Category Archives: Luke

Todays Word – Watch

Watch: look at or observe attentively over a period of time.

On one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, 2 and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. 3 Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat. 4 And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” 5 And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” 6 And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. 7 They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. 8 But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” 9 For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him. Luke 5:1-11 ESV

There is a qualifying phrase from my inspiration passage in Matthewa for the word watch:“Watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace.” 

On one occasion,
while the crowd was pressing in on him
to hear the word of God,
by the lake of Gennesaret,
[Jesus] saw two boats by the lake
and he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

There’s a unique twist to this story that goes beyond a crowd of people that want to hear what Jesus has to say. They’ve come on this scene of tired fishermen wrapping up an unsuccessful day’s work. Jesus choosing to get into an empty boat seems like an intrusive move. The scripture indicates Simon and his crew end up in the boat with Jesus. I’m guessing they wanted to protect their property.  I am an observer watching to see how the end result of this story will show me the “unforced rhythms of grace” for a few tired men.  

I wish the story had told me what Jesus taught from the boat.  What did those fishermen know about Jesus and his ministry?  From their perspective they saw a crowd pressing in.  They saw Jesus climb into their boat.  For whatever reason, they came running and did what He asked and pushed out into the lake.  They heard the words Jesus spoke. It was probably those words and the two boatloads of fish that got their attention. Jesus often seems to work using circumstances and the powerful words  to accomplish the impossible.  “Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”  The unforced rhythms of grace happen when we watch what Jesus does.  That’s what makes us aware of our sin so we begin to feel the fear of how it separates us from Him.  We don’t need a boatload of blessings or the special words we may hear to turn our circumstances into a testimony.  We need Jesus in our presence.  Jesus says “Watch what I do.a

aMatthew 11:28-30 MSG

A Wake Up Call to Wonder – Luke 2:8-12

Luke 2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.  9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.  10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.  12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

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As I read this passage from Luke I couldn’t help but compare that first Christmas to today.  “Normal” Christmas is filled with a lot of beautiful imagery that fills my head.  Today as I reread the actual circumstances of that night, I’ve been reminded this is not a “normal” year and Advent this year is not just a preparation, it’s a wake-up call to “Wonder.”  Centuries of hindsight have eclipsed the realities of that night in the middle of nowhere when the Glory of the Lord lit up the sky for a very frightened group of shepherds.  Their story has become a window for us to see that while God chose to send them His promise  in a frightening blaze of holiness, they responded to the wonder of God in an ordinary way despite their fear and the harsh realities of their circumstances.  That is what has given them their special place in our history.  

The story of the birth of “a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” triggers beautiful romantic images for me of a newborn baby with a halo of light about His head.   I hear the romance of my own history in the angel’s words “Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”  The circumstances of Advent in the Year of our Lord, 2020 have reminded me God chose to fulfill the dramatic promise from the angel in what appeared to be a far more ordinary way.   “And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.”  That still matters.

There’s an old story of a European ruler who would sneak away and walk among his people incognito.  It drove his security people nuts but his response was “I cannot rule my people unless I know how they live.”   The reality of the ordinary birth of Jesus Christ is that God found a way to walk among His people “incognito.”  Christmas began with what appeared to be an ordinary baby…wrapped in ordinary swaddling clothes…from ordinary parents…in an ordinary stable…for ordinary people.

God has triumphed through the ordinary record of Luke’s story to remind me He will redeem Christmas again this year.  During these last few days of Advent, despite the harsh realities of darkness, pain and loss, the Wonder of God can still appear in the reality of the ordinary and encourage us to respond.  “And this shall be a sign unto you…”

• Ordinary Christmas lights twinkling everywhere as a visible reminder “the glory of the Lord shone round about them.”
• The ordinary music of Christmas audibly breaking through the noise of life with different angelic words that remind us to respond “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”
• The ordinary seasonal 
“Merry Christmas” greeting taking on new meaning this year as a way for us to remind each other to “Fear not,” God is with us.
• Ah, and those bell-ringers with red kettles are surely angels of God that remind us that He will turn what appears to be an ordinary gift into into “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.”

The Third Chapter – Luke

Luke 3:10 And the crowds asked him, “What then shall we do?” 11 And he answered them, “Whoever has two tunics is to share with him who has none, and whoever has food is to do likewise.” 12 Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.” 14 Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.” 15 As the people were in expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Christ, 16 John answered them all, saying, “I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” 18 So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.  ESV

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This is the question of the day: “What then shall we do?”  

That question is an admirable testament to the remnant of a holy nature within us that wants answers to guide us.  There’s another part of our nature that is frustrated by living in an upside-down world and continually having to ask “what then shall we do?” Luke gives clear answers for practical people.  “Doing” is important but God is calling us to seek our true answer “in expectation.” He is going to accomplish His plans by something much bigger than “doing” alone can accomplish.  He is going to teach us to “be.”  What we do can change the world around us because of this truth: “His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn…So with many other exhortations he preached good news to the people.”

Here is the BEST good news ever for those who choose to live “in expectation.”  You are the wheat He has gathered!   “Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.”a  What turns the wheat into bread?  It is pounded and ground ’til it’s fine, then it’s mixed and it’s shaped to the baker’s design…you’ll be my bread in this world.  Love, Jesus and Shirle

a Matthew 26:26

 

Doctrine to Comfort

NRSV Matthew 12:29 Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his property, without first tying up the strong man? Then indeed the house can be plundered. 30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. 

NRSV Mark 9:38 John said to him, “Teacher, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he was not following us.” 39 But Jesus said, “Do not stop him; for no one who does a deed of power in my name will be able soon afterward to speak evil of me. 40 Whoever is not against us is for us. 

NRSV Luke 9:49 John answered, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in your name, and we tried to stop him, because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not stop him; for whoever is not against you is for you.”

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After reading several versions of these passages and looking at commentaries written by people at various levels of prestige from St. Augustine to names I didn’t recognize this is my #1 question.  Is Jesus speaking more about people outside the disciple’s experience of faith rather than those in opposition to Jesus?  Is Jesus challenging us to check the balance of our focus on the relationship between doctrine and comfort?

Apparently doctrine is an age-old conflict.  What if Jesus is speaking of people who operate outside the body of faith as we know it but don’t actually oppose Him?  What if Jesus’ emphasis is about “tying up the strong man” with dependence on doctrine, rather than Himself.   Can that be what makes the “strong man’s house” vulnerable to plunder?  What if these three passages reveal the very words of Jesus that lead us from doctrine to comfort?

That makes sense to me when I read the Mark and Luke versions of this passage.  I feel like I can read between the lines of John’s words in Mark.  Sure the man is “casting out demons in your name” but how can what he’s doing possibly be OK “because he was not following us”?  John’s concern for the corporate integrity of their ministry was real.  Jesus matches his assurance to John with the same group-inclusive pronoun, “us.”  “Whoever is not against US is for US.”  

John’s invested his own life and identity in Jesus’ ministry.  Jesus knew the question of integrity was still very personal to John.  John’s own conflict was finding the comfort between doing things the way they “should” be done [doctrine?] and his commitment to the ministry of Jesus.  Jesus words from Luke challenged John to move from doctrine to the exclusive assurance of comfort of a personal pronoun, “you.’  “Whoever is not against YOU is for YOU.”

Second Chance: Luke 2

√ Re·new·al: the replacing or repair of something that is worn out, run-down, or broken

Three Circumstances:
The census of the Roman world replaced the legal status of Joseph and Mary as individuals and recognized them as a couple.  The shepherds became the first witnesses of God’s own testimony proclaiming a Holy purpose for their lives, renewal through the birth of Jesus. The ancient ceremonies observed for Jesus’s birth THEN have been renewed through His life.  They’ve become modern day testimonies for us NOW of the reality of God’s Holy purpose for our life…Renewal

CIRCUMCISION THEN • Luke 2:21 “Eight days later, when the baby was circumcised, he was named Jesus, the name given him by the angel even before he was conceived”
NOW • Colossians 2:9 “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity  lives in bodily form, 10 and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. 11 In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands.”

REDEMPTION THEN • Luke 2:22 “When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord…4 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons”
NOW • Galatians 2:20 “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”

DEDICATION THEN • Luke 2:34 “Then Simeon blessed them, and he said to Mary, the baby’s mother, “This child is destined to cause many in Israel to fall, and many others to rise”
NOW • Romans 12:1 “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

The Firsts – Luke

Luke 1:1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught

This chapter’s recent history as part of the Christmas celebration gave me pause as I began.  The familiarity of these beautiful Christmas passages can make it easy to overlook other details.  I read the chapter several times before something caught my eye.  The angel brings up the Holy Spirit when he introduces Mary to what God has in mind for her but the Holy Spirit “filling” John, Elizabeth and Zechariah is a big truth that got lost for me in the familiar.

*15… he [John the Baptist] will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. 16 He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God.
*41 When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.
*67 His [John’s] father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied

It makes so much sense now that I’ve noticed that truth.  The main characters of this unlikely mystery were given the verification of one Spirit to another.   The Holy Spirit was a work of God in the flesh for them that knit them together in unique kind of baptism of spiritual recognition. 

This is truth for us today too.  Living a life of faith is still a mystery of God that only becomes recognizable to the eye or mind when the Holy Spirit verifies itself in the flesh, one to another. 

Because of the Baby!

II Corinthians 13:11 Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.  12 Greet one another with a holy kiss. 13 All God’s people here send their greetings.  14 May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. Luke 2:11

 

Focus of Preparation

•Luke 9:1 When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, 2 and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick. 3 He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.
•Matthew 4:3 The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” 4 Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. [Deut. 8:3]’”

Jesus was sending his disciples out for a very special purpose.  That didn’t just happen, it took time to prepare. That’s what makes his instructions to the disciples so interesting. “He sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” He told them: “Take nothing for the journey—no staff, no bag, no bread, no money, no extra shirt.” It seems like comfort and convenience weren’t to be a part of their preparation. I wondered about the “no” parts.

The disciples were prepared to go out to “proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal the sick”  but why not send them out with those small things that could give them comfort and convenience?  Did Jesus have in mind his own experience of being tempted in the wilderness as he gave them those instructions?  His own temptation had not been about hunger at all. The tempter had used comfort and convenience in his failed attempt to entice Jesus to settle for any means to an end and become a “convenient” Messiah.

Jesus still wants his disciple’s focus of preparation to be on proclaiming the truth that protected him from the temptation to settle for any means to an end – the word of God.  “Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.”  There’s bread enough to last until tomorrow morning.  I invite you to check back then for fresh Maundy Thursday Bread.

Commentary

-Mark 12:30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

-Matthew 22:37 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.

-Luke 10:27…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, Love your neighbor as yourself.

These three New Testament Scripture passages all quote Jesus speaking words that would have been familiar to his Jewish hearers, the Shema. They’re words still used repeatedly in Jewish prayers. They all include loving God with your heart and soul which seems obvious. The inclusion of mind and/or strength is the variant that got my attention.  I understand the access to mind and strength more than I do heart and soul.

This is the age-old debate: Is it strength of commitment or the exercise of the mind that fills the heart and soul? How do we figure out what’s required of us to prove our sincerity?  It would seem even these Bible authors had their own opinion on that.  Mind and strength? Mind? Strength? Do I have to choose one or the other?

Hillel was a famous religious leader in Jewish history. He was asked to recite the whole law for a dedicated student who would prove his sincerity and his physical strength by listening to it all while standing on one leg. That’s a funny mind picture isn’t it?  Hillel’s short answer was probably pretty welcome to him; “What thou hatest for thyself, do not to thy neighbour. This is the whole law, the rest is commentary. Go and learn.”

This is the whole law…“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul…”   Now go find a comfortable spot, read, study and think.  God will begin to write his whole commentary in your mind and on your heart to strengthen your soul

Practice…Justice and juror

Justice: to support fair treatment and due reward.

This simple word pair, Justice and jurors was selected at the end of January to be my topic for this post. It’s coincided with the heartbreaking reality of the latest mass shooting of innocent young people and teachers this week in Parkland, Florida. I know I can trust God’s ultimate Justice [with a capital J] but I’m struggling to understand man’s priority of justice right now that allows assault weapons even to exist. To own an assault weapon is NOT a right. The right to own any gun is NOT more important than a life…EVER! There are no circumstances when those statements are not true, even with the assurance of personal rights to own a gun.

Luke 18:1 Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up. 2 He said: “In a certain town there was a judge who neither feared God nor cared what people thought. 3 And there was a widow in that town who kept coming to him with the plea, ‘Grant me justice against my adversary.’ 4 “For some time he refused. But finally he said to himself, ‘Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, 5 yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!’” 6 And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says. 7 And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? 8 I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?”

Each of us now find ourself in the position of having been designated one of the jurors: one of a group of persons sworn to deliver a verdict in a case submitted to them. Is owning a gun specifically designed to automate the killing of people more important than life?

What this widow was showing us is persistence and prayer are what we’ve been given to arm ourselves  against judges that seem to fear the loss of guns more than the loss of life. “For some time he [the judge] refused. But finally he said to himself, Even though I don’t fear God or care what people think, yet because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won’t eventually come and attack me!”… And the Lord said, “Listen to what the unjust judge says…”

Contact your Congressmen  [click this link to find yours], share this post, speak to your friends and family whether or not they are gun owners. All the necessary evidence is already in. We know everything we need to know. Innocent people are dead! It’s time for a verdict of NO ASSAULT WEAPONS. Let’s persist with what we’ve been given to fight back with: prayer, the phone and the post office.