Thursday, March 22, 2018

Luke 15 "My Son Was Lost And Now He is Found!"

17 “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired servants have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! 18 I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. 19 I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired servants.’ 20 So he got up and went to his father. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. 21 “The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ 22 “But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. 23 Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. 24 For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.
This is my favorite parable in the New Testament.  The basic jist is a father's youngest son asks for his inheritance early, and
 goes out and spends it on reckless living.  It would be sort of like a person going to college on their parent's money and by senior year all they had done was partied for four years straight wiith nothing but a drinking problem to show for it.  
In this case after the son loses everything and is tending pigs for minimum wage and eating hamhocks, it says he "came to his senses".  Literally he had a change of mind, maybe because he was hungry and out of cash.  Whatever the case, he begins his long trek anticipating the disappointment of his father and shame of blowing the family money.  
As he journeyed home he rehearsed what he would say to his father.  He prepared his apology and admitting his sin against his heavenly and earthly father.  But here is where the story gets good.  Instead of the father rubbing his hands waiting to lay into his son, the passage says that his father was scanning the horizon waiting for his son to return home.  When he sees the son he runs out to meet him and throws his arms around and kisses him. The son was waiting for his punishment, but instead dad throws him a party and brings out the fatted calf reserved for big celebrations.  He puts the best robe on him, new sandals and a ring.  All signs of the father's favor.  The story closes with the father saying, "We must celebrate for my son was lost but now he is found!"
Jesus told this story to illustrate God the Father's great love.  Instead of giving the son what he deserved, a tongue lashing, he gave him a feast.  It was unmerited favor.  It was amazing grace.  It was a parent's unconditional love.  And my favorite part is the father scanning the horizon spotting the son and running out to meet him.  This is a great image of our loving and compassionate God.  Though we squandered and wandered from God he has always waited for us waiting for us to come home.  And when we make a move toward him, He runs to meet us and throw his arms around us!  If you are far from God turn to him, He loves you and wants you to come home.  If you know someone who is far from God share this post with them!    

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Luke 14 - When Rules Get in the Way!

14 One Sabbath, when Jesus went to eat in the house of a prominent Pharisee, he was being carefully watched. There in front of him was a man suffering from abnormal swelling of his body. Jesus asked the Pharisees and experts in the law, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath or not?” But they remained silent. So, taking hold of the man, he healed him and sent him on his way. Then he asked them, “If one of you has a child or an ox that falls into a well on the Sabbath day, will you not immediately pull it out?” And they had nothing to say.


Jesus wasn’t afraid to talk to the Pharisees even though he knew they were against them.  It might be compared to going over to the pastor’s house for Sunday brunch.  But in this case, it wasn’t a friendly environment for him to walk into.  

Some think the Pharisees may have planted the man with “dropsy” to see how he would handle it.  “The man was afflicted with dropsy, which is an “abnormal accumulation of serous fluid in the tissues of the body” (Liefeld) They knew Jesus’ heart would be apt to reach out and heal the man. The issue was not about healing but healing on the Sabbath. And, in fact, healing on the Sabbath was not forbidden in the Law. It was a tradition that was added to the Law.  
Here is what one commentator says, “Jesus never broke the commandments of God, but He often offended man’s traditions that surrounded and extended the commandments of God. The commandments of God are enough, and we should never make the traditions of man – even good traditions – equal to the commandments of God.” (Guziik) 

Finally, Jesus brought it home on a personal level and asked them if their child or ox got hurt would they not rescue them.  This showed the duplicity in their observance of these traditions.  What is clear here is that the Law got in the way of what it was intended to do.  The Law was to give the Israelites' life not take it away.  Laws have their place in society to keep order in our world, but when the church uses laws that move us away from Good News we have found in Jesus, we are in big trouble!

Why do you think the Pharisees were looking to trap Jesus?  How can traditions in the church be dangerous and conflict with the bible?  What might be an example today, or in the church’s past?

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Luke 13 What Jesus Mean When He Says Enter Through the Narrow Door?

The Narrow Door

22 Then Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he made his way to Jerusalem. 23 Someone asked him, “Lord, are only a few people going to be saved?” He said to them, 24 “Make every effort to enter through the narrow door, because many, I tell you, will try to enter and will not be able to. 25 Once the owner of the house gets up and closes the door, you will stand outside knocking and pleading, ‘Sir, open the door for us.’ “But he will answer, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from.’ 26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’ 28 “There will be weeping there, and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but you yourselves thrown out. 29 People will come from east and west and north and south, and will take their places at the feast in the kingdom of God. 30 Indeed there are those who are last who will be first, and first who will be last.”
Sometimes I think this passage can be misinterpreted.  The term "narrow door" might lead some people to believe that God is narrow minded. Or worse yet, only wants a few people to be saved.  We know from other scriptures that God desires all people to be saved, and that is why He sent His Son into the world not to condemn it but save it.  
So in what sense does Luke use this idea of the narrow door that only a few will enter?  One reason is that compared to the broad door it is easy to miss.  The broad door might be what in another passage Jesus calls the "road to destruction".  As the picture above shows the broad way is the one most people are traveling on.  Though the narrow door exists, these people are so caught up in going with the flow of the world that they walk right on by.  So the door is narrow for them because they are so focused on the wide door so they miss on the narrow road that leads to life. In a sense we might say, "they do not know what they are missing."
I think there is another way in which people miss the narrow way.  The narrow way goes through a cross on which Jesus died for the sins of the world.  The broad way goes through dependence and reliance on self.  Most people try to go through the door of works righteousness.  After all it makes sense that if I do enough i will make it through the door narrow or not.  But the way Jesus invites us on is narrow in that we have to admit we cannot do it on our own.   
No one said the Christian life was easy, but it has nothing to do with God being narrow minded, or curmudgeonly.  God is not "chintzy" with his love.  God's love is great and God invites all people to come through His Son.  If that is a narrow way, it is only narrow in the sense that God has narrowed down exactly for what we need. A Savior.  Jesus went through the narrow way to the cross, which opened up the way for all people to be saved!      

Monday, March 19, 2018

Luke 12 - Would You Confess Your Belief in Jesus Publicly?

Luke 12:8 “I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God.10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.11 “When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say,12 for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say.”
As the disdain for Jesus began to rise among the Pharisees, Jesus knew that the time was coming when they would take him by force.  He also knew that the disciples would be called out as his followers.  They would even be brought out publicly and asked to declare if they knew Jesus or not.  The word "acknowledge" is also translated "confess" which actually I like better.  Acknowledge seems a little more passive to me, but to confess is to be honest and forthcoming in a public sense.  It is not to hide behind a mask like the hypocrites.
Of course we all know the story of Peter who denied confessing Jesus as His Lord three times. It was a dark moment for him, yet Jesus had predicted it.  I don't think Jesus did this to shame Peter. Later Jesus' words would comfort Peter knowing the Jesus already knew what he was going to do.  After his resurrection, Jesus reinstates Peter and makes him the chief apostle of the church commanding him to go and feed the sheep.  Even though Peter failed to confess Jesus, he was given a second chance and did quite well with it. 
How about you?  How do you react when you are in situation to publicly acknowledge that Jesus is your Savior?  Increasingly Christians are seen as naive at best and racist at worst for confessing Jesus as their Lord and Savior.  Though we have freedom of speech in almost every respect, even to say disgusting things, to say Jesus is Lord can get one in a lot of trouble.  Just look in the newspapers as teachers are let go for acknowleging they are Christians and/or practicing their faith.  Our Vice President was just mocked and ridiculed by a popular talk show host when acknowledged he talks with Jesus and tries to listen to him when making decisions.  
My friends we live in challenging times, but no more so than Jesus' first disciples.  It takes courage and consideration to confess your faith in Jesus in today's public square.  But know this, at the end of your life when Jesus comes back and all people will know He is the Savior and Lord of the world, you will be glad you had the courage to acknowledge him when you were on this earth.