Friday, January 29, 2010

Heart Witnesses: The Emmaus Effect


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They said to each other, "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?"

Luke 24:32

This post-resurrection encounter with Jesus, unique to the gospel of Luke, is the one I find most compelling. There are several reasons why it appeals to me. It is popular in many circles to point out evidential statements for the resurrection of Jesus. It gets argued like a case before the court. The hundreds of eyewitnesses recorded in the pages of the New Testament make a strong case. It is fascinating to have the evidence argued this way.

But the two Emmaus disciples are more than eyewitnesses to Jesus. They are heart witnesses to His resurrection. There is a powerful personal effect that Jesus has on them that is convincing for them. The encounter begins with Jesus literally walking into the conversation of these two as they walk along the road. The text explicitly says that they are KEPT from recognizing him, a sort of supernatural recognitional fogginess is put over them at the time. They are travelers and He joins them in their journey. And the topic of their conversation is the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. They are trying to make sense of what is the talk of all Israel. Jesus obliges them by walking through the entire Old Testament to clarify the mission of the Messiah. It must have been a magnificent teaching time. It certainly left an undeniable mark on their thinking.

The day drags on and the two invite their traveling companion to overnight with them. He does so, and at their simple dinner, He breaks the bread, blesses it, and gives it to them and instantly the fog lifts and they recognize Jesus Who then vanished from their sight. It is then that they turn to one another, suddenly putting it all together. Jesus gave them that heart-stirring walk along the road!

Although I am not a highly emotional person, I still say this: God’s Word stirs me strongly… I’d say it is the most profound influence on me. I, too, now that feeling of my heart burning intensely as the Scriptures are opened to me. And that work of the Spirit accompanies the work of my risen Savior.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

between two thieves

crucifixion And when they came to the place that is called The Skull, there they crucified him, and the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.

Luke 23:33

The routine of Jesus’ execution was broken by enough interesting differences that people noticed something unique about Him. Even the hardened death-squad leader of the Roman crucifixion detail saw something he had never seen before and marveled at it (Luke 23:47). He had a religious experience on the death site that day.

Jesus was not the only person executed by crucifixion on that day outside Jerusalem. With him on the hill, condemned also to death, were two criminals. We know they were thieves, perhaps even guilty of a murderous robbery. And without a doubt, they knew they were guilty of their capital crimes (Luke 23:41). Jesus was dying differently.

The injustice of the scene is apparent. Jesus has been through a sham set of trials (Luke 22:54-57; 23:1-5; 23:6-17). He has been brought to Pilate under Roman jurisdiction just so the Jewish religious authorities can stick him with the death sentence they so desperately wanted for Him (Luke 23:18-25). Even Pilate admits he is doing an injustice to Jesus (Luke 23:22-24).

As Jesus is crucified, the humiliation only grows. His meager clothes are wagered away by a dice game among the soldiers. He is mocked. His claims of divinity and deliverance are laughed at derisively. He is ridiculed by the very sign tacked over His head, an ancient immaturity akin to Jr. High kids taping a “Kick Me” note on the back of their object of bullying. But the poignant words (“King of the Jews”) mean more than those mocking him realize at the time.

Back to those two thieves… They looked at all of this experience and typified two responses to the death and atoning work of Jesus that are still seen even today. One joined the mocking majority and added insult to the Lord. The other saw Jesus as the only means for his soul’s deliverance and cried out to Him for mercy (Luke 23:39-43). He went to heaven an executed criminal.

Jesus died between criminals because spiritually we are all criminals. We have all sinned and earned our sentence of death (Romans 3:23; 6:23). Even on the day of His death, one thief accepted what only Jesus could do. Jesus took him to Paradise.

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Path to Greatness


And he said to them, "The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves.”

Luke 22:25-26

Jesus was constantly driving the lesson home in His disciples of humble service. They were a thick-headed bunch. Right after the moment when Jesus turns the simple bread and wine tradition in Passover into a memorial practice for His followers to remember His great love, the disciples get into their regular argument. Once again they bicker over position, personal fame, and greatness.

Jesus uses a powerful contrast to get their attention. Any Jew in Jerusalem was well aware of how the leaders of the Gentiles exercised authority. Rome was in control of all the political and economic outcomes in the life of the Jewish nation. It was oppressive even as it was impressive. And the Gentiles forced their rule with military might and huge political muscle. They exalted “greatness”. Jesus was telling His men in simple terms: “Don’t be like Romans. Lead like me. Lead like a servant. Give up your life.”

It was at least mildly insulting for Jesus to get the attention of His disciples with this Gentile comparison. But it did focus on the problem of pride in a way they readily understood. And it brought their attention back to Him and off of themselves. Their bickering made them think like godless Gentiles. He wanted them to think like Him, in humble service. “…I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

And the problem of self-promotion has not really been eradicated from Jesus’ followers. We still need to follow His example, heed His warnings, and avoid acting like the world around us. It is not easy. Many see leadership as the outcome and goal of discipleship. Although we need Christian leaders, I think they may have it all wrong. Service is the pinnacle of discipleship, not leadership alone. When I lose my identity in Christ, acting so much like Him that I naturally give myself away, then I have obeyed what He asked His disciples to do.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Everlasting Words


Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

Luke 21:33

The place to build

my life upon

a firm foundation

never to be gone


The content of my life

to last and stay

is on Your words

that never pass away


Kingdoms rise and fall

human economies grow stale

but You are more powerful

and precious, You never fail


I am prone to wander

and can stray

But You stay true

and never pass away


So I will hold by faith

to the words of my Savior

And in my heart find peace

to embrace and savor


This powerful truth in a world

of uncertainty

will hold me firm when winds blow

I will know Your security


Heaven and earth may tumble

and eventually fall

But what God has said will

always stand tall

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Damned Religion


And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples,  "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and love greetings in the marketplaces and the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts, who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

Luke 20:45-47

Jesus spent a lot of time pointing our the deceit and dangers of corrupted religion. That is what he is doing with this warning against the self-driven religion of the scribes. They had turned the worship of God into nothing more than another kind of selfish worldly self-promotion. And Jesus was not happy about what it did to them or taught the people.

The sick thing about being a human being born with soul depravity is that we easily make anything a bad thing. We can corrupt anything. In fact anybody can sinfully twist anything for any reason just about any time. That is what the doctrine of total depravity truly means. And no human being is immune to this. We are born selfish to one degree or another.

When we corrupt good things to our selfish purposes we are uniquely and particularly sinful. And when we do so while being viewed as a leader, big condemnation should be expected from God. That was Jesus’ point about the scribes. All that showing off, attention grabbing, pretense, and religion without substance made them robbers and liars. And it damned them more than if they had not ever been religious.

These words of Jesus still serve to warn Christians today. I know that I have a tendency to think and act “scribally” in the outward demonstration of my faith. I need the warning words of Jesus. It is sad to see so many Christian leaders who are no better than these damned scribes. Without the heart check that Jesus gives here, I know that I would be a headline-seeking selfish person as well. Jesus, keep me from duplicity in my faith!

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

Echoes of angels: The reception of the King.

palmsunday As he was drawing near---already on the way down the Mount of Olives---the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

Luke 19:37-38

Luke gives some interesting detail about the triumphal entry that shows us how much Jesus impacted His followers. There are several key details that illuminate the moment. It makes the story deeper than what I remember from my childhood Palm Sunday flannelgraph lessons.

The first detail is that the crowd seemed to be crying towards Him, welcoming Jesus as He approached. The joyous shouts started perhaps before He was even close enough to make them out distinctly. And importantly, most of those gathered in the large crowd already claimed to follow Him. It is His disciples that start the shouts of acclaim.

Luke also gives detail as to their motivation. They are remembering the miracles – the mighty works that they had seen. It is this unique work of Jesus that leads to the acclaim, the kingly procession, and the wild joy of the multitude.

The other unique addition in Luke is the recorded content of the crowd’s acclaim. They echo and exchange what the angel choir proclaimed at Jesus’ birth. The angels sang of peace on earth. The triumphal entry crowd sang of peace in heaven. They unwittingly prophesied of the coming atonement Jesus would bring that would satisfy forever the sin debt between humanity and God. He was bringing peace to heaven as well as to earth.

I also hear the echoes of the Bethlehem angels in the crowd’s praises of “glory in the highest”! Jesus has drawn a unique praise to the Father from both men and angels. This serves as an important bookmark in Luke’s gospel. It points to the coming completion of Christ’s work.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Rewards for the cost of discipleship

rock needle And he said to them, "Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life."

Luke 18:29-30

The life spent committed to following Jesus has its cost. But Jesus assures those who have given up the most that it is well worth it. We must keep this statement in context. A very wealthy young man of influence has just approached Jesus wanting to settle his eternal destiny (Luke 18:18-27). He has come to the right place with the most important question of all. And Jesus invites him to leave everything behind and join the band of disciples (Luke 18:22). But though this rich young man was interested in spirituality, he would not pull away from his interest in materialism as well. He wanted both. And you cannot hold on to two affections. Jesus demands our full attention.

Peter comments on this sad state and outcome, reminding Jesus that the have indeed abandoned everything to follow Him (Luke 18:28). Jesus recognizes their commitment and sacrifice with this statement. He also reminds them of two levels of reward found in relationship with Him.

The first reward is in rich present relationships. This is not to be understood as some sort of promise of tremendous monetary wealth. I find most of what Jesus says here to be tied to the relationships newly discovered by a disciple within the family of God. There is no guarantee that physical family will turn to God for salvation. But there is a new family in Christ. And Christians share their lives and homes together like family should.

The second reward is the eternal life that the rich young man sought. What we find in Jesus is new life that is always fresh and new and amazingly good FOREVER! That is a really, really, really long time. Life eternal is found in Him and I don’t have to wait to enjoy it. Eternal life is lived right now. It started when I came to Him for salvation. It exists for me right now as I follow Him. It lasts forever when death is not an end of anything, but a bridge to a brighter, richer, fuller life in Christ.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unworthy Servants

Hinn Money Man

So you also, when you have done all that you were commanded, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.’

Luke 17:10

Jesus is teaching His disciples the essential attitude of service for God. And nobody gets to come to God demanding something. God does not owe man. Instead, we owe all that we are, all that we have, and all that we can do to the God Who made us and saved us. Jesus is making a point with His metaphor of the household servant: The master does not exist to serve the servant; instead, the servant exists to serve the master.

That is the attitude that Jesus wants His disciples to get. They were not put on this world to make demands of God. They were put here to serve Him well. And they cannot demand a reward for their service. Instead, like spiritual slaves, they were to constantly be available to serve God. Slaves never do anything else.

I am appalled that Christians in America have often chosen to completely disobey this teaching from Jesus. Looking at most of American evangelicalism, we would be hard-pressed to discern that Jesus even taught this! We repel from the image of the servant/slave who only exists to serve his master. We have instead held out that God is our cosmic genie, ready to grant our every wealth and wealth wish in exchange for our hour of chair time on Sunday, perhaps twenty bucks in the offering plate, and if we really, really extend ourselves, a five minute daily devotional.

No where is this more readily discerned than among the disgusting health and wealth prosperity gospel charismatics who seem to crawl out of TBN and into mainstream evangelicalism like a hive of roaches. This thinking even underlies Pat Robertson’s smug, ignorant dualistic thinking and his insensitive stupid remarks on the spiritual and physical state of earthquake devastated Haiti. It creates cult, as evidenced right here in my own hometown in south KC were personality driven hysteria can be witnessed 24/7. It is broadcast worldwide through jet-set snake-oil false prophets like Benny Hinn. They worship a God of wealth and fame. Christians who act like superstars think they are masters and not slaves. Their authenticity is suspect. That teaching and warning comes from the lips of Jesus Himself. He said it first. He wants simple slaves who cannot think of themselves as anything else. Humble service should mark a true follower of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Monday, January 18, 2010

God and money.

burning money

No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Luke 16:13

Divided loyalties will not advance the kingdom of God. Jesus makes it clear that a commitment to a life serving God cannot also be a life committed to an agenda of worldly wealth. The two are incompatible. Jesus is not saying that money is evil. If you look into the context, it is clear that He is talking about the attitude we have toward material things. We must see them as resources for a higher goal and end.

He begins with our motivations, letting us in on an important big picture truth… money is often used in this world to gain status and security. The parable of the dishonest steward (Luke 16:1-9) has a central theme: money is often used to gain intangible results. If that is the case in worldly pursuits, why not manage it toward the ultimate leverage: eternal impact and reward?

Principles of wise “eternal” investment are then explained by Jesus (Luke 16:9-13). He expects His followers to find this appealing. And He expects us to seek reward not from a dividend alone, but from the God Who gives us all we have to utilize for His glory.

The Pharisees mock Jesus for teaching these values (Luke 16:14-18). Their motive was selfish in all relationships and responsibilities. They were moved by the love of money. Jesus calls their materialistic motivation an abomination in the sight of God. He does not mince words. He cannot see materialism leading to obedience to God. Those who serve money as their life’s worship are not able to worship God as evidenced by the Pharisee’s inability to receive or believe this truth. They are in conflict with His eternal kingdom. And that cannot end in eternal life for them.

That leads to the most difficult part of the teaching in Luke 16. Jesus tells the story of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31) to make one essential and brutally clear point: all the money in the world will not buy your soul out of hell. God will not barter with either bankers or borrowers in eternity. It is of no interest to Him what you had. It is of all the interest to Him what you did for Him with what you had. He gave it to you. In the end, it is better to be a beggar in heaven than a billionaire in hell.

Friday, January 15, 2010

One Sinner Who Repents

lost sheep Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.

Luke 15:7

I think it is important to think about what Jesus is and is NOT saying with this statement. I think that the force of this story may get misunderstood by advocates of cheap grace. Jesus is spending a lot of teaching time in Luke 15 to establish God’s great love for all people. And Jesus makes it clear that sinners who repent and turn to God are warmly received by Him. So the focus is on God’s heart and not the degree of the sinner’s sinful condition. God is not MORE happy when a really bad sinner repents than he is if a LESS sinful person comes to Him. Both people are sinners in need of relationship and forgiveness from Him.

We tend to think in this verse that God is not really happy with the ninety-nine righteous persons. Jesus is not saying that. The point of the parables in Luke 15 is comparative. It is not that God has no joy over His obedient children… as if those who stay true to Him somehow bore Him with their obedience. It is more that God’s heart for repentant sinners brings great joy to Him the moment a sinner repents, and truly obedient children will rejoice with Him at that time! In other words, every act of genuine repentance by a sinner gives God great joy. And whether it is one sinner or a hundred sinners who come to Him, God treasures each one!

I have read some current Christian writers (Donald Miller among them in “Blue Like Jazz”) who seem to think that mucking around in our sin is understood and tolerated by God, perhaps even good for us in the long run, and that we can somehow be better people in that behavior. Miller even goes so far as to say that drug-smoking free-love hippies have more understanding of real love and acceptance than many church-goers. These writers look at the end of Luke 15 and the story of the prodigal and sadly seem focused more on the stuff the prodigal son got forgiven of. The point they seem to make is we can do anything and then return to God, and Has has to take us.

But the focus of the parable is not the son’s depravity. It is the Father’s relationship with both sons to whom He offers the same relationship. And both sons need repentance. The prodigal returns in terms of obedience and conformance to the relationship. He does not want to return to sinful indulgence! The tragedy is found in the elder son’s confident trust in his own obedience and his rejection of relationship with a father who forgives awful sinners. When there is joy in heaven when a sinner repents, it is God Who is rejoicing along with His redeemed. He invites us to be part of His heart for sinners. And when we are truly converted, we can’t help but feel the same thrill. God loves all sinners… returning prodigals and obedient sons.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Excising Pride


For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Luke 14:11

This is a principle that Jesus expects His disciples to live by. And it is a tough thought to force into modern American culture. It is a square peg in a round hole. We are conditioned to be driven. We are molded into proud achievers who take pride in self-reliance and personal accomplishments. We reward just about every kind of achievement (and in this day and age, educationally we now reward participation only) in some way. But humble service goes without applause.

I got an object lesson in this just last night. Aubrey has a high school class assignment to create her resume. Already, her 17 years of grand executive achievement are be be applauded (and definitely padded) on paper to a potential employer. She was looking for the “right way” to turn her service experience helping first grade Sunday School or volunteering in an inner city mission into marketable job skills! I smiled at first, then got irritated at the absurdity of it all. It starts so soon in America.

Jesus reminds us that God has a way of turning pride upside down. He brings down the lofty in His time. Self-promotion only works to a point in mankind’s decaying institutions! The most pride-filled and self-absorbed being in the universe (Satan, who aspired to be like God on His throne) is cast down and already doomed on this earth. He is still a hard worker. I am sure he pads his resume. Because Satan is at work with pride as his motivation, we are already at high risk when pride is the train we board for the destination of happiness. Jesus pretty much guarantees us with this statement that we won’t be ultimately satisfied. We will derail.

Humility is the path to satisfaction in life. I have to believe that. It is about hearing one rewarding statement at the end of my life: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord.” It is that line that has me willing to step back and to play may bit part. Jesus has the lead role. We are all just supporting players in the powerful drama of redemption that ends with a new heavens and a new earth, the home of righteousness.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Superlative in the Gospel Narrative

worship field As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

Luke 13:17

When describing the work and wonder of Jesus, Luke slips into praiseful superlatives. How else are you going to describe the ministry of God on earth? Three times in this simple, short verse Luke uses the superlative “all” in reference to Jesus and each one magnifies the other exponentially.

This section of Luke mingles the teaching of the kingdom with various miracles and confrontations with those who oppose Jesus. It is a unique feature of the gospel of Luke. And pause is made to describe the combined effect of what Jesus has done. The three “all”s are worth examination.

The first “all” is in reference to the adversaries of Jesus. His teaching and work effectively silenced their critical statements and actions. Not one effort succeeded against Him. All of them failed. Luke says they were put to shame, the ultimate defeat in shame-based Eastern culture. That is because the truth is self-authenticating in Jesus. HE IS THE TRUTH. He is unique in that way.

The second superlative is in reference to the crowds around the Lord. Every one of them was impressed. Jesus made an impact on every person in the crowd. They could not deny it. The result was praise. All the people rejoiced. That is one of the proofs of Christ’s deity. God demands praise from us. He will not let us praise another. And when God is present, glory is drawn to Him. Jesus was a magnet for both joy and praise.

The final “all” describes Jesus’ work and ministry. All his works are called “glorious”. The glory of God is revealed in all the work of Christ. The crowds saw this, which is why they worshiped. I see this right now and praise my Lord.

Jesus is worthy of praise. His glorious work is completely the work of God. And He draws praise to Himself by displaying God’s glory. Everything He has done for me is glorious and I will join the marveling crowds who worship Jesus!

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Where My Treasure Is

metal detector 4002 Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

I am tempted to want

the next new thing

The Lord is my shepherd

I shall not want

Shiny new trinkets blind

me to the big string

attached to them is a price

my heart follows them

I am tempted to go

to a new grazing ground

But He makes me lie down

in pastures green

The places of this world

dull my soul to what I’ve found

in Jesus… I am a pilgrim

here to journey toward eternal joy

I am tempted to think

this noisy world is everything

But my shepherd rests my

soul by quiet streams

Abandoning my quest at heaven

stupidly exchanges sewage for His bright spring

And I will keep my passion fixed

on my Savior and my home in Glory

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Monday, January 11, 2010

Prayer between friends

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.

Luke 11:9-10

knock on door

Jesus, by His example and in His teaching, shows us that prayer involves effort and hard work. That is the point of the short parable in Luke 11:5-13. The focus is that the person in need makes effort to request from someone who should care for him. I love it that the parable is about a friend in need going to another friend who can help. Even in an inconvenient time, friendship overrides the difficulty. The point is that God will treat His people like His friends.

Jesus tells this tale to make the point that relationship drives two things in prayer. First, it drives the Father to concern because “he is his friend.” God acts out of love when He responds to our prayers. It is not formulaic. It is relational. And that is often forgotten in our mundane and routine thoughts about prayer.

The second observation about prayer involves our effort in praying. It involves active commitment on our part, It is an asking, which is the basis of request prayer. It is seeking which brings with it the need to be worshipful and have an attitude of respectful expectation. And it is knocking, indicating that sometimes we have to stay at the task until the door that is between us and our Friend is opened and the answer is given.

Jesus teaches that prayer with God as our friend is a rewarding relationship. God hears us. When we ask, we receive an answer. When we seek God, He never hides from us and we will find Him. When we knock at His door, He is always ready to open to His children, not because He is obligated to us, but because He loves those who respectfully come to Him as to their eternal Friend.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

2do lite app

Testing this for New Year's productivity.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod Touch

Blogging on my iPod

Just had to test this. My world is getting too connected.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPod Touch

Thursday, January 7, 2010


Then turning to the disciples he said privately, "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it."

Luke 10:23-24

Jesus_Smiling These words from Jesus served notice to His disciples that they were a unique generation. They were getting something in relationship with Him that many others in Israel had longed for. And Jesus was the big blessing that so many wanted to see and they were with constantly.

These words were directed to His disciples after they had completed an intense round of service. Luke details the assignment: Seventy-two followers of Jesus were commissioned by Him to go ahead of Him into the towns and villages in pairs to do His work. They preached the kingdom, healed the sick, and trusted in God to provide for them from village to village. And these itinerate preachers returned with remarkable stories of spiritual victory (Luke 10:17). Jesus rejoices with them and reminds them of the real things to rejoice over in their relationship with the Father (Luke 10:20).

There is a beautiful prayer in Luke 10:21-22 that proceeds the blessing of the disciples. In this prayer, Jesus praises the Father for His sovereign choice of these simple men (He calls them “little children”) to do the work of the kingdom. These “little children” had been given profound revelation! And they had experienced the same sort of results in their preaching of the gospel that Jesus Himself had experienced. They were becoming like their teacher. That was the goal of discipleship (see Luke 6:40).

And the privileges continue. Today, I am part of a generation of Christians who are called to proclaim the gospel with just as much authority and clarity as these disciples had. And lives are changed by Jesus today. Spiritual victories are wrought by the hand of God. The kingdom of God advances in the lives of people who come to Christ and become His followers. And the privilege of doing this work is beyond description. It is eternal. It is focused on the glory of Almighty God and the loving atoning work of His Son on the cross. It has power over death itself because of the resurrection of Christ. It shakes down the foundations of the gates of hell and sets captives free from the chains of sin. I can think of nothing more important, or more potent than this.

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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No Turning Back

walking plow 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 9:61-62

I stand with hand to the plow

the work ahead

needs focus on You, Lord

I am not sure how

I’ll earn my bread

but You will supply, Lord

You warned against looking back

I’d be unfit to enter into

Your kingdom of holiness

So fixed on You and on the attack

I move forward looking through

distractions to Your infinite worthiness

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Family Resemblance

But he answered them, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it."

Luke 8:21

family distractions Jesus came to bring God followers into His family. He was so motivated by this vision for reconciliation of mankind with the Father that He was compelled to describe these people as the real family to whom He belonged. This lesson should not get lost as some hard saying of Jesus. He did not feel contempt for His earthly mother and brothers. But He knew the real relationship existed with His heavenly Father. And those who obeyed the Word of God and lived it were God’s children’s. That made them real family.

It is faith in Christ that creates real kinship in the kingdom. If this was true for Jesus, it is also true for us… disciples live by the Word of God and evidence it in obedience. That change makes a fundamental difference and is the spiritual DNA that binds together the family of God in Christ. If I want to be close to Jesus, I need to be an obedient disciple. Following Christ by following the Word is the key to showing the family resemblance.

Sometimes the American evangelical church has misunderstood the role of the family. We have at times fostered a “family-olatry” that is disturbing to observe. It excludes single people from the body life of the church when all they hear are messages on parenting, marriage, or the home. After all, Jesus was single. How many marriage conferences did He attend? And He is the one who draws us all together.

I know why we have done this. American culture is ravaging the family as God designed it. But making the human family all that the church concentrates upon is not the answer. It starts with people as messed up as they are, but who are redeemed by the transforming grace of God. Then it teaches them what God says in His Word so that they can personally grow close to Jesus. The answer is to build individual disciples who are part of a bigger family… people about whom Jesus would unashamedly proclaim: “These are my mother and my sisters and my brothers.”

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Monday, January 4, 2010

Love Much

Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven---for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little.

Luke 7:47

at her masters feet Luke 7 tells the story of a woman whose sins were great, but her love fo Jesus was greater. The greatest love this woman had was for her Savior. And it showed. She was controversial in her love for Jesus. At the home of Simon the Pharisee, she interrupted a social dinner with two prominent men to weep at the feet of Jesus, wash His feet with her expensive ointment (earned no doubt from the activities of prostitution, according to the text), and dry them with her hair. This certainly raised the eyebrows of Jesus’ self-righteous host.

Jesus tells the story of the two debtors. One owed much, the other a little, and when their boss chose to relieve the debt of them both, it was the greater debtor who was most grateful. This was what was going on with this woman. She is going to be forgiven much by Jesus (Luke 7:48) and her grateful appreciation and worship was unashamedly, even outrageously unrestrained.

Jesus saw her wild praise and love as an act of faith (Luke 7:50) and remarked on its outcome toward her salvation. It was not slavish devotion to the added requirements of legalistic religion that saved her. She had probably broken more commandments than anyone else in the room. It was her worship of her savior, her sacrificial repentance, and her unrestrained love that showed her faith in Jesus. She knew He was in town. She found out where He was eating. She made the scene out of sheer faith, repentance, and love for the Lord. And that was evidence of her saving faith in Christ.

For those who want to say that faith is a private matter, I look to this unnamed woman. She gave Jesus her uninhibited devotion. She was not ashamed to be controversially repentant. And she did so as a public matter. All knew her a sinner. All would know her as that wild repentant woman! She lowered herself to serve the One Who came to serve. And her sins were forgiven, her faith had saved her, and Jesus gave her a peace no other earthly attempt at love had ever given her.