Luke Chapter 17

If I have learned anything so far in this new testament challenge it is that Jesus responds to “faith”, that “faith” is of utmost importance, that “faith” is one of the most important things I need to grasp.  How many times has Jesus said “your faith has healed you”, or when frustrated with his apostles said “oh, you of little faith”.  I remember when reading In Matthew 17, when Jesus healed a demon possessed boy who had seizures and suffered terribly, the boy’s father said he had taken him to the disciples, but they couldn’t heal him.  Jesus referring to his disciples said “you faithless people”.  The disciples went straight to Jesus and asked “Why couldn’t we cast out the demon?”.  And the answer was “You don’t have enough faith”.  The importance of “faith” has been all over the new testament so far.  So in today’s reading when in verse 5 it says that the apostles said to the Lord, “Show us how to increase our faith?” my interest was piqued. 

Jesus answered this question in verses 6-10.  As in the past, in His answer he used a parable, this time about servanthood.  When I boil it down, it sounds to me that Jesus is telling me that increasing my faith requires me to go beyond saying “I believe in you Lord, I trust you Lord, I acknowledge that you are God with skin on”.  It sounds to me like He is saying, David, to increase your faith you need to also alter your view of yourself, you must view yourself as my servant, and an unworthy servant at that.  You must obey me and simply view that as your duty as my servant.

Oh…did I interpret Jesus’s response right?  Because if I did, and I have to alter my view of my life like that in order to increase my faith, that would require a big change.  No wonder the apostles (and I) need to work on this for a while.

I think I kind of get the idea of serving being connected to faith.  My wife has a lot of faith in me, and I have a lot of faith in her.  Without even reflecting on today’s scripture, she willingly and generously serves me in so many ways.  I never thought of that as evidence of her faith in me.

Luke Chapter 16

Money.  Power.  Greed.  Jesus has a lot to say about these topics in chapter 16.  I think his main point is that we don’t handle these things very well.  As a matter of fact, money, power and greed tend to master us.  We don’t control or manage them; rather they dominate us, and more importantly we put our trust in them.   This was a particular problem for the Pharisees who loved money, and I think it is a problem for followers of Christ today.  Many sins are obvious to the world, but a love of money and power can be hidden where others can’t see, in our hearts, and this is an intolerable situation for Jesus – you cannot serve God and money.

The parable of the Shrewd Manager is an unusual story.  A dishonest manager manage is at least commended for understanding that you can use money and resources to make friends.  Jesus says that children of the light aren’t very shrewd in these ways, but he makes it clear that we should use our resources to benefit others and make friends.  In other words, a follower of Christ should be a generous person.

The parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus is a frightening story.  Lazarus sits at the gate of the rich man day after day, but the rich man does nothing for him.  It seems like the rich man is unable to see Lazarus, his awful condition, as if his wealth has blinded him and hardened his heart.  After his death the rich man is sent to the place of the dead, and he asks Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers.  Abraham says it won’t work.  If they don’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they won’t believe someone sent from the dead.  Their love of money has made them unable to hear and respond to God’s word.  Their hearts are hard.  A follower of Christ can’t love money and God.  It just won’t work.

So what should we do?  How do we make sure money doesn’t master us?  Jesus tells us to be faithful in the little things.  Be honest in little things.  Be faithful with other people’s things.  If we do this, we will be faithful with bigger things, and prepared to handle worldly wealth.  We will be able to be generous followers of Christ who don’t love money.

Jesus makes another interesting comment in this chapter.  “What this world honors is detestable in the sight of God.”  Our culture reveres and trusts money and power.  They are markers of success and the good life.  However, they are not markers of a Christian life.  Am I being shaped by my culture?  Do I trust money more than God?  Or am I being a generous follower of Christ?  And faithful in the little things?   You can’t serve God and money – it won’t work.  God demands first place in our hearts, and there is no room for love of money, power and greed.

Luke Chapter 15

Oh how I wish I could have been there watching and hearing Jesus as he shared these parables. To see the expressions on his face and in his eyes as he told these stories. Watching the faces of those that sat around listening intently. We discover that its about the lost and found and the importance of searching for our lost things and the joy we feel when we find those lost things.

This chapter is a good reminder of how much Jesus loves me and you. So much so that he will search high and low, and far and wide to find me and you. As I reflected and prayed over this I discovered there is more to these stories. We have all lost something we treasure, prize, or value. When we find the lost thing it feels like a victory. We do the victory dance, whether it is an inward or outward expression.  Sometimes this victory is worthy of a celebration that we share with others to express our thanksgiving for this lost possession. Digging deeper I discovered that it’s a matter of the heart. We learned that the Pharisees and religious teachers, the ones who knew the laws complained and passed judgment on those who sat sharing a meal and listening to Jesus because they considered them sinful people. We see the older brother is angry that a celebration is given because his squandering brother has returned home. I also learned (v.7) Heaven rejoices over the one the lost sinner who repents and returns than 99 others that haven’t strayed away. (v.10) There is joy in the presence of God's angels over one lost sinner who repents. (v.32b) We should celebrate a brother who was lost and now is found.

Sometimes knowing what is right is a hindrance because we create boxes that we believe people should fit into. We want people to fit into our mold, to be like us to be accepted. Rather then being like Jesus and going to them and meeting them where they are at. Or perhaps like the older brother, who may have felt cheated for not being celebrated for staying. We feel entitled and need to be validated for doing what is right.   I’ve been there. I’ve passed judgement on someone because they were different from me. I have been in the older brother’s shoes within my own family. Thankfully through God’s grace we see that it isn’t that he doesn’t notice us for staying close. I believe he celebrates the lost coming home because now he has the assurance that we can all be together. Being a parent and a spouse, allows me to see this so clearly. Perhaps even imagine and relate how Jesus values his lost. If my children or spouse were lost I would search high and low for them and I wouldn’t rest. I would jump with joy and scream from the mountain tops when my child returns home to me. It wouldn’t be that my family that stayed didn’t matter, the celebration would be because we are now whole.   Complete. The Lord has all ready celebrated our home coming when we said yes to him. Jesus guides us with these parables so that we can learn and have a change of heart. So that we can give grace when needed, be joyful and celebrate when someone who was lost, is found.

Luke Chapter 14

In Luke 14 Jesus teaches us several lessons.  He  is still dealing with the Pharisees who are trying to trap him.  By posing questions to them they are not able to answer,  He skillfully points out that strictly adhering to the law is not the answer.  That doing what was right is.  

He then teaches us that humility is the better way.  That those who are not humble will be embarrassed by their boldness and not receive the greatest reward, but one of simple reciprocity.  

He goes on to teach us not to pass up His invitation to the “Great Banquet in the Kingdom of God”.   What a mistake!  By passing up His invitation, we give up our chance for the biggest reward ever - eternal salvation.  

Finally he teaches us about being a disciple.  At first reading I thought, Wow, how can I ever live up to all those conditions? How can I hate everyone else, yes even my own life?   Then after reading “you must by comparison”, I realized that I didn’t need to hate everyone else, I needed to love Him more.  That’s really all He wants from us.  To love him more!!

Luke Chapter 13

31 At that time some Pharisees said to him, “Get away from here if you want to live! Herod Antipas wants to kill you!”

32 Jesus replied, “Go tell that fox that I will keep on casting out demons and healing people today and tomorrow; and the third day I will accomplish my purpose. 33 Yes, today, tomorrow, and the next day I must proceed on my way. For it wouldn’t do for a prophet of God to be killed except in Jerusalem!

Purpose. Jesus was all about accomplishing His purpose. Nothing else mattered. Nothing would stop Him from doing what the Father called him to do. Not death threats, mobs, lack of sleep, or missing the boat to cross the lake. Jesus was laser focused on his purpose.

Time management is not my strength. And it often seems that there are not enough hours in the day, but when I stop and lay out my day putting God first, surprise, surprise there is now enough time to get what I am called to completed.

There is an illustration of rice and walnuts in a jar. With the walnuts representing time with God and the rice representing all of the things we need to get done in a day. If you add the rice first to the jar and then the walnuts, everything will not fit into the jar. But if you add the walnuts to the jar first and then add the rice everything fits into the jar, reminding us to put our time with God first and everything else will fall into place.

May we all strive to have the dedication to purpose that Jesus had in verse 32.

Luke Chapter 12

The parable of the fool

In the midst of a crowd of thousands, as Jesus was warning of the dangers of hypocrisy and assurance of the Holy Spirit’s assistance, a voice in the crowd asked Him to intervene in a family matter.  

A man, most likely a younger brother, wanted Jesus to tell his brother to divide an inheritance with him. Jesus knew the issue between the two brothers was not the inheritance. He addressed both of them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed.” (v.15) 

Jesus went on to tell them a story. A story of a man, by the standards of the world, who did everything right. He owned land that had yielded so many crops; he didn’t have enough room to store it. So much so he even had to build more substantial barns. He worked hard, and it paid off. He now had enough grain to last for years and can now take life easy. Sounds great, right? 

 In a modern-day parable, this man would be on television receiving praises and others would ask for farming technics. In the eyes of God someone behaving like this is not wealthy, he was solely focused only on himself. The parable goes on to say that the man died shortly after declaring a life of leisure. His accumulation of resources was all for nothing. 

We are instructed to accumulate treasures in heaven, one that moth and rust cannot destroy. To me, this is more difficult than building bigger barns! And I’m not a contractor. It is because this means I have to deny myself. The voice inside that sounds like the brother saying "I want"; "it’s mine," "this isn’t fair." is the view of a heart that hasn’t been guarded.

God is good. He gives examples of how to store up treasures in heaven. We can serve the Lord faithfully (Matt 10:41), hand water to someone in need (Matt 10:42), sell your possessions and give to the poor (Luke 12:33), and work for your employer as if you are working for God (Col 3:23-24). 

Each of us has been entrusted with resources (our time, talents, gifts, our finances) before we pick up the hammer for the barn construction do a heart check.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also”-Jesus

Luke Chapter 11

In today's chapter, Jesus gives clear insights into the power of persistent prayer, and He helps us understand God as a loving father. 

If you have children, I’m sure you can relate to Jesus example of responding due to persistence. Almost every day my children will ask me for something… a new toy, a gadget, something they’ve seen on a YouTube channel and decided they MUST have. However, I have learned to receive the ask and usually, I respond with a “we’ll see”, or “maybe?”

You see, their pattern of asking over time has shown me that, “yes” at that moment they really do want the thing they’re asking for, but the next day comes and they’ve forgotten about it and moved onto something else they now desperately need. Knowing this pattern, I usually wait until to 5th or 6th time they ask before I consider or respond in detail. Often I might have a discussion with them and help strategize ways they can use pocket money or do more chores to raise the needed funds. Many times this kills the conversation right there. However, I’d say follow through is maybe around 2-3%. I use this strategy as a kind of litmus test to see how much they really want the object or thing in question.

As a father, I want to give great gifts to my kids… it's my joy to do so and brings me great pleasure. But a good father has to determine what his children really want or need, from all the fluff and distraction.

How many times do I act like my own children when I make requests to God? If I’m honest with myself, I’m embarrassed to say it's all too often! My heart wavers in determining the things I need and want and my requests sometimes reflect a divided heart. 

God wants to give us good gifts. he wants to shower us with the things our hearts deeply long for. May we be bold in our prayers and persistent in our passion. 

Luke Chapter 10

As I read this morning, I was reminded of something that happened last week.  I was sitting at Pete’s drinking a nice hot cup of coffee.  It was fairly early in the day.  I had a long list of things that I needed to get done and I had just begun processing where I would start.

I felt a tap on my shoulder.  I turned my head to see who it was but before I had the chance to really get a good look, he pulled out a chair at the table and sat down.  It was an older man that looked somewhat familiar, but if I’m honest, I couldn’t figure out who he was.  He introduced himself and said, “Good morning! I’m Joe. I used to be an architect but now I hang out here! Are you new to the area?” I responded and said, “I’m Billy. I’m not new to the area but don’t normally come to Pete’s. I said I’m a Starbucks lover.  I’m a Youth Pastor in the area.” The conversation continued and we talked about family and work.  A little while later he said, “Whelp, I’ve got to run but I hope to see you again.” As strange as this all was, it was a good conversation with a stranger.    

The piece of the conversation that I was wrestling with was how we both introduced ourselves.  One of the first things each of us said as we attempted to define who we are was what we did.  If I was to ask you, “Who are you?” would you respond the same way?  Identity seems to be a big issue in our culture.  Questions of who you are and what defines you, all seem to be swirling.  We are bombarded every day with what we should be.  

In Luke 10, I was the struck by something and the question of identity is central.  In verse 3 Jesus says, “Now go, and remember that I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.” As the passage continues, Verse 19 says, “Look, I have given you authority over all the power of the enemy, and you can walk among snakes and scorpions and crush them.  Nothing will injure you.” This is quite the transition.  In Christ our identity changes from “lambs among wolves” to “trampling snakes and scorpions.”

In your life right now, which of these better describes how you feel? Do you feel like you are a lamb among the wolves?  Do you feel like you are being attacked on all sides with the enemy encroaching with beady eyes piercing through the darkness?  Or are you on the other end?  Do you feel like you are dancing among the snakes and scorpions?  Are you living life trusting God in the midst of hard circumstances?

Here is my encouragement to you; in Christ, you have all authority.  As we learn to find our identity in Christ and as we learn to operate in His power, things will change.  It does not mean that life will be easy and pain-free.  It does mean that as we will learn to release control and trust God, we will be have the ability to stand strong in difficult circumstances. 

Luke Chapter 9

Luke 9 is one of the most packed chapters in all the Gospels.  So many things are happening: the commissioning of the 12, feeding 5,000, Peter’s great confession, the transfiguration, casting out demons…and that’s only about half of the topics presented.  But tucked away, in close to the middle of all these amazing stories, Jesus gives a simple but profound invitation:

Then he said to the crowd, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must give up your own way, 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?

 Murdered missionary Jim Elliot echoed this truth: “He is no fool to give up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.” 

Like this chapter, our lives are packed with so many things.  So many sorrows, fears, anxieties, desires, ambitions, plans, hopes, and dreams… Sometimes their noise of pushing and pulling is so deafening, they drown out Jesus’ daily invitation in the midst of this holding on to this life.

What are you carrying that only the strong shoulders of Jesus were meant to carry?

Let go. 

What are you holding so fiercely to in fear that you believe letting go can only mean disaster?

Relinquish control – even in the places you are most afraid.

Empty yourself of Self and make room for what No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love him” (1 Cor. 2:9).

 

 

Luke Chapter 8

Another feast from the Bread of Life Himself.  As a kid, I was really afraid of storms.  The flashes of lightning and the cracks of thunder left me completely fearful until they were over.  I remember being around family or other people that thoroughly enjoyed every moment of it and I thought, "How can you enjoy FEAR!?"  I remember telling the Lord I didn't want to be afraid of storms, but wanted to be at peace and maybe....just maybe actually enjoy them.  I can tell you my Sweet Jesus did that to the fullest extent. I love a good thunder storm.  The sight, the fragrance, and the sound of it up to the very last distant thunder rumbling as it rolls away.

In Luke 8:22-25, the disciples went through a very dramatic storm so intense they thought they were going to die!  (And these guys were used to storms and challenges on the sea) This experience ends with them "fearful and amazed" saying to each other, "Who is this?!  That He commands the winds and the water and they OBEY HIM?

Go back to the beginning of this event when Jesus says, "Lets go over to the other side..." How many times has Jesus led us into life journeys that we have no idea where this will lead to?  Jesus doesn’t give us the details or what will become of it, but when God gives a promise He already knows what is on the other side and what storms, learning, faith, and "refining on the way" it will take to get us there.

And while we watch the rain pour on us, the water rising around us, the winds gusting, the lightning cracking and the thunder booming, we turn to Him and call on our Mighty Master who speaks to the situation, "deals with the problems and causes" and calms the chaos.  What panics me, does not panic God!

Eventually, Jesus taught me instead of being on the side of fearing the storm, turn myself in perspective to the other side and see that the power of that storm is on my side.  I learned to see the might of the thunder and the power/quickness of the lightning was a great picture of God’s power, and that is Whose side I am on during my own life storms. 

Let us keep in mind that spiritual problems only respond to spiritual weapons.  So when you are on the other side, and Jesus has cleared out whatever doesn’t need to be in your life, and has calmed the chaos in you or around you,  may you stand in honor and amazement of what you learned of Him.