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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.