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

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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.

 

 

March 5, 2018 The Temple of God- Psalm 69:9, 1 Kings 6:11-13, John 2:13-22, Matthew 12:40

 

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For zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me. Psalm 69:9 (NIV)

The word of the Lord came to Solomon:  “As for this temple you are building, if you follow my decrees, observe my laws and keep all my commands and obey them, I will fulfill through you the promise I gave to David your father.  And I will live among the Israelites and will not abandon my people Israel.” 1 Kings 6:11-13 (NIV)

When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money.  So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.  To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!”  His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.” The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” But the temple he had spoken of was his body.  After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.  John 2:13-22 (NIV)

(Jesus said): For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. Matthew 12:40 (NIV) (Jonah 1:17)

Jesus wasn’t happy with the corruption going on in the temple. The temple of Jesus’ day was not the temple originally built by Solomon, referenced above in 1 Kings 6. Solomon’s Temple had been destroyed (2 Chronicles 36:9, Ezra 5:12) by Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king who carried off the people of Israel to exile. There is a theme in Scripture to the building of, and the destruction of temples.

In Jesus’ day the physical building of the Second Temple still stood, lavishly expanded and renovated by none other than Herod the Great. The Second Temple would be destroyed by the Romans in 70AD.  Today, on the site of the Second Temple is the Temple Mount and the Dome of the Rock.  While most Jewish and some Christian sects bemoan the loss of the Temple Mount site to a Muslim mosque, the reality is that God is no more present in the historic Jerusalem as He is anywhere else in His creation.

It is interesting, however, how passionate Jesus was about the shady activity going on in the temple, a place that was supposed to be a house of prayer. We don’t sing hymns about Angry Jesus- though He was human, and He did get angry. The Jesus we see here, the guy who upset the apple cart- and upended the trading tables, and who destroyed the livestock cages isn’t the Jesus we feel comfortable with.  Where in this passage is the Good Shepherd, or the Jesus who wept when His friend Lazarus died, or the Jesus who said “do not hinder the children, and bring them to Me?”

Israel should have known from the prophets that God was not pleased with either their behavior or the condition of their hearts toward Him. But the people ignored God’s warning to Solomon, and they ignored the prophets’ warnings. As the centuries passed from Solomon throughout the times of the Israelite Kings, God’s people grew more and more evil and more and more separated from God. Eventually God let Nebuchadnezzar deal with Israel. They were sold into Babylonian captivity.

The Jewish people of Jesus’ day didn’t realize it during Jesus’ lifetime here on earth, but they were soon to lose their physical temple and to face temporal judgment yet again.

As time goes on in our culture, faithfulness to God is waning. Many people question the existence of God, let alone the reality of moral absolutes.  As in the time of the Judges we are in an era of “doing what is right in our own eyes.” (Judges 21:25)  Unfortunately the consequences of moral relativism- the condition of having no behavioral standards or absolutes- manifest themselves in broken families, violence, crime, drug addiction and so on. We see the temporal consequences of our brokenness and our inability to keep God’s commandments everywhere.

We can’t get too judgmental about the people of Israel, because we do the same things they did and worse. Sometimes we wonder if God is there, and if He is, why does He let terrible things continue to go on? Evil may be defeated, but it is not eliminated from the world just yet.

We know that human beings cannot even realize their need for Jesus apart from the grace of God. We cannot straighten ourselves up no matter how good we behave or how well we try to follow the rules.

The good news is that God does not live in a physical temple like in the days of the Israelite kings or even in a rebuilt temple like there was in Jesus’ day. We don’t have to go to Jerusalem to pray. There is a certain sad irony that it was Herod who restored and expanded the temple-which begs the question, were the expenditures made to beautify the temple not for God’s glory so much as for Herod’s?

God’s true temple is not a place but a Person. He is available to us anytime, anywhere. Jesus is the temple. This is what Jesus meant when he told the Pharisees and other religious authorities who mocked him when He said that He will tear down the temple and rebuild it in three days.

Jesus has taken the place of the physical building of the temple.  He is the Holy of Holies, and He is God-with-us. He is not confined to a little room that is only accessible by one guy- the High Priest-one day out of the year.  When Jesus breathed His last upon the Cross, the curtain of the temple was split in two, the dead were raised, and the Holy Spirit was set loose in the world. (Matthew 27:50-54)  In His descending to the world of the dead and rising again (as Jonah spent three days in the belly of the fish) He defeated death and has won eternal life for us.

Jesus has become God with us. He has rebuilt the temple not out of bricks and stone, but of Himself. God the Holy Spirit is set free in the world- and He embraces us.  The temple is everywhere for Jesus followers.  We are free to thank Him, to worship Him- to participate in His kingdom and to let Him transform us.

May 5, 2017 – Gone Fishing -John 21:3-4

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“I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.  

Early in the morning, Jesus stood on the shore, but the disciples did not realize it was Jesus. John 21:3-4 (NIV)

This story sounds like us so much of the time. We have a hard time seeing and experiencing the presence of God all around us, so we just do what feels comfortable or right, or what we always have done.  We live our lives, and do our thing, and we don’t see Jesus even when He is right in front of us.

Sound familiar?

So many times we wonder where Jesus is in those “dark nights of the soul,” those times when we are frustrated or in pain or despair. If only we could see that He is right there in the center of it all, and that He knows our disappointments, our fears, our doubts and our frustrations, but so many times we just don’t see Him.

The disciples had the same problem, and these were guys who hung out with Jesus for years. They ate with Him, walked with Him, lived with Him, but they still couldn’t see Him in plain sight.

So why sometimes do we just give up on the plans God has made for us and decide to go do our own thing?

Do we lose our patience with God’s timing and His way of doing things? Or do we see His way of doing things as just being too unreasonable or too difficult, like the prophet Jonah, who didn’t want to go to Nineveh and tried to run away from God instead? (See Jonah 1-3)   Do we really think that running away from God is even possible?

Thankfully Jesus meets us where we are even if we just give up and “go fishing.” He meets us not to shame us or make us feel guilty, but to encourage us, and to put us back on the path for which He created us.