The power of humility

“If your brother or sister sins against you, rebuke them; and if they repent, forgive them. 4 Even if they sin against you seven times in a day and seven times come back to you saying ‘I repent,’ you must forgive them.”
5 The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”
6 He replied, “If you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it will obey you. (Luke 17:3-6, NIV)

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The ministry of Jesus

As I meditate on Luke 6, I am drawn once again to the simplicity of Jesus’ ministry:

  1. Pray
  2. Raise up powerful disciples
  3. Teach
  4. Demonstrate the power of the Kingdom

All of it flowed out of prayer. I love Luke’s emphasis on prayer. It causes me to cry out, “Lord! I need to learn to pray!”


The need for greed

We wrestle with consumerism and materialism. I take that back. Some have long surrendered, actually. We may even fake wrestling because, quite frankly, we like our stuff.

But when I read these challenging verses out of Luke’s Gospel, I am left with an aching heart, quite honestly. I realized today the compelling force of what Jesus says so plainly in these verses really could drive people to forsake all and take up the monastic life (like Anthony of the Desert) or head into a life of poverty serving the poor. These are strong verses I think we too easily explain away.

But let’s be reminded again and again to understand the stuff we have needs to NOT control us.

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. 33 Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will never fail, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. 34 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:32-34)

Treasure Jesus. Let stuff go.

So easy to write. So hard to do!

Basic Discipleship — Part Three

The past two weeks I have looked at basic discipleship from Luke 10-11 in my preaching. The first week was about proclamation (Luke 10:1-24). Last week (yesterday) was about loving the neighbor (Luke 10:25-37).

But next week is crucial. Loving the neighbor was a tough one. But without the third part, it’s not just tough… it’s impossible.

We’ll look at the end of Luke 10 where Mary is at the feet of Jesus. The act of worship and adoring the presence of the Savior. Without the powerful presence of Jesus… and our intense care to keep that presence precious… all else is near impossible in discipleship.

Choose the good part.

Self justification

The model Jesus gives us for following him is incredibly simple… and difficult.

Love him. Love people. Prepare for rejection.

“Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

This is simply bad news all the way around when we unpack it, especially if our self-justifying egos are still in tact.

The young expert in the law comes to ask Jesus: “What must I DO to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus gives him an “out.” He asks for the commandments. With perfection, the young expert hits the biggest rocks in the jar: Love God. Love people.

“There you go,” Jesus answers.

Then, the deadly ego drops in: But he wanted to justify himself. (Luke 10:29))

Why is the simplicity of following Jesus so difficult and why would I say it’s “bad news?”

Because our self-serving, self-justifying egos get in the way and Jesus will be all too willing to crush them.

We don’t get our own silly, watered-down, emotion driven definitions of cultural “love” when Jesus says, “Love God. Love your neighbor.” It’s Kingdom rules that apply. So, if you’re seeking to justify your definition of love… well… watch Jesus blow it sky high.

If you think following Jesus is just “right” and everyone else can hear your message and “get in line” or “go to hell,” well… get ready for Jesus to blow that sky high as well. You don’t get to win the popularity contest. You get rejected. Just like the One you’re following. You don’t have to be obnoxious to do it, either. You just need to live Kingdom rules and watch how quickly this or any culture will turn on you. it’s not a popularity contest.

It’s the Kingdom.

It’s not your self-justification.

It’s the Kingdom.

It’s not your silly definitions of love.

It’s the Kingdom.

Follow him with simplicity. Seek to justify your own definitions… and well… enjoy the fireworks.

Understand the Kingdom values. Measure out the cost. Follow the Savior and his rules… find life.

“Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:37)

The Pharisee in all of us

The incredible danger in my life is the lurking of the Pharisee. Reading the Common English Bible helps me identify that ugliness a bit better.

Jesus told this parable to certain people who had convinced themselves that they were righteous and who looked on everyone else with disgust… (Luke 18:9)

I am tempted in this way. It’s that attitude I need serious help on when it comes to how I gauge others and their opinions.

We all have that Pharisee attitude of spiritual arrogance lurking. In any argument, from the “Ham on Nye” debate on creationism to political debates on social justice… the gamut is full of temptation to look at the other side with disgust.

When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, the order of asking forgiveness is important. We ask the Lord to forgive us first. It is a necessary step to understand our true position before God. What we think of ourselves in relationship to others is muted severely at the presence of Jesus.

Forgive us our debts… 


Living “in the moment” is like having ADHD Christianity

In my particular “tribe” of Christianity, there are good things about the experiential. We really do believe, or want to believe, that we can pray for healing (for example) and healing is possible.

A particular “downside” is we tend to live for the “event.” We live for that powerful moment in a church service, a powerful worship song… something that takes us away emotionally. When we live for that “in the moment” experience, we trade away something more valuable.

In Luke 9, Jesus sends out the Twelve to do what he did. They healed people, delivered others from demons, proclaimed the Kingdom, etc. They came back and gave the report. They had lived “in the moment.” Jesus had commissioned them, they had gone out and experienced that empowerment, and now they were “done” with that “episode.”

I say that because of what happens next.

Jesus gets them away for some rest, but people hear that Jesus is nearby and flock to see him. He teaches them the Kingdom and heals those who need healing and they are plunged into another full day of ministry.

The day gets long, the crowd is hungry, and the disciples implore Jesus to send them home. The people need food.

Jesus says very simply, “You give them something to eat.”

If the disciples had truly thought through their next response, this is what it really would have sounded like: “We just got back from this powerful experience. We healed the sick. We cast out demons. We proclaimed the Kingdom. We did what you asked us to do. How can we possibly feed 5,000 people?

They had their “experience” yesterday. How could they do something “different” today? They needed another “experience.”

Jesus was trying to get them to see the consistency of Kingdom power, and they were locked into the moment. Jesus wants his disciples to recognize that the Kingdom is consistent.

The quote I gave from Merton in a previous post is relevant. Merton realized the only way to live was to have that awareness that the world was charged with the reality and presence of God.

Jesus couldn’t turn the crowd away because he hadn’t had his prayer time that day. He had to take care of the crowd because that was what was possible in the Kingdom and whether he was”prayed up” or not… the Kingdom would come through.

There is a place of constant wonder. There is a place of consistent powerful living in the Kingdom. It’s not necessarily the thought of “healing” every day, but knowing it is possible… through me… every day.

If healing comes today, it’s because healing was needed. If it is feeding 5,000 tomorrow, the Kingdom will supply.

The call is to walk in a way that when the need arises, you know the Kingdom can show up.


Living in Jubilee

I am reading prayerfully through the Gospel of Luke and today found me in Chapter 7. It has been a chapter I’ve slowly worked through in prayer the last couple of days, and I imagine I may be here a little longer.

It is a wonderful place to start a New Year. As I reflect on life and ministry, the question I have for the year is what would Jesus have of me? This chapter opens up the possibilities.

Live where Jesus lived. Act as Jesus acted.

Live in Jubilee.

That was his basic message to John the Baptist’s messengers (7:18-23). When they asked if Jesus was “the One,” he simply performed the passage, then declared he was doing all that had been laid out in Isaiah’s words.

Jubilee isn’t a year anymore. It’s a life. And that is the life to which God calls us.

I reflect on Luke 7 and think about where Jesus went and what he did in this chapter. It’s a great synopsis.

It is about the “outsider.” It is about those on the “margins.”

It is about living in the power of Jubilee. I mean… why not pray for the sick so they can recover?

It is about extending forgiveness to people who thought at one point in time they could not be forgiven.

Live there.

Live in Jubilee.

May 2014 be a year of speaking and ACTING in power

In Luke 7 there is the story of Jesus raising up the son of the widow in Nain.

The story here is not that Jesus had compassion because a woman lost her son… alone. It was not just a matter of a touching scene.

It was a matter of justice as well.

The widow would have nothing. She was without any source of care. There wasn’t Social Security. No life insurance. A woman didn’t have the opportunities to start up a business like she would today.

This woman was in trouble.

And Jesus acted.

May 2014 find me actually seeing people in their situations. Then, may 2014 find me speaking into those situations… and acting in justice far more than makes me comfortable.