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Archive for the ‘Luke’ Category

Believing

 

As Luke is trying to produce an orderly account of the beginning of Christianity, part of it is in establishing that God did it.  Similar to how the writer of Genesis handles the account of creation; it is not as much his intent to prove, in order to persuade the unbeliever, as much as to proclaim in order to assure the believer.

The writer of Genesis establishes in just one verse the state of things at the time of creation.  “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters”.  It is a bleak picture, but by the end of the chapter the picture has changed, and the believer comes away with one thing; the assurance that ‘God did it’.

Luke paints a similar picture in his first chapter.  We know that Elizabeth will have a son, but Luke makes it clear that she has never been able to in spite of repeated unsuccessful efforts.  Likewise, we know that Mary will have a son, but Luke makes it clear that she has never tried to have one – she shouldn’t have one.  So once again the believer comes away with one thing; ‘God did it’.

Luke knew – God knew – that our believing would need help.  Much like a fire that needs wood on a regular basis; without it, it can be reduced to a few smoldering embers buried beneath a pile of ash.  Our believing needs help; without it, it can get buried beneath the bleakness of life. 

So no matter how formless, empty and dark your world may be; no matter how many unsuccessful efforts there have been to change them, be reminded this Christmas season when you think of the birth of Jesus, that God specializes in impossible situations.  Be assured in your own situation that ‘God can do it’.

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It was the third day since Jesus’ death. The Eleven and others were together, wondering about and discussing all that had happened and what it might mean to them. Things did not work out like they had thought. A few days earlier they were wondering about their position in the new kingdom. For the past three, they had been worrying about their position in the present one.

We have the written record of what they were about to discover. So now we too can wonder about what our position will be in His kingdom. But we can also still find ourselves thinking, as they did, that He is no longer alive, thinking that our hope has been in vain. When what we thought might happen doesn’t, when there has been no good evidence that He is still alive, we can doubt just as they did.

When some of the women, early that morning, went to where they thought Jesus was, they went wishing He was alive but believing He was dead. I’ve done that. Sometimes I catch myself thinking He is not really alive; wishing He was, wishing He would show up, but with no evidence to the contrary, I struggle with doubt.

But the women went. And in their going and seeking, they were the first to find that He was alive. Every group must have someone in it that will go anyway, that will seek until they discover for themselves that He is still alive. When the women found that He was alive, they hurried back to the group and told them what they had found. Though most did not believe, two (Peter and John) believed just enough to go searching for themselves; and they too discovered He was alive.

This group, who began the day thinking Jesus was not alive – all because a few women went seeking anyway – went from worry to wonder again. Later that day, two from the group would be walking home, wondering about and discussing all that had happened that day. Because someone found that Jesus was alive and then told what they had found, faith and hope were stirred. In this atmosphere of stirred up faith, Jesus, who was very much alive, showed up.

In this atmosphere of stirred up faith, they became witnesses of what they saw. They did not have to be prodded and coaxed to witness, they could not hold it in. The church and the world are in desperate need of some who have discovered for themselves that Jesus is still alive.

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When Jesus Passes By

Luke 18:35-40

“As Jesus approached Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard the crowd going by, he asked what was happening. They told him, ‘Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.’
He called out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’
Those who led the way rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, ‘Son of David, have mercy on me!’
Jesus stopped.”

It would be Jesus’ last healing miracle (other than restoring the ear that Peter cut off in the garden). Even as He is on His way to His own grueling death, He still cares enough to stop for this one.

There are those who know, as they sit in need, that Jesus is what they need. They go through life hoping He will pass by. The crowd has not helped; neither have the leaders. In spite of all, there they still sit . . . sure He is what they need—if He would just pass by—if He would just stop when He does.

Jesus did pass by. And because the man called out, because he would not stop calling out, Jesus stopped. Every time we hear the gospel, Jesus is passing by. The question is, will we just sit there or will we call out until He stops?

This man was convinced that Jesus could help him. He could have listened to the voices that were telling him to be quiet. He could have believed that Jesus did not care enough to help him. But he didn’t. He called out and wouldn’t quit calling.

It is interesting that when Jesus healed him, He said ‘your faith’ has healed you. I thought about that for days. Wasn’t it ‘Jesus’ faith’ that healed him? Was Jesus just trying to make him feel good? How can someone, sitting on the edge of ‘gone’, be credited with ‘faith’? Jesus had faith. At times the apostles had faith; but this blind beggar?

Within us all is a seed of faith—a seed that tells us that Jesus is what we need. This man had just enough of that seed left in him that he was not about to miss this opportunity. Jesus was passing by and he would not quit calling. And because he wouldn’t quit calling, Jesus stopped. May ‘our faith’ rise up as well, when Jesus passes by.

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In Luke 16 there is the familiar story of the rich man who lived in luxury and Lazarus the beggar who laid at the rich man’s gate. It stirs me to read that it is the beggar who ends up in heaven. Is that not a picture into where God’s heart is? Do we not all have beggars that have been laid at our gate? Are we not all beggars ourselves at the gate of God? The rich man did not see himself as one nor did he feel compelled to help one. He did not end up with God.

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The Lost

For the past few days I have read Luke 15. It is a classic chapter about the lost. There is the aspect of searching for the lost and the rejoicing when the lost have been found.

One of the stories that Jesus tells is the story about the woman who loses a coin and how she searched until she found it. It reminded me of a time when I was a kid walking to school. I was walking on a dirt bank, as kids will do, and dropped a nickel that for some reason I had in my hands instead of my pocket.

As soon as I dropped it, I looked down but didn’t see it. I looked and looked but could not find it. (A nickel was a lot back then) After a little while, I remember stopping and asking, Lord, could you help me find my nickel’. The next time I looked down . . . there it was.

After thinking about this event that took place about 50 years ago, I thought of the parallel to my life today. I have looked and looked for the lost, but so far I have not been able to find them. I prayed simply, ‘Lord, help me to find the lost’.

Last night, my wife and I had dinner with some friends. The guy has been involved in a prison ministry for years. Today I went to the sheriff’s office and filled out the necessary paperwork to become a part of that ministry team. For that I have to say, ‘Thank You Lord for helping me find the lost’.

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By a couple different means I have become a little more acquainted lately with the homeless and imprisoned; the homeless through a book I read, Same Kind of Different as Me; the imprisoned through a book they read – mine. As a result of being a little more acquainted, I have also become a little more mindful and have the following thoughts in relation to them.

We all have an enemy who wants nothing more than to destroy us. The process of that destruction begins with the regular chipping away at our worth; accompanied by his convincing arguments that we are a disappointment to family, friends and God. Once he gets that firmly established in our minds, he then persuades us to believe, since we have disappointed God, that it is He who wants to destroy us. Throw in enough major setbacks in life and some simply can’t overcome them. Instead, they are overcome by them.

Two end-of-the-line destinations that people can find themselves in are homeless or prison. It is the final nail that our enemy would use to finish us off, trying to convince us that God has finally got us where He wants us; to pay for the disappointment we have been.

His lies never end. The truth is found in John 10:10; “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full”. God has never wanted to destroy. Matthew 9:36 says, “When He saw the crowds, He had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless”. I have no doubt in my mind that he looks on many who are homeless and many who are in prison as some who have been harassed and destroyed by the ‘thief’. I have no doubt in my mind that God wants to restore what has been destroyed.

A person in that situation can, on their own, take a proper stand and look to God for his or her help. They can seek Him by reading His word (the Bible) and from it find the truth of how He sees them. With that truth they can take a stand against the lies that have been used to get them to where they are. A person can do that and some have.

But they can also be helped to see it by those of us who have fought through the lies. Those of us who have not been overcome can help by coming along side those who have. As I said in another piece of writing, we can ‘stop to help even the odds’.

By the time a person finds themselves in either of these situations, it is like being in a hole. Shovel by shovel they are buried until the enemy has them right where he wants them. Surely Jesus must have had something like this in mind when He said, “I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest”.

I write this partly to challenge myself. I write it partly to challenge others. There is a field that is before us. But I will add this with the chance that this might actually reach someone who is at their end. If you can identify with being harassed and destroyed, I promise you that it is not God. As much as your enemy has destroyed, God is able and longing to restore. As much as you may feel nearly buried, if you will bury yourself in the Bible with God, He will bring new life into you. Hopefully someone will come along to help you in that effort.

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“Jesus was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon left, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowd was amazed.”

There are quite a few references in the Bible to the ‘hand’ of God. There are some to the ‘strong arm’ of God. But this demon Jesus drove out by just “the finger of God”.

Afterwards Jesus tells the story of a strong man that kept a good watch over his home. But this strong man was attacked and overpowered. His armor is taken and he is utterly defenseless.

Jesus also tells about what happens when an evil spirit comes out of a man; that it goes and finds more evil spirits and goes back to the man it was driven out of. The spirits go in and the final condition of that man is worse than the first.

I believe this ‘man who had been mute’ was once the strong man that Jesus tells about? I believe He knew that at one time he had driven a demon or two out himself but was eventually attacked and overpowered. When Jesus found him, his condition was at its worst. But He did not see weakness and walk on by with criticism; He saw a man that used to be strong and stopped to even the odds.

While away on vacation, I read a book, given to me by a friend, called Same Kind of Different as Me. It is based on a true story that tracks a black man, ‘Denver’, who was born in Louisiana in the 40’s into modern day slavery. He was a good and strong man. But one day he tried to better himself and wound up homeless in Texas.

The book also tracks ‘Ron’, a white man that becomes fairly wealthy and lives in the same Texas area. Fortunately Ron had a wife, ‘Deborah’ that had a heart for God and winds up drawn to help out in a homeless mission where of course Ron and Deborah meet Denver.

Deborah did not see the homeless as weak and worthless. Instead she saw them as people, some of which were once strong and had simply been overpowered by life. They were people who just needed someone to stop and help even the odds.

In addition to the stories in this book, of the difference they made in some of the lives they touched, are the stories in the sequel, What Difference Do it Make, which is filled with stories of what others have been inspired to do as a result. The two are a compelling pair and a modern day example of the same thing Jesus did when He stopped to even the odds.

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