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Archive for the ‘Luke’ Category

 
There are two stories in Luke 8, that in spite of trying to move on from, more and more application keeps bringing me back.  The stories . . . the demon possessed man and the woman with the issue of blood.

In both stories, each had been in their situations for a long time, and neither they nor anyone else had been able to bring about the help or change that was needed.

Luke points out that the demon possessed man was ‘driven by the demon into solitary places’.  I thought it was interesting after he had pointed out several times before that Jesus often withdrew to solitary places to pray.  It occurred to me that God draws us to solitary places for our strength while Satan drives us into them for our destruction.

In regard to the woman with the issue of blood, Luke points out that the crowds were pressing against Jesus so much that they were about to ‘crush him’; which would mean they were touching Him.  But when she touched Him, power went out from Him.  I have been wrestling with this question for weeks, ‘Is my pressing through to touch Him causing power to go out from Him’? 

There are things in each of our lives that neither we nor anyone else has been able to change.  Whether with ourselves personally, our spouse, or a family member or friend, there are some things that only He can change.  The question I keep asking myself is this, ‘Should I not be pressing through to bring about that change?’, and if I am not, ‘Am I just part of the crowd?’

Have we sold the Lord short in what He is able to do?  Have we come to believe that He no longer intends to exorcise His power?  In the absence of this power, has the church fallen back on reform and put Christianity’s stamp on it?  Isn’t that still just reform?

Jesus did not work with the demon possessed man for 3 years; He healed him.  Immediately he was in his right mind.  He didn’t tell the woman with the issue of blood which doctor to go see; He healed her. 

I have lately been continually reminded of situation after situation that is helpless without the touch of God’s power.  I am challenged by these 2 stories and motivated by the one’s before me to become one through which His power can flow.

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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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At His Word

 In all my reading, pondering and writing, most days I feel that it is all for a purpose beyond myself.  Occasionally though, I will have a day like I had this past Sunday.  I felt like it was all for nothing; like it didn’t fit in.  It was paralyzing.

The next morning I saw in Luke 5, Simon who had worked all night and caught nothing, a leper, who because of his leprosy didn’t fit in, and one who was really paralyzed.  I couldn’t believe the parallel. 

At Jesus’ word, Simon’s work would finally pay off.  At Jesus’ word, the leper was healed and immediately fit in again.  At Jesus’ word, the one who was paralyzed stood up. 

The Lord used these stories to assure me when I was feeling that all was for nothing.  He used them to help me see how what I was doing would eventually fit in.  He used them to help me stand back up. 

We have a very real enemy that that is forever trying to steal, kill and destroy the work He is trying to accomplish in us.  But we also have a helper, and at His word, He speaks life back into us.  At His word, our work will finally pay off.

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‘Rippin’

 

For years people had been told what they must do and not do to please God.  When John comes on the scene with his two cents worth, people in that age old mindset know no other way to respond than, ‘what must we do’?  John, as he represents the end of the law, and he too knowing no other way to respond, answers accordingly; ‘you should do this and you should not do that’. 

But he is at least aware and wastes no time in pointing out that there is one coming that has much more.  As the law had become an unbearable weight that man did not have the nature to live by, the One coming would put within them a new nature out of which would naturally flow the conduct which the law was intended to produce. 

The One coming would put within them the Holy Spirit—the nature of God Himself.  This new nature is like any other new birth and will grow as it is fed.  It has the potential, if fed enough, to be like a fire that not only burns out the old nature but also burns in the new.  It can also be fed too little and burn relatively nothing.

As with any fire, the size depends directly on how much it is fed.  Is your fire all but out because you seldom add wood to it?  Do you add a stick now and then just to keep it going?  Do you add often to keep it ‘rippin’?

There is no substitute for personal time with God.  The occasional or even regular stick of church attendance is not enough.  It might keep your fire going, but it will not ‘rip’ as it could.

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A Little Good News

“The word of God came to John.”  I have had ‘the word of God’ come to me before.  It is unmistakable.  In the midst of a sea of my own thoughts that are as unstable as water itself, finally . . . His thoughts are heard.  It is exactly what is needed.  It is direction that can be counted on.  It firms up the unstable ground.  It is life.

This is the kind of word that came to John.  It firmed up what he was to do—what he was to say.  His words would be the beginning of the good news that would come to be known as the Gospel. 

First was a new means by which sin would be forgiven.  It had required the sacrifice of animals – the regular shedding of blood.  When someone sinned (did something that was contrary to what God required), to be forgiven for it, they would bring an offering to be sacrificed for atonement.

This new means, ‘repentance for the forgiveness of sins’, would accept Jesus’ offering – His one time shedding of blood – His one time sacrifice for atonement.  Can you imagine after thousands of years of bloody sacrifices, how good this new news would have been?      

But it didn’t stop there.  It is not just a better way to handle offenses; it is much needed help in life’s difficulties.  Valleys will be filled in, mountains and hills will be made low, crooked roads will be made straight, and rough ways made smooth. 

It does not mean He will take away your problems.  The valleys, mountains, crooked roads and rough ways will still be there; but knowing nothing is greater than what He can handle, that nothing is too hard that He cannot make a way, if you can stay focused to see the way He clears, it is the equivalent of filling in, bringing down, straightening and smoothing.

And there you have the Gospel (the good news) in a nutshell.  A better means has been provided for which offenses are paid for and forgiven.  Plus you can be assured of help through life’s difficulties.  If you can remember that nothing you face is greater than creating the sun and setting it place (think about that) you can have assurance that nothing you face is greater than what He can handle.  Would you not agree that that is indeed a little good news?

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Losing the Son of God

 

The feast was over.  Jesus’ family was on their way back home but was unaware that He had stayed behind.  “Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day.  Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends.  When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him.” 

Can you imagine Mary and Joseph’s perspective; ‘We have lost the Son of God’?

Have you ever ‘lost the Son of God’?  Have you ever had to pull away from family and friends to go back to where you last remember being with Jesus to find Him again?  Isn’t it all so subtle?  Isn’t it all so easy for it to go unnoticed?  It only took one day to lose Him, but it took three to find Him again.  Isn’t that the way it often is? 

How long does it take ‘to’ notice?  Once we realize we have lost Him, do we abandon all to find Him again as they did?  Do we put forth the extra effort it usually takes to find where we lost Him?  He stopped and we went on.  He turned and we went straight.  As much as it sometimes takes our all to find Him, it also takes our all to not lose Him.

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