Archive for July, 2006

I have to admit that this story really bothers me. It bothers me because it seems to condone the wrong actions of this manager. He is fired due to accusation. We do not know if these accusation are true. He very well may have been fired without cause. Maybe he was actually doing a great job managing his fathers household. However, when he learns that he is fired, he goes out and takes advantage of his former position by cooking the books and forgiving people of just debts. Yet, as a former employee he does not have this authority. The very boss who fired him commends him because of his shrewd dealing. However, this shrewdness is by the worlds standards, not God. What are we to take from this?

1. Are we to learn that when we are fired or treated unjustly, it is alright for us to retaliate with unjust actions? I don’t think so.

2. Are we to learn that we can actually learn something from this not so great world? Are we to apply this shrewdness is a Biblical and upright manner to expand God’s kingdom? I think this is what it is getting at. It seems like Jesus is saying that when we are faithful (shrewd) with a little, he will give us more. Essentially, we can be even more effective for the kingdom.

What do you think?

Jesus then goes on and talks about the law. He seems to be teaching that the law points toward grace. Grace does not allow us to do anything we want. Grace is how we live in a covenant relationship with God and desire to live more like him each and every day.

This balance of law and grace is very interesting and, at times, frustrating. I recently heard Kirk Cameron talk about how we must preach the law to sinners first so they know they have sinned and then offer them grace. The point was you don’t know you need grace until you accept that you have sinned. I agree with this to a point, but I am not sure we are to preach the law today (they only used the Ten Commandments, but the law was much more than that.) We are free from the law. However, we are not free from what the law was trying to show us – that we are all sinners. I don’t think I could ever preach the law, but I can (and do) preach about how we are all failed and failing people who truly needs grace. Personally, I think this resonates more and is more Biblically correct. When we preach the law, we are preaching not mixing fabrics, not eating certain foods. The just don’t make sense. When we are preaching the truth of our failings it makes sense.

Jesus did not spend a lot of time talking about hell, but he sure seemed to be talking about it here. I do believe their is a real eternal hell (I wish there was not, but scripture seems to indicate that there is.) We are called by God to tell others about the way to redemption. However, I find it interesting that Jesus does not suggest that “warning” others about hell is the way to go. I so agree with this. I think we often tend to treat “salvation” as a Get Out of Hell Free Card. Instead they are pointed to Moses and the Prophets. Moses and the Prophets point to Jesus – which is all about grace. I think this discussion of hell, while showing hell is real, is more to tell us that salvation is not about avoiding hell. It is about living a life of helping others, loving others and extending grace – exactly what Jesus did.

Sorry, I did not get an opportunity to preach this weekend, so you get to hear it.

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I frequently search for my keys, my wallet or my phone. In this passage is recorded three parables of lost things:

Lost Sheep:
You have 100, but one has wandered off. You go searching for the lost one. The others are fine for now. Once you’ve found the wandering sheep, you carry the errant one home and spread the wonderful news that you’ve found it.

Lost Coin:
You have 10 drachmas, each worth about an average day’s wages. One is missing, so you start looking. There are areas of the room that aren’t well lit, so you get a candle and a broom. You find your coin and call your friends and neighbors to rejoice with you.

Lost Son:
One son takes his inheritance and leaves for a distant country. He squanders his cash and his resources are gone. He gets a job feeding pigs and their food starts looking tasty. “When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death?'” He decides to go to his father, admit he’s been an idiot, and ask for a job.
The father must have been watching, because he saw the son while he was still a long way off. The father was filled with compassion. He ran. He forgave. He threw a party. He still rejoiced when opposition came.

How wonderful that this beautiful God would go looking for us when we are wrong and foolish and lost.

10:13 So Saul died because he was unfaithful to the Lord and did not obey the Lord’s instructions; he even tried to conjure up underworld spirits. 10:14 He did not seek the Lord’s guidance, so the Lord killed him and transferred the kingdom to David son of Jesse. – 1 Chronicles 10:13-14

On WordSearch, a New Testament Bible study blog I am part of, we have been reading through Luke. On of the themes in Luke is counting the cost of following God/Jesus. I think this same idea also comes out in the Old Testament. Saul was anointed King of Israel by God. With this kingship came the ultimate responsibility to follow the law of God and lead his people to do the same. However, that cost turned out to be too high for Saul. He just could not (would not) live a life that truly served God. He would not live a life that called others to the service of God. In the end it cost him the kingdom and it went to someone who was willing to count and pay the cost – King David.

Heavenly Father,

Help me to learn this lesson about counting the cost. Help me to be the kind of person who is willing to follow you regardless of the price. Thank you for loving me so much that you called me to your service. I love you Lord. Amen.

Jesus is now being watched, and so He starts doing good things on the Sabbath again (see Luke 13), and again points out that people take care of their animals on the Sabbath. Sometimes a lesson has to be taught more than once.

Then he talks about dinner parties – not talking about which fork we should use for the salad course, but talking about how guests and hosts alike use dinner parties to position themselves in worldly society.

This leads into a parable about a banquet, where people are invited but make up lame excuses to get out of it. (Someone has bought a field without looking at it? Sometimes has bought oxen without trying them out? Someone has married without – never mind.) But when the invitees don’t come, Jesus invites the uninvitable – people on the country lanes and the like. The Jews who were rejecting Him didn’t realize what He was saying.

I made this point in a comment – if you’re focusing on the family (to use one example), you’re not focusing on God. Obedience to God may separate you from your family, and even from your own life.

Verse 28 suddenly talks about cost calculation – don’t do something unless you’re sure you have the resources to complete it. Is there any relation between the preceding verses 26-27 and the following verses 28-32? I don’t understand it if there is, but there must be, since verse 33 returns to the theme of Jesus’ disciples giving up everything.

The relationship between verse 34 and the preceding verses is clear to me. Salt is an important food preservative, but bad salt doesn’t do anyone any good. In the same way, an uncommitted disciple cannot be effective in God’s work.

Luke 13

Wow! Pilate killed people who were offering sacrifices in the temple? That’s greusome! Jesus, when asked about it, said that everyone needs to repent or perish.

Jesus then told a parable about a fig tree that wasn’t bearing fruit. It was given three years before the farmer contemplated destroying it. At the request of someone else, it received reprieve for one year, to be cultivated and fertilized – basically on probation. A commentary I read speculated that the tree symbolizes the Jewish nation. I’ve thought if referrs to the individual soul. Any thoughts?

Jesus healed a woman on the Sabbath and was confronted by the synagogue ruler. Usually they whispered among themselves. I think it’s more honorable that he spoke his objection directly to Jesus. Jesus answered that people care for their animals on the Sabbath. How can they justify withholding help to a person when you care for your animals? Good question.

The kindgom of God is like a mustard seed. It grew and became a tree and the bird perched in its branches. Or, it’s like yeast that permeates the entire batch of dough. It might look insignificant, but proves to have tremendous impact throughout the entire world… forever.

Jesus instructed people to enter through the narrow door before it closes. He says the door will close and those outside will plead, but it will be too late. They’ll say, ‘you remember us…’ and he’ll say, “I never knew you.” Not pretty.

Jesus grieved over Jerusalem’s unwillingness to respond to him. It must be hard to put onesself out there and be rejected.

The thing I love most about Luke 12 is God direction to us that help us to set our eyes on what is important.

He tells us not to worry because he is the one who will take care of everything when we are truly seeking to follow him.

He tells us not to worry about earthly dangers because the real dangers are spiritual.

He reminds us the earthly persecution is not important. He even says he will give us the words to say when we need them.

He reminds us that no material possession we have on this earth have any eternal significance. We should be using what we have to further God’s Kingdom.

He tells us we are going to have to make a choice to follow him. He does not promise it will be easy. In fact, he says that is very well may cause dissension within our family.

He makes it down right clear that as Christ-followers we are expected to use our talents for God’s work. We will be held accountable for what we do with what God has given us. This is not about works righteousness, but it is about using our grace and mercy filled lives for God’s glory.

He seems to be saying Luke 12:54-56 that we have no excuse for not understanding that he is the Messiah. All of the signs point to him and he is now here.

Luke 12:57-59 talks about our debt before God. He seems to be saying that we are to have out debt paid up. All we have to do is accept him and the debt is paid clean. What a wonderful offer.

Luke 12 contains some harsh words. They are not easy to swallow, but in the end they all lead back to God.

Luke 11

“Lord, teach us to pray,” they said. So, he gives them a model to follow. It includes praise, comittment to the kingdom, asking for provision, asking for forgiveness, asking for deliverance…

Then he said to them, “Suppose one of you has a friend, and you go to him at midnight and say to him, ‘Friend, lend me three loaves of bread… he will reply from inside, ‘Do not bother me…. my children and I are in bed…. I tell you, even though the man inside will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of the first man’s sheer persistence he will get up and give him whatever he needs.” This teaching is immediately followed by, “ask… seek… knock…” and ‘dad’s don’t give their kids rocks or scorpions.’ He does, however, give the Holy Spirit to those who ask.
So, here’s my question: How does this persistent requesting fit with humility and recognition of God’s … bigness? When my kids nag me about something, it makes me frustrated with them. It’s hard to imagine that God is pleased with people asking again and again for something He doesn’t think they need. I don’t understand this teaching. Anyone able to help?

A mute guy got freed by Jesus and started talking. Everyone was amazed. I want to know what he said!!! What would someone who had been unable to speak say when finally able? But alas, people were more interested in explaining how Jesus got this power. Some asked Jesus for a sign from heaven as a test, but he didn’t play that silly game. (Maybe if they’d asked for bread over and over…) Anyway, Jesus said that people should remember what Jonah told the people of Ninevah. That’s enough to get started.
And a kingdom divided wouldn’t stand. ‘He who is not with me is against me.’

It is curious to me that while Jesus was teaching, a woman in the crowd called out and said, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the breasts at which you nursed!” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!” He is one confrontational savior. He says, “Quit worrying about my mother and get right yourself!”

When you light a lamp, lift it up. Don’t look at bad stuff. Protect the light within you. That’s teaching that fits any generation.

Jesus went to eat with some Pharisees, and didn’t observe the ceremonial cleansing, observed by good Jews and rabbis of the day. He said to them, “Now you Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.” He went on to confront them for seeking importance in their communities, and carefully following insignificant rules, while neglecting ‘justice and love of God’.
He says they are “like unmarked graves, and people walk over them without realizing it!” I think that’s interesting. They will be gone and noone will remember them or care that they were so careful with all their regulations. How our Christian subculture is like this! We are tempted to think our beautiful churches, our refusal to swear, our modest apparel, and any number of ways we set ourselves apart, will make a difference. We need to rigorously clean the inside, and be less interested in being seen, and get intentional about helping people who need it. (Sorry for getting a bit preachy.)

Luke 10

No, it wasn’t just Jesus and the twelve. There were a number of followers of Jesus, although by the time of his crucifixion there were very, very few.

At the beginning of Luke 10, Jesus sent out seventy-two disciples. He didn’t send them out alone; all of them went in groups of two. In baseball terms, they were scouts, going out to visit towns before Jesus Himself arrived.

The seventy-two received instructions from Jesus before they left. He didn’t just send them out willy-nilly. He makes a big point of telling the disciples to eat whatever is offered to them. This doesn’t necessarily mean that they’d be eating unclean foods – it’s probable that the disciples were only sent to Jewish towns – but it does mean that the disciples weren’t supposed to seek out better lodging – stick with the first house in the town.

Then Jesus goes on a rant. Unlike my rants, His rants are justified and have power in them. Jesus talks about the towns that reject the disciples, and the towns that reject Jesus Himself, thus rejecting God the Father. Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t have the benefit of Jesus’ physical presence. But Capernaum and the other named towns did, and they still rejected Him.

The seventy-two went out and returned, amazed at the power they displayed. This power came from Jesus Himself. But don’t rejoice about the power; rejoice that your names are written in Heaven.

Moving on, we find a man who thinks that he can save himself. He correctly identifies the two most important parts of the Law (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18), and thinks, “Sure, I love my neighbor.” Jesus then turns the man’s world upside down. In the modern day, with our “Good Sam” club for recreational vehicle enthusiasts, some of the meaning of this passage is lost, but for the believing Jew, a Samaritan was probably the equivalent of a modern day jihadist illegal alien abortionist who clubs baby snail darters. To say that a Samaritan was better than a priest and Levite was probably blasphemous to some in the crowd.

Then we have the story of Martha and Mary. What do YOU think this story means?

7:23 He had sexual relations with his wife; she became pregnant and gave birth to a son. Ephraim named him Beriah because tragedy had come to his family. 7:24 His daughter was Sheerah, who built Lower and Upper Beth Horon, as well as Uzzen Sheerah) – 1 Chronicles 7:23-24

It is not often that you find something truly interesting in the long list of genealogies found in many of the Old Testament books and even some of the New Testament books. Truthfully, I find them hard to read. I try to follow along, but the names are strange and they don’t seem to say much that seems very relevant for today. However, once in a while, you find a nugget with those long winded genealogies. 1 Chronicles 7:24 is one of those necessitate. Conventional wisdom has been that women played a very limited role in Old Testament times. There was the notable exceptions of Ruth, Deborah, Miriam and few others, but these were the exceptions. The conventional wisdom is probably right in this case, but maybe, just maybe there were more women we should be writing about. Sheerah was actually a women who built a number of Old Testament cities. You might be thinking, “big deal, she did not do anything like actually saving the people of Israel like Ruth.” I won’t argue that Ruth did something more important in the long run, but I think Sheerah did something that very few other Old Testament women did – she led men. You don’t go building cities without skilled and unskilled male labor. So, it is only logical that Sheerah must have had literally thousands of men taking their marching order from her. We only know this because of a side mention in a genealogy, but it just goes to show that women played a more important role than people might think. I wonder if Sheerah was barely mentioned, how many truly talented women leaders were not mentioned at all…

Heavenly Father,

I am thankful that you chose to you each of us, regardless of our gender, based upon the skills and abilities you gave us. I am thankful that you use people as you see fit to accomplish your will. Help each of us that call you Lord, Lord to accept you plan to use any person you chose to accomplish you mission on earth. I love you Lord. Amen.

It is 2:36 in the morning and I cannot sleep. It might be because I drank too much coffee when I have barely had any caffeine for the past three months. It might be because I have some stressful weeks coming up very quickly. However, I think there is a very different reason. The truth is something has been bugging me lately. That something(one) is God…

I have been letting things get in the way of God. I have been letting human reason stop me from following God’s direction for my life. I have made excuses of why I can do what God wants me to do. Well, that time is over. I am going to move forward with God regardless of the human obstacles I might face.

Church planting has been my heart and passion for some time now. It actually goes back a number of years. I can still remember when I told God that I would go to seminary if he wanted me to go, but I had no intention of working in church ministry. I want nothing more now. But, the truth is, I don’t want to work for any church. I want to let God create a church that will truly reach out to “the least of these.” I want people to truly experience what it means to follow hard after God. I want people to know that God loves them where they are at. He does not ask us to be perfect. He only asks us to give him the opportunity to make us something special and new.

I don’t know exactly how this is going to happen. The one church planting opportunity I thought was going to happen is not. However, it is not happening because it would not be the proper opportunity for God to use me. I thank God for giving me the wisdom to close this door. I also thank him for having me close it instead of him closing it for me. I needed to opportunity to know I can still hear his voice.

I can tell you I am back. I have been away spiritually for a number of months, even though I have only stopped blogging for a few weeks. God and I are talking again and more importantly, I am listening again. I am simply overwhelmed by God’s mercy and grace.

Tonight he spoke to me through that pages of a book by Donald Miller, To Own A Dragon. His words to me were very simple – Follow the passion I have given you…and let me lead the way.

Thank you Lord.