The temptation to avoid and the invitation to grasp

The temptation to avoid:

The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” (Luke 4:5-8, NIV) Continue reading “The temptation to avoid and the invitation to grasp”

The Pressing IN of Faith

The gospel for reading this morning was Luke 8:40ff. There are two people pressing in: Jairus (for his daughter) and the woman with the bleeding problem.

Both needed to press in hard. Jairus comes and gets Jesus, but when word comes that his daughter is dead, the common sense thing would be to forget about it. Just go home. Bury your daughter.

But Jesus picks up Jairus’ faith.

“Don’t be afraid; just keep trusting, and she will be healed.”

We face a lot of situations where we are praying and things don’t get better. They get WORSE.

We need to sense the presence of Jesus picking us up. “Just keep trusting.”

Prayer isn’t just a walk in the park. It is also trusting in the dark.

Just keep trusting.

The Focus of Prayer

I am beginning to teach a series on prayer at our church. The text for Sunday is from Luke 10 and 11.

In Luke 10 we have the story of Mary and Martha. Mary sat at the feet of Jesus. Martha was busy with serving.

Prayer is a powerful reminder to make sure you keep the main thing the main thing. The distractions will always be there. The key is to remember when Jesus is in the house, you find the time for him. The serving will be there. Things to be done will still be there.

Don’t allow the distractions take you away from the good part.

41 The Lord answered, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things. 42  One thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the better part. It won’t be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42, CEB)

Jesus Invites Change… Without Asking

Making my way through the Gospel of Luke this week, and reflecting on other passages in other gospels, I find something interesting. In Luke 19 Zacchaeus is a tax collector wanting to see Jesus. He pays to get the skybox view (which are the better seats at a baseball field, I’m told) and looks for Jesus. As Jesus passes by, he sees Zacchaeus and invites him down. (This would show the wealth of the man, since he was the only one in the skybox.)

Okay, it was a tree… and it was free…

But Jesus goes to Zacchaeus’ house for a meal. Zacchaeus, of course, throws a party. All his “esteemed” friends were there.

We do not have any record of Jesus saying anything directly to Zacchaeus about his wealth or how he got it. In the middle of the meal, Zacchaeus blurts out, “Look, Lord, I give half of my possessions to the poor. If I have cheated anyone, I will pay them back four times that amount.”

It turns out Zacchaeus was drunk and then reneged on his deal. (Just kidding.)

Think about this. A rich young ruler comes to Jesus asking what to do to inherit eternal life and in the process Jesus presses him hard. “Sell all you have and give it to the poor.”

That man went away NOT doing what Jesus said.

Here, there is no record of Jesus saying anything and Zacchaeus volunteers change.

What I am convinced of in the life of the believer is this: Jesus IS beautiful. And when we are overwhelmed by HIS beauty… change happens. We want HIM, not our petty little idols. We find out our aspirations just don’t match up and almost without prodding, the beauty of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit does the work. It doesn’t mean things aren’t said… but I do find stories in the gospel like this really fascinating.

Are You Ready for the Invitation?

In Luke 14 someone declares to Jesus, “Happy are those who will feast in God’s kingdom!”

Jesus’ illustration that follows gives a chilling thought: Not all will feast. Some will just refuse.

They are invited. The invitations are given without hiding anything. The invitations are given ahead of time. But people find all kinds of excuses not to come. Those who thought they would just be “in” felt it was okay to turn down the invitation. “The host will understand.”

Well, to a certain point…

Then, these chilling words: “I tell you, not one of those who were invited will taste my dinner.” (Luke 14:24, CEB)

Jesus has prepared the table. Our greatest loss will be trying to do our own agenda, taking our sweet time, and making the horrible assumption that “Jesus will understand.”

It’s not our kingdom, friends. It is his kingdom… and when he invites, will we respond?

Lord, give us hungry hearts, listening ears, and the will to respond.

The feast is ready.

Make His Paths Straight

We are on a journey in our church. This week starts our summer reading. We want to go all the way through the New Testament. This week’s reading is the Gospel of Luke. All of it.

The challenge before us is to prepare the way of the Lord. WE need to be prepared. We need to make the way expedient for our Lord.

The need of our hour is to understand the Lord is calling to his Church. We are watered down as an American Church and we need to see HIS call once again. The invitation is to read the New Testament with fresh eyes, and keep the conversation going this summer. We want to TALK through the texts as we journey this summer.

So… prepare the way. The Lord is calling. Hear this sweet, wonderful, invitation!

“In the desert
someone is shouting,
‘Get the road ready
for the Lord!
Make a straight path
for him.
5 Fill up every valley
and level every mountain
and hill.
Straighten the crooked paths
and smooth out
the rough roads.
6 Then everyone will see
the saving power of God.’”
(Luke 3:4-6, CEB)

Luke and the Holistic Gospel

One of the strings of conversation I ran into on a Facebook group site that consists of members of my denomination was the thought that Luke’s portrayal of the Spirit was something more than just simply “spiritual.” It was more than signs and wonders. It was also about the whole person.

This, of course, raised the ire of a few who only view the activity of the Holy Spirit in light of our doctrine of “initial physical evidence” and maintaining that the gospel is just about the soul. It’s about saving souls. It’s about what is ahead. Here… well… we pray for healing.

It’s not an honest reading of Luke. Now, to deny the manifestations of the Spirit in Luke and the Early Church is also bad exegesis. Yet, we need to understand we don’t need to “pick sides.” Too often, that is all we can do.

Luke’s Gospel demonstrates the activity of the Spirit from the beginning of Jesus’ ministry. He is driven to the wilderness by the Spirit. He is sustained there and comes back in the power of the Spirit.

His first recorded teaching is almost a full contact event. He is challenged in the synagogue and his response is to tell the story of God blessing… get ready for this… Gentiles.

Even when Jesus is casting out demons, it is demonstrating his care for the whole person. He longs for captives to be set free. He doesn’t want them bound by that kind of oppression. He is thinking of the whole person.

The early Church, full of the Spirit, made sure they took care of their own, even if it meant selling property to help out.

The gospel is for the whole person. And that is ministry that is Trinitarian… and Pentecostal.

Treasuring Jesus is Found in SERVING Him

There are precious promises Jesus gives to those who follow him. Luke 12 has some of the kindest words I could read:

32 “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. (Luke 12:32, NIV)

These are words that should take our breath away. Our Father is pleased to give us the Kingdom. There is no need to fear. No need to walk in anxiety.

But there is a response called for on our part. (Sometimes this gets missed. We just like sitting around and thinking about how much God thinks of us.)

The response is to treasure Jesus. Hold him in esteem. Not just tell him of our love… but act.

Treasuring Jesus is action. And the action is one of complete trust.

“Sell your possessions and give to the poor.”

In other words… trust him. He does indeed provide. He does indeed take care of those who are his own. So… lay it on the line. Give. Take the risk. Running this risk has its rewards. (And it’s not a billion dollar bailout from the government.)

It is treasure in heaven. It is gaining something that just won’t fade away.

Treasuring Jesus is action.

“Be dressed and ready for service and keep your lamps burning,” (Luke 12:35, NIV)

We are to take up the servant’s apron and get to work. Treasuring Jesus is labor. It is getting up, thinking of HIM instead of ourselves, and making sure Kingdom priorities are always in front of us. Trust him… He has our needs fully in view. He knows what we need for finances. He knows what we need for all of our resources. So… let HIM take care of that… and our adventure is to lock onto him and never let go.

Loving him is found in providing for others. We trust him as we let go of our possessions.

Treasuring him is what we are embarking on this summer as a church. We will be reading the New Testament together. (See the “Eat This Book” tab on this blog.) We are going to be engaging in conversation, learning from each other, and seeing what the Lord is asking of us to prepare us so we are dressed for action.

Treasuring him is what we do when we look out for those in our body when there is a need. Over the past two weeks I have watched our church step forward again in a huge way to help those in need. I have watched our churches in my city do the same thing. It is simply wonderful to watch what the Spirit will do.

Holding tight to the Lord is the challenge. Trusting him is so essential… and so difficult!

Hold on tight. It’s worth the ride!

Do You Want the Kingdom or Not?

15 When one of those at the table with him heard this, he said to Jesus, “Blessed is the one who will eat at the feastin the kingdom of God.”

16 Jesus replied: “A certain man was preparing a great banquet and invited many guests. 17 At the time of the banquet he sent his servant to tell those who had been invited, ‘Come, for everything is now ready.’

18 “But they all alike began to make excuses. The first said, ‘I have just bought a field, and I must go and see it. Please excuse me.’

19 “Another said, ‘I have just bought five yoke of oxen, and I’m on my way to try them out. Please excuse me.’

20 “Still another said, ‘I just got married, so I can’t come.’

21 “The servant came back and reported this to his master. Then the owner of the house became angry and ordered his servant, ‘Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame.’

22 “‘Sir,’ the servant said, ‘what you ordered has been done, but there is still room.’

23 “Then the master told his servant, ‘Go out to the roads and country lanes and compel them to come in, so that my house will be full. 24 I tell you, not one of those who were invited will get a taste of my banquet.’” (Luke 14: 15-23, NIV)

The King has pursued. The call has gone out… and yet, we find people hesitating. We find people who have been aware of the Kingdom, its claims, and its power… and they still balk when the invitation is sent.

The question that comes to mind is this: Do we REALLY want the Kingdom?  Do we truly want to follow him… or are we just about the lip service?