without ceasing. In contrast, God is way more powerful and able than any earthly ruler. He is quick to listen to his people and avenge unrighteousness. That’s why prayer is so important.
On April 29, 2007 I had underlined verse seven and wrote a quick promise to pray for God’s servants everywhere. Around the world God’s elect are suffering persecution, planning for evangelical outreach, and facing monumental challenges that will only be accomplished through prayer. These Christians are focused on important things and need our prayers to help them accomplish God sized tasks. But my burden is mainly for those imprisoned with no hope of relief or release. Sometimes I am awakened in the early hours only to feel a need to pray for those suffering. I pray for God to deliver, encourage, soothe, and allow for them to witness to their captives.
But there is a greater hope that outlasts any burdens, hardships, pains and tortures of this world; the power of resurrection. As God’s children, we can know eternal life with him as we spend forever in his embrace. Our lives on earth with end, and the forever after that is unimaginable glory.
Do you pray for the salvation of the world? Do you have concerns for justice that only God can answer? Jesus promises that God will hear your prayers.
For those who are not saved, don’t you think it’s time to consider where you want to spend eternity? The pleasures you seek in this earth will die with it, then what is left? Put your hope in something eternal. This life on earth is short, then we spend the rest of eternity either in judgment or with a loving God. It’s your call. If you haven’t done so, won’t you ask Jesus to forgive you of your sins and be your savior?.
In verse 8 Jesus asks the simple question. “Upon my return will I find the kind of faith that lead people to pray?”

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Waiting and Watching

Luke 17: 22-37

After the Pharisees asked Jesus how to find the Kingdom of God, He told them that the Kingdom was within us. There is no need to look around, but it is within hearts of believers.

Yet another teaching point, Jesus begins to predict his second coming. This is a great foretelling of a remarkable event that can come so suddenly, we will be caught unaware. Imagine Noah building the ark day in and day out or Lot leaving Sodom, while the populations continued with no clue what would happen. In an instant history changed as rain covered the earth in Noah’s time and fire rained on Sodom.

Just a few weeks ago a neighbor told my wife that the space station would be flying over between 7:10 and 7:30 pm. That was a huge gap in time, but we really wanted to see it. I especially wanted to give my children something new and exciting to see. Around seven my son and I began to wait and serve as an early warning to my wife and younger daughters. Now waiting is a pretty tough game, but even so for a six year old. We kept looking up through the trees waiting to see the site. Finally, closer to 7:30 the space station began streaking through the night sky. My wife had arrived a few minutes prior and we’ as a family’ stood there looking at a spectacular scene.

Our neighbors however, were nowhere in sight. They were eating, watching TV and doing the things that neighbors do and had missed out on something spectacular.

It’s hard to wait for Jesus. He’s coming back whether we are prepared or not. Those who have asked him to be their savior will be caught up to something glorious. Those who are eating and drinking and living their lives will be left behind. Are you waiting and watching?

Thursday, October 09, 2008

There will be troubles

Luke 17: 1-21

Jesus taught powerful lessons in this section about forgiveness, being His servant and having a grateful attitude for the miracles He performs. These short few versus convey the attitudes and thoughts we should have toward one another and God.

We are all humans, and we are going to sin. In fact, we will hurt each other. As much as we hate it, we Christians do it all the time. We betray our loved ones, say bad things to family and friends and sometimes don’t support those appointed over us. If you’ve been on the receiving end of insults or gossip, you know how hurtful it is. If you have dealt the blows, you may never know the damage.

I remember one conversation I had with a gentleman at church. We had a lot of activities going on and each was as important as the other and it was impossible for our pastor to be everywhere at once. One person made a comment that he hoped the pastor would make the visit. However, it was more to the tune of: “we are all out here working on the event and our leader can’t even show up.”

We all knew that that had been an unfair statement and the person who spoke it regretted the statement immediately. Soon thereafter our minister did show up with his family to enjoy the event. We were all happy to see him and had just forgotten the statement until…someone let it slip.
“Hi Pastor,” the worker began as he shook the preacher’s hand.
He just couldn’t leave well enough alone.
“Someone said you wouldn’t come to this and see our hard work. We’re glad you made it.”
Now we all felt bad again and now our leader could feel like a victim of gossip.

We do not know the damage that our idle chatter can cause. That was several years ago, but our spiritual and other leaders deal with a lot of stress as they do their best to lead the flock. They need our support and love.

Alas, Jesus promised there would be trouble. He does finish the warning with another challenge. Even though you will be offended, insulted, injured, wronged…you must forgive. If a person asks for forgiveness we are to forgive each time.

Soon thereafter, Jesus showed us the ultimate example of how to forgive. He let others yell, lash out, beat, insult him; the most horrible of humiliations. Finally, he allowed himself to die in their hands. The great thing was, he knew they were going to do that when he gave this lesson to his disciples. FORGIVE THEM.

Here is another truth. While we are forgiving and serving, we should do so with the attitude that it is the least we can do for our savior and the kingdom of God. We have no rights or privileges. As Christians our freedom in Christ comes at a great price to Him and with great responsibility within us. We have liberty and freedom because we are forgiven, but we should not cause people to stumble because of our freedom. Our efforts should be to do anything to help spread the Gospel.

We are free to drink, smoke, gamble and overeat, etc. However, how can we tell others about Jesus if we lose credibility in certain areas? It’s like travelling overseas and demanding our way while in another culture. To influence people, we have to adapt their culture and build credibility (no, we can not partake in the “when in Rome” attitude).

Oh what price liberty, at our Savior’s expense. We should do our duty as good servants and lose the attitude of privilege. Let’s just do what is expected of our savior with the right frame of mind. “We are unprofitable servants; we have done which was our duty to do.” Jesus will not forget our commitment. He is waiting on us with our reward.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

How should we use our influence?

Luke 16: 14-31

The Pharisees continued to practice tough laws and Jesus continued pointing out their pretentiousness. The religious leader’s standards were so high that even God’s Kingdom seemed more flexible. There was no love or compassion for those of lesser political, religious or economical stature and qualities of a forgiving God were not relayed to the people. The Pharisees practiced a double standard and most standards did not apply to the leaders.

I’ve witnessed this kind of behavior from new leaders, including myself. For the cruel or perhaps inexperience leader, this behavior serves to validate themselves and their perceived benefits of power.

When I served in one of my first leadership assignments in the Army, I had the attitude that the rules just didn’t apply to me. I gave off the attitude that I was above reproach, but my actions did not demonstrate that. For unexplained reason, one of my team members pulled me aside on my second day in charge. As painful as it was, I benefitted tremendously from the following experience. This person who worked for me took the time to meticulously, but respectfully hold up a virtual mirror in front of my eyes. As they exposed my shortcomings, a portrait began to reveal itself on the canvas of my life. Soon, I saw a clear picture of my failing leadership style and I didn’t like what I saw. Fortunately, I took our conversation to heart and was able to make the adjustments that prepared me for greater future leadership opportunities; not so for the rich man…

Lazarus suffered out side the rich man’s gate. Though the rich man was not responsible for the pitiable man, he showed no mercy. The rich man was not in a leadership role, but had the resources available to help the dying man just outside of his property. He chose to live in luxury, power, wealth and do nothing to alleviate the suffering of one not so fortunate.

On the other side of life, Lazarus lived in luxury in Father Abraham’s bosom. Though Lazarus may have felt compassion, he could in no wise help the rich man. It was not in his control.

How about your life? Are you in a leadership or other position where you have to opportunity to help? Or, are you like the Pharisee only seeking to validate yourself with your power and position? Do you enable those around you, or do you use control and manipulation to get your way?

Think upon these questions. What you do today could make the difference in whether or not someone wants to become a Christian. The Bible is full of positive leadership role models to demonstrate how to lead while developing relationships that will bring others to know Christ.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Building Influence with mammon

Luke 16:

I am fortunate to belong to a small group of about four men from Sunday school who meet every two weeks. This is only our second consecutive meeting, but we are already seeing the spiritual benefit of our get togethers. Our Sunday school teacher has stepped out in spiritual leadership and has opened his house and resources up to us and we are grateful for his faithfulness and desire to do this important thing.

Tonight I brought up the passage from the other evening’s post. I wanted to present it to the group and get their collective input. As stated earlier, I had usually skimmed over this passage, not truly understanding the meaning. However, I believe the Holy Spirit took the time to point some important facts about the passage to us.

Upon further reflection, we came to understand that Jesus was not applauding bad behavior of the money manager, but his attempt to improve relationships. The manager used his position to foster relationships and build loyalty with others. Though the manager had mishandled money in the beginning, he came around to finding out what the purpose of money really turned out to be.

Money wasn’t to be a means to buy things, improve life or have security. Jesus pointed out the relationship building necessity. Money opens many doors and meets a lot of needs It opens eyes and hearts and make people in need better prepared to respond to God meeting their needs.

Christians can use this opportunity to create friendships, relationships and generate influence. This influence is incredible toward building credibility. God can use this credibility to expand his kingdom.

Money isn’t the solution, it’s a tool; a means to opening doors.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

What about the faithful?

Luke 15: 1-32

I was once in charger of physically inventorying 20,000 documents. We had to maintain accountability of each and every one for various security and privacy reasons. Once complete with the normal inventory process, I reported to my boss that we had found all but three. Her face dropped in disappointment.

“It’s not so bad, boss,” I replied. “19,997 out 20,000 is better than 99%. That’s an A.”

She wasn’t very impressed. However, we began a more indepth search of records and under book shelves and between the pages of other documents. Finally, we rejoiced at having 100% accountability.

We focused a lot of effort on three documents we could not see. Those three lost documents cost a lot of time, effort and expenses that should have been dedicated to maintaining the status of the current documents.

So, how does this experience and the parables Jesus taught, relate to God’s Kindom?

Do the faithful get ignored while the newly saved or those who return to Christ are rejoiced over? What about those of us who I have posted about earlier? You know, those who are trying to be faithful, but are not recognized or celebrated as other lay leaders and church members. Does God appreciate the faithful servant who is in a less visible but labor intensive service? How are others more recognized for their visible work while some seem to be left out?

Luke 15 seems designed to answer these types of questions. At least, these are the answers I get from looking at the passage. When I wrongly feel some sort of injustice in these situations, I find comfort from Jesus’ words in the book of Luke. He puts some things in perspective. By seeing how Jesus answered the Pharisees, I can see how I can help with the recognition and rejoicing of people who either need to be energized by the recognition, have returned to following Jesus or are welcomed as new believers.

The Bible is full of encouragement to use our talents and our Spiritual gifts in God’s service. By using what God has provided each of us, we can fit in and joyfully serve in our right roles. If everyone is doing their part, the So, what is the conflict here?

The conflict is not entirely about faithful Christians being forgotten by God. The passage is meant to open the eyes of grumbling religious leaders who miss the point of a relationship with God. They are the “look at me” people who serve from the wrong motivations. They are inspired by position and duty, not by service to God.

When new converts, small and insignificant in social stature, are visited and doted upon by a man claiming to be God’s son, the leaders are left feeling indignant. Had they had the right heart, they would have heeded Jesus’ words: “…though art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad; for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again…”

Let our hearts be joyful in service to God and charitable to those who have accepted Christ as their savior and those who have returned to following him.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Being responsible for little

Luke 16:1-17

Not every part of a Christian’s life is Holy. We breathe impure air, eat tainted food and have friends and family members who are not saved. We also are called to be good stewards of all that is on earth as God has created it for his pleasure.

The parable of the unjust steward can at first seem confusing, but Jesus is warning that if a person cannot do what is expected of him with unholy task, how can God rely on them for larger jobs.

I remember when I was eight years old. It was about the time when I understood what it meant to be a Christian and also a reliable person. I was very self aware and I had always wanted to leave a good impression as a person others could rely on. My teacher at the time gave me a rather small assignment. My job was to deliver a note to another teacher in a separate wing of the school. No sooner had I left the room that I began to read the message.

Upon my return, my teacher pulled me aside and very quietly began to relay what she had seen outside of her window. As the story left her lips I began to feel small and ashamed. She concluded that she would not be able to trust me to deliver messages again. How ashamed and sorry I felt upon causing my teacher to doubt me and to disqualify myself form future trusted opportunities.

Jesus wants us to be faithful with even the riches of this world. We are to act responsibly and use money, talents, resource and anything else of this earth in a way that pleases God. We are to use it to make friends, relationships and live responsibly. Jesus is serious about building relationships and living in such a way as to lead people to him. When we misuse these resources or break the law or cause the wrong impression or lose credibility, our witnesses are shot and God will have no reason to reward us with more meaningful roles.

Monday, September 15, 2008

What would you give up?

Luke 14: 25-26

Jesus explained what discipleship really meant. I meant that people should be willing to give up everything to follow him. Everything includes loving him more than we could possibly love anyone else.

I asked my Sunday school kids (5th -6th Grade) what they loved doing.
“How many of you have something that you love to do so much that you lose track of time while you are doing it?” I had asked that particular Sunday morning.

I received many typical responses normal to that age group.

“So, what would you do if you had to give it up to follow Jesus?”

Unfortunately I received some more typical reaction of many children not particularly happy about the idea.

The right “Sunday school” answer is to reply that you would give it up and do anything God asked and would follow him blindly. However, I believe those children gave an honest answer that we should probably admit.

In the above verses, Jesus tried to set an example of Godly love that he had a hard time teaching. His father, God was just about to complete His demonstration of how much he loved us by letting his son be treated by a lowly criminal and killed as an innocent man. This just shows us that God understand us so much that he would not ask us to do something that he is not willing to do himself. God so loved the world that he gave us his only son so that whoever believed in him would not die, but live forever…John 3:16.

Let’s pray that our hearts can be tuned to God and that all the love we feel for each other will fall miserably short of the love and obedience we show to our savior.

God Bless.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Invitation please

Luke 13: 22-35

One of those listening to Jesus as he went about preaching asked Jesus if indeed going to be only a few saved. Jesus confirmed this with an excellent example of those trying to enter a house if it were already closed.

This story makes and excellent evangelical tool as it touches on people’s desire to be included in something important. I would say spending eternity with God as that all important membership which one should belong. This person probably asked to be sure of what it takes to be include, or maybe they were concerned about their own eternal security.

Many people who are turned away from Heaven will try to negotiate their way in. Those to whom Jesus referred said “We have eaten and drunk in thy presence, and though has taught in our street.” Signifying that they had associated with Jesus, but never accepted him as their savior. It is entirely to believe that Jesus lived, but not acknowledge him as the son of God. Many people will learn the difference too late. Some more modern examples of what people might say to Jesus include:
“Jesus, I know who you are, do you remember me?”
“Jesus, I heard about you in Church once and I gave some money to the poor”
“I’ve never done anything bad in my life.”
None of those statements makes a difference. The only thing certain to let you in the gates is declaring Jesus as your savior. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the father except through me”. There is no other way into heave.

I remember once in my youth my friends and I were playing a dangerous gang. After one of my friends got into a fight, we all decided that was a cool thing to do. We invited a rival neighborhood to a fight in a remote location. Everyone showed up on time and as we walked from one end of the field to the other I began to recognized some familiar faces…football players, popular students and other influential people in our school. I just looked at my friends and said, “we’re dead”.

They were there to fight and I was like, “hey, aren’t you in my sister’s class?” “I’ve seen you around school,” and other distracting sayings to get their minds off the task of beating me down.

Though I tried to develop some kind of relationship, it did not work. I had shown up to fight, putting all other friendship opportunities aside. Just like those in Jesus’ story, my feeble attempts at friendship was a last ditch effort to save myself some pain. Though we never ended up fighting, they saw right through me.

It’s not enough to hear about Jesus, do good deeds or attend church. Christ is looking for a restoration. He wants to be reconciled with humanity. Many people will try to get to heaven, but only a few who belong to Jesus will make it.

If you haven’t accepted Jesus as your savior, please do so while you can.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

God's kingdom

Luke 13:6-21

Jesus taught that unless one is born again, they can not enter into Heaven. It is the sin that condemns us to all die, but Christ that gives eternal life. Why would we not share this good news to all? For all are appointed to die, but Christ allows us to live.

Jesus taught that the 18 who died when the tower fell on them not as a result of their sin, but simply because we were all destined to die. Jesus went further to demonstrate God’s love for us. As we can never be perfect, there is only one thing to do with something that bears bad fruit; cut it down.

I have heard people describe those who did not pull their weight as “oxygen thieves.” That seemed harsh, but just. Those who did not due what they are trained to do or paid to do are hurting the rest of the team. The same is the death that we all deserve because of our sin.

The good new is, just like the gardner in the Parable of the barren fig tree, Jesus wants to groom us to produce. “this one is not an oxygen thief, let me work with him, give him water an food and he will grow. However, if after I’ve had my say and he still denies me, then you may cut him down. Jesus is ready to save us from our sins, we just have to respond.

Soon, Jesus is again teaching in the synagogue on a nice Sabbath morning. While there a crippled woman who had not been able to stand for 18 years walks in. Jesus is moved to heal her. What a time to celebrate and praise God’s faithfulness and goodness. They had just witness another miracle.

What do they do instead? “Hey, it’s the Sabbath, no healing! You should have waited for another day to work.”

That showed the eroding condition of their hearts. The religious leaders loved their position and power. They openly “suffered” for God, putting up with poor people and forcing everyone to obey rules. They did not understand God’s new covenant or his love and desire to save his people.

I am reminded of people I encounter in my profession. I work in safety and security; a highly regulated field. On one occasion I witnessed a co-worked rightly pursuing why a fellow employee was not wearing their protective shoes. They had spent a significant amount of energy chastising employees who were not in the proper protective equipment. However, they did not take into consideration that the employees had just shifted to administrative tasks and were no longer working around an injury hazard. This person was so focused on rules and routine and not on the opportunity to realize that the other employee had made a good decision.

Sometimes our positions and power take us out of the relationship building business. We use rules and regulations to validate ourselves or increase our power. This is not the intent of rules. Rules are there to provide order and protection. The Pharasees used their positions to gain validation and power. Instead of building up God’s Kingdom, they worked to tear it down.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

They deserved it?

Luke 13:1-5
Some folks brought up some recent deaths of Galilaeans who died at the hands of the the Romans. They supposed that they must have been big sinners because they had died.

They also brought up the recent deaths of eighteen Jewish people who had died in an accident or tower collapse. Perhaps their sins led to their death as well. In both cases the Jewish people equated death and injury with the advent of Sin.

Jesus told them that death happens to everyone. Everyone sins and everyone will die. However, those who repent of their sins will have eternal life with God after they die.

Jesus reminded them that death comes to all since all sin. We all die and no one is immune from that. We are all doomed to spiritual death and an eternity away from God if we do not turn away from our sin. Spiritual death and not physical death is the only thing actually equated with all sin. Jesue can forgive our sin and bring us in to eternal life. All we have to do is repent and believe in him.

I'm going to definitely tell my friends who do not know Christ as their savior. I will also pray for a change in their hearts.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Watching and waiting

Luke 12:35-59

Building treasures with Kingdom activities provide rewards in Heaven. These treasures can never be destroyed, never need polishing and always makes God proud. Treasure in Heaven are rewards for visiting the sick, imprisoned, helping widows and orphans, preaching the gospel, baptizing in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and waiting and watching for Jesus’ return.

Jesus begins verse 35 with an action to prepare for the Lord’s return. He does not tell us to passively bide our time, but take action with activities of preparation. When Jesus does return, those who have been watching will not be caught off guard, embarrassed or surprised. Those who watch for Jesus will be prepared for the reunion and ready to receive these rewards.

In versus 42-48, Jesus gives a warning. It is quite a different message than that of a humble servant king. This warning should be heeded by all Christians as a motivation to be responsible with the challenges and individual jobs that Christ gave us. He will punish those who have not accepted him and reward his children according to their faithfulness.

Unfortunately this warning is impossible to live up to. We are not physically capable of being watchful as Jesus commands. Our sins condemn us and we will encounter God’s judgment unless we accept His gift. To be truly watchful, we must be converted from our sinful state into people who believe in Christ. Those who have accepted Christ as savior are the truly watchful.

My prayer is that everyone I encounter either through this blog or in my relationships and efforts will come to know Jesus. Because we are humans and live in an imperfect and hopelessly sinful state, our actions condemn us to eternal separation from God. We all do wrong and will continue to do wrong. We are born in a temporary world and with imperfect bodies that are doomed. However, Christ gives us a way out. God gave us His Son, those who believe in him will not be condemned but will be forgiven. This forgiveness ensures that all who believe will be ready and waiting.

Those of us who are Christians can encourage one another to be ready for Christ’s coming. We can be watchful while doing everything in our power to bring others to Christ by visiting the sick and imprisoned, caring for widows and orphans and following the commandments to love one another as Christ loves us.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Call to excellence

Luke 12: 16-34

Jesus had just finished teaching about obedience to God and doing things that matter spiritually. He began another parable about the rich fool. He starts off by saying “the ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully.” This is our first clue that God had blessed the man with abundance.

The rest of the story tells of a man who had so much he had to build up store houses. Maybe he wasn’t satisfied and in his desire for more, he put all of his energy into produce much more than he would ever need. As his desire led him to produce more, we quickly see where his heart was, on his earthly treasures.

Soon, his life was over and he died. His soul passed on, but all he worked for stayed behind. Perhaps the man went to heaven, if so; the story illustrates the case of someone with earthly goals and no treasures in heaven, what a wasted life Whether or not he went to heaven, one thing is certain, he put all of his strength into building a kingdom on earth.

Having money and receiving financial blessings is not sinful. The love of money, sex, sports, alcohol and other material things is sinful if it replaces God. God wants us to produce things that will build up His Kingdom and assure us treasure in heaven.

Monday, August 25, 2008

God's Amazing Gift

Luke 12 1-15

Jesus continued to teach about obedience above sacrifice. The theme continued to be love for the neighbor over ceremony. It is more important to love others and do what is right before God than it is to practice policy. The Pharisees were still focused on their stature. Many common people gathering with Jesus had believed that the Pharisees wealth and position made them Holy, and the religious leaders exploited the belief. The last verse of chapter 14 tells that they waited for Jesus to slip up that they may accuse him.

With that in mind, Jesus knew that that would occur very soon. He knew the leaders wanted him dead and soon it would be accomplished. However, it would be during God’s time and his choosing. Why, because God loved us and he was going to show us how much. Jesus was going to be the living sacrifice, teaching us the way to God.

Jesus warned the crowd that the Pharisee teachings were wrong. As a reminder of his earlier chastisement, Jesus stated that what the Pharisee did in private would be manifest. God’s truth would reveal them for what they are. Then Jesus told his disciples not to fear these leaders. They had no power. God has absolute power and he should be feared.

God will take care of those who confess Jesus and punish those who deny his son. Those who blaspheme the Holy Spirit and refuse to accept Christ will not be forgiven. The Holy Spirit guides us to accept Christ. If we do not listen, we turn down the opportunity to be with God. With out accepting the gift, we are unforgiven; separated from God forever.

The Holy Spirit will also speak what we are to say when asked to give accountability for our actions. Jesus promises that we will not be left alone, but will be given the words to say.

What a wonderful hope Jesus gave to those who were abused religiously. He let them know that they counted to God. God knew of their oppression and he would administer justice. Those who were neglected by self-serving leaders were herd by God. Those who accepted Christ, God’s gift would be redeemed.

Jesus came to heal, preach and lead people to God. He stepped from his throne with God to live amongst his creation. He was thirsty, hungry, angry, sad and treated unjustly just like all of us. He allowed himself to be crucified on the cross and gave up his life when scripture was fulfilled. After three days he came back to life. He didn’t have to experience this, he did it because he loved us. Though he is a ruler, leader and God, he cares and wants you to accept his gift of eternal life. If you have not accepted Christ as your savior, please do so. The Bible says to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. God loved us so much that he gave his only son. Whoever believes in him will not die, but live forever. Please don’t turn his invitation away; that’s obedience that can’t be forgiven if you die before making your decision.

If you have already accepted his give, then God may be calling you to something special. As his child, he may have a mission for you. Maybe at work, in your neighborhood, anywhere, he may be speaking to you now. Won’t you listen and respond with obedience?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Setting standards

Luke 11: 39-54

After spending time hearing Jesus a Pharisee, perhaps wanting to hear more, wanted to eat with Jesus. Keep in mind, Jesus had been speaking about signs, hypocrisy and how the body reflects the soul of a person.

As if not heeding the lesson nor understanding, the Pharisee becomes distracted that Jesus did not perform the ceremony of washing. Everything that the master had said suddenly had no credibility to the Pharisee. “Why have you not washed,” he wondered.

That’s all Jesus needed to hear to rebuke him to either bring him around to salvation or seal his decision for the crucifixion to shortly occur. Jesus spoke of the hypocrisy of giving alms and performing ceremony without obedience to God, concern for others or care for justice.

Read 1 Samuel 15:22.
About which event did Samuel chastise Saul?
Was Saul concerned with ceremony or obeying God?
What does God prefer?
Describe an event where you emphasized ceremony over obedience (it could be work, spiritual or wherever you may have chosen regulation over justice, intent or common good).
Describe a time where you chose obedience over ceremony.
Which had the better or most enduring outcome?

The lawyer then spoke up and Jesus reminded him that he also put undue burden on the people that they would not even take on themselves. I am reminded of a co-worker who had just been promoted to a leadership role. We all tried to support him, but we knew he was setting standards he had never followed himself. We saw his effectiveness as a leader weaken as he continued to set rules and standards he had not intention of following, but required his team members obey to the letter.

How effective was this leader?

After reading Christ’s chastisement answer the following question:
Do you think God holds leaders accountable?
Do you think God hears those who are under undue or unfair burdens?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

A house divided

Luke 11:14-23

I live in Huntsville, Alabama and there are a lot of families who admit they are from divided houses. In fact, many ornamental license plates broadcast A House Divided. On one side is UA and the AU. For those of you not in the know the South Eastern Conference is a very big deal. Many folks in the same home devote attention to different teams. Part supports the University of Alabama and the other root for Auburn University. Fortunately this rivalry is friendly and hopefully does not cause families to fall apart.

However, Jesus found himself refereeing another situation. Being about God’s work did not always produce the fruit that he wanted. Obviously his ways flustered the religious leaders and many others just didn’t understand who he was. In the midst of successfully ousting a demon from a citizen, others gave God the glory while a few gave credit to Satan. As if Jesus miracles were not proof enough of God’s love, they demanded an additional sign.

These ne’er do wells were seeking to thwart Jesus’ ministry as he was gearing up to build up his followers, save others, and turn over the ministry to his capable disciples. Still, Jesus took the time to help them understand. He wanted to give them a chance for redemption, so he explained the folly of their accusations.

• If he was of the devil, how could the devil succeed by tearing his own plans down? It is impossible to build up might by conspiring to weaken the mission. They had to now answer to their ridiculous thought process
• If Jesus cast out demons in the name of the devil, by what authority are their own sons casting out devils. Those who followed Jesus were now witnesses against their relatives. Now the accusers had to reflect on the involvement of their own flesh and blood in Jesus ministry.
• Then he reasoned the if God had sent them, then they were in real trouble because it is of God and they attributed it to evil.

Jesus then turns the lesson back to those infested with demons. As a warning he tells them about the vacuum. When there is a void, something fills it in. Jesus reminds them that after a demon is cast out, there is nowhere for them to go. If one healed of this demon possession does not fill the vacancy with holiness, they are just an empty vessel, ready for habitation.

It’s not enough to change your ways, real change comes with accepting Christ. You can’t change yourself, it’s only with letting Jesus into your heart that real change happens. You can try to stop doing bad things but you can’t do it. We’ll never stop sinning, it’s impossible. However, we can stop the penalty of sin. By letting Christ in, you allow him to make you a new person sealed with the promise of eternal life. God will no longer hold your past, present or future deeds against you. He has promised that to those who believe.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Praying with the right focus

Luke11: 1-13

Jesus taught his disciples to pray. They had asked him to teach them. Maybe they had observed him praying and wanted that type of relationship with God. Have you noticed that some people tend to pray very well? Perhaps you are one of those. Me, I have a hard time praying. It is one of those areas with which I struggle. However, I can ask God to help me pray and he gives me those words.

While teaching 5th and 6th grade Sunday school, I went through an exercise. It was to pray the model prayer the way Jesus would want me to. Sure, he gave us the words, but I thought it important to personalize it.

Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. “God, teach me to honor your name as holy. You have many different names, help me to learn them and show you that I love you.”

They kingdom come. They will be don on heaven, so in earth. “Help me to see people as you do so I can lead them to you. Your will is to see that none perish, help me to be desperate for the lost.”

Give us day by day our daily bread. “Thank you for your continuous provisions. You give us everything we need, you resource us for our ministry physically and spiritually.”

And forgive us our sins, for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us. “God, this is my prayer, help me forgive those who wrong me. You have forgiven my continuous betrayals and shortcomings. You have forgiven those who mocked and crucified you, leaving me with a perfect view of forgiveness. Help me to practice that daily.

And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. “Jesus, help me to discern sin when I see it and flee. Help me seek shelter in you, solace in other Christians and guidance by the Holy Spirit.

As Jesus continued to preach about prayer, he used two parables to remind his disciples (and me) to pray and ask with a pure heart. God, who is good, will give more than any parent. We are fallen creatures. If we give well, how much better can our heavenly father give to us.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Real Compassion

Luke 10:25-42

Jesus had confided in his disciples about how blessed they are that God had revealed certain things to them. The very experiences they were having with Jesus had been foretold by the prophets of old and they were realizing prophesy right there. Jesus performed the miracles, healed the sick and was preparing to make himself a sacrifice for all of mankind. The disciples were part of it.

Now a lawyer comes up and tries to interrupt Jesus momentum. He wanted to trick Jesus and ruin his credibility. What the lawyer did not understand is that he was no match for our God, who resisted the Devil’s temptation a few years earlier in the desert. His question was simple, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus reminded him of scriptures and showed him how to find salvation through scripture. Look in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.

What doe these passages have in common with the lawyer’s answer?

The lawyer was handed an answer with a question. He may have felt silly and wanted to redeem himself by asking another question; who is my neighbor?

Jesus told a familiar story, one of compassion from a stranger to one in need. A man had just been attacked and many important religious leaders strolled by not wanted to get involved and refusing to help.

The man who did help was not judgmental about race, religion or circumstances. He genuinely felt sorry for the injured man’s state of being and gave of his own resources to help.

Quite often, we are not willing to do that. We cast judgments and make excuses.

“He should have known better than to walk that trail. Does not he know criminals are there?”
“That’s what he gets for not having insurance, I surely can’t help.”
“If I stop, I’ll be late for work.”
“Who goes out at night?”

Those who follow Jesus’ teachings don’t ask questions or pass judgment; they take action. They care for wounds of the heart, spirit and body. They provide food, clothing and shelter and they demonstrate God’s love and forgiveness to a fallen world.

Go and do likewise and again pray for me that I can do the same.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Look what we've done in your name

Luke 10:13-24

Before Jesus sent out his 70, he told them something very important. He informed them that all would not accept their message. This was probably not news to the disciples, but at this point they were probably pumped up about going from city to city with their important message. They had been commissioned by their master.

However, there is an important part that they may not have considered. Read John 16 20-22.
What does Jesus say about persecution?

Does he promise that his servants will always be received well?

It is not the desciple we should focus on, but the message. They will not reject us personally, but the message. For that, Jesus says rejoice if you are rejected, because you are doing well.

The disciples return in good motivation. They are happy because the message was wll received. They healed, ministered, cast out demons and preached the gospel. They enjoyed the success of the mission.

Jesus reminded them of one fundamental thing; people were still experiencing spiritual death. He acknowleged that his followers had done great things in his name, but they should rejoice because of their spiritual life.

Do you have the same realization?

What feelings do you experience knowing that many people still reject Jesus?

Are you angered when your message is rejected?

How does this lesson encourage you about rejection?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Preparing the way

Luke 10: 1-12

Afterward, Jesus began appointing disciples; 70 of them to be exact. These were probably of the ones that he was enlisting in chapter 9. He sent them two by two into the cities to tell others about him. His ministry was building up and he was getting ready to leave earth. He still had a message to tell and people to bring to his father. These servants would visit the cities with a specific plan. A purpose and instructions that Jesus gives them to be successful. Take a look at his message to the advance party:

1. He tells them to pray. Jesus knew they had a daunting task to spread Christianity and they needed more people to do so. Even today there is a need to spread the Gospel. Pray that God will encourage those to do so. Pray that God will prepare your hearts as well.

2. He tells them to obey. Jesus didn't want them to carry any provision or get distracted by conversations. Jesus reminded them to stay focused on their dangerous work. He wanted to let them know he would provide for them.

3. Jesus said to bless the homes they entered.

4. Jesus reminds them that he would provide. He said to eat whatever is put before them and enjoy the fruits of hard work.

5. He wanted them to heal and minister to the people who accepted them, but to reject those who would not receive them.

Jesus wants us to pray, gives the instructions, reminds us of the hard and dangerous works ahead, enjoy the fruits of our obedience, bless and minister to those who receive us.

How has the Lord blessed your faithfulness to him?

Can you describe a time where God has faithfully provided as a result of your ministry?

What kind of rejection have you experienced?

Did Jesus promise success at every encounter?

Ask God to reveal the people he wants you to reach. Ask him anything you want about the ministry he would have you do? Test him and see that he is faithful.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Call

Luke 9: 57-62

Jesus continued to call disciples. Even while his face was set for Jerusalem, he continued to preach the message and recruit people to share the Gospel.

Jesus also helped people learn about themselves; all the while giving us the benefit of learning from their mistakes. We get a front row seat of his teachings. Sometimes these seats are a little too close and I am feeling somewhat uncomfortable seeing myself making the same bad decisions as those close to Jesus.

Let’s look at some statements:

“Jesus, I’ll follow you anywhere. I hope I get to maintain my life as I’ve grown accustomed to it.”

“Jesus, I’ll follow you as soon as I fulfill my family obligations”

“Jesus, I have a few friends over at my house from my college days…you know, those days before I met you. As soon as they leave I’ll go back doing your will.”

At first, these statements may seem a little simplified, but they are really just my interpretations of the excuses Jesus’ disciples gave. I’m sure Jesus wasn’t trying to turn people away, but just letting them hear the futileness of their reasoning.

Jesus addressed each statement firmly, yet lovingly enough to hopefully get a positive response. If you want to serve the savior, your heart has to be in it. Jesus calls us to a ministry or mission and we need to be faithful. He said, “let the dead bury their dead: but go thou and preach the kingdom of God.”

So, what has Jesus called you to do recently?

What are some of the excuses you have given?

What did Jesus reveal about your excuses?

A few Saturdays ago I went prayer walking with a few others in my church. I didn’t know what to expect and when that day came, I wanted to stay home with my family. It was hot and muggy even at 9am when we started.

However, had I not gone, I would have missed the experience of praying with a woman to restore her son’s relationship with God and his family.

If God is speaking with you, pray. You can come up with any excuse why not to do something, but prayer will put you in contact our God who would like to use you. Before you answer, talk to him and get a good perspective. While you are praying, remember me on my journey to obedience.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

The Mission-Staying Focused

In my attempt to be faithful, I have started a study of Luke. I hope to be able to share with others what I have learned and encourage the sharing of your faith. In Luke 9: 51-56 Jesus spells out his mission explicitly, he focused his gazed toward Jerusalem. He was on his way to fulfill His mission on earth. His past three years had been healing and teaching and reminding his disciples of who He was and how to get to His father.

Jesus' disciples were there for all of the lessons and observed his miracles, but they still didn't grasp fully that Jesus had to give his life for the salvation of others.

In preparation Jesus sent people ahead to tell the villages that Jesus was coming. For many reasons, the people would not accept Jesus and it angered his disciples. Of course James and John wanted to bring fire on them and destroy the villages in the vein of old testament justice. This perhaps demonstrated their hearts and expectations of a warrior king.

Jesus had to set them straight. He reminded them that he came to seek and save the lost, not destroy those who chose not to listen.

Perhaps you have felt the cold sting of rejection after trying to give someone good news. However, that's not our fight, we are to just keep telling of If we have "the ministry of reconciliation". We have a message to pass on and we are the messengers. We should not take personally the rejections of the message. That is for Jesus to judge. I encourage you to continue to be faithful to your mission.

I have to admit it is hard to do what Jesus commands. Perhaps you are like me and time goes by without even talking to someone about your faith. Me, I'm trying to change that part about my life what I hope to do is share my experiences with this blog and maybe encourage you.

Yesterday I decided to go out and do something faithful. Jesus said to visit the sick and those in the hospital. So, to give my faith more purpose, I went to the local nursing home. You know what I saw there besides all the patients? Other Christians offering their time to encourage others. Let me tell you that the patients weren't the only one's encouraged by that. I am so happy to have been part of something that others saw importance in.

I invited someone to go with me to "show me the ropes". We went to rooms where there were members of our church. We had that in common as I engaged in conversation. Next time I go, I'll know what to do. I also plan to visit some who may not normally be visited. I also plan to write cards of encouragement and look for opportunities to share my faith.

Pray for me.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Doing Something for God

Luke 9:46-50

How often do we do things for the wrong reasons? Unfortunately, this often happens as we serve in our churches, communities and elsewhere. Many times even faithful servants of God can forget the real reason for their direct people to Christ and to please God. Without the right attitude, this service can seem quite burdonsome.

However, the right attitude, the one that is Christ-like can help in these situations. Jesus' desciples tried to figure out who was more important. It wasn't hard for Jesus to interpret their feelings as it probably manifested in their attitudes. He quickly reminded them that the first shall be last and the last shall be first.

Some of the best service happens behind the scenes. While others get thier names called out for appreciation, some of the "invisible" servants never get the validation. Well...that's ok. As long as you are serving where God wants you, He will give all the validation we need. Don't forget, Christ will have the rewards for our service and they are more substantial than any recognition we can ever receive on earth.

Be faithful, serve and reap the rewards. A servant's heart does what is right, regardless of whether or not anyone notices. God sees and rewards.