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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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‘When You Pray’

“One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray.” The request was not only ‘teach us what to pray’, but it was also, and maybe more importantly, ‘teach us how to pray it’.

He begins with the ‘what’ part of the question. “When you pray, say: . . .” and then gives them what we have come to know as the Lord’s Prayer. It is good framework for praying, but unless you know ‘how’ to pray it, it won’t do much good. And so next He gives them the ‘how’.

It was really the reason they asked to begin with. They had heard His teaching. They had seen His miracles. They had felt His compassion. They wanted to be like Him. They wanted to do the things He did. Yet in spite of all they had tried, so far they were not like Him; so far they could not do the things He did.

In the example that Jesus uses is one of whom it is said, “A friend of mine on a journey has come to me, and I have nothing to set before him”. It fit them perfectly. All too fresh on their mind were those who had come to them, yet they had nothing to set before them. All too fresh on my mind lately are those who have come to me.

Is it not the cry of all who have spent time with Him to want be like Him – to want to do the things He did? I am reminded of something that Hudson Taylor once said, “God does not give us overcoming lives; He gives life to those who overcome”. In the same spirit of that quote, Jesus does not ‘give’ them what they are after; He shows them ‘how’ to get it.

It is simple, but it is not easy. It was not even ‘easy’ for Him. We, as He, are engaged in a battle. Satan and all his imps are against us. It takes perseverance. It takes a ‘stay with it till you get it’ mindset; an ‘I’ll not take no for an answer’ frame of mind.

It was not a ‘go out and claim anything you want’ ticket. We and those we know at times have desperate needs. In those situations, this is His prescribed way of handling them. It was Jesus’ version of what Paul would say later; “our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms”.

To do the things He did in public, we must first do the things He did in private. He was able to do the things He did because He first persevered in His praying. There are no shortcuts. There is no easy road. To have something to set before those who come to us, we must wrestle it out in our praying.

Fitting is a quote by James Gilmour, recently posted by a fellow blogger. “Do not we rest in our day too much on the arm of the flesh? Cannot the same wonders be done now as of old? Do not the eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth still to show Himself strong on behalf of those who put their trust in Him? Oh, that God would give me more practical faith in Him? Where is now the Lord God of Elijah? He is waiting for Elijah to call on Him.”

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I’ve always wondered how Jesus was able to just speak, without huffing and puffing, and things happened. Demons were cast out; people were healed; the dead were raised; storms were calmed. Eventually He sent the 12 out and then the 72 who were able to do some of the same things. In fact it was when the 72 were telling of some of those things that Jesus makes this statement, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”. It was as if He was saying, ‘that’s nothing’. What did He know that enabled Him to see it as nothing?

At one time, Satan was part of God’s kingdom. But he was cast out. Jesus was there when it happened. He was likely involved in casting him out. So with this fixed in His mind, He comes here to establish God’s kingdom on earth. It is much like a boat in water. The boat displaces water. Wherever the boat is, water is displaced. It can’t be everywhere; it can’t displace all the water. But wherever the boat is, water is not permitted to be.

It is in this mindset that Jesus comes. He was not able to displace Satan’s entire kingdom, but wherever He was, Satan’s kingdom was not permitted to be. He didn’t have to huff and puff. Having seen him fall, all He had to do was remind him of the fact. As Jesus went about, it was as simple as, ‘you cannot be where I am’.

Like the 12 and the 72, we have actually been given the same authority, but Satan huffs and puffs to convince us otherwise. In a sense, we are commanders not beggars. Not as much, ‘oh God heal’, or ‘oh God deliver’, but, ‘Satan, you are not permitted to remain in this situation’.

My praying lately is becoming more of a mix of the above. There is some asking and some telling. The results have not been as much a dramatic change as a gradual turn. But in seeing the gradual turn, I am seeing Satan fall. I am seeing that he cannot remain where God’s kingdom is being established. I can’t displace him everywhere, but where I am, I am seeing him displaced.

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Do you keep your check book reconciled to the monthly bank statement? Are you content with it just being close or do you work it out to the penny? Do you even bother with? What about your beliefs? Do you check them regularly? Are you content with them just being close? Do you bother with it?

A few years ago I decided it was time for a major overhaul with my beliefs. My Christian life did not match up with the life I read about in the Bible. It was close, but somewhere I had missed something. So, I decided to back up and take a closer look at things I used to just blow by to see if I could find what I had missed.

In years past, with my preconceived ideas, I would have passed right by this passage at the beginning of Luke 9. “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick”.

There are three references to power associated with some type of healing and one associated with preaching. This is a perfect example of what I mean when I say my life does not match up with the Bible. It is like I have chosen to live out of balance.

Isn’t the world, and even the church, not in desperate need of this power? Aren’t there just too many people who without it will not be helped? Are we content to just preach the kingdom to people when we have been given authority to bring the kingdom into their lives? Has He taken the authority back or is He waiting on us to take hold of it? It is time to reconcile these thoughts.

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