Friday, February 29, 2008

Luke Chapter Eighteen

Reading: Luke 18.1-43

The blind receive sight, the poor and children find easy access into the kingdom, and a widow receives justice. Tell me, blog readers, which of these is your favorite story? Which challenges you? I'm interested in your thoughts too.

Scripture: But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, "God, have mercy on me, a sinner." I tell you that this man, rather than the [Pharisee], went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted. - Luke 18.13-14

Observations: Over and over again we see Jesus' concern for the weakest of society and his prophetic anger toward those who are on the top of the heap. In this one chapter we see him point out the injustices of the powerful (judge), the pride of the self-righteous (Pharisee), the trappings of wealth (rich young ruler), and the unconcern for the littlest and disabled (his disciples and the crowd). At the same time we see his incredible heart for those whom society tends to ignore.

The gospel is incredibly personal, for each of us must come to grips with Jesus. But those who find the gospel for themselves must be the good news for those whom society overlooks. Therefore, the gospel is also incredibly social.

Each of these stories calls us to see ourselves in them. We are to pray persistently for justice because God cares about justice, unlike the judge who responded simply to get rid of an annoying woman. We are to humble ourselves before God, unlike the self-righteous Pharisee. And we are to come to God empty-handed, like children, like the poor, and like the blind beggar, for it is only in our emptiness that God can fill our lives with things that are of eternal value. And it is only in our spiritual emptiness that we can see the truly empty with the compassion and concern for justice that Jesus has.

Prayer: Jesus, I fill my life with so many things expecting that each of them will bring me more happiness only to find out that those very things end up crowding out the One who is most important to me. Forgive me and help me to learn what it means to be spiritually empty, hungry, and poor so that I can be filled with more of You and be more concerned for those who truly are empty, hungry and poor.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Luke Chapter Seventeen

Reading: Luke 17.1-37

Scripture: Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, "The coming of the kingdom of God is not something that can be observed, nor will people say, 'Here it is,' or 'There it is,' because the Kingdom of God is in your midst." Luke 17.20-21, TNIV

Observations: The Pharisees expected the messianic kingdom to be a visible kingdom where the Jews in Israel would return to a place of power and prominence. They had such clear expectations of what they thought would happen based on their interpretation of the prophets that they missed the true Messiah when he was in their midst.

Jesus went on to tell his disciples of a future day of judgment that would come unexpectedly, but before that day would come Jesus would have to suffer and be rejected by his generation. But judgment would happen when people lest expect it to come.

Apply: If the Pharisees who could quote the scriptures by memory got it wrong about the messianic kingdom, I have to be humble when it comes to my understanding of scripture, especially when it comes to things yet to come in the future. I try to avoid being too dogmatic about things that are supposed to be a mystery. One thing is for certain, the end will come for all of us, and it could come suddenly. That is a morbid thought, but the comforting thought is knowing that when the kingdom of God is "within" a person the future is not to be feared.

Pray: Jesus, I don't know what the future holds, but help me to hold onto you no matter what comes with the peace of knowing that you will never let go of your own.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Luke Chapter Sixteen

Reading: Luke 16.1-31

Scripture: The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings. Luke 16.8-10

Observations: This is a confusing story. Is Jesus praising dishonesty? Is he saying that the ends justify the means? This sounds like the story of Robin Hood.

It is important to note that Luke 16 is all about money. It begins with this parable about the shrewd manager and it closes with a parable about a rich man and Lazarus with some comments about money grubbing Pharisees and keeping the law in the kingdom of God in the middle. Obviously, if adultery is still adultery in the kingdom (v.18), stealing is still stealing. Jesus was not condoning the shrewd managers thievery, but his shrewdness. Jesus was pointing out that even a crook can figure out that money is better spent making others happy than on squandering it (remember he was fired for wasting the master's money). And if such a lousy person can understand that his life is better when he gives money away, why can't the people of the light manage to get it right?

Apply: Jesus talked about money and caring for the poor more than any other subject. We can't serve both God and Money. Earthly money is a small pittance compared to eternal treasure. Use your money to make eternal investments by helping people see the generosity of Jesus through the generosity of his followers.

Prayer: Lord, help me to spend my money in ways that will bring people closer to Jesus.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Luke Chapter Fifteen

Reading: Luke 15.1-32

Scripture: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him...But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found. Luke 15.20, 32

: Is there a more beautiful portrayal of the heart of God than this chapter? This description of God was so important that Jesus told the same story three different ways. A shepherd, a woman, and an elderly father are all pictures of a God who wants, more than anything, to recover those who are lost. It is about God who seeks, who finds, and who extravagantly celebrates. It is about repentance. And, sadly, it is also about the brooding son who missed out on the celebration because of his selfishness and pride.

: When commenting on the compassion of God as expressed in this chapter, Bill Hybels says, "You have never locked eyes with someone who Jesus doesn't love." How differently will we treat others when we see them as Jesus does? No one is beyond hope, it is never too late to turn back to God, and all the angels in heaven join in the celebration when someone returns.

: Lord, let me see others with the eyes of God who loves them and who wants, more than anything, to throw a party to welcome them home.

Luke Chapter Fourteen

Reading:  Luke 14.1-35

Scripture:  The servant returned and told his master what they had said.  His master was furious and said, "Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame."  After the servant had done this, he reported, "There is still room for more."  So his master said, "Go out into the country lanes and behind the hedges and urge anyone you find to come, so that the house will be full.  For none of those I first invited will get even the smallest taste of my banquet."  - Luke 14.21-24, NLT

Observations:  Jesus is invited to a banquet for the "respectable" Jewish elite whereupon he observes the guests positioning for the best seats.  He teaches them a lesson on humility (v.11), then he gives an even deeper lesson on generosity (12-14).  Then, when one of these privileged guests at the fancy dinner makes the statement about the Messianic feast to come in the kingdom of God, Jesus responds with this story about guests who are invited to a great banquet but find lame excuses to come to the banquet, and so the master opens the invitation to the poor, crippled, blind and lame; and when that doesn't fill all the seats, the messengers are sent out to compel anyone who could come.  
 The meaning was clear to all who heard the story.  The Jewish elite who thought they had the inside track to God's kingdom were rejecting Christ's invitation to grace, and the door was being thrown wide open for the outcasts and underclass.  The implication is that the invitation would also be extended to those who were far away, meaning the Gentiles. 

Apply:  People find the lamest excuses to avoid Jesus' loving invitation to God's grace, especially those who believe they have better things to do.  It is those who know they need God that are most willing to accept the invitation of grace.  Pride is our biggest roadblock to experiencing life with God.

Pray:  Lord, may I be humble enough to accept your grace.  And may I be willing to go out into the "highways and byways" to extend your invitation to all.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Luke Chapter Thirteen

Reading:  Luke 13.1-35

Scripture:  At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, "Leave this place and go somewhere else.  Herod wants to kill you."  He replied, "Go tell that fox, 'I will drive out demons and heal people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.'" - Luke 13.31-32

Observations:  I find it interesting that the Pharisees are concerned for Jesus' well-being after all the confrontations they have had with him.  And, I find it interesting that Jesus doesn't directly confront Herod as John the Baptist did, but neither does he cower from Herod's threats.  This interchange between Jesus and the Pharisees regarding Herod reveals the oppressive conditions of the Roman Empire in the province of Israel.  The chapter begins with news of an incident to the north in Galilee where Pilot killed Jewish worshippers and it ends in Jerusalem with Herod plotting to kill Jesus.  So, as much as the Pharisees may have disliked Jesus' interpretations of the Torah, they feared the heavy hand of Herod more.  They didn't want Jesus to stir up problems in Jerusalem because of the fallout to them and all Jews if Jesus stirs up trouble there.
 Jesus' approach to the politics of his day was neither to revolt against the political oppressors, as the Zealots wanted to do, nor did he pacify them, as the Sadducees were prone to do.  He didn't go out to the wilderness and create a monastic community, as did the Essenes, nor did he fully subscribe to the idea that God would come and rescue them in some apocalyptic event if only they would get right with God, as the Pharisees believed. Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is not like the kingdoms of this world.  Rather it is like a mustard seed that spreads like a bad weed and like yeast that infects a batch of dough.  Jesus ignored the politics of his day because, for Jesus, the kingdom of God had arrived and was demonstrated by his incarnation, his miracles, his teaching, and his imminent suffering and resurrection. 

Apply:  The kingdom of God has come to into this world in the person of Jesus. The kingdom of God comes to us when we surrender to the rule and reign of Jesus in our lives.  The fullness of God's kingdom is yet to be realized, but now is the time to live as citizens of that kingdom.  It doesn't matter who is in political power or under what form of government one lives, the kingdom of God moves forward not because of earthly politics, but in spite of them.  

Pray:  Jesus, may your kingdom come, may your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.  

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Luke Chapter Twelve

Reading:  Luke 12.1-59

Scripture:  "When you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities, do not worry about how you will defend yourselves or what you will say, for the Holy Spirit will teach you at that time what you should say."  Luke 12:11  
And also, "Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.  Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."  Luke 12.34

Observations:  Luke's gospel paints a picture of Jesus that is far different than the meek and mild Jesus that most of us learned about in Sunday School.  His harsh words against the Pharisees, his stern warnings about hypocrisy, greed and spiritual slothfulness, and his predictions about the divisions and persecution that would come to his followers give us a window into the volatile setting of the New Testament world.  
Luke was the Apostle Paul's traveling companion and he witnessed the very kinds of persecution that Jesus predicted. Notice He says "when" not "if" you are brought before synagogues, rulers and authorities.  Luke stayed a faithful companion to Paul throughout his years of imprisonment long after others had deserted him (2 Tim. 4:11).  Hard times call for deep commitment. Persecution followed the spread of the gospel because it was so antithetical to the controlling powers of the kingdoms of this world.  But Jesus' followers are to seek first God's kingdom and treasure the things that are of eternal worth.

Apply:  The kingdoms of this world will always pressure us to trade our eternal treasures for temporary pleasures.  Let the parable of the Rich Fool (vs. 13-21) remind us of how futile it is to spend our lives just to store up treasures on earth.  

Prayer:  Jesus, help me to find my greatest pleasure in pleasing you.  May I remember that living simply and serving others is the way to true riches. 

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Luke Chapter Eleven

Reading:  Luke 11.1-54

Scripture:  One day Jesus was praying in a certain place. When he finished, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples."  Luke 11:1

Observations: I am intrigued by Jesus' prayer life.  Apparently his disciples were too.  Jesus prayed differently than the common ways his followers had learned to pray.  What was different about Jesus' prayers?  When asked to teach them to pray, Jesus told his disciples to begin with, "Father..."  In our English translation, the word "father" seems somewhat formal, not too many of us talk to our dads by using that term.  When Jesus taught them to use the common term for "father" as we would use "dad" or "daddy" in their prayers, it opened a whole new understanding of the intimate relationship he, the Son of God, had with his father; but what is most remarkable, was that he told his disciples that they could pray to God on such intimate terms too!

Apply:  When we struggle with how to pray or what to say, think about how you would talk to a parent who loves you unconditionally and wants the best for you.  Let God know your heart, and take time to listen to God's loving reply.

Prayer:  "My Father who is is heaven..."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Luke Chapter Ten

Reading:  Luke 10.1-42

Notice the theme that is woven through all three stories in this chapter.  

Scripture:  Then a despised Samaritan came along, and when he saw the man, he felt compassion for him.  Going over to him, the Samaritan soothed his wounds with olive oil and wine and bandaged them.  Then he put the man on his own donkey and took him to an inn, where he took care of him...  Luke 10:33-34

Observations:  What a masterful story!  Jesus was a genius (no kidding, Bill).  In the previous chapter we see Jesus' own disciples wanting to call fire down on a Samaritan village (9:54), and here Jesus tells a story in which a Samaritan, not the Jewish religious professionals, is the hero of the tale.  It is also interesting in the next story that it is a woman "sitting at his feet" as a disciple who is recognized as the one who is getting it right, not the one who is doing the culturally expected "woman's work."  Jesus was the ONLY Rabbi of his day who would have permitted a woman to be his disciple.  And, referring to the beginning of the chapter, who would have thought that a bunch of poor powerless (like lambs among wolves) pairs of people could be so miraculously used to be the front line messengers of the kingdom of God?

Apply:  Sometimes the truth is best conveyed in wit, irony, and satire.  Jesus was a great satirist who used stories, miracles, and provocative social interactions in order to break down the social and religious barriers to the gospel of the kingdom of God.  I wonder how often our religious traditions and cultural prejudices get in the way of the gospel?  

Prayer:  Jesus, help me to always have a heart that is open to the ever-reaching, ever-loving, ever-stretching gospel of the kingdom of God.

Luke Chapter Nine

Reading: Luke 9.1-62

Scripture: "If anyone wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross daily, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but are yourself lost or destroyed?" - Luke 9.23-25 (NLT)

Observations: In this chapter we see Jesus preparing his followers for the suffering that awaited him and for the sacrificial life that awaits those who carry the gospel of the kingdom of God. The chapter begins with the disciples being sent off to preach the kingdom of God and heal sick while taking nothing with them for the journey and the news that Herod, who beheaded John the Baptist, was now searching for Jesus. The chapter ends with disciples arguing about who would be the greatest, wanting to call fire down from heaven on the Samaritans, and Jesus describing the level of sacrifice his followers were expected to make. In other words, the disciples had a lot to learn.

Apply: I can’t help but compare Jesus’ call to selfless, cross-bearing, take-nothing-for-the-journey, no-place-to-lay-his-head discipleship with the follow-Jesus-and-you-can-have-it-all brand of Christianity. What Bible are those preachers reading! Sorry…I can’t help myself sometimes.

Prayer: Lord, I confess that I also want it all and Jesus too. Help me to hold loosely to the things of this life that do no last so that I may find deep meaning and true life. Forbid that I would gain the things that I cannot keep and end up losing what lasts forever.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Luke Chapter Eight

Reading:  Luke 8.1-56

Scripture:  But the seed in the good earth -- these are the good-hearts who seize the Word and hold on no mater what, sticking with it until there's a harvest.  Luke 8.15 (The Message)

Observations:  Jesus taught using stories that were simple to remember but sometimes difficult to understand.  In this parable we see that Jesus provides the meaning to his disciples who needed it spelled out to them clearly.  Simply put, he tells them that many hear the word of God but the devil, life's testing times and people's preoccupations with other things (busyness) prohibit the harvest that only perseverance over time can bring.  

Apply:  Although we don't live in an agricultural community, I can't help but think that this parable is even more relevant in our culture than it was back then.  How easily we can become distracted from the thing that is most important to us -- hearing and "sticking with" the message of Jesus!  How many people "try Jesus" as if they are trying a new diet only to quit before they see any results?  Following Jesus isn't a sprint, it's a lifelong journey, and only those who follow him for the long haul can get to experience the treasures of a life well-lived.

Prayer:  Lord, when the hot trials of life beat down upon my faith, or when my heart is being crowded by all the thorns of life, may I hang on to You no matter what.  

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Luke Chapter Seven

Reading:  Luke 7.1-50

Again, there is so much in this chapter to think about I had a hard time choosing.  I would like to hear from some of you who focused on other parts of the chapter.  What are some of your thoughts or prayers?  Here are my thoughts...

Scripture:  John the Baptist sent us to you to ask, "Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?" Luke 7.20

Observations:   John the Baptist had been languishing in prison since he boldly spoke out against Herod Antipas (Luke 3.19-20).  Although John had been confident of Jesus' identity as the Messiah, he now was needing reassurance, so he sent his disciples to Jesus to get some answers. Perhaps the loneliness of prison and fear that he may be killed caused John to doubt.  Or perhaps John was expecting Jesus to be more confrontational like he was, pronouncing judgment upon the sins of the king and the fallen nation.  The time for judgment, however, would come in due time, now was the time for salvation.  Jesus' answer to John pointed to the ways in which Jesus was doing the things that the prophet Isaiah said the Messiah would be doing: "The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, he deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor."  (See also Isaiah 35:5-6, 61:1) 

Apply:  Loneliness, fear, suffering, and persecution can cause the best of us to doubt our faith in Jesus. If Jesus came to set the prisoners free, why did John remain in prison?  We hear stories of the miracles Jesus does for others, but when they don't happen for us we begin to doubt.  When that happens it is good to remember that Jesus not only works through miracles, healings and help for the poor, he also works through suffering.  John the Baptist's preaching and subsequent persecution set the stage for the people to reject the world's kind of kingdom as typified by Herod and accept and enter the kind of kingdom as typified by Jesus the Messiah, the Kingdom of God.

Pray:  Jesus, when things don't go the way I expect them to go, or when you don't seem to fit my expectations, encourage me by helping me to remember the things you are about; and may I be willing to do whatever it takes for the others to see your kingdom on display in my life, whether in good times or in bad.  

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Luke Chapter Six

Reading:  Luke 6.1-49

Since I will be speaking on several of the other parts of this chapter in the current sermon series, "Things I wish Jesus Never Said," I decided to focus on the ongoing conflict between Jesus and the religious authorities.

Scripture:  The Pharisees and the teachers of the law were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal on the Sabbath.  But Jesus knew what they were thinking and said to the man with the shriveled hand, "Get up and stand in front of everyone." So he got up and stood there.
Then Jesus said to them, "I ask you, which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy it?"
He looked around at them all, and then said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." He did so, and his hand was completely restored. But they were furious and began to discuss with one another what they might do to Jesus.  Luke 6.7-11

Observations:  Does anyone think Jesus' use of sarcasm seems out of character?  It's one thing for him to reach out to the "tax collectors and sinners" with such mercy and grace, but does he really need to be so confounding to the "spiritual" folks?  Obviously, he does.  Jesus not only came to teach us what God is like, he also came to show us what God is NOT like. By knocking down the false props of bad religion Jesus is showing his followers how NOT to believe and behave.  

I can't help but mention v. 31.  It's probably the first verse I ever learned in Sunday School and it still speaks volumes to me today. This will go a long way to keep us from falling into the ways of bad religion: "Do to others as you would have them do to you."   

Apply:  Before we become too critical of the Pharisees, let's remember that they were the God fearing, church-going respectable crowd. What began as a desire to humbly please God subtly turned into prideful arrogance. Jesus said elsewhere that the attitude of the Pharisees spreads like yeast. We all are prone to spreading that kind of arrogance around. One writer has said that we should share Jesus as if we are merely one beggar telling another beggar where to find bread.

Prayer:  Forgive me, Lord, for turning your forgiveness and mercy in my life into a cause for pride and arrogance.  May I never forget that any change for the better in me is because of your wonderful grace.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Luke Chapter Five

Reading:  Luke 5.1-38

Scripture:  Jesus answered them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.  I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." Luke 5.31,32

Observations:  Quickly we discover the grace of Jesus' message and ministry.  Peter, who felt most unworthy in the presence of Jesus, along with James and John were called to leave their fishing nets and fish for people.  A leper's "unclean" status does not keep him from Jesus' healing touch. The paralytic, with the help of his friends, finds forgiveness for his sins as well as healing for his paralysis.  And then Levi, the much despised tax collector, is called to leave his tax booth to follow Jesus.  

When the law-conscience Pharisees and Teaches of the Law are offended by Jesus' claim to forgive sins and by the undesirables he is associating with, Jesus responds by stating that it is for those very people he had come.

Apply: Those who are most open to Jesus are those who are most aware of their need. Conversely, those who set themselves up as the morality police are most prone to missing out on Jesus. Grace is Jesus' invitation to be honest without fear.  The legalistic religion of the Pharisees only leads to hypocritical denial of one's own sinfulness.  

Prayer:  Jesus, may I never forget that I am merely a sinner saved by your grace.  And help me to reach out with your grace to those who are are most in need of your forgiveness and healing.  

Luke Chapter Four

Luke 4 tells us what Jesus was tempted to do and what Jesus came to do.

Reading: Luke 4.1-44

Scriptures: “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.” Luke 4.43

Observations: This chapter is so rich it is impossible to restrain myself to one or two verses. I chose verse 43 because it summarizes the flow of the whole chapter. So, my observations are about the whole, not just this verse.

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, launches into his mission. His first challenge is to face down the devil’s temptation to use his authority for his own personal comfort, power and fame. We then learn that he has come instead for the poor, the imprisoned, the blind and the oppressed. And when Jesus hints to his hometown listeners that God would also reach out to the non-Israelites (remember that Luke is writing this for a gentile audience), his friends turned on him and attempted to throw him off of a cliff. But Jesus isn’t thwarted by those parochial prejudices and walks right through the crowd. And so we see that nothing can thwart his mission. His mission begins by demonstrating his power to cast out demons and heal diseases, and in so doing we see the nature of the good news of the kingdom of God.

Apply: The temptation to build our personal kingdom (comfort, pleasure, power) is great. In the kingdoms of this world the tempter’s advertisements shout to us all, “You suck, you deserve more, it’s all about you.” And our ears are naturally tuned to those messages. I need to train my ears to hear a better message. I need to hear the good news of God’s kingdom and be steadfast in building that kind of kingdom.

Pray: Jesus, help me to have ears that hear the whisper of your still small voice above the shouts of all the other voices that tempt me to turn away from your will and your ways.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Luke Chapter Three

Chapter 3 tells us who holds the power, who preaches with power and who is coming in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Reading: Luke 3.1-38

Scripture: "Eliakim was the son of Melea. Melea was the son of Menna. Menna was the son of Mattatha..." (Luke 3.31) (Ok, that was a joke. I didn't focus on the genealogy.) Here's what catches my attention: "Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God." (Lk. 3.8, NLT) In the NIV it says, "Produce fruit in keeping with repentance."

Observations: John the Baptist, like Isaiah before him, called people who had lost their way to repent and turn back to God. When asked what they were to do to prove their repentance, he told those who had extra to share with those who didn't have any, and for those who were abusing their power (Tax Collectors and Soldiers) to cease their unjust ways.  

John the Baptist then points to two people who are polar opposites: Jesus, who is the one coming in the power of the Holy Spirit and approved by God; and Herod, who is the one in political power but is clearly disapproved by God. John doesn't pull any punches by naming Herod's sin, and Herod strikes back and wields his power by putting John in prison. Jesus is stepping into a volatile environment where real powers and real injustices clash with the gospel. I wonder how he'll rise to the occasion?

Repentance is more than a wish and a prayer, it involves changing one's ways. And the call to repentance involves challenging injustice, especially the abuse of power. The same Holy Spirit that empowered Jesus is the same Spirit that John the Baptist says Jesus will baptize his followers with.

Prayer: "Jesus, help me to walk in humility by turning away from the things that destroy my soul, and where there are injustices, empower me by your Holy Spirit to speak the truth, even though it may cost me."

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Luke Chapter Two

Thanks to all of you who have commented and those who are following along with our walk through Luke. I am already enjoying this exercise. I hope you are too. Here's Thursday's entry. (Friday we'll read chapter 3.)

Reading: Luke 2.1-52

Scripture: “But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart…but his mother treasured all these things in her heart.” (Luke 2.19,51)

Observations: The baby in a manger, shepherds and angels, Simeon and Anna, the baby grows into a young boy – the infancy and childhood of Jesus is summarized in one brief chapter, but what I see is a mother who is both a main character and a curious observer of the events. Mary had to process the exuberant praises of shepherds, the cryptic warnings of Simeon (vs. 34,35), the gentle encouragement of Anna, and the confusing response of a theological child protégé in the temple courts. Luke wants us to see through the eyes of Mary and feel her angst and sense her wonder at her child, Jesus. As we get a window into her private thoughts, we are invited to ponder those same thoughts for ourselves. “What is going to come of this young boy? What will people think of him? Who will follow him? Who will he offend? Is my soul going to be pierced by him? I’m eager and afraid to find out.”

Application: Sometimes we short-circuit God’s work when we think we have to have everything figured out from the start. The sense of wonder and awe is rightfully needed to drive us to seek to know Jesus more. Reading Luke’s gospel as if I don’t already know the end of the story causes me to open my eyes wide with curiosity.

Prayer: Please, Holy Spirit, help me to have wide eyes again. Help me to see Jesus with a fresh curiosity and to ponder these stories in my heart. May these Scriptures evoke the wonder in me that will cause me to seek to know Jesus more deeply.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Luke Chapter One

There were so many parts of this reading that I could have selected for my initial journal entry that it was difficult to choose which verses to use. I have a feeling it will be that way every day. The point is for you to pick whatever verse(s) you want to focus on for your journal. Feel free to comment about my entry or add something from yours in the comments.

Luke 1.1-80

Scripture: "I decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.” (Luke 1.3-4)

This Gospel of Luke, as the other Gospels, was written so that the story of Jesus would be remembered, and so that Theophilus and all who read it would be assured of the things they had been told. The news of Jesus spread like wildfire throughout the Aramaic and Greek-speaking world, from the Jewish subculture to the larger Hellenistic culture. At the outset of the Gospel, it is good to remember that the original writer and readers were real people who faced real-life issues in their day which were not completely unlike the issues we face today. The story of Jesus made all the difference to them as they faced those challenges.

Application: People struggle to believe. If these who were only a generation removed from Jesus needed to read the story in order to be strengthened in their faith, how much more do I need to stay “in the story?” When I remove myself from the story I am removing the impact it can make in my life, and I am weaker because of it. Also, I must remember that others need to hear the story in order to believe, and the best way for the story to be passed on is from one person to another.

Jesus, as I read your story, the story that made all the difference to those who heard it so long ago, may it make all the difference in my life too. Help me to listen and learn so that I may face the challenges of today and tell the "good news" to others in a way that is true to your will and ways.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Welcome and prayer journal.

Welcome to my blog. After much prodding I have decided to enter the blogosphere. When a pastor friend of mine challenged his church to journal through the Book of Acts with him, I thought it was a good way for me to start a blog. Along the way, I will be blogging about other things that strike my interest too. Thanks for reading!

During the season of Lent, I invite you to join with me and others at Riverside Community Church as we walk through the Gospel of Luke. Our goal is to read a section each weekday and journal using the SOAP method of journalling. I invite you to pull out a tablet or open a file on your computer and create a journal of your personal devotions through Luke.

We at RCC are doing this for a few reasons. (1) To deepen our walk with God by spending time in Scripture and prayer each day. (2) To develop these spiritual disciplines so that they can become a regular part of our daily diet. (3) To experience the joy of community as we focus on the same scripture and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us collectively.

Here's how to keep a prayer journal. (SOAP)
SCRIPTURE - Each day prayerfully read a chapter in Luke with a seeking heart and mind. Take note of verses that peak your interest (As we get closer to Good Friday and the stories of Jesus' passion week, we'll read smaller portions each day.) Choose a verse or paragraph that interests you and write it down and ask, "What does it say?"
OBSERVE - Write down the main thought or idea that passage says in it's original context asking, "What does it mean?"
APPLY - What down how you think it applies to your life or to our contemporary setting asking, "How does it apply?"
PRAY - Write out a brief prayer for the day that imbeds the thought in your spirit.

I will do my journal online to help those who want to see how I do it. Your journal needs to be your thoughts about the verses that interest you, but feel free to comment on my thoughts if you desire or share thoughts from your journal with the rest of us. I welcome the conversation.

This is an experiment which I hope will lead us to a new level of faith and action for RCC. As you commit to this, don't give up if you miss a day. Just pick up where you left off and continue on. Let's have a good walk together on this Lenten journey. Who knows? We just might find our "hearts burning within us while He talks with us on the road and opens the Scriptures to us." (Your first challenge is to turn to the last chapter of Luke and find that quote.)

The prayer journal will begin on Ash Wednesday, February 6, with Luke Chapter 1 as the reading.