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Archive for March, 2010

Friends

As I am now a little older, feeling as though two thirds of my life may be over, I am looking a little harder at how to spend the final third.  I am taking a closer look at the Bible.  The ‘things’ that were important in the middle third, aren’t as important as they were then.  We are fortunate to have friends, but as I read this 7th chapter, I can’t help but to feel that our friendships do not go as deep as they should.

First, the centurion cared enough about one of his servants that he sent Jewish elders on his behalf to summon the help of Jesus.  Second, he had enough respect of the elders that they were willing to go.  Finally, he did the same with friends, asking them to go, and again they were friends enough that they went. 

This story caused me to consider: ‘Do I care as much about those who are closest to me as this centurion did his servant?’  ‘Do I care enough to summon Jesus’ help for them?’  ‘Am I that good a friend?’  ‘Do I have friends that care as much for me as his apparently did, that they would summon Jesus help for me?’  To borrow the words of a current popular song, “Am I a friend that a friend would like to have”?

After reading and pondering these thoughts, I spent my morning praying time praying for my friends.  It was a good time of praying.  We are all so wrapped up in our own little world that we can miss the world of our friends.  Even with our friends, things can still be an ‘imposition’; again to borrow a word from the same song.

Reading the rest of the chapter, is that not what Jesus did?  He took the time to enter other people’s worlds.  He took the time to know that the dead boy was the only son of this widow.  He stopped to enter and help her in her world.  He took the time to speak highly of John.  He took the time to be the honored dinner guest in the home of a Pharisee.  He took the time to recognize the woman who was broken and repentant.

There is room for improvement in this area of my life.  There is room to take a little more time, to enter a little more deeply, the world of my friends.  There is room to approach God a little more often on their behalf. 

Lord help me first to take the time, but as much if not more, help me to have something that is helpful when I do.

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Shifting Gears

In light of the glorious stories in the previous chapters, stories that reflect the power associated with this new gospel, chapter 6 may at first seem a little flat – it did for me.  In a way it is, but seeing what I finally saw in it, I no longer regard it as flat.

I have always had at least a little trouble with some of the things Jesus said during His ‘Sermon on the Mount’, which this is Luke’s account of.  I have always read it as if it were all said to the same group of ordinary people which contained, as any ordinary group would, some who were poor and some who were rich.  To simply read as, ‘blessed are the poor’ and ‘woe to the rich’, does not totally add up on its own.

But if you add the element of the ‘poor’ in one group and the ‘Pharisees’ in the other, it makes sense; it adds up.  The Pharisees were looking for a reason to accuse Him.  In a group this large, they would have been there.  So with these two groups in mind, Jesus says what He says.

To the poor, He has compassion and tries to comfort and encourage them.  To the rich, and not just the rich, but the Pharisees who see themselves as rich, He has warning and woe.  To the poor, He encourages to love their enemies.  Again to the poor, with undertones of reference to the Pharisees, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  Even ‘sinners’ love those who love them”.

Either to the poor for the Pharisees to hear, or directly to the Pharisees Jesus says, ‘Do not judge’, ‘Do not condemn’, ‘forgive’; all things that the Pharisees were guilty of and needed to hear.  And by now, if not already, Jesus turns His attention completely to the Pharisees; “Why do you look at the spec of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay not attention to the plank in your own eye”?

Though it is not good to make a habit out of saying, ‘so and so really needed to hear that’ missing what might have been for you, but sometimes I believe it is good to realize that something might not be as much for you as someone else.  You can grind yourself to a pulp by trying to fine tune yourself to perfection. 

Jesus did some pretty cool stuff prior to this day.  The physical healings were at least somewhat responsible for the crowds that had gathered.  But at least for a while on this day, He shifts gears and tried to heal people’s minds, which I would bet the harder of the two.

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A Few Good Men

 

Over the years my wife and I have put together ‘our team’ – the group we want on our side if things ever get really bad.  Jack Bauer and Bruce Willis are on it.  There’s Matt Damon from the Bourne movies, Robert Duvall as Gus in Lonesome Dove and Hub in the movie Secondhand Lions.  There’s Denzel Washington and Sean Connery from a host of movies and even Optimist Prime. 

I thought of this yesterday, when reading Luke 5, as Jesus was putting together ‘His team’.  He had just healed a leper and paralytic.  Today, they would have been good candidates for most teams.  Think of the crowds that would gather to hear their story.  But Jesus tells them to go home.  Instead He picks a fisherman and a tax collector; what’s up with that?

Well of course Jesus knows all things.  But as I thought of that, I thought of how we are today.  Those first two would have been encouraged to write a book, go into the ministry, or at least travel around giving their testimony.  But I saw, among other things, that having the spectacular happen to you does not necessarily make for a calling. 

Ministry is hard work.  Ministry takes people, like Simon the fisherman, who are willing to work all night, catch nothing, then get up the next day and do it again.  Ministry takes those, like Levi the tax collector, who will not be afraid to look you in the eye, no matter what your circumstances, and tell you what you must do.

It is good to remember that when Jesus was here physically, He had physical limitations.  He was looking for a few good men for a specific task.  Today though, He does not have the physical limitations.  He can use all in an endless number of ways.  Though the opportunities have now changed, the requirements to fill them have not.  He is still looking for a few good men.

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A Solitary Place

Why is it that so many people wonder whether or not they are actually saved?  Whether or not they are actually born again?  Whether or not they have actually experienced new life?  Why has all of the old not passed away?  Why have all things not become new?

Part of the answer relating to the doubts is the fact that we have an enemy that does his best to cause us to doubt.  Just as he said to Jesus, “If you are the Son of God”, so similarly He approaches us; ‘If you were a Christian’.  ‘If you were born again you would not have done that.’  ‘If you really were saved, you would want to do this.’  Sound familiar? 

But then there is the legitimate question of why has all the old not passed away – why have all things not become new.  Have we just come to believe that we are hamstrung by our old nature and the best we can hope for in this life is to hobble along in it? 

I hobbled for 30 years.  There were times that the old was passed away and that all things were new.  But the old always seem to find a way to work its way back in.  I knew I was saved, but I also knew that what Jesus did was supposed to free us from the power of sin.  So why was I not totally free?  Is it even realistic to think that we should be – can be?

I believe the answer to both of these questions, the doubting and the actual absence of the new nature in our lives, is found in the 4th chapter of Luke.  It begins with this line; “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit”.  By being ‘full’ of heaven’s spirit, He was quick to recognize the deceitful scheme of Satan.  By being ‘full’ of heaven’s spirit, He was also not tempted by it. 

It made me think of the times that I had more of the new than the old; it was the times I was more ‘full’.  The only problem is that I did not stay full.  I compromised.  I was distracted.  I believed it when the thought came to mind that you cannot expect to stay ‘full’.  And so I hobbled.

It is tempting to think that the fact that Jesus didn’t compromise – that He was not distracted – was because He was Jesus, and that we can’t expect to be that perfect.  Thinking that way is the great deception; thinking that way puts the work on us; thinking that way puts us trying to live out the new nature from our old one.  You can’t do it.

The answer is in 4:42; “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place”.  It is one thing to be saved from the penalty of sin, but to be saved from the power of sin, where the old passes away and all things become new, we must maintain a ‘solitary place’.  In the ‘solitary place’, His nature flows into ours. 

Jesus has made it impossible to have the new life without our constant connection to Him.  If we do not stay constantly connected, we will be hamstrung by our old nature.  It may seem impossible to think of always maintaining a ‘solitary place’, but what is really impossible, is trying to live the Christian life without it.

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A Call to Arms

As much as John, in his 12th chapter, shows us the path to life through Jesus’ gut wrenching decision to obey what God was requiring of Him, so Luke here in this 4th chapter shows us the means by which He was able to make that decision; “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit”.  He was so full that as a fire it burned heaven in and hell out.  He was so full of heaven that when hell reared its head to tempt Him, He spotted it.  He was so full that it was not tempting.

“In the power of the Spirit”, He returned to Galilee where “news about him spread throughout the countryside”.  In the power of the Spirit He spoke with authority and healed many who were sick.  While teaching in a synagogue, He drove a demon – an evil spirit – out of a man.  Are demons – evil spirits – as comfortable in today’s churches as they were then in the synagogues? 

By our not being ‘full of the Holy Spirit’, do we not readily spot them?  By our not being full of ‘the power of the Spirit’, do we not have the authority to demand they leave our presence?

The world is waiting – actually the church is waiting – not for another book to be written or sermon to be preached, but for a demonstration of this power.  When there is this demonstration, ‘news will spread throughout the countryside’.  Individually, while we are waiting on God to change us, He is waiting on us to fill ourselves with Him that we might be changed.

Luke, who has already seen the events of which he writes in the book of Acts, cannot help but to weave the same into his Gospel account.  To him, the Spirit was the key for the disciple’s transformation that resulted in boldness and power.  It was the key to Jesus being able to do all that He did.  And the key to this key . . . “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place”. 

There are no shortcuts in Christianity.  There is a battle going on, whether we realize it or not.  It is a battle that the men of Christianity must absolutely engage in if we are to see anything newsworthy.  Until the men – the valiant men – the warriors among us – rise up and ‘go out to a solitary place’, where battles are fought and won, evil will wander comfortably and roll vehemently enticing and destroying everything in its path.  It is time to man up and reclaim the territory that is God’s.

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