November 19, 2018- Beyond the Valley of the Shadow of Death, Psalm 23, Job 19:25-27

valley of shadow

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil,
for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Psalm 23 (ESV)

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another. Job 19:25-27 (ESV)

The valley of the shadow of death is not a popular destination, but mortality is a reality.  No one gets out of this life alive…except…those who believe by the grace of God in Christ will share in His resurrection.  In spite of the really bad pop theology that is rampant in American Christianity, Jesus never was about “your best life now.”   Even though televangelists and “Christian” authors may try to sell us a Cross-less Christianity, Jesus teaches us, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

True Christianity holds to a theology of the Cross, one in which we die to our own selfishness and sins- not to earn points, but in response to the extravagant grace and the undeserved favor God has already given us.

Psalm 23 has been beloved among believers for millennia, precisely because God’s inspired words from David’s pen underscore God’s promise that death and the curse is not the end. We who are baptized into Christ are not alone.  This world and its valleys of shadow are not the end.

God with us, Emmanuel, does not shield us from suffering, but He is in it with us, ever present with his comfort, walking with us through the valley of the shadow of death, (Psalm 23:4) and leading us away from evil.

God so loved the world that He sent Jesus, His only Son to be a man- fully God and fully man- and live in this world with us. (John 3:16) When the time came for Jesus to give His life for us, He struggled with the cup He was given to drink, but the only way for Him to accomplish our salvation was through His suffering and death. Jesus was not spared the bitter path of the Cross.  The sin of the Garden of Eden could only be overcome on by Jesus’ suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane, and ultimately His sacrifice on Calvary.

God does give us challenges that are way over our heads and way over and above our capacity to overcome.  We do not have life in our own strength. On our own we have no strength.  Apart from Jesus we have nothing to look forward to but despair, hopelessness and death in our trespasses and sins.  Yet in losing ourselves and relying on Jesus we can endure anything.  He has already overcome death and the grave.

As the church year is drawing to a close, we become aware of the groaning of all creation, awaiting the restoration of all things that the apostle Paul speaks of in Romans 8:18-25.

Those who are familiar with the musical work The Messiah, by George Fredric Handel, will recognize the verses from Job 19 above.  I know that my Redeemer liveth / and that he shall stand /at the latter day upon the earth./ And though worms destroy this body/ yet in my flesh shall I see God.

As we are very quickly coming upon the season of Advent and celebrating the arrival of the promised One, we put our focus on Jesus, the living Redeemer, the conquering King.

We can trust that we will endure the suffering that is simply a part of this life here in the now, but not yet. We will stand with Jesus, in our own bodies, on that great and glorious day when all tears are wiped away and there is no more suffering or mourning.

December 12, 2019- Advent 12, Luke 12- The Fear of the Lord, Heads Up on the Eschaton, Keep Your Lamps Trimmed and Burning

keep-your-lamp-trimmed-and-burning-3-6337

Read Luke 12.

Jesus taught:

Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed on the housetops. Luke 12:2-3 (ESV)

This is some scary business.  All of us have plenty of dirty laundry that we would be mortified to have aired in public.  All us have those things in our history that we would rather keep secret.  Jesus knew the Pharisees (like the rest of us) had plenty of dark secrets and dirty laundry they would rather not have exposed.  The error of the Pharisees, which is often our error as well, is that we think we can cover up and gloss over our sins instead of knowing that Jesus will forgive our sins if we humble ourselves and confess them to Him.

“I tell you, my friends, do not fear those who kill the body, and after that have nothing more that they can do. But I will warn you whom to fear: fear him who, after he has killed, has authority to cast into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him!  Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.  Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows. Luke 12:4-7 (ESV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 1:7, Proverbs 9:10, Proverbs 15:33, Isaiah 11:2, Isaiah 33:6 and Micah 6:9) as we are taught in many places in Scripture. Jesus takes this truth further when he reminds us that God knows all and God has the authority to both give and take life, and to consign the unrepentant one- the fool who in his heart says there is no God- (Psalm 14:1) to eternal punishment in hell. God knows us more intimately than we know ourselves.  There is nothing we can hide from Him.

“And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God, but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God. And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven. Luke 12:8-12 (ESV)

Do we fear and love God enough to talk about Jesus even in times and places when it’s highly discouraged or even forbidden outright? Many of us find it hard to muster the courage to testify of Jesus because we fear the reactions that other people may have.  Yet He is the One who holds the power of life and death.

If we reject the work of the Holy Spirit in us we reject Jesus.

Jesus teaches us that He provides for us, so we shouldn’t be obsessed with gathering up stuff for ourselves.  We should seek God and His kingdom, because He is the Source of all things.

And do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you. Luke 12:29-31 (ESV)

Where our treasure is, our heart will be there also.  Where are our hearts?

Jesus reminds us that He is going to return.  No one knows when that day or hour will come, but He tells us to be ready for His return.  Many believers don’t like to hear talk about the eschaton (the end of days) but for those who are in Christ, the eschaton is an occasion of great joy- when Jesus returns and remakes the heavens and earth.

But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. 2 Peter 3:6-8 (ESV)

In this Advent season we await the return of the Bridegroom. We are living with one foot on this flawed and broken earth, and another in the heavenly kingdom.  When Jesus returns, He will remake the heavens and earth by fire.  If He were to return tonight, would He find us to be good stewards of what we have been given?

Jesus warns us that He comes to this earth not to bring peace, but to bring division. Families are divided because of faith in Him.  There are households in which one spouse believes and the other does not, or a child of unbelieving parents comes to faith- pitting their love for their family against their faith in Christ.

Jesus closes this chapter admonishing us to settle up with those to whom we owe, before it gets dragged into court and gets dirty.  The overwhelming theme here is, “fear God, repent and be forgiven.”

There is good news in this chapter, even though we have been warned about both hell fire and the eschaton.  The good news is that, by faith, we hear God’s Word and see the severity of our sins.  By faith, we pray for a healthy fear of the Lord.  We confess all of our sins to God and He brings them into the light, and forgives our sins. We repent and confess not simply to avoid hell fire, but in response and thankfulness to God for providing for all our needs, most especially our desperate need for our Savior who died on the cross to save us from all our sins.  For those who are in Christ, the eschaton will be a day of joy, when tears and death and sorrow will all be wiped away forever.

As the old spiritual goes, “Keep your lamps trimmed and burning.” We await Jesus’ Second Advent with anticipation and joy.

December 11, 2019- Advent 11, Luke 11- Lord, Teach Us to Pray, The Sign of Jonah, and Woe to the Pharisees

jesus-prayer-in-john-17

Now Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he finished, one of his disciples said to him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples.” And he said to them, “When you pray, say: “Father, hallowed be your name.Your kingdom come.Give us each day our daily bread,and forgive us our sins,for we ourselves forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And lead us not into temptation.” Luke 11:1-4 (ESV)

We pray the Lord’s Prayer hopefully by memory, but not so much on auto pilot that we pray without thinking about what the petitions mean.  God is holy.  We long for His kingdom to come in its fullness, when there will be no more death or pain or crying or sadness or war. We trust that God provides all that we need on a daily basis, and we thank Him for that.  We ask God to forgive our sins and to give us the grace to forgive others when they sin against us.  We also pray that we would not fall prey to all the temptations around us, but hold fast to God and His Word instead.

Jesus tells the story of a man who pesters his friend for bread in the middle of the night.  The friend opens the door not so much because the man is a friend but because of the man’s persistence.  God hears our prayers not so much because of our persistence- because God knows our prayers before we pray them.  God answers our prayers (though not always the way we think He should) because He loves us and always has the best in mind for us.

And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.  What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;  or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” Luke 11:9-13 (ESV)

Jesus had many critics, especially when He healed people and set them free of diseases or demons.  Some critics said Jesus cast out demons by the power of Beelzebul, the chief of demons, also known as the “lord of the flies.”

Jesus reminds them that a house divided cannot stand, and that, “Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.” Luke 11:23

When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.  For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. Luke 11:29-30 (ESV)

Jesus is referring to Jonah 1:17 . Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish, so will Jesus spend three days in the grave before He will rise from the dead.  This is the only sign God will give for the people of Israel.

“No one after lighting a lamp puts it in a cellar or under a basket, but on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. Your eye is the lamp of your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is full of light, but when it is bad, your body is full of darkness. Therefore be careful lest the light in you be darkness. If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, it will be wholly bright, as when a lamp with its rays gives you light.” Luke 11:33-36 (ESV)

Jesus is the Light of the world.  In this Advent season we look so forward to the coming of the light in the darkness.  The more that Jesus is reflected in us the more that we spread the light.

Jesus had an ongoing issue with the Pharisees.  Their emphasis was so strong on obeying the letter of the law that the intention behind it was lost.  Theirs was a culture of works-righteousness and they were all about outward observances and appearances. They were not about reflecting God’s light, but about making themselves look good. Jesus had much criticism for this mindset.

“But woe to you Pharisees! For you tithe mint and rue and every herb, and neglect justice and the love of God. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. Woe to you Pharisees! For you love the best seat in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces.Woe to you! For you are like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without knowing it.” Luke 11:42-44 (ESV)

The opposite of lighting up the world with grace is putting on a self serving display.  If we spend all of our time proving to the world how good we are and seeking recognition for our deeds, what does that say for our motives?

We begin this chapter by praying the way Jesus taught us.  His will is not always easy.  We will always have conflict between wanting my will versus submitting to and praying for thy will.  Yet in Him we are given our daily bread- not just food to eat, but the grace and the means to live according to His will and to forgive others as He forgives us.  Rather than focusing on outside works and appearances, and trying to earn brownie points, we trust that Jesus will transform us from the inside out so that His light will shine through us.

 

 

December 10, 2019 Advent 10, Luke 10- The Primacy of Christ

Mary-and-Martha

Read Luke 10.

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Luke 10:1-3 (ESV)

It almost seems as if Jesus is setting up His disciples for failure, warning them in advance that they are being sent as lambs in the midst of wolves.

It’s still true today that God’s people are few and far between at times, and we are often treated badly by the world.  Jesus knew that His message was not always going to be received with joy, especially by those who were strong and powerful in the temporal world.

Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. But it will be more bearable in the judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you.  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades.
“The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” Luke 10:13-20 (ESV)

How do we treat those who bring us the Good News of Jesus?  Are we listening and are we heeding their directions that point us to Christ?  May we by the grace of God in Christ have ears to hear the message, and to receive God’s messengers and teachers with joy and thankfulness.  Jesus tells us that receiving His teachers and gladly listening to sound teaching is the same as receiving Him.

In that same hour he (Jesus) rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.  All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, or who the Father is except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” Luke 10:21-22 (ESV)

Faith is a gift given to us by God.  Like little children all we can do is receive the good gifts that are given to us.  It’s no small coincidence that many people who try to seek God via their own knowledge or by trying to find God with science often fail. Many (otherwise) great minds are far more likely to be atheist or agnostic, and find it very difficult, if not impossible to trust in Christ for their salvation and provision.

Often we see that the people with the most tenacious faith in Jesus are children and those who due to a mental infirmity or other disabilities see their complete and total dependence on Jesus more clearly.  Jesus is the defender and champion of the weak. As the apostle Paul taught us, His strength is found in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him (Jesus) to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How do you read it?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” And he said to him, “You have answered correctly; do this, and you will live.” Luke 10:25-28 (ESV).

Surely the young lawyer knew the Shema from Deuteronomy 6:4-6. But there is a disconnect between knowing the Shema and being able to live it out.  Jesus tells the parable of the good Samaritan precisely to point out that none of us are justified by the tradition we are born into. What we know in our heads doesn’t do us much good if we don’t believe it, internalize it and live accordingly. Apart from the grace of God we are completely unable to live in a way that is pleasing to Him.  Samaritans were reviled and considered as heretics and worse, but the Samaritan in the parable, in spite of his religious unorthodoxy, was living out the Shema in the way he cared for the stranger along the road.

Jesus writes the Law on our hearts, but we cannot live it out aside from His grace.  Even then we still deal with that paradox of being sinners and saints at the same time.

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.  But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.”  But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things,  but one thing is necessary.  Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Luke 10:38-42 (ESV)

Jesus does want us to love and serve our neighbor.  But that love and service is a result, a fruit that is brought forth from loving and seeking God.  It’s easy to be busy, and we should be productive and helpful to our neighbors… but… when “busy” becomes our god we simply become tired, burned out and not of much use to anyone, ourselves included.  In order for us to live out the vocations we are given, we desperately need to take the time to sit at Jesus’ feet.  We need to read the Bible.  We need to listen to and take in sound teaching.  How can we have strength for the journey if we fail to take the time to let God feed us?

During this time of year we can get bogged down into the “holiday have-tos.” There are a whole lot of “shoulds” out there that “should” get done.  Most of those “shoulds” are not nearly as important as we want to make them out to be.

Mary understood the most important thing: to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn from Him.

In today’s chapter of Luke the emphasis is on Jesus first, the primacy of Christ, the Author and Perfecter of our faith.  By the grace of God, in this Advent season, may we step back and take the time to sit at His feet, to listen to Him, and to praise and adore Him.

 

 

 

 

December 9, 2019- Advent 9, Luke 9- The Cost of Following Jesus

feeding five thousand

Read Luke 9

As Jesus sends out the twelve apostles, He instructs them:

And he called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. And he said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money; and do not have two tunics.And whatever house you enter, stay there, and from there depart. And wherever they do not receive you, when you leave that town shake off the dust from your feet as a testimony against them.” And they departed and went through the villages, preaching the gospel and healing everywhere. Luke 9:1-6 (ESV)

The idea was that the disciples were to stay where they were welcome and cared for, not to take advantage of their patrons, but to teach and care for those who wanted to hear the Gospel.

At this time Herod, who had recently demanded the head of John the Baptist, was hearing about Jesus.  Was this Elijah? Was it John raised from the dead?  Herod would soon find out more about Jesus.

The disciples came with Jesus to a place called Bethsaida, where thousands of people came to hear Jesus speak and to seek healing.  There was nothing to be had as far as food save for five loaves and two fish.  But Jesus insisted that the disciples feed the multitudes with the loaves and fish rather than sending them home hungry.

And taking the five loaves and the two fish, he (Jesus) looked up to heaven and said a blessing over them. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples to set before the crowd. And they all ate and were satisfied. And what was left over was picked up, twelve baskets of broken pieces. Luke 9:16-17 (ESV)

The number twelve here is said to represent the twelve tribes of Israel- that we see the Bread of Life was given for the sake of the twelve tribes.  Whether or not this is true, Jesus shows us in this miracle of provision that He takes a little and as we share it, that little bit is multiplied.

Simon Peter was one of the first people to come to faith in Jesus.  “You are the Christ, the son of God!”

There is a cost to following Jesus. All of the twelve apostles suffered and died horrible deaths – Judas hung himself out of anguish for betraying Jesus to the high priests.  Peter was crucified upside down.  Only John lived to old age, and that was as an exile on the island of Patmos, where he wrote the book of Revelation.

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself? For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels. Luke 9:23-26 (ESV)

Following Jesus is the way of the cross.  As we live our lives submitted to His will, we have the constant conflict between what we want and what God wants.  Yet Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, even if living for Him causes us suffering here and now.

At His transfiguration, the disciples get to see who Jesus really is.  Not Elijah or Moses or John the Baptist reborn, but the Son of God.

Now about eight days after these sayings he took with him Peter and John and James and went up on the mountain to pray.  And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.  Now Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep, but when they became fully awake they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him.  And as the men were parting from him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah”—not knowing what he said.  As he was saying these things, a cloud came and overshadowed them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud.  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!”  And when the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and told no one in those days anything of what they had seen. Luke 9:28-36 (ESV)

Following Jesus is something we cannot do without His intervention.  We cannot follow Jesus based on our own decision or power, but only by His grace.

As they were going along the road, someone said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.”And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” To another he said, “Follow me.” But he said, “Lord, let me first go and bury my father.” And Jesus said to him, “Leave the dead to bury their own dead. But as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.” Yet another said, “I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at my home.” Jesus said to him, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.” Luke 9:57-62 (ESV)

We pray that by the grace of God in Christ we can follow Him.  We will not always follow Him perfectly.  We sin and stumble often.  Yet as the apostle Paul reminds us, it is not in our works or what we observe or don’t observe, but in Christ we stand.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4 (ESV)

 

December 8, 2019- Advent 8, Luke 8- Jesus and Women, Good Soil, His Message is for All People, Calm in the Storm

Jesus on the water

Read Luke 8,

Today we see Jesus continuing His ministry of teaching and healing.  Here Luke focuses on Jesus’ high regard for women.  There were many women who followed Jesus as disciples- Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Susanna are named here.  In a culture that regarded women on the same level as property or livestock, this was a big deal.

As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone.

.She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased. And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed.And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Luke 8:43-48 (ESV)

As Jesus was on His way to see Jairus’ daughter, this woman with a bleeding disease touched His garment.  He had such pity on her and her faith that He could heal her that she was immediately healed,  And Jesus went on and healed Jairus’ daughter as well.

And when his disciples asked him what this parable meant, he said, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God, but for others they are in parables, so that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’ Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:9-15 (ESV)

Jesus shows His disciples that His message and the Word of God is for everyone, even women and tax collectors and those who are not Jewish, but not everyone will respond to the preaching of God’s Word.  Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and we do not know who will receive that gift and who will not.

“No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a jar or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be made manifest, nor is anything secret that will not be known and come to light. Take care then how you hear, for to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.” Luke 8:16-18 (ESV)

The Good News of Jesus is meant to be shared.  We can’t help but to spread the light we have been given.  As we spread the Good News around, we continue to grow in faith and grace and maturity.

Jesus gives us a lesson about the meaning of family as well.  It’s not necessarily about our biological family, but the family of God.

Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him because of the crowd. And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” But he answered them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.” Luke 8:19-21 (ESV)

Jesus encourages us even more as He calms the storm.

One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they set out, and as they sailed he fell asleep. And a windstorm came down on the lake, and they were filling with water and were in danger. And they went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” And they were afraid, and they marveled, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” Luke 8:22-25 (ESV)

We freak out when our circumstances seem overwhelming.  But we don’t always remember that Jesus is in control of everything,  He does have command of everything, whether we understand this or not.

One of the more intriguing accounts of Jesus healing people is of the demoniac so possessed by evil demons (“My name is Legion,” which means thousands,) that he could not be held by chains.  Jesus drives the demons into a herd of pigs, (Jews considered pigs to be unclean animals, not fit to eat) who then run off a cliff to drown themselves.  The man is made clean and coherent.

The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, “Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.” And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him. Luke 38:39 (ESV)

Most of us are called to go out into the world to our vocations- to be employees, employers, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers.  But no matter what our vocations may be we are  all called to live out our calling as believers in Jesus. Our lives and conduct should be witness to how much God has done for us.

Jesus has set us free from sin and death and our own sinful natures to that we can go out and be His witnesses.  Thank God for Emmanuel, God with us, who heals our deepest wounds and gives us the gift of eternal life.

 

December 7, 2019 Advent 7, Luke 7- Faith in Jesus, Healing, Forgiveness and Grace

jesus-mercy-compassion

Read Luke 7.

Jesus came to earth to be the perfect sacrifice, the only one who could take away the penalty for our sins, the only one to justify human beings before God.  Jesus heals the servant of the centurion- not because the centurion was such a good guy but because the centurion (a gentile who would not have had a blood inheritance into the family of Israel) had faith in Him.

And Jesus went with them. When he was not far from the house, the centurion sent friends, saying to him, “Lord, do not trouble yourself, for I am not worthy to have you come under my roof. Therefore I did not presume to come to you. But say the word, and let my servant be healed. For I too am a man set under authority, with soldiers under me: and I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard these things, he marveled at him, and turning to the crowd that followed him, said, “I tell you, not even in Israel have I found such faith.”  And when those who had been sent returned to the house, they found the servant well. Luke 7:6-10 (ESV)

Faith has a source as well as an object- Jesus is both the source of our faith and the object of it.  Jesus raises the widow’s son, not as a witness to believers,  but as testimony to those who do not have faith.  In Jesus’ compassion He raised the young man.  The Lord, the giver of life gave those who were blind to Him the evidence that proves He is Who He says He is.

And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her and said to her, “Do not weep.” Then he came up and touched the bier, and the bearers stood still. And he said, “Young man, I say to you, arise.”  And the dead man sat up and began to speak, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Fear seized them all, and they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” and “God has visited his people!”  And this report about him spread through the whole of Judea and all the surrounding country. Luke 7:13-17 (ESV)

At this time both Jesus and his cousin, John the Baptist were preaching and discipling people. John’s followers kept questioning John, “Are you the Messiah, or is there someone else?”

So John sent his followers to Jesus to find out if Jesus really was who He claimed to be.

And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them.  And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Luke 7:22-23 (ESV)

There were those who questioned John the Baptist as well as those who questioned Jesus.  John was the last prophet, the one who was to make a highway in the wilderness.

For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by all her children.” Luke 7:33-35 (ESV)

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Proverbs 9:10, Isaiah 11:12) The Pharisees had put their faith in outward appearances and works of the Law rather than putting all of their faith and trust in the Son of Man.

The “sinful woman” who came to Jesus washing His feet with her tears and drying them with her hair knew her desperate need for Jesus. She knew that her works condemned her. Our salvation is not in how well we can obey the Law or how good we can make ourselves look.  Our salvation is entirely outside of ourselves.

The Bible speaks of salvation in the passive voice, a work that is done to us, and for us.

Luther teaches in the Small Catechism in his explanation of the Third Article of the Apostle’s Creed:

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean?

I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church, He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day, He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

Faith is a gift. Jesus gives us the faith to trust in Him and in His sacrificial death on the cross for our salvation.

December 6, 2019 – Advent 6, Luke 6- The Lord of the Sabbath, Names of the Apostles, The Beatitudes, Good Fruit, and the Only Foundation

Read Luke 6

Jesus had the audacity to offend the Pharisees by breaking the Sabbath rules that they had added to the Third Commandment. As if picking grain for hungry bodies to eat was “strenuous work.”

And Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to destroy it? Luke 6:9 (ESV)

The Pharisees were more offended when Jesus healed on the Sabbath. The fact that Jesus healed a man should have been a point of celebration rather than a time for legalistic angst.

Jesus names the 12 Apostles:

Simon, whom he named Peter, and Andrew his brother, and James and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon who was called the Zealot, and Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Luke 6:14-16 (ESV)

Jesus teaches and heals the multitudes. In the Beatitudes Jesus tells us of the kingdom of God- how His people who are hungry will be satisfied, the poor in spirit will be made rich, and that those who are persecuted for His sake will be rewarded in Heaven.

“If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount.
But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil. Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful. Luke 6:32-36 (ESV)

Jesus further offends the Pharisees by pointing out their hypocrisy.

Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye?

You hypocrite, first take

the log out of your own

eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s
eye.

Luke 6:41-42 (ESV)

Jesus was more concerned with genuine faith- faith that leads to good fruit in the life and witness of a believer.

“For no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. Luke 6:43-45 (ESV)

Jesus is the Rock, the solid foundation on which everything stands. Only in Him can our lives bear good fruit. Only in Him do we have life.