Wednesday, March 29, 2017

follow the Leader

(Written by Shelley)
The Word for today:
Luke 14:25 - 35
mark this: Luke 14:28 --
Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it?
I laugh to myself when someone turns to ask me a question about the Bible, expecting I’ll be able to give her the answer like my husband Franklyn would. It’s as if they think that because I’ve been married to him for the last 25 years, his Bible knowledge has transferred by osmosis to me. I can tell you for certain that the only way to know the Bible is to read it for yourself. You can’t leave your understanding of Scripture to your Sunday school teacher, favorite radio preacher or Christian author, or even your husband.
Of course, I have learned a vast amount while helping Franklyn with his Bible classes. We even taught a class together (called "Acts 29") but that was more up my alley – topically based with some life application.
If I had to boil down what I’ve learned into just two concepts, one would be that every story, person, and type in Scripture points us to Jesus. The second is that Jesus is bigger than I can ever imagine. So as I write a blog for Franklyn while he’s away at a conference, I will try to apply those two concepts to today’s passage.
Jesus has some hard words for us today as he tells the crowd, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters -- yes, even his own life -- he cannot be my disciple ...any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
So Jesus is reminding us of the great cost of being His disciple. He wants to be first in our lives. Truly following Him will cost us our time, our hard-earned money, some of our closest relationships, and possibly our lives. What has it cost you?
Now I’ll try to kick it into “Franklyn” gear and go beyond the surface of what these verses say. Let’s not project ourselves into the passages and try to apply them to ourselves until after we look at Jesus as the prime example of what it means to be a disciple.
Jesus was a disciple of the Father. He didn’t say (1) or do (2) anything unless he heard or saw His Father do it first.
Did Jesus put God first? We read in Matthew 12:46 – 50 that when Jesus’ mother Mary and His brothers were looking for Him, He turned to those with Him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” His priority was the Father and his family took a backseat.
Did Jesus count the cost of obeying the Father’s will? He knew from the foundation of the world that He was to be the Lamb slain for our sins (3). He humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross! (4). He had no place to lay His head (5).
Giving up his home in heaven, he was homeless here on earth. He was misunderstood not only by His enemies but even by His family and His disciples. He was falsely accused, and He was pursued and ultimately killed by His own. While He hung on the cross, covered in our sins, He was forsaken by the Father. Yet He came and died for our sins anyway. It cost Him everything to obey the Father’s will.
Jesus is our leader. But don’t forget that as our leader, he even shows us how to follow.
So, “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (6)
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) John 12:49; (2) John 5:19; (3) Rev. 13:8; (4) Phil. 2:5 – 11; (5) Luke 9:58; (6) Heb. 12:2

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

the pictures inside your head

The Word for today:
Luke 14:1-24
We have before us today a very instructive picture of the kingdom of God. The first thing you'll note is that it's not populated by a bunch of cub scouts with merit badges:
When one of the guests sitting at the table heard this, he said to Jesus, "How fortunate the one who gets to eat dinner in God's kingdom!"
Jesus said to him, "There was once a man who threw a great dinner party and invited many. When it was time for dinner, he sent out his servant to the invited guests, saying, 'Come on in; the food's on the table.' "Then they all began to beg off, one after another making excuses…
The servant went back and told the master what had happened. He was outraged and told the servant, 'Quickly, get out into the city streets and alleys. Collect all who look like they need a square meal, all the misfits and homeless and wretched you can lay your hands on, and bring them here.'"
 (Luke 14:15-21)
This scene is probably a radical departure from your notion of heaven. If it is, I suggest that you radically depart from your previous notions, and begin to replace the pictures in your head with the ones that Jesus had in his head.
That's how we accomplish the odd-sounding thing called putting on the mind of Christ:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… (Romans 12:2)
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus… (Philippians 2:5)
…but we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:16)
"Putting on the mind of Christ" sounds more mysterious than it is. All you have to do is think of your mind as a photo album, where your outlook on things is stored.
As you read the Bible, compare the pictures in your head with the pictures inside Jesus' head. When yours are the same, keep them!
But when they differ, throw them out and replace your way of seeing things with Jesus' way of seeing things. You can start today--by comparing your "photograph" of heaven with the picture Jesus showed us.
It's really a lot of fun to sit right next to Jesus and compare photo albums! You will get to know the Bible better; you will get to know Jesus better; and you'll even get to know yourself better in the process!
So begin to lose the pictures of heaven that you might have had before. Lose the harps, the halos, the cub scouts, the merit badges…
Replace that picture with the one we see in Jesus' album: a bunch of misfits from the wrong side of the tracks who did nothing more than accept the King's invitation.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Monday, March 27, 2017

only a few?

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today:
Luke 13:18-35
mark this: Luke 13:23
And someone said to Him, "Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?"
This is a difficult but fair question.
I don't think that this "someone" was looking for percentages or demographic charts or statistical probabilities. I think his concerns were much more personal. Who gets in? Who does not? What are the criteria? Do I have a chance?
Franklyn & I have a running joke about the most exclusive church we've yet to find. You may have heard of certain sects or cults or denominations that claim to be the sole recipients of salvation, but a church of 50 people in Oklahoma takes the cake. Their website reads:
"If you are involved with the kind of Christianity that views Protestantism, or Catholicism, or the Orthodox church, or the "church of Christ," or Billy Graham, or Rick Warren, or Joel Osteen, or James Dobson, or Pat Robertson, or John MacArthur, or Tony Evans, or Greg Laurie, or Charles Stanley, or Chuck Smith, or Fred Price, or J. Vernon McGee, or Charles Blake, or Chuck Swindoll, or Gene Scott, or Harold Camping (Family Radio), or John Piper, or T. D. Jakes, or David Jeremiah, or Charles Spurgeon, or Dave Hunt, or Marvin J. Rosenthal, or David W. Cloud, or Perry F Rockwood, or Neil Anderson, or Robert Schuller, or Jack Hayford, or Benny Hinn, or Miles McPherson, or Ray Comfort, or Jim Cobrae, or Ron Luce, or Chuck Colson, or C. S. Lewis, or Hank Hanegraaff, or Paul Chappell, or any of the like (or any of the likes on "Christian" TV or radio) as godly, you are not saved."
That's very sad, but what is even sadder is found in their FAQ page:

"Q- Are you the only true church/believers?
 A- ...We have not yet, as of this date, found another church that is in the truth and we have been to many."
For them "only a few are going to be saved" and they are the "only." In all the 2000 years or so since Christ came, I guess He died only for a few dozen people in Oklahoma.
But this riduculous example brings up a bigger question: "How do we come to grips with the fact that Jesus Christ repeatedly makes claims of exclusivity?" Contrary to popular opinion, not all dogs go to heaven. Otherwise, why would Jesus warn any of us about the narrow way, about people being thrown out, about weeping and gnashing of teeth?
Jesus Christ is, at the same time, the most inclusive and the most exclusive being in all existence.
In the Gospels, we are amazed at His love and acceptance of all people, especially the most marginalized of His day. Yet, no one speaks more concerning Hell in the entire Bible. He just a few chapters ago said, "He who is not with me is against me (1)." But even earlier He said, "He who is not against us is for us (2)." How do we come to terms with this apparent contradiction?
What it boils down to is the exact same thing that Jesus said in His conversation with Nicodemus. Here also we have the greatest openness and inclusiveness:
"Whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" and "Whoever believes in him is not condemned."
But at the same time He issues words of unequivocal exclusion:
"Whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son (3)."
It all comes down to the very instrument that was used to cruelly kill Jesus.
The cross, itself a collision and contradiction, becomes to each person the ultimate point of decision. What side of the cross makes all the difference. To some it becomes the very ladder to Heaven (4), to others, a gallows. The question then becomes not "Will only a few be saved?" but rather "On which side of the cross do you stand?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) Luke 11:23
(2) Mark 9:40 (see also Luke 9:50)
(3) John 3:16 & 3:18
(4) John 1:51

Sunday, March 26, 2017

guilty of being God


The Word for today:

Luke 13:1-17
mark this: Luke 13:12-14
"Woman, you are set free from your infirmity." Then he put his hands on her, and immediately she straightened up and praised God. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, "There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath."
Q. What put Jesus on the cross?
A. In a general sense, it was "enmity," the inherent hatred that evil has for good:
"I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel." (Genesis 3:15)
But in a specific sense, the one thing--more than any other--which put Jesus on the cross was healing.
Q. Healing?
A. Yes, healing on the Sabbath. The Pharisees were looking for any excuse to string him up, so they seized on Sabbath-breaking.
Q. He was crucified for healing? Isn't that ironic?
A. I would say so! But life, and scripture, abounds with irony. Sometimes there seems to be more irony than not.
Q. Did Jesus actually break the Sabbath laws?
A. No. Jesus broke the Pharisees' interpretation of Sabbath law, but he did not transgress the law of God. The picky, fussy, anal, self-serving Pharisaic interpretation of the Sabbath laws would not permit such "work" on the Sabbath. But Jesus clarified God's law for them:
Then the Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?" As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him. (Luke 13:15-17)
Q. Do churches today perpetuate any 'picky, fussy, anal, self-serving interpretations?'
A. Indeed we do. For an example, you won't have to look any further than yesterday's blog, which pointed out the false choices presented by our baptismal traditions. Whether or not to sprinkle, pour, or immerse has obscured the real choice to be made between the baptism of fire or the baptism of the Spirit. Our traditions have buried baptism's meaning--which is intended to point to the meaning of the cross itself. We are buried under an avalanche of traditions and flawed interpretations which have compounded over time, leaving us--in ways we aren't even aware of--blind and cold beneath the drifts.
***
Between the lines of today's passage lies one of the most radical and seminal of all scriptural concepts:
God doesn't keep the law, he IS the law.
Embedded within God's covenant name (I AM THAT I AM) is this startling reality:
God doesn't correspond to a standard known as "right." Instead, "right" corresponds to whatever God IS.
These are far-reaching concepts, so we'll boil it all down:
Jesus was nailed to the cross because he was guilty of being God  (1).
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) see John 5:18

Saturday, March 25, 2017

one way or another

The Word for today:
Luke 12:35-59
mark this: Luke 12:49-50
I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished!
Most of the churches I've attended hold baptism services once or twice per year.  Those are my favorite Sundays.  I beseech those of you who believe in Jesus Christ to neither eat nor drink nor take another breath until you've arranged to take the plunge.
But whether you've made the arrangements or not, whether you believe in Jesus or not, you are still going to be baptized, one way or another.
One way or another. John the Baptist put it this way:
"I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire." (Luke 3:16)
Jesus said it this way:
I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:49-50)
The old-time churches placed great importance on their methods of baptism. They could argue into the night about immersion or sprinkling or pouring.
I don't want to step on any denominational toes, but the Bible doesn't see much difference between the various means of water baptism. So go ahead and get dunked, doused, inundated, deluged, hosed, sprayed, sprinkled--or all of the above. All of those methods are indicative of the inner baptism in the Holy Spirit.
***
The crucial choice is between Spirit baptism and fire baptism. Spirit baptism is to be identified / immersed with God's grace and forgiveness. Fire baptism is to be identified / immersed with God's judgment of sin.
And the only way to avoid fire baptism is to trust that Jesus underwent the baptism of fire for you! Your sins are going through fire, one way or another. They can be borne by Jesus in your stead, or they can remain on your ledger.
So remember:
Everybody's going to get baptized, one way or another,
whether we know it or not, whether we like it or not,
with the Holy Spirit, or with fire.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Friday, March 24, 2017

Dear heart,

The Word for today:
Luke 12:13-34
Dear heart,
I want you to know that I'm sorry for the things I put you through:
Remember that girl in 7th grade? Remember the day it was snowing and the flakes settled on her eyelashes. You skipped a beat that day. But by the 8th grade you knew she didn't like me anymore. I should have listened to you right away.
Remember in 9th grade, when we began to run? We were something, weren't we? We had fun then, didn't we?
Remember basketball--and the night, just a week before our first game, when the phone rang and our best player, our best friend, was run over as he walked home, his brand new uniform in cellophane in his gym bag. We grew up that night, old friend.
Remember track that spring, when the sun emerged from behind that dark cloud. We fairly flew for a season, just long enough to set the record, and to awake the next morning with a limp wing. How could we know, looking forward, that we'd never fly that high again.
But you weren't broken! You soldiered on. We grew up fast, by leaps and bounds, that summer. We had to, didn't we, 'cause our leaping and bounding days were over. But we didn't let on, and managed to limp all the way to William and Mary. But William and Mary wouldn't do.
Do you remember when we hitch-hiked all the way to Oregon, just you and me at Christmas time. We had nothing but each other back then. Remember when I reached in my pocket and gave all our money away? To this day I don't know why. That was as free as you and I ever got on our own.
We were broke and had to turn back home, but I didn't want them to see me that way, so we washed dishes in Indianapolis for a whole year. That's the year you and I broke up. There were moments of respite and reconciliation, but my star had tarnished and I was no longer worthy of your trust. I watched my own fall from grace as it reflected from your eyes.
You'd told me, back in Oregon, that even together we weren't enough, that our flaws would find the surface and the cracks would be exposed. I should have listened to you right away.
I wonder how Jesus learned so much about the heart without having to put on that crisp new red and white Emmet Belknap Junior High basketball uniform and line up for a ceremonial center jump with only four on the floor.
I wonder if eyelashes and track spikes and missing fighter formations even register with him. They must, because how else could he understand hearts the way he does:
"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also..."
"But," I protested, "my heart is my treasure."
"Precisely..."
That's when I reached inside and gave you away, too.
You finally made it home.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Thursday, March 23, 2017

through the rift

The Word for today:
Luke 11:53-12:12
mark this: Luke 12:10
And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.
Theologians go on and on about Trinity until they're blue in the face. Most of their Trinitarian treatises resemble botched dissections.
But rest assured that even a theologian can't sever the Trinity. That's because the Trinity is is a unity, held together by the strongest bond in the cosmos: love.
Here's the essential verse in scripture for the understanding of Trinity:
God is love. (1 John 4:8, 16)
There had to be Trinity--throughout the eternal past, before anything else was--because God is love and you can't love nothing! Thus, Trinity.
Love is a verb which has to have an object. You cannot say, "I love." An object has to complete the thought: I love Jesus, I love Shelley, I love dogs and I love Skittles. So, since God is love, Trinity is a logical inevitability.
The Bible contains a few fleeting glimpses of the sweet relationships within the Trinity. We see them cover for one another, protect one another, promote one another, submit to one another. They are perhaps the dearest and sweetest moments in the Book:
Jesus Christ told the Pharisees--who attributed his healing power not to the Holy Spirit but to Beelzebub, "lord of the flies"--that you could drag his own name through the dirt and maybe live to tell about it. But should you blaspheme the Holy Ghost, you've punched your own ticket to hell:
And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. (Luke 12:10; see also Matthew 12:22-32)
The Father set up the entire universe--all dominions and realms of both the spiritual and physical dimensions--in order that all glory be given to the Son.
The Holy Spirit never shines a light on himself, but seeks a bride for another. He is the unnamed servant in Genesis 24, who goes forth in order to procure a bride for the Son of Promise.
Jesus Christ is in absolute submission to the will of the Father. He won't do or say anything unless he sees or hears it first from his Father. (John 5:19, 7:16; 8:28, 12:49, 50; Deuteronomy 18:18)
They each scramble in a mad rush for the last seat at the table, so the other will not have to sit there.
***
The greatest anguish of the cross was not physical. Others have suffered to the physical extent that Jesus did. His greatest suffering was a spiritual agony, when sin rent the Trinity asunder:
My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?
No man but Jesus has entered into that realm of suffering. But all of the Trinity--you'd swear they share one heart--entered through the rift into a dimension of pain so intense that it may have rendered Jesus' physical suffering moot.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

from the inside out

The Word for today:
Luke 11:37-52
"A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you're talking real money."
--Senator Everett Dirksen, sometime in the 1960's
Inflation and runaway government expansion have dated Senator Dirksen's immortal quote. Today, our government throws around trillions. But when they throw all that money, what are they aiming at?
They're aiming at what Jesus called the outside of the cup:
When Jesus finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to eat with him; so he went in and sat down to eat. The Pharisee was surprised when he noticed that Jesus had not washed before eating. So the Lord said to him, "Now then, you Pharisees clean the outside of your cup and plate, but inside you are full of violence and evil. Fools! Did not God, who made the outside, also make the inside? (Luke 11:37-40)
All those dollars are spent on the symptoms, not the disease. They are aimed at the effects, not the root cause, of our problems.
But Jesus knew that people live from the inside out. If you want to change the outside, you can't just slap a coat of whitewash over it. If you do, he said, the inside remains foul and putrefied:
Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people's bones and all uncleanness. (Matthew 23:27)
When you change the inside, he said, the outside will follow suit:
You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. (Matthew 23:26)
In the gospel of John, he told Nicodemus (one of those blind Pharisees) how to "clean the inside" of the cup:
"You must be born again," he told him -- renewed from the inside, with a new nature.
***
What about you? Are you continually whitewashing the outside? If you are, then STOP! You can paint a garbage can, but it's still full of garbage. You can paint the outhouse, but it's still full of ... (my wife told me not to swear.)  But Jesus, unmarried, wasn't so constrained:
Don't you know that anything that is swallowed works its way through the intestines and is finally defecated? But what comes out of the mouth gets its start in the heart. It's from the heart that we vomit up evil arguments, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, lies, and cussing. That's what pollutes. Eating or not eating certain foods, washing or not washing your hands--that's neither here nor there. (Matthew 15:17-20/MSG)
So put down the whitewash! The only way to truly clean up the outside is to start from the heart and let a new you make it's way to the surface:
Anyone who is joined to Christ is a new being; the old is gone, the new has come (1).
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) 2 Corinthians 5:17

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

always greater than

greater
(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Luke 11:14-36
mark this: Luke 11:31 & 32
...behold, something greater than Solomon is here....
...something greater than Jonah is here.
Jesus Christ is greater than anything we can know or think or imagine. But since everything we know as humans is in comparison to something else, we're given, thankfully, a couple of different units of measurement in today's reading. Luke writes about how Jesus wisely deals with a demanding crowd by giving them a lesson. They want a miraculous sign, instead they get two examples.
The first is Solomon. Why Solomon?
The Jewish mind would be astonished by that statement.
Solomon’s reign was by far the high point of Israel- the time of the most wealth, the best Temple, the most security, the greatest international power, influence, and boundaries.
For every Jew- the reign of Solomon were the glory days of Israel.
And here comes this homeless teacher from Nazareth of all places, declaring that He is greater than Solomon.
Yet that is the truth. From His humble entrance into our world, where He's worshiped and given kingly gifts, to the mocking sign hung on His cross, that cruelly, but accurately, describes Him as the "King of the Jews" to the words written on His robe at His return- all this testifies to His Royalty(1).
The second is Jonah. Why Jonah?
For a while, this brought me some confusion. Jonah only has 4 total chapters in the whole Bible. He was perhaps the worst prophet in history when it comes to attitude. Clearly there were better "prophet of the year" candidates like Elijah, Isaiah, or Jeremiah.
But Christ is brilliant to use Jonah in comparison. Certainly, with the imagery of 3 days Jonah is a foreshadow of the Resurrection, but there is another reason. When Jonah reluctantly came to Nineveh, He didn’t come with wonders and signs. He didn’t give great sermons. He said 5 words in Hebrew which translates as "Forty more days and Nineveh will be overturned (2)."
Jonah needed no sign- He was the sign Himself. His life, how God had mercy upon him and spared Him from death was the message. Jesus, in the same way, is the sign Himself. His life, His character, His words are much greater than any miracle He performed! Jesus is not merely another prophet in the long line of history, He is our great and final revelation of GOD (3). He does just give a message- He is the Message!
Christ is always greater than whatever human comparison we can muster; that is not up for debate. The questions then become this: Is Jesus Christ my Prophet? Is Jesus Christ my King? Will you be like the Ninevites and repent or will you remain in your sins? Will you be like the Queen of Sheba and learn at the feet of the King, or will you remain in your ignorant pride? The choice is yours.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) Matthew 2, John 19:19, Revelation 19:16
(2) Jonah 3:4
(3) see Hebrews 1:1-3

Monday, March 20, 2017

prayer 101

(by Pastor Joe)
The Word for Today: Luke 11:1-13
mark this: Luke 11:2-4
He said to them, "When you pray, say:
'Father, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come.
Give us each day our daily bread. Forgive us our sins, for we also forgive everyone who sins against us. And lead us not into temptation. ' "
Let's face the fact that prayer often is a struggle for us. We struggle with the time, with the words, with the place, with our hearts. We don't even know what to pray for. We need help in our prayer life.
This struggle is nothing new. The disciples, themselves strugglers, come to Jesus with a request. They ask for help, not on what to pray for or how to pray, they are asking for basic motivation to pray. We likewise need this kind of help, we need to be taught prayer. It does not come naturally, and every single one of us has felt that frustration.
So in today's passage, Jesus is giving us a primer on prayer. He's teaching us not only the whats of prayer, He's also teaching the whys. There is nothing magical or formulaic about this prayer. This prayer is not something just to be repeated mindlessly. Instead, Jesus models for all of us the very essence of what it means to pray.
1. Prayer means relationship.
Christ calls us to address God as our "Father." That was unheard of for Jews of His day, and it caused a great deal of scandal (1). Nonetheless, it is now the basis on which we approach God. We have been given this privilege only because of the work of Jesus Christ (2). We come before God, not as strangers, but as His children. We're not in line with a number at a deli, we're not cowering before a principal or judge, we're not speaking through an interpreter to a foreign dignitary.
2. Prayer means putting God in His place.
Jesus also calls us to remember just who it is we are praying to. He reminds that God is holy because we need that reminder. We are to thank and worship God, not because He is vain and needs us to say nice things about Him, but because we are so quick to forget just how great He really is. If I refuse to acknowledge God's great love and justice and faithfulness and purity, that takes away nothing from God, but it definitely diminishes me. We are to worship and praise God regularly so that we don't forget just who we are addressing.
3. Prayer means putting yourself in your place.
Jesus told us to ask for God's kingdom to come. I often don't know what that means in certain contexts, but one thing I always know that it always means, is that's its not about my will, but His. We are told not to seek our own little kingdoms and our own petty plans, but instead to ask for God to have his way in us: in our lives, our homes, our churches, our communities, our world. Sadly, this is often the last thing we ask for; Jesus says it should be the first.
4. Prayer means trusting God with you needs.
For far too many of us the phrase "daily bread" means nothing more than a trip to Aldi or a little devotional booklet. But to the hearers of Jesus time, it meant so much. Many in our country live in relative security concerning food, but for so many now, as well as back then, there was no guarantee that there would be available food the next day. Jesus reminds us that God cares about our needs and that we can trust Him to take care of us. Prayer is depending upon God for what we cannot control (which is more than we care to admit).
5. Prayer means confession and forgiveness.
There is no such thing as a dishonest prayer. Since God knows everything, all our prayer is honest or else it isn't prayer at all. Jesus reminds us of that here- the need to be right with God and the need to be right with others, hence the need to confess our sins and also forgive those who have sinned against us. I don't know about you, but for me, this is a daily battle.
6. Prayer means seeking God's protection.
And how we need it! We live our lives in a world that has turned its back upon God and instead chosen to follow its own way. We live in a world that is not even neutral towards the things of God, but rather openly hostile. We live in a world where we have an enemy who seeks to "steal and kill and destroy (3)." We need God's protection and deliverance- from evil, from temptation, from sin, from everything that might ruin us.
So if you find yourself in a place where your prayer has grown stale or repetitive, if you feel like nothing's being heard or you're distant from God, come right back here. There's no formula or magic words, but simply the basic heart of prayer. Your perfect, holy, heavenly Father is present, wanting to have His way in your life, meet all your needs, forgive your sins, help you to likewise forgive, and protect you from all evil. Great place to start- I think I'll stay here awhile.
Amen.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
(1) John 5:18
(2) Galatians 4:4-7
(3) John 10:10

Sunday, March 19, 2017

the day my old Bible became brand new

The Word for today:
Luke 10:25-42
Of all the stories in the Bible, probably the most misapplied are the story of David v. Goliath and the parable of the Good Samaritan.
It's not hard to see why. Man from the very start has attempted to put himself at center stage. (Most idolatry, when you boil it down, is nothing more than the worship of the "image" in the mirror.)
So, call it what you will--pride, or self-centeredness, or even idolatry--it all springs from the urge to vault over others and even over God in order to position ourselves in the spotlight.
Thus we'll read David v. Goliath (1 Samuel 17) as a moral tale which shows us that we ought to become more like David so we can defeat our Goliaths. But that's not what the story is about at all! Rather, the story ought to point to Jesus, God’s greater anointed King, who would come and defeat the greater Goliath for us!
We project ourselves into the role of David. But may I be the first to say that we are not David! (At best we're represented by the soldiers cowering back in the camp while David defeats evil single-handedly.)
In the same way, the parable of the Good Samaritan has managed to become the Do-Gooders' Creed. People want to see themselves not as the broken man in need of rescue, but as the Rescuer! They read the parable as a moral tale starring--you guessed it--themselves.
If that's how you've been reading it, then may I be the first to inform you that you are not the Rescuer! You are not the Good Samaritan! I am not the Good Samaritan! In scripture, there is only one Rescuer--and we're not Him.
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Then Jesus answered and said: "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead…
In the parable, a certain man is mankind--you and I.
This man goes from Jerusalem (the place where we approach God) to Jericho (Sin City.) That represents the descent of man--the fall of man. He is half dead--in trespasses and sins (see Ephesians 2:1).
The Good Samaritan is Jesus Christ, who healed the broken and paid for them--and will complete the deal upon his return:
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was, and when he saw him, he had compassion.
He went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he set him on his own animal and brought him to an inn and took care of him.
And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, "Take care of him, and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back."
(Samaritans were half-breeds in the eyes of the Jew. They were from Jews who had intermarried with people from the north following the Assyrian Captivity. I would have you note that Jesus' mother was a Jew, but Jesus' Father was not Jewish! Jesus was the definitive half-breed: Son of God, Son of Man.)
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The most tragic misapplication of scripture isn't to misapply its moral principles, but to miscast ourselves in its stories. The day we realize that we are not the King--that we are just powerless soldiers on the hill whom the great King represents--is the day we begin to see what the Bible is all about.
The day we realize that we aren't the Samaritan Rescuer--but that we're broken, helpless, and headed in the wrong direction--is the day we turn a corner in our understanding of God, self, and scripture.
When we give proper place to the Savior King, and place ourselves "in the ranks" of the representatively redeemed, our Bibles--dog-eared as they might be after years of constant use--become brand-new before our very eyes.
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