Category Archives: Luke

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.

The Big Event – God Bless Choosing Yes

Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son.

This journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem is so romanticized [make something seem better or more appealing than it really is]. In my mind it’s a serenely beautiful story of a faithful man and a very pregnant woman traveling at an inconvenient time. I see the image in my mind of them traveling alone on that road to Bethlehem carried along by the promises given by angels that the coming “holy Child shall be called the Son of God”  That image is further supported by many movies and books…but…

Then I started pondering the bottom line of what makes their story real…and beautiful too. Did they realize the birth was that close? What was the trail like? How far could they go in a day? Where did they sleep? How did they cook? What did they eat? How did they manage the required ritual cleansing? What about sanitation? Weren’t there many other people and animals on the same trail?

I don’t know any of those answers but here’s what I do know…Mary and Joseph were real people, in real circumstances with real choices. Each chose to believe their own promise received from an angel despite the impossible circumstances. They chose to obey the law of their heritage and go to the city of David to do what was required of them despite the timing. They chose to be obedient even when they others would say they had no choice in the matter. .

Their lives were filled with legitimate opportunities and reasons to say “no” to  circumstances beyond their control but instead they chose to say “yes” to  God.   God bless choosing “yes.”

The Big Event – God Bless YOU + Jesus

Luke 2:8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord…15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about… 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

These shepherds weren’t wise men. They were barely even acceptable. They couldn’t possibly observe the rules of cleanliness living as they did. They lived on the edge of religious society because they were unfit. They lived on the edge of danger because of the predators that threatened them and the flocks they were protecting and they lived isolated lives on the edge of town. It’s no wonder they were terrified when suddenly all around them there was inexplicable light and sound.

The revelation of the centerpiece of God’s plan was given to those who were unfit, at risk and isolated. That’s how God still works today. Do you remember how God first got your attention? You will certainly have a much less dramatic story than this revelation to the shepherds but the fact is their story is ours. Our heritage was not the intimacy God intended at creation but of our descent from Adam. God determined he would pull his creation back from the edge of life’s circumstances to that first-love intimacy with him and give them “good news that will cause great joy for all the people.”

God chose to reveal the centerpiece of his plan, a Savior, to YOU…of “all people!…” to give YOU the joy of intimacy with him so YOU might desire to …”go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about,”…again this year. God really meant Jesus, the Big Event, to be all about YOU. God bless YOU + Jesus.

Repent, Pray and Remember

Luke 22:39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” 43 An angel from heaven appeared to him and strengthened him. 44 And being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground. 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them.

This is our Savior…sweating blood…in anguish…pleading with God to tell him if there’s any other way. This is our Savior completely aware of just how bad it will be to be punished for our sin. This is our Savior who’s repeated concern is still that his disciples “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.”

It’s heartbreaking to read later in Luke 22:61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.

The rooster’s crow confirmed the worst…the Lord’s prediction had come true. They’d all fallen away…and Jesus was going to pay for it.

Repent, pray and remember… Jesus paid for you too.

Repentance of Expectations

Mark 11:9 Those who went ahead and those who followed shouted, “Hosanna!” “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 10 “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!” 11 Jesus entered Jerusalem and went into the temple courts. He looked around at everything, but since it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

This is probably one of the most familiar Biblical stories associated with the week leading up to Easter Sunday. I’m sure you know it. There was the donkey, a prophetic symbol, the ride of choice for a king coming in peace. The cheering crowd confirming that Jesus’s ministry was spreading and the palm branches were the modern-day equivalent of their rolling out the red carpet for him.

The details of this story in the four Gospels vary a bit but the main idea is the same; Jesus’s determination to begin his final confrontation with sin in the city of peace, Jerusalem. “As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.’ ” Luke 19

Jesus knew exactly what that triumphal entry was really about. The crowd’s Hosannas weren’t at all shouts of praise as I’ve come to think of them. They were cries of it’s literal meaning; “help” or “save, I pray” from people longing for Jesus to prove himself as the conquering Messiah they expected. That conflict between Jesus’s determination and their expectations explains why a short five days later their cries had changed from Hosanna to “crucify him.”

Thank God for this Palm Sunday reminder…sometimes repentance includes surrendering my expectations of how Jesus should prove himself to me and celebrate that he already has. Hosanna!